Bennett’s next topic was “Procreation and Parenthood”. His view of human conception is mystical and sublime: it is a cosmic process, which provides an opening for the creative force which is seeking to “penetrate into Nature” (33). Both the parents are receptive in relation to this active force, and it is the child, he says, who bears or transmits the third force, the reconciling, unifying or blending the other two forces to allow a new creation (33-34).
Rather than “making” the child, parents therefore enable it to enter into existence (34). The potential this view has for altering the way we see the parent-child relationship is almost endless. For example, it is often said in Gurdjieff circles that the third parent of any child is God.
Now Bennett comes to a topic which is very advanced: the triads of action. Unfortunately, Gurdjieff’s teaching of it was not recorded in Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous. Rather, our prime source is Ouspensky’s own version of it, chiefly in The Fourth Way, but there are other notes, some of which are quite important, in the verbatim records of Ouspensky’s groups. The most important additional material is in A Record of Meetings. However, no one taught like Gurdjieff: consider his demonstration of “astrology”. One only has to compare Ouspensky’s exposition of the concept of chief feature with how Gurdjieff is recorded teaching it in Miraculous. It is not easy to understand these concepts so as to grasp their practicality. But one can get to that point. Bennett also deals with this in appendix II to this book, but let me try and explain how I think Bennett gets to that point.
If I have understood Bennett correctly, then he is saying that from the perspective of each of the three participants in this cosmic dance, father, mother and child, there are three triads which are achieved in this world through the act of procreation: from the perspective of the father, a triad of involution or expansion, from that of the mother, one of evolution or concentration, and from the child’s perspective, one of freedom.
This means that what we think of as being just one activity – sexual procreation – is in fact made up of at least these three “inner actions”, to coin a phrase: involution, evolution and freedom. On p.73, he adds that the qualities of these three actions are transmission, renewal and awakening. This helps us understand better what is meant by a triad of “freedom”, and who can see a baby and not directly perceive the truth of Bennett’s insight. Incidentally, this theory also has the implication that “threefoldness” is not a homogenous phenomenon.
That is an overview. In this chapter, Bennett says that the receptivity of the woman draws the man to her, she possesses a power of attraction over him which arouses his paternal power (34). This is a necessary manifestation of what Bennett calls a “triad of evolution or concentration”, where the child represents new potential: hence, perhaps, the sense of wonder when a baby is born: “Something new has entered the world with all sorts of possibilities for transformation” (34).
The cosmic “creative generative power” works through the man, using the seed which is elaborated within him: he does not make that seed (34-35). The father sees this as a means of opening out into the future, renewing his pattern. This is what Bennett calls a “triad of involution or expansion” (35).
It is a little harder to verify Bennett’s next line of thought, which is that before conception in our world the child is the third force, disembodied: it does not exist save as some aspect of the will to be in the spiritual world, a world above the realm of energies (35). Bennett states that only if the higher centres are working in us can we see it to be so, but even without that, we can meditate upon it, and be touched by the idea that in a state of pure will, a choice is made, and the decision is taken to be born, arousing the maternal power and releasing the paternal. This, he says, is an example of the “triad of freedom” (35).
However, says Bennett, and this is important (although I cannot see how we can know whether it is accurate or not), the child which is aborning must accept limitations, and cannot choose the identity of its parents, its heredity, and where it is to be born (36).
Two “charters” accompany the new life: that of “heredity” (from the father and the mother’s genes), and that of “fate” from the planetary influences at the moment of conception. Bennett states that “heredity” relates to the physical body, while fate governs “psychic characteristics and relationships”. But in addition, “from beyond, from God” comes “the law of destiny” (36). Bennett’s comment here explains some, perhaps even much, of the misunderstandings which arise between parents and children: “The destiny of a child is unique with him and independent of his parents and belongs to his spiritual nature or will” (36).
That is, each one of us, in our very natures, has something sacred which is independent of our parents. This has to be honoured. But if either parent or child fails to understand, if only implicitly, the difference in our natures, and tries to dominate, the result will be disaster from the spiritual perspective. The parent might dominate, and the child might acquiesce, but it will not fulfil the nature of either of them.
Bennett’s next statement is also of great significance: since this purpose comes from the spiritual world, to be effected or realised here, in this world, it must be freely accepted (36). It cannot be the subject of compulsion.
He then comes to the family unit, where he sees a triad: the child reconciling between the father (active) and the mother (passive). If there is not just this relationship, says Bennett, the family will not work (36-37). The child’s very helplessness compels attention, and in a disabled child, the need and the call for attention are even greater (37). While the role of the child, and that of the mother as life-giver and sustainer are relatively clear, he finds the role of the father (“a complete man”) harder to define (37-38).
He here enters a very interesting speculation. Bennett says that, since the male is called to manifest the creative power, and that power is not his own, his situation is “peculiar”: he is called to be what he cannot be (38-39). I am going to return to Bennett’s next point at the end, because it is I think the most vital of all.
After some other comments about the essential nature of the family pattern (father, mother, child, irrespective of how many of each there may be), Bennett comes to Gurdjieff’s theory that astrologers were responsible for making the best possible matches of man and woman, so that the family could be most successful and stable (39-41). How we could check this is beyond my resources.
Parenthood has its own special requirements. Gurdjieff described it as a sacred matter for which one should very specially prepare, but at all events we must not be the slaves of our sex function (41). We all need sexual activity, Bennett states, but far fewer of us are fit and prepared for parenthood. Therefore, he is in favour of safe methods of contraception (42).
I now wish to return to something Bennett had said earlier, because, for me, it is presently, at least, the chief point in this talk. Speaking of all us, the best we can do, Bennett says, is to conform to a higher pattern and play the role allotted to us (39). I think that is behind Gurdjieff’s demand, and it was a demand, that all children, including adult children, love their parents even if their parents were bad. Perhaps there is all the more grace in those children who can love their parents for the sake of the divine plan of creation and salvation.
And, I think that we are all, more or less, children who had bad parents. We know this for a certainty because we are ourselves are not as good as we could and should be.
Joseph Azize, 28 January 2018