Gurdjieff International Review
The Theory of Celestial Influence
by Rodney Collin
The Theory of Celestial Influence is Rodney Collins chief monument to his teacher, P. D. Ouspensky. Begun during Ouspenskys last illness and completed shortly after his death, it is a book of staggering philosophical scope written with the electricity of an eyewitness reporter.
Collin saw his task as the reconstruction of the teaching received from Ouspensky. That teaching, originally derived from Gurdjieff, touches on everything. So does this book.
Collin begins in philosophical fashion with a consideration of the Absolute, the fundamental cosmic reality. What is striking, and more apparent in Collins even than in Ouspenskys writings, is the ease with which he moves from an idea that clearly conforms to the ancient traditional norm of the highest reality, the God beyond God, to descriptions of the cosmos drawn from data provided by modern science. Much of the life in these early chaptersdealing with galaxies, the solar system, the planets, the sun and the earthderives from Collins efforts to break through the distinction between scientific and religious cosmology and to work with ideas that do justice to both sides. In these chapters, one feels that Collins aim is to join modern mans central interest in the scientific world to his subtler and until now largely orphaned wish to ponder the great meaning of the cosmos and his place in it.
It is Ouspenskys ideas of scale, dimension and time, more than any other ideas, that encourage Collin to strike for this synthesis, which so many today are calling for. In Collins hands, science would be revealed as a teaching about myself, or, at least, as presenting material of first importance to my search for myself, my feelings, my body, my hopes, my sense of identity, and my possible struggle to grow in consciousness.
If ... we compare the human body to some great body of the Milky Way and one cell of it to our Solar System, and we wish to find a viewpoint comparable to that of a human astronomer on earth, we should have to try to imagine the perception of something like a single electron of a molecule of this cell. What could such an electron know about the human body? What indeed could it know about its cell, or even its molecule? Such organisms would be so vast, subtle, eternal and omnipotent in relation to it, that their true meaning would be utterly beyond its comprehension. Yet no doubt the electron could perceive something of its surrounding universe; and though this impression would be very far from reality, it is interesting for us to imagine it.
Like his teacher Ouspensky, Collin does not use such analogies merely to illustrate an abstract point with poetic examples. A certain intellectual daring, together with a conviction that reality itself is analogous to mind, enables him to pursue such analogies without falling into poetics on the one hand or apologies on the other. Collin, at his best, is writing from the wish for a place in himself where scientific, intellectual language is in contact with the need for personal meaning.
The reader is led on an astonishing voyage in which he sees scientific data about the structure of the solar system and the composition of the sun related, by means of Gurdjieffs and Ouspenskys ideas, to the forces governing the processes of biological life on earth, the physiological processes in the human body, the psychological teachings of ancient systems such as astrology and Christian mysticism, the rise and fall of civilizations, the crisis of contemporary culture, and the riddle of life after death.
Collin is perhaps the only modern writer to offer a speculative explanation of astrology that does justice both to the findings of modern physiology and the symbolic teachings of the ancient world. The key lies in understanding the endocrine glands as resonators to the different radiations proceeding from the planets, sun, and moon. Each endocrine gland, he writes,
or its associated nerve-plexus is sensitive to the magnetism of a particular planet.... The aspect ... which is probably most responsible for what we ordinarily recognize as individual type, is set working at the ... critical moment of birth, when the baby, suddenly removed from the insulation of the mothers womb, is first exposed to the air and direct solar and planetary radiation. At this moment, the glands ... receive each a different and exact impetus, which both set[s] them in operation and fix[es] their setting for life.
Collin compares this process to a set of seven photographic light meters (seven endocrine glandsthe thymus, pancreas, thyroid, parathyroids, adrenal, anterior and posterior pituitary)
each sensitive to the light of a different planet, and made to register once and for all the reading recorded at the moment they are brought out of the darkroom.
In this fashion, the human machine is set at birth, depending on the positions of the planets and the concomitant strength of their radiations.
Out of this idea there emerges a theory of human types which is an amalgam of Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, and Collins own interpretations of astrology. The fundamental astrological idea is retained, but linked to Louis Bermans (1929) views of endocrinologically determined character patterns, on the one hand, and to the Gurdjieffian cosmology on the other. Collin attempts to synthesize these markedly different and even incompatible levels of knowledge through use of the mysterious Gurdjieffian symbol of the enneagram.
The pancreas, for example, Collin associates with the moon and the historical lunatic (or melancholic) type according to medieval astrology. The thyroid is related to the mercurial typerapidity of perception and volition, impulse with a tendency to explosive crises, restlessness, insomnia, and inexhaustible energy. The parathyroids ... are known to work against the thyroid (which produces movement and volatility) by promoting the metabolism of the stability element lime, and the mediating element phosphorus.... This, in the old astrology, is the venusian type, the feminine role of growth in inactivity.
Collin proceeds along this line with all the astrological divisionsadrenal: martial; posterior pituitary: jovial; anterior pituitary: saturnine.
Using the still powerful astrological typology, conjoining it to the intriguing endocrinological data of modern psychology and importing both these approaches to the teachings of Gurdjieff about the three centers in man and their levels of energy and vibration, Collin finds a theoretical structure so compelling to him that he uses it to organize all the data of history, religion, culture, sexuality, war, art, literature, technology, and the future of the race. On almost every page there is a daring insight presented as a natural deduction, though always with a somewhat journalistic tone.
Some of Collins analogies seem naive; some are breathtaking in the range of vision they suggest.
Thus, on each scale, development is in a sense measured by responsibility. Earth sustains one moon, Jupiter eleven. Such satellites may be imagined in many different waysas offspring, as pupils, as dependents, or even as functions of their sunthis cosmic arrangement appears to imply in some sense a suns responsibility for its satellites, their service to their sun; and again a passage of energy or Knowledge from the sun to the satellites.
Again in another contextin the chapter Man as MicrocosmCollin refers to the heart of man as the sun of the body and the bloodstream like the suns radiation in the solar system extending to its every part. No corner of the body is too remote to be vitalized by it.
One of the most characteristic features of Collins analogies is the way they excite the readers imagination. Who could fail to be delighted and awed, for example, by the spectacular picture Collin draws of the sun breathing in interstellar gases as it tunnels its way through the atmosphere of galactic space? Or in the above-mentioned representation of the endocrine glands as resonators to the different radiations proceeding from the planets, the sun, and the moon.
There are scores of such analogies interlacing the pages of Collins book, the underlying purpose of which is to demonstrate that there is a unity, an archetypal pattern of laws and influences at work that repeats successively, like the octaves of a keyboard, at every level throughout the universe and within every cosmoswhether the cosmos of a cell, of man, of the sun, or of the Milky Way.
So one feels then that something has been quickened and broadened. There is the liberating sense of mentally opening up to the promise of wider horizons, the promise of a new vision.
It might be possible, and certainly useful, to try to identify which of Collins ideas faithfully transmit the spirit of Ouspenskys teachings and which are rather the work of that aspect of the mind which in certain states arrives at new connections between concepts or facts.
Perhaps, in spite of its aim, the effect of this book is to enlarge the readers psychological grasp rather than to support his effort to be aware of the state he is in.
Yet, in the last analysis, the excitement this book arouses is so extraordinary that it prompts one to reflect principally about the energy that caused the book to be written.
Perhaps the followers of such ideas can help each other and the world to understand more about the meaning of esotericism. Already the question they bring begins to have its effect: is there an esotericism of energy, and not only of ideas? Or, rather, without the exact inner study in oneself of the processes by which energy is acquired and spent, is there really such a thing as esotericism?
The contemporary Samkhya master Sri Anirvan writes:
A Master teaches never more than a tenth of what he knows. In like manner, air is only a tenth part of ether, and water only a tenth part of air.... It cannot be otherwise....
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Featured: Spring 1999 Issue, Vol. II (3)
Revision: January 1, 2000