In order to undertake a continuation of this teaching I have returned to the study of chemistry in order to explicate Gurdjieff's exposition of his alchemical use of the terms Hydrogen, Carbon, Oxygen and Nitrogen.
When he speaks of Hydrogen he means any given thing without reference to the three forces which braid together to create the phenomenological world. When he speaks of Carbon, Oxygen or Nitrogen he is speaking of Hydrogens acting in one of those three roles, which he calls affirming, denying and reconciling, or active, passive and catalytic.
I have described those three forces according to the Samkya and the Hindu Trimurti (three faces of God) and according to modern physics and have attributed the following names to them: Shiva the God of creation and destruction as under his purview the centrifugal force, active; that which created the Big Bang and also moves towards the dissolution of things. Vishnu, the God of preservation I have assigned to the physical manifestation of the centripital force which tends to congeal things into stability, passive. And I have spoken of Brahma, who governs the invisible force of revolution, that is, the revolving nature of all things. It were not for Brahma acting as a stir stick, the centripital and centrifugal forces would lead to a standstill, and all things would vanish. This is the reconciling force.
I must now speak of chemistry and alchemy. These were not separate subjects in the ancient world, and now that modern physics is catching up with ancient knowledge, it is the proper time to reintroduce the marriage of chemistry and alchemy. Mankind has now reached its puberty, and puberty is a dangerous time. Man is quickly coming to a tipping point, where his emotional immaturity may destroy the eons of work which Great Nature has undertaken in order to develop a recursive conscious three brained being, that is to say, Man.
I am going to present you with a diagram which lists the first 18 elements in a unique manner which is different from the usual periodic table, a deep study of which will help us in our explorations of Mr. Gurdjieff's ideas as well as an understanding of chemistry as alchemy, both in the phenomenological world as well as in the world of the inner life of man:
If you will study this diagram, you will see that Hydrogen stands in the middle and is surrounded by four compass headings plus their crossbars of Northeast/Southwest, and Northwest/Southeast, and that the elements are in a kind os spiral.
We will follow the spiral movement of the elements one by one.
Hydrogen only has one proton in its nucleus and one electron. For the moment we will disregard the protons and neutrons, and only pay attention to the electrons for each element, for excepting radioactivity or nuclear actions most chemistry is concerned with the movement and sharing of electrons, although in some case protons are involved in chemical activity. As I have said before, Hydrogen accounts for about 90% of the entire substance in the universe, usually as lonely bachelors in deep space. Hydrogen is extremely active and will bond with just about anything in order to reach the happiness of the next element, helium.
Helium has two electrons; this is in the ratio of an octave or 2:1, and helium is a noble, or inert gas. It will hardly bond with anything, because its first electron shell is full and is called "duet happy". This shell is called s1. It has zero valence.
Then we have Lithium. Lithium is like helium with an extra proton and and extra electron, two in an duet pair, and one in s2 orbit. It would just love to give it's third electron to somebody. This makes Lithium very reactive, and if you throw Lithium in water it will blow up. It's "valence" number is 1
Next is Beryllium, with four electrons; two are duet happy, and two are in the s2 shell as a pair -- s2 (2). It would rather lose it's two extra electrons than have to find 6 more to complete an octave, so it is reactive, but not as "hot" to trot as Lithium. Valence number of 2
Moving on we find Boron, with 5 electrons, two in the helium shell and three in the s2 shells, giving it a valence of 3
Then we find Carbon, with 6 electrons. Two are in s1, and four are in the next shell, and carbon has a valence of 4 -- it can go either way to reach happiness; it can share it's 4 electrons and has a valence number of 4.
Nitrogen is next, with 7 electrons, 2 and 5. Since a happy shell has 8 (octet happy), it has a valence of 3 -- by sharing 3 with another element or multiple elements, it can gain the 3 it needs to have the magic number of 10, 2 in an duet as in helium and 8 to complete a octave, so it has a valence of 3
Oxygen is next with 8 electrons. Again, 2 are stable and 6 are free to marry or have affairs, but it only needs 2 more electrons to reach octave happiness.
Then we have Chlorine, with 9 electrons, 2 stable and 7 free -- but since it only needs one more to fill it's octave shell, it is what is called electrophilic, meaning that it desperatly wants to find that last electron to make it happy.
The next is Neon, with 10 electrons, 2 stable in a duet happy shell and 8 happy in an octave shell. So it again is unreactive and is either called an inert or noble gas. It's valence number is 0.
That's why it sits below Helium on the spiral diagram.
Then we continue to Sodium, named Na. Again it has 11 electrons altogether; 2 stable, 8 stable, and one loose electron.
Remember that chlorine needs 1 more electron, and sodium has one it is dying to get rid of (or shacked up with somebody), so we have a very famous molecule, NaCl. Know what that is? SALT!
I have no need to go further to explain what I want to explain.
All we need to know right now are valence numbers. They are as follows:
As you can see, the valences rise and fall between zero and four. Even though Carbon is in the middle of the octave, with four extra electrons to bond with, it has more power to bond with more things than any other element. Silicon, which sits above Carbon on our diagram, also has a valence of 4, but the electrons are further away from the nucleus and bond differently in some regards than Carbon.
Organic chemistry is called Carbon chemistry, because all life depends upon Carbon. It is interesting that artificial intelligence has been developed through Silicon, an octave above Carbon, but it is Mr. Gurdjieff's nomenclature of his Alchemy that we are interested in. Mr. Gurdjieff called Carbon the active force, Nitrogen the neutralizing force and Oxygen, the passive force. We are trying to figure out why. And if you ponder carefully the relationship between Carbon and life, you may begin to see that life is active -- thus it may be said quite casually that Carbon is active.
Now that we have shown you to some reasonable degree of scientific certainty why Mr. Gurdjieff would choose Carbon as representing the active force, I will leave you for a time to ponder why Oxygen is passive and Nitrogen is reconciling. Good luck pondering. I will be doing the same thing -- trying to really THINK -- ACTIVELY.
I know it's been a long time since there were any new posts on this blog. I hope to return to it more often, but before I present something I want to make sure I have studied enough aspects and pondered enough to reach an understanding at depth rather than some surface formatory statements. I don't ask you to believe anything I write. It is only given out as part of the learning that human beings should be engaged in, and as a debt which I'm trying to pay, for the fact of my existence, and the gifts which have been visited upon me. Blessings to you all -- so mote it be.