Now we come to nitrogen, atomic number seven. It sits between carbon and oxygen and as neutralizing or reconciling force it separates active and passive as a kind of buffer. Why does Mr. Gurdjieff call nitrogen neutralizing? First we're going to have to back up a little and discuss elemental chemistry again.
No element or atom likes to have its valence numbers dangling in the wind. They will do everything possible (including exploding) to fill their designated electron orbits. Only helium and the other inert elements (also called the noble elements -- because they are standoffish and don't need anybody) are completely happy, and helium with two protons and two electrons is the happiest element in the universe. I am not talking about neutrons or isotopes for the moment -- only protons and electrons.
Hydrogen, which has one proton and one electron tends to travel in pairs so that the two hydrogen atoms can share their electrons so that both are happy with two. But hydrogen is frisky, and the bonds are easily broken, so hydrogen molecules act like two heterosexual men forced into a relationship. As soon as some "women" come along, they are delighted to take up with them. In fact the term hydrogen means water maker in Greek, and in German the name for hydrogen is Wasserstoff, which is simply translated as water stuff. As soon as that nasty electron gobbling Oxygen meets up with hydrogen molecules, the hydrogen bonds break down and attach themselves to the Oxygen, creating H2O, or as we know it, water. Water is pretty darn stable, and is called the stuff of life. Even though in the alchemy of Mr. Gurdjieff oxygen is deemed the passive force, it is a pretty darn strong passive, positively acting like a woman in search of a man. Man equals positive magnetic pole; woman equals negative magnetic pole, but both poles are of the same strength, and if you think it is the man who always gets the girl you are dead wrong, because it is usually the girl that gets the man and lets him think that he is the active force. It's slightly off tangent but the reason that women are more like men these days is that there are no real Men, so women have to act more masculine, while political correctness means that man has to act more feminine. Mr. Gurdjieff had nothing good to say about this condition.
Anyway, Oxygen in the atmosphere also travels as a molecule of O2, each oxygen atoms sharing two electrons with each other so that their inner orbit is duet happy like helium and their outer shell each now has eight, or an octet, so a molecule of O2 is octet happy. But these two bonds are also easily broken, and so oxygen can act quickly in its passive role of facilitating combustion all over the place. No oxygen -- no combustion. No combustion -- everything stops.
But nitrogen also travels as a molecule rather than as individual nitrogen atoms, and nitrogen is missing three electrons. Nitrogen has the atomic number seven, two in the first shell just like helium (duet happy) and five in the outer shell. It is much easier for Nitrogen to make three bonds which will bring the missing electrons to it and for it to make five bonds and give away all five of its outer shell. In fact that never happens because it would turn Nitrogen into Helium and if all of the elements from Iron (atomic number 56) and under could actually change from element to element we wouldn't have any chemistry at all -- only a very strange alchemical universe where topsy is turvy and turvy is topsy.
Now Nitrogen as a molecule is N2, and it shares six electrons between two atoms. These three bonds are very very strong, and not easily broken. In fact, the bond is so strong that although the atmosphere contains 78% nitrogen, when we breathe in and out absolutely nothing happens to the nitrogen. We don't absorb any of it -- it just goes in and out as N2. For this reason nitrogen could be considered completely neutral, almost like one of the noble gases but with a very big difference. A very big difference. Because although the bonds are strong enough so that our breathing has no effect on them, the bonds ARE breakable, and when they break open they release a tremendous amount of energy. This is why almost all explosives contain nitrogen, and why fertilizers, which contain nitrogen which is necessary for life, can be so easily turned into bombs. The energy which is released when the nitrogen bonds are broken is absolutely necessary for life -- for the building of proteins and all sorts of handy things like neurons and enzymes and hormones.
So let's review:
Mr. Gurdjieff's alchemy declares that there are three forces which need to combine in order to produce any phenomena. He calls any such phenomenon without reference to the forces a hydrogen. Since hydrogen is the simplest atom and element and the universe is basically made of it (89 to 91%), you might as well call a chair a hydrogen, etc.
Then Mr. Gurdjieff uses the terms carbon, nitrogen and oxygen as follows:
Carbon as the active force. Organic chemistry is called Carbon chemistry, and its valence of four allows it to build huge scaffolding essential for life. Without carbon -- no life. Without life, one might as well say there is no activity.
Nitrogen as the neutralizing force. Nitrogen as a molecule is incredibly neutral, and yet breaking its bonds and using the immense energy yielded is essential for life, and it turns up in all sorts of unique places.
Oxygen as the passive force. Oxygen is extremely electron hungry. It will do almost anything to pull two more electrons in its direction. One cannot call this active so much as actively pulling, like a vacuum cleaner. And without Oxygen, no combustion. No combustion, no life. No life, no nothing.
Now I must add a caveat. Although Mr. Gurdjieff used these terms for his alchemical exposition of the Samkya and of the three Gunas, he emphasized that any of the three forces can act through any of the hydrogens, so that at times Oxygen can be active, Nitrogen can be passive and Carbon can be neutralizing, or any other combination. We should understand this in the same manner that it is difficult to understand the Chinese ideology of Yin and Yang. A man might be termed yang in relationship to his wife, but yin as he relates to his boss, who is yang for him. So the terminology can be quite confusing. I don't blame you if I've lost you a long time ago. I am not writing this blog for anybody and everybody. It is something like the documents found at Nag Hamaddi -- an exposition of an ancient teaching coupled with modern physics and science. It does not ask you to believe in anything, only to view what you already might know from a different perspective. A perspective which is non-anthropological. At the moment we are talking about things that are too small to see in their physical form, even with the most scientific instruments which can see individual atoms they are a blur. At the same time we're talking about the entire universe and cosmological laws which run through the entire ray of creation.Soon we will take another direction, and speak of the Hydrogens as levels of being, using number and cosmogony. And we will be looking at something called the food diagram, which gives indications whereby a man might begin to work on himself as if he were the chemicals in an alchemical laboratory, transmuting the lead of his being into the gold of his radiance.