The Fifth Way
An Introduction by Lillian Delevoryas
Prepared as an introduction for a proposed book on the Fifth Way, Lillian wrote here for students of Robin Amis, who first brought the translation of Mouravieff’s 3 volumes of ‘Gnosis’ to the English-speaking world in 1990.
The part of Mouravieff’s original teaching that appealed most to us was the idea of the Fifth Way and the Polar Being – it was the first time we came across a theory about the two sexes that made any sense. Apart from lust, procreation and romance there didn’t seem to be any other options – and all these were transient ‘passions’ that, when they disappeared, love also disappeared. In fact, M. quotes the folk saying that ‘marriage is the graveyard of love.’
So, faced with these alternatives, the idea that there was something more to be achieved when man meets woman was a huge revelation – and 30 years later, although we can’t claim to have penetrated the essence of this teaching, it still makes the most sense to us, as it will for countless others, and bringing it out into the world for young people who are just beginning their adult life seems a good counterbalance to the trivialisation and vulgarisation of sex that has become endemic in modern society.
Thirty years ago, when we first published Gnosis in English, there was a flurry of seekers who were taken completely by this concept – to the point where they left their existing marriages in search of their ‘Polar Other’. At this point Robin stopped featuring it in his talks, and began to downplay it in general. It obviously wasn’t the right time. Annie Lou Staveley, a wise old woman who had studied with Gurdjieff in Paris, advised her Fourth Way group in Oregon to ‘treat your common or garden variety husband (or wife) as your polar being – just use the idea to act ‘as if’ you were’ – and that seemed as good an instruction as any.
In the meantime, time has moved on, and even though (according to M’s students) the teaching on the Polar Being was a teaching for the Age to Come – it would seem that this age is already upon us – or at least the transition into it has begun. The idea itself has ‘taken’, and judging from several websites, there are a number of students of Gnosis who have pursued this idea and taken it further. One of these is Cynthia Bourgeault, particularly in her books The Meaning of Mary Magdalene and Love is Stronger than Death. Cynthia was a student of Robin’s for a short time and has had a solid grounding in Fourth Way Work – so as an exponent of the Fifth Way, she understands the necessity of first beginning with Work on Oneself (in the realm of inner work, or ‘purification’ as it’s referred to in the church) before one can progress further.
At the same time, M. himself stated that working as a couple is considerably more efficient than working alone – and that in future this will be the preferred way – protected, as it were (he states elsewhere that in the past monasticism was the prevalent way where one could work under the protection of a monastery). He uses the same word ‘protected’ to refer to the Fifth Way in future – and also states that monasticism as a ‘way’ will be replaced by ‘working on oneself’ in life – which would embrace the idea of marriage, and a relationship with another. This would relate to the idea of the 3 stages in the Work: the work begins with work on oneself, then progresses to work with others, and finally working for the Work itself. In each stage one expands to include more and more – from the selfish concern of one’s own development, one moves on to include another, and from there, opens out into a larger whole.
When one goes into the Polar Being teaching more deeply, the concept exists that when two people (man and woman) effect their transformation as a couple, between themselves they create another (as John Donne puts it) ‘abler soul’ between them. But it doesn’t stop there. That is the point where they become truly useful to the work and it is this newly created being that is involved in the evolution of mankind.
But we mustn’t digress and go into speculation. It is our aim here to present the doctrine as Mouravieff presents it in his 3 volumes of Gnosis, enlarged upon by other teachings, as well as those Russian philosophers of the 19th Century who helped shape his thinking on the subject (Soloviev, Berdyaev, etc.) To do this we have extracted from his 3 volumes all the references to the Fifth Way, and have presented them here as they were written, so that the reader can see clearly M’s viewpoint.
By doing this we will try to establish that, as this teaching has become disseminated at large, it was M’s original formulation in the mid twentieth century that set the stage in the next century for implementing it in the world. We will try to fill in the gaps with excerpts from his own unfinished novel Initiation, which is a description of his own experience of the Fifth Way. Other texts that have been useful are Vladimir Soloviev’s The Meaning of Love, Philip Sherrard’s Christianity and Eros, and Paul Evdokimov’s The Sacrament of Love.
In no way do we, as students of Robin Amis and Mouravieff, claim to have the key or have all the answers to the questions that this magnificent teaching poses. Our aim is to bring it out into a world which appears to be ready for it at this crucial junction in history – where things seem to be disintegrating as quickly as they are built up. The greatest disaster area in modern times seems to be that of the relation between man and woman – the question of sexuality – of gender confusion – all these – leading to the deterioration of marriage and the family as a unit – would point to the need for a radical re-thinking of the role of the sexes in the Age to Come. Because it is such a novel idea, those who embrace it will have to use it in their own lives to fathom its meaning – and we are all in this boat together. Those brave souls who make it their own will no doubt contribute to the knowledge and awareness of the teaching as it finds its way into more general circulation.
This exposition is dedicated to the youth of today – growing up in a ‘virtual’ reality, enveloped by instant networking, cybercrime, etc – and who have highly developed motor skills and intellect, which can be put to better use in order to save themselves and mankind in the future, if only the emotional centre could be developed to the same degree.
The book is addressed to three specific groups, as was the original publication of Mouravieff’s Gnosis, formulated by Robin as follows:
1: Fourth Way students who have reached the point of ‘what next?” Individual evolution is a lonely beast and now the ‘why’ has become as important as the ‘how’
2: Christian seekers – who no longer can buy what the non-comprehending clergy have to tell them about sex and relationships between man and woman – (largely gleaned from centuries of monastic sources).
3: Emerging young people, from developing countries who have venerated the ideals of the west – especially American – the dream of a ‘car in every garage’, etc. – which have been shattered by the ultimate triumph of banality with Donald Duck who has cast a pall of ultimate mediocrity over the land and the noble aspirations of the founding fathers lie bleeding in the dust.
What next indeed? The answer may lie in the totally unexpected – so simple and yet so powerful – the instinctive attraction between man and woman – up to now put to the service of procreation or pleasure – which can turn into the possibility that through this basic ‘given’ in the universe they may become mirror images of the Divine.
It is to the young people who at heart are feeling a desperation, who have practically given up and stopped looking for what used to be termed ‘Mr. Right’ – who have succumbed to the law of mediocrity and to settled for ‘second best’ – accepting that everything noble and wonderful runs its course and turns into its opposite – that the promise of the early romance between lovers soon disappears and the search keeps them moving on to find something (someone) new.
This new idea of the relation between sex and sacrifice is one that hasn’t yet been introduced into the equation – or at least one not in popular favour – since one has to be willing to aim high and sacrifice all for it. Ultimately there is nothing higher than love (St Paul’s ‘The Greatest of these is love’), or ‘Greater love hath no man, except to lay down his life for his neighbour.
The book aims to make this idea of the polar being more than a mere conceit or a dry intellectual theory, but presents it as a real possibility – the alpha and omega of our existence, if we truly understand it. We have tried to present it all together – illustrating it with Mouravieff’s private correspondence on the subject, as well as by his unfinished and unpublished novel Initiation, and interspersing it with relevant references to some of his formative influences from 19th century Russia. The book will also show how more contemporary writers link these ideas with prevailing echoes in more advanced orthodox thought, making it more accessible to modern readers, using concepts that make more sense than antiquated and outmoded 3rd and 4th hand precepts that no longer have credibility.
Lillian Delevoryas, July 2017
The Polar Being and Lillian Delevoryas
In the last years of her life Lillian became more deeply interested in the teaching of Boris Mouravieff (BM), especially in his concepts of the ‘polar being’ and the ‘fifth way’, which partly influenced her beautiful paintings of St Mary Magdalene. In particular, Lillian understood the teaching of the polar being as being of paramount importance for the times in which we are now living.
The Fifth Way Teaching was formulated in Boris Mouravieff’s three volume work Gnosis, which was first published in French in the 1960s after he had formed the Centre for Christian Esoteric Studies at Geneva in 1961. He also gave courses in esoteric Philosophy at the University of Geneva at that time. The three volumes of Gnosis are works of great breadth, where a profound Teaching is presented, showing the possible path of man and woman working towards their spiritual goal.
Mouravieff was born in Russia in 1890, the son of an Admiral and Secretary of State, where he embarked on a career in the Imperial Russian Navy. However, he was forced to leave Russia by the time of the Russian Revolution, when he went to Turkey and later France. He met P.D. Ouspensky in the 1920s and became well acquainted with Gurdjieff’s ‘Fourth Way’ teaching. Without doubt, he learned much from the Fourth Way school and incorporated much of the teaching into the Fifth Way school. For example, the principles of awareness, the notion that man is asleep, levels of consciousness, self-observation/constatation, and energies in the human being and much more, which are the essential foundation in both the Fourth- and Fifth-Way teachings.
In the Fifth Way Teaching in Gnosis, BM brings to light the long-forgotten idea of the polar being, known since ancient times. In short, the polar being is the Androgyne, the integrated soul of a man and a woman, until the separation of both took place at the time of the Fall. The spiritual process of reintegration of the two separated souls is described as a four-stage process of faith, hope, knowledge and love.
All this is in accordance with the law of octaves, leading to the fusion of two souls into one soul and to the revelation of the Love of Christ and all that is connected with this integration. From this point the Fifth Way goes further, leading to man/woman no. 6 (the stage of the Prophet) and man/woman no. 7 (the stage of the Apostle). The Fifth Way material as presented in Gnosis is not easy to digest, yet it opens significant new perspectives of practical work for serious seekers, and gives a wealth of new teaching, guidance and information, hitherto difficult to access in spiritual literature.
This information is not only important for the polar being, but for every married couple who in hope, faith and love, wish to work spiritually together. In human history there are many more or less known examples of polar beings and their often marvellous attainments in religion, art, music or literature, who thereby helped in forming both culture and society.
Selections from 'A Different Christianity'
by Robin Amis
(published by State University of New York Preass, Albany, NY, 1995)
“The love of the soul is its salvation”
Outside monasticism, the forms of repentance and of transformation of eros are even more varied – although all must pass through the same final constriction. Mouravieff’s concept of the polar being is a teaching of repentance. It contains, among other meaning, the idea of path of repentance in the marriage relationship, and also in the family, a form that is extensible to a form of repentance in society at large. It expresses in modern form the idea of virginity that existed in the very early church when couples would occasionally marry and then avoid any physical relationship, instead devoting their lives to God.
Why was this done? What reason could there be for doing it today? Consider the psychological power of love. Individuals, when they fall in love, act in flagrant disregard of heir own previous character; their priorities are changed, their values transformed, their ability to make effort increased and at the same time narrowed, so that only one aim exists for them, and activities into which they had put years of effort are forgotten overnight. It is clear that these powerful if purely natural energies are able to redirect the heart.
Yet in the Fathers and before them, in Plato, there is a higher, divine eros and a lower, physical eros. Boris Mouravieff repeats a text of the esoteric tradition called The Golden Book, from which he quotes several times, and from which Gurdjieff’s aphorisms are supposed to have been obtained, a text which – not surprisingly if it is secret – I have not so far managed to locate, and which said:
Our Lord is great and glorious,
He fills the Universe with His Love!
Thy love belongs to him;
The love of the soul is its salvation. 19
The transformation of the eros turns this powerful force into a new direction, into the search for God. Then the successful seekers will act in flagrant disregard of their own previous character; their priorities will become spiritual priorities, their values be transformed to Christian values, their ability to make effort increased and at the same time narrowed, so that the only aim that exists for them is to serve the Lord.
The real meaning of the transformation of eros, then, is not a negation of sex, something that is in itself God-given, but the need -at a certain point in the growth of the individual- to redirect emotions that have become subordinated to sex; to narrow down to that one desire which is love itself as a single thing: that love which, being a love for the source of love, does not immolate itself in its success. So the difficult question is not whether this should be done, but how to achieve this sublimation.
This question is further modified by the nature of the eros itself. To the inner tradition, eros is not simply physical love, but the love of the soul for its lost beloved -the spirit: in this form the divine eros is actually natural to the human being. It manifests early in life as an innate curiosity that as we mature turns inward and in doing so must entrain the lover eroticism and attract it toward a different reality. This however is a high stage and for most people the divine eros is seen in the pursuit of self-knowledge. The seeking of truth within us, however feeble it is in its beginning, is the first small shoot of the divine eros.
The whole point seems to be that we should change the direction as well as the intensity of our love, should turn self-love into love of our Lord, and should magnetize ourselves through with this higher form of love so that we do not again turn back to the demand of the world.
To describe these methods in detail is beyond the range of this generalized book, and indeed little detailed information exists in writing in this line, beyond comprehensible only to those qualified to put them to practical use.
Mouravieff, however gives certain clues: some specific, which I will not reproduce, some more general. For example, immediately after the passage from The Golden Book he wrote:
“Unfortunately, man does not know how to distinguish Love from passion, so he often takes the reflection for its source. One definition, not of Love, which is indefinable, but of its attributes20, has been given by Saint Paul in terms which are as precise as they are meaningful.
“Love suffereth long, and is kind; Love envieth not; Love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil: Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things; hopeth all things; endureth all things. Love never faileth; but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away”. (I Corinthians 13:4-8)
If we meditate on this text, we will understand that a true abyss separates love from a “loving” passion, yet we so often take the latter for love!
But passion’s motivation is to possess, and this produces an effect diametrically opposed to those described in Saint Paul’s text. The spirit of Love is to give with no retrun21. Once again we are speaking of seeing through illusion, but this time it is entirely clear that the illusions we must overcome are emotional delusions. Gifted with the Spirit of repentance, we must see through these passions, must see them for wat they are – as “second-hand emotions”, memories of past emotion – in order to become free of them.
In the resulting freedom from distraction by emotional delusion, we have again found the apatheia of Evagrius and other Fathers. Here too we find something else. Intellectual discrimination leads to what might be called a “change of mind.” This is often regarded as being genuine metanoia; the true inner change of repentance. But the nous is the knowing power of the inmost heart, known, as said earlier as the eye of the soul; and metanoia, the change of heart. It is this that is demonstrated by apatheia, by lack of passionate delusion.
The Spirit of repentance brings emotional discrimination, and this emotional discrimination is the secret of the transformation of the sex force, as well as of the transformation of the negative emotions of anger and despair.
We have to know real emotions from unreal, to remember the real. To ponder the passage from Saint Paul given above is perhaps the most effective way of taking to heart the difference between the two. This sensitivity to the difference between true and false emotions takes the power from the false emotions.
It is at this point that a change occurs; now the God-given natural goodness within us, to which Saint Theophan referred, emerges naturally as our real character. The image becomes a likeness; the image of the divine within us emerges as we become “like unto our Lord.”
This is sanctification. Saint Maximos had this to say about what might be called the sanctification of Love: “the one who is perfect in love and has reached the summit of detachment knows no distinction between his own and another’s, between faithful and unfaithful, between slave and freeman, of indeed between male and female. But having risen above the tyranny of the passions and looking to the one nature of men, he regards all equally and is equally disposed toward all. For in him there is neither Greek nor Jew, neither male nor female, neither slave nor freeman, but Christ is everything and in everything.”22 This describes a state of being which may be experienced, a place in the universe that may be reached by us. Far greater than this, it describes a permanent state of being which, it has been said, may be accomplished, may be reached in this life. “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Matthew 11:12)
I wrote earlier that prayer is a form of asceticism and involves a struggle. For many years, true prayer becomes a continual struggle with oneself.
At the same time, for those who are not free either to be monastics or to live like monastics, for those who are not free to give the sae amount of tine to the ascetic exercises described above, this list can be varied in detail, as long as the basic principle is followed. Here those who are not monastic meet the question of what forms of ascesis are possible to them. This is a real question and requires more exact guidance than can be given in this or any book. In actuality it requires the guidance of what the Eastern Church calls an elder (geronte or starets), an experienced guide who is inspired by the Spirit.
But even with such guidance, this question turns into two separate questions: one is the question of what forms of ascesis can be practiced in everyday life, a question developed in the next chapter. The other is the question of the false choices that we continually make: of overcoming the illusion of difficulty that makes us give up. The nature of this delusion is such that any kind of ascesis can appear to us to be impossible. This is exactly where the gospel teaching is relevant that describes the Royal Road thus: “Narrow is the gate and hard is the way that leads to life”. (Matthew 7:14)
The problem is that, when first the struggle becomes wholly real, it becomes much more difficult, and the one first meets this degree of difficulty, the whole thing appears totally impossible.
Yet this is where the Royal Road begins.
To walk on this road, to make the step to different being, demands a different level of exertion, or to be more exact, exertion of a different kind, originating from what we today might call ‘a different place in us’.
This kind of effort is one of the characteristics of passing through the change of state signified by the image of the “strait gate.” It is at this point that one can first truly begin to say with Saint Paul: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20).
It is at this point that many people give up, surrender the struggle, seek easier ways…even if those easier ways mean reaching lesser goals. But this difficulty is itself an illusion: an illusion with which we must struggle.
Vigils require what might be called super-efforts. But those super-efforts are efforts against illusion. For some people, fasting requires super-efforts. But again, those super-efforts are efforts against illusion…efforts to transcend the imaginary limits on our capacities we have habitually accepted. For others with their busy lives, prayer requires super-efforts. But those super-efforts too – like all the super-efforts of ascesis – are in large part efforts against illusion. Super-efforts are a struggle with expectations, the effort to do what we are really capable of, instead of that to which we have habitually believed ourselves to be limited.
(A Different Christianity, pages 193-197)
Over two thousand or so years, what was a major factor in early Christendom, an esoteric or inner understanding of Christian tradition, had been progressively forgotten, so that today’s Christianity -and today’s Christians -are very different from those of two thousand years ago Yet for time to time, when the need arises, this forgotten tradition had developed abroad form for nonmonastic use, as well as its narrower monastic form. I remember an American monk on Mount Athos complaining to me, on one of my visits to the Holy Mountain, that ‘the problem with this place is that we [the monks] cannot change anything. One significance of this statement is that even with its variants of kellia, skaetes, and the hermetic life as found on Athos, the monastic environment is more or less standard from century to century. As a result, monastic methods are more easily standardized, and knowledge is not so easily lost.
But knowledge is also needed that is not easily obtainable form monastic sources. Boris Mouravieff, in unpublished texts, has perhaps most clearly described what must be done to obtain results from the nonmonastic psychological method, in which both head and heart must be subject to major changes in the way they perform.
But for those who are not monastics, we must come back to the question of how to achieve this change of heart, and what it could mean to do so. Saint Maximos the Confessor says elsewhere that watchfulness keeps the nous pure of provocations, and prayer brings grace into man’s heart, while obedience to the will of God cures the activities of the psyche, and constant watchfulness combines with attentive prayer cures the nous.
In his unpublished writings Boris Mouravieff wrote about similar methods, speaking specifically of a formula suited to the needs of householders:
“The method of Gnosis is a psychological method, the only method which for active esoteric work does not demand a change in our way of life. This method allows one to progress, and that more quickly compares with in the monasteries. The essential elements of this method are three in number:
- Doubled attention and thus presence 24
The simultaneous practice of these three elements involves the whole Personality …. This obliges the three centres to assist each other. This is the essential. All the other exercises are certainly useful but are no more than auxiliary to this method.
The psychological method … in its fullness had many elements in common with Raja Yoga, and moreover with the Orthodox tradition called ‘the Royal Road’. The characteristic as it is presented in Gnosis is that can be applied while we are fully active in the everyday world, and does not demand any change in the way of life demanded of us in that world.25
More interesting, inner experience shows that these elements link together in an particular way, and also that thy link with both the Fourth Way teaching and the teachings of the early Fathers.
Head and heart, watchfulness and prayer are both known to play important roles in esoteric development. Mouravieff’s term constatation refers to a third element, diakrisis or discrimination.
In the terms used by Gurdjieff and others the idea of doubled attention, of attention in and out at the same time, the “two-headed arrow,” is clearly associated with the second of these three elements. The relevance of constatation – defined by Mouravieff as perception without judgment – is equally clear. Prayer in this context -prayer of the heart, a form of prayer which begins as a practice but ends as a state- links with these two as a missing method whose probable characteristics were described by Ouspensky before his death.
Together these three fulfil instruction of Boris Mouravieff, given in Gnosis,26 that the student of this path should act as if he or she possessed a complete magnetic center. That is they represent the states -the two ‘conscious shocks”27– needed before the active psycho what Mouravieff called “the Personality,” is able to serve as a vehicle for higher consciousness: for what the Fourth Way teachers would simply describe as Consciousness. Equally, these states exist in the teaching of the Fathers, where we can best understanding them by terms such as:
Watchfulness (Greek nepsis) is in fact a union or combination of the two states that form the complete stages of presence and constatation. A typical reference in the early Fathers confirms their belief in the interdependence of watchfulness and prayer, as well as showing how these qualities combine to assist in the struggle with pride, leading to the humility that opens the heart to higher powers: “The life of attentiveness, brought to fruition in Christ Jesus, is the father of contemplation and spiritual knowledge. Linked to humility, it engenders divine exaltation and thoughts of the wisest kind,”28
The therapeutic interpretation of patristic psychology now being developed in Greece emphasizes the doctrine of the early Fathers that again tells us that the cure of nous requires watchfulness and prayer, mainly the so-called noetic prayer of the heart. It is by these means, it teaches, that the grace of God comes and illumines the nous: “According to the fathers, watchfulness is the restraint or guarding of the reason within the heart so that no thought enters to provoke sin. “Saint Paul wrote to Timothy that he should: “Remain watchful through everything” (2 Timothy 4:5).
Noetic prayer was discussed in the previous chapter. Watchfulness is both a state and practice, the practice necessarily preceding and preparing the way for the state. The term originates in a famous gospel quotation: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
The meaning of this idea can be found in modern spiritual methods that combine noetic ascesis as a form of prayer with the self-remembering introduces in Fourth Way teachings. These methods parallel certain methods described by Saint Hesychius the Priest, who wrote:
“The great lawgiver Moses – or rather, the Holy Spirit – indicates the pure, comprehensive and ennobling character of the virtue [watchfulness], and teaches us how to acquire and perfect is, when he says: “Be attentive to yourself, lest there arise in your heart a secret thing which is an iniquity”. (Deuteronomy 15:9)29
According to this, watchfulness is both a state and a practice, the practice necessarily preceding and preparing the way for the state. The complete development of nepsis is a necessary psychological stage in the Royal Way, an element of the psychological method. During this stage, the primary efforts required are that of constatation and the effort to be present, sometimes known as self-remembering.
(A Different Christianity, pages 274-277)
- The Golden Book, quoted in Boris Mouravieff’s Gnosis. Vol. 3, p. 217.
- Or to be more precise than the original translation, of the qualities it evokes in human character.
- Boris Mouravieff, Gnosis. Vol. 3, p. 217.
- Maximos the Confessor, Four Hundred Chapters on love. C30.
- The last two of these three points are defined later in this chapter.
- Boris Mouravieff, unpublished writings form the French.
- Boris Mouravieff, Gnosis. Vol. 1.
- See P.D. Ouspensky, The Psychology and Cosmology of Man’s Possible Evolution. Newbury, MA. Praxis Institute Press, 1989.
- St. Hesychius the Priest, in The Philokalia, Vol. 1, p. 187, v147.
- Ibid., p. 163, v2.