Of course, underlying this there is a perpetual sense--subtle but incontrovertible--that that isn't the case, but most of the time I manage to ignore this. We've come a long way from the religious sensibilities of the middle ages--and perhaps of catholicism in particular. So far that we no longer have any intellectual sense, let alone organic sense, that we are in a state of sin.
Not, mind you, in what one would call a state of badness. "Badness" is distinct from sin. When I say I am in a state of sin, what I mean is a lack. And this lack is so ubiquitous that it's quite difficult to put one's finger on its scale or scope.
So I am, in fact, usually supremely unaware of how I lack, or what I lack. That is, I may be aware intellectually, theoretically, but this is insufficient. In essence, what I lack is a "connection to the higher."
This is the phrase Jeanne DeSalzmann used; it seems generic to the causal observer, but it begins to mean something more and more specific to me as I grow older, and dig deeper into the kitchen-midden of my life.
There are times like today when that lack becomes all the more perceptible. I dropped my youngest child off at college yesterday afternoon--an emotional moment, to be sure, for anyone--and as I drove away I was deeply touched by the sense and aim of my life in general; the sensation of a lifetime of experiences of relationship with others; the overwhelming sensation, emotion and intelligence consequent to a seeing that I do not understand how to be present in relationship: whether to myself, to my child, or to any other.
The question, in short, of what it means to live.
Even this understanding itself is not born of any ordinary ability of my own to see; it can only come with help from above. It's only in the actual presence of the higher, only from within a hint of the Grace of God itself, that it becomes possible to see how one is simply not within that presence.
This morning I find myself at the kitchen table on the shores of a small lake in upstate New York. The lake is shrouded in fog; the haunting sounds of a flock of migrating Canada Geese come to us over the water, an archetypal echo of the ancient past, the roots we share with Great Nature. And once again... from within this rather ordinary mystery, which is anything but ordinary... and yet I stubbornly take it as ordinary... I return to a seeing of my lack, subtly spurred by a trickle of openness that gently reminds me of how disconnected I am within.
This anguishing realization, one might think, will inevitably spur me onwards, in an inner sense, towards an irrevocable commitment to dedicate myself more actively to my search. And yet it doesn't; I find myself falling back into sin, falling back into this state of forgetfulness, this state of lack of relationship, because of the simple and perhaps, now, terrifying realization of what Mr. Gurdjieff told us:
Man cannot do--
Which means something far more compelling, and alarming, that what it appears to mean on the face of things, when automatically and mechanically connected, within us, to the idea of what it's possible to achieve in day to day life.
Yes, perhaps it's only possible for me to begin to truly appreciate what this idea means when I divorce it from such mundane (and, frankly, egoistic) notions and attempt to understand it in the context of my inner life: most specifically, and above all, in the context of my wish for a connection to the Lord, and wish to serve, and what I myself am actually able to "do" in relationship to that.
It is only in the face of an inner nakedness, from within the acknowledgement of my own utter helplessness, that I begin to see what the saintly Ashieta Sheimash called "the terror of the situation": I am unable to bring about a relationship with God.
Instead, everything within me stands between my awareness and that Presence: all that is "me" prevents the real me, the wished-for me, which is an individual manifestation of the divine, from appearing. If self remembering is aimed at remembering any self, it is aimed at that self, not this self.
And so I seek absolution: deliverance from this state of iniquity, from this state of lack. The hope and faith that God will not abandon me in my perpetual hour of need and misunderstanding. That despite my lack, the possibility of help is always there.
In the third series--a series not often read in the present day--Gurdjieff reminds us that in ancient times, after a man died, on the third day after his death his friends gathered for the remembering day, in which all the bad deeds a man had done during his life were remembered. A peculiar ceremony to our sensibilities, perhaps: our habit, after all, being to extoll the virtues of the departed, usually in sheer defiance of how they actually were (for we are almost all the arrogant and vainglorious creatures of our egos, in the end.) Yet the ceremony makes sense to me, because in the moments of real remorse of conscience, when I do actually see my lack--as opposed to having knowing discussions about seeing my lack, which to the last word beggar the question (and the experience) of being driven to one's knees in desperate prayer--I see that iniquitiy, lack--yes, sin--define my relationship to the higher.
This is not to say that I step away from these experiences with an impulse to flagellation. Severity and self--disgust are appealing to the wishful ascetic, but they do nothing to bring me closer to what is higher in myself. In my own experience, only the effort to dwell more firmly and deeply within the organism; the effort to invest in the organic sense of Being, to rediscover the relationship and inhabit the very cells themselves-- and to continually come back to ponder, sense, and feel the lack of connection, the lack of relationship within me--can prepare any fertile soil for that mustard seed of hope which, Insh'Allah, may be planted in my breast and grow.
So today I awake and stand once more in front of this lack, understanding--and hoping--that the possibility, at least, of seeing how I am now is there--and that that possibility alone may lead to an opening in which something real may arrive, and something new be born in this unworthy soul.
May our hearts be open, and our prayers be heard.