Thursday, April 8, 2010

The sacred Impression

Landing today in Narita (Japan) I was utterly overwhelmed by the impression of the cherry trees in bloom along the runway.
Following along earlier impressions of the spring--unexpectedly early lilac leaves in our side yard, an early spray of forsythia along the roadside in Westchester- the impression reminds me of what this whole effort we call "work" is aimed at.

The principle task of men is to become servants of a higher power--not in the sense of externally mediated activities, the caring for of the poor, building of temples, singing of hymns or what have you--although all these activities are indeed laudable--but to become servants of the higher in an inner sense-- that is, to engage in effort that leads to an act of transformation within, one that allows our inner chemistry to take in impressions quite differently than we usually do.

All this, of course, was laid out in admirable theoretical detail by Gurdjieff, as recounted in Ouspensky's formidable "In Search Of The Miaculous." It is one thing to read the book, to try and "figure out" what all this obscure and sometimes tedious discussion of "higher hydrogens" is all about (and some scientifically minded folk might dismiss it outright, even though the premise of transformation of substances by the human body is entirely sound) but it is another to tread lightly into the territory where we no longer think about transubstantiation, about the possibility of change, and instead actually experience impressions in a different way.

This work is designed to help a man in such a way that if he works, and is diligent, the world can touch his soul. We are able to act as an intermediary between the material and the most intimate fragments of what can be called sacred consciousness; this is our purpose, and the allegory of the fall of man--of Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden-- is in large part a parable about the loss of exactly this ability.

No matter how low we sink, no matter how difficult or desperate life becomes, there is always hope for those of us who work--hope embodied in this very possibility, this magnificent opportunity--hope that we will, for just a moment, sense the world as it was meant to be sensed and as it ought to be sensed. Not in the way that drugs make possible--of course, there are drugs that can trigger chaotic, partial experiences of this kind-- but in that delicate and beautiful way that only the whole of one's being can.

Life conditions on the planet are unusually difficult right now--all the earthquakes taking place this year underscore the unusual tension on the planet--and a major change of some kind is under way in nature. (For myself, I suspect the planet is finally beginning to engage in activity which will counter some of the depredations mankind has visited upon it of late.) The conditions for individuals are correspondingly difficult, especially for those who are working: it is a more difficult time with more resistance than usual.

In these times, it is more important than ever to take heart and to remind ourselves that hope is there, and--could we but know it-- that we are cradled in the hands of powers far greater than ourselves. This idea is closely related to the idea of faith, which was the point where Gurdjieff and Ouspensky parted company. Gurdjieff maintained that it was a necessary element of work, Ouspensky would have none of it.

I am reminded here of Brother Lawrence, who saw a tree in winter; realized it would burst into leaves in the spring, and was filled with an understanding of the mercy of the Lord; it was the experience that caused him to lay down his weapons and join a monastery.

This is an excellent example of a truly sacred impression; understanding drawn directly from a simple seeing of the world that brought a different level of understanding into play. It contains the work of taking in impressions; transubstantiation of "water" (a bare tree in winter) into "wine" (the higher truth of its existence through time, and as a living element of the body of God) and hope-- the understanding that common experience, the "simple" taking in of impressions, is mankind's essential purpose, and a very high work indeed to be called to.

This seeing of truth is what we work for; if we see truly, deeply enough for the world to touch the soul, even once in a lifetime, we gain a treasure that cannot be gained in any other way.

May the living light of Christ discover us.

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