Monday, August 22, 2011

The path of the heart

Last week, my wife and I were watching the DVD “Chartres Cathedral: a sacred geometry.” (Thanks, Luke Storms!)

Chartres was built during the 13th century--the same utterly extraordinary and deeply spiritualized century in which Rumi, Meister Eckhart, and Zen master Dogen lived and worked.

Among other fascinating revelations on this DVD–which is definitely well worth buying!–it turns out that the façade of Chartres Cathedral has numerous unusual esoteric features.

First of all, the façade of the cathedral contains an esoteric reference to the Hindu system of chakras. This isn't surprising, when one considers the work of Paramahansa Yogananda, who not only cited many underlying links between Christian and yogic practice, but also wrote an extensive book on the Gospels.

The narrator in the DVD refers to the correspondence between the medieval iconography of Chartres and Hindu chakra philosophy as coincidental, but anyone who watches it will realize this was not a coincidence at all: it was the definite product of what Gurdjieff would have called a school (a point that is explained early in the documentary.)

Second of all, there is a direct correspondence between the elevation of the rose window on the West façade and the location of the maze on the floor of the cathedral. If one takes an architectural rendering of the façade and lays it flat over the floor plan, the maze and the rose window are directly superimposed. Since the center of the rose window is Christ–that is, God–the maze clearly represents the path to God from here on earth. And, as anyone knows, the center of a maze is referred to as the heart of the maze.

So Chartres Cathedral physically instructs us: the path to God is the path to the heart.

It reminded me at once of the masthead for this blog, which is been there since the first day it was published:

“There is no I, there is only truth. The way to the truth is through the heart."

That statement has been on this blog since the day I started writing it because it was sent to me many years ago by way of personal Divine revelation. The words are not mine: they belong to God.

I don't claim to fully understand it; it is a work to be undertaken, and progressively understood through the challenges and trials of life. It isn't for anyone to explain what it means; it's a question to be engaged in, a practice to be lived. Every once in a while, I get a taste of this truth–just a taste–and in moments like that, life is transformed.

Mr. Gurdjieff undoubtedly called all of us to walk this path of the heart. His work is above all a work of Love.

Given the deep and long-standing connections between yoga practices and Christianity, as illustrated in the connections between the Chartres cathedral and yoga systems, one can see that despite the many obvious relationships between his work and Asian esoteric systems, Gurdjieff never actually deviated from the original eastern Orthodox practice of his youth: because there is no contradiction between Orthodox Christianity and yoga, there is no need to separate them. There is, of course, also no difference between real Islam (as opposed to the destructive exoteric varieties we see in today's world) and Christianity, or Judaism and Christianity: all of the religions actually spring from the same root, and at their esoteric heart can never be different from one another. It is only our own deficiencies that divide them.

Gurdjieff was not just Christian; he was deeply Christian, irrevocably Christian. He was also, in every sense, deeply and irrevocably Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, and Buddhist. His teaching emanated from the heart source of every religion, and calls us back to it.

Despite many blessings, and the abundance of grace which is bestowed in life, I find I have a poor connection to my own heart, and an impoverished understanding of what it means to be compassionate and loving. I am reminded of this constantly, despite the arrogance with which I approach other people and life conditions. I forever find myself in the middle of horrifying situations where I am being, let's face it, a complete idiot, an unashamed egoist–I have no real ability to be any other way–and I see that this is exactly what I am.

If there ever were instances where one could experience what the very saintly Ashieta Shiemash called “the terror of the situation,” these would be the instances indeed.

Intentional suffering–opening the heart–involves being there in the middle of these absolute truths about how I am, and accepting them.

Perhaps the heart just needs to break before anything new can come in.

May our prayers be heard.

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