Sunday, April 22, 2012
Cosmologies of Light and Darkness
After a day spent, in part, reading Paramhansa Yogananda's biography, and then hosting a Parabola poetry event at the Orchard House Café, we drove back from Manhattan in the deep of night, across the bridge, up the Palisades, into a quiet darkness that seemed to encourage contemplation.
Earlier this week, a friend of mine who studied under Lord Pentland advised me that Pentland once told him that Ouspensky never really understood the work. He did a great deal for the Fourth Way, it's undeniably true; and service of this kind is indispensable. Yet he never penetrated to the depths of what the work is really for, except intellectually—which is definitely not enough.
One can't contrast any two visions of the universe more, perhaps, than Yogananda's vision of bliss, light, and love—unsurprising, given his firm rooting in the Bhakti tradition—and the dark universe of struggle and near—impossibility of development that Ouspensky described in In Search Of The Miraculous.
There are those who want inner work to be impossible; those who want our task to be onerous, the way to be straight and narrow, and the danger of being burned in the fire constantly all around us. At their worst, such people aren't followers of Ouspensky, of course; they end up as the fundamentalists of any religion, whose pulpit preaching threatens Hell for all those who fail to listen.
Then there are those, on the other hand, who think that all is light and bliss and love, that everyone will be saved, and that the universe is essentially perfect. Even at their worst, they are good, because they at least believe in the overriding principle of love.
Yet this vision of bliss and love, as alluring as it may be, is equally partial.
I think that any rational human being whose emotions are not already damaged would, given a choice, choose the latter path. Can one actually propose a higher consciousness that does not Love its own creation? Can we really believe in a universe dedicated to the unfeeling destruction of all that does not struggle relentlessly?
And what, exactly, does Love mean? Is it joy? Is it sorrow?
Or is it the manifestation of a single force, containing both of these elements?
I think this brings us back to the question of valuation. Everything has a value. Jeanne de Salzmann said (quite rightly, I am sure) that nothing ever stays the same place. Everything is always going either up, or down; the universe is in constant movement. She didn't, however, say that everything which is going down has no value.
The entire circulatory system has a value. To pretend that all downward movement is a discarded effort is perhaps mistaken. We, ourselves, after all, are a product of the downward movement of the energy through the ray of creation. All of material reality is a product of this downward movement. Are we to believe that that is valueless?
I think not. It is, in point of fact, necessary.
To be sure, sentient beings such as ourselves have a responsibility to assist in the upward movement of energy, yet to try and perform this task while disdaining or disavowing where we come from and what we are is pointless, and in a certain definite way fails to value that which is received. If a man walks through his life with his head always turned upwards, how many things will he trip over? How much will he injure himself? The downward movement is absolutely necessary as well; it's not the movement itself that carries challenges for us, but our relationship to it and our attitude towards it.
In a universe ruled by the principle of Gleichgültingkeit, where everything has a property of equal value, each note struck in the octave is equally vital and necessary to the development of the whole octave. One can't pick out a single note, for example, “Mi,” and think to oneself, "Well, that note's not good enough." A single note, first of all, means nothing, without its partners in an ascending and descending scale; and secondly, the note itself already has an inherent value, as does the single note struck on a bell.
Well, of course, perhaps the problem is that we do constantly pick out single notes and say “well, that's not good enough.” This is called being judgmental; a disease everyone is familiar with.
In any event, returning to Yogananda and Ouspensky; I can't unconditionally agree with Yogananda's assessment of man's destiny as a journey towards endless bliss; but I can't sign on to Ouspensky's dark cosmology either. Their visions, though remarkable, are incomplete. I believe Gurdjieff intentionally sterilized his inner work of the language and philosophy of the yoga schools specifically in order to avoid causing those studying the Fourth Way to become victims of such limitations.
Man does not begin, or end, his life as an outcast, inevitably consigned to the fire. Conscious or unconscious, intentional or unintentional, he fulfills his role as a living manifestation of Being. All of what takes place is necessary; the things that appear to us to be insane and destructive are, for incomprehensible reasons, just as necessary as the things that appear to be wonderfully creative.
Don't expect me to sort this out for anyone. I'm not able to. All any one of us can do is inhabit the particular expression which we have been made responsible for. That's not a copout; it's a fact. Each of us becomes responsible for his own very tiny corner of the universe, in which the whole of the universe finds its conscious expression, within that context.
We encounter what we encounter; we do what we do.
It is our alignment to it that makes a difference.
I respectfully hope you will take good care.