Thursday, June 21, 2012

More meditations on determinism

On my trip to China, while I was contemplating the questions I raised in the essay A Done Deal, some distinct impressions arose in me, impressions that over the course of a lifetime have created an indelible conviction regarding the nature of our lives, and of reality.

 Readers who remember Gurdjieff's commentaries to Ouspensky about an experience of conscience, as recounted in In Search of the Miraculous, will recall that it consisted of a comprehensive sensation of everything a man is able to feel, recounted in a single instance of inner experience. It is a kind of insight that carries what is, from our current state's point of view, an incomprehensible understanding of one's position. This is not a philosophical insight, but a religious one, because it reconnects a man to the entirety of what he is. And the entirety of what we are is simultaneous, as is the experience of conscience; our notion of it as a series of sequential events is not a consequence of the nature of reality, but rather our failure to comprehend it.

 The whole self is what needs to be remembered. Conscience is an experience of that whole self, in its current state, with all of its mistaken perspectives and contradictions. Despite all the myths and metaphors, the whole self does not actually need to be reassembled by us; it already exists, throughout time, inside time, and outside of time. Each life is already formed complete; all lives have always been formed and will forever be formed, as Krishna implied in his discourse to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gita. So when we experience life and participate in life, we don't decide anything; we don't create anything, we don't do anything. It is already there. Everything is already there.

To trust this is to know this, to not only know it, but to understand it. This idea of trusting in the Lord begins and ends in trusting in the wholeness of life, in the inevitability of our own arising and our own death; in understanding that our fate already exists, is a completed affair. The train station is already there; we just haven't arrived yet.

There's no point in feeling anxiety about life, because it already is what it is and what it will be. Our belief that we influence it is an illusion. We can't influence what already is; and the future already is, just as the past and present already are.

The only thing we can do is to remember ourselves, to remember life as we participate in it; and this is exactly what we forget. When we forget the self, what we forget is eternity, not in the sense of the time that flows on from one point to another, but in the sense of a time that is whole, not separated from itself by a sequence of events.

Our commitment to partiality, to identification, to what the Buddhists would call attachment, is a reflection of this failure to see the whole. We identify, and we become separated from ourselves, from our wholeness; first we are this thought, then that thought, then suddenly we are this or that emotional reaction, physical craving, and so on. The fundamental wholeness of our Being escapes us, even though we already dwell within it; and the wholeness of our life escapes us, even though we already dwell within this as well.

 Sometimes we hear allusions to a practice attempting to bring us to a realization of this kind, generally referred to as acceptance. This is a good practice, and certainly points in the right direction; yet the acceptance always seems to be directed towards the immediate event. Acceptance, in fact, would be a deep and organic understanding of the wholeness I refer to here, and the inevitability of life, from its beginning to its end.

 An understanding that the whole affair is already completely formed, that we are not in charge, might be a tremendous relief. Freedom consists of the moment where we release the idea that we are in charge of what takes place; instead of becoming commanders, our role changes, and we are participants. Either way, the same outcome ensues. Whether we believe we are commanders, or perceive we are participants, the same events take place. (Some readers may detect a flavor of Tolstoy's point of view in War and Peace here. He wasn't far off.)

Trust in the Lord consists exactly in the active inhabitation of this understanding. That, however, requires the participation of a higher energy in man, what is sometimes called the Lamb of God. The interaction between the Lamb of God and man produces the peace of God which passes all understanding.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.