Tuesday, July 31, 2012


One of Gurdjieff's famous aphorisms is "Take the understanding of the East and the knowledge of the West, and then seek."

 There are arguments afoot as to whether or not Gurdjieff was an original, or a synthesist. Some claim his work was truly unique; others, that he cribbed it together from other sources.

I think the important point of the aphorism is that we are supposed to synthesize. Gurdjieff did not posit a static work, whether inner or outer, that stays in one place and becomes paralyzed by ideologies. He was actively interested in the sciences, and his own understanding and knowledge evolved during the course of his life—as it must for any man. He probably would have agreed with the  Dalai Lama, who, when asked what  Buddhism would do if science proved one of its tenets incorrect, replied, laughing, "Well, then, Buddhism would have to change." Or words to that effect.

 That is to say, Gurdjieff's understanding, were he alive today, would have continued to evolve and keep pace with discoveries in the sciences. It's absurd to contend that he might have stayed paralyzed in a mindset born of outdated or incomplete knowledge. One can't strive to "know ever more and more about the laws of world creation and world maintenance" unless one is willing to allow both one's knowledge and one's understanding to change. And in an evolving structure, slavish efforts to  retroactively fit every new piece of information that comes along to an old model isn't necessarily helpful. Rigidity can impart strength to structures under some conditions, but under others it can also impart weakness.

My recent essays on intelligence and emergence have examined some of our current ideas about biology and consciousness in light of Gurdjieff's teachings on the enneagram. Gurdjieff did not have the benefit of understanding these questions from the perspective of emergence or fractals; although versions of these ideas had been examined by the time he was alive, their implications were poorly understood, and their influences, insofar as they may have been intuited, were consequently underestimated. It does seem, however, as though these ideas dovetail into Gurdjieff's conception of the cosmos; and, we can be certain, he would have been interested in them.

In any event, our responsibility is to take the understanding of the East and the knowledge of the West today, and then seek. We can't use yesterday's understanding or yesterday's knowledge; the only understanding and knowledge that we can use belongs to the present moment, and it is always evolving. Because there is an infinite amount of understanding and knowledge to be acquired, what we do have will always be imperfect, markedly imperfect, because of the sheer impossibility of understanding or knowing even a tiny fraction of all there is to understand and know. Taking refuge in dogma of any kind may provide a certain comfort, but from the point of view of acquiring understanding, it's worthless.

 Hence Gurdjieff's adage to question everything.

 We have an East and a West inside ourselves. We may not sense it that way very often, but there certainly are understandings and us—even though they may be small ones—and we have certainly packed ourselves with knowledge of various kinds. It is the synthesis of these two forces, their interaction within us, that produces a dynamic and flexible approach to our lives.

We ignore this fact at our peril.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

More notes on Conscience

After explaining the difference of a property (conscience) which is earned, versus one which is given, I realized that readers probably don't understand this distinction very well. So I thought it was worth a bit more explanation.

Conscience is not a property of man. It is a property he expresses. Man only expresses, he does not ever own.  Ego mistakenly thinks it owns, but it does not. What it is is essentially a mistaken expression.

Conscience, like every other property in the universe, circulates. Everything is a play of forces, and, as Jeanne de Salzmann said, everything is always going up or down. Properties, including both material and immaterial properties such as consciousness and conscience, are always in movement as well. They either ascend, or they descend.

 When a property of the universe such as conscience flows downward, if it encounters a conscious receiving source, that is, someone capable of receiving it and taking it in, under the right circumstances it doesn't dissipate; it retains its sacred properties.  On the other hand, if the receiver isn't  properly prepared, capable of holding a property which emanates from a sacred source, it leaks out. That is to say, instead of developing through a full octave within the being that it reaches, it "plays a few notes" and then collapses.  The energy spends itself and is lost.

If a property such as conscience is fully expressed in the complete development of an octave in man, we call him a saint. This is because his vessel is intact—he has practiced containment.  Containment  does not mean an inner holding back; it means, rather, that the octave is complete, that it isn't leaking.  The energy doesn't flow outward through other notes on the way to the completion of the octave.

To be intact means to be untouched (that's the original root of the word.) That is to say, the higher quality is not touched by the coarse outer qualities of the lower world—it maintains its integrity. Much more could be said about this, but readers ought to do some of their own thinking on the matter.

When Gurdjieff described the two rivers, he was actually describing this exact situation. In the one river, water from a higher level either evaporates water seeps down through cracks in the earth and is lost. In the other river—the one serving as an analogy for the octave—the water returns to the source. This is exactly the reason that octaves need to be completed; when this happens, the energy reconnects the receiver with the higher principle that sent it in the first place.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Friday, July 27, 2012

An Obedient Structure

One of the stock ideas in all religions is the idea of how great the power of God is. God can do this; God can do that; God can do anything. God is omnipotent, all-knowing, all seeing, and capable of intervening on a personal level in this, that, or the other way.

 Arguments (and a great deal of wishful thinking) about this have followed mankind through thousands of years of history, but my own feeling is that Gurdjieff pretty much put the lie to all of it when he told the story about the theological student who pointed out to his professor that even God can't beat the ace of spades with a deuce.

 There is one perspective, however, from which we may be able to understand the infinite power of God.

The universe is an obedient structure, bound by the absolute Will of God into its form. Before the Big Bang, the degree of entropy in the universe was very nearly infinite. This is because the hypothetical plasma—or whatever it was–from which the Big Bang arose had, physicists assume, little or no structural order whatsoever. (Conjecture, obviously, but that's the general consensus.) Immediately after the Big Bang, the level of entropy within that energy decreased exponentially and catastrophically, giving birth to an extremely ordered and structured universe —against all reasonable expectations.

Physicists prefer to address discussion of the idea that this contradicts the second law of thermodynamics by explaining that this apparent exponential increase in order is occurring only in "pockets." This argument seems specious for two reasons: first, that these pockets would have to be offset by pockets of much greater than usual disorder—not definitively shown to us yet, but supposedly out there—and second, that there seem to be an awful lot of pockets of order, generally referred to as galaxies—billions of them, in point of fact—, which appear to be spawning ever more suns and planets, in seemingly arrogant defiance of entropic expectations.

There's a third problem, as well: presumably, whatever existed before the big bang was in an extraordinarily high state of entropy. This singularity ought, according to conventional understandings of the laws of thermodynamics, to have been extraordinarily stable.

If that's the case... ahem... why did it blow up?

Anyway, the point is that everything in the universe is constructed from the same obedient energy. If you look at a leaf and a piece of stone, they both have an unimaginable amount of energy bound up into each one of them. If atoms are split, they release that energy, with–as we know—catastrophic consequences. Yet the energy in a leaf or stone is, under ordinary circumstances, completely passive, finding all of that potential bound up in a structure that expresses something entirely different than a nuclear explosion.

The return to conformity with the laws of thermodynamics—a state of high disorder and low energy—involves, in other words, a hugely destructive event, demonstrating just how much extraordinary power is involved in creating the non-conforming, low entropy structures that material reality consists of. In a certain sense, even small objects contain enough energy to power a sun in them.

Yet for reasons that are not understood, even by the most advanced scientists of our time, this (on the universal scale) very nearly immeasurable amount of energy is bound into form. Even binding one atom into form already involves energies on a scale we can barely comprehend; yet this act is repeated an infinite number of times across the depth and breadth of the cosmos.

This structural obedience is the absolute demonstration of God's power; a demonstration quite different than the kind of power we hope will save us (usually, from ourselves) but a compelling one, nonetheless. We live in an obedient universe created by commandment—not the kind of commandments carried down from mountains carved on stone tablets, but those issued by physical laws, which are, in every sense, commandments imposed for reasons physicists definitely do not understand. (The reason our universal laws are the exact way they are has never been adequately explained.)

Matter is active only within the context of this obedience; and all of it is ultimately in service to higher principles.

Perhaps all of this seems to impersonal; yet we ourselves inhabit this condition—we are expressions of it. Not only our bodies, but our Being, arise within the context of this obedience.

So while the ideas are on the scale of the universe, the experience of the truth of this condition is intimate.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Octaves of Intelligence, Part II

The Octave of Biological Intelligence represents the development of intelligence within the context of life on earth. It helps to have a basic understanding of biology in order to see how this works, but it's not absolutely necessary.

Roughly speaking, it can be charted out like this:

Do = Matter.

Re =  Viruses, mechanical intelligence.This is the intelligence of crystalline substances, which represent, by and large, what Castaneda called inorganic consciousnesses. (RNA and DNA are, in strictly technical terms, crystalline structures.)  These differentiate themselves from self replicating molecules without the intelligence made inherent to this particular octave by the presence of agency. Atoms and molecules in the octave below this do not display the property of agency. All of the organisms within the Earth octave display this property, which is the property we usually use to define the word “life.” 

Mi =  Cellular intelligence, also mechanical.  One level of organization up from viruses,  including both prokaryotes and eukaryotes—that is, cells with and without an organized nucleus. This is the point where conventional biology as we generally understand it emerges from inorganic consciousness. (In this regard, viruses form a question mark in the field of biology, although the enneagram clearly illustrates exactly where they fall.) Formed from the building blocks of crystalline substances, cells are an emergent level of interactive awareness, or agency. 

---first conscious shock--

Fa =  The intelligence of moving Center, one centered creatures. These are highly emergent creatures of an entirely different order with distinctly differentiated organs and neural networks. Represented in part by the phyla Arthropoda (insects, spiders, crustaceans, etc.) and Mollusca (clams, cephalopods.) These creatures can display an unusually high degree of order. 

This is the first true "mind" as defined by Gurdjieff, who explained that each center represents a fully formed and independent mind of its own; a mind capable of a complete range of thinking within its own context. These minds, while still "mechanical" from a certain point of view, represent a much higher order of thought than bacterial, single-celled, and simple colonial organisms. What Gurdjieff called "conscious labor" results in the expression of "I am" in organisms formed from multiple interacting communities, referred to as organs in biology.

Sol =   The addition of an emotional center. Two-centered creatures. Represented, in general, by all chordate organisms.*

La =   The addition of a thinking center. Three-centered creatures. Represented by man, and potentially cetaceans.

Si =  A three-centered creature who has developed to what Gurdjieff would have called "Man number Four."  This is the necessary step before the implementation of the second shock, which involves surrender.

--second conscious shock--

Do =  A higher level of consciousness.

* It should be noted that each note contains a whole octave within itself, leading to divisions of sophistication, intelligence, and consciousness within each class of creatures itself, so that the note "Sol," for example, representing the introduction of emotional intelligence in chordate animals, displays a range of emotive capacity ranging from very nearly none (most fish, for example) up through two-centered animals forming very complex social communities, such as birds and elephants. In another example, bees and ants represent the highest level of development for the octave under the note "Fa."

Basically, with a right understanding of the enneagram, this type of analysis can be applied to multiple systems in order to understand how complexity develops and, through the naturally emergent properties of matter, expresses itself as consciousness. The octave we're examining here happens, of course, to form a particular note in the development of an octave above us in the cosmic scale. It is lawful that information about the octave we are in contains much information about the octave above us, and even the nature of the note we occupy. Hence Gurdjieff's third obligolian striving

There are further implications here regarding the incorrect location of the second shock, and its placement between Sol (moving + emotional creatures) and La (moving + emotional + thing creatures) which deserve further examination. 

I respectfully hope you will take good care. http://www.doremishock.com/enneagrams/biologicalenneagram.htm

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Octaves of Intelligence, part I

There's a good deal of speculation in today's philosophy, and biology, about how thinking works, what consciousness consists of, and man's place in the spectrum of awareness. According to Edward O. Wilson, for example, bees can be said to think. Dogs can also think. But they don't think like we do.

How does their thinking differ from that of man, and why?

The answers to this may not be so readily apparent, but the enneagram provides a ready structural approach to the question, as I will demonstrate.

First of all,  we need to understand that consciousness is an inherent property of the universe, not a unique aberration. 

Modern scientists describe “information” as the most essential (and basically indestructible) property of energy and matter, but fail to understand that information is, in itself, a form of intelligence that manifests according to scale, in a fractal manner, in compliance with the laws of emergence.

Contrary to the overall laws of entropy, information in the universe organizes itself in lawfully predictable hierarchies. 

What this means, in plain English, is that everything is alive—as Gurdjieff said to Ouspensky.
Furthermore, everything is intelligent, that is, it contains information in structures displaying relative degrees of order. 

Said intelligence displays increasingly sophisticated interactive abilities, up to and including self-awareness, according to the level of its "note," as defined within the development of a particular octave.  We might say that intelligence is determined by the ability of matter to interact. This is what Gurdjieff was alluding to when he told Ouspensky that a baked potato is more intelligent than a raw potato. In cooking, the carbohydrate molecules in the potato have developed enhanced abilities to interact with the digestive system in a man.

Second, it's important to understand that thinking and consciousness, in the context of the planet earth, form a completed octave. Different levels of biological consciousness are manifested as notes on this octave. We might refer to this as "The Octave of Biological Intelligence."

 In order to understand this, we first need to examine the question of atomic and molecular intelligence, which establish the foundational nature of intelligence and consciousness as they manifest in the universe.

 The Octave of Molecular Intelligence is constructed in the following manner. (Click on the link to see a diagram.)

Do = emergent energy (dark matter/dark energy)

Re =  subatomic particles 

Mi =  electrons, protons and neutrons

---first conscious shock--

Fa =  atoms 

Sol =   simple molecules (static crystalline structures, eg. quartz)

La =   volatile crystalline structures/organic compounds

Si =  self replicating crystalline structures

--second conscious shock--

Do =  Biological level of consciousness.

 With each step along the diagram, an increasing level of organization and complexity emerges, with properties that cannot be predicted strictly by looking at the elements that produce them. There are, furthermore, two levels at which quantum leaps take place between the nature of the constituent components and their resultant material entities. Atoms, the "Lego blocks" of the standard model in physics, represent an entire level of order higher than their subatomic constituents. And self-replicating crystalline structures forming entities such as RNA and DNA, that is, biological molecules, represent a quantum leap from "standard," that is, static, self replicating crystalline structures.

  The critical point is that what enters between "Si" and "Do" in this first octave allows for the development of what is called agency—the ability of a molecular structure to undertake action on its own behalf. This is the difference between static self replicating crystalline structures, which can assemble themselves only under specific conditions over which they have no control, and molecular structures such as viral RNA, which can actively seek out the conditions under which replication is favorable. Agency represents the dividing line between the octave of molecular intelligence and the next-higher octave of biological intelligence.

 In the next post, we'll examine the octave of biological intelligence and its implications in the understanding of what mind is.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Notes on the Nature of Conscience

Certainly, we've been given descriptions by Gurdjieff of what conscience is.

But why does conscience exist? What's it for? And what is it about the awakening of conscience that makes it so indispensable to the development of right impulses and right relationship in man?

This question is related to the nature of things. Conscience is, in its totality, the summation of all the feeling-perception a man or woman can have about the world they inhabit.

Since the essential purpose of man is to act as a perceiving organ for God, the action of conscience is the perception-in-totality of everything that can be sensed within the context of the "individual universe" manifested by a particular human being.

There are two kinds of real conscience that can be sensed by a human being. One is conscience-earned, conscience arising, ultimately, as the result of what Gurdjieff called conscious labor and intentional suffering. The other is conscience-given: conscience as bestowed directly on a human being through the action of Grace.

 The first kind of conscience is a known conscience; the conscience or feeling-perception of everything that is known. This conscience, knowing itself, embraces and contains the world. This type of conscience, which comprehensively embraces specific objects, is the aim of the Gurdjieff method. It constitutes a wholly valid, yet contingent, fractal expression of Being-Feeling arising within the comprehensive form of God.

The second kind of conscience is the conscience of all that is unknown; and this conscience is quite different, because within it, all knowing is dispensed with in favor of a knowing that contains all and everything, yet is empty of the world. This is an unattached [uncontingent] conscience, because its action is Divine and thus utterly free of specific objects. [Perhaps Gurdjieff was consciously alluding to this second type of conscience when he assigned Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson the alternate title of All and Everything.]

Confusion between these two types of conscience-experience probably accounts for many of the doctrinal differences between disciplines that claim there is, or is not, a silence, transcendent rapturous void, or nothingness from which everything emerges and into which everything returns.

Both types of conscience are manifestations of God (as all things are manifestations of God) but they aren't equal manifestations of God. Of the two, the latter is of the higher order, because it is a descendant impulse from God, rather than an ascendant one. The ascendant impulse, however, has the power to attract its sibling form, and, unlike conscience-given, lies within the ability of man's effort to produce.

One consequence of conscience is the understanding that all things contain all events within them. The experience of conscience, whether earned or given, reveals the singular Truth that all events and circumstances wholly contain all other events and circumstances within them. This can be sensed either consciously or unconsciously, according to level. Thus a wave, or a grain of sand, contains all of the history of the cosmos—and God—within it, but is unable to sense this. Yet a human being can sense exactly this, if conscience functions properly. This is the point at which the sensation of the sacred becomes a specific, rather than hypothetical, action. And it is also the point at which God knows himself within the action of his subordinates or servants.

It's probably a difficult idea to ingest and digest, but consider the idea, for example, that green leaves or a wave on the beach contain all the actions of the holocaust in them. They are irrevocably bound together in the absolute expression of reality; one not only implies, but requires, the other. Unknowingly, all of material reality participated in, participates in, and will continue to participate in this whole relationship. It may imply contradiction (how can beauty and death be the same thing?) yet a human being can both perceive and resolve that contradiction, through conscience.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The essential flaw

In the post Notes on the Nature of Love, I mentioned that Man is unable to sense the totality of God's Love, leading to a great sorrow in God.

This particular question bears on a Truth of a greater magnitude. As Ibn Al Arabi explains, God has two aspects, both of which are real: a transcendental aspect, which is unknowable, and a material aspect, which is not only knowable but (at best, idiosyncratically) known. His understanding directly mirrors that of Dogen in discussing cause and effect (cf. chapter of the same name in the Shobogenzo.) Contrary to some spiritual doctrines (and errant Buddhists) , the material world is not illusory, as Dogen repeatedly reminds us: it cannot be ignored. It is as much a manifestation of the Dharma as that which is ineffable, unexpressed, and unknowable. The essential schism in understanding lies between the known (material reality and all of its infinite expressions of God, or, the Dharma) and the unknown. The known can never, in its entirety, completely know the unknown, even though each fraction of the known is a fragment of the unknowable (cf. Al Arabi, The Wisdom of Exaltation in the Word of Noah.)

This inability of consciousness (man) to know God is at the heart of the creation myth. We ought to remember first of all that the fall of man was inevitable; the story of Adam and Eve was both foreordained and demanded, an inevitable consequence of creation itself, in which all objects, events, circumstances and conditions inevitably arose from the one act of creation.

In the myth, created and [inherently polarized] reality (Adam and Eve) acquires the ability to discriminate, which automatically imposes limitations (polarity) on consciousness. This situation, directly generated by the infinitely fecund (hence, seductive)  properties of material reality (Eve) and inevitably acted on by the material property of impetus (Adam) precipitates an irreparable schism between God and the manifest results of His Creation. The schism is the ultimate source of every subsequent conflict in man's efforts to realign himself with God; a schism actually foreordained by God, and the inevitable result of creation itself. It isn't, in other words, an original sin; it's an original condition.

Gurdjieff's principle genius in understanding this question is revealed in his allegory of Purgatory (Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson) in which he not only symbolically recreates Eden on the Holy Planet Purgatory, but also populates it with the ultimate cosmological results of this eternal striving to return to the source of the Godhead; a striving which is, unfortunately, impossible. The consequent inexpressible anguish on both the part of God and His Creation forms the central feature in this landscape, perfectly mirroring the central tensions in Al Arabi's Bezels..

Without revealing the exact nature of the essential flaw—he was arch—Gurdjieff obliquely indicates that it's the separation itself. The entire allegory of Beelzebub centers around this fall from Grace; as does one of Gurdjieff's admonitions to his followers:

Use the present to repair the past and prepare the future.

The fabric of God Himself was rent asunder in creation. The action of His manifestations within material reality are all meant to undertake a return to God, yet that return is forever impossible. In His effort to maintain the place of His existence, God has been forced into the impossible (for God) position of becoming irreparably separated from Himself, as it were, having to cut one of His own limbs off to save Himself. The known "lower half" of God (man) is left with the task of struggling to reassemble the unknowable whole. In using the present to repair the past, man is not just asked to fix his own life and its flaws. His existence is actually meant to serve as a balm for this ultimate wound of the Lord; consciousness is meant to bind a sundered cosmos back together.  The required eternal action within the now is one of repair.

Not only that, we touch on an even more interesting Truth hidden here: God cannot remember Himself. Man's struggle to self-remember is a microcosmic reflection of God's own very intimate personal struggle to know Himself.

Given the extraordinary levels of philosophical discourse buried in its pages, we must presume that Gurdjieff's Beelzebub is likely far more than the author ever admitted it to be. At heart an extremely humble man (despite his apparent arrogance and bluster, almost all of it an act for the instruction of his pupils) Gurdjieff never openly revealed that Beelzebub is, in fact, a text of divine revelation on the same order as Al Arabi's The Bezels of Wisdom; a text not written, but received, and, with some necessary adjustments, transmitted in the same essential form it was given.

This explains why Gurdjieff more or less ended his writing career with this book; given its revolutionary nature, it was unique and not a reproducible phenomenon.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Finding the Moon

Over the last few years, on a number of occasions, people I know have mentioned the idea of finding one's own moon, or “making one's moon in oneself," posing the question of just what this means.

In the interests of preserving every idea as an ongoing exploration without any answers, explanatory responses to Gurdjieffian koans of this kind are usually discouraged. Yet it's a long-standing tradition in the Zen practice to offer commentary on koans, often with exploration and explanation of the question itself. I think it's hence permissible to take a look at questions and offer suggestions as to what they mean. Trying to protect people from the dangers of such interpretation is rather pointless, anyway, since no matter what one does, we are going to interpret. Seeking elucidation is part of the process of inquiry and search. In the end, it is in the nature of every question (query) to search for an answer (response.)

Examining this idea requires us first of all to consider the nature of the Moon and what it does for the planet Earth. The Moon is a stabilizing influence; the gravity of the Moon has a profound effect on the tilt of the earth relative to the sun, anchoring it so that seasons are not extreme, and climate is more regular. [Biologists have pointed out that organic life on earth wouldn't be as successful as it is if it weren't for the Moon, which is more or less along the same lines as what Gurdjieff told Ouspensky.] It acts as a counterweight, or a balance. So it is a physical presence that influences the planet.  Even though it's quite true that the Earth has its own center of gravity, the Moon serves as an auxiliary center of gravity, a center of gravity, as it were, for the center of gravity.

 When we search for our own Moon, our inner Moon, we search for a center of gravity within ourselves that stabilizes our manifestations. We are trying to make life more possible; we are trying to discover an inner and an outer life that does not careen in multiple directions with every influence that arrives. So we seek to anchor our Being within something solid and real, something that at the same time both exists outside us, and is an intimate part of us. The Moon, after all, was born of the Earth.

 The connection between the mind and the body has a great deal to do with this question. The intellectual mind by itself is not tethered to anything; it needs to be brought into relationship with a grounding element. This must be, above all, an organic relationship, not a theoretical one that we just think about conceptually. The actual presence of the mind of the body must connect to the mind of the mind. So in the same way that we may be aware of the fact that we have an intellectual mind as we have it, a concurrence and reciprocal awareness that is equally valid and assertive arises in the body. This relationship becomes analogous to the relationship between the Earth and the Moon.

 In a very broad sense, searching for a permanent connection to sensation, to a living sensation, is part of the effort to create one's own Moon. This, after all, is the arising of a physical presence that influences our own inner planet. And its presence must be constant, regular, and cyclical, not erratic and arising solely by chance.

A moon that comes and goes according to accident becomes a disruptive force that might even create further problems, rather than solving any. So there is a need for intention to enter the equation. We need to intend to have this relationship, and to always have it, not just forget about it until we are reminded through guilt or an accidental shock. Part of having an intimate relationship with ourselves is the intention to have an intimate relationship with ourselves. A casual relationship, a relationship that's only conducted on a whim, doesn't carry the commitment that's required. So we need to discover how to have an inner relationship on more than a whim.

 The formation of one's own moon is a sensation, a physical presence. It's not an idea. For as long as we try to understand it with thinking, already, it's not there.

When it arrives, it is understood, by understanding itself. Until that moment, it may remain a mystery, but it's not unhelpful to know that the mystery has an aim and a meaning.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Notes on the Nature of Love

The human organism, in its original purpose, was designed to be able to sense Love not only in the conventional way that we understand in ordinary life, but also in the immediate presence of its absolute, eternal, infinite, and essentially creative nature. That is to say, our sensory apparatus was designed to be able to sense the presence of God in all things.

 This doesn't mean that we are able to understand love with our intellect, because to grasp it is more than an activity within any of the lower centers. Feeling has to enter, and the presence of the higher centers in connection with the lower ones must emerge. But under the right conditions, we are able to feel Love, that is, the imminent presence of God can be sensed. This is actually the aim of work of all religion; everything begins and ends here.

Because our vessels are limited, each one is only able to contain and comprehend a fraction of the totality of love. While Love is universal, absolute, and complete, it becomes idiosyncratic, local, temporary, and partial upon expression in individual organisms and material things. Thus, we don't say that Love is incomplete or unrealized in material reality; rather, we say, it is partial. Each one of us is a partial expression of love; because Love is infinite, it requires infinite means of expression, no one of which can contain anything more than a fragment of its whole being. This is what Al Arabi infers when he says,

Concerning the knowledge of the Reality, we say that it is eternal, whereas of man's knowledge we say that it is contingent.

The Bezels of Wisdom, Chapter 1

This partiality, or contingency, is a cause of great sorrow for the Lord, because it is the Lord's fervent wish that His Love be understood absolutely, yet even He is unable to effect this. Hence the presence of the saints on the holy planet Purgatory, the last station between creation and God, where all efforts towards return to the Lord are frustrated by this ultimate inability.

Every object, event, circumstance, and condition—every activity—arises directly from the manifestation of Love, which is ever active, and ever present, intimately blended into the fabric of reality. So every action is an action of Love. Within Love, no action can be separated from another action, because all actions are necessary, all actions are simultaneous, and all actions take place together, dependent entirely upon one another.

This means that what we perceive as good or bad is all necessary; nothing can be other than what it is. Even the worst events, the most terrible things we can imagine or perceive or experience, are all a direct expression and manifestation of Love.

Love is impartial. We firmly believe, in our limitation, that one can have one thing or the other thing, when in fact it is necessary to have all things. Because we don't perceive Love as an organic experience of God anymore, we don't understand this, and we do not submit. We don't trust.

This is a terribly difficult thing to understand with the intellect, even though the construction and cosmology can, as you see, be accurately expressed in words. The formulation is, in fact, a precise and objective one, but on this level, statements of this nature immediately devolve into argument, because they can't be understood without the organic experience. And they don't correlate to our ordinary experience, because the resistance of our lower parts to such an understanding is enormous. To put it in simple terms, from within our partiality, it is much easier to blame the Lord than it is to Love Him.

Hence the organic experience of Love, which issues the call to prayer without delay, or doubt, or hesitation, continually escapes us. We speak of a taste of this or being touched by that, not realizing that even our inability itself is part of the absolute manifestation of Love. Just as the action of returning to the Lord, returning to the Self, is a loving one, so is the action of leaving the Lord and leaving the Self, because every action is equally manifest with Love, and cannot be separated from it.

The understanding of this can gradually change over a lifetime. If there is one thing that may not be a given, it is how a man understands—that has the possibility of changing. Another way of saying this is that a man's attitude can change. Man was created different than the angels because of this exact capacity. It was the hope of the Lord that man could come closer than the rest of His creation to sensing the unconditional totality of His Love.

 There, in a nutshell, is the responsibility incumbent on us.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Friday, July 13, 2012


Tile with an Image of a Prince on Horseback
Iran, 19th century
Metropolitan Museum of Art

When we say the words, “Lord have Mercy,” we say them according to our own understanding—that is, an understanding related mostly to what we think Mercy is. Because of the limitations of our understanding, we can only understand mercy as we understand mercy; not as the Lord understands it. As with all the other qualities of the Lord, which are unconditional in every aspect, they completely surpass our understanding, because we are conditional from the beginning; it is in our nature.

Mercy, according to Ibn Al Arabi,  is a greater principle than the Wrath of God. Much is made, in the Old Testament, in the Koran, in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, of God's anger and his Wrath. Yet this element or aspect of God's manifestation is superseded by Mercy. Even in man, a microcosmic reflection of the Divine, we already know that Mercy is greater than anger—even on this level.

How much more so, then, on the level of the Divine, where the Lord magnifies everything into eternity?

 Ah, you may say, this is too religious for me. Yet what isn't religious? Even the atheist seeks to connect with himself, and religion is the action of connection, of discovering a relationship. In any event, not only is this an absolute truth within the context of both structural and intuitive revelation regarding the cosmos, it has a practical value in our everyday life.

You'll notice, in the quote, that Al Arabi says all creatures come eventually to Felicity. The Buddha understood this question as well, knowing that all of creation eventually attains enlightenment. So there is no absolute position of hopelessness—and this is one of the flaws in the structural revelation that Dante received, causing him to place the foundation of his journey to heaven in Inferno, Hell, a place where no redemption was possible.  Perhaps we can't blame him, given his Catholic upbringing. But in reality, no such place can exist; redemption, from a certain point of view, is not only inherent, but inevitable, and because the cosmos does not exist separate from itself, or within a single moment of time, one can understand—and I believe Al Arabi would have to agree—everything is already redeemed.

The difference is delineated between a consciousness of redemption, and the lack of it. Within consciousness, redemption has already become manifest; outside of consciousness, redemption is implied and extant, but never actually realized.

 So what of the practical value?

Because our own lives are reflections of the eternal and the infinite, and because every single instance of manifestation is not only a perfect reflection of all that the Lord and the cosmos are, but also an actual instant of Being within the Being of God, we participate, through the manifestation of consciousness, in the action of redemption, and Mercy acts perpetually in us, on every level, just as it acts Everywhere and Eternally as a substantive (i.e., material) emanation of His Endlessness.

 Yet we aren't merciful towards ourselves.

We are pejorative, judgmental, angry, unhappy, depressed: the list of adjectives is a long one. This attitude begins in us; and is then, because some uninformed part of us yet sees it (perhaps instinctively) as unacceptable, rejected and cast out on the world, because we can't bear to take responsibility for it ourselves—that would take inner efforts we don't understand how to make.

Here is our inner struggle, summarized. We have heard of Mercy; but we don't have any. To deliver ourselves unto the Lord would be to discover Mercy, but we don't know how to do that. And if we cannot learn how to be merciful towards ourselves, first, we think, why would the Lord be Merciful unto us? In the midst of our error and limitation, we're unable to comprehend.

To discover our own Mercy is to discover that fraction of the Lord's Mercy which begins and ends in us. God shared and apportioned a fraction of each of His qualities, or properties, to each part of His creation, and hence to each one of us, to act as a steward (Al Arabi refers to the steward as a vicegerent, or earthly representative of God) for his qualities.

If we are not merciful towards ourselves, if we do not practice the intelligent action of loving kindness, we do not fulfill our duties of stewardship. So we don't just have a wish or need to come into relation with ourselves; we have a responsibility to come into relation with ourselves, that is, we owe to a higher authority.

 In a certain sense, to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's is not just about the money; everything that is ordinary in life belongs to Caesar. There are properties in man which belong solely to God, and must be rendered unto God. They begin with our own responsibility to ourselves. This implies the need not just for an idea about Mercy, or a wish for Mercy. It implies the need for an intention about Mercy, a consciousness of Mercy.

Mercy itself is not an accident; it is an intention, that is, an unconditional condition, a movement towards. In order for it to be intentional, for us, our consciousness of Mercy must become organic.

 If we are going to use the words “Lord have Mercy,” it might be worth pondering these questions.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mere Bones

"Since, therefore, the prophets derive their knowledge only from a particular divine revelation, their Hearts are simple from the intellectual point of view, knowing as they do the deficiency of the intellect, in its discursive aspect, when it comes to the understanding of things as they really are [essentially]. Similarly, [verbal] communication is also deficient in conveying what is only accessible to direct experience. Thus, perfect knowledge is to be had only through a divine Self-revelation or when God draws back the veils from Hearts and eyes so that they might perceive things, eternal and ephemeral, non existent and existent, impossible, necessary, or permissible, as they are in their eternal reality and essentiality."

The Bezels of Wisdom, Ibn’ Al Arabi, P. 166, translation by R.W.J Austin, 1980, Paulist press
  From our point of view on this side of gnosis, the standard of knowing the “eternal reality and essentiality” of any object, event, circumstance, or condition seems impossibly high. Yet this is exactly what gnosis is; a transcendental knowing, what is called "the look from above" by Jeanne de Salzmann. It's of a different order; yet we constantly try to understand it from our existence within this order, and manipulate our understanding of it using the intellectual abilities arising from this order. It's a report from a distant shore we have never seen, yet we presume to know what the animals look like, in the same way that Albrecht Dürer engraved a rhinoceros which he had never actually seen.

Immediately, the polarities inherent to our lack of understanding arise. On the one hand, some of us insist the situation is unknowable, and that it is pointless to use words to try and go at it; yet in a supreme irony, we use words to say even this. It's as excruciating as listening to people talk about the silence.

On the other hand, others insist that words are necessary, and do everything they can to worry at this bone with the intellect. Perhaps this is part of what Gurdjieff was alluding to when, in regard to his allegory and Beelzebub, he said, “bury bone deeper.”

 A bone is still a bone, no matter how deep you bury it. The meat is gone, used up, and the life is out of it. Even the marrow is now useless, because it's been buried for some time. It remains an indicator of a living thing, not a living thing itself. So even when we penetrate the allegory, what we are left with is a talisman, not the thing itself. Gurdjieff knew the whole animal; but he left us the bones. The bones, like Albrecht Dürer's rhinoceros, are certainly better than nothing, and they give us an outline, but it's a far cry from any true knowing.

What every path ultimately calls us to is this direct experience of truth. It's pointless to worry about whether or not verbal communication does or doesn't work; getting caught up in this distinction serves nothing. It's like arguing which colors you like more on two different maps of China, when one could go there, and find out that the colors on the map actually mean nothing whatsoever relative to being in China.

This is probably of small comfort to those who have never experienced any Divine revelation. It's said of Ouspensky that he ended his life deeply depressed that he never had a divine inspiration of the kind he sought; I can't say if that's true or not, but a man who ends his life in his cups, as Ouspensky apparently did, clearly strayed off the path somewhere.

 Yet divine inspiration, though it can take the form of a powerful experience, need not be understood in this way alone. Divine inspiration may be parceled out one rather humble little impression at a time; and it may be as simple as the next breath. Not everyone is going to have the gates of Heaven open and experience manna flowing down into them; yet every man who works and is sincere within himself has the opportunity to partake, in one measure or another, of God's grace.

Cynics might bring up the case of mother Theresa, who apparently had a moment of Divine inspiration at the age of 36 and then spent the rest of her life working as best she knew how, without ever re-attaining that Grace. Any of us who encounter a true moment of higher inspiration and then find that it doesn't last, that life still goes on, may (as she apparently did) feel bereft and abandoned by God; yet this can never be the case. Al Arabi, Eckhart, and other Masters assure us that we receive exactly what we need from God.

If we receive nothing, we need nothing.

In fact, since everything is already exactly as it is, preordained, and arranged according to destiny and the Will of God, if we feel we lack, the deficiency must belong to us, and not to God. When Al Arabi speaks of the eternal reality and essentiality of things, He makes it quite clear—as he must—that reality and essentiality are qualities without prejudice.

Since everything arises from God, nothing, in and of itself, can be deficient—even our feelings of deficiency constitute sacred truths, which must be inhabited. We forever wish to inhabit them conditionally—conditional, that is, upon our like or dislike—yet this choice is not actually ours to make.

Islam, submission, is the simple fact of unconditional inhabitation.

 As Zen Master Dogen said, one who understands this,  through experience, has attained the flesh, blood, bones, and marrow.

Mere bones are not enough.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Monday, July 9, 2012

It's Not Like Anything

One is, inevitably, accustomed to hearing about the Kingdom of Heaven, and being told that it's like this, or it's like that. To be sure, some of this comes from the biblical expressions that Christ passed on to us in his parables; yet it would be criminal to assign blame for our ignorance in this matter to Christ.

Nonetheless, we have arrogated to ourselves the idea that we might know what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.

 Yes, it's true, we do this in big ways with our churches and our preachers and our religious formulas; yet we also do it in small ways, within ourselves, and this is what is most insidious. Because in every instance, we presume to know.

 The Kingdom of Heaven is not like anything. It is in itself, and nothing else; and everything else emerges from it, is a reflection of it. It's as though the Kingdom of Heaven were light, and everything else a gemstone that reflected it. And yet it isn't, because already, when we say that, the Kingdom of Heaven is like so and so.

 In a universe that is subordinate and chaotic and impermanent, we cannot find anything that is "like" the Kingdom, which is Supreme, Perfect, and Eternal. Everything is like the Kingdom of Heaven, that is, all of reality is a reflection of an aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven. Because its aspects are infinite, its reflections are infinite, and here we approach an understanding of why the energy in the universe is organized according to its subatomic, atomic, and molecular principles. Only a reality this mutable is able to contain the infinite number of reflections cast off by the light of Heaven.

 There is always a danger of falling into hyperbole when we begin to speak of such things, because we are ignorant. Yet we must speak and think of such things, because this is what man was created for. Consciousness is able to comprehend consciousness; unconsciousness can comprehend nothing. Man was created to manifest the potential of consciousness, which is why he is greater than the angels.

In inner work, it's tempting to withdraw into what is called the Silence. Yet this is an abrogation of responsibility; a failure to bridge these two worlds, which mankind was meant to help unify. Jeanne de Salzmann was well aware of this danger, that we might sink into our souls and so ultimately fail to connect the inner to the outer. The manifestation of the potential of consciousness requires us to think as we are, and to be as we are—not to stop thinking, or to be as we wish we might be. Because our existence is already, unbeknownst to us, a perfect expression (one ever-changing reflection) of the Kingdom of Heaven, what is needed is to develop an awareness of it, not manipulate or craft it to our own ends. This is why the Sufis say that religion is Islam, submission. We submit to what is.

 What is is not like this or like that. Already, when we compare, we forget that the manifestations of the Kingdom of Heaven are infinite, and that though everything may appear to be like something else, everything is simply itself, and thus, in every instance, unique, remarkable, and miraculous. Hence Gurdjieff's comment that even God is an idiot. His meaning is subtle and far away from what we generally think the word means.

This is the great challenge; to stop wishing to be one way or another, and just to start wishing to Be, which is not being anything in particular, but being everything at once.

This can only take place if and when we receive an energy of transformation, because it's only in the alignment of the Being to higher forces that it can develop an awareness of its subordinate condition, rather than investiture in what we call the ego.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Call to Prayer

A very close friend of mine recently complained that while meditating, she found herself annoyingly preoccupied with associative thoughts about this, that, or the other thing in life. Her comment was that one would think after 30 or 40 years of practice, a sitting should be better than that.

I think we're all familiar with the problem. Yet what is a sitting for? Do we approach it, our meditation practice, with a real understanding of what we are about? Perhaps we do; perhaps we don't.

Every meditation is an effort to contact God and call for help. You can pile on all the exercises you want to; it doesn't matter. In the end, it's your predisposition that determines what is possible, as Ibn Al Arabi makes abundantly clear in the Bezels of Wisdom. I call the reader's attention to this particular passage, because so much of what it says is essential to understanding what we are doing in our meditation practice.

 As I have explained before, we live in a determinate universe, and the best that a man can hope for is to know his predisposition—that which is already ordained. (Al Arabi mentions this question a number of times in the quote, because it's central to an understanding of our place, and what our possibilities are.)

In an effort to move in this direction, a man aligns himself with the will of God, and only in this way and in such a sense can a man become whole. The "inner alignment" that is referred to in Yoga or the inner work of the Fourth Way isn't just some nifty rearrangement of the chakras; it is an alignment with the Will of God, which constantly expresses itself—another overarching subject in The Bezels of Wisdom.  Any understanding of practice, any mechanical understanding,  that falls short of this is an incomplete understanding.

 In any event, the most essential action in meditation is a call for help.The highest form of the call for help takes place in a reciprocal relationship between a wish for service, and silence (see the last paragraph of the quote.) So when we sit, we should actively pray for help. The routine invocation of the words Lord have Mercy in the Gurdjieff practice is especially appropriate, because we ought to be praying in this way constantly, and at all times.  It's a question of discovering and coming into relationship with the inner impulse that drives this desire; we are disconnected from God, and only a lifetime of effort can help us to discover this tendril, which reconnects our being to the divine. It's a good thing to pray in meditations; it is even better to pray constantly, all day long, as we walk through life and feel the movement of energy within us.

 There are many efficacious prayers that can be applied in sitting; Lord have Mercy is certainly one of them.  Above all, a prayer that arises spontaneously from the utmost inner soul of a man (which is God)  and offers itself as it is, from itself, with no predetermined formula, imbued only with the instincts that prayer is absolutely necessary, is the most effective. (Al Arabi, unsurprisingly, has a few words to say about this as well.)  If we align ourselves with a spontaneity of prayer, as it is inspired by higher energy, we can be sure that this is exactly the right kind of prayer... as opposed to through ones we think would be right.

 In any event, we must pray. It is this central attention pointed towards prayer, and the call for help, that keeps our minds from distracting us. To be sure, they'll distract us anyway; the mind is an undisciplined animal that runs from place to place like a rabbit, in search of the next good thing to gnaw on. The regular focused practice of prayer—preferably, a spontaneous and inspired one, but if not, a disciplined and prepared one—combined with a placement of attention on the point where impressions enter, is a powerful antidote for this kind of nonsense.

This idea of placing the attention on the point where impressions enter is quite important. It actually bears a close relationship to the practice of prayer, because the practice itself is the practice of the Presence of God, and that practice is inextricably linked with prayer, since (once again, as Al Arabi explains) one of the principal purposes of man, in so far as he meets the requirements of inner development, is an unfettered worship of the Lord.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Readers who have been coming to this page for a long time will probably notice that, for the first time ever since I established this blog, I've recently updated the overall appearance of the page.

As my teacher Betty Brown used to say, constant change is here to stay. The change may have been less than constant, but it's staying. A new impression.

 One of my repeated themes is how important it is to recognize that we are here to receive impressions. We may think, in the midst of our day-to-day life, that there are many other reasons for living and for acting, but really, the only concrete service we can perform on behalf of God is to receive impressions. That's what we were created for; it is through the Grace of Being and the Grace of existence that we are capable of receiving impressions, and it's through this Grace that we acquire the ability to perform this task, in varying degrees, according to our inner development, and then only in direct accordance with the wishes of the Lord.

I know that sounds complicated; in reality, the only complicated question is why we don't receive the way we ought to. Receiving is not just a Grace; it's the motive force in life, it's why one gets up in the morning, why one eats, breathes, relates to other people, and it provides all of the force necessary to feed us and keep us in good state. Gurdjieff actually made this quite clear when he said, in In Search of The Miraculous, that if a man stopped receiving impressions, he would die almost instantly.

 Did you ever wonder why that is the case? Well you might.

The awareness of the fact that we are beings manifesting and living on a planet is distant from us most of the time; that's what sleep does to us. Yet a certain level of inner vibration can allow things to come in much more deeply, so that the food of being here on this planet is much more intense, much more exquisite, colored with experience and truth in a way that is unattainable in any of our ordinary states.

In this way one may see how one is in a three-dimensional space that exists not just outside of us, but inside us as well; we are the whole universe, and everything that is in us extends outward infinitely, to encompass the entirety of existence.

This may sound a bit like hyperbole; but it isn't. Each man is, in essence, an instantaneous and simultaneous summation of the whole of the entire universe. Each one of us is like a single facet of a diamond which, in its one face, reflects the entire world and all of the light that is in it. So there is no distinction between me as I am and the world as it is; we are congruent, we are simultaneous, we are together. This sensation of separation, created by this creature I call “I,” is an artifact. That is what isn't real. The whole world, the whole cosmos is real; God is real; all of the impressions that arrive, the forces at play within this organism; they are what is real.

Taken apart or together, they are the nameless mystery whose face we fail to gaze upon.

The highest calling, the highest art that a human being can engage in, and the deepest impression of beauty, all come from just seeing, just taking in an impression correctly. Nothing else need be done; and the amount of Grace that is bestowed upon us for work of this kind is limitless. We can't measure it, because every true impression is immeasurable, just as every true impression reveals one of the immeasurable names of God.

I've said, in a number of recent posts, that various features, conditions, what have you, are various  properties of God. But in fact, every manifestation is one of the properties of God.

We choose these overarching metaphors for inner states and attitudes to understand that it is our relationship that helps to create the properties of God; God could have no properties, if we did not take in impressions, and there were no relationships.

The action of discovering the properties of God on the universe begins and ends with consciousness and conscious effort.

In this way, we are not only created by divinity; with the rest of the universe, we forever participate in its re-creation. The arrangement is reciprocal; and we are touched by Grace in exact proportion to our efforts in this area.

This, too, is one of the properties of God.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Touch the World Gently

The original root of the word intelligence is from the Latin intelligere, to understand. So when we speak of intelligence, already, we speak not just of a collection of facts, but the ability to understand.

Intelligence is one of the properties of God. Yet this isn't the kind of intelligence we have, or intelligence as we understand it. Intelligence already implies not only the intellectual, the collection and analysis of facts; it includes a feeling quality, a quality of love, and it includes the ability to have an action, which is a physical quality.

 I recall that Pema Chodron has a strong interest in the quality of what is referred to, in Buddhism, as loving kindness.  It is exactly this quality that informs true intelligence. Intelligence is informed; it is an inwardly formed property, a sensitive organic property arising from the relationship of the organism to its surroundings. It can't come from outside; there is no intelligence without consciousness. So already, as we live,  we become responsible for intelligence, simply because there could be no intelligence without the existence of the vehicle which manifests it.

Ibn Al Arabi says, Therefore, or because the world is like the body and the Perfect Man is like the spirit, the world is made up of these two, although it is larger than man in form; but this statement is only true on condition of the Perfect man's existence within it, or the world, for if he did not exist within it, it would be like a discarded body without a spirit. (Naqsh al-fusûs.)

So we are vehicles that carry intelligence, and already, at once, we are responsible first for this alone, this responsibility to God, this responsibility to act on His behalf through the acquisition of understanding. A man therefore becomes responsible for every thought, feeling, and physical action that arises in him, and it is this precise fact, his action in agency on behalf of God, that confers such an enormous responsibility on human beings. From the moment of our first breath until the day that we die, each one of us is accountable as a direct manifestation of divinity. We may not feel like that; we think that intelligence has something to do with involvement with the coarse substance of the outer world first, which then encounters our inner world and demands a response. But in fact, it is the finer substance of the inner world that contains the value, the root, and the motive force for original action.

We're always trying to fix the outer world, the disaster of human affairs. We don't understand that it is an exact reflection of our inner state. If we lack understanding and a sense of responsibility, if we lack the inner quality that is a primal force in the expression of the outer world and our relationship to it, then the outer world will lack everything that we desire in it—and indeed, generally speaking, it does.

 Intelligence has a wish to know and be known. This, too, is one of the properties of God; a wish to know. Al Arabi states, The most Beautiful Divine Names... are beyond reckoning... and demand in themselves the existence of the world in order that it become a mirror for their concealed lights and the locus of manifestation of their hidden secrets, in respect to which God said, "I was a hidden treasure, and I wanted to be known, so I created the world. (Ibid.)

 Intelligence as we generally understand it, disconnected from responsibility—or, rather, strongly connected to an outer responsibility first, which is an inversion of intelligence—is a violent force, a sword that thrusts into life.  If intelligence is rightly ordered, it is a force of loving kindness first and foremost; a gentle and loving probe, a quality that touches what is, without violating it. With the right inner order, we are able to sense this quality; it is a taste of the divine, because it belongs to God and God alone. If we ever taste it, we know immediately that this taste is something we could never create in or by ourselves. It's a Grace; never does man touch the world so gently as God, in His wisdom.

 And this is our task, in the pursuit of intimacy, in the pursuit of a higher quality that emanates from an inner center of gravity; to touch the world not with force, but gently; to allow the world to be what it is, and come into relationship with it.

The strangest thing to me in this question is that the properties of God do belong to man, they belong most exactly to man; only in no sense in quite the way in which we think they do.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Precious Thing

I suppose it's natural for us to ask ourselves, “what can I do now?,” if we are trying to establish an aim, in order to try and be active—instead of passive—in our inner stance.

 But perhaps this isn't the right question.

How can I be now? How am I? It's not what I am doing, in the context of some largely illusory action, it's my state. What is my state? Not what was it yesterday, or how will it be tomorrow, what is it right now? Right now. Not later.

The organism has an entire range of vibration in it, and it is available right now. This is what I am made of. This is what Being consists of. Whether I sense it as a coarser or a finer presence, still, that's all there is. And that is all there will ever be; here I am.

 So how can I be what I am? This is exactly the point of self observation, to see how I am, not in the context of the deeds I do, but my state. And doing deeds to determine my state? That's a dead end. I have to see my state, that is, undertake a quite different kind of action. To just look.

So the relationship has to be, quite definitely, more organic, arising from a quality of vibration that is whole, that radiates from a center of gravity—perhaps the solar plexus... or perhaps the heart, or the spine, but most certainly, an organic center of gravity. I need to come into relationship with this force, this energy, which arises and manifests within this body to help Being affirm itself.

 This is a subtle thing. One has to go deeper; and deeper still. There is discussion of intimacy; there is an admonition to secrecy. This is a private action, an action that must become precious to myself, disregarding all others—my relationship with them is only important after this intimate relationship with myself, and even then, unless I am in relationship with myself, I'm hardly relationship with my life, or them, or anything else. So I have to begin with this inner vibration, this sensation of Being and of the Self.

 The Self is a precious thing; Being is a precious thing. These two entities or manifestations are both properties of God; for Self and Being arise from and come into expression solely as a fraction of God, as a service to God, and an offering to God. In each instance that awareness arises, divinity is bestowing its action upon its creation. Readers interested in understanding this in an exact theoretical manner are advised to read the opening paragraphs of Ibn al Arabi's   Naqsh al-fusûs, his summary of  The Bezels of Wisdomwhich I think explains the matter with considerably more precision than this essay is able to.

The theoretical understanding, however, isn't what we're investigating today; rather, what can we do in a practical way to come into relationship with this sacred root of Being, which is folded into the mind, the heart, and the sensation of our organism? There's a call to relationship that arises within the body as the sun rises; perhaps it can become more tangible in that moment of awakening, if I look for it specifically, and with some sensitivity. Being grows roots that pass through the body, and it's a connection to these roots I need to be more aware of; Being connects itself through these finest of fibers which spread through the cells, bringing a wholeness of a different order.

Then, there is action, but it begins with a rootedness, a solidity—a sense of gravity—that does not belong to me, but needs my presence nonetheless—and cannot be denied.

In our ongoing discussion of the properties of God, surely this, too, is one of them.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.