Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The inflow of heaven

 The question of how Heaven manifests, of how the divine exists, and how the material is related to it, is the essential question being explored in the Gurdjieff work, Swedenborg's work, Ibn 'Arabi's writings, and Meister Eckhart's teachings. This is also what Bosch was trying to convey with his painting The Garden of Earthly Delights; It's one of the essential messages and central questions in the painting.

Perhaps the best description of the process is what Swedenborg calls an inflow of the spiritual into the material. The material cannot exist without the divine; all of material reality arises from instant to instant due to the constant inflow and influence of divine material. Gurdjieff explained this property  in considerable detail in Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, when he described the action of the omnipresent Okidanokh.

 So, completely unaware of it, everything around us — and we ourselves — exists only because of the constant inflow of this divine material. Reality is transcendent divinity, manifest within the boundaries of the immanent. This is not a process that took place once, when the universe was created; it is an ongoing process that takes place at all times, everywhere. You might say, in terms of physics, that it represents the collapse of the quantum state into material reality. This is how our modern science would describe it: sadly bereft of any understanding of its sacred nature.

 The inflow of divine consciousness into material reality does not stop with the creation of matter. Human beings were designed to be receivers of this divine influence of the truth and the good. The divine influence which flows into matter, informing it —  forming it inwardly — is what all goodness in the universe depends on. That which is aligned with and participates in the influence of higher energies is of the good, and is true, and that which refuses to participate and refuses to align is what we would call "the bad," although we could equally call it the selfish, the unfeeling, the uncaring, etc.

All of the energy that man attempts to receive in spiritual work — spiritual work of any kind, whether it be meditation, prayer, yoga exercises, the eight fold path of Buddhism, and so on — is energy from this divine flow. In yoga they call it prana; in Christianity, it's referred to as the Holy Spirit. Of course, these terms are generally understood to be some kind of superstitious force; yet they constitute a material reality that exists even now, as you read these words, and is active in you.

When we say we want to be "open," what it means is, we want to come under these higher influences, open our bodies, our centers, to receive them. And mankind does not know how to do this, because he cannot do. The material cannot open it self to the heavenly; only the heavenly can open the material to itself. So, outer and material things cannot open a man to the inflow of divine substances or influences; only inner action, the efforts that a man makes within himself, can prepare him to receive an inflow of higher substances.

 Which then, as the Sufis point out, takes place according to the Will of God, and not the whim of man.

The mistake that we all constantly make is to believe that we can somehow deploy material circumstances, things, or practices to open ourselves to the inflow of something higher. In every case, these practices make the unspoken and often quite subtle assumption that we can control what happens. That we are in charge. Every ritual, every exercise, dogma, format, magical incantation and so on that we invent presumes that there is a way for us to do what is necessary. Make no mistake about it. I do this. You do this. Your teachers do this. It is a ubiquitous issue. And it takes an enormous amount of effort to get down to the bottom of what is taking place and root it out.

What is necessary is in fact a complete act of submission, a complete surrender of any idea whatsoever that we can do. This is what Gurdjieff meant, ultimately, when he said that we must realize our own nothingness. He wasn't talking about an intellectual conclusion. He was talking about a three-centered understanding of our nothingness.

 This is a deep practice that takes many lifetimes to achieve. And perhaps it's too much to ask for us to think that we can make much progress now. But we must, at all times, make ourselves available, make an effort to open ourselves to the inflow of the divine. The divine wishes to express its Self within the material, and it can only do so through our agency — but without our interference. We are mediators, channels through which the influence flows. We cannot be actors who control it. The influence of higher things at higher levels is under its own control; all we do is participate.

 It's all well and good to believe that we can affect outside, material circumstances, but the reason they are collapsing around us and that violence rules man's world is a failure of us to open ourselves to this inflow of heavenly influences.

May your soul be filled with light.


2 comments:

  1. Absolutely the only contention I could make with this post is the idea that it might take "many lifetimes". What can I possibly know about "many lifetimes'?

    As I see it, all my lifetimes are here and now; all of it. There is no tomorrow and no yesterday. There is only here, now, and all my lifetimes are contained within it. Light is free of 'time' and of 'space'.

    I must work as if now is the only 'time' I will ever have. As our teacher said, if we do today as we did yesterday then we can know what tomorrow will look like. Our only place and time to work is right now, here, within me and without me.

    This is like the difference between thinking in serial language (which requires 'time', and thinking by form, which has no boundaries except for the physical limitation of neural speed and the emergence of consciousness out of the use of the holistic brain and nervous system.)

    Other than that, I can be free of many things, and in that freedom, if I freely give myself over to the higher laws (as much as I can make out - as high and as low as I can fathom). This would be being true to Conscience.

    I can offer myself (piddling as I am) to a sacred power; the rightful laws of nature and from above. I am then trothed, and have no longer any fear of missing the mark.

    If I allow myself to consider that I have "many lifetimes", I may slack off, and this would be my ruin. I must always keep alive in me the vertical even as I deal in the horizontal where I am a tiny thing.

    As always, thank you Lee, for the food for pondering.

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