Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Bosch and Bergen-Belsen

Ah,  A difficult subject. And yet it begins so innocently.

Over the last two weeks, I've put a lot of energy into my interpretations of the Garden of earthly delights; this is a strand of my life that has followed me since I was quite young, weaving into all the other strands of impressions and experience that make what I call my own Self.

 There are certain higher states in which one can not only intellectually remember, but also see and feel the threads that form one's life, when one distinctly senses the connection between one moment long ago and this one now. These states are ordinal — part of an order — but they are not ordinary.

Yet as one grows older, perhaps this sense deepens in a person, so that they see the loom their life is woven on.

 I've mentioned many times before that tantra means loom in Sanskrit. Tantric practice, a familiar idea, is an intellectual concept for us, yet putting together the fabric of our life so that it becomes a whole fabric is not just an intellectual process. Weaving, in its ancient form, is a hands-on experience. The craftsman has to know his or her type of yarn; whether wool, silk, or cotton. He or she must know the strength of the yarn, what color it should be dyed, and have the intelligence and foresight to lay it on the warp beam — the support that lays out the foundation — in the right order, so that when the weft threads are passed through it, it creates a suitable piece of fabric.

And he or she must know what they are weaving the fabric for.

 This is where the difficulty comes in, because we are all asked to be master weavers — weavers of a whole life of our own — but we are not told in advance what the fabric is needed for. We weave into an unknown future, hoping that our cloth will be the right one.

What we weave are the strands of our actual experience. All of them are connected in one way or another; one may pragmatically or perhaps even cynically propose that everything happens by accident, but this is absolute nonsense. Nothing whatsoever happens by accident; every life is wholly composed of exactly what it should be.

This can be frightening if a life is composed of many bad things, suffering, terror, and disruption. And to be sure, there are many lives formed exactly that way; especially during certain eras. There are those who want to say there can be no God if life is this random and cruel; yet there is no need to waste time with such people, who lack a good understanding. They must be left alone to sort things out themselves, and one should be passionate and kind towards them, without being patronizing. Their conviction itself is part of a condition given to them because they need to understand something. It's best to leave it alone. Each of us has so much inner work of our own to do that we have no real time for proselytizing to others.

Life is formed exactly the way it is for a reason that is internally consistent for each life. The inflow of the Divine expresses itself within each human being specifically, and all of the events connected with that inflow makes sense if they are understood in the context of one another. When Gurdjieff said that we should use the present to repair the past and prepare the future, he was speaking of this Tantric act of creating a whole fabric in our lives. The threads are connected; all of them belong to the warp and the weft that I inhabit now. Only in deepening my practice, becoming more internally consistent in my tactile experience of myself, do I begin to see how the threads actually go together.

I've had many experiences over the last few weeks of seeing how the experience I had when I was nine years old at the Prado in Madrid, standing in front of Bosch's painting, was a seminal moment that had a profound effect on me — just like the experience I had when I visited the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen in the same year.

Here's are a few threads: the actions that formed these two apparently quite different events in different centuries also ultimately formed an important part of this Self which I have slowly acquired responsibility for over the course of my lifetime (I'm not done yet.)

But the events aren't really different; look my juxtaposition of images at the right hand panel of the painting, and pictures from the concentration camp, if you have the stomach for it. Be warned, it is horrifying.

These things actually tell us similar things about our condition. The painting looks like some strange kind of fantasy; but it isn't.

 I think it's vitally important to understand that these messages are not just about our outer condition. They are a mirror of our inner conditions; in fact, they are a mirror of my inner condition.

And this is the question I carry in front of me; why I keep coming back to ask myself who I am and what I am doing.

 It may seem too grim to try and understand oneself from this perspective; but it is not about becoming attached to or repulsed by the horror, and one shouldn't end up dwelling on that.

It is about keeping the question of my death in front of me.

It is above all about understanding that I am not whole; and that there can be, there is, a Divine impulse that can help that, if I'm open to it.

 If I don't see where I am in myself, how the fabric in me is not whole, I can't undertake Mr. Gurdjieff's instruction to repair it. And if I don't have a feeling, a much deeper emotional, involvement, in undertaking that work, I won't care — and nothing will be done.

 May your soul be filled with light.

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