Sunday, February 17, 2013

Time and state

 Today I thought I would bring up a striking example of the correspondence between Swedenborg's cosmology and Gurdjieff's conception of the nature of God and the universe.

One of the interesting remarks that Swedenborg makes in Heaven and Hell is that time does not exist for angels:

"The reason angels do not know what time is (even though everything for them moves along in sequence just the way it does in our world, so much so that there is no difference) is that in heaven there are no years or days, but only changes of state. Where there are years and days there are times, and where there are changes of state, there are states." (p.172.)

 The last sentence is truly a remark worthy of Dogen's Shobogenzo, right down to its poetic nature, so we can see that the connection effortlessly extends into the world of Zen.

Swedenborg saw fit to offer extended commentary on the subject of time and state, which can be reviewed here.

 Gurdjieff's conception of time is identical:

"Time in itself does not exist; there is only the totality of the results issuing from all the cosmic phenomena present in a given place. Time in itself, no being can understand by reason, or perceive by any outer or inner being-function. It cannot even be sensed by any gradation of the instinct present in every more or less independent cosmic concentration. It is possible to evaluate time only by comparing different cosmic phenomena occurring in the same place and under the same conditions in which time is being considered and observed." (Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, P. 117.-  A more extensive quote can be found at this link.)

 This rather technical analysis actually has a direct bearing on our question of inner work, because in any given moment, what we seek to change is our state — and this, after all, is all that actually exists. Our state, within this present moment, is either turned towards service to the higher, or it isn't. There is no middle ground. Either we are making an effort to turn our inner attention towards the Lord, or we are facing away.

To face away is what Gurdjieff called to be asleep; we cannot receive the inflow of Divine Love and Wisdom, as Swedenborg would put it, unless we face in the direction of the Lord. Swedenborg is unequivocal in explaining the difference between those who face the Lord and those who don't; the state of Heaven is a state of Love of the Lord and compassion towards each other, and the state of Hell is a state of selfishness.

To consider inwardly, as Gurdjieff put it, is precisely what Swedenborg calls Hell; and to consider outwardly is precisely what Swedenborg calls Heaven. These are not casual or coincidental comparisons; they are essential to understanding inner work, and both men knew this.

May your soul be filled with light.

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