Tuesday, March 12, 2013
divine truth and power
I have come back this morning to the question last month about the statement, "There is no I. There is only Truth."
People argue about such things. A great deal of the Gurdjieff work is aimed at discovering, remembering, or acquiring real "I"— such as people understand this. Yet the understanding of the idea, despite all of focus on it, is very poor. In fact, there is little or no understanding among human beings about this question. And, unfortunately, although Gurdjieff was an extraordinary teacher and brought us up to the edge of many essential questions, he may have confused things here. He was not, after all — despite the assertions of the dogmatists — infallible, and the man struggled with his own demons like the rest of us — a fact he freely admits, for those who choose to read his own writings closely.
Ibn Arabi, who offers us some of the most sophisticated, intelligent, and divinely informed philosophical insights of any age, explains quite succinctly that in the end, no matter how one parses the divisions of material reality and its myriad (i.e., infinite) manifestations out, there is nothing but God. The idea of "I" as we conceive of it, experience it, and seek it, is ultimately illusory. Henri Corbin, the preeminent French philosopher who more than any other single man introduced the modern West to the ideas of Arabi, met Gurdjieff. It's said that he told him, "You don't exist,"
To which Gurdjieff said, "it's a pity."
Gurdjieff's opinions — which are in fact opinions, and not perfect, sacred truths — on the matter notwithstanding, the Buddhists maintain a similar position. And once again, we need to turn to Swedenborg for a further dose of illumination.
"In Heaven, it is Divine Truth that possesses all power, and apart from that there is no power whatever... People cannot believe that this kind of power is inherent in Divine Truth if the only concept of truth they have has to do with thought or speech, which have no power in them except to the extent that other people concede it by being obedient. There is an intrinsic power within Divine Truth, though, power of such nature that by means of it heaven, the world, and everything in them was created." (Heaven and Hell, p. 161).
And now for my opinions. While, for all intents and practical purposes, something that we call "I" does exist, it exists as a consequence of this level. "I" as Gurdjieff described it also exists in general according to level, because any particular name of God, to which Swedenborg attributed the appellation "personhood," is definitely a function of levels like all other manifestations that emanate from God.
Personhood on one level is quite different from personhood on another level; This is what iterating man number three, four, five and so on is all about. The concept is also identical, not just by metaphor but in structural fact, to Gurdjieff's doctrine of idiots; each individual manifestation or name of God is an idiot, that is, a unique and remarkable thing unto itself that reflects one of the many facets of God, according to level.
Gurdjieff's idea of idiotism and 'Arabi's names of God are furthermore intimate, and ultimately share the same identity. Properly understood, they also precisely reflect the Swedenborgian concept of personhood. (each Being in the universe is a person.) Each unique iteration of reality describes the fractal Tree of Being from which the emanations of God sprout material branches and leaves.
What I'm trying to get at here is that the concept of "I," as Gurdjieff understood it, contains a validity according to level — yet, as both he and Jeanne de Salzmann firmly maintained, it is impossible for a lower level to fully understand a higher level. Swedenborg understood this, too, quite exactly, and explained it. The Angels in Heaven, if they are sent to a level of heaven above their own, perceive it to be completely unpopulated. (See Heaven and Hell, section 35.) They are simply unable to see Angels at a higher level than their own, and return — would you believe it? — disappointed.
So every presumption we have regarding this concept of real "I" must of necessity be a false one. And, of course, ultimately, all of what the universe calls personhood, the names of God, or — Gurdjieff's case — real "I,"emanates from the Truth which creates all of material reality.
Truth is, in its essence, divided into two reciprocal qualities which are not actually separated, Love, and Wisdom. These are, not coincidently, the two highest principles applicable to the hierarchy of the names of God.
So here is the most essential fact which must be understood: our experience of ourselves, and of "I," is either partially or completely annihilated within the radiant light of Truth, to the extent we encounter it within.
This is exactly why Meister Eckhart said what he said; and it is why the Buddha referred to the culmination of inner work as enlightenment. One can mistake this idea for as long as one has not encountered Truth; but following such an encounter, the question of pursuing "real "I," which can interest a man only according to type and within the context of his own level, is subordinated to the question of understanding that one is a servant, and has no Being of one's own.
This is a point which Ibn Arabi and other masters examined in great detail, because it is the essential question a man or woman must face in their inner work — not the question of who this or that "I" is.
I remember what Henri Tracol said to me once many years ago when I asked him about this question of seeking real I.
He more or less rolled his eyes at me.
"Ai, yai, yai..." he replied.
And that about sums it up.
May your soul be filled with light.