Friday, May 3, 2013
Confusing power and ability
People who have power, whether inherited or acquired, generally think they have ability; it comes with the territory. This is especially true of people who acquire power, by whatever means; they think that because they are powerful, they are able, that they are in control both of the power and the situations they find themselves in.
This particular problem is already serious when it manifests in the ordinary level of life; a great deal of the material woes of humanity stem directly from abuses of this kind. But the issue is more pernicious than we think; because this issue lies at the root of every inner transaction we think we can broker.
I believe I have power; this stems directly from my own ego-ivestment, the manifest experience I have within life, which arises within me and is experienced as an act of agency. The fact that my "agent"—the one, as Gurdjieff might put it, who thinks he can "do"— is asleep, that is, unmindful, most of the time doesn't make much of an impression on me. My lack of presence causes me to overlook my lack of presence. Hence I believe in my own agency.
This inner attitude is very nearly inextinguishable; the outer mind can assert to itself all it wants that I know better, and yet if one examines the inner attitude in detail, one discovers that every twist in the path leads to yet another example of this belief in one's own power.
The action of remorse of conscience can gradually soften this characteristic in a human being; more often, it remains hard and is subject to occasional hammer blows which shatter its self-confidence— after which I pick myself up, roll out the evil inner God of self-calming, and carry on as though nothing had happened.
The belief in my own power leads concurrently to a belief in my own ability. I don't speak here of outer ability, which is to some extent a measurable quality. I speak of inner ability. I believe that I am able; that there's something I can "do" to align myself with higher forces, come under the eye of God.
This entire question becomes intriguing, because if I believe I am not under the eye of God, already, I think I am already somehow special and set apart; I've been pondering this lately from Ibn Arabi's point of view, in which all object, events, circumstances and conditions are inevitably and unerringly, absolutely and perfectly, under the eye of God—more properly put, technically speaking, within the imagination of God, should you wish to quibble Arabi's point—and can never "be" anywhere else.
The conundrum leads me into the texts left by both Dogen and Ibn Arabi, in which, it is frequently argued, there is nothing to be done—enlightenment, existence within Godly circumstances and conditions, is inherent and immutable. Only the perception that things are any other way is flawed; and it is only that perception which can be changed. So if there is anything that is owned by me, it is this perception... and ultimately even that itself belongs to God.
In believing that I am able, I fundamentally obscure the perception that only God is able. It's only when shorn (like a sheep) of the fleece of my supposed abilities—in a state of emptiness which does not presume—that the inner state can receive a perception that is complete, that belongs to God- and that does have an ability, an ability, moreover, that lies outside any imaginary ability I confer upon myself.
In these moments, power and ability take on a character entirely other than anything I know; and the contrast between what I am (a dream in the mind of God, once again per 'Arabi) and what is Real becomes unmistakable.
This inner sensation cannot be demonstrated, but it must be sensed.
May your soul be filled with light.