Wednesday, July 31, 2013


There are times when I think of external tastes and how they are sweet, or bitter. For example, this morning when I walked the dog I ate some fresh arugula from the garden... bitter, peppery... and yet I like it. This stands in stark contrast to the sweetness of the papaya I ate later for breakfast.

I liked that, too.

I bring this up because these tastes are external things, not inner ones; and it is important to clearly understand and distinguish between the inner and outer elements of taste within Being. They intersect; but they are separated. One does not taste like the other; and inner qualities are incomparable, whereas outer ones can easily be compared with one another.

Because we don't pay much attention to inner qualities, or even sense them very much as separate and essential things, we don't understand how essential they are, even though they are perpetually active and form all of the expression of self which we bring to any given moment or day. Our unawareness of this is part of why we don't value the inner in the way we ought to.

There is one sweetness of an inner nature that is truly incomparable, and that is the sweetness of the Lord. The best book I know of that speaks of this matter is The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence.

This sweetness is the most essential of all tastes, and it only appears within us as an inner experience—although it deeply influences our experience of the outer. The Lord flows into us according to His own Will and inclination; and all of our inner and outer work is mere preparation for this action of Divine Presence.

It instructs without words, and eliminates the need for inner argument, for it replaces our intellect with discernment, which is of an entirely different order.

Discernement, of course, does not eliminate questions, but it re-orders them, such that doubts we may have had are dispelled; uncertainties are eliminated; and instead of these fractured impressions, concerns and misunderstandings—all of them generated by our intellect—we participate in a deep, worldess understanding of what our service might consist of: both what is necessary and what is possible.

Truly, all the parts of ourselves that touch the lower spheres of existence are soiled in ways that we can't correct ourselves; the Holy Planet Purgatory is the best we can hope for.

Yet this is a great hope, and in the sweetest Presence of the Lord, it is proximate, not distant.

May your soul be filled with light.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Don't touch it!

Tremendous resistance on Monday morning.

It's interesting to watch the process of undergoing an internal time change. All of one's inner energies are turned upside down; the ability to receive impressions more deeply suffers badly for three or four days.

Then something changes; and one discovers a new relationship all over again. Even though it's the same relationship—a quite ordinary one—it has been forced to re-establish itself by turning upside down, and so it's all of a sudden appreciated more.

More often than not, this produces a "result" of one kind or another, that is, the deficit one is operating from eventually transforms itself and becomes an asset. A new energy is able to enter because of the disruption of one's ordinary state; and so the struggle to reassert the action of Time upon Being in a manner that is harmonized with the side of the planet one is currently on ultimately turns out to have positive spiritual benefits.

In any event, this morning I got up ready to return to work at my NY office, and was extremely negative. I'm always negative in the morning anyway, but this morning was much worse than usual. It seemed to be an active polarity of sorts, because just before waking up I had a remarkable dream about a wish-granting gem, a large topaz crystal. Inner conditions, the dream was telling me, were becoming beneficial; but upon awakening, the inner energy was quite bad.

One has to overcome such things in order to move into the day; and in this what's needed is a great deal of ignoring one's self and how one is.

That kind of exercise is essential; one needs to not only see one's self, but to learn to in a certain sense ignore what one sees. Too much of it is basically damaging and under bad influences, which is typical, I think, of all of us; and we need to turn our heads away from that even as we see it. Not to try and correct it or deal with it, not to try and fix it: no, one must not touch it. It's trying, after all, to attract us and consume us; and as best we can, we must not agree to be food for our own negativity.

The negative parts want to touch me; they are strong and have all kinds of unpleasant impulses. Interestingly, they are quite aware of themselves and the more they are ignored, the more strident they tend to become, thinking that making more noise will allow them to touch me. There are many things our negative parts want, but above all they would like us to pay attention to them; and so it is our absolute duty and obligation to actively pay attention to other things which are not entangled in this inner nonsense.

To just look straight ahead is enough. One need not look either to the left or the right, from whence these lower inner influences come; one looks straight ahead, perhaps even without thinking—with a blank mind, a mind open to the possibilities of the future but in any event and at all costs not focused on these negativities which are breeding like small, biting insects inside us.

In looking straight ahead, one faces the unknown: but it is objective, not contaminated by the negative, just unknown.

After a morning of this effort, eventually, a much deeper sense of self arises. It is gravitational, grounded, and draws life—real life, not the life of the imagination— in around it gently, until one senses the there-ness in one's Being.

This there-ness has an unassailable quality... because it has been earned, not taken for granted.

May your soul be filled with light.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sensing Inwardness

As I write this, I'm on an aircraft wrapping up yet another trip to China. Invariably, each one of these trips seems to produce a set of impressions that are polarized relative to my life in the United States. It is as though I have two different lives, creating a friction of sorts; and a current flows between them, which attracts an energy which couldn't be available in another way.

Among other things, I gain a greater and greater sense of living on a planet. A planet, furthermore, with a staggering amount of development and people on it. It's one thing to read about it in the news and see it on television, but when you are immersed in it firsthand, on both sides of the globe, it raises questions about the nature of our existence that go much deeper than current events — at least for me.

In working on the recent set of interpretations of Hieronymus Bosch, I wrote an introduction to a book I will be publishing in a few months that brings all of the material together. In it, I mentioned that Bosch represents the last great flowering of the esoteric symbolic art of the Middle Ages. That was exterminated, in a few short generations, by the Renaissance, which replaced (both in the arts and society at large) contemplation of the inner life with a form of outward literalism that has progressively damaged our ability to look inside ourselves and bring ourselves into relationship. It isn't, of course, that we ought not look outward, study the sciences, create cultures and societies, and so on; it is just that that is, for the most part, all we do, and even our religions have lost their inward look. They are now the products of marketing and television. Even the Buddhists, who pride themselves on their supposedly inwardness, publish glossy magazines with slick articles and merchandise expensive meditation accessories. They think they are different; I suppose I can't blame them. Everyone thinks they are different, but everyone is actually the same.

This loss of inwardness is tragic, because we cannot form a real life without inwardness. It astonishes me, from day to day, to move through life outside of esoteric circles and discover that almost no one is interested in any way in this question. I often bring ideas from my inner studies to people's immediate lives, without telling them where the ideas come from — and almost invariably, the people stop for a moment and realize that something different is happening, something they aren't familiar with and don't know anything about.  For a moment or two, they are excited; they are touched by a sense of the mystery of life. The effect, however, is generally short-lived; the parts of people that can receive such material are tragically atrophied. Even those who have such parts don't have parts that function well; one in 100, if not less, understands that something significant has taken place and pays a bit of real attention to it.

On this last trip I sat with some well-meaning Chinese Buddhists who are very enthusiastic about their practice, but they seemed to be more interested in how perfectly they could fold their legs into the full lotus position and how many hours they could sit in it than in taking in any real exchange on how one prepares oneself to receive an inner energy. It became apparent to me, during the conversation, that their only experience with this aspect of practice was basically theoretical, and that they hadn't ever met a school or teachers who could bring them to an immediate experience of the question. This kind of difficulty is ubiquitous; everything is competitive, and people are in a hurry to get results; such a hurry, in fact, that they often take the first thing that comes along and call it a result, even though it's just a theoretical impression. 

I've been around a few people that spent 30 or 40 years doing just this and then suddenly had a real inner experience that shattered their whole world and all their assumptions; I went through that process myself, so I know what it feels like. One always thinks that the outer is the inner until one really has an encounter with the inner; and it is only then that one can begin to understand what a higher energy is, or why Bosch painted the paintings he left us with.

May your soul be filled with light.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Self-remembering as tantric practice

Today, I thought it would be interesting to discuss self remembering from a slightly different point of view.

The idea of the word tantra has acquired a great deal of baggage over the centuries, but the original Sanskrit word means loom. And the idea of Tantric practice, at its root, is to weave one's life into a whole piece of cloth.

Because we are not aware of ourselves, our life is taken in and contained in fragments. Using the analogy of the inner solar system, generally speaking, a man lives his life as an unformed "dust cloud" — his impressions end up circulating within him as countless tiny particles that don't really have much of a relationship with each other. It's only if they acquire a sense of gravity, if they begin to coalesce, that they can form something solid that has a real existence.

In the same way, our inner threads don't acquire any real relationship to one another until they are woven. They need to be arranged relative to one another, and then other threads need to be put through them to bind them together. Either way, we end up with a work that requires the intentional assembling of the inner Being; not with elements that are extraneous to it in any sense, but made up of the impressions that are already there, and the new ones that come in. Gurdjieff did, in fact, describe the process much this way, although with different words.

So the need is to bring all of the elements of life together — the whole life, all the things that have taken place, everything that has happened — in a new way, one that does not just involve the intellectual memory of them, but a new kind of feeling. 

We need to experience, see, and understand our entire life from an inner point of view such that we feel it.

This bringing together of life into a whole is required in order to understand what intentional suffering means. It's impossible to understand intentional suffering in any way without making an effort to create this whole. To be sure, part of it is to see where we are now — perhaps the greater part. But in a certain sense, to see where we are now also needs to be to see the whole of ourselves, including what we have already been. It is as though one is working towards a moment where one sees the whole of oneself at one instant. This is a moment at which real remorse of conscience can take place. Before one becomes more whole, one can only have an idea of such things, not an actual experience. This is a very gradual process that takes decades — at best — in order to accomplish.

This is why it's so important to pay attention, to attend, and to be intentional about the way that one is. Each one of these actions has something to do with becoming a whole; and in the end, the process is a mysterious one that emerges unexpectedly from the countless elements that are brought together, behind the oblivious and relatively clueless force of the personality.

Bringing the self together is a step into a different piece of territory than what we usually see in life. To do so is to acknowledge our lack. To bring the whole self together ends up being an action of nakedness in the face of God, in which we see that we cannot hide anything. The whole idea of inner lying, you see, involves believing that something can be hidden from God, and this is in fact impossible. If we want to speak about being ruthless with ourselves, it does not mean being stern or cruel. It means being honest; and this means admitting exactly how we are.

Having been through Alcoholics Anonymous and 31+ years of recovery, I have some ground-floor practical experience from outside this kind of work. Spiritual seekers think they are important; alcoholics know they are not. 

Not everyone appreciates how essential this is; as I've pointed out before in writings, the struggle against alcoholism is a struggle for life and death, and produces a form of inner honesty that simply isn't available otherwise. When Peggy Flinsch originally found out that I came out of the rooms (that is, for those of you who don't know the term, AA) she looked at me in deadly earnest— we were alone in the room, it was right after a group meeting had ended — and she whispered, with the kind of intensity only she could muster, "a lot more people around this place could use that kind of understanding." 

What she was getting at is that AA is real work, the kind of work you can only undertake of a desperation that fully understands the inner lying must end. Most people think that alcoholism is a misfortune; but those of us who have had to confront something like this are actually the lucky ones.

It's quite certain that the instant anyone feels they are better than others or superior to them, they have already not understood this question in the least. Bringing one's own life together begins with the recognitions embodied in the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous — begins with them organically, on the ground floor of the practice. One must see that one is helpless. And one must make vows to correct one's wrong actions, all of which begin with being willing to ruthlessly see one's actions and where one is.

We specialize in thinking that we can work by seeing the lack in others; when really, this is utterly useless. Every instant we spend time doing it is not just a waste of time, it is actively damaging to those around us. It is our own lack that we need to see. 

Each of us must attend to weaving his own inner cloth.

May your soul be filled with light.

Friday, July 26, 2013


It occurred to me that the subject of Till Eulenspiegel, the trickster figure of the German Middle Ages, ought to be of more than passing interest to readers.

Let's take a look at the story of his birth, which I'll offer a very brief translation of, for those of you who don't read German.

After his birth, Till was taken to the local church for baptism.  After his baptism, his godmother took him to a bar—a tradition, apparently, in what was clearly a more libertine society—and got drunk. Taking a path between the church in Ampleben and Till's hometown of Kneidingen, she fell into a dirty pool. Picking herself up, she took the child home and washed him in a boiler with warm water. In this way, Till was baptized not once, but three times.

The story, which appears innocent enough at first glance, relates directly to the nature of man's existence on earth.

The first baptism relates to the top of the enneagramatic triangle, the holy force which engenders all life.

The second baptism, in dirty water, symbolizes immersion in the material forces of the natural world, with their corrupting influences. It is a descending movement, as indicated by the fact that the godmother falls from the path into a pool.

The third baptism represents the spiritual side of a man's life, the ascending side of the enneagram, where a man must undergo purification; and this is exactly why Till is baptized in hot water the third time. So the story of his birth recapitulates an esoteric understanding of the process of man's spiritual development.

Not all the Till Eulenspiegel stories lend themselves as readily to interpretation, but this one is pretty nifty.

May your soul be filled with light.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Adoration of the Magi

The Adoration of the Magi, by Hieronymus Bosch
Metropolitan Museum, New York

 Readers who surmise that I had a bit of time to pursue some personal projects during my recent trip to China are correct. This post is another in the series of my ongoing investigations of the religious symbolism of Hieronymus Bosch, with special attention paid to the esoteric meaning in his paintings.

 This particular work is a truly fine painting with a deceptively simple arrangement.  Not every painting attributed to Bosch can be, with any certainty, assigned to his hand; but an analysis of the symbolism in this one leaves us with absolutely no doubt.

The work is anything but ordinary; as he did in the Garden of Earthly Delights, Bosch has arranged a Tantric circle of action in this painting, showing a progressive deepening of spiritual influences directly related to the work I have done on Gurdjieff and his enneagram. As in the enneagram, there are nine elements placed around the circle which represent a descent of the divine into the natural realm, outlined by a deepening commitment to the spiritual life as one moves around and through the natural side of the circle, and then, at the bottom, entry into a deeper spiritual territory which informs the action of a real search for Being.

 The fact that Bosch employed this device in more than one painting underscores his interest in, and understanding of, the process. His use of the circular Tantric device to indicate progress on the spiritual path is no accident; while I mentioned it in detail in in my commentary on the Garden, its repeat appearance here even more directly implies that he had been exposed to Buddhist artwork at one point or another in his religious studies.

We also, in this painting, encounter yet another figure expressing a Mona Lisa smile, suggesting that Bosch not only saw Leonardo's painting — or a copy of it — but was profoundly affected by the subtlety of its expression.

 Or could it be that Bosch, in fact, was the one who influenced Leonardo? After all, Bosch was quite famous; and this motif appears in his works time after time, coupled with an impish sense of humor that Leonardo does not seem to a put on public display in his work, if he had one. It may well be, in the end, that Leonardo was favorably taken by the imagery and message Bosch presented, and assigned the same smile to his most famous portrait. The influences of Northern Renaissance painters on the Italian artists is, after all, well known, and although it may sound heretical, I think Leonardo cannot have been entirely above the influences of others himself.

 In any event, I think readers will be fascinated to see how deftly Bosch once again, using a conventional subject, outlines the pilgrim's progress and the spiritual path, using the same set of symbolic references he employs to such great effect in his other paintings.

 May your soul be filled with light.

Link to the commentary:

The Adoration of the Magi: Commentary

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A fine wine

Ah, dear reader, I sense you are growing tired of skeletons and skulls by now, but we are not quite done with them yet. 

I promise we will finish up before Halloween.

In working under rather average circumstances this afternoon in Suzhou, the following thoughts and understandings came to me, perhaps as a consequence of my ongoing work on the question of death... which is not, as it turns out, a depressing question of morbidity at all, but rather a question that brings us closer to a vital wellspring of life which we are generally unaware of. Maybe this was why Gurdjieff felt we ought to keep the question so close to ourselves in our daily Presence.

Perhaps nothing can make us so grateful for life as death; and we can actually become grateful for each death close to us, if we learn how.

There is no ease in this, nor should there be; drinking sorrow- which is the sweetest wine there is- is a privilege and a task, not a gift or an obligation. It's something we undertake only through Grace.

Death is, in reality, a principle ingredient in the meal of life we are eating; it is present at all times, and it is one of the most essential seasonings. The blending of our inner impressions is as complex as mixing delicate ingredients for any good meal; in order to feed ourselves, we need to be actively aware of impressions and consciously bring them into relationship with other, already received impressions.

 This isn't done through logical deliberation, force, or rational thought, but rather through an intuition—deeply informed through immediate awareness of Self— and an intentional openness that lets the impressions discover their natural partners. Those natural partners exist throughout our entire Being-experience; hence this intuitive process  actually serves to knit the whole of the inner Self together in a different kind of seeing.

The process leads us directly into an understanding of life and mortality, a sensation that automatically reaches out towards higher levels where the inflow of divine influences is active. In this way we become more receptive; in this way we sense death. 

And only in this way can we come to appreciate life.

Should I say more? Maybe not. 

Look within.

May your soul be filled with light.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Between heaven and hell

"From all this it may appear, that man was so created that, while living amongst men in the world, he might at the same time live in heaven amongst angels, and contrariwise, so that heaven and the world might be together with man, and act as a one, and that men might know what passes in heaven, and angels what passes in the world; and that when men depart this life, they might pass thus from the Lord's kingdom on earth into His kingdom in the heavens, not as into another, but as into the same kingdom, in which they had been during their life in the body. But as man has become so corporeal, he has closed heaven against himself."

Emanuel Swedenborg, “Earths In Our Solar System Which Are Called Planets, and Earths In The Starry Heaven Their Inhabitants, And The Spirits And Angels There."

I read this rather short book for the most part during this trip. A striking and highly unusual piece of work, it bears comparison, in some ways, to Gurdjieff's Beelzebub, since, most unusually, it is a report of interplanetary travel, and the spiritual nature of beings in other parts of the universe. Since — as I have pointed out before — Gurdjieff would have been hard put, considering his interests and studies, to have avoided exposure to Swedenborg, one has to wonder whether this unique piece of work was one of the sources of inspiration for the form of Beelzebub, if not its content.

 Leaving aside the fact that Swedenborg, an accomplished scientist for any generation, comes up with a set of observations and reports that are so strikingly unusual one has to wonder whether he didn't, after all, get them in exactly the way he says he did, the book makes one statement after another regarding the nature of the cosmos and Being which echo things that Gurdjieff and other spiritual masters and traditions said.

 The book is available for free at the Project Gutenberg website.

What strikes me about the statement quoted at the beginning of this post is the way in which it describes mme. de Salzmann's practice of standing between, so eloquently described in The Reality of Being. Swedenborg's remark imparts a cosmological context to the aim of the practice, which is not often expounded upon. At the same time, those who have read The Next Attention will recognize both the practice and the taste of the cosmological aim; there is a unity of understanding and purpose underlying all of this material. Swedenborg, unlike the others, pulls back the curtains, something esotericists are generally very reluctant to do.  Perhaps their reluctance can be explained by another quote from Swedenborg:

“...for compelled faith, such as is the faith which enters by means of miracles, does not inhere, and would also be hurtful to those with whom faith may be implanted by means of the Word in a state without compulsion.”

The critical phrase here is "without compulsion." It turns on Swedenborg's inexorable understanding that a man can only come to faith through his own understanding, and that faith imparted by any other means is almost worthless. This is because it is our choice that makes the difference in terms of the inward direction we face in: and we are emphatically asked to face towards God through voluntary action.

The connection between this fundamental premise of Swedenborg's and de Salzmann's emphasis on voluntary inner action — as Gurdjieff described it, intentionality — are unmistakable. It's not the road to hell that is paved with good intentions — it's the road to heaven.

But those intentions must be inward ones, not outer.

Tellingly, Swedenborg said that "All the inhabitants or men of every earth, on the termination of their life in the world, become spirits, and remain near their own earth." 

Any close study of In Search of the Miraculous will reveal how close this is to Gurdjieff's explanation of the matter; and there is certainly a great deal worth pondering once one collects this material and tries to get the taste of it from an inward point of view.

May your soul be filled with light.

Monday, July 22, 2013


 Back to this inner condition I've been exploring regarding my attitude towards others.

If I have any honest moments in which the inward formation of something new participates in seeing how I am with others, I see that my ordinary personality is barren in regard to a right attitude towards others. It's like a desert; it has features, but they are rocks and cactus, things you prick yourself on and stub your toe on. I watch what goes on inside me, what arises within the associative flow, and it's really pretty pathetic. The automatic parts of me are not producing anything worthy of what Gurdjieff called a "three brained being."

 It's strange to me, given my apparent intelligence and supposed good attitude towards life, that there is so much inner machinery devoted to this appalling pettiness, stupidity, and reaction. It's true, little of this dominates my outer action —  little enough, at least, that it is nowhere near as damaging as it might have been when I was younger person — but the continuing presence of it reminds me of the lack of compassion in my lower parts. Each one of them is like a small animal that wants to scratch, bite, and nip things around it, tearing small chunks of flesh from situations and devouring them.

Then a moment when some higher energy is available comes along, and my condition — knowing where I am, as I mentioned in an earlier post — is just downright depressing. Depressing not in the ordinary sense, but in the sense of a deep kind of remorse and despair about who I am, the inescapable ability of this awful human condition, which is, objectively speaking, not compassionate at all.

This comes down to the fact that we all talk a good game, but, as all of the spiritual greats have reminded us, are actually minor-league players. At best, trainees.

In what may be irony, what may in fact be justice—or even right action itself, it occurs to me, how would I know? — I draw on things I learned over 30 years ago in Alcoholics Anonymous. I see that I have to turn these things over. God knows I'm like this much better than I know it myself. One of the great sources of anguish in inner work if one reaches this particular point is seeing how infinite the mercy of the Lord is, even knowing how absolutely petty and unworthy I am. The only way to deal with this is a complete surrender in which I turn myself over to the Lord in an inward sense, an organic and intimate sense, saying, "Here I am. I don't know where this is; I don't know who I am; I don't know how to reach you or become open. The only thing I can actually do it all is be honest with you about this, and I'm not even very good at that."

This is the point at which there are very few prayers that can apply. The inestimable "Lord have mercy" is never out of place, but there are also moments when nothing more than "Lord, Lord, Lord" need be said. I'm distinctly reminded of the times that Ibn Arabi said that the most efficacious prayer is nothing more than the repetition of the word God, or Allah, whatever word one's own culture uses for the Lord.

 I don't have much patience with clever or complicated prayers anymore. This kind of praying, the intonation of God's name—or even just an intonation that includes God's name within it in the implication of its vibration—seems like the only real kind of prayer. And it is only when I reach that point within myself in a sitting that I begin to feel I am anywhere near presenting myself at the level of humility that is necessary.

 May your soul be filled with light.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Death and the Patron

Readers will find my latest commentary on the esoteric meaning of Hieronymus Bosch's work, in this case Death and the Miser, by following the link at the bottom of this introduction.

Following the death of my sister a bit less than 2 years ago, I've been engaged in an ongoing contemplation about the nature of death, and examining Death and the Miser- which ought, more properly, to be called Death and the Patron- in greater detail turned out to be a significant part of that work. I saw the painting in person or the first time at the National Gallery in Washington D.C. in February 2012 and it has been on my mind ever since; it is only on this most recent trip to China that I've had enough time alone to truly ponder the painting and write on it... thinking of this kind is, I find, best done in the early hours of the morning, and in foreign lands.

Any serious analysis of Hieronymus Bosch's symbolism reveals a consistency that may be surprising to the uninitiated. From painting to painting, Bosch employed a portable visual vocabulary that constituted a sophisticated and consistent pictorial language. This was not the highly personalized, nearly onanistic language of today's art;  his language was drawn from thousands of years of esoteric understanding, deftly translated into colors, images, and juxtapositions that illustrate classic inner truths known since ancient times. Passed down through schools, many of these Truths reached the Middle Ages through the agency of monasteries and cults of the Virgin largely intact.

Bosch was not just a student, but a master, of such a school, and like many great masters he intentionally left behind a spiritual legacy that eclipses what little personal information we have about him.

The more I study his paintings, the more surprised I am by the popular and ingrained impression that his work is obscure, or difficult to understand. I think any student of the inner arts is able, with a little effort, to see exactly what he was speaking of; and the likelihood that his paintings were (as I think) works with legitimate and tangible popular appeal engenders the idea that the society he lived in was far more interested in inner questions than the one we live in today. It may be, in fact, that it's our own relative social and cultural poverty in these matters that causes his paintings to look obscure to us.

His art, in other words, may be as much as a record of what we have lost, as of what he discovered.
Death was a more tangible impression in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance; it came, on average, far earlier, and often with far less warning. This proximity, and its consequent urgency, caused people to contemplate the nature of life more concisely than we do today; and we can learn from them—especially from Bosch, who, it's clear, knew more than the average person.

Considered in depth and at length, the work leaves an indelible inner impression. Despite the apparent simplicity of the work, it plants a seed that grows as one contemplates it; and it is a testament to the durability of both the imagery and its symbolism that the painting continues to yield insights long after the first impressions are taken. The work is a work to be not so much viewed, as taken in and digested.

It speaks not to the outer, but the inner man; and this is in the nature both of koans— questions which pose conundrums that cannot be answered with the ordinary mind— and esoteric works which attempt to convey information to our inner Being, that sacred realm yet uncorrupted by our ordinary concerns and desires.

Unlike Ozymandias, Bosch invites us to look upon his works and hope; and in an age when consumerism, materialism and our ever-shallowing cults of personality seem poised to relentlessly tilt mankind towards despair, it's an invitation well worth accepting.

There are times, looking at his paintings, when I'm tempted by the conceit that he painted his works for our own age, not his; then again, that is the true test of works whose nature is timeless.

The link to the detailed commentary is below:

Death and the Miser

May your soul be filled with light.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The enneagram, heaven, and hell

 Readers of the last post are undoubtedly asking where purgatory lies in the scheme of heaven and hell.

 We glean this from the structure of heaven as depicted by the diagram. Heaven and hell, lying so close as they do to God himself, are both subject exclusively to the law of three. This is why each one of these regions is divided into three levels — each of which levels, as I pointed out in the last post, is divided into three levels of its own.

But Purgatory is a separate and intermediate entity, so to speak, and as such, is subject to the law of seven — not the law of three. That is because unlike heaven and hell, where developmental possibilities have been completed, purgatory represents a final opportunity for development.  That development cannot be accomplished without the interaction of both laws.

Readers will remember that Dante, in the Divine Comedy, accurately describes purgatory as having seven levels. The Divine comedy is, for all its apparently worldly trappings, a high esoteric text, with many precise revelations about the nature of the cosmos. It is here that we find the definitive description of purgatory is subject to the law of seven; and even though this may not have been a specific subject of Swedenborg's, the implication of development within Purgatory — the opportunity to complete that which is incomplete — assigns the action here to the law of seven.

Swedenborg explained that no soul dies in a state that is absolutely prepared for heaven; all of them who are qualified still need instruction, and this parallels the idea of purgatory in both Dante and Gurdjieff. Because we know that the progression of the law of octaves involves manifestation and submission, we do see an overall correspondence of concept between the three systems.

It's possible to understand of the entire process of creation and evolution as a process of purification; a concentration of coarser elements into finer and finer substances. The interaction of the law of three in the law of seven itself represents, in its essence, and action of purification, since purification has to be the ultimate aim and goal within the circulation of the octave. Purgatory, in other words, represents an octave of its own. Although there is no literal place for it in the diagram, we might conceive of purgatory as a "secret octave," an unseen yet absolutely necessary action that takes place in all souls throughout the process of life, and continuing after the process of death. If we were able to expand the plumb line that separates the two sides of the enneagram, we would discover an intermediary region between heaven and hell that comprises an octave of its own — and this is purgatory.

 Although the diagram is strictly conceptual, it proposes an unusual situation.  While heaven and hell are each directly proximate to God, the level that leads to heaven — purgatory — is the last level on which the law of seven interacts with the law of three. There is no simple way to depict this on the diagram, so we have to make do with an approximation.

A further note about the diagram seems in order. Swedenborg explained that heaven and hell are perfect mirrors of one another — which is, indeed, what we see when we look at the division of the diagram into heaven and hell. So the diagram contains an accurate visual representation of the arrangement Swedenborg described, up to and including the idea that the lowest level of heaven — note Sol — is directly proximate to the highest level of hell, note Fa.

 I've put together a chart mapping the levels of heaven and hell— which, as Swedenborg so explicitly reports, are inner states, not places — according to this system at the following link. Just for fun, I have correlated the "seven" deadly sins to the various levels of hell. As readers can see, there are actually more than seven deadly sins, and I have had to use some creative impulses to make this list sensible. Still, I think people will get the gist of it.

 One could draw many interesting inferences about the nature of Being from this particular arrangement and explanation.  I leave it to the reader to ponder the implications.

 May your soul be filled with light.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The enneagram and death

 Today, we are going to take up a subject that will explain some features of Dante's inferno and Swedenborg's Heaven and Hell which seem contradictory unless one understands both the enneagram and the nature of death itself.

 As I have explained at great length, the enneagram is divided into two realms, the spiritual and the natural. Transition from the right side of the diagram — the natural — into the left side, which is the spiritual, represents the transition from ego, or personality, into Being, or essence. A human being is meant to accomplish this transition during their lifetime.

 At the moment of actual, physical death, the progress around the perimeter of the diagram ends. All of the actions that were possible on this level, whereby energies are exchanged according to the principles of the law of three and the law of seven, cease. At this point is obtained what one might call a lawful result. In any event, whatever has taken place within the evolution of this octave, it is now a fixed entity. So what you are when you die cannot be changed.

In this way, individuals who are still trapped within the vicious circle of the natural side of the diagram, that is, materiality, desire, and power, are in hell. Because there are three aspects of hell: Materiality, Desire and Power, each one of which is made up of a subordinate octave conatining the same three qualities, hell has nine levels. Each level expresses a particular quality of understanding, all of which fall short of real Being. 

In the same way, Heaven has nine levels composed of three "major" levels, Being, Purification, and Wisdom, each one of which contains three corresponding reconciled qualities within it. This is how we arrive at the structure of Dante's heaven and hell, which were legitimate divine revelations on the concise particulars.

 Swedenborg's heaven and hell are composed of three levels each, because Swedenborg was reporting from a more generalized level of detail regarding the actual structure of heaven and hell. Each of his three levels is subdivided, if one understands the principle according to the enneagram, into three levels of its own.

The important point is that the diagram represents the transitional stage for man. If a man does not pass from the natural to the spiritual side of the diagram during his lifetime, through the spiritual effort that is required while he is forming, he is "trapped" at death in the natural or right-hand side of the diagram, which is dominated by egoism and personality. This is exactly how Swedenborg described the nature of those who end up in hell; and the left-hand side of the diagram represents those who have passed into spiritual influences, which is exactly what he said is necessary in order to enter heaven.

The right-hand side of the enneagram represents egoism, and above all selfishness, since all of the forces that dominate it are selfish ones in which the individual under the influence thinks only of themselves and how they can get and keep what is around them, always at the expense of others. Because this is the way the overwhelming majority of outward life is arranged, and because it represents such an inescapable attraction, most of us find ourselves in this piece of territory throughout most of our lives.

 The left-hand side of the diagram represents a movement into community, where real Being, once manifest, acknowledges its subordinate position. This movement into relationship is accompanied by a determination to serve the greater good and to help others. 

In this way, the enneagram provides us with a map both the process of life and death, and the nature of heaven and hell, all wrapped up in a single neat diagram that shows the interplay of forces and what happens after death. Along the way, it unites three major cosmological interpretations of heaven and hell — Dante's, Swedenborg's, and Gurdjieff's—each one of which, by the way, are entirely accurate, and all of which are consonant when seen from the right point of view.

May your soul be filled with light.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Death and the inner life

Death is always with us, but it never seems to be here.

Life is life; from the point of view of this inner vibration, this organic quality of Being, on the one hand, death seems impossible. Yet on the other hand, the organic sense of Being itself contains death, because death can't be separated from life — it is within life itself, and is a presence within the very existence of life. Not just a theoretical presence, a presence to be thought about or philosophized — it is a concrete and tangible presence, part of the vibration that life contains.

Just as the Dharma cannot be separated from itself, and just as truth is a whole thing that cannot be sliced into pieces, no matter how we tend to regard it from our fractional point of view, death and life are one thing. They contain each other.

Last week, my wife and I heard the shocking news that a friend of ours — a woman in the Gurdjieff work who we had deep respect for, and who worked with us for many years — had died very suddenly of a virulent melanoma. And today, another man who we knew died quite abruptly in Mongolia.

It seems strange to me to admit that after the death of my sister, I have discovered that death doesn't seem to shock me as much as it ought to. It isn't as though it doesn't touch me emotionally; there is a deep and anguished emotional connection to it, but there is also an admission of its truth. How can we escape the question of death? How can we deny it? How can we look away from it? It's here in every moment. I become responsible for death in both a small and a larger sense every time I crush an insect that is biting me, or pick a flower. The awareness of it stays with me enough that I hesitate to pick mushrooms, because I am depriving them in some way of part of their existence. So although I do have to participate in this question, it does remain in front of me as a question. Nowhere is it stronger than when friends or relatives die.

 Death forms a more and more intimate relationship with the inner world as one grows older. It penetrates; it becomes a reality, as we witness it around us, and the emotional digestion of that experience proceeds. It seems that a right relationship would have to be inclusive, not based on denial; and indeed, somehow, many of us begin to make our peace with it, despite the anguish it can inspire.

I don't know how to include this in my life, but there was a moment today when I saw that my sister's death was actually helpful to me. I have learned and grown from this truth, in many different ways that wouldn't have been possible if she had stayed alive. This doesn't mean I don't wish she was still with me, because I surely do; yet many important things have been seen as a result of her death that I couldn't have seen any other way. I understand my relationship — and lack of relationship — with her more deeply, much more deeply, than I think I could have explored had she remained alive. I'm just guessing, mind you, but the fact is that from where I sit now, death slowly becomes not an enemy, but a teacher.

There are many parts of life that teach me, but most of them seem to be inconsequential enough for me to believe that there is a fallback position, some way for me to ignore them. Death does not have that problem. It can teach regardless of my opinion, and it teaches objectively — almost lovingly, as though it were in there and had been created in and of itself to prevent me from being able to look away. So it becomes my assistant in a discovery of inner life.

May your soul be filled with light.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Beach at Kitty hawk, NC July 2013

 Notes to myself.

To the extent that God reaches into my heart, and I become a part of His presence, I become real.

Yet this isn't the way things usually go.

 People generally think that religious practice is some kind of technical discipline, involving rituals, prayers, and intellectual understandings. This is, mostly, what I am capable of, and I cast the range of action and possibility within what I am capable of — that is, I work from what I understand. Yet the understanding of the Lord is a different understanding; and it lies outside my capacity and capability.

It's possible for God to be a part of my presence — insufficient as I am — at every moment. This is a humbling factor that continually reduces me and helps me to see how small I am. This is the kind of help that God sends me: He helps me to see my own nothingness. This is not a sacrifice; to discover that I am a part of God Himself is the greatest gift, and there is nothing more wonderful or glorious than surrendering myself to the inward authority of this infinitely greater good. Somehow, instead of doing this, I cling to what I think I am—rarely seeing what I actually am.

Faith is the action in believing this is possible, but more is necessary. I want to receive God most intimately, most deeply, and experience His presence within that sacred place where He flows inward, the source of life itself. I am, after all, created from this inward flow, this influence, and everything that I consist of it is actually an expression of God Himself. How thick I am, that I usually can't see this! And how generous God is, to forgive the fact that I constantly overlook Him.

Spiritual work is never anything more than opening to this Presence. It is not an opening to my own presence; and, you will notice, I don't capitalize the word in this instance. It is opening to Presence; and in doing this, there is an acknowledgment that we are, as Ibn Arabi advises us, vicegerents of God. In opening to Presence, we become representatives, receivers, expressions. There is no self in this; instead, there is Self.

 All of this takes place within the confusion and misdirection of ordinary life, and most especially the intellect. But it's my intelligence itself, my automated or, as Gurdjieff would call it, associative intelligence that forms the obstacle. There is a thick layer of artificiality between myself and this absolute and essential expression of Being.

My search is a search for an opening to this Presence, to this force. Because it is merciful, kind, and loving, it keeps close to me and is always offering an intimate relationship. If I reciprocate; if I am willing to let go little to what I am, if I am willing to die within myself in order to offer room for what might arrive, then new possibilities arise.

It's almost useless to recite words about this. The expression of Being is a living quality that suffers in every translation. Yet somehow the words are necessary, and I have the task of writing them. Perhaps it's in the hope that others may understand that we are not in a technical discipline, a ritualistic discipline, a form with predictable interpretations. We are alive, and that life does not come from us. We do not own it. In the very fact of our life itself and of the fact that we live, we are already an immediate and inescapable expression of God.

By the time I use the word God — which is one of the shortest and most abbreviated words one can think up to describe anything — I am already off the mark, because despite the concise minimalist brevity of the word God,  I have deviated from this experience of the living force of Presence; I have diluted it, rendered it helpless.

Yet this is the only word that I have to describe this force of Being. We are Life and Being itself, yet don't know it. Put in other terms, the Way, and the Truth, and the Life of Christ are not a calling to outward action; they are a call to an inner quality of Being.

 The only real inner work is this perpetual and organic discovery that I am an expression of this life and Being.

Every question I have, every action I take, and every consequence I experience needs to be examined within the light of that discovery.

 May your soul be filled with light.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Knowing one's place

So much of what I need to learn about myself is knowing my place.

Where I am appears to be quite definite, from a physical point of view; for example, right now, I'm in China on a business trip. The places I find myself — inside a subway, at an office, walking through a factory — are all quite definite, and the circumstances and conditions seem understandable. I'm training employees; I'm negotiating on financial matters.

Yet I see that I created an imaginary vision of myself on this trip before I came over here — a fairly decent one, probably, because I have done this many times and knew where I was coming. I held it in front of me like a talisman as I moved in time towards the events, yet now, the events are taking place, and of course the relationships that arise — the actual events — are quite different than what my imagination projected, even though I did a fairly good job of creating the stage they would take place on.

On top of that, in any business environment, one finds oneself in difficult situations, and one has to see how one is, and how the other people are. These are always unusual, unexpected, and it demands a great deal of personal energy to be present to them in a respectful way. At a certain point of work in life, it just won't do to let things happen the way they usually do, where one just goes any which way. The demand is to stay in front of the organic sense of Being, and see as precisely as possible that one is where one is, that one is experiencing what is taking place. This is part of the respect for the situation — the greater part of it, as it turns out — and nothing can be quite so deflating as to sit within a moment and see the humility of being who one is in an intimate way.

This is some real work. No wonder the ego goes to such extraordinary lengths to avoid it.

Nearly over my jet lag, which is an onerous condition in and of itself, I see that I don't actually know where I am at all. The stage is somewhat familiar, and my arrangements of who people are and what ought to happen to have some apparent logic to them (they had better, or I'll be out of a job), but everything that arises is actually bewildering and in a certain sense completely unexpected. It's about as reliable as being out on a boat in a harbor with fickle winds, where the wind comes from first this direction, then that one, relentlessly, and one has to tack back and forth with every new gust in order to keep going in any consistent direction. My prior fantasies about the way things will be and how they will work out, when I look at that from here, turn out to have had very little value as a compass. Not only that, they are depressing. My ego was clearly involved in a large part of their formation. And, it turns out, it does— from my own inner point of view, at least — an exceptionally bad job of knowing how things will be, who I actually am, or who other people are.

 Inner work gives life a meaning, but the meaning isn't defined by the conceptual forms that I invent to frame it. The meaning arises from the process, independent of conceptual form. So I don't know where I am; in a certain sense, from the point of view of everything I think I know, I am always lost. The analogy of a shepherd with lost sheep easily comes to mind, with the concomitant understanding that only a return to the real Self, to a Being in touch with Christ, could possibly constitute anything approaching being found. It's only in the inflow of a higher energy that one finds oneself; and although one may have a connection to this at any time, undercurrents are one thing, a strong presence is another.

One can't call the rain just because one knows that from time to time it rains.

So I am lost, and quite literally, very practically, at the mercy of the Lord.

 May your soul be filled with light.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A sense of harmony

Add caption
Gurdjieff called his institute the Institute for Harmonious Development. And in the name alone, if we understand properly, we glean clues about his concept of inner work.

Musical theory is part of a complex mathematical system that extends into a series of other areas, such as the periodic table of the elements and the electromagnetic spectrum. These are complex technical areas that take many years to gain a mastery of.

Yet one doesn't need a masters in physics or chemistry, or even music, to know what harmony is. The human being has an innate ability to recognize harmony at once, without any special education. It can be sensed, heard, and understood, without resorting to any fancy theoretical structures or educational processes.

So we know harmony naturally — that is, we can sense it with our being.  This is an innate property, that is, something the organisms capable of by itself, before anything else happens. It doesn't need to be taught.

 When we refer to harmonious development, we are not referring to development according to the understanding of a complex theory or system. It isn't development according to a special set of secret rules that only some people know. Harmonious development is, rather, learning how to listen; to sense, in an inner way, the harmony of the inner self.

 This means that complicated exercises and manipulations aren't actually necessary. Developing sensitivity, developing sensation, is absolutely necessary; but this is a development of the senses in order to render them more perceptive, more attentive to what we are. It isn't about using the body as a bellows to pump it full of prana, which can, in fact, turn out to be damaging. And it isn't about learning a complicated set of rules about stuff.

The idea of harmonious development is related to being able to sense who and what we are: gently, lovingly, intimately, with an attention to ourselves that reminds us we are valuable, and doesn't attempt to whack things with a hammer in order to straighten them out. We can, in a word, knwo ourselves naturally; yet only with a good attention can this happen. That attention is an inner attention, connected to my sensation of myself; and in fact, if I work on this one question, the harmony develops naturally.

 This doesn't mean we shouldn't acquire knowledge of why things are the way they are, or attempt to understand them. It simply reminds us that our ability to understand is, in certain areas, inherent. It isn't our ability to understand that is lacking; it's our ability to listen.

And we must use them both.

  May your soul be filled with light.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Will and the reality of being

"The material of my thought keeps its authority, and prevents the automatic movement from stopping. My body is not sufficiently touched. In order to provoke a stop, suffering is necessary so that a third force can appear. Then the attention becomes voluntary—I wish not to be taken, I wish to remain free. At this very moment I feel I must have the freedom to be. I experience a will for freedom. The degree of this will of the attention produces an opening of my body to a finer energy."

The Reality of Being, P. 185

When de Salzmann or Gurdjieff speak of developing a will, of having a will of the attention, it sounds, for all intents and purposes, as though this will is mine, something I acquire, which belongs to me.

Yet this isn't quite the case at all. Here, the idea of will relates to a higher force that informs me — that is, which forms something inwardly in me.

"I" don't have real will. Real will belongs to a higher level; and my efforts, my work inattention, is to open myself and become receptive — to prepare myself — for that will to arrive. I don't make it. I don't create it. And it doesn't belong to me. I am not a maker or a Creator; those properties belong to the very highest level.

Yet the instant that the ego hears these words, and begins to interpret them according to its (my) own understanding — which is, of course, both lawful and inevitable at the level we are on — the idea of will becomes mine; I think that I can have will, or get it, make it by my efforts.

This entire set of mistaken understandings is tied directly to my ego, and the idea that things are mine. Rather than understanding myself as a participator in what is created, and a receiver of life, I think that I am the thing itself.

So when she speaks of opening to a higher will, of developing will, what she means is developing a sensitivity, an inward receptiveness, to allow a new kind of will which exists in a much larger sphere to enter. In a certain way, I am already an active expression of that will, but I don't sense it, because my ego forms a barrier between me and this understanding.

This is why, at the end of the passage, she specifically cites the problem with the ego and the way that it forms itself in reaction to everything around it:

"When we can remember ourselves, be open to ourselves, for long enough, we are put to the test by the intervention of the subjective "I" in the face of other people's manifestations toward us. At the moment the impression is received by the mind, I react. It is with this reaction that the notion of "I" bursts forth. I identify with the form projected by my thought. So, if I wish to go further, I need to be shocked, shaken, by seeing the selfish reaction of my ego, defending itself out of fear of being denied. In order to be free from this fear, I have to experience it, to wholly live with everything it entails." (Ibid, p. 186.)

Seeing the ego-inflected moments that she speaks of here at the end are critical to understanding the kind of emotional work that is necessary in order to see how I co-opt things from higher levels and try to put them in myself, as though they belonged to me.

I live in a world of ownership. This is what life has sold me ever since I was a small child; it's all about getting things, owning things. Often by taking them from other people; but, at any rate an arrogation of everything to me.

Conscious labor, which takes place as the result of the appearance of real will, doesn't belong to me. It is done in me, as the phrase, "thy will be done" implies. This phrase is found at the beginning of the Lord's prayer because conscious labor is essential and necessary in our lives; yet that conscious labor is not done by us. We simply ask to be the receivers of the will of the Lord, that it may be done in us; and any idea we have that our own will, something we own or can make ourselves, might have this action, is a mistaken one. Yet this misunderstanding is a common one.

I must allow something new to enter me; and this is exactly what doesn't happen. For as long as I think I am going to make something from within myself, and this impresssion mills around in my thinking, my ideas, and my concepts in this way, I am blocked. Getting the idea of conscious labor tangled up with something I do is a deep mistake in this work. "Man cannot do," says Gurdjieff; and yet I think, when I hear of conscious labor, that I can somehow do it, don't I?

Already, at once, it consists of mixing levels in a way that prevents me from understanding the higher.

May your soul be filled with light.

Friday, July 12, 2013

seeing ego

After many years of inner work, even including some not inconsiderable moments in which I have had the experience of being free of ego, as it is conventionally understood, I've come gradually to the conclusion that while it's one thing —through Grace alone— to at times be more free of ego, it's another to encounter ego in action, to really see it. To catch it with its pants down, so to speak.
Ego hides itself with such a deft touch that it is, for all practical purposes, invisible. It takes a different level of energy in Being for ego to be actively seen. (See The Reality of Being, pgs. 185 - 186.) Only with this new level of energy, this feeling-energy, do I truly see how utterly contemptuous of others my ego is: not in flagrant ways that reveal themselves easily, but in the subtlest of manners, so much so that they are in plain sight, and yet completely hidden. It reminds me much of alcoholic denial, in which the behavior is shockingly flagrant, yet at the same time, in a horrifying paradox, entirely unseen.

So now I see how I actually am from a depth I never suspected before. I see how I am always like this; I see my lack of compassion, even in the simplest, most intimate moments: an impatience, a refusal to engage in relationship. I see my own inner shame-- Gurdjieff's "organic sense of shame," a perhaps mysterious phrase that can only be understood when it arises in the marrow of my bones.

This is a shocking moment, and little real suffering takes place without it. de Salzmann describes it compellingly: "...if I wish to go further, I need to be shocked, shaken, by seeing the selfish reaction of my ego, defending itself out of fear of being denied. In order to be free from this fear, I have to experience it, to wholly live with everything it entails."

Although it's tempting here to rush to the idea of my fear and how it fundamentally forms me, I'll take a more leisurely and concise approach to her words, because the first few phrases are critical.

To be shocked, shaken, means to be shocked to the core of my Being... to have my living, conscious Being affected. What good, after all, would it do me to be shocked in the automatic, reactive part of my being? That happens every day, and it has no permanent effects. This kind of seeing is only possible once there is something alive enough to feel remorse available; and although this word isn't used in this passage of hers, understanding it from that very organic, inward, and vibrational point of view is critical.

Her phrase, "seeing the selfish reaction of ego" is paramount, because it is this very property of selfishness that sets ego apart. Ego thinks it is itself; it thinks it owns itself. A careful study of Swedenborg will explain why this particular issue is so vital to inner development; and although Gurdjieff and Swedenborg may seem, to some, to be several light years apart, their teachings flow from the same divine source, in which there can be no disagreement. De Salzmann, true to Gurdjieff's teaching, understod all too well that selfishness lies at the heart of hell; and we all unknowingly live with at least one foot firmly planted in it.

There comes a moment in inner work, as De Salzmann explains in this passage, when a new kind of seeing becomes possible. It's at a moment like this that I finally begin to understand that decades of self-observation were necessary in order to even reach a moment where true—or three centered— self observation begins. Until then, it's a game of the intellect, an inner chess board across which the moves invented by my psychology play themselves out.

And here's the problem: I I don't see that the knights, castles, kings and queens in my game of inner work are all imaginary, and that the real parts, the human parts-- which have absolutely no caste or rank-- are so well hidden from me that my ego marches across my inner stage in its myriad, self-invented leading roles with impunity.

I accept the bogus nature of these reflexive roles because there is nothing real in me yet that really senses the emptiness accompanying them.

Seeing ego in this way carries a taste, an inner taste, that won't soon be forgotten, because it takes up residence in a much deeper way.

May your soul be filled with light.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Materiality and ideas

The word idea comes from the Greek for "form" or "pattern," both formed from the root "idein," to see. So an idea is in fact not some abstract concept, but a way of seeing — something that is seen.  And in the sense that we use the word, an idea is the seeing of a form or a pattern.

What is inherent in this action is not the existence of the form or the pattern; form or pattern are like trees in the forest, that exist whether or not they are seen. But there can be no knowing of the trees unless there is a seeing, and one who sees. So the essential quality of an idea here is that there is one who sees with in it; a conscious force, a Being— Swedenborg would say a person — who participates in the action. ( the Latin root of this word, persona, indicates an actor's mask, or a character in a play — in other words, an entity that plays a role.)

In this way, we can understand each "idea" as our essential and unique perception of material circumstances of Being.

So there is nothing abstract about an idea. When I sense my whole body, and my whole self, within the magnetic force of attraction that holds it together, understanding that I am made of cells, this is an idea. But it isn't an idea in my head, it is the physical sensation of the expression of materiality.

When we come to a sense of ourselves, the first thing that we have to understand and appreciate is the inhabitation of materiality. This inescapable and fundamental quality is the essential root of everything that follows. This is why it occupies the first note, Re,  on the enneagram; and it is why physical sensation comes the root expression of Being, without which nothing else can begin to take place.

Of course we inhabit materiality unconsciously, without this physical sensation, most of the time. The physical sensations that we have are from the external field of sensation, that is, things that enter us — and the sensation that emanates from a higher level, the fundamental sensation that penetrates everything and is in fact the active force that creates life and material, is shut off from us.

 When the nervous system is a reactive entity, it only responds to what it encounters. But  when it becomes an active entity, it is already active before external circumstances act on it. So there is a level of vibration that begins in the flesh, blood, bones, and marrow, that is an originating force. This is informed by the divine, and has an active presence that flows into the action of the inner octave in a very different way than the forces from outside life.

From the very first instant of material formation, this idea of existence — of Being — is already present. But it is developed at a very low, even animal, level. The intelligence it needs to acquire in order to sense itself in a new way isn't there; and only a great deal of work can change that. My sensation of myself needs to become quite permanent, so that there is always a connection to it. This is not an invoked connection, but a natural connection, that is, an opening to the higher channel that mediates this force, this highly magnetic vibration that lies at the root of my physical being.

There are so many more things that need to take place in inner work that it beggars the question. However, the discovery of the physical roots of sensation is such a revolutionary experience that this alone, if it becomes active, galvanizes a work, because it raises so many questions about the rest of existence. One might call it the beginning of the path; but in fact, it isn't the beginning, because it lies quite far down the path, and many preparatory steps must be taken in order for it to become a living thing.

The forces that mediate this have a great deal to do with the action of what the yogis call chakras. Yet, as I have pointed out many times, teachings that understand this — which contain many accurate features — are not necessarily germane to the methods of the fourth way. There needs to be a flexibility of interpretation and an openness to receiving a force that does not codify it in the same way that the yoga schools do.

 In the schools of the fourth way, it is not the form or the pattern that makes the idea — it is the seeing of it.

May your soul be filled with light.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Language of the Lord, Part three

What speaks within me?

I learn to listen with parts I don't know about: parts that don't assume they understand. I have many tools for sensation within Being that are unknown, unused, untested; I tiptoe up to them gently, quietly, not sure of where they can from or what they mean. I don't want to use them without sensitivity, because I don't know how to use them very well.

Each one of those parts listens in a new way, to a new language, that is actually a very ancient language. It has been inscribing itself on the fabric of the world since there was a world; and every word that is written on that fabric enfolds all of the words that have come before it. Each word in that language is a vessel that holds all of its parents, everything that brought it here. So the Word of the Lord contains all other words, moving forward forever in a flow of time that is eternally and entirely in touch with itself.

Ah, how different the world is when I listen! I, too, am a part of this language; there is no separating me from it, and each word that arrives, both from within and without, inscribes itself indelibly on the walls of the the vessel of my Being. I contain all these things that take place; and in me, a portion of the great story is written. In each instance, with each impression, I become the scribe who records the events and marks the passages.

Perhaps I can begin to sense a sacred purpose here; to be an intermediary,  a bard who sings not with his tongue, in songs the birds can hear, but whose songs are played within, according to a hymnal which was first opened when life sprang up from the earth and knew, from the beginning, that it was prayer itself.

I see how the earth is filled with green things, red birds, mysteries so great I have no choice but to reduce them to the ordinary; and yet—

and yet.

I am waiting here to see what the next moment will say; perhaps it will say,

I am the language of the Lord.

May your soul be filled with light.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Language of the Lord, part two

 So how can it be that we live through language, yet do not know language?

We forget that our language is not just a language of the tongue; it is a language of the eyes, the skin, the ears that hear and the fingers that touch. It is a language of love that is written in every flower and every leaf that turns in the wind. The entire range of creation expresses this language, which is a message coming from the highest form of Wisdom, Love, and Intelligence: the Divine Language of the Lord.

The Biblical myth of the Tower of Babel reminds us that there was a moment when this fundamental language of the Lord was understood. It is only in the collapse of our understanding of this language that we have fractured our Being—and our societies—into the many parts that do not comprehend where we are, and what we are doing. In reality, every human life is surrounded forever with this language of the Lord, which is eternal and forever comprehending. It has no limits to its comprehension, because it does not measure comprehension in the narrow terms that we use to pursue our sciences or run our businesses. This comprehension is measured by the length and breadth of a human being's presence.

But we don't value presence. One can't trade on it; it can't be packaged, and no one issues stocks in it. Yet when people encounter presence, immediately, they see that it is a quite different quality than anything in ordinary life, and that presence takes the measure of reality, not the nonsense we human beings are usually up to.

Every human being has the capacity to measure reality through the language of the Lord, in so far as we sense it and speak it with our bodies, our sensation, all of the parts that are not just of the mind alone, but the mind along with the other parts.

When we connect the measurement of life to the language of the Lord, we see that a story of immense depth is being told; a story that does not have any beginning or end, and that extends infinitely in every direction. Yet the story does not actually exist in a timeline, according to our conventional sense of storytelling; it is complete with each moment. So the story is a whole thing that eternally, continuously, and completely re-creates itself at every instant, each one existing as a whole and immutable Truth.

There are thus an infinite number of stories; and each one is spoken in a language that reflects how things are now, in this instant.

What is miraculous is that in each instant, the language of the Lord completely re-invents itself and becomes an entirely new language, yet it always remains comprehensible to us—

if we listen.

May your sould be filled with light.