Saturday, August 3, 2013

You are what you love

"Our love is our life. Whatever our love is like, that is what our life is like — in fact, that is what our whole self is like.
But our primary or controlling love is what makes us the person we are. This love has many subordinate loves that come from it. These loves appear in different ways outwardly, but all of them fit in with the primary love and make one realm with it. The primary love is like their ruler and head. It guides them and uses them as intermediate goals and aiming for and working towards its own goal, which is the primary, underlying one. It does this in both direct and in direct ways. Our primary love is whatever we love more than anything else.
Whatever we love more than anything else is constantly present in our thinking and our motivation. It is the central nature of our life. Here are a couple of examples: 
If we love wealth more than anything else, whether it is money or possessions we want, we are always turning over in our minds how we can obtain it for ourselves. We feel very happy when we gain wealth, and very sad when we lose it, because our heart is in it.
If we love ourselves more than anything else, we keep ourselves in mind and every little detail. We think about ourselves, talk about ourselves, and do things for our own benefit, because our life is a selfish one.

— Emanuel Swedenborg, The Heavenly City: a Spiritual Guidebook, translated by Lee Woofenden (West Chester, PA: Swedenborg foundation, 1993), paragraphs 54 – 55

 Readers will know that I am not an habit of quoting lengthy excerpts in this blog, but in this case, I'm making an exception — and thanks to Wilson van Dusen for including this passage in his fine book Beauty, Wonder, and the Mystical Mind.

 It's worth comparing this passage to what Gurdjieff said about chief feature in In Search of the Miraculous. While they appear to diverge from one another — Swedenborg, after all, is apparently talking about what might be a positive feature, and Gurdjieff about a negative one — there is a message here worth pondering.

Swedenborg has it exactly right. Chief feature is what we love the most. It is what forms our selves — and our self, as we generally know it, is formed of our personality. It is distinct from the sacred self which belongs to God.

Chief feature is not, in other words, negative in its own right. It becomes negative because we love ourselves, and we indulge in it as a form of egoism. The inner struggle "against" chief feature is not to eliminate it, but rather turn its attention back towards God, where it belongs. Swedenborg's examples — love for material things, and for the self — are both love for earthly qualities, and it was exactly this kind of love that Gurdjieff was saying chief feature generally attaches itself to. It is a necessary quality, but its face is turned in the wrong direction, much like the first of the three Kings in Bosch's Adoration of the Magi.

 It's worth examining what we love the most in a very careful way. This requires a great deal of inner seeing. If we really see what we love the most, the results are generally shocking, because what we are in love with is a thousand petty things, none of them really worth edifying.

Love for God, which ought to be the most heartfelt and essential love of man — Ibn Arabi, Swedenborg, and, yes, even Gurdjieff, would agree — falls by the wayside. The center of gravity of love in ourselves is inverted.

We need to rediscover this different center of gravity, a center of gravity rooted in the divine spark of love that gives us Being.

 May your soul be filled with light.

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