Saturday, December 21, 2013

Self-love and inwardness

Gudjieff made the following remarks in Views from the Real World:

Self-love is a sign of a high opinion of oneself.  If a man has this self-love it proves what he is.
            As we have said earlier, self-love is a representative of the devil; it is our chief enemy, the main brake to our aspirations and our achievements.  Self-love is the principal weapon of the representative of hell.
            But self-love is an attribute of the soul.  By self-love one can discern the spirit.  Self-love indicates and proves that a given man is a particle of heaven.  Self-love is I—I is God.  Therefore it is desirable to have self-love.

            Self-love is hell, and self-love is heaven.  These two, bearing the same name, are outwardly alike, but totally different and opposite to one another in essence.  
—Prieure, Feb. 13, 1923.

The comments seem confusing, because they contradict, but appear to be about the same subject. 

The difference lies in the center of gravity.

Self love, seen as the representative of the devil, is none other than Swedenborg's selfishness, the quality that leads the soul into hell. It is a quality attached to outward things and to intentions which are strictly self-serving intentions. The whole point of self-observation (which may in some ways ultimately begin to seem oddly pointless if taken as an activity in and of itself) is to see these types of intentions in action in life. They are common and are, in fact, what the vast majority of our personality is made up of. They are childish and self-centered, interested only in their own welfare, and usually at the expense of the welfare of others.

Welfare always ought to be the welfare of relationship and community. When it becomes the welfare of the self in isolation, no matter how exalted its by-products (for example, great science or art) it falls short of right intention, which must always be intention towards others and community. Hence Gurdjieff's admonition: consider outwardly always, inwardly never

This remark shares an identity with Swedenborg's interpretation of intention: outer considering is right intention, inner considering is wrong intention. They are both considering; but one is of hell, the other heaven.

Why, we might ask, is self-love a force for good when it is inward?

Self-love, when it is cultivated as an inner quality, becomes a right valuation of the self in relationship to God. Now, this next may sound surprising; but very few people actually ever have this understanding of right self-valuation. The common condition of mankind is a pejorative one; we fault ourselves constantly and are secretly consumed with a kind of self-hatred. This is often so deeply buried by the power of the ego that it is invisible; yet it secretly torments us. 

The perverse result, in many cases, is a greater and greater investment in ego, the very force that is damaging us in the first place. We never seem to see that if we gave this up for even a moment the pain would stop. 

This cultivation of the inner Self in relationship to God is the very intimacy which I so often refer to in my writings. We must learn to love and value yourself from the beginning, inside our Being and at the heart of our Being, in order to come into relationship with God. Coming into this relationship begins with receiving a higher energy; this energy helps to form us inwardly through the direct and loving influence of God, who will lead us into seeing our essential value. 

This is a reconfiguration and right valuation of essence, which is what Gurdjieff so often said needs to grow. What he did not say—this was left largely to Jeanne de Salzmann, who said it very many times indeed—is that we cannot feed essence on our own. 

This only comes through opening to a higher energy, because it is God who can feed essence and help it grow—not us. 

If we open to the inward flow essence grows quite naturally by itself, without any "help" from us, thank you very much.


1 comment:

  1. Lee, I have been aware of the fact of all self-love in it's pejorative sense is entirely built on an incredibly powerful self-hatred. It is self-hatred that fosters the creation of the beautiful perfect imaginary self with no faults or flaws and which is always right. But reality and this image, which is the only real idolatry,they "chafe" each other, and in ordinary "man" the imaginary self which begets demonic self-love always wins out, like a large clown balloon with sand in the bottom so that when punched, it is "self-righting".

    You know you are the tail of the dog when you lose an argument and spend the next three days replaying it mentally, trying to find a way in hindsight, reliving the dialogue and imagining that you could have been right, and what you COULD have said to have "won"..

    Beating one's head against reality is our international pastime..


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