The other day, I was with a woman I deeply respect from the Gurdjieff work. We got onto the subject of Swedenborg, who she takes somewhat (not completely) seriously.
Her objection, she shared with me, was all his prattling on about angels. Clearly, she was deeply skeptical about the idea of people encountering angels and being taken around by them.
While I was quiet during her objections, I can report I have had a number of personal encounters with angels, who I must say are nothing whatsoever like people conceive of them. Absolutely nothing. There is no prior experience, in point of fact, that can prepare a person for an encounter with an angel, and angels don't act like you think they will, or do the things you expect they will do. They are creatures entirely of another level, and anyone who encounters one will definitely be terrified first, before any other emotion or action can enter into one's being.
The saving grace for human beings is that angels — presuming they aren't malevolent ones, and some are — know exactly how to reassure human beings through their emanations, which is how they communicate. People think angels speak in words, but in general, they don't speak with spoken, vocal language in the way that we expect they might; nor do they need to. They can; but why bother? Generally it's unnecessary. Communication doesn't take place in this way so much on higher levels. That is one of the astonishing facts about the higher mind that Gurdjieff calls us to experience; it isn't verbal in the way we expect it to be. I'm tempted to say, tongue-in-cheek, that it is verbs —
There, I've gone and done it. My apologies.
I was thinking this over this morning in regard to Jeanne de Salzmann's admonition that we must entirely abandon the known in order to perceive reality. In The Reality of Being, we are continually advised that our thinking mind — the associative parts that produce everything we think we know about the world — is absolutely limited and has no concept of what is true or real. This is absolutely true; and once again, very few people have any experience about being completely free of that mind for anything other than a brief moment. If they did, they would be shocked when they found out how worthless that mind actually is in terms of truly experiencing Being.
The point here, however, is that angels lie outside all of that. They are real; they are not allegorical or mythological beings. And contact with angelic forces is one of the inevitable consequences of the path that is laid out for us by both Gurdjieff and de Salzmann, if it is followed far enough and deeply enough. That consequence, in point of fact, can be considered one of the aims in the work.
Yet people dream and think of creatures with wings flying about.
Don't think so much this way. There is far too much thinking, and not enough Being.
Being must always be followed by Doing within Being, another thing that is not well understood, but ought to be practiced.
More on that in the next post.
In any event, my take away on this question of de Salzmann and Swedenborg's angels is that the angels fall into exactly the kind of territory that de Salzmann (and Gurdjieff) not only say exists, but is available to us with enough work. These creatures and everything they manifest come from beyond the known; and the known is our obstacle to any encounters with the real.
So if we suddenly hear of something from the unknown, like angels, instead of dumbing it down and trivializing it, perhaps we can step up to it quietly, without agitation, and have a deep inner respect for it, rather than a set of associations — meet it with one of those questions we all claim to have, but prosecute so feebly — perhaps something from another world will touch us, and we will realize that there are other worlds.
Swedenborg spoke about that too, but I suppose it sounds like nonsense as well, unless you have been there.