Friday, January 31, 2014

Of one Substance, II

I'd like to refer back to the post of Jan. 30.

The remarks here are, in my experience, quite important, because they flow from a real and immediate contact with this life, not a theory about what this life consists of.

Inwardly formed impressions of substance, if they are real, do not attach to theories; nor do theories attach to them. It is possible both to know and to understand; and if there is anything short of knowing and understanding, then there is no knowing and understanding. To fall one percent short of the mark is to fall one hundred percent short; and thus one percent is the same as a hundred percent, both within understanding and within not understanding.

Knowing and understanding are irrevocable and flow directly from Grace. So within Grace, Grace is known and understood, and the Lord is known and understood. This lies beyond the realm of the intellect, but manifests within the realm of intelligence, which is a different and more active place. I must know it better and more clearly.

This understanding in no way relieves or alleviates the conundrums of life, but it invests them, that is, they are clothed. And what they are clothed in is this understanding, which is the best and most efficacious cloak of all, for it covers and shields one's essence from falsehoods. This means that I suffer more; but I also suffer more gladly.

Essence cannot find anything but truth within the full expression of the faith; and the full expression of the faith is not in the faith itself, but this truth of it, and the understanding of it—in other words, faith matures on the vines of being and becomes the fruit that is so often spoken of in the bible.

So I reach a moment in which there is no argument. I don't need to ask the question Lord, where are you, because the Lord is Present. And although I am within this life and as equally confused, bereft (in my ordinary ways) and lost as always, I am discovered within the Lord. So this inhabitation of Being, this Presence, becomes truth in its own right and does not need to negotiate in the manner all of my intellect insists on doing.

Perhaps it might be good to say that this one substance is un-negotiated; I don't know. Certainly it is not brokered; and its origins cannot be mistaken, because it is, in its entirety, the immediate expression of the truth, which needs no agent.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Of one substance

Additional notes, January 30.

The impression today is one of substance.

There is the possibility of allowing Grace to flow inwards such that substance is expressed. This isn't my substance: yet life is lived through it, and life is only real to the extent that this substance is expressed.

So the expression of life is effected through the receiving of this substantial emanation of the Lord; and to the extent that I submit, and receive, to that extent alone is life expressed and is Grace expressed.

So I have this wish, this deepest inner wish, to be available to this inflow of the divine, which is substantial, and to thus allow the creation of life itself through this substance. In this way I discover that all of life is actually substantial, and that all substantial things are emanated by the Presence of the Lord and the inward flow of that Presence into Being.

The word substance is quite appropriate here, because the original meaning is derived from the latin substantia, meaning being, or essence, and is related to the root word substant- that is, standing firm. 

So I must think, with all of my parts, clearly and exactly of substance and all of its meaning here within being.

I sense organically that this standing firm within the Lord consists of inhabiting this state of essence, or Being, which consists solely and entirely of the emanations of the Lord's Grace, from which all matter, essence, and Being is formed. This is the ground from which I wish to (and can) live today; this is the essence of life, which I so often abandon in my mistaken identification with the material.

If I proceed at once from within this radical element of Being, without hesitation, and I accept at once and without hesitation the arrival of this Grace, then there is a possibility of a quite different experience of life.


Intensity and intimacy

 Day before yesterday, I was contemplating the question of an inward faith and an outward one; true to form, this morning, I was reading Meister Eckhart's sermon number two, having resolved to read all of the sermons in order. It raises the same questions; and, in its own subtle language, turns me back towards the question of intimacy which I raised yesterday, then the need for the soul to turn itself inwardly in order to prepare itself for receiving the Lord.

In The Reality of Being, Jeanne de Salzmann frequently refers to an intensity that is needed in order for the energy in the body to prepare itself. While we might be tempted to interpret her remarks as being of a different nature and order, this is not in fact the case. Intimacy and intensity are not different; and intensity is not force. It is concentration. So perhaps I need to understand my question as one of concentrated intimacy, that is, an intimacy of attention, attending, being in relationship to.

This being in relationship to is both a language and a sense. It is like touching; but it is not touching itself. It is like hearing; but it isn't hearing itself. And sometimes we call it seeing; but it isn't seeing, either. This is why I use the word intimacy; one that is occasionally found in de Salzmann's own works, and which turns on this idea of inwardness which both Meister Eckhart and Swedenborg emphasized in their works.

Intimacy can't be found in my outwardness. In point of fact, anyone who attempts to understand this question I speak of by interpreting it through their outer experience already has only partial understanding. Outwardness does not contain this intimacy, nor can it; it is a quality born of the soul and not of the world, and in learning to understand quite clearly the difference between inwardness and outwardness, I must above all understand this question of intimacy, which is born of a man's or a woman's contact with his or her higher nature.

So intimacy, intensity, already brings a quality different than that of the ordinary into Being. No real Being can begin to arise without this quality; and the quality does not belong to the one who seeks it, but, rather, arrives from a level which can help me. I should wish within the urgency of all my heart and all my love first and foremost in life to come into contact with this level; and Meister Eckhart speaks of this eloquently. In particular, the urgency of this search is communicated in the four legends of Meister Eckhart at the end of the complete works; it becomes clear that a human being should put this search for intimacy, for intensity in the search for the Lord, in front of all other activities in life.

Yet I am so attached to this life that I generally can't understand this question, even when the question of intimacy and intensity is in fact always available to me.

My wish for the Lord ought to always come first.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Intensity and integrity

I recently mentioned that we frequently hear the word intensity when Jeanne de Salzmann (JDS) is describing the manner in which energy needs to concentrate in us in order for us to discover a better inner connection.

 This word always seems to imply the use of some special kind of force; yet I think that it implies much more of an integrity then a use of force. That is to say, as Meister Eckhart points out in his third sermon (complete mystical works, page 53) "when wholeness comes, the partial vanishes." (1 Corinthians 13:10.)

Then again, of course, de Salzmann would have it — at least in some measure — that we can demand that wholeness, that we have a role in it; whereas Eckhart appears to emphasize instead the idea of a surrender of our own will over the assertion of it.

The question appears to relate to that of intensity and integrity; should we intensify the action of our own will, as it seems JDS urges us to, or should we surrender the action of our own will to the Lord? One is intense; the other, one might argue, is integral. That is to say, by surrendering our own will, we create a void, a stillness in us (again, refer to sermon number three) into which the will of God must enter, thus integrating us and aligning us with that higher will.

I don't think that the two masters actually differ on this question; but the language certainly differs, and although both versions are equally true, at least within the range of experience I can bring to it, they express different aspects of a single whole that consistently defies any analysis through the use of words.

 There is indeed an intensity to the inner wholeness we seek; and we must indeed invest ourselves in that, that wordless stillness which calms and which brings us both weight, gravity, and humility. 

But we must equally surrender ourselves as we are to this force, which involves a passivity of our own will — and again, both JDS and Eckhart cover this question in their own fashion. Careful readings of texts by the both will, I think, reveal a definite consistency, even in the midst of divergence and diversity.

Yet it all seems academic here, doesn't it? We must come to our effort with intensity; we must understand it through integrity. We cannot be partial and hope to become open; only through a wholeness of Being does such openness arrive. And methodologies, techniques, do not produce wholeness of Being. That property – I feel confident Eckhart would agree with my own experience here — is born only of a mystery that arrives.

 We must bring this question of integrity to our life in many different ways, not only inwardly, but outwardly. One ought not cherry pick the questions and material that Meister Eckhart brings to us; the question and the necessity of an outward work of compassionate selflessness and support of other human beings is ever present. He specifically points out, in sermon three:

For God's purpose in the union of contemplation is fruitfulness in works: for in contemplation you serve yourself alone, but in works of charity you serve the many...

 ...As Christ said, "let your light shine forth before men" (Matthew 5:16). He had in mind those who care only for the contemplative life and neglect the practice of charity, which, they say, they have no further need for, having passed that stage. It was not these that Christ meant when he said, "the seed fell on good soil and yielded fruit 100 fold" (Matthew 13:8). He meant to them when he said, "the tree that bears no fruit shall be cut down" (Matthew 13:10, 7:19). — Pages 48 – 49, The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart, as translated by Maurice O'C Walshe.

Inner integrity and outer integrity are, in other words, inextricably intertwined; and, as both Meister Eckhart and Swedenborg irrevocably insisted, an outward work is demanded. We cannot afford to just sit at home and stare at our navels. 

A real work — an uncomfortable and demanding effort — must be brought into every moment of our ordinary life, and we must suffer for that.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Three essential statements by Gurdjieff, part III

There are, of course, many other important statements in transcript number one, but perhaps this one is most important for students who wish to become more conversant with the inner and organic practice Gurdjieff called us to.

Our aim is to have constantly a sensation of oneself, of one's individuality, this sensation cannot be expressed intellectually, because it is organic. It is something which makes you independent when you are with other people.

 I've been writing about the organic sense of Being in this space for many years now. Take note that Gurdjieff expressed this organic sense of Being in exactly the correct way: it is something which makes you independent when you are with other people.

 I've explained in the past that a permanent sensation of the body is necessary; and I've explained that this must become voluntary, that is, that it must volunteer — I do not invoke it, it arrives by itself voluntarily. This only takes place once this part of the organism — connected to moving center — awakens in its own right, an action that cannot possibly be ignited by the action of mind. There is a catalytic process within the organism, a quite complex one, that involves a significant amount of suffering and payment over a long period of time for this sensation to arrive. And, as I have also explained, this is not enough, because it only represents the beginning of a union within the various parts of the organism.

It is, however, exactly what Gurdjieff said it was — a sense of Being, that is, a sense that makes you "independent when you are with other people. "

What he meant by this comes in levels, and carries nuances and degrees of complexity, but the beginning of this question is that one is present when one is with other people, in a different way. It is, quite frankly, impossible for others to see this; but the action of voluntary sensation separates one from automatic and unconscious action, to a lesser or greater degree, depending on how active voluntary sensation actually is — and it does not have just one level of action, as it functions very precisely in accordance with its own octave.

Of course, even the first note of that octave is significantly different than existence without it, but it deepens considerably, depending on how much the energy evolves and how much attention is invested in it; that is, the level of intimacy, or, as de Salzmann would put it, intensity.

In any event, as Mr. Gurdjieff also said, it cannot be expressed intellectually, because it is organic. It does not arise in the mind; and all of the efforts to comprehend it with the mind or invoke it with the mind are doomed to fall short of understanding it properly, because it cannot be understood with the mind.  He used the word expressed here very deliberately; it can mean to be emitted, squeezed out, and I think what he was getting at here is that you can't squeeze sensation out of the body by pressuring it with the mind. That is why de Salzmann goes to such great lengths (see The Reality of Being) to explain that the question of the participation of centers is voluntary. A voluntary attention, for example, isn't the attention I try to make happen: it's the one that arrives.

 They are not the same thing. I ought to turn my efforts towards clearly understanding the difference.

So when I write of intimacy and I call readers to study this question of sensation and intimacy, I am hoping they will understand that this does not mean to think to oneself, "now I will be intimate." It means, rather, to invest oneself within the inward flow of the energy, to come into relationship with this independence of Being which exists as a kernel of energy, a point of Being which begins with the inward flow of a higher energy into the organism.

 Although it's quite true that finer substances in the air feed this, they are not the point of origin. The point of origin is the point at which the divine touches the material within the expressed organism of man, that is to say, the machine itself contains the point of contact.


Monday, January 27, 2014

A charitable cause

Readers may recall one of my friend's children was badly injured ten days ago. His recovery will take many months.
I've established a Give Forward site to help raise money for his medical treatments.
Readers willing to contribute can visit the site by clicking on the link

Donations for Luke's medical expenses

Many thanks to those who choose to make a contribution.

Three essential statements by Gurdjieff, part II

 The second essential statement I'll draw from the transcript of meeting number one, Dec. 7, 1941 is the following:

 Love of your neighbor, that is the Way. ( The word Way is italicized in the original.)

 Gurdjieff expounds in some detail on the need for what he called outer considering in this passage. In earlier stages of his teaching, although he mentions the concept, one might conclude that he had little interest in outer action towards others or charitable acts; in fact, the legacy of his work has been a deeply unfortunate turning inward, away from the world, in a peculiar form of cloistered monasticism which tries to separate itself specifically from the outer world in a bell jar. This is been accompanied by a denial that such action is taking place; and a failure to examine the failure this represents, in terms of the fact that the work is supposed to be conducted in life.

In point of fact, late in life, Gurdjieff not only quietly ran a soup kitchen for poor and unfortunate people — something he rarely advertised to his students — he definitely understood something that Swedenborg emphasized over and over again, that is, pointedly, that outward action towards others is absolutely essential in terms of the spiritual path. We get a direct, specific, and important taste of how central this is to understanding in this particular transcript; yet the point is generally glossed over in terms of the current practice.

To pretend that one can work without intelligent, intentional, and meaningful charitable outward effort towards others is like pretending that one can get married and raise a family without having  a woman in the house. Swedenborg explained in considerable detail (read Heaven and Hell) that outer action towards others is one of the essential characteristics of spirituality and a turning towards God, and one of the elements that qualifies a soul for heaven. When Gurdjieff told his students to practice outer considering, he never explained why; he simply said it was necessary. It seems, on consideration, that he didn't tell them why simply because he didn't want egos engaged in outer considering to congratulate themselves and think they were going to heaven because of all the good deeds they did.

This is a complicated subject; if we do good deeds because we think we are going to earn something—that is, if they don't come from the heart and the heart alone, if they are not done without a real struggle in which we see the way our egoism battles with such deeds—they are worthless. The whole point of outer considering is that it juxtaposes right action against our central egoism; and if we practice this correctly, we find ourselves engaged in constant conflict in which we see how the lower part of our nature struggles to assert itself against right action.

This kind of inner work can highlight our separation from God, and the oppositional nature of what we really are. Over time, it can begin to dispel all of the imaginary motivations we ascribe to ourselves in our supposed goodness.

 Love of one's neighbor is not cheap and does not come without struggle. It has, as well, both an inner and an outer meaning, each one of which must be confronted and digested in order to acquire understanding on this question.

In any event, this practice of outer considering ought to be a far more vital question in everyone's work.  Gurdjieff didn't refer to it as the Way in any casual manner — the appellation is a definitive one, assigning it priority.

There's an irony implicit in the fact that the Buddhists — and many Christians — have got this quite right, while esotericists smugly (and weirdly) presume they occupy some higher ground.
It's exactly this belief that one occupies any higher ground that the action of outer considering is supposed to combat; and if any effort at this direction is real, humility always rides directly on the heels of every effort to outwardly consider.

For as long as one believes one is good, and one's actions are good, one hasn't seen much of anything. Those who want to argue Gurdjieff's point of view on the matter might turn to the third series, where he reminds us that in ancient times, after a man died, everyone spent three days recounting all the terrible things he did during his lifetime. Today, instead, when someone dies, no matter how horrible they are, it seems we hold a service in which acquaintances stand up and extol their virtues.

 One must admit. We certainly do things differently these days.


PS, note to readers. The Universal Enneagram is now available in the iTunes bookstore.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Servants of Truth

The unjust man is the servant of truth, whether he likes it or not, and he serves the world and creatures, and is a bondman of sin.

—Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, P.130 (Sermon 17.)

In this quote, Eckhart uses the word Wahrheit which, although it is a noun, implies a condition of Being. Truth, in this instance, is equivalent to what the Buddhists refer to as Dharma; it is a fundamental element of which the world is composed, a universal condition.

 At the beginning of the sermon, Eckhart states: all God's commandments come from love and from the goodness of his nature, for if they did not come from love they would not be God's commandments.  This statement is perfectly aligned with Swedenborg's remarks on the nature of God and his manifestation, so much so that we can rightly discover no difference whatsoever between the two masters. And this fundamental love and goodness of nature, which is on the order of a transcendental mystery, is equivalent to truth. 

The goodness of God's nature is distinct from material creation; notice that the unjust man serves both truth, and the world and creatures. 

Eckhart goes on later in the sermon to say:  In created things — as I have said before — there is no truth.  There is something that transcends the created being of the soul, not in contact with created things, which are nothing; not even an angel has it, though he has a clear being that is pure and extensive: even that does not touch it.

Truth, in other words, is a transcendental property greater than all things, which once again directly corresponds to the concept of dharma.

 The unjust man serves truth regardless of his opinions or his unjust nature. We are all in this position. One has no choice but to serve truth; that which is unjust serves truth in exactly the same way as that which is just. 

Here we see some essential remarks that relate to sermon 15, in which Eckhart says, I declare roundly: all good works that man ever did or ever will, as well as the time in which they occurred or ever will occur — works and time are totally lost, works as works, time as time.  In this sermon, Eckhart clearly states that works and time are only of meaning in so far as they turn the soul towards God; the fruit of all work, the essential aim of all work — this is what he means when he says fruit — is to turn the soul towards God. 

The work itself, as well as the time within which it takes place, are lost — they disappear forever. He reiterates: ... I declare: they are lost altogether, works and time, evil and good, works as works, time as time — they are altogether lost eternally.

 We believe we live in a world where all works and time, evil and good, have meaning and value throughout eternity. Eckhart radically proposes a world where none of these have meaning, and that the only real eternity is within God and the relationship to God... in this unfamiliar world, the unjust and the just are equally valid.

It is a proposition that annihilates our fundamental concepts of the world; and once again, this is very similar to the Buddhist conception of the Dharma. This idea that the truth which is served transcends our opinions and desires is radical; it comes before all the rest.

And indeed, the annihilation cannot extend just to concepts.

Again, from sermon 17: "You must give you up yourself, altogether give up self, and then you have really given up.  A man once came to me — it was not long ago — and told me he had given up a great deal of property in goods, in order that he might save his soul. Then I thought, alas! How little and how paltry are the things you have given up. It is blindness and folly so long as you care a jot for what you have given up. But if you have given up self, then you have really given up.

Of particular interest to students of the Gurdjieff method ought to be this comment from the sermon:

 I once thought — it was not long ago — that I am a man is something other men share with me; that I see and hear and eat and drink, that is the same as with cattle; but that I am, that belongs to no man but myself, not to a man, not to an angel, not even to God except in so far as I am one with him. It is one purity and one unity.

 The remark brings us close to one of the two key prayers in the Gurdjieff work — I am, I wish to be. This uniqueness of Being is an important principle in understanding what the Sufis call Tawhid, that is, unity. And this concept of unity with God within Being—which is fundamentally and radically transcendental—is strongly shared between the Sufis, Eckhart, and Swedenborg.

Gurdjieff touched on it parenthetically, but did not necessarily make it central to his teaching. His impression of students was that everyone was at too low a level to approach this idea; and (as evidenced in some of his exchanges in the transcripts of meetings from 1941 through 1946) overarching metaphysics were not at the heart of his work. He was far more interested in how questions touched people's Being personally and immediately.

 This reminds me of a conversation I had this morning with a friend of mine who was at the Davos conference. People, he pointed out, find it easy to have great ideas that see the world from 50,000 feet; but if we wish to raise the dialogue, raise the level of anything, it has to take place one small step at a time; and we need to know how tall the steps are.

 In a sense, we all begin at the bottom of the ladder, as bondsmen of sin.  Meister Eckhart's remark, which places us in the service both of truth and the world and its creatures, is a direct indicator of our two natures, another prime feature of Gurdjieff's teaching.

As is so often the case, we find ourselves here in the confluence of all many great traditions, all struggling with the same questions about the nature of the inner Being of man. And, although none of us believe it, it is far more practical (and necessary) to discover ourselves within the reality of our actual position at the bottom looking up, than to imagine ourselves on the top looking down.


Three essential statements by Gurdjieff, part I

Over the next few days, I'm going to examine three important premises of inner work as expounded by Gurdjieff in Transcripts of meetings, 1941-46.  All of these essential statements are found in meeting number one, conducted on Sunday, December 7, 1941 — the same day on which the Japanese attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor.

Fortunately, the Japanese were not the only remarkable thing in the air that day.

Let's begin today with the following comment:

By the way, it is only by explaining something to others that one understands and assimilates oneself completely.

 This seemingly off-the-cuff statement summarizes the absolute need and responsibility for a human being who has made efforts and understood something — anything — to explain it to others.

 It has become the fashion in some portions of the Gurdjieff work, and (to be perfectly fair) other inner or esoteric works over the centuries, to claim that nothing can be explained, that there are no words, that only silence matters, and so on. The absurdity of this in the face of the fact that these things always have to be communicated with words apparently fails to strike those who make such statements. Gurdjieff, as we can see here, held it as essential that one make an effort to explain things to others. ( is only by explaining, emphasis mine.) Without this effort—an effort within to understand and then offer—one is not fulfilling one's Being-duty, and one cannot begin to understand oneself and create a whole out of the many different fragments that fill one's Being.

There are, in other words, necessary explanations: and there are answers, which, as I have pointed out many times, are responses, not the bugaboo of fixed places where everything stops and dies, as some would have it.

In my own opinion, those who lack the courage to make an effort to explain, in so far as they understand, are engaging in a form of cowardice. It is a way of attempting to hide and live in a private world, essentially selfish; of avoiding real relationship, which is invariably thorny and provides an absolutely vital friction essential to the growth of Being.

 Explaining, oddly enough, comes from the archaic root plain, which preserves its original meaning in the word plaintive, that is, a sad and mournful cry, and plaintiff, one who claims injury. It originally meant to lament.

So the word itself already implies that the effort includes sorrow at its root. The wise woman or man, the one engaged in inner effort, tries to explain—to emit a lamentation— knowing they will fail, and in an effort to deal not just inwardly, but also outwardly, with the anguish of not knowing. If explanations are truly born from this root within the anguish of not knowing, they are always valid and needed. We must not only confront our individual inner sorrow from not knowing God; we must share it with others. Mr. Gurdjieff understood this quite well; and it summarizes the fundamental reasons for his heroic efforts, over the course of a lifetime, to explain who we are and what we need to do to improve ourselves in an inner sense.

So let us put aside, once and for all, any nonsense about not explaining anything. Ibn al 'Arabi, as impeccable a source as any, insisted that man must increase his wisdom, his understanding, and his knowledge; being faced with the impossibility of fully understanding or knowing anything, and the full and certain knowledge that we are not wise, one must nonetheless gird one's loins and make the effort. It is only the friction that results from this kind of effort that can help us grow: again, from the first transcript:

One needs fire. Without fire, there will never be anything. This fire is suffering, voluntary suffering, without which it is impossible to create anything...  Only you can prepare, only you know what makes you suffer, makes the fire which cooks, cements, crystallizes, does.

 Gurdjieff himself explained ad infinitum over the course of his life; he struggled with it, changed his message over and over again, and suffered for it. The man did not rest on his laurels or continue to repeat the same canon over and over like a parrot; his understanding evolved, and with it, his explanations. Towards the end of his life — these transcripts cover that — he reached a level of sophistication where individual sentences such as the one which this essay opens with imparted a world of knowledge and understanding which require deeper examination.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

On narrow terms

I would recommend every reader pick up a copy of "The complete mystical works of Meister Eckhart" as translated by Maurice O' C Walsh and published by the Crossroad Publishing Company.

Is it worth the relatively enormous purchase price? Readers should refer to sermon one; if this is the only sermon you ever read from the book, it will have been worth it.

In this sermon, Eckhart brings up everything I've tried to discuss over seven years of writing in this space. I won't recapitulate his findings; he does quite well enough himself, try though many have to help him out on explaining such issues. But I want to use it as a point of departure for my own observations on some of the points he raises.

 I recall Michel de Salzmann once referring to The Cloud of Unknowing as a book of tremendous value that can best be understood only by transcending its "narrow" Christian terms.

The irony in his remark is implicit; even Gurdjieff's own formidable grasp of esoteric principles and Christianity itself are nothing if not narrow.

In point of fact, everything that takes form is narrow; and in this way all forms represent the eye of the needle, and all of us are camels. For any one work to call another work narrow is essentially ludicrous; yet hubris is a great force with power over all men, most especially those who think they are not already the victims of it.

Eckhart's point is that all of creation is unable to understand the Lord. This is absolutely consonant with Ibn al Arabi's formulation of the issues (cf. Chittick's The Sufi Path of Knowledge.) And indeed, it's true.

So in an absolute sense, the assertion of any form is a path is a mistaken one. Yet here we are, stuck within forms.

Readers will have to accept my apologies for encapsulating a vast number of important concepts in a few brief paragraphs there.  I will now fast-forward over what should be hours of discussion in order to point out that the essence of the question comes down to what we are willing to give up.

 I've been examining the question of my relationship to the Lord in daily detail, many times a day, for what is now over 12 years. These examinations have taken place in direct juxtaposition to the eternal and ever-present possibility of a direct contact with God. In inner work, we do not deal with or undertake hypothetical approaches to this question; the matter is and must be practical and real. And the difficulty, I repeatedly see, comes down to the fact that everything created — that is, everything, including ourselves — is incapable of understanding. We think that the outer world is what is created; but our inner life is equally created. That is, everything we can touch or encounter, by any faculty, through any degree of intimacy, intelligibility, or interpretive mechanism, is created.

And the instant that anything is created, it is separated from what al Arabi called The Reality.

Although none of us would want to admit it, we always seek relative enlightenment; that is, everything we see and everything we are willing to give up is measured relative to who we are what we have, and we are most incontrovertibly unable to give ourselves up. We always want to keep something. This is, of course, the dilemma of the rich man; and in this case, a man who has ten trillion things, and gives nearly all of them all up, but still wants to keep just one, and the man who has only two things, but will only give one of them up, are in exactly the same position. It doesn't matter that the first man has sacrificed far more; in the end, when he comes up against the cloud of unknowing, he and the man who gave up only one thing both end up still wanting to keep something.

We're all rich men, in this regard.

What we seek is absolute enlightenment; and that has no part of ourselves in it. It is, furthermore, a technical impossibility; because for as long as we approach it from our end of the telescope, it remains unattainable.

In order to understand at least this aspect of it better, one needs to engage in a long and relatively merciless intimate seeing from within of exactly where one is. In order to do this, we need not dispense mercy towards ourselves, because mercy is automatically given by the Lord in such activity,  though it will always take remarkable and miraculous forms which we do not know and can never anticipate. Our own mercy will not suffice; and although we need not be cruel, we do need to be demanding. The demand is not in judgment, but in a willingness to look.

And when we are willing to look, we discover how narrow the terms we negotiate—yes, negotiate— on are.  We aren't ever going to discover God in this manner when we look; but we will see an infinite number of places where he isn't. All of them lie within ourselves; and perhaps it isn't until we have opened the very last door we can find or believe that we have in us that we are finally convinced of this.

One can, to be sure, the absolutely convinced of this by the Lord himself well in advance of such a search; but I can personally attest to a dogged perversity in continuing this search even long after one has become well acquainted with the facts.

There is an enormous generosity in the Lord which announces itself in subtle but ever present ways. Grace is ubiquitous; Mercy is assured. And yet I conduct myself like a miser that doesn't trust either of these two fundamental truths. This is why my work constrains itself to the tiny forms I encounter or create; and this is why fear and greed dominate my own inner — and not necessarily outer — landscape, a fact I refuse to admit to myself.

The emphasis on confessional in most religions originally centered around and turned on this question; and I ought to return to it far more often in my daily life. It isn't, after all, an anachronism in these libertine days and this libertine era; it is an inner necessity that I ignore at my peril.


Friday, January 24, 2014

A Symbolic Dream

From time to time I'm interested in dream interpretation.

Readers who have the patience to bear with me through this unusually long post will find a detailed interpretation of yesterday's dream that expounds on meanings that may not be apparent on the surface of things.

One note: although it's true I am a Parabola editor, a "parabolic" interpretation, in this case, means an interpretation that works, more or less, as a parable.

The Dream: Jan 23, 2014

I am traveling in Europe; the country is Germany. Although there is a prelude to the scene, the essential part of the dream starts here.

I am near the back of the bus, a distinctively metro-type, city bus. L., a friend of mine and longtime group member (a real person, not a dream character), is with me on the bus. She is Jewish, but of Indian origin, and easily carries herself as a Brahman... we do not find it necessary to exchange words, but take seats together.

Next to us is a German woman. For some reason, I feel the need to explain to her who we are and why we are there. Although my German is, essentially, native, it has fallen out of use over the years, and so I'm a bit hesitant at first to explain to her who we are. I finally tell her—in German, in the dream—that we are colleagues, and that we are traveling on a pilgrimage of sorts. I explain to her that we follow the teachings of a spiritual master. I don't explain to her that that person is Gurdjieff, because it seems likely she won't understand that, and I don't want to bother explaining. She nods in affirmation; we exchange a few additional brief words. It’s unsure to me what the point of the exchange is, but it seems to have been necessary, as though intent and purpose had to be communicated. On the other hand, it may be that there is just the quite ordinary wish for a personal contact behind it; it’s unclear. Both motives are present.

As this exchange takes place, we’re beginning to ascend a hill. It is passing places of historical or tourism interest; primarily, it would seem, archaeological.

My friend L. fades into the background and ceases to be important to the dream. The German woman is still with me, but remains silent.

As we continue up the hill, the bus somehow morphs into a wooden cart drawn, as improbable as it may seem, by a donkey. I’m in the cart, and the German woman, who has now exhausted her role, is still with me. We are passing one site after another that seems somehow compelling, interesting, worth stopping for, but we plod on towards the top of the hill. As we move upward, sets of impressions strike me.

There are numerous stone crypts embedded in the ordered, trim green grass of the hillside. It is vaguely reminiscent of an Etruscan necropolisAs we pass the first set I sense these are very interesting, representing catacombs or some other ancient underground earthworks worth seeing. It seems, in point of fact, like these holes are a major part of what I came for, that they are maybe somehow connected to the essence of my journey.

I want to stop and look, but we don't; and I finally realize that it isn’t on the itinerary. So I make a deliberate choice to continue on. When we pass the second group of sites, higher up the hill, the holes are cruder and do not have any architectural embellishments. They are just plain holes in the ground— but there are people worming their way into them nonetheless. The holes beckon mystery; one wants to believe that wonders are hidden in their depths.

The figures and their action remind me in a peculiar way of the characters in a painting by Hieronymus Bosch or Breughel. Once again; I want to stop, but we carry on up the hill.

One other vital feature strikes me as I gaze on this scene. There is a striking, magnificent, pastel blue sky with a hint of sea green and graceful, amorphous clouds in subtle herringbone patterns. 

The instant I see it, it falls deep into my body. The impression is one of the deepest Grace and serenity, of an overarching glory, the deification of nature and, indeed, the Presence of the Lord Himself in this landscape. 

The holes in the ground and the activity around them pale in significance to this vision; I realize that the center of gravity of both Being and value lie here, not in the various sights to be seen, or the attractive holes with their mysterious contents.

I am reminded of Dutch landscape paintings or of expansive cerulean skies, as painted by Goya; in any case, while my impressions are distinctly related to a higher and manifest divinity, the corresponding parts in me associate it with bygone, yet undeniably great, artistic achievements. It seems like the skies that have been painted this way in the past were created specifically to convey this indelible impression of divinity, and that any other way of understanding them is actually without meaning.

We reach the top of the hill. The cart slows and stops. This is the point at which I really register the fact that the locomotion is now provided by a donkey, but it seems quite normal to me somehow.

The cart is of rough wood, vey basic; practically medieval, in fact. For reasons unexplained, it turns out that a very large rock has also accompanied me up the hill in the cart. By now the German woman is getting out of the cart and essentially gone from any conscious part of the landscape. Instead the rock, which is slathered in wet dirt and mud, as though it had just been pulled from the ground, looms large. It carries great presence, but in the moment does not announce a specific significance. Its presence is, in some senses, completely  illogical. I wonder for a brief moment why it is there; perhaps it relates to the holes in the hill.

The top of the hill is a destination of sorts, although it is a primeval one. Instead of tourist installations, kiosks, concessions, information booths and sights to be seen the ground is barren. The soil is yellow. It is pockmarked as though heavy rains had been eroding it.

As I step out onto the earth it suddenly becomes apparent that the hill is heavily populated with cats. They have spread feces all over the hill, and it is very difficult to step anywhere without stepping in it. My excursion suddenly becomes an exercise in attention requiring me to lurch from one spot to another to avoid stepping in the cat poop. Despite the ludicrous nature of the situation, there’s little humor in it; I am invested in trying not to get myself dirty. At one point I end up clinging to a particularly steep location, uncertain of where to put my hands without getting cat excrement on them. I manage to extricate myself, but not without difficulty.

Parabolic meanings


This dream begins invested in childhood, represented by the location (Germany) where I lived as a child, and by the location at the bottom of the hill, which represents a life which must be lived and a destination to travel to. Because I start at the bottom of the hill, the assumption is that progression up it will represent an improvement in station and situation; to rise is to be in a better place. The fact that the hill has tourist attractions, mysteries, and other people on it who are interested in such things represents all of the material world and its attractions and interests.

My friend L.

My friend L. is my female side; foreign, exotic, spiritual, and yet at the underside of all the events. She exists within, but my maleness is by far the dominant element in all of my life. She’s there as a nod to the situation, not to expound any of its dharmas. The fact that she shares my spiritual search and is, in fact, in my group (as well as being a musician and artist, like myself) simply underscores why the dream has chosen her to represent me in my feminine guise or mask.

The German woman

The German woman is the outside world. It accompanies me everywhere I go in an inner sense, and I constantly feel the need to explain myself—perhaps to justify who I am and what I am doing. The ambiguity of both her presence and my need to explain show how mistaken my belief in the need to rationalize such things is. In the end, the journey that is taking place is objective; it is within myself; and it actually doesn’t need the other characters to present its arguments. It’s significant that the element representing the outside world is also female, because it implies that my relationship to the outer world is similar to my relationship to my inner one and my spiritual search—in both cases, a receptivity is needed, as presented by the woman, who is creative, generative, and represents the side of Being that can be penetrated not by the male organ (let us note, even the slightest hint of sexual intent is singularly absent from this dream) but by a spiritual organ—the living presence of God.

The Gurdjieff element

My exchange with her about the Gurdjieff work (which doesn’t mention it, but firmly casts the dream in the landscape of spiritual effort) indicates my need to state my case; to establish the fact that I’m on a journey, a pilgrimage, with a specific purpose. Given her minority role after this exchange, one could argue that the German woman exists solely to provide a vehicle to state this case, so that the remainder of the dream’s meaning will be abundantly clear. Dreams can be quite clever this way; in the same manner that Bosch’s paintings often provide keys unlocking the specific meaning of various scenes, dreams may well provide the dreamer with a symbolic key to help convey the understanding the dream is attempting to bring.

These dream-initiated understandings are far more important than the superficial, or “conscious,” understandings of the waking mind, because an understanding that has been absorbed into the fundament of the unconscious is, first of all, much more deeply learned and, secondly, has acquired the capacity to serve thereafter as a more powerful motive force in conscious or waking understanding. So the processing of dream elements and meanings becomes an important formative mechanism in the function of ordinary consciousness if it is properly understood. We might thus say that a dream can, sometimes, represent what has been acquired by the formative or associative mind but also digested by the soul, which is a much deeper and more vital inner process.

The hillside

As I move up the hillside, the chief element at work in my dream persona is desire. I want to explore the hillside; but at the same time I want to reach the top, which is considered to be the “final” aim, or destination. So I am conflicted in my various desires from the beginning. Compounding and confounding the matter is the fact that everything in life (the activity on the hill) is attractive, interesting, and mysterious; I want to be there with the rest of the folks exploring its hidden recesses, which seem to promise things I want, although, ironically, I don’t even know what they are. It is the very implication that there are desirable things buried in the holes on the hill that attracts me; my desire is, in other words, formed entirely by imagination.

I have, at least superficially, the patience to overcome this, because my aim is firmly set on the agenda of reaching the top of the hill. The situation is such that I could definitely bail out of the cart and investigate the holes; but I don’t. This implies a kind of discipline which, in fact, I can distinctly remember exercising as a part of my mental attitude as we climb up the hill. I am able to say no to the desires and continue the planned journey, rather than be distracted by mysteries... fat lot of good it does me in the end, mind you, but there it is, chalked up as a purported merit.

The holes

I mentioned that the holes, and the people entering them, convey the distinct impression of a Hieronymus Bosch painting. This is primarily because of the incongruous, even mildly ludicrous, image of people diving headfirst into the holes; not exactly a comely behavior. The connection to indulging in an activity of the lower parts—a willingness to dive back from the bucolic green slopes of the hillside into the Plutonic depths of the underworld—is implicit; and Bosch specialized in depicting human activities from this wryly amusing perspective. 

The inference seems to be that I am forever drawn back downwards towards lower instinct and impulses, even though I like to think of myself as on an ascending journey towards a higher level. Not only that, the circumstances are attractive—the very mystery that surrounds me as I rise up the hill, with its attendant airs of ancient civilizations and treasures to be unearthed, all of which seem to be an essential part of the search—are in fact distractions that can impede my progress or even drag me back down.

The vision

This is actually the most important element in the dream, because it has a real feeling quality. In this particular element, a higher energy enters, and for a moment I sense the actual presence of God and His connection to earthly spheres. The landscape, the events and the circumstances are informed —inwardly formed—by the Lord’s presence.

Everything else in the dream pales in significance to this scene—and indeed, the colors expressed by the sky are the most vivid impression of the whole dream, falling into me like a kind of manna or sacred food. The Lord feeds me and feeds me generously; and the journey up the hill is a mere side show compared to this, even though I have managed to cast it as it the central event. In a way, the voyage up the hill is my whole life; and as I get halfway up, in the dream, I suddenly see that all of the real meaning and food in life is invested not in this climb up the hill, but in God and my relationship to Him. 

This relationship is offered by God and mediated by him; it is freely and generously given. Yet my impression is that it’s the journey up the hill that will bring me to God; and it’s only my arrival there that can impress upon me how very deeply mistaken I am about this.

Not only that; the mirroring of the sky within me reminds me that I myself am an impression of God; I have no substance of my own, but am merely an image that reflects Him and in fact wholly belongs to him, as is expounded in Meister Eckhart’s sermon # 14.

The donkey, the cart, and the stone

As I reach the top of the hill, my vehicle has degraded from a modern bus to a tumbril. Typically an executioner’s vehicle (think about that), it represents a descent from modernity into humility as one moves upwards. Not only is the cart a much lower and less ostentatious form of transportation; it is equipped with two symbols of Christ’s passion. 

First, the donkey, representing the animal on which Christ made His entry into Jerusalem. The implication is that the cart is actually an exalted form of transportation; good enough, in fact, for Christ. 

Second, the cart has a stone, representing the stone that was rolled away from the tomb: in other words, resurrection. We could even, if we wished, extrapolate and suggest that the hillside itself may represent Golgotha, although this is a bit of a reach. The underlying currents, however, are there; and given the subtleties of the unconscious, the association can’t be discounted.

So the entry to the hilltop, traditionally a place not just of spiritual elevation, but also of surrender, is accomplished in an air of humility, with the possibility of sacrifice hovering in the background.

The hilltop

The hilltop is populated with cats, highly intelligent, loving, but also very wily—and, in many senses, completely uncaring and intensely selfish creatures. It represents life, with all its intellectual trappings, its wit, its warmth, and its attractions. The hilltop, which represents the highest station that can be achieved on this earth, is densely populated with the cats; and this is a message about the most that can be discovered, attained, or achieved, in this life. 

Furthermore, the hilltop, which once again is a pinnacle, is covered in excrement. As such, the place of my aspirations is at once essentially earthly, and at the same time completely worthless— it’s a toilet. The inference is that no matter how high I rise within this earthly sphere I am never going to rise higher than the lowest element that surrounds me in the material world. 

I have confused myself; what I think is a journey to the higher was, in fact, already accomplished much lower down the hill—in fact, it has always been accomplished. This is symbolized by the fact that the overarching cosmological conditions—the sky itself— within the dream already presuppose a Presence within and under the influence of God. My search is a worldly one; His Presence, however, is eternal and heavenly. The search itself distracts me from His Presence, which is already here.

While it might seem like a degradation of the sacred nature of God’s creation to see it all represented as excrement, the hilltop doesn’t represent the natural or material word; it represents, in the end, my aspirations and beliefs. Anything I can think of is as nothing compared to the Lord; and this is the message the hilltop broadcasts. For as long as I’m entangled in this morass of cats and cat feces, I will stumble from pillar to post with no real awareness of the Lord.


It’s interesting that the Gift of the Lord is given halfway up the hillside. Yet I go on. Fully cognizing the nature of the Lord, I still fall prey to my willfulness, and the agenda I have already set. 

It might seem extreme for the dream to cast the “entire world,” as it were, into a realm of bare dirt and animal feces, but we can’t second-guess the uncompromising accuracy of the psyche when it comes to such matters. It is, in essence, a dismissal of all worldly thoughts, concerns and things as utterly worthless compared to God. The idea is well-known to student of esoteric and religious sciences, but the symbolic illustration of it in such graphic manner lends it a much more than casual inner weight.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

The scope of faith

We are accustomed to measuring the scope of faith through outward display and an adherence to forms. I am a member of this church; I'm a member of that yoga organization, and so on. The scope of faith is so consistently established through outward form that we become hypnotized by it and forget that faith is, in reality, exclusively defined by our inward form.

It's very easy, in general terms, to sign onto outward faith and pursue it to the ends of the earth in every way; intellectually, emotionally, physically. All of this, however, amounts to absolutely nothing if inward effort does not inwardly form faith within the participant and the practitioner.

It's far easier to go into the depths of faith outwardly than inwardly. Outward answers and forms are subject to reconstruction and analysis; inward forms involve many unknown parts of ourselves, and are organically rooted into the depths of our Being itself. This is why change is so very difficult, in the inward sense; it is like pulling up a plant with many small, delicate roots, and trying to move it without damaging any of them. It's impossible, really; yet this is what we are up against when we attempt to turn to faith inwardly, and understand it from the inner point of view.

And what do we wish for, when faith turns inward? Everyone wants happiness; and it's presumed that this is what the inner search is for, a freedom from suffering (as the Buddha so generously promised us) or a rebirth within the glorious, loving light of Christ.

Yet the action of turning faith in word involves a willingness to confront and consume the greatest anguish imaginable; and who wants to bother with that? If we were to truly see ourselves, to truly go into the depths of our soul and see what and who we are, and see and touch, intimately touch and encounter, our relationship to the living presence of the Lord, the anguish would be unbearable.

I do not speak lightly here; this is no theoretical matter, for me, at least.

Perhaps this is why we turn away; maybe something instinctive in us, some part of the animal itself that forms our lower being, knows what awaits us there in the depths of faith if we truly embrace it, and fears it so much it must run away. I frequently look at my own nature and suspect this.

 Yet the only real hope in life lies in the inward form of faith, not the outward one. Because if we do not confront this anguish and consume it, make it one with ourselves, we cannot be purified and receive the Lord in the way He must be received.

 I need to go now, but perhaps I will ponder this more in tomorrow's post.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Levels and communities

I've spoken on more than one occasion about the way in which Gurdjieff indicated that growth of Being does not extend just upward, but also downward. Yesterday morning, I was discussing the matter with my wife in terms of a slightly different context.

Anyone who begins to sense themselves more deeply, that is, develops a voluntary sensation, discovers immediately that the cells have a life of their own, a vivifying level of vibration that supports the organism and consciousness itself. Once we develop a relationship to this, we begin to understand the way in which a vast community of smaller organisms and organs support the consciousness we experience. Each one of these entities has an individual being of its own, appropriate to the level it's on. This becomes an essential and fundamental understanding in inner work.

What we fail to understand, I think, is that the level above us is equally formed of a community of persons. The angelic levels are not formed of Beings we can readily understand; but they are very real persons, that is, individuals with real Being.

Of course, for the average man or woman, this is just a belief; an abstraction supported by various images of people with wings on them, which are all very lovely and symbolic but have little or nothing to do with the actual nature of angels. The danger of this imagery is that it makes angels look like us, and the minute that we see things of that nature, we leap to the conclusion that angels have something in common with us. In reality, the angelic levels are quite different than we are, in the same way that we are quite different than the cells we are composed of. This doesn't mean that there aren't commonalities; and I don't intend here to get into the extensive areas of overlap that every great esoteric master cites between the angelic realms and the enormous potential of humanity.

 What I am trying to get at here is the essential personhood of angels. Angels are people in the same way that we are people; they have a selfhood in the same way that we have a selfhood. The fact that we rarely, if ever, encounter such Beings does not change their personhood, or its perpetual expression within the context of their own level.

The angelic realms are not just people; they are furthermore divided into helpful and unhelpful entities. A significant portion of the angelic realm is demonic, not angelic—that is, it is fundamentally oppositional in nature. It is much easier to fall under the influence of such beings at our level, because they already represent and are aligned with a downward movement. These creatures exert a far more considerable force on this level than is generally appreciated, but it was well known in ancient times.

It's difficult to find anyone in modern times with legitimate direct experience of these matters. 99% of what we hear about such things is written in books; and yet the very real nature of support from angelic realms — which is what all spiritual seekers must earnestly hope for — is misunderstood in both specific and general terms.

 I was called to contemplate this subject earlier this morning because of my various experiences in this area, and the need for me to renew my appeal to the helpful forces who have from time to time looked in over me with support. I often forget their legitimate and very real personhood; because of the separation of levels, I'm not constantly attuned to their existence—nor should I be. In large part, we are left to our own devices on this level; in the same way that you can't expect a child to grow up if you constantly hover over them like a helicopter parent, the angels who look out for us frequently do so by doing nothing.

If we do not confront our own struggles, and are instead subject to constant spiritual bailout, there can be no growth.

Nonetheless, there are moments when we ought to acknowledge our fealty to the higher and indeed very personal forces that support us; and in the case of the spiritual seeker, the angelic community on the level above them that supports their effort — and a collection of like-minded people's efforts — needs to be recognized and remembered.

 One may go through a whole lifetime without ever having tangible and legitimate contact with that level which lies above us. It isn't actually necessary; and not necessarily a sign of favor or disfavor, whether or not an angel manifests in our presence. These things are dictated by forces and concerns well beyond any of our own; we must simply acquiesce in the face of them.

However, for thousands of years, it has been a support for the faithful and a sign of hope that there are angels, and that they look down over us.

Let us remember this from day-to-day, lest it be forgotten forever.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

An unerring life

Mogao, Cave 249. Buddha with attendants (not visible) 
Circa 535-557
From the Zhejiang Museum exhibits, Hangzhou, China

Notes to myself from China.

Perhaps what I need to see most clearly is that I don't see.

If I could or did see, things in me would be quite different. There's a lack; and that lack is a lack of any real seeing. I spend the majority of my day (99.9% of it) believing absolutely in my own direction and agency. 

In the midst of this there's an imaginary construction I've erected that assigns me an active role where there is "work" and perhaps even maintains that I can see how I am. The belief that I can see my "resistance" (which actually consists of a lack of connection to the organism), if there is one, is a part of that construction.

My organic sensation is emphatically NOT a part of that construction, because it arises in a different center which is categorically unable to participate in all of that nonsense. It simply isn't built that way; and if it weren't blocked in me, I would already know that.

The reason my real work needs to turn inwards towards this force of sensation is that it is, in the very largest sense of the word, unable to lie.

Those who have heard such things may underestimate how absolutely important that is, because one may not have a living sensation, and in fact may not even know quite what that means. One just uses one's construction to believe one does... that one understands something about this. This marks the difference between an invoked sensation and a voluntary sensation.

In theory, an investment in sensation, even a quite ordinary one, gradually creates a new center of gravity which, if it acquires enough material, can draw me away from my imagination of inner work long enough for me to actually see something more real. At that moment the idea of a living sensation is no longer a part of the construct I call "my" work... that's the theory, anyway. How it actually works in practice is a mystery.

If a voluntary sensation appears, however, I know something real which stands apart from the fantasies I use as a substitute for real effort. 

When I remember this, it sinks into the bones and creates, eventually, an objective force for inner work with its own unerring life. This force of sensation becomes permanent; again, a mystery.

But sensation isn't enough.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Resting one's head

Images from reproductions found at the Zhejiang Museum exhibits, Hangzhou, China

There comes a point in life when I question every single thing. 

It starts with the death of siblings and freinds, moves into the question of death itself, and ultimately extends into all the activities I engage in.

The world is constructed of facts, but I don’t live in that world. Everything I believe to be objective is subjective; and indeed, an energy from above inwardly forms a kernel of understanding that verifies this. So the truth is folded into life; but down at a very low level, within essence, which has no more than a tenuous toehold in the everyday. 

It is there, to be sure; but for the most part unacknowleged.

I keep obtaining the impression that my life is inherently sinful. There isn’t any part in me that isn’t already deviant, already fallen. This isn’t a question of morality- far from it, there is nothing about the matters of the everyday that applies here- it’s a question of relationship, of service, of worship; of the dedication of the inner world to receiving an energy that can inwardly form a connection to the higher.

Here, I fail; there is no part in me that is honest enough to serve. I can’t find any instances where my behavior meets the standards the Lord would have of us; and in my better parts I see only sympathy for those who I might otherwise hold in contempt. Indeed, the ordinary parts of me do just that; and yet our higher nature commits no such sin, because it is by its own very nature already compassionate.

So here I am, a man drenched in the action and wages of his own sin, who nonetheless somehow tastes the Love that ought to inform his inner action.

 What greater terror than to know both? An inner work is no cleared path to happiness; nor should it be. 

 There is no place here to rest one's head.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

The creation of meaning

Avalokitesvara. Mogao, Cave 3, circa 1357.
Image from reproductions found at the Zhejiang Museum exhibits, Hangzhou, China

I’ve been observing the deconstruction of many inner assumptions as well as outer ones.  

It’s one thing when my work is constructed on hypothesis; another when inner realities assert themselves. Despite all our efforts to avoid it, a man need look no further than his own sins for the truth.

I see that so much of my life is accidentally dependent on the outer. Even the firm guidance of an inner and Divine Grace cannot absolutely dispel such charachter; and attachment is a very stubborn thing. I lurch from event to event trying to see more clearly, but usually not able to; I see how all my life lacks intelligence, that is, a Heavenly intelligence, which is where intelligence ought to come from. Instead the intelligence of life is my own intelligence; and it lacks a right energy needed to create real meaning.

When I do see, I see real meaning; and this meaning is inherent. But it is far from my everyday state, even though I perpetually inhabit a world imbued with this basic quality of Grace. It is there, but obscured by the cloud of unknowing.

So I struggle for meaning in life; and it’s an outward struggle. Because of my futile investment in this direction—instead, I ought to intensify the inner, but fail—the search for meaning is continually frustrated.

I wish to be more clear about this. I’d like to examine it without jargon, and especially without form, the stale, predictable forms that have formed concretions around all the ideas I have already learned. I’d like to throw that out and come up against the living, tactile quality of my inner question, the living flesh of what and who I am, which cannot, if I truly embrace it, be denied by the way I think or the things I have learned. This is a study of the organism, not a study of its thought; a study of the inner structure, not the outer administration.

 This inner structure is above all a feeling structure, and I sense it has far more integrity than my usual emotions, more resilience than my manic or depressive self-involvement. So I want to know it better. I want to know what the feeling quality of this life is, without its attachments to all the external events.

Because of this I often try to go directly inside, to invest in the organic connection which brings me into an intimate contact. It’s only here that I form any refuge, any solidity, that can intuit the marrow of the bones, the essence of my living Being.

It’s a place without any words. But it feeds me nonetheless.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Skillful means, part II

So we move on, into an unknown; and if is truly structureless, unknown and fully unknowable, as every great master of the inner mysteries from Dogen to Meister Eckhart would have it, why should we organize... discuss it... even bother with it at all?

It is the great mystery of order, that we must forever go beyond it as we encounter it, if we would discern a larger Truth. And it is that Truth, not order, that we seek. There is a sense, in all of us, that Truth- that is, real meaning- ultimately lies behind (or above, if you will) any order we can scry; and even if that truth turns out to be, like the wizard of Oz, a poser—a scam—well, even that is in itself a more important truth than the one we began with, for the very fact that it is true; and it lies one step beyond the illusions we feed ourselves, which can take both the form of a universe with God and a universe without Him. 

As Ibn al Arabi would have it, both concepts are equally true and equally false at the same time, because they, like all conceptions, belong to human beings, and the Reality, the transcendant perfection, from which mankind and all it can know emerges is, lawfully, forever beyond every conception it can manufacture.

We live and breathe as expressions of that mystery; and though we seek to break it down and organize it in our outer action, every man... even the committed atheist... must sleep at the end of each day and enter a night of dreams which he cannot explain or grasp; elemental entities which defy all the sciences together in each single and instantaneous act of their creative genius.

Whether we like it or not, even if we spend the day denying this good darkness of the soul, each night we must enter it. 

And that darkness, that unknown, also dwells within each man all day as the sun shines, though he admit it not... This is the stuff reality is made of, fabrics so strange we cannot test them with ideas, even though we must clothe ourselves with them as we live and breathe.

Seek we must; for who can be comfortable with questions such as these? They demand answers, even if we know we cannot find them; and each question becomes, in our hearts, a mountain we climb simply because it is there.

We are by nature climbers; and we know this, because if we were not, there would be but one valley filled with man and his ideas; and there are many.