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.


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