Flowering plant, Yaxchilán, Mexico
What does it mean to be human? Gurdjieff told his followers that "man" has quotation marks around him: we are a reference to what man might be, a diminished version, what the Germans would call ersatz— a substitute.
This calls us to question what is missing, which is the central question, perhaps, that Jeanne de Salzmann put to everyone around her — what is my lack?
Readers have noticed by now that my re-reading of Meister Eckhart's sermons has resulted in a perhaps even more-than-the-usual Christian emphasis in this space; yet the question is nondenominational. Every religion shares this question, and all religions seek to help us to discover what it means to be human. To be a humanist — something one of my friends in the work, a brilliant and accomplished man, said he was during a conversation last week — is to seek our humanity.
And if we think we are already human, that this level of functioning we have is good enough, then I guess we need seek no further.
But what Meister Eckhart called us to was an effort to see that we do lack — that we are not truly human — and that we only discover our humanity through a relationship with a higher force. Now, it's true, he was not a devotee of Tantric explanations — and so he didn't talk about the energy at the top of the head, although I feel sure he was familiar with these things. (Speaking about such matters was the kind of thing that probably got one, in the worst circumstances, burned at the stake during the Middle Ages.) But the point that he makes over and over is that the higher energy of God must flow into us in order to inwardly form our relationship with the divine. He puts it in what Michel de Salzmann might have (mistakenly) called "narrow" Christian terms; but there is nothing narrow about his vision, or the expansive generosity of his heart practice, which leads us down a path filled with nothing but love.
If there is anything truly missing from this picture of what we are as humans, it's love. I've never seen a situation that couldn't have been improved if more love had been brought to it; and every tragedy that man encounters comes first because of a lack of love. Think about it: poverty, war, hatred, hunger, the destruction of the environment — nearly every single bad influence that flows into the daily affairs of mankind comes because of an insufficiency of love. And the insufficiency is there because man's love is not real love; it is, instead, desire, with its consequent minions of greed, acquisitiveness, jealousy, envy, avarice, breeding like lice in the sweaty environment of objects, events, circumstances, and conditions. Every single habitual (unmindful) inner impulse is, like a louse, there to suck everything little bit of blood it can out of a situation for its self.
Ah, yes. These negative descriptions sound so very grim. But here we are. And isn't it, in the end, exactly like that inside us?
If there is any meaning to the practice of mindfulness, doesn't it begin — after the inner relationship, which is where all true love and true mindfulness is born — with a mindfulness in this moment of a loving approach towards outer circumstances?
If one were attempting to remember oneself, and one simply saw the nearly infinite number of instances in which the impulses of desire create outward manifestation that is not loving, one would see almost everything, wouldn't one?
That, in any event, is my highly personal hypothesis, which I apply to myself, before I think about it in terms of anyone else.