Friday, February 28, 2014

Eckhart, Essence, and Personality part II

Ostia Antica, Italy

I spoke recently of the gate through which God melts outward, which is goodness. But essence is that which keeps to itself and does not melt outward - rather it melts inward. But that is unity, which remains one in itself, apart from all things, and does not communicate itself, while goodness is where God melts outward and communicates Himself to all creatures.

—Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, p. 212

In the last post on the subject, we examined the connection between Gurdjieff's ideas of essence and personality and the way that Eckhart treats the subject.

Essence — that which keeps to itself and melts inward — is, in and of itself, a representation of the transcendental aspect of the Lord, that is, the aspect which is forever unknowable. From this unknowable and transcendent aspect, there is an outward melting which creates the universe.

We are, in fact, perfect mirrors of the nature of the Lord in this regard: we have an inward aspect which is forever hidden to the outward and forever unknown to it, such that we can never truly show another human being how we are inside. This hidden, intimate part is what Gurdjieff called essence; and it is what makes the outward truth of every life, for the outward truth of every life is completely formed from the flow from essence outward into life.

The inward flow — which is, in man, connected to the divine energy that flows into him, that is, the influence he is under — is the creative force from which, in the case of God, the universe emerges. The outward flow is equivalent to man's personality. In this way, we understand that the universe is the outward melting or outward flow of God; and thus, the universe in its entirety is God's personality, in the same way that the outward melting of our inner being into life creates our personality. This is another aspect whereby we can understand Gurdjieff's (and Swedenborg's) contention that man is a cosmos in miniature.  And, I think, readers may agree; it's quite interesting to think of the universe as God's personality.

In any event, one of the key ideas here is that the outward melting is a form of goodness.

Because God is essentially good, all of the outward melting, all of His personality, is from goodness and of goodness and expresses itself as goodness. This is where everything begins; for to Be is good. Because we are mirrors of God, and ought to exactly represent Him in a microcosmic sense, the outward expression of our personality, our outward melting, ought to also be of goodness. This means that our personal expression ought to always be outwardly good, that is, of service to the inward, of service to others, and positive in its nature. Of course, we are not like that; this is part of the problem. But today we are discussing the nature and meaning of this question.

The nature and meaning of this question is important to consider in the sense that personality is the vehicle whereby the inward goodness of Being can be expressed. That is to say, personality is the partner of essence, for without it essence would be unable to express its inherent goodness (or whatever inherent quality it may, in more unfortunate cases, have.) So personality is a very important feature in the landscape of the soul; without it, no outward goodness could be expressed.

We are pretty confused about this; and although parts of us well understand that things ought to function in this way, we deviate from it frequently. The reasons for that are complex and cosmological. I will take it up in an essay in March.

 One of the signature points about this quote from Meister Eckhart is how congruent it is to Swedenborg's understanding. Swedenborg had essentially the same understanding of the relationship between the inward flow of the essence of God, and the outward flow of goodness, including the way that it creates the universe.

Swedenborg insisted that outward service on behalf of one's inner essence—not the following of an outwardly established form of goodness — was an essential duty of man's; and we can well imagine that Gurdjieff saw things in quite the same way, if we absorb the lessons from Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson, which is, at its heart, a search throughout time for that lost quality of goodness which mankind ought to serve and express... but doesn't.


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