Saturday, February 15, 2014

Eckhart, essence, and personality

Il Redentore Benedicente
Vatican Museum

Today I should like to examine the relationship between some of the comments in Meister Eckhart’s sermon 23 and Gurdjieff’s teachings on essence and personality.

Eckhart says, “...all creatures testify to the divine nature from which they pour forth by their will to work according to the divine nature they have flowed from. Creatures proceed forth in two ways. The first way of coming forth is at the roots, as the roots produce the tree. The second way of coming forth is by way of connection.” (The complete mystical works, page 155.)

We should note at once that the first statement, whereby all things pour forth from the divine nature, is an interation of Swedenborg’s doctrine of divine inflow, whereby all things emanate from an influence, inward flowing, of the divine will. Let us further note that Being, by its very nature, is the “creature” (creation) that is under discussion: all creation is Being. So the discussion immediately folds (as, with Eckhart, it always must) inward upon the nature of man’s Being in its relationship to God.

Eckhart explains to us here that the inflow has a dual character: the first is of the roots, that is, it is essential, radical, and indeed  this is exactly what the essence in man consists of, as described by Gurdjieff. This is furthermore the inner quality in man, and corresponds to the point at which the soul touches God at its root: the originating point of divine contact. It is also, in the scheme of cosmology described by the enneagram, the intial manifestation of the material as it flows forth from the divine. We shall see in a moment that this has further implications.

Eckhart explains now that “the second way of coming forth is by way of connection.” (Ibid) This 'way of connection' is a description of relationship, that is, association; and personality, with all of its variety, is formed by way of association. It is the outer or outward part of the divine emanation which, by the way, has an equally respectable and sacred role in the reciprocal relationship between the two forms of flowing forth.

The formulation is sophisticated, because of necessity the moment that a second form of flowing forth arises, it forms connection (relationship) not only with the outer (as personality is wont to do) but also with the inner, that is, the roots or essence. That is, by its very nature, the second flowing forth a priori forms a relationship by way of connection with the first flowing forth. We can understand by this that the radical form of personality’s relationship by association begins with and has its roots in its relationship to essence.

What this means is that the primary responsibility of personality- its radical, or original, responsibility-is to its relationship to essence, which explains quite exactly why Jeanne de Salzmann exhorts us to learn to stand between our two forces, or natures.

Let us continue.

“See, the emanation of divine nature is also by two ways. The first emanation is of the Son by the Father, which occurs in the way of birth.” 

Here we see Eckhart elaborating on the nature of essence as the daily (or earthly) form of the Son. In this way essence is understood as the seat of Christ (original, or radical) consciousness.

“The second emanation is of the Holy Ghost by way of connection; this emanation is by the love of the Father and the Son. This is the Holy Ghost, for they love one another in Him.” (Ibid)

Here, Eckhart characterizes personality as an elemental entity, or form of Being, with an essential capacity for love which cannt be present or expressible except through relationship- that is, the association of the Father with the Son. We come here to a vitally important point about associative functions, since we see by this that love can only arise by and through associative functions- that is, relationship.  It is, furthermore (in Eckhart’s view, though we are perhaps hard put to know what Gurdjieff might gave said about it) seen that the Holy Ghost expresses itself in this conjunction of Father and Son, that is, love.

We see from this a logically flowing conclusion which is, in many senses, inevitable, summarized in the understanding that the sacred function of the law (for such it is) of association is love. That is, all associations ought, at their root, to either discover or evoke love; in any other guise, association falls short of its intended and God-given functions. Given the arrangements, personality falls under the same order of things; and we are brought back once again to Swedenborg, whose principles of Divine Love and Wisdom state essentially the same principles. So in the essential and radical act of creation, Being enters the material world as an expression of love, and in order to materialize and expand on that expression of love.

Extrapolating, we can understand Gurdjieff’s premises of essence and personality as concepts that conceal, beneath their apparently facile psychological natures, a depth of compassion that can only be fully appreciated in an examination of their divine origins.


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