Monday, February 17, 2014

Remorse of conscience and humility

The author, with a Roman storage jar 
Ostia Antica, Italy.

This morning, I'd like to take a little time to expound on the differences between remorse of conscience and humility.

The symbol of the cross is used to indicate the intersection of horizontal and vertical influences. The horizontal influences take place in this life, within the manifestation of the material world; they are natural, material, or, in alchemical terms, coarse substances. I commonly class these influences as objects, events, circumstances, and conditions.

These elements are distinct from the vertical influence, which is spiritual (fine). There is a rough correspondence between the spirituality of essence and the materiality of personality, which ought to be carefully studied and well understood in terms of inner work. As a friend pointed out to me on Sunday, we must be careful not to discard the coarse, which we need; but everything begins and ends with the fine, without which there would be no coarse.  I shall try to discuss this in a future essay.

 In any event, remorse of conscience belongs to horizontal influences. This does not render it less important or necessary to spiritual work, but it is important to understand that all of remorse of conscience takes place as a consequence of objects, events, circumstances and conditions. Having put it in those terms, I think readers can clearly see that remorse of conscience is an influence on this level, which acts horizontally. It is under the influence of Grace, which manifests according to all of the forces on the right side of the enneagram.

Humility, on the other hand, belongs to spiritual influences. It descends into man along a vertical axis and can only be attracted by remorse of conscience; it belongs to the influences on the left side of the enneagram, and is under the direct influence of mercy. When we pray, "Lord have mercy," we pray for humility, and in fact, this prayer must emanate not from a position of remorse, but a position of humility— that is, one must imagine oneself to be humble (even though one isn't) as one prays.

Humility is thus a higher order of feeling and remorse of conscience; but it can never come without the action of remorse of conscience. One needs to study both of these feeling influences within Being as they arise so that one can tell the difference; and one ought to understand that they are of a different order.

Meister Eckhart says, in sermon 23, "It is easy to make show of virtues, or to talk of them; but to have them in reality is extremely rare" (The Complete Mystical Works, P. 169) Humility is a virtue; and it is so rare because it must be earned, and is then sent through mercy. We feign and imagine a great deal of humility, but this belongs to us, and is not of the same order as that which is sent through Mercy.

 It takes decades of inner work to begin to distinguish between that which is mine and that which is of the Lord; between the vertical and horizontal. In most of us, they are perpetually confused, and one is rarely touched by the vertical (see sermon 23 for more details on this question.)


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