Monday, March 3, 2014

Essence, personality, and the universe

As a poetry editor, I hate it when people start bringing the universe into things.

However, the damned thing is there, and we just can't get rid of it. From time to time, I suppose, it has to be dealt with.

In a recent post, shared with the readers of Parabola, I pointed out that in a certain sense the universe is the expression, or manifestation, of God's personality.

We can profitably examine this in light of Gurdjieff's idea that modern man — and, perhaps, mankind in general — is far too heavily invested in personality, that is, the outward expression of Being. So much so, in fact, that little or nothing is left for the nurture of the inner life, or essence — that divine spark which motivates all being, and which is connected to that essential and mysterious property which Meister Eckhart calls intellect.

 Once we understand the universe is the expression of God's personality, we can see that God, having expressed His transcendent will outwardly, through the "melting" of his Being into the universe, is equally, if you will allow the word, tormented by his investment in personality, which — as it does for us — lies in conflict with His transcendental essence.

 In the same way that Gurdjieff urges mankind to turn inward and develop essence so that it acts as a counterweight to personality, so God seeks, throughout the universe, to deepen His Being, to return to the essence from which his personality emanated. The human effort to do the same is an exact microcosmic reproduction of the activity undertaken by the universe as a whole; and here, once again, we see that there is a perfect parallel between the nature of human existence, human spirituality, and the necessary action of human consciousness and, on the other hand, the essential nature and action of the universe itself. Mankind is, in other words, in this effort to develop a connection with essence, a microcosmos.

We need to understand Gurdjieff's idea of man as a microcosmos as extending to all of his activities, most especially the ones that Gurdjieff said were necessary in order to develop Being. It's important to see that these processes also take place on much larger scales; for all of existence finds itself impaled on the horns of the same dilemma. In the separation from the transcendent Godhead, all things must seek a return to the essence from the confusing territory of outwardly manifested personality, which is material—and in some senses, because of this, forever fallen.

We are tiny mirrors reflecting an infinitesimal fraction of the Being of God. Each one of us, as such a manifestation, bears an inescapable responsibility and duty to perform the action on the microcosmic level which is being performed throughout the universe as a whole on much larger scales. This illustrates, in more comprehensive terms, Gurdjieff's unending emphasis on duty (being-parktdolg-duty, which means, in its peculiar amalgamation of words, duty-duty-duty.) As we perform our own work, we perform God's work; and thus, our inner efforts don't just help us.

They help God Himself.


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