Monday, March 24, 2014

Resignation and the will of God, part one


Meister Eckhart makes a great deal about how absolute the will of God is, and how thoroughly we ought to submit to it; absolutely, in point of fact, such that no other alternatives are to be wished for or considered. His difficult proposition is that everything that is, should be and ought to be, exactly as it is; and that if we were aligned with God's Will and Purpose, we would accept this not with resignation, but with joy.

I think this is a fair summation of his principle; yet it seems abhorrent to us, because it implies a passivity towards life and a lack of choice or free will. Why should we bother, under such conditions, to do anything  at all? We become, according to the facile or literal interpretation if this doctrine, mere puppets.

Taken in its most obvious sense, this is of course the case.  Even worse, the idea demands that we accept what we feel are perfectly awful things, and accept them not only wholeheartedly, but even enthusiastically. The idea seems, quite frankly, impossible, doesn't it? The idea causes many to reject the idea of God Himself; first, because any such demand seems utterly cruel, and second, because it seems impossible that any divine Will could possibly require things that appear to be awful to us.

Yet Eckhart takes this question into territory subtler than any obvious analysis.

Firstly, we are, according to him, already God, in the most refined and esoteric sense. As such, God's Will IS our will, if we could only see it; and this penetrating truth, so inaccessible to the ordinary mind, is the understated and underlying principle behind the idea of this absolute surrender. We are, as God's vicegerents, the ultimate agents of all that takes place; in the end there can be no separation between His will and our expression of it.

Yet we don't see it that way, not at all; and of course the ego—our belief in our own, as it were, entirely microcosmic entity—is the agent of this persuasion.

How, then, to understand it better? In particular, how to remain active in life while absorbing this lesson?

This question of surrender reaches into territory we tend to confuse. Eckhart, I think, is speaking exclusively to our inner life and experience here, not the outer; and yet, because (as he himself says) we "are not at home there" (Sermon 40)- in the inner, that is- we don't understand his message.

It's the inner conditions that create the outer; and that creation, that arising of relationship, takes place in our attitude. Not in the actual flow of outer events and our response to them. 

This focus on the inner, on attitude, and how it creates relationship with life does not obstruct the question of an outer response to outer conditions; and it does not strip us of a freedom of action here, either. Rather it confers freedom, in the sense that our attitude is free of the attachments formed by a presumption of agency. 

In turning toward the perception of another quality, I see that my usual thinking, feeling and sensation cannot help, and I give up my ordinary attitude and my illusion about myself. I can "do" nothing. Nevertheless, I can become conscious of how things take place in me, and I can find an attitude, an inner posture, that will allow opening to a higher energy. (The Reality of Being, P. 83)

 In opening to this higher energy, the divine influence, we  cease to be combatants in life. We become participants; and in participating, all of the tension created by the presumption of our own agency sloughs off. 

As participants, we embrace; as participants, we include. Nothing is excluded or forbidden, from the outer action we incline to or the inner experiences we are subject to. They all exist; as we do. Yet this existence is informed by this inward freedom which is in, and of, God.

Yet, I think, we persistently misunderstand this question of the inner and the outer, and we somehow think that one can fix the other. It is this idea of fixing, which we are (you will excuse me here) fixated on, that's actually useless; nothing can ever actually be fixed. To suffer is to allow, and if we want to truly understand what Gurdjieff meant by intentional suffering, this understanding of what it means to allow must eventually enter the picture.

Hosannah.


9 comments:

  1. another version is 'The Sacrement of the Present Moment' (Jean -Pierre de Caussade, trans. by Kitty Muggeridge). A 'quietism' that mme was sometimes labelled with...
    I mean if u were a good follower of g. u wouldn't join the french resistance. Or be a 'combatant'. These stupid people involved in 'reciprocal destruction'...and the false legs for legs that have not yet been blown off...(one of Ouspensky's observations - can't remember where).

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  2. we would be crafty enough (habile) to not get enlisted...I can't see G going to afghanistan as a u.s soldier

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  3. it's interesting Lee, that in your valuable post u don't give an actual example of 'allow' - and u continue to avoid Mme's point in RoB that none of these fine sentiments is possible without a 'planetary body'...

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  4. and, of course, I don't expect u too move beyond the high country

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  5. The order of descent is as follows:

    Awareness;
    Acceptance;
    Alignment;
    Usefulness;
    Purpose;
    Commitment;
    Action Towards Reduced Entropy:
    Husbandry:
    Agape;
    Empathy;
    Compassion;
    Understanding;
    Being.

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  6. I know that one of the movements in Paris includes saying 'moi, je suis' (literally 'me, I am')...I wonder how it is actually translated in NYC or London.

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  7. And 'I' can, of course, 'participate' and kick over the money lenders tables at the temple... :)

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  8. and please, please do not get me wrong. I think this post by Lee raises the most important question that confronts us daily...How do I live in this world? I wish I was in a group where it was discussed sincerely :)

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  9. There is no 'life' without a connection to a higher influence/energy.

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