Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Divine Intellect, Part I

The spark of intellect, which is the head of the soul, is called the husband of the soul, and is none other than a tiny spark of the divine nature, a divine light, a ray and an imprint of the divine nature.

—Meister Eckhart, Sermon 31, The Complete Mystical Works

Meister Eckhart consistently refers to the soul as a female entity. This is because the soul is that which receives, and that which has the generative and creative power that gives birth to God's manifestation.  The gender is in keeping with his contention that man can give birth to God within man.

 Take note that in this passage, we understand the intellect is the husband of the soul, which means — in the context of the allegory of divine birth — that it plays Joseph to the soul's Mary. The soul itself is capable of assuming the role of Mary and allowing the birth of God in man as a virgin birth — shepherded and watched over by the husband, Joseph, but actually untouched by him. This bears much consideration.

 We can return to Gurdjieff's ideas about essence and personality here, and, again, roughly — not quite literally, but approximately — understand that the intellect, in its highest function, relates to personality, whereas the soul relates to essence. Personality is, in other words, an extraordinarily subtle, sophisticated, and important tool that has an essential role to play in the story of the Nativity — but it is not the Father. Perhaps the danger in personality is always that it mistakes itself as the father, whereas, the creative part, the virgin part of the self, the soul, which could actually give generative birth to the presence of God, must remain in a sense of untouched and pure.

Take note that Meister Eckhart connects the soul and the intellect here. Consistent with the idea of absolute unity, the soul and the intellect are actually part of the same Being; yet they play different roles and have separate identities, much the way that organs do in the body. We should perhaps understand from this, as Swedenborg did, that all the organs in the body have corresponding spiritual parts that perform similar functions on a spiritual level. All of the yogic teachings of the Chakras approximate this understanding; in a certain sense, all of them are too coarse to encompass the truth, because they attempt to embody it organically in a literal sense, instead of embodying it organically in a spiritual sense, which produces a very different sensation in the body.

While it's useful to think about these ideas, we have to understand that intellect and the soul are  entities with organic and material properties that transcend the thought. Each one of them is expressed, contacted, and understood to a sensual, organic, physical, and wordless intelligence that manifests through that mysterious property Jeanne de Salzmann referred to as Being— hence, of course,  the book of her collected thoughts on the matter, The Reality of Being.

 Intellect gathers itself at the head of the soul, if we sense it properly, as what Gurdjieff would have called three-brained being, that is, a form of intelligence generally unknown to modern man. This sense has atrophied as we become ever more attached to our technological achievements at the expense of an inner understanding.

One further note on the quotation that begins this essay. You will note that Eckhart refers to the intellect as an imprint of the divine nature. We can understand this to be the point at which God has, so to speak, touched the material world and left his fingerprint; and although the soul receives the insemination of the divine seed that can give birth to a new inner life, the steward for this process is the intellect.

 That, perhaps you will agree, bears further contemplation.


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