Saturday, March 22, 2014

The embroidered universe

We live in an embroidered universe; and we have to be careful to distinguish the fabric from the embroidery.

The universe itself has a group of fundamental truths — or, to be more exact, a single fundamental truth — at its foundation. But as it arises and unfolds, it iterates itself into an infinite number of entities — objects, events, circumstances, and conditions — that represent what Ibn al Arabi called the Names of God.

Because this infinite set of variations that arises within truth can't all be expressed materially, many of them remain forever imaginary. Now, this doesn't affect their existence; Truth is no less the real for being imaginary. This is because the universe includes not only everything that materializes from God's truth, but also that which He only imagines. The imagination of God is, in other words, even greater than the material fact of the universe (of all universes) simply because His imagination exceeds all creation.

To put it in other terms, everything is a thought in the mind of God; but His thoughts will express more or less material substance, according to how they manifest.

Because we are not able to discriminate well due to the level we live on, and because of the necessarily narrow viewpoint available to us, we are often tempted to mistake the embroidery for the fabric. That is to say, the imaginary appears to be real to us, in the same way that we often imagine reality is quite different than its actual nature, whether acquired or essential. So we can easily fall under what are called glamours, imaginary raptures that seem entirely real to us. Because any contact with God ultimately has a strong ecstatic component, these raptures are actually quite commonplace within the realm of real higher religious experience. It is their validity relative to inner work that becomes he question, not their existence as such.

The power of discrimination is there in order to distinguish between reality and imagination; and when Gurdjieff said that man must have a critical mind — a point he made often, not only in his writings, but in his groups — it was exactly this that he spoke of.

While higher energies are quite real, they can represent a significant danger to a man without a critical and discriminating mind, because they tend to produce embroidery perhaps more easily than they reveal the fabric. The embroidery is always enormously attractive; although the flat fabric, the absolute in the central support of the fundamental truth, is what we all most need within our Being and our life, the embroideries are far more attractive — whether they represent something fundamental or not. The danger is in the falling in love with the embellishment, rather than valuing the fundamental support. 

The blank sheet of paper, you se, is actually more interesting than the art you paint on it. Empty, in itself it contains everything; yet the minute one begins to draw on it, everything is gone, and the paper shrinks down to nothing more than what it can contain by itself.  

When Meister Eckhart says that the soul can perceive God in his nakedness, in His robing room, he means precisely this kind of fundamental truth which is stripped of all the embellishments and embroidery. We should, perhaps, remember that all the great masters say that we can know what God is not — He is not anything we are able to name — but that we can never know what He is:

When the soul pronounces God, this utterance does not comprise the real truth about His essence: no one can truly say of God what He is. Sometimes we say one thing is like another. Now since all creatures contain next to nothing of God, they cannot declare Him...

St. Augustine says whatever we say of God is not true, and what we do not say of Him is true. Whatever we say God is, He is not; what we do not say of Him He is more truly than what we say He is.

The Complete Mystical Works, Page 192

In this sense, all the embroidery is not God... cannot be God... no matter how fabulous it looks. And this experience of the nakedness of God, without the embroidery, is the one we seek.


One should remember that if one ever has this experience, one ought not then decide to embroider it. The plain fabric of truth is already the best we will ever achieve.

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