Tuesday, May 20.
This is what is on my mind this morning at 5:00 am as I climb the Palisades above the Hudson River.
What is religion for? And why do we have it?
Human beings, I think, confuse religion and God. Religion is not of God; it lies outside Him. It is, at best, a response to the truth and the existence of God; but it is not necessary unto God, who is whole in Himself and needs no additions.
People think that religion is God, in some peculiar way, and so they blame the excesses of religion on God, whereas nothing could be further from the truth. Because religion is of man and not of God, it can't produce anything better than what man is capable of producing; both his best and his worst. But God is unstained by both these things. The things of this world cannot touch God and cannot stain him.
The whole point of religion is, in the end, about only one thing, and that for each individual man and woman: to help us come to a recognition of our own sin.
This is a deep and lifelong quest, because no one truly understands sin. Sin can only be understood by an awakening of the feeling capacity in human beings, that is, conscience; and this is a real enough event to begin with. Conscience has, after all, its lower counterparts — all attached, in one way or another, to the rational mind — and these are consistently mistaken for conscience itself, when one doesn't know the difference.
True conscience flows into the body through the power of God in an awakened awareness, which once again has many variants. Without breaking this down into its countless components, we can say that the true purpose of life for a human being is to awaken to the nature of their own sin. Not to think about it or contemplate it; to awaken to it.
This can only be done through a lifetime of suffering, and, not only that, what Gurdjieff called conscious suffering, that is, a willingness to suffer. Few, if any, of us have the will or the capacity to sustain such an effort; and even if we did, all it would do is bring us to the edge, the beginning, of a recognition of our own sin. We don't see, for example, that a single personal act of cruelty is in most senses worse than stealing all the money in the world.
Human beings often tend to think that religion is for thousands of other things, such as deliverance from evil, the manipulation of material events and circumstances, bliss, enlightenment, peace, and so on. But these are ordinary ideas connected to the ordinary sense of myself. Only through the inward flow of Divine Presence can I begin to understand this subject with anything approaching an objective attitude.
I need to be cleansed of my sins; and it is categorically impossible for me to cleanse myself of my sin. Gurdjieff made this abundantly clear in his chapter The Holy Planet Purgatory; yet the lesson remains theoretical, even for those who assiduously study his ideas.
I find myself specifically lost in confusion; and everything that I have filled myself with, that life fills me with, is mistaken, and leads me to further sin. Only a complete emptying of this vessel so that it is clean and new and can receive a new kind of wine, a higher energy, will suffice; and yet I don't know how to do that.
I'd like to discover an emptiness ready to receive a better truth than the ones I manufacture; yet I am filled with the world, and can find no peace in it.