Wednesday, August 6, 2014
The impulse of charity, part IV
Even Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, with billions upon billions of dollars, can't affect the world that much. It seems clear enough by now that with trillions of dollars at one's disposal, one could not save all the people that need saving, feed all the children, cure all the diseases, or correct all of the evils that are done. One could not stop the wars. The forces of evil are, essentially, unstoppable; because they are part of the machine that runs the universe, part of what is real. As I have pointed out a number of times during the course of this year, the bad is a servant of the good; it defines it. According to Swedenborg, Ibn al Arabi, Meister Eckhart, Sri Anirvan, and other significant esoteric authorities, things are arranged this way so that we will be required to make a choice.
We must, in other words, choose to be moral: not have it imposed on us. This is vitally important. Swedenborg maintained that choice was so important that God, in his wisdom, never interfered with the man's right to choose. Miracles are so rare because they are, in essence, coercive. If a human being witnesses a miracle, they are more or less compelled to believe in God; and God never wants man to love Him or believe in Him through force, any more than a man wants a woman to love him, or a woman wants a man to love her, just because he or she forces them to.
Love cannot be demanded; love cannot be forced. Love must be voluntary. It has to be chosen.
Readers may recall that the whole nature of inner presence is predicated on voluntarism; that is to say, the various centers of consciousness must come together voluntarily, each conscious part of one's being must arrive of its own volition, not because it is coerced, forced, or demanded to be there. These principles are actually closely related, even though the inner and the outer may seem different; and it is profitable to study this question carefully.
Our morality must come together in an inward way where we choose it. This takes place because we suffer; it takes place because we are willing to examine who we are. When we engage in this action, when we question who we are and we suffer for it, the morality that emerges in us is a real one; and then we can make real choices, based on an inner understanding, rather than that which others tell us is right or wrong. If our inner understanding is properly formed, it is always formed around the divine seed of the sacred within Being; and so a real morality can almost never get things wrong, although it may become quite messy in its collision with the confusions of external life. Yes, we may engage in error; but our impulse will be righteous, our impulse will be pure and emerge from a right thought and a right action, and that is the most important thing. Moral impulses that emerge automatically based on form, without struggling and suffering the realities of choice and the limitations of ability, are crippled from the beginning. They presume impossible abilities; they propose impossible solutions.
Moral choices themselves involve sacrifice. One cannot engage in any act of charity without already sacrificing something; because it is automatically true, before one starts, that one can't feed all the orphans. One can't give all of the children in Africa medicine. It simply isn't possible. And so every action one takes inevitably takes away from some other action one might have taken. This is the devil of the details; this is the anguish-in-fact which we must deal with. In the face of this situation, we have to make intelligent choices that weigh the alternatives and do, if nothing else, the least harm, even if they don't do the most good. How often have we seen charitable and morally valid impulses fail because of unrealistic expectations or naïve action? It is all too common. We have to suffer our choices in order to make them real; and suffering our choices will always involve disappointing people on both ends of the spectrum who want the impossible, either for themselves, or for others.
This question of volunteerism is essential. I can and must suffer and choose what is moral for me; this inner work, which precedes any outer work I do in the area, is my sacred responsibility. But I cannot do this for other people. Although I can bond with like-minded individuals who share my moral impulses; I cannot tell others how much they must share, because this would be coercion. The whole JudaeoChristian ethic is based on teaching through action and the personal assumption of responsibility.
We ought not tell others what they must do, we ought to show them what we do. In this way, through introspection, suffering, and then the setting of examples, we demonstrate right action, rather than trying to legislate it.
The very belief that we can legislate right action first, before we understand it properly or engage in it, is a dangerous one. It's true that our government is founded on such ideas; but we can see how well that is working. As Gurdjieff maintained throughout his objective critique of mankind, it is the inward condition of man's Being that is broken; and everything else he does is broken because of it.
Into this comes the agency of choice. And the agency of choice develops and grows through seeing and suffering. So in our impulses to be charitable, our impulses to be moral, our impulses to help others, we always and forever come back to our own willingness to see ourselves and suffer ourselves for what we are: this is what can help us in these aims.
If we do not begin here, there is no beginning.