So, take note, all sensible men! Since the joy we might have from the physical form of Christ hinders us in receiving the Holy Ghost, how much more of a hindrance to gaining God is our inordinate delight in evanescent comforts! That is why detachment is best, for it purifies the soul, purges the conscience, kindles the heart, awakens the spirit, quickens the desire, makes us know God and, cutting off creatures, unites us with God.
—Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, p. 574
There can be an inner wish for freedom.
Actually, the inflow births a divine spark that at all times knows this; and yet the Lord holds back his blessing, even though one stands on the edge of it at all times. I think this is because God knows we are so fickle we would quickly grow weary of Him if he were always present; and a man or woman wants the most what he or she does not at all times have.
Thus the Lord holds back; and creates, if we are blessed, a constant striving in us towards him, which begins always in this inner place.
Because the Lord holds back so often, I am equally so often forced to see my sin and be reminded of it. I see this again and again; and there is shame in my transgressions, because I do see how weak I am, and how I can’t make a good effort; how I fall short. Eventually, as I live, I begin to see how all the things I do, which I so much think are of me and are mine, are actually just illustrations of my ego and its many failures. In seeing this, I am detached in the sense that I cannot even think of myself as bad: to be bad would be a greater thing than I am, because it would at least be an active form of Being.
Really, what I see is that I am not; and this is interesting, because what I am not is so amply illustrated in all those actions where I think, somehow, that I am.
Well, I suppose this is damned confusing; yes it is, isn't it?
It reminds me of Flannery O’Conner’s characters, who are wrapped in the grip of an endless series of egoistic thoughts and imaginations where they cast themselves in roles they can in fact never play, assigning themselves agencies that correlate in no way whatsoever with the real world. I think Lena Dunham’s pornographically public illustrations of her own nature may be so compelling for precisely the same reasons. In Dunham’s case the honesty becomes painful; when ego is brought out of the closet and stripped of its finery to flop around on the bedroom floor like a fish out of water, it is a sorry sight indeed.
What is lacking is shame; and perhaps this is what Gurdjieff was referring to when he spoke of an organic sense of shame. It’s a quality nearly absent in today’s world; we’ve replaced it in large part with our unbridled arrogance, and maybe that’s what Dunham shoves right into our faces. Here is our inordinate delight in evanescent comforts—our insistence on indulging and celebrating our material, rather than our spiritual, nature.
Where, in this outer world, is a striving towards God? If it takes place anywhere, it is in compassion and relationship, both inner and outer. These are qualities that, if I attend to them, can never fail me; but first, I have to care. I have to have a conscience.
When I forget myself, this is usually the first thing that goes. Ego has great strength, but little conscience.