Saturday, September 6, 2014

Suffering from within, part II

Perhaps the strangest thing about most—perhaps all— of us is that we learn not only to focus on outer suffering, to become attached to it, but that we can often even come to love it. Gurdjieff was alluding to this when he referred to the fact that a person isn't willing to sacrifice their suffering.

It might seem to us that a failure to sacrifice our suffering is a personal flaw of some kind; but the machine of outwardness is powerful and relentless, and this attachment to outer suffering is actually just a reflex. It is so completely unconscious that those who experience outer suffering feel any response whatsoever to mitigate or respond to it is absolutely justified, even the creation of reciprocal outward suffering; and this leads to an increasing spiral of outward suffering, a vortex that draws outer suffering into itself and intensifies it. This is how and why we are ultimately served up videos of people beheading others on the internet; and war begins here, too. It appears to be a function of terror, but at its root lies little more than the stubborn stupidity of unconsciousness.

The whole point of Mercy—which is supposed to be the most fundamental quality of God, according to Islam— is to transcend this unconscious impulse, and to suffer inwardly— which is exactly, in its essence, what mercy consists of, since in any act of Mercy one first gives up one's outward, or material, attachment to suffering.

The strange quality of Mercy in this regard is that in the surrender of outward suffering, and the assumption of inward suffering upon one's self, one is automatically elevated, since any such surrender and turning inward (which is exactly what Christ illustrated when He died on the cross) by default brings one closer to every heavenly quality, and to God Himself.

The value of suffering, then, is predicated on inwardness; and it is, as I explained yesterday, predicated on personal responsibility. The responsible person may first, like the obyvatel, learn to be responsible to the material world; and this is excellent practice, because it prepares a person for (and in some cases even introduces a person to) inward responsibility. Ultimately, though, the insight that must come is the insight of inner responsibility, which has three aspects. These are responsibility to one's self, responsibility to society, and responsibility to God.

This question of responsibility is paramount; and it relates to Swedenborg's emphasis on choice.

First, one must make fit choices on behalf of and in support of one's Self; this is conscious egoism.

Then, one must make fit choices on behalf of and in support of others; this is compassion.

Then, one must make fit choices on behalf of and in support of God; and this is submission, Islam, or, as Gurdjieff would have put it, help for God.

In every case, we must learn to choose the good, without falling prey to the dangerous intellectual illusion that everything is relative, a falsehood which is positively demonic—but steadily on the rise in today's world.

None of this is possible to come to without suffering. Only in inwardly suffering the selfishness of one's own impulses and Being can one begin to come to anything real in relationship to this question.

Eckhart says a great deal about suffering in The Book of Divine Consolation. I have a nascent intention to revisit this question in light of some of his comments later this month.



  1. yes, but the whole teaching of the foundation in the early years of involvement is that we cannot make choices...we are slaves because there is nothing there that could make choices)...and then one day after years of effort (and painting and cleaning la maison) we are capable of making choices....

    1. I guess I should edit slightly this bleak/terrifying portray :)
      The very fact of attempting to witness/voluntarily suffer our reactivity/unremarkableness is of course a good thing. And the foundation has helped many people along the way...even if today it has issues - and don't we all...


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