Friday, November 14, 2014
Enterprises like this one, that begin as modest efforts, can grow over time to be vast, sprawling compendiums. It was never, for example, my intention to write what are now over 1700 posts; every post is written one at a time, and each one merely represents my own search as it arises, according to my interests, thoughts, proclivities, and experience. Above all, experience; how else does a human being interpret their life but through experience?
The enterprise goes on. I don't look back; at this point, it would be impossible to reabsorb all the thoughts I have had or experiences I have written about. As such, each of these essays is written in this moment, for this moment, and then passed on into posterity. If there is a cumulative result, I'm unable to see it — all I can see is where I am now, and the aim is not to do anything more than to see that.
Yesterday, I asked a friend who is mortally ill, a friend of enormous and in fact astonishing outer accomplishments that most of us could only dream of achieving, whether he agreed with the following statement: with age, the depth in a human being is increasingly measured by the extent to which they are willing to question their own motives. This friend is, to be sure, such a man: and he is standing at a crossroads where this question becomes much more intense.
He and I have been many conversations where we agreed that our intentions are never entirely pure; and readers will know that I have examined this question of intention many times, since the idea of intention plays a central role both in Gurdjieff's practices and Swedenborg's teachings. In essence, after all, we become what we love — this is an inner entity that grows over a lifetime, not one we simply start out with which never changes — and our intentions are the motive force that propels us in the direction of our love. Wilson van Dusen wrote lucidly about this question; and while writing about it lucidly is important, sensing and feeling it lucidly is vital.
If I cannot see my own intentions, experience them directly and organically as they arise, I don't really see my own sin.
There is nothing old-fashioned or formal about this idea of sin. Those who understand it as attached to some absurd moral code, some formulation or set of didactic rules for living, kill it off and don't experience it as the animated entity that it is. Sin isn't a thing outside of me, or even a thing; it is the force of my intention in the wrong direction, intention in the service of self-love, rather than love of others. If I am honest with myself, no matter what I do, I see that underneath every altruistic motive, there is a sneaky part that wants for itself. Every one of the seven deadly sins in Christianity relates to that inner action whereby intention serves the self, not God. And no matter how I want to define God, God has to be bigger than I am — even an atheist has to understand the world from the perspective of something larger than their own interests, else they are nothing more than an egoist alone. Of course, this satisfies a certain narrow and tragically crippled personality — but the human organism was designed to work in community, not alone, beginning with the fact that we generally begin and end life utterly dependent on others for our care and sustenance.
In any event, this outward question, outlined above, does not necessarily elucidate the inner condition, in which certain parts of myself want to serve only themselves. I need to begin to see myself with a loving suspicion; and perhaps this is a better way of saying it than to say I need to see myself without judgment, because that is a lofty piece of territory I am unlikely to reach. Loving suspicion may lead to seeing without judgment, but it needs to begin there, because there need to be two parts, balanced, watching how I am if the opportunity for a third part that can reconcile them ( presumably, that part which doesn't judge) is to arise.
So as opposed to this idea of loving-kindness which both Meister Eckhart and the laudable Buddhist masters bring us to in regard to others, we have this new idea of loving-suspicion, which I direct inwardly. It is not judgmental, cruel, or destructive to suspect myself of sin; it is a healthy analytical process that keeps me on my toes and advises me not to trust myself too much.