Saturday, February 28, 2015

An uncrafted compassion, part IV

In exploring this question of the relationship between compassion and Being a bit more, the question of why we fail at our own relationships with others comes to mind.

 One doesn't fail in a relationship because one is a bad person, although it's quite typical to believe that it's my deficiencies — or, just as often, the other person's — that cause relationship failure. Relationships fail not because we are bad people, but because we lack Being. Being is the fundamental requirement for compassion; compassion is the fundamental requirement for relationship; it is a hierarchy founded on Being, and Being is founded on a right inner relationship. In so far as the inner world comes together in a single whole — an ideal, to be sure, but one which can be realized to varying degrees — to that extent does relationship repair itself and become a durable entity.

Words like love and togetherness and harmony are usually used to describe a union in relationship with others, but the word being is rarely invoked. You'll hear the word compassion, as well, although this is more often used to describe  a quality needed for less intimate relationships; yet compassion is, at its root, the most intimate thing one can have, and an essential part of the most intimate relationship. I've noticed that, oddly, the more intimate relationships with people are, the more blind we become to the compassion we ought to exercise; at least, I see this in myself, and I strongly suspect I am not alone in this problem.

Being has a different capacity for understanding another person. It begins, first of all, with the organic sensation of being, which includes — at its root, and irrevocably — the sense that I myself am mortal. It is strongly tied to what Gurdjieff called the sense of my own nothingness: and if I begin from that point when I am interacting with anyone else, it changes the game before there is a game to change, so to speak. It becomes a foundation, this Being; and without it, nothing else is possible.

Jeanne de Salzmann recognized this quite clearly; in a certain sense, she saw that everything Gurdjieff tried to do for others would come to naught if they did not develop a sense of Being able to receive the rest of the teaching. She developed a sense of intuition — a genius for it, really — which took Gurdjieff's inner work further than he could have taken it himself. That was her job, after all; every teacher wishes for the pupil to go further than the teacher did, and she was under a responsibility, from the beginning of what she received and understood, to carry the work forward further than her teacher did. That is, in fact, the responsibility of every pupil; and I will write more on that during this trip, once I have finished expanding on this question of compassion.


Friday, February 27, 2015

An uncrafted compassion, part III: The seed of Being

For you Westerners, it is Swedenborg who is your Buddha, it is he who should be read and followed!

—D. T. Suzuki

I've said, before, that the purpose of Being is to be for the good, to express goodness; and yet there is, as always, great dimension to this question.

The inner practice of the Fourth Way, in its modern form as passed on by Jeanne de Salzmann, places an emphasis on Being; which may sound like an oddly existential way of understanding religious effort.

From the beginning, one might ask, why should we wish to Be?

Are we not being, already, just by virtue of the fact that we are here?

And even if we aren't — even if there is some unidentified and perhaps unidentifiable deficiency which renders us not — should we care?

Why, in other words, even bother with all this nonsense?

Wouldn't it make more sense to just open a beer and watch the game?

 I don't think so.

Mankind is, for the most part, born with an instinctive sense that we lack something essential. What it is, we may not know, but there is a longing, a wish, to be completed — and merely consuming things, whatever they are, does not appear to scratch that inner itch sufficiently. This is where the religious impulse begins; yet itch-scratching, it turns out, is a rather complicated affair.

 We always think that our stake in this game is a personal one; and yet, under the influence of higher forces, the higher energy (or prana, the Holy Spirit) that de Salzmann calls on us to come into a relationship with, we discover that the action of inward Being is anything but personal.

 It is, in a word, compassionate; this is the whole point of being, to come into relationship. Compassion is, by its very nature, coming into relationship — and it is, furthermore, coming into a relationship that acknowledges the other, that at its root begins with consideration for the other. Here we inevitably encounter the idea of outer considering— putting oneself in someone else's shoes. But just putting on their shoes isn't enough; compassion demands that we put on everything they are.

This is the essence of the unselfishness which Swedenborg called us to; and although the man is largely forgotten in the present era, his message is unavoidable if one understands what he said. When D. T. Suzuki called him the Buddha of the West, he did not understate the case: Swedenborg's essential understanding of what a relationship with God consists of was, at its heart, a compassionate practice. Our modern impatience with Swedenborg's language obscures the majesty of his message, true; but that is our own failing, not his, because he was unerring in his presentation.

We cannot understand compassion unless we understand Being. Mankind does not lack compassion because compassion is missing, he lacks compassion because Being is missing. It begins here; Being is a seed, and the plant of compassion grows as naturally from the seed of being as any plant.

All one has to do is tend to it.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

An uncrafted compassion, part II

 There is a proliferation of books and articles, in the Mcmindfulness industry, about how one ought to be compassionate; and how to "do" it.

It's official, my friends; compassion is now a sales event.

 Any talk about how to be compassionate, about how to achieve a compassionate attitude, does a service to society by reminding us of how important compassion is. Yet compassion cannot be crafted; no one "makes" compassion, nor can one really impel or compel themselves towards compassion.

Compassion must be its own master in order to be real; and that is a function of what Gurdjieff called three centered being. Without, that is, an expression that arises from the conscious action of the intellect, the sensation, and the feeling, compassion is fractional. Fractional forces are real and tangible, but they lack durability. And if we wish to be, either as individuals or as a society, what is needed is a durable compassion: One that has intelligence, power, and depth, for these are the three qualities that thinking, sensing, and feeling in a conscious way imparts.

 When I speak of an uncrafted compassion, I mean a compassion that arises from the divine inward flow of the Lord, mediated by the three intelligences of Being. Compassion thus mediated is of its own nature; not a nature imparted to it. It is an active nature, an undeniable nature, a nature I participate in without attempting to define it. It has a natural and organic knowledge that connects to an instinctive manifestation; and it becomes an unerring entity, because it is informed (inwardly formed) by my own remorse of conscience, which guides its expression in such a way that I do not touch it with what is lower in me.

This uncrafted compassion is durable by its nature, because I have not manipulated it or degraded it with my own opinions or attitudes. It remains flexible and intelligent because it expresses itself in this moment, according to the objective nature of compassion, not my subjective understanding of it. It is this subjective understanding of compassion, this outward understanding I have acquired, that creates a barrier between me and real compassionate actions; because the outward understanding I have acquired is attached to my opinions and my reasoning, each of which arises not from within compassionate expression of Being, but my constructed views of the world.

 My constructed views of the world are indeed useful, and can't be dismissed; but I don't see how they limit compassion and force it to depend on my assumptions. The instant this outward force encounters compassionate action, it twisted into things which have unintended consequences. Real compassion acts under its own auspices, untouched; and this is quite rare.

One of the difficulties of this question is that I cannot begin by a wish for compassion. I have to begin with a wish for Being; and it is only through that wish that, eventually, an uncrafted compassion can arise, because it flows through Being, and Being must exist first.

This leads me to some observations about the purpose of Being, which I will address in the next post.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

An uncrafted compassion, part I

 Detail from Lazy Mountain by Mark Bradford
at the Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai

There is a sacred action within Being that the divine inward flow of the Lord brings to this earth.

It begins personally, with a direct relationship between Being in the Lord. Yet it is impersonal; although it is received by personhood, it has an objective nature that is, oddly and inexplicably, completely divorced from one's own interests, desires, and demands. Its object is expression, without prejudice; that is to say, it does not express according to a set of rules, demands, or desires that I impose, but rather, begins and ends with its own freedom and calls to be manifested within that freedom.

To the extent that I believe this belongs to me, I limit its freedom; to the extent that I let it go and inhabit, it expresses itself and creates its own freedom.

What I have been pondering this morning is the extent to which it calls for outward action. Outward action is, after all, a lawfully imposed requirement on all Being; to act inwardly alone is incestuous. It can be done; yet the worship of the Lord is supposed to take place, in every moment, at the intersection of the inward and the outward, and it is forever and irrevocably embedded in the manifestation of outward action. Even if one does as little as sit perfectly still, in meditation, breathing reduced to a fraction of its usual activity, the inward still touches the outward until death takes place. And it is at this intersection, where the two touch, that all the questions arise.

It isn't enough to just be inward. Now, outwardness has so many potentials it is bewildering; it reminds me of the experience of sitting in front of a blank sheet of paper or canvas, before any mark is made on it, and knowing that until that mark is made, a limitless potential exists. Yet a mark must be made; a choice has to be exercised that restricts those limitless potentials and that limitless freedom, channeling the freedom into a direction of one kind or another which, although it is limited, still retains its freedom.

 This is a very roundabout way of saying that one cannot just sit on one's ass. One has to Be within life, not just within one's own limited experience of the Lord. Being calls itself into relationship by its very nature, and it is my personal responsibility to express that. I am, so to speak, a limitless possibility of freedom in an absolutely limited vessel. How I reconcile that has a great deal to do with how I fulfill my responsibility to the sacred forces that created me.

 This is the dilemma, then; to bring my inner work in the service of the Lord into life in a way that is creative, informed (inwardly formed) and compassionate. Actually, I don't need to worry about crafting compassion; and that will be the subject for the next essay.


Monday, February 23, 2015

The satisfaction of the devil

From The Temptation of St. AnthonyHieronymus Bosch

The Lord's prayer reads, thy will be done, yet if I admit it to myself, what I pray for in life is my own will — what will satisfy me. 

This situation is quite ordinary; as I pointed out in my last post, it is the devil in me that gives me the satisfactions I demand. It encourages me to yield to my own selfishness; and it does have that power, to advise me that it is all right to say "yes" to my own impulses.

My angels would deny me; when I say that they have a ruthless and unerring love for me, I mean that they love me enough to tell me the truth: real love is never for oneself, but for someone else. One must love the other; and that, in its essence, means a sacrifice of what I am and the yes I perpetually want to give to myself. Herein lies the central point on which the struggle between my non-desires and my desires turns.

 Devils, in traditional imagery in literature, embody a pure, literal, and obviously repellent evil; yet this makes the question far too simple. My devil is a far more prosaic character. 

He is my own selfishness, he looks far more like me than the pictures; and he acts not as a medieval torturer equipped with bitter, steely tools, but pretty much as I do in my ordinary day-to-day activity. That is to say, the exaggerated features I paste on the creature obscure the fact that he is me. The devil puts his pants on one leg at a time, tucks his T-shirt in, and drives to work; he is the one who gets the coffee and calls his wife to let her know when he is coming home. He provides, in fact, much of the impulse in life — which centers around me and my own needs.

 This question of selfish, as opposed to unselfish, action is where the devil lives and breathes; and it turns out I am good friends with him. We drink our tea together at breakfast; I slap him on the back in camaraderie when he encourages me to take care of myself in the manner to which I have become accustomed.

This deep familiarity underscores the value of my self-doubt and my capacity to say no to what I am. No matter what I am, good or bad, it's useful to say no first, because when I say I am bad, the devil makes me do it—and when I say I am good, he makes me do that as well. 

So this impulse to satisfy myself first has a great power; and it hides itself in the dailyness of my routine. It becomes, over time, quite interesting to watch it in operation, and see how it penetrates everything.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

A question on suffering


All Creation must suffer because it is a subject to laws, that seems inevitable... Only the UNCREATED escapes it for obvious reason. But, the laws are the same throughout the Universe and parts of it on a higher level are subjects to fewer laws and suffer less - this is theory.

So, I don't quite realize why should we suffer more as we manage to ascend, and free ourselves from some of them, the Scale of Being? 

Though I know that suffering is generating the field of energy we need to move on from the role of a pain receptor on the skin of the Universe if we are able to accept it and if there is such a possibility, it is hard to imagine why is it ever getting bigger?


This is a complicated question. There are several different kinds of answers to it. Some of them are highly technical; others are from the angelic realms.  The two are not necessarily similar, although they both arrive at the same conclusions.

Since you cite the laws first, I will address that first; it's technical. Suffering does not of itself automatically arise from the laws; the laws exist strictly to order things. What causes suffering to arise is resistance to law; and consciousness inevitably tends to rebel, as  the example of Beelzebub himself amply demonstrates.

 There is no guarantee that being under less laws causes one to suffer less. One could be highly conscious and under very few laws, be highly resistant to them, and suffer far more. In fact, the whole point of the allegory of the holy planet purgatory is to illustrate this problem, more or less. The anguish there is unbearable; whereas at our level, it is — as you will notice — generally more bearable. At least, for your own sake, I hope it is.

 The aim of inner work is not freedom from suffering. The aim is purification through it. These are two different things.

 I believe these explanations are adequate, but they are based on a technical understanding which is derived from the logic of existing material on the subject. 

The reality of exactly what suffering is from an inner, cosmological, and emanation point of view is a much greater question, which is ultimately tied to the existence of God Himself. This is where information from the angelic realms comes in, and one can't explain that kind of thing in writing. I would say that my blog posts often contain some background information on this, but it can't be directly understood except through inner experience. The most common mistake is a confusion between metaphysical suffering and of the ordinary suffering of this lifetime. One is composed of much finer material vibrations than the other. There is no mistaking one for another if you understand this point of work.

One could summarize it by saying that you will understand fully if you have a real wish to die, but that can't be taken from the literal point of view in terms of the physical body. This wish to die is a metaphysical one, just as metaphysical as the suffering which engenders it, and no physical death can possibly answer it. So — once again, don't get them confused.

In any event, the kind of suffering I speak of doesn't have much to do with pain, as it is understood. Sorrow and pain, again, are not the same thing.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Lord have Murphy

A new book by Fran Shaw. Order it here.  Get it now, before the rapture.

Fran is the author of multiple non-bestsellers and a professor of philosophistry at Thereisno U.

The book has received rave reviews, including the following:

"Few will find it irresistible."
"Impossible not to put down."
"Pleasant font."

"Hits it out of the park"
—Yogi Berrananda


parabolic reasoning

From The Temptation of St. AnthonyHieronymus Bosch

Readers who follow this space regularly have probably noticed how many photographs are cropping up from the Temptation of St. Anthony; and there is a reason for this. I am currently working on a second volume of my book, The Esoteric Bosch,  entitled Bosch Decoded. This new volume will contain detailed esoteric explanations of the Temptation of St. Anthony, the Hay Wain, and contain chapters about several other aspects of Bosch's work.

Symbolic language and imagery, which has an unparalleled power to penetrate into the depths of man's psyche, has been nearly extinguished in the modern era. We still live, spiritually and psychologically, deeply embedded in the world of Carl Jung's collective unconscious and the soulful realms of Swedenborg's Heaven and Hell, Dante's  Divine comedy, and Gurdjieff's All and Everything. These realms are as real, to man's psyche, as the iPhone is to modern communication; yet little or no attention is paid to them. One cannot, I would argue, begin to understand who we are or what life is without a rich and extensive contact with this world of symbolic language and imagery; yet we devolve steadily into a world of Philistines, creatures that swill down food and consumer goods like automatons as though that were the sole purpose of life.

As I work on my interpretations of Bosch, it occurs to me that the messages he painted are, as unlikely as it may sound, essential to our understanding of ourselves, in the same way that an understanding of literature and the arts is essential to the formation of society and culture... this is, without a doubt, what Parabola magazine is all about; keeping the tradition of tradition alive.

At any rate. Perhaps this is not exactly what I planned to talk about as I began this post, but it is what has emerged. This space serves so often as my personal diary for what I am currently experiencing and thinking about, it hardly bears mentioning — and as tightly focused as most of my essays are, I think the readership will be willing to indulge me if the occasional post rambles about a bit in the back 40.

Last year, I wrote a series about the perfections . Returning to posts from February, on the singleness of  all Being, I would like to comment about the nature of perfection within time, in relation to individual arisings.

The perfection of Being takes place through an interaction between the organism and the receiving of emanations from higher sources, either our own sun, or higher suns. Perfection is an intermittent experience, because of the nature of emanation and the way we receive it; but perfection does reveal itself in all objects, events, circumstances, and conditions—according to our receptivity.

That is to say, all of these elements of Being — i.e., arisings experienced through conscious participation — are perfect, and have an inherent perfection that is indelible and eternal.

Because of how we usually are, objects, events, circumstances, and conditions do not manifest this property within our perception. We are stunted; only a three centered perception — which leads to the arising of a fourth state of awareness — can see the perfection that exists in all things, at all times, everywhere. It is, in a very subtle sense, the sensory experience and vision of God Himself in absolute manifestation within the relative.

 I realize these words begin to sound difficult. I apologize for that.  All I am trying to say is that God is everywhere at all times, and it is possible to come into direct physical, intellectual, and emotional contact with this quality of Truth. It is a mystery; but it is not a mystery meant to be cloistered in secret, sacred places where robes are worn and arcane chants are engaged in. This kind of experience takes place in broad daylight, everywhere, all the time. We are simply desensitized to it.

Understanding the nature of symbolic language and imagery has a bit of something to do with preparing the soul for the receipt of such understanding. But only when the symbolic language and imagery properly serve a sacred purpose. The art of this has largely been lost.

But we can find traces of it everywhere, if we look.


Friday, February 20, 2015


From The Temptation of St. AnthonyHieronymus Bosch

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


What more should a murderer think

Than such ungracious thoughts?
What Macbeth says cannot be true; we know it 
There is much goodness in the world, 
And goodness signifies itself.

Gurdjieff appeared to some as a madman or a devil; and tales attest to the fact that he cast much suffering about him. Yet I have, in my lifetime, worked directly with a fair number of people who knew him personally; several of them are close friends to this day. None of them resent what he was, despite the horrid things he sometimes did, the temper tantrums, the chaos he intentionally created. 

He was human; the posthumous cults that worship him ignore this. While acknowledging his contribution and the enormous legacy he left behind him, it is time, perhaps, to move on past his larger-than-life presence and just look at life itself, referring to his role as a footnote— which is exactly as it should be in what was and is, by his own admission, an ancient work which never actually belonged to him in the first placed. 

Every master acquires followers; but none of them own them. Anyone who wishes to be owned by a master is already wrong; everything belongs to everything else, and, in effect, there is no ownership and there are no masters. There is only a single authority, and that is the authority of God. Everyone who labors, labors under that authority, or appointed beings who act directly for it. 

Even the devils do the work of God.

In any event, one must own oneself; and we do not. To take ownership of our own Being (insofar as we can) is to become responsible for what we are; this, as I repeatedly point out, takes nothing but suffering, and then more suffering. We are the idiots; and the tale we tell is our own. It can signify everything, in fact, it does signify everything, for we ourselves — and  if there is sound and fury, it is because we are noisy and furious. There is no need to be that way; if we are, it is because of our shamelessness and our refusal to ignore knowledge fealty to the Lord.

I've been pondering these questions at length over the last day here in Shanghai; and it occurs to me again and again that the necessity begins with the requirement of settling down in the body and being in it, acknowledging, in a quiet and unassuming way, the organic truth of life as it is, without all of the additives and chemistry that get stirred into it by opinions, hormones, and strong coffee. (I won't include alcohol, since I have been  sober for so long, but for those who wish to add it to the mix, as the Germans say, ein prosit.)

 Perhaps the confusion begins where people believe that life signifies life, whereas something much greater than life is signified. If human beings took in their impressions properly and deeply enough, this would become at once clear; almost all of life is, for most people, lived under an entirely false set of understandings that have nothing to do with what the nature of life actually is. I say this with great confidence because it has been so clearly shown to me. 

 Macbeth made a fundamental and vulgar mistake: he called not to his angels, but his devils. People like to make smarmy quotes from Gurdjieff about how one has an angel and a devil on either shoulder, and the devil, you can trust; but anyone who makes these remarks knows nothing about real angels or real devils. These are Beings not to be trifled with in the disrespectful way that men come to them today. They are not allegories; and those who ignore it do so at the peril of their souls.  One certain way to know what real terror is is to encounter an angel; in a moment like this, allegory is the last thing on one's mind, I assure you.

Despite the fact that they terrify us, we must learn to call on our angels; they have a love for us which is ruthless and unerring, unlike anything we can find on this planet. That ruthless and unerring love may be the only thing that can save us from ourselves, if anything can.

And our devils?

They stand ready, if we call them, to give us all the satisfactions we demand —

and in that direction lies perdition.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

The big energy

From The Temptation of St. AnthonyHieronymus Bosch

How does it go from sensing a part of the body into sensing the  being? I seem to (usually, when I'm having negative emotions) go into sensing the breath, and at the same time sensing some other part of body. Then it's as if I'm conscious, without associations, and things just flow and I'm separate. 

How important is dual attention in this? And of what?


Everyone wants insight on such matters.  I, too, wish I understood such things better. Yet it's not so simple.

I think it's a very much like a scientist coming up against DNA in a cell. Let's say the cell is functioning very badly, and the scientist realizes that — for example — 10,000 changes need to be made in the DNA. He wants to reach in with his hands, refer to a diagram, and just rearrange the DNA like Lego so that it works. But this is—obviously—completely impossible. His hands are much too big; and he doesn't have any accurate diagrams, besides which, every change to the DNA triggers a completely new set of situations in which the other 9,999 changes will have to be different than the ones that were proposed and planned when there were 10,000 changes to be made.

The cell has its own repair mechanism, which is under a set of laws that are, paradoxically, much higher than any laws the scientist can invoke. In the end, the scientist has to trust biology and those higher laws to make the repairs, because even though he can study every single thing that is wrong with the cell, he doesn't have the tools or the understanding to fix it on his own.

Our body has a natural ability to engage in the organic sense of being. But there is no formula for awakening this. One might just as well say that there is a formula for awakening in general, and there isn't.

One has to become open to the big energy, the light that comes down and transforms. This has to happen a single time, and decisively, in order for any permanent change to take place. Again, there isn't any formula for this; and a change such as this is merely a beginning, a first step. 

Sometimes when it happens to people, they mistake it for enlightenment, because it produces many changes which appear to be magical but are, in fact, just corrections to the way the organism works. An enormous amount of hard work and much worse suffering comes after that event, if it happens. Of course no one wants to hear this. They just want to get something good from inner work and then walk away with it.

What is reasonably certain, in my experience, is that everyone wants such things to happen, and that this desire for them directly opposes any such possibility. One of the reasons that non-desires need to prevail over desires is so that my desire and grasping for such things—which is entirely egoistic and directly contradictory to the higher energy—is then released and stops blocking the way. This is the very sweetest kind of surrender.

Very nearly everything Meister Eckhart wrote about opening to God was connected to this opening of the higher energy, which can — if one follows it and suffers even more— lead to the much deeper places he describes in some of his sermons. So reading his material is a very good place to prepare the ground for the receiving of such a transformational material.

I know this is not much comfort. You want to do something. Everyone wants to do something. Few understand that there is nothing to be done, except God's will. 

So from the beginning, up to the end, when something finally opens, we are always mistaken. One can properly see this once the big energy changes inner being, but until then, one is convinced that one is not mistaken.

If there were a method or a plan, I would tell it to you. The truth is, if there were methods and plans, and exercises worked, we wouldn't have to have this discussion, because it would already be quite well understood. Exercises are merely there to keep the ego busy and out of the way while — hopefully — enough suffering takes place to break it. Again, no one wants to admit this. 

A lot of salesmen and spiritual parasites make their living on exercises and the like. This is a complicated subject, and it would take some time to explain; after all, exercises do work in some cases, but these are specialized, and almost always just consist of showing someone what could be possible— not achieving any permanent result.  Clinging to exercises under the mistaken impression that they "lead somewhere" in a logical, predictable progression can result in going down into blind alleys from which there is no room to turn around and go back. Those places do have features; but each one represents a journey that cannot go further.  The great traditions are filled with many warnings about such things.

 The chief action needs to be to become open. This, as with all development, arrives mostly through a great deal of suffering. If you confront yourself both inwardly and outwardly enough to suffer greatly, and to suffer for a long time, you create the conditions: but then, patience — and even more suffering — is necessary. 

Eventually, what is hard in us breaks. Then something is possible.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

life, being, inward flow

Life itself is a kind of nourishment of the soul.

I say this because a few minutes ago, in an exchange with a reader, I remarked that one needs to become very close to one's sensation, and feed on all that it brings into one's Being. 

The taste of this is unmistakable. Thought has no real flavor or substance next to it; it is like a picture of food, as opposed to the eating of it.

Gurdjieff explained in some detail that there are three being foods: the regular food we eat and digest with our stomach, air, and impressions. In a certain sense, all of these foods qualify as impressions; so there is a hierarchy of being-food which is presided over by impressions, with air and what we digest acting as subordinate entities.

Yet it is also possible to formulate the entirety; that is, the food of life as it flows into us, which is called impressions, is a whole thing consisting of all its parts, each one of which has deeply sacred aspects. The more that we participate in the action of our three centers, as opposed to the action of individual ones — each one of which is, on its own, quite muscular — the more we take in this whole food of life itself, which is closely and powerfully related to the divine inflow, and fed by the impressions of the food of one's whole life.

The process of feeding here is reciprocal: life and Being feed on the divine inflow, and the divine inflow feeds life and Being. Although we experience these things separately — and generally don't experience the divine inflow much at all, if ever — they are actually part of one great cycle of inward and outward breath of the divine into the material, and then back out of it. So life itself is an active manifestation of inhalation and exhalation of the divine into the material. 

This may sound rarefied; but it is quite practical and there is nothing, in a certain sense, metaphysical about it at all, since the process is, in us, very physical indeed. Metaphysics — that which transcends the material — does not have the property of organic impression; metaphysics is a creature of thinking, which can conceptualize, but not live. Life is lived through the material, not the ethereal.

The more that one appreciates one's entire life and all of the events in it as nourishment, and actively participates in the receiving of life in this manner, the more that one participates in the action of receiving the body and the blood of Jesus Christ, which is a direct analogy to this process of receiving one's whole life as a sacred spiritual food.

This is a mystery we participate in; a grace we encounter; a truth we can nourish ourselves with. But first we have to find the inner path that brings us into that intimate relationship called for in this process.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Killing the Fish

From The Temptation of St. AnthonyHieronymus Bosch

I write this entry from Shanghai, China, a country where carp symbolize both profit, strength, and power. Fish have been used to symbolize such abundance in many different cultures; and in the end, what could be more delicious or nourishing than a nice, fat fish?

Hieronymus Bosch used fish in the Temptation of St. Anthony to denote the human ego. I'm working on an interpretation of this painting that will go into volume 2 of my series, The Esoteric Bosch; that work is far from complete, but I spent several hours working on it this morning in my hotel. In the above image, seen on the right hand side of the painting, the fish — which serves as one of the leitmotifs of the painting, inscribing a great circle around the circumference of the activity — has shrunk to a relatively tiny thing, and is dead, symbolizing the vanquishing of ego. The demon who was tasked with supervising its well-being is visibly distressed. One can very nearly hear him saying, oh, crap.

 The process which slowly but relentlessly destroys ego, if it becomes active, draws its force, its momentum, and its direction from the emanations of the sun. This process produces remorse in mankind, which is the critical factor in the gradual melting of egoistic impulses.

The process has a particular name, that is, the sacred Aieioiuoa, which appears at first glance to be a made-up word without any specific sense to it. 

The reason Gurdjieff chose this word is because it is an objective and universal word and represents, as it happens, the exact nature of the vibration that must arise to accompany the process. It is, in other words, a sacred chant which arises in Being spontaneously, but only under precisely the right circumstances, and must be engaged in wholeheartedly for the period of time in which that exact vibration needs to be active in order to mediate the arrival of solar emanations. This is an art that cannot, unfortunately, be taught; there are no exercises for it, since receiving of solar vibration can only take place under the exact circumstances for a particular individual where the sun is emitting the right kind of emanations, and they are receptive— something which exercises can never produce. 

One must simply engage in inner development to a point of vibration where the possibility arises; be prepared; and then participate fully and without hesitation in the chant as it manifests.

It may well be useless to explain this to people, since it is ultimately impossible to understand this particular point of work from an intellectual or theoretical point of view. I do so, I suppose, simply to illustrate the fact that Gurdjieff's book is— like Hieronymus Bosch's paintings —filled with truly esoteric and completely objective facts that appear, on the surface of things, to be entirely fantastic. There is nothing fantastic about them; what appears to be fantasy is, more often than not, sheer pragmatism. 

We just can't see it as such in our ordinary state.

In any event, this action of the dissolution of ego, this killing of the fish, is a long process. One is not going to slay the ego with a single arrow, or in a single blow. A long and hearty depth of suffering is needed.

 One of the beautiful things about the painting is that it does, comprehensively, blend the earthly and the divine and the suffering that they undergo when their encounter with one another in such a way as to convey not only the pain and terror of that suffering, but the beauty and majesty of it as well.


Monday, February 16, 2015

A fool's errand, part II

...and what ought we to be?

God-fearing, first of all, and second, more than that, contrite.

Consider how much I've been given; life itself, which is already everything—incomparable. 

Yet I don’t think I value it enough. It’s impossible, after all, to see the significance of each moment until, paradoxically, long after it has passed; some may think that the present moment is what gives life flavor, but it is above all memory that makes it sweet or sour. If I fail to honor the present, it cannot be preserved or cherished later; and perhaps that is, in part, what Gurdjieff meant when he said one must use the present to repair the past and prepare the future.

Why should I repair the past? Of itself, it is whole and true; if it is broken, the breakage lies within us, for I am perpetually the vandal of my own inner history. That breakage lies in a failure to value what has been; and this is perhaps because I don’t understand life itself and what it is.

I suffer the worst moments in life resentful; I come back to them later in fear, so much so that perhaps I don’t even wish to remember them. It’s only with a taste of what is true—which requires an inner wholeness—that I see what is real; and my inner wholeness must begin to correspond with the wholeness of life itself if any truth is to come to me.

In this inner wholeness perhaps I can prepare a future which is objective: a future which admits honesty, the unedited, unvarnished version. And it is in the honoring of the present that that action blossoms. Just living in the now is not enough; the now has a purpose in the context of both the future and the past. A human being isn’t here to live in the now alone; we have the capacity to sense both future and past for a reason, and that capacity is given that we may, in the end, find a way to be a little less the fool. The past and the future are a part of that wholeness which we were made to sense; and, let us agree, without a past or a future, life itself would be a broken thing.

It occurs to me that the fool, as we understand it from a symbolic point of view, is a role — that is, it does not represent the true being of the individual who is a fool, but, rather, a guise they take on, a character they inhabit to illustrate the absurdity of life.

In a sense, we are all required by the absurdities around us to inhabit this role, whether we like it or not. Everyone plays the fool in one way or another; and we do it either consciously or unconsciously, either knowing we are being (or have been) fools, or completely unaware of it. In the first case, knowing one has played the role of a fool can assist one’s inner growth; one sees how helpless one is in these situations, and how life requires us to adopt behaviors, attitudes, and even take actions that are contrary to our essential wish, whatever that might be. This is the life of contradiction that spiritual Masters pointed out to us. On the other hand, one becomes identified with the role of the fool — one not only ignores the absurdities, one embraces them with too much enthusiasm. And it is this embracing of the fool with enthusiasm that causes us to be shameless, unfeeling, selfish. 

So it's only by seeing the fool in our lives as a role that we can begin to understand anything about what life really is — that we are all actors playing a role, and that our real self ought to be, at its root, quite different than the fool we must play.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

A fool's errand, part I

Female Red-winged blackbird, Sparkill, NY

Taxes have one season; but death owns them all.

I find myself once again in Shanghai, as of this writing, February 5. While on the plane, I pondered the sense and aim of my existence, and — as is so often the case — find myself lacking, in the outward sense.

 I am, from what I can see, a fool— an idiot.

The fool used to have a special meaning; a fool has always, in the world of symbols and meanings, been more than a fool. A fool is, in those worlds, a mirror; a reflection of what we ourselves are, a metaphor for the egoistic dross we drape ourselves in; a wry analysis of the absurdities that life delivers. The gay dress symbolizes an emotional naivete; the attitude, an ignorance; the bells are the noise we make, the cap our shameless vanity.

The list could go on.

No wonder this figure, a true anachronism (today’s fools chiefly find their place in the vulgar buffoonery of mainstream media) has all but faded from sight. A society whose self-importance knows no limits has no shame; and the fool reminds us of it. No wonder we have banished him.

My grandfather told my mother, before he died, that he had been a fool; and my father, in the months leading up to his death, said much the same thing to me. I think they spoke, these two men from my life, for all of us; we’re all fools, and perhaps in a more tragic way than we can usually appreciate.

Our failure to sense our own mortality, a task Gurdjieff’s Beelzebub said was the one thing that might save our mortal (yes, mortal) souls from the death of oblivion—never having earned the right to suffer further—is forgotten. 

This sense of our mortality, of course, can only come from a new kind of awareness; our ordinary mind is too much in love with itself to consider its own logical end. Only the feeling and the body can sense this; and yet we are generally numb to these minds within ourselves. It takes an unusual courage to lay claim to our inner weakness; but we must own the inevitability of our death first, more than anything else, if we want to see what we are.

There is a place in a rightly formed soul that ties its roots not only to the foundation of its being, but into deep time; that is, the deep time of the life itself, which is composed of many lives. First it roots in the impressions of Being which date to childhood and before; and within that lies what we are in our essence, if we sense enough of it to feel the gratitude that it deserves. Second, it roots itself in what has gone before; and by this I mean before this life, which every human being is irrevocably linked and rooted to through ties of body and blood, as well as the deep waters of the psyche, which well up from history itself, and only appear to be gone, forgotten, and dead. In reality, everything lives at the same time in the mind of God; and we are thus all things in all times, even though we sense ourselves over and over again as single entities.

It is, paradoxically, this three-brained ability to sense ourselves beyond the limits of our individuality that leads us to the sense of our own nothingness; if we acquire it, we see what fools we are. Nothing is so certain as death to bring a person closer to this question; and the death that lives within us with each breath, through sensation, is the only three-mindful Being that can remind us of what we ought to be.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

The teaching cannot pursue any definite aim

Broad Tailed Hawk, Sparkill, NY

ONE of the next lectures began with a question asked by one of those present: What was the aim of his teaching?

"I certainly have an aim of my own,"' said G. "But you must permit me to keep silent about it. At the present moment my aim cannot have any meaning for you, because it is important that you should define your own aim. The teaching by itself cannot pursue any definite aim. It can only show the best way for men to attain whatever aims they may have."

In Search of the Miraculous, P.D. Ouspensky, P. 106


Well, this is an awkward quote, isn't it? It has been sitting here on my desktop for nearly a month now, lurking around and waiting for me to say something intelligent about it — if I'm able to.

 What does it mean? Somehow, it begins by not making any sense — the teaching is aimless?

In order to understand this particular quote, one has to understand something that my own teacher, before she died, spent decades attempting to instill in our group members. That was that we must take responsibility for our own inner work.

Now, this goes against most of the instincts that we have; after all, human beings generally behave like sheep, and every single one of us shares that characteristic in one way or another. One wants to be part of the flock, part of the gang, part of a group that does the same things together; and one wants a leader, someone who is smart, charismatic, worthy, to follow.

One wants, to put it bluntly, a mommy or a daddy to do one's inner work for one. One wants them to hand out wisdom teachings like popsicles, with a merit system to accompany them. And one wants to be a good little doobie, doesn't one?  A well behaved disciple.

 One who ponders this may begin to understand why Gurdjieff intentionally — and ruthlessly — drove so many people who were apparently quite close to him away.

He actually did know what was best for them; and, above all, it was not dependency.

The point of defining your own aim, which Gurdjieff says here is the ground floor of your own inner work (well, let's be honest — he doesn't say that, but it's definitely what he means), is to take responsibility for yourself. One can't go anywhere or accomplish anything if one doesn't have an aim, that is, a direction in which one wishes to go.

Interestingly, in the end, all the great teachers indicate that the direction one ought to wish to go in is away from one's own selfishness; and yet this is quite difficult, because if one wakes up within one's life, well, in every direction one looks, what does one see? Selfishness. The ego manages to make certain that the being is surrounded by selfishness, a vast landscape of it, with nothing else in sight, so no matter what direction one goes in, one seems to continue to be surrounded by it.

 If one begins to see this quite actively in one's manifestations, it raises questions more awkward than the one of aim. And, of course, this idea of the outer teaching is relatively insignificant: after all, the outer teaching is always, in the end, a generalization, whereas any real inner work must be quite specific.


Friday, February 13, 2015

An irrevocable nature

In the same way that the organic sense of being needs to manifest, the organic sense of feeling must ultimately acquire its own active, irrevocable nature.

That is to say, it, too, becomes fundamental to one's work.  This means it stays active in everything that takes place.

A relationship to God which acknowledges my subservience in my place, my nothingness, relies first and forever on this organic sense of feeling, because my understanding of my position has nothing to do with distance, location, or the measurement of any physical proximity. I can't see where I am and what I am without feeling; because in the same way that sensation tells me that I am, so feeling tells me that I wish to be.

If I want to understand this question "I am — I wish to be" I need to understand at first from the sensation — I am — and then from the feeling — I wish to be.

Thinking these things with the mind doesn't do any good. They have to be understood with the organism, because the organism is the part that can have an understanding of sensation and an understanding of feeling. I can't come to an understanding of sensation with my mind — I come to an understanding of sensation with sensation. And I can't come to an understanding of feeling with my mind — I come to an understanding of feeling with feeling.

This may sound like some clever form of sophistry, but it is fundamentally true. I can't understand German using French, and I can't understand English using Chinese. Language has to be understood within the context of itself.

The organic sense of feeling needs to become as permanent as the organic sensation. That is to say, all three parts need to be awake, active, conscious of themselves and their relationship to the other two parts.

As I grow older and my own inner work changes, I remind myself more and more that it is this inhabitation that must be understood.  The need is to organically inhabit life through an active sensation, and active feeling, and an active intelligence. The idea is to live with in it, as though life were a home. It's something like the idea of taking refuge in the Dharma. At least, one might characterize it like that; I'm not quite sure how to describe it, in any event.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

A single and most perfect act, part II: a syllable from the mouth of God

Meister Eckhart goes on to say, of the nature of the soul as a receptacle,

Since this work of birth occurs in the essence and ground of the soul, then it happens just as much in a sinner as in a saint, so what grace or good is there in it for me? For the ground of nature is the same in both - in fact even those in hell retain their nobility of nature eternally.

Now note the answer. It is a property of this birth that it always comes with fresh light. It always brings a great light to the soul, for it is the nature of good to diffuse itself wherever it is. In this birth God streams into the soul in such abundance of light, so flooding the essence and ground of the soul that it runs over and floods into the powers and into the outward man.

Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, sermon two, p 40

Eckhart himself answers our question for us here; because he refers to the nobility of nature.

Why is nature noble? If nature were a mere thing, it could have no higher qualities. Yet nature in all its variety—by which we are to understand, the universe—is a created thing, which, while lower, consists of a single and most perfect act of God.

This single and most perfect act manifests as a multiplicity, yet although, to creatures in time, it appears to have sequence and hierarchy, is in fact one whole thing. In the beginning was the word; and in a perfect sense the universe is that word, which cannot be uttered and instantly and forever transcends all creation. So the universe is a syllable from the mouth of God, a single utterance; so perfect and so divine is that utterance that it contains within itself all things. Thus is the nature of the Lord; and when we extoll the virtues of silence (if we do) it is only in the hopes of hearing the echo of that syllable, which reverberates in all things eternally. This is why all things consist, in the end, of vibration; and why prayer is the most sacred form of contact we can initiate with God, insufficient though we are.

In this sense, the universe, and material things, all mediate for God by their very nature; in mediating, they not only mediate by receiving the divine in and on behalf of themselves, they receive and mediate in and on behalf of all things; all receives all on behalf of all.

In this way it is not wrong to seek God in all things! For He is there; and is speaking to us always. This is a miraculous truth which cannot be understood with the mind alone, and so we shall leave it. Yet we might want to remember that it is the mind (the intellect) alone that doubts.

I speak of this single and most perfect act because of the hope that all of us may yet come, in this life, to know that singleness of purpose and that wholeness of Being which the Lord bestows upon us inherently, within the soul, at all times. We are fallen creatures; yet we have the capacity, if only we reach deep enough within ourselves. God's Love is there; and it never abandons us, no matter how far we fall, because God loves even the devil himself. God crafted the devil from his own Love, as he did all other things; and gave him his powers, too, out of love and kindness. 

Why would God do such a thing, you may ask? How can a single and most perfect act embody evil in this way? It is a question that has haunted mankind for ages; and yet, as I have said before, the answer is quite simple. The good cannot exist without evil as its servant: every name of God as it arises can only know itself through the names which oppose it.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A single and most perfect act, part I

Can the material mediate the divine?

God is in all things as being, as activity, as power. But He is fe­cund in the soul alone, for though every creature is a vestige of God, the soul is the natural image of God. This image must be adorned and perfected in this birth. No creature but the soul alone is recep­tive to this act, this birth. Indeed, such perfection as enters the soul, whether it be divine undivided light, grace, or bliss, must enter the soul through this birth, and in no other way. Just await this birth within you, and you shall experience all good and all comfort, all happiness, all being and all truth. If you miss it, you will miss all good and blessedness. this birth you will share in the divine influx and all its gifts. This cannot be received by creatures in which God's image is not found, for the soul's image appertains espe­cially to this eternal birth, which happens truly and especially in the soul, being begotten of the Father in the soul's ground and innermost recesses, into which no image ever shone or (soul-)power peeped.

Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, sermon two, p 39-40

The material has been created by the divine as a receptacle for it. Into the material pours all of the goodness of the divine, which is a goodness first of laws and of orders. In the natural sciences, we call these laws physics, chemistry, and so on; yet all these natural laws are the expression of a higher good which, at its root, is one thing, Love, although it divides naturally into three parts at once in its first contact with the material.

It divides into these three essential natures because the nature of the material is that it can only refer to awareness of itself by tripartite sensation; and that tripartite sensation consists of a mind of the intellect, a mind of the emotions or feelings, and a mind of physical sensation. In man, as in other living creatures, the physical body is created so that these three minds can arise and exist; and it does so through the fine and ineffable substance of the soul, which itself touches God.

In this way there is a bridge to the divine, which can only exist insofar as man is a peninsular entity that protrudes the nature of God Himself into the material world.

Man's soul can never entirely separate from God, being as it is a vestigial expression of His nature; and so we are never very far from God, no matter how far we may stray from Him in our thoughts and actions. This is because our soul is a tiny particle... an atom... of God Himself.

This is well enough then, of man, but it is necessary to understand that all the other parts of creation receive the essence of divine expression as well, because all matter arises, at its root, from the substantial expression of the divine. This is why all things are whole; and although we perceive of separation, as though it were logical, understood, and natural, there is in fact nothing logical at all about it; it is not even real.

When Buddha spoke of the world of illusion, it was this world of separation he spoke of, for there is no separation in the dharma. The world is whole in Christ and whole in God; and although the Buddha could not express it in those terms, he would have understood it the same way within his nature of being awake, since there can be no other understanding.

Now, one may ask oneself how this can be anything more than the thinking of it, because as one reads this one thinks; and it is a good question. The difficulty is that one cannot think of anything whole, because thinking itself is only one-third of the capacity needed for a right understanding; this is why the Lord divides Himself into three parts which are not separated and not distinct, even though we call them separated and distinct by convention. 

If one were to sense this organically, and feel this, in the same way that one thinks it, then one would be sensing according to what Gurdjieff called three-brained Being, which is, at it happens, the only possible form of Being which can begin to comprehend this question from a right point of view.

Until this kind of three-brained understanding arises, one is trapped, more or less, inside a theological bottle. 


Meister Eckhart on time, # 2

From The Temptation of St. Anthony, Hieronymus Bosch

As Paul says, "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me" (Phil. 4 : 1 3 ) ; in Him I can do not merely this or that but all things in undivided unity. You must know, then, that the images of these acts are not yours. Neither are they from nature: they belong to the author of nature, in which He has implanted act and image. So do not lay claim to it, for it is His, not yours. Though conceived by you in time, it is begotten and given by God beyond time, in eternity beyond all images.

The Complete Mystical Works, sermon 3, p. 50

 This passage perhaps reminds us of Gurdjieff’s contention that man cannot do.

Paul's comment indicates that he understands he can do only from within God, that is, from the perspective in which there is an inner unity that derives from a higher level. The action is not his own; it is inwardly formed by the birth of a higher consciousness that comes from beyond time, and beyond all images.

The comment separates nature from God; and we may recall that in spiritual naturalism and various flavors of paganism, animism, and shamanism, God is a part of nature; in fact, that nature is God. Eckhart distinguishes clearly here, assigning nature and all of its actions to God, as their author. Although nature and all of its actions, including our own actions, belong to time — he uses the phrase conceived by you in time, indicating once again the generative nature of action, being and consciousness — the author of all action lies beyond time. Nature, in its entirety, is a medium in which act and image are implanted. 

This offers us an interesting new perspective on creation itself as a vehicle that receives. What it receives lies within time; but all of its origins lie outside time. This last is, once again, consonant with our vision of the universe as informed by modern physics.

 There is, however, a more important inward nature revealed here. Our inward nature, Swedenborg would explain, is inherently formed by the divine, and its origins of us outside time, just as God does. Mister Eckhart has a very similar vision of the soul; and Ibn al 'Arabi would have pitched it the same way. Modern physics deals with the mechanical substance of the universe, but this substance emanates from a location that lies beyond the realm of physics and its mechanical understandings.

In the same way, the whole of our lives emanates from a location that lies beyond the realm of the natural, which is a point that Swedenborg made again and again in his writings. It's interesting to note that this man, who was a hard-core scientist with, for his time, a truly superior understanding of the natural and the mechanical, would be so insistent on its inferiority to a higher order which cannot be seen except through the receiving of the divine inflow.

Matter, in the Swedenborgian universe, serves as a receptacle for the divine. Once again, the Sufis, including the inestimable al 'Arabi, saw it much the same way — and Meister Eckhart supported this view as well.

I would encourage readers to consider that our organic nature itself is just such a receptacle; and a direct experience of our nature in this regard is not so far away, if we come into a fundamental, rooted relationship with the divine inner energy that creates and supports our Being itself.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Predestination and eternity

From The Temptation of St. Anthony, Hieronymus Bosch

Yesterday's essay, which examined — in extremely brief format – Meister Eckhart's concept of eternity, which was central to his understanding of God, leads us to an interesting observation about predestination and eternity.

In order to understand this point, it would be helpful of readers went to the link here on Boethius and read section 6.

 There has been an argument, since the early days of Christianity, about whether or not God's omniscience creates a state of predestination for man. After all, if God creates all things, knows all things, and determines all things, from the moment of his birth to his death, a man's fate is already decided by God, so he can have no impact on the future.

One of the arguments advanced in the consolation of philosophy is that God cannot affect predetermination, since all time exists within a eternity in God. That is to say, within the scope of God's Being, all time is simultaneous. In such a condition, there can be no past and no future; all events take place at once, together. If this is true — and I think readers must agree it positively stinks of truth — then there can be no predestination, because predestination supposes a progression of time, in which one act leads to another.

The concept is not only sophisticated, it dovetails neatly into Buddhist concepts of the Dharma. What we encounter is a moment in which all moments depend upon one another: they are not only simultaneous, they coexist in the way that they are arranged as a whole and single thing. One cannot be separated from another; and perhaps this reminds us of Gurdjieff's comment that for one thing to be different, everything would have to be different.

We might call this the doctrine of inseparability; that is, one's life is of a whole substance within God. I don't think Meister Eckhart would have argued that point; and it calls us to examine ourselves from a different point of view, in which everything is connected.

Gurdjieff's idea of the fragmentation of the self into many different I's supposes a collapse of understanding in which a separated existence — in fact, what one might: infinite number of separated existences — take place. And indeed, if we look at the world, we see that this reductive kind of reasoning and consciousness is exactly how we perceive it: everything is separate from one another. Failing to understand the function of things and how they depend on one another for their existence leads to a failure to understand not only how our inner existence is completely dependent on the whole of ourselves; we also fail to understand how outer existence is dependent on all of our existence. One cannot destroy one part of one's outwardness or inwardness without destroying all of the parts that depend on it: and in the same way that Gurdjieff told Ouspensky that, for simplicity's sake, "chief feature" was all of him,  so, in the same way, we are all of ourselves.

Of course, ecosystem engineers and biologists have begun to understand this from a strictly mechanical and physical point of view; hence the great alarm with which scientists from these disciplines view the way we are destroying the outward circumstances of the planet. We do much the same thing inwardly; and yet we take it for granted that we are this way, or that way, and can affect it.

There is a need to come to an understanding of the whole of ourselves within this inner eternity, which requires a different sense of who we are — a substantial difference rooted in the organism.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Meister Eckhart on Time, #1

From The Temptation of St. Anthony, Hieronymus Bosch

Here, in time, we are celebrating the eternal birth which God the Father bore and bears unceasingly in eternity, because this same birth is now born in time, in human nature.

The Complete Mystical Works, sermon 1, p. 29

The word eternity is generally taken to mean either, forever, or, outside time. We encounter this concept of both circumstances and events that lie outside of time over and over again as we examine Eckhart’s sermons.

 In a certain sense, from the very beginning, Eckhart asks us to abandon our understanding of time. Time, as he sees it, is a part of creation — if it is not a creature itself, then it is inextricably tied to creatures, and must be left behind in our effort to understand God.

This idea of an eternal birth, a birth outside time, reminds us strongly of the idea of the Big Bang, the generative force which created the universe, and cannot be considered as an event within time, since all time unfolded and proceeded from it. The measurement of time begins from this generation or birth; and that generation or birth is timeless, that is, fundamental or rooted within an eternal and immeasurable moment. This ties the idea of birth, that is, generation, to an event that is transcendent — it lies beyond understanding, yet is in itself the root of all understanding.

This simple phrase brings us at once to the idea of an eternal birth, that is, a birth that is always taking place — the second meaning of the word. In this sense, human nature is eternally reborn, reborn before time and beyond time, at once, and in the present moment. This imparts a quality to life which is forever within now, now itself being a moment that, although it exists within time, cannot be measured by time itself.

 This perhaps peculiar conjunction of concepts thrusts us into a piece of territory where the transcendent is forever extant within us, now, not located in some other place or time. The idea is, generally speaking, consonant with Buddhist formulations.

“I must be about my Father's business." This text is most appropriate to what we have to say concerning the eternal birth which took place in time and still happens daily in the innermost part of the soul, in her ground, remote from all adventitious events. In order to become aware of this interior birth it is above all necessary for a man to be concerned with his Father's business.

—sermon 3, p. 46

 Here the idea of eternal birth gains complexity and dimension, as though a simmering vegetable stock were made even richer by the addition of marrow. As we saw in the first passage, this interior birth — this fecund and endlessly generative process — which takes place within human nature does not just take place in eternity, beyond time, but also inserts itself into time. It sounds like a paradox;   eternity, a quality that lives outside of time and is defined by time, finds itself within time, as though it were able to be its own shadow.

Returning to the parabolic hypothesis of the Big Bang, the premise here is that consciousness — that sacred property of the soul — is born outside of time, but forever expressed within time as a birth of awareness. This is indicated by the idea that a man should be concerned with— that is, aware of — his Father’s business. The Father, in Eckhart’s work, is inextricably intertwined with this process of being and becoming, which is forever generative. It calls to mind the endless unfolding of a  lotus blossom, which opens petal after petal into a garden of consciousness in action.