Thursday, February 5, 2015

Self-remembering, Croatian style


 I'm in China,  and, as is common when jet lag sets in, I woke up shortly after 3 AM.

These early morning hours can often be productive; so I'm going to double down on posts today in order to follow up on the post Self Remembering, in German.

A friend and reader from Croatia asks the following:

In Croatian, self-remembering is Samo-Sjećanje. The word sjetiti/sjecanje is similar to the word "osjetiti" which means "to sense" or word "osjecaj" is "sensation" (sometimes mixed and called feeling).  One interesting connection which is only connecting cause they sound similar is word "sječi" which means "to cut" and word "odsječi" means "to cut off" or could be taken as "to separate." 

What do you make of it?

There is a strange contradiction in the idea of self remembering

On the one hand, it sounds quite positively like an affirmation of self; and it is nearly impossible for the ordinary mind, and our ordinary parts, on this level, to understand it any other way. Even if we profess it to be an abandonment of self, we secretly affirm ourselves in asserting that we can achieve such abandonment. In other words, no matter which way we turn, the ego has its gears engaged.

On the other hand, Gurdjieff emphatically told us we must sense our own nothingness. If self remembering is, as it seems it must be, connected to the sense (and, inevitably, sensation) of our own nothingness, then self remembering actually consists, in the distinct way, of remembering that the self is not.

 The Croatian version of this expression seems, according to my reader, to have sensation and the idea of sensing built into it — a remarkable and perhaps unique conjunction. If we were to reconfigure self-remembering as self-sensation, well then, we might be getting a little closer to an idea that is different than our egoistic sense of self, and the egoistic annihilation thereof.

This connection with the word to cut off, or separate, is equally interesting, because it brings to mind Gurdjieff's idea of the separation of oneself from oneself — and, collectively, the group of thoughts reminds me of what I was reading in Meister Eckhart's The Complete Mystical Works yesterday, sermon 60:

I say the same thing about the man who has brought himself to naught in himself and in God and in all creatures: that man has assumed the lowest place, and God is bound to empty Himself totally into him, or He would not be God. I declare in all truth, by the eternal and everlasting truth, that into any man who has abandoned self right down to his ground, God must pour out His whole self in all His might, so utterly that neither of His life, nor His being, nor His nature, nor of His entire Godhead does He keep anything back, but must pour out the whole of it as fruitfulness into that man who in abandonment to God has assumed the lowest place. (Sermon 60, page 309)

 This passage certainly calls to mind the idea of the sensation of one's own nothingness—bringing himself to naught in himself and in God and in all creatures.  

It's worthwhile pausing to note that this is a radical formulation: a man must sense his own nothingness not only in regard to himself, but in regard to God and to all creation. This is a complete and utter separation from every shred of ego, and from all that identifies as "I"; to bring oneself to nothingness in relationship to all creatures, or creation, can be formulated, but to bring oneself to nothingness in God himself implies a transcendental going beyond worthy of any Zen master.

It is in this absolute and comprehensive negation of self — a radical forgetting of self — that self is, in the form of God, utterly obliged to rush in — it must pour out the whole of it as fruitfulness into that man who in abandonment to God has assumed the lowest place. It is, and other words, only in the utter abandonment of everything to one's own nothingness, even in relation to God, that the self can actually be remembered:

Therefore I say, if a man turns away from self and from all created things, then - to the extent that you do this—you will attain to oneness and blessedness in your soul's spark, which time and place never touched. This spark is opposed to all creatures: it wants nothing but God, naked, just as He is. (Sermon 60, page 310)

 One asks oneself: is it possible to separate from all that is through sensation?

I ask you, after all, through what other vehicle can we pursue the experience of that separation, but sensation itself? If one does not acquire a sensation of nothingness, and a feeling of nothingness — which are of themselves transcendental conceptions — how can one know nothingness?

And can there be a knowing within nothingness? After all, the comprehensive unknowing of everything does, according to the Masters, lead to a knowing:

In fact I will say still more, which sounds even stranger: I declare in all truth, by the eternal and everlasting truth, that this light is not content with the simple changeless divine being which neither gives nor takes: rather it seeks to know whence this being comes, it wants to get into its simple ground, into the silent desert into which no distinction ever peeped, of Father, Son or Holy Ghost. In the inmost part, where none is at home, there that light finds satisfaction, and there it is more one than it is in itself: for this ground is an impartible stillness, motionless in itself, and by this immobility all things are moved, 10 and all those receive life that live of themselves, being endowed with reason.
(Sermon 60, pages 310-11)

 Take note, Meister Eckhart says here, of this extraordinary inner light,  it seeks to know whence this being comes.

 That is self remembering in its essence; in unknowing, it seeks to know the unknown.

Hosanna.

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