Friday, March 6, 2015

Big benefits

My sole reason to Be is to recognize the Self.

J. de Salzmann, The Reality of Being, page 174

The noblest thing that God works in all creatures is being. My father can give me my nature, but he does not give me my being: God alone does that.

—Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, page 156.

It's unusual for me to quibble with statements from Jeanne de Salzmann; and yet this particular remark bothers me enough that I have been mulling it over for several days.

First of all, I am not quite sure why de Salzmann—along with other Gurdjieffians, but not, significantly, Gurdjieff himself—so often insists on reconfiguring the search for God in such a way that the word God is expunged. Meister Eckhart's sermons iterate this question as a search for God literally hundreds of times; and I doubt anyone aside from the odd cultish worshipper could possibly argue that de Salzmann's musings exceed Eckhart's insights in any way, shape, or form. The comment is pitched in such a way that one begins to think God is not good enough; yet, as Eckhart points out, he is altogether too greedy who is not content with God alone. (ibid, p. 529) 

Second, the statement, no matter how one configures it, seems excessive. It highlights, for me, the dangers of making blanket statements.

As a matter of esoteric law, the reasons to Be vary according to level, because the responsibilities and challenges of Being are not fixed things. This is, in fact, the entire point of creation. If creation had a single aim and purpose, it would be one thing; and yet it is—seen from our perspective, and for all practical purposes—infinite, according (quite rightly) to the infinite purposes of God.

There are, therefore, hierarchies and stages; and there are ten thousand (an expressive number meaning, in essence, a whole lot) reasons for Being. It may well be true that the reason to Be is to recognize God; but on this level, that reason is configured according to the tasks we need to fulfill as organic creatures on our level. Lofty Christian aspirations aside, we're not going to "Be" God; and we are not at a level where it's even necessary. If we fulfill our roles at this level, benefits will accrue; but they are little benefits, not big ones, because we are little creatures. My concern is that we always think that somehow we are big creatures who will get big benefits; even here, steeped in the rich and darkest teas of esoteric mysticism, the ego lurks beneath the mask of enlightenment.

I would argue that the re-cognition of Self on this level (as she describes it) is simply the acquisition of what Gurdjieff calls "real I"—that is, an acquisition of Being, which of itself is nothing more than a microcosmic (not macrocosmic) realization of our inner nature as expressions of the divine. The action is, in other words, quite limited, despite the expansive feelings that accompany it; and much more is actually called for on the path to a deeper spiritual expression.

In point of fact, getting down to the root objection I have to this statement, the "sole reason to Be"— insofar as there is one, and I think I have by now adequately explained my reasons for thinking that any such statement is by default far too limited to be rationally sensible—is to suffer. This is in exact accordance with Gurdjieff's statements on the subject; and it is, by the way, true, in a way most perfectly expressed by Christ's example.

Gurdjieff, in a manner even more baroque than his usual obfuscations,  cast this question in light of mankind's search to rid itself of the consequences of the organ Kundabuffer. The passage seems to restrict the need for such purification to human beings on earth; yet the idea of intentional suffering is deeply rooted in the enneagram, which is by his own descriptions a universal diagram, occupying the location of the second conscious shock—an obscurity (for those not familiar with Gurdjieff's teachings, which means, very nearly everyone, statistically speaking) that begs for an explanation.

The point here is that, inevitably, intentional suffering is necessary all throughout the universe in order to complete octaves—and thus, by absolute logic alone, its action cannot possibly be restricted to earth, or solely to the removal of the consequences of the organ kundabuffer.

Suffering is therefore, by this same inexorable logic, a universal and fundamental action, and above all a sacred action, that follows as an absolute necessity upon the attainment of Being. So one might just as easily—and perhaps far more accurately—say that my sole reason to Be is to suffer.

The reasons for this deserve a bit more contemplation, so it will be taken up again.


Part II publishes March 8.

1 comment:

  1. YES, that needed saying...And in Mrs Salzmann's 100 yr birthday vid doesn't mention god - just Mr G....

    We do not bring (enact) ourselves into being...we are finite...we find ourselves being - thus life is a great surprise (Tagore) - and death perhaps even a greater one (Nabokov). 'Life is a great surprise. I do not see why death should not be an even greater one.' (Pale Fire).


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