Friday, March 13, 2015

The Hope of Good results, part I

Monkey, Angkor Wat
Photograph by the author

Now, you might say, there is by nature nothing in the soul but images. Not at all! If that were so, the soul could never become blessed, for God cannot make any creature from which you can receive perfect blessedness - otherwise God would not be the highest blessing and the final goal, whereas it is His nature to be this, and it is His will to be the alpha and omega of all things. No creature can constitute your blessedness, nor can it be your perfection here
on earth, for the perfection of this life - which is the sum of all the virtues - is followed by the perfection of the life to come. 

Therefore you have to be and dwell in the essence and in the ground, and there God will touch you with His simple essence without the intervention of any image. No image represents and signifies itself: it always aims and points to that of which it is the image. And, since you have no image but of what is outside yourself (which is drawn in through the senses and continually points to that of which it is the image), therefore it is impossible for you to be beatified by any image whatsoever. 

And therefore there must be a silence and a stillness, and the Father must speak in that, and give birth to His Son, and perform His works free from all images.

Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, Sermon One, pages 32-33

I recently heard a person ask what the goal of inner work is.

This is phrased differently than aim, which is the term Gurdjieff used; and yet they may seem to mean, overall, more or less the same thing. 

Yet goal means more an object of ambition than one of direction—which is what aim implies.

The question is interesting. First of all, is there an overall goal of inner work, a ubiquitous one that trumps the aims of individuals? If the work is “not for myself,” as it has become common enough to say in recent years, what is it for? It is certainly true that Gurdjieff said the fourth way could only fulfill a man’s individual aim or aims and could have no aim of its own… either this is true or it isn’t, and one can’t quite have it both ways.

Secondly, what is the place of ambition in the work? Isn’t it antithetical to humility and the idea that man “cannot do?”

In order to discuss this matter of aims and goals, we must first admit that to work without the expectation of results is quite different than to work with a wish for them. If work was work conducted absolutely and simply for the sake of work alone, and not for any ends, aims, or results, there would be no point in working. Work must have a purpose: a reason it is done. 

At various times I have, in my essays, pointed out that we do, in the end, work for purpose: and those various overarching purposes may be construed, broadly speaking, as covering the following points:

—The creation of an astral (or mental, or causal) body
—Service to humanity and to God
—The active manifestation of goodness, compassion, and wisdom.

In addition, we might point out the distinctly purposeful obligolnian strivings, which in their entirety describe a set of desirable results that ought to arise from the exercise of inner effort.

Gurdjieff’s system, in other words, is goal-oriented; and it is specifically stated as such, in many different places. One cannot understand Gurdjieff’s cosmology (or any cosmology, for that matter) without understanding its goals, because all cosmologies assume purpose (else they are not cosmologies) and purpose presumes goals, achievements, and results.

Let’s dispense, then, with the lofty sounding proclamations about how there are no results, in the same way that we dispense with the bogus philosophical premise that there are no answers (answers being responses.)  People say these things because they want to sound profound, and because they subscribe to an a priori dogma that encapsulates and endorses such nonsense.

Let us say, rather, that many answers are wordless; and that there is nothing degrading about it when we admit in honesty, rather than deny in sophistry, that we do make efforts, both inner and outer, with aim, purpose, and the hope of good results in mind.

I opened this essay with the quote from Meister Eckhart simply because of his straightforward words on the matter—God is the highest blessing and the final goal. 

We aim, in short, for blessings, and for the goal of God.  

More on this tomorrow.


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