Sunday, March 15, 2015

Unmanifested sorrow

Reader question:

What of the suffering which we undergo when we willingly bear one another's "unpleasant manifestations"?  It's more than a decision not to express negative emotions, one of the first things we're taught in the Work. It's a lot deeper, because we see and suffer from the behavior of another, without any wish to retaliate, without getting angry, without being able to change it, knowing that we're powerless. That this is how we are, how we all are. The sort of thing which happens, for instance, if a friend or family member is caught up in drugs or alcohol abuse. Real suffering, wouldn't you say? And yet, where to place it? Inner or outer? I'd say it's inner suffering, but caused by something outside ourselves. The sort of suffering which God must have, when He sees us. Sharing in His sufferings, perhaps?


I think this is an interesting question; and I think we’ve all had it at one time or another. I’ve been on both sides of the drug and alcohol abuse fence; and I’ve dealt with multiple cases of friends, very close family members, and longtime business associates with bipolar disorder; anyone who has had to deal with that can attest to its disastrously debilitating effects. 

These diseases produce very real suffering; up to and including complete and utter anguish and emotional devastation. There is nothing worse, perhaps, than watching helpless as a child destroys themselves and everything around them, an experience I have watched several parents go through by now.

In my own eyes we need, however, to learn to clearly distinguish between these objectively outward forms of suffering and inward suffering of a higher nature. They are related; but they are not the same thing. One might liken it to a hawk, and its image in the mirror; one is a perfectly faithful, but ultimately illusory, representation of the living, breathing creature; yet both present identically to the eye, and both may through their image inspire nearly identical feelings.

This is a trick of sorts; and it shows how little we ought to rely on powerful, yet superficial, appearances to unveil the inner, or true, nature of things. 

In my experience, the type of suffering you speak of here is very real suffering; yet it is suffering that prepares

I draw the distinction because there is, equally, a suffering that repairs; and these two sufferings are not of the same order, although one precedes the other. The suffering which prepares is external suffering; and it develops according to its own octave, moving through progressive stages of Materiality, Desire, Force, Being, Purification, and Wisdom… each one of which represents a deepening of understanding in which the suffering becomes more and more one’s own inner property. 

They are all steps, in other words, towards assuming responsibility. 

Yet until one passes the final interval from si to do—that is, the last note in the octave—one has not yet become available to the suffering that repairs, which is a form of Grace. We suffer externally throughout the progression of life, always deepening our experience of suffering; and in that final passage from si to do, if we intentionally suffer the consequences of the entire octave until now, we encounter a moment of forgiveness which is truly unconditional.

Well, one could go on at length about the technical aspects of this. But it is, I think, the feeling nature of the question that ultimately informs us… and interests us.

That moment of forgiveness, a moment of true feeling, opens us—if we have truly broken apart, in our innermost nature—to a higher energy. And that energy transmits a level of sorrow which is no longer experiential in terms of the outer world or its manifestations. 

It is an emanation.

So I would say, most emphatically, that this bearing up under the unpleasant manifestations of others, is just a starter kit. It prepares the soil for what I would call unmanifested sorrow, which is part of the material fabric of the cosmos… a force which surpasses all known sorrow, and leads us directly into a communion with the sorrow of what is unknown.

I know I speak a bit cryptically here; yet I doubt there is any other way to say it.


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