Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Glory, Grace, and Mercy, part II: Glory

Lord Jesus Christ, through your glory, grace, and mercy, help me to honor and obey.

Why is this particular set of three prayers formulated so that the response is, in each case, the above phrase? In order to understand this, we need to discuss all five of the elements,  remembering that the sixth element in the phrase is always the Lord Jesus Christ, that is, the Lord, or God, around which all of the other elements are arranged.

There is a way to arrange this progression on the enneagram, but I will leave that, perhaps, for a later explanation. Today we will discuss glory.

The glory of God is a Great Perfection, and (in the abstract) the physical foundation of the universe itself, the absolute condition within which it manifests. Now, the metaphysical aspect of glory is its greatest aspect, consisting as it does of complete perfection within all manifestations that can arise: the perfection of space and time, the perfection of vision, sound, sensation, taste, and all other senses. In fact every sense is a reflection of one aspect of the Great Perfection. When we indulge, through our intelligence and awareness, in any sense, we are being fed by an aspect of the Great Perfection. This takes place whether we are aware of it or not; because no aspect of creation is divorced from being fed by the Great Perfection. Glory, in other words, is not just the absolute nature of God; because we all exist within the absolute nature of God, glory is also the vehicle whereby all of creation itself is born, nourished, grows, matures, and then returns to the source. All the great religions, all of the great musics, great arts, dances, landscapes, and other works within the aesthetic and artistic range of man's (and other sending beings) expression are attempts to objectify that great glory. So when we hear Beethoven's symphonies, or we see a painting by Goya, or we appreciate a sublime Buddhist sculpture or the temples at Angkor Wat, we are seeing a tiny, nearly infinitesimal fraction of that glory distilled and presented in a formal context that attempts to re-create glory itself and remind us that we are products of it.

Glory is like a blue sky that contains the whole world and all emotion in it; it contains all longing, all wish, and everything that has ever happened, along with everything that ever has happens; and that sky looks out over a landscape that is equally rich and perfect, with beings and it who are equally intelligent and sensitive. This may sound idealized — and there are exhaustive idealizations of this understanding laid out in works such as the Flower Ornament Sutra. The work seems impossibly complicated, with one miracle nested inside another for page after page and chapter after chapter, but it is actually just the beginning of an attempt to touch on what glory is. Its existence is analogous to all the notes in a symphony, which are laid out together in an attempt to remind us that the whole is, within every tiny aspect of its being, intimately related with all other aspects not only of itself, but everything else.

I'm aware that this is a mouthful. Perhaps several dozen mouthfuls. Yet we cannot leave ourselves with just the intellectual appreciation of glory. Glory is meant to be drawn into Being through sensation, which is why the first prayer discusses the fact that we are vessels into which the world flows. All of the world is a product of glory; and we are thus like hummingbirds or bees who feed on the nectar of glory as we draw the world into ourselves, so that it can be contained and concentrated within our vessels.

We appeal to the Lord first with acknowledgment of His glory, and an awareness that through His glory— that is, the impressions that enter us — our own response can be born, grow, and move back towards God.

 Religious ecstasy, as described in the ancient texts, is a process whereby glory is imparted directly by God, as a gift whereby the recipient can understand the nature of glory, which is otherwise impossible except in fractions so small that it is dissipated. That understanding draws a soul deeply towards gratitude in contemplation. Yet sentient beings cannot rely upon, demand, or invoke such experiences; right work and right inner attitude require an effort that arises within the world of increment, not one where the doors are opened at all times.

This discussion of glory and a trust in glory is, I know, completely absent from all the Gurdjieff literature; yet it is essentially impossible to understand the work we are about unless one begins, first, from an understanding of glory. That is not just true for people in esoteric, or inner works; it is equally true with the exoteric or outer branches of all religions, which ironically place more superficial emphasis on appreciating this aspect of God, which needs to be taken into the body far more inwardly in order for it to be of any practical use.


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