Autumn crocus, Sparkill, New York
photograph by the author
So I'm back to this question of a simplicity of understanding; and the paradox of it is that although you and I must use words to discuss and conceive of it, it is wordless.
The work of God is ever wordless; and from this point of view, it is simple, because it is pure and without duplicity. It never divides itself against itself, but is always a single and whole thing, no matter how many aspects it manifests itself within. Despite the extraordinary beauty of Northern Renaissance churches, of Buddhist temples and altars, of Hindu paintings and idols, they deceive, because they delve into extraordinary complexity to express the exuberant fecundity and endless creativity of God. We look at that complexity, and we think to ourselves, that's what God is. We don't want to do this — we simply can't help it, because it's in our nature to respond to this complexity with a sense of all and wonder, which is the appropriate feeling we ought to have one approaching God.
Yet God is really quite simple and direct, and lives within the expression of being, which always lies beyond the threshold of what is known. Being emerges from the unknown into the known; but let us not mistake it thereby as an emergent property. Emergence begets itself of complexity, and is a lawful action, but a physical one; being begets itself of simplicity, and comes before lawful action. It's important to understand this idea of Being coming before lawful action, because we almost always and forever confuse this and think that lawful action begets Being. In order to know the difference, one must first sense Being organically and understand how one's awareness both resides within it and emerges from it, and only then can one begin to contemplate its relationship to lawful action.
It is this upside down understanding of lawful action in relationship to being that gets us so confused and causes us to not have a simplicity of understanding. We always begin with lawful action, which is by its nature complex, and then try to work backward towards being, which is simple. This is because we find ourselves perpetually ensnared in lawful action within the sphere of our awareness. That is, more or less, the process Gurdjieff called identification; we think we are the lawful action.
The ideas of the naturalistic sciences and of secularism in general is that Being is born of lawful actions. But let's avoid allowing ourselves to be confused by this; we must firmly understand within the realm of our sensation and our feeling, as well as our mind, that Being comes before lawful action.
Today is the fourth anniversary of my sister Sarah Hansen's death.
Mme. de Salzmann's comments on death
I would like to read some thoughts which I believe are true:
There is no death. Life cannot die.
The coating uses up, the form disintegrates, but life is—is always there—even if for us it is the unknown.
We cannot know life. It would be pretense to say that we know what life is—what death is.
Some wise men have said that we can know life only after we know death. In any case, death is the end—the end of everything known. And because we cling to the known, the unknown is a fearful thing—for us. So we fear death—but we don't know what it is, really.
If we wish to know life, we need to die to the known and enter the unknown. It is hard to know what entering the unknown is. Perhaps it's just being here. At this moment—being here entirely. Just being here quietly as we try to express our love for the one who is entering the unknown.
In moments like this, in front of death, and being free from the known, we can enter the unknown, the complete stillness where there is no deterioration. Perhaps such moments are the only time in which we can find out what life is and what love is.
And without that love, we will never find the truth.
—Jeanne de Salzmann
Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.