Leaf: Piermont, NY
Photograph by Lee van Laer
Real love is the basis of all, the foundations, the Source... It was by love that Jesus performed miracles... All accumulated vibrations create a current. This current brings the force of love.
Real love is a cosmic force which goes through us. If we crystallize it, it becomes a power—the greatest power in the world.
—Gurdjieff, Wartime Transcripts, meeting 18.
Well then, here I am firmly ensconced in my hotel room in Shanghai (today's date is October 15) having finally wrapped up the introductory essay on the questions of Love, Mercy, and Grace.
Divine Love is what one might call the atom of our universe. Readers may recall Gurdjieff telling Ouspensky that an atom, in esoteric systems, represents the smallest particle on any level:
" 'Matter' may be regarded as consisting of 'atoms.' Atoms in this connection are taken also as the result of the final division of matter. In every order of matter they are simply certain small particles of the given matter which are indivisible only on the given plane. The atoms of the Absolute alone are really indivisible, the atom of the next plane, that is, of world 3, consists of three atoms of the Absolute or, in other words, it is three times bigger and three times heavier, and its movements are correspondingly slower."
— In Search of the Miraculous, P. D. Ouspensky, pg. 87.
One of the interesting consequences of Gurdjieff's above remarks is, we can see, that Love is less and less animated and less and less vivified as it moves down through successive levels in the universe — for example, world three, where Love has less total freedom of movement because it has already been bound by Law. (At the level of the absolute, everything is unbounded.)
Freedom from laws on a given level, in other words, consists in a general sense of moving towards Love, rather than away from it.
This is precisely consistent with Swedenborg's conception of both God and Heaven, in which those turning towards heaven always turn towards God, that is, towards Love. This movement towards Love is what people always actually mean when they talk about "freedom" in spiritual works of one kind or another, because there is no other kind of freedom, and nothing except Love can be free. Even Love is subject to law at all levels short of the absolute; but because all levels are composed of and created by Love, Love and freedom are actually synonymous from any practical point of view.
Divine Love cannot be separated, either, in its conceptual nature from the emanations of the sorrow of His Endlessness, which was Gurdjieff's expression for the way that God's Love manifests perfectly throughout every level of the universe, if it is correctly sensed and understood.
Christ's passion was a perfect expression of this fact; and for those to whom it looks abhorrent, I can only say, if it is correctly understood, it is the most extraordinary, perfect, and beautiful action that one will ever encounter — a gift that easily surpasses all human understanding.
We've been left with a set of habitual repetitions of this in our highest traditional Christian religious services; what they are trying to describe relates directly to the experience of receiving the sorrow of God, which is the highest religious experience possible for a human being. Creation was made, in point of fact, to help take on this burden, as Gurdjieff explains. He fails, unfortunately, to draw the inevitable straight lines between this understanding and the passion of Christ, which ought to have been chalked in long ago, but for the obsession many people have with technical aspects of Gurdjieff's work, entirely misunderstanding the emotive qualities that are so inseparable from its inevitable consequences.
In any event, the point of Episcopal, Catholic, and Orthodox religious services is to bring us to an active, living sensation of this truth, not just a theoretical acknowledgment of Christ's sacrifice; and words to that effect can be found right in the service.
We end up in a place where we may begin to understand that Love, Freedom, and Sorrow are all cosmologically bound together in the triad of the Absolute, Conscious Labor, and Intentional Suffering.
I am rather jet lagged tonight, and I think I will end here for now.
Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.