Tree: Piermont, NY
Photograph by Lee van Laer
Shanghai, October 16
Love can be defined as a deep affection, or — more superficially — as a romantic attraction. In the sense of the first definition, that is, the religious one, it penetrates to the bone. It is a form of caring; indeed, it is care above all, objective care. By this word objective I mean care that cares not for the subject or for care itself, but only towards the object that is cared for. It is a perfect care, that is, it has no taint of the self or egoism in it.
So Love is caring above all, and it emanates endlessly from the heart of God, which is beyond utterance and beyond conception. All things begin with this emanation of particles, which are then received by all that is material. Love can't exist without an object that is loved, of course; because care must be for something.
In the case of the universe and God, care is for creation, which is that thing which emerges from the wordless in order to receive the care that is sent to. This sending is Grace; a caring that is undeserved and unearned, but nevertheless exists and is given freely, without any preconditions or attachments.
I don't think that we can begin to understand what Love, Mercy, and the Good are before we organically understand the very physical and absolutely solid nature of the emanations of Love and the way they form everything that is. There is so much Love in even the tiniest object, event, circumstance, or condition that if we become sensitive to it and begin to receive its vibrations organically, it can easily overwhelm us. In point of fact, we generally understand Mr. Gurdjieff's admonition to come to a sense of our own nothingness in terms of an intellectual understanding of how tiny we are, and how little each of us means relative to the universe, whereas the most perfect and absolute sense of our own nothingness comes when we sense the Love within creation around us in even the least measure as an actual organic vibration that affects our Being—at which point the staggering nature of our existence may become, at least for an instant, clear.
Nothing can bring my understanding of the world, of life, of Being, and of creation more pointedly to this sense of nothingness than a sensation of the Love that creates and supports me. It's only in those instants that I can truly begin to suffer remorse of conscience, which takes place on a scale that erases all of the efforts I have ever made and puts me squarely in the light of how far short I fall, and how impossible it is for me to do any better.
This is the instant in which I truly understand Grace, and see how undeserving I am. In such moments, one has all the lies and nonsense cut away from them like so many soiled and torn garments, and one stands naked before the Lord. I pretend, in the broken love I profess for God, to wish for such moments, but they are terrifying.
One has to screw one's courage to the sticking point of one's own soul to face such things.
Mercy cannot be itself unless Love comes first, because Mercy must be caring before it is itself. And goodness can't be itself either unless Love comes first, because there can be no goodness unless Love makes it itself in the first place. What could Mercy unformed by Love consist of? What could Goodness unformed by Love consist of? While both are essential qualities of God, they would have no Being if Love had not made them. Everything gains its Being first through Love, and only afterwards becomes itself. It cannot have Self without Love, which is the secret heart of all Self.
Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.