Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Remorse for one's parents

Sphinx capital, National Museum
New Delhi

Not long ago, the question came up of what Gurdjieff meant by “remorse for one's parents.” There is, after all, a movement by this name. 

The sensation of remorse, including that of remorse of conscience, is closely related to the Sorrow of His Endlessness. The Creator is not only endless; He is endlessly sorrowful. 

We're collectively invited to share this burden which, as I have pointed out many times, is one of the greatest aims and responsibilities one might undertake in spiritual effort. Even the Creator feels remorse; and when we take on remorse for ourselves, we mirror that suffering and take on suffering on His behalf.

 Gurdjieff pointed out many times that our parents, for us, are God. Because of this, our relationship between our parents and ourselves— which is a natural, or earthly relationship —is a perfect mirror, on this level, for our relationship between ourselves and God, which is spiritual. In this sense, remorse for our parents represents the taking on of the sorrow of our parents.  

It does not mean that we have remorse for them,  that is, that we feel remorseful towards them. It means we have remorse on their behalf, that is, we take on a portion of their suffering as our own. 

This action forms deep inward bonds of both natural and spiritual community, acknowledges our inward and outward obligation to parenthood and our specific parents, and reinforces the great line of continuity which Mr. Gurdjieff emphasized so many times in his teaching — and it turn recurrence, from generation to generation, of a spiritual obligation which must be shouldered without flinching.

When we take on remorse for our parents, we therefore suffer on their behalf. We are engaged, on this level, in exactly the same work — one might call it a practice or preparatory work — that we are called on to undertake spiritually in terms of the Sorrow of His Endlessness. It is, as Swedenborg might put it, a type of correspondence: remorse for one's parents on this level inwardly forms material in us that is capable of better understanding the aim of work on the spiritual level.

The principle is really quite simple. I could explain it more, but I think I have said enough here for readers to properly understand the question with a bit more pondering. I would just like to remind everyone that this question has to be  understood organically, and in a three-centered Way, not just with the mind. Remorse for one's parents, just like taking on a burden of sorrow for God, must first be understood with all three centers if the higher centers are to participate at all.

  To put it in expressly Catholic and Episcopal terms, it is meet and right and our bounden duty to at all times and in all places take up suffering on behalf of others; especially those who, because of infirmity, disability, or any other kind of inability, can only suffer unconsciously within themselves for what they are. 

The action of humility and compassion is, in its most essential nature, to take on the suffering of those individuals who are unable to to suffer so that we can lighten their burden. This is a real form of  intentional suffering.

Gurdjieff was once asked, “Mr. Gurdjieff, how do you love someone who is stupid?”

 Mr. Gurdjieff paused for a moment and replied: 

"Love is that.”


Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

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