As was discussed in the last two posts, the idea of guilt is often closely associated with the idea of doing one's duty, whether inwardly or outwardly. It becomes especially succinct as a question when it's examined in relationship to outward circumstances; because ultimately, most of the inward rotation around this particular axis of one's being takes place as a result of outwardly instilled values. We are told — whether by the church, society, our parents, friends, or employers — that this and that, such and such, is our duty. If the forms around us have sufficient force and get to us young enough, they can instill various external (and essentially subjective) values in regard to duty that last a lifetime.
What Gurdjieff wanted us to understand is that there is an inward set of values born of the spiritual self that is independent of these things. Meister Eckhart, Swedenborg, and Ibn al Arabi would all, I feel sure, have agreed with this premise; because, quite simply put, it is true. The difficulty that human beings have is that we have no true connection with our inward and spiritual self, so we have lost the sensation of these values. Oddly enough, if we need to have any sense of guilt at all, it probably needs to relate to our lack of a connection with this inward property of a higher principle; yet because we think all the real principles come from outward sources, we never bother feeling guilty about that.
In a sense, seeing my lack (Jeanne de Salzmann's phrase for it) is related to this idea of guilt; not, specifically, in the sense of feeling guilty (emotionally bad) about it, but more directly just knowing that this lack is there — that I don't understand my lack of connection to the sacred which might instill a sense of duty in me. Those of us who have a spiritual sense at all have at least a faint taste of this in regard to our inward presence: and this is what can be awakened and sensed in a greater way through prayer and meditation, as opposed to psychological contemplation of outward circumstance and our spiritual and temporal clash with it. The whole point of prayer is to awaken a sense of conscience from within Being, derived from God, which would call us to right spiritual and temporal action at once. That right action, as it happens, would be derived not from guilt — this machine that forces from outward circumstances — but from love, which is where all real right action has to be born.
We need, in other words, to engage in all right action first from love, and not from guilt. The inward journey requires us to free ourselves from guilt, which compels, and discover love, which chooses.
This brings us to the question of Jeanne de Salzmann's comments about our two natures, and what we choose.
I'll examine this in the next post.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.