Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Words of Our Imperfect Teachers, Part V: A Human Cosmology

Mammatus clouds
Sparkill, NY

My wife and I hosted a recent work period during which there was teamwork on the question of cosmology. The team, interestingly, manage to undertake a deeply personal investigation of this question and what it means to us from an inward point of view, which was quite different from the intellectual wiseacreing one usually encounters on the subject. Yet, as it turns out, the most extraordinary insight — in my opinion — that came from this work was during a discussion of the subject as part of an evening program.

I've spent years studying Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson and have remarked many times upon what a unique cosmology it presents us with. Yet that night, one of the members of the audience spoke up with a point of view about the book I had never heard before.

“I’m a peasant girl, she said, “and what attracts me about the book, what it means to me, all lies in the story. It's a story of love between a grandfather and his grandson, a story about human beings and their struggles. it's the story that attracts me, the depth of its compassion — and I love the way Beelzebub is traveling through space as he tells it.”

This woman —a quiet an gentle soul of unusual intelligence and compassion — somehow managed to touch on the heart of this book in a way I have never heard anyone else do so, with all of the intellectuals and Beelzebub-geniuses I have been irradiated with over 30 years or more. She grasped the essence of the book — the heart of its narrative — its essential humanity. 

I suspect I'll never see the book the same way after hearing this grassroots, down to earth perception, which strips the tale of embellishments and strikes right at the root of its teaching: 

We all struggle. 

We are all human. 

We share this tale of life together with love.

I think only an imperfect teaching can teach. My teacher wasn't perfect; Gurdjieff's teaching isn't perfect; the world is not perfect. Nothing is finished; everything is a narrative that continues, and it is perpetually in need of agents to move forward. Every one of those agents has a responsibility to God to take on a part of His task to suffer on the half of others and to have mercy on them; every one of us has a responsibility — and obligation — to love, which is, as you know, where I began this somewhat rambling essay.

I could give this series of essays more structure. I could make them more academic. I could expound at much greater length on the technical aspects. But I think that the heart and the soul of it is here, growing organically out of both the human and philosophical soil it is rooted in; perhaps it is enough, just as it stands. It is woven together from all the strands of the trip to Arkansas, which are dyed in the colors of a lifelong search for meaning and truth. 

Let it stand as a part of the tapestry.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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