The eternal Word did not put on a human being, and so, go out of whatever is a human being in you and whatever you are, and take yourself just as bare human nature, and then you will be the same to the eternal Word as human nature is to him. For between your human nature and his there is no difference: it is one, for it is in Christ what it is in you.
—Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, sermon Ninety-two, page 450
And here we are.
After hearing part of the last post, my wife asked me if anyone can know God, or if most of us need some kind of intermediary; and although I extracted this quote for this series before she asked the question, I think it answers it.
Gurdjieff also said more or less the same thing in the prologue to the third series. God is in us as we are in God; and Christ’s promise — something every Orthodox Christian would understand — is that we can know God.
Know Him, that is, within the context and limits of our own Being, because to know Him in His Perfection and his Fullness it is not only impossible — even if it were, it would extinguish us. One might understand it thus: in fully knowing, we un-know—we become extinguished in God. I should wish to be extinguished in God, for it's the best thing and what all creation actually seeks.
What Meister Eckhart speaks of here — whatever is a human being in you and whatever you are — is our false personality, this entire construction which is erected within the intellect and manipulates the other parts with rationalizations and lies.
The bare human nature he speaks of is what Gurdjieff called essence; and essence touches the soul. When essence grows, it comes into more intimate contact with the soul, and the inward flow of the divine Presence becomes more possible. This is a subtle thing which can, once again, only be learned through experience. Essence is essence; and if one is at all vague on precisely what it means one hasn't experienced it yet. It is the wordlessness that defines wordlessness; it is the silent part of silence.
Its texture is, in other words, the unmistakable grain of Presence. Presence has many dimensions. Yet essence—the texture of the soul—births all of them.
Do all the exercises you want: when the inward flow opens into you, you will clearly understand it isn’t because you did exercises, and does not happen because of anything you did — except suffer.
Suffering is the exercise.
Well, nobody wants to suffer. Even those who most want to know God are secretly misers who want to pay as little as possible for the privilege. The fact that it demands everything — as Eckhart repeatedly reminds us — is forgotten. There isn’t a human being out there that isn’t counting their change and trying to make sure that they can keep a few coins in their pocket.
I understand it, because I have seen it in myself. Even understanding it doesn’t change my attitude, because I am human, and as a human being, this is what I do.
The master says, “The eternal word did not put on a human being.”
What the eternal word put on was human nature; and this the very nature is that essence I speak of here.
Our essence has contact with God; and it is, as Eckhart explains, a creature that exists within the fullness of time, that is, in eternity. Time stops ticking when I encounter it.
Coming back to this the day after I wrote it, I'd like to clarify a bit on suffering, which is something one can ever profitably return to.
When I see my lack—suffer my lack—if I see it through a three-centered faculty, what I see is not my lack, a lack that I own, or something I am missing that I have command over or ought by rights (or otherwise) to have.
What I lack is God. That is my lack.
What I suffer when I truly remember myself is how I am separated from God.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.