Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Fundament of Ecstasy: notes on enlightenment ascension, part III

Agra, India

"Humanity is the Earth's nerve ends, through which planetary vibrations are received for transmission.”
—Notes from a meeting with Gurdjieff, June 30 or July 17, 1922

As God commences to know Himself through the conscious action of His creation, a paradoxical increase of ignorance takes place: that is to say, self-knowing, even at God’s level, becomes an action exponentially imbued with self-unknowing. Any process of becoming known correspondingly illuminates more and more of what is not known.

God would not need nerve-endings to sense if He was consciously all-knowing; Gurdjieff and Ibn al Arabi are in equal agreement on the premise that man acts on God’s behalf, as his Vicegerent (Arabi’s word) in this universal act of self-remembering.

In self-remembering, a palpable nerve-ending action on behalf of God, an inevitable anguish arises through the discovery of unknowing and an unfolding understanding that divides self from not-self. God perpetually discovers this universe —one of His own making—that nonetheless lies in fragments from the point of its origins onwards; and that is an eternal and irremediable state. (cf. my paper on The Cosmology of Beelzebub.) 

“No energy is ever lost in the cosmic scheme. Man has real individuality inherent in him, but can only reach it after long process and gradual growth through great effort.”
—Notes from a meeting with Gurdjieff, June 30 or July 17, 1922

There is a terrible and misleading flaw in the premise that bliss is the goal of “enlightenment ”— a fully conscious state. Both Gurdjieff and Swedenborg made it clear enough that in their heavens, no one finds themselves at rest on clouds, idly strumming harps; heaven is a place of continuous inner and outer effort, of work. Let's remember here the original premise that the primordial unknowing of Bliss is forever a passive state, the place where evil angels operate. (See the opening quote).

Of course bliss is supremely alluring; we all secretly think we want a life of perfect repose and unassailable happiness. Yet such a life does nothing for us in the way of inner development; thus, I submit, a movement into bliss is not an ascent towards God and His heavenly kingdom but rather a descent towards the devil. The state of bliss is an unformed one; ecstatic, but useless. It lacks the intelligence which God seeks to nurture through creation.

This metaphysical proposition is too easily misunderstood, I fear; and may engender a rank Puritanism if interpreted literally. The point is that reaching towards God takes a certain kind of courage; one does not reach heaven, as Dante reminds us, before one traverses hell and purgatory.  

In the same way, bliss rises towards anguish in the process of creation; and although it is an exquisite anguish, a sacred, perfect and utterly Godly anguish, it represents the right and proper state of the universe and God’s and man’s place in it, even if it contradicts the expected order. 

I can and do, for that matter, attest to the fact that this is exactly how religious ecstasy is experienced: it begins with bliss, which is perfect, absolute, physical and unknowing; and it rises into a union with anguish, which is also perfect and absolute, but emotional, and knowing

Bliss, the root condition of sacred Being, is unintelligent; anguish, the counterpart of bliss, is an extraordinarily intelligent state that arises in the process of becoming known. 

These two forces, which are not good or evil either one, are objective and reciprocal; neither one can exist without the other. They discover their reconciliation as a single unified force in Consciousness. 

No matter the perceived divisions, that is the underlying truth; yet outside of the transcendent—which (as Al Arabi pointed out) lies lawfully forever beyond the grasp of all sentient Being—we are left in residence here where the struggle to understand takes place. 

—New Delhi, December 2016

A few more notes on this subject will follow on Feb. 21.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.


Most readers are well familiar with Gurdjieff's formulation of human beings as "three brained beings."

 My new book, Being and Impressions, consists of brief and practical discussions on the subject, along with observations about impressions and how we take them in. 

The book was written to address some questions that have been directed at me over the last few months on the subject, which helped me to understand that many folks still struggling with these concepts—even after many years of effort to understand them. 

Most moving was a friend of mine—a true genius of talent with extraordinary outer accomplishments to his credit—who still after most of a lifetime, feels he cannot understand why impressions don't fall more deeply into him. 

His comment touched me in ways that theoretical discussions of these matters never do. I felt it was necessary to undertake an effort to grapple with these questions more directly, in a contemporary language, rather than the material we are all familiar with and have been reading for many years.

The aim in this book is to simplify and clarify some of these matters. It remains to be seen whether I have succeeded. Readers will have to judge.

Interested readers can purchase the book by clicking on the link in the above text.

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