There's a natural direction in which right feeling-emotion tends; it tends inwards, into a discovered (that is, uncovered) intimacy which we do not generally know we have.
It may vary in intensity, but it always has at its root the same sensation: that of God flowing into Being.
That sensation is first physical, describing the material roots of Being; it ties consciousness to the body. This sensation writes itself in the tissues of the flesh, in the nerves, in the cells, and these inscriptions become the permanent property of Being. These are the selfsame inscriptions of life's impressions that the angelic realms read after a human being has died.
I think it's quite important for human beings to understand that these descriptions by Swedenborg are not casual. It's possible to actually feel life inscribing itself in the body when energy is working in a certain way. The material roots of Being are the passageways whereby impressions inscribe themselves, in exactly the same way that Gurdjieff explained men’s impressions are inscribed on cylinders. Readers should check both sets of quotes at the links carefully, since they are directly related. It’s impossible to understand the exact nature of life and death unless one understands the consequences of this material.
Because we are essentially corrupted in our ordinary state — the entire point, as it were, of both Gurdjieff’s and Swedenborg’s teachings — we must become responsible to right feeling-emotion; and the first component of this is right sensation. The consequences of wrong living and wrong attitude cannot be properly understood until sensation awakens and flows into Being in a conscious way.
Readers should be clear that this awakening does not of itself lead to a correction of our damaged inner activities.
Secondly, the feeling-sensation of right emotion is sorrow; and that sorrow is not a sorrowful sorrow, but a joyful sorrow. This intimacy of sorrow carries within it only a single wordless epistle, a prayer that makes no sound and says no things; it is simply righteous and perfect.
In that Perfection which is sorrow, God is resident; and although one can't call this happiness or joy in any human terms, one understands at once that it is right work, right effort; one needs no instruction manuals here.
Right feeling is no escape from suffering; it is the journey into it, an intentional and willing journey undertaken on behalf of God. Swedenborg’s regeneration, which is directly related to Gurdjieff’s understanding of remorse of conscience and intentional suffering, takes place through the intention to sense this sorrow.
That intention requires us to go directly into this sorrow — an activity that, in its infant or preparatory stages, Jeanne Salzmann called feeling one’s lack— and form a new and intimate relationship with it. That is to say, we must become immersed not only in the sensation and the inward flow of life from God, which is ever present within us, but also in this even deeper intimacy called The Sorrow of Being.
The Sorrow of Being has metaphysical properties that bind it to The Reality from the root of material reality to the highest levels of heaven. It permeates everything; Gurdjieff called it the Sorrow of His Endlessness. Now, the fact that it is a property of God itself ought to make it quite obvious that it is an all-pervasive quality of the universe; but the concept of The Sorrow of Being in spiritual communities at large is, if it exists at all, a theoretical one.
It needs to become an element in the marrow of one’s bones in order to understand the nature of Being and our potential for development in the direction of God. These truths are never found in the grand schemes and epic landscapes of life, but are evident, for us, in the very smallest things.
The emotional inspiration—the inflow—that accompanies all true sacred feeling-impulse serves primarily to bring one closer to God. In doing so it bonds The Sorrow of Being to a compassionate attitude towards all other Beings; and this secondary sacred feeling-impulse ought to be the fundamental basis of interaction between all Beings. The Sorrow of Being is a sacred and godly property, awakening particles of God Himself within us.
We are meant to Love God, and to Love one another. This is the high truth that binds the Gurdjieff work, Swedenborg's teachings, and Christianity together; it is also the heart of Sufic Islam. Yet it's only, and exclusively, through the inflow of God's Being into ours that we can experience this truth.
It flows physically into the body and blood, which is why the body and blood of Christ serve as the primary representative elements in Catholic and Orthodox communion.
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.