The intercession of Christ and the virgin
Lorenzo Monaco, before 1402
Metropolitan Museum, New York
I can’t stress enough how important it is to begin to understand how each mind has its own Being which needs to be recognized, valued, and respected.
The so-called “ordinary”self which I am used to experiencing life through — it is actually a medium through which impressions of objects, events, circumstances, and conditions flow — is the only basic experience I have of my life. To discover that I can experience life through my sensation as an active, living form of Being— or that I can experience life through the active, living mind of feeling — is astonishing. These are different orders of Being, simply because each one represents a whole and intelligent part of myself that I have little or no experience of as an active entity. I can’t think my way into that experience. (There is no way to provoke it artificially, except with hallucinogenic drugs which temporarily awaken those parts in what are essentially bewildered and disorganized states. Doing this may be exciting, but it has limited practical long-term value, beyond verifying that sensation and feeling have their own living minds.)
I have to discover the wish of my sensation and the wish of my feeling. I can’t just have a wish that lives in my intellect. It frankly isn’t enough. And to conceptualize — which is, basically, to think with the mind —of how I ought to respect the other two parts of myself isn’t enough. What I propose is that I have to live each mind from within itself in order to understand the way in which it is an actual mind.
This is a difficult proposition. The mind of sensation and the mind of feeling need to become awake — quick, alive — in order for me to begin to understand what it means to live each mind from within itself. If this takes place, a new form of balance and harmony establishes itself, because an enormous amount of additional information about the present moment flows into Being as a conscious experience.The combination of these three minds, when each is active and inhabited, creates — exactly as Gurdjieff explained — a fourth mind, which is a unique entity of awareness that experiences Being in a manner quite unlike the divided minds which do so individually, and (as is so often the case) alone.
So I need to strive with all of my being, insofar as possible, to support this effort. The path to it it is never clear, because the intellectual mind will always want to think its way towards the other two minds. It’s best, under the circumstances, to have an entity of thought that questions and probes, that holds itself in suspense against its own conclusions, forever waiting.
Here is the essential principle: thought that doubts itself has more power than thought that believes in itself.
In this sense, each of the minds, if it is selfish, that is, consumed with love of itself rather than the love of its neighbors (the other two minds, in this case) is blind and unable to establish relationship.
This underscores Swedenborg’s principle of unselfishness versus selfishness as that which divides heaven from hell. The principal works the same way internally, in regard to the inner minds of the centers, as it works in the outer world. If the mind, the body, or the emotions dedicate themselves to a love for the other two centers and the support of them, rather than the love and support of themselves, they build a kingdom of harmony and trust.
If a center — for example, the body — cares more for itself than for the mind and the emotions, the body begins to think and act only for itself. Lust — the acquisition of pleasures for the body – and gluttony are two deadly sins directly associated with this action. Wrath and envy are emotional sins that arise from the selfish indulgence of the emotional center; and so on. Here, it isn’t the nature of the individual sins that we need to understand and consider: it's the selfish action of the individual minds, when they do not form an intelligent, loving relationship with the other two parts.
This is one of the esoteric and the most essential meanings of the idea of loving one’s neighbor as oneself. It applies to the idea of the three minds; an understanding that can be a help in seeking relationship from within.
Note: this essay is an excerpt from the book Being and Impressions.
The entire book is available in the Apple iBooks store, or as a pdf at the following page link:
Being and Impression
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.