Friday, June 9, 2017

Our Standardized Emotion, and Something Else

Church in Ekmul
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Shanghai, March 1.

There’s no doubt that as we deepen our inner work, emotion plays a greater and greater role in it. 

One suffers one’s own manifestations more and more; more and more, one sees one’s insufficiency.

In general, under ordinary laws and ordinary conditions, we see ourselves as insufficient unto life, that is, objects, events, circumstances, and conditions. We don’t have enough stuff; good things aren’t happening; there’s nothing nice around us; and life ought to be better. Turning the seppuku knife towards our own emotional belly, we blame ourselves for the things that aren’t working out. And — of course — we blame other people. Our standardized emotional sense of insufficiency spends most of its time blaming in one of these two directions.

Yet I don’t think that a real sense of insufficiency has anything to do with these outer conditions... 

it's, well, damn it... 

it's insufficient.

One only begins to experience what I would call real feeling — as opposed to standardized emotion — once one begins to feel one’s life in relationship to God: and by this, I mean that God which consists wholly of Love and Wisdom and nothing else—

Whose transcendental essence is that unknowable, all-powerful Love and Wisdom from which all True Being emanates. 

The experience of that, of course, is a mystery that I can't put down in words; but the consequences of discovering my own being juxtaposed against this force of awe and wonder are always and forever profound.

The thought about this that came to mind this morning was thus.

God put so much of his work into vessels that are so unworthy to receive it, because he has no other choice.

It would not be difficult to discuss the metaphysical implications of that statement, but it would end up being well beyond the scope of any short essay. The thought that followed that insight is perhaps far more important:

Given that insight, what am I responsible for now?

Real feeling, as I call it, emanates from a definite and irrevocable sense of one’s own insufficiency — the chasm between what real love and wisdom are and my own ability to be loving and wise. Only when I am thrown into the middle of that emotional disconnect and experience the anguish that arises in that place do I begin to know what real feeling is. 

It calls me to a service to, an obedience towards, a much greater force. And this exact point of work is what focuses me so clearly on the question of my own responsibility.

Real feeling helps me to know how I do not love

Not just to know with the mind; it also helps me to understand with the body and the feelings — so real “feeling” is actually an action by all three of my thinking parts, the thinking of the mind, the thinking of the body, and the thinking of the emotion. The intelligence of these three parts working together creates a synergy that allows them to also combine their strengths (the physical parts of their action) and, ultimately, also the feeling parts of each of these three parts. 

In this way, there are actually nine interactive elements at work in any real feeling —nine elements active in what Gurdjieff called “three brained being,” since each of the three parts also has three parts of its own. 

The action of real feeling, in other words, forms an ennead, a ninefold action, which is in its own way a completed octave.

This is just the first step, mind you, on understanding what real love might be — and the frightening thing, if we want to view it from the perspective of God, is that rather having us trust in God, God is having to trust in us, because He has no choice other than to engage in this activity — which is essential for the maintenance of the universe — using what are essentially broken devices— that is, human beings who are sinful, willful, disobedient, and unloving.

The Divine is truly a great taker of risks here. Love emanates downward through the levels of the universe to try and find its expression through unloving creatures. It must be a singularly lonely task; maybe this is where part of the Sorrow of His Endlessness begins.

The idea of frail and morally—if not mortally—compromised creatures as vehicles is hardly a new insight, if we view it from a biblical perspective. Beginning with Moses, God assigns responsibilities on epic scales to characters who know — and insist to God — that they are inadequate to the task. This recurring theme of reverting to weak players and requiring them to play the strongest roles is something like the position we all actually find ourselves in life. 

We can fail — we do fail — we must fail. 

And yet the very fact that we fail is already built into God’s assignment of duties; and it is our failure that marks us as creatures with the potential for success; because creatures that are already successful need no attention from God.

Hence Paul’s comment in 2 Corinthians 12: my strength is made perfect in weakness. (Don’t hesitate to read the whole verse, rather than just this tiny quote!)


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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