Hudson River, from Grandview, April 2017
This morning, I was having a discussion with my wife about the nature of feeling and how it assists us in understanding life.
Feeling is quite different that emotion; we have emotions, but we receive feelings. Feelings come from a different place and being; they’re connected what higher part of Being, rather than all of my ordinary outward manifestations. As one grows older, if one is fortunate enough to develop more comprehensive inward connections, one gradually develops an organic connection to feeling. Feeling becomes voluntary; that is to say, it begins to participate voluntarily, under its own authority, because it has found a place in which it can manifest according to its own right.
So I can have an organic feeling about my life, a feeling that’s inherent and impossible to put into any kinds of words whatsoever. This is an important point to understand, because organic feeling isn't rational. It can't be explained; trying to explain it is in many senses a waste of time. It inwardly forms a different kind of connection with my life.
The best example/examples I personally have of this are my relationship with two people who’ve died: my friend Joe and my sister. In both cases, these people did a great deal of damage to our shared emotional relationship; they were troubled individuals who, despite being — I think— good, loving souls, were confronted with so many karmic consequences in this one lifetime that they didn't know how to deal with them, and lashed out at others accordingly.
It wasn't until after they died that my real feelings for them became apparent. Death, in other words, became a gift that unveiled what real feeling towards them might be, instead of the emotional reactions I constantly had.
The unveiling that death confers upon relationship, if real feeling participates, invariably shows that love conquers everything. This can't be used as some naïve trope with which to explain the world; because it's inexplicable, in that the world won't allow itself to be explained on these terms, at least not rationally. Explanation, you see, isn’t a feeling; it’s a rationalization of one kind another.
Feeling is a coming into love.
And this coming into love, which is brokered by God's own love, is sent in small parts through feeling. It can't be sent in any large amount, because it’s a powerful elixir and we aren’t capable of receiving it in quantity. If we’re fortunate, we receive just enough of God's love to position ourselves inwardly with understanding, where we can begin to see that love is more important than our outward reactions or our opinions or thoughts about another person.
Well, you are probably saying to yourself, there he goes, as usual; first he tells me that something can't be explained, then he tries to explain it.
Well, that's true; but that in and of itself is also a rationalization, and we are trying to move beyond rationalization into a tactile, organic and mutual understanding between one another about what love is.
Love always forgives.
I'm not like that; most of me doesn’t want to forgive in any sense. Yet when I want to draw a lesson from outward life about how love always forgives, I'm reminded of the story about the Iranian woman who mounted the gallows to confront her son's murder just before he was executed.
The event sent shockwaves through the Iranian community—and the world at large. This woman, in that one instant, became a teacher on behalf of God. She spoke the truth of God's will and mercy, not man's words of vengeance and murder. Even though we’re not on the gallows (except, of course, metaphorically) we are not a condemned prisoner, not an accusing mother—although that this is where judgment leads; it is destructive. This force of judgment, that ought to help us to reach sound conclusions and make good decisions, too often gets turned to our darker side. Forgiveness is in fact the only thing that can turn us back from the dark side so that we once again face God—in life, in love.
Speaking on this leads me to the question of organic shame — which Gurdjieff cited as the foundation of objective morality. Organic shame is clearly an aspect of organic feeling. I will discuss that in the next post or two.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.