Whoever would name the soul according to her simplicity, purity, and nakedness, as she is in herself, he can find no name for her.
Meister Eckart, The Complete Mystical Works, p. 148
Try to think of our inner Being, such as it is, as a willful child. A child who has its own way almost all of the time and can’t see its relationship to other children, or the world at large.
All of the life one has is exactly such an entity. Now, it’s true there are some children too intractable to tame by any ordinary method; but for the average child, or really perhaps any child, if one wants the child to come to a new and different sense of value one has to gently draw that child nearer through love—not demands, or corporal punishment.
In a perversion of both intent and means, because of the way we are already constructed inside, we automatically tend to begin with the idea of demand and punishment as a means. This simply isn’t going to work; it goes against the very nature of inner Being itself because it’s based on the wrong postulate. By analogy, it’s as though we start out in our spiritual work with the postulate that parallel lines always meet. No wonder we get bad results!
There has to be a different place to begin. The entire enterprise of inner spiritual work needs to be realigned and reimagined using a new set of tools which is not based on coercion or punishment. We are never going to whip our souls into heaven.
The intimacy of God’s Love is such that, if it begins to flow inward into Being, it will without our interference slowly begin to correct our dislocation. It has a natural and Divine ability to engage in all the changes that are necessary, if we are willing to get out of the way. This is the secret meaning of the phrase, “God’s Will be done.”
Now, you are not going to believe this (due to the dislocation of value) but God’s Will is the most extraordinary, subtle, and powerful force in the created universe, and exists at all times and everywhere. Indeed it cannot be said to exist anywhere, or even at any time, since it is beyond time and beyond creation and exists perpetually. It is what causes all of created reality to manifest—and is the root value of all that we are and everything we do, despite our own dislocation of value.
God’s will is forever seeking us. Meister Eckhart’s sermons do a phenomenal job—over their full range, of course, but often even in any single sermon—of explaining this. God has no greater wish than to correct our dislocation of value but this cannot happen unless we let Him. Herein lies another subtle point; because (as Swedenborg pointed out) God loved his creation so much that when we willfully demanded our own autonomy (a cosmological action that lies at the root of all the legends of the fall) He granted it to us.
This incredibly selfless action left God in a position where His creation was granted, through Love, the power to say no to Love.
In our dislocation of inner value, this is precisely what we are doing. We refuse the intimacy of the Lord; we think we are important, even though everything we are begins and ends in total dependency on God’s grace. So each of us is, in a certain way, a manifestation of Satan, such as we are—and yet we wonder why things work out so badly on this planet, both for ourselves and each other. One might say, without hyperbole, that earth is a planet of demons—machines that intended to resist the Will of God from the very beginning.
In this sense, both hell and purgatory are not external places or conditions, but a state which we inhabit voluntarily from the moment that our inner work begins with self–valuation.
Ah, and the arguments begin! All from self-will; and prosecuted with an extraordinary vigor that defies every effort to temper it. Our resistance to the inflow is very nearly bullet-proof. So even now, whether or not you are spiritually inclined, you are rejecting this, that or the other premise here. You know better than God. This conviction is so ingrained in you that you would quite frankly rather die than let it go; and many, many people do.
This is what hell is all about. Hell isn’t a bad place at all; in fact most people like it there, as it’s exactly suited to themselves and their own opinions. That is what hell is: a place that is all about me. Most of us spend the vast majority of our lives in hell without even realizing it. It isn’t somewhere else we go after we die (that’s a very different question.) Hell is as eternal and ubiquitous as heaven, and God granted us the right to live there, if we should wish to, though Love alone. The choice is ours.
Perhaps this will, if you study Gurdjieff’s ideas, give you some new insight into “the Sorrow of His Endlessness.”
My new book is now available in paperback, and as a PDF. While the book, in its first half, discusses Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson at considerable length, it also looks at the nature of the universe in some depth from a cosmological point of view in the second half, The Information of the Soul.
For the text of the introduction, see the PDF link.
Novel, Myth and Cosmos at Amazon (paperback)
PDF file for digital devices cab be ordered at:
Novel, Myth and Cosmos PDF format
An iTunes bookstore version will be available soon.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.