Monday, December 18, 2017

The contemplation of grace

Coimbatore, Oct. 12

This October has been a month for the intense contemplation of the receiving of life and the question of our relationship to grace.

I understand that most individuals either think of grace as the theoretical relationship of benevolence bestowed by God, or good fortune of one kind or another — a life in which we are lucky enough to have enough food, friends, sufficient means to clothe and house ourselves, and so on. 

Sometimes it goes deeper. I’m touched in particular by Jean-Marie Crocker, whose son Denton was killed in the Vietnam War. (See Ken Burns' film, Vietnam.) She transcended her loss and understood that her son’s very existence itself was proof of God’s grace. This is a true thing.

Yet it is a material thing; and although grace is a truly material thing, because it is an actual substance that flows into it through God’s great mercy and love, it is somewhat greater than the material world. Grace and prana, life energy, are actually the same thing and they represent the actual moment-to-moment manifestation of God’s Divine Love and Wisdom on this level. They are eternally present and all things are made of them; this is why the whole world and even the universe is filled with grace. Yet we don’t sense that very often, even though we are designed as receivers that can actively sense grace as it flows into being.

The action of grace is perpetual, and a human being has the opportunity over the course of a lifetime to come into alignment with that force if one opens one’s heart. Yet that is not a simple thing at all; for it is true that our hearts are hardened, and we don’t see that clearly at all. 

That point of work has been very active in me for the last eight years within the context of the prayer, “I call to thee from the depths of mine iniquity. I have not delivered myself sufficiently unto thee; I know not how.” 

This very essential prayer takes many years to act on the inward being and must be repeated not just during morning prayer, but all day long, and remembered as a fact. I think I know how to present myself to the Lord and make a right offering; but in fact I don’t understand that at all.  It is only through constant prayer and repeated recognition of the perpetual action of grace — whether I sense it or not—that this realization can penetrate me more deeply.

Well then. Grace is a substance, a material action — it bridges the divide between glory (God’s infinite and unknowable Being) and mercy (the act and action of material manifestation and life.) In this sense it is the bridge between unknowing and knowing; and that ought to give us a clue about its nature. The consciousness of our being stands in the gap between the transcendent and the immanent; and grace is what flows into this to help us be.

So often this month, I have come back to seeing that the duty of mankind is to continually put our own opinions and desires aside, and make a conscious and intentional decision to stay quiet and to serve, as intelligently as one can, within the moment at hand. 

This requires many moments of acceptance in which I need to see that my own desires do not come first. 

It requires many moments in which I understand that grace comes strictly in order to help a compassionate attitude be born, an attitude which is considerate towards others.

It requires a different kind of intelligence than the action of the intellectual mind, which is agile but misguided. 

And it also requires a balance of the emotional life in which it is seen that ordinary feelings are like little children that run in every direction inside us, and that need to be gently and lovingly disciplined and redirected so that they don’t cause mischief of one kind or another. This is like herding cats, from an inner point of view. Once one agrees to undertake this task, it keeps one quite busy.

We ought to live in grace. 

Not because there is any coercion or force involved here, but because it’s our duty to do so: this is what we owe God in return for having given us life.


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.

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