Eve and the Serpent, the Cloisters, Manhattan
“I do not see that I am like a puppet, a machine set in motion by influences from outside.”
—The Reality of Being, Jeanne Salzmann, P. 12
Last night, when I was falling asleep, I had a specific thought about this matter and its relationship to our wish, to what we want. It’s the case, throughout life, that we encounter innumerable examples of what one might call “completed” confluences of truth, that is, truths that have arisen outside of ourselves either in a general way or in specific other beings, and we decide we want that confluence of truth, not our own. Each confluence of truth, in other words, blends with others, endlessly forming and reforming. This is in the nature of truth: every object, event, circumstance, and condition is a form of metaphysical water, and these properties cause truth to behave in exactly the same way water does. Think that over; because it is an important metaphor. Understanding it properly will help to understand many other things. But one needs to understand this with all three of the centers, not just the mind. When one understands that point organically through sensation and feeling, many things will change quite decisively.
In any event, for now think about the fact that we are constantly interested in the confluences of truth of other people, not our own. We want to be like her, or like him; we want what he or she has. Or we want what it has, if it is some massive institution we wish to be a member of. We have no separation from our desires, and every one of them comes from outside.
There are actually two sets of desires and every human being. One of them is on the planetary or astral level, and it is this exact set of desires I am speaking of here. They are the same desires spoken of in the quote that opens this essay. There is a second set of desires that comes from the solar level, an inner set of desires that are not initiated by influences from the outer world (ordinary influences) and have a much higher aim in mind. That aim is awakened, and livened, and motivated by love alone, but without concentrating enough of the divine particles of Being in one’s awareness, through constant suffering and inward effort, one cannot come under these influences.
In the meantime, the intense focus on (identification with) influences that belong to other persons or circumstances draws us away from proper attention to every influence that can help us grow spiritually. Most of these influences come from very small things, as Meister Eckhart says in his last sermon. That is to say, they are granular and consist of what we would look at, under ordinary circumstances, as very unimportant things. What he is referring to, of course, are visions of The Perfection, which are individual intuitive understandings of the divine and sacred nature of all the risings. Spiritual work is aimed at encountering more of this “microscopic” or “granular” material because the encounter with this kind of material consists of encounters with and ingestion of the divine particles of Being (Gurdjieff’s impressions) that can effect an inward transformation. These are all very tiny things, these precious substances, and they might be revealed in a spot of light on a polished stone, or the angle that a plastic box of dental floss opens at. They will most likely not consist of the giant magical events that we encounter, spectacular landscapes, extraordinary symphonies. Those things are all much larger than we are and we can appreciate them, but they can’t really be used for our work in the same way that the smallest things can. When we build our inward spiritual home, we build it one grain of sand at a time, not with huge blocks that rise to the heavens. It is always built with a proper kind of attention; and that attention needs to be “free,” that is, located precisely where the confluence of truth concentrates itself in Being.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.