Friday, December 6, 2019

A Broken Heart, Part V: Attractive Irritations

Yantai, China

I had to put this essay aside briefly while I landed in Wuhan and navigated Chinese immigration and customs; while I was trotting through immigration, it occurred to me, in the context of this discussion with myself, that we don’t really understand what objectivity is.

The parts in us that discuss objectivity are not objective.

Let me explain that a bit. Objectivity exists naturally within the presence of Grace; it doesn’t exist naturally within my own presence except insofar as Grace suffuses it. It is, in other words, a property of the Divine Inflow; and if we think about this for a moment, of course that becomes quite obvious. Divine Properties emanate from Divine sources, not from me. The instant I become confused about that all is done for.

Yet it’s common to become confused about this and “mix” objectivity—that is, my flawed and ego-driven concept of it—with the events of life. This is how I pose as an authority and develop the attractive irritations that I invest in so often in my ordinary Being. Attractive irritations, which are all too commonplace—they orchestrate most of the events in the average inner day—, always rely on a secret presumption that I occupy an objective point of view. Study them for a while and you’ll see this more clearly.

The question remains; why do we insist on pretending we, from ourselves, know anything about objectivity when it’s so clear it emanates from a higher level? We spend our lives investing in an ersatz objectivity which has nothing to do with real objectivity; and even if we’re infused on a daily basis with the influence of Grace and its consequent Divine Objectivity, we still insist on pretending we know what it means to be objective. This indicates that the parts of ourselves that are selfish are like untrained, impulsive dogs that do whatever they like regardless of the master’s commands; and perhaps this sheds some new light on exactly what Gurdjieff meant when he said one should wish not to die like a dog.

The better parts of ourselves, disturbingly, die like a dog every time we appropriate an authority we don’t actually have; and if we attune our seeing to an unselfish place according to the influence of a higher nature, we at once begin to see that death of dogs in a thousand tiny instances in life. It calls into question everything that we are and all that we do.

Yet we have no right to condemn that action; only to allow it to engender remorse. And this is the dilemma, because condemnation is ingrained into the deepest texture of our natural (ordinary) selves.

Here we come to the crux of the issue of why the medieval mystics hammered so hard on their anvils of eternal damnation: they want it to be about punishment.In this way we see how a flawed interpretation and experience (by flawed I mean limited) of the Divine gives birth to a vision of punitive character which belongs all to clearly not to God, but to man. There is a wish to condemn; and yet that wish stands in irrevocable contradiction to the natural impulse of God’s Divine Grace. 

Love does not care how we are. It simply cares. The instant that love cedes its territory to selectivity, it is no longer Divine. And it’s this experience of simply caring that can flow into us in its purest form, quite simply and quietly. 

The overwhelming experience of Divine ecstasy may eclipse such experience in its sheer intensity; yet it’s the day-to-day relationship between the human and Divine, bereft of spectacle, that feeds being at its root; and if we’re not fed from the root, we’re not nourished. 

Part VI of this seven part series publishes on Dec. 9.

May your heart be close to God, 
and God close to your heart.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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