Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Coincident Multiverse, part IV

One of the signature ideas behind the concept of the multiverse, as it exists today, is the idea that different universes would have different laws. The coincident multiverse proposes a potentially infinite number of different universes that have the same laws; which is, I believe, a departure from what we might call the current "standard model" of the multiverse.

 I propose this simply because law is law; in biology, we know that convergent evolution produces the same morphological types over and over again, simply because that is what works. In the same way, chemistry produces similar substances to perform specific functions in biological organisms, which are often surprisingly similar – or even nearly identical — in a wide range of different creatures, simply because chemistry has laws, and what works in one case is what will work in another.

The idea of the coincident multiverse is a somewhat more powerful one, because it argues that the particles we have in this universe — which "appear" and "disappear" in a baffling and seemingly impossible manner — are the same in all the universes, and that they serve the same function in all those universes. They are an ethereal fabric upon which all of the universes that arise as a result of them are based. The idea of the coincident multiverse is, in other words, a consonant multiverse, one in which an essentially identical quantum fabric is shared across a range of individual space-times. When one thinks about it, the proposition is in fact quite logical.

Much has been made in modern physics of the fact that if the physical laws of this universe were even a tiny bit different, the universe could not exist. I have yet to read a physicist who has asked the question, what if the laws cannot be different? That is to say, what if the idea of the consonant/coincident multiverse is correct, and that universes can only exist one way, that is, by the exact and singular manifestation of the laws we perceive? This is reminiscent of Gurdjieff's statement that for one thing to be different, everything would have to be different. Physics imagines multiple universes where the alteration of law puts them beyond the reach of each other; but in putting them in such a region, we also put them beyond the reach of reality as we know it. 

I think this is the essential problem with claiming that quantum particles appear and disappear — nothing that we know of appears and disappears by some invoked magic that allows it to exist in this universe, cease existing, and then exist again on a scale of time so tiny that it is nearly immeasurable. The quantum particles — the energy packets that appear and disappear — do not cease to exist in these instants — they simply relocate from one position in one universe to a consonant position in another nearly identical universe, which shares identity through law, although not necessarily the exact progression of circumstance.  That is, although their specific role will vary from universe to universe, their power, their action, the mechanistic nature of their manifestation, does not vary. A gluon in this universe does the same thing that it does in all the other universes it transits in a single second.

This  proposition preserves the information in atoms and subatomic particles, as well as the logic behind their existence — the alternate universes they arise in also benefit from their information package, just as ours does. The mechanism does not require quantum particles to perform magical feats of death and reincarnation — it logically explains their departure and arrival from measurable existence through a mechanism of location alone.

Our consciousness and awareness of ourselves may perform quite similar functions, and pondering this could be of considerable interest. It may be that consciousness and awareness which we experience is shared on levels that we are unaware of, which bear a direct relationship to the consonant or coincident universe theory.

 Human beings have a habit of inventing fantasies that lie beyond any possible reality; yet any scientist would tell you that, generally speaking, reality as we see it makes a good predictor for what will come next. This proves true over long stretches of historical time in biology, physics, chemistry, and even in societies and philosophies. There is, in other words, a consistency that only fantasy (in the sense of imagining what could only be unreal) can transcend. Swedenborg, among others, insisted that the entire natural world as we see it is a correspondence to a higher spiritual level; that is, his own model of earth and heaven rested on the idea that the identity was significantly shared. To the point, he said earth and heaven are so alike that many souls who die are not aware they are dead unless it is clearly explained to them. 

The metaphysical implications of these ideas are too large for me to digest in a few brief days; I  suspect I'll be pondering them for some time.


Monday, June 29, 2015

The Coincident Multiverse, part III

 The coincident multiverse theory does not propose an irrevocably impenetrable fabric between universes.

Modern physicists, in their proposal of multiverses, often suggest that alternate universes will have different physical laws — but this is not a necessity; and given the absolute density of the known universe, the proposal that alternate universes accompany it in the same "location" doesn't seem absurd at all. Nor is the idea that laws in such an alternate universe might be nearly identical a stretch.

All of the spiritual and psychic phenomenon that have been reported for thousands of years may relate directly to the coincident multiverse, in the sense that the fabric between universes is shared at the subatomic level, and they thus influence one another.

There would be cases where that fabric was then "thin" enough for objects, events, circumstances, and conditions from alternate universes to "leak" between one another — a form of metaphysical cross talk between two distinct and separate but coincident physical universes. So what appears to us to be a "ghost" is in fact an existing conscious entity or Being from such an alternate universe; and because it's entirely possible that the nature of consciousness in these alternate universes may vary considerably, angels and archangels may well be creatures able to transcend the fabric of their own universes due to their energetic natures.

There may, in other words, be a dialogue between universes in the same way that there is a dialogue between cells through gap junctions.

The idea of the coincident multiverse bridges the gap between the spiritual and scientific in the sense that the so-called "supernatural" and the natural are bound together in the mind of God according to a true metaphysics: that is, a physics that is lawful in exactly the same way Ouspensky's hypothetical seminary student proposed.  In seeing it this way, we acknowledge that all universes in the multiverse are bound by comprehensible law; yet law is comprehensible only within the context of the universe it manifests in.

 The idea of the coincident multiverse creates infinite room for the manifestation of all of the aspects of the mind of God—The Reality— as Ibn al Arabi and Meister Eckhart see it, while at the same time allowing for the transcendent — an unknowable and overarching order — to manifest at a higher level above it. The idea of inter-penetrability, that is, the diffusion of all multi-verses within one another, is furthermore consistent with Gurdjieff's explanation, that is, that all the levels of the universe ( that is, the multiverse) are present within this universe, that is, they all inter-penetrate one another. To be sure, the idea I am proposing expands somewhat on his own, but I don't think they are completely inconsistent with one another.

The coincident multiverse also allows for complete fulfillment of the statistically comprehensible idea that everything that ever can happen, all of the potential future outcomes of every indeterminate quantum state and, yes, personal life, must inevitably be fulfilled along one or the other timeline in the development of the multiverse. What is different about this theory is that it does not assume complete divergence; instead, it invokes coincidence, to suggest that all of these events take place side-by-side, so to speak, but are merely invisible to one another due to the separation of the multiverse, which is—by what some might see as a great irony—perpetually illustrated by the behavior of subatomic particles.

Have fun with it.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Coincident Multiverse, part II

 The existence of multiple universes in immediate proximity to this universe, interpenetrating one another, is the coincident multiverse. In order to understand why there is physical evidence for this, we need to understand the nature and behavior of subatomic particles, notably, the particles that form quarks, which are called gluons— because, presumably, they glue particles together.

Gluons, like some other elusive particles that display seemingly impossible ( that is, inherently inexplicable) behaviors— for example, electrons and photons— appear and disappear in what is, for all intents and purposes, an infinite number of times in every second.

Now, to appear is to exist — and to disappear is to cease to exist — and this defies the logic of the physical universe, since something that exists cannot cease to exist and then reincarnate itself instantaneously, at least not as far as we know. If these particles are, however, moving between universes in the multiverse, all of which are coincident, the particles do not need to travel any distance in order to manifest in other universes — when they leave this one, they simply manifest their presence for a brief fraction of a nanosecond inside a directly adjacent universe, where they serve exactly the same purpose and may well even serve the same set of laws — after all, given the theory of the multiverse, there is no inherent barrier to the idea of an infinite number of universes with the same laws as ours, is there?

 I think readers will agree that both the physical and metaphysical implications of this idea are profound. In the first place, it neatly explains where subatomic particles "go" when they cease to exist, by preserving both their character, energy, function, and purpose in a comprehensible context. If this theory of mine is correct, many of the inexplicable energy interactions that take place in subatomic particles can be explained simply by invoking their interaction with fellow particles in other universes, upon which they arrived back in our universe according to the changed state which is lawfully invoked by those interactions. In this way, there is in fact a form of communication between various universes; they are interdependent as well as being coincident, because the phase changes in subatomic particles in each universe affect the outcome of the phase changes in other universes, causing them to manifest in apparently inexplicable — but in fact inherently lawful — ways.

If this is correct, it means that many of the mechanisms that can't be explained in standard physics models and in quantum physics remain inexplicable only because the lawful interactions governing them lie in adjacent universes — with the reciprocal being true for us, as well.

If this is correct, it ought to be possible to test the idea scientifically by constructing a hypothetical alternate universe in which particles are acted on according to lawful principles — principles, in other words, understandable in this universe — which, although they are invisible to us, lawfully produce the changes that we see in this universe which can't be explained.

This has a number of metaphysical implications which I will get to in the next essay; for now, suffice it to say that the idea links physics and metaphysics in an interesting way. For now, I'd like to continue by pointing out that the idea of the coincident multiverse may well help explain long-standing questions in physics, such as the location of dark matter. If the manifestation of dark matter — that is, the invisible forces that seem to make up most of the mass in this universe— arises as a result of interactions in the coincident multiverse, it may well be possible to arrive at determinations about the nature of other coincident universes based solely on the amount of their mass that affects our own.

There are a lot of ideas to play around with here, but the basic concept is that many of the unseen (and, to some, supernatural) forces expressing themselves in both the quantum and  standard model can be explained by the coincident multiverse.

 In the next essay, we will discuss some of the metaphysical implications of this idea.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Coincident Multiverse, part I

Physics has proposed a model of the universe which suggests that there are infinite number of universes —that is, the multiverse —which differ from one another in the makeup of their physical laws.

 In general, when we think of such a concept, we think of these other universes is quite different than ours and existing in some other place and time, even though this can't really be the place — after all, the universe itself, for each one that exists, defines place and time within itself, so place and time within one universe cannot, approximately, be place and time and another.

It's useful to examine this idea in light of Ibn al Arabi's discussion of the nature of the mind of God — in which he explains that all thoughts which can ever be had, as well as all thoughts which we are not capable of having, are all contained within the mind of God, which transcends all conceptuality,  while at the same time containing it. These ideas find consonance (not resonance, a word often used but generally misunderstood in context) in the teachings of Meister Eckhart. The ideas behind them are, in fact, quite ancient, and relate to a dialogue between the nature of transcendence and immanence that dates back to the earliest histories of philosophy.

In any event, the metaphysical ideas coincide quite neatly with the idea of the multiverse, since the multiverse not only solves some of the more vexing problems in physics, it also provides a distinct mechanism whereby all of the thoughts in the mind of God — even ones that are impossible in this universe — can be realized, as the masters say they must be. One could spend a great deal of time explaining the details behind this one large concept, but it's necessary to ingest it — inhale it, so to speak — as a single thing in order to appreciate the fact that it manifests the Dharma in a very active way. This may not be the way that everyone prefers to encounter the Dharma, but for those who find thinking and its attendant manifestations in feeling and the body fulfilling, it is a bracing and exhilarating possibility.

In any event, I do not intend to do the reader's thinking about it for them. So think about it.

What I want to get at in today's post is that this idea of the separation of the multiverse — the idea that such multiple universes are irrevocably separated from one another — clearly has to be a false one. There is no distinct law that says multiverses cannot communicate; and indeed, I think there is scientific and physical, as well as metaphysical, evidence (of the kind naysayers claim cannot exist) near at hand to support this theory.

In order to cross this bridge, one has to first understand that the multiverses do not exist in separate places or  completely distinct and foreign space—times; they exist: incident with one another, which is why I have titled this series of posts the coincident multiverse. The multiverses exist, in other words, nested within one another and in complete harmonious congruence. What I mean is that we inhabit this universe, but there are an infinite number of additional universes in immediate proximity to us that share the same exact location in the fabric of the mind of God —The Reality, as Ibn al Arabi called it.  They are related, like the petals on a flower, all of which join to a single stem.

 We will continue this line of discussion in the next post on June 27.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Vessel, Truth, Unknown


These three principles are the things that can, as an exercise, be held within awareness at a given moment as a path to a different understanding of how I am.

 They can be described using words, but the essence of this practice is to experience, not define—that is, I have a moment in which I see, without the words, as it were, how these three properties inform (inwardly form) my existence.


I am a vessel. That is, my physical body, my mental body, and my emotional body are containers, spaces, into which the world around me flows through impressions.

The vessel is a single whole thing, but it has the capacity to receive all three kinds of impressions. I attempt to immediately experience myself as a vessel—an empty space into which these impressions flow. 

I’m just going to try to experience that as the inflow—the inward flow, which consists of two experiences; an inward spiritual energy that creates the capacity to receive, and an outward set of energies, immediate impressions, which flow in through the senses. 

“I” (conscious Being) exists at the conjunction of these two influences (inward flows.) 


The inward flow of these impressions into me—impressions received both inwardly and outwardly—is Truth. That is, the experience is truthful and irrevocable, before I evaluate it. 

There is a possibility for allowing these impressions to arrive without the interference of the conceptual mind. In this way they are fresh and untainted, that is, they simply exist. I don’t interfere. I sense and feel within this vessel, but I ignore thought by unknowing.


The state I am in as I receive Truth into the vessel through the inward flow is one of unknowing. 

I know nothing; all things arrive, and they arrive as mysteries. I can’t say anything about them because they are of themselves; not of me; and to apply me and mine to them invalidates them, in the sense that I have interfered. The one creative use of thought I can engage in here is suspension.

So in this receiving mode, I can for a moment take in a very different world which is not ruled by mind or analogy.  

It is living. Not thinking about living.  


Sunday, June 21, 2015

The virgin birth

Holy Family

When I think of the virgin birth, I often think of it as the birth of Christ; and to me, this has usually seemed to be the major event, perhaps the only thing of significance in the matter – that Christ is born.

Yet this virgin birth is a birth in two ways. Not only is Christ born—not only does the new man emerge into spiritual Being—but Mary also becomes a mother. 

In this way, the experience of Mary is just as important as the experience of Christ; and aside from the outside characters — Joseph, the wise men, the shepherds, etc. – there are these two central characters, Mary and Christ. Mary becomes a mother through Christ; and she is there, experiencing the birth just as much as Christ is. For her, too, it is a major transformation.

In becoming a mother, Mary takes on the role of she who nurtures — for without her, of course, the Christ child cannot grow into a man. In this way she takes on a new role in life—she who nurtures, the mother, the one who nurses, the one who holds and who loves. 

This is an essential divine role, because she cannot take the role on without the divine emergence of Christ as her son. So she, in her own way, but comes the mother of all mankind, in the same way that Christ is the savior. We see through this vehicle of Mary that the divine can only come into being through the fecund and endlessly creative property of the mother.

Within us, within the depth of our soul, Mary is there as a mother, forever nurturing us in the birth of this new being we hope to encounter and be one with. She truly becomes our intercessor, because without her, the Christ within us cannot mature.

We have a natural depth in us that is meant to receive the seed of the Lord — the impressions of our lives, which is the creative element of all that we become within our own being — and nurture it. Now, generally speaking, I'm blind to this capacity of myself to receive within the natural depth of my own being — and yet it ought to be the most intimate and real part of my existence, because everything grows from it, just as a tree grows from its unseen roots.

I am called to this depth of being so that I can understand the role that Mary plays as my own mother, not just as the mother of Christ. For she lives within me, as she lives within all beings and all creatures, serving as the nurturing principal. If I understood this more deeply, my life would be quite different.


Friday, June 19, 2015


Virgin and Child in a Niche
Netherlandish, circa 1500
Metropolitan Museum, NY
May 25.

Late afternoon; golden light coming from across the creek, through the branches of the maple tree into my second-floor office.

A few impressions and thoughts from today.

I have finished a book by a friend; it is oddly dissatisfying, anecdotal, not well organized, quite intellectual. Surprisingly so, given the emotional depths this man is capable of tapping. Talks about a number of things, but not the inflow — not the energy. Not, in any event, in a way that can be meaningful for the reader.

Another impression from about the same moment. Another friend, a woman who I met at the All and Everything conference— asks, what is the Holy Spirit?

 There is a great deal of talk about inner work, but — with the lone exception of Jeanne de Salzmann's work — very little discussion about receiving the energy, whereas, this is the only thing that matters.

One can philosophize in ten thousand directions, and either reach conclusions—or refuse to do so.

We will all continue to be consumed by this outward and ordinary life, no matter what we do; yet there is sustenance from a different level available to us, and it repeatedly calls us back through our organic relationship to it, if we form an intimate connection to it.

It would be foolish to say that we can rely on this alone; and it would be certain to say that we will betray it again and again; but it is real, and it is necessary. This receiving of the Holy Spirit is the only foundation on which the rest of a real inner work can be based; and all of the outward phenomena which it engenders— the experiences, the insights, what have you — are ephemeral and unimportant relative to what it teaches about relationship.

I am required by circumstances to live with who and what I am. I'm not required to be aware of it — that is a choice available to me, if I come into relationship with an energy. Why don't people discuss this critical point more? It seems to me that individuals and spiritual work would rather talk about almost anything than making an effort to come into a real relationship with the energy. Is this because no one understands what this means? Is it because everyone wants to avoid seeing what we lack? I don't know. The only thing I am sure of is that without this energy, no work is meaningful or even possible.

Something new needs to be born in us. It is not of the mind. Go away from this thing and seek within; seek with sensation, seek with intimacy, use anything but thought for this search.

There ought to be a poetry in inner work; 
And it always ought to come from elsewhere.
Think of a poem that is written, 
Then all the words removed, so that nothing but commas remain:
The poem pauses...
And pauses before the next pause.
The essence of every poem is in the pauses, 
So this is perhaps the most essential poem, which can be employed anywhere, at any time, 
To describe anything.
You are welcome to claim it as your own; 
but use it mindfully.
Another way of looking at it: 
Everything in a poem that matters 
Comes between the lines, 
So take all the lines out, 
Leaving only punctuation.
Everything you need to know about the poem 
Will still be there,



Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The concept of betterment, part III — a living experience of inquiry

One comes back again, as always, to this question of the inflow and how the divine energy reaches us, practically, immediately, and in ordinary life.

The process of inquiry is the process, ultimately, of understanding this; to be sure, there are much narrower interpretations, but they all lead to this in the end if the inquiry expands. One needs to expand one's attention, one's organic sensitivity, and the center of gravity of one's being through a right feeding of the spirit and soul in order to acquire enough material to become sensitized to this question in an organic way, that is, through an actual and living experience of the vibrations — the prana, the Holy Spirit — that matter itself is made of. One needn't live within this experience perpetually; but it must be a constant and irrefutable presence in life in order for one to begin to have the organic understanding necessary to create a more living experience of inquiry.

 For as long as our experience of inquiry is directed outwardly, attached to material things, it will function in a remarkably effective way, but it can only achieve outward things. It becomes process of the manipulation of materials, which we call technology; and we can see that technology is able to evolve to extraordinary degrees without any actual evolution on the part of those who engage in its use. Only an inward evolution — an inner effort betterment — can lead us to a moment where these technologies serve something better than themselves, that is, ever better computers and nuclear weapons, ever better guns, and so on.

So we need this living experience of inquiry, which becomes an active and a conscious questioning — not the passive one we are so accustomed to employing in our everyday life.

The living experience of inquiry begins with self-doubt; I am not sure of who I am, or what I am doing. I become willing to erase the blackboard over and over again, because with each step I take, I see that I am inadequate and don't know what to do next. I am willing to pursue an inquiry into who and what I am to try and discover what I do not know. I am a vessel able to receive truth, and I don't know what that is. So I want to discover truth — and only within the immediate organic experience of life can truth ever be discovered. It is a living property of manifestation, of what I call objects, events, circumstances, and conditions — and it arises, as I pointed out in the last post, in relationship between these various arisings.

One of the peculiar things about human manifestation is that I forget this constantly, no matter how far I go and no matter how much help I am given. There is a tendency in human beings for everything to collapse back downwards the moment that a force which lifts it up is absent; and I need to be internally — that is, within the present moment always — vigilant with my inquiry in order to understand this completely.

It is the vigilance and the inquiry themselves that help provide the force that lifts life upwards — hence we celebrate those who work hard, and often, without regard for their own welfare but always for the welfare of others.

This is what lifts everything upwards, be it inwardly or outwardly — and whenever things become too comfortable, I ought to be suspicious. Lifting is a difficult activity, and although everyone needs rest, when I have it too easy, I am not understanding properly.


Monday, June 15, 2015

The concept of betterment, part II— Improvement, from an inner point of view

 In terms of human society — in terms of how much wealth people have, in terms of how much food they have to eat, how good their health is, how protected from violence they are — it's possible to measure improvement. To starve, to be sick, to die through violence — I think it's fair enough to say that these are bad things, and that improvement over those alternatives are possible. Yet it may be more difficult to measure improvement from an inner point of view.

It's very often said, in spiritual works, "we don't work for results," and yet, why does anyone ever do anything, if not hoping for an improvement? To work, as Meister Eckhart recommends, "for God alone," and not for ourselves — is this actually possible? Perhaps it is, in the most deeply esoteric compartments of the soul that are generally hidden from view, but in addition to this loftiest of goals, there is, without a doubt, a wish for improvement, for betterment, in every human being, if only in their relationship to God alone.

It is possible to starve, to be sick, to die through violence in an inner sense. If one does not receive the spiritual food one requires, eventually, one grows spiritually sick — and, perhaps even, all the way up to Kierkegaard's sickness unto death. So there is, I am certain, a betterment achievable through inner work. That is, an effort to come into relationship with the self. This effort is a dynamic, relational, and interactive one, that involves a conscious recognition of inner agency — a will towards responsibility for one's inner life. Let us remember that the chief difference between the mechanical, automated cosmos of Gurdjieff's original universe, where everything happen by itself, and the new one, where the Lord introduced intentional inconsistencies, requiring the action of outside agencies for completion, is one of relationship. I stressed this point many times at the 2015 annual All and Everything Conference, where the study was chiefly centered on The Holy Planet Purgatory,  where the technical details of this chapter came under scrutiny and dissection.

 This question of relationship is essential; it is at the heart of the way the inner (personal) and outer cosmos function. One comes into relationship not only with others, but with one's Self; and one does so through a process of inquiry. This process of inquiry is the living force through which all things arise and better themselves; and it is in fact true that Love itself, that supreme love which created all that is and can ever Be, is it engaged itself in that process of inquiry, which is of itself and by itself an essential part of that Love.

 We admit a good; we admit a process of betterment; and we admit a process of inquiry that leads towards it. With no good, there is no need for betterment; and with no betterment, there is no need for inquiry. So even an atheistic scientific discipline is founded, ultimately, on the idea of the good, and of betterment; otherwise, why inquire? Of itself, the process is worthless. Without betterment and a  consequent good to strive for, it is nothing more than masturbation — in the sense that it is a fruitless activity.

 The inner process of inquiry, should it be conscious, must eventually lead one to ask, how do I express the good, as I understand it? If it is only my own good I want to express, I am selfish, and want to come into relationship only with myself; but if I wish to express a good that is greater than myself, then, I have a wish to come into relationship with greater forces and participate on a higher, or cosmological, level, even if all of my interpretations may be narrowly confined to this level.

Of course, it is possible to open the inner being, the soul itself, to higher levels; and indeed, those higher levels are expressed within Being and existence in human beings from the beginning, because all things are ultimately created by the inflow of a higher energy, even those which appear to us to be inanimate.

The process of inquiry ultimately leads to understanding that fact from as many points of view as possible, but, most especially, practical ones.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

The concept of betterment, part I

There is a long-standing discussion in biological evolution about whether things develop from "inferior" to "superior" forms; about whether or not there is any logical progression, any improvement, and how meaningful this apparently relative concept is in the sense of evolution.

One could argue, for example, that everything is already good enough just as it is; which would mean nothing ever has to change, in biology or otherwise. Yet change is perpetual; adjustment is inevitable, and evolution seems built into the DNA — quite literally, in the case of biology — of the universe. That is to say, when it comes to life, and all of the active agencies that it engenders, things change, and there tends to be a progression, and that progression is, apparently, a progression of improvements — improved fitness, improved health, improved reproduction, improved adaptability, and so on. If this did not take place, when environments changed, as they so often do, creatures would all die out and that would be the end of it.

This is how it works in the natural world. Human beings have adopted the concept of betterment in an evolutionary sense to suit themselves in the civic, social, and administrative activities of life; few would argue that we don't want better food, better water, better error, better economies, better institutions, and so on. The fact that the trend seems to so consistently be in the opposite direction is another question; the bottom line is that there is a wish in mankind for improvement. Even though this is a deeply emotional circumstance in human beings, intellectuals — scientists, agnostics, and atheists, for example — still sign on to the idea based on a set of humanistic (whatever those are) principles. There are few who argue that working towards the bad is a good thing, although I suppose you could find one or two somewhere if you picked up enough rocks and looked under them.

In any event, I bring this subject up because my very oldest friend, a man I shared my childhood within Germany, and I were discussing this over lunch the other day. We work towards the good; yet do we know what the good is? We sign on to a concept of betterment; yet who knows what is better? In the end, every human being struggles with this question on their own terms; what is better, a question of truly global significance, ends up being endlessly interpreted on a microcosmic and subjective scale. In the aggregate, we hope that things will turn out better; yet the more complex the world becomes, the less likely this seems.

This external pursuit of betterment is paralleled by an indivisible, yet inexorable, will towards betterment within each individual. Individuals want things to be better first for themselves. This is the difficulty of selfishness, because of this is the only kind of betterment people want, they are wont to pursue it at the expense of others. Yet every human being, because of the combination of our emotional and intellectual capacities, has the possibility of seeing betterment in larger terms — and this is what relationship and humanity are all about. I think the issue here is that human beings can't come to grips with betterment if they don't first understand what it means to them inwardly. And this is the ground where all the great struggle in the psyche, the mind, and the soul of mankind takes place. There is no way to understand the concept of betterment without a deep inner struggle and a comprehensive education in the humanities — and these are things that are slowly being erased from the physical and psychological landscape of society, leaving us with a broad and disturbing set of questions about who we are and what we want to be.

More on this in the next post.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

On the nature of unselfishness, part III

 Examining the terms selfishness and unselfishness in their broader context, one can see that they applied directly to the idea that man has two natures. Selfishness belongs to man's lower nature; it stems from and is deeply embedded in the biological world, the mechanical world, the world of reflex action and thoughtlessness. Selfishness can pose as thoughtfulness; yet it has no need for thought, since it obeys the biological imperative.

Unselfishness is very different. It always involves awareness and thought in the first place, since it requires an individual to sacrifice — meaning to both give up and to make holy — their own interests in favor of another, which goes against the lower force of law. It is an upward movement; it reaches towards a higher principle, it engages the concept of betterment and puts it into action. One is unselfish in order to make things better.

Unselfishness belongs to man's higher nature and is inextricably tied to our effort to reach towards heaven. This is why it makes sacred; this is why sacrifice is an unselfish action. It mirrors, upside down and from the opposite direction, the sacrifices that created this universe and the love that was given up freely and unselfishly in order to give us life and make us what we are. It costs something for us to be here; and an enormous sacrifice has been made in order to create the universe in the first place. All of material reality arose from a supreme action of unselfishness on the part of the Lord; and every action that mirrors that, honors it, and turns it back towards itself is a holy and sacred thing, since it aligns directly with the original purpose and will that creation arose from.

 It may seem overly simplistic, but will we say that man has two natures, we don't need to necessarily think about all of the unusual higher energies we are able to receive income into alignment with. Before any of that means anything, we can see our two natures from the perspective of selfishness and unselfishness; and in every case, when we act on behalf of our own selfish or higher nature, we act more consciously. We make a choice to try and make things better; not just for ourselves, but for others, and other creatures — even the planet.

Of course these impulses go astray in countless ways. Because our natures are locked in a struggle with one another, there is always a tendency for selfishness to degrade the action of unselfishness. It is in its nature to do so. This is why it takes constant effort to be more than we are.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Three kinds of consciousness, part II—The essential spirit

The emotive consciousness consists of a finer and more detailed rate of vibration than the intellectual consciousness or the organic consciousness. Gurdjieff would have said that it arises from finer substances; and indeed, compared to it, the organic consciousness, which is clearly a finer and more intimate level of vibration, is coarse. 

One experiences the fine detail of emotive consciousness in feeling, not in emoting; the difference is not subtle, it is a major one — and yet unless one experiences both, the distinction will not be clear.

The emotive consciousness forms around an intense kernel of sorrow, which has at its heart an anguish. The source of this anguish is unworded, just as the source of organic sensation does not have words to serve it. We say that these two other consciousnesses in the human body are unworded simply because they do not spring from words, they do not have a center of gravity in words, and the experience of them is not an experience that flows inwardly through words.

I note that it may seem there is an irony in writing words about this; yet it is possible, using words, to precisely delineate the nature of these other two entities, so that one can begin to have a more correct understanding about them. If I don't know that there are parts of my consciousness that are unworded, that exist independent of this intellectual awareness I generally employ, I miss something. And if I make the common mistake of thinking that these unworded consciousnesses, these other parts, are subsets of my intellectual consciousness, fractional elements of it, I also miss something — and furthermore, I misunderstand it. 

It's only when I inhabit my organic consciousness and my emotive consciousness as active, equally intelligent principles within life that I understand how this question is, and it is only then that I have a chance of engaging in what Gurdjieff called “three centered being."

One of the greatest difficulties in any inward search is the tendency to begin from the mind and then try to discover these other parts. Whenever I do this, I begin from my intellectual mind; and already, I am in London, searching for Paris. I can take the underground in any direction, but I won't end up in Paris, even though I may end up in shops that have the latest fashions from Paris. In order to get to Paris — to come to organic consciousness or emotive consciousness — a complete change of location has to take place. This is a change of inner location, of course, so I can't just go buy a ticket for it. That would be a transaction that I am in charge of — and there are no transactions that, of themselves, can get me to Paris.

Well, of course this is another analogy — a clever one, but it's not quite right. Perhaps one might better say that there has to be a revolution; but that implies violence, and it's not quite right either.

In any event, this finer emotive consciousness, this sorrow, this anguish, brings me to a real understanding that is carefully woven into the warp and the weft of understanding through thought — having an intellectual concept — and understanding through organic consciousness — having an immediate sensation. These two elements combine with the sorrow of emotive consciousness to lead me to know life in a completely different way, and the three elements together produce what is called compassion — a compassion born of intelligence, an awareness of mortality, and sorrow, which together produce a wine of the most inexpressible vintage.

It is this distillation of experience that brings me to understanding; and it's not a vintage I can drink all day long. In point of fact, if I drink too much of this, it will ruin me — and yet it is the sweetest thing I can bring to my inner table, the essential spirit of a communion that begins inside a human being and connects the soul to God.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

On the nature of unselfishness, part II

 Unselfish action is conscious action; it is more conscious because it involves seeing one's place, seeing the place of others, and understanding that there is a greater good that lies outside the mechanical action of selfishness.

As long as one argues from a naturalistic point of view, pretending that we can strip all of what the human intellect adds to the world from it, there is nothing there but nature, and it has no laws or values — it simply exists, according to an idiot's laws, and functions like a machine. There are many atheists, agnostics, and naturalistic scientists who believe this. They do it, paradoxically, using the human intellect, as though one could ignore the fact that it automatically creates a value judgment no matter how one employs it. This route observation discredits all observations that attempt to strip the human intellect from the natural process; it simply isn't possible. All it is is a theoretical position dreamed up from the very premise that makes it possible; and it is this premise of intellect, this fundamental fact, that discredits any effort to eliminated. Intellect is real; it exists, and we exercise it.

We cannot, in other words, sign any validity to an understanding that discounts intellect; and intellect, in assigning value — which is one of its primary functions — already presumes a greater good.

Let's take a brief side trip into Gurdjieff's comment that intellect acts as a policeman. A policeman assigns value — that is, he knows the difference between what is right and wrong, and enforces the law, that is, what is right. This is the fundamental purpose of our intellect. It discerns what is right. Even naturalistic scientists and atheists, once they have stripped right and wrong from our system of understandings using the naturalistic mechanisms, find it necessary to try and paste it back in with glue, because they recognize that you can't have a world where there is no right and wrong. It leads straight to the gas chambers, in the end. But let's get past that grim note and move on.

The action of unselfishness is deeply tied to the concept of betterment. One acts unselfishly on behalf of the greater good; and that greater good presumes that it is possible for things to be better than they are. This is an extraordinarily important impulse inhumanity, because it is part of the conscious machinery that sets us apart from the automatic process of just living with all other creatures engage in. Wolves don't think about making things better; neither do herring.  (don't ask me why I picked wolves and herring. I just did.) No creature other than man thinks about making things better — and although it's clear we are quite confused about exactly what this means, clear that we are unusually subjective on this question, everyone agrees it is a real question for us.

Betterment involves sacrifice — it involves taking actions that serve the greater good, not one's own. This is universally recognized across a wide range of human cultures, all the way from tribal chiefdoms and the clan structure to the democratic institutions of modern societies. It is embedded in both secular and religious understandings to an extent that it is part of the great machine that drives what we call humanity and civilization. It's true that there are many different flavors of this idea, and up a great deal of disagreement about how it ought to function, or exactly what premises it is based on, but the concept the betterment is part of what makes us who we are; and it is rooted in this sacred action, this act of making holy, that begins with unselfishness and sacrifice. Every tale of heroism begins with this premise, and follows it through to a logical conclusion in which the unselfishness and sacrifice achieves a betterment of the human condition.

This will be continued in the next post.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Three kinds of consciousness, part I—unworded

Consciousness is discussed as if it were a single thing; as if I could say, I am more or less conscious, and leave it at that. Yet I think there is a much greater dimension to this question that has to be examined quite specifically in terms of both experience, intelligence, and insight in order to understand the question better.

The consciousness of the mind is very familiar to us. Yet the other two forms of consciousness that can be equally important and equally active in man are the organic sensation of being – which I would call organic consciousness — and of the emotive consciousness. 

These two consciousnesses are unawakened in the average person, so they have no experience whatsoever of the nature of these consciousnesses, although they may have had inklings and intimations from time to time.

It is impossible to begin to understand what living means without the organic consciousness. This consciousness ties itself deeply into breathing, sensation, and the roots of the body itself, so that a vibration unifying the experience of living arises in the cells and brings them together. 

This is not a thinking consciousness, so it's somewhat pointless to discuss what its attitude is in terms of words or the mind. Yet it can be described.

My organic consciousness is alive. That is enough to know; and when I am within it, I know both that I live and that I will die. In this sense, both life and death become less of a question to me, because instead of pondering them, I inhabit them, and I see that it is impossible to have one without the other.

As I write this, it is a year since my father died; so death has been on my mind. Yet it is not just on my mind; it is in my body, in terms of the awareness of vibration and the distinction between being alive and dying. Living is a vessel that contains death; and this is very different than our perception that death is an entity that takes away life. I generally think that death owns life, that all things die, but really, as I sit here early this morning — in the cool morning air of the Atlantic seashore, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina — I see that life owns death. 

Life, in fact, owns everything, when perceived from organic consciousness.

The organic consciousness can come into relationship with the intellectual consciousness. Yet they are separate entities; one thinks, the other senses. Thinking is organized along the lines of association and the assignation of labels; sensation does not submit to this kind of order. It is immediate and unworded. This is a state to inhabit, not an analogy to engage in. And there isn't any need for my mind to seize it or interfere with it: it is quite simple and quite compelling, like the tone of the single musical note that sounds onward through time and even through life itself.

The contact between the organic consciousness and the intellectual consciousness provides a certain type of energy which can feed the emotive consciousness; this is yet again a third and very different kind of consciousness in the first two.


Sunday, June 7, 2015

On the nature of unselfishness, part I

Human beings are the only creatures with the capacity for unselfishness.

If we look at the natural world, we see that what distinguishes us from lower creatures —as Gurdjieff explained it — is intellect. Other animals have physical and emotional capacity, but only the human being has intellect, in the way that we understand it. As such, the question of selfishness and unselfishness is deeply tied to our natural, or automatic — Gurdjieff would have said unconscious — nature, and we can illustrate this using some fairly simple biological principles.

All creatures are selfish, in the sense that they act from their own self interest. Creatures that do not have an intellect act only on behalf of their own interests: a bee cannot think outside of what is good for itself, any more than a wolf or a herring. The emotional capacity in creatures does create a certain sense of altruism, but no creature other than man can see themselves as part of a larger — let us say world — community, composed of many different elements that need to be respected. So a herring or a wolf can't act unselfishly on behalf of a shrimp or a chicken. Choices of this nature lie outside their intellectual abilities. Men, on the other hand, has exactly that capacity — man has the ability to sacrifice on behalf of others.

 This word sacrifice is quite important, because it means to make sacred — to make holy. To give something up for another, in other words, is a sacred action. Unselfishness is sacred.

What this means is that unselfishness belongs to a higher level, and expresses a set of principles different than those available on this level, in the natural biological world. 

When we say that man has two natures, broadly speaking, we could say he has a spiritual and a natural (biological) nature. The biological nature is mechanical. It doesn't have intellect; it does not have the ability to reflect and the capacity to choose. It is, as such, mechanical — that is to say, it is composed of stimulus/response mechanisms, an automaticity. This automatic nature is essentially selfish. It does not have an ability to act outside the sphere of selfishness dictated by the interests of the organism.

The conscious nature of man is unselfish. It does have the capacity to act outside the sphere of its own selfishness; but it has to do so actively and consciously, that is, there has to be an intelligent impulse to act unselfishly, because it goes against our lower nature.  

In understanding selfishness and unselfishness, we do understand that they act on this level — they are part of our horizontal existence. Yet they are reflections of a higher principle, what Swedenborg would have called correspondences. That higher principle is Love, which is always unselfish and always sacrifices in favor of the other.

 Now, it might sound like Love, when one says the word, is part of the emotional ability, thus well within the reach of creatures that have emotional and physical capacity but no intellect. In a limited way this is true. But Love, in its higher nature, is deeply informed by intellect — inwardly formed, in such a way that it is intelligent, and not automatic. It's the difference between selfishness and unselfishness that defines that difference, and that difference arises through the choice that is made to go against what is automatic, that which is selfish.

More on this in the next post.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Ther Personhood of the Divine, Part V

The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch, outer panels (with the tryptich closed)
 the Prado, Madrid

The outer panel of the Garden of Earthly Delights depicts a world devoid of personhood, in the sense that it is an earth — a cosmos — with nothing in it but plants. God is ensconced in his own bubble in the upper left corner:

The quote from Psalm 33 at the top of the panels is from verse nine: for he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded and it stood firm. So there can be no doubt that the outer panel represents the moment of creation; esoterically speaking, this is the first moment of contact between the Divine and the material... The point at which the cosmos which receives the Divine Influence comes into being. The representation on the panels does not just represent the earth; it represents the entire cosmos, and conceives of the cosmos as a sphere. The landscape with trees and an atmosphere inside the sphere does not necessarily represent the earth per se, but the cosmos at large, that is, the universe. Hence its abstraction and the fact that it is represented in grisaille, that is, without color — it is, essentially, a vessel (the sphere) or receptacle for the Divine Influence, which is only revealed within the material in its full and colored living form when the panels are opened.

The opening of the panels represents the speaking of the Divine Word, and the commencement of the Divine Inflow; and the immediate result of the Divine Inflow is the arrival of personhood.

Personhood, however, precedes the creation of the universe, as the outer panel indicates. It is the foundation upon which the universe comes into Being. Personhood, in the form of God,  flows into the receptacle of material creation (outer panel), which, once created, serves as the vehicle to receive the Divine Inflow (left panel, inner part of the painting.) God's will flows out of personhood, through the material, back into personhood, the consequence of which begets all of the further activity in the painting. 

One ought to note that at the very back of the right-hand panel (that is, the upper right-hand corner) personhood is still manifesting, in the conflict between tiny white and black figures. 

In other words,  the force of  personhood is ubiquitous reading from the upper left outside panel all the way to the upper right inside panel, that is, across the entire narrative of the painting.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Personhood of the Divine, part IV

The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch, right panel- apocalypse
 the Prado, Madrid

The right-hand side of the Garden of Earthly Delights was the part of the painting that originally fascinated me the most when I encountered it as a nine-year-old at the Prado in Madrid.

I found it not appalling, but riveting; it proposed situations, creatures, and activities that were both impossible, and at the same time absolutely compelling and perhaps even inevitable. By this time, I had already been to the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen; and so I was aware of the fact that there is something going on on this planet that we do not understand at all, and that it had horrifying and impossible aspects. This painting seem to bring all of that home in an objective — yet, yes—highly personal manner. I stood in front of it for several hours, a moment that ultimately became family legend.

Why, after giving us a divinely inspired canvas in a left and center panel that, while it has its dark undertones, expresses beauty, joy, sensuality, and a tranquil and extraordinarily beautiful, even magnificent, world and cosmos, does Bosch give us a right-hand panel straight from hell?

The idiot's version of this painting argues that all it is is a depiction of the torments that await us in hell; yet there is much more going on here. Taken as a part of the comprehensive cosmology of the intersection of Divine Personhood with the material world, this panel represents an inevitable and necessary force in the universe, the one that tears everything down, as opposed to the force that creates it. It is an absolute consequence of material manifestation, not an engine of punishment for the sinful. But it is, in fact, an engine — and here, in this panel, we encounter all of the machinery, the engines, the insignia and devices, that mankind is familiar with, because the machine, the part that grinds everything down, is inexorable, and arises as a consequence of manifestation itself.

All of the events that seem horrifying are ordinary; when I say ordinary, I mean they are part of the universal order, and one can't get rid of them. It's true that in our own case they are inextricably intertwined with our fallen nature and a lack of self-awareness; yet, taken as a whole, this destructive force, this darkness, is at the heart of all personhood and does represent that which needs to take apart everything that is created.

In another way, the panel illustrates my ongoing proposition that the bad is the servant of the good. We cannot recognize the good without a bad that it contrasts to, and this painting would never be the same painting if it did not have this right hand side — which is, viewed from the perspective of Bosch himself, who lurks as the egg/man in the background of this panel, the left hand, or sinister, side of this scene we are viewing.

Just as the right-hand panel is ingeniously turned upside down in its perspective — the highest part of "hell" is at the foreground of the painting, with the lowest part in the background, whereas the other two panels function in the opposite way — the viewer, if he is willing to adopt Hieronymus Bosch's perspective — the inner perspective — discovers that God is on the right-hand side, and hell is on the left. Personhood – the central panel — exists in this tense space between the two, larger than either one of them, in the sense that it is an embodiment, whereas the right and the left panels are concepts, or, the place where the divine emanates (left panel, to the viewer) and the place to which it returns (right panel.)

It's no accident that this emergence, movement through manifested creation (central panel) and return into the fires of destruction recapitulates not only both the action of creation of the universe and its eventual destruction through entropy, but also the path of birth through death, and all eternal cosmological cycles of creation and destruction.

Bosch, in creating a cosmology, expressed it comprehensively, and he wrote it visually in very personal terms, so that we understand it is not only our own inner state that participates in these cycles — it is the entire cosmos itself.


Monday, June 1, 2015

The Personhood of the Divine, part III

The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch, left panel- Christ the Lord
 the Prado, Madrid

One of the greatest misconceptions mankind has adopted over the centuries is the idea that something impersonal can exist.  The great esoteric philosophies at the heart of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — the core values of Western civilization — all carry an understanding that the manifestation of reality is supremely personal — it can never be experienced in any other way than a personal one, and all of the ideas connected to it are personal, since they arise in people.

Despite this, secular society, beginning with the Renaissance and carrying through to the Enlightenment, presumed some outward objectivity that exists independent of man. As Swedenborg so often pointed out, this misconception is founded on the idea that that outward objectivity is a naturalistic one, that is, it arises from nature and from physical and chemical laws; that it is very nearly mathematical in nature, and has nothing to do with people or personhood.

In fact, the idea itself is fundamentally corrupt and ultimately worthless, because it comes from people and personhood; in attempting to deny that people and personhood are at the heart of all experienced reality, it discounts the fact that in itself it arises from this fundamental ground of people and personhood. That is the nature of consciousness and experience; our awareness is grounded in personhood.

This misinterpretation carries us away from the understanding that all things are a manifestation of the Divine, expressed in personhood because the divine consists of personhood. One of the reasons that so many religions — including Buddhism (think of the statues of Avalokitsehvara)—have embodied so much of their imagery and understanding in that of human beings and personhood is because of this connection.  Trying to conjure an impersonal world is like trying to pretend that the Divine and the Transcendental do not exist, and that they do not manifest in this world, as this world. Of course atheists will discount this, but it is pointless to discuss such matters with ignorance based on misunderstandings so profound.

One can't, in other words, meditate one's way to an oblivion where personhood ceases to exist; one can't find an objective ground where one transcends Being and personhood, because all paths out of individual Being and individual personhood lead into ever greater levels of that same Being and that same personhood, which expands infinitely, and does not contract, dissolve, or disappear. It grows ever greater; and the incomprehensibility that is described as the void is a positive void, a void of expanding personhood, not a negative one in which personhood ceases to exist.

 Anyone who has had actual contact with higher forces that are truly conscious will understand what I mean by this. Mary is a person. Christ is a person. God is a person. The fact that we are unable to conceive of personhood on the scale and of the kind that is being discussed here stymies us, perhaps; it can't be like that, we think. Yet to the last individual, contacts between Saints and Beings of higher levels and human beings have always been personal — not impersonal — ones. Although Zen and other flavors of Buddhism may seem to imply an impersonal state of consciousness in "enlightenment" (which actually, more or less, doesn't exist in Buddhism, even though it is supposedly the central concept) any extensive reading of Dogen's Eihei Koroku or Shobogenzo reveals an intimate, and highly personal, text. There can be no other experience of consciousness other than through the personal.

 I believe the mistake here lies between the failure to distinguish between personhood and ego, which are not at all the same thing. The word person derives from Latin persona, or actor's mask — character in the play — explaining that personhood represents the taking on of roles, the display of characteristics and aspects.

Because personhood belongs to an actor, there is an inherent understanding that behind the action — in the largest sense, the manifestation of material reality —  there is an actor, a higher consciousness with a greater view, that expresses this particular facet of the way things are. Ego is that part of this activity which forgets that it belongs to an actor; and although, in order to be effective, an actor must fully immerse himself in his role, the actor ultimately fails if he forgets himself — forgets that this facet he is playing a role to express is just a tiny fraction of his much greater whole understanding which drives the expression in the first place.


Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Personhood of the Divine, part II

The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch, central panel
 the Prado, Madrid

 In this installment, we discuss the central panel of the painting, which expresses the essential personhood of divinity in all of its aspects.

I use the word "all," even though it's obvious a single painting cannot come anywhere near close to expressing all of the aspects of anything. It does, however, present the viewer with an overwhelming group of impressions, which has baffled human beings for generations, because so much of what is taking place appears to be extraordinary, inexplicable, mysterious — even though all the activities are engaged in by human beings and various, to one extent or another, recognizable creatures or combinations thereof.

The central panel of the painting is an expression of what Ibn Arabi would have called "thoughts in the Mind of God," that is, iterations of the Divine Consciousness as it arises and expresses itself in the form of personhood. In his writings, Arabi explained that the thoughts of the Divine, or Transcendent, are infinite, so much so that they extend beyond anything we are able to think of — and, in fact, include not only everything we could ever think of, but also everything we cannot think of — up to and including things that cannot be thought of at all. Divine Consciousness is absolutely and irrevocably comprehensive, and all of the arising of the material is an immediate, limited, cosmologically local expression of a tiny group of those thoughts.

An infinitesimally tiny group.

 Here in this painting, what is being expressed is that all of those arisings are personal — that is, each one represents an aspect of the personhood, the essential personal consciousness, Being, and thought process of the Divine. This has implications which will be explored in a little while; but what we need to focus on here is the tangible, personal, sensual, aware, and engaged interaction of all the figures in the painting — not the individual actions, but the collectively fecund and extraordinary expression of Being that takes place in this Divine space, which is, for all intents and purposes, a Garden of Eden.

The absolute absence of any devices, tools, or insignias of man in this section of the painting are meant to set it apart from all of Bosch's other paintings, because they represent a Divine space. One might say that this particular panel is the Mind of God with all its iterations, everything that it can express within the material, overseen and organized by the engines of Divine Awareness (the five towers in the background) which drive the machine of the universe. There are no human machines in this central panel of the painting because the emphasis is on the machinery of the Divine.

Readers may recognize consonance between this extraordinary flowering of Being in an extraordinarily beautiful landscape and Gurdjieff's descriptions of the Holy Planet Purgatory. What is important, I believe, is to recognize that the connection between personhood and the Divine Consciousness is illustrated in all of its profusion here; and on a cosmological level (as opposed to a personal one, which is what I treated in exhaustive detail in my book on the subject) this describes the nature of God as Being, arising and manifested within the personal.

Many individuals engaged in both scientific and spiritual quests these days seem to think there is some impersonal level on which one can experience life and the universe. What is "objective" is often, in one peculiar way or another, interpreted as being impersonal; and indeed, this odd belief in the impersonal rules the world of Western science and much of academia, as well as numerous flavors and nuances of philosophy and transcendentalist practice.

That is to say, the idea is afoot in both the spiritual and the secular sections of society that the personal must somehow be "removed" from things in order to understand them more properly; whereas in fact, this understanding is precisely and exactly inverted, and the real case is that one can never understand anything whatsoever except personally, because the nature of Being, and of the arising of manifestation and creation, are fully dependent on personhood.

This is the phenomenon lies at the root of all arising, a point Swedenborg tried to make which has been increasingly obscured in modern times.

 More on this in the next post.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Personhood of the Divine, part I

The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch,
 the Prado, Madrid

I return once again today to an examination of painting by Hieronymus Bosch, because there are subtleties and cosmological levels to his painting that are not at all evident, and that I did not cover in earlier commentaries.

The central panel of the Garden of Earthly Delights is perhaps one of the most essential pieces of work ever done on the absolute personhood of the Divine. In order to understand this concept properly, one has to integrate many of the vital things that Emanuel Swedenborg said on the subject with Gurdjieff's teachings on individuality and idiocy; the themes and subjects are intimately linked and in fact inseparable, although they may not appear to be so at first glance.

Hieronymus Bosch managed to integrate an entire teaching in the Garden of Earthly Delights; he did so visually, which actually gives us access to an intuitive, instantly accessible whole, if one understands the impression it makes.

In order to explain this, we will need to begin, however, with the left hand side of the painting, where the divine influence — the inflow, which is the proper word for it — enters the material world.

The fountain of Divine Influence, which appears to be reaching the earth, and can be interpreted on an individual level as the Divine Inflow entering every single human being — after all, the painting has its personal and intimate level — is actually, at its cosmological level, the point of contact between the comprehensive, transcendental, and incomprehensible totality of Divine Consciousness and Intelligence and the material world. This painting, you see, operates not just on an individual level, but on a cosmological level as well, thus exactly reflecting Gurdjieff's teaching that man is an exact microcosmic reflection of the macrocosmos. One could say that in describing the inner life of man, this painting also describes the inner life of the cosmos — for they are intimately connected with one another, and the totality of process within each individual is, in its microcosmic nature, identical to the totality of process within the cosmos itself.

So this divine fountain represents the embodiment of the Divine Consciousness into the material. This has a comprehensible set of consequences, because even though the iterations of the divine are nearly infinite, their various manifested aspects are comprehensible — unlike the Divine itself. 

 In this painting, everything we see after the fountain touches the material are the total consequences of materiality, taken at the cosmological level. That is to say, all of the decay of the Divine Influence into what appeared to be "corrupted" influences — all of the sensuality, the intimacy, the glorious manifestation of creation (the central panel), and the apparent horrors and destruction of the right-hand panel, are all inevitable consequences of the contact of the divine with its creation, the material world. This particular aspect of the painting is also mirrored by Meister Eckhart in the sense of his teaching that all of creation has to be transcended in order to have contact with God — creation is, itself, not enough, even though it is everything to us.

When Bosch painted this painting, one of the things he wanted to convey to us is the essential personhood of God, that is, God is a person in exactly the same sense of a human being as a person. Swedenborg said this in many different ways in his writings; and we have the central panel of the Garden of Earthly Delights expressing the personhood of God in its totality, divided into its myriad and uncountable individual manifestations. 

All of creation is a thought in the mind of God; and the thought is personal, that is, it embodies individual fractions of consciousness and Being, all of which taken together are reflections — you could call them facets of a diamond — of the Divine Consciousness, which is a single and individual consciousness. 

It may sound paradoxical, but the idea of something individual — undivided — has two aspects: the totality is individual and undivided, but its fractal nature causes it to be composed of individual and undivided parts—that is to say, individuality is not individual. 

I'm sorry to have to put it that way. I understand it's confusing, but one needs to understand it in the same way that although every facet of a diamond is its own complete facet with its own rays of light being reflected and its own spectrum (thus, individual) the diamond itself is composed of all these facets.

 One cannot understand consciousness, transcendental or otherwise, without understanding its personal nature — that is, the expression of Being that takes place as a unique and, Gurdjieff would say, "idiotic" manner. 

Idiotic does not, in any sense, mean stupid or limited; it means particular and individual, that is, expressed within the limits (location and circumstances) of its arising. 

There is actually a great deal said about this in Gurdjieff's magnum opus, Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, but one has to digest the book as a whole and then absorb all the material between the lines in order to understand this.

 More on this subject in the next post, publishing on May 30.