Under a Spell
My struggle to come to terms with the concept ‘God’ goes back fifty-five years. In those days, I had not long emerged from a very severe bout of attendance at all the Sunday services in the quaint & homely early 20th Century suburban church where my parents had, before this, insisted on my going to Sunday School to get me out of the way for the morning: there I was briefly under the spell of the ninety-year old Miss Eliot who told pleasant stories and handed out little postage stamp size bible texts. The real reason for my later zealousness was that, without ever daring to approach her, I rather fancied a girl in the choir but this obscure ‘God’ thing was always lurking somewhere in my mind; it might have been in the enthusiastic descant provided by the loud tenor-man who always seemed to be behind me or else it was in my meaningless chanting of the credo or in the walk through the Park and up the Avenue, Worcester Park, to the church on the hill. Lurk it did until I was freed from it by focussing on quotations from Meister Eckhart in Aldous Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy which I consumed in 1958.
So, after sometimes years ago flirting with the whimsical idea of God being an old man in carpet slippers wandering about the universe somewhere or the other, way out of reach of human arms, it’s to Meister Eckhart I return in the year 2013. Listen!
The knower and the known are one. Simple people imagine that they should see God, as if he stood there and they here. This is not so. God and I, we are one in knowledge.
Simple people—theologians, vicars & priests & bishops, the ‘born again’—all who deal in ‘God’ as though it were a foregone conclusion, the existence of the word ‘God’ pre-supposing that whatever it is meant to denote actually exists, like a unicorn or a chimera—simple people, although they always do their best, abound. More complex it might be to attempt to figure out the Oneness of God and I being one in knowledge. A giant shift in the meaning of ‘God’ may be needed. Nevertheless, it’s still the case that…
Some people want to see God with their eyes as they see a cow, and to love Him as they love their cow—for the milk and cheese and profit it brings them. This is how it is with people who love God for the sake of outward wealth or love Him for their own advantage. Indeed, I tell you the truth, any object you have in your mind, however good, will be a barrier between you and the inmost Truth.
No one can experience this birth of God realised in the soul without a mighty effort. No one can attain this birth unless they can withdraw the mind entirely from things.
It’s true that whatever you have in your mind is a barrier between what & who you are and an apprehension of the pure incoming impressions of things. What’s already in your mind—cows, milk, cheese, profit, outward wealth, fun—gets in the way of anything else that could conceivably be there. It’s ultimately a barrier to realising your Nothingness.
Though it could be so easy, it certainly takes a mighty effort to arrive at a state of Nothingness which, in Eckhart’s terms, I take to mean ‘God’. Nothingness opens up into Everythingness which you could call ‘God’ if you were so disposed; that is to say, if you wanted to employ a technician who would make your cow a good milk-producer.
Prating About God
Eckhart asks rhetorically: Why dost thou prate of God? Whatever thou sayest of him is untrue... and then, rather disappointingly, proceeds to prate as though ‘God’ were as obvious a being as a cow. A cow expects to be milked on the dot and
God expects but one thing of you and that is that you should come out of yourself in so far as you are a created being and let God be God in you.
Meister Eckhart conveys existential truths and then slips back into orthodox priestly linguistic traps by using the word ‘God’ as though he might well be my old man in carpet slippers shuffling round the universe somewhere. The implications of his essential profound truths are left dangling… What would happen, for instance, were you to succeed, with ‘a mighty effort’, in emptying out all the ‘objects’ you currently have in your mind, all concepts, all images, all patterns of thinking? What would happen were you to discover a way to ‘withdraw [your] mind entirely from things’? How could you be successful in disidentifying from everything in the world just as it presents itself to you?
To suggest that this would get you close to God, as Meister Eckhart asserts, is, for me, a step too far. An unnecessary step—enough it would be to discover what’s there when you’ve tipped everything out without prejudging the issue, without entertaining a burning desire to give it a name and thus limit things again by identifying with whatever word you chose..
Around the time I first read the potent extracts from Meister Eckhart I wrote a poem that started, ‘What can I think that I have not thought before?’ I’m still asking the same question.
Meister Eckhart on Divine Knowledge
The current phase of my struggle to come to terms with the concept ‘God’ started with a reading at the beginning of August 2013 of a book that’s been on my shelves some years just waiting for this moment now: Meister Eckhart on Divine Knowledge by CFKelley who is recognised as an authority in the field. Often nowadays my efforts to understand complexity take the form of meditative found poems—I take bits of a text that seem appropriate and weld them willy-nilly into my current reality just to see what happens.
in this interminable book
about Meister Eckhart
one reads that God’s eye—
the unrestricted intellect—
is the subject of all reality;
that God manifests his multiple aspects
in reality through eternal manifestation
of himself presupposed
in the affirmation of the eternal Word;
that in pure intellection
the intellective identification
of the object with the subject—which God is—
you see: God is the Subject
and love is realised by metaphysical necessity
through the act of negating self as such
—of returning to its own principle
which is the divine Selfhood
apparently my miserable attempt to understand
all this comes
from having sunk my being (a mere object)
in exterior philosophy
the only mode of comprehension
is to be inside God himself—
here endeth the lesson
A somewhat sardonic comment that acknowledges Kelley’s assertion that, having been brain-washed by conventional western philosophy and psychology, I, the reader, cannot possibly understand where Meister Eckhart or even he himself is coming from. (Lines 3 to the first break consist of a direct quotation from Kelley’s convoluted prose…) Having also been brain-washed by unconventional western philosophy and psychology, though some part of me is very excited by it, some other part of me is suspicious of the idea that ‘God’ might be ‘unrestricted intellect’, suspicious of the idea that ‘pure intellection’, ideas floating around in the void, not tied down by emotion, action & instinct, can get you anywhere; and I am distinctly alienated by Kelley’s interminable failure to relate his airy abstractions to something concrete and handleable.
I was however entranced by the idea of standing inside ‘God’ himself, of adopting a God-vantage-point, a God-camera-obscura in order to understand what might be his point of view: it seems that it might be any time practically achievable; I think I can do it without being struck by lightning. If it would get me to a conceptually non-dual position I am always prepared to take my chance.
Being also emotionally enlivened by what something in me calls my ‘Intellectual Life’—reading, thinking, writing, in that order—there was certainly a part of me that was entranced by the idea emerging that Intellect is the highest form of Being and Being-curious-I determined to find out how this could be so. I pre-suppose that when you stand outside time & space in what I often call Meta-I you could call it ‘pure intellection’.
Here’s what came up for me bending Kelley’s words around and about:-
intellect is the summit of the soul
time & circumstance cannot touch it; the light
of intellect raises a stone above the realm of sense
& temporality never resting until it return to the first
ratio; the outward progressive operations
of the human intellect are of course in time
and the movements of sense & images restricted to
materiality are subject to time but in themselves
they are grounded above time and are not subject to
the flow of the duration of matter—how do they exist
in themselves? say—how do they do that? they exist
as a direct reflection of eternity which is the absence
or negation of time—their way is without flow
movement or series—such is the nature of detached
intellection—it is perhaps in this solidity I feel
beneath my feet on this summer lawn under the spell
of yellow daisies & roses & beeflies skimming the air
under the crinkly willow at this moment (just a manner
of speaking) way outside time always and ineffable
where knower and known are one & the same without
interval without beginning or end… more is meant
than meets the eye or ear: what happens now acts
on stage in (so to say) for this glad moment
of temporal existence which in and of itself
has neither ending nor beginning: it just is—
in the ground of the intellective soul and in detached
intellection its very self as performed by the human self
offering supratemporality to me here on this summer lawn
to the extent that I existed before my self in all
my terrestrial causes—the ancestral cells
the physico-chemical psychic materials
bubbling neurons and the fizzing of synaptic spark-plugs
& the energies of life through the long-evolving…
hold your horses… in what sense did I exist before
my self? and how do I participate (in some way
inscrutable) in unrestricted Istigkeit whence comes
the All—viz eternal intellect whence all intellection?
Meister Eckhart (though I love it) I draw the line
at the absurd invented idea that eternal Intellect
is divine Selfhood from which every self proceeds
—an intellectual step too far towards a God
but if I’d been here in 1890 say—sun riding clouds
in an otherwise blue sky dipping below the house-roof
a dragon-fly with throbbing lips resting a while
on my left hand immobile on the book where I write
existing before my self thus—I can get it and I know
(oh Meister Eckhart and CFKelley) that if I marked out
a circle on the lawn and designated it ‘God-spot’
I could stand in it and under the gulls moving
the evening air I could become God or at least
adopt the telling proposition that in innermost
intellect God’s ground is my ground while
conversely my ground is God’s ground; I shiver
at the intellectual construction that would
get me unbelievably close to goddishness were I
standing there; the primacy of intellect is
an amazing thing and I love you Meister Eckhart
dead these six hundred and eighty-six years
your ideas frozen on my summer lawn forever
into something almost akin to understanding—
more than I ever heard from priests & vicars
Intellect & Reason
Kelley talks about the way the concept of ‘intellect’ is confused at a temporal level with mere human reason, the proud boast that one can reason things out in the mind; but human reason always starts with a parochial set of pre-suppositions: for example, that Capitalism is the only way of managing things—when you fill your mind with that idea, or even accept it uncritically, as is mostly the case, any other possibility is a non-starter.
If long enough was spent in open-ended pure intellection, the unreason, the irrationality of things as they are would be revealed: the obscene duplication of ridiculous commodities offering a spurious ‘choice’ on the supermarket shelves and the plight of starving refugees in their millions; the trillions wasted on armaments and the pointlessness of warfare; the discrepancies of haves & have-nots. And so on.
It doesn’t make sense to plan to kill other people. It doesn’t make sense to organise things so that others are deprived of proper living standards. It doesn’t make sense that the way we live be organised for the greatest good to accrue solelyto the obnoxious few.
As commonly understood, the application of ‘intellect’, regarded as the nosey-parkering of ‘intellectuals’, is derided by those who refuse to dismantle the elaborate buffers they have built between, say, an expressed desire for ‘peace’ and habitual war-practice, between the observation of extreme poverty and a pious profession of humanity.
Meister Eckhart’s concept of Intellect strikes me as being akin to Gurdjieff’s capital-C-Consciousness (= knowing everything all at once) + capital-C-Conscience (= feeling for everything all at one and the same moment). For Eckhart, ‘knowing is a participation in Being’. It’s not a mental gazing at it, not the result of any attempt to reach out there or in here to grasp a conceivable or analysable something or other, a whatness differentiated from something else in duality. Experiencing, thinking, comprehending, questioning—all these imply duality. Participation in Being is the way out.
Participating fully in Being, it is simply the case that ‘I am a knower’. There is just my self and the Istigkeit, the suchness of things—not the result of gazing at them but the immediate apprehension of thinginess—the suchness of all, the ground of all Being, without which there is nothing. Being and knowledge are all one; knower & known are one in knowledge. Participation in Being is simply a direction towards the knowable on the part of my self, the knower. Making distinctions—not looking for otherness—is the principle of non-duality.
Detachment from all that hinders the soul from perfectly possessing its own being; the objective of detachment is neither this nor that… it aims at pure no-thing (non-otherness, the not-self) in which there is infinite possibility.
Why are we not detached? What happens to attach us to things? This may be the same question as—Why do people identify so readily? And therefore lose themselves, forget themselves, in sports, newspapers, TV, politics, religion, hobbies, pop concerts, adverts, fashion. Why do we forget ourselves in ‘forms’—in any complex of ‘events’ external to self? In systems, organisations, patterns of thinking, words, things, events, enthusiasms.
Could it be that by identifying with external things we somehow (mistakenly) imagine that we confirm our being, fortify our identity, give ourselves meaning by joining a club, linking with others at a concert, in an organisation, in subscribing to a way of thinking, in being in the same sports stadium as a lot of others? Or is identifying inevitable? For instance, I am now identifying with these words I’m stringing together; I imagine that what I am engaged in is somehow straightening out a mode of thinking, confirming some tentative conclusions I’ve arrived at regarding the concept ‘God’, making a statement that will form the next jumping off point for my ‘Intellectual Life’. Is that inevitable? Or can I STOP! it? Of course I can stop but I choose to go on imagining that I’m confirming my Being. But, having got that out of my system, I also choose to believe that I’m doing this with Intention. Awareness of being identified takes identification to a different place. I can take it or leave it.
I observe that when people support a football team it seems to cause them to feel that they are as big & powerful as they imagine it to be; wrapped up in coloured scarves and wearing significant woolly hats they become the team, the grand abstraction. There’s no alternative, especially on a Saturday afternoon in winter.
Support for a political party works the same way; people interviewed on the wireless at Party Conferences, expressing the most subservient support for the party line whatever it might be, seem mesmerised by what goes on in them
The forms of things are A Influences—things which take us away from our selves in dualism.
Feeling for Inner Being is a B Influence thing. Non-dual. There’s always a danger of allowing a B Influence to be debased into an A Influence—for example, an esoteric religious mode of being can becomes ossified into an easily assimilable set of doctrinal certainties with which one can identify. Gurdjieff, Nicoll, Bennett, Pentland (etc) were at pains to present things in piecemeal fashion in order to avoid such a dumbing down process. ‘Anything too well-organised sows the seeds of its own destruction…’ JGBennett.
There seems to be a desire to forget oneself in order to escape facing the horror of the unadorned thing we are: ‘…Unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal…’ (Lear) Instead of accepting that life is its own meaning, we seem to be driven to attributing some extraneous meaning to life or go bust.
Lacking the wherewithal to create meaning for ourselves ‘without a mighty effort’ we resort to simple identification with simple things. When we identify with the mind, for instance, our sense of who we are tends to come from the easiest places—social role, possessions, external appearance, success & failure, belief systems. It takes a mighty effort to tip all these things out and build an other-than-mind-made self; to locate your true centre—Magnetic Centre.
Meanwhile, you have only to look at something to find yourself in identification with it. Your awareness locks on to trees, fields, miscellaneous events in a railway carriage—people talking about nothing on wrist radios (sc Ray Bradbury), staring at idiot screens, announcements regarding train details, mouths masticating, thoughts progressing, the Estuary at Manningtree—it identifies with each in turn.
To get the Food of Pure Impressions—the highest form of food—one must disidentify; notice just the shapes & colours, the timbre & texture of events and then, since noticing those things goes beyond things in themselves, learn to completely abandon all labelling. Anything that goes beyond the things in themselves (through Internal Considering) strays into identification.
Identification is a diversion from a total awareness of things as they are, Istigkeit, in the Greater Being. I think this may be what Mr G refers to as Consciousness—being plugged in to everything all at once, nothing partial or working as a diversion in identification.
To take it yet another step, Consciousness, expanded consciousness, could well be Meister Eckhart’s ‘pure intellection’, timeless awareness of the Greater Being. But to stick the label ‘divine’ on it is another going beyond what it necessary. ‘Divinity’ is a human invention; human invention is always a going beyond of some kind. Donald Soper used to say at lunchtimes on Tower Hill in the 1960’s, “Look to Christ’s Humanity and let the divinity take care of itself…”
Asking the question—What is consciousness? is as absurd as were a fish to be able to ask—What is water? Just as absurd as asking—What is Being? Or—What is oxygen, the element we swim about in.
All the neuroscience in the world will never answer the question—What is consciousness? It will perhaps be able to analyse what goes on inside the human envelope of Being, to say how things tick there but we will always be left with a great mystery—something that rises above neurons & synapses. If we don’t ask the question in the first place there will be no mystery at all. Perhaps the very act of asking the question creates the mystery. We ask all kinds of questions that divert us from the way things are—in doing so we constantly miss the mark..
The fleet astronomer can bore
And thread the spheres with his quick-piercing mind:
He views theirs stations, walks from door to door,
Surveys, as if he had designed
To make a purchase there: he sees their dances,
And knoweth long before,
Both their full-eyed aspects, and secret glances.
The nimble diver with his side
Cuts through the working waves, that he may fetch
His dearly-earned pearl, which God did hide
On purpose from the ventrous wretch;
That he might save his life, and also hers,
Who with excessive pride
Her own destruction and his danger wears.
The subtle chymick can devest
And strip the creature naked, till he find
The callow principles within their nest:
There he imparts to them his mind,
Admitted to their bed-chamber, before
They appear trim and drest
To ordinary suitors at the door.
What hath not man sought out and found,
But his dear God? who yet his glorious law
Embosoms in us, mellowing the ground
With showers and frosts, with love and awe,
So that we need not say, Where’s this command?
Poor man, thou searchest round
To find out death, but missest life at hand.
For ‘God’ read ‘Consciousness’…
The Food of Pure Impressions and the NOW
There are three kinds of food: the fish & chips I ate in the Babbling Duck in Great Massingham yesterday; the fresh air I gulped down in the Washing Pits at Oxburgh Hall afterwards and all the time the Food of Pure Impressions without which we would be nothing at all—the smell of undergrowth, the gleam of sun on the moat, the sound of children playing, the taste of pleasure in the afternoon. Without the senses being constantly able to pick up incoming impressions in the NOW there would be no life at all, no what we choose to call ‘consciousness’.
Let’s go a stage further. Say that God = Consciousness or vice-versa…
Standing outside such a statement in Meta-I I’d say that it would indicate that I might have been sitting out in the sun too long—or, as my old mum used to suggest, looking towards me to direct people’s attention to her son & heir, by putting her long bony index finger to the side of her forehead and twisting it, that I’d got a screw loose. (This she did even in her final days at 93 when perhaps the gesture might have been more appropriate to her poor old self…)
But on reflection ‘God = Consciousness’ is a good counter to all the A Influence mumbo-jumbo that is associated with orthodox religion. It can bring into focus the idea that there is something-much-bigger-than-myself that can span the entire universe from the Income Tax Return I know I must shortly complete to the microbe hatching out on a planet in a far distant galaxy via the Grand Canyon and all stops between—every little last trance-event.
The Consciousness one can sense in self-remembering—fully there total awareness—can be expanded to accommodate the entire universe. Call it ‘God’ if you like.
To call it that seems to me to be demeaning, de-meaning, making Consciousness a thing small enough to go into a matchbox with a grape. Or else ‘God’ becomes the Old Man in carpet slippers shuffling arthritically round the starscape. The human mind just can’t seem to cope with such a huge concept and must reduce it to a very ordinary three-letter word. Then dress up its representatives in funny clothes, build it temples and make all kinds of special arrangements, dates & times, for worship and then, unaccountably, use it as an excuse for belligerence and engage in what Gurdjieff called ‘periodic bouts of reciprocal destruction’. When you reduce something colossal to the human scale you must of course have it behave in a human way, reduce it to your own squalid level of behaviour—you can’t imagine any other way for it to be.
So, away with the concept ‘God’! Say Consciousness is the Great Being, as Meister Eckhart in existential mode suggests . It does not require worship or theology or anything of that sort—no relics or icons, no hymns or prostrations—just very straightforward unadorned honest recognition and a constant reminding, not just on Sundays & Special Days but all the time, every moment, now and now and now.
It’s worth noting how the teachings of Christ became shrouded in all this mystery & claptrap. In The Kingdom of God is Within You, Tolstoy brilliantly outlines the way we were led astray from the essential Consciousness teaching:-
Succeeding generations corrected the errors of their predecessors, and grew ever nearer and nearer to a comprehension of the true meaning. [Tolstoy is being heavily ironical here…] It was thus from the very earliest times of Christianity. And so, too, from the earliest times of Christianity there were men who began to assert on their own authority that the meaning they attribute to the doctrine is the only true one, and as proof bring forward supernatural occurrences in support of the correctness of their interpretation. This was the principal cause at first of the misunderstanding of the doctrine, and afterward of the complete distortion of it.
It was supposed that Christ’s teaching was transmitted to men not like every other truth, but in a special miraculous way. Thus the truth of the teaching was not proved by its correspondence with the needs of the mind and the whole nature of man, but by the miraculous manner of its transmission, which was advanced as an irrefutable proof of the truth of the interpretation put on it. This hypothesis originated from misunderstanding of the teaching, and its result was to make it impossible to understand it rightly.
The proposition that we ought not to do unto others as we would not they should do unto us, did not need to be proved by miracles and needed no exercise of faith, because this proposition is in itself convincing and in harmony with man’s mind and nature; but the proposition that Christ was God had to be proved by miracles completely beyond our comprehension. The more the understanding of Christ’s teaching was obscured, the more the miraculous was introduced into it; the more the miraculous was introduced into it, the more the doctrine was strained from its meaning and the more obscure it became; and the more it was strained from its meaning and the more obscure it became, the more strongly its infallibility had to be asserted, and the less comprehensible the doctrine became…
…That is how the Orthodox clergy proceed ; but indeed all churches without exception avail themselves of every means for the purpose—one of the most important of which is what is now called hypnotism.
Every art, from architecture to poetry, is brought into requisition to work its effect on men’s souls and to reduce them to a state of stupefaction, and this effect is constantly produced. This use of hypnotizing influence on men to bring them to a state of stupefaction is especially apparent in the proceedings of the Salvation Army, who employ new practices to which we are unaccustomed: trumpets, drums, songs, flags, costumes, marching, dancing, tears and dramatic performances… The old practices in churches were essentially the same, with their special lighting, gold, splendour, candles, choirs, organ, bells, vestments, intoning, etc…
Beware All Human Performance
Here’s some useful advice in order to preserve the soul against hypnotism and consequent stupefaction: beware all extravagantly got-up human performances—religious, military, sporting and so on—that require trumpets and drums and any grossly expensive ceremonial of any kind whatsoever.
The so simple idea that the object of life is to get into a full state of consciousness is effectively concealed by the resort to ceremonial and by all the stories & abstractions invented by theologians; in particular the story of a personage or abstraction going under the name of ‘God’. Once you get locked into that unquestioning belief there’s no hope.
Tolstoy: I have often been irritated, though it would be comic if the consequences were not so awful, by observing how [grown] men shut one another in a delusion and cannot get out of the magic circle…
I am immediately reminded of course of the story of the Yezidi boy in Meetings with Remarkable Men:-
…deep in my work when suddenly I heard a desperate shriek. I jumped up, certain that an accident had happened to one of the children during their play. I ran and saw the following picture: In the middle of a circle drawn on the ground stood one of the little boys, sobbing and making strange movements, and the others were standing at a certain distance laughing at him. I was puzzled and asked what it was all about. I learned that the boy in the middle was a Yezidi, that the circle had been drawn round him and that he could not get out of it until it was rubbed away. The child was indeed trying with all his might to leave this magic circle, but he struggled in vain.
Gurdjieff’s response was simply to ‘… rub out part of the circle, and immediately [the boy] dashed out and ran away as fast as he could…’ How can we learn simply to rub out part of the circle that imprisons us and run off? Do we need help?
It’s really so simple. Consciousness just happens to be there, so close to the front of our collective nose that we fail to see it—it’s what informs our Being, sometimes taken for granted as in ordinarily programmed being ‘awake’ or in a dream-state of some kind—but, as when I picked up my pen to start this sentence, it can be vibrant, focussed, fully alive. Consciousness is not an invention; there is without doubt something there which keeps us going, not in a mechanical sense like the works of a clock but existentially; this is more than can ever be said about the conventional notion of ‘God’.
The Problem of Words
It’s words that are the problem—they ensnare us: as soon as you start using words to talk about things you become locked into beliefs & pre-suppositions dictated by the apparent certainty represented by words.
There’s consciousness and Consciousness and then there’s experience, things just happening, as happen they undoubtedly will—that is sufficient. What use are the words we habitually employ to attempt to capture experience? We are bathed in it—why use words? They represent another experience altogether; they are a different universe of being—a parallel universe perhaps. We use the one universe of being to decorate the other, whilst kidding ourselves that it, the accumulation of words, can accurately portray; they merely decorate the original experience, rococo excrescences going beyond the experience itself, building it into an imaginative something-or-other. The secondary experience of the words we use to get the measure of primary experience (as we suppose) changes whatever that might have been in the first place.
Take an experience from your past. Say that, in reliving it, it exists in ‘consciousness’; the sights, sounds and feelings are lived again there—you have them ‘in mind’.
So, I’m on a self-stabilising medium-size liner crossing the Bay of Biscay in a force ten gale. A magic pill from the doctor (or it might have been one from a homeopathic practitioner who seemed to know what he was talking about—but I took both just to make sure) is preventing me from enjoying my habitual feeling of sea sickness. Instead there’s a feeling of extreme ecstasy, Captain Ahab, at facing the elements—water boiling up and breaking over the bridge where we had gone on purpose for the experience; earth somewhere deep below us, air full of sea-spray and the smell & taste of it. Ecstasy—a standing outside of your self. How do all these bits & pieces of the experience cohere into ‘ecstasy’. How did I get to this point in my supposedly accurate verbal account of my experience? I have already gone beyond it—the words have taken me way beyond it, whatever it was in the first place.
It is sufficient just to note how words always take you beyond actual experience as lived. Beyond just Being…
The Gift of Being
We are possessed of this immense thing called Being. What a huge gift! Some people are more aware of it than others; your awareness of it depends on your programming—the way you choose to define experience. You can let it all go on in a ho-hum sort of way, an aimless gesture into Gurdjieff’s ‘merciless heropass’, or you can let it pour into you like a topless waterfall which in turn can be visualised as a little trickle or a fancy roaring Niagara. I choose the latter.
In practical terms, is Being just getting on a train and then getting off when you get to your stop? Or is every train journey an archetypal emblem for ‘Journeying’? A stepping out of time & space to get at pure awareness, detached intellection, of landscapes scooting by, of closed-in-ness in cuttings & tunnels, the life of cities, of other human living spaces (suburban gardens and the light in the window beyond), the book you focus on in between feelings of being transported? Crowds on interchange stations (Leeds after 45 years) and all the intentions of each individual momentarily touching your own as they hurry by; the remembering of old journeys; all this and a constant inner monologue anticipating the arrival at your destination—Stalybridge in the late afternoon, say—through hills and along valleys, past grand Victorian edifices and back-to-back terraces and modern urban sprawl and all the random growths on the face of the planet spinning through space & time
and I am the zero coordinate
of all this activity just being alive
for it all unattached in my deep attachment
hurtling round the sun at 67000 mph & spinning
at 1000mph with the planet—it all seems so still
here on this languid summer lawn and I think
I shall have a musical evening—many symphonies
How does all that compare with just getting on a train and getting off at the stop depicted on your ticket, complaining about delays and over-crowding and the consequences of the weather?
There’s ordinary experience and then there’s an awareness of something rather larger than self—is that an awareness of the Greater Being? Expanded consciousness? Oceanic Being? Being, Consciousness, God—equivalents? Which is easiest to deal with conceptually? ‘God’ of course because it can be clothed in all the elements of your Personality, can be projected into or reduced to relatively human proportions. Being & Consciousness are slippery customers; they have to be worked at, intuited, heard, felt, seen, experienced to the full. ‘God’ represents an opting out of the effort required.
‘God’ is the poor person’s version of Being & Consciousness fully vivified, to use Gurdjieff’s term. ‘You are God’, he says somewhere. The knower and the known are one and the same. God and I, we are one in knowledge. Then abandon the Word ‘God’ itself. One must never hold to anything that’s unnecessary. Being and I is one.
Be it noted that Consciousness requires no worship, no temple, no liturgy or book of common prayer; if it has prophets it’s every single human-being that ever lived; it requires nothing in the way of prayer or devotion, no trumpets or drums, no outlandish uniforms, no collection, no service to have a collection at the end of, no crucifixion, no crusade, no hoarding of treasure, no monasteries or nunneries. Its good work is in its exercise.