Alhambra, interior detail
“I have no notion of loving people by halves; it is not my nature.”
—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
God is Love; and He is thereby also Being.
Being is a subordinate condition emerging from Love as its first and most essential aspect, but, one step removed, it is still in its heart Love itself.
We can see thereby that God in His sacred nakedness is unclothed Love and unclothed Being.
Swedenborg characterized this immediate and initial emanation of Love as the flow of Divine Love into Divine Wisdom; Wisdom (Being) is the child of Love. So we can understand that in His nakedness, that is, the exposure of the Lord in creation (for us, all the universe and all its actions) God reveals Being through Love. He is willing to unclothe Himself and emerge from the eternal, impossible mystery in which He dwells through His Love, and beget Being; Being is both the agency, and the territory He has prescribed, in which the action of Love becomes known.
This Being is Wisdom itself; that is, knowing what is true and right and being just; having insight. We see even in this brief recapitulation all the qualities of the Lord as they are always described.
Love unclothes itself to prepare for the act of creation, and thereby takes on the three aspects of intelligence, materiality and emotion in the form of human Being (as indeed in all material forms, as appropriate to each) because this is what gives it life; and that life, eternally begotten, is purpose itself.
Our inner nature is formed, then, first and always of Love; all of our other qualities flow first from it; and we can begin our search for the root meaning of our own lives (of each and every life) first and always in Love. No matter how twisted the tree may grow, there is no other soil for it to root in.
For this reason it's necessary to begin first and always with an inner movement towards intimacy. I speak of this often, and yet it seems impossible to properly convey it to others; yet one can know exactly how receptive one becomes to Love, which alone can purify inwardly through the inflow of the Divine, by how one understands this word, intimacy.
I wish I could teach folk how to understand intimacy; it's different than sensation, and it's different than prayer, self-remembering, mindfulness, or Zazen. These are agents of intimacy, not its progenitors. I simply do not know how. My concern in general is that practitioners mistake agents of intimacy for intimacy itself; and yet these things are forever separated in such a way that once one learns the practical distinction even one single time, the result is transformational, since it affects understanding in a different and very new way.
Intimacy isn't a form, and perhaps that's the challenge; everyone wants a form and wants to understand through form, which is a consequence of the corruption (misrepresentation) that we inhabit through our nature. It is, in other words, all very well to emphasize abandonment of form; but one needs to know what one abandons form in favor of... and that is—must be—intimacy.
Jeanne Salzmann's work creates a formidable ground floor for entry into practice; yet the Organic Sensation of Being, which is what she very rightly concentrated on teaching for most of her life, does not alone open the inflow. I am sure she knew this.
Opening to the inflow is a three-centered action, and that action transcends the action of any one center. It relies, furthermore, above all on what Gurdjieff called the Holy Reconciling force, which is emotion. The inflow engenders Love through intimacy; and it is into this inward place of relationship with God that we enter naked (shorn of all things and all forms) to meet God, equally naked. This nakedness is a thing of beauty and of the purest Love alone; yet when we bring it outward it is already misrepresented, no matter how good our intentions.
So ultimate value in life can never come from outward actions or outward things; although they all appear to be the central axis around which values turn, it becomes apparent to every creature at the end of its days that it's in Being itself that the value lies; and that all else merely follows. Ecclesiastes attempts to explain this; that's the point of the book.
I can't begin to process an understanding of these matters until and unless I become invested in a different type of emotional relationship with myself and God; and, oddly, that relationship is, in our own cases, not transmissible. For each person the formation of an inward contact between the soul and God is an intimate and sexual action that must be kept private in order for it to function. It isn't fragile or tenuous, although it is cyclical and tidal; but it requires a veil protecting it from the world. Hence the understanding of a needed to separate one's self from one's self, another lengthy subject (see the upcoming post on Nov. 24, 2017.)
Now we come to Swedenborg's discussion of Divine Wisdom, and what he means by it.
He says first of all that it acts on behalf of Divine Love; that is, it is its agent. It's important to understand this distinction; Love is not the agent of Wisdom. An agent always acts on behalf of its principal; thus Love is the principal.
Although Wisdom is the agent of Love, as it acts on behalf of Love, it prepares a residence for Love; that is, Love without Wisdom remains unincorporated. It lacks a "body," a physical presence; it has no means of expression and can't enter into relationship.
Love thus reciprocally flows into Wisdom. It inhabits its agent.
Wisdom consists of three omni-forces: potency, prescience, and presence. Roughly speaking these are power, intelligence, and Being. If we understand the equivalencies here they translate to the physical, intellectual and emotional centers in man; and so we see that Being is ultimately a function of the reconciling force of emotional center. This must of course be the case, because Love begets everything; Being emanates from Love and is the primary embodiment of Love, even though it can't properly express its force without power and intelligence.
Our purpose is to Be; yet we must discover this action through a purposeful use of power and intelligence. When power and intelligence are turned first towards the material and external, they always develop all their force, which can be enormous, without Love—but, even more importantly, without Being, which is the highest, original, and most essential form that Love can take if and when it cojoins power and intelligence.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.