Learning To Exist

But very few are able to apprehend intelligently that acknowledgment of the Lord, and an acknowledgment that all that is good and true is from the Lord, are what cause a man to be reformed and regenerated.

For it may be thought, What does that acknowledgment do, since the Lord is omnipotent and wills to save all?

And therefore is He not able and willing to do this, provided He is moved to mercy?
(Divine Providence 91)

So I read this and thought ….. I don’t understand. I don’t understand how anyone could think that one’s mind can be changed and reformed and indeed transformed, without some kind of change of heart; without some kind of repentance or Metanoia. And then I realised that the acknowledgement they were talking about in this passage was like someone standing on the spot and pointing out at the world around them and saying, “Well yes of course the Lord created this but so what? What difference does that make to me or to anything about my spiritual life, by just saying it?”

And of course they are right. Just saying something doesn’t change anything. It’s not a change of heart and that’s what a real acknowledgement requires … a change of heart.

So then I was thinking,  “Well what changes our heart? What does it take in order for what we love to be changed?”

And then I heard, “Well I guess it takes an experience, it takes an occurrence or an event .” And then I realised that no, it’s not a one-off event, that doesn’t change our heart  – but it CAN wake us up. I think the heart only changes over time,  little by little. Then I came across this quote by Michel Conge who was a follower of the mystic George Gurdjieff and also author of Life – Real Life Behind Appearances.

Existence is a great monitor street with its disciplines, its trials, its rules, and its renunciation. But the approach has to be learned.

And the two passages connected for me. I saw that the first passage from the Word (Divine Providence 91) was saying exactly what the second one was. That existence has to be something we learn. That the nature of what existence is, isn’t something that we are born into or is obvious for us. And that’s because we spend the first period of our development learning to believe that WE are what creates and sustains our life. That we are in charge and are the source of power. That the intellect we are gifted with, is ours. That the love that we feel, is ours.

And so it really resonated with me, this idea that existence is something that we have to learn. It connects with the idea that the Lord didn’t come to save the celestial. Or the natural. He came to save the spiritual. So what is the spiritual? The spiritual are the states in us that are ready to acknowledge the Lord and are ready to be taught. They are the states that have a love for inquiry but also a developing love for what is good and true. These states are reformable and are able to be made new and regenerated into something of the Lord. These states are what are able to be saved or if you like are able to be opened up into more of a celestial knowing. These spiritual states are the states that are able to experience a change of heart; a transformation.

I really love the imagery in the statement that ‘existence is a monitor street’. I have this image of a person walking down the street and all of the events and people and objects on the sidewalk or in front of them, being all of the things that life throws at us. And that our work is to try to stay awake so that this street and everything it offers, is able to act as a monitor. As something that offers us ground in which to observe our spiritual behaviour, the life of our mind, of our thoughts and affections. As something that offers us an ability to observe states of the Lord and states that arent of the Lord; to observe states of good and truth and states of evil and falsity.

So we have to learn what existence is. We have to learn what it means to have life and be in life. And we are told that this requires an acknowledgement that the Lord is the source of our life and that it needs to be an acknowledgement from the heart or from the will, not just the understanding.

I was thinking about this and thinking “Gosh it still feels abstract. I want something practical and applicable that I can get my hands on and really see this as something that’s like a working relationship in my day to day life in the natural world.”

And then I came across this little gem that was hidden inside Divine Providence 94.

To love the Lord above all things is nothing else than to do no evil to the Word because the Lord is in the Word,

“Ah ha!” I thought, “this is something workable.” Here is something that really speaks to practice for me. In fact it seems to embody the concept of Logopraxis, the practice of the Word. It seems to be saying that the practice of the Word is the practice of the Lord.  It is reminding us that when we practice the Word, we are being asked to remember the Lord in it. To remember the good in its truth or the love in its wisdom or  the will  in its understanding or the heart in what our lips are saying. To “do no evil” means to do no states that are absent from the Lord or are not in acknowledgement of Him. So we are being asked to remember to try to stay awake…  and that is the practice of the Word. It is allowing the Word to be the source and the agent that not only continually wakes us but wakes us up to the reality that to live from it, is existence itself …. because it is the Lord.

So how does the street that we walk down every day offer to this?

The street is the conditions of our life. We all have unique life circumstances and some appear to be much harsher and more full of heartache and hardship than others. And I’m not sure that we could ever rationalise that those specific circumstances are necessary and yet we know from first principles that there must be some conditions of some sort. And that it isn’t the conditions themselves that are the focus or that are important but rather it is how the heart responds them. That it is our responses that matter.

I’ve had a lot of back pain in the last year or so.  That has been part of my street. And like any kind of chronic pain, whether physical or spiritual, it can often feel relentless. Every little movement you make brings an awareness of the pain. And day to day activities are often impaired because of the pain. The back in particular seems to be an important cornerstone to the whole body, from which the arms and legs and head and everything else rely on for support and stability. But the back also, when it is healthy, speaks to an ability to stand upright and walk forward and trust that each step is confident and allows one to move from one place to another.  Our back also allows us to bow down and to humble ourselves to the Divine and submit our self to another. I’m not sure I would’ve thought as deeply about any of that, if I hadn’t suffered the pain. Or at least, I can see that the back pain allows me to see the opposite and through its functions, it offers insights in how we relate and interact with the Lord. So it’s not the suffering that’s important because evil and falsities will always be present and so offer us work. They aren’t eradicated altogether but simply pushed out to the periphery. So no,  it’s not the suffering that’s important but it’s the humility and the patience and the trust and the wakefulness that the suffering brings, if we allow the Word to be what analyses and judges it.

I, Yahweh, am your Elohim Who brought you forth from the land of Egypt, from being servants to them. I have broken the slider bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk upraised.

Leviticus 26:13 (Concordant Literal Version)

So take heart, let the Lord take your heart and do not despair. The street isn’t the thing itself that you’re being asked to focus on but rather it’s the existence in it, as you walk down it. This is where the transformation is present.

And you–if you do walk before Me as David your father walked,
in simplicity of heart,
and in uprightness,
to do according to all that I have commanded you–

My statutes and My judgments you do keep

1 Kings 9:4 (Concordant Literal Version)

For the LORD God is a sun and shield:
the LORD will  give grace and glory:
no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.

Psalms 84:11 (King James Version)


Extra references:

Divine Providence 94
…. And when there is a reciprocal conjunction, whatever a man does to the neighbor he does from the Lord; and whatever he does from the Lord is good; and then to him the person is not the neighbour, but the good in the person.

To love the Lord above all things is nothing else than to do no evil to the Word because the Lord is in the Word,

nor to the holy things of the church because the Lord is in the holy things of the church, nor to the soul of any one, because every one’s soul is in the Lord’s hand.

Divine Providence 86
As the evil man as well as the good man has rationality and liberty, so the evil man as well as the good man is able to understand truth and do good; but while the good man is able to do this from freedom in accordance with reason, the evil man is not; because the evil man is in the enjoyment of the love of evil, while the good man is in the enjoyment of the love of good. Consequently the truth that the evil man understands and the good that he does are not appropriated to him, while to the good man good and truth are appropriated, and without appropriation as one’s own there is no reformation nor regeneration.

For in the wicked, evils with falsities are as it were in the center, while goods with truths are in the circumferences;

but in the good, goods with truths are in the center and evils with falsities are in the circumferences;
and in both cases that which is at the center flows out even to the circumferences, as heat from a central fire, or as cold from a central frigidity.

Thus in the evil the goods in the circumferences are defiled by the evils at the center;
while in the good, the evils in the circumferences are moderated by the goods at the center.

This is why evils do not damn the regenerate man, and goods do not save the unregenerate man.

Divine Providence 93 [3]
Since the Lord wills conjunction with man in order to save him, He provides that there shall be in man something reciprocal. The reciprocal in man is this, that the good which he wills and does from freedom, and the truth which, from that willing, he thinks and speaks in accordance with reason, appear to be from himself, and this good in his will and this truth in his understanding appear to be his. To man they even appear to be from himself and to be his precisely as if they were his, with no difference whatever. Take notice whether any one by any sense perceives it to be otherwise. Respecting this appearance as if from oneself, see above (74-87); and respecting appropriation as one’s own (78-81).

The only difference is that man ought to acknowledge that he does good and thinks truth not from himself but from the Lord, and consequently that the good he does and the truth he thinks are not his.

To so think from some love in the will, because such is the truth, is what causes conjunction; for thus man looks to the Lord, and the Lord looks on man.

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