Dear Unknown Friend,
In Genesis God says, “You shall not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for on the day when you eat from it you will die”, and the serpent says, “You will not die”. Here God is categorical; the serpent is just as much so.
Is it simply that the serpent understands by “death” what God understands by “life” and that he understands by “life” what God understands by “death”?
The answer to this question is the Arcanum of the thirteenth Card of the Tarot, “Death”, which represents a skeleton who reaps only what pushes up from the black soil and rises above it—hands, heads, etc.
During the sixteen or eighteen hours that we are in the waking state there are layers of our psychic being which are asleep. During the waking state one is “asleep” to many things—facts, people, ideas, God…
And if the Buddha is considered—and venerated—as “fully awake” to the facts of human life such as sickness, old age and death, it is because those who are not Buddhas know that they are asleep with regard to these facts— not intellectually, but psychically and in their will.
How and why do we remember the past, how and why do we wake in the morning, and how and why do we live several decades? Let us meditate on this without the intermediary of what may be borrowed from others. In meditation—and these Letters are only meditations—let us ask ourselves: “What do I myself know?”, and not the question: “What is generally known?”
There are four types of memory: mechanical or automatic memory, logical memory, moral memory and vertical or revelatory memory.
We must seek for the key to memory at its highest development — “moral memory” and “vertical memory”. What is the force at work in the subjective magical operation of remembering, such as it is revealed in “vertical memory” and in “moral memory”? The following reveals it to its highest conceivable degree:
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus…when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days…Jesus wept… Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb; it was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said: Take away the stone… So they took away the stone…Jesus cried with a loud voice: Lazarus, come out. The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth.
(John xi, 5-44)
Firstly, coming is the first effort in the whole operation of recall. Then, the taking away of the stone is the effort which vanquishes doubt, depression, fatigue and, lastly, despair, which bar the way to the recalled, like the stone placed before the tomb. Lastly: “To cry with a loud voice” is the culminating—and the supreme—effort of the operation of recall through the force of love, as was the case with Lazarus. Work and suffering are the things which render our voices audible to the spiritual world. These are the factors which create “vibrations” sufficiently “loud” in the spiritual world in order to render our voices audible.
This is why the rosary-prayer repeats the Ave Maria two hundred times and the Pater Noster twenty times. The effort of the rosary-prayer founded on suffering makes it a powerful means in sacred magic.
The miracle of St. Francis is not only the healing of a leper but also the love of St. Francis for “Lady Poverty”. Did not the miracles of Jesus Christ, after the resurrection of Lazarus, culminate in the cross on Calvary where, in the full agony of torture, he said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke xxiii, 34)?
All that one does is miraculous; all intellectual, psychic and physical functioning according to “nature”, i.e. according to human automatism, is mechanical. The Sermon on the Mount is the teaching of doing and of the triumph over functioning.
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you…and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. (Luke vi, 27-28; Matthew v, 44-45)
All things were made through the Word, and nothing that was made was made without him. (John i, 3)
One can will forgetting of many things which do not relate to the subject of concentration or contemplation. One knows that when one prays the Pater Noster one forgets not only one’s daily affairs but also all other prayers for the time that one prays the Pater Noster.
The three stages on the way towards the soul’s union with God—those of purification, illumination and union—are simply the history of a single growing effort of concentration of the entire soul upon God. St. John of the Cross says of the effect of the experience of actual union of the soul’s powers with God:
…all the powers of the soul together, because of the union in the inner cellar, drink of the Beloved… This draught of God’s most deep wisdom makes the soul forget all the things of this world, and consider all its previous knowledge, and the knowledge of the whole world besides, as pure ignorance in comparison with this knowledge. (St. John of the Cross, A Spiritual Canticle )
I may add that the masters of Raja-yoga, Bhakti-yoga and Jnana-yoga teach the practice of complete forgetting of the phenomenal world with a view to attaining perfect contemplation. The teaching of forgetting is found also in the mystical Cabbala and in Mohammedan mysticism, e.g. that of Sufism.
Saints do not seek union with God; they are united with God. This is why they act — their faces being turned towards the earth and not towards God — in the name of God on earth. They act, being united with God, in the guise of organs of his will.
It is the same with Angels, for example. Guardian Angels could never be guardians of human beings if their looks were turned towards God
The three stages of the way leading to the soul’s union with God—purification, illumination and union—are repeated after death: purgatory is purification (catharsis), which precedes illumination or heaven, and heaven is the state of the soul when it arrives at union with God,
One could then speak of a “mission”, or an “election”…and rightly, because such a mission is the only one which really exists. For the true mission is not what the human being proposes to do on the earth according to his tastes, his interests and even his ideals, but rather what God wants him to do. Arbitrary “missions”, although due to the best intentions in the world, have only contributed confusion to human history.
The Gospel maxim is “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matthew v, 37). Here we return to the question that we posed at the beginning of this Letter, namely: What is the “surplus” that the serpent adds to the “yes” and “no” understood as life and death? The serpent promises a crystallisation, that the human being will resist death and become “death-proof”, immune to death. This crystallisation is effected through friction, i.e. by the electrical energy which is produced by the struggle between “yes” and “no” in man.
There are schools — occult or other — which teach and practise crystallisation and there are other schools which teach and practise radiation, i.e. the complete de- crystallisation of the human being and his transformation into a “sun”, into a centre of radiation. “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew xiii, 43)—
The “schools of crystallisation” are quite numerous and widespread. I have in mind the school of G. I. Gurdjieff, and I am going to cite the work In Search of the Miraculous by P. D. Ouspensky.
According to Gurdjieff, immortality is neither a birthright of the human soul nor a gift of divine grace —it is made by crystallisation of a new body within the physical body which can resist death and survive the destruction of the physical body.
That is to say, the soul created by God does not exist; it must be created by the human being from within the physical body. The robber and the monk, and also the occultist, can become immortal through the energy that they produce by their efforts.
Ouspensky writes of a construction, from within the physical body, of a tower rising from mortality to immortality, from earth to heaven. Now, the Bible knows of the method of building “a tower with its top in the heavens” and of making “a name for ourselves lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Genesis xi, 4). It is the construction of the Tower of Babel.
Gurdjieff is simply a representative of the cause of materialistic science. He was, moreover, a good-natured man, endowed with an exquisite sense of humour, a good son, a good friend, and very intelligent with respect to common sense. It would be wrong to see in him a “prophet of darkness” or an instrument of a special “Satanic mission”. No, he was simply a good representative of the “wisdom of this world”. He was not any more a “Satanist” than the celebrated Russian physiologist Pavlov or any other representative of materialistic science.
You see now, dear Unknown Friend, why the Church was hostile to the doctrine of reincarnation, although the fact of repeated incarnations was known to a large number of people faithful to the Church with authentic spiritual experience.
The deeper reason is the danger of reincarnation by way of the ghost, where one avoids the path of purification (in purgatory), illumination and celestial union.
For humanity could succumb to the temptation of preparing for a future terrestrial life, instead of preparing for purgatory and heaven, during earthly life. One ought during earthly life to prepare for this meeting with a fully awakened consciousness, which is purgatory, and for the experience of the presence of the Eternal, which is heaven
It is not phantoms and ghosts which are the source of certainty of survival or immortality. The source of this certainty is found elsewhere. Where, then?…in the experience of the kernel of the human being and his relationship with the breath, light and warmth of God.
Imagine the reaction of a St. John of the Cross or a St. Teresa of Avila to a discourse, armed with all the arguments of modern science, addressed to them so as to prove to them that the soul is only a mirage produced by chemistry and electricity! I think that they would have sent the author of such remarks either to a psychiatrist or to an exorcist!
I certainly know the logical, philosophical and psychological criticism of the Cartesian argument, cogito ergo sum ( I think therefore I am) and I accept it without reserve in foro scientiae (before the court of science), but it was not the force of this argument in the tribunal of science which gave René Descartes certainty of his transcendent Self.
The kernel of his being, but rather the experience in the tribunal of consciousness (in foro conscientiae) where, whilst thinking in the admirable way which was characteristic of him, he went out of discursive thought and found himself as the thinker of thoughts! It was therefore not a logical argument but a real and intimate experience of thought – in the process of thinking – which gave Descartes complete certainty of the reality of the “I am” which manifests itself in the “I think”
The German philosopher Immanuel Kant (a soul of childlike purity, endowed with a remarkable honesty and diligence) made Descartes’ spontaneous experience a new method of inner effort aspiring to knowledge, namely the transcendental method.
This method amounts to the effort to transcend the thinking in which the thinker is ordinarily immersed, by going out from it and elevating himself above it, in order to observe thought. His works Critique of Pure Reason and Critique of Judgement are the fruits of the application of this method, which judges things belonging to the metaphysical domain — for example, God, the immortality of the soul, and moral freedom. He wrote:
“I would have to alter the foundation of my very being, or to annihilate myself, if I were to say that God does not exist, that I am not free, and that I am not immortal. The very structure of my being is such that it postulates categorically the existence of God or infinite perfectibility, freedom or morality as such, and the immortality of the soul or the possibility of infinite perfectioning.”
You see therefore, dear Unknown Friend, that the great thinkers of the West — just as the Hindu yogis — have arrived at the experience of the kernel of the human being, the transcendent Self, the experience of which gave them certainty of immortality.
To return to the Card of the thirteenth Major Arcanum of the Tarot. Here we see that Death reaps hands, feet, and lastly heads, which appear above the level of the black soil. He does not reap growing grass or whole human figures. He acts as a surgeon rather than as an exterminator. He sees that the vital world is not invaded by “emissaries” from the physical world. He amputates members that become unusable so as to free the whole human being. He is the last expedient to save life.