21. I Am and It Is Nothing
We must start to put the feeling of ourselves in that part of us where the Lord builds the new will, while we separate from the external imaginary 'I' that feels so real, but is not, it being our exterior, proprial self. We must die as it were, and be reborn.
Imaginary 'I' is the external corporeal man, he is not real 'I.' However, there is a real 'I' in us the real 'I' is already there; it already exists. We have to start moving the feeling of who we are into this real 'I,' put the feeling into this observing part where the new will can be born.
You then no longer feel you are the negative emotion when the feeling of who you are is in a part that is looking at the negative emotion. That part is in the rational and is love of truth for truth's sake; that is the manna you get while you are in the desert. At first it is very cold and doesn't have a lot of feeling about it, just like the manna, but you do have some love of truth, some insights and good feelings about what is the case. However, it is not like mutual love, or real love yet, but is that love of truth for the sake of truth. You are in the desert for a long time and need that manna. You have to come to die to the corporeal man so you can be reborn into real 'I,' where the new will and the new understanding is being formed.
Now it is easy to say you have to die to something, but to actually die to something is very hard. You may have the idea, "I'll give up this external corporeal man here, and I'll be glad to go join the internal new will man there. I'll just move right over there."
People might want to go right from the land of Egypt to the promised land, with no problem. But of course, there are those 40 years in between where everybody who left Egypt dies before they get to the promised land. It talks in the Word about how a piece of corn or a cornstalk has to die, how it falls to the ground and gets trampled into the mud, and then winter comes. If that doesn't happen, nothing new can happen. In that period called winter it looks like the cornstalk died and nothing is happening. It's cold, it's
still, it's lifeless. It looks like nothing in the world is going to be produced by that death. It feels like you are giving up absolutely everything that you are. It feels that way and that is exactly the truth.
But then, of course, spring comes and you find out it isn't dead. What can really be born, now that the old has died, can start to give birth. And it isn't just one piece of corn that pops up in the spring. It has multiplied - there might be ten, twenty, thirty pieces of com from that one piece of com! But first that one piece of corn has to die.
A lot of what we do in the Work we come to experience and think of as good. Then later in the Work you look back and you see that what you thought was good was only an intermediate step. What they call positive emotions in the book, The Witness is unbelievable. There was an experience the author, John Bennett, had when he felt a truly positive emotion for the first time in his life, and John Bennett was a hard working individual! What we think of as positive emotions, like storge' and loving your kids, are probably not completely positive. We think we love our kids, but we probably just love ourselves in our kids! Often we don't love our friends, we love our friends loving us! But it's as close as we can get for now and it is used by the Lord in His mercy. But when we get to experience a purely positive emotion that is going to be an entirely different thing.
So, just as Gurdjieff talked about being between stools, you may find there is a big desert between here and the promised land. If you are going to empty your cup, before the new wine is poured in there is going to be a time when it is empty. He called it being between stools. Remember the Lord said don't look back or you'll turn to salt. There is that time when we feel why can't we have the flesh pots of Egypt, at least there we had food. Here we have nothing. Manna is not real filling and there's a lot of the time we don't have it. So there's a dead feeling where you aren't what you used to be and you aren't what you're going to become, and you wonder if it's worth it!
And then you, just like the children of Israel, complain, complain, complain. Life was miserable with snakes biting them, and killing them. So it's not like they were in paradise - they had some reason to complain! So, between chairs, as Gurdjieff says, is tough. That is where the Lord tries us, and our faith is tried.
We have to keep going. The Children of Israel who started out were not the ones who entered the land. 'I's in us who begin the
Work are incapable of going to heaven. They are just capable of beginning the Work. They will introduce us to 'I's that are born on the way that can really go to heaven with us. And even the leading 'I's who we think are the stewards and so forth are only going part way, perhaps. Moses wasn't allowed in, was he? He was allowed to look from the mountain. So, even the 'I's that the Lord uses are not the ones that will go to heaven. They just get us started on the way.
Moses represents the intellectual part that can see the truth. Just before he died on Mt. Nebo Moses was given a glimpse of the promised land. But a sight of heaven, an understanding of heaven, is not heaven. The menu is not the meal. It was Joshua who had tasted the fruit of the promised land, who was willing to fight the giants - willing to do the Work - who actually went in to the promised land. Swedenborg therefore says that Joshua represents "truth fighting." We call it "doing the Work."
The Lord says, "I AM that I AM," "This is the I AM." The Lord resides in real T.' And while real T is not the Lord, the Lord Himself resides within real 'I.' The Writings tell us that good spirits know the Lord is in them and that everything from the Lord comes through them. And they feel as if they have something which is called the heavenly proprium. It is not the old proprium, it is a new heavenly proprium that has wonderful qualities. So we are moving towards this.
There is, however, a state when you are still here, immersed in the external man, when everything around you feels bad and you are identified with it. You don't feel like anything new and it feels like you are being annihilated. All you have to do is keep watching these states and keep separating from the negative ones, and realize they are not you.
We must learn to Self-remember, which is, to put a feeling of "I AM" or the Lord being with you, deep inside you. Now it is a funny thing; there is the false 'I' which you have to give up - you have to become nothing - and yet, at the same time, the Work says to remember yourself. And what is remembering yourself? The "I AM" part is that I have a vessel in which the Lord can not only live but through which the Lord can be active. I have that - the Lord has given me that potential. So its "I AM" which means, "I have a vessel that the Lord can be active in," (remember, that's being passive, but you are the vessel and the Lord can be active in it.) "I AM and 'IT' is nothing." Real 'I' is something and proprium is nothing.
Think of yourself as having two images. One is the real you - the heavenly self-image or the heavenly proprium. The other figure is man's proprium and is bondage. When you are in externals you are in bondage to all those states, all those likes and dislikes.
When I say we are getting rid of this proprium, we are allowing ourselves to be freed from it. The Lord is annihilating your captors. He is taking down your prison. We are like a man in prison holding on to the bars, saying, "Don't take me away from here!" We don't even recognize that the thing we are holding onto is the very thing that we are imprisoned by. If we hold on to the old, we are going to find that nothing in the proprium can ever be gratified. You can never have anything the proprium wants. You can't even have the pleasure that it promises you. So, if you keep holding onto something that you're not going to get anyway, your spiritual life is in jeopardy.
So, yes, we are asking you to totally give up this old way because it imprisons you. There is nothing good in here for you. The pleasure of anger is not pleasurable. The pleasure of having contempt over others and feeling superior is not pleasurable. The feeling of being richer than your neighbor is not good. That feeling is not good, it is bad. You are asked to give that up. Now some of it may appear good, like the kind of love for people that is based on their love for you, but that's not true love, it's just love of self.
When you are in a negative state start to Self-remember with the feeling or the words, "I AM" followed by, "and 'IT' is nothing," ('IT' being whatever you might experience in the proprium: anger, fear, jealousy, irritation, contempt, etc.) Lets say a state of impatience. You are in a car, or you're waiting for a train, or you're waiting for your wife, whatever. You are in a state of impatience and you Self-remember, "I AM and that impatience is nothing." Or you drive by a nice house and you feel covetousness, and you say, "I AM and that wanting is nothing." You get angry. Hold it. "I AM and this anger is nothing." I exist. The Lord is within me, and that concern is a nothing! That is a freeing experience. You are freeing yourself from all those negative states which the hells induce on that thing called the proprium which appears to be something. If you give that up, what are the hells going to attack? Swedenborg said he had nothing, so what could they attack?
But mutual love, which alone is heavenly, consists in a man's not only saying of himself, but acknowledging and believing, that he is utterly unworthy, and that he is something vile and filthy, which the Lord from His infinite mercy continually withdraws and holds back from hell, into which the man continually strives, nay longs, to precipitate himself. His acknowledging and believing this, (that he is vile and filthy) is because it is true; not that the Lord, or any angel, desires him to acknowledge and believe it for the sake of his submission; but that he may not exalt himself, seeing that he is even such; for this would be as if excrement should call itself pure gold, or a fly of the dunghill should say that it is a bird of paradise. So far therefore as a man acknowledges and believes himself to be such as he really is, he recedes from the love of self and its cupidities, and abhors himself. So far as he does this, he receives heavenly love from the Lord, that is, mutual love, which consists in the desire to serve all. These are they who are meant by 'the least,' who become in the Lord's kingdom the greatest. (AC 1594 )
The Lord says, "The world doesn't know me, but I'm going to send someone to you." Then he says again, "The world doesn't know me, but you know me." Now who is he talking to? He just said the world doesn't know me but you know me.
The external corporeal part of us does not know the Lord. It is incapable of knowing him or of loving him. It is incapable of understanding the truth. "But you know me." The internal man, the new will, the I AM. The heavenly proprium that the Lord has created so that he can reside in you and become one with you - that knows Him. This is a statement, to me, about that movement from where He is not to where He is. It is a spiritual journey from Egypt to Canaan, Philadelphia to Tibet, earth to heaven, from love of self and the world to loving the neighbor and the Lord. It is a journey that begins by striving to keep His commandments:
If you love me, do my commandments and I will pray the Father and He shall give you another Comforter that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot perceive because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him, but ye know Him, for He dwells with you and He shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world seeth Me no more, but ye see Me. Because I live, ye shall live also. (John 14: 15-19)
What we are trying to do here, is to make a house for the Lord where He can live in us. And what we are grasping and holding onto so tightly is the very thing that is keeping us from moving toward that place where the Lord is trying to prepare a mansion for us. So it seems as if what we are observing is negative (the proprium), but the fact that we are looking at it and starting to move away from it and to know that it is not us, is very good. I AM and it is nothing. And it really is nothing.
When you become aware of a negative state in yourself, start to Self-remember, feel the Lord's presence with you, and say the words, "I AM," followed by, "and 'IT' is nothing" ('IT' being whatever you might experience such as anger, fear, jealousy, contempt etc.) "I AM and this (emotion) is nothing." Use that statement whenever you become aware of a negative state. The Lord is all powerful.