Please consider this writing as a communiqué from out on the Wisdom path—a report on where one of your fellow travelers is currently located, how I got here, and what the terrain looks like.
I spent 2022 immersed in several Wisdom activities. The daily centering prayer pauses with Heather Ruce on Zoom, three ten-week cycles of Gurdjieff exercises also with Heather, several Gospel of Thomas groups, some remote programs with Cynthia, and a daily Lectio practice consisting mostly of writings from Maurice Nicoll. Somewhere during those travels, I came to adopt the aim of “living from Good,” and that is what I’d like to share with you.
It started with Cynthia’s Eastertide 2022 challenge to find sun and moon in ourselves. I chose to live from kindness. As I settled into kindness, there came a period when I needed to be present with a family member experiencing an immense and painful disruption in life. I was with this person every day for months of long conversations, working to remain in Kindness, with not so much as a raised eyebrow of reactivity. That experience helped to broaden the aim of living from kindness to one of living from Good. What did it mean, living from Good? I wasn’t completely sure, but as my attention settled into the aim, the fuller, higher meaning began to come into view, like wildflowers on the forest floor.
In the Dialogues of Mary Magdalene, Yeshua tells his students that “the Good has come among you pursuing its own essence within nature in order to unite everything with its origin.” In her commentary on Yeshua’s statement (The Luminous Gospels, p. 58) Cynthia describes our world as good and worthy, so long as it stays united with its original image beyond this realm, and in so doing may receive energies from higher and more subtle realms. That was an opening for me, and I relaxed into it.
In his book, The New Man, Maurice Nicoll discusses the idea of Good being above Truth (chapter 4). Maurice spends a lot of time in this book going over levels of meaning, from literal truth to levels beyond our normal sense of life and time. He describes a man acting from truth, following the rules, acting from his will as best he can, and yet still wondering if he is doing good, sensing something beyond. Plato says that “in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort.” Maurice sees this order too—Truth is first and Good is last, at least until a person sees the power of Good to bring Truth alive. An example of this for me would be when I struggle to trust someone until I see proof that they are trustworthy. I’m stingy with the Good of trust until I see the truth of trustworthiness. Maurice observes that the order can be inverted—Good can be placed before Truth when the person acts from Good, sensing the eternal values of Good. This was another place for me to stand. Resonance was sensed.
Maurice goes over a few related ideas in his book, Living Time: invisible realms, a new understanding of time, and higher levels of consciousness. His view is of humanity being trapped, like Flatlanders in a segmented view of reality. This segmentation in time makes being in wholeness—nearly impossible. He contrasts our normal “passing time” with an “Immense field of living Time” and describes the integration of life beyond passing time. Maurice suggests in Living Time, (p. 174-175) that an idea from a higher level has the power of altering the sense of things at the human level of consciousness, and that “the energy which ordinarily flows into the small and petty things of life is absorbed into a new sense of reality.” Maurice suggests that imitating a direct cognition at a higher level is an exercise that can bear fruit.
Is Maurice suggesting that I use elements of Good as a vehicle or a hook to attach myself to a higher realm? Let’s pause here for just a moment, because this is the heart of what I’m trying to say. To me elements of Good are essentially the fruits of the spirit in their elemental form beyond our realm. Kindness, gentleness, compassion, trust, forgiveness, generosity, love—the “Good that has come among us to unite everything with its origin.” However, as described above, Truth tends to come before Good in the lower realm. I would say that the elemental Good tends to land for us as truth. The elements get captured by time; they get compromised; they can even become their opposite. The elemental Good of kindness, for example, is still kindness in our realm, but it acquires the flavor of fairness, which introduces judgement or justice, which can lead to vengeance if there is perceived “unfairness” or “unjustness.” I think Good can actually mutate into evil—but that’s not what this story is about. As Cynthia said in her Gospel of Mary Magdalene commentary, our realm is not fallen or evil, but does need to maintain the connection with the origin beyond our realm.
I find much to consider in the parable of the workers in the vineyard, because it illuminates a lot of what I’m struggling with here. The workers who came early and worked all day are thoroughly ticked off when the latecomers receive the same pay. So unfair! How does this square with any notion of truth and justice? In the parable, the owner of the vineyard replies to the angry workers: “are you envious because I am generous? So, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
During the experience with the family member in crisis, there were opportunities for me to see a choice between Good being placed before or after truth, justice, and fairness. There were times when that family member asked me why I was showing kindness to a person causing so much chaos? My only answer at that time was, “because it feels right.”
We live in a realm where everything is calibrated by our senses. Hot and cold, far and near, visible and invisible. Maurice suggests (Living Time, p. 210) that to move towards the invisible realms requires thinking from the direction of ideas, rather than the senses. To accomplish this we must change our awareness of time and come to a new perception of reality. Again I hear Yeshua saying that the Good has come among us. In the realm of Good, I imagine there is no calibration. Kindness and Generosity are unadulterated, without gradations or opposites, and even no need for time, or what Maurice refers to as the “shadow-life of temporal experience.”
I have heard Cynthia say that “meaning is resonance, not explanation.” I avoid seeking the “explanation” of the territory that I’m exploring here, but instead have followed my aim and my Lectio and my meditation—sometimes into confusion and sometimes to the edges of resonance. My current sense of things, which could very well evolve as I continue on, is that Good enters from higher realms and appears to us as a World 48 phenomenon. Just as a sphere passing into Flatland manifests as a series of circles, we experience Good on our terms. But in his last teaching on Earth, Yeshua said that Good has come among us seeking its own essence to unite us with those higher realms. So that is the map I am using.
There has come in me a sense that life is like a Parable or a Logion or Desert Saying—those ancient forms that were meant to deliver Wisdom through different levels of meaning and truth. The lower level of literal truths where the events and sensations of our daily life in time play out, and the higher, broader arcs, with higher meanings and truths. The higher meaning may be paradoxically opposite of the lower meaning. Some of the most catastrophic events of my life have become the most positive events within the broader arc of longer time. I sense an even broader arc, entirely outside the usual sense of time.
So, how am I doing with the aim of Living from Good? Can I offer kindness, generosity, trust, or forgiveness without it being earned or fair, or with no thought of myself trying to be a good person? Can I attach myself to the higher realm by imitating pure and unadulterated Good? Well, I am beginning to taste it, and there are moments when I live in that place. And I can see it, when Good enters this world in its many forms and sacrifices its purity to “live among us.” Just this week I heard Cynthia say that one of the clues we can observe in ourselves is whether we are coming from a place of expectations, or from a place of wanting to serve.
The aim continues, an aim no doubt worthy of a lifetime.
Bill and Sarah recently closed their Gallery of Smoky Mountain images after 15 years in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. They currently live in the mountains of western North Carolina, in the small town of Brevard. They devote each day to their Wisdom journey, in whatever form that takes.
All images courtesy of Bill Britten