• Awakening Soul

Freeing the Force of Gratitude

"I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified." (1 Corinthians 14)

Many cultures and traditions speak of "being grateful" to God for what we have and what we are. But these platitudes begin wearing thin after some time, losing the vitality they once had. We grow skeptical of these hallmark moments and wonder, "what is so special about being grateful anyway?" That is a serious question and it deserves a serious answer. It is through our understanding that these withering platitudes can be transfigured and resurrected back into a vital life as concrete realities within us. That is, by engaging our thinking to understand why we should be grateful, we are, at the same time, genuinely singing praise to God for those qualities and edifying our own spirit about who we are and who we could be. We are thinking be-ings, evolving from the depths of unconsciousness, and we could be ever-more conscious Thinking be-ings. What if we could discern by this Thinking how every rich and aesthetic quality of our experience was gifted to us by a profound inner logic of the Cosmic organism? What if we could concretely discern the 'force of Gratitude', just as we do the 'force of Gravity', working within and through the natural processes around and within us?

The word "memory" originally means this incessant concentration on contiguity. In its original telling sense, memory means as much as devotion. This word possesses the special tone of the pious and piety, and designates the devotion of prayer, only because it denotes the all-comprehensive relation of concentration upon the holy and the gracious. The thanc unfolds in memory, which persists as devotion. Memory in this originary sense later loses its name to a restricted denomination, which now signifies no more than the capacity to retain things that are in the past. But if we understand memory in the light of the old word thanc, the connection between memory and thanks will dawn on us at once. For in giving thanks, the heart in thought recalls where it remains gathered and concentrated, because that is where it belongs. This thinking that recalls in memory is the original thanks. - Martin Heidegger, What is Called Thinking?

Through this devotional Thining, our expressions of gratitude are all the more rich and meaningful, because we have perceived how the forces we are grateful for are not only things long past and forgotten, but are still gathered and concentrated together in our immanent Thinking experience. My purpose here would not be to formulate a 'law of Gratitude', even if I could. As little as I know the inner mathematical workings of the gravitational force, just as little do I know those of the gratitudinal force. That lack of detailed knowledge does not stop me, however, from perceiving that there is a lawful force weaving through the Cosmos which is rooted in processes well beyond my intellectual grasp, as Heidegger also perceived. When I drop a ball, it falls to the Earth before bouncing back up to my hand, and when I articulate a grateful prayer in devotion, it soars off into the Cosmic depths before it is reflected back into my inner thinking experience. And when it returns, it has a vitality which I could not have possibly given it on my own.

But is this lawful dynamic only limited to my devotional prayers? Perhaps the force of gratitude also acts upon my regular thoughts throughout the course of the day. We seldom stop to reflect on what forces are at work when we are thinking, even though we are thinking every moment we are awake. When I stop at the pump to fill my car's gas tank, it is only wise to know what sort of gas it takes, how much it can take, how many miles it can get from a tank, etc. Even if I don't know those things, it is plainly obvious to me that I could know them if I chose to. Do we ever feel the same way about knowing more about the energetic source of our thoughts which is called "Thinking"? I am asking a lot of questions that I don't have precise answers to, because the point here is only to stimulate our thoughts in a direction where the process of finding the answers may be found. We must first have some trust that our Thinking can answer these questions if we ask them with persistence, patience, good will, and gratitude.

I assume most people have sensed the enriching experience, however dimly, of being genuinely grateful when reflecting thoughtfully upon their existence. We can ask ourselves what would make such a force of gratitude possible? These experiences do not simply manifest out of a void. If a rock hits me in the head, it is only reasonable to think that this rock came from somewhere; from some active agency in the world. It is not at all reasonable to think that my own limited agency manifested the rock and hit myself in the head with it. That is, however, how modern man feels about his own thoughts. By failing to ask reasonable questions about the origin of these thoughts, and to follow the threads of logic with our Thinking, we are claiming our thoughts all for ourselves. We have then idolized our own limited sphere of activity into the supreme lord of thinking and thoughts. That is a sentiment which stimulates the opposite spiritual disposition of gratefulness - pride. The force of gravity expresses itself through a polar dynamic of attraction and repulsion, while the force we speak of here expresses itself through gratefulness and pride.

When we are grateful, we pull the moral qualities of Be-ing closer to our own sphere of activity, and when we are prideful, we push them further away. We should try hard to avoid approaching these considerations with any feelings of liking or disliking here; sympathy or antipathy. The attraction-repulsion dynamic of the gravitational force clearly consists in a Wisdom beyond our intellectual grasp, and so does the gratitude-pride dynamic of this underlying moral force. Our feelings can only serve to block our own understanding of the dynamic at this point; we are only hurting ourselves by approaching it with our sympathies and antipathies (which are themselves an expression of the attraction-repulsion dynamic). Instead, we can begin attuning our thoughts to our feelings and desires by dispassionately perceiving the inner logic at work in these Cosmic forces. Instead of thinking with likes and dislikes, we can adopt a thinking imbued with solemnity, yet also enthusiasm and joyousness

"It is good to give thanks to the Lord,

And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;

To declare Your loving kindness in the morning,

And Your faithfulness every night,

On an instrument of ten strings,

On the lute,

And on the harp,

With harmonious sound.

For You, Lord, have made me glad through Your work;

I will triumph in the works of Your hands.

O Lord, how great are Your works!

Your thoughts are very deep.

A senseless man does not know,

Nor does a fool understand this." (Psalm 2)

One way to avoid this myopic mode of prideful thinking is to broaden out our own Time-consciousness, i.e. to focus on the High Ideal of Metamorphosis and perceive how Thinking itself has evolved over the epochs of human history. The ancient imagery of cross-cultural mythology and poetry practically embeds the force of gratitude into all of its manifold expressions. Our ancient ancestors had very little sense of 'creating' their own thoughts from within. Instead, what we now call "thinking" and "thoughts" were experienced concretely as outward revelation and then translated into the oral and written mythology which survives to present day. How could one feel anything but the most sublime gratitude if all thoughts were experienced as the gifts of the gods and spirits weaving through the world processes? We assume the Psalmist above was simply in a rare ecstatic state, or cobbling together intellectual concepts like we do now, but what we concretely discern in the words above with our own grateful Thinking defies that assumption.

Our current intellectual state is really a chaotic mix of desires, feelings, and thoughts, speeding through our limited sphere of consciousness with very little meaningful structure. Just as the bold and stabilizing force of gravity appears to break down when we plunge into the 'chaotic' quantum scale, so does the force of gratitude appear to break down when plunging into our own intellect. Yet these are only appearances which are reflecting back to us our own chaotic thinking state. In this fragmented state, all of our thoughts appear as our own creations because we have no better explanation for them; we simply don't know about our own thoughts, so we make ourselves their origin to avoid constant uncertainty. It is precisely our living Thinking which can trace back the processes which weave our thoughts together and thereby reveal how they originate well beyond the domain of our own atomized ego. We are not seeking an abstract quantum "theory" of gratitude here, but concrete perception of the reasons for the gratitudinal force's undeniable meaning in our lives.

At the time of Midsummer, when the Northern or Southern hemisphere is tilted towards the Sun's illuminating rays, the higher-order forces which weave together our inner experience are more easily discerned. Therefore, we are more naturally and subconsciously grateful for the Cosmos at this time. In the Winter, however, the Earth tilts away from the Sun's rays and the gratitudinal forces have weakened greatly. Just as the Earth adorns a raiment of snow in the Winter which reflects away the Sunlight raying forth from the Cosmos, the sphere of man's ego reflects away the thought-rays which approach him from the spiritual 'beyond'. Man, like the Earth herself, is then left to fend for himself through his inner thought-life; through whatever thought-energy he had wisely stored up during the Summer. It is especially during this time that we must consciously discern the force of gratitude working within us to maintain our thought-connection to the Cosmic whole. That is the deeper meaning of the Christmas festival at Midwinter, when we are prompted to look inwards for the brilliant luminescence of the Sun stored up within.

"Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light."

(Luke 11)

That fullness and lightness of our inner lamp redeems the force of gratitude in and through our thinking experience, just as the Sun's light redeems the Earth when the Winter finally ends and Spring begins. Our inner knowledge sets this force of gratitude free from the darkness which had enveloped it after our Fall from Grace. We may then discern, in the most concrete way, that all of our thoughts are only possible because they have been reflected back to us by higher be-ings who weave them through the structured and meaningful forces of Love and Gratitude. Since we only experience the world content through the mediation of our thinking activity, we then understand the reason why we should be grateful to these higher order be-ings for all that we experience. We are then rebirthing the withering platitude of gratitude back into a new life from within ourselves. This resurrected force of Gratitude can truly stabilize and harmonize the celestial motions of our inner Cosmos. It can bring our soul and spirit out of the dark quantum depths and back into the steadily evolving orbit of our Sun.