Monday, February 27, 2017

The Sorrow of Being, part I



Agra, India


People generally think that they want to feel "good"; that joyfulness is the best and most preferable feeling, and that positive emotions ought to be the center of our emotional gravity.

This definition of emotive magnetism depends on an outward and largely sensual interpretation of emotional health. Although we can be sure that depressive and destructive emotion aren't a desirable state, it doesn't follow by default that happiness is what will satisfy us. 

Gurdjieff, course, famously said that every happiness is the result of some earlier and already experienced unhappiness; he thus invoked not only reciprocity, but also payment. In this sense he suggested that if we wish to find any happiness at all we need first to be unhappy; and this makes a certain kind of fundamental common sense, since one cannot know the difference between happiness and unhappiness unless one has experienced both.

Yet, as Viktor Frankl pointed out in Man's Search for Meaning, a homeostasis of emotion—complete equilibrium—actually deprives human beings of an essential and necessary tension without which happiness cannot exist. Mankind derives its sense of meaning—which by itself, and alone, gives true solace to any and all all activity—from struggle; and this is, of course, equally the premise behind nearly all of the Gurdjieff/Salzmann teachings, as well as many manifest versions of Christianity, Sufism, and Buddhism. 

One might well argue that these philosophies of inner struggle represent liberation theologies or theurgies in which the subject is liberated not from the struggle, but from the lack of it. 

Gurdjieff's teachings certainly smack enough of this idea to disturb many folk; and indeed we work and live in a world where creature comforts are celebrated, and the ideal is some kind of wonderful happiness and inner peace — unattainable, of course, but probably right around the corner if only we take the right vacation and buy the right consumer goods.

It ought to be strikingly obvious to mankind that the material solution is a dead end; yet that seems to be just about all that’s on offer. Instead of pulling together into an intelligible vision of our shared humanity, the planet is fragmenting into an exponential number of cruelly self-interested groups. This steady and relentless decay of mankind’s inward emotional state reflects itself outwardly; and we can all see the results.

What I'd like to explain here is that there is, in fact, an objective right state of emotion in mankind—an inner emotional ground floor which alone represents the "resting state" (it is not in fact restful at all) from which all emotional action ought to be directed. 

This inner center of emotional gravity isn't happiness at all. 

It is a religious impulse, a movement towards God; and that movement begins within the human soul, unattached to joy or sorrow, bliss, or pain. It is an objective state of receptivity, not a condition already arrived at; that is to say, it stands within itself prepared to receive what comes, not already predisposed to happiness. 

The religious impulse, the original and primordial state of right emotion in man, is thus one in which a service is prepared for; the state of a nerve ending which has not yet received its first signal but stands prepared to do its full duty of transmission—regardless of the nature of that signal. It is, furthermore, in the performance of the duty itself that the greatest satisfaction rests.

More on this on March 2.

Hosanna.







Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Most readers are well familiar with Gurdjieff's formulation of human beings as "three brained beings."

 My new book, Being and Impressions, consists of brief and practical discussions on the subject, along with observations about impressions and how we take them in. 

The book was written to address some questions that have been directed at me over the last few months on the subject, which helped me to understand that many folks still struggling with these concepts—even after many years of effort to understand them. 

Most moving was a friend of mine—a true genius of talent with extraordinary outer accomplishments to his credit—who still after most of a lifetime, feels he cannot understand why impressions don't fall more deeply into him. 

His comment touched me in ways that theoretical discussions of these matters never do. I felt it was necessary to undertake an effort to grapple with these questions more directly, in a contemporary language, rather than the material we are all familiar with and have been reading for many years.

The aim in this book is to simplify and clarify some of these matters. It remains to be seen whether I have succeeded. Readers will have to judge.


Interested readers can purchase the book by clicking on the link in the above text.

Friday, February 24, 2017

On the usefulness of dualistic understanding



Agra, India

Twice this year, I’ve ended up engaging with highly intelligent, deeply experienced folk on spiritual paths who forwarded arguments about how we need to transcend dualistic understandings about good and evil, bad and good, and so on. 

…My goodness, they were so emphatic about it!

I think it’s important to understand the distinction between levels in order to approach this question realistically. The idea that we are on a level — or can, from where we are, inhabit a level — that transcends dualism is to me a patent absurdity. The whole point of the level we are on, and the material universe in general, is that it is a universe of discrimination (separations and distinctions) and polarities. Without polarity, energy itself could not exist — energy, after all, lawfully flows between positive and negative poles, that’s the way the universe is made. 

In an exquisite irony, both of the friends who were advocating the non-dualistic philosophy spoke enthusiastically about moving upwards towards a higher energy, etc. — as though that could take place without polarity, without the selfsame flow between positive and negative forces that puts energies in motion to begin with.

There is a fundamental truth to the metaphysical proposition that everything is one single thing — that the universe, at its root, emerges from Divine Love as a single unified force, and that everything else follows. It is equally inevitable, however, that Divine Love has a partner — Divine Wisdom — which Swedenborg laid out as the foundation of his metaphysics: not, mind you, a hypothesis, but rather a factual report imparted from divine sources.

One of the things that struck me about both of these discussions was that the persons involved both earnestly wished for the universe and existence to be non-dualistic. 

Why is that even necessary? 

Can we truly expunge differences from life and meta-life, and expect to end up with anything at all?

Most recently, last week in India, I pointed out to the second of these two rather dear friends that the idea of non-dualism itself is ironic—simply because it pits itself against dualism, creating a dualistic issue. This situation shows us how difficult it is to escape from dualism, no matter how hard we try. It’s a Mobius strip, a Klein bottle. The topographical landscape refers back to itself no matter what we do. 

Because of this, I wonder what use such arguments really are in the end, if they are worth anything at all.

One has to move between levels to begin to understand the concept of transcendence; and if we do that at all, we only do so at death. No matter what energies we channel into this level during the course of a lifetime, we are always within this level. This level has a specific set of laws that govern it and they are inescapable. 

Perhaps the most inescapable law of all — which applies to every level short of the Absolute Divinity, The Reality — is that no part of creation, no matter what level, can fully know God.

 This ironclad doctrine governs every exchange on heaven and earth. Even at the highest level of heaven, God cannot be fully seen or fully known, because there is no way for any part of creation to comprehend God. The moment incomprehension arises — and it arises always and everywhere — consciousness is trapped between knowing and unknowing, ignorance and intelligence. It is the tension between these two states that creates the energy that feeds life. 

So even here, at the root of conscious Being itself, duality is actually necessary.

In the course of the discussion, I pointed out that one can’t merely stop at dualistic thinking; one has to include a third force. When we speak of duality, dualism, dualistic thinking – however we choose to describe such sets of two — we must inevitably invoke this third force which reconciles the opposites. In almost every case, the third force describes and represents the process of relationship between the two dualistic forces; and that relationship always consists of a flow of energy between them. 

The classic “battle” between good and evil that takes place on both the physical and metaphysical planes, both in mythologies and world wars, represents the same movement, a flow of energy, between two polarities. Good cannot know itself unless it has evil to take measurements with; and evil cannot know itself unless it encounters a good to reject. Dualistic forces, in other words, are entirely dependent upon one another and even necessary in order for reality to manifest as it does. 

Sometimes a particular metaphysical text seems to truly hit the nail on the head; one comes back again and again to it and invokes what the author said in order to illustrate essential truths. In this particular instance, a Sufi manual on retreat, Journey to the Lord of Power, is a useful referent. Written by Ibn al ‘Arabi in the 12th century, it explains each step of the ascent leading towards human perfection. This fine book, like the Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom, belongs in every esoteric spiritual library not just as a spacer on the bookshelf but a frequently consulted volume.

“Know that since God created human beings and brought them out of nothingness into existence, they have not stopped being travelers. They have no resting place from their journey except in the Garden or the Fire, and each Garden and Fire is in accordance with the measure of its people. Every rational person must know that the journey is based upon toil and the hardships of life, on afflictions and tests and the acceptance of dangers and very great terrors. 

“It is not possible for the traveler to find in this journey unimpaired comfort, security, and bliss. For waters are variously flavored and weather changes, and the character of the people in every place where one stops differs from the character at the next. The traveler needs to learn what is useful from each situation. He is the companion of each one for a night or an hour, and then departs. How could ease reasonably expected by someone in this condition?

“We have not mentioned this to answer the people fond of comfort in this world, who strive for it and are devoted to the collection of worldly rubble. We do not occupy ourselves with or turn our attention to those engaged in this petty and contemptible activity. But we mention it as counsel to whoever with wishes to hasten the bliss of contemplation in other than its given realm, and to hasten the state of annihilation, elsewhere than in its native place, and who desires absorption in the Real by means of obliteration from the worlds.

 “The Masters among us are scornful of this ambition because it is a waste of time and a loss of true rank and dissociates the realm with that which is unsuitable to it.

***

“… So it would be better for you if, at the time of your contemplation, you were engaged in labor outwardly, and at the same time in the reception of knowledge from God inwardly. You would then increase virtue and beauty in your spiritual nature, which seeks its Lord through knowledge received from him through works and piety, and also in your personal nature, which seeks its paradise. Further human subtle nature is resurrected in the form of its knowledge, and the bodies are resurrected in the form of their works, either in beauty or in ugliness.

“So it is until the last breath, when you are separated from the world of obligation and the round of ascending paths and progressive development. And only then will you harvest the fruit which you have planted.

—Ibn ‘Arabi, Journey to the Lord of Power, Inner Traditions International, 1981, p. 27-29

The essential point we see in this passage, which has been edited at the asterisks, is that the activity we engage in in this realm must be appropriate to the realm itself. 

We are not in a non-dual realm; within the context of the path we are in, the level we are on, there are very real choices to be made between good and evil. It is in the operation of our choice that any achievement of spiritual distinction, such as it may be, arises. 

This idea is common and vital to both Gurdjieff and Swedenborg; abandoning it in favor of a transferred understanding, whether New Age, Buddhist, or Theosophist — wherever, in fact, it comes from — is a philosophically untenable position that abandons thousands of years of classical metaphysics, as well as specific instruction on practical work on the path from many different Masters.

It has, I think, become stylish and fashionable to enthusiastically graft spiritual practices together. The Internet has encouraged this; and the consequent dilution of many extraordinary traditions, each one of which had a tangible intelligence to it, has been something like watching people adopt homeopathic medicine. Of course you can keep diluting a substance with water until there is nothing left, and believe it will cure you. People do that. But the ancient traditions don’t submit themselves to the vagaries of homeopathy; they say what they say for reasons; and unless those of us with at least some small understanding of that work to preserve those traditions, all will be lost. We live in a world that is mostly water; and both modern thinking and practice have sprung a lot of leaks. 

The philosophy of non-dualism, metaphysically valid though it may be at levels far beyond anything we can understand, proves essentially useless in approaching real life as it stands. It is simply a dream, a form of escapism — exactly what the Masters warned us against.

Hosanna.








Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Footnote:

Most readers are well familiar with Gurdjieff's formulation of human beings as "three brained beings."

 My new book, Being and Impressions, consists of brief and practical discussions on the subject, along with observations about impressions and how we take them in. 

The book was written to address some questions that have been directed at me over the last few months on the subject, which helped me to understand that many folks still struggling with these concepts—even after many years of effort to understand them. 

Most moving was a friend of mine—a true genius of talent with extraordinary outer accomplishments to his credit—who still after most of a lifetime, feels he cannot understand why impressions don't fall more deeply into him. 

His comment touched me in ways that theoretical discussions of these matters never do. I felt it was necessary to undertake an effort to grapple with these questions more directly, in a contemporary language, rather than the material we are all familiar with and have been reading for many years.

The aim in this book is to simplify and clarify some of these matters. It remains to be seen whether I have succeeded. Readers will have to judge.


Interested readers can purchase the book by clicking on the link in the above text.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Fundament of Ecstasy: notes on enlightenment ascension, part IV


 Parakeet at Akbar's Tomb

Agra, India

Against desire

If we understand this question of an inherent and necessary inner tension—one which swims against the stream of available, yet passive, bliss—we begin to see where and why the classic struggle against desires, common to Christianity, Buddhism, and the Gurdjieff work, is an operable premise. Bliss, desire, represent a downward movement. This is, practically speaking, still a movement towards God; yet it's a movement that surrenders the very agency God needs to be active in order to engage in the creative movement of self-remembering, which alone can serve the utmost purpose of creation. Non-desire, in this model, is a movement towards greater intelligence. 

—New Delhi, December 2016

Some further notes, on levels

Of course, the connection between “higher” and “lower” inevitably rubs us up against the idea, in Gurdjieff’s teaching, of levels. This idea is common to most metaphysical systems; yet in Gurdjieff’s system, all the levels penetrate one another: they aren’t physically separated, but integrated, at various rates of vibration. 

The “higher” and “lower” aspects of levels in Gurdjieff’s metaphysics, therefore, are not about height but about speed: they’re dimensions not of space, but time: rate of vibration is determined by fluctuations in state over a given period of time.


This interesting thought, perhaps obvious once one has it, is perhaps also not so obvious until that point. 

If we recall the essay “Glimpses of Truth” found in Views from the Real World, the protagonist ultimately discovers that in Gurdjieff’s world, “time does not exist.” Viewed in light of Gurdjieff’s system of cosmological vibrations, the statement amounts to a form of contradiction; the only way to measure rates of vibration, after all, is over time. 

I’ve pointed out in other essays that from Gurdjieff’s point of view, the universe was created and consciousness arose strictly to counteract the effects of time, that is, slow it down; and one could take a wild stab into the darkness here by inferring that insofar as consciousness acquires a higher rate of vibration, so it “extracts” higher rates of vibration from the material world, concentrating them and concurrently slowing the passage of time down in the material universe.

This is admittedly out-of-the-box thinking and would need a great deal more examination before I could offer anything more meaningful on the subject. What I’m interested in here is that levels are not necessarily arranged vertically, but actually exist in three dimensions — just as the circulation of energies (vibrations) depicted in the enneagram is not two, but rather three, dimensional. All the indicators point here once again to the idea that the universe can’t be considered, in any strict sense, as arranged vertically — this is a convenience adopted because it is so difficult for us to think dimensionally on this matter. 

In this hypothetical three-dimensional model, love/bliss still forms a foundational ground from which everything arises; and there is a dimensional development of intelligence in all directions that co-evolves out of this ground, achieving greater and greater levels of emergence whereby more intelligence, more knowing of the Divine by itself, more Divine self-remembering, takes place. 

Yet in this evolving and emergent, self intelligent universe, the consequence of evolution and self-knowledge is an increase in the level of suffering. That suffering consists in turn of both acceptance and remorse. The evolution of an individual soul out of the ground of bliss and into the mysteries of acceptance and remorse of conscience represents a departure from God (the ground floor of love/bliss) in order to acquire understanding and knowledge and then return to him. Although conventional yogic intellectual models this are either vertical (stacked chakra diagrams) or circular (enneagrams) the actual relationships are far more dimensional and inter-penetrated, a secret that the embedded circular forms preserve through their roundness, which imply wholeness, and thus dimensionality.

The idea that the universe, this dimensional field of emergent self-knowledge, evolves through suffering represents perhaps a radical departure, especially from the tenets of Buddhism, which contends that escape from suffering is the whole point of existence and spiritual evolution. It’s quite notable, in this regard, that Gurdjieff turns Buddhism on its head in Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson by contending that Buddha was the first saintly individual to introduce the idea of intentional suffering to mankind; in light of the above, that makes perfect sense.

It’s absolutely necessary, here, to make one last reference to Victor Frankl’s ideas in Man’s Search for Meaning:

"Thus it can be seen that mental health is based on a certain degree of tension, the tension between what one has already achieved and what one still ought to accomplish, or the gap between what one is and what one should become. Such a tension is inherent in the human being and therefore is indispensable to mental well-being. We should not, then, be hesitant about challenging man with a potential meaning for him to fulfill. It is only thus that we evoke his will to meaning from its state of latency.
 I consider it a dangerous misconception of mental hygiene to assume that what man needs in the first place is equilibrium or, as it is called in biology, "homeostasis," i.e., a tensionless state. What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him."

Frankl explores the question of suffering from an intensely personal, yet ultimately magnificent universal, point of view. No discussion on the subject and its relationship to man’s inner development would be complete without a mention of his book.

 And, last but not least, a recent article on the subject from the scientific community:



Hosanna.








Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Footnote:

Most readers are well familiar with Gurdjieff's formulation of human beings as "three brained beings."

 My new book, Being and Impressions, consists of brief and practical discussions on the subject, along with observations about impressions and how we take them in. 

The book was written to address some questions that have been directed at me over the last few months on the subject, which helped me to understand that many folks still struggling with these concepts—even after many years of effort to understand them. 

Most moving was a friend of mine—a true genius of talent with extraordinary outer accomplishments to his credit—who still after most of a lifetime, feels he cannot understand why impressions don't fall more deeply into him. 

His comment touched me in ways that theoretical discussions of these matters never do. I felt it was necessary to undertake an effort to grapple with these questions more directly, in a contemporary language, rather than the material we are all familiar with and have been reading for many years.

The aim in this book is to simplify and clarify some of these matters. It remains to be seen whether I have succeeded. Readers will have to judge.


Interested readers can purchase the book by clicking on the link in the above text.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Spiritual DNA


Despite protestations to the contrary, it's possible to arrive at various whole understandings of Truth and Being. 

This truth I speak about is a different kind of truth than the truth which is transmitted through the intellect — that is, learned truth that can be repeated and written down in books. There’s a higher form of truth intuited by combining the work of the intellect, the body, and feeling; this is the kind of truth Gurdjieff called objective truth, that is, truth that transcends the individual, subjective, or personalized point of view.

I'm going to use an analogy to explain how truth can (and does) already exist in its entirety in a human being, and how it emerges from that kernel into the ordinary world. 

I recently told my wife that I intended to write a book, gave her the proposed title. 
She asked me how a subject that appeared to be quite brief could possibly be a whole book. 

I explained to her that a title is the seed of this book. 

A seed contains all of the DNA instruction for the entire tree unit; thus, if one is able to read the DNA in any seed, one can in a certain sense know everything, even though the tree isn’t yet grown. One knows the type of tree one will get; the type of tree it will be, the form it will take; and one can know where it will grow, the kind of work it will be able to undertake, the conditions it can survive and thrive in, etc.

The human soul — the true human Being — is a microcosmos, and we have the DNA of the entire cosmos written in our being. In this way we are seeds; and we are no different than any other seed in the sense that if the seed grows, it will be exactly like the mustard seed, which is tiny, but becomes greater than all the other plants in the kingdom if it finds the right conditions to grow in. 
When Jesus Christ spoke of the kingdom of heaven being like a mustard seed, it was precisely this idea of the kingdom of heaven unfolding as a microcosmos within man that he was referring to.
This means that everything that is is already embedded in the spiritual DNA of a human being, because we are a microcosmic representative God himself. As such, no matter what the enterprise in the human being is, if the seed is correctly planted and allowed to grow, organically, everything that is necessary to bring all of its tasks to fulfillment is able to take place. 

In this sense, a human being who has whole Being — that is, a person who is impartial, who has all of their brains or centers awakened and participating — has the ability to achieve almost anything. Gurdjieff alluded to this many times when he said it was impossible to imagine what human beings were capable of, that their powers were beyond human comprehension if rightly developed:

“Man’s possibilities are very great. You cannot conceive even a shadow of what man is capable of attaining. But nothing can be attained in sleep. In the consciousness of a sleeping man his illusions, his ‘dreams’ are mixed with reality. He lives in a subjective world and he can never escape from it. And this is the reason why he can never make use of all the powers he possesses and why he always lives in only a small part of himself.”

In Search of the Miraculous, P.D. Ouspensky, page 33

This passage doesn't allude to “magical” powers—powers over the physical realm or the ability to lift heavy objects or leap over tall buildings in a single bound—but, rather, inner possibilities; that is, the possibility of understanding cosmic truth from a perspective that’s unimaginable from where we stand now. It is this potential he was referring to. We have the seeds of exactly such understanding in us; and they are nearly infinite, since any one seed of understanding, if rightly planted, can grow into a whole tree, and contains all the information for that whole tree in this tiny seed we are referring to. 

It's this idea of spiritual DNA—a conceptual DNA of understanding—that applies in every case; and that is exactly the seed of this spiritual DNA that I was referring to when I explained to my wife that I already knew there was a whole book on the subject in question. I can't tell you what all the words in the book are; but the data for all of them is already encoded in me, and if I take out any such seed, plant it, and water it, each seed will grow into its own pre-ordained, complete understanding. 
Furthermore they all, by virtue of the way their DNA operates, knit themselves more and more into a single organism that works together.

But let’s not limit this understanding to a single title or single book. Within us is the spiritual DNA of all creation. Depending on how that DNA unfolds, it manifests differently; but all of what is inwardly formed already encodes everything that is.

Hosanna.









Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Fundament of Ecstasy: notes on enlightenment ascension, part III



Agra, India


"Humanity is the Earth's nerve ends, through which planetary vibrations are received for transmission.”
—Notes from a meeting with Gurdjieff, June 30 or July 17, 1922

As God commences to know Himself through the conscious action of His creation, a paradoxical increase of ignorance takes place: that is to say, self-knowing, even at God’s level, becomes an action exponentially imbued with self-unknowing. Any process of becoming known correspondingly illuminates more and more of what is not known.

God would not need nerve-endings to sense if He was consciously all-knowing; Gurdjieff and Ibn al Arabi are in equal agreement on the premise that man acts on God’s behalf, as his Vicegerent (Arabi’s word) in this universal act of self-remembering.

In self-remembering, a palpable nerve-ending action on behalf of God, an inevitable anguish arises through the discovery of unknowing and an unfolding understanding that divides self from not-self. God perpetually discovers this universe —one of His own making—that nonetheless lies in fragments from the point of its origins onwards; and that is an eternal and irremediable state. (cf. my paper on The Cosmology of Beelzebub.) 

“No energy is ever lost in the cosmic scheme. Man has real individuality inherent in him, but can only reach it after long process and gradual growth through great effort.”
—Notes from a meeting with Gurdjieff, June 30 or July 17, 1922

There is a terrible and misleading flaw in the premise that bliss is the goal of “enlightenment ”— a fully conscious state. Both Gurdjieff and Swedenborg made it clear enough that in their heavens, no one finds themselves at rest on clouds, idly strumming harps; heaven is a place of continuous inner and outer effort, of work. Let's remember here the original premise that the primordial unknowing of Bliss is forever a passive state, the place where evil angels operate. (See the opening quote).

Of course bliss is supremely alluring; we all secretly think we want a life of perfect repose and unassailable happiness. Yet such a life does nothing for us in the way of inner development; thus, I submit, a movement into bliss is not an ascent towards God and His heavenly kingdom but rather a descent towards the devil. The state of bliss is an unformed one; ecstatic, but useless. It lacks the intelligence which God seeks to nurture through creation.

This metaphysical proposition is too easily misunderstood, I fear; and may engender a rank Puritanism if interpreted literally. The point is that reaching towards God takes a certain kind of courage; one does not reach heaven, as Dante reminds us, before one traverses hell and purgatory.  

In the same way, bliss rises towards anguish in the process of creation; and although it is an exquisite anguish, a sacred, perfect and utterly Godly anguish, it represents the right and proper state of the universe and God’s and man’s place in it, even if it contradicts the expected order. 

I can and do, for that matter, attest to the fact that this is exactly how religious ecstasy is experienced: it begins with bliss, which is perfect, absolute, physical and unknowing; and it rises into a union with anguish, which is also perfect and absolute, but emotional, and knowing

Bliss, the root condition of sacred Being, is unintelligent; anguish, the counterpart of bliss, is an extraordinarily intelligent state that arises in the process of becoming known. 

These two forces, which are not good or evil either one, are objective and reciprocal; neither one can exist without the other. They discover their reconciliation as a single unified force in Consciousness. 

No matter the perceived divisions, that is the underlying truth; yet outside of the transcendent—which (as Al Arabi pointed out) lies lawfully forever beyond the grasp of all sentient Being—we are left in residence here where the struggle to understand takes place. 

—New Delhi, December 2016

A few more notes on this subject will follow on Feb. 21.

Hosanna.








Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Footnote:

Most readers are well familiar with Gurdjieff's formulation of human beings as "three brained beings."

 My new book, Being and Impressions, consists of brief and practical discussions on the subject, along with observations about impressions and how we take them in. 

The book was written to address some questions that have been directed at me over the last few months on the subject, which helped me to understand that many folks still struggling with these concepts—even after many years of effort to understand them. 

Most moving was a friend of mine—a true genius of talent with extraordinary outer accomplishments to his credit—who still after most of a lifetime, feels he cannot understand why impressions don't fall more deeply into him. 

His comment touched me in ways that theoretical discussions of these matters never do. I felt it was necessary to undertake an effort to grapple with these questions more directly, in a contemporary language, rather than the material we are all familiar with and have been reading for many years.

The aim in this book is to simplify and clarify some of these matters. It remains to be seen whether I have succeeded. Readers will have to judge.


Interested readers can purchase the book by clicking on the link in the above text.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Fundament of Ecstasy: notes on enlightenment ascension, part II

Agra, India

 “Increase of knowledge implies an increase of ignorance.”
—Notes from a meeting with Gurdjieff, June 30 or July 17, 1922

The fundament of the universe is Love, bliss; it is an undifferentiated substance, like aether, from which all “stuff” is made. That is to say, all of creation emerges uninhibited from this foundational act of Love; Love exists before matter and consists of a one-ness that does not discriminate. 

If we take this as the ground floor of reality as it arises we are not, I think, too far off. Words always fail; but it is something like this.

Having multiple direct experiences with religious ecstasy, I'll attest directly to the ground-floor nature of that Love/bliss; and it’s in pondering those very exact, precisely remembered experiences that I can now understand that the nature of the universe is, at the bottom, ecstatic. 

That ecstasy is at the same time both supremely intelligent and completely unintelligent; it fully embodies this contradiction, which effectively erases words and definitions while still preserving meaning.  

Yet it begins before God’s conscious investigation of His creation is ever undertaken. God wants to know His universe (see Gurdjieff’s early talk on the meaning of life); the act of self-remembering on the microscopic scale is nothing more than a mirroring of the exact same process on a cosmological scale. The universe—and everything in it, sentient or otherwise— emerges from primordial bliss into a self-knowing which embodies Gurdjieff’s increase of knowledge. That is the “active nature” of the universe; and it embodies, as well, our own active nature. The passivity of bliss, which demands nothing of the receiver, is the domain of ignorance; thus, the realm of angelic devils. One can see that they nonetheless occupy a critical place in the construction of this topsy-turvey universe; they lie at the foundation of all creation and are actually essential to its being. Furthermore, despite their passive and ignorant (unknowing) nature, they are still essentially loving, steeped, in fact, in the original substance of Divine Love. The metaphysical complexities this presents are touched upon in Sri Anirvan's Buddhi and Buddhiyoga (in Inner Yoga); all of that which seems evil ultimately engenders good and serves the good; and is even a necessary component of the good. 

This touches on transcendental, nondualistic understandings about the nature of reality which are correct from a technical and philosophical point of view, but which prove useless to us, since they cannot be reconciled on our own level.

—New Delhi, December 2016

This essay continues on Feb. 18.

Hosanna.








Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Footnote:

Most readers are well familiar with Gurdjieff's formulation of human beings as "three brained beings."

 My new book, Being and Impressions, consists of brief and practical discussions on the subject, along with observations about impressions and how we take them in. 

The book was written to address some questions that have been directed at me over the last few months on the subject, which helped me to understand that many folks still struggling with these concepts—even after many years of effort to understand them. 

Most moving was a friend of mine—a true genius of talent with extraordinary outer accomplishments to his credit—who still after most of a lifetime, feels he cannot understand why impressions don't fall more deeply into him. 

His comment touched me in ways that theoretical discussions of these matters never do. I felt it was necessary to undertake an effort to grapple with these questions more directly, in a contemporary language, rather than the material we are all familiar with and have been reading for many years.

The aim in this book is to simplify and clarify some of these matters. It remains to be seen whether I have succeeded. Readers will have to judge.


Interested readers can purchase the book by clicking on the link in the above text.

Monday, February 13, 2017

A Hair in one Nostril

Sayil, Ruta Puuc
Campeche, Mexico

Number three in a series of essays I wrote while flying down to the Yucat√°n for our February vacation.


Part of us believes we know what is valuable in an inner sense.

We understand a little bit and we've had a taste of this and that, and hence we think we value our inner work, but we don't at all. 

If we had any real taste of God our effort would never cease; every moment of our life would inexorably turn our inner work towards Him. It's like a magnet put near iron filings. The moment a magnet is really there all the particles naturally align according to the inner law of the magnet, and the particles do exactly what the magnet indicates. They are fully obedient. Until there is a magnet there is just a big pile of particles of iron. They are unintelligent, clueless. They are in relationship, in contact, but lack meaning. 

I look inside myself. 

Are my parts obedient in this way? Of course they aren't. I usually have no magnet, I just think I have one; and that imagination is a very dangerous thing. Already one knows it's false and yet I'm repeatedly pulled back to it. It is a fake magnet. I need to see this fake magnet and get rid of it because it's pulling everything in me all over the place— like a small toy with wheels being pulled over rough ground on a string.

Part of us is convinced we understand something real, and perhaps a little bit we do. But that part is dominated by fantasies which co-opt its weight and value. Seeing our insufficiency and our iniquity over and over again will help to remind us that we don't understand. 

Self-remembering is remembering that we don't understand. We think self remembering is about remembering who we are, but right now, and always, it is first and always about remembering who we are not

If we understand this one thing organically we'll eventually become very different inside.

We don't know what we are working for. The problem here is that we think we do. All the things we think we know about Being are at least partially incorrect and even many of the tastes of it that we've had are now deceiving factors, because the moment we had them, our mind latched on to them and told us stories about what they were. We even talk about this openly without understanding what it's done to us. 

We have no sense of irony when we do this. We should be ashamed and quiet instead of talking like this. It's an egoistic kind of bragging which has disguised itself.  A great deal of what we say is like this. Look at it. 

It's as though we saw one ten-thousandth of an elephant—a hair in one nostril, perhaps—and think we know the whole animal, even what its poop smells like. But we have no idea of what we are up to and it's best we get that clarified in ourselves right now. 

If we understood anything real about what is possible for us in an inner sense, the magnitude of it, we would sacrifice anything—even be willing to risk death— in order to get to it. But we're silly and comfortable, which is a terrible combination. 

Get rid of one of them first— then the other. Once we're seriously uncomfortable, something real may happen in us.

I saw a man like this the other day who had the real gravity of his work active in him and everything in him was different. We need to work like this, because our time is short. 

Respect yourself and pay attention to yourself. Don't be frivolous. 

Hosanna.






Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Footnote:

Most readers are well familiar with Gurdjieff's formulation of human beings as "three brained beings."

 My new book, Being and Impressions, consists of brief and practical discussions on the subject, along with observations about impressions and how we take them in. 

The book was written to address some questions that have been directed at me over the last few months on the subject, which helped me to understand that many folks still struggling with these concepts—even after many years of effort to understand them. 

Most moving was a friend of mine—a true genius of talent with extraordinary outer accomplishments to his credit—who still after most of a lifetime, feels he cannot understand why impressions don't fall more deeply into him. 

His comment touched me in ways that theoretical discussions of these matters never do. I felt it was necessary to undertake an effort to grapple with these questions more directly, in a contemporary language, rather than the material we are all familiar with and have been reading for many years.

The aim in this book is to simplify and clarify some of these matters. It remains to be seen whether I have succeeded. Readers will have to judge.


Interested readers can purchase the book by clicking on the link in the above text.