Friday, August 17, 2018

Notes on molecular sensation, part I

Tallman State Park looking out over the Hudson river
June 24 2018.

June 24, 2018

 Readers will note that I often speak of a molecular sensation of Being, and the intimate nature of inward work.

This is because it’s impossible to sense exactly what we are in a higher sense without coming into a much more powerful, intimate, and intelligent contact with our lower parts; and that’s because of the nature of order in the structure of the universe itself, although these concepts may well seem, at first, far too large to discuss in that context.

In fact, that’s not the case. In order to investigate that in some more detail, we’ll need to take a look at a few science articles that were published within the last week or two.

 First of all, let me remind everyone that when I speak of having a molecular sense of Being, I'm not  drawing an analogy — I’m not speaking euphemistically, or in some kind of parable or code. I’m speaking quite literally about the ability to sense our molecules and their activity: to feel the life in them not just from a physical, but also an emotional point of view — because just as they have a physical life, our self, and the molecules (and their interactions) that it's physically composed of, have an emotional and an intellectual life that’s very real, even though it's on a much smaller scale than we are.

 Yes, we do have this ability; but it’s dramatically atrophied in us, and needs to be reconnected if we wish to experience it. It isn’t psychological so much as physical; and this is why the emphasis on understanding sensation from an inner point of view in the Gurdjieff work, a perspective not discussed in most other spiritual works.

 Our Being emerges from our molecular sensation.

 Let’s take a look at the science articles one at a time and discuss their implications. You’ll need to go to the following link to read the first article, then come back.

What we see from this particular article is how cellular mechanisms work, on the molecular level, to not just establish, but also to maintain, our sense of identity. And keep in mind, as we go forward, the cell could not do this if it wasn't able to think about its identity. When something is wrong, it has to know that it is wrong — it has to be able to compare it in memory to what is right — and furthermore has to know what needs to be done to fix it.

The sense of identity is an emergent property built in to the crystalline structure of the DNA molecule. DNA is, in itself, the expression of the divine which emerges at the quantum level and organizes itself at the atomic and molecular level. DNA, in life forms, is ubiquitous, because all of life is divine — that is, it's emanated from God’s own Being itself — and life cannot be expressed without this particular molecule.  That’s why we don’t find life forms built around other versions of it, or completely different molecules. What works, works; and we see this principle repeated in nature over and over again through convergence, which is one of the most powerful forces in evolution. Let's go one step further than the mere physical aspects of convergence: because of the way DNA functions, identity itself is both an emergent and convergent property of life. From the top to the bottom of the universe, identity is created and preserved. In fact identity is the most powerfully convergent force of all, because of its ubiquity. All of the material universe converges on identity. The expression of matter from the essentially wave-like behavior of quantum energies is a manifestation of identity. (More on this will be explained in a future series of essays.)

The sense of identity is so powerful in a cell that the cell knows itself through its DNA; and not only that, on its own level, it's conscious of itself and knowing of itself. We see this amply demonstrated by the fact that the molecular mechanisms in the cell have repair modules that actively and specifically take care of damage to the DNA molecule by working on it to repair it. This is not a mindless or mechanical activity; it’s mindful. It  emerges from the awareness the cell has of its own workings, which are astonishingly intricate and nearly impossible for biologists to understand, involving as they do the interaction of so many of usually complex molecules in so many unusually complex ways. (Let's remember here that molecules, as we encounter them, never ever interact in such actively complicated and intentional ways except in life forms. And no matter how much fooling around scientists do in labs to replicate such interactions, they have never managed to come even remotely close to doing so.)  The complexity of what goes on in a single cell is absolutely staggering. We know a lot more about what happens in a nuclear reactor than we do about what happens in a single cell—and don't forget, there are trillions of cells in us and they all act with a degree of unique volition, in billions of different tasks, to collectively allow us to be—and, for example, to read the words you are reading now.

From quanta, to atoms, to molecules, to cells, to organisms, to Being, to literature, from single instant to single instant.

Think that over. Do you really think science can ever fully explain that?

It's impossible. Only metaphysical humanism— the discipline we are studying here together right now—can even begin. A mere biological approach can't comprehend the depth of the subject here.

Our “walking molecules,” as described by the article, are actually ambient creatures, individual sub-identities in themselves. From a Gurdjieff perspective, we would think of them as a cellular “I’s”— individual beings that act as agents,  just as we do, but on the molecular level.

If we were to take Swedenborg’s perspective on the subject (and we should, because the fractal nature of the universe requires us to understand that its features mirror and reflect one another, from the highest above to the lowest below) we would say that these individual walking molecules are persons. Just as the DNA molecule is a person; and just as the cell is a person. This quality of personhood  can be considered from the perspective of its Latin root, persōna, which means human being, and may have been borrowed from the Etruscan word phersu, or mask. That word, of course, refers to a player in a drama — an entity that plays a role, and has an agency. So how very exactly appropriate it's to say that these myosins—”walking molecules”— described in the article are persons.

Part II of this eight-part series will publish Aug. 20.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A discourse on organic gratitude, part III

The third factor enters here — and it's by no means always present, because the action of the first two parts as they integrate must create a “charge”, that is, a prepared atmosphere with enough energy in it, in order for the third part to come into play.

That third part is an awakened, organic, or, if you will, integrated sense of feeling. Here we come to the crux of what Mr. Gurdjieff referred to as “three centered work;” because it is this entry of feeling as a foundational, awakened, and organic entity that truly rounds out the experience that initially takes place between the sensation and the intelligence. The action of feeling in this particular situation is unmistakable and objective — it will always produce the same result in a human Being if they acquire the other two faculties, because it is related to a higher property within the realm of existence and has, in fact, a very tiny thread that connects it to what I called The Perfection.

 Its relationship to The Perfection is a matter that I can’t get into right this instant; instead, let’s focus on its relationship to the other two centers. Organic and integrated feeling enters the equation between molecular sensation and silent intellect as a third, and superior, form of intelligence that has the ability to see one’s position in life in an uncompromised way. Because it’s suffused with the presence of God, it always produces a sense of religious gratitude. Feeling has this capacity in a way that none of the other parts do; and the sense of religious gratitude is the only sense we are capable of acquiring that shows us how extraordinary our life is, how deep the gifts we receive are, and how are unworthy we are of our existence itself.

Now, it’s easy to write flashy words about this; but it is very different to have an organic feeling of gratitude that penetrates to the marrow of the bones. That organic gratitude can only arise as a vibration of a certain magnitude that corresponds to foundational vibrations within the other two parts. If the foundational vibration of sensation is insufficient, it cannot form a relationship with of the foundational vibration of the silent intelligence; and if those two foundational vibrations do not have a correspondence and a magnitude of sufficient force, it is impossible for the magnitude to support the entry of feeling, which intensifies the vibration of very great deal.

Jeanne Salzmann  wrote about it a very good deal in her notes, speaking of intensity and concentration and so on. From her notes, I get the impression that she believed it was possible to somehow participate in the creation of this force; and I think she is probably right, but the participation does not take place in any conventional sense, and the difficulty we have when we read her notes is that we are unable to take them in any way other than conventionally. This creates a substantial obstacle to using her notes as any form of “help.”

When it is not there, there is no organic gratitude, but rather just the theory of it, and I can talk about that as much as I like. I can make it sound wonderful. That’s how words function. But those things are absolutely meaningless relative to the actual presence of organic gratitude, which is always an incremental experience of The Perfection. Every time it comes, we are irrevocably penetrated by God and by His understanding. Another way of putting it is that it represents an entrée into the angelic kingdoms; but that is again a little inaccurate, because the angelic kingdoms are filled with independent Beings of their own, and they rarely have anything to do with us. I think the point I’m trying to get at here is that the rate of vibration, the magnitude, has a relationship to the angelic kingdoms. When Jesus Christ said that the kingdom of heaven was within, he was referring to this phenomenon; because if the orders of magnitude of the foundational vibration corresponds to one another, the doors to the kingdom of heaven are cracked open just a tiny bit.

Organic gratitude gives me a level of insight that I am incapable of within my ordinary life, which is far too influenced by the lower levels of Being.

I see, in this state, that each and everything is a gift. I see how fortunate I am.

The instinctive impulse that this feeling produces is one of worship.

Once again, it is unmistakable to anyone who has experienced it. If you’d like to read about an individual that experienced it a very great deal, you should definitely read The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. This book describes quite accurately the way in which he worked — which was both instinctively perfect and absolutely correct — the states it produced, the impulses it provoked, and so on. It is, in fact, an exact record of what I’m trying to describe in this essay. It may be the only truly precise essay, or series of essays, I’m aware of that goes over this territory in an accurate way.

This particular book was given to me by my teachers back when I was in my 30s. They gave it to our whole group. Now, my teachers were unsung heroes of the Gurdjieff work, not people who had charismatic followings or climbed up the ladder of the organization hierarchy. They worked quietly and privately with our group in such a way that most of us gained at least some level of understanding of what I am speaking of here; and that is most certainly unique relative to what I have seen with other teachers, who gave extensive direction, but failed to do so as selflessly as necessary. My own teachers never tried to teach; they helped us to understand how to live. There is a difference. In any event, they gave us this book because it so perfectly summarized what they were hoping we would learn from them. It summarized their aim for us.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

A discourse on organic gratitude, part II

June 9— Shanghai, China

The second faculty that needs to be awakened in the context of the organic integration of Being is an intelligence that emerges from silence.

Now, one might think that the ordinary intelligence actually has to be silent in order for this to happen; and although that sounds logical, it’s categorically untrue. The silent intelligence that receives the impression of the organic awakening of sensation is added to ordinary thought and Being, not a replacement for it; so it forms a core within Being that does not have a great interest in doing this, that, or the other thing. The only thing it has an interest in—and that interest is once again quite foundational and direct—is Being in relationship with the molecular sensation of Being.

That is to say, it is a partner in the enterprise of sensation; and these two parts form a pair that quietly receives life, even as all of the regular nonsense goes on.

By the time this takes place, one has inside a marriage of these two parts that is strong enough to resist what the outside world is up to.

In a strange and I suppose relatively inexplicable way, this does not guarantee immunity from the influences of the outside world, although at times it can. One may find, for example, that the ordinary parts get angry about something and react while the other parts are quietly observing it. Of course this whole phenomenon has something to do with what Gurdjieff called  “self observation;” yet the effect of it is sublime relative to the observation that generally takes place within the ordinary parts as they observe each other (and thereby presume a fantasy that they are engaged in self observation of the kind that Gurdjieff was talking about.)

In point of fact, until this “real” — that is, integrated and organic — part that can truly receive life is formed, all of the self observation that takes place takes place on the surface of the self, and not in its depths, where true vibrational integration takes place.

So this intelligence that emerges from silence is always there, and it withdraws from the agitation, allowing it to take place; but it sees.

And it sees without interfering. Not only that, it isn’t touched, damaged, altered, influenced, or compromised by what takes place outside, because like the molecular and cellular sense of integrated Being, or organic Being, it has an integrity that is founded in a center of gravity that belongs to itself.

This is true both of the awakened sensation and the awakened intelligence.

Be very careful here when you hear me use the word “awakened.” In most teachings, this implies some kind of magical transformation of Being in which one is supposedly “superior” to life or to other Beings, or “free.” Or what have you. As my wife and I so often say, “blah, blah, blah.”

Yet I mean nothing of the “blah, blah, blah” kind here. There’s a certain freedom; but it is only a freedom from myself, not from life. It is part of the formation of what I would call the self – in – self. This is a new term I have been using lately; and it seems to accurately describe the situation as I experience it today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A discourse on organic gratitude, part I

June 9 — Shanghai, China

Perhaps it seems pointless to keep using the word “organic” to describe a right relationship between the various inward parts of Being. Yet somehow, for me, the word has undergone a metamorphosis in meaning whereby it is the only word that can accurately describe what happens when Being is integrated.

As people read this, they probably ask themselves two questions. The first one is, “what does he mean when he says organic?”, and the second one is, “what does it mean, when Being is integrated?“

 Well, the two things mean the same thing.

Gurdjieff used a wide range of methods to describe this, including his classic term “three brained Being,” or, “three centered Being.” But these terms become technical; that is to say,  no matter what the intention is where we begin, they eventually tend to allude to the chemistry, physics, and mechanics of the experience, so to speak, and are difficult to separate from what Ouspensky said on the matter in his classic In Search of the Miraculous.

In reality, what we are searching for in terms of this experience is — well, experiential — and the technical terms don’t help much, anymore than understanding the “technique” of it all… if there even is one.

Being is existence.

This is the key to Gurdjieff’s “I am,”  often invoked but rarely experienced. Say these words to yourself all day and all night, they will not induce an organic integration of Being. In theory, they may help; but even that may be misleading, because “I am” cannot be a mechanical action. It is a call to life itself; and is anyone familiar with biology understands, life itself is far more complex and mysterious than anything these (or any) two words can bring us to, no matter how profound they may sound in the midst of a pre-religious state.

When I say organic, what I mean is that something is experienced much more deeply in the body, in an integrated way, such that three things take place.

First of all, the body is firmly grounded, first in its molecular, and then in its cellular, nature. This means that the molecules vibrate in a certain way that brings the sensation of Being into the body throughout its entire ecosystem; and second, that the cells themselves receive this vibration in such a way that the cellular nature of Being — as well as its molecular origins — are properly sensed as a foundational understanding that does not need any words to validate it.

This particular form of sensation is pre-validated, and cannot be threatened by interference from the mind. Any sensation that is threatened by interference from the mind is not this sensation; and it is furthermore weak, formatory, superficial, and invoked, which has nothing to do with a right experience of the cellular nature of Being. To be sure, it may function as a precursor; but it is as milled flour is to a baked cake.

 Now, as you read this, if it sounds unfamiliar — that is, you have not read it in other spiritual texts, even perhaps Gurdjieffian ones — that is because it is not part of the foundational understanding of other works, including Buddhism, esoteric Christianity, and so on. It’s furthermore rare enough, even among Gurdjieff students, that many earnest people do not quite fully understand this phenomenon, but are still searching for a deeper understanding of it—so that they can eventually awaken that sensation. There are, to be sure, some pundits within the Gurdjieff work — and they are rare enough — that have a right understanding of this faculty, but they do not publish it (most of them aren’t that articulate, and they certainly aren’t writers) or publicly or talk about it; they only “teach” it within groups, and even then, it cannot be taught, but only indicated as a direction.

I’m describing it as precisely as possible here so that students of the Gurdjieff work who have a specific interest in what makes it different than other works will understand that this particular faculty makes it very different indeed—so different that it already begins in a different place (here) than most works. Yet the entire premise of the Gurdjieff work and everything that he and his most ardent followers tried to bring to us cannot be understood unless this foundation is first established.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The underworld of Being, part III

June 8 Hangzhou, China

In the investigation of this question of the underworld of Being, I recognize that there is a realm from which Being emanates. It is because of this realm that “I,” such as I am exist at all. There are in fact two “I ams” in action: one that is born of the ego, in which I take possession and ownership of everything, and a second one which emanates from the realm of Being. The first of these is a creature of the underworld of Being, a malleable entity capable, chameleonlike, of taking on any form it wishes — a shape shifter.

 Shape shifters are always considered to be distrusted, criminal, and even evil entities in mythological traditions: malevolent tricksters. And this is how the I am of the underworld of Being behaves. Always, in its own self-interest; and with a randomly destructive tendency that is deployed almost casually as a means toward its own ends.

Although it appears to behave with intelligence towards its own objectives, it is in fact mindless; it is nothing more than an urge for itself, a craving for gratification. The cleverness that it weaves for itself is never in the service of others.

This is the real realm of demons that St. Anthony struggled against; and it is the realm of demons that we all live in in our day-to-day lives. It stands in opposition to the second “I am,” which belongs to the realm of Being. This realm of Being I speak of, from which our real Being emanates, is a higher realm. I’m reluctant to call it heaven, but this is that same realm. Perhaps the apropos thing would be to call it the city of God, since that is the place from which it emanates, and is located in the heart of every Being.

 I’ve been speaking about the City of God a good deal lately, subsequent to the vision that I had of it, which was a fleeting glimpse of this real city that is located in our hearts. Everything that I am that is real is emanated from this place of real civilization, which is, unlike my psyche as it stands today, perfectly organized. All of the order in the material and created universe which I see around me in fact emanates from this City of God;  the source of reality itself dwells there. It is the home of The Perfection.

 Yet from where I am, this is an impossibly distant place to travel to. If I am fortunate, I’ll catch a glimpse from time to time, but that’s pretty much all I can hope for.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Underworld of Being, part II

June 8, Hangzhou, China

In order to try and experience this and understand it from a new perspective, let's think of it as the underworld of Being.

That is to say, let us think of ordinary life, and all of the ordinary parts of the intellect, our intelligence, associations, and everything we know — what the Buddhists might call form — as the underworld of Being.

In this sense, all of the underworlds of mythology — the underworld of the Greeks, the Mayan realm of Xibalba, the hell of Christianity, and so on — consist of this vast and extraordinary repository of experience, psychology, action, history, and assumptions. The idea that this is a place where the soul “goes when it dies” becomes too literal and physical in this regard; we go there when we die, conceptually speaking, because we are there now and we are already “dead.”

There are many allusions to this in spiritual literature; yet everything becomes a mythology instead of an experience if I don’t connect to it in terms of how I am in this moment, seeing my position: either in relationship with being — which occupies middle earth , the Mediterranean — or subsumed in the draw of the underworld, which always and inevitably manages to organize itself to appeal to me as an entity, even though it has already isolated itself by forming a hard kernel of belief, opinion, and assumption — all of it crystallized around a tiny group of facts which are absolutely too limited to give real insight, but which I seize and cling to like a drowning man who has discovered a single board.

 Being has a power, rooted in the organic and molecular experience of the body, that grounds this current and allows it to stop influencing me — even if that is temporary. If I gain a bit of distance from any of it, I discover — again, at least temporarily — that I am indeed  “dead”, and that everything I think I know, including things that I think I know about my emotional state, my cleverness, the value of the intellect, culture, intelligence, and so on, is actually limited and does not understand the nature of life as it stands.

 The nature of life as it stands is not occupied by the underworld of Being; the underworld of Being is a byproduct that exists in the minds of human beings, not an objective entity. The nature of life as it stands emerges directly from life independent of the underworld being, independent of the constructions. It begins there; and although one must (albeit reluctantly) argue that the underworld of Being, this realm of our constructions, is a necessary one, one is left asking oneself whether the inhabitation of life from its original nature is not already the fundamental and primary value.

 That question does not arise easily, because the underworld of Being is an occupying army. I am drawn back into it relentlessly and repeatedly; and I need to use force from my own will in order to move away from it. Not much; because the movement can be minimal, as long as it is concise. Yet it is this intimate, concise, precise, intelligent, and — I use this word so often now — molecular movement that’s necessary.

And that movement does always have to begin with a reminder that emanates from all three of my parts — sensation, feeling, and intelligence — that the underworld of being is not the origin or the answer, but rather a seething pool of self-inflected constructions that have been grafted into me.

 One of the odd things about the underworld of Being is that it does contain many constructions that can point the way towards being. In the same way, the underworld of mythology contain souls, which are essences that, although alienated from their natural habitat of life, still express an essential part of its nature. Even hell, in other words, has the creatures of heaven and it: the fallen soul is very much still a soul, no matter where it is located.

It reminds me of Meister Eckhart’s contention that even the devil himself would not give up his life, because it’s what makes him what he is — it is the ”I am” of his existence.

 So this underworld is not a stupid place, or worthless place, or place of punishment; it is a place that I need in order to grow. It even has the soil for growth, and all of the potential, buried in it. But I cannot think that I am the underworld of Being; and yet this is where I usually find myself.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Underworld of Being, part I

June 8, Hangzhou, China

Thoughts about the earthly world are made in order to gather intelligence, to correlate, to  collect, compare, and contrast. In the midst of this activity — which is the natural inclination of the  intellect — there is a sense of ownership, as though the agency, all of the activities, belong to me.

Yet there is also a conscious sense of “me,” a being which exists as what I have begun to call the self – in – self, a being within being that does not just act, but exists. It exists before action; and within the kernel of that existence lies the intelligence and presence of what we call God.

It is also being; because being is God, and there are no separations between the two. In this sense everything that manifests is indeed a part of God.

Yet these are big thoughts, and today I’m specifically interested in this question of the action of the intelligence, its belief in ownership, and other aspects of its nature.

Although we experience the action of the intellect and all of its abilities as individuals, its action is collective, as is clearly expressed by the collective nature of society, civilizations, and all its enterprises. There is, furthermore a deeper psychological portion of this that penetrates realms that are poorly understood, even today, and will never be susceptible to dissection by machines — which is what we specialize in as creatures in this era. That deeper psychological portion is a reservoir or repository for all of the memes, all of the civilizations of intellect, that have, can, and will exist in humanity.

Yet this is a relatively low level of mind, and if we can see it for what it is (which is quite difficult, because we are with in it and it’s quite difficult to get a vision of the jar one dwells in from the outside) we can see how confusing it is. 

For myself, I see how being is poised on the edge of this vast and confused piece of territory called intellect, which is like an ocean whose currents are disorganized and unintelligible — even though they appear to form many patterns — and the realm that lies above me, where being emanates from. As I examine this particular sense of position, I see how there is a tension, a stretching, that takes place between soul or spirit, psychology, and intellect. In this sense soul is being, and intellect is doing. Of course that’s oversimplifying it; but perhaps you get the idea.

In any event, as I examine these questions from within, I see the constant force and power, the magnetic attraction, of intellect and all of its denizens of the underworld, which are attempting to draw me towards them in a thousand different ways. These are gremlins, trolls, machines, and daemons; the underworld may be a world of strange creatures, but they are all born of this capacity for intellect, no matter how oddly they twist themselves in their effort to acquire shape. One of the best examples I think I know of regarding the nature of this underworld and our struggle with it is a painting by Hieronymus Bosch called the Temptation of St. Anthony, currently in Lisbon, Portugal. I’ve written about the nature of this painting, which is a psychological masterpiece about the psychospiritual evolution of mankind, and one man in particular, but writing about it does not capture the experience of a life in which one discovers that St. Anthony is not someone else, but, rather, myself.

I don’t mean this in the sense that I am some kind of saint, but rather that I am a human being poised, as St. Anthony was, between the heaven of being and the hell of the intellect, each of which stakes out a piece of territory that I am obliged to come to terms with. If I do not have the hell of intellect to juxtapose against it, the heaven of being cannot be appreciated when it arrives. And I have to taste both of these things — not just the one I prefer — in order to know more about who and what I am. 


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Just by being here

 Part of a series of notes to myself, June 2018

 It’s overcast and cool this morning.

What are we doing on this planet?

Do we stop and think about how we are, and how a gentle Grace flows into us?

This quiet, unseen force is a gift of infinite value; and yet it somehow becomes trivialized in our engagement with the material, even though its very purpose is to help us experience that more fully.

This trivialization is our own fault; we don’t take the time to slow down and breathe and just accept the fact that we don’t need special results in order to appreciate life. Everything we need is right here, right now, not somewhere else.

Furthermore it is here in me, not outside. It's what is in me that grows within the soul and has the capacity to receive life that matters; and that receiving of life consists of simply remaining still and allowing it to come in with respect and appreciation.

So there is a place, a position, where I remain still within myself, attending quite precisely, and life enters.

It enters breath by breath.

And here I am. Life flows in. There is an equal force that comes from Being that meets life; inner life meets outer life. The molecules of Being vibrate within that moment of coming together.

So there aren’t any special results here. There is just living; and I would be better off attending to that with a bit more of a serious attitude then racing off to stimulate myself with 100 different external actions each one of which, I am convinced, will bring some better form of satisfaction than the one I already have. If I were appreciating my satisfaction itself, the satisfaction of what life tastes like as it arrives, I probably wouldn’t think this way.

As I get older, and my priorities change, I tend to do less and less because of my interest in this appreciation of the immediate. It is an invisible action; it doesn’t seem to produce anything outward (I would argue I’ve already done quite enough of that through the course of my life) but inwardly it produces an insight which is not available if everything I think and say and do — both within me and without me — is turned towards the outside.

So there's this possibility to invert the action of what I perceive so that it is inward first; and this is where the sense of what is sacred begins in me.

It brings me into moment after moment where I don’t actually know anything; but those moments are rich. There is something at the heart of life which is and will remain a mystery; and although it will always consist of this mystery, the certain thing is that it's filled with love.

So it’s always possible to approach it; and it’s always possible to help that love to grow within us.

Just by being here.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018


 Part of a series of notes to myself, June 2018

So I woke up this morning and was breathing in and out. I’m still breathing in and out now. Every breath is connected to a comprehensive molecular sensation. I know from past experience and how I am now that it is not completely mature; but it is certainly present in an absolute sense. Trying to force this sensation will not improve it; it will make it worse. That is to say, it is deadened by any effort to manipulate it. An acute observation, however, can help it to reach deeper into the body; and since all of the molecules have a wish to participate, the more that I can help them by watching this process with a silent intelligence that does not interfere, the better off everything is.

I worked hard physically yesterday screening soil for the garden and carrying it down to parts for vegetables. It was hot. The physical work is a good thing, even though it my age it wears me out. Today my body, which hurts, is grateful for the exercise it got – and the suffering that it has undergone consists of a peculiar kind of gratitude for being alive at all.

So I am here within, where the sensation of breathing is a real thing and a gentle, exquisite sense of sorrow penetrates the body as I become more aware of the fact that I am. It is the gentleness of God’s grace as it arrives; and this is a much more real thing than some of the coarser impressions I’m willing to subsist on when I’m not in a better relationship. I guess the point is that one there is no caviar around, one eats the oatmeal.

I suppose, having studied this, that I should let this go this morning. Things are rather quiet within and that always creates a capacity to allow events to flow in with less resistance.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, July 21, 2018


Part of a series of notes to myself, June 2018

 Existence, I think, ought to come down to something much simpler than what I try to make it.

There is this wish for special results; and it takes me away from the results that already exist. In a certain sense, the entire set of objects, events, circumstances, and conditions around me are the special results already; and if I form a right relationship to them, I see this. The results are comprehensive and include me.

“We are all in this together,” I can say to myself — without words, mind you, but only my attention. “Here we are together. We are.” There is something in this fact, as it arises with an awareness, that erases the assumptions, the expectations, and the demands I make both on myself and the world.

I think this idea of wishing for special results is what prevents me from seeing special results. The wish itself already presumes that the special results are here; that the grace isn’t here, the work isn’t here, the effort isn’t here. The wish says “None of what I care about is here yet, but if I work harder, I can get there.” If I am already in the midst of what is glorious and necessary, but I think that what is glorious and necessary must be elsewhere, well, isn’t that the essence of delusion?

Spending my time around so many others that have the same wish for special results that I do, along with the constant conversation about how one can get them this way or that way, what they feel like and look like, how they ought to be, how it is impossible to have that experience very often, and so on, I get the impression that we are dismissing the extraordinary value of ordinary life. It is our relationship to life that transforms — that and that alone. That relationship begins from within and is an inner transformation in which the relationship of myself to myself changes. It’s only there that anything changes in relationship to the outer world; and so if there were a special result — which, once again, I am questioning here — it would be within me, and it wouldn’t even be that special. It would just consist of a normalization of the organic work of the body, the mind, and the feeling.

This weekend, I’ve been reflecting about the moment when the Virgin Mary touched me back in 2001 while I was in Rome.

For some reason, it has never occurred to me before that I was taking photographs with a digital camera at that time (I was an early adopter, and this particular camera was a Sony that — can you believe it ?— took pictures on 3 ½ inch floppy disks.)

I went back to the photographs and found the series I took during the morning when I walked past the Vatican and Mary initiated me. I discovered that it took place on May 4, 2001 between 10:47 and 10:53 AM — it’s possible to trace it with that degree of accuracy because, even in those early days, the camera put a timestamp on the pictures, and one can tell from the photos just where I was, and at what times.

This is of interest to me primarily because it represents a real anniversary — the anniversary of my  birthday, the day I was actually born and lived for the first time.

Nothing outside of me changed in the least; neither then, or later, when the initiation went through a progressive series of intensifications. The outside world and all of those photographs retained  consistency: nothing was different.

But inside me, everything was.

It still is. And there have been over 17 years of permutations and transformations since then.

One thing that has stayed the same is that I see, so often, that everything is already a special condition.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

things just are

NGC 6744, as imaged by the Hubble telescope.

Part of the series of notes to myself, May 2018

Notes on May 31. 

I was in Manhattan driving west last night.

I saw a ConEd utility pipe belching steam out of the ground near Central Park West.  

It came to me there, in that place, that we have to stop assuming we understanding things before they even begin, if we want to see where we are.

Another way of putting this—this is exactly what the unspoken words in me were— is that I have to begin to doubt everything I know. 

If I could actually stop knowing anything, stop having the ongoing impression that I have an understanding of what things are and how they operate (for example, the steam pipe: what is this thing?), everything would suddenly be quite different. 

Then I might actually see. 

Inwardly, I’m forever on the edge of this.

This came back to me even more forcefully later as I sat in a room with a group of people struggling to understand what they are.  Some of us, at times myself included, think we may know what man’s purpose is, that it’s this or that destiny or calling, and that we have to do this and that thing in order to fulfill that destiny. We explain stuff.

But I'm not sure about that at all. Last night, as I took in this impression, there wasn't really a lot of thought. There was nothing to explain. 

Things just are. 

It occurred to me that we are more or less pores. Impressions come into us; expressions come out of us. We can learn a lot about how these things operate from thinking about pores on the surface of a cell; and if that cell is consciousness, then our conscious Being is an aperture, through which things enter and leave. One ought to consider carefull how pores on a cell operate and understand how closely similar, on our own scale, we are to pores—apertures—in the mind of God.

God lives through us. He sweats through us. The point is that there is a porosity, and a reciprocal action.

We are meant to receive; we’re not agents, but receptors. The agent lies hidden from us; we call that agent God, and I think that is as good a word as any, because God is quite personal – a being, a person, not a thing or a place or a concept, but a personhood. 

God has an agency that creates.

The agency that creates is all around us. We see it in everything; we see it in the rocks, for example, of the Palisades, the ancient basalt I drive by every morning on my way to work; and we see it in the branches of the trees and weeds, and the raindrops, and the way the grass grows (we don’t know how or why.) 

There’s agency in all of this; it arises from an inherently creative force that remains completely mysterious to us. Of course it’s all part of the birth of the movement of God's realm; but that doesn't resolve what our place is or what we ought "do" about it.

This causes me to reconsider Gurdjieff's comment that man cannot "do." There are many different layers of meaning this statement; and of course many of them refer to egoistic attitudes towards ourselves, our work, and our life — for example, the idea that we can ”control” the energy in us, or what’s done with it. (A distinctly Hatha yoga concept, if ever there was one, but we certainly believe it.) 

Anyway, what I'm getting at here is that man cannot "do”—in the sense that we were not created as creatures that do. 

We are created to be creatures that can be. 

To be is to do. In being, we take in what arrives. This is the crux of our existence, to receive. If we receive existence objectively, without interfering with, and have an honesty — a willingness to not lie — in the way that we manifest, already we are ”doing” awful lot, but it doesn't have any special result. It is simply an action of participation, and not of doing.

There are times when I sit within myself, closely observing the sensation in me, and I think quite carefully—without using my mind or my thought—about precisely what is already given. I want to see it quite accurately, not for what I think it is—I don’t know anything about it and my thoughts are relatively worthless—but what it actually is. 

What is given, as it is, before I even come to it. 

This force of life is given; I didn't make it, I can’t ask for it, and I am not in command of it. 

My manifestation, my experience of myself and of life is given. 

My sensation, no matter how acute or dull it may be, is given. 

My thoughts, no matter how sharp or dull they may be, are given. 

All of life is given; and my awareness, to the extent that I exercise it, is centered around experiencing what is given, not presuming that I give, or I can get better. 

I'm to a large extent driven by this idea that I can get something better. I notice that a great deal of my automatic thinking revolves around the idea that I can get better things than I have—better possessions, better relationships, more money, a better job, etc. In observing this thought process, I see that my imagination is actually defective and disconnected from what’s already given. There is an enormously rich practice in inhabiting what is given, as opposed wishing there were something else. It reminds me most powerfully of one of Epictetus's maxims: for a man to find happiness, he should wish for things to be as they are.

I won't take any position on the question of happiness here — that could mean many different things. What I will take a position on is the idea that inhabiting what’s here is the most real and feeding thing I might experience. 

Everything that I actually need is right here with me now. I don't need to improve. I need to experience.

 All of my thoughts about improving interfere with my ability to experience. And I don't see that. It's quite strange, really—my aspiration is what destroys my effort. The thought that came to me is that ambition can be a terrible thing when it comes to spiritual work; instead of gifting, it may punish. 

We should think about this carefully, I believe, because ambition is not our ally in such a case; it’s the enemy.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Love and creation

Part of the series of notes to myself, May 2018

May 28.

There is an endlessly creative force that gives birth to everything we see, to everything that is.

Of course, we hear this so often it seems obvious and even unimportant; not only that, it's too large a thought for us. We're tiny creatures; and each one of us is perpetually absorbed in an obsessive effort to take in our own existence—which we do not understand and struggle to extract value and meaning from—alone.

We don’t so much inhabit our Being as engage against it; because we don’t experience its nature firsthand and from a ground of actual organic understanding, we oppose it. We think that our opposition is an effort to be, without seeing that the problem begins there.

Convictions like this are deeply rooted and almost impossible to defeat. By now, I’ve lived an entire lifetime like this. Every effort to not be how I am distracts me from being how I am. If the paradox is not obvious, it ought to be.

I was asked the other night by a good friend, is the universe male or female? Is inner work male or female? Because of my Marion devotions and my personal experience of Mary, I am inclined to favor the female side of things; and so of course I answered from that place. The correct perspective is, however, more complicated; because we are a blend of male and female, active and passive, that which bestows and that which receives. I think that the essential difficulty is that the “male” part of us is what is always active — even in women. This is the part that thinks it can “do,” that things are under my control and I can have an impact on them. The female part, which is actively passive and receives life and being, is usually obstructed.

This is a deeply inner question that cannot be examined from any other point of view if one wants to achieve a good understanding.

If I have a deep, organic, and rooted experience of Being, the overwhelming impression is always one of the femininity of it; the aspect of submission, whereby I put all of myself aside and receive a higher influence, the influence of Divine Love and Wisdom of the Holy Spirit. This particular force, which is the only real force there is throughout life— it creates all life and being — is a force that comes from beyond the material realm of creation.

Because it enters creation on a scale so small that it cannot be seen or measured — even the physicists are unable to touch it, whether with their machines or even their theories — we don’t see or feel its action unless our inward vibration is attuned to that molecular level. But once it is, when we feel it flow into us — this is called the inflow — we understand that the divine is the source of Being.

We need to remind ourselves of this all day, every day, and constantly remind ourselves of what this means and the responsibility that it creates in us. It means that even if we don’t feel the Divine actively — if Grace is not active, and it may often not be — we are still responsible to God, in every moment. In naïve forms of religion, it is said that “God is watching;” and although this is true, it is true in ways that once again cannot be seen. It does not need to be taken literally as the personhood of God (which does exist, mind you) were casting a direct supervisory eye on us;  the phrase means to remind us that we are responsible, that we have to watch ourselves on behalf of God.

This takes some effort on our part. It is so easy, at any moment, to forget responsibility. And the instant we do that, we remove ourselves at some distance from the inflow, from the sensation and impression of receiving our life from God.

I’d like you to think about that for a minute today. We receive our life, in this minute, directly from God. It is not ours. We receive it.

This is a mystery that can be directly experienced as a sensation through a fine vibration within the body; and that experience of sensation ought to be permanently present, even if it goes through  periodic fluctuation in degree.

It is also a mystery that can be directly experienced as a fine vibration within the emotions, which is called — instead of emotion – feeling. That organic feeling provokes a sensation of the sacred within the place that feelings arise. It is actually a heightened level of sensation.

If these two functions are present, and the mind steps past its turning thoughts and associative action into the realm of an intellect that receives without knowing, that perceives without laying claim, I discover a life that is more whole.

This doesn’t make me a free creature or magically transform me into some kind of higher being; it quite simply and gently places me in the middle of this life I have been given so that I can engage in the simple work I ought to do of honoring others, questioning my own self and motive, and attempting, insofar as possible, to understand this mysterious force called love which ought to be so much more active than it is.

This brings me to a point about the question of obstruction, maleness, and femaleness. Love is an active and male force; it is what is bestowed. (I say this from a metaphysical point of view, because maleness in the material world of creation performs a different function.) So the active force begins with a male, or active, love, which emanates from the divine and enters material creation.

The passive force, which is obstructed, is a female force residing in material creation — a place which has been created in order to receive the active force of love that is emanated. So there is love in both parts; love in the part that emanates, and there ought to be a reciprocating love in the part that receives. These two loves, the act of love at the passive love, come together and reproduce in what we call Being. Already, Being is the child of this love, no matter what our conscious or unconscious attitude towards it.

But if we become more aware of ourselves and what we are, we have the opportunity to sense and experience this action of love, this creative action, more directly.

It’s a humbling experience.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The pilgrimage of feeling

From a series of notes to myself written during May 2018.

The highest vision of the sacred is The Perfection; but there are many intermediary degrees of perception that lead to The Perfection.

Each one of them represents a state of Grace, as if one were on a pilgrimage. Every outer pilgrimage which is taken from one church or holy site to another is an outward representation of this inner pilgrimage, which can take place along the pathways of the sacred within our body of Being.

We travel along the pathways within the body of Being in order to visit our sacred sites; they are already there, and we simply act as witnesses submitting ourselves, in the most abject humility which we can muster, to their sacred force.

Each sacred station of healing unveils another aspect of The Perfection, which is part of what Ibn Arabi calls The Reality. If one has a sufficient level of development in the organic feeling of Being — and this is a dicey thing, because we cannot be architects or developers, only custodians – then one begins to see life in a quite different way. And when we speak about three separate centers, and so on, or even just speak about the development of the emotional center itself, what we are really talking about is developing this precise, intimate, intelligent—and above all respectful—development of organic feeling.

I see life differently. I can see, if my perception is functioning accurately, how every single object, event, circumstance, and condition is part of a sacred gift that’s been given to me. Every single instant of life is a part of that sacred gift – but it also encompasses all things, since every instant is a fraction of the Truth that exists everywhere, but manifest only Now.

There is no separation from everything and this one thing.

As I see the way that life is sacred, I see every interaction with every meeting I encounter as sacred.

I don't do this theoretically, by thinking about how sacred they are; my feeling center has an awakened quality that brings me to the moment of relationship with a question that keeps it alive: how to honor this relationship in this moment.

In the end, everything is about the relationship; and if the relationship in life in this moment is not honorable, I have soiled both my life and the nature of God in several ways.

First of all, I have not honored the life that is given to me.

I haven’t appreciated how extraordinarily valuable, beautiful, impossible, and miraculous this very ordinary moment is.

I haven't seen, with the parts that were given to me to see with, how incredible each instant is, and how even the simplest object for the simplest action is lived in, by, and through the divine influence of the holy.

Secondly, I have soiled God, because having been given this impossible gift of life, this magnificent thing which I experience flowing through all of my Being at every instant — the only thing I am here for — I have forgotten about God. I’ve even forgotten that everything is miraculous and sacred. I'm looking out there—somewhere else—for will be miraculous and sacred — later.

I forget that the sacred is here now. I think it is in a magical concert; or a book I'll read later; or some meeting with really important spiritual people I will see next weekend. I don't see that the tail lights on the car in front of me or the leaves on the trees or its bark—all of which seem kind of stupid and inanimate to my ordinary degrees of sensitivity—are a direct manifestation of the sacred.

This appreciation of life, which becomes much deeper and much more sensitive and much more intelligent, is what the real aim of inner work is about. It’s about developing that; and about having an emotional respect of a new kind—a different kind—for the life I’m in, and the capacities I have with which to live it.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, July 9, 2018

The ocean of feeling

From a series of notes to myself written during May 2018.

This morning, I'm thinking about the extraordinary number of blessings that flow into life every given day.

The emotional part of ourselves, which usually doesn't develop very much, but simply mills around in the same place, has the capacity to develop a much greater sensitivity to our lives.

It can develop real feeling, which is a different kind of emotional state than my ordinary reactions to things. I'd like to speak a little bit about real feeling to try and help explain the difference between my regular emotions and my feelings.

Regular emotions are superficial. They have an enormous power, but what they do is seesaw back and forth on the surface of things. It’s like the difference between the ocean and the surface of the ocean. The surface of the ocean forms a layer which, even under the most violently windswept circumstances, is barely 100 feet or so deep; that is, from the peak of the waves to their troughs.

Yet underneath all of this action on the surface lie vast depths that have infinitely more latent power. This force far exceeds anything that takes place on the surface, where we can see it.

The forces within the depths of our emotive ocean move vast quantities of water and provide a habitat for untold numbers of creatures. Feeling is what lies beneath the surface of the ocean, the bottom 99% that isn't seen. It makes a meager  impression on us, and is rarely contemplated. We spend so much time on the surface, surfing the waves and enjoying the view, that we forget what makes that surface possible — and that is the body of inward Being that is contained under the surface of the ocean of feeling.

This body of inward Being is connected to what’s called feeling.

Feeling has the capacity to see life with an intelligence that transcends the intelligence of the body or the mind. It is capable—at its best—of perceiving The Perfection. The Perfection is sublime; and the seeing of it is a privilege, not a guarantee, or even an aim which one can work towards. Seeing The Perfection is never an aim because it is God's Grace granted only after we have worked hard enough, made enough ordinary efforts—suffered enough—to be deemed worthy in His eyes. In any event, all of real feeling is connected to Grace, because the emotional center, if it ever develops an organic feeling of Being, has the ability to perceive the sacred in a way that no other part can do.

In order to explain this better, perhaps I should explain the function of each of the parts more accurately, so that one better understands what one is ”observing“ —why one is observing it, even— and what the results of that observation might be if our observation were very precise and very sensitive and very intimate.

In our work, we frequently talk about the fact that the “organic sensation of Being” is an aim. This is not a subjective condition. The organic sensation of Being is a living sensation of Being—an intelligence— that arises in the molecular vibration of our cells. It’s not under our supervision; and one can't magically make it happen. When it arrives and manifests, it indicates an awakening of the intelligence of the body, which then becomes a permanent factor in life.

This faculty is important because it is objective — it has the capacity to think” independently without the interference of the intellectual or the feeling mind. It has a special role all its own—and if it is allowed to its own work, the work that it does has an unusually powerful effect on what is called objective reason. It’s objective because it does not perceive based on associations or opinions; nor does it perceive based on feelings. It perceives based on truth; that is, when we play our role as the pupil in the eye of God, the truth that flows in flows first into sensation, as objective fact.

The mind has its own organic form of thinking. But right now I want to speak a bit more about the organic feeling of Being, because feeling, unlike thinking or sensation, is the part that’s the closest to the sacred, and has the unique and powerful ability of being able to perceive it directly, without any impediment.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.