Monday, August 19, 2019

The devil cheats

From the Cathedral of St. Foy at Conques, France

Last night, we were having dinner when I remarked to my wife that every part of us that thinks it is special or that has a wish to be special contains a destructive element that I’m unable to see.

Of course, everything contains a destructive element in it as well as a creative one; but in this case, my blindness to the destructive element is critical. I believe that every wish I have to be special — to be better, whether spiritually, morally, or materially — to be more important, to be assigned more significance, to be more honored by others, to have things the way that I want them — is a creative action. It will create a “better” me — and a world, by the way, that is better ordered and which I am more satisfied by.

My desires are an engine that operates almost constantly in this direction. If I don’t examine them critically, I can’t see the way in which their selfishness tends to crush everything else in its path — and the more selfish my desires are, the more things they crush on my way to them. 

This brings me back to the question of desires and non-desires, to the need for non-desires to prevail.

Non-desire, in the case of spiritual nature, needs to become a comprehensive understanding — an understanding that grasps everything, that applies to everything. If I take a step back from where I am in myself, and remove myself just that one single step from my desires so that I can see them operating, I see how every single one of them is an invention or a fantasy of one kind or another. I keep making up stories about imaginary futures, imaginary pasts, imaginary presents. No matter which way I turn, my desire is connected to something that takes me away from the truth. 

The fewer desires I have, the closer I come to the truth of what actually is.

Of course, the idea that I could be completely free of desire is equally fanciful. The image of the angel and the demon staring into one another’s eyes on the tympanum of the Cathedral of St. Foy in Conques (France) turns up once again as a leitmotif in the story of man’s two natures.  I keep coming back to this particular image— one of my all-time favorites to date—because it has so many different and extraordinarily subtle observations about spiritual teaching in it. How fitting that it comes from one of the most mysterious and compelling pilgrimage sites in medieval Europe.

The angel holds a pair of scales — he is judging, flying directly in the face of Christ's admonition: judge not, lest ye be judged. No matter how righteous he believes his behavior to be — remember, he's an angel— it has a flaw in it. We can imagine him raising the scales up, trying to reach the higher level he believes he is on, and impose its strictures, commands, and spiritually pure behaviors on the situation. If we think about this carefully, I think you'll agree we can see there's something wrong here. As Gurdjieff said, with a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, paradoxically, it's the devil you can trust. This image helps to illustrate that in subtle and peculiar ways. (Don't forget, as well, the broken universe of Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, where even the highest angels keep making mistakes.)

The devil puts one of his fingers on the scales — he's cheating. Ah, well, you can indeed trust him to do this – after all, he's a devil.

 Remember as we consider this that these two creatures both represent not just some external agency that will judge us after we die, but how we are inside ourselves right now. To read this into the image is not to find more in it than is already there; the monastic orders that created such artworks were extraordinarily sophisticated thinkers, as their texts and sermons so amply demonstrate. They were probably better assessors of human character than we are today. Pay attention to their works; they can still educate.

 Here we see an illustration of the idea that both our natures, higher and lower, are engaged in wrong behaviors: the angel judges, the devil cheats. Even worse, the angel judges because the devil cheats; and the devil cheats because the angel judges. Both natures are exactly what they are, no more, no less; they can’t help what they do. 

As for myself, all I can do is stand between these inner forces and understand that they exist. I need to be aware of these processes, not control them, cheat with them, or judge with them. In a sense, it is my job to be an independent entity. 

Not an angel, not a demon. Just the one who sees what is happening.

Wishing the best for you on this day,


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Quantum State of Being

The Quantum State of Being is now available in paperback.

My description as follows:

A brief exploration of the meaning of the inner sensation of Being, largely based on Gurdjieff’s teachings. This series of essays lays out a new pathway for understanding the nature of inner spiritual energy and its role in the sensation of self in both planetary and cosmological contexts. 

A discussion of inner harmonic vibrations and their relationships ensues, along with some observations on their relationship to yogic practice.The essays propose an approach to the mind-body connection initiated through the body, not the mind, which is centered around an organic sensation. 

In addition, they explore the role of planetary and solar emanations in the development of Being in humanity, with an explanation of how magnetism and gravity function not just as physical, but also spiritual forces. A new impression of the spiritual dimension of what are otherwise considered merely physical forces emerges from this discussion.



Friday, August 16, 2019

Focusing on Grace


June 16

This morning I want to speak a bit about Grace and how it arises and exists.

Last night I was at a good friend’s birthday celebration. Another man I’ve known for many years sat with me for a while and we spoke about life. 

I mentioned that I don’t deserve anything that takes place around me, and he found that peculiar, requiring me to explain it in more detail.

I suspect you may not see this, but every instance of life, absolutely every single moment of it, is a comprehensive and eternal manifestation of God’s Grace. The entire condition of life as it flows into me, and you, is never relative to anything else. The condition of Grace as it flows into being, both my individual being and yours, is an absolute condition, not a relative one.

 This is the fundamental premise underlying Meister Eckhart’s Book of Divine Comfort — and I heartily recommend that you read it. 

Yet I’ll say things a bit differently than he does this morning. 

The point is that all of the created world rests without exception in the fundament of God’s goodness. Even the things that we think of as terribly bad — whether they afflict ourselves or others — have their roots within the foundation of God’s goodness. This will definitely seem confusing to us as awful things happen around us. Yet it is true. This was more or less the point of Meister Eckhart’s discourse on the matter of suffering.

All of the things, in other words, that I encounter in my life, whether I like them or not—no matter what my attitude—are a manifestation of God’s Grace. God’s Grace is given freely out of love throughout eternity, and before the universe is created. 

I don’t deserve God’s Grace; my Being as a creature is flawed. But whether  my own Being is flawed or perfect, I have no right to my life or the persons and things in it. I have no right to anything. God has created both my life, myself, and all of creation as it stands through His infinite Love and generosity. Because He does this in eternity, it is done before creation; and it is done unconditionally. Without the expectation of return.

If I had a good and great sense of God’s goodness and greatness — which ought to be my aim in life — I would know this at all times. It would humble me, and I would see how incredibly fortunate I am to have friends I have, to have the life I have. However every single manifestation of every single instant in life is a full and complete expression of God’s perfection and his indestructible and eternal goodness. If I dwell within that understanding, and filled with a feeling different than the feeling of ordinary life. The first and only impulse I would have would be to give thanks through worship, because finally, now, I would understand how the world is founded on love, flows into being through love, and how that love unconditionally creates all of the conditions that I inhabit.

How could I deserve this? Nothing is guaranteed. I’m a wicked and petty creature within myself, not seeing how Grace wholly forms my Being; and so I begin undeserving. 

Let’s not use the word sin; that comes afterwards, when I choose to ignore God’s goodness and not honor my life and my fellow beings. I begin undeserving; yet my whole life is given in glory. 

Can I see this?

If I don’t see this, I willfully refuse to honor life and its happenings. Instead, I spend my life in dreams thinking that I deserve this and that and the other thing (including God, because in my ongoing delusion I think that even He ought to be under my command.) The worthless parts of me all want to get for themselves and nothing more. They think that life is my own property and belongs to me.

 One might say that we need to cultivate, in this spiritual context, an inner sense of undeserving. I need to sense from within myself, and all of my being, in every moment, that I don’t deserve this life for what is in it. I am not entitled to it. I have no right to it. It has been given to me through God’s grace alone, and I am merely a custodian.

 I have a business card, my personal business card which under my name says supervisor of various engines of creation. People think this is cute; and I suppose it is. Yet it’s not just my cleverness or the accurate description of myself as one who overlooks various creative processes that manifest through me; it is also about being a custodian of life. We all supervise (look over) the various engines of creation that God has wrought both within us and without; and if we have any sense at all of just how extraordinary and magnificent this creation which we oversee is, we have an instinctive wish to honor it in every way possible.

This instinctive wish to honor life lies at the root of mankind’s spiritual potential; and it has atrophied. If we were able to understand this more directly through an actual sensation of life, instead of through philosophies and theories, hypotheses and religions, we would encounter God’s being more directly. Life was always intended to bring us into contact with this Grace; and yet I turn away.

Wishing the best for you on this day,


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

No Measure

Never doubt that in a single instant, even in the midst of life, God can come and fill you with such grace that you know His love and are made whole, both within yourself and for others. Attend carefully, because that moment is ever near, and it depends on faith alone to call it.
In such moments we can know that even the smallest good is so great that it has no measure.

Wishing the best for you on this day,


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Being here and things that happen

 June 15, continued

Another point that was brought up during this discussion was the question of how I can tell the difference between the inner and the outer.

The inner awareness explains itself; and the moment that it begins to manifest of its own volition, there is no question about the difference between the inner and the outer. I come into relationship with a higher energy which isn’t a fleeting experience of magical properties; it is a permanent presence of this finer energy which flows into being at every moment of existence.

While I have often called this the organic sensation of being, there is more to it than meets the I or can be captured in a phrase. The inflow of the higher energy of the divine into being is the fundamental beginning of all existence, but — on our level and in our case — most especially, the beginning of our existence and the fountain of life from which all of our Being begins. It is the aim of existence, first and before anything else, to come into a permanent relationship with this inward flow of divine energy which creates Being.

 The inner quality of our spiritual life is entirely formed from the vibration of divine energy within Being. The attention of awareness needs to be clearly focused on this energy at all times, so that one lives first from this manifestation, and only afterwards from all the others. This is what’s meant by the inner; the vibration doesn’t “come from” some hypothetical physical location outside us, it arises from within our Being. We don’t begin by having experiences and encountering objects, events, circumstances, and conditions. We begin by being here. Unless we engage directly in the action of being here first, we have no capacity for distinguishing the difference between being here and things that happen.

 Only a relationship with a higher vibration can establish the fundamental ground within which we distinguish the difference between being here and things that happen. To use the classic phrase, “be here now,” is not enough. There is a way to be here now; and it isn’t the way of the mind, the way of thinking about how I am here. The action of telling myself I’m here with the mind is useless. I need to know I am here from within the vibration of Being. In order to encounter this state, my search needs to be centered from within around this.

This search can’t be conducted solely through meditation. The search needs to be conducted every day, all day long, while I am encountering the various things that take place in life. That is to say, the search is conducted from within, on behalf of the spiritual, through the action of sensation. Until I attune my attention to this intimate property, I am looking in the wrong place. There is no set of spiritual instructions, no special practice, that can substitute from an intimate attention that’s turned specifically towards this inner spiritual nature, at all times as I go through my daily life.

I want to repeat that, at all times. There is never a moment in life when one is excused from the effort to focus more clearly on Grace.

Wishing the best for you on this day,


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

inner and outer

June 15 

Last week, I was party to a long conversation about the question of inner and outer life, in which some of the participants — who  have been practicing what we refer to as “inner” work for decades, many many decades – professed confusion about what the difference between inner and outer is, and what use it is to see that difference.

 An extensive intellectually based exchange followed. Many intelligent things were said, including the observation that in a certain sense, everything is “inner,” simply because consciousness perceives all things that it had counters from within, both inner sensations and outer sensations, within itself.

Yet while this is true, it glosses over the important distinction between the natural and spiritual world, or, the outer and the inner world. The natural world is the outer world; the inner world is the spiritual world. I thought I would take some time to try and explain the difference between the two more specifically for those who feel confused about it.

The outer world, the natural world, consists of objects, events, circumstances, and conditions. I’ve been using this description of the outer world for a number of years. Breaking it down, we have:

Objects. Things that exist and outlast the existence of ourselves and those around us. We know these are “real,” because grandmother may die, but her rocking chair is still here and everyone else continues to see it. Objects have a continuity. Of course human beings and all other living things are also objects, and we can verify that they objectively exist because they continue to exist even when others who perceive them die.

Events. These also have an objective existence outside ourselves, since grandmother may die, but the events surrounding her existence continue. We hold a funeral. Weeping takes place. And so on. Events involve the interaction of living things and objects, but they exist outside those living things, and the objects exist independent of one another: we can destroy grandmother’s rocking chair while her jewelry remains intact.

Circumstances. These are the things surrounding objects and events: That which is in their immediate presence. For example, grandma died because she fell out of her rocking chair due to a broken rail. (No wonder we destroyed it! That lousy rocking chair.) Circumstances also exist outside us, and we encounter them constantly. In fact, one might say that everything outside of the initial inner action of consciousness is a circumstance of one kind or another.

 Conditions. This describes the nature of objects and events. Grandma’s rocking chair was broken; it was sad that she died. (Unless she was hateful and cruel, in which case perhaps we’re ok with it.)

 The inner world consists of consciousness — of Being. It is the world of the soul and the spirit, and it exists before objects, events, circumstances, and conditions are encountered. We can’t assign this the same value that the natural outer world has, because it is there before grandmother, her rocking chair, and the funeral. Being is the fundamental and first measurement of life; it manifests as consciousness, which has a distinct and objective existence apart from objects, events, circumstances, and conditions.

One can provide an argument that consciousness is dependent on an object we refer to as the body. Yet, because it is a whole that is distinctly greater than the sum of its mechanical parts, it’s quite certain that awareness has a different quality and comes from somewhere else. The universe not only has an astonishing degree of order; consciousness has an ability to perceive that. Consciousness flows into Being through the vehicle of bodies, but it is its own thing. That “thing” isn’t, in fact, anything at all, but the manifestation of God within spirit. That spirit infuses all of reality; but the way that it manifests inside an individual Being through the ability to encounter, perceive, and evaluate, is the inner life and forms the spiritual world.

The spiritual world is a world of relationships, not static objects. Relationships are formed through the threefold action of encounter, perception, and evaluation. These are directly parallel to and consonant with the moving, emotional, and intellectual centers.  Moving center encounters through engagement with the physical; emotional center perceives through the sensitivity of its reception; intellectual center evaluates using its comparative abilities.

Something greater than individual actions of encounter, perception, and evaluation arises as a result of their threefold interaction. That greater thing cannot emerge without all three of these functions participating.

The inner world that we inhabit can be directly sensed through the influence, or inflow, of divine energy directly into our Being. This is what creates our consciousness. One person asked whether this is the same as what they call “presence”; and perhaps it is, because the word presence is derived from the Latin word meaning to be there. That is, to exist.

 Yet to exist is not enough. If grandma doesn’t die, but instead suffers a stroke that leaves her comatose but alive, she still exists; and she is still here. Yet we wouldn’t say she has presence. Presence, then, implies an inflow of spiritual power, of Being, that allows her to manifest consciously to one degree or another. And it is this inflow of being, this point of contact between a higher form of energy, spiritual energy, and the action of consciousness itself that matters the most. That point of contact, which exists deep within the soul and takes place at the very point in which the soul makes its closest contact with God, is where everything begins in this life. It’s the point — the inner point — from which all of my being begins, before I encounter anything or perceive anything.

 This point of origin is what the  classic Zen koan “show me your original face before you were born” refers to. It reminds us of the effort to discover ourselves at the point from which all of our being begins, and nowhere else. This is an inner place, not an outer one; and to the extent that we draw our strength and force from it, to the extent that we understand contact with it, to the extent that we live from it, so much so are we alive.

Wishing the best for you on this day,


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Work in Life, Part III

Don’t get too complicated.

To work from within this basic force of life, this higher influence that flows into us, we must divest ourselves as much as possible of all of our gremlins, imps, and daemons... the wickedness of  personality that frets and gnaws perpetually at the root of our Being.

This is a colorful way of saying that one has to come into relationship with the energy from within, the life that flows into us, and to ignore all of the other influences that routinely arise and attempts to interfere with it.
It means turning back again and again all day long towards God, towards His presence as it flows into us, and turning away from the influences of creation (cf. Meister Eckhart's sermons) that want us to pay attention to them first. 

This is one of the meanings of what Christ meant when He said, “Get the behind me, Satan.” Don’t forget that what Christ was tempted with in the desert was all the influences of ordinary life; and yet in the face of these temptations—which were, and are, exactly what outer life always offers us— He steadfastly turned His heart towards his Father.

He turned towards a higher authority, and not a lower one. 

We're faced with this moment of temptation at every instant of life, and it is only our own choice to serve God first that can save us from it.

It is our duty always to turn ourselves towards this inner force of Grace and life, and to be perpetually and eternally grateful for the Grace that it brings us.

 We live in great danger, because we live in a world that insists all the time and in greater and greater measure that the more complicated things are, the better they are. All of our technology is dedicated to this proposition. Yet this is a dire falsehood; the more complicated things are, the less we come into relationship with God. 

God wants us to be quite simple and to attend to the basic force of our life and the beautiful details of the simplest things around us, not to get caught up in the machinations of endless detail. 

Our Being was meant to receive the simplest and most graceful impression of life, which speaks with more words than all the books in heaven when it is received properly. This can only take place if we divest ourselves of the complexities that our personality insists are so necessary in order to move forward in life. One needs to settle down within the root of Being, quite simply, and concentrate one’s force there so that it becomes invulnerable to the interference of the day today. This is a subtle force; it isn’t meant to break down castle doors, but rather to root the foundation of our inner kingdom so firmly that it cannot be budged.

 When I am available, heaven flows into me always and without reservation. It has a wish to be here within this life; it is this life. This is because one cannot separate God from life or life from God; they are one. 

Yet when I’m distracted by complications, I don’t see this. It’s only if the root of my Being is firmly attached to the foundation of Being, the point at which the influence of God enters creation within me, that I can remember myself and my duty to God.

It is possible to keep turning back towards God over and over again all day long, and God will send blessings in direct proportion to how often I remember Him. 

If this action is completed in me even once during a day, already, that is a big thing; yet I need to complete the action again and again, because this is what duty means, and this is what prayer and what worship mean: the effort to come into relationship with the direct influence of God as His Being flows into me.

Wishing the best for you on this day,


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Work in Life, part II

I’ve discussed organic sensation for many years as the foundation of inner experience; yet of course the idea isn’t new, and even though I somehow naively thought the phrase was somewhat unique to myself in 2007 when I first began using it, it turns out that Gurdjieff and his pupils used exactly that phrase to describe the energy of life that flows into us, starting as early as the wartime meetings. 

The following quote from JG Bennett was sent to me the other day, and it illustrates the use of the phrase quite precisely to describe an important functional aspect of our inner work:


I have heard you talk about self-remembering. You said that it was not the same as remembering your functions, but that it was organic sensation. I find this very difficult to understand.


I said that without organic sensation, there cannot be any intensity of self-remembering. It is one essential ingredient. Self-remembering is a blending of energies. Associations are too unstable. Feeling is too impulsive. The passive energy is the energy of sensation, it is able to be continuous. From the blending of these energies, it is possible to have a state which is mobile and strong, and also stable. To remember myself, I must blend these energies into one experience. The element of stability is indispensable, otherwise it will evaporate, and I cannot have that stability unless I have the organic experience. From my feelings comes the strength, from my thoughts comes the mobility. 

—Denison House Talks No. 9;
London 5th. March 1951

 I find this explanation precise and correct; yet perhaps we can consider more facets of this question. 

Jeanne de Salzmann was most precise in her insistence that we must come into relationship with a higher energy. We begin with organic sensation; but the three centered being that it helps stabilize and make possible is merely the beginning of what forms a vessel to receive the emanations from a higher level. 

Work in life is to work from within this field of energy, this influence — force that flows into us — and to inhabit it as fully, as definitely, and as precisely as possible before anything else happens. Indeed, this energy of the Holy Spirit should be the whole of our being and the force from which we begin our manifestations; it comes before creation and is sent directly from God. The kingdom of heaven within is the piece of territory – which cannot be defined by any intellectual analysis – within which this force exists and concentrates.

To work in life is to begin here, from a place where the influence that creates our life itself and is life itself arises.  Perhaps we might say that there is actually nothing but this force; that we can safely abandon all creation as a secondary and unnecessary condition, trusting only and first in this force of life that flows into us as a sacred substance. If we don’t begin here, we begin nowhere and we achieve nothing; for the only achievement available to human beings which is real — not within our imagination — is the achievement which the influence of God wishes for us. It is God’s wish that we need to manifest — hence, “thy will be done.”

 The moment that we try to interpret the idea of work in life as having anything to do with ordinary life and its events, we are mixing things—mixing levels—and we want to get something. 

Meister Eckhart had succinct observations about this problem:

…some people want to see God with their own eyes as they see a cow, and they want to love God as they love a cow. You love a cow for her milk and her cheese and your own profit. 

That is what all those men do who love God for outward wealth or inward consolation - and they do not truly love God, they love their own profit. I truly assert that anything you put in the forefront of your mind, if it is not God in Himself, is - however good it may be - a hindrance to your gaining the highest truth.

—Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, Sermon 14 b

 So when we work in life, let's not get it confused and begin to love God as we love our cows. 

Our life is not the cow; life is life, and it flows into itself directly from God and without any intermediaries. 

To work in life is to recognize this within the core of one’s being —

Always, and everywhere.

Wishing the best for you on this day,


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Work in Life, part I

The way that the concept of working life is explained in the classic  In Search of the Miraculous by P. D. Ouspensky is as follows:

On the fourth way it is possible to work and to follow this way while remaining in the usual conditions of life, continuing to do the usual work, preserving former relations with people, and without renouncing or giving up anything. On the contrary, the conditions of life in which a man is placed at the beginning of his work, in which, so to speak, the work finds him, are the best possible for him, at any rate at the beginning of the work. These conditions are natural for him. These conditions are the man himself, because a man's life and its conditions correspond to what he is. Any conditions different from those created by life would be artificial for a man and in such artificial conditions the work would not be able to touch every side of his being at once. (Pages 49-49)

 I want you to forget all of this for a moment and think of this idea of work in life in a completely different way.

Life is not the objects, events, circumstances, and conditions that surround us. Life is what flows into us from a higher level. That is to say, life is not what Gurdjieff described to Ouspensky above; life is not material things, it is not creation. 

Life is the force of being which flows into us.

 Life, in other words, is this higher energy that Jeanne de Salzmann so often spoke of; it is the substance of being and of God Himself. To work in life is to work from within this flow of energy into being. One must always begin there, from within the energy, in one’s work. One cannot do this through formulations — and Gurdjieff even indicated this to Ouspensky:

"The chief difficulty in understanding the idea of the way,"' said G., "consists in the fact that people usually think that the way" (he emphasized this word) "starts on the same level on which life is going. This is quite wrong. The way begins on another, much higher, level… Therefore it is impossible to answer the question, from what does the way start? The way starts with something that is not in life at all, and therefore it is impossible to say from what. (Pages 200-201)

 Of course I've edited this considerably; yet because Ouspensky’s understanding of these questions was limited in important ways by his refusal to act from inner faith— a mistake I believe he probably recognized towards the end of his life, as so many will— the version we get is what he remembers of Gurdjieff’s remarks, and incomplete. 

My edit focuses on the essence of the question; and we see immediately that the ideas here are very closely related to Meister Eckhart’s rejection of all creation as insufficient in our effort to come into relationship with God.  

That is another deep subject well worth studying; yet the point I'm bringing here is that to work in life is to work from within the energy that God’s creation manifests

the sacred energy that creates our life itself.

Wishing the best for you on this day,


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Drawing life into Being, Part IV

 One must attend much more carefully to this question of how life flows into Being in order to understand this properly. The action is fundamental and needs to be observed through the feeling and sensation of its nature, not by thinking of it. When we discuss the idea of self observation, it’s all too common to think about it – and to think that somehow I “see” by observing and then thinking about things, thinking about what I have seen and so on. 

Yet the observation that takes place through feeling and sensation doesn’t use the thinking function (the intellectual function) to take in, sense, and understand. Each of these capacities, feeling and sensation, have their own unique intelligence in this regard. When Gurdjieff spoke about three-centered being, he was referring to this action of all three centers functioning in the observation of how life flows into Being. If this isn’t the first aim, then all the other aims are not anchored in objective perception. 

I can dream up an endless variety of aims regarding my external life, and I do. Yet there is no dream involved in the receiving of life into Being. If there are dreams, they arise afterwards. When I attempt to draw life more deeply into Being, I’m always poised at the point where life and Being arise and come together, before my dreaming begins.

This organic perception of life flowing into Being is what Swedenborg called the inflow, and what Jeanne de Salzmann referred to as influences. The divine is born within every moment in personhood; the question is whether we participate within awareness and accept before anything else takes place, or whether we attempt to appropriate and own the process. The first alternative – participation — is the path to service; the second one is the path to selfishness. All creatures, whether they want to or not, automatically serve one path or the other. 

Meister Eckhart brought this up in sermon 17, where he said, “the unjust man is the servant of truth, whether he likes it or not, and he serves the world and creatures, and is a bondman of sin.”  What he means here is related to this idea of life flowing into Being. Truth — the fundamental action of life flowing into Being — is always there. There is no escaping it. It is what one serves within the context of that truth that matters. The more deeply that life flows into Being, the more harmonically aligned a human being becomes with truth.

 To have life flow more deeply into Being means that life must go beyond the surface of things. Allegorically speaking, there are three different levels of intelligence within a human being, intellectual intelligence, the intelligence of sensation, and the intelligence of feeling. Gurdjieff lay this out in complex technical terms as described in PD Ouspensky’s  In Search of the Miraculous. ( What is commonly referred to as the food diagram.) Yet a simpler and more straightforward approach to this talks about how the most superficial way we can receive our life is through the intelligence of the intellect. Almost everything that human beings come up with in terms of their aim relates to the way this part functions; they think through this part and form aims. Sensation and feeling are like wild animals with little discipline. Yet they have a much greater capacity for receiving impressions of life more deeply; and if the parts function together in harmony, life flows much more deeply into Being, in such a way that it produces completely different sensations and even more different feelings that reveal objective truth that cannot be accessed within the field of our consciousness in any other way. One might say that they are part of the symphony of notes that, under the ordinary circumstances of awareness, cannot even be heard. The ordinary parts of awareness consider them to be undertones or overtones, subtle colorations, whereas they are in fact the most essential parts of the symphony, the character which gives it its essence.

This reminds me of another passage from Meister Eckhart, The Master’s Final Words, in which he reminds his pupils that God is found in the smallest things. In the same way, the most magnificent and extraordinary parts of life can be found in its tiniest aspects, because the character of the harmonic symphony of Being is such that all of its color and meaning is embodied in the so-called overtones and undertones, which cannot be heard, understood, or appreciated so long as the vibrations stop within the intellect. Life must flow deeply into being through an integrated harmonic relationship that brings these notes into the core of one’s essence, falling into a place of stillness that is virginal — untouched by all of the outer considerations.

This may seem difficult, I know. Yet without a lifelong, extended pondering of these particular questions, and many many efforts over many years to become more sensitive to the exact nature of inward Being and the inward flow of life and creation into the divine receptacle of Being, we cannot hope to understand how this functions.

I have not even mentioned grace, which is the assistance sent by God into Being to help it receive life. That is a complicated and essential subject as well; and not the subject of this particular discourse. Yet never forget it, because prayer and the hope of grace is overwhelmingly important in our effort to understand this question.

 Remember, here, that I say we must draw our life more deeply into our Being. If one draws life into Being, it is an intentional rather than an accidental or passive action. This means that we must participate actively, that we must be like fishermen drawing the fish towards us. One needs to be present and wish; yet that presence must be selfless and that wish must be a wish without grasping. There’s a magnetic resonance one must learn to inhabit; and one must allow the energy of that magnetic resonance to help draw life into Being. 

This is why it is so often said, in the Gurdjieff teaching, that we need to be present to a finer energy.

Wishing the best for you on this day,


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Drawing Life into Being, Part III

I’m sure that my statement must cause some confusion: the aim of our existence must first be to draw our life as deeply as possible into our Being.

After all, what is life? And what is Being? What is the difference between the two? This is probably unclear; and since different people use terms to mean different things, what I recommend here is perhaps too easily misunderstood.

By life I mean everything that is outside a person, all of the things that take place regarding objects, events, circumstances, and conditions. All of creation, in its essence, lies outside personhood and is received by it. In this way life is creation itself, which flows into personhood.

Being is personhood. 

The word person derives from the Latin pers┼Źna, originally meaning human being, possibly borrowed from the Etruscan phersu, meaning mask. Combining the other root early (circa 1200) English meaning of person — role, or character, as in a drama — we realize that the idea of a person, a human being, is one who takes on a guise through the action of being. 

This complex and very rich set of associative meanings reminds us that a person, a human being, is an embodiment of the divine. We might understand it (the way that so-called primitive societies do in mask-dances, once found throughout the world) as the action of the divine taking on an aspect of Being in order to express itself.

This idea of the divine expressing itself within the nature of personhood and a human being is scattered throughout Meister Eckhart’s sermons; and so we come to this idea of life — creation — flowing into personhood, or Being.

These are the technical and theoretical considerations; yet this morning I want to discuss the nature of Being and how it drinks life in, how it exists as the fundamental fact of existence.

We exist, as we are, within the range of our own consciousness (so far as we may experience it) and the world flows into that consciousness. 

Being receives life in the same way that a vessel receives water; and the mystery of water changing into wine relates to the transformation of life, received into Being, into a much richer kind of food. Life flows into this vessel of Being; and the more deeply it flows in, the richer and more intense the flavor. This is the practical aspect of Gurdjieff’s food of impressions.

All of existence must have an aim of some kind. One person commented recently that everyone subjectively interprets the aim of their own existence. The implication, of course, is that everyone has a different aim regarding their existence. And of course there is some truth in this, although it is a secondary and subsidiary truth. We are trying to get to the root aim of existence, the fundamental aim which all other aims must serve if Being is to be properly served and developed. That root aim has to be objective.  

At the risk of sounding pejorative, all aims that come after this root aim are what I would call stupid aims — and I say that simply because I see my own aims in this context and understand how far they fall short of the real purpose of existence. Until one sees and experiences this directly, one will most certainly continue to believe in one’s subjective aims, one’s stupid aims, and be absolutely convinced that they are all that there is and all that matters.  I regret to say, reading this particular material— or any other material related to it— will probably not help much in this regard. Yet we must try.

 This root aim centers around the action of life feeding Being. That action takes place as an organic, fundamental, vibrational and harmonic activity which exists before anything else takes place. Indeed, one can strip personhood of all of its external aspects, and still be receiving this fundamental vibration within a stillness that is completely empty and speaks of it for itself through the action of life and divinity alone, with no other unadulterated aspect of thought or identity contaminating it.

This alone, however, is an obliteration of the individuality — the undivided this — of divine awareness, which by its nature takes on character through the receiving of the impressions of life. (It wears a mask, phersu,  and plays a role through Being.) Individuality can be obliterated—and it’s possible to taste the fundamental state of reality through this nothingness of personhood—yet personhood itself arises from the action, and becomes the instantaneous and immediate adjunct of this first aim where life flows more deeply into Being. 

Personhood forms from what Gurdjieff called conscious awareness; and although there are of course an innumerable number of gradations of awareness, conscious or otherwise (many of which lack consonant vibration and are generally referred to as sleep) personhood is always at the root of the action. So when I drink life more deeply into Being, personhood is more wholly formed.  If life does not flow into Being at all in the first place, there is no personhood. 

Life and Being are reciprocal. One is outward; the other inward.  The inner receives the outer. In fact, without the inner to receive it, the outer cannot even exist. There can be no existence without a consciousness to receive it. Everything begins here; and so to entertain the idea that the aim — the original and root aim — of existence consists of all the absolutely trivial, life-driven pursuits we dream up for ourselves misses the point, which is only revealed where everything begins.

Wishing the best for you on this day,


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.