Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Kingdom of Heaven

 Some thoughts from September 18, 2020, early morning.

We are born into this life at the threshold of a great journey. It places us in a moment where we travel through a vast landscape of experience, filled with impossibly beautiful objects and beings, extraordinary creatures, fantastic situations that no novelist could dream of. 

It is a whole world created through a magic that we ourselves also carry inside of us. Our soul is the heart of a single atom in this vast landscape that is called the universe.

Life falls into us and forms a substance of increasing gravity as we grow older. The kingdom of heaven is attracted into that gravity and begins to re-create itself in every soul. It is born again a new with each creature that lives in this universe; and so it expands its footprint throughout the universe, providing a place for the awareness of Being to live.

Eventually, the concentration of the substance brings us to a different and new understanding of life that is so different and so new that it cannot be brought out into the daylight where it can be seen and discussed. It is a sacred thing born of God himself, and can only be carried at the heart of Being in the soul where no other things can fit and no other things belong. 

To the extent that we come into relationship with this sacred place and at sacred substance, we discover the truth of the fact that the Kingdom of Heaven is within.

There are many secrets of heaven; and yet the greatest one is always the secret of the relationship between ourselves and God. When, in the Bible, God says, I am a jealous God, it does not mean jealousy in the way that we usually understand it. The word originally came from the word zealous, hence zeal; and what it means is that God is a great and relentless energy that gives us Being. God’s aim is to Be; and we embody that aim. In this way God is a jealous God; there is only one wish, and it is the wish of glory, the wish of grace, the wish of the love that can be borne in each of us with all of the same great power that God himself exists through.

It may be that I speak of things here that sound obscure or don’t relate to the Gurdjieff work; and yet this is the heart of the work itself, to have the Kingdom of Heaven born with in us. That is why this work is called esoteric Christianity. It is what is born within us, the inner, that we seek.

We go on this journey which is a journey of many trials. The journey is a journey towards this mysterious, infinitely beautiful, and tragically wonderful landscape that the soul inhabits. Many of the pieces that Thomas de Hartmann wrote under Gurdjieff’s direction contain harmonic intimations of that landscape, and can occasionally offer glimpses of it; and yet those glimpses are available everywhere if we turn our eyes, our intelligence, our feeling, and our sensation towards life as it is — instead of living in our imagination and our ego. Our imagination and our ego are like tiny closets in a great house which we have decided to live in, instead of coming out into the house and being in relationship with all of the rooms and their many wonders.

Eventually, feeling gives birth to a quality of the soul that transcends ordinary life. It has no pretensions; it engages in no speculations, because it has no connection to that function and instead receives. 

It does not receive once in a while, but always, and everything that it receives is received in order to honor the Glory, Grace, and Mercy that is sent by the Lord to sustain us on this journey. Those three qualities are the manna from heaven that sustain us in the wilderness of life.

This journey into the heart is a journey into everything that is good and is precious and is whole in life. The Lord, in His abundance, sees to everything along the way if we just listen. It is important not to get tangled in the ordinary things of life because they will snare us like brambles and prevent us from letting go of the things that hinder our union with the soul.

One can give no map to the kingdom of heaven; it is not a place. It is an event. We are already within it, but blind to its nature.

Ponder that for a while.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Where does my intention begin?


Sept. 10 2020

Where does my intention begin?

The word itself comes from Latin roots that mean to reach for or stretch towards. My intention, in other words, is part of my wish, what I care for. Both care and agency are fundamental and scientifically inexplicable properties of matter; as I’ve pointed out before, even molecules in cells have agency and care about what other molecules around them are doing (see my book Metaphysical Humanism.) It is true to say that every molecule in my body has a wish. The agency of each molecule is its “I”, its individuality, what gives it its self as distinct from other selves. Bound to that at the root of it arising is the wish that comes with it. These inherent properties are embedded in the cosmos and in every particle of it.

My intention, the one that I have on this level, is an emergent property that represents the summation of all the intentions in my molecules. The whole universe works this way; intention (care) is gathered and concentrated in increasing amounts, because it represents the re-collection of the dispersed will of God. I discussed this in another book, The Reconstruction of the Soul, which appears to be about medieval art but is actually about what we are as Beings.

In any event, enough of the book ads. The point is that our intention is a verb, not a noun. It is a living thing that evolves to the extent that it is concentrated; and we even have an intention towards our intention. Intention exists in a tense; that is to say, it is past, present, or future in its own right. If I look backwards towards how my life was, my intention is directed in the wrong way. This creates attachment to the past, something every human being is familiar with. Psychologists and social workers make their livings on that kind of attachment. Or, conversely, my intention is directed at the future. This is how billionaires make their fortunes, and also drives many of the engines of material life.

The idea of directing the intention towards the present is an interesting and different one, and certainly one of the aims of most serious inner religious practice. In order to investigate the question of how this is undertaken, one needs to contemplate the question of where one’s intention is born. Where does it arise; when does it arise? What is my relationship to it now?

One ought to be reminded here that Swedenborg said that the summation of what a human being becomes, all of the meaning they embody and what their possibilities consist of, rests in their intention. In his cosmology, good intentions, and intentions of love toward God and others, lead one to heaven — which is a metaphysical state of loving relationship in community. Bad intentions, on the other hand, lead one to hell, which is a metaphysical state of caring only about oneself and what one has. Human beings, when they are born, are placed in the middle between these two potentials.

I will probably come back to this, though I can’t be sure, as these explorations are fluid. The thought that I had about the question of intention yesterday is that I always end up with my intention after it’s too late to see it born. This is a complex and unfamiliar conceptual reasoning, I know. What I am getting at is that I always want to encounter my intention when it is mature, when it is already a whole thing that has an intelligence of its own and knows where it’s going. Intention that says to itself, for example, I’m going to go to the supermarket and buy some beans. This is, we might say, the intention of the known. That’s what I want.

Yet the intention I am more interested in exploring right now is the intention of the unknown. It is the intention that is born. The intention that arises right now, which senses all the potentials and has its antennae turned towards them in anticipation. What this intention intends is to be there. This is a different kind of intention than wishing (as past – directed intention does) that I hadn’t been there (wherever that was) or wishing that I will be there later. It is a wish, to use a tired old phrase, to be here now. What isn’t tired about this rephrasing of the question is that it proposes a different kind of intelligence towards intention, one that places it firmly in the present.

It occurred to me, last night, when I was contemplating this question that the story of Christ’s Nativity is about exactly this question. Christ represents God’s intention; it is being born in this present moment, amidst animals (our animal nature) in a humble place. It is nurtured by Mary, the pure, unadulterated, generative power of God. It is assigned an extraordinarily high value. (The three Kings.) It has a physical nature (gold), the ability to sense (frankincense), and an awareness of its own mortality (myrrh, used for embalming.) 

The point is that the intention, God’s intention, is discovered in the place where it is born. This narrative is a narrative of intention placed in the present. All of the possibilities for rebirth, a refocusing of being, a renewal of life, are concentrated here.

Perhaps it’s impossible to “locate” intention in me as it is born, in the place that it is born. Perhaps not. One thing is sure: I can conduct an investigation of this question. My intention is, after all, molecular in nature: it is part of the very fine substances that form the grains of Being. I often advise others that instead of dreaming about the stars and the cosmos, they might consider investing much more of their intention and attention to the question of sensing these molecules of Being. The texture of life, its taste and its quality, are located in these relationships and their intentions towards one another. The whole body — and by body I mean all of its manifested parts, physical, intellectual, and emotional — has this texture in it, which can become a sensible (tangible and accessible) part of perception.

The intellect, which is what we usually use to understand life — the use of the word “understand” is ironic, because we actually understand almost nothing of life in regards to what it really is — is a creature of evaluation. Intention directed towards the past or the future evaluates. Its usual dialogue is one of two things: I wish I hadn’t ended up here or, conversely, I wish I was over there. 

Intention directed towards the present moment is not evaluative. It is perceptive. And herein lies the difference: it is not dedicated to the proposition that things should be different than they are. It is dedicated to the investigation of things as they are. The intention is to perceive things as they are. Not inflected by the countless opinions that arise in the past and future tenses of this verb.

Ponder that for a while.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Not about potatoes


We have a duty to think about life as we live it.

When I say it’s a duty, I mean that to think about life is a sacred task we’ve been given. We live in a universe that engages in a contemplation of itself; and each one of us is tasked with a portion of that activity.

There are those who think about life without fully living it; and those who live life without fully thinking about it. Neither one is sufficient in the end. They must be done together in order to bear fruit.

This is a universe, as well, where things bind themselves together. That’s how the forces that surround us and create us work. 

When we think, and we live, we bind life and thought together. 

Each one is an action, not a result; each one goes to a new place as it arises and continues.

I came to this observation quite simply while walking along the road at lunchtime, as I passed by a pile of very large pieces of granite, each weighing more than a car, that had been to cut into rectangles and were lying on the side of the road by the woods, awaiting a destiny that seemed to be certain when they were moved to where they are but is now in question, like everything else. 

The observation was accompanied by the sorrow of understanding. This is a natural product of living and thinking about life at the same time. Because we so rarely have an impression of it, we aren’t that familiar with it; but we ought to be. It is what lends life its sweetness.

Now, you might think that thinking is done with the brain, but this isn’t true. The whole body thinks. Every cell, every nerve in it thinks. Even the molecules in the body are engaged in the process of thought, because thought is a whole thing that encompasses the entire organism, not just part of it. If you had to look for where a thought is in you, you couldn’t locate it. It’s metaphysical, even though it appears to arise inside the body. 

It is, in other words, connected to something very subtle and refined that represents a force we poorly understand and pay much less attention to than we should. All of our sensations and feelings are part of thought about life; it’s not just the ideas we piece together from concepts and associations. Life itself is, in this way, a thought.

Unfortunately, thinking has for some strange reason acquired a bad reputation in the Gurdjieff work. Everything seems to emphasize sensation first — rightly so, in some ways, but the intellect seems to get thrown by the wayside as though it were a cheap piece of goods, whereas, in fact, it is one of the most important faculties we have. It's the best tool to bind understanding of the other centers together; and without it, let us be frank, we would not just be idiots, we would be morons. (The word is derived from the Greek, meaning foolish.)

Thought is a whole thing that emerges from Being to assemble the meaning we perceive. We can understand it, in this sense, as a product of cooperation between our intellect, our sensation, and our feeling, yet it is a legitimate emergent property in its own right. This means that it becomes a greater thing than just what the intellect provides. In real thought, intelligent elements from each of our parts are present. Our intellect, our sensation, and our feeling combine selected perceptions to create thought.

This happens all the time; but we don’t notice it, because we're generally unaware of ourselves and how we function. Yet when we have a reaction – for example, let’s say we get angry — almost instantly, all three centers participate; our intellect arouses protestation, our sensation fires us up with a rush of adrenaline that prepares us to fight about it, and our feeling becomes the trigger on a weapon. Everyone knows what this feels like.

A balanced perception is different. It does not rush to the moment unconsidered in the way that an emotional reaction does. More could be said about this, but I’m focusing for the time being on the function of thought about life.

We are capable of much deeper thoughts about life than we think we are. Life is an experiment we are meant to be deeply immersed in; and we are supposed to contemplate the contradictions, paradoxes, beauty, and mystery of this process in every way we can. Those various qualities are always combined in each object, event, circumstance, and condition; yet what is typical of our behavior is an insistence on focusing on just one thing, in an obsessive/compulsive manner. To take all of the qualities in at once requires a larger vision, a less narrow focus. Deeper thought helps to bring that possibility into Being within us.

For whatever reason — probably because it’s true — Walt Whitman comes to mind. He was a man who thought quite deeply indeed about life, and his Leaves of Grass is a record of that. The book is a call to us from the place we do not go to very often; and yet it reminds us that that place is, in fact, a home that we left when we were children and have forgotten to go back to for a very long time. 

Ponder that for a while.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Contemplation of the Great Potato, Part III


Bovina, NY
Sept. 2020

To the extent that a center develops its own impetus, it is called voluntary. The work the center needs to do is undertaken not because of some outside provocation, some artificial demand imposed by intellect. Demands from intellect, no matter how lofty their inspiration or motives may be, are always theoretical and hypothetical. Now, it isn’t that we don’t need theory and hypothesis; far from it. They are in fact quite necessary. Yet we keep deploying them on their own, as though we could direct the campaign of consciousness from our armchairs. A voluntary action within a center arises because the center has formed, through suffering, three conscious parts of its own:

Authority. This is the intellectual part of a center, and if it develops as a voluntary force, it can recognize itself and undertake critical evaluation of its actions. It’s usually the affirming part of Being.

Presence. This is the physical mass that both anchors and receives impetus towards momentum. This principally functions as the denying part of Being. 

Care. This is the part that embodies conscience, that is, a care for what is done—connected, at its most intimate root, to God’s wish. This is the reconciling part.

Despite their principle character, all of these parts of Being are able to play affirming, denying and reconciling roles depending on circumstances. Perhaps if we think about it a bit we can see how the polarity of intellect and body interact in the contradiction between the expectations of the intellect and the suffering of the body. Some folk think, for example, that if there is suffering, there can be no merciful God; such a being would not allow it. Yet the polarity is what ultimately binds intelligence to body: it arouses inquiry into the relationship. 

This is a complex subject worthy of much further discussion; and again, Christ’s example becomes a foundation for that exploration.

Each one of these voluntary parts is actually connected, at the quantum level, to the roots of God’s creative and originating action at the base of creation. We spend far too much time considering the crown of creation to realize that its greatest beauty lies not in the pinnacles of its achievement, but the foundations it’s built on. As human being we’re much closer to those foundations; and the dazzling ability to contemplate the heavens often distracts us from that part of creation we are closer to and better equipped to come into relation to. 

Perhaps it will come as a disappointment or a shock to folks to be told that that is in fact our role; we are lowly things and destined, should we choose to meet our fates responsibly, to come into into a closer spiritual relationship with the roots of the cosmos. 

In this sense we are much like the mycelium of fungi, which penetrate the roots and cells of every single plant on the planet—as all the animals—creating an essential symbiotic relationship without which life could not exist. (Read the book at the link! It will blow your mind.)

Fungi remain mostly unseen; yet they perform many miracles. 

Our souls are like this too and perform a similar function. It is a subject for very much contemplation.

Authority, momentum, and care are all essential; yet without momentum in a center, authority and care are relatively helpless. It is the presence of impetus that imparts momentum; and once momentum is there, it is done.

What, you may ask, is “it?”

One speaks here of God’s Will. To the extent that we inhabit being and that the parts come voluntary, so much more so does God’s Will, not one’s on, form and direct Being. The practice of presence is an effort in this direction. In such a state, a voluntary state, the root of Being functions according to a different, higher set of laws:

What is to be done is understood organically, instinctively.

How is should be done is equally understood in an organic manner.

The response to the outer world is also instinctive and organic.

In each case we speak here of what is not automatic but conscious. Voluntary action arises from true consciousness: not the reflexive reactions of the couch potato, but an active response by the voluntary  awareness of each center, functioning in its own right according to the work rightfully apportioned to it. 

Consciousness is not some pompous faculty collected in the thinking center which thinks it is better than others or should rule over them; it knows its own business and sees to it. To have parts that know their own business and see to it is to be free, to be new, to be different. It involves an unfamiliar alignment of attitude. Attitude in this case is born from the authority of a center, not my opinions. Centers are designed, at their heart, to deal with the facts of existence, not beliefs about it. Beliefs are like infections, diseases that create fevers in the parts of centers and cars them to engage in aberrant behaviors. Centers, by themselves, don’t have bad attitudes; as Gurdjieff said, there is no actual “negative center” in man. Negativity in us arises because of the tension created through inattentive centers. 

It can be a wonder to discover one’s self in the midst of the active work of centers. They know what to do. In this sense they are as intelligent as our digestion, which knows how to sort out the endless molecules it encounters and very selectively absorb exactly those which are needed in relatively distant parts of the body such as the lungs or brain. The digestion does this without us directing it.

Ou centers are equally capable off sorting out all the impressions we encounter and dealing with each of them in an entirely appropriate manner. Think about that: we have a set of engines in us which know how to sort out life.

We just aren’t using them. Or, alternatively: they aren’t using us. The point is not so much who uses whom, but that we ought to be in a reciprocal relationship with these functions which were designed to serve one another

Ponder that for a while.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Contemplation of the Great Potato, Part II


Bovina, NY 
Sept. 2020

The energy needed for the awakening of conscience—which is effect the awakening of real wish— always comes from suffering and from no other place. Exercizes have value not because of their mechanical actions, but because they create friction with the parts of Being that want to remain couch potatoes. And in every case it’s the friction we encounter that helps use. The worse outer conditions are, the better for work. 

The other evening someone I know talked about an awful habit they had which they felt basically ruined them over and over again in the midst of life and I described it as pure gold. 

We’re all like that; we come back repeatedly to the catastrophic—for inner awakening—results of having our inner parters lie around on the sofa all day long instead of getting up off their asses, coming into relationship, and doing their work. 

Seeing that passiveness, that inability, that irresponsibility—a failure to respond—is what generates energy that can set the acquired mass of centers into motion. Once moving, it progressively takes less and less further effort to keep the mass in motion.

Suffering is in fact a ”bridge” to a higher energy; and herein lies a stage clue to both ancient and modern esoteric practice. Suffering on the material level is the corresponding element to Gurdjieff’s sorrow of His Endlessness. God’s suffering, so amply, utterly, and timelessly symbolized by Christ’s crucifixion, is mirrored in every form of human and material suffering. 

The material of suffering is a finer material than other materials.

And it’s exactly this finer material one needs to set the inner parts of centers into motion. It is a kind of high-octane fuel, which burns better and imports more movement than other energies.

In a further interesting twist, the energy of grace is closely related to this question. The suffering of God is the denying part of God’s Love, which flows abundantly into the universe. God keeps the affirming part of His Love for Himself; it acts as a powerful attractant for those who sense it, imparting a wish to return to God, which is God’s greatest wish for His creation. There are various names for an active wish in this regard, perhaps the most important one being Will. If one acquires Will, one ingests a greater part of the denying force of Love, and is correspondingly more attracted to the affirming part of Love which resides forever in God’s Being. In this way “magnetic center” in man is actually the formation of a stronger negative polarity in us, which as it develops is correspondingly more and more attracted to the positive polarity of God’s affirming Love.

The reconciling portion of Love, as always, lies in relationship; and in this sense it is Christ’s formation of relationship—the ”taking up” of an active position between God’s affirming Love and material creation’s denying Love—that becomes the reconciling factor. That reconciliation takes place through awareness; and this we can see that awareness itself, consciousness, as Gurdjieff described it, is the critical partner between the two other divide parts of God’s Love. Conscious Relationship, in other  words, is the “third part” of God’s Love, which contains within it the possibility of active mediation. In its role, it has to embody both the love and the suffering in equal measure. 

And it is our inner couch potato’s wish to avoid the suffering that, so to speak, does us in. The metaphysics of it seems to complicated and the fridge is too attractive. It’s easier to binge and watch TV, which requires little effort and doesn’t expose us to all those uncomfortable pieces of inner territory we’d rather avoid troubling us. They are too hot; and even though Gurdjieff told Ouspensky that  baked potato is more intelligent than a cold one, if we should want cooked potatoes, we’d rather have fries, which are done in a flash. No one wants to take the time to bake anything.

There’s much talk of “opening to a higher energy” in various inner works, not least of which is the Gurdjieff work. The phrase is somewhat newly minted, since it wasn’t a commonplace one in Gurdjieff’s teaching—if he even used it at all. (Let the Gurdjieff scholars—there are enough of them—pass us judgment on that question.) Yet it isn’t often recognized that this higher energy is itself an energy of suffering. It is of course an energy of love—yet the love it calls us to is not the love of comfort. 

It’s a love that wishes to put into motion forces which will bake the potatoes; to impart enough energy to set the mass of the centers into their own movement.

Ponder that for a while.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Contemplation of the Great Potato, part I

Bovina, NY: Sept. 2020

 Impetus can’t come from the mind. One can’t impart enough energy from the mind to bring centers into an active state.

An active state has its own impetus. It has acquired momentum and its own mass keeps it moving forward. In this state, a center requires far less energy to stay in motion that it does when it is passive. This simple fact follows known laws of physics, which are in every case material reflections of metaphysical law. It’s the connection between metaphysics and physics that remain poorly understood by modern societies; if we understood these laws through the len’s of Swedenborg’s correspondences much about our spiritual natures and the soul itself would be better understood.

Let’s take the example of sensation. Folks think one can impart impetus to sensation; there are many exercises for it. Yet even a fter many years of inner work, sensation hasn’t become permanent—despite all the exercises. Why not? And, perhaps more important, that cane be “done” about it?

By the time one reaches an age where such questions are interesting, already, the various parts of moving center (which is responsible for acquiring the ”mass“ of sensation) weight a great deal. The paradox in the development of active (organically aware) centers is that the acquire more and more mass over the course of a lifetime. This is the very mass they need to sustain their momentum once they become active. The system is built that way.

Yet as one ages, that very mass itself becomes an obstacle. The center—let’s take feeling center as a second example— ”weighs” more and more and it takes more and more energy to set it in motion. It has become very passive over the course of one’s life and from a certain coarse point of view it functions quite well in a passive state. It has become, in modern terminology, a couch potato. Life is like a series of television shows and it lounges around watching the plots all day long. Every once in a while it gets up to get a snack from the fridge. Exercise is anathema.

Each of the centers is more or less in this position. They are all watching the same television, but from different rooms in the house. Occasionally they shout at one another about some chore or another that needs to be done; each one feels put upon when asked to do its own chores, and either complains about having to do chores for the other parts, or interferes and does chores for them because it likes those chores better than its own work. It is a family that could run a functional household; but instead it is exactly like a house filled with a bunch of lazy, irresponsible adolescents. In fact, metaphorically, that’s what it is; the centers are immature. Discipline is lacking. 

Hence the need for “work.” Yet we all know how responsive immature individuals are to a need for real work; and we all know how capable teenagers are in regard to discriminating between influences, making choices for themselves, etc.

I think you get the idea. Let’s move back to the focus on impetus.  A force must arrive in Being which sets the couch potatoes into motion. Once the weight, the inner mass, of an adult’s center is effectively put in motion, it awakens. This is a new and surprising condition that produces many bewildering effects. One becomes so accustomed over the course of a lifetime to the passive function of centers that that seems to be the only thing way they are, and the awakening of conscience (which is in effect the active function of any given center, within the domain of its own role) is an uncomfortable affair.

Moreover, sensation needs to become the foundational partner in this action. This is because, unlike thinking and feeling, sensation doesn’t have so much o a bad attitude. It is a self-starter; it inherently recognizes the good of its own function an does not, once active, spend so much time mounting arguments against an active role. 

Sensation loves work; in this sense, it is the very embodiment of Gurdjieff’s adage, “I love he who loves work.” 

More on this in the next post.

Ponder that for a while.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Deep faith

It may be said of me, when I die, that I was a man of deep faith.

To which I can only say, not deep enough.

We were born to shoulder the suffering that faith requires; but we are not strong creatures. The cynicism that life engenders renders our trust a weak and flaccid thing; and we turn it towards things, not towards love. We take our own examples in this; and they are the worst ones. 

There ought to be something better in us.

The good has a wish to be born. But first, we must search for it. We must woo it. It does not fall into our arms wantonly, like a lover in the heat of passion. It is hard-won. On earth and in this material world, all of the power seems to be in the hands of the enemy; and the enemy is a beauty difficult to appreciate or measure. We do not want the chaste virgin of abstinence and prayer; we want the prostitute who whispers passionately in our ear and tells us of our greatness. We will buy her wares because they can be had for money, and immediately.

All this goes unseen; because we love blindness as much as we love ourselves. The two things go hand in hand. And God forbid we should peek beneath the carpet to see what we have swept under there. We would rather tread on it in assurance and in ignorance of the way it rots the fiber.

This is not to say that there is no hope; there is. But it is to say that we do not seek it with enough energy, and we would rather meet it with the greed of our lust than the security of any trust. That cynic mentioned earlier always looks at hope with a skeptical eye, the eye of a critic. And as to faith, it is viewed with suspicion. With doubt. 

If we would but once go forth wholeheartedly into the darkness with faith as our armor and love as our trust, I daresay hope would follow most obediently. 

Yet it must come after the faith and the love, because without them it has no eyes and cannot see; it has no protection, and is defenseless.

Of course one is reminded, of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:13:

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Thereness of Being


Quarry chain, Manitoga 

A conversation last night. The question of how thought and feeling affect the way I perceive life, and the idea that there are three parts of myself that perceive life. The word pondering came up. What’s the difference between thinking and pondering? The proposition was forwarded that pondering consists of three-centered considering.

The word consider comes from the Latin considerare, probably comes from sidus, sider, stars. Thus we infer that to consider is, in a broad sense, to take things in and discriminate according to a measurement on the scale of the cosmos. Interestingly, this brings us to Gurdjieff’s adage, consider outwardly always, inwardly never. We should, in other words, measure that which is not ours according to the scale of the cosmos; but that which is our own, we should measure only on the scale of ourselves. 

The point appears to make some sense, and deserves further examination. 

I believe we well understand how we think about things; and how we feel about them. We are not so clear about how we sense things in terms of our physical sensation. 

The word ponder comes from a root that means to weigh; this is a physical action. Human beings have long used such as balances (scales) to weigh things; and as such, it becomes apparent that we've become accustomed to the idea that weighing is done with an external instrument, artificially. 

Yet the quintessential act of weighing anything is to pick it up in the hands and use one’s own sensation to weigh it, to judge its heft. The action of pondering involves this weighing of an idea from within, according to the inner sensation — the physical sensation — of what it is. There's nothing particularly new about the concept that thought, ideas, and someone are physical objects with the gravity of their own: we speak of ideas as though they had gravity and weight. ("The weight of the evidence, etc.)Yet this is not conceptual; there is a physical fact connected to it which remains unexamined, because we dwell mostly in the realm of theory when we talk about things, instead of evaluating them from the point of view of this capacity.

The active physical sensation provides the thereness of Being. When Gertrude Stein remarked, of the fact that her childhood home in California had changed so much it could not be recognized, “There is no there there,”she was speaking of an external condition; yet we have exactly the same condition within us. Our childhood home is our essence, our sense of Being; and our sensation provides the thereness of that Being. 

For most of us, as human beings, there is no there there. And without the development of an organic sensation, the gravity we need to remain present is absent.

To ponder is to weigh; to sense the mass of what confronts us. And make no mistake about it, everything we encounter has a mass of one kind or another. Lest we become confused about this, let us remember that when we eat food, we take in mass; and that mass is collected in aggregations of cells and neurons that receive our impressions. The collected physical existence of a group of neurons and the electrical connections that they make together forms our impressions and memories; and it is no stretch whatsoever to understand that those particular collections have greater or lesser value — our discrimination is based on the measurement of the mass of those aggregations. This may sound conceptual, but it is firmly placed in biological fact. All life consists of the collecting of mass, its concentration, its reorganization into new structures, and the relationships between those structures.

One should think very carefully about this, because we contain a molecular cosmos within us that reflects the overall structure and action of the larger cosmos that surrounds us. The cosmos functions according to relationships of mass; asteroids, satellites, planets, suns, and black holes all regulate their interactions through, among other things, the concentration of mass. The whole universe is, in other words, a collective device that ponders: it weighs its own thereness and brings it into relationship with its own mass. 

From a certain perspective, for the cosmos, this is an inner activity. That inner activity of the cosmos, of which we are and infinitesimally tiny part, is akin to our own measurement of Being.

We cannot understand this without the development of an active sensation. To this end, all of our activities of being ought to be turned first; because unless it functions, the function of thought and feeling, no matter how amazing they may be, remain limited by the missing partner. 

As Gertrude Stein also said, in Everybody’s Autobiography, “you are extraordinary within your limits, but your limits are extraordinary!” 

To have a permanent sensation of Being ought to be ordinary. We don't; and that of itself is extraordinary.

Ponder that for a while.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

An interlude

 Dec. 29

We do not know the way that life has brought us to exactly where we are through purpose. Intention and purpose surround everything; yet in regard to our own awareness, a dark veil is drawn across them, and we mistakenly think that intention and purpose belong to us, and do not come from some other place we cannot understand.

Our ego begins where  we believe in our own intention and purpose. This obsession consumes human beings in a singular way. Even through science alone, the most basic of the disciplines, we can see that intention and purpose belong not to mankind, but to nature; that simple fact, of course, is either turned into a mechanical proposition or romanticized. The truth: that intention and purpose flow into being from a higher level that lies beyond nature and beyond man, is either faintly sensed or completely forgotten.

This is a big thought. It is a preamble to my own question about my own life. 

Exactly as I am, here, this morning, I have been created, brought into being, and grown up through a set of experiences to exactly this place. All of that is exactly where I ought to be and I am exactly what I ought to be, in the sense that intention and purpose have created me as I am. 

I emerge, here and now, from the fabric of the quantum state to be as I am because this is the way the universe has arranged itself since the beginning. There is a purpose and an inevitability that has led not only to the exact conditions and circumstances of my own life but that of all other lives.

That is yet another big thought. Yet it comes down to me accepting exactly where I am. My associative thinking and my fantasy, my imagination and my ego, constantly conspire to argue that something ought to be different somewhere; that something else should have happened, that others should have been kinder to me, that I should have been given more or that I should have taken more. That I am deserving in one way or another. 

As Henri Trachol once said of a question I asked him, comically rolling his eyeballs,  “I, I, I.”

This reply — which was not all he said, but was quite enough — sums everything up, doesn’t it? 

Do any of us see that this is how we actually are?

There is a force that can penetrate to the heart that is much greater than this one, this insignificant force of my own. If I get even the least taste of it, it reminds me that my own force has no power. I have simply been given the privilege of inhabiting a tiny fraction of that force which  does have power; and I ought to inhabit that with an unending amount of gratitude. 

When I get on my knees and pray in the morning, if my prayer is serious and heartfelt, I always sense this and see my inadequacy. That is the only point of prayer, in my experience. To remind myself of my own nothingness.

Today I want to resolve to be grateful for every single thing, to go against the thinking that tells me I deserve. I wish to invest myself in the faith, love, and hope of a new awareness of God. A new devotion to Christ. An appreciation of what is, rather than an inner argument about what I want for myself.

It must be frankly said that despite all my years, I am still trying to learn to do this. There is no easy path.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Love and Suffering; Waves and Particles; Feeling and Being

One of the things the changes with an active sensation is that one discovers in every moment the way that life flows into us.

One might think, if one studied the subject of impressions, that I speak here of impressions and how we take them in. Yet impressions fall into many categories, and they are all, in a certain sense, objects. When we see things, we see them as objects. When we hear things, they are less physically tangible, but they still become objects in our intellectual assessment, that is, “noises,” “songs,” or “speech.” When we feel things they become “pleasure or “pain.” In each case, the mind classifies them according to a system and they become objects in that system, objects which can be anticipated, collected, sorted out, and — ultimately, relative to the act of agency — produced.

Yet the impression of life and of the impressions of it (please excuse the reflexive nature of the statement) are not objects. The question of this is related to the quantum state, although it may not appear to be so on this gross level. When we make these things objects we turn them in into fixed locations which can be referred to. Gurdjieff called these “associations.” And indeed, they serve a function in this sense. Yet all impressions are not fixed locations — they're waves of energy that move through us, that sink into us. Even the nature of associations of the past, of memories, is a fluid one, because although they seem to be fixed — for example, the fact that my sister died is a fixed location in my memory — they're actually always in movement. My sister’s death never exists by itself in a box that I can open and look into, although in a certain abstract sense that is exactly how memory functions. My sister’s death only exists as a wave, in context. So it has the same paradoxical nature — exactly the same nature, and this is important — as a quantum phenomena. This shows us the very precise analogy, which is no coincidence, between the ambiguity of the quantum state and the nature of consciousness. Consciousness is actually, like all other things, a product of the quantum state: it has all of its features, reconfigured and expressed according to the appropriate level.

Life flows into us. Life is not a fixed particle; it is a wave. Life has nature of its own that carries a distinct vibration which exceeds the nature of all other impressions, because it contains them. It is possible to experience this through organic sensation of Being, through a sensation which becomes alive and exists in its own right as an additional mind within the body. This is, for all intents and purposes, a second body.

In ancient systems — which have reconfigured themselves into popular metaphysics– this second body is called the astral body. “Astral” in this sense means planetary, but in a certain sense planetary also means “of the stars,” because planets and stars are on a higher level than we are. Planets are part of the physical body of a star’s system. By developing the astral body, the body of sensation of Being, one begins to participate in energetic exchanges of a nature belonging to the planetary level of the solar system, that is, the influences (among others) of the earth and the moon. The entire system of astrology was originally developed to measure and qualify these influences as they are expressed in mankind. Those forces can have a conscious or unconscious effect on human beings. Only if the organic sensation of Being is developed are those effects conscious in any sense. If the astral body is developed, it lays the foundation for the development of the mental body — which, as we have been examining over the last few series of posts, is actually the feeling body and is not an astral or planetary but a solar body. The mental body comes under the influence of the sun.

These additional bodies are additive awarenesses that do not subtract from or substantially change the nature of the physical or coarse awareness. The natures are separated in existence and action, although they are conjunctive. Their influence does of course affect that awareness, but it is always present, and because it moves under its own law it will always have features that cannot quite come under the rule of the higher bodies. 

I turn back once again to the analogy of your digestion, which must be undertaken by the molecular intelligence of the body alone. If you tried to digest food with your mind you'd die within a few days, because your mind — the intellectual mind you're reading this with and live most of your life "through" — is entirely incapable of work on that fine a level. In the same way, if the astral or mental body tried to “digest” the coarser material we work with in our ordinary planetary body it would botch the job. 

In this sense, as we are we become responsible for the work of digesting our ordinary life. We can’t depend on higher spiritual powers to do it. They play different roles, work with different substances, and have different intentions. This will give readers an additional clue to what Gurdjieff meant by “work in life.” 

And it is always been a tradition among the higher levels of esotericism that the living of life in an ordinary way according to a true awareness of life is the highest practice of law.

I opened this essay with the point that life flows into us. It's our objective to come into life with the direct impression of that energy in the way that it falls into her being as a sacred substance. The presence of God is directly instilled in us through this experience. There is no functional difference between God and Love and Life; they are of one. The best possible source for intellectual and conceptual understandings of this in a more comprehensive way are the writings of Emmanuel Swedenborg; yet there can be no substitute for the experience developed through sensation, because it’s of a practical nature.

Some of my friends have asked me repeatedly to “explain” how one develops an organic sensation of Being. The only thing that I know for certain is that much suffering is necessary. One must be with one's suffering and come back to it again and again with courage and resignation, confront it over and over again and be willing to go on. 

One must not give up.

In this work, the more that one develops a relationship with life and with these additional bodies we can grow, the more one must suffer. The level of detail to which suffering eventually develops, the fine-grained nature of its pervasive influence throughout the experience of life, and the intricate relationship between love and suffering which is of molecular nature and arises, as it happens, in the quantum state, can hardly be explained. It can only be lived. 

Yet we might be able to say that love is a wave and suffering is a particle, if we wish to oversimplify.

Think about that for a while.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.