Friday, December 30, 2016


I’m spending more time this week to be a little simpler and just try to come into relationship with the weight and the gravity of Being. 

I’m pondering things. To “ponder” means to weigh; and it strikes me that we need to weigh who we are and where we are in life. 

In Christ’s famous remark about loving God and loving one’s neighbor as oneself, he says, “on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” 

That which hangs has weight; and all of the law—in relationship to our Being, and everything that is said about it—is “drawn downward” from this Love by gravity. That is to say, Love in both its guises—Love of God and Love on my own level— provides a support on which all other parts of my existence hang. Perhaps I’m not explaining it so well, but I hope you get the gist.

So my life actually depends on how I Love. It is above me, speaking not just metaphysically but in terms of what I am as a Being — it is greater than what I am. And there is a tangible physical gravity present in the manifestation of Love. 

That gravity is easily obscured by romantic love and lust, and even more easily forgotten in the daily pressures of life. So I don’t quite see, mindfully see, intelligently see, how everything that proceeds in life is suspended from love like a pendulum. 

That pendulum —consisting of “all the law and prophets,” metaphorically speaking — swings back and forth slowly, in broad, rhythmic measurements, describing a consistent arc between the polarities of our lives.

I live under law— not the laws of societies, but the inexorable fact of existence and the physical events that drive it. These are objective. It doesn’t matter how I feel about life; it moves forward. Things happen; people die. All of it is according to both natural and spiritual law; that is to say, laws that are visible and known and laws that are invisible and unknown. Regardless, an order exists; and whether I want to or not, I must conform to it.

At the same time, I live under “the prophets:” those who “speak for God” to describe Being and the Law. Some people describe one, others may describe the other; but what we come to here is the stories that are told, which are distinct from the law, and reflect it, at best, superficially. Yet men are the vicegerents of God; we do speak for Him, even if in only crude approximation of His Glory.

Nonetheless, both the law — objective reality — and the prophets — subjective reality — are dependent on love for their Being. In commanding me to understand this, Christ asks me to ponder — to weigh — the question of what my life is in the context of love for God (law) and love for my fellow man (prophecy.)

Somewhere in the weight and the gravity of my Being, Love holds a central place. The pendulum of my life is suspended from it; it swings back and forth, but it is always subject to that great force. 

If I don’t respect that and attend to it, life loses its meaning. So I can’t just take it for granted: I have to search for it earnestly, intelligently, in every situation.

Sometimes, it is enough to just do the dishes quietly and lovingly. 

This can be much more important than all the things that I think are special. It is important to see that the dishes are special; that hot water is a gift; that to clean something is a privilege. 

Have we forgotten this, as a people? 

Or are we destroying ourselves with our addiction to miracles?


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The coincident universe and the nature of God

Our Lady of the Dry Tree
Petrus Christus c. 1450

I was engaged in an exchange with J, one of my readers from Spain, last month, who asked about any further ponderings I might have on the coincident multiverse.

The general point of the post on the coincident multiverse is that one can't have an infinite number of universes, all of which are different.

The universe we are in is already a precise model of all the universes that can ever be, in the same way that every individual is the model of God. The laws and principles of world creation and world maintenance are constrained by objective facts; hence, one can't create 6 billion (or an infinite number) of different versions of varieties of humanity or sentient beings, each one of which is a microcosmic representation of God; it would be as preposterous as attempting to create 6 billion different replicas of the great pyramid, each of which wasn't a pyramid, but represented some other geometric form.

This is quite an exact analogy. Think it over.

There are some subtleties to this question. If God is all powerful, infinite, expresses all possibilities, etc. – that is to say, if He expresses the complete range of both the possible and the impossible (which is technically correct), why can't He also express universes and Beings which are outside of, or dissimilar to, His nature? You can see how complicated this question is. We would have to tie ourselves into knots to truly answer it accurately. Nonetheless, I'll try to give you a few thoughts that one hopes are not just tangled fishing line.

First of all, since God is the source of all Being—all Being originates in and emanates from Him— there can be no Being of any kind which is dissimilar to His nature.

Furthermore, God cannot give up His essential nature and His essential Being even more than we can give up our own. Even the devil will not give up his nature and his being, because it is what makes him who he is.

In the same way, although God allows His Being to pour into all of creation, He cannot flow into a creation that doesn't most perfectly reflect His nature and His Being. They are one and the same. In this way, being in this universe, which perfectly reflects God's nature and Being, we see that all universes must be—in their inmost structural and functional sense—identical to this universe.

Yes—an infinite number of differences in detail arise and express themselves—but every universe has to be identical in the sense that it perfectly reflects God's Being, so we can't have a multiverse with an infinite level of diversity. Laws govern its making.

In the passage from "In Search of the Miraculous," the seminary student points out that even God can't beat the ace of spades with a deuce. Beelzebub Tales to his Grandson, while not addressing this issue specifically, effectively delivers to us a universe with both a flawed God and concrete limitations on His abilities. The idea of the lawfully consistent, coincident multiverse is a firm adjunct to this proposition.

Modern science fiction writers like to propose all kinds of preposterous alien creatures that can't possibly exist given the constraints of physics, chemistry, and evolutionary mechanics—which in the real world inevitably produce similar types and forms, even over hundreds of millions of years, from completely different classes of animals and plants. Perceptive science writers, biologists, and so on have pointed out how utterly ridiculous this proposition is, but fantasies continue to dominate people's thinking. Humans quite simply love the absurd and won't give it up; it's part of our egoism.

The world of physics hasn't quite caught up to these facts and the way they affect the expression of the multiverse, but I believe they eventually will. Novelty without precedent for reason may be attractive and exciting, but it doesn't reflect the realities of creation. Things look the way they do for a reason. The arguments for accident are clearly absurd, but contemporary convictions that drive them in the sciences—all conceits of one kind or another—are powerful. They represent an immaturity of both thought and understanding that will not be surpassed until man's being grows a great deal more.

 Let's put it this way. We have to be what we are.

We cannot be any way else. And investment in the sensation of our own being — which is, in its essence, what self remembering consists of — helps us to reveal this. If we are going to develop self understanding and self knowledge, it has to center around this precise fact that we are what we are, and that nothing can be different.

That particular understanding — which needs to be absorbed intellectually (including the ideas of the coincident multiverse), emotionally, through surrender to God, and physically, through the sensation of the fact of our being— is one of the routes of humility that can help us better understand our position.

Even the universe must be humble in the face of its own nature.

PS: Bonus material today—click on the link for an essay on Allegory of the Intellect in Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Enneagram of Tawḥīd

Readers should definitely pick up a copy of William C. Chittick's Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul. The questions it raises are pertinent not just to Islamic cosmology and thought, but to the questions of the modern world in general.

 Delving into Islamic cosmology and its relationship to the enneagram — which properly contextualizes any cosmology, if it is rightly understood — reveals some interesting relationships. I think the diagram above (also available at the link) says most of what needs to be said on the subject, at least in terms of the structure and the relationships. 

Yet I think that it is only by understanding what we call, in the Gurdjieff system, the "multiplications" that we can begin to understand the complexities that face man in his attempt to re-inhabit his Being and find a place on the ascending arc, back into spiritual unity.

We always find ourselves trapped in the threefold world of material, power, and desire (1, 4, 2). Only aim — a wish, which is related to desire (2) — can bring us into contact with something higher that can help us. Amazingly, that wish has to first recruit an extraordinarily powerful and much higher force, wisdom (8). If we are fortunate, wisdom from a higher level can help us discover Being — which must then purify itself (7) in order to have any actual effect on the material (1.)

 Every force which is truly active in the modern world attempts to skip the ascending arc and have an effect on the material world without touching the spiritual one. Chittick's book is, essentially, about this problem; but it also unveils many of the relationships between Gurdjieff's work and Islam.

 Mankind believes that wisdom resides on the right-hand side of the enneagram, in the descending arc; that is, that science and transmitted knowledge alone contain the answers to where we come from, who we are, and where we are going.

Chittick points out, on page 19, "We need to keep in mind that the only universally accepted dogma in the modern world is the rejection of tradition."

He goes on to say, with style and flair that reminds one of Mr. Gurdjieff himself:

 One name for this God of newness is "originality." He rules by ordaining new styles and models, and his priests are found everywhere, especially in advertising and mass indoctrination. The fashion mujtahids  tell women what to wear, but they change their fatwas every year. The world of art blatantly and openly worships originality is the highest God. Or take the modern university, where professors often adopt the latest theories as soon as they arrived from Paris. (ibid, page 19.)

 The essential difficulty here is that we attempt to solve all the temporal and material questions of the world using temporal and material faculties; whereas the whole point of Gurdjieff's pondering the sense and aim of one's existence is not a temporal, material, or scientific activity, but rather a philosophical, moral, and spiritual one — in short, an activity that belongs to the ascending arc of understanding and right action.

Have at it, my friends.


Another book I pass on to readers for this holiday season is Adin Steinsalz's  The Thirteen- Petaled Rose. This fine book, firmly grounded in the Kabbalah, reveals essential connections between Judaism and other esoteric systems, as well as describing the angelic hierarchies and their operation nearly every bit as well as Swedenborg, although in a different way. Highly recommended.

 Both of these books are relatively short and well worth reading. They demonstrate that books about cosmology need not be excessively complex or obscure in order to get the point across.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Not Dead Yet

Adoration of the Magi
Luca de Tomme
c. 1360-65

A friend recently asked for an opinion on the below comments from a Thai master, which they found troubling, without perhaps being able to quite put their finger on just why.

The Glass is Already Broken

--by Stephen and Ondrea Levine 

Once someone asked a well-known Thai meditation master, "In this world where everything changes, where nothing remains the same, where loss and grief are inherent in our very coming into existence, how can there be any happiness? How can we find security when we see that we can't count on anything being the way we want it to be?" The teacher, looking compassionately at this fellow, held up a drinking glass that had been given to him earlier in the morning and said, "You see this goblet? For me this glass is already broken. I enjoy it. I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on a shelf and the wind knocks it over, or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, 'Of course.' When I understand that this glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious. Every moment is just as it is, and nothing need be otherwise."

When we recognize that, just like the glass, our body is already broken, that indeed we are already dead, then life becomes precious, and we open to it just as it is, in the moment it is occurring. When we understand that all our loved ones are already dead — our children, our mates, our friends — how precious they become. How little fear can interpose; how little doubt can estrange us. When you live your life as though you're already dead, life takes on new meaning. Each moment becomes a whole lifetime, a universe unto itself.

When we realize we are already dead, our priorities change, our heart opens, and our mind begins to clear of the fog of old holdings and pretendings. We watch all life in transit, and what matters becomes instantly apparent: the transmission of love; the letting go of obstacles to understanding; the relinquishment of our grasping, of our hiding from ourselves. Seeing the mercilessness of our self-strangulation, we begin to come gently into the light we share with all beings. If we take each teaching, each loss, each gain, each fear, each joy as it arises and experience it fully, life becomes workable. We are no longer a "victim of life." And then every experience, even the loss of our dearest one, becomes another opportunity for awakening.

If our only spiritual practice were to live as though we were already dead, relating to all we meet, to all we do, as though it were our final moments in the world, what time would there be for old games or falsehoods or posturing? If we lived our life as though we were already dead, as though our children were already dead, how much time would there be for self-protection and the re-creation of ancient mirages? Only love would be appropriate, only the truth.

—Excerpted from Stephen and Ondrea Levine's book, Who Dies?: An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying.

My response was as follows:

 Where is sensation in this otherwise very sincere and heartfelt Buddhist practice? The active organ that can blend awareness with the truth that life and death are a unified entity within our Being seems to me to be missing here.

In my opinion, there are some intellectual and philosophical inconsistencies with this master's ideas. It's easy to demonstrate this by taking the contrary stance and pointing out that we might just as well realize we are already alive. (Awaken, that is, from our sleep.)

What happens then? 

Likely, exactly what he is describing when we take the position that we are already dead — we see that life is precious, and that love is appropriate. 

Given that the contrary proposition "produces the same results" as the initial proposition, we are left with the simple fact that everything just is. (This is, perhaps not coincidentally, an expression of the quintessential Zen—not Thai— Buddhist position, in and of itself.)

There is thus no need to see things as being already alive or already dead — we simply need to see things as they are, that is, see in the way that Gurdjieff and Mme. asked us to. 

Just see.

It is an objectivity that receives instead of taking a position, which automatically — like this essay — becomes an argument, no matter how well-meaning it is.  

Our position is to Be. Real goodness flows from real Being.

Life is its own argument if we leave it alone. 

To me, the question here is one of valuation. I think Gurdjieff brought us to an absolute objective truth, which is that valuation is completed through three centered being; specifically, we are aware.

 I think that the above practice has some very positive concepts in it — I'm sure you agree with them as well. The third paragraph in particular has a wonderful tone (if perhaps a bit woo-woo)  to it. Yet I heartily agree that our practice is more well-rounded, and grounded in a fundamental truth which is poorly understood by most practices outside the Gurdjieff work.

 If, as a community, we wanted to do all the other equally important and equally valid spiritual works out there a huge favor, we would bring them to this one question better than we have so far. I feel it safe to say it would enrich all of them, within their own contexts.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, December 26, 2016

That Great Love

Small in the sight of God,
I tell myself—and others—stories
A measure of the things I do;
And I believe them. 

But within creation,
Each stone that lies,
Each bird that flies,
Each thing that’s done
Is far, far greater than I am

If I should lift my head
Just one iota
Above my dark horizon,
Ah, then, the miracles I’d see:

A Glory unsurpassed,
That flows in equal measure
Into Being—
Grace apportioned generously.
No hesitation touches that Great Love.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The inner teaching

Christ Pantocrator
Travel icon by Chantal Heinegg
Collection of the author

In order to understand Gurdjieff's teaching, it's actually necessary to look past all of the outer aspects of the teaching, and everything he said, including the stories about him, the various often absurd or impossible details he told about himself— the mythologies his followers created— and the structural form he presented.

There is an inner teaching. It is a secret teaching and it is hidden in all possible ways from the outer teaching, because if it were touched by the outside world—the elaborate embroideries and tapestries that hang around it—it would be ruined. 

This aspect of the teaching, the sacred inner aspect, cannot be revealed in words or explained with theories. It's necessary, of course, to work to understand the window dressing — the external aspects — because that serves as a preparation. But to mistake the preparation for the meal would be a great mistake.

 An intelligent cook, a creative cook, spends a great deal of time gathering ingredients. The cook has to use her discrimination to make sure each of the ingredients is of fine quality, and has a potential; and then she has to take from what is available, understanding that some things are in season, others are not, and that the meal she ends up preparing will have to be prepared in the moment and from the ingredients that are available — not according to the recipe or the plan. 

The world is, after all, unpredictable and although a wonderful meal can be prepared, it must be prepared from what is possible.

In the end, after all the preparation, if the cook is sensitive, intelligent, successful, and loves cooking, a meal will emerge from her kitchen which is nourishing and has all of the best possible qualities. But that meal is on the order of a miracle when it emerges; the ingredients could not have predicted it, and none of the ingredients can possibly help anyone anticipate what it is like to eat the meal.

Don't be like the cook who sits around gathering and analyzing recipes and ingredients and thinks they are the same as the meal! 

 Remember that there is a holy feast being prepared; and that one is invited, in the end, to participate in the sacrament (sacred mystery) of the body and blood, not in some worldly meal prepared from the ordinary objects, events, circumstances, and conditions that surround us. 

The meal that Mr. Gurdjieff wants us to eat has nothing to do with those things, but comes from a completely different kitchen than the one we think we are in.  It is a meal filled with astonishment and garnished with mercy.

All of the teaching, the inner teaching, surrounds this passage in the Bible:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 

This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

—Matthew 22:37-40

This is the heart and the soul of Mr. Gurdjieff's work; and this is why he called it esoteric Christianity.

 Remember, then, on this day, that spiritual things can only be discerned by spiritual means; and go forth in search of the light.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Intentionally harmful behavior

Madonna of Humility
Giovanni Di Paolo
C. 1440

Every once in a while, I find it necessary to act as a policeman and speak out against reprehensible behaviors that I see taking place around me in the community. I hate doing this, because it always sounds like a rant, but really. If we all just let unacceptable things take place and don't say anything about them, where are we going?

 Recently (this was written some time ago, and subsequent remarks will make it clear why I prefer not to reveal the exact circumstances in which this happened), I was having dinner with a fairly close "friend" who delivered to me a classic putdown I have heard used on so many people by pompous asses who think they know how to conduct inner work. 

 I was explaining the relationship between sensation and death as expounded in Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson.

"What you are saying is amazing," this person told me, "and I would actually respect it so much more if you were saying it from someplace other than your head." Or words to that effect.

I managed the situation reasonably well, I hope. So I don't bring up the following points on behalf of my own injured self-esteem. (It took damage on the order of a hangnail, if that.) I do it on behalf of the many more delicate or less experienced persons who may feel battered by this kind of nonsense, either now or in the future.

I've heard this type of insult many times. It's a classic Gurdjieff trope, which consists of a complex way of building one's own ego while tearing down the other person's spiritual well-being. 

The people who deliver it are, invariably, acting in an unloving and unconscious way, imitating  behaviors they have seen other so-called "teachers" exercise on pupils; behavior which is supposedly stern, unyielding, and powerful, but which is actually egoistically stupid, cruel, and hurtful. 

There is an incredible amount of stupid and intentionally hurtful behavior not only engaged in, but actually taught, in spiritual communities. Such behavior  is part of what has earned some members of Gurdjieff organizations the reputation of being pompous jerks... a reputation which is, sadly, all too often justified, and reflects badly on the entire community of the Gurdjieff work.

Let me explain this particular insult in detail so that those who have been subject to it will understand just how nefarious and underhanded it is.

First of all, the individual who says such a thing is already presuming that they know what the inner state of the other person is; that is, that they are on a higher level than the other, and can magically sense their emanations and know whether or not they are "working."  I've heard this kind of nonsense spouted over and over again by individuals who are, almost invariably, clueless about the inward state of the people around them... as well as their own inner state... and actually not even interested in it. They do, however, have inner buffers of absolutely magnificent proportions which tell them they know how others are inside, by what they are emanating.

I feel an obligation to my readership to just mention here in passing that 99% of what is "emanated" by people, no matter what situations they are in, is bullshit. Remember that the next time you think you know what is being emanated by another... you yourself are probably emanating bullshit, and— unfortunately— also consuming it inwardly with an eagerness that Gurdjieff would have said was unbecoming to three brained beings. If you think you are personally exempt from this 99% rule... well, you are definitely swallowing your own bullshit. ( It's not for nothing that I illustrated this post with the Madonna of Humility.)

Secondly, the individual is presuming that they know better than others how information and work should be exchanged, and that they are qualified to judge the quality of the other person's work in the exchange.

 Thirdly, the individual presumes that they are correct in saying that the other person's presence isn't up to snuff in that moment.

Fourthly, they aren't really interested in what the other person is saying. They just want to demonstrate their own superiority. They do by "correcting" the other person... the other person's inner presence isn't "good enough," and, um, they need to be told that. It serves, in other words, as a subtle "fuck you and how you are right now" delivered to the underbelly of the situation =by way of a Trojan-horse compliment.

 Fifth, the destructive nature of their comment, which actively devalues what the other person was trying to offer, is unimportant to them. The fact that it might hurt the other person's feelings— or even be entirely wrong, and I will get to that in a minute — is immaterial.

 Now I ask you, is this how you treat people in an intelligent, conscious, and loving manner? 

The arrogance of remarks like this — which also, by the way, devalues intellectual work, which is serially shat upon by the self-appointed shamans of the "real" inner work — basically defies belief. 

On a personal note, it is even more incomprehensible and irritating when it is delivered (as it was last night) by someone who is an alcoholic by nature, and drunk.

 Now, to be entirely fair, I know many people who are real teachers and who would never dream of saying such a thing to anyone, even if they thought it was true. They have kind hearts and are loving and intelligent in their treatment of others, even when the others are clearly working in a poor way and even, sometimes, saying things that are objectively stupid.  My teacher did that with me when I was young — she was tough, but she was never destructive or abusive. 

So where do these insulting habits come from?

They certainly don't come from conscious Being. 

Beware of crap like this. The people who do it cannot help your work, because they are unable to conduct their own work in a solid way. You will have to associate with them; but it doesn't mean you have to be like them.

 Let us all try to set a higher standard than this when we exchange with one another, please.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

PS.  ...As to comments of this kind being entirely wrong. 

If one is working within one's Being in such a way as to have a right connection to the inflow, it is nearly certain no one else will be able to tell. Unless one is "leaking" such energy, it is nearly always completely invisible to others— as it should be: not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

—Matthew 6:2

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Dec. 20

Some thoughts for this morning.

Today I wish to go deeper into Being.

Being is life; and I want to inhabit life, not my own beliefs and attitudes about it. 

My beliefs and attitudes are separated from truth because they are subjective; and I really don’t see this. I constantly ascribe an objectivity to me that isn’t there. It’s absolutely true that if I am open to a higher influence, an objectivity can be expressed; but the first characteristic of that state is that my ordinary state is passive. I consistently discover that this is so. It is so because my ordinary state doesn’t know much of anything about the truth, and so when it is actually confronted with it, it doesn’t know what to do. In fact, the passivity is the best response because when my ordinary state is passive, at least it doesn’t do damage.

I’ve been observing my behavior in the midst of life and I have constant questions about how to come to other people and circumstances with more inner honesty. This is a difficult and painful thing. Unless I form a better relationship with the good things that are true and that flow from the Lord, I am always led astray by my own reactions and opinions.

It reminds me of an insight I had last week at which I realized that no matter how earnest I am in my intention to live according to God’s principles, I will go out today and sin. Those sins aren’t even considered sins in the ordinary world; all of us are expected to rationalize, bully, and to lie to each other in a thousand different ways each day, as a matter of routine. We’ve all arranged things so that we agree this is permissible; we rationalize them to claim that it’s necessary. The condition is universal. One can't blame anyone, really. The failure is collective, although it expresses itself one individual at a time.

Yet there is no comfort in this for the discerning mind, that is, the mind that attempts to be present and divide right from wrong according to sacred—not personal—principles. The world is adept at the manufacture of excuses; but if I want my inward world to become more whole, I cannot allow it to proceed this way. At the same time, I am weak; I need help. So it’s only from the inward flow of something finer that is emanated by God that anything good can come; and I hope that today I will come into a more intimate relationship with that finer substance at least a few times. That is not, of course, up to me; except insofar as I make a better effort to attend to my own relationship to Being.

To Be is actually a very simple thing. It’s right next door to all this nonsense I am filled with. So I hope I remember to go over to the neighbor today and knock on that door a number of times; and that my neighbor is home.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The six realms

Email from a friend:

"Dear friends, share with you the message from Reality of Being that I mentioned... which beautifully expresses what I’ve sometimes tried to communicate about body consciousness.

We can know God only through sensation. Pure sensation is the name of God—pure, burning sensation. The body is the instrument for experiencing this.”  (p. 226.)

Love to all,"

My own notes:

I agree to some extent... but we can know God through more than sensation, within context.

We know God according to the level of our inner development, which proceeds according to the law of octaves. This has been well-known to esoteric science for many centuries: take a look at the passages below from Ibn al Arabi ( who specifically refers to all the subordinate octaves if you understand his passage) and Swedenborg.

The six Realms, or stages of regeneration, referred to here are the notes re, mi, fa, sol, la, si, which all belong to the "realm" of the multiplications – which gives birth to the "realms within realms"  referred to by Ibn al Arabi. That is, in essence, Eckhart's world of creation. (Eckhart is another matter entirely because he brought an intuitive Christianity which seeks to leap past everything in a  complete abandonment — which requires a kind of spiritual genius not really available to us.)

 The six notes have specific lawful meanings—not all of which relate to the receiving of sensation, although that is indeed essential. Sensation, as mme. describes it is actually an initial stage. (While some may not be particularly interested in the iterations of "powers" that Ibn al Arabi  describes in Journey to the Lord of Power, the book is quite extraordinary and well worth reading, brief as it is.)

 In any event, we are "infused," according to the note that currently predominates in us (we change constantly), by re- materiality, mi- desire (emotion) fa- power, sol- Being, la- purification, or si- wisdom. Salzmann would have call these the "influences" which affect us; an essential part of the Gurdjieff practice is learning how to identify inner and outer influences and properly discriminate between them. Emmanuel Swedenborg would have completely understood why this is necessary; a solid reading of his Secrets of Heaven will explain much of the reason for it. Where Gurdjieff gave us the how, Swedenborg gave the why.

These six realms exist in a hierarchy but blend according to the multiplications. Sensation is but one of the six properties necessary to fully experience Being in its multiple aspects. ( Having said that, I need to advise readers that it is actually at the same time both much more complicated—and more simple, by exactly half—but we will start there and you can think about it for yourself.)

Sensation is what gives birth to Being; but after that, suffering (the higher level of feeling, which exists as desire on the right-hand side of the enneagram at the note mi) and wisdom, which is higher intellect at the note si, are also absolutely necessary... so we need to know God not just through sensation, but also through suffering and wisdom. There is a great danger in subsuming oneself in the annihilation of God as described in the above from the Reality of Being, and al Arabi explains it in Journey to the Lords of Power. It's entirely possible that Jeanne Salzmann knew this; but if she did, it's not explained in the context of this quote, which amply reveals one pitfall of cherry picking people's personal journals and publishing them as spiritual instruction.

There are two separate three-centered "knowings of God" of this kind: on both the natural (right-hand) and spiritual (left-hand) side of the enneagram.

The third three centered knowing of God — the reconciling three centered knowing — belongs to the law of three, not the right or left hand side of the diagram.

 These divisions do not exactly correspond to Swedenborg's description of spiritual and heavenly man, which are two different things. But we could roughly say that for those on the path, the spiritual side actually relates to the right hand side of the diagram, and the heavenly one to the left-hand side. Arabi would have described it differently, because when all the religions separated ( at the time the Tower of Babel was collapsed) the religions lost the ability to speak each other's languages. You and I live in that realm; but all the religions are one and all the practices are actually the same.

Note that the shocks and the absolute (the places occupied by the law of three on the diagram) all belong to God and cannot be "used" by human beings — they come from a higher level, and we can only express them.

There is an important correlation between Buddhist practice and Swedenborg's explanation that all motive force and action actually comes from God and that freedom actually means freedom from our perception of self (Buddhism's death of the ego) which opens us so that only the action of God alone flows through us, and we abandon all false perceptions of our own agency.

 Of course the subject is much more complicated than that, but if you read Sufi Islam, Eckhart, Gurdjieff, Swedenborg, and Buddhism and understand the way that they connect with one another, you'll see that they are all actually a single practice and that the enneagram illustrates all of them perfectly — illustrates, that is, the underlying principle. Each one of the practices contains an important fragment of the complete understanding, and none of them contradict one another.

I must first make clear to you the knowledge of the matrices of Realms, and what those Realms imply in this place. The.Realms (mowotin) is a term for the substrata of the moments in
which things come to exist and experience actually occurs. It is necessary that you know what the Truth wants from you in any Realm, so that you hasten to it without hesitation and
without resistance.’

The Realms, although they are many, are all derived from six. 

The first Realm is [the pre-existence in which we were asked the question] "Am I not your Lord?" Our physical existence has removed us from this Realm. The second Realm
is the world we are now in. 

The third Realm is the Interval through which we travel after the lesser and greater deaths.

The fourth Realm is the Resurrection on the awakening earth and the return to the original condition. 

The fifth Realm is the Garden and the Fire. 

The sixth Realm is the Sand Dune outside the Garden. 

And in each of these Realms are places which are Realms within Realms, and the realization of them in their multiplicity is not within human power.

Ibn al Arabi, Journey to the Lords of Power

The periods and stages of our regeneration—both the whole process and individual cycles within it—divide into six, and these six are called our days of creation. Step by step we advance from being nonhuman to being somewhat human, though only a little, then more and more so up to the sixth day, when we become [God’s] image…All the while the Lord is constantly fighting on our behalf against evil and falsity and through these battles strengthens us in truth and goodness. 

The time of conflict is when the Lord is at work, and he does not rest until love takes the lead. Then the conflict ends. When the work progresses so far that faith is united with love, it is called very good, since the Lord now makes us likenesses of himself. At the end of the sixth day, evil spirits retreat and good ones take their place. We are led into heaven, or the Paradise of heaven… 

Emmanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven

For those who keep calendar reminders, and are interested in this subject, there will be a more extensive series of posts on this subject beginning March 27, 2017.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Outstanding and Most Gracious Love

There is an outstanding and most gracious Love that can flow into me.

That's a real thing; not an invention of the mind, not a construction of the imaginary conventions we all agree to abide by. 

It comes from being alive and receiving the Grace that is sent.

 Such an active force! And yet I don't sense it. I think I am myself; I think I belong to me. I think the things I gather, the rubble I pile up, is the aim of life. Life is placed and sourced outside of me.

There is so much of me that thinks and speaks this way. Yet whenever that outstanding and most gracious Love arrives — and it can come anytime, anywhere, because the Lord disposes exactly as He pleases — I see how clearly Truth flows into Being; how that Truth is everything, and I am nothing.

 It is possible to live that way. It may seem like a long way from where I am right now, or where I have to go today; but it is always ever just a tiny step into Truth and Being, even if I have to take that step many times in one day. There is always help if I want it. 

All I have to do is recognize that the aim of life is not my aim; and the Love that I am able to receive and express is not my Love.

 So for today, I will try to remember this outstanding and most gracious Love and come into contact with it. To let it penetrate me more thoroughly. I won't try to do anything to it or with it; I will just accept that force within Being and attempt to live in it and through it, without imposing my own conditions.

 Maybe we can take that journey together, today, even if we are in different places and have different lives; because the Love that animates us, the life we are given, is a single thing, not divided by time or space but always present within our Being.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Death, sensation, and entanglement

Christ on the cross between the Virgin and St. John, Detail
 circa 1330 – 1335
Ugolino de Nerio

Back in November, I said I would explain something about the nature of Being and its relationship to some of the latest questions raised in physics and cosmology.

It's fair to say this is a very complicated question, and all but the geekiest of readers will be either baffled or uninterested. For those who are interested, recommend you first read the article "Black Holes, Wormholes, and the Secrets of Quantum Spacetime" in the November 2016 issue of Scientific American. The author is Juan Maldecena, a theoretical physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. (Apologies to readership, but I cannot post a scanned copy of the complete document due to copyright considerations.)

 Entanglement is a phenomenon whereby apparently unrelated particles share a deep and perfect connection that exists independent of spacetime as we know it. That is to say, they are connected in such an intimate (and apparently,  from the point of view of the "real" world, impossible) way that anything that affects one of them affects the other one in an instantaneous manner; their characteristics are exactly and simultaneously reciprocal. They display, in other words, the ability to manifest effects instantaneously, even when that has to take place across vast distances. 

Einstein was deeply disturbed by this prediction which emerged from quantum theory in 1935. He called it "spooky action at a distance," and it seemed, then as now, to be inexplicable.
 Another consequence of the articles on quantum theory published in 1935 was idea that black holes existed; and, furthermore, that they could be connected by wormholes. The idea of wormholes has gained a lot of currency in science fiction movies of late as a means of traveling more or less instantaneously from one point to another in the universe. Of course that's not possible; but what's interesting is that it provides a vehicle for the transference of properties that takes place in entanglement. The author, in a nutshell (and I am glossing over a vast amount of material to get to this point, no doubt about it) reaches the following conclusion in the article:

"Although we identified the connection between wormholes and entangled states using black holes, it is tempting to speculate that the link is more general -that whenever we have entanglement we have a kind of geometric connection. This expectation should hold true even in the simplest case, in which the spatial connection could involve tiny quantum structures that would not follow our usual notion of geometry. We still do not know how to describe these microscopic geometries, but the entanglement of these structures might somehow give rise to spacetime itself. It is as if entanglement can be viewed as a thread connecting two systems. When the amount of entanglement becomes larger, we have lots of threads, and these threads could weave together to form the fabric of space time. In this picture, Einstein's relativity equations are governing the connections and reconnections of these threads; quantum mechanics is not just an add-on to gravity—it is the essence of the construction of spacetime."

What's so cool about this? Well,  first of all, the article brings up a point that is not only brilliant but most likely correct, because it explains something impossible with a simple, logical connection that has always been understood to lie at the fundament of quantum theory. Elegant solutions like this usually turn out to be right. 

Secondly, because if entangled structures actually give rise to space time, it means that everything is entangled.

 This extraordinary proposition lends credence to the concept that all of space time is the expression of a single thing, and that absolutely everything is connected to everything else so intimately that it is impossible, at a conceptual level, to separate it — even though things appear to be separated to us.

 Readers of this space who go way back may recall my post from February 2008 where I explained that reality is granular in nature. It's possible to sense this through Being; and that sensation, although we could call it molecular, extends to the microscopic geometry of space time, which creates everything, including us — and our consciousness. What is astonishing is that we are capable, in some measure, of actually sensing this, because the components of our being, which were designed to  serve knowledge

—(nb. the scanned document at the above link is a copy of one of the original first-edit transcripts of this talk by Gurdjieff, originally read as "Pure and Impure Emotions.")


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Wise in doing evil

Alcazar, Seville

I woke up at 3:30 AM this morning and really didn't get back to sleep.

I want to be more open to the inward flow. Of course, not much of this is up to me; yet I can relax and attend. 

The only real part of life arises in accordance with the flow of the inward energy, the "higher" energy, as Jeanne Salzmann called it; and I suppose that that word, "higher", may do. But in reality, the energy is the energy of love and the energy of God, which flows into our being through our innermost parts in what seems to be, most often, sheer defiance of our sin and spiritual poverty. 

Even then, having said that, the words are useless, worthless, and pointless, because what God sends is so great and so good that it is impossible to actually use any word whatsoever to describe it. It is life itself and Love itself; this is what flows into me constantly, and when I am allowed to sense it, the gift is so great that I rightly ought to offer my life itself in exchange for it. It is right and good to sing it in hymns and say it in prayers; but it is only when it softens my body and I feel it in the marrow of my bones that I know its full truth.

I've been reading in Swedenborg's Secrets of Heaven over the past few days, in particular, on the inner meaning of Genesis (a fascinating subject.) in it he reminds us of a quote from Jeremiah:

My people are dense; they do not know me. They are stupid children, without understanding. They are wise in doing evil but do not know how to do good. I looked at the earth, and there—void and emptiness; and to the heavens, and these had no light. (Jeremiah 4:22, 23, 25) 

 I think this point, that we are wise in doing evil, is a telling one. It describes not just the condition of the outer world, but the struggle I engage in within my own Being. 

Just yesterday, during my morning prayer, it struck me quite forcefully that no matter what I did — and no matter how generous the bounty of Grace that God sent me was — I would go forth that day and sin. 

The shocking thing, to me, is that there is no alternative – there is no real goodness in me. Only in proportion to how much I open my spirit to the inflow does goodness arrive; it isn't mine. 

So I am left to suffer the fact of my fallen nature.

 This is a stubborn thing that I don't think any of us want to face. A persistent part of our personality has a wish that goes against God; and we want to live in it. We do live in it, in point of fact; and we find far too much comfort there.

It is only by turning back towards this inward energy that flows into us, this Grace, this abiding force of Love that underlies all of The Reality, that we can find any real truth and hope. 

This is the action of faith; that we turn back towards the spark of true light in the soul, that we intentionally face towards it, that we open our hearts, and that we hope against the earthly and worldly hopes of our own follies and fallen selves, that more of the energy of Love will flow into us and lift us up towards a better Love for others, and for God.

 I said to Neal yesterday that I am not even alive, except insofar as I come into relationship with the energy of the inflow. There is no other life but life in God and for God; and so I fall back into death a thousand times a day when I fall out of relationship with it. Without it, the salt loses its savor and food yields no taste; it is both the water and the wine of life. It transforms everything ordinary into an eternal act of worship, which ought to be my usual state.  

When it is gone, I suffer it; and this is the burden that one has to share in the face of God's love.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

 PS. A note to readers:
 It consistently surprises me how few people appreciate Emmanuel Swedenborg's works in any measure whatsoever.  The man was the preeminent Western esoteric spiritual authority of his age, and with good reason.  It seems certain that Gurdjieff (along with many others) was influenced by him, given how much of his material shares an identity with Swedenborg's teachings. There are times, in reading Swedenborg, when I feel a full two-thirds of Gurdjieff's teaching was quietly cribbed from him in one way or another.

You can use the link in the above text to download a copy of the first volume of Secrets of Heaven free. For those familiar with Maurice Nichol's The New Man (which some consider to be a seminal work on the esoteric meaning of biblical texts), Swedenborg did important work on this matter several centuries earlier; and while his insights can tend to be repetitive (he often cites dozens of examples when one will do) they are powerful.  

The first chapter of Secrets of Heaven, the inner meaning of Genesis, is quite extraordinary all by itself, and if you don't read any other part of the book, that alone will be worth the time you take to download it. But while you are there, by all means, download all the free books you can. After all, they are free.