Thursday, March 31, 2016

What the heck are we, anyway?— Part III

Nude, Not Descending a Staircase
Lee van Laer 2016

So, back to the original point, which is the difference between an energy I receive and an energy that is already present which I am a part of.  Let's go fishing by way of an analogy; and this time, not at the dentist’s office.

I am made of water — 98% of me is water. There is also water outside of me; on the planet Earth, generally speaking, there is a vast field of water, both in the oceans and concentrated form, in ice  (which is, oddly, slightly less concentrated due to its crystalline structure) and in vaporous form in the atmosphere. If one was to take a look at where the water molecules in me end and the ones of the water in the bathtub I am sitting in begin, at the atomic or quantum level, it would all look like soup of varying density. It's not like there is no water out they are, and all the water is in me; it's part of a field of forces — exactly as de Salzmann said. It's simply a matter of concentration and rate of vibration: how much water there is in a given place, and whether it is liquid, ice, or vapor. So we can see this is an excellent analogy relative to vibration of energy: water vapor being, so to speak, a finer substance at a higher rate of vibration which can rise much higher— All the way to the edge of space, in the form of ice crystals—, and liquid water being at a lower rate of vibration which can sink much lower, in fact, all the way down to the deepest parts of the Earth's crust.

The model gives us an exact analogy of the extension of energy at varying levels of vibration from the roots of being all the way up to the sun. This isn't particularly surprising, because physical models are mirrors of spiritual ones — a principle which repeats itself all over the known universe. Swedenborg called these correspondences. In any event, we can't say that the energy is apart from us, because, like the water, we are already made of that energy. It appears to us to arrive in us from above, or sink through us and go down below, but this is just because we are mediators of experience in terms of the degree of concentration. We aren't actually separate from the energy, even though we experience its passage differently depending on rate of vibration and concentration. Yes, it's true, we can “get" more energy; yet it isn't as though it wasn't there in the first place, just that it becomes more vivifying. We become more willing, active, and conscious participants in the flow of energy — perhaps that's the point.

This question of energies brings us to much more complicated questions about the nature of identity and the presence of individuals who help to concentrate this energy through spiritual action, which brings us to the Virgin Mary and Christ — who is mentioned quite prominently in Gurdjieff's admonition given to his pupils on Christmas Eve. (Anyone who thinks Gurdjieff's essential practice was not aimed at the deepest possible experience of Christ's presence does not understand his work at all.) 

 Once again, we can turn to an intelligible analogy between physical processes — that is, energetic physics based on quantum and relativity models — and spiritual ones. Identity is formed by the aggregation of force (first atomic, then molecular) which undergoes emergent processes that produce what we call life. All life is, to 1° or another, conscious — that is, life exhibits what we call agency, that is, the ability to act in relationship. Life, in other words, becomes a process of movement and relationship that emerges from what are otherwise “dead” fixed entities, atoms and molecules. So all identity is built on concentrations of energy, and the greater the concentration of energy, the higher the level of emergent consciousness that can take place. As Gurdjieff explained, planets represent a higher level of emergent consciousness than human beings, and have acquired a certain cosmological spiritual identity that we do not understand or really have any sense of unless we develop spiritually. Suns have much more of this than planets do. Emergent consciousnesses of a higher order become increasingly responsible for the shepherding and development of lower orders. That is to say, a man is more responsible for helping others than a potato.

Because it is indisputably true that what we see as "inanimate" matter, fixed and unresponsive, moves into a position of movement and relationship when it acquires life, awareness, and consciousness, we can understand that there are higher levels of consciousness and higher conscious beings who occupy positions in the planetary sphere much higher than mankind. In ancient times these beings were identified as angels — and, indeed, Gurdjieff quite consciously populated his magnum opus with such creatures because they do in fact exist. Like the angels, Mary and Christ also exist, and it is entirely and pragmatically possible to form relationships with them if sufficient spiritual work is undertaken. The kind of contact that Gurdjieff spoke of in his Christmas eve adage, and other words, is not an exercise in imagination, but represents a real effort to get help.


Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.


  1. Very interesting. Thank you.
    A couple of points which I realise are kind of redundant on your blog but anyway:
    Our transient bodies are made of water - not our causal agency (psyche/anima/soul).
    Psyches don't exist at the quantum level. It is misleading to think there is no difference between your psyche and the physical body and space it interacts with. This is the problem with all quantum approaches to spirituality.
    One's identity is not formed by atomic forces. It is created by the ungrounded ground (God).The source of this determination is not in physical space - which is a derivitave phenomenon - and being created all the time.
    Most living beings are not conscious and have no agency - they are like robots.
    Only vertebrates and possibly some species of large hunting carnivorous, cephalopod mollusks (such as octopuses and squids have agency (they are empsyched) - because they have a brain (electroneurobiological organ) the psyche can interact with.
    It takes two to tango.

    1. However, I applaud the spirit of your essay. Particularly the fact that the contact G spoke of is not an exercise in imagination :)

    2. For the record, I am sure G would have agreed. Not that he was omniscient.... :)


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