Monday, February 29, 2016

Mayan Totem Song # 2

Mayan Totem Song # 2

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate, with iPad pro and apple pencil


Hosanna.







Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Clockwork Laboratory, Part II



Our mythical researcher wants to study light, but is then put in a laboratory where what he’s able to research is time. 

The phenomena are not completely unrelated; time affects light, and we can use the speed of light, in some senses, to measure time. But it's a very rough approximation. 

In reality, this clockwork laboratory has very impressive tools. Despite that, they can't properly be used to study light. They can be used to analyze its passage; but that is a different thing that should not be confused with light itself.

So how do I go about studying consciousness instead of psychology?

This question, as well, has come up recently in exchanges with folks I know. And the answer to it is not complicated; yet it takes us out past the edge of impossibility when it comes to the laboratory we’re in. In other words, in order to begin to study consciousness, we have to leave the laboratory, which is filled with equipment we are convinced can be used to study light.  We don’t want to leave—the lab is very well equipped indeed, and it seems impossible to believe that it can’t be turned to the necessary purpose. We’re absolutely convinced that somehow all of these tools will work. In fact, the tools in the lab are exactly what we've been trained to use. We don't know any other way to study.

Yet the simple fact is that only opening the door and stepping out into the hall — where there is no equipment at all, and I don't know the way to the next laboratory — that I can begin something new. So it's a journey into a complete unknown. 

As I step out into the hallway, it is filled with the very thing that I want to study — light. That light was also in the previous laboratory, but I spent so much time thinking about light that I didn't notice it was all around me. 

Now that I'm not hypnotized by the instruments anymore — now that I'm not trapped within the confines of the laboratory I was given to work in — perhaps I notice the light. I notice it without any instruments; and I realize that perhaps I have to study the light by shearing myself of every preconceived idea about studying light, including the notion that I needed the laboratory.

***

Consciousness can only be experienced by coming into relationship with a higher and finer energy within me. 

Just as I call sensation the Organic Sensation of Being, so one might call this finer and higher energy the Energy of Being, which is of an higher order than the vibration of the Organic Sensation of Being. 

They are related; but they aren't the same thing. At the same time, it's impossible to study the Energy of Being without first awakening the Organic Sensation of Being; otherwise, one has no foundation within which this higher energy can manifest. The vibration of such finer inner energies is ordered in a lawful hierarchy, and one has to establish the base of the hierarchy for higher levels of vibration to arise. 

In point of fact, both of these energies are cosmological in nature— they are (respectively) planetary and solar energies. 

In the first case—the Organic Sensation of Being—it’s closely related to inner gravity, and arises from the moon. All of the talk about the moon and the way that it interacts with being in Gurdjieff’s teaching is related to Organic Sensation of Being. It is the moon. So when we speak of sensation, of an inner sense of gravity, of becoming attuned to the organic and cellular nature of Being — which is the octave below us, a connection to which is an absolutely necessity for all of our inner work — we’re speaking about the moon. One could write a long series of essays about this subject, but just understanding this simple principle is a beginning. 

We must “make moon in ourselves,” as Gurdjieff said. That is the awakening of the Organic Sensation of Being.

One needs to do this because one can't establish a foothold — or even a toehold, or a toenail hold — in objective consciousness without this foundational “gravity of the inner moon” anchoring Being. 

The Organic Sense of Being and the cellular sensation of life is the starting point for receiving substances at still higher levels of vibration. Once this sense is well-established, one can receive the Energy of Being; that energy comes from a level which is solar, not lunar.


In esoteric circles, this subject isn't all too well understood. It’s common to try to receive solar energy before forming a strong and grounded relationship with the Organic Sensation of Being. 

Skipping this process gives bad results. It's like building a cathedral on top of sand. The cathedral doesn’t have the support it needs for the walls, and it always collapses one way or another, no matter how carefully constructed. 

So one needs to understand how to come into a physical, tactile relationship with these rooted lunar energies first, before we attempt to open ourselves to solar influences.


Hosanna.






Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Mayan Totem Song # 1

Mayan Totem Song # 1

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate, with iPad pro and apple pencil


Hosanna.







Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Clockwork Laboratory, Part I



Someone asked the other day about the difference between our psychology of self observation, and a movement towards higher consciousness

It should be said at the beginning that most of what we talk about when we talk about inner work is actually psychology of one kind or another. This isn't said to put it down or dismiss it; it's truly necessary for us to use critical thinking observe and analyze the various parts of ourselves, and it shouldn't be discounted. 

The difficulty is that it becomes the primary inclination.

Even now, most of the parts in me that are writing this — and in you that are reading this — are composed of psychological machines, that is, various pieces of clockwork, much like gears, that tick away in logical and predictable fashion. Each part of the psyche — the external, personality-directed psyche, that is — is crafted over many years to be of a specific size, proportion, and fineness of operation. Some people have lots of very fine gears; other people only have a small assortment of coarse ones. Either way, all the gears mesh together in the particular way that that person's machine of personality is designed, and although the machine can generally incorporate some new parts over the course of a lifetime, by the time we reach adolescence, much of it has formed, and it's very difficult to undertake a major change to any machine which already exists.

All of this by way of analogy. The point is that we are what we are; and from the point of view of psychology, there isn't much we can change there. We can insert a few new gears; we can take a few gears out. We can retool a particular gear. But taken together, as a whole, we can't change most of the gears without destroying the machine and its workings. In point of fact, this is to some extent necessary and is what inner work is all about; but with real inner work, we attempt to dismantle the machine carefully, with sensitivity, so that it keeps operating and can be stripped down to its barest and most essential principles, at which point a new and better working organism can be organically assembled from within.

Again, it's an analogy. The point is that consciousness exists independent of this machine in me. It is a force that creates everything; and it’s related to the nature of the universe itself, which naturally produces complexity — which is, in some senses, what produces consciousness.

When I say it “produces” consciousness, this isn't quite accurate, because consciousness is only expressed by the complexity of material existence; it is in existence before it, and the material universe arises as a consequence of it. (In this case I use the word consciousness as a proxy for the word God, which is more accurate but less definable.)

We can't rely on our psychological parts to understand consciousness. To understand this better, let’s try to compare the psyche to the phenomenon of time, and consciousness to the phenomenon of light. 
A clock measures time; but if you try to use it to detect photons… well, you can see how much luck you are going to have with that. It just won't happen. Yet somehow, using these clocks — these machines — of psychology and personality that make up most of what we are, we think we are going to detect photons and study light. 

In point of fact, an entirely new machine is needed for that. In this sense, we are all like researchers who are told to research photons and then put in a lab expressly designed to study the passage of time. The equipment is wrong; the location is wrong. We have none of the tools that are required to undertake the research we're asked to undertake. We have to be very clever indeed to find a way to conduct our research, because we aren't given what we need to do it in the first place.

So already, as you read this, you’re using the incorrect tools to understand it. We can just take that as a given. This material is, furthermore, being produced within me my a very clever set of individuals who have employed tools to try and write correct things; but even here, the limitation of words and concepts means that I'm employing the wrong tools, and you should remember that too. 

The hope that we both have is that something of this wrong approach has a rightness to it that penetrates deeper into our Being and can help those parts understand in a new way. 

It's a tricky enterprise; there's no guarantee of success. 

But we try.

Hosanna.






Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Pacific Totem Song # 3

Pacific Totem Song # 3

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate, with iPad pro and apple pencil


Hosanna.







Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Singularity of Being


The painting The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch is a picture, among other things, of the multiplicity of “I”s present in any given human being. 

While the painting works on many different levels, one important aspect of it is that it shows us as we are, inside, at this present moment. Every single one of the individuals in the painting represents, in one way or another, one of the mechanical parts, or tiny fractions of personality, that is perpetually operating within a human being's psyche. 

While we clearly see from the left panel than humanity has an essence that comes from the Divine, it is dominated, in the central and right hand panel, by any number of individuals who have lost that connection and are operative under the strength of their own desires. In the right-hand panel, that desire becomes extraordinarily destructive, and serves as a warning to us. Everyone has these deeply pathological individuals in us, in addition to the ones that appear to be engaged in more benign activities in the central panel. The right side of the painting represents the dark side of Being; not an imaginary set of monstrous fantasies, but an actual inner condition which we ignore at our peril.

In order to really understand the impact of this inner reality—the fractionalization of my being into many tiny parts, each one of of which thinks it ought to be dominant—I need to understand the difference between the dysfunctional relationships produced by  these fractions, and a functional relationship to a far more wholesome, higher inner energy which comes from wholeness

When I speak about coming into relationship with a higher energy, it isn't some energy that exists outside of me, so to speak—that is separate from me and enters me to change me. This way of conceiving it creates a polarity which is largely incorrect. The energy is already what I am. I am not separate from it, and it doesn't come from anywhere other than the place of my own Being. 

This place of Being is a singularity—that is, it is one whole thing, not a world divided into many different parts the way that my personality and its fractions operate; and all Being emanates from this singular wholeness, which is ever-present. When I make an effort to come into relationship with this energy, which must take place gradually and over the course of many years and decades, I'm making an inner effort to transcend the fractional nature of Being and move towards a wholeness of Being that derives itself from, and inhabits, this place of great wholeness, which is divided and unaffected by opinion.

We speak of freedom. And when we speak of freedom, as human beings, we almost always speak it in a way that implies freedom from material things—freedom from external events that affect us in one way or another. 

The idealized picture of a “guru” is a man who is in the world but not of it. Yet this vision is an external manifestation related to the world of objects, events, circumstances, and conditions. Maybe I think that inner freedom is freedom from those things. Yet real freedom begins with freedom from what I have inside myself, not what I am outside myself. 

That freedom can only arise because of a completely new relationship to an inner energy which frees me from attachment to my inner parts, which perpetually try to dominate. In other words, real freedom is freedom from all of these different “I”s that inhabit the psyche and try to tell me how I should behave, and what I do.

If a person is lucky, they spend 30 or 40 or even 50 years in inner work, and suddenly they understand something in a new way such that they see they never actually understood it for the many decades that they thought they did. That's a point of real understanding; it qualifies as a shock, and as a revelation, but what is most important is that it signifies a real change and real understanding. I'm fortunate in discovering that I was deluded; I'm fortunate in discovering that I am not what I think I am. Real freedom consists of the good fortune to discover Being at the expense of personality. 

Real freedom consists first of an inner freedom from all these “I”s that try run my life.

When I come into a relationship with real consciousness, that is, the conscious force of organic sensation of Being, I come into relationship with something quite different than any of my ordinary selves. It brings a freedom from judgment and a freedom from assumption; and it sees it once that all of the individuals in me that judge and assume are false personalities. Each one of them is a tiny piece of clockwork, a machine that tries to run the whole show on its own. 

Each of these small, individual personalities in me is a singularity, as in the sense of a black hole. It is intensely selfish and wants to suck all of the energy around it down into itself. As it does so, real Being disappears into the void created by that fraction; so I am perpetually stumbling from one void into another within myself, each one of which sees its own interests as the exclusive territory that my entire Being ought to serve.

Of course, Gurdjieff said this to Ouspensky in many different ways; yet we don't speak about it much anymore in the Gurdjieff work, and the concept is nearly unknown in modern psychology, even though it is the clockwork engine that runs the world and all people in it. 

This ought to be given much more careful consideration, because if I don't observe my many different parts in a direct and practical relationship to Being whole within an inner energy, I only work theoretically. 

I have to achieve a union with the energy first in order to see how the other parts operate.

Hosanna.






Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.



Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Pacific Totem Song # 2

Pacific Totem Song # 2

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate, with iPad pro and apple pencil


Hosanna.







Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, February 22, 2016

On the nature of I

Ammonite 
Museum of Natural History, New York


Not much is said any more today about Gurdjieff’s doctrine of many “I”s— the idea seems to have fallen out of vogue. 

Yet I think this is a subtle and extraordinary teaching about who we are which can only be appreciated after many years of effort, and inward changes that are hard-won.

 The theoretical aspect of the idea is simple and, for the most part, self-explanatory. One can read about this idea, absorb it, and carry it around in oneself as an intellectual concept for decades without actually understanding it. Of course, I ought to remind readers that this is the case with almost everything we encounter. The intellect is adept at absorbing and "understanding"  — that is, comprehending within its own realm — concepts of this kind. Yet understanding within the realm of intellect alone is not real understanding. It is only one third of it.

The critical point about this arose last night as I was driving home on the Palisades Parkway. It was nearly 6 PM; it was almost dark, and I was in the cocoon of light created by my automobile, a womb-like environment, from a certain point of view. I suddenly had a deep and extraordinary impression of the way in which the individuals, the so-called “people,” who are in me are not even real things. They are both real and unreal at the same time.

I spend my life with various entities, that is, individuals, commenting on every single impression that enters. All of them appear to be alive — but every single one of them is a tiny machine created out of its own opinions, which are selfish and utterly divorced from my conscious Being. Consciousness itself is a separate entity that has a purity and vitality, an energy of Being that is uncontaminated by these different individuals. The individuals exist alongside it and parasitize it in one way or another, attempting to influence it, but consciousness itself is a pure force that exists apart from and outside of these entities. Because of what Gurdjieff calls identification, I don't distinguish between consciousness and these small mechanical beings that attempt to influence it — so I think they are me.

One of the things that made this impression of myself extraordinary was its depth. There was a clear-cut separation between these parts; I could see how this particular “I” (out of many) was operational, and the force of pure, unadulterated consciousness existed alongside of it as a truth. This insight was gained after more than 34 years of intensive inner effort and struggle, and took place long after — decades after — I thought I had understood and mastered this idea. It reminds me of how naïve I am when I think I understand things; and it reminds me of how absolutely difficult it is to truly understand anything Gurdjieff said about our inner nature. We think we grasp things from the beginning; yet nothing could be further from the truth. The parts that grasp things from the beginning are these little mechanical beings in us, who claim they know what is going on. Yet the ultimate aim of conscious effort is to understand consciousness as a separate and a pure force; and even long after that capacity develops in us, a true understanding of the separation between consciousness of Being and consciousness of personality eludes me.

 This particular insight relates to the Buddhist idea that everything is an illusion. By “everything", what is meant is these countless fractional Beings within me that are not part of consciousness as it manifests, which is what gives me substance.

 Well, of course, this is presented within a context that can't quite convey the impression, but I think it quite important that even those who have worked for many many years and think they know the difference between “I” and consciousness consider this question more carefully. 

I cannot know consciousness, but consciousness knows itself.

Hosanna.






Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Pacific Totem Song # 1

Pacific Totem Song # 1

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate, with iPad pro and apple pencil


Hosanna.







Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Relationship to an inward energy


Ant Number One

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate, with iPad pro and apple pencil

It strikes me again and again how folk don't put being in relationship to an inner energy first in life.

We will do, it seems, just about anything to try and be, except come into relationship with of the higher energy that inwardly forms Being. It's a primary act that needs to be undertaken at once and everywhere, especially first thing in the morning — but again, all day long, in every moment.

Yet it gets talked about a lot, doesn't it? So much so that that talking even becomes a way of avoiding a direct approach to the inner truth.

In a roundabout way, sometimes folk in the Gurdjieff work refer to this inner energy as one's wish; yet that word actually means so many different things that it immediately becomes insufficient. It gets attached to every imaginable aspiration.

One's wish needs to be in relationship with the higher; if it isn't—if it doesn't come into intimate contact with the energy that animates Being before anything else happens in one's life—nothing happens. Every outward action and every outward manifestation are worthless if they do not have, at their root, a relationship to this energy.

When I say they are worthless, I am speaking euphemistically. All outward manifestation does have a value; but it gets weighed in gold, in silver, or in lead relative to what forms it inwardly. If it is inwardly formed, it is worth gold, if it is formed between the inner and the outer, it is worth silver; but everything that is formed only outwardly is worth lead. That is, it is still a metal, something very solid and real; and it still has the quality of weight; but it is dull and common and heavy and drags us downward.

This isn't to say that we are dragged downward into depression or pessimism; we are simply dragged downward into the material, that is, too much of us is wrapped around the material and forms our Being in relation to it. Being has the opportunity to be completely free in relationship to the material; this doesn't mean that the material is abandoned or transcendent, but merely that it is put in its proper place.

We need to be there in relationship to a force first, and then the material assumes its correct place, which is a lower one relative to the spiritual nature of Being.

 Being there first in relationship to a force offers the opportunity of a complete and absolute inner freedom. That freedom is a peculiar thing, because it definitely can't be described in words, and has little or nothing to do with the associations we arrive at when we hear the word. But one can know it by its taste.

When I wake up in the morning, my first and only real wish is to be in relationship with the energy. This is my center of gravity. I sense, see, and participate in all of the parts that automatically attach themselves to habit and the material; this has to be accepted. But the animating force of Being must take precedence; in point of fact, if it doesn't, I am unable to sense, see, and participate in my automatic and mechanical parts. I identify with them instead; and then Being is lost to the ersatz force of false personality.

 If I don't make my search a search first for this divine inflow of the inner energy, if I don't sense it with every cell in my body first and have that is my wish first, I dissolve had become, for all intents and purposes, nothing.


Hosanna.





Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Sphinx-ish


Sphinx-ish

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate, with iPad pro and apple pencil


Hosanna.







Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Intentional Suffering in Practice, part II


Dragon Bones

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate, with iPad pro and Apple pencil

 Although the inward effort to suffer myself is a good one, as I pointed out in the last post, it's selfish; and ultimately, in order to take on a portion of the burden of the sorrow of His Endlessness, I must surrender my selfish action. It's important to see Mr. Gurdjieff's comments about bearing the negative manifestations of others without complaint in this context.

Again, in the last post, I explained how we are reflexively trapped in reactionary, mechanical expression of inward contradictions, lies, and negativity that we seem helpless to control. These are self-perpetuating mechanisms that become increasingly destructive over the course of a lifetime if we don't struggle with them. And every time we manifest negatively in an outward way, if we still have a conscience, it becomes more and more anguished, helpless as it is to affect the situation.

When I encounter the negative manifestations of another person outwardly, if I suffer them without complaint, I truly take them in in the deepest way — and this involves seeing this inexorable inward mechanism in the other person. Through an organic impression that falls through personality and penetrates my Being into essence,  I see how the other person suffers. That is to say, I gain a direct and compassionate understanding of their negativity, which they themselves are as helpless in opposing as I am in going against my own. This is a critical point; because they are just like me. We are mirrors that reflect one another on this question. If I really understand the other person, by baring their negative manifestations without complaint, I become willing to inhabit their perspective not just from the point of view of their outward negativity, and the personality-based justifications and mechanisms that drive it, but also from the point of view of the terrible suffering from within themselves that drives them to behave this way.

I take on, and other words, a portion of that same work I am attempting within myself on the half of them. I empathically suffer on their behalf for what they are and the fact that they cannot help the way they are behaving.

Now, this is a tricky thing, because one can't invent it or think it up. It requires a deep emotive participation in the life of the other; and it requires the perspective of age and an understanding that we are all trapped in these dilemmas together. It is an advanced work that I do not think one comes to as a younger person; yet I explain it here because I believe it might be important for everyone to know that this is the goal. If and when I suffer intentionally and unselfishly, I suffer by suffering for others and taking on their own suffering for them, since they are unable to do it.

By now, astute readers may realize that we have arrived at a very interesting point. This is, after all, exactly what Christ did for mankind. The act of intentional suffering in the way that I describe it is, in other words, the absolute and essential core of Christianity; and so we discover that intentional suffering — a phrase that doesn't seem to have anything to do with Christ's religious practice — is actually what His practice was all about. And it reflects, quite perfectly, Mr. Gurdjieff's adage that our inward task ought to be to take on a portion of the suffering of God. We practice this first through outward considering; then, inner seeing of how we are; third, through the conscious labor of bearing the negative manifestations of others; and, fourth, by unselfishly suffering for others as they treat us with contempt and derision.

This encapsulates countless romanticized ideas about monks, hermits, and idealized spiritual figures, all of whom somehow tolerate awful treatment of themselves with equanimity. In all of those tales, the noble spiritual hero appears to be — well, a hero. Yet that heroism contains, at its core, a seed of intentional suffering whereby one takes on the suffering of God Himself. We practice on others in order to learn how to take on a portion of God's sorrow; and that practice has to become entirely unselfish, which is by far not the focus that our inward work begins with.

This unselfishness has to be the end point of inward work, in which I suffer — I take in — the terrible struggle which results from the manifestation in the material, where all things want to be for themselves and not for God.

I am like that too; and yet it might be possible to be different, and grow back toward something that has more of heaven in it than hell.

Hosanna.





Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Mercury

The Gods Take Flight # 3 — Mercury

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate, with iPad pro and apple pencil


Hosanna.






Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Intentional Suffering in Practice, Part I


Goddess: the first

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate, with iPad pro and apple pencil

 The subject of intentional suffering is, perhaps, endlessly interesting, since the phrase was so unique to Gurdjieff, and its exact meaning apparently obscure.

Occupying, as it does, a critical place in the circulation of the enneagram— and our spiritual development— one would think we might spend more time considering it.

One of the practices Mr. Gurdjieff offered us as an effort in daily life is to bear the negative manifestations of others without complaint. I had occasion, on my last trip to China, to experience this in the new and different way that struck me within the roots of my essence, in such a way that I gained a different and, for me, quite new understanding of it.

 When we suffer the negative manifestations of another person without complaint, the inward aim is one of absolute and irrevocable compassion. That is to say, it is another form of what Gurdjieff called inner considering; that is, the effort to put oneself in another person's shoes and understand the world from their perspective. Yet this is much more than simply seeing their own thought process and justifications, which it is so easy to interpret this as. If I do that, all I do is substitute my selfishness for their selfishness; and all of us can see, I think, quite easily that this dualistic selfishness, the clash of two personalities with all of their superficial and reactionary inclinations, is exactly what creates conflict and suffering for all of us in the first place. A picture that comes to mind is that of two male mountain sheep backing off and then racing at each other full speed to smash each other with their huge horns. If I put myself in the place of the other sheep, not too much has been accomplished.

The complexity of intentional suffering begins with the idea that I should suffer my own selfishness. Through seeing my inner state— through the inwardly compassionate (compassionate towards myself) practice of conscious labor, attention, and intention — I perhaps begin to see my own selfishness, my lack of love.

Yet this, too, is paradoxically selfish. It so easily becomes a work where everything is all about me, doesn't it? We all tend towards too much self-involvement in the first place; and if I want to learn how to turn my attention outward towards others, and support them — of course, from a rooted place of sensation within myself — it can't be all about me. It has to be all about them. There is a sacrificial offering that takes place in me of my own desires; and that has something to do with the question of intentional suffering.

One thing that is, in its subtleties, appreciated in modern psychology — it does get a few things right, after all — is that negative behaviors are, for human beings in which the positive attributes of instinctive conscience have not entirely atrophied, the product of deep inner conflicts that the soul senses. From my own inward observations, I see that when I act negatively, it actually comes out of an anguished place which I am helpless to oppose. This is the case with most people. That is to say, they can treat others horribly in one way or another; but they are the victims as they do so, suffering from terrible inward drives, conflicts, and dilemmas that they are spiritually (if not psychologically or consciously) aware of. When a human being acts in a negative way, even though their false personality and all of the excrement that is gathered around their external manifestations insist on the destructive outward action, the essence and the soul, which are of God, remain deeply opposed to that action. The soul senses, in other words, our negative outwardness; and it suffers terribly.

 We are all, as it happens, unconsciously trapped in these struggles which produce great unhappiness for us; and, lacking the right kind of inward connection and in our work, we suffer terribly even as we harm. Perversely, that suffering causes us to act even more harmfully, because the personality is like a desperate beast maddened by bee stings; unable to understand the mechanisms that drive it, yet sensing the pain in a primal way, it continues to manifest in ways that make things not better, but even worse.

 As this process accelerates, I can harm others more and more. This is why it is so important for me to become more inwardly aware of how I am.

As I begin to learn how to suffer myself inwardly, I begin to lay a foundation for intentional suffering from a personal point of view, and understand how necessary it is to go towards the suffering and towards the negativity in order to understand it better. This is another place where modern psychology has it right: we have to unveil and confront the things that distress us the most in order to deal with them. Yet this is a deeply spiritual and organic process, not one that can be done with the mind alone. The way of understanding this better is to see that a deep inward analysis needs to take place both emotionally and physically, as well as with the intellect, in order to have a full understanding of who I am and why I am the way I am. Psychology attempts to treat everything with the mind, through conversation; yet if I don't understand psychology as a three centered process, there is too much missing for to have a permanent effect of any kind.

Hosanna.





Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Athena


The Gods Take Flight # 2—Athena

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate, with iPad pro and apple pencil


Hosanna.







Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The end times


The Gods of War: The Sixth Beast

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate, with iPad pro and apple pencil

My friend Paul recently asked, in a comment, what I thought about fundamentalist Christian fantasies about end times and the apocalypse.

 The end times fantasy which has been so enthusiastically embraced by Christian conservatives in the United States is a classic example of a complete and absolute heresy, entirely made up and without any basis whatsoever in biblical texts. It shows you entirely delusional fanatics can be; and it also shows how misinterpretation of rapturous allegorical writing, such as the chapter Revelations, can result in an aberrant mixture of spiritual and natural beliefs.

The ideas that people will be physically taken up into heaven or have flesh put back on their bones so that they can walk again are absurdities I objected to even as a child, where I was kicked out of Sunday school at the age of 11 for arguing with a "teacher" about such nonsense in the Bible.  Even then, stupidity prevailed. People were more upset with me questioning spurious interpretations of the Bible than the fact that the "teacher" called me a little ass hole in front of the entire Sunday school class. (My parents migrated me permanently into church with the adults, which satisfied me entirely.) In any event, the point is that the natural and the spiritual world do not mix— at least not in this way, as Swedenborg so eloquently explained. People want them to mix; and that is because they want God to do what they want God to do, not what God does. We are all like this, of course, but one ought to set some limits — and can, if one acquires any real humility.

But perhaps the greatest error in this heresy is the punitive and vengeful vision that it offers. In it, God sorts out the good and the bad and assigns them places, punishing the bad and refusing to let them into heaven. This is a gross violation of an intelligent and obvious principle which every right minding human being ought to grasp. God, whose entire essences forever and absolutely merciful, never punishes anyone.

We punish ourselves.

 That punishment, moreover, is never seen as a punishment by us. We choose; and what we choose is either selfishness and a world that centers on ourselves — which is an infection every spirit has in it — or unselfishness and love of others and God before love of ourselves. If we go to hell, it is because where we want to be; not where God sends us. God would certainly prefer that all of us not be in hell; but in surrendering Himself into the material, He sacrificed absolute control over us — such control would be unloving and ungodly from the beginning — and allows us to determine our own fate, as every parent should do with their children. If the child goes to hell, it is because the child likes hell and prefers to stay there.

 We see a mirror of this in our own preferences and desires. One might say, in a certain way, that all desire is selfish and turns us towards hell. This provides an entirely rational and objective explanation for why Gurdjieff told us that a human being's non-desires need to prevail over their desires.

There don't need to be any end times in which God sorts things out. We sort them out for ourselves during this lifetime; and it is at the end of it that the angelic kingdoms inspect us to determine our inclinations. If we preferentially tend towards hell, all the angels in heaven could not drag us into it. Confessing to Christ alone means nothing if we do not surrender deep within our own soul. That is never so easy as chanting words or repeating biblical phrases; we pay, and pay, and pay, in order to surrender.

This, at least, is my experience. In the end, there can only be one real reckoning for us, and it comes as a reckoning with ourselves. First we take responsibility for that. Then we attempt to undertake the inner work of spiritual regeneration.

 I think the value of apocalyptic thinking lies in its overarching vision of the human and spiritual field of experience as a great battleground between good and evil. This, in the end, is true; and we need to try to cast ourselves, as best we understand, as heroes of the good — champions of godly values and other human beings and their own inner struggles.

Hosanna.





Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Gecko


Gecko

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate, with iPad pro and apple pencil


Hosanna.






Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Deep into an Organic Good


Stone carving: Christ and the Evangelists
The Cloisters, New York 

 January 24. There was an impressive snowstorm last night. Even though the aftermath of such storms is always trying, while they are taking place, no matter how big they are, one always strangely wishes they were even bigger still. There is a desire to be nested within the enormous force of nature and accept it. It reminds us by analogy of the great forces that we are under.

I use the word organic very frequently to describe Being, as in my original phrase — which I coined long before I was aware Gurdjieff himself had used it — the Organic Sense of Being.

The word organ is derived from the Greek organikós,  meaning, essentially, instrument. The sense of the word as of the bodily organs is not used before 1706, and the sense of the word meaning derived from organized living beings (which is how we often use it today) is first recorded in 1778.

 In any event, what is organic is instrumental, that is, it is a tool that serves a purpose— a means to an end. Already, when we say organic, in other words, what is meant is something that serves. It's interesting that the word has roots so deeply tied to this idea, whereas we use it to mean something, generally speaking, quite different.

 Our organism serves. When I am under a higher influence, I inherently understand that I serve something different than myself, and that I do so through what the body receives in terms of a higher energy. What is necessary is to turn inwards first, towards a sensation of this energy, and intelligently — using my awareness — put myself into its service. I'm really not quite able to do this; after all, the higher always puts me into its service, and not the other way around. But I can remind myself to turn towards this instrument and this purpose, which is to serve God, with an intention. That is an intimate and sacred inner action and a tiny thing, not some grand outward gesture related to forms, circumstances, or the need to meet some particular life function.

 When I say it's a tiny thing, I mean it is a point on which awareness turns — and I ought to keep coming back to it from within. I forgot that, of course; and that's the problem.

This idea of coming back to myself is the idea of going deep into an organic good. Let us say it another way: an instrumental good, that is, to become invested (closed) in that which serves the good. Most of me does not turn in that direction; yet it's a small choice that could help me do so.

This morning, I woke up at about 3:45 AM because I have jet lag. I made an effort to turn inwards towards this small space, this tiny, sacred place, and I am doing it again now, a number of hours later, because I keep remembering that there is this great light that can sometimes manifest, which takes everything from me and gives me wholeness, which I do not have by myself.

Hosanna.





Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.



Thursday, February 11, 2016

Angelic Eagle


Angelic Eagle

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate on iPad Pro with Apple pencil


Hosanna.





Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Inwards towards now

Merode Altarpiece (Detail)
The Cloisters, New York 

Sometimes I think we spend so much time revering the past, interested in the past, because we've made such a mess of the present.

I remember my teacher Betty Brown saying, "What is the truth of this moment?” 

It's a call to be here as I am, now, and to live

Yet I seem so determined — as we all are — to live through some contemporary resurrection of one dead teacher or another. You see, even here, I bring up Betty, who has been dead some years.

It's true that we are filled with what has passed; everything that brings us to this point is already over. I am a peculiar intersection of a past that will never come again, and a future that is completely unknown. I hold on to the past as though it was what had value; and I imagine the future, even though what will take place is always impossible to imagine. 

I'm always cherishing lost things and believing in what can't happen.

 If I turn my attention into the present, I need to fold both of these corners of being inwards towards now. In doing so, I gather the edges of the fabric of consciousness towards me, so that I am more familiar with them; it doesn't mean that I discard the past and the future, but rather that I bring them so close to one another within me that they touch

They touch right here, now, in this moment that I am here. Can you feel it? This is what always takes place in us, forever. It's a kind of coming together rather than being lost in reminiscence or imagination.

The body is a great help for this. It really provides a center of gravity for now. But I have to let it do its job by inhabiting it, by being in relationship with it without any demands or expectations. 

I can't exercise my way into now; I can't meditate my way into now. I can't emote my way into now. But if my body, my mind, and my feelings all fold together so that the various corners of my being are touching, it creates a little pouch of awareness that can contain whatever comes to it and hold it there, gently, flexibly. 

Who knows what could happen then? It's a completely different premise than the one I usually use to understand my life. The idea is to create an empty space with these parts and then sit there within it. What will happen? I have no idea. I don't even need to know; all I need to do is be here.

 This folding of the self, of awareness, inwards towards now is not a now of outwardness— it isn't born of what takes place outside me. No, the folding and the gathering begin within, as though there were a natural silken thread inside me that pulls all these parts of myself together, independent of outside influences. 

It's a beautiful thing, this; like a flower that closes its petals to conserve its nectar, instead of opening them to be robbed by the bees. Not that the bees don't deserve what nectar they can gather; but why give them anything more than what's necessary?  


That's what I need to do with the outward world, give it what is necessary; and the rest turns inward towards God, who needs much more than just the material.

Hosanna.





Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Goddess


Goddess

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate, with iPad pro and apple pencil


Hosanna.





Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Dream of Flatware



Merode Altarpiece (Detail)
The Cloisters, New York 


Friends will know that I occasionally enjoy interpreting dreams from the point of view of inner spiritual work. In doing this, one adopts the postulate that all of the characters in the dream represent parts of the self which are trying to communicate one's present state and challenges.

 It's not too difficult to get the hang of this oneself once one understands that ground rule, and subjecting dreams to analysis on this basis can often yield some interesting results. I probably ought to mention that Wilson van Dusen had a number of interesting observations about dreams in his book, The Natural Depth in Man, that work along these lines. The book is well worth reading for those of you who might be interested.


Below is last night's dream. Remembering it just after I woke up, it did not seem to have much content, but it was actually quite rich.

Dream of January 10, 2016

 I had a peculiar dream last night.

We were sorting out inheritances; there were many boxes of silverware, various precious objects, mostly serving pieces of one kind or another. Some boxes were modern; some represented chests that had been in the family for a long time, made of fine wood, with numerous drawers. There was some question as to what might be in them; they came from my grandmother or even earlier generations, and had an air of mystery to them — at least to me. One of them was hidden under a table, more or less, shoved to the back under a tablecloth, and we did not open this one.

Several of the boxes (mostly a bit larger than shoeboxes, maybe double the size) were opened and had obscure silver tableware devices in them. But one — and, ultimately, two — had small and extraordinarily finely crafted sets of forks and knives in them — in other words, place settings, but of dollhouse size. They were in every way utilitarian, and made of real silver, not imitation. They furthermore had such detail on them that one imagined they were full-size silverware that had simply been shrunk down. I distinctly remember a collection of knives, perhaps a dozen in all. Surely, there were forks and spoons as well, but I cannot remember seeing them as clearly. The knives are what stood out.

My wife and my mother were in the area as we looked at these things. I wanted to call my wife's attention to the tiny place settings, but she was quickly off somewhere else. 

The scenery quickly shifted from a parlor-room to a balcony outdoors, up high enough that leafy trees surrounded us. It was a more natural and sylvan setting than the area where the inheritances were stashed in boxes — outdoors, not indoors.

Ultimately, I ended up in an argument with my wife, feeling that she was not paying sufficient attention to me. A younger woman, K. from the office — a good friend who I've been mentoring — came onto the scene but politely excused herself when she saw that there was conflict. 

In this particular dream, I wasn't married to my wife yet, oddly enough — even though I perceived her as being in the same relationship we have, which has been a married one for many years. I asked her why she wouldn't agree to marry me, and just where the relationship was going. I could see within myself, in the dream, that I was cooking up a confrontation to push things to a point where she would have to commit to the relationship — something that in the past was at times a real bone of contention between us in actual life. 

Although her role in the dream was a prominent one, I can't remember a lot of response or interaction from her. As is the case in real life, I did most of the talking.

The dream deflected from the dinnerware theme to the conflict theme without any clear reason. I woke up as we were in the middle of the argument.

Interpretation

I have a wide range of impressions of life (the silverware) which I have inherited through the course of my living. They are somewhat organized, but obscure to me; hidden in boxes of varying qualities.  By having different levels of quality, the boxes distinguish the more or less value  various impressions have, according to my own inner system of discrimination. Although I have collected these impressions myself, and they all have value — all of them are silver — I'm unclear on exactly what they mean and what their value is, and I have stashed them in many different places without clearly understanding what they represent.

Some significant number of impressions have a value in terms of helping me to dissect and digest very fine inner (spiritual) foods. This is the meaning of the tiny sets of flatware. They are exquisitely crafted because they represent impressions which, while tiny, are  of a very high value in my inner work. I don't even know they are they are; yet there are a lot of them, and many of them fulfill nearly identical functions, as evidenced by the fact that there are sets of them (the knives.) The reason I remember the knives most clearly is because these inner tools are tools of discrimination — that is, they can cut things apart and separate them one from another — and because, as evidenced by the fact that I don't know what all these impressions are and don't have them sorted properly, discrimination is what I need to acquire the most. It's worth noting that these impressions — the knives — are also tools. In a certain way, they represent a limited but vital range of "higher" impressions than ordinary ones.  Their small size indicates that it is the small things, and my ability to discriminate in them, that matter. (Readers might want to know that Meister Eckhart, in the very last thing he told his followers before he died, said this exact thing.)

My wife and mother both represent feminine sides of myself: my mother, the one that gives birth to me from above, that is, a stand-in for the Virgin Mary, from whom these blessings flow (my mother, in the dream, occupied the location between the place where all these objects of value come from and myself, in a line of inheritance) and my wife, my personal active relationship with the feminine within my own world.

I can already know that there is a dysfunction in my relationship with the feminine within me, because I am not clearly cognizant of the value of my impressions or what I have in me. The argument I am having with my wife is an argument with myself, because I feel that the part of me which receives does not interact with my ordinary self enough. Somehow, that feminine part which receives ought to, in my opinion and in my understanding, have a better idea about all of these inner parts — the silver, the place settings — than I do. After all, household materials and dining, along with the eating of food in general, somehow fall into the realm of feminine responsibility. 

So I'm seeking a closer relationship with that responsibility— The female part of myself, my wife— even though I am already in relationship with it.  And I'm pretty much complaining to "her" because in one way or another I don't think she's doing enough to contribute. I'm married to her, but I am arguing with her about why she won't marry me. Duh.

In other words, the dream is telling me that I already have the relationship I need, but I am blind to it, and still arguing that it ought to be there. Other female parts of myself (represented by the woman K. who I am mentoring, who arrives but then wisely an discretely  excuses herself) are already in the wings and ready to join in the kind of inner work that is necessary to understand this material, but my belligerent and argumentative nature prevents them from coming in and participating.

 The scenery shifts from indoors to outdoors representing the inner and outer life, but also two levels. One of them, the inside scenery where I am sorting through the silverware, represents the inner space where former associations are stored and impressions of outer life are digested. It contains elements of the past interacting with the spiritual tools that process them. The outside space represents my present and outer life, and my current psychological state, seen in a surrounding of nature. The fact that it's on a balcony represents the idea that this confrontation is taking place in the higher parts of centers, not the lower ones; and the presence of trees and green leaves represents the idea that there is a real life here, even though there are struggles underway. 

The interior space in the dream is devoid of such living, growing things, and represents a more "technical" and mechanical location. That is interesting, because it also represents a place closer to God, as evidenced by the presence of my mother as an interpretive figure for the impressions of value that are stored there. My mother actually does not get involved in explaining any of the silver items, even though she is the custodian and and ought to be well aware of their uses and meanings. This is because I am expected to do this work myself.

All in all, the dream does not represent a negative, because it offers abundance and continuity — the passing of inheritance from one to another. The relationships I need in myself are already present and loving, I just don't see that clearly. So the dream is there to help illustrate a lack in me — a lack of acceptance of my place, and the failure to see and understand that everything I need is already there.



Hosanna.





Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.