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.

Hosanna.






Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Woman With Tree

Woman with Tree

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, March 29, 2016

What the heck are we, anyway? Part II- A Play of Forces


Man and Woman
Artwork by Lee van Laer, 2016


To put an exact point on it, Jeanne de Salzmann said that everything — she used that word, everything — is a play of forces. 

This is not only a spiritual adage delivered by her — it is a material fact provable in the world of both quantum physics and relativity.  Everything is, absolutely, a play of forces — forces which are in constant movement and relationship, and which, while they exchange positions, relative energies, and concentrations,  have definite  features of localization, are all actually part of one great field of force.

 Gurdjieff alluded to this when he said that there is actually only one thing; that is a message which has been delivered in countless different versions by countless different sages. Realization involves a recognition of our inclusion within that one great force, of which we are a localized concentration (think of Gurdjieff's megalocosmos, with all of its subordinate cosmoses, which is a neat little picture of the matter.) So both things are true: we exist as discrete, individualized localizations of cosmic forces, but we also inhabit a continuum which we perceive ourselves as divided from at our spiritual peril. It is a perception of and reunification with this totality that we seek; we wish to transcend this fractionalized, adumbrated rootlet of consciousness that expresses "I", in so far as we experience it, and return to something much greater — religion, the reconnection of the ligaments — the forces — that create the movement and relationship which we express.

The paradox of our psychology is that we believe we create the movement and relationship — that we are the ligaments. The spiritual being understands that the ligaments are made of much finer and less perceptible substances, golden threads that penetrate everything and connected at levels that cannot be seen with the coarse substances of the ordinary mind. It also has the understanding that we are part of a much greater whole. This understanding is located in the “higher centers” that Gurdjieff spoke about — changing the language a bit in order to bring a different kind of clarity and focus, hidden and essential yet very alive and real spiritualized parts. 

Every human being has these in them, and if they are opened, extraordinary results will ensue.


An inward opening makes it quite clear that this perception of separation between the energy and myself is a false one. For as long as that perception of separation, with me as one thing is the energy as a another, persists, I am in the position of a dentist — I drill holes in the parts of myself which appear to have cavities, and I try to fill them in with gold or silver. We are all like this. But everyone knows how much fun a trip to the dentist is. 

Anyone who has held a bar of gold or silver in their hands knows how absolutely precious and fascinating the stuff is. Anything fixed can become an object of attraction; and the more beautiful it is, the more attractive it becomes. Every spiritual practice is like this. We believe we are here, God is out there, and we will take him into us — much like the practice Gurdjieff described to his followers which you can read the quotation of in the comment section of the post "the singularity of being.” The entire premise of kundalini yoga, as it was practiced all over the ancient world and is still practiced today, is one of manipulating energies in the body which appear to come from outside. Jeanne de Salzmann presented them to us in just this way; and anyone who has had an experience of them will understand that there is a certain external quality, as though there were a force entering us. I have had many such experiences, and others I know are on the same page.

Yet all of them represent nothing more than an awakening to a force that is already present, which I participate in. This is why the Buddha said, "I am awake.” What we experience as an arrival of force or a flow of force is really the awakening to a force. We are already present in that field of force — that field of influences — and we simply concentrate it more. Hence all of de Salzmann's emphasis on a concentration of force and a concentration of attention: that, and a balancing of same, which was one of the principal points of Gurdjieff's teachings.


The force is not part of a set of fixed entities; yet we comprehend the world in these terms, and so we assign such entities to our spiritual experience. 

The force always arises in relationship and in movement, which is the whole point of the enneagram: a diagram which, Gurdjieff pointed out, appears to be a fixed entity and yet represents a set of forces which are always in movement, and, in fact, three (and actually even four—or more)  dimensional in nature. 

Hosanna.






Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Ephemeral Totem mask # 2


Ephemeral Totem mask # 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, March 27, 2016

What the heck are we, anyway? Part I

Marilyn Nonroe
Lee van Laer, 2016

...Didja hear the one about this guy named Mondrian who goes into a bar and throws a Picasso and a Warhol into a blender...?

Movement and relationship

My friend Paul, who serves  intermittently but faithfully as the microcosmic conscience of this also microcosmic space, recently took exception to a post (The singularity of Being) :

Although Mme de Salzmann and Pauline de Dampierre, and G. did claim that we could receive a 'higher energy' that definitely was not in us to start with! 
In fact Mme S used the gesture of it coming down from above our heads - Pauline used to talk about it coming down the spine - as Mme S does in The Reality of Being. This is obviously different from your claim:

'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.’

I would be very interested if you could comment on the difference?

“I wish give real Christmas present. Imagine Christ. Somewhere in space is.” Gurdjieff forms an oval with both his hands. “Make contact. Not to center, but to outside, periphery. Draw from there, draw in, I. Settle in you, Am. Do every day. Wish to become Christ. Be.” 

—Gurdjieff

My reply to him took this form:

You’re asking me to sort out a complex metaphysical question. Both points of view are correct; the differences lie in the level of relationship, not the presence of the energy or the distinction between energy and manifestation. This has a great deal to do with the understanding of movement and relationship, as opposed to fixation and separation. There is a natural psychology and a subtle spirituality to this investigation; psychologically, we experience life as a series of fixed things, which we are separate from — whereas life is actually a process of movement within fields we are related to.  Mme. would have understood exactly what I am saying here; but this is actually the subject for a whole post — or perhaps the next thousand posts or so.

In any event, let's try to sort this out in some greater detail.

In his unusual and and rather extraordinary book "Ardor,” Roberto Calasso points out that, in the Vedic world, monuments mean nothing: “Every construction is temporary, including the fire altar. It is not a fixed object, but a vehicle. Once the voyage is complete, the vehicle can be destroyed. Thus the Vedic ritualist did not develop the idea of the Temple. As such care was given to constructing the bird, it was to make it fly. What remained on earth was an inert shell of dust, dry mud, and bricks. It could be left behind, like a carcass. It would soon be covered once more with vegetation. In the meantime, Agni was in the sun.” (Ardor,  as translated from the Italian by Richard Dixon, Pub. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York 2010, Page 6.) We encounter similar understandings from the ancient Maya, whose conception of the world was that all objects were in an eternal state of becoming, rather than fixed things (see Stephen Houston’s  The Life Within — classic  Maya and the matter of permanence.)  

The idea that everything is in an eternal state of transition is common to many subtle spiritual practices. This eternal state of transition imposes a hierarchy of movement and relationship "above" the fixed material world, which is a world of illusions largely because it looks fixed to us — in reality, it is nothing of the kind. One could easily argue that most of mankind's material woes, as well as his countless psychological and spiritual paranoias, come from a refusal to recognize this absolute fact, accompanied by desperate and chronic efforts to nail things down in one place — an impossibility that increases spiritual and psychological stress the more one tries to engage in it.

 Although we can't see it, our inward spiritual practices fall victim to this exact same neurosis. Spirituality is a process of movement and relationship in which new things forever happen; and yet we are addicted to the idea that the same thing should happen again and again, hopefully (think of the Super Bowl, Or Hollywood blockbusters) getting bigger and better each time.  This desire for the repetition of “fixed” experiences ( experiences which are static and reproducible) lies not only at the heart of our material sciences, but is also the exact same quality in the human psyche which Mr. Gurdjieff said the organ Kundabuffer imparted in us — the derivation of pleasure from repeating the same things over and over.

 It causes us, in other words, to find pleasure in fixation. 

Now, you may wonder why I go into this rather lengthy excursion on the mutable nature of reality, and the question of movement and relationship, one we are really supposed to be talking about whether a "higher energy” is inside us or outside of us — do we take it in, or do we have it? 

Does it march up and down the virtual Tesla coil of our spine? 

Do we gather it up and make it spin in circles so that we can become magical? 

Or be healthy? 

Is there a difference between us and this energy?

Stay tuned for more.

Hosanna.






Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Ephemeral Totem mask # 1


Ephemeral Totem mask # 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, March 25, 2016

A single impression of goodness


Lolita
Drawing by the Author, 2016
Created on the iPad Pro with Procreate, using the Apple pencil.
February 25

Something struck me this morning at breakfast that hasn't occurred to me in exactly this way before, even after many years of experiencing it.

It's possible for a single impression of goodness to have a quite remarkable impact on one’s inner order. These impressions of goodness, which generally emanate directly from relationship with other people, come when an individual offers an openhearted and warm expression. 

No matter what the general being and overall constitution of that individual is, there is a certain moment where it's possible for the essence of God and of goodness to flow out of a person unimpeded. We all have that potential, to manifest on behalf of God in a loving way; and it almost always takes place, as it were, in an offhanded way, when we least expect it, and at that odd and unpredictable moment 99.9% of what we are in our ordinary way is somehow forgotten for an instant, allowing that bright light of divinity that exists within all mankind to shine forth.

When one sees such a manifestation, and receives it in a right way, one is filled with an inestimable and indescribable joy of Being, and an affirmation of the essential goodness of life and of people. This one instant, if it goes in the one deeply enough, can serve as an antidote for one hundred years of poison. That is to say, one instant of goodness is greater than ten thousand instants of evil.

Taking in such an impression provides a very fine and unusually powerful food for one's inward Being. It is, at the same time, a tiny thing; and it is just this kind of tiny thing, this very nearly unnoticeable instant, that brings the greatest grace. It's exactly what Meister Eckhart was referring to in his last instructions to his pupils, when he said that what is least in our own eyes is often greatest in God's.

It was notable to me this morning how this moment arose within relationship between two people; and with a complete stranger. In the instant that it took place, there was a radiance that transcends our ordinary Being. True, it was nothing more than a woman with an arm full of laundry saying hello to me in a corridor of the hotel; but it was also all men, and all women, and all the moments of good work that we can do together, our arms perhaps filled with laundry, but our hearts open to the possibility that we can, in some small and immediate measure, love one another — not with any demand or desire on the table, but just quite simply, knowing that to express this goodness is a right and sacred thing.

Hosanna.






Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Egg fight


Egg fight

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, March 23, 2016

Deepening my inward sensation

Hacienda Yaxcopoil, Yucatan

Notes from lunchtime, Shanghai. (Thai food.)

Different kinds of sensation and levels of the experience become available at different times of the day; and at different times of the year. One can't expect it to always stay the same; and, indeed, as one grows older and the practice becomes more definite, one's relationship to it changes.

 Today at lunch, I realized that I would like to deepen my inward sensation more. There can be a gathering inward, a drawing together of the fibers of attention, in which I can sense the exact tension in them and just how taut they need to be in order for me to have a more intimate interaction with them.

In an experience like this, the analogy of the horse, the carriage, and the driver becomes much more tangible and real, because one actually feels the reins that connect the horse and the driver, and one sees how exact the analogy is — it's not actually an analogy at all, it is an accurate physical description of the relationship.

This attention is not merely one of the mind. It's quite physical, and it reaches downward into the roots of my nervous system, into parts I am not so often aware of. This deepening, this gathering inward, brings me to a different sense of my Being; one in which there is a different focus. That focus is of great interest because it has an objectivity to it which cannot be present in my ordinary state.

 In this, I see — as I contemplate the slice of lemon floating in my water glass — that perfection does not arise in the object, but in this dynamic of awareness. It's the great failing both of my individuality and of our entire culture to not understand this; I always want to locate perfection outside of Being, whereas it forever lies within it.

 It's the receiving of impressions that engenders the perfect; and perfection is only inherent in any circumstance to the extent that the impression is properly received.


Hosanna.






Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Stone Age 3


Stone Age 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.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Honoring the other

Great Kiskadee
Dzbilchaltun, Yucatan, Mexico
Photograph by the author

When I undertake the prayer, Lord Jesus Christ, through your glory, grace, and mercy, help me to honor and obey, I find it quite interesting to remind myself to explore what it means to honor and obey actively, within a specific moment in life. That is to say, when confronted with my day-to-day existence and moment to moment activity, I make an effort to ask myself what it would mean to honor and obey right now, in this moment.

The question of honoring becomes at once a question of honoring not just Christ, but the other person, who in each case is an embodiment of God—just as I am. 

How do I honor that?

 I'm reminded once again of Christ's admonition, Love one another as I have loved you. 

Measuring the depth of Christ's love, perhaps it's worth remembering the utmost expression which he uttered on the cross: forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do. This is a love that does not engage in compromise the way I do. In point of fact, my experience of God's glory, grace, and mercy consistently leaves me with the deepest spiritual impression of that uncompromising love, which is absolutely incomprehensible to me. That incomprehensibility is what causes me to fall to my knees in awe and humility, recognizing how impossible it is for me to approach that love, and how unworthy I am of its unconditionality. I'm unable to love in that way; this is a fact. Yet in an effort to honor Christ and his teachings, I’m called to discover the potential — if not the capacity, which is always lacking — for such a love in my day-to-day life. 

Now, my day-to-day life is a desert without any of that green grass growing in it; yet it's possible to insert a tiny seed of life and love into my daily interaction, into those dry, mechanical, and often petty and destructive processes that emerge from my ego. That seed — which, through grace and with a little water, might produce a bit of grass — is the question. My teacher Betty Brown used to point out that the question, the real question, is, "what is the truth of this moment?” I think that question is quite real and exactly right, yet it needs to be expanded into this question of honor and obedience. Betty called it intelligence and obedience, yet I think honor and obedience is essentially the same thing, merely reconfigured by my own experience. To honor is intelligent, and intelligence is honorable, so there is an equivalence here. In any event, it is this seeing — that is, a knowing — combined with an insight, an inward sight, of perceiving the meaning— that is, an understanding — and the combination of the two, the receiving of the moment and the intuition of meaning within the moment, that creates a whole response.

In this context, one might say that honoring is to know, whereas obeying is to understand. Knowing the other person is not enough; I have to make an effort to understand them. Love consists not of a single action, but of both of these actions combined. 

It requires that I bring more of myself to the present moment than I usually do; and that is  closely related to Gurdjieff's idea of three-centered work.



Hosanna.






Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Goddess with two faces


Goddess with Two faces

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, March 19, 2016

We all die

Chakmultun, Yucatan
Photograph by the author

I was walking down the street in Shanghai yesterday and saw folk walking towards me; complete strangers, all of them, but all of us present within the irrevocable fact of our own humanity, and our own mortality.

I'm reminded of a meeting I was in many years ago at the Silver Lake Conference Center, where I made the remark that we all meet one another here on the common ground of our own humanity. Typically, because of our exaggeration of outward circumstances (which is an entirely mechanical and absolutely relentless process) we all forget this, and think that because of our fine clothing, the money in our pockets, or the power we exercise over others, we are better than other people. Anyone who does not see themselves engaging in this activity regularly is not doing any actual self observation, but just chatting about it over tea.

Yet we aren’t better than other people. This common ground of our own humanity is an absolute foundation; nothing we do and none of the external things we achieve mean anything relative to how we inwardly conduct our relationship with one another and our fellow human beings. I see for myself that I'm poor at this; I consider myself to be better than others at many things, and perhaps there is an objective truth to this, but I have no right to consider myself as a human being better than another human being because of this. I'm lucky; or I'm blessed; in either case, it's not because of me, it is because God gave gifts that I am not deserving of and abuse in my egoism. What I ought to do is throw all of that aside and come to each human being on the common ground of this humanity we share, attempting to compassionately open myself to them through an organic experience of who they are — something that is for the most part quite elusive, obscured as it is by the inexorable expression of my mechanical parts, that seem determined to crush everything and everyone in front of me and extract some bitter substance I will nonetheless  perversely savor in my effort to feel superior. It's quite a relief, really, when something more active is capable of discarding that nonsense so that I can truly honor another person for themselves.

 We all die. This inescapable fact levels the playing field; and Mr. Gurdjieff reminded us in a number of different ways that this one thought can have a major impact on our spiritual understanding, if we come into an active and intelligent relationship with it. To me, that means sensing my life organically and having an intelligent, that is, thoughtful and mindful, relationship with this living, breathing body that contains the logic of its own death within its living action. When I am present to this question, life and death are there at the same time; and they are not distinct from one another. If I bring this sensitivity and sensibility to my interactions with other people, I understand the complex and intimate action of relationship as it exists in the present moment. I often see that I don't know how to respond to people, and, sometimes, that I don't even want to. I even, as my wife pointed out (in regard to herself, but it could be in regard to any of us) find other people annoying. The idea that they might be different than me is an irritant. 

I ought, instead, to honor them; and that brings me to another question.

Hosanna.






Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Fossilisherous


Fossilisherous

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, March 17, 2016

The End-of-Life

Chakmultun, Yucatan
Photograph by the Author

Another question that my wife raised in our conversation of February 24 was about how we die. She reminded me that she (like all of us, I think) does not want to die like a dog; and yet she called up the images and experiences of all the very elderly people we know who have died in various more or less abject circumstances. The subject came up because Jean Sulzberger, a key figure  and lately unsung hero in the history of Parabola Magazine, died February 23; she suffered, like Louise Welch, from senile dementia, and this loss of personality and (to us, in any event) dignity seems to be much like dying like a dog — I'm hardly the only person in my immediate work circle that has had this question, seeing as we did Mrs. Welch’s deterioration at the end of her life. One remembers, furthermore, Patty de Llosa’s unflinchingly courageous recounting of her father Dr. Welch’s death in her fine book, Taming Your Inner Tyrant— something that was undoubtedly on my wife's mind when she reminded me of how negative and angry many of us end up growing as we age, and how our life shrinks down to a tiny set of circumstances.

My own father died a little less than two years ago, and his circumstances shrank in this way — he was injured, in wheelchairs and hospital beds, with steadily failing faculties — yet he managed to remain somewhat positive. It was surprising, given his many objective failings and weaknesses, but negativity, overall, was not necessarily one of them. Another friend of mine closer to his own age who came to know him somewhat — this is a person close to me and of the work — said he was relentlessly positive; and I think we should all hope that we have—somewhere— such quality in us. 

Yet it isn't the norm; we are all filled with anger, and as we age, it often seems to grow, doesn’t it? It reminds me of Mr. Gurdjieff’s comment: big angel, big devil. We may, over the course of the long curve of a lifetime, grow a big angel in us; but we grow a big devil at the same time, and he has more freedom than the angel, because there are no demands on his behavior.

 In any event, Neal’s question about how life shrinks down to a tiny set of circumstances towards the end prompted a conversation about how we measure life. I pointed out to her that in my experience, life must be measured inwardly first and always; and measured from this point of view, as I can tell you from more than one experience, a wheelchair and a bowl of Jell-O may have greater scope for inward inspiration and spiritual food than the entire Grand Canyon or a performance of Handel's Messiah. Everything in life which is measured inwardly, and from our spiritualized parts, is measured on a much greater scale with a much finer vividness of impression than the great outward events we assign so much significance too. If we truly become invested with the spirit of the Virgin Mary and of Christ himself, we can see that the tiniest thing is the most precious — something Meister Eckhart reminded his disciples of at the very end of his life, as one of his last (and perhaps most important) pieces of advice. 

It is this measurement on inward scale, through that immeasurably small yet immeasurably invaluable spark of divinity that animates all of us, that gives true scope to Being and to life. I can only hope and pray that as I age, my inward being remains capable of receiving life at that level and in that way. If I can feel true inward gratitude for the Jell-O, even if I am in diapers and helpless, it is a very big thing indeed — and that is, in a certain sense, where the hope of not dying like a dog lies.  It's in the potential for a humble and compassionate acceptance and gratitude for even the smallest part of life that I ought to invest my spiritual being. 

I thus have, somewhere inside me, the distinct hope that I will reach the end of my life inhabiting a sizable inward landscape, even if the outward one is tiny.

This reminds me of some questions I have been pondering on this trip to China, which I will go over in the next few posts.

Hosanna.






Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Monkey Year

Monkey Year 

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, March 15, 2016

Everything-against-God

Chakmultun, Yucatan
Photograph by the Author

This morning, I spoke to my wife about a moment of real humility I experienced last night, where I felt a deep and abiding remorse of conscience for my entire life and all of the many failings and shortcomings I have expressed during my existence, from childhood onward.

One could go on about that; but let it be. The point is that she asked me what the value of such an experience is. Does it last? Does it have any long-term impact?

We had an exchange about this. My impression is that all of us try to measure everything on the short curve, rather than the long scale of time. That is, we measure individual experiences within the context of a day, or week, or a month, whereas every experience needs to be measured within the context of an entire lifetime. It is over this  long curve of many decades — should God, in his mercy, choose to give so many decades to us — that we ingest and digest the impressions of our life; and it’s only across this long curve of an entire lifetime that one can measure value or, if you will, progress.

The real value of such an experience of remorse is measured in relationship to the coating of our higher being-body parts. Each experience of genuine remorse gently abrades, dissolves, and removes some portion of that calcified material that presents us from truly receiving our lives as they are. Our ego and our personality are softened; and in that softening, something real of life can penetrate. This makes it more possible for us to live according to the adage of our Lord Jesus Christ, who said, "love one another as I have loved you.” That, in a nutshell, is what Gurdjieff's outer considering is all about; seeing the other for themselves, and understanding an organic compassion in relationship to them. We just don't do that; the mechanical parts of ourselves are incapable of it. Only through a conscious awareness of who and what we are can we begin to tiptoe up to that understanding.

This coating of the higher being-body parts— that was Gurdjieff's term for it, there could be others — is a highly physical process whereby very fine substances are deposited in parts of the body in order to spiritualize us. This renders us much more sensitive to receiving even more fine substance, in the form of vibrations from the sun. The more such material we receive deeply in ourselves, at the molecular level of the organism, and the more we sense that material — in other words, and encounter it through our inward sensation — the more remorse we are capable of expressing. Truly, a human being’s inward aim ought to be to experience remorse of conscience in such a way that  one is, such as one is, destroyed by it. Only by the shattering of everything-against-God within me can I hope to change. This is the real meaning of a holy war, a war on behalf of God, which is always conducted against one's own being as-one-is, on behalf of sacred forces. 

 Paradoxically, the great weapon in this war is always the weapon of love; and annihilation of the enemy does not mean destruction, but rather an inward conversion from resistance to submission — which is a second secret and esoteric meaning of Islam. We submit, of course, to Christ, who is God.


 In any event, the value of remorse of conscience needs to be measured over the long curve; and it needs to be understood as an organic process, not a thinking of myself out of one non-compassionate box into a box that is more compassionate. The action must be within the organism and rooted in sensation; the action must be transformational in terms of feeling. A philosophy cannot bring me to this work. I have to come to it with all the parts of myself.


Hosanna.






Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Kinda Dumbo

Kinda Dumbo 


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, March 13, 2016

In quite a mess


Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
Yucatan, Mexico
Photograph by the author

There's a point at which individuality becomes deeper, more essential; parts weld themselves into a greater whole over time. As this takes place, the nature of ordinary being and its relationship  to the higher becomes clearer.

 The simple fact is that anything me  that isn't in relationship to this higher energy is in quite a mess. 

I suffer this; it's a requirement of Being that one see this more and more in direct proportion to the amount that Being grows; and thus, the more Being I acquire, the more I must suffer myself as I am.

This is both a blessing and a curse. Being is what gives life its true vitality; yet that vitality is devoted to an ever greater understanding of my own iniquity. This isn't a kind of self-pity; and it doesn't really taste of much egoism. It's crafted from my relationship to the spiritual, to Christ, and to God. Not in my relationship to myself. I have this wish to be free of my sins; but it's impossible for me to do anything about that. I'm sent here, appointed to this life; and it is my responsibility to tolerate it inwardly.

I see how I'm very disorganized inside; all of my ordinary parts point themselves in different directions, like thousands of tiny iron filings without a magnet to orient them. This is how associations exist in me; and this is how impressions fall into me. Things don't have a proper order.

If one reads the chapter on Form and Sequence in Beelzebub’s Tales, one is treated to a detailed discussion of the difference between the reason of knowing  and the reason of understanding.  It's instructive to look at the dictionary definition of these two words because to know means to be aware of through observation or inquiry; whereas to understand means to perceive the intended meaning.  

The two words, in other words, map the difference between awareness and intention; and, in a nutshell, the chapter says it is not enough to just be aware. One also has to know what the intention is. In this way, we see that observation of who we are is not enough; we have to know where we intend to go. So understanding includes having a wish, a direction.

This relates to my observation about the parts and me being like tiny iron filings that are scattered in every direction. One can have a lot of iron, in little bits; yet the iron needs to align itself in one direction or another, to gather its existence — its Being — into a form that has meaning. A form that has meaning which is imparted willy-nilly is not good enough; our Being has the potential to acquire form from an inwardly formed representation of a higher authority.

 And yes, from a philosophical point of view, that's what inner work is all about — yet none of that can happen if I don't repeatedly and deeply recognize the absolute fact that my own authority is insufficient. I can’t just see that; that of itself is an action by intellect, which isn't enough. I need to also feel it, to suffer it, that is, to have remorse of conscience — an organic inner relationship — to this disorder. And I need to suffer all of it through sensation, that is, I need to perceive it organically, in a cellular way, as inhabiting my body.

 Generally speaking, I fall short of this. I suffer that as well.  It's as though I were, in my awareness, a pendulum that swings through the arc of Being; my consciousness marks the time of my life, in successive swings.  I must endure the times when I have little connection with the higher in order to develop strength to come back to those when it is more present. 


 We believe, I think, that we can achieve some ideal state called freedom, or self-realization, or  enlightenment — call it what you will. I think for myself that I can only deepen the action of feeling and sensation,  since these, in conjunction with the knowing of my intelligence, are the only things that can intensify a real understanding of my confusion, and, furthermore, an understanding of what I lack.

Hosanna.






Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Plump Giraffe

Plump Giraffe

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, March 11, 2016

I am—I wish to be— Part III

Uxmal
Photograph by the author

A few more notes on this prayer.

I am represents where I am now. It represents seeing myself ; 

It represents the truth of this moment — how I am, as I am now. Fairly spoken, this encompasses my egoism. I am. That's all. Objectively, there isn't much more to me than the fact that I am. I can know myself as I am: egoistic, limited, constrained by the simple fact of my materiality.

But the prayer has a second part. I wish to be. Now, if I already am, it doesn't seem as though there would be a need to wish to be. After all, I already am. So, clearly, this wish represents something different than the fact that I am — mere existence.

I wish to be represents not mere existence, but Being, which is a different relationship to life than mere existence. 

Being transcends the limitations of egoism; it is to become part of a living force that is much greater than myself. 

So the prayer represents a wish, a desire — an urgent desire — to move from the constraints of my egoism, defined by "I am" into a realm of Being which is larger than my ego. Being, with its objectification of existence — something that exists outside of this limited "I am" encompasses a much greater understanding. It isn't limited to me anymore. 

So the prayer represents a wish for transformation from go into Being, or, in other words, a wish for transition from the right (lower, or natural side) of the enneagram to the left hand, or spiritual side of the diagram, where forces ascend back towards the divine.

Understanding this, and remembering that I am — I wish to be represents the first conscious shock (conscious labor), I can see that the six words in the prayer also have a meaning related to the diagram. Each one of these words can be put on a note representing the circulation of energy in the diagram. the first three notes— I am I (re, mi, fa) represent the egoistic right side of the diagram; wish to be (sol, la, si) fall on the left side. In this way the six words, divided into two triads, neatly describe our inward efforts in regard to the diagram. 

Now, this may be coincidental; maybe not. The point is that it does provide an interesting interpretive perspective from which to study the prayer in more detail. In the end, the play of forces (ego versus Being) which it manages to describe is an objective one.

Hosanna.







Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Pacific Totem Song # 4

Pacific Totem Song # 4

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.