Friday, March 31, 2017

special book price

Special offer:

Chakras and the Enneagram
The Universal Enneagram

PDF format only

This offer is also available in the itunes bookstore, where each book has been individually priced at $7.50 for the duration of the sale.

If you are an apple user, the iBooks version is definitely recommended. 

Limited time through April 16, 2017.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Six Realms, part II

The Realms: Realm # 1
The note “re”

According to the science of the enneagram, realm number one is the realm of the material. While it is indubitably the physical realm, the realm of materialists and those who deny the existence of God (see Swedenborg’s comments on this, which are extensive) it also has a metaphysical aspect, that is, it represents the division of God from himself, that is, the point at which the transcendent separates itself into the immanent. It does not just describe the first realm itself; it represents the functional birth of all six realms, since it represents their foundation and grounding in the existence of material reality itself. The difference between God and his creation is defined here where Genesis and the Bible begin.

Ibn Arabi describes the realms as “the substrata of the moments in which things come to exist and experience actually occurs.” This is, put in simpler terms, Meister Eckhart’s creation or, from the point of view of the enneagram, material reality — which is what the six notes contained on the diagram describe. The enneagram is, as such, a map of the realms. The reason it corresponds exactly to Swedenborg’s days of creation is because the allegory of creation contained in Genesis shares an identity with Arabi’s realms; each one describes the stages of a human being’s spiritual development (see Swedenborg’s Secrets of Heaven for an explanation of the esoteric meaning of the creation myth in Genesis.)

Ibn Arabi says of the first realm,

The first Realm is [the pre-existence in which we were asked the question] "Am I not your Lord?" Our physical existence has removed us from this Realm. (ibid, p. 27)

Ibn Arabi has somewhat garbled the exact meaning here. In this statement he combines the absolute, claiming it is both itself and the first realm—clearly incorrect, because the six realms all belong to that which is outside the absolute.

What he means to refer to is the material realm, which removes us from the absolute. This is the first realm, which places us firmly within creation. It is the note re in the law of octaves; and it is not a coincidence that it mimics the word ray, that is, an emanation — that which emanates from God.
Swedenborg’s regeneration iterates the first stage as preliminary, extending from infancy to just before regeneration, and called void, emptiness, and darkness. While this particular stage contains the essence of a human being buried within it — a precious substance “protected” by God as a remnant which may be reawakened when the time comes, it implies the immersion in the material world as a wasteland – a comparison that Ibn Arabi also draws with ordinary life. Nothing begins in a human being until something more real takes place. Most humans remain trapped in the material world in what is called sleep, that is, ignorance and darkness, unless and desire for development awakens in them.

Defined in terms of Gurdjieff’s man numbers one through seven, this is the realm of the physical man, the materialist, the one who takes everything literally and believes that everything comes from him himself. We should remember that although it appears to refer to “moving center man,” because there is a correlation with that part of the teaching, it actually simply represents materialism, the absolute assertion of ego (opposition to God so strong that denial of God arises) and the belief that a man and his own actions are the sole motive force for everything that takes place in his life. Understanding it from this perspective breaks down any simplistic understandings of man number one and moving center and relates the idea to its much larger (and consequently much more important) metaphysical implication.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Six Major Realms, Part I

I must first make clear to you the knowledge of the matrices of Realms, and what those Realms imply in this place. The Realms (mowotin) is a term for the substrata of the moments in
which things come to exist and experience actually occurs. It is necessary that you know what the Truth wants from you in any Realm, so that you hasten to it without hesitation and
without resistance.’ The Realms, although they are many, are all derived from six. 
The first Realm is [the pre-existence in which we were asked the question] "Am I not your Lord?" Our physical existence has removed us from this Realm. The second Realm
is the world we are now in. The third Realm is the Interval through which we travel after the lesser and greater deaths. The fourth Realm is the Resurrection on the awakening earth and the return to the original condition. The fifth Realm is the Garden and the Fire. The sixth Realm is the Sand Dune outside the Garden. 

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

—Ibn al Arabi, Journey to the Lords of Power, p. 27

The periods and stages of our regeneration—both the whole process and individual cycles within it—divide into six, and these six are called our days of creation. Step by step we advance from being nonhuman to being somewhat human, though only a little, then more and more so up to the sixth day, when we become [God’s] image…All the while the Lord is constantly fighting on our behalf against evil and falsity and through these battles strengthens us in truth and goodness. 
The time of conflict is when the Lord is at work, and he does not rest until love takes the lead. Then the conflict ends. When the work progresses so far that faith is united with love, it is called very good, since the Lord now makes us likenesses of himself. At the end of the sixth day, evil spirits retreat and good ones take their place. We are led into heaven, or the Paradise of heaven… 
—Emmanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven (Click on the Link for the full text.)

"Once again let us take the idea man. In the language of which I speak, instead of the word 'man,' seven words are used, namely: man number one, man number two, man number three, man number four, man number five, man number six, and man number seven. With these seven ideas people are already able to understand one another when speaking of man. 
"Man number seven means a man who has reached the full development possible to man and who possesses everything a man can possess, that is, will, consciousness, permanent and unchangeable I, individuality, immortality, and many other properties which, in our blindness and ignorance, we ascribe to ourselves. It is only when to a certain extent we understand man number seven and his properties that we can under­ stand the gradual stages through which we can approach him, that is, understand the process of development possible for us.”
—Gurdjieff, as recounted in In Search of the Miraculous, P.D. Ouspensky, page 71. (Check the link for the complete text.)

Both Swedenborg and Ibn Arabi’s teachings on the realms — the six stages of spiritual regeneration — spring from the same esoteric source. The path is described by six stages, that corresponding to the six notes on Gurdjieff’s enneagram. In this essay, we will concentrate on the relationship between Arabi’s comments in Journey to the Lord of Power, Swedenborg’s six-stage concept of regeneration as recounted in Genesis, and the six stages of spiritual development according to Gurdjieff’s enneagram.

What interests me here is that each of these teachings clearly came from the same source; that all of them, despite their separation by hundreds of years, explain exactly the same system in somewhat different terms; and that each one of them sheds some light on that system, albeit a different one. By understanding that the enneagram connects all of these teachings, and is in fact a model or a map of them, we understand how powerful the image is.

Readers who check the online citation from In Search of the Miraculous (quotations from page 71 through 74 the original edition) will furthermore see how teachings about the world and everything in it were tied into the enneagram; and how everything follows the same stages of development that are cited for mankind’s spiritual path, since Gurdjieff lays that out in some detail during these passages. It underscores the need to understand the metaphysical and cosmological forces that drive the diagram in order to understand what drives all objects, events, circumstances, and conditions, each one of which is under the same set of laws.
Swedenborg’s insight that the Genesis story of world creation is in fact a recounting of the inner development of man aligns his understanding directly with Gurdjieff’s teachings about man numbers one through seven. The enneagram effectively ties together Jewish (Genesis), Arabic (Sufi), and Christian teachings together with Hindu (yogic) teachings (see Chakras and the Enneagram), demonstrating that they all spring from the same root and describe the same system.
 The value that this study yields is that each of the systems helps us, from one perspective or another, to better understand this complex subject from multiple points of view.

It’s quite easy to demonstrate that Swedenborg’s teaching on the esoteric meaning of Genesis reveals it identical to Gurdjieff’s description of man number seven. Swedenborg’s description of man who reaches the seventh level is as follows:

A heavenly person is the seventh day. And since the Lord worked through six days, that individual is called his work. This is why the seventh day was consecrated and named “Sabbath,” from a Hebrew word for rest. In the process the human being has been made, formed, and created…  These secrets… have continued to lie hidden. No one knows what a heavenly person is, and few what a spiritual person is. Inevitably, in their ignorance, people have considered a spiritual person the same as a heavenly one, when a rather large difference separates the two… all regenerate people, when they develop a heavenly nature, are then likenesses of the Lord. They are past the six days of conflict, or labor. 

—Emmanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven, §85Hosanna.

This series will continue in the next post on March 30.

Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The territory of the soul, part II

Great Wall, March 2007
photograph by the author

All of us in Nova Scotia on that afternoon in 2000 entered—for those few precious, timeless moments—just this territory of the soul through the vehicle of Gurdjieff's music, Karel’s deft and deeply emotive interpretation, and the collective inner efforts of all the people in the room. 
The togetherness, the relationship, and the entry into that world came to us through feeling; and it illustrates in every way the other half of that search for Being; the definition of the place where we are. 

“I am” cannot exist without a home; and that home is resident within love. So when we work to understand feeling and to understand love, we work to build a house in which we can live. We work to discover a place where we can find both our location and our self.

The reason this is such an essential activity is because we must see our place in relationship to God. This is been said in many different and — superficially — psychological ways when it is described as “seeing my lack," “recognizing my own nothingness," and so on. Each of these tropes, so well-known to Gurdjieffians — and, in all fairness, not at all foreign to Buddhists and esoteric Christians, either — talks about seeing how tiny we are; yet we only see how tiny we are in relationship. When we see that we are tiny in relationship to God, our smallness is not a smallness of physical scale; it is a smallness in terms of feeling. It is a smallness in terms of love. The real measurement of the landscape of the soul takes place, as Swedenborg said, using love as the yardstick. It is our lack of love that defines our infinitesimal smallness.

Interestingly, one might note that seeing my lack or recognizing my own nothingness are said to have to come first in the search for self; so in fact, we are told to search for the location of the self first, before we presume that it could be discovered. 

In other words, before we can know “I am” we must first know where we are. Being cannot be known if one does not know where it resides. Yes, perhaps it resides in feeling, and we read this and say we somehow now know it; but we do not know it truly, because we do not know where and what this true, this sacred, territory of feeling is.

Discovering the territory of the soul helps us to find ourselves and where our selves are located; where we live, where we walk, where we stand up and lie down. The lion and the lamb are both parts of our emotional life, our feelings; and they lie down together within the landscape of the soul, where — if I know what my location is — there can be peace between them. 

Yet this, only if I know my place: it’s the earth of my Being which I seek.

It's true that all three of the centers — intellect, body, and feeling — each have intelligence of their own. Yet the whole point of the emotional center is that it is an instrument for seeing. While the intellect can see using thought, and the body can see using sensation (as well as ordinary organs such as the eyes) only feeling can see through love; and only then, when it is awakened so that it participates actively in Being. This faculty of feeling is the tool that can help us discover not just “I am,” but where I am. If the Self does not know where it is, it remains lost, even if it is inhabited. The boat is adrift. Knowing the place of the soul in its own landscape is the anchor that prevents it from drifting wherever life takes it.

For this reason, I need to enter the landscape of the soul through feeling; and this is not just the simple emotion of ordinary life. I have emotions; but I receive feelings. Feelings, if they arrive, are part of the emanation of God himself: particles of God which are deposited within Being. This is the reciprocal nature of the relationship between God and a human being, which is above all a relationship. The soul has a relationship to its place; and the place has a relationship to God. In every case, from a spiritual and metaphysical point of view, that place is defined by love and feeling, not by the measurement of any physical distance, and not by the location of any theoretical heaven or hell.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The territory of the soul, part I

West Lake, Hangzhou, China, March 2007
photograph by the author

On a summer afternoon in Nova Scotia in the year 2000, a small group of searchers hosted by Ravi Ravindra gathered together to listen to Karel Backer play some of the selections from the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann songbook. 

Among others was “Readings From a Sacred Book.” As the piece developed its impetus, the atmosphere in the room changed; the listeners were transfixed. It was as though the room had disappeared and a vast landscape had opened up, surrounded by distant mountains: one of those inaccessible places which Gurdjieff describes in his journeys on the search for truth. 
This landscape was imaginal; but nonetheless real, a landscape of feeling in which an inexpressible longing for Being arose. 

It would be useless to define it more; such things really can't be described. At the end of the piece, everyone in the room sensed that something extraordinary had taken place. We had all been on a journey to some other place – a landscape of the soul.

In our search for Being, it's all too common to search for the self; "I am," said the burning bush to Moses. "I am," intone the seekers following Gurdjieff's path of self remembering. 

Yet this is only half of a search for self; because the search is not just the search for the self, it is a search for where the self is — lost or found, the self is somewhere; and a search for self is just as much a search for its location — its imaginal, its experiential, its ideational location — as it is for the self itself. That is to say, I cannot have a self without a place in which it exists. This is the exact nature of the cosmos and the way it manifests: any cosmology is not just a cosmology of the self, or a cosmology of location — it is a cosmology of relationship, that is, the self and location.

Any real work of art, that is, true art of the spirit or the soul — perhaps not quite at the level of what Gurdjieff called objective art, but real art nonetheless – defines not just self, but also location and relationship. A piece of poetry ought to not just iterate, report, describe, or instruct; it must create a space in which events take place. All art has this obligation. It must not just define its idea, but the context of it. Any art without context is, ultimately, a failed art. 

And we must allow the context to be large enough, the space to be open enough, so that there is room for much more than the idea itself. (This is one of the essential tasks of a sound piece of poetry.) Any living, breathing idea of the self must be located in a metaphysical landscape large enough to allow it enough air for the idea to breathe, enough land around it to grow the food it needs, enough water to quench its thirst. And after all those basic needs are satisfied — the landscape must also be large enough to allow for the arrival of other beings, and the formation of relationships. It must, in a word, be a generous landscape. When we read the descriptions of abundant lands in the Psalms, it is just such a landscape that's being described. The abundance of fish and fowl, of fruit and grain, is not food for the body, but the soul.

If we create a self, or discover a self (take your pick) without this generous landscape to sustain it, it will surely die. 

That landscape is, to be sure, not a physical location as we understand it. It’s a metaphysical landscape; it is imaginal. One is reminded of Swedenborg's description of heaven, where there is no distance as we understand it here on earth, but only a relative proximity determined by love. According to him, that which we love the most is what is closest to us in heaven. 

This inner landscape, this vastness of the soul, is not just composed of a visual image created by the intellect. Intelligence of that kind alone cannot open a door onto the landscape of Being, because Being exists in a landscape of feeling; and this is indeed what Swedenborg meant when he said that distance and proximity are determined by love. 

It is feeling, love, that creates the landscape of the soul.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Absolutely devastating, part III: no ordinary sorrow

Agra, India

 ...So what does it mean, devastating?

 The word comes from vastus, waste, and devastāre, to lay waste. (OED.)  

To devastate is to lay waste, ravage, waste, or render desolate. 

Moving further, we discover that devastating means, of course, that which devastates; it also means very effective or upsetting; astounding, overwhelming, stunning.

 So we move, in the context of the deepest inward religious practice, to that which lays waste.  The word waste, by the way, is also related to the word vast, both of which derive from descriptions of the desert.

 So that which is absolutely devastating does not just destroy: at its root, it leads us into the desert — into the emptiness, into the place where there is sand beneath our feet and stars above us, and a great emptiness that causes us to question our existence. We are rendered desolate; there is no place to rest our head. Filled with questions about Being. 

We are astounded; we are overwhelmed, we are stunned.

 The inflow, and the devotion to God through receipt of The Sorrow, is a sacred duty that can only be understood through the organic participation of Being. It is useless to have arguments or discussions about this or try to convince people of it, because only a direct practical understanding can teach people anything regarding this intimate sacred practice. There are no instruction books for it. And in fact, through a lifetime of searching, the Gurdjieff practice may be the only one I have ever encountered that has an intuition for this work — that is, an inward teaching that can awaken it.

Human beings are obsessed, all of us, with the idea that our achievements in the outer world are what matter. We literally stake our lives on it. Not one of us suspects that everything we do here is nothing more than preparation for something much more intense, much greater, much more demanding, that will require a Love from us – and give a Love to us — that eclipses our life on this earthly plane. So we constantly think we should do this, or that, or the other thing, never seeing that the only real coin of the realm is our relationship within Love. 

 So I need to be devastated. That is to say, my life as I see it needs to be destroyed—everything I believe in must come crashing down. Only when nothing but God is left in me will something true emerge. And only a penetration to the bone, the marrow—the continual absorption and acceptance of this Sorrow that lies at the root of Being—can help make that possible.

I have tried to explain throughout the entire trajectory of my writings, as my understanding of this deepens, about this Sorrow at the root of Being. It is no ordinary Sorrow; and so of course, when people hear the ordinary word, they think that this is a terribly depressing idea and that pursuit of such things must be stupid and pointless, when one could pursue beauty and glory and so on. 

Humanity does not suspect that beauty and glory, like every other phenomenon, are born in Sorrow and die in it as well. That is the condition of the material world, which has an obligation in this regard too subtle to lay out in texts.

 I would be a fool if I claim to fully understand this mystery; and I doubt anyone does, in a lifetime. To be penetrated by it is not a burden, but a privilege; and unless we make God the central part of our practice, we cannot earn that privilege, no matter how good we may be towards others. 

It is, in other words, ultimately the question of exactly what we serve on a higher level that determines what we can be on this one.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Absolutely devastating, part II: the empty hive

Agra, India

 Although I study many practices and value them all, I'm unabashedly Christian. As such, I have a predisposition for all of the Abrahamic religions and hold Jews and Muslims in particularly high regard; make no bones about it. I have a deep respect for Buddhists and Hindus and think their practices are wonderful, but I don't feel I compromise my roots because of that—even though many of their practices are familiar enough to me to be embedded in my own prayer practices. We are not, after all, in a contest with one another: we are in practice with one another.

So it's true; I'm prejudiced. That is to say, I come to the table with intellectual and spiritual property of my own which affects my judgment  and cannot be erased. Readers will have to take that into account, while remembering that actually everyone is like this.

My own practice has prompted me to focus on the experience of the Presence of God. Readers familiar with my work will know that I often refer to by Swedenborg's word for it, the inflow. Yet it is absolutely identical to Jeanne Salzmann's influence

It is this energy which flows directly into us from the Divine sources of Love and Wisdom that create The Reality; and in my experience in practice,  no matter how much we develop in intellectual, physical (Hatha) yoga, or heart practice, without the inflow and its consequent erosion of the ego, we can't understand anything. Awakening the inflow thus becomes IMO the most important spiritual practice one can engage in.

Yet mention of this subtle practice seems to be completely missing in much of the otherwise heartfelt, intelligent, and valuable information that is published worldwide on a daily basis about religious practice. It seems, in other words, as though a vast amount of material about religious practice is generated without this—to me—essential question present. It's as though the world were producing an endless stream of trillions of honeybees, but all the hives were low on honey.

Honeybee hives are beautiful structures. Their organizations are extraordinary, the relationship between creatures are as nearly perfect as anything can be. Yet they all exist to serve a single purpose, which is to collect honey; and if one tries to study bees without ever tasting honey, while one can reach an extraordinary number of understandings, the essential point of the bee's activity is never directly understood.

 God's Grace is honey. I am meant to be a receptacle for it; I am meant to receive the inflow. Many real and difficult responsibilities arise; the principal ones are surrender to God, worship of God, and compassionate loving practice towards others. 

But above all others, the responsibility is to receive the inflow of the Sorrow of God, to take up part of His burden. 

In doing so, I discover that the inner action of God's presence is...

absolutely devastating.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Absolutely devastating, part I: the absent God

Agra, India

Last December, a close friend of mine and true teacher of inner work sent me the following essay,  Mark Nepo—Not Holding Back—which, I think, establishes a certain standard of excellence.

"Ah," you will say to yourself. Why does he say that? Well, first, I suggest you read the entire interview, which is well worth it, even though it is quite long (over 8,700 words.) Mark covers many essential points of personal inner work and relationship with life. When I began reading it, I didn't expect to finish it, but his voice was so heartfelt, compassionate, and intelligent because I signed on for the whole ride.

Nonetheless, the essay left me with questions. These are, admittedly, questions peculiar to and essential for those with strong religious inclinations of a particular kind; but questions they are.

 The interview had a strong emphasis on self, strong enough that the ego of both of the interviewee and humanity seemed to be the center of gravity for the exchange. There is no doubt that this kind of ego is vital and important to search; yet despite the touching, intelligent, and correctly stated insights about our inner nature, the practice that's described seemed, in the oddest kind of way, very outward.

What was completely missing in it for me was God. God doesn't appear anywhere in the exchange; to be sure, Grace appears, but without God, what is Grace?

 Perhaps we can ascribe the absence of God here as a consequence of Mark's stated practice of following all paths; and there is enough Buddhist language and philosophy in the piece to infer that the Buddhism has trumped God, who is not generally invited in the door in the Buddhist practice— certainly not, at least, in the Western vision of Buddhism.

 So my critique of the piece and of Mark's practice, which is not really a critique so much as a set of observations about its limits (we should not forget that everything has limits, no matter what one does) revolves around my own Christian understandings — which, let's be frank, also have their own limits.

Nonetheless, in testing my own practice here, I also test Mark's and everyone else's. That test says, where is God?

In the article, we are told, "Faith is not the result of wisdom. Wisdom is the result of faith." I would submit that this is a profound misunderstanding. Divine Love and Divine Wisdom are foundational; everything is the result of them. To say that wisdom is the result of faith is an incorrect theological statement. It surmises that wisdom — a quality that belongs, ultimately and irrevocably, to God — rests on a human action, that is, faith.

Yet only through the Divine Inflow of Wisdom can faith ever be discovered. Wisdom in its Divine form is the progenitor of faith, not the other way around. Yet doctrinally and philosophically incorrect statements of this kind are easy to propagate and sell to people, because they sound very important. Everyone loves a sound bite that they can pass on to others in order to represent themselves as profound. Many absolutely terrifying theological and philosophical mistakes are firmly cemented in the public and modern mind because of a collective failure to critically examine and understand their premises. Take great care when hearing such things: challenge them, and think. Remember that the public mind and the memes it popularizes are both vulgar; that is, ordinary and common.

We must ever search beyond the mean for meaning.

 Our search, in a nutshell, is not all about us; yet this particular interview, and everything of value that Mark has discovered here (there is much of value) does not directly touch on that.

More on that in the next installment... in which readers will discover where the title of these posts originated.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

On the subject of angels, part III

The Annunciation
Bernhard Strigel
C. 1515-1520
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Once an active opening to the inflow takes place, it is possible for angels to undertake direct visitation to humans; but once this opening is established in a person — which is what Jeanne Salzmann called making contact with “the big energy” (see Ravi Ravindra’s book, Heart without Measure) it is a quite dangerous moment. Any number of people who become open to the inflow easily allow it to come under the influence of the ego. (This is a perpetual danger for all spiritual aspirants, by the way, and underestimating the possibility for that happening at any point on the path is a very grave mistake.) So angels are sent to watch over those who have had the inflow opened in them to make sure that everything is all right.

When an angel does this, it announces its presence through emanations and spends some time in the room with the individual it is visiting — at night, almost invariably — entering the physical Being of the subject in question and inspecting it to make sure that a right alignment exists. Swedenborg described such molecular inspections of the human soul after death in Heaven and Hell; but in the case of help being sent, inspections of like kind take place in advance of physical death, for reasons which ought to be apparent if one thinks about it. One ought to note that after the inflow becomes active, such angelic inspections become a routine part of life. These questions are closely related to the question of sensation but it would require far too much to explain that here. Suffice it to say that once the inflow opens, one comes under continual examination. Those interested in a fascinating direct report of such a state should read Brother Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence of God.

This “help” takes place because God has a personal interest in making sure that those who receive the inflow for specific tasks are prepared enough to handle it. Direct visitations of this kind will probably take place more than once for those who are opened. Angels eventually become a source of comfort after one gets used to them; and once one understands their supervisory role, one tends to just accept them and let them do their work.

One doesn’t hear reports of this very often, because it is so rare for an actual opening of this to take place. In addition, these visitations and the relationship one has with the angelic realm are intensely personal ones, which confer specific responsibilities on the individual receiving the energy. So many mistaken doctrines and teachings about angels and their nature have been spread throughout mankind over the many centuries this has taken place that the Angelic Kingdom and even God Himself now take great care in how these events unfold. Conditions on the planet are not the same as they were, say, 1,000 or 2,000 years ago, and already even then the potential of such visitations to cause more harm than good was very real. For this reason, contact between God and humanity is sparing at best; and angels speak, when they do say anything, in whispers, not in loud voices.

Help from angels, after the initial visit, is much less necessary; with the inflow, the presence of God begins to enter and teach, and it does so in 10,000 subtle ways that cannot be explained in words. Angels, in other words, are truly intermediaries; and once a channel of communication is established, intermediaries become unnecessary, because God’s greatest wish is to come into a full relationship through his Glory, Grace, and Mercy — and in the intimacy of his Divine Love and Divine Wisdom — with individual persons. 

That is to say, through action of the inflow, an individual who develops is eventually bound into the higher levels of cosmic forces, in which they become capable of performing earthly services on behalf of God.

Of course, those who read this are probably going to wonder where all the visions of angels are. While we see some fairly spectacular descriptions of angels in the Bible, and quite a few people over the last two centuries have reported angelic visions or visions of the Virgin Mary, I can’t report any such visions myself. Such contact is, in my experience, completely unnecessary and smacks of sensationalism. 

There is no real need for the angelic kingdoms to communicate with light shows or lasers, except perhaps to convince those with very literal minds, who need more than a little convincing. Communication between mankind and God, in its most righteous, sacred, and purest manifestations is a wordless exchange of energies that impart all the information that is necessary without any visions. 

While I can report having had visions of various kinds, none of them proved to transmit any important intelligible information rather than certain teachings about the structural nature of the cosmos and the manifestation of Love on a quantum level. These are certainly beautiful things; and they are not completely inaccessible even to the average person, since hallucinogenic drugs can introduce one to such visions, though at great cost from an inner point of view. The point is that these excursions into the psychedelic realms — which are commonly depicted in Tantric Hindu and Buddhist art — tend to become a distraction when compared to the inward pursuit of the path towards God. 

So I’m not sure why one would need to see angels; or why one would even want to. The point is to enter into relationship with them, if they come; it is the inner vision of God that we wish to open, not the outer one of His magical creatures.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Announcing a new book of my poetry and drawings.

The below link will take you to the description page.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Movements Presentation Announcement

An announcement from the New York Gurdjieff Foundation regarding their upcoming movements presentation on May 21 2017.

I am told tickets are selling quickly, so interested parties should buy now.

Movements Presentation

Saturday, March 11, 2017

On the subject of angels, part II

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Angels, in the sense of the Gurdjieff terminology, are electromagnetic beings. Although they have the potential to appear visually to human beings, there is absolutely no need for this. An angel expresses its presence with an electromagnetic force that penetrates the Being of a human directly, as the angel manifests. 

There are two principal aspects to the manifestation of an angel: first of all, the angel manifests outside the human, and will generally speaking appear “above” whoever it is visiting. The angel is generally perceived as being intimately close to whoever it is visiting. This can be an extremely disturbing experience because angels are, from the human point of view, absolutely alien intelligences of a completely different level than our own. Their appearance is always a huge shock and absolutely terrifying, because they live so far outside any ordinary experience it is impossible to process or understand their existence, when first encountered. It would not be going too far to say that paralyzing fear, with one’s hair standing on end, is the first reaction if an angel enters the room at night while one is in bed.

The other subjective experience any human being has on his or her first encounter with an angel is an impression of the enormous power imbued in these creatures. They represent a force of a different level, and that is instinctively known the instant that one appears. The physical and emotional reactions stimulated by an angel are primal, even primordial. 

Because these forces so rarely manifest on our level, once again, the impression is one of terror. It’s only because angels radiate their intention wordlessly into the marrow of the bones that human beings receive reassurance that they need not fear. This creates what one might call an “energy bond” between the angel and the person they are visiting. 

Through this bond, which is invisible and instantaneously transmits whatever aim, purpose, and intention the angel has in regard to the person they are visiting, the angel and its subject are bound into one creature for a few moments. In this way, it’s unnecessary for angels to speak or have conversations, at least in the way that we understand them. Although angels are capable of such things, that type of communication is, overall, entirely unnecessary, since angels are so readily capable of directly installing understanding.

Angels don’t generally spend a lot of time around the people they visit. Swedenborg was an unusual exception to this rule, since God had tasked him with an extensive and exceptional occupation. The type of “help” that Gurdjieff speaks of in his note is an infusion of heavenly energies into the subject. That infusion does not affect an immediate transformation but instills a kind of “preview” of what is spiritually possible in later development for the person that is given to. It is, in other words, a form of initiation. 

That initiation does not give the person who is initiated instructions on what to do— to do so is forbidden in the heavenly angelic hierarchies, but (unfortunately) more or less de rigueur in the hellish ones — but rather introduces them to range of inward spiritual potentials which become the responsibility of the recipient. Those energies are generally transformational in nature and effect permanent physical inner changes on those who receive them.

These energies are derived from massive planetary and solar sources and have the potential, with every individual who receives them, to cause disruptive changes in their personalities. It’s not unheard of for people who are unprepared to receive such energy — we can only imagine why these things happen, it’s not entirely clear — and be knocked off kilter by them. This particular type of manifestation shows that even heaven makes mistakes, a point I have written about extensively. 

Once energies of this kind are instilled into a living person as help, the recipient of the help becomes responsible for making many years of effort to understand and absorb the help that has been given. All of that takes place not as some beatifically transformed creature of heavenly energies, but as an ordinary person who is required to struggle mightily with the ordinary conditions of life, while having a second level of struggle imposed upon them, that is, one that involves the receipt of angelic and Godly energies and their integration into the ordinary world and their ordinary life. 

White robes and halos, in other words, are not issued with angelic visitations. These are practical and pragmatic events that carry real work and real difficulties with them. Human fantasies about them predispose most people who have an angelic encounter to abuse it in one way or another. Only a long-standing and firmly grounded spiritual work will help the recipient of angelic visitation to process the energy correctly.

Because of these longstanding problems with the real transmission of “help,” angels watch over those they visit and transmit to. Now, Gurdjieff himself repeatedly told his followers that men have two angels (at a minimum) watch over them: a heavenly Angel and a hellish angel, that is, a “good” and “bad” Angel. These angels are, however, the “passive” Angels of a human being’s presence: they represent the default influences from higher levels that draw a person towards or away from God. That particular conflict is an installed feature of the cosmos, much like a carburetor, and it is the engine that drives life from within which each human being has to choose their inward direction.

Angels that actively watch over those they visit are ones which become perceptible to those who are “quick;” that is to say, those who have an opening, an active connection, to the inflow, which is the flow of divine energy into the soul. Although everyone has a passive opening to this inflow, the objective in the Gurdjieff work is to develop an active opening, which is what Jeanne Salzmann’s work was all about.

 This essay will conclude March 15.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

On the subject of angels, part I

 Virgin and Child with two angels
Maestro de la Leyenda de Santa Ursula
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

A recent question on Facebook about what Gurdjieff meant by this quote prompted me to do a bit more thinking.

The questioner said:

Gurdjieff said in his early lectures, "cosmic forces know humanity en masse, not individuals at all, but help the "quickest" through intermediaries."~. Perhaps some folks can tell what are 'intermediaries'?

Now, readers will note that I have quoted this section myself before, because it is a quite interesting and unfiltered comment.

I answered the Facebook question as follows:

Gurdjieff heavily populated his cosmology with angels (see my compendium of all the angels at Doremishock.) There are a number of cosmologies that discuss angels (the three abrahamic religions; zoroastrianism; neoplatonism etc, as well as a definite and extensive iconographic tradition in Buddhism, where one might perhaps least expect them) yet Gurdjieff's angelic hierarchy was unabashedly Christian. There were other striking references to Christianity in the first drafts of his book (see the earliest circulated typewritten versions in english, which differ from the final published version of the book.) One is led to infer he was referring to Christian angels, although perhaps not the peculiar winged creatures of our artistic traditions. Angels, in Gurdjieff's cosmology, would be akin to electromagnetic Beings, that is, conscious creatures on a higher (planetary or solar) level than man.


This doesn’t, however, quite make the cut in terms of my own experience with the subject, I felt that it might be appropriate to come clean with the readers in some more detail, since I am sure individuals are reasonably interested in whether angels actually exist, what their nature is, whether anyone actually encounters them in the way that it said in the Bible, and so on. After all, 99.99% of our ideas about angels are derived from art, where long-standing traditions have solidified their appearance so thoroughly that the imagination— which ought to be able to form real impressions of their potential nature —cannot touch them anymore. The associations eclipse anything real.

We live in a century where reports of actual visits with angels are relatively rare. Discussions of them, when they do crop up, are largely confined to the Christian right, where evangelicals claim such contacts. That being said, it is notable that personal encounters with evangelical heavenly beings are much more likely to be credited within any Christian community than in the Gurdjieff community. As I have pointed out in the past, folks who follow Gurdjieff are interested in searching for the miraculous… but if anyone finds it, the reaction is usually either skepticism or rejection.

In any event, angelic visitations can be and are in fact definitely possible and very real, but they don’t follow scripts or necessarily take place in the way that biblical (for example) texts present them. In order to understand them, one first needs to understand a bit about their cosmological nature; and this is a definite thing, not a matter of conjecture, since their nature is determined by law.

Swedenborg’s angelic hierarchy is perhaps one of the most accurate, extensive, and correctly structured presentations on the nature of angels, from a spiritual point of view. Yet Swedenborg did not have the same intensive understanding of cosmological hierarchy that Gurdjieff did; while his three levels of heaven and hell are correct on the whole — of course both heaven and hell have to be structured on the law of three, according to the underlying energies which drive them — each of the levels is driven by a circulatory mechanism following the law of seven and the system of evolution described by the enneagram.

This is complex stuff, and in fact probably not worth studying in depth unless one wants to become a specialist on angels. What can be said in the general sense is that angelic beings have, in Gurdjieff’s terminology, been crystallized on either planetary (earth/other planets) or solar (our sun/other suns) levels. Angels receive names according to the level on which they are crystallized: Cherubim, Seraphim, Archangels, for example. There are a bunch of other subdivisions and assigned names and various hierarchies, but we will use these three as an ascendant group that roughly describes the three levels of Swedenborg’s heaven. Archangels are closest to God.

 This essay will continue on March 11.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Swine before pearls

My Friend Paul's Awesome Pig Farm
Rogers, AR

 It's funny what you see when you turn things upside down.

We all have a swine in us: a sweet, lovable, greedy, dirty little animal. It is, by turns, disgusting, venal, egoistic, violent, hungry, sexual, and, at the right moments, positively adorable. 

This is the person that I have in me, in any event; and I see people exactly like this in everyone else. So we all have this lower nature.

At the same time, every human being has a pearl in them, a beautiful spiritual essence. 

And it struck me this morning that whenever I misbehave, whenever I show the ass in me by acting like a jerk, by disrespecting other people, I am putting my own inner swine before the pearls in these other people.

 This principle of casting our swine before pearls, if one thinks about it, describes so much of what we do to each other. We use our swine to conduct our lives. There are always pearls; we have one in ourselves, and everyone else has one in them as well. Those pearls are white and pure and have a soft radiance that reflects the world around them; but we keep them clammed up as tight as possible if the oyster shells of our personalities and our ego.

Anyway it's a small thought, but to me, it was an interesting one. Perhaps you can roll it around on your tongue today and think about how often we are swine to one another. 

And how much we disrespect the sacred parts of each other when we do that.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Sorrow of Being, part II

Taj Mahal
Agra, India

There's a natural direction in which right feeling-emotion tends; it tends inwards, into a discovered (that is, uncovered) intimacy which we do not generally know we have. 

It may vary in intensity, but it always has at its root the same sensation: that of God flowing into Being.

That sensation is first physical, describing the material roots of Being; it ties consciousness to the body. This sensation writes itself in the tissues of the flesh, in the nerves, in the cells, and these inscriptions become the permanent property of Being. These are the selfsame inscriptions of life's impressions that the angelic realms read after a human being has died. 

I think it's quite important for human beings to understand that these descriptions by Swedenborg are not casual. It's possible to actually feel life inscribing itself in the body when energy is working in a certain way. The material roots of Being are the passageways whereby impressions inscribe themselves, in exactly the same way that Gurdjieff explained men’s impressions are inscribed on cylinders. Readers should check both sets of quotes at the links carefully, since they are directly related. It’s impossible to understand the exact nature of life and death unless one understands the consequences of this material. 

Because we are essentially corrupted in our ordinary state — the entire point, as it were, of both Gurdjieff’s and Swedenborg’s teachings — we must become responsible to right feeling-emotion; and the first component of this is right sensation. The consequences of wrong living and wrong attitude cannot be properly understood until sensation awakens and flows into Being in a conscious way.

Readers should be clear that this awakening does not of itself lead to a correction of our damaged inner activities.

Secondly, the feeling-sensation of right emotion is sorrow; and that sorrow is not a sorrowful sorrow, but a joyful sorrow. This intimacy of sorrow carries within it only a single wordless epistle, a prayer that makes no sound and says no things; it is simply righteous and perfect. 

In that Perfection which is sorrow, God is resident; and although one can't call this happiness or joy in any human terms, one understands at once that it is right work, right effort; one needs no instruction manuals here. 

Right feeling is no escape from suffering; it is the journey into it, an intentional and willing journey undertaken on behalf of God. Swedenborg’s regeneration, which is directly related to Gurdjieff’s understanding of remorse of conscience and intentional suffering, takes place through the intention to sense this sorrow. 

That intention requires us to go directly into this sorrow — an activity that, in its infant or preparatory stages, Jeanne Salzmann called feeling one’s lack— and form a new and intimate relationship with it. That is to say, we must become immersed not only in the sensation and the inward flow of life from God, which is ever present within us, but also in this even deeper intimacy called The Sorrow of Being.

The Sorrow of Being has metaphysical properties that bind it to The Reality from the root of material reality to the highest levels of heaven. It permeates everything; Gurdjieff called it the Sorrow of His Endlessness. Now, the fact that it is a property of God itself ought to make it quite obvious that it is an all-pervasive quality of the universe; but the concept of The Sorrow of Being in spiritual communities at large is, if it exists at all, a theoretical one. 

It needs to become an element in the marrow of one’s bones in order to understand the nature of Being and our potential for development in the direction of God. These truths are never found in the grand schemes and epic landscapes of life, but are evident, for us, in the very smallest things.

The emotional inspiration—the inflow—that accompanies all true sacred feeling-impulse serves primarily to bring one closer to God. In doing so it bonds The Sorrow of Being to a compassionate attitude towards all other Beings; and this secondary sacred feeling-impulse ought to be the fundamental basis of interaction between all Beings. The Sorrow of Being is a sacred and godly property, awakening particles of God Himself within us.

We are meant to Love God, and to Love one another. This is the high truth that binds the Gurdjieff work, Swedenborg's teachings, and Christianity together; it is also the heart of Sufic Islam. Yet it's only, and exclusively, through the inflow of God's Being into ours that we can experience this truth. 

It flows physically into the body and blood, which is why the body and blood of Christ serve as the primary representative elements in Catholic and Orthodox communion.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Most readers are well familiar with Gurdjieff's formulation of human beings as "three brained beings."

 My new book, Being and Impressions, consists of brief and practical discussions on the subject, along with observations about impressions and how we take them in. 

The book was written to address some questions that have been directed at me over the last few months on the subject, which helped me to understand that many folks still struggling with these concepts—even after many years of effort to understand them. 

Most moving was a friend of mine—a true genius of talent with extraordinary outer accomplishments to his credit—who still after most of a lifetime, feels he cannot understand why impressions don't fall more deeply into him. 

His comment touched me in ways that theoretical discussions of these matters never do. I felt it was necessary to undertake an effort to grapple with these questions more directly, in a contemporary language, rather than the material we are all familiar with and have been reading for many years.

The aim in this book is to simplify and clarify some of these matters. It remains to be seen whether I have succeeded. Readers will have to judge.

Interested readers can purchase the book by clicking on the link in the above text.