Monday, October 22, 2018

The Inherent Wave of Being—a Treatise on Metaphysical Humanism, part XI—The Redefinition of Law

Law and Universe: The Redefinition of Law

 Since modern science began to progressively destroy the mythological and religious understandings of the previous 10 millennia or more of human culture and civilization, we have understood physical law only from the perspective of mechanistic rationalism. This particular philosophical point of view (which is called “science,” but is in fact a religious dogma in its own right) insists that nothing can be “understood” except from a physical and materialistic point of view. Of course, the exact opposite is in fact true — it is impossible to understand anything strictly from a physical and materialistic point of view. Yet science has managed, through its manipulation of material technologies, to gain credibility as an ascendant force in every human society today, simply because it multiplies “wealth”, as narrowly defined in the sense of acquisition of materials. The fact that it has become intensely destructive and is in many ways degrading the real wealth of human societies, from their cultures, their religious understandings, and their arts all the way to the environment that they live in, which is perhaps the most dangerous and horrifying result of science — is ignored. Mechanistic rationalism has exerted a powerful hypnotic force on human beings, one that is difficult to resist. This is because it is tied, at its root, to the animalistic instinct for survival, which relies on the acquisition of material, especially food productive mates, in order to succeed.

Yet it is clear enough that human beings are unique and remarkable in regard to other animals; and despite the fact that we have discovered we have an incredible amount in common with other animals, including social cultures, tool use, similar empathies, and so on, animals definitely aren’t intelligent in the same way that humans are. So ascribing all of our aspirations to a set of mechanical reactions that center on survival alone is an incredibly limiting philosophy. It is not only narrow; it is false. It is false because it provides no interpretive mechanism through which we can understand what it truly means to be human. Studying every gear that a clock is made of will not tell you how they are assembled and why a clock tells time, or even what time is. You could know everything about the clock gears, right down to the molecular composition of the various alloys they are made of; yet this wouldn’t explain time or why anyone should be bothered with it in the first place. Science has never been able to bridge that gap, and it never will. It’s quite clear that a different group of meanings needs to be deployed at a higher level than that of mechanistic rationalism in order to understand even this one very straightforward and commonplace object and the phenomenon it connects to.

For this reason, law needs to be redefined not from the perspective of the mechanical operations that devolve upon matter as a result of physical interactions; we need to redefine law from the perspective of metaphysical humanism, that is, the way that things behave in the context of human understanding. 

 Remember this: mechanistic rationalism discounts the human, and begins with the material in order to explain the human. This is an upside down perspective; instead, it is necessary to begin with the human in order to explain the material. Everything about the material relates to what it means to be human first, and not the other way around. We can see this from a very simple and straightforward inversion of understanding about what it means to conduct the activities of science. Science — the investigation of meaning within physical and material world — cannot take place without humans to conduct it. If we remove humans from the universe, and everything else stays exactly the same, the activity human beings call “science”, along with all the meanings that it applies to things, from the physical laws on up through the quantum realm into the atomic and molecular realms, and then the rounds of life, becomes entirely meaningless. It doesn’t exist. The concepts of the various realms don’t exist. The words for them don’t exist. The relationships being investigated don’t exist. And so on. 



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, October 19, 2018

The Inherent Wave of Being—a Treatise on Metaphysical Humanism, part X—Meaning and Law

Meaning and Law

 We find ourselves here at the juncture of an effort to understand what law is, and how meaning relates to it.

The word law derives from proto-Germanic roots, and it means that which is laid down or fixed. (Compare the German Gesetz, which is derived from the verb to sit.   It means, in other words, something that is as it is, has been settled, and cannot be a different way. Readers will immediately see the irony inherent in discussing why laws of the universe are the way they are, and whether there can be alternate universal laws.  Let us be entirely clear about this: there are no other laws. The laws are the way they are because they cannot be different. Interested readers can refer to my essays on the coincident multiverse, in which I explained that it is impossible to have alternate universes, because the laws apply across every universe in the multiverse. They are all the same. This is because all universes (and there are indeed an infinite number of them) are direct reflections of God’s nature, and God does not change his nature from universe to universe on some women. His nature is His nature. Just as organic chemistry would be identical in a galaxy other than our own, so universes are identical from one to the next. All the laws are, furthermore, also settled and fixed and identical.

For this reason we understand that meaning is consistent throughout not only this universe, but every universe, and all meaning ultimately aggregates towards the same set of results. Take note that when Gurdjieff wrote Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, this universality of nature and substance was an inherent part of his cosmology. Gurdjieff came to it from a sort of touchy-feely metaphysical and religious point of view, which was highly realized and entirely accurate — revelational, in fact, as it happens. Yet the functional philosophical underpinnings of this cosmology also remain intact from a scientific point of view, when considered from the perspective of metaphysical humanism.

Law gives birth to meaning. Each law, existing as it does, presents a postulate regarding the nature of meaning. In this next section, we will redefine the law from a metaphysical humanist point of view and understand what the implications of the laws are.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Inherent Wave of Being—a Treatise on Metaphysical Humanism, part IX: If Pigs Could Fly

Meanings are intentional (desirous)

 The third aspect of meaning to be explored here is that meaning — which is intention and purpose itself — has what we would call a wish. That is to say, meaning does not sit there like a rock and do nothing. Meanings of themselves have the desire, and impulse and an agency — to form an ever greater scope of relationship with other meanings, and to incorporate the results of that relationship within themselves. Meaning, put in other terms, cares about itself and what is happening to it. Once meaning exists, it is inquisitive, acquisitive, and relational. There is nothing passive about meaning; it exists outside of the entropic tendencies of the universe, because it is born of that same intelligence which gives us an emergent universe in the first place.

This desirous or intentional nature of meaning is perhaps the most obvious result of the aggregation of matter and its interaction; and our bafflement about why it exists at all lies at the root of all the questions human beings have about why the universe exists, what intelligence is, whether or not there is a God, and so on and so forth. Yet before we come to all of these questions, the desirous nature of meaning — its wish to propagate itself — needs to be dealt with, because there is an inherently alien nature here when one compares the mechanical interaction of matter to what meaning does, and how life aggregates as a series of agencies. I say alien, because it has an action that mechanistic rationalism is absolutely unable to explain. The idea that all of it is purely accidental represents an absurdity; law and meaning cannot exist by accident. The very nature of physical law is such that it cannot be altered; it represents something fundamental. As such, all the speculations that an endless series of physicists have gone through as to how “the universe could be different” in one way or another, are sophistry and idle speculation. 

The universe can’t be different; it isn’t different; and no amount of wiseacring will change that. The universe would be different, for example, if pigs could fly. 

Once we step outside attempts to understand the universe as it is, along with its inherent law, organic integration of intelligence and emergence, we are daydreaming. The evidence for intelligence and intention as fundamental properties of the universe is right in front of us, and we participate in it. We could not even have these discussions if those things did not exist, so trying to argue them away by invoking mechanistic rationalism and mindless accident is sheer foolishness. Metaphysical humanism, on the other hand, understands that the human nature is a direct reflection of something fundamental about the universe itself — otherwise, human beings, like everything else, would not exist. All of material reality participates in and is in relationship to this reflection of the fundamental nature of the universe.

 This, of course, bears a strong and intentional relationship to Swedenborg’s arguments about human beings and their nature – as well as their physical structure and everything else — being a direct reflection of God’s own being. His principal of reciprocity, whereby everything in the material universe is a reflection of one aspect or another of heaven and, ultimately, God, is strictly operational here, and it is worth bearing in mind as we go forward.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Inherent Wave of Being—a Treatise on Metaphysical Humanism, part VIII—The Emergence of Meaning, continued

Meanings are emergent (intelligent)

What this word indicates is that meanings — intentions and purposes — display ever more sophisticated ranges of interaction as they aggregate and multiply. At each level of aggregation, atomic, molecular, organic, planetary, and so on,  meanings progressively display properties that cannot possibly be predicted based on the behavior of constituent meanings on the level below them. These meanings are governed, on each level of manifestation, by their own set of laws, which govern deterministic results on that level.

The reason I stress that this takes place on each level of manifestation is that meaning is an aggregating entity. It is structured in the same way as mathematics: there is a postulate, from which other understandings are derived. Having three or four postulates gives birth to a wide range of subsequent understandings, and so on. It is an additive process. So the laws on the “lowest” level of manifestation – the quantum level — that is, the laws that govern meaning on that level, not physical interaction — provide basic premises. Further laws apply as scale magnifies. The magnification of scale in an emergent environment adds new laws; and the progressive interaction interaction of law constructs more and more complex meaning.

Readers will note that this complex hierarchy of meaning according to level is identical to the structure of universal law Gurdjieff presented to Ouspensky in In Search of the Miraculous.  What he did not explain, but what should be self-evident to anyone who thinks it over for a little while, is that the structure of law creates an emergent entity of understanding. Gurdjieff presented the “burden” of law as an obstacle: that is, the more laws a level was under, the more difficult it was to become “free” of the law. There are some paradoxes here that lie beyond the scope of this essay. And the subject is vast; because our universe, which is created from three very simple laws (the Holy Trinity) was created nonetheless to iterate every thought that exists or can possibly exist in God’s Being; so the intention behind the creation of the universe was to thrust meaning into an environment of infinite complexity (“hell”) as a formal trial, so that it could emerge from the other side re-aggregated and purified. This is all accomplished through the formation of relationships.

The emergent property of meaning indicates that it has an inherent, overarching character that is pre-existing. Every emergent property that we see in the universe, as it happens, represents the unveiling of an aspect of universal nature that remains hidden until enough meaning — responsibility, or, ability to respond – has been concentrated to produce an entity capable of acting within the laws that govern that level of interaction. 

These aspects of universal nature, however, are not random or accidental. Their existence is already predicated in what I call the DNA of the universe – that is to say, the quantum, atomic, and molecular templates governed by the laws which impart initial meaning. The quantum state in the universe, in its aggregate whole (all the existing energy of the universe) already contains all of the possibilities which we see expressed around us. Those possibilities are encoded in the nature of the laws, so they cannot not be expressed. This means that if we encounter consciousness, it is not because it arose as a random accident on earth alone, but that it arose simply because from the quantum state onwards, the existence of consciousness is not just a possibility or probability — it is a definite fact. Consciousness will always emerge from the aggregation of quanta in progressive levels. This isn’t an accident — it is in the inherent nature of the universe as it is.

The DNA molecule is a mirror of this process, and gives us a molecular template that reflects the principle within the context of biological life. Because biological life as we know it today is one of the meanings built-in to the fundamental nature of the universe, it is inherent. From the instant that the Big Bang took place, the consequence of biological life was as inevitable as the consequence of sons and planets, because there is a deterministic nature to law that makes it so. What we get is the way it is because we cannot get anything else; it must be this way, and there are no accidents involved.

The pre-existing state of meaning that is inherent in the quantum state (where mass and energy are actually superimposed prior to its collapse) is what gives birth to emergent meaning.

 When we consider the emergent property of meaning, and we understand that it is inherent to the structural law of the universe, we understand that intelligence itself is also inherence to structural law. The laws themselves are intelligent (they have meaning) and they give birth to an intelligence not only parallel to their own intelligence, but also having the potential to grow through the law of emergence.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Inherent Wave of Being—a Treatise on Metaphysical Humanism, part VII—The Emergence of Meaning

The Emergence of Meaning

 The word meaning indicates intention or purpose

Our wish to discover meaning is a natural impulse in all human beings; one might say that the entire endeavor of human consciousness, both as an individual for center collective one, is an effort to discover meanings. That is to say, the question of agency, of the ability to formulate a purpose and work to achieve it, is essential to the human enterprise.

From the perspective of mechanistic rationalism, all of this takes place strictly as a consequence of the material, and there is no actual reason for it. It just happens — all by accident. The fact that there appear to be meanings is a happy coincidence for us humans; but we’re delusional, because no such meanings actually exist.
This is an interesting line of argument, if only from a strictly technical point of view, but it belies every humanist piece of evidence on the table. The fact is that without the trajectory of meaning, there is no point to anything, no morality, no sense or aim. Metaphysical humanism begins instead with the premise that we are creatures of meaning itself; and that orders of meaning greater than we are exist both on the level above us and the level below us. When I say orders of meaning “greater than” us exist, what I mean is that they have implications that exceed our intellectual capacity. This is definitely true of operation on the cellular and molecular level; and the hypothesis is that the same remains true on the level of planets, solar systems, galaxies.

Meanings are crafty things. What I mean by this is that meanings are constructed, emergent, and intentional

Meanings are constructed (physical)

Mechanistic rationalism calls the fundamental meanings that govern the universe physical laws;  physical laws craft entities (identities) from the quantum soup the moment that it differentiates itself and aggregates into elemental atoms. These identities are further crafted by aggregates of the atoms that assume physical properties transcendent to the quantum state; and crafted further still by molecules. At each level of craftsmanship, purpose and intention are evident. Not so much so, perhaps, in the simple relationships of electromagnetic charges; but it becomes much more apparent on the molecular level, when we encounter molecules that have embody living actions.

The difference between metaphysical humanism and mechanistic rationalism is that mechanistic rationalism consists all meanings we perceive are, ultimately, accidental, and at their root random and arbitrary, even though they do not give random and arbitrary results. Metaphysical humanism maintains that meanings in the universe are not random, arbitrary, or accidental in any sense. In this  context I would say it most closely resembles Emmanuel Swedenborg’s universe, in which everything in the universe, including mankind, is an aspect of God’s manifestation — God being that supreme conscious force which gives birth to the universe we are in. This universe is constructed of meaning — intention and purpose are crafted from the very energies the universe is made of, and they arrive in existence with the characteristics of intention and purpose already active within them. That intention and purpose has been given the name of laws  by mechanistic rationalism; and I say this because law is, just like intention and purpose, deterministic. Laws create the foundation for relationships that impart meaning. Meaning is the deterministic (as opposed to probabilistic, at the quantum level) manifestation of law after law interacting with one another. So laws construct meaning.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Inherent Wave of Being—a Treatise on Metaphysical Humanism, part VI—Missing the Point, continued

 Technology has made us reliant on the world of the material — which we already know, at its root, has no ultimate substantial basis — at the expense of any real spiritual understanding. I think we could reasonably make the argument that the degradation of human morality, civil society, and ordinary human decency which we see taking place around us can be ascribed directly to our reliance on the material as a model for interpreting meaning. The material world by itself has no meaning: and indeed, secular humanists (scientists, atheists, and the like) present this argument as a concrete fact, and are happy with it. mechanistic rationalism has a peculiar preoccupation with the idea that everything is ultimately meaningless, accidental, and takes place without any conscious intention guiding it. 

 Working to refute such sophistry is a complete waste of time; instead, it is best ignored. We seek, instead, to build an understanding from the perspective of metaphysical humanism that derives its vision of the universe as a creation whose very nature is meaning itself. 

 From this point of view, the universe is a vehicle for identity; that identity is rooted in the very root of the word identity itself, which means sameness Another way of expressing it is to speak of  likenesses; and here we come to a peculiar quality of quanta, atoms, molecules, and matter.

 Quanta, as discrete packets of electromagnetic energy, have an inherent sameness in their undifferentiated state. Measured independently, each one is indistinguishable from the next.  But the instant they enter relationship — which is an inevitable consequence of existing — their sameness begins to collapse into distinguishing characteristics that sort them into subatomic particles such as quarks, leptons, muons, and so on, and they eventually assemble themselves into atoms and molecules. They pass, in other words, almost instantaneously from an undifferentiated state of sameness, into a differentiated state in which the initial singular identity (the quantum soup) collapses into individual unlike states, and immediately passes back into aggregations in the form of atoms that reform like states, but now with separated and different identities which we call elements – hydrogen, helium, and so on up the scale to the heaviest elements. Even here, an individual element’s atoms do not, each and every one of them, have an individual identity or sameness that can be measured from moment to moment (this was the point of Edward Schrödinger’s article in Scientific American.) Yet collectively, they reacquire that identity or sameness, so we have, for example, gold. And of course, on the molecular level, complex molecules such as DNA.

We see, in other words, a complex transition in which an initial singular identity (the universal quantum state) fragments into a staggering multiplicity of identities, which reform new relationships based on identity. 

These new relationships have the ability to respond to one another in many different ways — hence, the concentration of responsibility. Something very interesting takes place with regard to identity in this transition state from quanta to matter: energy, one might say, rethinks itself, using waveforms (vibrations) to create an entirely new and different set of possibilities that transcend the undifferentiated sameness (fundamental identity) that they arise from. These multiple identities display an incomprehensible number of emergent properties, including consciousness.

If we don’t understand the universe from the perspective of identity, we will miss the point of the universe, because identity in all its varieties, and the relationships that it can form once it manifests, are where meaning is born. It isn’t random, and it isn’t accidental. It has an intention behind it.

If all we see when we look at the world is dead matter that interacts, we do so in an effort to edit the absolute fact of our own conscious awareness out of it.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Inherent Wave of Being—a Treatise on Metaphysical Humanism, part V—Missing the Point

Missing the point

 I say that we’re missing the point simply because mankind’s study of the physical world around him has become the central and major focus of all of our sciences, to the detriment of a real understanding according to principles of metaphysical humanism. We have become accustomed to studying the trees, not the forest.
 I can’t think of any better recent illustration of this issue than a story of a biology professor at an important New York University who took a group of PhD candidates to the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. My wife and I are members, and we’ve spent many a Saturday morning strolling through the various exotic plant environments in the Conservatory. 

In the Wall Street Journal article about this professor and her candidates, they came across an orchid that, as one student noted, had very peculiar leaves.  The professor agreed, and waited for someone else to make a comment. But none of the PhD candidates seemed to understand why the leaves were unusual. 
Finally, the professor explained that the reason the orchid was so difficult to identify was that there wasn’t just a single plant in the pot: it contained both a fern and an orchid.  
The take-away from this was that the PhD candidates, who were undeniably well-educated in the field of microbiology and the art of lab study of plant tissue, didn’t know the difference between a fern and an orchid if they looked at one — something I am certainly aware of, even though my degree is in art. The mistake is so basic that the idea anyone could make it is astonishing; yet our sciences focus so much on the material, and on top of that so much on the micro – material, that we are producing a generation of human beings unable to know the difference between an orchid and a fern.
 We’re missing the point.

The point, as it happens, was amply illustrated by Emmanuel Swedenborg, certainly one of the preeminent scientists of his own time — the age of Enlightenment — who clearly understood the difference between the physical and the spiritual world, that is, the difference between the material and the metaphysical. There is a world, he wrote, that transcends the physical world and lies, as we might say, “above” it. This world, which was understood to have metaphysical ( ideational or conceptual) characteristics beyond the obvious implication of the material, was well-known as long ago as during the classical Greek, and featured in Plato’s dialogues. It is, in summary, a world of meanings, not of physical things — and all understanding of physical things derives from it. One might argue, in fact, that the world of physical things as we know it is essentially dependent on it, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

 Let’s get back, for a minute, to our PhD candidates who know how to look at things through microscopes and interpret major from the perspective of cellular biology and in DNA, but don’t know how to use their own eyes and ordinary senses to take in the world around them and understand it. If it sounds familiar, in a general sense, that’s because most of the world has become accustomed to using technology as a means of understanding, instead of our own senses and our own minds. The technology appears to make us stronger, but it is in fact weakening us substantially relative to our understanding of life in its organic nature. I’m reminded of the story Jared Diamond tells in Guns Germs and Steel, when the tribesman he was with in the jungle in Papua New Guinea laughed at him because he was too ignorant to know which mushrooms in the forest were reliably edible.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Inherent Wave of Being—a Treatise on Metaphysical Humanism, part IV—What is Matter? continued

 I'm 63 years old today.

To continue on "What is Matter?"

Identity, in other words, is an emergent property of matter: it cannot be said to exist in any concrete way below the level of molecular structure, but it certainly begins to gain its Being as an understandable force at the level of the wave function that regulates the structure and interaction of atoms. So identity itself becomes a force, which emerges from the quantum state through wave interaction. That wave interaction is a property of vibration: and vibration is the transmission of different  energy states which have a natural tendency to adopt complementary patterns.

 From this, we see that there is a natural tendency, a lawful action, which regulates the emergence of identity from an otherwise undifferentiated quantum state. It begins to find its definition in the atom, but that identity does not truly mature until we reached the level of atoms in relationship. If there are enough atoms of any kind, they establish a collective identity which we call an element. And once you have elements, they are capable of forming even more (temporarily) stable identities we refer to as molecules.

 Readers familiar with my other work on the subject of Being will know that I frequently refer to the molecular sensation of Being. This is because our awareness is capable of sensing the vibration of identity down to the molecular level, presuming the correct arrangement of substances is deposited in the human nervous system. This ability to sense the vibration of identity is not easily earned, but it has a transformational effect on natural human consciousness, which ought to be expressed quite differently than it is today. The point here is that the biomolecular sensation of Being confers a different sensibility on the intellectual, emotional, and physical state of the receiver, that is, the macroscopic identity, or, “I”— what we refer to in general terms as the “self.”

 It isn’t really possible to understand the nature of metaphysical humanism and the fundamental nature of human psychology as it ought to be without acquiring this sense. All of the traditional religions and esoteric sciences of past societies have always been aimed, in one way or another, at acquiring this sense, but it is only at this point in time that we are able to define it correctly in terms of its place in both the natural and psychological sciences.

From the point of view of the perception of consciousness, we can’t say that identity truly begins to exist until we reach the elemental level of matter, at which point the gross collective expression of mutable identities aggregates enough to create identifiable and, for temporary purposes, “unchanging” characters. Each of these identities, which we call elements, plays a role in the construction of much more complex identities. Matter, as we understand it, first acquires the character of matter and the identity of the matter at the elemental level. 

While we are well able, using technology, to study the pre-emergent states of matter, and while they are certainly important and fascinating, they only become truly relevant to metaphysical humanism, the construction of spiritual identity, and the understanding of what we call the soul once they reach the elemental level. As such, the study of particle physics is certainly useful in terms of overall understanding, but aside from its conceptual insights — which reveal structural relationships and fundamental laws that ultimately affect and express themselves in the context of our own identity — it doesn’t really bear on the question.  This is because the important understandings to be gleaned from such studies don’t derive from their strictly material interactions, which are structural, lawful, and inescapable, but from the manner in which identity emerges from them. 

This means that without a study of identity, why it emerges, and what it means, we are missing the point.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, September 28, 2018

The Inherent Wave of Being—a Treatise on Metaphysical Humanism, part III—What is Matter? continued

Hence, the question “what is matter” leads us not just to the question of the nature of the material, but the nature of identity itself, because individual quanta, which are energy packets so small as to be next to impossible to understand or even differentiate, lie at the root of identity — if there is any. These energy packets, as we understand them, appear to have individual identity in the sense that the information in them — the energy that creates their own being — is a fixed and nonexpendable entity. Even if an individual quanta could be separated from all the others in some hypothetical vacuum where, for all eternity, it was never able to interact with anything around it ever again, in theory, it would preserve itself. 

Well, we think so. We aren’t sure. 

What we are sure of is that the interactions between quanta tend to burn themselves out, that is, without other impulses to sustain them, they gradually settle down into a state where the very least amount of energy is exchanged. The principles of entropy are what drive this tendency towards the least energetic state. And that law, to us, appears to be immutable. Even though quanta interact in wavelike ways to form matter, which is what creates the universe, they apparently have a perverse tendency to try not to do that at all times, and to do with as little as possible, as if there were a clock that was determined at all costs to allow itself to wind down no matter how many times the attendants come back to turn the key. Based on this idea, the universe will eventually cool itself down until everything just sits there doing nothing.

 If we want look at this from the point of view of identity alone, we can imagine it as a room filled with an infinite number of people, absolutely none of which ever talk to each other, look at one another, or even acknowledge each other’s existence. Every single human in the room, all infinity of them, simply sit there, perfectly still, staring straight ahead. They have, furthermore, ceased to do anything that humans do: they don’t breed, they don’t eat, they don’t think. No fart breaks the air.

 This image of a perfect, absolutely still and Zenlike end to the universe is appealingly mysterious, but it doesn’t bear any relationship whatsoever to what we see around us today: an insanely interactive, extremely energetic universe, in which we have not only suns that emit unimaginable amounts of energy, but also neutron stars and quasars that pump out even greater amounts of energy that make stars look tiny by comparison. 
We can apply all the theories we want to; from today’s point of new, quanta don’t look like they have any intention of shutting down the interactive waves they ride, and the universe we see is nowhere near a state of heat death. Not even close. Instead there is, looked at from the point of view of identity, a powerful wish for identity — an impulse towards interaction — that transcends the tendency to isolate. Matter, in other words, is not only perpetually created and concentrated in ways and through means we do not yet come close to understanding, it also has a powerful tendency to interact, and furthermore, to find ways to do with it more and more complex wave forms.

Let us understand matter, then, in terms not just of the particles which it isn’t, but the waveforms which it is. Matter is a form of energy in movement that finds periodic expression in superficially static conditions. Those superficially static conditions are what we observe as a material universe; and what we call identity. 
Yet the identity lies not in the nodes that form as the waves move and touch one another, but in the wholeness of the waves themselves. It is the movement that produces identity, not its static nodes.

This principle of superficial static behavior—a static state, a state of “sameness” that appears to have a continuity and consistency to it—is important, because it reminds us that every apparently identifiable independent entity is nothing more than a snapshot summary of incremental change. The incremental change is persistent and eternal, and furthermore has an evolutionary quality to it. In the sense of the material world, this evolutionary quality has tended to produce, especially in the state of life, ever more complex wave structures that interact in ever more complex ways. We might think, for example, of the DNA molecule, whose lattice is folded in astonishingly complex ways — completely unlike, for example, the lattice of  silica and oxygen found in quartz crystals, which is highly regular and relatively non-interactive. 


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Inherent Wave of Being—a Treatise on Metaphysical Humanism, part II—What is Matter?

What is Matter?

In order to approach the first question, what is matter, we can refer to the very basic article of the same title written by Edward Schrödinger in 1952, as published in Scientific American. This particular article makes it quite clear that our conception of matter as being essentially one of particles which interact is incorrect. All of the “particles” — which do inherently seem to exist when viewed from macroscopic levels, that is, from the level of molecular interactive structures — are actually all just fields of energy. 

Schrodinger points out to us, “The wave phenomenon forms the “body” proper of the atom. It takes the place of the individual point like electrons which… are supposed to swarm around the nucleus. Such point like single particles are completely out of the question within the atom, and if one still thinks of the nucleus itself in this way one does so quite consciously for reasons of expediency.” ( Scientific American, Nobel Prize-Winning Authors, Volume 2.) he goes on to say, “…we can no longer consider the individual particle as a well – defined permanent entity…  We cannot be sure that the same particle could ever be observed twice… the individual particle is not a well – defined permanent entity of detectable identity or sameness.”

 In summary, identity as we understand it does not exist in the form of particles. He goes on to explain that this particular concept, that of identifiable particles, is expedient and useful in understanding some aspects of the material world (matter) but that understanding the world from the point of view of interactive quanta, or energy packets, which act together in waves, is a more accurate form of understanding material reality as we encounter it. 

I might mention here that  attempting to understand this question is something of a family tradition, because my grandfather Arthur E. Ruark was one of the founding fathers of quantum theory, having  co – authored the standard textbook Atoms, Molecules and Quanta  with his lab partner, Nobel Prize winner Harold Urey. So I come by my fascination with this question honestly.

The quantum physicists encountered this question and have been baffled by it ever since, since there is no clear and concrete resolution of the conflict between the particle and wave models in standard physics. As Schrödinger pointed out in his article, and as is still the case, there is no clear way of resolving the question. Yet for those of us interested in metaphysical humanism, it is not the question of individuality in the sense of a particle, but the sense of identity in the sense of a wave, that fascinates us. And we can see, paradoxically perhaps, because the two do not seem to be directly related at first, that exactly the same question plagues our understanding of existence and identity at the level of human beings. On the one hand, we are “particles” — that is, we appear to be individuals with unique and specific identity. Yet, as Gurdjieff pointed out in his doctrine of multiple “I’s”, this is not the case, and from a practical as well as quantum point of view, when we deal from an individual from moment to moment, it is never exactly the same individual we dealt with the moment before. That is to say, in the same sense that all of the quanta in the material expression of the body are rearranging themselves from instant to instant in wavelike forms, the entire organism formed by that action is also changing. So our concept of unique and individual identity, something that has an individual nature that lasts, is already faulty in some fundamental way that we conveniently overlook as we manifest within our being. The wave model of identity and Being is more accurate.

 In approaching this question, we can begin to see that the wave/particle dilemma which confronts us on the quantum level is reflected quite accurately in the nature of both our own inward being and that of our interaction with others. Any sophisticated level of thinking about it will reveal so many analogies as to practically beggar the imagination; yet I won’t sit down and try to iterate all of them here. Let us simply remind ourselves that within ourselves, there are “waves” of associated thoughts, feelings, and physical states that group themselves together in aggregates that express themselves through what we call and personality, and those same expressions form their own groups of “waves” that pass through individual relationships, families, societies, and, ultimately, all of humanity. In this sense the energetic expression that rules the quantum level of matter expresses itself on macroscopic levels as well, through an agency we refer to as consciousness.

We inhabit, in other words, what I would call an inherent wave of being — the matter we believe we are made of, and its manifestation throughout the entire universe, consists of a massive and incomprehensibly complex wave of energetic interactions. Seen from the quantum level, it is a soup of energy with wavelike patterns moving through it in innumerable directions. The interactions between those patterns, where they meet, produces what we call matter. And it is only when we move “upwards” in scale from the quanta into the molecular formations that result (atoms themselves failing to express what we call individuality, as Schrodinger so eloquently points out) that we discover what we call agency and what we call Being at a level that can have what appears to be a more concrete level of expression, where a baseball — for example — remains a baseball for quite some time, if not forever.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Inherent Wave of Being—a Treatise on Metaphysical Humanism, part I: introduction

Metaphysical humanism

“There’s an awful lot of structure not explained. But complexity is the essence, and if you don’t capture it you’re not going to have a hope of understanding it.”

Scott Turner, commenting on social insects.

From Underbug by Lisa Margonelli,  Scientific American/ Farrer, Strauss and Giroux, 2018, p. 48 

In order to understand the question of matter, meaning, and Being, we need to begin by understanding the words as the three great questions that confront human beings in their effort to understand existence and consciousness.

The first question is, what is matter? The second question, what is meaning and why does it arise? And the third question, what is Being?

 These three things are remarkably intertwined, as they must be, and can only be interpreted through what I call metaphysical humanism. That is to say, a humanism — an understanding of what it means to be a human being — founded in the idea that humanism itself, our very existence, extends beyond the bounds of what we call the physical world.  The term metaphysical  humanism implies from the beginning that to be human has dimensions that are greater than the physical dimensions we can see, measure, and evaluate.

This, of course, extends itself beyond the domain of the sciences, which are strictly physical and logical disciplines that attempt to explain everything simply from the perspective of what we call “matter” (which is really not matter at all, but a complex interaction of energetic waveforms) and how it interacts with itself according to lawful principles. So even though metaphysical humanism is founded, at its root, by some scientific understandings, it presumes from the beginning that these alone will not be enough to explain why we are here or what the meaning of it is.

 In this series of essays, we’ll explore these three questions from the perspective of metaphysical humanism. While the essays may not center so much around our practical experience and what it means, or about the pressing matters of Grace and understanding that are so important to our religious efforts, they are still, in my view, quite important in order to understand just how the universe functions — a question I have had ever since I was a tiny child staring at preserved beetles in cigar boxes, relics of my mother’s college entomology classes.

 I will never forget what it was like to stare at those beetles, their iridescent carcasses fixed with pins against a white card background.  I could see with every fiber of my being that these creatures embodied something quite miraculous and extraordinary, something impossible that transcended their material nature. Their material nature alone alluded to a perfection of existence and reason that emanated from a realm beyond mortal comprehension. I can remember the sensation of it as if it had just happened today.

 This is, of course, perhaps because I’ve spent a lifetime studying these questions and have actually reacquired some small measure of that innocence and ability to sense that is so easily lost as we grow up. But one might just as well say that it is Grace that brings it to me now, just as it brought it to me then. And that Grace, as it happens, is one of the most essential qualities of the universe, emanating as it does from God’s Mercy. God’s Mercy exists as a subordinate force related to the most essential law of the universe, God’s Love; and so, while they may seem technical to some, these essays are actually an effort to come to an understanding of Grace and its functional nature, as much as any other understanding. Love, Grace, and Mercy all work together to put us where we are; so everything we discuss is actually about those three forces, no matter how we interpret the things around us.

 Metaphysical humanism is, above all, a discipline that puts forces of this kind above the material; and that puts questions about such things above the question of how we can manipulate the material things around us. Instead, it tries to understand what our relationships with them are, with all of the mystery that attends to that effort.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, September 21, 2018

A charitable moment

Doug is an old personal friend of mine and a terrific, positive guy, as well as a talented drummer. He was stricken with muscular dystrophy many years ago and it's been a tough road.

If you feel you've benefitted from reading the blog, any amount you might contribute towards Doug's welfare would be a blessing in return. Please consider it; and if you know like-minded folk who might be willing, pass it on to them.

Love to all of you, and God bless.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Where does life begin? Part IV—On God's wish, and Love.

From the "Heavenly Bodies" Show 
at the Metropolitan Museum/ The Cloisters, New York

It would be helpful to know the difference between my own wish and God’s wish, wouldn’t it? 

And I do know it, so I shall write it down here to remind myself.

My own wish isn’t God’s wish. 

God’s wish is a living force that can manifest within me through Grace; but it isn’t there without God’s Grace. That living force consists of a certain level of organic vibration that expresses itself in Sacred Feeling.

Whenever it isn’t there, what is there is my own wish; and although my own wish can indeed be inspiring, “sincere” (within the limits of my own abilities, which are very weak) heartfelt and earnest, it isn’t real in the way that God’s wish is real. 

God’s wish, in other words, is far more truthful and true and powerful than my own wish.

God’s wish is Love: Love for all things and all Being. I have pointed out many times before how absolutely unconditional this wish is; it is organic and actually connected to the action of life itself (where this series of essays began) because atoms, molecules, organs and organisms which are alive are an active expression of God’s Love and God’s wish for Love. 

This Love can enter me—or anyone else, it’s true— and be expressed by the capacity of life, which receives and expresses Love at a higher level than inanimate matter. So there is a moment within me where God’s wish—Love—is made manifest in me and through me.

The moment when this comes it's clear that it is higher and better and deeper and more solid than any Love I can have by myself. It's superior; and hence we call God The Father; for His Love is the Father—the parent—of all Love, including any love I may have on my own.  

I feel this Love within me, organically; it arises in every molecule and it engenders the Peace of God which passes all understanding. It IS Truth; it IS Love, and there is no denying of it or rationalizing it, because now this Love has been made flesh; it has become substantial in its presence and is in no way the product of my mind, which rationalizes Love in all its forms instead of living it.

Such is what God’s wish is made of; we become, as the Nicene Creed says, of one substance with the Father:

“We believe… in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father

The Creed embodies an esoteric secret, in other words, relative to the nature of the manifestation of God’s wish. When we receive God’s Love and it is expressed through us, we become, like Christ, of one substance with the Father—because (as Meister Eckhart advises us to practice) all of us cedes authority until nothing of us is left—at which point God rushes in.

Well, all of that sounds a bit abstract, but what I am trying to get at here is our personal, exact, and intimate experience of receiving God’s true Love: not for ourselves, but on behalf of God Himself alone, and for His benefit—not ours. 

When we truly receive God’s Love on His behalf, then all the lofty ideals we have about Love (which are our own, and paltry compared to God’s Love, no matter high their sights are set) can be realized—not as our own, but as His.

I need to study the action of God’s true Love within me quite carefully when it arises, because it alone might be my salvation—just as it is my salvation on the occasions when it manifests. 

Until I can sense this and clearly know the difference between God’s Love and my own love, I don’t actually understand anything about Love. I need to understand God’s Love organically—otherwise it is nothing but my own love, which I mistake for God’s through my ignorance. Ah! This is such an easy mistake to make. It's done effortlessly. The things that are done through my ignorance are always done with ease.

I know now that one of the greatest gifts God can give a human being is to understand the difference between His Love and my human love; and this takes place only through Grace, because a man or a woman can in no way reach this understanding through their own intellect, or their own action, or their own passion.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.