Metaphysical humanism demands more of us than just sitting on our asses appreciating how gratifyingly cosmic we are. That is a thought; and it is not enough. We’re called to participate in this metaphysical humanism according to a threefold set of principles, which begins with the molecular sensation of Being—just as these essays do.
For now, understanding a bit more about the structure from the point of view of metaphysical humanism, the question is, how should we Be?
You will notice that I don’t ask, “what should we do?”
It's not a question of doing, but of Being, that we come up against here, and that Being is driven, above all, by care.
Now, I think we all know that feeling is a rather fragile thing. Most of us have lost loved ones – every one of us has experienced severe disappointments in the course of our life, failed in things, treated people badly, acted like an ass, abused, mistrusted, and probably, if we are the rather run-of-the-mill human being, stolen, lied, and cheated as it suits us to achieve our own selfish ends.
As we age, if we have what’s called conscience — an ability to examine our relationship and responses according to a more objective set of criteria which is less selfish (moving back to Swedenborg, but Gurdjieff said the very same things) – we will see that feeling is there to remind us of our insufficiencies.
That is to say, caring—which is suffering, grief, and anguish—serves as a spur to improve. It’s the essential energy for the engine of living and Being.
That is, suffering and anguish are the most important things for the galvanization of the soul, and our Being.
As entities that characterize life, and even the nature of the universe itself, these emergent properties of intelligence and caring—which exist after our physical being is established as an identity (think of those poor walking molecules, trudging night and day up and down our strands of DNA to keep our identity intact)— are necessary for Being, but they are not sufficient. They can’t function properly unless they are grounded in a physical sensation, the conscious awareness of one’s material reality. If one develops the capacity to sense one’s being from the molecular point of view, in this intimate way which I began the essay with which I speak about so often in my writing, then the actions of intelligence and feeling are grounded in much the same way that electricity needs to be grounded in order to flow without disruption. There is a flow of a certain kind of energy from the top to the bottom of the universe; and the physical cells of our being, the molecular components, serve as the lightning rods for being to which the energy must descend in order for it to complete our capacity for awareness.
Although I speak of the energy as “descending,” this is a deceptive and perhaps misleading way to speak of it, because the energy already exists everywhere, and our perception of it as a moving thing is peculiar to our subjective experience of the world. It flows down into us. It concentrates in chakras (according to the yogis.) It brings ecstasy and despair (according to the shamans who feed people Ayahuasca).
But the energy equally ascends; and it's in its ascension that it finds its most essential action of being, because it's the natural instinct of being to concentrate more and more responsibility, and it's the natural gestational impulse (sexuality) that causes the energy to work on reproducing entities that can emulate its work and carry on when it expires. All of this in a striving towards that Divine Love and Divine Wisdom we spoke of earlier.
I don’t think that the molecular sense of being can be fully appreciated until one experiences it directly; and even then, although it's indeed revelational relative to our ordinary sensory experience (one can have some disruptive and temporary experiences of it by taking drugs such as LSD or psilocybin) it does not provide any answers. It simply raises a whole new set of questions about Being. The point here is that the organic sensation of Being (which is a phrase I used to used to refer to it beginning about 11 years ago) is merely the foundational impulse for the appreciation of the divine. it's a starting place.
This series of essays may seem to be a rather long-winded way of trying to explain why the work that Gurdjieff followers such as Jean-Claude Lubtchansky is so important to understanding being; but perhaps it's necessary, because without sound intellectual grounding in the nature of being itself, and an understanding of how thoroughly scientific (although not the science of mechanistic rationalism) the whole matter is, one will tend to turn it into mush. it'sn’t mush. Organic sensation is an essential component of the way the universe is structured in such a way that life is obliged to participate in it, whether it wants to or not; and this molecular sensation, which is a term that I coined in order to indicate just how absolutely intimate (and perhaps even uncomfortable) this action is, is aware that understanding must begin.
The final installment in this eight part series will publish on September 7.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.