Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Fineness of Being

Jan. 5

We're made of finer materials that have an animated nature we're unable to fully appreciate.

There's no point in trying to invent magical words to describe this material. It transcends our understanding in the receiving of it; already, it demands an understanding that rests on a recognition of my own ignorance. I'm nothing in the face of it; and even though I'm filled with the ordinary world, this tiptoe approach to my own nothingness can become an active service in itself.

I stand on the edge of this world, carrying all the luggage that I live with from day today. 

I find myself with suitcases in hand even as I'm touched within by this finer material. 

I recognize its value and cultivate a relationship with it that becomes more durable over time. 

It reminds me constantly through its presence of how worthless most of what I do is, and how unworthy I am. This doesn't mean I devalue myself. It simply means I understand my value in relationship to a higher force. That is not a taking away of value, but a right ordering of it. 

I'm reminded of how undeserving I am; and this is the general condition that mankind lives in. 


Yet Grace is sent.

This generosity is endlessly merciful; I'm duty-bound to pay greater attention to it, because it brings a whole and perfect lesson about how I ought to respect my own life and treat others.


May your heart be close to God, 
and God close to your heart itself.

Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

No Interference

February 17, part 2

Walking through Times Square just after lunchtime. 

Hubub. A manhole cover. Yellow paint. 

What if self-observation means observing from the self?

Instead of making attempts to see the inner from the outer (can’t actually be done) see the outer from within the inner. Start there.

There is a self that dwells in stillness. It isn’t a creature of reactions to what happens. It’s already here before anything happens. One just forgets about it, mostly.

When this self observes life, life becomes in an instant quite different. One observes from the real self

What flows in is inestimably precious. There is an immeasurable value to every single impression, no matter what it is. I can respect this when I see from within. 

One feels. Only real feeling can bring the real world into Being.

No interference. 

Hope you are most well.


Monday, February 17, 2020

Innumerable Languages

Royaumont Abbey, near Paris

February 17

It’s possible to just stop for a moment and engage in a moment of receiving. 

Try it.

Receiving life in its essence. It can become an unadulterated substance if I offer myself to it.

One can learn to become quite quiet and sensitive, even in the midst of things. The heart of this practice lies in a willingness to be in relationship and receive. 

Not do anything else. 

Just receive.

As one receives, everything sorts itself out both within and without. There’s no need to interfere. Things just take care of themselves: sensations and feelings gently fall into place. Understanding is a condition, not an aspiration. The parts within offer themselves exactly as necessary; they know what to do, and how to do it. 

Let this gift flow in. 

There are innumerable languages available in the moment, and Being speaks all of them.

Regards to all,


Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Unknown in Being

Hudson River, late December 2019

Jan 5, 2020.

There's an energy that flows into the soul from a higher level. 

This energy penetrates the deepest parts of a human being, and is collected in the spiritual center of Being. The presence of God is directly sensed through this energy, creating a wish to be in relationship with creation itself.

This question of being in relationship with creation itself is of course no different than being in relationship with God, because all we can know of God lies within creation. We're unable to think our way past creation, and are hence limited. This means we know, indeed, very little if anything of God; yet even that very little can become everything, if it's experienced.

This knowing I speak of is the knowing of my own nothingness and nothingness in general. That's to say, it consists of my unknowing and ignorance. It isn't, however, a theoretical or philosophical unknowing and ignorance; and the unknowing and ignorance isn't an unknowing and ignorance of words and ideas. It's an unknowing of Being, which is an organic phenomenon that affects the feeling and the body as much as the mind. 

Being becomes known in the unknown. It’s the mystery of Being itself that penetrates all of the parts in a living relationship. This is the substantial and physical action of Grace and Mercy within Being. These are mysteries that simply must be experienced in order to appreciate them.

I was explaining to my wife earlier today that the experience of this Being, this unknown territory which exists within as I live—even in the most ordinary actions of driving to the grocery store and getting gas—produces a deep feeling of sorrow that resides in the cells. We clever modern humans think that our intelligence is somehow in our brain or our mind, but this isn’t true. Our intelligence — which is actually the intelligence of God, not our own intelligence – is in all of us as a whole thing, not some localized product of a bunch of neural networks in the form of meat. The original manifestation of presence and Being, the experience of the spiritual within life, takes place in the cells. It takes place in the molecules. The intelligence arises there and builds itself into a whole creature. It begins undivided but differentiated; it re-creates itself in the wholeness of my Being.

This re-creation of wholeness, this experience of being, brings a sorrow which lives in the molecules of Being. It's an ineffable nostalgia, a mysterious sorrow which cannot be explained. It settles itself in a fine layer over the landscape of life, gently covering creation as it is perceived. My molecules aren't tiny creatures with no awareness. They have feelings. They equally have thoughts, which I might even catch an echo of if I pay close attention to them.

My own feeling is just a summary of the way my molecules feel. I know this is true through sickness and disease, but it is equally true in an emotional and intellectual sense, in every moment. 

To encounter it directly is to realize how finally textured Being is—

how granular its nature—

how delicately incremental the accretion of the fineness of Being actually is.

Today, may your heart be very close to God, 
and God very close to your heart.

Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, February 14, 2020


We live in times that seem hopeless. 

I hear from people every day who report that they increasingly feel they're encountering a bleak world. Values, we seem to believe, are eroding. The civility of society (if there ever was any) is deteriorating. The planet is being trashed. Technology is overtaking our humanity. 

A dark cloud of pessimism hangs over the human enterprise.

Yet this simply isn’t true. There's hope everywhere—we live in a veritable sea of it. Life itself would cease to exist if there were no hope; it suffuses all Being. Every single object, event, circumstance, and condition contains not just the seeds of hope in it, but even the flowers themselves.

The issue isn’t that there’s no hope; the issue is that we aren’t in touch with it. 

Hope lies just beyond us in a territory of awareness. That awareness is a feeling-awareness. If we can awaken that awareness, hope is ever-present and self-evident. It’s only when we presume hope is invested in our selfish expectations and their compromise—or material things—that we see it as missing. Hope taken as the act of living itself, which is a service instead of a pleasure-tour, is always here. It's a level of vibration that penetrates all of reality.

Living through sensation and feeling-perception brings us to the threshold of a hope that emanates from Being itself: what Gurdjieff called hope of consciousness. 

This isn’t, as one might perhaps think, a hope that we might become conscious; it’s a hope born of consciousness. 

Hope born of consciousness is indelible. Even a tiny bit of it is invested with the power of all creation.


Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Juncture Between the Realms

Selfhood is a place of order and enlightenment, but it is also inclined toward the evil commanding self. If it is tempted, then it loses its purity. All things are from God — it is he who made the commanding self desirous of evil, and it is he who made human selfhood bent from time to time to evil as well as to good. When the self is rational and heedful, it is pure and in order.

Ibn Arabi, Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom, Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al-Halveti. p. 45

…do not ever forget the evil-commanding ego which you carry within yourself.
Do not ignore its presence. Instruct your most valuable minister, reason, to treat it well, to be in continuous contact with it, because it knows best how to govern the barren desert of your realm. It has power, and it lies in its hands to do good, if it so wills, or to cause disasters, if it so wills. If it is treated well, there will be peace in the land.

Ibid, p. 71

The juncture between the set of 24 spiritual laws and 24 natural laws is the location where humanity finds itself in the cosmos. The diagram indicates the dominant features affecting mankind.

The lowest law in the angelic hierarchy – that is, the law ”closest” in metaphysical terms to the human realms—is compassion. The proximity of this law indicates its nature as the first and most important quality we should strive for in our effort to come under higher influences.

The law at the highest level of the natural hierarchy is rejection. This law governs the properties of all the laws below it, which will turn out to be very important. The point is that in the natural realm, everything flows from its highest law—which is a law of rejection. A man or woman is primarily under this influence unless he or she develops.

Broadly speaking, this diagram is the idiot’s guide to inner work. Compassion is a holy affirming force; rejection is a holy denying force. Humanity is the reconciling force meant to bridge the gap between the two realms of laws. An individual human life is lived out in an eternal (that is, for that entire lifetime) moment of choosing between these two forces: compassion or rejection. Compassion is always a movement in the direction of the greater good, of society, humanity, one’s fellow man or woman, and God. Rejection is always a movement in the Direction of self love, self interest, and self infatuation, which leads away from good towards evil, away from society towards individualism, and away from the forces that make us human. It also drives us away from fellow human beings.

For this reason, we need to develop a feeling capacity for life. Compassion is a quality not of resonance with the other, but of consonance

Consonance is a convergence of tone in harmony. It represents togetherness, and the caring for of others, as well as oneself. This, in turn, leads to the next highest angelic law above it, which is truth. It tells us, equally, that we need a feeling-quality – a loving quality – in order to acquire a capacity to see truth. If we reject, if we go it alone, our tendency will always be to go in the direction of lies that serve only themselves. If we move downwards in the hierarchy from the law of rejection, the next law we encounter is ignorance. 

If we reject, we become ignorant. The more we reject, the more ignorant we become. If we're compassionate, we become more and more truthful. The idea of becoming "more open" is aimed at illustrating this need for compassion, which opens us to truth. We aren’t just becoming "more open" to some ephemeral, vague, and undefined higher energy which will bring us bliss; we become more open to compassion and truth. While it’s true that spiritual energy helps with this action, and that it's a benefit of becoming more open to these forces, one becomes open to the forces because it's right and a good thing to do, not because one gets benefit from it.

All of us have a very powerful rejecting part that we wear like armor on the front of our Being. It prevents life from entering us; we hide behind it and do everything we can to preserve it. 

Anything that breaks through that barrier is perceived as a threat. That barrier doesn't go away; it's still in me today, many years after I first saw it, and its action is constant. As a lawful part of this world, it's impossible to fully remove while on this level. All of us have this part; and one of the first things it does is convince us that it doesn't exist. (Everyone else has it, but not me!) One of the most persistent laws in the tool kit of the lower orders is used to achieve this: denial. Although this law is considerably lower in the hierarchy, it's also in nearly constant action.

There's good news, however. The action of rejection can be recruited. As the dominant law on this level, if one opens oneself to enough compassion, the law of rejection can be recruited to serve it. This is exactly what Ibn Arabi meant in The Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom when he said what he said about the ego. 

The law of rejection is the chief feature of the "evil commanding ego;” if it's recruited to our cause, it can rule all the other negative laws... and reject them, one by one. 

Since the action of the 24 laws belonging to this level are essentially  inimical to Being, this is both critical and necessary.

The above text is an excerpt from the forthcoming book, Metaphysical Humanism.

May your heart be close to God, 
and God close to your heart.

Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Joy and thanksgiving.

Madonna and Child, from the Musee Saint-Remi at Reims

Last night, a dream of a child of light.

This morning the following prayer comes, and proves beneficial:

Lord Jesus Christ, I open my heart to your light with joy and thanksgiving.

It will be with me today.

May your heart be close to God, 
and God close to your heart.

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Deep Tradition, part II

In my study of the laws, I’ve documented a conceptual map of how God's Being flows down through the universe to create meaning. 

Yet this map only has meanings in terms of how it exists within us right now; we are the embodiment of both the physical and the metaphysical in the immediate terms of our existence. 

We're tasked with attempting to experience the action of all the laws within us. Every single one of them, up to the highest law, acts with us at one time or another and in one way or another – in essence, all of them together, all the time.

One might compare this to a series of lights along the highway; all of them shed light upon us, but the further away a given light is, the less its light contributes to the total amount of light around us. In the same way, the laws most proximate to our level exert the most force on us. When it comes to the level of laws like the Holy Trinity, the highest law of creation, its force on this level is quite faint. Human beings gather together in congregations and communities in order to concentrate the force of higher law. This is one of the principles of spiritual work in groups. If a group or a community concentrates a sufficient amount of spiritual gravity within its effort, all of it comes under a stronger influence from the higher law they are working to invoke. This is also an ancient principle, which was mistranslated and incorporated into fairytales and fantasy, where it's called magic. 

The idea of magic is tremendously appealing to people, but the idea that it can substantially affect one's material conditions is wrong. The conditions it substantially affects are spiritual ones; and, in an inversion of our usual understanding, those conditions are much more important than any material ones that surround us. 

In the deep tradition, it's my responsibility to work to concentrate spiritual force as much as possible within my own sphere of effort. 

This means that I need to stay very close to the inward flow of Being, and the place within me of my own creation. 

In that secret, most intimate place, which Meister Eckhart called the highest place and the residence of the soul—and, yes, even a glimmering of God's light—one's Being is so close to the divine that a sensation of it can enter if one is present to it. 

One is, in other words, empowered to approach this most distant inner light and receive some of its benefit.

This takes place, paradoxically, in an inner place of darkness. The light that shines in this place is the light of God’s Being, and it is not a natural light. 

Spiritual light is a light not of the senses but of feeling.

May your heart be close to God, 
and God close to your heart.

Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Natural Mind

Facade, Laon Cathedral

February 9, 2020

Yesterday a reader made a friendly remark about the way in which I "disseminate the teaching." They had a relatively minor objection about my use of the word natural to describe our ordinary mind and how it works. 

Their opinion, in a nutshell, was that the ordinary mind and its machinations are unnatural, that is, undesirable or wrong in one way or another. It was a stimulating proposition.

I would propose, to the contrary, that anything which exists, in any way, is always natural in one way or another. 

This is consistent with the word’s roots, which are Latin. It means, approximately, that which is born

Since creation has always been viewed as a form of birth, all of creation is natural. Even the parts we find unhelpful or reprehensible, and the ones that seem to oppose our spiritual mission.

Brother Lawrence says, in the Practice of the Presence of God,

…God sometimes permits bodily discomforts to cure the distempers of the soul. Have courage. Make a virtue of necessity. 

I would suggest that all of our discomforts, including those caused by the ordinary mind, fall into the above category. All of life serves to cure the distempers of the soul.

A great deal more could be said about this question of the natural mind, but I believe this is simple and direct enough to get the essential point across. Don't dismiss the natural mind or attempt to evade it; look towards it with love and affection, accept its iniquities, and regard it as an ever-present and profitable reminder of our need to improve our inward practice.

The other part of the comment I was interested in was about disseminating “the” teaching. 

What I write is always about life and the things I encounter in it. 

There's no doubt that much of my practice is instilled by and distilled from Gurdjieff’s ideas; but the teacher, if there is one anywhere, is life; and if we don’t habit that and form a sound relationship with it, all else is in vain.

One of my closest male friends came over last night and we spent several hours talking about our work. We both came back again and again to this question of inhabiting life and how vital that is to understanding anything. 

One’s inner work needs to be in life. One ought not mistake ”special conditions,” or books, or this blog space, as the center of gravity for inner work. The center of gravity for work is life as it flows into us. It's certainly possible to see that special conditions and books and this writing and so on are legitimate fragments of that, but don't be identified with them. It’s life as a whole thing that matters; and an exchange with the person at the cash register or the color yellow in a piece of plastic scrap is just as important a piece of life and understanding as all the information in the most lofty philosophical book. 

God's Presence is not in one specific thing or another at the expense of the next one; it is everywhere.

Brother Lawrence's advice unfailingly serves inner effort. One who manages to install his lessons as a permanent feature of Being can never fail to work properly. 

I return once again to Meister Eckhart’s final words:

It often happens that what seems trivial to us is greater in God's sight than what looms large in our eyes. Therefore we should accept all things equally from God, not ever looking and wondering which is greater, or higher, or better. We should just follow where God points out for us, that is, what we are inclined to and to which we are most often directed, and where our bent is. If a man were to follow that path, God would give him the most in the least, and would not fail him.

'It often happens that people spurn the least, and thus they prevent themselves from getting the most in the least, which is wrong.

God is in all modes, and equal in all modes, for him who can take Him equally.

May your heart be close to God, 
and God close to your heart.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Through some other method

Feb. 7, 2020

God’s blessings flow perpetually into us, but we’re generally up to some kind of mischief and we don’t notice it.

The capacity of our organism to receive the simple and very direct blessing of life and its essential nature is quite powerful; yet I’m too often filled with wickedness of one kind or another that obscures that. 

My wickedness, furthermore, wants me to believe that the blessing is weak. I listen; and so I don’t take the simple, easy step into Being that could dispel my falsely inspired confusion.

If I have a better attention to the inflow of the divine nature—if I cooperate with it— then the wickedness softens and I see it as the imaginary nonsense it actually is. But if I don’t form that inner relationship first—right now—it remains perpetually theoretical and my mind engages in the same self-satisfying tricks it’s usually up to.

This wickedness I speak about is tremendously creative. It seems to delight in subversion, even in the smallest details. This morning I was considering this question through the impression of my sensation and feeling as I walked from my parking garage on West 42nd street past the Port Authority—New York City’s biggest bus station and one of the seedier, if not perhaps seediest, neighborhoods in the city. 

Despite the apparent squalor of my surroundings, I was struck by a deep impression of how sacred and valuable every single moment of my life has been. 

Even this moment—even the squalor. 

Each and every person and event has been of great value and is, objectively, a gift given to me, along with the already immense privilege of being allowed to live on this planet and participate in all it offers. The sum total of it is all an objective Grace; and each of the tiny parts is a Grace as well.

Yet part of me— a large part formed through many tiny “worms” of evil that have burrowed through the drifts of my mind throughout this lifetime—has formed negative attitudes about a great deal of what has happened to me. We all know how this operates: my psychology is predisposed towards blaming others, finding fault, being dissatisfied with what I’ve been given. All invented; yet I believe it. That is, the wickedness in me believes it.

Yet this morning, on this cold, wet morning, I could see for an instant how invalid all of that thinking is. When I engage in it, I’m an invalid: I reject the blessing of life which is flowing into me at this very moment.

And it’s this question that interests me, because everything I need to come into a relationship with the inflow of the divine is already in me at this very moment. It isn’t somewhere else, attainable at some other time or through some other method. It’s here right now. I have the option—if I can find my wish to exercise it—to honor that condition and enter it. The further I move in that direction, the more this perpetual and eternal blessing become immediately available.

All of this sounds, of course, psychological, but there’s no psychology in it. The opening to the divine is a voluntary action in this moment of the mind, the body, and the feeling, all of which participate through their own perception. 

In turn, they each offer perceptions and understanding in their own language.

An organic value emerges. 

And here I am.

May your heart be close to God, 
and God close to your heart.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, February 7, 2020

The Deep Tradition, part I

December 28, 2019

The word tradition means what is given over or handed over, coming from the Latin roots trāns and dare. Our modern sense of it means what is handed down to us from the past.

We have the outer traditions, which we call forms. These are common to every cultural environment; the honoring of forms and obedience to forms are essential to the creation of cultures. In general, we see these forms as outward phenomena. When we speak of it in spiritual terms, automatically we think of Christianity or Buddhism or Judaism, and so on.

Yet each of these forms is meant only and exclusively to refer to an inner meaning. Such forms mean nothing if they’re divorced from our inner state: what we feel, what we think, what we believe in. And the inner tradition is the essential one; what is handed down from within to our inner self is what truly matters.

This handing down takes place from the flow of an inner energy that arrives in us. It is the true tradition, the true giving over and handing down. If I don't participate in this, I miss the entire point of tradition. Every time I encounter this energy I encounter something as ancient as mankind itself; I am one, in this action, with the man who painted the caves and those who built the pyramids. To participate is to enter a timeless action which all of humanity is invited to dwell within.

In this sense, tradition is what is handed down to us now, as God flows into our Being in the act of creation. 

This is the deep tradition; and if we receive it in to ourselves as deeply as we can, even unto the place of its origin, we taste something of life that cannot be replaced with the external things we crave.

This is well worth thinking about. Just a little bit of this food goes a very long way with in the soul, sustaining it against the onslaught of everything that wants to enslave it.

May your heart be close to God, 
and God close to your heart.

Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Metaphysical Humanism and the Laws of Being, part XXVI—The Law of Purpose

detail of a capital
Photograph by the author

The Law of Purpose

We’ve now come to one of the oddest properties in the universe. It’s not just the tendency of things to organize themselves, but the actual desire to do so, that’s puzzling. And it'sn’t just life that organizes itself; matter, from the moment that the quantum state exists (from the perspective of the universe, that state has always existed, since universe has never existed without it in action) seeks out states in which attractions emerge, aggregates are formed, and structures are created. 

This action of creating congregated areas of dynamic order, which is called homeostasis, is a universal action. To say that this takes place within a “disordered” universe— and that the order emerges from a lack of order — is a mistaken impression. There is a fundamental order that exists before homeostasis begins; and homeostasis begins long before life takes advantage of it, because we can see ordered states emerging from quantum states from the atom on up to the galaxy. If we believe that there’s no desire or intention driving this action, it’s only because we don’t understand life from the perspective of the lowest levels of the universe – we can only see it from the perspective we’re on.

Metaphysical humanism presumes that the emergence of life, higher organisms, and, ultimately, the human psyche, is all part of an expression of a fundamental property of the universe, one that can't be separated from what it's in its essential nature. This hypothesis furthermore states that all of the actions inherent in human beings — all of the potentials, idiosyncrasies, abilities, and behaviors that we exhibit — are present in recognizable ways throughout the universe, and manifest in every level of matter. Little surprise, then, that we see the colonies of super-organisms displaying characteristics that recognizably reflect the intentional, desirous, and purposeful action of human beings. DNA, which isn'thing more in the end than a molecular crystalline structure, clearly displays intention, desire, and purpose, and continually recruits other alien molecular structures to assist it in its purposes; so we can see, once again, the same aggregate actions of community functioning on a molecular level. In this sense, atoms are communities formed from cooperating atomic and subatomic particles; molecules are communities formed from cooperating atoms.  All along the emergent line of relationship between particles, which begins at the quantum level, the law of intention directs the construction of congregated areas of dynamic order. And from this emerges what we call purpose.

The Law of Purpose states,  in its essence, things happen for a reason

In our ordinary lives, we use this platitude to reassure ourselves that otherwise baffling events have meaning; yet this facile  and simplistic statement, which on the surface of things exists only to make us feel better when crappy things happen, conceals a much more important philosophical principle.  Understood from its essential perspective, the Law of Purpose states that purpose, a reason for things to be as they're, is a fundamental law of the universe, in such a way that the entire universe is from its inception purposeful.

This is of course the exact opposite of what mechanistic rationalism states, which is that the universe is entirely random and mindless, and that there is no purpose behind it whatsoever. Metaphysical humanism, although it doesn't by default set man at the pinnacle of creation, maintains that there is a single grand purpose lying at the root of existence, and that human beings are a reflection of that purpose. In metaphysical humanism, although we understand the purpose to be grasped and iterated through human consciousness, we don't separate human beings from the rest of the universe as unique and exclusively endowed. We are, rather, an integrated part of the universe, expressing its purpose in equal measure with all of the rest of creation. This is, to be sure, a philosophical turning back of the clock to a more medieval mindset; yet it's also a more compassionately human mindset, because it presumes there is a reason for us to be, rather than no reason at all, and it presumes that our being is spiritually wedded to the rest of existence, rather than separate from it and entitled to destroy it at our leisure. 

Purpose can't be discerned or understood from the perspective of separation; it can only be understood from the perspective of unity.

May your heart be close to God, 
and God close to your heart.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.