Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Community of Consciousness


April 1

Over the last couple of days, multiple discussions about how we form a brotherhood in our efforts to become whole within ourselves; and that the action of doing this is not actually in order to serve ourselves — although that’s in part a consequence of the effort — but to serve everyone else, and the planet.

This idea of ourselves—which is anything but theoretical—as part of a collective, a single organism that functions as a whole, is the most essential part of spiritual understanding. In order to understand it well, we have to understand to some extent by analogy, using the mind quite precisely as an instrument that perceives relationship.

In considering our practical biology, we now know that we are not individual organisms. We are not just a collection of about, give or take, 15 trillion cells; those cells are, functionally, a collection of trillions upon trillions of molecules. In turn, we are not just “ourselves;” billions upon billions of “foreign” bacteria live within us, and trillions of viruses. We depend on all these tiny separate and individual creatures, on their micro-communities, for our very life itself. Our own cells form larger collective communities that make organs. And so on. 

An individuality emerges; and it has a superior awareness that we call our “consciousness.” Yet consciousness, at every level, can only be formed by community. There is no “consciousness” that exists by itself apart from others.

Our planet is in turn a “single” meta-consciousness of its own formed from all the living organisms on it. When I speak of our experience as ”chemical participation” in this vast organism, I indicate that it’s possible (unlike the abilities of our individual cells) to become aware of our place and what we’re doing. Indeed this is one of the natural functions of true awareness, which most humans don’t have. If we acquire it, we certainly understand that we are part of a whole thing called organic life on earth. What we furthermore don’t understand is that this has more than just physical aspects to it; in the same way that the body has a soul which is a metaphysical entity, so the planet itself has a metaphysical entity; as does the solar system. There is a metaphysical part of the solar system, and its intelligence, that participates in the body of a much larger entity called a galaxy; and so on. There is, in other words, a functional and practical metaphysical entity that creates the fabric of the universe and its whole intelligence. 

Romanticizing all this by way of emotive rapture doesn’t serve the scale, the depth, the profundity of the phenomenon. We can only serve that scale organically.

We are built, in our own small part, to organically sense all of these things; but only with effort. It doesn’t come just because we think about it; the participation begins in the molecular and chemical action of our Being, not in the thoughts that arise as a consequence of it. Thought must be the director of the orchestra, conductor, the perceiver; yet the thought has the ability to perceive with more than just thought itself. Sensation and feeling are also forms of thought. All three of these forms of thought need to be awakened in order for us to become an effective node in the network of awareness that we share on an individual, communal, and planetary basis.

Even one taste of this helps us to understand how limited we are within the contracted limitations of our own selfishness and our obsession with how everything is for us. The body isn’t that intelligent on its own; all it knows is “everything should be mine.” 

Mankind is automatically enslaved by this. It takes a greater Being to understand differently.

Yet the effort to acquire a greater Being is usually a weak one. When our own desires prevail, the desires of the body, we don’t grow up; we remain as children, greedy and emotionally dysfunctional. Only by struggling against what we think we are can we become what we actually are.

In this way it’s helpful to understand that I think like a child; I feel like a child; and I sense like a child. All of these parts are dominated by the ego of the body, which wants only for itself. I can’t get rid of that part; but if I struggle with it, I can help it to see from a larger perspective and to become more interested in a greater good. 

The myth of the hero centers around the struggle; to see a communal call to being that is greater than the safety or gratification of the individual. All goodness in human culture and in the soul itself centers around this idea in one way or another.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Purple Love Grass


A song I wrote two weeks ago, now up on Youtube. The copy on YouTube gives a little background on the piece, but I will offer a little more readers of this space.

Since Covid-19 struck there's been a distinct uptick in the number of mentally unwell, homeless, and addicted people around the New York City Port Authority bus terminal. I walk through the streets surrounding the terminal four days a week, early in the morning and in the very late afternoon. It’s a journey that takes me outside the safe parameters of my suburban middle-class life and into the belly of the beast that consumes mankind all too easily—if we don't make efforts in another direction.

Speaking as a recovering alcoholic who will, God willing, see my 40th anniversary of sobriety just under a month from now (November 16) I realize that, quite literally, “there but for the grace of God go I.” So while I'm repelled and irritated at the crazy, stoned, and drunken people who alternately sprawl in pools of their own urine in doorways and lurch into me yelling angry nonsense, I also feel a terrifying and overwhelming compassion towards them, because they are also me.

I had a distinct energetic impression several weeks ago of a different level of vision of this piece of territory, where I saw that heaven reaches down into this level, and hell pokes up from underneath into it as well. 

Sometimes the things that look like heaven are from hell; and other times the things that look like hell are from heaven, because we're not trained to see the difference, and pay too little attention in the first place.

This song is about that experience.

Musically, it's perhaps not entirely typical of me, but I suppose that's OK.

Here's the link to the song:

Purple Love Grass

Lyrics below.

I thought I held a fragment

Of some universal truth

A balm to ease my conscience

Restore my fading youth

But Mercury’s in retrograde

And I don’t know what to do

Words begin to fail me

And I’m tangled up in blue

I thought I was so real

Until I woke up late in life 

And I realized I’m just Abraham

Holding up the knife

When there is no God to stop me

I bring the blade down hard 

And then stare across the barren earth

Of the killing yard


And sometimes I see angels    

In the middle of the day

Standing in the traffic

Looking for a place to play

And other times the junkies

On the sidewalk catch my eye

But I’m always in a hurry

And there isn’t any time to cry

A thin voice inside me says

You gotta let it go

It’s gonna be alright

Heaven told me so

I said love

And the power of mercy

Gonna bring the light    

I said love  

Is what we smoke in heaven

To put the world at right

Love and the power of grace

They gonna set you free

Won’t you smoke 

A little love grass

With me

I said love grass

A little purple love grass, oh yeah

I said love grass

A little purple love grass, oh yeah

Ulysses didn’t realize

When they tied him to the mast

When it’s time to get those ropes off

You better do it fast.

And sometimes I see angels    

Wandering the streets

Wearing tie dyed T shirts

Looking for some food to eat

And other times the junkies

On the sidewalk heating spoons

Chance to catch my eye

As though I’ll be with them soon

I’ve learned it all the hard way

You gotta let it go

It’s gonna be alright

Jesus told me so

He said love

And the power of mercy

Gonna bring the light    

I said love  

Is what we smoke in heaven

To put the world at right

Love and the power of grace

Gonna set you free

Won’t you smoke 

A little love grass

With me

I said love grass

A little purple love grass, oh yeah

Love grass

A little purple love grass, oh yeah

with warm regards,


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola magazine.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Struggle and Intensification


March 31.

My ordinary parts and the parts that have a wish are different. 

The whole point of work is to intensify the consciousness, the awareness, of the difference between these two parts. At first the part that has the wish is weak and can barely be seen. Everything about it is philosophical, theoretical. It has taken root in the mind but it has no substance, no material that makes it a solid thing in the body.

One can live one’s whole life in this way. To have the wish take root in the body is a matter of the right soil, the right temperature, the right amount of moisture. The first thing that’s needed is to create those conditions; yet if I don’t know anything about them, I'm stumbling around in the dark.

Suffering can help. In point of fact, the whole effort of work is directed towards intensifying the struggle, because for as long as one is alive, one inhabits the territory between these two natures, the inner and the outer nature. During the course of 1944, Gurdjieff repeatedly told his Paris groups that they had to focus on developing the inner nature and understanding it as distinct. 

Group members repeatedly bring outer material about ordinary things, and he repeatedly dismisses it as uninteresting and absolutely worthless relative to group work.

This question of struggle is essential. One cannot engage in struggle until one is relatively free of the outer influences, to the extent that they manifest but one is not identified with them. They don’t go away. It means we're there with them and we struggle with them. We're increasingly confronted with our own contradictions; and the more we develop, the more intense that confrontation becomes. We have to suffer our location between these two eventualities of being. The worse it gets, the better. As Gurdjieff says in one meeting, he sometimes derives enjoyment from watching someone who has so far spent their life in roses fall into the thorns.

The worst of it, perhaps, is when we begin to see that playing a role absolutely depends on our being exactly as we are, with every bit of filth that's in us active and busy doing what it does, while we stay with it and see it. This is not an act for the faint of heart. Inevitably, the human instinct is to either be the filth and forget about real Being, or try to “use” real Being to exterminate the filth. In addressing either case, great restraint is necessary, and this can only be exercised using will. First, the mechanical will to be as one is; second, the conscious will to stay there within it. This is, in one of the senses of the term, conscious egoism, because the “I am” has a demand put on it to make bedfellows with the mechanical nature of the outer ego.

Is this “liberation?”

I can’t tell you. 

I’ve had experiences that enlightenment aficionados would call “liberation”; not just momentary ones, but experiences that lasted for days and weeks and months. It turned out they weren't for me. 

What I can tell you is that the demand that the Gurdjieff work puts on us is quite different than this “liberation,” which in my own estimation serves only as an illustration of one side of what we are. Gurdjieff demanded that we inhabit both sides; and this makes him unique, because in his work there is no escape from the fact of our subjectivity. Only conscious immersion in it puts us at the axis of Being; and it’s only from that locus that anything objective might result.

In this sense, this work isn’t for everyone. It doesn’t “produce” anything like what one expects or what the ordinary parts desire or what one has read about and been told by the “magical beings” who serve as spiritual guides who will help us calm down, achieve bliss, and be nice to everyone. It invites us to sit between the angels and the devils and suffer the condition.

This is in fact a very rich place; Gurdjieff described it as purgatory. In the general sense of the word, it’s quite certain that he saw this action as a means of purification, whereby we could eventually express (that is, extract by pressure) the selfish elements of our being so that they don’t contaminate our awareness or judgment. Struggle and suffering, remorse of conscience, are essential to this process. 

Don’t come here if you don’t want to work in this way. It’s not the place for you. 

They are passing out halos over there, and on the other side they are passing out pitchforks. Go collect one if that’s where you feel you belong. Lots of people get along just great by doing this. It is the fashion.

Just remember that if you pick up a halo or a pitchfork, you are done for. 

There is no change after that.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Martha Henrickson's work

I'd just like to call the reader's attention to Martha Henrickson's web site.

Martha has been an artist for many years, following her own muse, who continues to sing.




Wednesday, October 13, 2021


Spider silk on pussy willows
Sparkill, March 2021

 March 30, Sparkill.

I can only locate myself and remember myself within this life.

There’s a relatively dominant part of every human being that resides mostly in dreams. It’s a submarine operator; the events in it take place automatically, directly beneath the surface of reality and what actually takes place, functioning as a machine of domination that thinks it controls the ocean... and thereby the whole damn world.

In actual fact, life is a real ocean on a real planet with a real atmosphere, and the submarine is a tiny, contracted place with an artificial atmosphere run by a crew of individuals who think they're important, know everything, and can call all the shots. In reality they’re isolated from the amazingly rich variety of objects, events, circumstances, and conditions outside the submarine, which alone contain everything that's needed in order to provide experience, insight, and food for the crew. 

The submarine crew has failed to understand its dependence on the world around it and thinks it’s the only thing with a mission, the only thing of importance.

Periodically the submarine comes to the surface and the hatches open and the crew suddenly remembers that there are such things as sunlight and fresh air. These are like the moments when we wake up and suddenly see that we’re in life—and yet know very little about it. 

No wonder. We’ve been shut in our submarine, pouring over arcane charts of our own exclusive creation, plotting courses through abstract representations of what's actually out there.

I bring this analogy up because of the need to understand our position relative to real life as it stands. The submarine is both our ego and our subjectivity; it has encapsulated itself and submerged in order to hide from the real world. It has powerful elements of combativeness and paranoia in it; it’s a delusional, tiny little military dictator-ship patrolling the superficial parts of our life as though it were actually in charge of them.

The acquisition of Being has something to do — perhaps everything to do — with coming into sensation and becoming aware of the submarine. 

Sensation begins one's existence outside the submarine.

Sensation of Being puts us in touch with the living, breathing reality of our bodies and the chemical interaction of our Being with the planet itself; not a thing of fantasy or imagination, but the actual reality of where we are. 

It’s more important than ever to sense in this way, because humanity is ruthlessly engaged in the wholesale destruction of the reality of where we are right now, and it’s only by re-centering ourselves within the actual, physical awareness of gravity, the pumping of blood and the breathing in of air, that we can hope to remind ourselves both as individuals and a species as to the very natural and organic nature of our relationship—both with ourselves and the planet. Only in this way can we hope to come to respect it and protect it better.

In this sense, coming into sensation, sitting zazen and coming into contact with our Being in a silent way, has nothing to do with attaining some lofty metaphysical space, but rather an encounter with reality as it stands. 

This encounter is both physical and metaphysical; if I characterize it as principally metaphysical, I miss an important point. The metaphysical begins with the feeling of soil between my toes and breath within my lungs. It’s the awareness of this that itself engenders the metaphysical; awareness is both of nature and greater than it at the same time. It has both of these characteristics, which need to come into harmony with one another.

I am as I am; I need to encounter the truth of this. There’s no power washer available to strip my ordinary functions away from me. I’ll be excited, happy; I'll be sad, confused. The aim is not to lift myself out of life as it is but to insert myself into it more consciously. Acknowledge its authority.

I can’t expect to turn the submarine into an aircraft. It will always be a submarine. When it comes to evasive maneuvers its skills exceed my own — it was built that way from the beginning. I need to learn how to use it as a tool for exploration rather than as a weapon.

The difficulty here is that the ego tends to weaponize everything. I don’t know about you, but my own ego is particularly good at this, and it occasionally even weaponizes itself against the other parts of me, because it constantly feels threatened and believes that its life is perpetually at stake. I need to learn how to make peace with this relatively hostile and paranoid entity. Intelligently allowing it enough space to conduct its operations is a part of helping to reassure it. Criticizing it constantly won’t help to do anything except feed its paranoia and mobilize its resistance.

So I begin here this morning in sensation, acknowledging these things. 

My sensation of Being will be my companion all day, if I allow it the space it needs to manifest voluntarily instead of being bullied around by the submarine crew. 

I can rely on the sensation of Being to remind me that there’s a world outside the submarine, even if I find myself stuck in it peering out through a periscope most of the day. I may even convince the crew to surface from time to time and breathe in some real air. That would be refreshing! 

Maybe, in those moments, I’ll remember that I am a human being participating in an extraordinary chemical experiment that extends to every object, event, circumstance, and condition I encounter during the day.

An investment in this experience of the chemistry through sensation can be extraordinary. I can remember that I’m a molecular creature, that every molecule has a life of its own that needs to be respected and given room to participate in the collective nature of my Being.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

On the Absence of Conscience in Man, or, My Life Among the Heathens


Human beings generally lack conscience in any real form. Conscience can only arise from real suffering; and until a person is unified within being, there is no real suffering. 

Real suffering is a force that applies itself only to real being. The casual suffering that we encounter as an automatic and ordinary fact of life is real within the limits of its own actions; but its action is always an external one and not the result of a struggle within one’s own will, one’s own identity and one’s own existence. It forms itself exclusively around outer things, and the ego takes it personally.

We all know how this is. Yet for as long as we’re divided inside, it’s impossible to see the action or to understand the difference between the action of outer suffering –which needs to be allowed to take place as it is, along with ordinary emotional reaction — and the action of inner suffering, which must not be allowed to take place casually and in the absence of our participation. 

Inner suffering is the place where the soul is formed.

From this point of view, we don't even know what a soul is — and yet we profess to have one. The soul is not a casually acquired entity. It is clawed and sorted out from the soil of our lives fragment by fragment, and refined in a fire that only we ourselves can tend. Of course every entity acquires something of this kind by the end of its life; yet it is the way that it’s formed that makes a difference, and we don’t see that when we’re alive.

If human beings had real conscience, none of what takes place on the planet would go as it goes now. Real conscience, properly formed, contains a respect for other beings within it which no other force can provide. All of the outer forces mankind has invented to regulate its behavior are ersatz forces, substitutes that one wallpapers over the real situation with. It’s like thick plastic duct taped over a window in place of glass; it keeps the wind out and lets a little light in, but one can’t see in through it; and what is inside equally can’t see outward. All of the seeing of truth that conscience might provide is reduced to a simulation in which only imagination is functional. We imagine we are compassionate; we imagine we care about others and feel this way or that way. In reality, all of these forces in us are terrifically weak, first of all because there is no transparency.

The emphasis on acquiring real being is essential because conscience — real conscience — cannot be based on anything other than real being. The results of one’s manifestations and the consequences thereof must become absolutely real to a woman or a man in order for them to do any real suffering; and everything in us is arranged to avoid seeing our manifestations and their consequences. Everything becomes a rationalization; everything is an excuse. If we were to truly look these things in the eye, we would see how awful the situation actually is. This would disturb us; and we are arranged inside to avoid every kind of disturbance. We hypnotize ourselves with the sense that we are okay and everything is okay. We Disneyland everything by turning life into a theme park. Okay-world. La la land.

Gurdjieff asked his pupils to examine the past with care and to begin to suffer, instance by instance, with the truth of how we have behaved and the way we’ve been in the past. The aim of this isn’t to destroy ourselves through negative criticism and destructive introspection; rather, the aim is to engage emotionally with the truth, which can become a therapy for the soul whereby it has at least a chance to heal itself through truth. This is the opposite of buying into the lies we tell ourselves, the comfortable lives we would like to lead.

It doesn’t mean that there is no tranquility available; merely that we cannot understand tranquility as we are.

I refer to life among the heathens. The word is derived from the German Heide and approximately means, life among the open countries, the heath. Conventionally, the word indicates those who are members of pantheistic religions or who have no religion at all.

This can be easily likened to those who believe whatever they want, or whatever other people tell them. Gurdjieff advised his students to recognize that 2×2 = 4; but in the world of the heathen, 2×2 equals anything you want it to — or anything the next person says it does. It is, in other words, an entirely subjective realm; an open country in which you can wander in all directions without obstacles, but which has no features to distinguish it. The heath is a big, beautiful open space, but there’s no food for real humans there. For bees, insects, perhaps; but for the purposes of life and of humanity, it serves little. 

It isn’t quite barren: plants grow there, so we can’t equate it to the desert. The desert would be a better place, because at least there the severity and austerity, the lack of water, the presence of nothing but rocks and sand, plants with thorny exteriors, would serve as a stunning reminder of our lack. The heath puts us to sleep with a sweet scent and a lovely field of colorful tiny flowers. We forget that there isn’t much real there for us. It allows us to project our imagination onto it and pretend that it can serve us well.

Leaving the meadow analogy aside, I refer to the lack of conscience as “life among the heathen” because I am a member of an organized religion – Christianity. Those who would prefer to expunge this element from Gurdjieff’s teaching are bound to misunderstand it, because it’s central. It just bears far more relationship to the transcendental Gnostic mysticism of Meister Eckhart’s Christianity than that of the religion that renders God, as Gurdjieff calls him, as “an old Jew with a beard.” The phrase is reminiscent of Zen Buddhism’s reference to “red-bearded barbarians.” 

Personifications. Opinions.

The question arises here of whether conscience can arise or exist in the absence of a form. It cannot; feeling arises in context, and real feeling must arise in real context. The difficulty here is that if we have no real context, no real being, there is no real feeling. The form is not an exterior form; it is created within us by ourselves. We must become wholly responsible for it if we have a real wish. 

This is a very practical activity that has nothing to do with philosophy. It is the tension of bone against bone and the infusion of blood by marrow that brings us to this activity: the living, breathing sensation of our own being, which alone can remind us both of our existence as we are here, now, and our mortality in the brief light of our rather short existence. 

Those things might remind us of something true; and from there, we might begin to know something and feel something real, rather than believing in that which is not—but for the fact that we pretend it is so.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

A Sense of the Planet, Part II


People speak of planetary influences as though they're something that’s far away and theoretical.

But if you have a good attention, you’ll see when you drink a glass of water that you’re under planetary influences. Your whole organism can be attuned to the inward flow of that influence in the water and the swallowing of it. If you’re receiving the higher energy properly, a whole range of energetic influences will be received and interact with each food you eat.

Drinking a glass of plain water can be a practice. Pay attention! Once you understand this in your organism, then you’ll understand something real about the planet we’re on. Not something built of dreams.

When you breathe the air, you’re also under planetary influences. Again, if you have a good attention in your body, you’ll understand this. Otherwise the matter in you that’s meant to receive higher influences, a higher rate of vibration, will be deadened. You’ll live, but you won’t receive any of the support that the planet is interested in giving you. 

It’s as though a meal is being served right in front of you now and you ignore it and walk away because you imagine there will be better food somewhere else, later. In fact the food you’re being served is already unfamiliar to you. It’s the basic higher food of the planet itself, and your participation in its presence. 

This is a different relationship to life than the ordinary one; but it is a correct a relationship, and if you don’t seek a correct relationship, you won’t ever actually know where you are, and what you're doing.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, October 4, 2021

A Sense of The Planet


If I become more whole; if I sense, I feel, I think together; eventually I become a whole creature, not a series of fragments which collide with one another all day long.

Then perhaps I begin to organically see that I'm a creature on a planet. 

Not just any planet; this is a planet engaged in a vast experiment with chemistry, creating extraordinary and exotic compounds and recombining them in trillions of ways in every second. 

This planet is a living thing; and I am a part of it. Every instant of my life is an act of chemical engagement that integrates me completely with the life of the planet itself.

This is a different sense of Being than the one that sentimentalizes nature and thinks about the poor planet and the way we are destroying it — which is unfortunately quite true. Our attitudes towards the planet when we are partial are attitudes of the body, the intellect, the emotions, all separated and not infrequently in conflict with one another. We mistake each one of them for a “real” sense of what it means to be on the planet. 

None of these is a real sense of what this means. Each one inflects our perception of conditions according to its own perspective, which is incompletely formed.

If I have a true sense, a real sense, of my whole Being, the question that immediately arises is one of my responsibility to this planet, how I participate in its whole presence in any given moment. These moments are alive and filled with a truth that transcends me as an individual: I have a duty towards the planet that begins within myself and must be upheld honorably and with a great attention. 

If I have this sense, already, everything about my attitude to the planet is quite different. I have legs; I don't crawl to understanding like some lower animal, but walk to it upright and with a sense of wonder. 

This is why men became vertical creatures walking on two legs; and yet we have forgotten it.

We need to overcome the romance of the planet and its beauty and attend to the reality of the planet and our participation  in its life.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Good Leather


A little post for my birthday, which was — unlike the vast majority of material in this space, even the other birthday post— written today, on the day I post it.

The other day, a friend of mine reminded me of Gurdjieff’s comment, “I have good leather to sell, for those who wish to make shoes.”

Shoes, of course, are what we put on our feet, the lowest part of our body, in order to support our contact with the earth. They provide both support and protection from that contact, which, while absolutely necessary, can be rigorous and demanding. If one wants to travel the surface of the planet, shoes are a necessity. 

If we want to get through life, we need a good pair of shoes on our soul as well as our feet.

Leather, of course, is from the skin of another animal — gained through the suffering and death of another, and appropriated for our own use. We can obtain this either callously or with gratitude for the sacrifice that the other being made to provide this important material.

The allegory of the shoes reminds me of the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, which for the greater part center around the travels of the wayfarer, a pilgrim or journeyman through life. Not only does he feature prominently in multiple paintings, he's also often present in the background of paintings, playing out tiny dramas that seem completely disconnected from the intense and complex symbolism of the foreground.

Yet each one of these images provides a thread that sews the theme of all the paintings together; the fabric is stitched, the pieces are connected, by the idea of moving through life, traversing a huge landscape, filled with extraordinary things, which are to be perceived as wonders and digested as facts at the same time. I say this because the paintings, as extraordinary and inexplicable as they seem to be, are indeed facts and present the fantastic right there in front of us as a fact, even if it seems to be a fantasy. 

There are sophisticated philosophical questions raised by this action which I believe the artist was well aware of when he undertook the paintings. The late medieval and early Renaissance mind was as acutely sophisticated and aware of irony as we are today; and Bosch knew irony, for sure. In the midst of his hells his humor always shines through. 

This, I think, is how we should be, as well.

Anyway, this is just a brief thought for readers. If you have a chance, browse through the extensive collection at the Bosch project site and look for the wanderers, all of whom need good shoes to wend their way through the incredible places that Bosch has created. If there were ever paintings of the holy planet purgatory, these are the paintings.

Wishing you all the best on this, my 66th birthday.


The Body and Blood


Formal family portrait with my sister Sarah
Hamburg, circa 1964

Today is my 66th birthday.

  Most folks think of inner things as being psychological. They aren’t. Psychology is a bleb growing on the outer skin of the soul. 

Everyone thinks the bleb — a little growth, a skin tag filled with blood —is the body and not just an accidental appendage. But we live, in our innermost soul, within the body and the blood of Christ, and this is an extraordinary secret which few ever come into contact with.

In order to come into contact with it, you have to become an animal. 

Once one comes into contact with the animal, paradoxically, inwardly forms an intimate relationship with it, the body and blood of Christ have a place to manifest. 

Then what is within us becomes quite different; and although the bleb is exactly the same and we still pump so much of ourselves through it, it’s no longer the center of gravity.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, September 30, 2021




March 19, 2021

In our ordinary state, we are animals who think we’re human beings. 

It would be better if we were human beings who knew we were animals.

If that were the case, we'd truly know something, because our organic conscience would then already be awakened. But our organic conscience is buried; under ordinary circumstances we have absolutely no contact with it. The ego has created a substitute conscience within the surface waters of our being, which changes with every ray of light that is reflected from it. It doesn’t absorb the light from within and use that for its work; it only takes light from outside, like a parasite, which costs us nothing and causes us to be as casual with our conscience as a drunken sailor spending his money as he goes from one bar to another. 

In this manner, our conscience gets us exactly what we want: but all we want is to be a drunkard. That is to say, we wish to serve only ourselves; and this is one of the esoteric meanings of Gurdjieff’s use of the term masturbation, which actually has nothing to do with the sexual act, even though it consistently sounds like it. Masturbation is a function of the ego, and it is a function that takes place in what we call the “conscious” state. Association has a great deal to do with masturbation, and this can be better understood from a practical (not psychological) point of view if one studies it more carefully.

Let’s change gears here for a moment and discuss the function of association. Association is very nearly random and operates at light speed. It functions in nearly exactly the same way as a computer does, that is, absolutely mechanically. It consists of the database. When any impression comes in, association automatically and instantaneously compares it to thousands, even tens of thousands or perhaps millions, of other impressions it has stored. What it connects that impression can depends on a number of factors, including what happened just beforehand, with previous impressions have the strongest correspondence, and accident. Previous impressions have the strongest influence, but accident is the predominant form of collision between an immediate impression and its predecessors. It simply a matter of random chance whether the strongest influence happens to pop up first. 

Typically, an impression brushes up against some one or two dozen previous collections of impressions in the first instant and there is always one that has a stronger influence. This is the one that the incoming impression binds to. Again, one can see this function if one has a fortunate moment of insight. Because of the speed of the process, it’s impossible to be there with it all the time; the point is that one has to have an immediate and practical experience of this question in order to understand just how random and mechanical are function of association is. From there we can begin to more strongly reject the immediate effect of associations and step back from them. To be suspicious of them. Taking one step back always allows the possibility for the contact with further material, some of which will usually be better formed than the accidental connections. The issue here, of course, lies in the fact that for most of us we have many mistakenly reinforced impressions — and the more we fall under the influence of the outside world and other people, the more we are likely to have a group of mistaken or broken impressions which reflect lies other people have constructed and fed to one another. Hence the title of my song, “Other People’s Lies.”

Let’s go back to the question of being an animal. We are not human beings. As we are, we are feral. Everything in us responds to animal desire, which is not been trained to do anything other than to get what it wants for itself. A human being begins this way as a child. There is a touching innocence to that state, because it is a rightful state from nature’s point of view and each animal inhabits it without prejudice and according to law. However, because of the intellect, human beings inhabit the state with increasing prejudice in every moment that they exist; and this deviates more and more from any lawful infestation other than the law of egostic selfishness, which is really a kind of summary “anti-– law” belonging to the set of 24 laws that manifest themselves as oppositional law on this level.

So we aren’t even animals. We are animals who have run wild from the state of being animal and substituted it with a different, more malevolent state that cares only about itself, in an intellectual way that permits it to do intentional harm to others, including other humans, all animals, plants, the environment, and the planet itself. Animals are capable of such action. We dream we are human beings but we are not even close to that state as we are. A human being suffers the consequences of their actions from within through the force of a properly matured conscience; and this puts a moral constraint on them far more powerful than any exterior force could create. Yet in our dreams, because we have convinced ourselves that we are “human beings,” we excuse anything we do without care.

The human being who knows they are an animal has developed a respect for that half of their being; and it changes the way we are in relationship both with ourselves and the world.

A human being begins to understand how to suffer.

 May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.