Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Confluence of Truth: becoming a perfect idiot

Sculpture from the Cloisters, Manhattan

A moment comes when I experience a feeling of total solitude, when I no longer know how to relate to what surrounds me. Everywhere, always, I feel alone. Even when I am with close friends or my family, I am alone. I do not know my relation with them, what actually connects
us. This feeling of solitude and isolation is created by my self-centered thought—my name, my family, my position. I need to live with this solitude and, passing through it like a door, come to something much greater: a deeper state of total "abandonment," a state of "individuation."
This is no longer a state of isolation, because the isolation is included, as well as the entire process of thinking and experiencing, with all the provocations and responses involved. When we understand this process on all levels of consciousness, we are free from influences in that our
thinking and feeling are no longer fashioned by outer events or inner experience. 

When the mind is without provocation or response, there is "abandonment." Only in this state can we find the real.

—The Reality of Being, Jeanne Salzmann, P. 168

Every human being represents an individual and completely realized truth of its own kind. Now, it is equally true and a matter of objective fact that every single manifestation in the universe represents an equally valid truth; but a human being collects many truths within Being. That is to say, a human being is a summary of the truths they encounter, a mirror of truth itself.

But to say that we are a mirror of truth is still inaccurate, because we are not just mirrors, but repositories. Many different threads of truth come to rest in each human being; and those truths cover both microscopic and macrocosmic data, such that both very small and very large truths of many different kinds find themselves resident together with any human being. The Buddhists attempt to explain this with the term Dharma, which is interesting but nearly useless, because it lacks precision and has become a kind of jargon. The term is useful only to the extent that it is used to refer to the confluence of truth, which takes place in awareness.

Confluence of truth means the coming together of truth. Truth has an infinite number of different natures and truths all have equal value in that all are true; yet we would probably agree that the truth of, for example, a glass marble and Christian philosophy are quite different things. Yet to a certain extent, within a human being, they discover an equality, being recorded within Being as things that exist, concepts to ponder, or facts to deal with. Being becomes the great equalizer which takes all truth and expresses it within Being itself, which is the only vehicle capable of both taking truth in, comprehending it, and sorting it out into organized structures.

Meister Eckhart certainly understood the nature of this confluence of truth, because he spoke about it many times in terms of the German word Gleichgültigkeit, which is a specific quality that objects, events, circumstances, and conditions have in common. It means, literally, “equal validity.” In man, in other words, all things have equal validity; yet human beings, of course, do not take all things as equally valid. In our ordinary state we pick and choose, and we want to decide for ourselves what is valid and what isn’t. This is contrary to a state closer to God, in which all things are equally valid — in which we stand as agents occupying a point in space-time representing the confluence of truth in that particular place. This sounds, of course, like some kind of a science-fiction description, but it is not at all: rather, it is a description of human beings as representatives of God, in which each one of us inhabits a distinctive awareness of our place in the middle of a singular confluence of truth.

This idea of a singular confluence of truth is equivalent to Gurdjieff’s idiots, individual expressions of Being equivalent to the ancient Greek word ídios, meaning “one’s own.” The word, in the sense he used it, was meant to denote an individual or individualism — and in this sense, according to Gurdjieff, even God is an idiot. Individual derives from the late Latin word individūus, that which is not divided, or, whole. In this sense, every Being with consciousness represents a whole and undivided single and unique expression of a confluence of truth, a repository into which everything that that Being receives is deposited. 

Perhaps, as you gather these various threads, you will begin to get the gist of what I am saying here about this. The fact is that if we wish to be what Gurdjieff called “objective,” we do not get to pick and choose what we like and don’t like. We inhabit the confluence of truth that we represent without compromise. This does not relieve us from the responsibility of discrimination or action, but it does impose upon us the requirement of understanding our place first. Hence the emphasis on seeing ourselves. When we see ourselves, we do not just see our reactions, our associations, our virtues and vices. Instead, we are required to inhabit everything that we are, all that has taken place within us, every single experience, fact, understanding, and so on that has converged upon us up to this point within our Being, and measure it all according to a force of intelligence and Being that includes it. It is this inclusion that is important; because in order to become what I would call a perfect idiot, one has to embody everything that has taken place in one’s life—as well as everything that is taking place at this instant — simultaneously.

 That, of course, sounds like a tall order, because it is impossible for the intellect to undertake such an action. Yet the confluence of the three centers, the active participation of the mind, the emotion, and the body of sensation, is well able to encompass this action. It isn’t even necessary to keep all of the confluence of truth in mind at one time, because the confluence of truth within Being becomes the tip of a needle, which penetrates the current moment quite precisely with what we refer to as presence.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Two new books

Announcing two new books which are part of a fund-raising effort.  I'm offering two quite different books, because those who aren't interested in one may be interested in the other.

 The unicorn tapestries (click on the link to go to the page)

 During our trip to Burgundy in 2017, Neal & I stopped in Paris and visited the Lady of the Unicorn tapestries.  On a follow-up trip to the cloisters museum in Manhattan this December, I visited the unicorn hunt tapestries.

 I originally intended to write a monograph on the lady of the unicorn tapestries alone, but after the Cloisters trip I realized it was impossible to write about one without writing about the other.  

 The Unicorn tapestries offers original esoteric interpretations of the two groups of tapestries, and explains why they are related to one another—not just because of the unicorn theme, but because of the way in which they treat  the masculine and feminine, as well and higher and lower, nature in spiritual work. 

 This book is extensively illustrated. It is an excerpt from a much longer book called "The Reconstruction of the Soul" which will be published later in 2018.

An Organic sense of being  (click on the link to go to the page)

This new book is a collection of the longer essays and monographs published over the last year in the Zen, Yoga, Gurdjieff blog. The book is illustrated with pictures of stained glass at the Museum in Lyon, taken during our trip to Burgundy.

In addition, it includes an unpublished monograph  on the meaning of the word "monster," and how this question relates to the development and experience of our inner world. This monograph, like many others seeing the light of day this year, commemorates the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley's famous novel, Frankenstein.

Sales of these books are intended to help to fund editorial costs for material that is being prepared for future publication. This archival material in question will be of significant interest to the Gurdjieff community. Those who participate are being given an opportunity to materially contribute to this effort.

I have so far funded this project entirely out of my own pocket. Your contributions, if any, all be deeply appreciated.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The island kingdoms, part II

From the Cloisters Collection, Metropolitan Museum

It’s useless to believe that the philosophies, attitudes, or information of either kingdom is going to overwhelm and correct the other kingdom. Each of their ways of existing and the things that they believe in and think are completely correct for their own realms; and this needs to be deeply respected, because an effort to graft inappropriate thoughts, forms, and actions from one kingdom to another can lead to unintended disaster.

In the allegory of man’s two natures depicted in the tapestries of the unicorn at the Musée de Cluny in Paris, the noblewoman is the representative who stands between the two kingdoms. The kingdoms are represented by the lion and the unicorn, each one of them a mode of Being in its own right. Let’s say the lion is the tropical kingdom and the unicorn is the Arctic kingdom. They could be brought together; but they will only come into right relationship with a wise and experienced mediator who’s aware of both of their modes of existence and the needs thereof. No one will ever be able to turn a lion into a unicorn, or a unicorn into a lion. It’s patently impossible. They can, however, be brought together in harmony, which is the aim of inner spiritual work.

Conducting this inner diplomacy is a delicate matter; it needs to be conducted in secret, because allies of the tropical kingdom don’t want it to have a trade relationship with the Arctic kingdom. They base their whole existence on the premise that such a relationship would damage their own interests, and they align together to do everything they can to prevent it. So the representative conducts their negotiations in secret; anything they do in public is likely to create more resistance against the alliance. This is why the work is an inner, or esoteric, work.

Now I come to a more specific point. We find ourselves, as actual living entities, engaged in this enterprise. It isn’t a theoretical action, but a practical one that takes place every day within us. We're continually tempted to engage in activities that try to force one nature to overwhelm the other, or in any event impose its strict rules. The lower nature wants the higher nature to become a magical tool for it; the higher nature wants the lower nature to be its servant. Because, in all of us, the lower nature is the more powerful kingdom throughout most of our lives, it tends to constantly try to use force and coercion to achieve its goals instead of understanding the needs of the higher nature, which is one that requires the lower nature to intelligently serve it. The servitude is not bondage or slavery, but an action of love; and because the higher nature better understands love than the lower one, it will always act loving in the exercise of its kingdom powers, if it is allowed to.

We want to undergo a transformation in which we “become” the higher nature. This, however, is absolutely not the nature required of us within this life. It is the bringing together of the two natures with our own being as a mediator between them, where we suffer the division between the kingdoms and attempt to heal it — to cross the water between the two islands, so to speak — that should be our purpose, if we can but understand it.

There is a further lesson about the nature of reality and its manifestation on the table here. The entire universe with all of material reality is created strictly through the emanation of love. Love cannot exist selfishly, without an object, so God created the universe specifically so that His love could be expressed within it.

This means that all of the actions that take place within material reality, no matter how monstrous or absurd they may seem to us, have at their root a loving action. The complex metaphysics of this lie beyond the understanding of humanity; and, of course, within the realm we are in, we are required, so to speak, to act “as though” good and evil existed, and even to oppose the downward movement of what we perceive as evil forces. We cannot stop this action; nor should we; but we can trust the action of making a choice between good and evil, of taking sides between them, because the polarity itself is a lawfully required element. This means that even though there are no “lower” and “higher” natures when seen from the perspective of unity, that perspective belongs to God alone. Every other created being is required to participate in the world of polarity. Only God has the privilege of standing above that; and that is the place of the greatest suffering, suffering so intense and universal that it would destroy any created being who attempted to occupy the position. We can take on small portions of that suffering within our experience of the two natures we perceive; and that suffering always emerges from accepting the division an understanding that the two natures will always be separated from one another. It is in our action of suffering that we ameliorate that division, that separation. Students of Gurdjieff will recognize the holy planet purgatory as an essential location for the resolution of this division; but I will not go into that here other than to say it’s worth reading that chapter in light of this essay.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The island kingdoms, part I

We live in a world that carries the perception of divisions.

The natural tendency within us is to perceive everything as a whole that breaks down into individual parts, rather than as individual parts that assemble themselves into a single whole. There’s an important point to be understood here relative to the question of our higher and lower natures, and what they consist of.

It has been remarked that Ouspensky once said that Gurdjieff told him the struggle between multiple “I”s in a human being eventually comes down to a struggle between only two “I”s, a so-called “good” I and a bad one. Indeed, it’s easy for us to perceive the struggle between our higher and lower natures as one of opposition; and it is natural to presume, in what is a relatively crude perspective from a metaphysical point of view, that we want the good or higher nature to prevail over the bad or lower one. This is the mechanistic and relatively worldly model of most average religious understandings.

Gurdjieff, however, pointed out that the lower develops just as much as the higher does when spiritual development takes place; that is, growth proceeds in both directions. We should thereby understand that there is a growth in both the lower and the higher nature if inner development takes place. In other words, we need our lower nature—the universe needs our lower nature. It serves a purpose.

It will confuse the issue more as I explain to you that there are, in fact, no divided natures. We only have one nature, and that is God’s nature. It is our perception of nature (both our own and that of other things and beings) that divides it into hierarchies. This is a natural consequence of incarnation; because all of material reality is structured in apparent hierarchies, according to law. The tendency to see the subtractive or dividing properties rather than the additive or uniting properties is strong in human beings, because it is much easier for us to look down at things and discern their individual natures than to look upward at what is above us — that which exists on a level we cannot actually understand, any more than bacteria understand us. We should remember, while we are considering this analogy, that bacteria in our gut exert a considerable amount of control over the way we manifest — in other words, even the bacteria get a say about how things proceed on levels higher than themselves. With human beings in relationship to the angelic kingdoms it is not that different.

In any event, our higher and our lower natures are, for practical purposes (that is, given the very narrow perspective available to us) separate entities, regardless of the fact that each one is a partial manifestation of the single whole Being which The Perfection consists of. Individualized fragments do not perceive themselves as fragments: each one perceives itself as a whole, because it is entirely unable to see the way it serves a larger purpose. The emergence of conventional intelligence as mankind understands it, which only takes place on our level of material reality — requiring a great deal of re-concentration of particulate matter, along with its consequent emergent organization, which regenerates a fragmentary consciousness that can intuit, but not fully understand, the whole — is privileged to see this, but only with effort.

In practical terms, as we experience our lives, it is as though our higher and lower natures were separate island kingdoms, one of them a tropical kingdom with great wealth and abundance, sensuality, and exuberance, and the other one an Arctic kingdom of great majesty, restraint, austerity, and intensity of purpose. Both of the kingdoms (I will let you decide which is the higher or the lower, which may add up to an amusing pastime) trade with each other; but of necessity, many of the trade items in each kingdom are either useless or meaningless to the other kingdom.

Nonetheless, they are surely capable of sensing each other’s potential: each one has items of enormous importance that may change many things in the other kingdom. These two kingdoms may, of course, envy one another and go to war; but when they do it does neither one of them any good, because neither one is capable of governing the realm of the other kingdom Their conditions, landscapes, territories, temperatures, and the action of both materials and living forms, are completely different one from the other.

So our higher and lower natures are separated in just this way, and it takes an intelligent counselor to find the materials that are of use for exchange between the two kingdoms.

This essay will be concluded in part II on Feb. 24.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

We Die Tomorrow, Part IV

Capital at Basilique St. Madeleine, Vezelay, France
Photograph by the author

Continued from Feb. 15.

In examining the root of the word pornography, we discover that it comes from a Greek root combining the words for prostitute and write, hence, writing about prostitution.

Yet prostitute itself comes from a root that simply means “exposed publicly, offered for sale.” So most properly put, pornography is not about sex, but about being too public. At least sexual pornography has a certain honesty to it, because it is willing to look shamelessly on the animals we really are. Personal pornography, that is, the ostentatious display of one’s ego- activities for all to see, is perhaps more disgusting and dishonest—yet our media-obsession celebrates it with a level of aggression hitherto unmatched by any other society. The Internet has made unwitting pornographers of almost all of us.

Obviously, there are some activities that can be public without being pornographic — but those activities are activities that relate to honorable behavior, respect for others, love of one’s neighbor and of God, and so on. The celebration of hatred and violence, of divisiveness and cults of personality, are all worse forms of pornography than the sexual form, yet they are not just widely tolerated — they have become the status quo. Perhaps this gives you an inkling of why Gurdjieff hated journalists so much.

Of course we are speaking here of the external matters in the way society is formed, and that is not quite my point, so let me get back to it. No matter what context we find ourselves in—even in small groups with a few people—putting the most intimate details of our innermost spiritual life on display is just not how things ought to be done. Once again, my teachers, Henry and Betty Brown, set the standard for that.

One needs to quietly much of what takes place within oneself in relationship to one’s spiritual practice and inner quest and not share it too much with others. As Epictetus said, when at a banquet, one should never tell others how they ought to eat, but instead attend to eating properly in the way one ought to eat oneself. Real Being is taught by example, not instruction.

It is, furthermore, a messy task. It involves a great deal of inner suffering and direct forgiveness of others. This kind of work has to be done quietly as well, because the pain of forgiveness is worthless if it is not suffered alone.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

We Die Tomorrow, Part III

Capital at Basilique St. Madeleine, Vezelay, France
Photograph by the author

God is required to consume death at every moment of His own existence; it is built into the very fabric of creation, and because God’s food for His own Being consists of the experiential flow and concentration of all creation throughout eternity, God is forever condemned to consume death as an intimate part of his own Being – experience.

While this has been understood in some general terms by numerous esoteric schools throughout mankind’s existence, and was accurately summarized as a parable through Christ’s actual crucifixion, perhaps one example of an entire people that understood this is the Mayan culture of Central America, whose esoteric practice is now mostly lost to us. The complexities of that culture may be difficult to extract, and a great deal of it may seem sadistic or morbid, but any lengthy exposure to their arts and architecture leaves one with the inescapable impression that they understood how intricately death and life are interwoven into the fabric of the universe, and how God consumes this material as a form of suffering. Consciousness swallows life while it lives; but it swallows death at the same time, because the two are inseparable.

Of course the greatest angelic Being of Gurdjieff’s cosmology, Ashiata Shiemash (the name means Ray of light from the Sun) told his followers that life consists, in all parts, always and everywhere, of suffering. It cannot be any different; we are made of the body of God, we are all part of a single thought in God’s mind, and that thought, in its conscious aspect, consists not just of life and consciousness — the re-concentration of God’s particles of Being — but also death, that is, the cyclical, and not just circular but fundamentally spherical, inhalation and exhalation of the consciousness of Being, which is the breathing in and out of the universe. In consuming death as part of His Being-food, God must endlessly suffer not just the life of His own creation, but also the death of it. We become participants in this action and we cannot avoid its consequences any more than God can, because we are part of Him.

In this sense, Gurdjieff had Buddha’s teaching exactly correct: in the beginning, when Buddha brought it, it consisted specifically not of the cessation of or escape from suffering, but the practice of intentional suffering — that is, a willingness to take on God’s burden with Him, which is a way of becoming one with Him.

So let us acknowledge for a moment that right now we are in a universe in which death is perpetually occurring, and that God has no choice but to swallow the substance of that suffering and sorrow, not “tomorrow,” but now and forever.

This bestows a much better sense of the sobriety incumbent upon us. Even though we die “tomorrow” (that is, at some later time we would prefer not to think about) everything actually dies, right now, forever—let us again consider just how precious all moments are in light of it.

 This kind of information needs to be digested quietly and without reference to magical experience. I am not saying that there can’t be magical experience, or that one should not have it; what I am saying is that magical experience comes only in service, and it is always in service, if properly understood, to a deepening of the understanding of suffering. There is only one path to anything one might call “liberation;” if there is a real liberation theology, it is liberation from the delusion that we are immortal and excused somehow from the suffering that is necessary in order to create and maintain the universe. Real liberation consists of understanding the obligations attendant upon us, should we choose to make an effort to consciously participate in this process.

This is why, coming back to the original questions posed here, spiritual life is a most private matter and needs to be treated that way. The displaying of most parts of one’s life in a very public manner is an unfortunate form of pornography.

This series will conclude on Feb. 18.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, February 12, 2018

We die Tomorrow, Part II

Capital at Basilique St. Madeleine, Vezelay, France
Photograph by the author

Continued from Feb. 9.

When my wife asked me what this matter of inner measurement consisted of — what I meant by it — I said to her, the yardstick is death.

This isn’t being overly dramatic; we must measure every moment and our action in it relative to our mortality if we want to understand how much sobriety is necessary in our action. In point of fact, a great deal of sobriety is necessary; it is nearly unlimited, because we are tiny, mortal creatures and in the perspective of the universe, its scope, and our temporary nature, we ought to feel a sense of what Gurdjieff called organic shame in relationship not just to our whole lives (we always love to see these things on some grand scale) but in regard to the molecular, granular nature of our action, of each small thing we do.

Gurdjieff, of course, offered this formulation of always remembering our own death in the last few paragraphs of Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson; yet one can find the exact same formulation in the discourses of Epictetus. The idea was not, in other words, a new one at all, so there is no need to dramatize Gurdjieff’s adoption of it. He simply saw what was true and had been known to esoteric schools for thousands of years, and reported it.

I will say it again in a slightly different way: in the landscape of attention, death is the yardstick by which we measure.

We think that we die tomorrow; but we die always. It is not a matter for some other time; and the path to understanding our own death is through the organic sensation of Being. There is no other way to approach this. Intellectual formulations are useless in this regard, so until one develops an organic sensation of Being, the question will always remain theoretical. The development of that sensation and the consequent understanding of death as a living force lead to some radical rearrangements in Being; and even then, they are only a beginning. These are not, furthermore matters that bring any comfort; and since we often seek comfort first when it comes to spiritual matters, it can be quite disturbing to discover that real inner work does anything but.

In pondering this further this morning, in a later conversation with my wife—on my China trips, these talks get broken up  into discreet little packages by breakfasts, hotel checkouts, taxi rides, and airport waits— a question of the larger picture emerged.

While it’s true that our experience of death as an active force in life needs to become absolutely organic, intimate, and personal, understanding it from a much larger scale is still important in order to put a perspective on Gurdjieff’s comments about the suffering of God, and the place of our own suffering in relationship to it.

The universe exists on death.

This series will continue in part III on Feb. 15.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, February 9, 2018

We Die Tomorrow, Part I

Capital at Basilique St. Madeleine, Vezelay, France
Photograph by the author

Notes from Hangzhou and Yantai
December 3, 2017

Over the course of the past few days, I’ve been thinking about the question of just how public — or private — our spiritual lives are, or ought to be: what we say to one another, whether in private, at retreats, in groups, or in social media.

I wonder where the center of gravity on our innermost spiritual search ought to lie in relationship to this.

Of course all of this is conducted not without a dash of irony, in light of my own public life as a writer on spiritual matters. What exists in me… believe it or not… is a significant landscape of spiritual practice behind my writing that I don’t talk about much. Occasionally someone asks me something specific about that world of private experience; more often than not, I’m reticent. In some ways I resist the world of reporting one’s marvelous spiritual experiences.

Sitting in front of my icon of Christ this morning, I was reminded quite forcefully, from within sensation itself, that our innermost spiritual work truly ought to remain secret and private. Our relationship with God is not supposed to be worn on our sleeve, and our prayers and supplications ought not be a public matter.

We should not, furthermore, display any outward enthusiasm for our religious practice, whatever it is. As I explained to my wife during our conversation this morning, spiritual practice is a matter of measurement, not enthusiasm. In prayer, one measures from within, quietly and silently, and enthusiasm takes one away from this. It’s perfectly okay to have enthusiasm about outward things; but enthusiasm about our spiritual work or the inward is not so helpful.

The word enthusiasm derives from the Greek root enthous, meaning “possessed by a God.” In the case of outward enthusiasm, however, the God that possesses us is always an outward God; we are taken by it, and we forget who we are.

In mulling this over, I pointed out to my wife that my own spiritual teachers, Henry and Betty Brown, never engaged in this kind of enthusiasm in regard to matters regarding the Gurdjieff work. Extolling the marvelous virtues of the work or its personages, prattling on about special inner experiences, and so on, never went on. When people (including me) started to do so… they invariably remained quite still and silent until one was finished, and thereby set a different example.

The example always involved a certain respectability, a silence in regard to the outward, and a call to come back to an attention to where we were, together, in relationship in that moment. Confessional and testimonial were not meant to be part of that dialogue; and while one has to witness in regard to Grace — there is a certain deep obligation in that regard — one always has to remember that this witnessing is never in regard to one’s own virtue or blessedness, but only in regard to the virtue and blessedness of God.

None of the spiritual work that one engages in is about oneself. It is always about our relationship to others, and to God. The fact that we frequently turn this upside down and on its head is self-evident; it’s so often (and weirdly) about us and our hope for “progress.” As though we were engaged in the five-year plan of a socialist search for God.

Yet with Henry and Betty, it wasn’t about progress — where we were going — it was always about where we are now.

That involves the measurement of the moment, and attention is the measurement of this moment.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

No matter how bad

Capital at Basilique St. Madeleine, Vezelay, France
Photograph by the author

Here we come to an essential law difficult to grasp.

That which is absolutely bad must be absolutely forgiven.

That is to say, the worse things are, the more evil, the more forgiveness is demanded. This is a process better understood in heaven than on earth, because in the light of God forgiveness finds its most natural expression.

On our own level, it’s a weak thing in constant need of support, and it’s our job to provide that as best we can: but when souls “die” and return to the Lord, in that light their forgiveness is completed through the intervention of Divine Love.

Thus if you were to go to heaven (or angels came to earth) and you met the souls of those who died in the holocaust, you would find them perfectly loving and perfectly forgiving. Their Being is filled with the radiant Love of God, and the evil that was done to them is both forgiven and forgotten. Hell, insofar as there is one, consists for all of us in being so forgiven: for it is in the exposure and forgiveness of our sin that God’s Love finds its greatest expression. Hence remorse of conscience, which is what brings us closer to God. Hell is not a place of punishment—the spiritual primitivist’s vision of its nature—but education.

One of the most doctrinally difficult things to grasp is the objective fact that there is no evil which is not necessary. The cosmos is a creation governed by law, and law conforms without fail to what is necessary. There can be no unnecessary or deviant action in a universe of law.
Whether or not one is religious, this is a basic principle of the scientific process.

We should therefore understand that in this lawful universe, every element of evil that arises cannot be avoided and must exist. Of course we struggle “against” it; and of course on this level one must take a firm and even resolute stand to combat it. One must, however, do this not through hatred, anger, or resentment, which all represent standard off-the-shelf temptations we fall victim to — every last one of us. It is essential that we resist through Love. It’s the lack of love and our distance from love, the dissipation of Divine Love, that has created an environment where evil is “necessary” in the first place — so all evil can be basically categorized as a lack of love, and the only antidote for it is to go against it with what is missing.

These are highly conceptual propositions when one is confronted with personal evil. In our ordinary fallen state, that is, unless we have attained a greater unity of being, our response is inevitably at the same level as the evil that has provoked it in the first place. This is a normal and natural thing and should not be avoided, excused, or discharged as unimportant. We have to inhabit the truth of these reactions even as we seek a higher energy which will bring us into a greater alignment with true Being, thus more able to manifest a corrected, loving response.

If this is confusing, it ought to be; sometimes loving responses must be unusually forceful. They may even involve violence: on a certain level, even love has to fight its battles in order to manifest. It would take a divine metaphysician to sort out the many different threads of this fabric. But what we can know, from a personal point of view, that decent, intelligent right action is a requirement on our part. This involves making an effort to care for others and suffer with them. The worse the offense, the greater the demand on us to forgive it. This is not just the Christian path (and, irrevocably, it is the essence of the Christian path) it is also the Judaic path, the Islamic path, the Buddhist path, the Hindu path, and so on. All the great religions understand this requirement, even if their constituents forget it.

Put in more dramatic terms, one might say that it is better to die by the devil’s own hand than to do another person harm. While we may, on our own, find this to be an impossibly high standard to hold ourselves to, one has to note that this is an interpretation based on our ordinary experience of the ordinary energy of life. If we read the Bhagavad-Gita, and understand Krishna’s exchange with Arjuna, we are brought a different understanding of what can be necessary under the influence of divine energies, where even evil itself it is understood as necessary.

We're not to be excused from the participation in evil, even though we are called to a higher perspective. This brings us to the paradox where we may have to do violence in the service of God, even though it is a corrupting influence. One has to be at a completely different level of Being to avoid the consequences of this law.

In this context, it is not the participation in violence that condemns us, but our attitude and intention towards it. It is not the action, but the suffering attendant upon it, that makes a difference spiritually.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Becoming the devil

Capital, St. Lazare, Autun

Perhaps the most obvious aspect of Beelzebub’s Tales is also its most esoteric: it is hidden in plain sight, so glaringly obvious that it is impossible to see. It forms the core of the entire book and its cosmology; and it explains the meaning of the title, “All and Everything,” because it encompasses the entire purpose of existence and the cycle of creation.

Even the devil himself must be redeemed.

In the great glory of God’s Love, even the fallen—including Satan Himself—must be forgiven and redeemed. Gurdjieff made this the overarching element in his intricate story line. Our work as human beings is to redeem the devil—to redeem all fallen souls. In doing so, we are required to embody the fallen condition, in the same way that Christ became human.

This is another esoteric meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection; just as God cannot redeem His fallen creation and His creature, humanity, without becoming human Himself, we ourselves can’t help in the redemption of the devil without becoming the devil. Put in other terms, it means we must become evil, immerse ourselves in evil, and overcome it personally in order to participate in the great work of redeeming evil on a cosmic scale.

We are thus tasked, in our individual lives, with recapitulating Christ’s effort and sacrifice. Christian understanding has deviated very far from this path, and become its own opposite; for although (per Christ’s own words and teachings) it is doctrinally impossible for a true Christian to adopt any spirit of condemnation or vengeance whatsoever, those attitudes absolutely prevail in fundamentalism today.

This paradox cannot be resolved without understanding the conceptual meaning of the Antichrist: a creature (creation, means of existence) which cleverly poses as Christ’s teaching but actually has nothing to do with it. This has given us the world as we see it today; and it truly is the world of the Antichrist.

Of course there are further deviant elements of Christian doctrine that would have us believe there are sins that cannot be redeemed; and it’s certain the idea that even the most grotesque forms of evil should and must be forgiven basically repels us.

But the nature of Divine Love is such that all of creation, and every angelic force, even the most fallen ones, must be redeemed and returned to God’s Love. I’ve had personal angelic revelations of this matter which leave no room for doubt; but there is no point in recounting them here except to say that the matter is quite certain.

The Buddhist doctrines, in ancient times, interpreted this work of redemption as the Bodhisattva vows; and in the Hindu tradition reincarnation serves as the vehicle for the effort of redemption.

In fact both have elements of truth in them; we are born again and again, lifetime after lifetime, and in each lifetime the elemental nature of our soul works towards a deeper understanding of the nature of Divine Love. In Gurdjieff’s obligolnian strivings, the fifth striving refers to this process:

the striving always to assist the most rapid perfecting of other beings, both those similar to oneself and those of other forms, up to the degree of the sacred ‘Martfotai’ that is up to the degree of self-individuality.
*(“Martfotai” may be derived from the Persian معرفتی— marifati, an epistemic or higher degree of Knowledge.)

The work of a soul is to reach a point, over many lifetimes, where one develops a conscious experience of the need for absolute forgiveness and absolute redemption.

One also needs to see the inherent contradiction between our lives as they are on this level—with all the degenerate elements that cannot be expunged—and this higher purpose which is given to all of us, even if we choose not to embrace it.

If one examines the core of every legitimate esoteric doctrine one will find the seeds of this truth embedded in it. We can’t escape our humanity; but inhabiting it is what offers us a chance to see the contradiction in such a way as to understand what Love and Forgiveness (in their Divine nature) actually require: a sacrifice on the order of Christ’s.

There are functional, structural reasons for this situation embedded in the nature of the cosmos itself, as described in Novel, Myth and Cosmos: The Information of the Soul; and they have of course to do with the nature of relationship, which begins as a “fallen” (dissipated) entity in need of reformation through conscious effort. The fall of Satan is the ancient mythological analogy that cultures developed to personify this cosmological process; and they did this because they understood that although the challenge of the reconstruction of the soul is cosmological, the process is personal. That is, without agents (even Satan must serve that purpose) the process has no representation and no witness. So Adam and Eve ate the apple; Satan fell; and so on. In each case the descent into the material, with its concrete literalism (manifestation as material, subject to law) represents a loss of the Perfection; a fall from Grace.

Paradoxically, it is only in the law of reciprocal feeding—which is, in its cosmological form, the law of the reconstruction of the soul—that God can feed Himself through the exploration and reassembly (redemption) of His particles.

Redemption, however, is not just a myth we tell each other or carve in temple walls. It is a process we're called on to participate in now; and Christ’s message of forgiveness, Love, turning the other cheek is all part of this process. If we examine all the great religions we discover that the redemption of the devil lies at the heart of the question—and in the same way that all of us are a tiny fraction of god, so do we all equally embody a fragment of the devil—who is also a part of God. 

We can’t embody the universal process of redemption unless we understand—and suffer— this relationship through human experience.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.