Thursday, March 29, 2018

An impossible set of conditions

The Nativity
Fontenay Abbey, France

We come in this life to what is essentially an impossible set of conditions, where everything is continuously unexpected and every plan we make does not correspond to what will actually happen.

On top of that, we complicate everything much further by developing an intense and inflexible set of opinions about how we are and how everything ought to be; and we then try to force the world in that direction. This is the story of almost every human being.

The contradiction ought to be obvious, but perhaps it isn’t, so I’ll explain it.

The impossible set of conditions and our reaction to it are in direct opposition to one another. The impossible set of conditions demands an amazing flexibility; and yet everything in me conspires to prevent that. The force of personality and its sheer size becomes more and more impressive as one sees how deliberately it sabotages every effort at flexibility. In a certain sense, the construction itself isn’t even necessary; I could throw the whole thing out and I would probably still be able to deal with every impossible set of conditions as it arose. I have, in fact, had practical experiences instructing me on this matter; but those were given, not something I owned, and if a human being doesn’t earn their flexibility, in some senses it is worth far less.

This is why we have what we call a “struggle” in life. It may be oversimplifying the matter, but not by much.

Having a single sense of Being by connecting several of the centers in active work can shed light on this dilemma. It’s almost always the mind and sensation that would be connected first, although there are rare instances where emotion and the mind may play a role of their own. That’s much more difficult because of their relative speeds — sensation almost always has to play the middleman. The reason that the single sense of Being serves this function is that I am able to much better see the fractured nature of my inward continuity through this faculty. I see that I have been the victim of this function called personality for most of my life; I see its selfishness. I see its willfulness and how mistaken it is about other individuals and even events in my life itself. And I am required, without exception, to more consciously confront all of the fear that it manufactures in relationship to my impossible set of conditions.

Using the word impossible is quite important here. It sounds like it means something that cannot be; but this isn’t the etymological meaning of the word at all. It originates from the Latin posse, to be able. This means that what is impossible is that which isn’t able — that which cannot do. And the word able comes from habilis and habere, meaning that which is in the hand — that which can be grasped. So “impossible conditions” doesn’t mean conditions that can’t take place — it means conditions that are not in hand, conditions that I am not capable of grasping.

In this way we say that we are confronted by an impossible set of conditions, which means a set of conditions that cannot be grasped or understood, that cannot be held in the hand — it is essentially, in its own nature, unknowable, it is a mystery. We are unable to overcome the conditions — and yet that is our exact response, we think we will overcome them because we see ourselves as having the potential to master them. This hubris is the classic failure of human beings.

We can inhabit an impossible set of conditions. We do inhabit that. But we cannot overcome them, because the conditions are always out of hand.They are ungraspable; they do not conform to what we know or what we believe or what we expect. We need, instead, to develop a capacity for being present to them and developing an authentic, or personal, individual response of agency in order to meet them.

The individual response of agency is another new concept, or at least term, to use when examining how we are. The world demands an individual responsive agency. This is true from the smallest molecules and organisms all the way up through human beings and life as we know it. It is, by the way, a fact that the individual response of agency is also a burden laid upon planets and suns, but that takes place on a level too high for us and is not really worth discussing right now.
The individual response of agency is a fancy and more technical way of referring to Gurdjieff’s conscious intelligence. But it isn’t an intelligence just of the mind, but rather of the entire being, which must take responsibility — a conscious understanding of the ability and necessity of responding — in order to play an appropriate role.

There is a huge difference between the demands of legitimate awareness and mechanical responsibility on the atomic and molecular level, where all of the responses are automatic and according to strict law. Responsibility becomes increasingly aware throughout the development of lifeforms, and by the time we reach human consciousness it is understood — even by atheists, who understand almost nothing else — that there is a requirement for response of an intelligent and ethical nature.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, March 26, 2018

How we are not whole

The Flagellation of Christ
Fontenay Abbey, France

Jan. 23.

After writing the essay on the importance on establishing one’s undivided state, one’s individuality, a number of conversations on the subject took place. I can’t recount every single one of them; but a number of observations echo through me, and — once again sitting in a hotel room in the early hours of the morning in Shanghai — I wish to jot them down for my own purposes.

Perhaps I should stress that everyone thinks they are already a single person, undivided. This is where the trouble begins. The greatest difficulty lies in the fact that it is so challenging to see how we are not whole; everything in the personality militates against it. It might be said that the only way to understand how divided we are is by becoming undivided. Until then, everything is opinion; and afterwords, everything is fact. Perhaps this becomes a lesson in how absolutely committed we are to our opinions. It’s quite astonishing, really. From within an undivided state one sees how forceful opinion is — because, you see, it does not go away. The difference between a divided and an undivided state is not in the losing of things, but the seeing of them. In an undivided state one has no choice but to absolutely confront all of the fractured Being that one gave oneself an endless series of excuses about in the past.

In this sense, no one really wants to be whole, because it involves an intensification of suffering within Truth of Being. This brings us to contrast with teachings that speak about how all is one, everything is beautiful, and so on. From an objective point of view this is true. Those interested in a brief snapshot of how that can affect a man in extremity should read the new Conge book, Real Life Behind Appearances, and absorb his description of his war experiences.

Yet the problem isn’t with the nature of the universe, but in man’s nature. We constantly confuse our own nature with the nature of The Reality, and believe that because we are part of The Perfection there is some kind of an excuse available to us, and everything will be all right.

I want you to think this over very carefully and understand our mortality. Nothing is all right at all, and this needs to be looked at intimately and with a willingness to suffer exactly what we are.

There is an incredible amount of grace bestowed upon us in the very fact of our existence, and at every moment we throw this away as though it were a cheap thing that could be discarded after use, like a plastic bag. So we are beings with grace discarded all around us; yet we don’t see the mess we are living in. If we were able to see through individuality just how filled with grace every moment is we would treat them all as more precious; our attitude here is a serial failure, and until we come to grips with that, we actually see very little.

Perhaps I should warn you. The more you are willing to take your own suffering in and digest it, the more suffering will come. We develop this capacity in order to be of service, and this means we must give something of ourselves up. So don’t take this inward work lightly, because it will demand — and what it demands will not be what I want it to demand, but rather what is objectively demanded. It’s a worthwhile exercise to try and see that everything that I think is “demanded” in a spiritual work and an inner effort are things that I want to be demanded, not things that are actually and objectively demanded. That is to say, I construct a fantasy about what ought to be and will be asked of me in order to become spiritually obedient. If real spiritual obedience is demanded of me it will always be a shock because the demands are not familiar ones and I never thought them up while I was sitting around in my hotel rooms or at home dreaming about my spiritual work.

One will be able to recognize real spiritual demand by exactly this quality, if it should arrive.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, March 23, 2018

The single sense of Being, part IV

Cathedral, Lyon

Well then, dear readers.

We come back around to the question of this fragmentary sense of Being.

We must study this condition... our actual nature—

not what we wish it would be or dream it could be—

very carefully, and come to know it in all of its aspects without fiddling with it.

Real suffering comes from experiencing all of one’s manifestations exactly as they are, not as one has adjusted them or wishes them to be. It is subtle and nearly impossible for us to see from the perspective of our intelligence, which rationalizes everything, but every adjustment we make to what we are from where we are is an attempt to reduce the amount of suffering we must undergo, to avoid it.

In other words, it relates to what Mr. Gurdjieff called the evil inner God of self-calming.

We are meant to come to our spiritual work exactly as we are. Our own wishes for improvement will always and forever fail; because only the Presence of God truly improves. That Presence improves on its own terms and within its own context and has no egoistic content; it is not of us, but of the Lord.

The single sense of Being is a vessel that needs to be prepared in order to receive this presence; and the single sense of Being, as embodied quite precisely by the phrase, is the equivalent of Gurdjieff’s “conscious egoism.” Conscious egoism, in other words, is not a psychological or spiritual device for the benefit of he or she who has that capacity or quality; it is a state, or a condition, which is prepared to receive influences from a higher level and has the capacity to retain them due to its unified state.

Without that capacity, one may receive all the higher influences one likes; they will just dissipate.

There is no better practical advice than an intimate and caring attention to sensation over the long term for the development of the single sense of Being. If one develops this sensation, acquires the capacity to have it distributed in equal measure across all of the parts, so that it exists without preference and objectively in all of the parts of the body, then one will understand individuality quite differently, because over a number of years, as sensation deepens and becomes more permanent and more perfectly blended with the organism and its awareness, the understanding of time and why we perceive it as being so "short" will grow in concert with sensation.

In addition to the dilation of time, which is necessary in order to fully appreciate our manifestations (we forget about them in an instant if we are not whole) the capacity for real feeling, which is relentlessly and forever an experience of suffering and sorrow, will also grow. This is how we were meant to Be as organisms and beings; and while you might think that the description of it somehow sounds depressing, it is anything but.

This is the fullest meal one could ever eat, and the food is of the finest variety. Every morsel has a savor that cannot be tasted for as long as life divides itself and Being is not whole.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The single sense of Being, part III

Cathedral, Lyon

Make no mistake about it. These are not “esoteric”, secret, obscure, or apocryphal matters. You have within yourself the capacity to experience the things I am describing on a direct, intimate, and personal level, because your physical being on this material level was created to receive and transubstantiate these energies.

As it happens, the Catholic liturgy and the receiving of communion was meant, at one time, to serve as a daily initiation into not just the memory but the actual practice of these energetic disciplines. I say discipline because it is a form of training, for all three centers. Unfortunately, the ritual of the Catholic liturgy and the communion became detached from real inner understanding, and the fact that we receive Christ in the body and blood — that the actual physical substance of the blood itself receives the physical particulate matter of a finer substance, Gurdjieff’s Hanbeldzoin— has been forgotten. We literally receive Christ in the blood, because Christ is the representative of the solar influence, of God himself and his physical manifestation within this planetary system. The feminine part which receives this is mediated by the heavenly presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We participate directly and actively in God’s work of insemination of the material by the divine when we connect with our sensation to bring divine energies to the moon within ourselves, and open our feeling to the solar influences which flow into us from above. Only through the single sense of being can we participate directly in this; and so the communion represents a symbolic action of making ourselves whole within ourselves, through the receiving of grace, so that we can make our individuality, our undivided this, available for this sacred and necessary work.

This represents, in its entirety, the true purpose of man on earth, and reveals to us (if we develop the single sense of being) the opportunity that we have for ourselves, which is only one-third of our responsibility, but represents what we are allowed to keep because of our effort.

The sacred Communion reminds us that we receive, we mediate, and that we are also given a gift for our effort of relationship. In this way, we understand that feeling, thinking, and sensing represent three forms of relationship with God and three forms of service: feeling being the worship of God, thinking being the relationship with community and others, and sensing becoming an awareness of ourselves.

I was asked yesterday about why the communion, which used to serve this purpose, doesn’t “work” anymore. What went wrong? I thought this was quite a good question at the time, but did not anticipate that I would bring it up as a consequence in these essays. The fact is that the reason the communion no longer functions in an active role for the development of being is exactly the same reason as the problem this essay attempts to define. It is our lack of a single “I” that has fractured both the function of a human being’s presence and the function of the holy Communion. Nothing real can be received and retained unless being is whole. Sensation serves as the receptacle for Being which is received from a higher level.

This is, once again, why Mary (the fecund, fertile, infinitely compassionate and merciful mother) stands on the crescent moon. She receives; the moon is the vessel that retains. We can remind ourselves here that Mary represents, in a certain way, not divine Love — that is Christ’s role – but divine Wisdom.

We don’t traditionally think of Mary in this way, but the understanding of man’s role in the rate of creation and Mary’s role in the mediation of Christ’s love for mankind puts the question squarely in front of us and demands that we think about it much more carefully. It also raises the question of the fundamental and inherent intelligence of the material world, which at every level continually marvels biologists that study it.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The single sense of Being, part II

The Blessed Virgin Mary
The Cloisters, New York

Of course, we always return to the question of what can effect this unification of Being.

And there is only one single thing that can possibly do it, no matter how many exercises one tries to engage in. That is the fundamental organic and living connection to our sensation, which connects the current that flows within Being that can open the rest of Being to the inflow.

That inward flow or influence from a higher level provides a very fine material that allows the emotional center to do the work that is necessary to unify Being.

Even that takes a very long time, yet of course we want quick results. We want to be "better" right now, or at least by no later than tomorrow. Even worse, we want to be better. This will never happen; and we are wasting your time on it, dreaming about how we will improve ourself instead of attending quite specifically, intimately, and organically to this quite simple question which lies at the root of everything we think we wish for.

There is a huge difference between the single sense of Being and the ordinary parts, which exchange places automatically and pose, each one of them, as being complete. Only the single sense of Being can provide enough perspective to understand how thoroughly we become identified with one or the other centers; and, as Gurdjieff says, only our sensation can create your individuality. Only the organic sense of Being can lead, eventually, to one “I” which experiences the world continuously without having it divided into constant fugue states which interrupt one’s observation of one’s nature.

I suppose that readers presume some smooth path towards this with clear signposts; but there is no such thing. It is an uneven road that needs to be traveled in many directions at the same time in order to reach one’s destination; an enormous amount of creativity and flexibility needs to be applied, and above all this flexibility is necessary, because falling into the trap of a form or a rigid set of ideas about how one ought to do this or that is certain to ruin everything. Our opinions and judgments are the first things to meet most of life; and every one of them wants to assert itself and create just such a box and stuff our Being into it.

Only if we bring a loving and compassionate attitude to our work with ourselves, one that embraces rather than dividing, can we hope to slowly introduce the parts to one another in such a way that they cooperate. Once again, sensation provides the vehicle for that, because it brings a sense of gentle mystery to what we are. It is the first introduction to a finer substance that can manifest within the body, a more subtle and higher rate of vibration that has a wish to form a relationship with us. One minute of work like this is worth a thousand hours of philosophy.

I’ve explained this before, but it’s always worth understanding it from a new perspective. Think of the way that the solar system is arranged, with magnetic energies flowing from the sun through the Earth’s magnetosphere and eventually being transferred to the moon. Mankind is built in exactly the same way; and as I have again explained before, we are meant to come under solar influences in this work. That is meant quite literally; we are required to re-create the ray of creation within our being. This means that we transmit higher energies which we receive from the sun through our body and bring them to the moon. Many ancient esoteric systems embodied symbolic languages that showed this relationship (think of the Virgin Mary standing on a crescent moon) and it is only recently— speaking in historical terms—that human society-at-large has, for the most part, forgotten this relationship.

In this system, roughly speaking, sensation — physical sensation of a higher kind — belongs to the moving center, which mediates the connection to the moon or lunar influences.

Feeling is under solar influences, and our earthly being stands in the middle as intelligence.

So feeling is the most sacred of the properties, being closest to the sun and receiving the higher influences from the Lord; intelligence is the next most sacred, mediating (when it is properly arranged) conscious relationship between the sun and the moon; and the third sacred property is material existence, represented by the moving center and manifested through sensation.

A truly sacred energy of a finer kind must flow downward through the opening created by feeling, into the embodiment of intelligence which represents life on this level and exists within the center of our being, also called the heart in esoteric systems, and then flows downward into the moon, or sensation, which is the receiving vessel that takes the energy downwards into lower levels of the cosmos, which for us includes ourselves and even the molecules we are made of.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The single sense of Being, part I

Cathedral, Lyon

Coming back to the question of why it is so difficult to come to an inner sense of oneself, why one doesn’t “work.”

There can’t be any real sense of Being without the development of a single “I”, an individual — undivided person — who is not fractured by the manifestation of many different persons within themselves, each one of which has a different agenda.

This teaching is automatically lost as it is presented, because when people first encounter it — and for decades afterwards, if not an entire lifetime — only one, or a few, different individuals within Being have encountered it and signed on to the premise. Some of them sign on but then aren’t willing to do any real work on it. Some of them are actively opposed to everything it represents. This is because some of the individuals within a person understand that a real and undivided “I” is a threat to themselves and their entire way of being. Individual fractions and fragments of personality, you see, have the capacity to express themselves independently and be as viciously selfish as anything you care to think of. Some of them are actively hostile to the interests of other parts of the organism (as any alcoholic can tell you) or other beings that they share it with. If you were able to see how utterly uncaring and selfish some of our parts are in relation to others, how absolutely and contemptuously they dismiss them, you would be horrified, so it’s a good thing we’re asleep to this while we are unprepared to deal with it.

None of this is really new information, of course, yet you need to digest it quite deeply and understand that right now it isn’t touching your whole being. It takes many years to unify the self into a single sense of Being, and until it happens the competing persons within you will be in constant confusion and disagreement. There is just no way around this.

In order to understand this with some new language, let us call these competing different persons within us aspects — that is, particular parts and features, like furniture within us. Some of these aspects will form strong opinions about inner work and how it ought to be done — all of us know a few people like this, both internally and externally — and even become severe about it. Others will be critical. Others will simply not have any interest. And there can be absolutely no continuity in one’s experience of Being or commitment to the development of self while this is going on.

This question of the continuity of Being — and the lack of it — is central to why you cannot work. Gurdjieff said this many times. You are not whole, there is no single “I.” For as long as this is the case, you can pretend to work, plan to get working someday, imitate work, and so on, but it is impossible for you to take in life as more than a fraction, and from moment to moment you do not inhabit the time you exist in in a continuous stream. It is broken into many different individual currents, each one of which is perceived by a different aspect, and so time appears to pass quite quickly from the point of view of the brief moments when one wakes up or has a greater sense of inward presence.

This is why Mr. Gurdjieff stressed the question of developing a single I, individuality, so often, a theme he came back to many times in his wartime meetings. The instructions he gave for working on this question were always quite simple and involved observing one’s being and one’s aspects exactly as one was in life. That is to say, there was no question of “improving” the way that one acted and treated others. One had to be present to one’s self exactly as one was.

We encounter the same ideas in Mme. Salzmann’s notes, altered though they are through a filter of editors. One cannot merely decide to improve oneself. One has to be within oneself. Only a continuity of Being can truly help an individual to become more aware of what they are; and only that organic and — I must absolutely stress this — integrated, three centered experience of Being can lead to any real change in a person. Real change — as opposed to constructions and imitation, which can be extraordinarily clever but always exist to hide what is true — only comes from a unified sense of Being, followed by an extraordinary and quite intentional suffering of what one is.

This alone, this friction, produces the remorse necessary for change.

Part II of this essay will publish on March 17.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Confluence of truth, Part V

Eve and the Serpent, the Cloisters, Manhattan

“I do not see that I am like a puppet, a machine set in motion by influences from outside.”

The Reality of Being, Jeanne Salzmann, P. 12

Last night, when I was falling asleep, I had a specific thought about this matter and its relationship to our wish, to what we want. It’s the case, throughout life, that we encounter innumerable examples of what one might call “completed” confluences of truth, that is, truths that have arisen outside of ourselves either in a general way or in specific other beings, and we decide we want that confluence of truth, not our own. Each confluence of truth, in other words, blends with others, endlessly forming and reforming. This is in the nature of truth: every object, event, circumstance, and condition is a form of metaphysical water, and these properties cause truth to behave in exactly the same way water does. Think that over; because it is an important metaphor. Understanding it properly will help to understand many other things. But one needs to understand this with all three of the centers, not just the mind. When one understands that point organically through sensation and feeling, many things will change quite decisively.

In any event, for now think about the fact that we are constantly interested in the confluences of truth of other people, not our own. We want to be like her, or like him; we want what he or she has. Or we want what it has, if it is some massive institution we wish to be a member of. We have no separation from our desires, and every one of them comes from outside.

There are actually two sets of desires and every human being. One of them is on the planetary or astral level, and it is this exact set of desires I am speaking of here. They are the same desires spoken of in the quote that opens this essay. There is a second set of desires that comes from the solar level, an inner set of desires that are not initiated by influences from the outer world (ordinary influences) and have a much higher aim in mind. That aim is awakened, and livened, and motivated by love alone, but without concentrating enough of the divine particles of Being in one’s awareness, through constant suffering and inward effort, one cannot come under these influences.

In the meantime, the intense focus on (identification with) influences that belong to other persons or circumstances draws us away from proper attention to every influence that can help us grow spiritually. Most of these influences come from very small things, as Meister Eckhart says in his last sermon. That is to say, they are granular and consist of what we would look at, under ordinary circumstances, as very unimportant things. What he is referring to, of course, are visions of The Perfection, which are individual intuitive understandings of the divine and sacred nature of all the risings. Spiritual work is aimed at encountering more of this “microscopic” or “granular” material because the encounter with this kind of material consists of encounters with and ingestion of the divine particles of Being (Gurdjieff’s impressions) that can effect an inward transformation. These are all very tiny things, these precious substances, and they might be revealed in a spot of light on a polished stone, or the angle that a plastic box of dental floss opens at. They will most likely not consist of the giant magical events that we encounter, spectacular landscapes, extraordinary symphonies. Those things are all much larger than we are and we can appreciate them, but they can’t really be used for our work in the same way that the smallest things can. When we build our inward spiritual home, we build it one grain of sand at a time, not with huge blocks that rise to the heavens. It is always built with a proper kind of attention; and that attention needs to be “free,” that is, located precisely where the confluence of truth concentrates itself in Being.

It’s quite important, in other words, to learn how to be ourselves and not anyone else. This wish to be someone else, to be in some other place, at some other time, doing some other thing, is a destructive property that wears Being down instead of building it up.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Confluence of Truth, Part IV

Statue of Mary from the Cloisters, Manhattan

“…from behind the chaos, I may feel the action of a vibration that is wholly different in its intensity. This vibration is more subtle, and it is difficult to attune the slower vibrations that hold me back, which are too incoherent. But there is something that responds. I feel an influence more luminous, more intelligent than my usual awareness. And I feel a wish to obey this influence, to serve it. In order to attune myself, I become more sensitive.”

The Reality of Being, Jeanne Salzmann, P. 255

Jeanne Salzmann spoke many times about influences and how they affect us. These comments are found throughout The Reality of Being, almost always with remarks that we are subject to outside influences that steal our energy and degrade our Being. She also speaks extensively about coming under higher influences; and, as well, balancing ourselves so that we are not influenced too much.

The questions deserve more specific examination. Take note that the word influence was originally used starting around 1385 meaning “a flowing from the stars that acts upon the character and destiny of people.” This was borrowed from medieval Latin influentia meaning a flowing in. The word itself, in other words, was originally astrological and is identical in every way to Swedenborg’s inflow, which represented a flowing in from heaven.

Those who have read The Sixth Sense will understand quite clearly that Salzmann and Gurdjieff were using the term in precisely the same way, with the same quite literal meaning “an energy that flows inward into us from the stars.” It can be a bit confusing to read Salzmann’s notes to herself about the word “influence” in The Reality of Being, because the inaccuracies that inevitably arise when one takes a person’s private notes, edits them, and shuffles the deck of cards, so to speak, to assemble apparently whole pieces of material which are actually a patchwork give the impression that she was suggesting we should somehow separate ourselves from both sets of influences. Instead, our aim ought to be to discover how to let the higher or solar influences predominate, since they can rightly guide our spiritual action, whereas the lower influences generally find this impossible. (What we call “lower” influences are astral influences that emanate from a planetary level. Of themselves, all they can produce are results related to the surface of the earth.)

This is why Meister Eckhart’s  Gleichgütigkeit is not indifference, or a suspension of discrimination — even though, once again, some of the things that Salzmann says suggest just that. If there is any suspension of discrimination, it is the "suspension" of the action of our ordinary self, that is, what is attached to this level. The higher discriminates quite clearly and it can be felt both through sensation and emotion if these two faculties become more organic in their action.

In any event, this question of influence should be compared to confluence. 

Confluence is what flows together; and while influence relates to the stars when it is properly used, confluence relates to what flows inward from all directions, including both stellar and "ordinary" influences. 

Confluence, in other words, represents the collection of all influences, their coming together—the word originated from the Latin cōnfluentum which means exactly that, a flowing together.

Although in the Gurdjieff work this idea of influences, of forces, and of lower and higher energies is a predominant concept, what is rarely discussed is the point that this Confluence of Truth is exactly where we find ourselves. 

All of the influences, both higher and lower, that arrive in us, regardless of our relationship to them — which can be active or passive, conscious or unconscious — come to exist together at the same point in Being:

I seek what I am, to be what I am. I have a habit of thinking of "body," on the one hand, and of "spirit or energy" on the other. But nothing exists separately. There is a unity of life. I wish to live it, and I seek it through a movement of return toward myself. I say there is an outer life and an inner life. I say this because I feel myself as distinct, as existing apart from life. There is, however, only one great life. I cannot feel separate from it, outside it, and at the same time know it. I must feel myself a part of this life. But it is not enough to desire this or to seek an intense sensation of it. I can enter into the experience only if I have first come to unity in myself, only if I have come to be a whole.

—ibid, p. 203

Now, here is a subtle point which I wish for you to ponder long and carefully in order to appreciate it properly: the Confluence of Truth takes place whether or not the being in which it is taking place is conscious of it. 

This means that the divine action of participation in Truth and in Being is lawfully inviolable and inevitable. It is only our attitude towards it, our participation, that can be changed.

Therefore, instead of being concerned about which individual influences we are under — whether we just had a “very wonderful sitting” with magical inner experiences, or are yelling at our spouse — our concern can be refocused not to the individual influences, but the confluence of truth which is taking place within us in this moment. 

A concentration on this moment and that experience can bring our work to a point of seeing which not only sees, but understands where it is located. And, as I have pointed out many times, if we are lost, whether within life or within the spirit, we must first determine so far as we can exactly where we are standing, before we decide where to go next. We must locate our place before we decide what our destination ought to be. I want, for example, to go to Paris; but if I don’t know which direction north, south, east, and West are, I can forget about it. This is how we usually do things. We get up in the morning and decide to go to Paris and then we walk any old which way, thinking we will get there.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.v

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Confluence of truth, Part III

Capitals from the Cloisters, Manhattan

“…in practicing this I see that a very close relation is created between my body and this fine material. I can feel this substance of "I" in the body. It is of another order. But for now it is without its own force, powerless, without material. I need to have a more lasting awareness of it as a totality.”

The Reality of Being, Jeanne Salzmann, P. 237

Well then. This idea of the confluence of truth, where did it come from? 

It is something I saw as a natural consequence of our life one morning while I was working with others at the Gurdjieff foundation. It may seem like an idle thought, but it came to me at the time as something important enough (as is obvious) to write about, because it is actually a rather big idea and the chances of an average human being experiencing the confluence of truth in any significant way are, on the whole, rather low. Most of the people that I meet are much too involved with their own ideas about this and that, especially their personal reactions and opinions, which are very very important (to them) that they aren’t interested in trying to repose within sensation and take in objective observations about their own life or our nature. It’s much more exciting to become an imperfect idiot, that is to say one that is not fully formed. (The Latin perfectus means completed, past particle of the word perficere which means accomplished, finished, or complete.) To become a perfect idiot means, in other words, to become completely whole, completely oneself; and to inhabit oneself. 

Perhaps, when I explain it this way, it begins to make more sense to the reader and you may see how this whole thread is tied together into a single line of understanding. The confluence of truth, which was the original point of this essay, is an exact description both of our nature, what we are meant to inhabit, and the overall potential of our consciousness. There may be other consequences; of course everyone wants to see God or have psychic experiences. But is that really the point? I have done both of these things; and neither one of them is anywhere near as satisfying as to inhabit my own humanity with as much love and humility as I can open myself to receive. These are small and humble things, not the deeds of powerful gods and those who can manipulate, craft, create and destroy; all they are are the inward deeds of one who is able to receive life as it arrives. It is a rooted and earthly talent, to be sure; and yet the relationship with God seems so much more vital and realistic in an everyday way, from this perspective, then the bombastic possibilities of rising towards heaven.

If I call us, then, to a more prosaic experience of life, I do no more than repeat Meister Eckhart’s famous last words, in which he said,

“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.”

From Meister Eckhart: the complete mystical works, page 588


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Confluence of truth, Part II: a perfect idiot

Capitals from the Cloisters, Manhattan

A perfect idiot is an individual who completely embodies the confluence of truth within their Being with complete equanimity — not indifference, aloofness, or distance, but equanimity, the understanding of the equality (roughly speaking) of all objects, events, circumstances, and conditions.

I was having a conversation with a group of people traveling from the Gurdjieff Foundation back home quite some time ago, and I was trying to explain that the particular quality we refer to as Being is created through the material transformation of substances. 

This can’t be effected without receiving the material, which Jeanne Salzmann referred to as a “finer” material, within Being; and that particular material — which I refer to as particular specifically because it is composed of actual physical particles—is only absorbed to the extent that we form a different relationship with sensation. So one can’t become a perfect idiot unless one forms a new relationship with the physical sensation of Being. This is the foundation of an organic ability to receive finer particles and participate in the action that Gurdjieff, rather abstractly, referred to as the “coating of the higher Being body parts.”

Our effort to engage in this action is an effort aimed specifically at becoming perfect idiots, that is, our own individual whole and complete expression of the confluence of truth that has arrived within our own Being. This isn’t really that complicated a matter, since becoming an idiot does not mean becoming a guru or a teacher or some fancy kind of spiritually enlightened Being, but, rather, becoming most entirely and exactly human. This idea of becoming human, in the real and organic sense of the word, is far more important than all the lofty spiritual territory human beings think they have the right to occupy — and furthermore think they actually have the ability to attain. There are thousands of different higher states we could consider here, but there is only a single state of humanity, of perfect idiocy, and that state is shorn of all the pretensions and does not have any altars to stand on or worshipers to populate it. It is a position of abject humility, because one has, in the position of a perfect idiot, done nothing more than accept one’s responsibilities to become the individual expression of God’s whole and perfect Being that one has been assigned to express. Given the task to bloom into a single flower in the course of our own lifetime, to become a perfect idiot, is to bloom into that particular flower, and not some other flower that one decided as a child or even as an adult would be a very nice flower.

Blooming into a flower like this is a tricky thing, because it involves allowing the confluence of truth to exist unto itself, without trying to craft it into some alternate entity. Take note that human beings are, above all, craftsmen of one kind or another — that is to say, we are unusually crafty creatures — and it is nearly impossible to resist the temptation to meddle with everything that comes our way. That, as well, must be included in our confluence of truth: but the whole point of inward development is to include that and then stop fiddling with it, which is an action that Gurdjieff referred to as "titillation."


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.