Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Notes on molecular sensation, part V

 Button Bush getting ready to bloom, Sparkill Creek,
 June 24

 Thoughts on  the morning of June 24, continued

If we want to proceed, once again, from the narrow perspective of mechanistic rationalism, we have to come to grips with this emergence of something from nothing (leopard spots from no-spots) — this property whereby the concentration of responsibility, which is exactly what is happening when patterns form out of random matter, asserts itself.

It's built into the very fabric of the universe itself, and the nature of dissipation, dissolution, and fundamentally uniform states in which everything is “equal” by itself engenders, or gives birth, to order. If this reminds you of Genesis, it should; because what we are reading here is Genesis, described in terms of its math.

It’s interesting that the authors spent so much time in their article defining the problem in terms of biological systems, because (whether they intended to or not) what they have done is craft their argument about this matter around the nature of life.

This is logical enough, of course, because the whole point of examining the question is to discover why life is the way it is; how it organizes (think again of our first essay about the walking molecules, who are not just organizers but repair crews for the organization itself) and why it does what it does.

One can just as easily ask why the leopard has its spots as ask why molecules walk around fixing DNA. In each case, things happen because:

1. Order always emerges from chaos — it's in the nature of chaos itself to produce it, it's the helper. It can’t be any other way.
2. Following the emergence of this order, all systems forming relationship by responding to one another naturally have
a physical existence that structures itself as soon as the order emerges.
an intellectual existence: the action of perception of structure and order. The concentration of the ability to respond and to form relationship, which is what order is.
a feeling existence, that is, a caring that the order, the relationship, and the ability to respond is preserved.

 Let’s remember that there is absolutely no need of any kind for uniform (undifferentiated, chaotic) systems to produce any kind of order whatsoever. It is, rather, the fundamental mathematics of the universe, such as we understand them in our own mathematics, that imposes this lawful action on material reality. Chaos itself, in other words, is built in such a way as to care enough about itself to wish to organize.  From this perspective, we can argue about created (material) reality as a caring organism. This won’t please the mechanistic rationalists, but there are too many questions afoot here to ignore.  And, perhaps above all — isn’t it strange that chaos cares about itself? It laments its dissolution, its dissipation, and it longs to return to order. Lest you think this is too poetic, it isn’t. It is a strange, mysterious, and beautifully true thing. All right, maybe it is poetic — but it’s not too poetic, it’s exactly the right amount of poetic.

What does this mean for our Being?

  This is how life is today. I read all three of these rather brief articles, which cover vast piece of territory, in the space of around 20 minutes this morning between 5:00 and 5:30 AM.

They all came together in me as part of a tapestry that has formed in my life (an intricate pattern) assembled by my thought process, which is assembled by the molecular storage of my memory, which is assembled by the molecules encoded by my DNA.  The structure appreciates its own structure.

What struck me about the three articles is how interrelated they are; and how much technical and structural light they shed on the very real and important meanings of esoteric (inner) sciences: the questions of Being, philosophy, metaphysics, and feeling itself, relative to the human enterprise.

I know that’s a big mouthful; but we can’t appreciate the universe we live in or its nature without examining it from this point of view, and the sciences are bringing us a deeper and deeper structural understanding of what are, in essence, philosophical questions. This isn’t mixing disciplines; it may be today, but in ancient times, science and philosophy went hand-in-hand. Up until the near-destruction of metaphysical humanism at the hands of the Enlightenment scientists, everyone well understood – well, more or less everyone who was properly educated in the Western, Hindu, and Arabic worlds understood— that all of the sciences were performed in service of understanding God.

While (I speak as an Episcopalian, and have liberal allowances) we may disagree on what God means or who God is, we metaphysical humanists acknowledge that there is a God – that is, a supreme being, a ”deity.”

The word God, in its primary definition means “ a superhuman person,” that is, a personhood that is greater than the personhood of a human being.

The next installment of this eight part series will publish on September 1.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Notes on molecular sensation, part IV

 Egret hunting, Sparkill Creek
 June 24

 Thoughts on  the morning of June 24, continued

To suffer is, in the larger sense of things, to care itself; and once one stops caring, that is, feeling, everything grinds to a final halt, because why bother with anything at all if there is no care, no feeling?

Feeling exists, at its root, from two different needs: first, to establish an order — and second, to put that order right and keep it so. Once again, if there is no order, then there’s nothing to care about. This is why I speak about the concepts of the concentration of responsibility, and the reconstruction of the soul— which is, by the way, the title of my new book about medieval art, which will be published sometime later this year – as essential to understanding our nature as Beings. Responsibility is the ability to respond — to communicate, to exchange information, and we see that  selfsame capacity for Being demonstrated in cells repairing their DNA. as well as ourselves. That response–ability is, furthermore, a form of care, because there is no reason to respond if there is no order to keep right and no reason to do so.

Let’s come back to the central subject here once again. Allow me to remind you that it’s the molecular sense of Being from which all of this springs, in the human organism. Our Being itself, as it is and as we can understand it on our level, begins at the level of this molecular sense, this sensation.

In itself, it's no answer to anything other than an experience of the inherent physical, emotional, and intellectual intelligence of our body and all of the molecular substances that it’s composed of. So if we don’t work to develop a legitimate, organic, conscious, and aware relationship to this, we never begin to experience real Being in the first place. We just think about Being.

And, as you can no doubt see, it's possible to do an endless amount of that without ever understanding real Being.

 The Emergence of Order

 Here we come to the third section of this little group of essays, in which we explore some obscure facts regarding the nature of chaos and order. In order to do this, I recommend you briefly read the article at the link below, which (delightfully) speaks in terms of mythology and folklore, which struggled— and still struggle, because they are hardly invalidated by math’s attempt to take over all efforts to create and interpret meaning by counting coup— to help us understand why order even exists in the first place.

 Take note that the article  states the research “has brought science one step closer to a molecular – level understanding of how patterns form in living tissue.”

The formation of patterns is, in its essence, the creation of ordered states. And when we remind ourselves of the first essay in this series, we will remember that once an ordered state — such as DNA, which is a crystalline pattern formed of molecules — exists, the “wish” to maintain it also emerges when life is present. We could even argue that that which exists before what we call organic life is present, since crystals preferentially repeat their orders over and over again — it’s what makes them crystals in the first place. Think of quartz crystals, for example.

 The technical obscurities of Turing patterns (see ) do not need to be appreciated in order to understand much more than this: “Turing patterns can be stripes, spots, or spirals that arise naturally out of a uniform state.

When the authors use the word “uniform” what they mean is undifferentiated – that is, a chaotic soup, which is what it’s presumed the universe was before it formed the giant cube we all know and love so much. (See the previous installment.) In this context, and below, I am using the word chaos to describe the universe before it's ordered (when it's a uniform plasma instantly after the Big Bang) as “the formless void of primordial matter.” (OED, definition number two.)

What this article is explaining is that that chaotic soup, by itself, because it's a chaotic soup, naturally produces the ordered patterns that we see in the Turing model— and, indeed, in the real world, which is what the model was based on in the first place. In this way, we see a most astonishing thing, which the authors don’t really speak about (because they aren’t priests, shamans, philosophers or esotericists, any of which would probably see this right away): the very existence of chaos and uniformity itself (the mush that existed right after the Big Bang) is what emanates form, or identity. This pre-identity (pre-form) capacity is called “noise,” but it actually represents a mathematical abstraction representing randomness—not a sound or vibration.

Okay, I admit, that’s really too complicated. Let’s try again.

1. Chaos helps to create order.
2. It's in its very nature to do so.

That’s pretty much what the math tells us.

The next installment in this eight part series will publish on August 29. Hosanna.

Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Notes on molecular sensation, part III

A pink. Tallman State Park
June 24

Thoughts from the morning of June 24, continued

 The Cosmic Web

 Typically, when Gurdjieffians and other spiritually inclined types start talking about the cosmic web,  one is about to be treated to some highfalutin’ woo-woo talk about all of creation and infinity and God and so on. But when I use the phrase here, I’m referring specifically to the illustration in the article found at the link below:

 Now, in order to appreciate this article, one doesn’t need to think about missing matter.  The only people that it was missing to were the scientists; it’s always been there, and it never went away. Perhaps they should call it unperceived or undetected matter.  But of course we are dealing with the Western conceit finding things that are already there and then claiming that we have "discovered" them, as though we were the entity that validated their existence.

But never mind that. Most of the point I’m about to make revolves around their illustration of the distribution of the matter in the galaxy, depicted (in a wild abstraction that has nothing to do with its true “shape,”but is necessary in order to make it possible for our tiny minds to wrap around it) in the shape of a cube. It’s fun to think about the idea that we live in a universe shaped like a giant cube, though isn’t it?  It might mean that we ourselves are actually giant cubes, relative to our molecules.

Today, we’re going to try to think outside the box.

If you take a look at our supergalactic cube, you’ll notice several things. One of them is that galaxies — which are represented by the white strands, all of which are concentrations of matter in the form of dust and gas clouds, planets and suns – string themselves together in concentrations that look, visually, all but identical to neural networks. Galaxies, in other words, are astrophysical cells composed of billions of interacting entities (just like the molecules in our cell from the first installment). They form the same kinds of structures — the same kind of order and connection emerges from them — and, we can presume, there are all kinds of extraordinary thoughts and feelings within this structure, along with a thought and a feeling that emerges on the supergalactic level, that is, a thought and a feeling that emerges at the level of the entire universe.

It, like our little cell, is a caring entity; and because care means, above all, grief and sorrow, this particular perspective offers a powerful insight on why Gurdjieff said that the universe was entirely penetrated by  God’s anguish, which he referred to as “The Sorrow of His Endlessness.

 What we have here, in other words, is a universe where cells have identities made of sub-identities – where they think and feel and care about what is going on in them, and wish to repair it — human beings are built the same way — galaxies are built the same way — and in fact the entire cosmos is built the same way.

The nature of Being, in other words, is shared on every level, from the  following levels  in ascending order:

1. Subatomic
2. Atomic
3. Molecular (crystalline)
4. Cellular
5. Organic (human/other)
6. Planetary
7. Solar
8. Galactic level.

 And there you have your octave. This is an octave — a summary entity — of thinking and caring that emerge from physical being. The nature of its action and its essential character may be emergent from bottom to top, but on each level there is a full expression of its nature as it relates to that level. Please remember that the same types of interactions, conditions, challenges, relationships, and so on are reflected in every level. That is to say, if a human being can be lonely, then a cell can be lonely, and a sun can be lonely. This idea bears a relationship to the Sufi doctrine of the names of God, which iterates God according to all of the properties of Being which can be expressed in the universe. But it would be a bit too much to go into that here; simply remember it applies.

 For ourselves, we need only be concerned about our  physical existence, thinking, and feeling in regard to the (organic) level we are on, the (cellular) level below us and the (planetary, or astral) level above us. This astral level is the same level as what is called the angelic kingdom in Abrahamic and other religious systems.

 From this we deduce that it's not just we that exist, think, and care and suffer — it's also our cells, and the angels above us, that in their own separtate but analogous ways do exactly the same thing.

 One might note here that the obligations of agency – the concentration of responsibility, as I refer to it in Novel, Myth and Cosmos — place the burden of suffering squarely not just on the shoulders of mankind, but also on the shoulders of all seven levels and the entire universe itself, hence, on God. I can’t resist pondering the dilemma of the Buddhist ideal — which is to escape from suffering — if even God himself suffers.  It leaves Buddhism in the awkward position of espousing an escape from God’s own being; and if that fish isn’t too big to fry, I’m not sure which one would be.

 The next installment in this eight part series will publish on August 26.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Notes on molecular sensation, part II

Thoughts from the morning of June 24, continued

Modern science does not describe the properties of feeling and thinking as belonging to tiny creatures like this, because it fails to understand the nature of the universe in its entirety. But if we were to refer to recent books on the subject, such as The Strange Order of Things by Antonio Damasio, we might see that science is at least beginning to understand the essential nature of feeling both for human endeavors — that is, endeavors that express the nature of personhood – and the way that feeling connects life to agency. We will get back to this, because this series of essays is just as much about feeling as it is about order.

 The cell has just as perfect a sense of its own identity as we do; and it engages in the repair of its Being, from a physical point of view, because of the function of both thinking and feeling on its own level and from its own point of view. The interesting thing about this argument is that it has to be functional, even from the perspective of mechanistic rationalism. If nothing is intelligent, and everything is an automatic machine – which is what  scientists such as Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker think — then thinking and feeling are just as mechanical, reflexive, and automatic in human beings as they would be on any other level.  By extrapolation, we thereby deduce that whatever “automatically“ and “ accidentally” produces thinking and feeling on our level would have to be able to function on every other level, including that of the cell.  I use quotation marks for automatically and accidentally because of course Pinker and Dawkins are entirely wrong; there is nothing automatic about the process, it all emerges from a sense of identity and the ability to think and care about it. It emerges from feeling. And that feeling emerges from the initial molecular sensation of Being. In order for anything to feel, it must first sense its self and be.

We know that the cell thinks about its identity and its nature because it has an intelligent perception of its own internal molecules (as well as outer ones), and it knows  when and where they are broken and what needs to be done to fix them.

We also know that the cell cares about its identity, because it wouldn’t bother fixing its molecules if it didn’t care that they were broken. This point about care is quite important, because it connects to feeling. No one can care about anything unless they have feelings about it.

The ancient roots of this word care come from old German words meaning to lament, suffer, feel anxiety, or grief: for example, the old German words chara (to wail), kartac ( day of mourning), and old high German, Karōn ( to lament). All of these words associated with care involve feeling — and, interestingly, we see that the very root of the word to care itself arises from suffering, lamentation, grief, and other challenging emotions.  To care is to see something that is broken and wish to fix it.  This is, of course, exactly what our molecule is doing with its DNA.

So it thinks, and it cares.

 From this perspective, we see that the molecular sense of Being is no small fantasy about the nature of what we are; it literally reaches down into the roots of our own essential Being in itself— and the way that our Being is composed, in its own turn, by the existence of many infinitesimally smaller beings.  We can use this word beings in this context as representing both actions — each action being an act of being — and as persons, that is, individuals. Let’s recall here Gurdjieff’s comment that our organic sensation is what creates our individuality (Wartime meetings.)

 I’d like to offer a few other ideas about this to my readers.  When Gurdjieff speaks of “multiple I’s”, both to Ouspensky in In Search of the Miraculous,  and in the many meetings we have notes from, it gradually becomes apparent from this that he was referring to this phenomenon not just on the level of our own humanistic psychology, where we are divided into different selves that want this, that, and the other thing — he was actually alluding to a much more subtle and expansive aspect of Being.  We can only appreciate this fully by referring to his remarks about how the principle “as above, so below” operates on every level – and by combining it, as is necessary with all of this material in order to understand it, with his comments about how a man cannot become aware of what is higher than he is without at the same time becoming equally aware of what is lower.

Thinking about this, it becomes obvious to the discerning thinker that functions on the cosmological level, that is, between suns, galaxies, and so on – will have similar features. And we will get to that in the next essay.

The next essay in this eight – part series will publish on August 23.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Notes on molecular sensation, part I

Tallman State Park looking out over the Hudson river
June 24 2018.

June 24, 2018

 Readers will note that I often speak of a molecular sensation of Being, and the intimate nature of inward work.

This is because it’s impossible to sense exactly what we are in a higher sense without coming into a much more powerful, intimate, and intelligent contact with our lower parts; and that’s because of the nature of order in the structure of the universe itself, although these concepts may well seem, at first, far too large to discuss in that context.

In fact, that’s not the case. In order to investigate that in some more detail, we’ll need to take a look at a few science articles that were published within the last week or two.

 First of all, let me remind everyone that when I speak of having a molecular sense of Being, I'm not  drawing an analogy — I’m not speaking euphemistically, or in some kind of parable or code. I’m speaking quite literally about the ability to sense our molecules and their activity: to feel the life in them not just from a physical, but also an emotional point of view — because just as they have a physical life, our self, and the molecules (and their interactions) that it's physically composed of, have an emotional and an intellectual life that’s very real, even though it's on a much smaller scale than we are.

 Yes, we do have this ability; but it’s dramatically atrophied in us, and needs to be reconnected if we wish to experience it. It isn’t psychological so much as physical; and this is why the emphasis on understanding sensation from an inner point of view in the Gurdjieff work, a perspective not discussed in most other spiritual works.

 Our Being emerges from our molecular sensation.

 Let’s take a look at the science articles one at a time and discuss their implications. You’ll need to go to the following link to read the first article, then come back.

What we see from this particular article is how cellular mechanisms work, on the molecular level, to not just establish, but also to maintain, our sense of identity. And keep in mind, as we go forward, the cell could not do this if it wasn't able to think about its identity. When something is wrong, it has to know that it is wrong — it has to be able to compare it in memory to what is right — and furthermore has to know what needs to be done to fix it.

The sense of identity is an emergent property built in to the crystalline structure of the DNA molecule. DNA is, in itself, the expression of the divine which emerges at the quantum level and organizes itself at the atomic and molecular level. DNA, in life forms, is ubiquitous, because all of life is divine — that is, it's emanated from God’s own Being itself — and life cannot be expressed without this particular molecule.  That’s why we don’t find life forms built around other versions of it, or completely different molecules. What works, works; and we see this principle repeated in nature over and over again through convergence, which is one of the most powerful forces in evolution. Let's go one step further than the mere physical aspects of convergence: because of the way DNA functions, identity itself is both an emergent and convergent property of life. From the top to the bottom of the universe, identity is created and preserved. In fact identity is the most powerfully convergent force of all, because of its ubiquity. All of the material universe converges on identity. The expression of matter from the essentially wave-like behavior of quantum energies is a manifestation of identity. (More on this will be explained in a future series of essays.)

The sense of identity is so powerful in a cell that the cell knows itself through its DNA; and not only that, on its own level, it's conscious of itself and knowing of itself. We see this amply demonstrated by the fact that the molecular mechanisms in the cell have repair modules that actively and specifically take care of damage to the DNA molecule by working on it to repair it. This is not a mindless or mechanical activity; it’s mindful. It  emerges from the awareness the cell has of its own workings, which are astonishingly intricate and nearly impossible for biologists to understand, involving as they do the interaction of so many of usually complex molecules in so many unusually complex ways. (Let's remember here that molecules, as we encounter them, never ever interact in such actively complicated and intentional ways except in life forms. And no matter how much fooling around scientists do in labs to replicate such interactions, they have never managed to come even remotely close to doing so.)  The complexity of what goes on in a single cell is absolutely staggering. We know a lot more about what happens in a nuclear reactor than we do about what happens in a single cell—and don't forget, there are trillions of cells in us and they all act with a degree of unique volition, in billions of different tasks, to collectively allow us to be—and, for example, to read the words you are reading now.

From quanta, to atoms, to molecules, to cells, to organisms, to Being, to literature, from single instant to single instant.

Think that over. Do you really think science can ever fully explain that?

It's impossible. Only metaphysical humanism— the discipline we are studying here together right now—can even begin. A mere biological approach can't comprehend the depth of the subject here.

Our “walking molecules,” as described by the article, are actually ambient creatures, individual sub-identities in themselves. From a Gurdjieff perspective, we would think of them as a cellular “I’s”— individual beings that act as agents,  just as we do, but on the molecular level.

If we were to take Swedenborg’s perspective on the subject (and we should, because the fractal nature of the universe requires us to understand that its features mirror and reflect one another, from the highest above to the lowest below) we would say that these individual walking molecules are persons. Just as the DNA molecule is a person; and just as the cell is a person. This quality of personhood  can be considered from the perspective of its Latin root, persōna, which means human being, and may have been borrowed from the Etruscan word phersu, or mask. That word, of course, refers to a player in a drama — an entity that plays a role, and has an agency. So how very exactly appropriate it's to say that these myosins—”walking molecules”— described in the article are persons.

Part II of this eight-part series will publish Aug. 20.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A discourse on organic gratitude, part III

The third factor enters here — and it's by no means always present, because the action of the first two parts as they integrate must create a “charge”, that is, a prepared atmosphere with enough energy in it, in order for the third part to come into play.

That third part is an awakened, organic, or, if you will, integrated sense of feeling. Here we come to the crux of what Mr. Gurdjieff referred to as “three centered work;” because it is this entry of feeling as a foundational, awakened, and organic entity that truly rounds out the experience that initially takes place between the sensation and the intelligence. The action of feeling in this particular situation is unmistakable and objective — it will always produce the same result in a human Being if they acquire the other two faculties, because it is related to a higher property within the realm of existence and has, in fact, a very tiny thread that connects it to what I called The Perfection.

 Its relationship to The Perfection is a matter that I can’t get into right this instant; instead, let’s focus on its relationship to the other two centers. Organic and integrated feeling enters the equation between molecular sensation and silent intellect as a third, and superior, form of intelligence that has the ability to see one’s position in life in an uncompromised way. Because it’s suffused with the presence of God, it always produces a sense of religious gratitude. Feeling has this capacity in a way that none of the other parts do; and the sense of religious gratitude is the only sense we are capable of acquiring that shows us how extraordinary our life is, how deep the gifts we receive are, and how are unworthy we are of our existence itself.

Now, it’s easy to write flashy words about this; but it is very different to have an organic feeling of gratitude that penetrates to the marrow of the bones. That organic gratitude can only arise as a vibration of a certain magnitude that corresponds to foundational vibrations within the other two parts. If the foundational vibration of sensation is insufficient, it cannot form a relationship with of the foundational vibration of the silent intelligence; and if those two foundational vibrations do not have a correspondence and a magnitude of sufficient force, it is impossible for the magnitude to support the entry of feeling, which intensifies the vibration of very great deal.

Jeanne Salzmann  wrote about it a very good deal in her notes, speaking of intensity and concentration and so on. From her notes, I get the impression that she believed it was possible to somehow participate in the creation of this force; and I think she is probably right, but the participation does not take place in any conventional sense, and the difficulty we have when we read her notes is that we are unable to take them in any way other than conventionally. This creates a substantial obstacle to using her notes as any form of “help.”

When it is not there, there is no organic gratitude, but rather just the theory of it, and I can talk about that as much as I like. I can make it sound wonderful. That’s how words function. But those things are absolutely meaningless relative to the actual presence of organic gratitude, which is always an incremental experience of The Perfection. Every time it comes, we are irrevocably penetrated by God and by His understanding. Another way of putting it is that it represents an entrée into the angelic kingdoms; but that is again a little inaccurate, because the angelic kingdoms are filled with independent Beings of their own, and they rarely have anything to do with us. I think the point I’m trying to get at here is that the rate of vibration, the magnitude, has a relationship to the angelic kingdoms. When Jesus Christ said that the kingdom of heaven was within, he was referring to this phenomenon; because if the orders of magnitude of the foundational vibration corresponds to one another, the doors to the kingdom of heaven are cracked open just a tiny bit.

Organic gratitude gives me a level of insight that I am incapable of within my ordinary life, which is far too influenced by the lower levels of Being.

I see, in this state, that each and everything is a gift. I see how fortunate I am.

The instinctive impulse that this feeling produces is one of worship.

Once again, it is unmistakable to anyone who has experienced it. If you’d like to read about an individual that experienced it a very great deal, you should definitely read The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. This book describes quite accurately the way in which he worked — which was both instinctively perfect and absolutely correct — the states it produced, the impulses it provoked, and so on. It is, in fact, an exact record of what I’m trying to describe in this essay. It may be the only truly precise essay, or series of essays, I’m aware of that goes over this territory in an accurate way.

This particular book was given to me by my teachers back when I was in my 30s. They gave it to our whole group. Now, my teachers were unsung heroes of the Gurdjieff work, not people who had charismatic followings or climbed up the ladder of the organization hierarchy. They worked quietly and privately with our group in such a way that most of us gained at least some level of understanding of what I am speaking of here; and that is most certainly unique relative to what I have seen with other teachers, who gave extensive direction, but failed to do so as selflessly as necessary. My own teachers never tried to teach; they helped us to understand how to live. There is a difference. In any event, they gave us this book because it so perfectly summarized what they were hoping we would learn from them. It summarized their aim for us.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

A discourse on organic gratitude, part II

June 9— Shanghai, China

The second faculty that needs to be awakened in the context of the organic integration of Being is an intelligence that emerges from silence.

Now, one might think that the ordinary intelligence actually has to be silent in order for this to happen; and although that sounds logical, it’s categorically untrue. The silent intelligence that receives the impression of the organic awakening of sensation is added to ordinary thought and Being, not a replacement for it; so it forms a core within Being that does not have a great interest in doing this, that, or the other thing. The only thing it has an interest in—and that interest is once again quite foundational and direct—is Being in relationship with the molecular sensation of Being.

That is to say, it is a partner in the enterprise of sensation; and these two parts form a pair that quietly receives life, even as all of the regular nonsense goes on.

By the time this takes place, one has inside a marriage of these two parts that is strong enough to resist what the outside world is up to.

In a strange and I suppose relatively inexplicable way, this does not guarantee immunity from the influences of the outside world, although at times it can. One may find, for example, that the ordinary parts get angry about something and react while the other parts are quietly observing it. Of course this whole phenomenon has something to do with what Gurdjieff called  “self observation;” yet the effect of it is sublime relative to the observation that generally takes place within the ordinary parts as they observe each other (and thereby presume a fantasy that they are engaged in self observation of the kind that Gurdjieff was talking about.)

In point of fact, until this “real” — that is, integrated and organic — part that can truly receive life is formed, all of the self observation that takes place takes place on the surface of the self, and not in its depths, where true vibrational integration takes place.

So this intelligence that emerges from silence is always there, and it withdraws from the agitation, allowing it to take place; but it sees.

And it sees without interfering. Not only that, it isn’t touched, damaged, altered, influenced, or compromised by what takes place outside, because like the molecular and cellular sense of integrated Being, or organic Being, it has an integrity that is founded in a center of gravity that belongs to itself.

This is true both of the awakened sensation and the awakened intelligence.

Be very careful here when you hear me use the word “awakened.” In most teachings, this implies some kind of magical transformation of Being in which one is supposedly “superior” to life or to other Beings, or “free.” Or what have you. As my wife and I so often say, “blah, blah, blah.”

Yet I mean nothing of the “blah, blah, blah” kind here. There’s a certain freedom; but it is only a freedom from myself, not from life. It is part of the formation of what I would call the self – in – self. This is a new term I have been using lately; and it seems to accurately describe the situation as I experience it today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A discourse on organic gratitude, part I

June 9 — Shanghai, China

Perhaps it seems pointless to keep using the word “organic” to describe a right relationship between the various inward parts of Being. Yet somehow, for me, the word has undergone a metamorphosis in meaning whereby it is the only word that can accurately describe what happens when Being is integrated.

As people read this, they probably ask themselves two questions. The first one is, “what does he mean when he says organic?”, and the second one is, “what does it mean, when Being is integrated?“

 Well, the two things mean the same thing.

Gurdjieff used a wide range of methods to describe this, including his classic term “three brained Being,” or, “three centered Being.” But these terms become technical; that is to say,  no matter what the intention is where we begin, they eventually tend to allude to the chemistry, physics, and mechanics of the experience, so to speak, and are difficult to separate from what Ouspensky said on the matter in his classic In Search of the Miraculous.

In reality, what we are searching for in terms of this experience is — well, experiential — and the technical terms don’t help much, anymore than understanding the “technique” of it all… if there even is one.

Being is existence.

This is the key to Gurdjieff’s “I am,”  often invoked but rarely experienced. Say these words to yourself all day and all night, they will not induce an organic integration of Being. In theory, they may help; but even that may be misleading, because “I am” cannot be a mechanical action. It is a call to life itself; and is anyone familiar with biology understands, life itself is far more complex and mysterious than anything these (or any) two words can bring us to, no matter how profound they may sound in the midst of a pre-religious state.

When I say organic, what I mean is that something is experienced much more deeply in the body, in an integrated way, such that three things take place.

First of all, the body is firmly grounded, first in its molecular, and then in its cellular, nature. This means that the molecules vibrate in a certain way that brings the sensation of Being into the body throughout its entire ecosystem; and second, that the cells themselves receive this vibration in such a way that the cellular nature of Being — as well as its molecular origins — are properly sensed as a foundational understanding that does not need any words to validate it.

This particular form of sensation is pre-validated, and cannot be threatened by interference from the mind. Any sensation that is threatened by interference from the mind is not this sensation; and it is furthermore weak, formatory, superficial, and invoked, which has nothing to do with a right experience of the cellular nature of Being. To be sure, it may function as a precursor; but it is as milled flour is to a baked cake.

 Now, as you read this, if it sounds unfamiliar — that is, you have not read it in other spiritual texts, even perhaps Gurdjieffian ones — that is because it is not part of the foundational understanding of other works, including Buddhism, esoteric Christianity, and so on. It’s furthermore rare enough, even among Gurdjieff students, that many earnest people do not quite fully understand this phenomenon, but are still searching for a deeper understanding of it—so that they can eventually awaken that sensation. There are, to be sure, some pundits within the Gurdjieff work — and they are rare enough — that have a right understanding of this faculty, but they do not publish it (most of them aren’t that articulate, and they certainly aren’t writers) or publicly or talk about it; they only “teach” it within groups, and even then, it cannot be taught, but only indicated as a direction.

I’m describing it as precisely as possible here so that students of the Gurdjieff work who have a specific interest in what makes it different than other works will understand that this particular faculty makes it very different indeed—so different that it already begins in a different place (here) than most works. Yet the entire premise of the Gurdjieff work and everything that he and his most ardent followers tried to bring to us cannot be understood unless this foundation is first established.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The underworld of Being, part III

June 8 Hangzhou, China

In the investigation of this question of the underworld of Being, I recognize that there is a realm from which Being emanates. It is because of this realm that “I,” such as I am exist at all. There are in fact two “I ams” in action: one that is born of the ego, in which I take possession and ownership of everything, and a second one which emanates from the realm of Being. The first of these is a creature of the underworld of Being, a malleable entity capable, chameleonlike, of taking on any form it wishes — a shape shifter.

 Shape shifters are always considered to be distrusted, criminal, and even evil entities in mythological traditions: malevolent tricksters. And this is how the I am of the underworld of Being behaves. Always, in its own self-interest; and with a randomly destructive tendency that is deployed almost casually as a means toward its own ends.

Although it appears to behave with intelligence towards its own objectives, it is in fact mindless; it is nothing more than an urge for itself, a craving for gratification. The cleverness that it weaves for itself is never in the service of others.

This is the real realm of demons that St. Anthony struggled against; and it is the realm of demons that we all live in in our day-to-day lives. It stands in opposition to the second “I am,” which belongs to the realm of Being. This realm of Being I speak of, from which our real Being emanates, is a higher realm. I’m reluctant to call it heaven, but this is that same realm. Perhaps the apropos thing would be to call it the city of God, since that is the place from which it emanates, and is located in the heart of every Being.

 I’ve been speaking about the City of God a good deal lately, subsequent to the vision that I had of it, which was a fleeting glimpse of this real city that is located in our hearts. Everything that I am that is real is emanated from this place of real civilization, which is, unlike my psyche as it stands today, perfectly organized. All of the order in the material and created universe which I see around me in fact emanates from this City of God;  the source of reality itself dwells there. It is the home of The Perfection.

 Yet from where I am, this is an impossibly distant place to travel to. If I am fortunate, I’ll catch a glimpse from time to time, but that’s pretty much all I can hope for.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Underworld of Being, part II

June 8, Hangzhou, China

In order to try and experience this and understand it from a new perspective, let's think of it as the underworld of Being.

That is to say, let us think of ordinary life, and all of the ordinary parts of the intellect, our intelligence, associations, and everything we know — what the Buddhists might call form — as the underworld of Being.

In this sense, all of the underworlds of mythology — the underworld of the Greeks, the Mayan realm of Xibalba, the hell of Christianity, and so on — consist of this vast and extraordinary repository of experience, psychology, action, history, and assumptions. The idea that this is a place where the soul “goes when it dies” becomes too literal and physical in this regard; we go there when we die, conceptually speaking, because we are there now and we are already “dead.”

There are many allusions to this in spiritual literature; yet everything becomes a mythology instead of an experience if I don’t connect to it in terms of how I am in this moment, seeing my position: either in relationship with being — which occupies middle earth , the Mediterranean — or subsumed in the draw of the underworld, which always and inevitably manages to organize itself to appeal to me as an entity, even though it has already isolated itself by forming a hard kernel of belief, opinion, and assumption — all of it crystallized around a tiny group of facts which are absolutely too limited to give real insight, but which I seize and cling to like a drowning man who has discovered a single board.

 Being has a power, rooted in the organic and molecular experience of the body, that grounds this current and allows it to stop influencing me — even if that is temporary. If I gain a bit of distance from any of it, I discover — again, at least temporarily — that I am indeed  “dead”, and that everything I think I know, including things that I think I know about my emotional state, my cleverness, the value of the intellect, culture, intelligence, and so on, is actually limited and does not understand the nature of life as it stands.

 The nature of life as it stands is not occupied by the underworld of Being; the underworld of Being is a byproduct that exists in the minds of human beings, not an objective entity. The nature of life as it stands emerges directly from life independent of the underworld being, independent of the constructions. It begins there; and although one must (albeit reluctantly) argue that the underworld of Being, this realm of our constructions, is a necessary one, one is left asking oneself whether the inhabitation of life from its original nature is not already the fundamental and primary value.

 That question does not arise easily, because the underworld of Being is an occupying army. I am drawn back into it relentlessly and repeatedly; and I need to use force from my own will in order to move away from it. Not much; because the movement can be minimal, as long as it is concise. Yet it is this intimate, concise, precise, intelligent, and — I use this word so often now — molecular movement that’s necessary.

And that movement does always have to begin with a reminder that emanates from all three of my parts — sensation, feeling, and intelligence — that the underworld of being is not the origin or the answer, but rather a seething pool of self-inflected constructions that have been grafted into me.

 One of the odd things about the underworld of Being is that it does contain many constructions that can point the way towards being. In the same way, the underworld of mythology contain souls, which are essences that, although alienated from their natural habitat of life, still express an essential part of its nature. Even hell, in other words, has the creatures of heaven and it: the fallen soul is very much still a soul, no matter where it is located.

It reminds me of Meister Eckhart’s contention that even the devil himself would not give up his life, because it’s what makes him what he is — it is the ”I am” of his existence.

 So this underworld is not a stupid place, or worthless place, or place of punishment; it is a place that I need in order to grow. It even has the soil for growth, and all of the potential, buried in it. But I cannot think that I am the underworld of Being; and yet this is where I usually find myself.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.