Friday, September 28, 2018

The Inherent Wave of Being—a Treatise on Metaphysical Humanism, part III—What is Matter? continued

Hence, the question “what is matter” leads us not just to the question of the nature of the material, but the nature of identity itself, because individual quanta, which are energy packets so small as to be next to impossible to understand or even differentiate, lie at the root of identity — if there is any. These energy packets, as we understand them, appear to have individual identity in the sense that the information in them — the energy that creates their own being — is a fixed and nonexpendable entity. Even if an individual quanta could be separated from all the others in some hypothetical vacuum where, for all eternity, it was never able to interact with anything around it ever again, in theory, it would preserve itself. 

Well, we think so. We aren’t sure. 

What we are sure of is that the interactions between quanta tend to burn themselves out, that is, without other impulses to sustain them, they gradually settle down into a state where the very least amount of energy is exchanged. The principles of entropy are what drive this tendency towards the least energetic state. And that law, to us, appears to be immutable. Even though quanta interact in wavelike ways to form matter, which is what creates the universe, they apparently have a perverse tendency to try not to do that at all times, and to do with as little as possible, as if there were a clock that was determined at all costs to allow itself to wind down no matter how many times the attendants come back to turn the key. Based on this idea, the universe will eventually cool itself down until everything just sits there doing nothing.

 If we want look at this from the point of view of identity alone, we can imagine it as a room filled with an infinite number of people, absolutely none of which ever talk to each other, look at one another, or even acknowledge each other’s existence. Every single human in the room, all infinity of them, simply sit there, perfectly still, staring straight ahead. They have, furthermore, ceased to do anything that humans do: they don’t breed, they don’t eat, they don’t think. No fart breaks the air.

 This image of a perfect, absolutely still and Zenlike end to the universe is appealingly mysterious, but it doesn’t bear any relationship whatsoever to what we see around us today: an insanely interactive, extremely energetic universe, in which we have not only suns that emit unimaginable amounts of energy, but also neutron stars and quasars that pump out even greater amounts of energy that make stars look tiny by comparison. 
We can apply all the theories we want to; from today’s point of new, quanta don’t look like they have any intention of shutting down the interactive waves they ride, and the universe we see is nowhere near a state of heat death. Not even close. Instead there is, looked at from the point of view of identity, a powerful wish for identity — an impulse towards interaction — that transcends the tendency to isolate. Matter, in other words, is not only perpetually created and concentrated in ways and through means we do not yet come close to understanding, it also has a powerful tendency to interact, and furthermore, to find ways to do with it more and more complex wave forms.

Let us understand matter, then, in terms not just of the particles which it isn’t, but the waveforms which it is. Matter is a form of energy in movement that finds periodic expression in superficially static conditions. Those superficially static conditions are what we observe as a material universe; and what we call identity. 
Yet the identity lies not in the nodes that form as the waves move and touch one another, but in the wholeness of the waves themselves. It is the movement that produces identity, not its static nodes.

This principle of superficial static behavior—a static state, a state of “sameness” that appears to have a continuity and consistency to it—is important, because it reminds us that every apparently identifiable independent entity is nothing more than a snapshot summary of incremental change. The incremental change is persistent and eternal, and furthermore has an evolutionary quality to it. In the sense of the material world, this evolutionary quality has tended to produce, especially in the state of life, ever more complex wave structures that interact in ever more complex ways. We might think, for example, of the DNA molecule, whose lattice is folded in astonishingly complex ways — completely unlike, for example, the lattice of  silica and oxygen found in quartz crystals, which is highly regular and relatively non-interactive. 


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Inherent Wave of Being—a Treatise on Metaphysical Humanism, part II—What is Matter?

What is Matter?

In order to approach the first question, what is matter, we can refer to the very basic article of the same title written by Edward Schrödinger in 1952, as published in Scientific American. This particular article makes it quite clear that our conception of matter as being essentially one of particles which interact is incorrect. All of the “particles” — which do inherently seem to exist when viewed from macroscopic levels, that is, from the level of molecular interactive structures — are actually all just fields of energy. 

Schrodinger points out to us, “The wave phenomenon forms the “body” proper of the atom. It takes the place of the individual point like electrons which… are supposed to swarm around the nucleus. Such point like single particles are completely out of the question within the atom, and if one still thinks of the nucleus itself in this way one does so quite consciously for reasons of expediency.” ( Scientific American, Nobel Prize-Winning Authors, Volume 2.) he goes on to say, “…we can no longer consider the individual particle as a well – defined permanent entity…  We cannot be sure that the same particle could ever be observed twice… the individual particle is not a well – defined permanent entity of detectable identity or sameness.”

 In summary, identity as we understand it does not exist in the form of particles. He goes on to explain that this particular concept, that of identifiable particles, is expedient and useful in understanding some aspects of the material world (matter) but that understanding the world from the point of view of interactive quanta, or energy packets, which act together in waves, is a more accurate form of understanding material reality as we encounter it. 

I might mention here that  attempting to understand this question is something of a family tradition, because my grandfather Arthur E. Ruark was one of the founding fathers of quantum theory, having  co – authored the standard textbook Atoms, Molecules and Quanta  with his lab partner, Nobel Prize winner Harold Urey. So I come by my fascination with this question honestly.

The quantum physicists encountered this question and have been baffled by it ever since, since there is no clear and concrete resolution of the conflict between the particle and wave models in standard physics. As Schrödinger pointed out in his article, and as is still the case, there is no clear way of resolving the question. Yet for those of us interested in metaphysical humanism, it is not the question of individuality in the sense of a particle, but the sense of identity in the sense of a wave, that fascinates us. And we can see, paradoxically perhaps, because the two do not seem to be directly related at first, that exactly the same question plagues our understanding of existence and identity at the level of human beings. On the one hand, we are “particles” — that is, we appear to be individuals with unique and specific identity. Yet, as Gurdjieff pointed out in his doctrine of multiple “I’s”, this is not the case, and from a practical as well as quantum point of view, when we deal from an individual from moment to moment, it is never exactly the same individual we dealt with the moment before. That is to say, in the same sense that all of the quanta in the material expression of the body are rearranging themselves from instant to instant in wavelike forms, the entire organism formed by that action is also changing. So our concept of unique and individual identity, something that has an individual nature that lasts, is already faulty in some fundamental way that we conveniently overlook as we manifest within our being. The wave model of identity and Being is more accurate.

 In approaching this question, we can begin to see that the wave/particle dilemma which confronts us on the quantum level is reflected quite accurately in the nature of both our own inward being and that of our interaction with others. Any sophisticated level of thinking about it will reveal so many analogies as to practically beggar the imagination; yet I won’t sit down and try to iterate all of them here. Let us simply remind ourselves that within ourselves, there are “waves” of associated thoughts, feelings, and physical states that group themselves together in aggregates that express themselves through what we call and personality, and those same expressions form their own groups of “waves” that pass through individual relationships, families, societies, and, ultimately, all of humanity. In this sense the energetic expression that rules the quantum level of matter expresses itself on macroscopic levels as well, through an agency we refer to as consciousness.

We inhabit, in other words, what I would call an inherent wave of being — the matter we believe we are made of, and its manifestation throughout the entire universe, consists of a massive and incomprehensibly complex wave of energetic interactions. Seen from the quantum level, it is a soup of energy with wavelike patterns moving through it in innumerable directions. The interactions between those patterns, where they meet, produces what we call matter. And it is only when we move “upwards” in scale from the quanta into the molecular formations that result (atoms themselves failing to express what we call individuality, as Schrodinger so eloquently points out) that we discover what we call agency and what we call Being at a level that can have what appears to be a more concrete level of expression, where a baseball — for example — remains a baseball for quite some time, if not forever.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Inherent Wave of Being—a Treatise on Metaphysical Humanism, part I: introduction

Metaphysical humanism

“There’s an awful lot of structure not explained. But complexity is the essence, and if you don’t capture it you’re not going to have a hope of understanding it.”

Scott Turner, commenting on social insects.

From Underbug by Lisa Margonelli,  Scientific American/ Farrer, Strauss and Giroux, 2018, p. 48 

In order to understand the question of matter, meaning, and Being, we need to begin by understanding the words as the three great questions that confront human beings in their effort to understand existence and consciousness.

The first question is, what is matter? The second question, what is meaning and why does it arise? And the third question, what is Being?

 These three things are remarkably intertwined, as they must be, and can only be interpreted through what I call metaphysical humanism. That is to say, a humanism — an understanding of what it means to be a human being — founded in the idea that humanism itself, our very existence, extends beyond the bounds of what we call the physical world.  The term metaphysical  humanism implies from the beginning that to be human has dimensions that are greater than the physical dimensions we can see, measure, and evaluate.

This, of course, extends itself beyond the domain of the sciences, which are strictly physical and logical disciplines that attempt to explain everything simply from the perspective of what we call “matter” (which is really not matter at all, but a complex interaction of energetic waveforms) and how it interacts with itself according to lawful principles. So even though metaphysical humanism is founded, at its root, by some scientific understandings, it presumes from the beginning that these alone will not be enough to explain why we are here or what the meaning of it is.

 In this series of essays, we’ll explore these three questions from the perspective of metaphysical humanism. While the essays may not center so much around our practical experience and what it means, or about the pressing matters of Grace and understanding that are so important to our religious efforts, they are still, in my view, quite important in order to understand just how the universe functions — a question I have had ever since I was a tiny child staring at preserved beetles in cigar boxes, relics of my mother’s college entomology classes.

 I will never forget what it was like to stare at those beetles, their iridescent carcasses fixed with pins against a white card background.  I could see with every fiber of my being that these creatures embodied something quite miraculous and extraordinary, something impossible that transcended their material nature. Their material nature alone alluded to a perfection of existence and reason that emanated from a realm beyond mortal comprehension. I can remember the sensation of it as if it had just happened today.

 This is, of course, perhaps because I’ve spent a lifetime studying these questions and have actually reacquired some small measure of that innocence and ability to sense that is so easily lost as we grow up. But one might just as well say that it is Grace that brings it to me now, just as it brought it to me then. And that Grace, as it happens, is one of the most essential qualities of the universe, emanating as it does from God’s Mercy. God’s Mercy exists as a subordinate force related to the most essential law of the universe, God’s Love; and so, while they may seem technical to some, these essays are actually an effort to come to an understanding of Grace and its functional nature, as much as any other understanding. Love, Grace, and Mercy all work together to put us where we are; so everything we discuss is actually about those three forces, no matter how we interpret the things around us.

 Metaphysical humanism is, above all, a discipline that puts forces of this kind above the material; and that puts questions about such things above the question of how we can manipulate the material things around us. Instead, it tries to understand what our relationships with them are, with all of the mystery that attends to that effort.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, September 21, 2018

A charitable moment

Doug is an old personal friend of mine and a terrific, positive guy, as well as a talented drummer. He was stricken with muscular dystrophy many years ago and it's been a tough road.

If you feel you've benefitted from reading the blog, any amount you might contribute towards Doug's welfare would be a blessing in return. Please consider it; and if you know like-minded folk who might be willing, pass it on to them.

Love to all of you, and God bless.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Where does life begin? Part IV—On God's wish, and Love.

From the "Heavenly Bodies" Show 
at the Metropolitan Museum/ The Cloisters, New York

It would be helpful to know the difference between my own wish and God’s wish, wouldn’t it? 

And I do know it, so I shall write it down here to remind myself.

My own wish isn’t God’s wish. 

God’s wish is a living force that can manifest within me through Grace; but it isn’t there without God’s Grace. That living force consists of a certain level of organic vibration that expresses itself in Sacred Feeling.

Whenever it isn’t there, what is there is my own wish; and although my own wish can indeed be inspiring, “sincere” (within the limits of my own abilities, which are very weak) heartfelt and earnest, it isn’t real in the way that God’s wish is real. 

God’s wish, in other words, is far more truthful and true and powerful than my own wish.

God’s wish is Love: Love for all things and all Being. I have pointed out many times before how absolutely unconditional this wish is; it is organic and actually connected to the action of life itself (where this series of essays began) because atoms, molecules, organs and organisms which are alive are an active expression of God’s Love and God’s wish for Love. 

This Love can enter me—or anyone else, it’s true— and be expressed by the capacity of life, which receives and expresses Love at a higher level than inanimate matter. So there is a moment within me where God’s wish—Love—is made manifest in me and through me.

The moment when this comes it's clear that it is higher and better and deeper and more solid than any Love I can have by myself. It's superior; and hence we call God The Father; for His Love is the Father—the parent—of all Love, including any love I may have on my own.  

I feel this Love within me, organically; it arises in every molecule and it engenders the Peace of God which passes all understanding. It IS Truth; it IS Love, and there is no denying of it or rationalizing it, because now this Love has been made flesh; it has become substantial in its presence and is in no way the product of my mind, which rationalizes Love in all its forms instead of living it.

Such is what God’s wish is made of; we become, as the Nicene Creed says, of one substance with the Father:

“We believe… in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father

The Creed embodies an esoteric secret, in other words, relative to the nature of the manifestation of God’s wish. When we receive God’s Love and it is expressed through us, we become, like Christ, of one substance with the Father—because (as Meister Eckhart advises us to practice) all of us cedes authority until nothing of us is left—at which point God rushes in.

Well, all of that sounds a bit abstract, but what I am trying to get at here is our personal, exact, and intimate experience of receiving God’s true Love: not for ourselves, but on behalf of God Himself alone, and for His benefit—not ours. 

When we truly receive God’s Love on His behalf, then all the lofty ideals we have about Love (which are our own, and paltry compared to God’s Love, no matter high their sights are set) can be realized—not as our own, but as His.

I need to study the action of God’s true Love within me quite carefully when it arises, because it alone might be my salvation—just as it is my salvation on the occasions when it manifests. 

Until I can sense this and clearly know the difference between God’s Love and my own love, I don’t actually understand anything about Love. I need to understand God’s Love organically—otherwise it is nothing but my own love, which I mistake for God’s through my ignorance. Ah! This is such an easy mistake to make. It's done effortlessly. The things that are done through my ignorance are always done with ease.

I know now that one of the greatest gifts God can give a human being is to understand the difference between His Love and my human love; and this takes place only through Grace, because a man or a woman can in no way reach this understanding through their own intellect, or their own action, or their own passion.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Where does Life begin? Part III—spiritual boot camp

After my conversation with my friend, I went out for my 4 mile walk on the pier into the Hudson River this morning. During the walk I contemplated the way that the Gurdjieff work was presented to me when I was young, the way that it reads in the books — especially Ouspensky’s book In Search of the Miraculous — and how people approach it in general, whether they are members of the Gurdjieff Foundation or not.

I pointed out in my book Novel, Myth, and Cosmos that it's well-nigh impossible for the modern mind to have any true understanding of the mindset and the social and religious circumstances that surrounded Gurdjieff and the people he worked with the beginning of the 20th century. We're separated from them by nearly a century of changes, and that century has without any doubt wrought technological changes beyond the capacity of Gurdjieff or his followers to imagine or even conceive of. 

While our spiritual state has remained the same, all of the contexts — the flesh of the fruit — have changed.

To today’s mind, and in some of our own practice, much of the Gurdjieff work comes off as a spiritual boot camp. There is all this talk of how terrible we are, how helpless we are (man cannot do, blah blah blah), and all of these methods of bootstrapping our Being through strenuous psychic exercises of various kinds, including obscure and complicated intellectual exercises regarding enneagrams and hydrogens (the hydrogens, especially, weird holdovers from dubious 19th century metaphysical models) and all kinds of admonitions, instructions, and strictures. And who doesn’t know and remember the stern, overbearing types who appoint themselves to grimly ”bring the work” to others? 

Cheez. Gimme a break. 

This is a form of elitist metaphysical asceticism, intellectually (and perhaps, no matter how much the perp doth mindfully protest, even deviously) crafted, which places one stupidly impossible demand after another on the practitioner. Lest you feel I rant, some of this has been done to me myself... I know whereof I speak.

Of course Gurdjieff’s own personal practice was, by all reports (and I have heard more than a few of them directly from people who actually knew the man personally) nothing quite like this; and so the literature and the formal practice that have evolved since the books were published and the man himself died are considerable—sometimes outright destructive— deviations from what he intended. 

As much as been said before; the idea is not new. 

Although we owe a debt to Ouspensky for the books he published, we have also to remember him for the way in which it propagated a whole branch of inner work which does not understand the spiritual sensation of Being—one couldn’t even suspect its existence given what he wrote—and doesn’t have the capacity to conceive of it, let alone teach it properly. This type of work produces sophisticated metaphysicists which are nonetheless lacking in the type of compassion that’s truly necessary for this work. 

All this in contrast to the sensation of life, spiritual sensation—which is what inner work is all about. 

This can only be brought through Love; and I'll speak about that in the next installment.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Where does life begin? part II—a more perfect foundation for Being

 So this friend and I were discussing how one can better understand a good way to approach one’s life in the context of a spiritual effort.

This question of the molecular sensation of Being is an essential element in understanding our spiritual sensation. 

Mankind usually thinks of everything regarding the intellect, the psyche, the soul, and the spirit using its thinking parts. As a consequence, our spiritual sensation — which is another expression for the organic sensation of Being, or the molecular sensation of Being — has atrophied. Almost no one has a spiritual sensation at all these days; some few have one that is marginally developed, and then there are the rare ones that truly understand what it is to have a spiritual sensation of being that is durable. 

By durable, I mean a spiritual sensation that has the capacity to sense and receive, on a molecular level, the beneficial solar and cosmic emanations that flow through the atmosphere of this and all other planets at every moment. Without receiving these finer energies, the spiritual sensation cannot feed itself; and if the spiritual sensation is unable to feed itself, it can’t grow.

It’s possible to live an entire lifetime without experiencing the spiritual sensation, which was called influence by Jeanne Salzmann and the inflow by Emmanuel Swedenborg. The spiritual sensation isn’t necessary to live; yet without it, the action of life is an aberration, because it functions without the instinctive and natural moral compass that ought to inform all Being. Without the spiritual sensation, it is possible to do everything without caring much about others and without feeling any real Love. This is where most of mankind finds itself today.

This question of becoming more intelligently and mindfully sensitive to the molecular sensation of Being, the spiritual sensation, is a question that leads us to the idea of where we need to direct our attention in order to grow our spiritual sense of life. If our spiritual sense of life has good roots, good soil to grow in, and a sound foundation beneath it, it can grow into a place where there is value and significance and love and caring about almost anything, even a drinking straw. But without it, we are constantly attracted to and identified with what would have been called false gods in the Old Testament. Even today, those same gods are false, because they do not grow into our psyche through the spiritual sensation of Being, but are rather erected by our crude rationalities, which have no actual sense of Being, life, or Love.

So when I was speaking to this individual, who feels guilty (and, probably, angry at themselves) because they don’t practice, and they don’t feel they are progressing at the rate they should in their inner work, I pointed out that this idea of “progress” towards a mythical “transformation” of their inner Being wasn’t and isn’t helpful to any kind of real inner growth. 

It swiftly becomes a form of punishment, in which high (but profoundly misunderstood) goals are set, impossibly high goals which one then fails to achieve, and chastises one’s self for. “I’m not good enough,” the dialog goes, and if one attends spiritual gatherings long enough one hears altogether too much of this.

Of course we’re not good enough; but this is our default, not a revelation, and we ought not wear it on our shoulders or carry it like a cross. It is rather a burden to be borne inwardly and quietly, in positive (not punitive) contemplation of what we are.

In our effort to discover Being, we ought not place our focus first on progress and transformation. 

Instead, as I indicated to my younger friend, we need to focus on discovering foundation and support. 

That is to say, our attention and our mindfulness must move downwards towards the earth of our being, not up into the heavens. We attend to the smallest things; and, once this is firmly rooted in us, we establish a foundation that can support us.

I mentioned to this friend yesterday that it's true, I have made progress, been transformed. 

But what I progressed towards and what I have been transformed into is a person who understands foundation and support, which is where I dwell. So the progress, to whatever extent there has been any, has been towards this place where life begins

This is the place where continually I pause and make new efforts at discovering relationship: not towards some lofty place where the sun shines brightly all day and all night and I am a wonderful person. My efforts are just made here, where I am, in appreciation and gratitude for these tiny things. Including the cells with which I began this series of essays — which form the foundation of my life, which penetrates all that I am, and offer the support for me to live and honor this action of life which has been given to me through Grace.

There is no point in attempting to progress or transform without the foundation and support that is necessary; yet everyone thinks that it is possible, and approaches it from that point of view. The incremental accumulation of Being that takes place over many decades of searching for foundation and support is always far more important and durable than the huge flashes of insight that appear to reveal the heavens. 

The heavens are not hidden, and they do not need to be revealed; as our Lord Christ said, the Kingdom of Heaven is within. 


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Where does life begin? Part I

Piermont Marsh, July 2018

I was speaking to a friend yesterday about the nature of their Being, which they felt alienated from. They don’t have a regular meditation discipline; they feel depressed, and they don’t have much of an interest in life, aside from a few things, such as their young child. This despite the fact that they have been in the Gurdjieff work for a number of years, and come from a family tradition in spiritual search.

 This person is alive; but they sense instinctively that they don’t feel their life. There is a lack, an inability, to have a proper sense of their Being and what it means to live.

So in the next few essays, I'll explore the nature of our conversation and the questions it raises.

First of all, it’s necessary to sense life in every molecule of one’s Being

In order to understand this, one must know that every molecule is alive—is a living, thinking, feeling creature, a being that is a fraction of what we’re composed of. 

Not only are our molecules alive; even our very atoms are alive. Life is either present or it isn’t; and if it is present, you can’t extract it from any part of the whole and still have a life. If I am alive, the carbon atoms in me are alive; the DNA molecules in me are alive, my kidneys, heart, lungs and so on are alive. I am alive. Everything in me is alive with me. Once the quality of life arrives, it is inherent and penetrates everything that participates in it.

 To discuss the idea of a level down "below” where life manifests, in which everything it's composed of is inanimate and unintelligent (those carbon atoms, for example) doesn’t make any sense. Life is a whole thing, and you either have it, or you don’t. It is just like the idea of being a little bit pregnant. Life is either 100%, or it isn’t.

Perhaps this seems a bit technical. Yet I need to understand that all of the constituent parts of my Being, most especially the smallest and tiniest parts of me — the atoms and molecules — share in every way 100% of the life that I am, and the Being that I have. Being and life apply to everything that they inhabit. 

So I need to have a special kind of respect for these microscopic and submicroscopic particles of being that I’m composed of.

The whole point of developing sensation is to develop a sense of this molecular nature of Being, and the living nature of this fine-grained material I'm composed of which we call atoms, molecules, and so on.

 When I was speaking to this person, I suggested that they be sensitive to this very special quality of Being that vibrates down at this lowest level of life. All of these parts of us, I suggested, are actually caring, thinking Beings in their own right who all have a wish to support us in our collective effort. 

I have, in other words, a constituency of trillions of supporters, all of whom are universally dedicated to the positive welfare of this thing I call life and call Being, this person I call myself. Without their collective effort, I cannot exist; and indeed, without the life in each one of them as an individual (for, on their own level, all cells are individuals) I cannot Be.

A gentle and mindful attention to this molecular sense of Being is an essential step in the effort to create a more perfect foundation for Being.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Notes on molecular sensation, part VIII

 looking into the marsh, Tallman State Park
June 24

thoughts on the  morning of June 24 — conclusion

The Reconstruction of the Soul

 While this particular essay is not meant to be a part of my book by the same title, I thought I would wrap it up by explaining how the molecular sense of being relates to the reconstruction of the soul, since that is where said reconstruction begins.

There is a soul, an essence, an identity.

Just as the universe began unformed and had to discover its form — through the law of chaos, which as it begins to exist already wishes to create form — so we begin unformed. Even our soul, which preexists our living condition simply because it is part of the great expression of Being which the cosmos rests its foundation on, must rebuild itself and gather its responsibilities (it’s abilities to respond) back onto itself throughout the course of a lifetime. It is this gathering and concentration of received material that life is all about; and that is motivated by care, or sorrow. The example of Christ’s passion was meant to provide the most powerful possible demonstration of this principle; but we need to recapitulate the experience of grief and lamentation, sorrow and suffering, throughout every life, because we do not care if we do not suffer. And if we do not care, we do not attempt to walk the molecules back up and down the chains of our personal DNA and repair what is broken. Because make no mistake about it we are broken things, just as the cosmos is a broken cosmos.

The reconstruction of the soul consists of the intelligence, the sensation, and the feeling of life coming together and building a new personhood, a new being, with more care in it. The soul, if it is reconstructed within a lifetime, has the capacity for compassion; it may even begin to touch what is called real Love—a love quite different than the one we want for ourselves. But that Love is a greater thing—an essence—a material that flows into the prepared vessel of Being if the sensation is ready to receive it.

 Gurdjieff spoke of the soul as something that does not already exist when we are born; he said it is a luxury that a human being doesn’t necessarily have to have in order to complete a lifetime. Yet it can’t be true; because every human creature arrives on this planet with an identity that can already seen in its eyes the day is born. That identity is the true self, or, as the Zen Buddhists have it , the face we had before we were born. It’s the reconstruction of our identity, the bringing back together of it, that matters — because in any given lifetime, we begin dissipated and must concentrate ourselves most powerfully in order to re-acquire our Being. This is, in point of fact, a sacred responsibility for human being, because a soul cannot help to participate in the caring — the grief and sorrow, the lamentation and the anguish — of the universe and of God himself unless it is reconstructed and gathered together enough to participate at this level of sensation, of feeling, of intelligence. This is the whole point of the religious life as Gurdjieff understood it; and, as I discuss in my book, it was the whole point of religious life during the Middle Ages, when human beings thought, felt, and sensed their lives in a quite different way than we do today. They were, of course, under the great influence of the Virgin Mary at the peak of her last great actions on the planet, during which all of the Gothic cathedrals were built. At that time in the course of Western history, everything that was known about the reconstruction of the soul — including the scale of the cosmos, and all of the subjects I’ve been discussing these essays — was encoded in the cathedrals and the art that they held. We are left with mere vestiges of that today; and we gaze on those structures understanding there is something special about them, without being able to penetrate just what that special property is.

The molecular sense of Being is the beginning of the reconstruction of the soul. It is an action grounded in and founded on a willingness to experience the anguish of life itself. This anguish — the word means narrowness, in its original root — cannot be rightly received unless the molecular sense of Being is awakened. It’s this willingness to engage so intimately with the cellular nature of our Being — which will powerfully remind us of death itself in every moment that we experience it — that prepares us to receive the feeling we need to receive in order to develop emotionally.

 Of course much more could be said; but I will leave it at that for now, having said quite enough for one day.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Notes on molecular sensation, part VII

Thoughts on the morning of June 24, continued

Metaphysical humanism demands more of us than just sitting on our asses appreciating how gratifyingly cosmic we are. That is a thought;  and it is not enough. We’re called to participate in this metaphysical humanism according to a threefold set of principles, which begins with the molecular sensation of Being—just as these essays do.

For now, understanding a bit more about the structure from the point of view of metaphysical humanism, the question is, how should we Be?

 You will notice that I don’t ask, “what should we do?”

It's not a question of doing, but of Being, that we come up against here, and that Being is driven, above all, by care.

Now, I think we all know that feeling is a rather fragile thing. Most of us have lost loved ones – every one of us has experienced severe disappointments in the course of our life, failed in things, treated people badly, acted like an ass, abused, mistrusted, and probably, if we are the rather run-of-the-mill human being, stolen, lied, and cheated as it suits us to achieve our own selfish ends.

As we age, if we have what’s called conscience — an ability to examine our relationship and responses according to a more objective set of criteria which is less selfish (moving back to Swedenborg, but Gurdjieff said the very same things) – we will see that feeling is there to remind us of our insufficiencies.

That is to say, caring—which is suffering, grief, and anguish—serves as a spur to improve. It’s the essential energy for the engine of living and Being.

That is, suffering and anguish are the most important things for the galvanization of the soul, and our Being.

  As entities that characterize life,  and even the nature of the universe itself, these emergent properties of intelligence and caring—which exist after our physical being is established as an identity (think of those poor walking molecules, trudging night and day up and down our strands of DNA to keep our identity intact)— are necessary for Being, but they are not sufficient. They can’t function properly unless they are grounded in a physical sensation, the conscious awareness of one’s material reality. If one develops the capacity to sense one’s being from the molecular point of view, in this intimate way which I began the essay with which I speak about so often in my writing, then the actions of intelligence and feeling are grounded in much the same way that electricity needs to be grounded in order to flow without disruption. There is a flow of a certain kind of energy from the top to the bottom of the universe; and the physical cells of our being, the molecular components, serve as the lightning rods for being to which the energy must descend in order for it to complete our capacity for awareness.

Although I speak of the energy as “descending,” this is a deceptive and perhaps misleading way to speak of it, because the energy already exists everywhere, and our perception of it as a moving thing is peculiar to our subjective experience of the world. It flows down into us. It concentrates in chakras (according to the yogis.) It brings ecstasy and despair (according to the shamans who feed people Ayahuasca).

But the energy equally ascends;  and it's in its ascension that it finds its most essential action of being, because it's the natural instinct of being to concentrate more and more responsibility, and it's the natural gestational impulse (sexuality) that causes the energy to work on reproducing entities that can emulate its work and carry on when it expires. All of this in a striving towards that Divine Love and Divine Wisdom we spoke of earlier.

 I don’t think that the molecular sense of being can be fully appreciated until one experiences it directly; and even then, although it's indeed revelational relative to our ordinary sensory experience (one can have some disruptive and temporary experiences of it by taking drugs such as LSD or psilocybin) it does not provide any answers. It simply raises a whole new set of questions about Being. The point here is that the organic sensation of Being (which is a phrase I used to used to refer to it beginning about 11 years ago) is merely the foundational impulse for the appreciation of the divine. it's a starting place.

This series of essays may seem to be a rather long-winded way of trying to explain why the work that Gurdjieff followers such as Jean-Claude Lubtchansky is so important to understanding being; but perhaps it's necessary, because without sound intellectual grounding in the nature of being itself, and an understanding of how thoroughly scientific (although not the science of mechanistic rationalism) the whole matter is, one will tend to turn it into mush. it'sn’t mush. Organic sensation is an essential component of the way the universe is structured in such a way that life is obliged to participate in it, whether it wants to or not; and this molecular sensation, which is a term that I coined in order to indicate just how absolutely intimate (and perhaps even uncomfortable) this action is, is aware that understanding must begin.

 The final installment in this eight part series will publish on September 7.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Notes on molecular sensation, part VI

 Day Lily, June 24

Thoughts on  the morning of June 24, continued

Remembering our understanding of the word person as  originally meaning a character in a drama (actually, the primary definition in the OED) we see that personhood is qualified by being able to play a role, that is, have a relationship and be response–able. There’s much to think on here: to be response-able means to have the capacity to respond and form relationship, to not just sit there like a dead lump. It means to have agency. Being has agency; And the aim of Being is not just to have agency, but to always attempt to increase its capacity.

Let us re-focus, however, on the words Supreme Being—that is, an ultimate state of Being—for this particular discussion.

There is an absolute, rather than a relative, state of Being (“God.”) That absolute state of Being is structurally, technically, and mathematically composed and compounded according to the principles I’ve laid out in these essays:

It’s conscious. That is, it is aware of its environment and has agency.
It has a physical existence (the cosmos as we know it).
It has an intellect — an ability to perceive and interpret what is around it and within it.
It has feeling; that is, a caring, a wish for it to be good, to be right, to be whole and functional and in a sound and meaningful relationship.

This Being exists from the top of the cosmos to the bottom; and we are a functional part of it. So there’s the metaphysical humanist perspective on it.

 That entity of Being, furthermore, which penetrates the cosmos from the top to the bottom, has four other elements that drive it which we haven’t yet discussed in any detail:

Divine (higher) Wisdom
Divine Love

 Of these four elements, the first two, instinct and sexuality, are distinctly Gurdjieff in their nature; but Divine Love and Divine Wisdom, as any metaphysicist will recall, belong to the essential properties Swedenborg assigned to the divine being of God.  Of course these corresponds to Gurdjieff’s two “higher centers;” and how peculiar he didn’t name them for what they were, isn’t it? Surely he knew. Perhaps he didn’t want to say that outright to Ouspensky because he knew Ouspensky had a prejudice against religion.

It’s  worthwhile to call out the relationship between Gurdjieff and Swedenborg, because they actually  expounded a single identical system from two  not-so-different points of view.  (Any close reading of Swedenborg, to a person deeply grounded in the Gurdjieff practice, will reveal so many points of contact that one may begin to suspect that Gurdjieff cribbed a good deal of his material from Swedenborg without ever telling anyone.)

 There is a less nefarious explanation for the similarity between the two systems; Gurdjieff, I believe, was a true original, and his consonance with Swedenborg springs from the source of his revelations and insights, not from a reading of Swedenborg’s material. I will explain that a bit further.

Each of these men used a revelatory set of insights to create a framework (pattern) through which to communicate this consonant metaphysical insight; but they were so uncannily consonant simply because they both came from the same Marian (feminine, gestational, and receptive) source. That is to say, they were engendered by the flow of the divine influence of the Virgin Mary into this level of the universe.

That particular influence is one of the most important ones for mankind; and ought to be the subject of an entire book which I have yet to write and may never get around to. But the point is that all of the material I’ve been writing about and investigating for the past 17 years is all a part of this line that flows from Mary. Gurdjieff served that line as much as the others that have come before him; no wonder women have been so  traditionally strong in his work. One might weirdly say he was a man who brought a practical work for the women; the men were an afterthought. We’re perhaps lucky we were invited along for the ride.  Of course I’m just kidding around here, but it’s worth thinking about. The points about Gurdjieff’s work being in Mary’s line of work are intensely important, and I would say one will never truly understand the Gurdjieff work until and unless one understands it from the dual point of view of the inflow of the divine mediated by the Virgin Mary, and the receiving of Christ into the heart.

 I digress here, but I’ve been wanting to explain that for a long time.

Metaphysical humanism demands more of us than just sitting on our asses appreciating how gratifyingly cosmic we are. That is a thought;  and it is not enough. We’re called to participate in this metaphysical humanism according to a threefold set of principles, which begins with the molecular sensation of Being—just as these essays do.

The next installment in this eight part series will publish on September 4.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.