Thursday, October 31, 2019

Some notes on sorrow and selfishness, part II

 This brings us to the question of the difference between the sorrow of God and my own sorrow. They’re not at all the same thing; my personal sorrow is temporal, not metaphysical, and essentially selfish. 

As I learn to see myself more clearly, I learn this over and over again; and perhaps, as I exercise intelligent discrimination, I’ll begin to see how my desire is driven by my personal sorrows, not by a wish for God. 

Catherine of Siena proposes an impersonal sorrow that, through experience and manifestation, drives us towards a greater wish for God’s love. Yet sorrow also has the potential to be a strictly selfish, personal, and material function, and in that guise it drives us directly towards the devil. Catherine struggles to explain this early on in The Dialogue:

 Some actually extend their cruelty even further, notably refusing the good example of virtue but in their wickedness assuming the role of the devil by dragging others as much as they can for virtue and vice. This is spiritual cruelty: to make oneself the instrument for depriving others of life and dealing out death. Bodily cruelty springs from greed, which not only refuses to share what is  one zone but takes what belongs to others, robbing the poor, playing the overlord, cheating, deforming, putting up one neighbor’s goods — and over their very persons — for ransom. (Ibid, p. 34).

 One needs to read all of this section in The Dialogue in order to get a flavor of how personal sorrow, and the physical and material desires it births, produce a directly contradictory result to God’s sorrow.

I want for myself; and no matter how much I try to expunge this quality, it remains durable. I sincerely doubt we can truly free ourselves of this impulse by any action that stems from our own volition. It’s spoken of, of course; and yet I stubbornly cling to the belief that freedom, if it exists, is up to me: that it’s within my grasp. I don’t see that the issue of my grasp is the essential problem in the first place. 

A close examination of this question of my own desire and my own sorrow uncovers the personalization. When Gurdjieff wrote his essay The Meaning of Life,  he characterized the impure as that which contains self interest. To be objective, in other words, an emotion has to be pure. Untinged by personal desire.  There is little or no difference between Gurdjieff’s idea of pure emotion  and Meister Eckhart’s emptying of self in such a way that even the last iota is gone; only then can God enter – and at that moment, He (God) has no choice. The parallels between this and the Buddhist concept of the extinction of ego are clear enough. Yet without that selfsame knowledge that Gurdjieff equally emphasizes in the aforementioned essay, which in its essence boils down to one simple point, the fact that I am selfish, no realization of it is available. Self-knowledge and the suffering thereof are thus inextricably linked; if I suffer intentionally, one of the things I must suffer is the inner vision of, and an intimate contact with, my own selfishness.

If the buffers that Gurdjieff proposed to Ouspensky have one single chief feature, it is that they all  rotate around an axis of selfishness. Every buffer prevents me from seeing how selfish I am, no matter how it functions or in what position it’s placed. I don’t want to see my selfishness. One is unable to avoid comparisons to Swedenborg; in his universe, as well, it is our love of ourselves that leads us to hell. The devil loves himself above all else; it is in his nature. And this devil is what drives every one of us most of the time. 

 When people speak about the effort at self-knowledge as being one of seeing, and they discuss seeing this and seeing that in themselves, perhaps the overarching aim ends up being overlooked: the aim of seeing my own selfishness. It raises the question of whether seeing is to be pursued without discrimination and without aim.  Is it an entirely Catholic science? Or should we attempt to understand that there is a purpose to it, and that this question of selfishness must be inserted into every observation so that I can measure against it?

I would argue the latter. If I don’t see my own selfishness, what does it matter what I see? In the effort to acquire knowledge, perhaps even — dare I reach for something this high? – Gurdjieff’s “pure” knowledge, this knowledge of my own selfishness and an intense personal suffering of it it is the only wasp that may sting me towards God; and without the pain of that sting, I may just stay where I am, because it is in my nature.

I’m very comfortable here, after all.

May your heart be close to God, 
and God close to your heart.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Some notes on sorrow and selfishness, part I

While considering Gurdjieff’s discussion of the sorrow of his Endlessness, let's try referring to the  opening words of Catherine of Siena’s dialogue:

True contrition satisfies for sin and its penalty not by virtue of any finite suffering you may bear, but by virtue of your innocent desire. For God, who is infinite, would have infinite love and infinite sorrow.

The infinite sorrow God wills is twofold: for the offense you yourself have committed against your creator, and for the offense you see on your neighbors part. Because those who have such sorrow have infinite desire and are one with me and loving affection… Every suffering they bear from any source at all, in spirit or in body, is of infinite worth, and so satisfies for the offense that deserved an infinite penalty. 

True these are finite deeds in finite time. But because their virtue is practiced in their suffering born with infinite desire and contrition and sorrow for sin, it has value. 

—Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue, Classics of Western Spirituality, translated by Suzanne Noffke, 1980, page 28.

 Catherine has a considerable number of observations about charity and virtue, which, as I’ve observed earlier, are closely related to the idea of conscious labor and intentional suffering.  To go one step further, Gurdjieff’s concepts of the infinite nature of God, his  intense preoccupation with purgatory, and his citation of God’s sorrow as an essential  thematic element are remarkably consonant with the material presented and examined in Catherine’s dialogue. It seems difficult to believe that the conceptual structure of Beelzebub’s Tales doesn’t owe a considerable debt to this piece.

 Catherine was a notorious religious ecstatic. Speaking from my own personal experience of religious ecstasy, I can say with great certainty that specific things she says are derived from that state. For example:

… I have already told you that suffering and sorrow increase in proportion to love: when love grows, so does sorrow. (Ibid, p.33)

 Her thematic blend of the perfect balance of joy and suffering are descriptive of religious ecstasy —which cannot be described in any adequate way— but more importantly, they echo Gurdjieff’s own words on the subject of happiness and unhappiness, as quoted by his perennial sage, Mullah Nassr Eddin:

 Every real happiness for man can arise exclusively only from some unhappiness also real which he has already experienced.

—Beelzebub’s Tales, p. 377

 Once again, we encounter details that must convince the serious scholar that Gurdjieff’s teachings, although framed in a completely unconventional storyline, reflect absolutely traditional and well-established ideas drawn from the deepest parts of the Christian mystical tradition.

It’s fallen to me over the years to speak a great deal about the Gurdjieff practice and my own practice; yet I rarely, if ever, refer to or speak rapturously from the religious ecstasies that formed and grounded my own inner practice. The kernel of that lies within everything I write; yet although rapture can be fundamentally instructive, and extraordinarily informative ( it forms the inward core of the soul) it isn’t useful to anyone else except through personal experience. It can, moreover, become a vice if one does not understands its imperative; and it needs to be firmly balanced by the rational. 

I think Catherine does a better job of this than Hadewijch; yet both have significant value. Perhaps the fact that Gurdjieff’s core teachings are, at their well concealed heart, drawn from Christian mysticism explains some of the powerful negative reactions they have attracted from  traditional Christian institutions. Mystics have often been treated suspiciously; their teachings seem dangerous, because they reach towards those unspeakable desires the church cannot so easily answer to or explain. The institutions are, inevitably, formulaic; and mysticism admits no formulas, but instead insists on the abandonment of them.

 Yet perhaps it’s not fair to say that mysticism admits of no formula, because in its essence mysticism has only a single formula, and that is the formula of love. Gurdjieff’s work has been accused of not being loving enough — and yet in my own experience, it asks us to discard and abandon all our previous concepts of love for the time being, in the hopes of encountering a new and deeper love: one that springs from these deep roots of Christian mysticism, that touches on the edges of the inner ecstasy of God’s personal Being, and that calls for us to understand love as a material substance that creates everything and flows through everything as a powerful current, not just of our unspeakable (nonverbal) desires, but also as the fundament of all Being.

 This idea of love does not have room for our emotional attachments, which are casual and subjective. Perhaps we come closest to understanding it from an intellectual point of view when we encounter Hadewijch’s love as a force of annihilation, which consumes everything we are in our first encounter with it, and demands everything from us. This, again, is an exact, though functionally limited, description of religious ecstasy. Our conventional understandings of love leave us with the idea that it has to “feel wonderful;” and yet there is nothing wonderful about this love: it is a terror and a burden, an extremity of anguish that cannot be survived without the ecstasy that accompanies it.

From a metaphysical point of view, we might say that God is comprised of an exactly balanced proportion of the good and the bad, and that His suffering arises from the fact that there is no way to have one without the other. 

We are called as His charges to share that suffering. It calls to mind Walt Whitman’s quote,  I am as bad as the worst, but, thank God, I am as good as the best.  

The way Catherine puts it is less personal:  “in loving me you come to know more of my truth, and the more you know, the more intolerable pain and sorrow you will know…” (ibid, p.33)

May your heart be close to God, 
and God close to your heart.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Gravity of Being

Sept. 20

The other day, I was speaking about sensing the gravity within my own Being. 

Someone asked me exactly what this means, to sense the gravity of Being.

In order to approach this question, it helps to understand gravity from a new point of view. Gravity isn’t just a physical force that exerts itself from one object to another depending on its mass. Gravity, in terms of metaphysical humanism and inner spirituality, is the force of concentration of Being.

 Of course Being has mass, among other things. It’s substantial, and one of the results of the concentration of God’s love into relationship is an increase in mass. But to understand it from this mechanical point of view alone would be to miss the entire point of existence.

We live within a play of forces. All of those forces arise from love; yet they have many different natures, which are referred to as the Names of God. The Names indicate the various different natures. None of these names or forces are entirely mechanical, because they all arise from a conscious source, that is, God.

Now, sensation is a force within us. It is part of our Being. We anchor ourselves within sensation. Anchors are weights; and weight is a function of gravity. Therefore, perhaps we can begin to understand that sensation itself is a function of gravity, that is, the force of concentration of our Being.

 This is why it’s important to gather ourselves and sense our inner gravity. Of course the metaphysics of it are interesting to those who like such things; but the practical experience of an inner gravity is a phenomenon of a different order than our thought about it. If we approach our inward sensation of Being with the right degree of intimacy and sensitivity, we will begin to sense the actual action of the concentration of Being within our sensation.

 Now, this action is always taking place in one way or another. But we are almost always unconscious of it. To become conscious of it, to be able to actively — as opposed to passively — participate in the action itself is an important step that we must learn to take. This active participation does not consist of interfering with the force or directing it, but rather coming into relationship with it with intelligence and respect. I need to see it for what it is: the action of force from a higher level within me. Becoming aware of this may help me to understand my place; and the better I understand my place, the more possibilities I have for my own intelligent and compassionate development.

 Of course this idea of understanding my place has something to do with the force of concentration of Being, that is, gravity, because I form a microcosmos within myself, and bring it into relationship with the macrocosmos. My place is a very small one; yet like a tiny dog, I think I'm very large and important. I yap at everything that comes towards me as though I were in command of the situation.   

All this yapping prevents me from seeing my place. I've planted my feet in my imagination rather than my inner gravity; and I go outward from my imagination. 

If I plant my feet in my inward gravity, the gravity of my Being, and then allow life to flow into me, it’s a very different proposition.

I think you get the idea.

May your heart be close to God, 
and God close to your heart.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Reciprocally Loving

Helen at Montrose, with BACON!

Sept. 19

Some thoughts I have had as my mother steadily deteriorates and loses most of who she is to one stroke after another.

There’s a lot of discussion over the years about aim, and what inner work is “for,” and so on. Everyone has an opinion.

Most of the opinions are inflated. Perhaps even mine. But as we age, and are confronted with the facts about our inner selves and the inevitability of age and death, some things become a little clearer.

First of all, we all have far too many grand ideas—about ourselves, and every other damn thing. The presence of God and Love of God are much simpler (and far more mysterious) than the complications of our intelligence.

 Secondly, our purpose – the purpose of all life and all being and even our “work” – is to open our hearts and allow life to flow into us more deeply and simply. It is becoming available to this Presence of the inward flow of love that’s important.

Third, as we enter our lives with perspective and humility, our daily bread consists of both the inward flow of the Divine Presence and of the flow of our lives into our own Being. It is the blend of these two things that creates the spirit with which God would prefer we live our lives. 

This consists of a material action, and not the thoughts I have about it.

This action of allowing life to flow more naturally into Being is essentially and reciprocally loving. In order to be reciprocal, it must first become essential; and in becoming essential, it touches the heart and that secret innermost place where God knows us and wants to love us.

May your heart be close to God, 
and God close to your heart.


Senior Editor, Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Out to Lunch

Founded by the colorful iconoclast 

Sept. 10 2019 

Some impressions at lunch

It occurs to me today as I walk through the heart of midtown Manhattan that Christians don’t own Christianity: it belongs to God and the world. Jews don’t own Judaism; it belongs to God and the world. Muslims don’t own Islam; it belongs to God and the world. And so on. 

If we understood this in the simple and most unadorned context of our various religious practices, we might see how we’re all servants who have no right to appropriate our religions (or anything else) as shields or weapons—which so often tends to be the case.

 Another thought comes to me—I walk a bit straighter; my eyes see a bit more clearly. There is an inner gathering.

How best to represent the dignity and gravity bestowed upon us through life itself? There can be an effort to honor life itself—again, unadorned—by representing the Creator from within, in any simple task.

I bought baguettes. 

What an astonishing gift they are! I ought to remember to be grateful that there is such a thing as bread; and that I can buy it. This isn’t some small thing, but a major event that lies at the heart of existence. I ought to see much more clearly how fortunate I am through these small things. I’m not worthy to gather the crumbs of the Lord up from under the table; yet here I am with a whole loaf of bread. God has well and truly blessed me, even though I’ve done nothing to deserve it: on the contrary.

Honor and Glory flow into us from above—Honor and Glory of the Lord, for all creation. When I’m available, some small portion of this force manifests in me. 

Love is available—it can fill us in mysterious ways, in the most ordinary of circumstances. It flows inward in darkness; yet it brings light. 

Today I thank God for my life in every detail.

May your heart be close to God, 
and God close to your heart.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

An Unknown Possibility

Calvary Cross
Sergeac, France

Matthew 6:25-34 King James Version (KJV)

25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

As the divine influence flows downward into ever more finely divided particles of love, it spreads its nature equally throughout all the corners of the universe.

There is a quietness and an assuredness to this influence. When it manifests under its own power and without any interference from me – that is, when it acts entirely according to its own nature within me— there is an active stillness which arises. This is the peace of God that passes all understanding.

I alone am never capable of such stillness. I can only submit to it when it arrives; and in this state, I become a servant awaiting the direction and the word of the Lord. While I wait for that direction and that word, I begin to understand that it will never be a direction of my own or a direction I might think up by myself, and that the word will never be the word I would speak or even the word I would think of. 100% of the quality of the peace of God comes from beyond mankind, and can never be anything of mankind as we are. It may, in fact, be part of a new mankind, but even that mankind is unknown to us as we are, and will never be us as we are or what we are.

The mere existence of this peace becomes a promise that something much greater is possible for us; yet we need to throw out what we are and what we think of in order to encounter that possibility, which exists entirely within the unknown — again, from where we are and as we are.

This force that descends and brings the stillness of Love into Being carries the promise of that unknown possibility. 

As I sense it with me, I equally sense that none of what I am as I am now will be to serve it properly. It is already whole; and the peace of God is simply an invitation for me to join that wholeness and serve it without reserving myself.

This question of reserving myself is quite important, because I see as my life goes on that I continually reserve for myself and of myself, holding myself apart from life and apart from truth so that I can keep what I want according to my subjective whims. I don’t see how myopic this is; I don’t understand how the very idea of keeping myself apart from life is a falsehood I have invented. I want to keep the old bottle and put new wine in it.

 There's an opportunity, within the peace of the Lord, to sing wordless praises to God. Even the song itself is silent; yet it fills the heavens with its own Being, with its own silent joy, which manifests itself strictly through the awareness of Being.

As always, I find myself unable to explain — even to myself – what the true peace consists of. 

There is a living mystery available in this Being, and I believe it will always remain a mystery, even though we call it Grace and we call it Peace. 

How can it be, for example, that the word and the world are both made whole through the invisible and indescribable? 

How can it be that this stillness is so active and has so much energy?

May your heart be close to God, 
and God close to your heart.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

This Silent Agency, Part III: To Grown Human

The Apocalypse Tapestries, Angers
Photograph by the author

 September 7, continued

The difficulty that we all have with life is that we have no inner understanding of what life is. 

We think we have an inner understanding, but what we have is a confused outer understanding that dominates what we encounter inwardly. We're inwardly enslaved by our outer manifestations. This is a true form of slavery that mimics real outward slavery in every way.

The point of inner development is to free ourselves not from the material world, or its encumbrances, but our own slavery to our outer being. When I speak about being free, it's exactly this inner slavery that I want to be free of. My inner life has the capacity for a silent agency that can sense the love and compassion at the root of all life; and yet it's enslaved and forced to serve my outward being, which is confused and has no sense at all of how real being functions.

One can't rely on the mystics alone for advice on how to acquire real being. One can see from a close reading of Hadewijch’s visions how confusing and difficult to absorb they are; one can extract specific meanings here and there, but rapture alone does not define a life or what it consists of. One needs to invest oneself not in dreams of divinity, but in the facts of one's humanity; and even Hadewijch herself, in her letters, repeatedly brings this point up.

My aim in life is to grow human; to discover what it means to be human in the deepest and most essential sense. I can't do this without being fully and wholly man, before I ever dream of being anything else. If there even is anything else, it must be rooted in this soil, for there is no other place for it to exist. My first questions, in other words, must not be where God is and what God is and so on, but where I am and what I am. 

What is this thing called a human being? Why do I call it human? And what is its Being?

 All of the inward flow of divine influence exists to support investigations into these two questions; because if one does not understand them first (know thyself) one can’t understand anything. 

 While the cosmological scale of this discussion this morning may seem overwhelmingly huge (we have, by way of Hadewijch, already dragged in black holes and the like) the questions that it's directed at are always overwhelmingly intimate. 

The questions come down to our immediate perception of the moment, our harmonic alignment with it, our sensitivity to it. 

As I've mentioned before, our molecules themselves need to have an active and sensible (consciously sensed)  harmonic alignment with the events of our lives, and the thread of higher energy that inwardly forms us, in order for us to begin to understand what this sensitivity is.  This is the whole meaning behind the name of Gurdjieff’s Institute: the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. 

Just as we can’t rely on the mystics, we can’t rely on the technical. Yes, we may need the input from mystics to develop an intuitive vision of our possibilities; yes, we may also need the technical for exercises and practical demonstrations of them. 

But we need, above all else, our instinct and the very essence of our humanity itself — an essence that defies specific description,  but reposes in eternal silence — in order to encounter harmonious being. 

I need to throw out the visions, throw out the books, and throw out the exercises. 

What I must do is live, and live with a gentle and intense focus of perception that aligns itself with the forces I encounter, both inside and outside. 

That perception must be one that does not make up its mind beforehand, but rests within as an objective instrument awaiting what arrives.

 I have to wrap this set of thoughts up this morning, because I have responsibilities to others that need to be attended to. 

May your heart be close to God, 
and God close to your heart.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

This Silent Agency, Part II

The Apocalypse Tapestries, Angers
Photograph by the author

Sept. 7, continued

 This silent agency which we have the capacity to come into relationship with contains an intelligence other than my ordinary mind. It commands respect simply because it respects on its own; and to contact it is to contact the fundamental respect I ought to have for life, if only I weren’t so willful.

Every time I touch the silent agency – actually, what happens is that there are times when it touches me — I see how undeserving I am. There ought to be a much deeper respect within my ordinary being for even the smallest particulars of what takes place. At those moments I have the capacity to see what an enormous blessing I live within, and how even the least event is an expression of The Perfection. 

This can be quite difficult, because my ordinary parts insist on evaluating everything according to scales of relativity. Said activity is attached to this level; and it takes place without understanding what love is. It does not see that its validity, though real, is limited. The annihilation in Love that is spoken of in Hadewijch’s visions is in this sense quite real; yet it's not particularly useful to me, because my existence requires me to balance the flawed and myopic substance of my own life with the insight that the silent agency of spiritual being can bring.

Something begins to grow in a human being over the course of a lifetime that, if nourished and nurtured, begins to understand how to love in a new and different way: a way that's not personal, that doesn't belong to me, but that takes — without naïveté — the facts about things in. One needs to learn how to love through understanding and forgiveness even as one appreciates deficiencies in love. In fact, it's the deficiencies themselves that ought to call us more intensely to that love: both our own, and those of others. But only an agency of silence can love in this way. The love that has words has already acquired a characteristic that contaminates it.

So I sit here on this Saturday morning in the midst of the inner stillness, engaged with this outward manifestation of it as I speak. (This piece is dictated, not written.) At this moment in time this instant of Being represents all of the instants that have ever taken place before it; it represents the instant in itself, as of now; and it represents all future instants which will take place following it. I inhabit it with a respect for its entirety. It's good enough as it is; it doesn’t need me. It has me, however; and this is another fact that I ought to bring a deep respect to. The mirror I hold in my awareness reminds me that although this present moment needs me not in the least, although I am entirely insignificant to it in the scale of the cosmos, I need it most absolutely, and it is of absolute significance to me in a relationship to Being itself.  

I am, in other words, entirely subordinate and my existence is in every sense a service. If I could see quite clearly what a privilege it is to be here I would behave and act quite differently and with a much greater intelligence.

 This comes back to the point I made at the beginning of the morning (in the last post), where I said that life makes a great deal of noise. It will always do so; and simply being outwardly silent is never enough to counteract the force of this noise. It’s the inward silence that will make a difference, if there ever is one. That inward silence is posed at the edge of what is real; it is a stillness at the heart of things.

 Let’s consider another vision from Hadewijch:

…I was taken up out of myself in the spirit; there I saw a city, large, and wide, and high, and adorned with perfections . And in the midst of it there sat Someone upon a round disk, which continually opened and closed itself again upon hidden mysteries. And he who sat there above the disk was sitting in constant stillness; but in the disk his Being circled about in unspeakable swiftness without stopping. 
And the abyss in which the disk ran as it circled about was of such unheard-of depth and so dark that no horror can be compared to it. And the disk, seen from above, was set with all kinds of precious stones and in the color of pure gold; but on the darkest side, where it ran so fearfully, it was like fearful flames, which devoured heaven and earth and in which all things perished and were swallowed up.
And he who sat upon the disk was One whose Countenance none could perceive without belonging to the terrible flames of this disk and being thrown into the deep abyss which lay underneath. And that Counte- nance drew all the dead to it living; and everything that was withered blossomed because of it; and all the poor who saw it received great riches; and all the sick became strong; and all who were in multiplicity and division became one in that Countenance. 
—Hadewijch, From The Complete WorksThe Perfect Bride, vision # 12, p. 293
One who reads this vision may be struck by the manner in which Hadewijch appears to describe a black hole and its event horizon. Of course people of her time understood no such things about the cosmos; yet her description not only evokes the hole repeatedly pulsing as it feeds on the material world (it opened and closed itself again upon hidden mysteries); it also describes the essential physical nature of the object: it was like fearful flames, which devoured heaven and earth and in which all things perished and were swallowed up.
Yet the astrophysically naive Hadewijch has imparted to us a spiritual intuition that perhaps tells us a bit more than we currently know about black holes. 
First of all, the black hole is not a physical object but a state of Being; second, that it is personified; and third, that is it not an agent of destruction but creation.
 In this vision, the city is the infinite states of Being of which The Perfection is composed; and in this case, a galaxy. The disc at the center of the galaxy is of course the black hole, the aperture through which everything returns to God. (One might here contemplate the possibility that human beings have a scaled representative object of Being within themselves that takes everything they are back to God.) 

The Someone who sits upon the round disc sits in constant stillness.  This is that selfsame stillness of Being which inwardly observes and takes life in. The fact that this someone is not apart from life is indicated by the fact that in the disc, his Being circled about in unspeakable swiftness without stopping.
 This takes place within an abyss, that is, an emptiness that represents ordinary life. From above (a spiritual perspective) it is set about with precious stones and in the color of pure gold; yet from the darkest side— the horizontal level— it is like fearful flames, which devour heaven and earth and in which all things perish and are swallowed up.
Wishing the best for you on this day,


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, October 7, 2019

This Silent Agency, part I

Photograph by the author
September 7

Life makes a great deal of noise, and we make a great deal of noise with it.

Being, however, gathers life into it silently. It flows into us in varying degrees according to our receptivity, and we become aware of it in varying degrees according to our attention. 

Eventually, perhaps, we begin to see that it is a whole thing, not divided into the many fragments we perceive. To see this from time to time is not a right but a privilege. The wholeness of Being in its entirety belongs only to God; that wholeness is His own nature, and will never be comprehensible to us.

In the meantime, we serve as the custodians of whatever part is given to us through our own Being. We become representatives of God within our sensation, apprehension, and contemplation; and in this way we come to be like God, on an infinitesimally tiny scale. The moments when this takes place are the moments when we are harmonically attuned to the divine in such a way that its vibrations flow all the way from the top of creation down through us and towards the bottom. There are reminders, here, of Hadewijch’s vision of the countenance of God (vision 13):

…the new heaven was opened. There revealed itself (the) Countenance of God… The Countenance had six wings; they were all closed outwardly, but within they were ceaselessly in flying motion… all the locks of the wings came open outwardly... 
The two highest flew in the height in which God enjoys the highest power of love. The two middlemost flew in the amplitude of Love's perfect modes of action. The two lowest flew in the fathomless depth in which he swallows up all beings. All the wings were straight. 
Hadewijch, From The Classics of Western Spirituality, Vision 13, Page 297
  Love engenders all Being. These are the two highest wings, which also represent heaven. Mankind and material creation are the middlemost wings, which fly in the amplitude of love’s perfect modes of action.  

Amplitude is the maximum extent of a vibration or oscillation measured from the position of equilibrium; so we see how she directly refers to material existence as being in a harmonic  relationship with God’s action. 

To fly is to overcome gravity; and perfect modes of action represent a wholeness of Being. In their entirety, Hadewijch’s perfect modes of action can also be understood as all of material creation, which is composed both in its entirety and in its infinite particulars of The Perfection. 
What we can understand from this is that The Perfection is not resident in the material manifestation but in the action of love.
There are further important relationships here that can’t be explained but must be absorbed through experience. In the meantime, perhaps we recognize that the rapturous visions of a medieval ecstatic won’t help us to understand where we are now and what we are doing. Even if one is familiar with religious ecstasy, it's not a stool to sit on or podium from which to preach. One has to live in an ordinary way, after all is said and done; and almost all of our experiences are lived in this middle ground where the harmonic relationship of Being is our primary responsibility.
So I come back to this point that Being gathers life into itself silently. 

In conjunction with the support of a higher energy that perpetually flows into us — whether we're in relationship with it or not — Being gathers Life. 

Every time we do come into relationship with this, the concentration of the force of The Perfection and of Love itself within us becomes greater. We are in a greater alignment with this force; and the particles of our own Being vibrate in consonance (NOT mere resonance) with those greater forces that engender us.
 Another way of putting this is that the essence of our Being, which is quietly collecting the material of our life the way that bees collect honey, forms a core of silence around the entirety of our inner life, which is there to support us if our attention contacts it. We may be outwardly agitated; but if our inner silence gains strength through our willing participation in Being— our willingness to suffer, that is, to be there as we are — then it is always present as an agency of its own.
This silent agency contains all of the questions our life brings us.

Wishing the best for you on this day,


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Egyptian Yoga

Let's have a little fun!

"Yoga" (esoteric) schools in India were long established by the time of the Egyptian dynasties, and the Egyptians—who would have traded with India—were well-schooled in Yogic practices, of which they had their own recognizable versions.

One particular location well worth visiting in the Louvre is the crypt of Osiris, where you will see, among many other important cult objects, the sarcophagus of Imenemit (1069-664 BC), which contains on its back a map of the spinal column that likely conveys an Egyptian understanding of the yogic chakra system.

The image represents the spinal column, and is clearly divided into the traditional three vertical yogic channels of Ida, Pingala, and the central Sushumna. Circulation of inner yogic energy is shown through the downward-pointing fleur-de-lis motif, showing the descent of higher energy into the recipient:

This motif turns around and points upward in the Ida and Pingala  channels, showing the circulation of the energy back up towards the head:

Here’s the entire map of the energetic circulatory system:

The introduction of threefold energies shows a concept related to the holy trinity which well predates Christianity. The threefold energies are related to the energies in the spine, which also reflect a threefold nature:

The root chakra literally grows up from the earth in the form of two sets of plants. There’s a symbolic relationship between the plant’s leaves on the left (green) and right (red and dark blue) and the waves of energy in the central channel (spine.) The energy moves down through the spine in highly structured, organizied waves, roots itself (the green base) and then ascends separated into two distinct channels (left, green, right, red and blue.) The left one is “female,” green and watery (life giving) the right side “male,” dry and powerful, yielding seed (the pods at the tips of the inflorescences.) This is the inseminating force; yet note that the force at the very root is female (green.) We begin to see intimations of the color symbolism here that may be of further use in interpreting the symbolism. 

Green represents a feminine, or receiving, quality or attitude. It is passive and life-giving; wherever we see it, it represents the fecund influence of the divine. Of course that lies at the root of existence, at the very base of the column.

Blue represents the active or masculine force. 

Red represents prana, the divine energy itself.

The sex chakra has an animal nature, and is dramatically divided into a male and female force with distinctive differences by uniquely placing the body of the wolf crosswise behind the Sushumna channel. 

The solar plexus gives us two figures of nearly identical aspect. Each engages in a peculiar holding of the shoulder with one hand, while touching the energy flow of the spinal column with the other. The right hand and left hand are employed, emphasizing the left/right nature of energy flow in the Ida and Pingala channels. The raised hands indicate a gathering of energy from above; and the hands on the shoulders represent the incorporation of that spiritual energy into one’s own Being. The collective impression underscore’s the traditional role of the solar plexus as a nexus for the acquisition of spiritual power through the gathering of divine inner energies. The looped sashes indicate a concentration of that energy which is then brought down towards the ground—the intermediary action of the yogi in grounding their spiritual flow. The characters (here not animal or divine, but emphatically human—the only such characters in the diagram) are green: they’re receivers and collectors of the divine influence. Their elongated bodies symbolize the long distance they must reach above them in their effort to develop spiritual Being.

The next image represents the heart chakra, rendered here as a complex stack of compartments. It’s actually a recapitulation of the seven lower chakras, a sub-universe in miniature, with the entire spinal column below it serving as the root chakra.

The figures on the right and left are the secret, or brother and sister, chakras that lie on either side of the heart. Thoth is wisdom; Horus is the eye of the sun. Here their lower hands are at the level of the solar plexus, indicating mastery of that energy (power), and their other arms reach towards the third eye (wisdom.) The towels held at the level of the solar plexus on either side are the selfsame sashes seen at the level of the solar plexus; they are white, which represents purification. The heart is the domain of influences of the gods; Thoth and Horus preside. It’s a picture symbolic of aspirations.

Horus’ eye is red: he sees with divine energy. His body is green and thus, here, indicates the receptive principle. Thoth’s headdress is red: he is male, blue, and anointed with and protected by the signifying red of divine energy. Each of the two wears a white kilt, symbolizing purity of intent. They both have the heads of birds, signifying their role as mediators of higher energies.

The throat chakra is represented by two horses. The peculiar coiled tail assigns the symbol elemental qualities, that of breath and wind; the equipage on the face represents the powerful force of the horse, brought under control.

The Image of Horus appears at the top, representing the third eye, gateway to the seventh chakra. He represents a guardian, and the quality of silence.

The 7th or crown chakra is on the head of the figure, encircling it.

Because of stylistic considerations particularly the requirement of keeping the headdress free of design (i.e., completely purified) the throat and third eye chakras were placed lower down on the body than their traditional and physically correct locations.

Here’s a recap:

Pay special attention to the detail lavished on the heart, which according to egyptian understanding is actually a miniature model of the entire chakra system as a whole, containing all of its elements in a single concentrated location. The stupa-like structure is an indicator of the seven different levels of development that the heart can undergo by itself.

Wishing the best for you on this day,


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.