Wednesday, April 29, 2020

An interlude: the deep light of the soul

There is a beauty in the stillness that sometimes comes in the darkness and feeds the soul.

This is the light of God’s Presence, which shines with the light of the soul. When one speaks of enlightenment (and one should only do so rarely and reluctantly) it is this deep light of the soul that one speaks of. It isn't like the light of the sun. The light of the sun reveals the material world and creation; and so we see by it. But the light of the soul brings us seeing from within. It brings an encounter with life itself; it brings understanding.

This vision from within is not a seeing of the eyes or an understanding of the intellect. It's a personal contact with the divine, which lies deep in the darkness from which all truth emerges. Souls are fortunate to be born at all; and we’re even more fortunate to have the capacity for receiving this inward flow of divinity.

No matter how difficult our life and how extraordinary we may foolishly think our own troubles are, the support of Divine Love and Wisdom for our Being exceeds our difficulties many times, by many measures.

Even our greatest confusion, our deepest misapprehension, and our most troubling doubt are effortlessly laid to rest by this Love and Wisdom.

As I sit here this morning, I’ve cracked the window and I’m listening to bird song, which has become a perfectly balanced counterpart to the theme of silence I touch on each morning in this diary. What greater truth and beauty could be offered to us than the song of birds? They seem to be familiar and ordinary, yet they represent an unimaginably great force tamed by evolution and meteorite in such a way that terrifying ancient creatures of the earth such as Tyrannosaurus rex are transformed into tiny things of air and music.

The kings of former worlds are become messengers of joy.

It's an allegorical reminder of the way the dragons in us need not necessarily be slain; our lower nature can be lifted up into the intelligence of something much greater than ourselves.

These, of course, are only my thoughts. Already, although they have sound form and good meaning, they begin to part ways with truth, a subtle thing that is always diminished in one way or another when it meets the words that try to speak of it. Truth and love are forces with shapes so mysterious, so vast, that one can never comfortably wrap them in the thin paper of ideas.

These forces are light that help the soul see; and the soul—if and when we sense its breath in us— sees with the light of truth, not with the light of the sun and in the world of things. When it sees, it peers across the void of darkness that underlies all Being and all existence, and acknowledges the presence of God.

God stares back across that same void towards his creation with an incomprehensible, invisible, indestructible, and unshakable love.

We are rooted in that love. Most of us has forgotten that; and yet its essential quality is still held within us in suspension, in a perfect, dark, and secret place that knows only love itself. There may be many mysteries; and there may be many keys to unlock the doors that lead to them. Yet caution is advised; because in the search for mystery, I tend to become distracted by things of life, and I think that the mystery lies in them, not in Being.

There is only one door and one key. The door is the door to the kingdom of heaven which is within us; and the door can never be unlocked from our side. God alone holds the key; and He uses it as He sees fit, and only within the context of our deepest need. (We do not have the right to come and go within the Lord’s house as we please.)

If we wait quietly, and often, sometimes we may hear footsteps on the other side of the door.

This takes much persistence, prayer, and great attention. There are moments, in the middle of the night, when the door cracks open just a tiny bit and a whisper is heard.

In a moment like that, the whole universe and everything that lies beyond it are contained in a single moment of exchange.

Attend; the sacred waits for us with love.

We may have forgotten it; but it never forgets us.

Go. and sense, and be well.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Being with Love in the Present, Part II

Detail of capital from Eglise St. Pierre, Chauvigny

March 1, 2020, Sparkill—continued

…if you have faith in your Lord, if you trust in His promises and His rewards in the Hereafter, if you fear Him and love Him and wish to be with Him, the bitter will turn into sweet…

It is certain that your sustenance is gained through your own actions. According to the Law, the best food is that which is obtained by your own efforts. Even eating it and digesting it is your own work—therefore, it is service.

Thus if you gain your food heedfully and lawfully, prepare it, chew it, taste it, swallow it, digest it-you will serve the One who created you and keeps you alive, and who placed your soul into you from His own soul. 

Excerpt from Ibn Arabi, Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom, P. 167. Translated by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al-Halveti. Fons Vitae, 1997.

It is the taste of our life that helps us eat and digest the food it brings us. When Ibn Arabi advises us that the bitter can turn into sweet he’s reminding us that we are able to transform our past within us. This illustrates without compromise that our understanding of our life is created by our emotional and feeling attitudes, and not by the events that have happened. 

Within time as received and perceived now, in the action of sensation, feeling, and contemplation, it is possible to come immediately to an understanding of the sweetness and goodness of all that has already been received. If I am here with love and understanding, it is only because all of the things that went before this made it possible: and if this moment is whole within goodness and Being, then all the moments that went before it must also have been whole within goodness and Being. If my parts were unable to perceive those things when they happened in the past, it is at least able to perceive the truth of this now. If I do perceive this truth, I become responsible to myself and this moment. This means I cannot cast a line from my feelings backward into time and accuse, or blame. Of course I am forever tempted to: but my attention needs to be focused on this moment and the truth of goodness, which leads me to forgiveness and mercy instead of resentment and retribution.

This is what I mean when I say we should Be with love in the present. It's not our own love that we should be with, because it is weak. The flow of divine love into us, however, is infinitely strong, and if we choose to dwell within that force, the benefits are in measurable. In this way we are not attached to our past and those who betrayed us; we are free to go forth and love from this moment. And to go forth in love from this moment is always better. I may fall down 10,000 times and fail to go forth and love from this moment, but in the next moment, on the 10,001st time, Love can prevail.

I've spoken before of the essential goodness of life and how all of it is good and sweet, even the parts that seem better and reprehensible to me. Feeling anger and anguish towards those who are angry and anguishing serves no one and nothing except myself; and I want to serve God, not so much myself. I need to have faith in goodness and faith in the future, not dwell on the inequities of the present. Hence my feeling is focused first in sensation, the experience of God flowing into Being. Sensation is like a lens that clears up everything that is blurry and sees even the tiniest and most beautiful detail of something that otherwise remains unclear. 

Then my feelings can focus on the beauty of creation, rather than my attitude towards it. My sensation does not have an attitude and I can rely on it to help me perceive things truthfully.

Of course you take this in with your mind as you read this. We can't help that, but you can become responsible for understanding this question much more intimately through the molecular sensation of your Being – the organic sensation. This is a spiritual sensation that is intended, above all, to support a spiritual feeling and create the potential for forgiveness and mercy in us. Without those two new innermost spiritual attitudes, we find ourselves attached to what has already taken place.

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


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Being with Love in the Present, Part I

Detail of capital from Eglise St. Pierre, Chauvigny

March 1, 2020, Sparkill

Be heedful at all times, for if the whole is aware, its parts are aware. Control your anger, do not seek revenge.

Ibn Arabi, Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom, P. 63. Translated by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al-Halveti. Fons Vitae, 1997.

Last night, a discussion with Neal and Sylvia about how our past affects us.

We were talking about our experiences—all different, but they share a common thread —of personal betrayal by loved ones affects our attitudes towards them. One sees that even after many years, there may be a residue of anger and attitude towards another person. This can lend a dangerous color to the way I perceive myself even now.

A bad attitude toward someone from my past can serve as a form of inner vengeance. This needs to be looked at quite carefully. Everything in me that points my emotions or my feelings (the lower or higher parts of my emotional being) towards the past prevents them from being focused properly in the present. Don't make the mistake of believing that your feelings can be misled; higher centers can make mistakes in the same way that lower centers can. Spiritual orientation is no guarantee of infallibility.

This action of allowing my feelings to be pointed towards events that took place at another time under different circumstances is always destructive. My feelings are needed in order to perceive what is taking place around me now, what is taking place in me now. Anything that points them in another direction causes them to fail in their immediate task. 

There is, of course, a contemplative responsibility for feeling which takes place in the now, but that contemplation is not pointed backwards. It does not look in that direction. It includes that direction, but that direction is behind it. In this particular instance, it's helpful to be reminded of Christ, who was offered the whole world in the course of his temptations and said, "get thee behind me, Satan.”

It's possible, with right inner attitude and sufficient contemplation of feeling in the present moment, to completely transform the way one's emotional and feeling attitude functioned in the past situation where wrong was done to one in such a way that one now understands the goodness and value of that moment, instead of dwelling on the hatred and anguish that arose at the time. 

This can't be a forced exercise where one tries to convince onesself using thought and psychology in order to attain forgiveness. Forgiveness has to come from the feeling part—that is, the heart—and it needs to emerge as a consequence of work that the heart has done, not work that the mind has done. The difficulty with psychology is that it works with the mind; and the mind can't do this kind of work.

So I need to see where I am using my sensation and feeling – where I am right now. Not where I was, and the bad things that happened to me. They are over. If I wish to understand the concept of attachment, the first thing I need to understand is that attachment does not mean a wish for the things one is attached to. The outward attachments are always nothing more than an expression of the inward ones. My attachments begin within me, in my feelings, and in the moments when they are directed towards things other than the goodness of the soul. We all live in a constant state of temptation in regard to this question.

Someone recently questioned the idea that sensation is where inner work begins. 

I would speak to it thus: the sensation is the anchor which can keep me here where I am. In this way, feelings rest on a firm foundation. 

He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 

And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 

And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 

In this passage from Matthew 16, Christ distinguishes between that which we perceive with the outer or natural parts of ourselves – flesh and blood – as opposed to what we perceive with our spiritual parts, that is, our father: that from which we are born. Our Father is the inward flow of the divine into our being, from which we are born in every moment through our spiritual sensation. Our being begins here, and this is why Christ said upon this rock I will build my church. The church in this case represents feeling, which is love. Of course to use this term opens the door to a much wider explanation of the nature of love and its relationship to feeling, but we can’t deal with that in this particular essay. The point is that if I don't have a firm foundation for my love, it has the wrong attitude and looks in the wrong direction. More frequently than ever —and this is where we begin the discussion —it looks towards the past, and in doing so forgets the present. It needs to help with sensation to prevent this from taking place.

My attachments to life usually begin with this looking backwards, in the wrong direction, with my feeling. I don't need to revisit the ills of the past. I need to digest them. This involves a comprehensive form of contemplation and forgiveness. If I do this work in a right way—if I allow the sensation to ground the feeling so that it can do its work—then my emotional attitude stays in the present and supports me, instead of continually revisiting the pain and anguish that others caused me in earlier parts of my life. Remember, that kind of information is only useful to the extent that it helps me be with Love in the present – whenever it pulls me in the direction of being with anger or hatred in the present, I betray myself.

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


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Soul has an Instinct

Feb. 25 

Perhaps I haven’t considered it before in this way, but my parts are egoistic.

The reason my centers overwhelm one another and do one another’s work is because their function is self-centered. They aren’t awakened entities and they don’t have a sense of cooperation with one another. In the absence of a functional conversation between the parts, each one believes it and it alone is the master. They actually end up competing with one another.

This egoism of the individual centers needs to be surrendered if anything unified is to come about. They have to first see one another (here is where self observation can make a difference) and then come to see the benefits of cooperation. 

In the meantime, perhaps each ought to be treasured for its individual value. In an awakened state, the ego of the centers becomes subservient to a greater good: this is a delicate matter which one cannot put too fine a point on. It needs to be intuited, not defined, because it’s an action, not a thing.

In the midst of this intuition I begin to understand that it’s an intuition of life itself that’s at stake here. One can inhabit life instinctively, with parts that function naturally. When this takes place I begin to understand that my “ordinary” state is an artificial construct with no natural temperament or understanding. 

No “work” (if there actually is such a thing) can take place without this intuition, this instinct...

The soul has an instinct.

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


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Not to Use Force

The Cathedral at Reims

Feb. 25

Raining outside. At lunch, I take a brief walk across Broadway at 39th street. The wetness seems a blessing. 

The clouds part a bit, and it is utterly magnificent...

I saw this morning that it’s very important not to force the parts together in any way.

This needs to be said because we do everything inside ourselves with too much force. It’s a natural tendency born of our innate tension and the dysfunction of our overall state. Each one is weak by itself and immediately tries to overcompensate.

Because of the fact that one has spent a lifetime already, all day long every day, dwelling with too much force in oner part or another, there are times when one needs to compensate. This happens when the intelligent (as opposed to automatic or mechanical) parts of ourselves awaken. I speak here of the spiritual part of the mind, the body and the feelings, as opposed to the physical or natural part.

Even the mind (which is supposedly intelligent) rarely uses its intellectual part: instead it dwells in the physical part of associations or the impetus and momentum of its emotional capacities. If it uses its intelligence, already a different kind of thought arrives.

In the same way, sensation has an awakened part which functions through and with a new intelligence; and feeling has exactly the same capacity. If we come into touch with these parts there are times when we need to allow them their own space to be in their own way—without trying to invoke the other parts. 

That is to say, harmony and balance emerge slowly and over a long period of time as we sequentially inhabit the awakened functions of the parts. First one; then the other; gently, gradually. 

If I discover a new relationship within one aspect of awakened intelligence, let it be. Value it; respect it; become familiar with it and make friends with it. 

Don’t however, direct it or correct it.      

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


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Thinking in a New Way

Statue of the virgin
Royaumont Abbey

Feb. 24. A dinner conversation with Neal. 

If I wish to be in a new way, I need to think in a new way.

This means thinking in a way that’s unfamiliar; it does not look like thinking or feel like thinking. It is true perception, intelligent perception; yet I don’t recognize it. It comes from somewhere else. It has to be so new to me that when I encounter it I don’t initially realize that it’s a kind of thought.

One has to begin to understand what thought and intelligence mean in a new way. The books aren’t going to help; the terms aren’t going to help. One has to start to discover a new language; one’s own language within one’s self that comes from a native intelligence within Being—rather than intellect.

What is this native intelligence within Being? 

Being is a whole thing that has the capacity to be intelligent in the way that our individual parts don’t. What does it mean, then, to have a new intelligence? I need to encounter that concept and use it to explore how I am inside. I can’t go on with the same old thing: I have to have something new born within me.

It comes from within me; and so I discover there is somewhere else  within me, a place—places— I did not know. They are a new landscape, a different landscape, which perceives intelligently but differently and thinks intelligently but differently.

I need to become more sensitive to the new faculty of thinking. It consists of new organs— the awakened intelligence of sensation, the awakened intelligence of feeling. I can develop an intimate relationship with this new way of thinking.

I try to bring words to this afterwards to allow a potential for an encounter. The encounter is with sensation and with feeling; it isn’t with intellect. Unfortunately, if we point directly to that, then we think we know what it means. This is a difficulty, because the point about this capacity is that it’s just that that we don’t know what it means that leads us in the right direction. An inhabitation takes place in which it’s not the same—the energy that animates Being is not the same.

A new intelligence has to come from something more whole. But it’s not a thing we’re looking for. The information comes from the whole, not from one part. One needs to look at all the information one is getting from one’s sensation and one’s mind and one’s feeling.

We come together in the hope of discovering a new intelligence within ourselves. That’s why we work together; we’re not coming together to remember ourselves or do movements or meditate, we’re coming together to try to discover this new intelligence within ourselves and between us.  

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


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Nothing has changed

Pond Slider, Sparkill creek.

April 14

There has been a lot of talk around me about how "everything is different now." I suppose this is true of outside circumstances; some are struggling on the front lines against this new virus; others are out of work, stuck at home, isolating from one another.

Yet this is only the measurement of human affairs. Animals are going about their business as they always have; plants are growing as they always have. The weather is still the weather. Only way humans are consumed in this paroxysm of fear and uncertainty. The virus, like the rest of nature, is unconcerned with us except as hosts; it's merely going about its business.

Perhaps it seems peculiar for me to say that everything is the same from an inner point of view. I still get up every morning with the same sense of my Being; I still begin with it as my primary interest. What is this life? I ask myself. How am I from within?

This approach may seem excessively self-centered; yet if I don't know myself and how I am, how can I bring anything meaningful, sensitive, caring — good – to anyone else? If everything of my being that I bring to others is accidental, well, some of it will work out, but there are going to be a lot of stubbed toes, hurt feelings, balls dropped, and offenses taken. Without right Being and right understanding, there can be no right action. I need to begin by being responsible to myself. This is where all of the problems start.

So there is a continuity in my life, something that hasn't changed, and it’s this inner question related to my sensation of being and the active nature of my intelligence that is still exactly as it has been. It stands up right like a pole firmly planted in the ground. Lots of other stuff happens, but the pole remains erect and attentive. 

First of all, I need to be here. I don't need to be here with attitudes or slogans, plans or explanations. I just need to be here. In a certain sense, I ought to be here quite stupidly and stubbornly, without any other purpose or intention. If I plant myself firmly in the nature of this relationship, everything else flows in and can be dealt with accordingly.

If I have an inner wish to live and to Be, life is always the same. It begins there. The rest of life becomes subordinate to it. This is a model of authority: my wish has authority over my life, it inscribes the parameters. If life inscribes the parameters on my wish, then life dictates what I am. When Gurdjieff spoke about the fact that human beings are either slaves or masters, this is one of the meanings he alluded to. A slave has the terms of his life dictated to him; a master is obedient to life, but not ruled by it.

So actually, nothing is different. Outer circumstances are definitely other than they were; but a need for presence of Being and obedience to God are constants. 

They don't go away just because a virus comes along. 

Be well this day,


Monday, April 13, 2020

An Inner Cosmos

Royaumont Abbey

One thinks one knows what life is. 

Yet, aha doesn’t; 

and if the spiritual side of life awakens and flows into us, we discover life has a hidden dimension which lies behind what we call “reality.”

That dimension isn’t “above” us (in the sense of heaven); it is everywhere, but most especially inside us. This is what Christ said when He indicated that the kingdom of heaven is within.

We use the word heavens to indicate the cosmos—stars, galaxies and so on—as well as an indicator for the abode of God and angels. 

My Being is my inner cosmos—the wholeness of existence, which is held together by dark matter, an unseen and immeasurable material where most of the mass of my Being is concentrated. This center of gravity in Being is also called the soul.

An awakening to the presence of this material brings everything into question: not because the intellect has questions, but because the sensation does.

The feeling does. 

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


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Bees here now

I rest within life. 

It’s quiet this morning, and I have a wish to just Be within myself and in community—both with this presence of Being, and with God.

Here is a stillness. In the midst of all our activity, we forget about that quiet place within us that forever waits to receive life as it arrives. It’s a place of darkness and great beauty that not only has beauty with in it, but receives beauty from life and draws it back to itself, recognizing a kindred force. 

Together these inward and outer forces of beauty engender glory. It’s in the combination of these two forces that we sometimes begin to sense The Perfection.

Aha, you say to yourself, what does he mean by that expression…

The Perfection?

Receive life quietly, in the center of your being, and perhaps you can know it. It comes of itself and by itself, like the bridegroom of the Gospels; it is both our lover and the one we love, our destiny and the root of our creation. None of the desire or agitation that comes with ordinary love accompanies it. This relationship is far more sublime, and rests within the same silence and stillness that Being itself does. 

Stop here for a moment. 

Just stop and listen. 

Sense yourself.

I rest within it quietly for a moment now, speaking from the relationship. It is a good thing and a simple thing, and better worthy of our desire than the world of things.

The Perfection is here with us; the kingdom of heaven is within. Do not doubt it; you can walk down this aisle and receive this ring at any moment if you wish. It emerges from and exists within the same trials that all ordinary human love does. All of what we love and go through in life is training, a lesson to be learned in order to achieve this marriage of the soul with Being. Yet one needs to learn to take life a little differently in order to qualify for this betrothal.

Like all marriages, once undertaken, this relationship can lead to the birth of a new child. 

This birth is a mystery; but the sweetness of its parenthood is undeniable.

Did I mention that life is forever filled with goodness? Ah, how silly of me. I almost forgot.

Yesterday we picked up the bees – thirteen biblical packages of them. It's rather chilly outside and we did not install them in their hives last night. Three of the packages went to a friend; the other ten are now in the basement in darkness. As with human beings, they need to remain cool in order not to become overexcited and frustrated in their boxes, so the window was cracked last night. Like a doting parent, I had my son close it quite late in the evening out of an overprotective sense that they might get too cold. So I went down there this morning first thing at about 5:30 AM to check on them.

I turned on the espresso machine—of course this is one of the most important parts of my morning ritual, so it comes before everything else—and went into the basement using the meagre light from my cell phone to navigate the narrow steps, which are nearly 100 years old. 

I opened the door on metropolis. These magnificent little creatures hang, clustered together like living drapery, from the roof of their boxes. There are probably about 10,000 bees in box, so I have, at this moment, over 100,000 bees in the basement... give or take. 

There was near silence in the room, even though it was filled with so, so many tiny lives. 

The instant that the light entered the room, however, that pregnant silence gave birth to a collective, elevated hum —very quiet, but intense and intelligent, an instant commentary on both the awareness of the light and my presence. It rose and fell in lockstep with the sound of my feet and the sweep of the light. As I moved closer to the bees and then further from them, opening the window a crack to cool them down a bit more (it was a tad warmer than necessary) the harmonic vibration acted as a living barometer. It has an exactitude to it; bees are scientists, taking measurements of their world that exceed our imagination and ability. In fact, they know more than we do: they know the smallest things of nature, and what they yield. We merely destroy; they study. Our laboratories have been in operation for a few thousand years; theirs, millions.

I learn respect all over again, here in the basement. I forget to have respect for very nearly everything far too often, and have to be re-taught over and over again. We are different, these bees and myself; yet we come together in life, and we are together in life. 

It’s this residence in life, with the exquisite and supreme attunement of attention that’s available, which can lead us into experiences of living that exceed our desire, and bring an awareness of a new and more authoritative desire into Being within us. 

May you have a wonderful and most nourishing day.