Sunday, August 30, 2020

Secrets of the Solar Cycle, Part IV: the Iota-in-Waiting

I suppose that the question of the solar cycles and the way they affect us seems quite theoretical. But humanity is perpetually under these influences. That is to say, from the moment you wake up in the morning to the moment you go to bed at night—and while you are asleep – these forces are working on you. There's nothing theoretical about it. The influences are ubiquitous.

Gurdjieff was well aware of this. He even described some supposedly physical maladies such as the flu to the action of cosmic influences; and for all we know there may be far more truth to this than our sciences currently recognize. Science is only capable of understanding the physical, yet so much of what affects us is metaphysical, and can't really be measured.

It's useful, in the morning, to sit quietly without any agenda – perhaps without even sitting in some special way, but just sitting in a chair in a quite ordinary manner – and relax all the parts of one's being, including the intellect and feeling, in such a way that one becomes softer and more receptive to higher influences. These influences can be more intimately experienced first thing in the morning before the inner engines start revving and deliver us to the compulsions and obsessions of ordinary life. 

At this moment, when we're still, we can better feel the influence of finer energies flowing into us. Those energies do not flow in just from the top of the head or into the chakras. 

These energies are fine; and the receiving part of our being is correspondingly fine. It is molecular in nature. So it is not our mind or our heart or our solar plexus that receives finer energy from solar and other astral influences; it is our molecules ourselves, which causes a correspondingly fine vibration to arise in the cells themselves. 

This is what is called sensation in the Gurdjieff work; and it has little or nothing to do with ordinary sensation as we experience it. It's associated with the formation of the astral body in the Gurdjieff work because it senses astral influences. These influences are much finer and have almost nothing to do with the day-to-day functional operation of the physical body. They’re meant exclusively for the development of spiritual Being. 

The entire point of the Fourth Way is to awaken the capacity for sensing these influences much more deeply and take them into the body.

In this work, one has to grow one’s own Being. No one else can grow it for you; and you cannot grow anyone else's. Gurdjieff's comment about becoming a conscious egoist relates to this fact. One needs to become a unique iota-in-waiting, prepared to receive a fine or influence.

How do I become such a thing?

Still within — active without. 

Don't get them mixed up.

Go. and sense, and be well.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Secrets of the Solar Cycle, Part III

Tympanum at Vezelay, detail

In the last post, I mentioned that the medieval masters encoded esoteric material regarding the nature of solar and planetary influence on spiritual development in the art and architecture of Gothic cathedrals. This knowledge was passed down from ancient times, and its nearly total loss is a recent event in the context of human history. Our modern astrology is a fragment of a much more expansive set of teachings and understandings that centered around inner spiritual conditions—not temporal predictions. The conventional applications of astrology—who should I date? Will I finally make some money?— were in all likelihood developed simply to make sure the discipline would be passed down to future generations. 

In order to take a look at some of the esoteric ideas of finer foods and astral forces, let's take a look at the tympanum found on the Cathedral of the Abbey of Vezelay.

As I explained in the past two essays, in medieval art, Christ always plays the role of the sun in the astrological spectrum. It's a reversal of the actual condition on earth; here in the solar system, the sun is the material representative of Christ and God, not the other way around. That is to say, the sun is an aperture through which much higher influences flow into material creation. These forces are primarily spiritual in nature and serve for the spiritual development of the entire solar system; whereas modern physics only recognizes the physical aspects of the sun.

In the tympanum, which has several different esoteric teachings about levels of creation on it, we see Christ surrounded by three bands of carvings. 

The first band, upon which Christ stands and which He is also surrounded by on the left and the right, represents the lowest level, the level we are on. He takes the central position because he is the solar or higher influence at the heart of all human activity. He's surrounded by ordinary human activities because He has descended to earth from the heavens.

The level directly above this is the level of the astrological signs of the zodiac, along with various medallions representing seasonal activity. From an esoteric point of view, this is the level not of earth, but the astral level, the level of the planets. Everything that takes place here may look like it's taking place on the human level —we see human figures tending the vines, plowing fields, gathering wheat, and so on—but in fact the activities represent the creation of astral, or spiritual, foods for mankind. 

We know this because according to Emmanuel Swedenborg’s doctrine of correspondences, everything that takes place on earth is the reflection of a corresponding spiritual action in heaven. Indeed, in the Bible, we see countless examples where ordinary food is compared to spiritual qualities of various kinds. This is part of the action of correspondence and its symbolic use throughout sacred texts from many different ancient cultures. 

These understandings, along with the associated iconography, were still active at the time the Gothic cathedrals were built, which probably explains Gurdjieff's great admiration for them. After all, it's certain he saw this tympanum and others like it – he was an avid traveler and tourist throughout France—and he would have recognized the significance of the levels built into them, along with the activities taking place on each level. To us, of course, it's confusing — most of the esoteric spiritual doctrines of earlier eras have been forgotten. When we see human beings on what is clearly the astral level in this tympanum engaged in various human activities, we assume they have something to do with what is going on from month to month on earth—whereas, without any doubt, these are activities taking place on a higher level. Hence their separation from the earthly level and their association with the starry medallion symbols of the zodiac. 

Above them is a third band which represents not planets, but the cosmos in general. Its design is generic because what takes place on this level is essentially unknowable to us. The highest level we can perceive is the one directly above us, and that one faintly, at best. This idea is remarkably consistent with Swedenborg's observations about levels, where angels from one level of heaven can't at all see the angels in the next level above them.

The activities taking place in the middle band represent the action of the higher on the lower. Christ is directly associated with that level – hence the large gap in the human action surrounding him, which puts him into direct metaphysical contact with the level of the signs of the zodiac and the associated activity. 

Just as Christ fed mankind with the spiritual food of his body and blood, acting as the light (the sun) of the world, so, in this work of art, the solar system prepares food for its lower levels through cyclical and seasonal actions. There was nothing unusual or surprising, in the minds of medieval thinkers, with believing that the natural was an incontrovertible reflection of the spiritual.

Once we realize this – and taking into account the fact that the signs of the zodiac are incredibly ancient, and were routinely inscribed on the ceilings of temples in ancient Egypt, as well as the inner lids of their sarcophagi —we can intuit that the individual signs of the zodiac did not just represent constellations, but also a range of spiritual foods, each one of which was available according to the season the sign appeared in. 

The entire group of constellations is not just a map of the seasons in which ordinary food is grown, but also a map of the kinds of foods that are grown for the soul throughout a solar year. There are probably vestiges of this teaching hidden in the various qualities expressed by the signs of the zodiac; and that in itself could become a whole study of its own.

Go. and sense, and be well.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Secrets of the Solar Cycle, Part II

The harvest, from Vezelay

The organic sensation of Being is the result, then, not just of a food – air being, as Gurdjieff described it, the second Being-food of man—but also of a process whereby the food is created for us. Hence, Gurdjieff’s solioonensius

It's quite typical for higher understandings of various kinds to flow in as a result of solioonensius; the process naturally makes such understanding available to those who are receptive in the same way that sugar naturally tastes sweet, or lemon tastes sour. One can actually learn a great deal about cosmic processes just by paying attention to these ordinary things with Being, rather than by trying to figure things out with intellect. All natural phenomenon correspond to spiritual ones; our natural instincts can inform us here, if we sense them.

Because sunspots have a high degree of variability in the emanations they produce, the effects that they have all the atmosphere of the planet and the material that we can take in as a result of it vary as well. This is also correspondent to human agriculture, in which there are many different crops, each one of which gives us a different kind of nourishment. Like ordinary food, spiritual food (referred to as spiritual food of the body and blood in the Christian communion) has many different varieties, each one of which nourishes a different part of Being. We need to eat a balanced diet of spiritual food for proper inner development; and although we seem to think we are to be in charge of our spiritual process—an irony indeed considering our capabilities of being in charge of outer things—we should in this case let the digestive organs of our spiritual being do their work without interference, in so far as possible. This is why Gurdjieff insisted his pupils should not engage in breathing ”exercises.” 

All that is truly needed is our attention.

A meal is prepared for us and put on the table in front of us: how many times have we encountered that concept, both in Christianity—where it’s a core teaching, Old and New Testament both—and other religious practices? Food is not perpetually available and perpetually served. It only arises and is made available season by season, and through effort. Most of the efforts of self remembering, seeing, attention, and sensation exercises are ultimately aimed at awakening a capacity to absorb this food.

The organic sensation of Being can’t develop without this food; and the food only becomes more available with the application of a finer attention, which is what Gurdjieff meant when he said that in order to transform the substance of impressions, the attention had to be placed at the point where they entered the body. This is not, mind you, the attention of the intellect alone; it involves the attention of all three of our perceptive parts. Of those three, by far, the attention of the body becomes the grounding force. The feeling is the sensitivity. The intellect only has the capacity to comprehend the perception conceptually. It is the conductor; but without the musicians, it can do nothing. 

This finer food responds and corresponds to Being in a way that requires a different language. Like the substances themselves, the kind of attention that they generate and are attracted to is finer then the ordinary, rather coarse nature of our sensation of ourselves. This is why I so frequently use terms of my own, such as the molecular sensation of Being, and refer to an intimate awareness of self. We need a new language to understand new things: you can’t put new wine in old bottles. In some senses, reading books from the past about the Gurdjieff work colors it too much with what went before, and not enough with what goes forward now. Language has changed; societies, habits, and customs have changed; the world has changed. So we need new ways of working and Being that correspond to those things.

At the same time, we need to understand the ancient teachings that brought us this work. They need to be understand freshly and in the context of the way we breathe in and out today, to be sure; as they need to be done in a deep respect to the past – but not enslavement by it. We have to be ourselves, today, and be as original as the day that we live in, which has never been before. 

That needs to be embodied in an objective appreciation of cosmic phenomenon—which, today, we ignore as immaterial, even though they are the most material things in our spiritual life. 

It needs to be embodied in an appreciation – not a dogma –of our heritage.

This particular understanding about the nature of the solar cycle came to me at about 3:30 this morning when I woke up and sensed the action of new sunspot AR 2762, formed on May 1, which is a part of the new solar cycle. This cycle has produced some interesting effects already; for example, in late April, the presence of two sunspots, one from the old and another from the new, cycle effectively canceled one another out due to their reversed polarities. It was one of the very few and rare instances in recent memory where I did not actively sense the presence of either of the sunspots as they arose. It was only late in their evolution that one of them predominated and, consequentially, produced a much higher than usual food in the atmosphere of the planet. Apparently the tension between them refined substances that can only be made available at the bottom of the solar cycle, when polarity is reversing itself. 

This should be of interest to others who can sense such emanations. It deserves further study. 

Go, and sense, and be well.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Secrets of the Solar Cycle, Part I

Detail of Christ, surmounted by astrological symbols and harvest activities
Photograph by the author

Gurdjieff made a wide range of comments about the nature of breathing, and how air has finer substances in it which can be concentrated by an individual whose inner state is such that they’re able to absorb such substances. 

The remark goes someway towards explaining the yoga interest in breathing; but perhaps it remains, in some senses, mysterious. 

I have explained before that air and the way it is absorbed has a direct impact on sensation. Yet it doesn't always have this impact, even for those who are able to concentrate the finer particles it contains. One wonders why; and I can explain this, although the subject is esoteric enough that I wonder who will understand it, or care.

Finer substances in the atmosphere of planets are not always present. In the case of the earth, the finer substances in air that feed sensation — and thus, a much deeper experience of Being —arise as a result of the solar cycle and solar emanations, particularly in the form of flares, but also streams of solar wind from coronal holes. (Each produces decidedly different effects.) Gurdjieff had an umbrella word for the sun’s influence on humanity, solioonensius. 

The sun’s emanations have a direct effect on the esoteric nature of earth’s air—what it contains, its quality. When the energy from solar flares enters the atmosphere of earth, it electrically charges not just the upper stratosphere, but the entire air column all the way down to where we breathe in and out. 

The reaction between air and the higher substances of the sun is what creates Gurdjieff’s “finer substances.” This cycle is identical in its nature to the cycle whereby plants, for example, grow and create food. It is both cyclical and seasonal; but the cycles and seasons are not ruled by earthly cycles and seasons, but solar ones. Ancient civilizations knew well of this, which is why solar worship featured so prominently in their religious practices, most particularly visible in the art and iconography of ancient Egypt. The overall underlying principle, if not the details, were also well known to esotericists as late as the Middle Ages, where we see astronomical symbols and activities of the harvest combined in the tympanums of so many Gothic cathedrals. In these depictions, Christ always plays the role of the sun. From this we know that conceptually speaking, Medieval esoteric schools definitely believed in a heliocentric model of the universe from a spiritual point of view. Stars and planets were trivial accessories to the force of God.

That is in itself the subject for a much broader discussion. What I want to point out right now is that when we engage in inner work, particularly in the formation of the astral body, this cyclical nature of the sun’s influence, along with the food that it creates for those who can eat it, we need to understand how it arises and why it is not always available.

It’s well known in the most esoteric circles of the Gurdjieff work that the arising of a permanent sensation of Being is associated with the formation of the astral body. This aspect of Gurdjieff's work is rarely discussed outside esoteric circles and the inner core of the teaching. The information is relatively useless for those who don't understand the experience. The fear is that the uninitiated and outsiders will assume anyone who thinks of these things in such a way is a lunatic.

However, because it constitutes part of the objective science of the Gurdjieff practice, I believe it needs to be recorded so that those who are able to work in this way understand the nature of the process in more exact technical detail. I won’t explain everything; but what I do explain will, I think, prove to be of significance to those who understand it.  

In summary, one can take in more finer substances only when the air is charged with them

Even then, the nature of the charge and the availability of various levels of these finer substances differs. In a general sense, however, these particles are available for ingestion and concentration (Gurdjieff called it "coating”) within the molecular organization of the body according to the attractive force within Being. These processes relate to what Gurdjieff would call conscious processes, but they are not conscious in the sense that our mind thinks about them or our intention can invoke them. They are conscious in the sense that they belong to the consciousness of a higher level than our own. We can participate in the manifestation of that consciousness, beginning on the molecular level of Being, and this can have a powerful influence on our own psyche and spirit. (Remember here that our intellect and our emotion are fractional states of psyche and spirit, not capable of an understanding at the same level.) We do not, however, run the show.

Go. and sense, and be well.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020


Isabel's grave.

April 30

Yes, the birds are singing.

It's gray, wet, and still raining outside—it will rain all day. Undeterred, the female redwing blackbirds are patrolling the strip of grass in front of our house, looking for breakfast victims. To us, they are small and beautiful and bring joy. To insects, they are enormous and deadly.

We are somehow able to hold these contradictions in front of us and understand both of them.

Maybe there's a lesson in there somewhere about our current situation. It seems huge and deadly, this disease; but there is beauty and joy in life nonetheless. The bad cannot destroy the good; they come together, in the day and the night, and meet in us.

I keep hearing the phrase “… when this is over and I can get back to my life" being used to describe the wish that this ordeal with the virus were over. Every time I hear it, it sounds ridiculous, because we are already in our lives: there’s nothing to get back to.

What the phrase actually means is that I essentially identify who I am, what my life is—what life means—with the routine I’m used to and expect. Not to what's actually happening now. This pathology of perspective is so deep-seated that in a subtle and unexamined way, I consistently reject life as it is in favor of some idea I have of it.

How it ought to be.

This may not be such a big deal in a superficial way, because I suppose we all understand the phrase is what we call a 'manner of speaking.' It does, however, expose the soft underbelly of our attitude towards our life and our habits. I suspect there’s a an undercurrent in all of us that rejects life as it is. Why else would we destroy the planet in our desperate efforts to find some better future that isn't there? The present becomes an acceptable casualty. Necessary collateral damage, we think to ourselves.

This actually goes on in us every day. It is not just an outward action: it begins within us.

Few question it.

We want something different; we want something better. Above all, we want-want-want. There’s an underlying greed of ego at work here. It reminds me of Epictetus, who said in the Encheiridion, “Seek not that the things which happen should happen as you wish; but wish the things which happen to be as they are, and you will have a tranquil flow of life.”

The word want derives from an Old Norse word vanta, which means what is lacking. We think something is lacking with things as they are.

Epictetus’ remedy for a “tranquil flow of life”—inner peace, if you will—is to cultivate a desire for things to be as they are.

This certainly sounds like a strange twist for desire. After all, isn't desire always construed as aspirational?

How would that square as a desire for things to be as they are?

It's an aspiration for what it is. This is, in essence, a search for truth. Truth is only and ever found in things as they are, objectified and set aside from my desires.

This came up recently in a conversation where I pointed out that we live in a world of technique. The number of manuals and formulations that get published on an annual basis advising us of what techniques we should use to get better results in every area of life, from how to bake bread to our spiritual well-being, is simply astonishing. Never mind which techniques are offered; ultimately, we're trained like Pavlov's dogs to believe that technique is necessary. There is a method. Never mind what method; there is one. We can argue about the methods (a lot—after all, it’s certain my method is better in every possible way than yours!) later. But there is no doubt there's a method. A technique.

The word technique, however, betrays itself the moment we use it. It comes from the Greek tekhnÄ“, which means art—bringing to mind the well-known phrase, "it's an art, not a science."

Art begins with a creative emotional force. It isn’t just a collection of analytics and skills: it involves imagination and intuition, feeling. If we reduce it to a set of well-executed techniques, already, it isn't art anymore.

Gurdjieff once said, when asked what method one should use to develop spiritual Being,"I know of no methods.” This from a man who seems at times (at least in the books about him) to recommend an endless stream of exercises and methods. He wrote a few books; and birthed ever more of them by proxy.

But when it came to practice, he threw them all out.

There is no book that writes down what life can bring us. We have an organism that can receive its impressions; and those—the truth—are the very selfsame things that represent Epictetus’ “things as they are.”

The art of living, not the technique of living, is to inhabit things as they are. This is where truth is located; directly around me, right now, in things as they are. Not the way I want them to be or expect them to be or plan for them to be in the future.

Just quite simply as they are now.

Life arises quite naturally without techniques; it arises naturally from within, and naturally from without. Every attempt to use force to manipulate this is not an understanding, but in a substantially misguided effort to control what is already naturally whole.

To receive what is already naturally whole within being is a whole action in itself; and it answers, if one lets it, the question of what is lacking both in myself and the world that mirrors my desires. This is a simple action that also arises naturally.

It can manifest itself with ease when I stop interfering.

Go. and sense, and be well.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, August 15, 2020


April 29
This morning one of the first things I did after I had my coffee was to refill the bird feeder. 

I use discarded parts from an old elevator in Manhattan – a set of iron gears –to keep raccoons, who are devilishly clever little creatures, from getting into the bird food. Every morning I have to lift this cold iron. 

Iron is an element formed in the hearts of stars; it arrives in the universe dispersed as atoms in clouds of dust; is concentrated, turned into ore on planets, and – in the case of earth – extracted and formed by men to serve their purposes. 

This mundane object, made from the heart of stars, has been used both to lift things and weigh them down. 

In lifting things up, it needed to be intricately crafted according to understanding and future purpose. 

All it needs to do to weigh things down is just have its own gravity. In that role, it serves powerfully to deter thieves. 

Yet that gravity needs to be placed with a clear intention as to where it can do some good.

There isn't any doubt of it. There's a part of me that wants to cling to my ideas about things, which are elaborate, and my emotions, which consist of reactions to that.

It's possible, however, for the mind and feeling to develop kind of freedom. An independence from the world of things.

Although it may be difficult to understand the perhaps foreign idea of having an organic sensation of Being, it's very important to sit quietly for a few moments every morning in the stillness, very early, before anyone else awakens. 

It becomes possible, in these early moments, to participate quite simply – without any expectation or plan – in a gathering of inner gravity. One can just sit here, sense the vibration of one's molecules, sense the tone of one’s Being. All the forces that make our body and our intellect and our feelings are gathered together here. They have an attraction to one another. A gravity of Being draws them together.

This gravity of Being is a subtle spiritual force that binds what we are together in communion. To the extent that I honor that force and sense its presence in me, I hope to concentrate it. It becomes slowly more focused.

To the extent that I form an intelligent center of spiritual gravity in me, so do I gain independence from the world of things (and raccoons.)

To be independent means to not "hang down" from the world of things. When my being hangs down from the world of things, the world of things is what's lifting it up. 

Yet if I think about it for even a moment, I begin to see that what lifts me up is not the physical, but the metaphysical world: the world of love and goodness. 

If I can see that I depend on those forces for Being, rather than the forces of things, life is quite different. I might even go through my day asking myself where I stand between this obsessive-compulsive world of things, and the world of love and goodness. This needs to begin by sensing myself, by sensing the gravity— in the end sensing and understanding that my being arises from that inner gravity, not from the outer world. 

This gravity from within is the most useful force I can deploy. It keeps those thieving raccoons of the mind at bay.

From within this sensation, the mind is free. It isn't reacting; it isn't engaged in the usual manufacture of nonsense. It is just quiet and sits here with me awaiting what arrives.

This may seem like a kind of passivity and even stupidness; yet it is in fact very active and sensitive to all that takes place. The parts of me that receive impressions of the world become softer and are able to render them in finer detail. Aspects of very small events that I usually ignore become much more interesting. I begin to see that life is here, around me now. 

Beauty is around me here, now. 

Goodness is also here, now.

Nothing is out there somewhere else as a set of events taking place in other people’s lives. Those things are real, yes; but rendering them in my imagination and giving them power over what is here and now distracts me from life as it is now. 

And I want to know what life is now. 

When the mind becomes still, the tension of my being relaxes and the constricted, contracted parts of myself gradually dilate. Although these tensions are related to the physical tension of the body, they are actually metaphysical tensions — conditions of Being that have tightened up in such away that the spiritual forces which might otherwise feed me don't reach me. 

As they relax, a new and quieter place opens which may allow the arrival of a real feeling. 

Not a reaction: as in all real feeling, an initiation.

This gives birth to a sacred gratitude. If I taste even the smallest part of this feeling, it forms a force of Being from within that can be carried through the day.

My gratitude can serve as a reminder for the good fortune I have to be alive at all. 

If the thought is free, and in a right relationship with feeling, it will be naturally inclined to remember this at all times. 

This is a bit of what freedom means when we understand the world from the spiritual.

Go. and sense, and be well.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The death of one's parents


I began keeping a diary on Facebook when the Covid isolation began, at the same time posts in the blog space were running. 

Because the blog publishes every three days, the publishing schedule runs out into November right now, and I usually don’t insert posts between scheduled publication dates. This has inadvertently resulted in my failure to mention the fact that my mother died on August 3 to the blog readership.

The Facebook community, which some blog readers may not be members of, is aware of this.

Of course various Gurdjieff advisories were sent to me by my friends in the work. Gurdjieff said this about one’s parents dying. Gurdjieff said that. 

In a certain sense, I don’t want to know what Gurdjieff said about my parents dying. I want to know how I feel about my mother dying. I need to discover this experience in my own way, and speak about it in my own words. Not immediately be shoved into a niche where I have to meet Gurdjieff’s— or his follower's — expectations. This is the danger of form. I’m told, for example, “Gurdjieff said when your parents die, it leaves a hole through which God can enter.” This from one of the few people, a very close friend, still stubbornly alive, who knew Gurdjieff personally as a child. Well meant, of course; and perhaps true.

Yet I already have a hole in me through which God enters. 

So why do I need to know this?

My mother and I had a very complex relationship. We were extremely close when I was a young teenager, before she sent me off to the United States from Germany to go to a US preparatory school. I didn’t live with my parents after that until I turned 21; and then, only for a year during which they traveled for most of the time and I was left to care for their two dogs, in Manhattan. During that time, I developed full-blown alcoholism, and their own alcoholism went, as the German say, Berg ab, which means it fell off the mountain. Over the years, the alcoholism and the familial dysfunction that accompanied it put an emotional barrier between my mother and I that never fully healed. I don’t blame her for it; but these are the facts, and I have to absorb them in the wake of her death.

There are many more personal details I could pass on. Anyone who wants personal details is welcome to visit my Facebook page, where the posts boast much on the matter. 

The real question, in regard to the terms of this space and the question it raises, is how I feel in this moment of loss.

The social forms we've developed deliver the platitudes; and there are many of them most of them familiar. I want to meet the condolences that are offered with more than habit; and this means I have to have an intention to be intelligent, attentive, compassionate towards those who offer me there condolences. It helps each time to stop for a moment and give a response that comes a bit more from the heart.

Hearing the same condolences over and over again feeds right into my greatest weakness, which is my impatience. I’m tired of hearing it, I want to get over it, etc. My impatience causes me to always be on to the next thing, rather than being where I am. There are times when this has been an advantage; I have a high degree of ability to adapt to the next moment. It also causes me to miss opportunities. In the case of the condolences, every condolence offered is an opportunity for me to stop for a moment and discover that thin thread that connects me to the inner parts that actually care about life and relationship.

I need to discover my wish to receive life in this moment. 

To feel life is a duty. 

If I pass on to the next moment without attention, I have failed in the basic duty.

I pause, and I attempt to actually pay attention to those who offer condolences. I’ve done this many times over the last 10 days. It’s a form of what Gurdjieff called outer considering; but forget about what he called it. I need to discover my own intelligent attitude towards it, my own words. Things that are described in forms right away look familiar and I think I understand them; in doing so, I forget to attend to the form that I have been given primary and essential responsibility for, that is, my own form.

This rediscovery of one’s own form is in some way enhanced by the death of one’s parents. They're gone; one is no longer of their form. In the solitude that follows, one senses one’s own form as a unique thing that has always been here, that one propped up with a few toothpicks here or there, relying on the mortal forms of one’s own parents and what they imparted to create the idea of family within oneself. Now one is alone; and family, the original nuclear family one was born in, only exists within. 

I have to assume full responsibility for that family now. It is a real and living thing within me that only I can be responsible for. Whether good or bad, this is a whole thing that I now take on full adult responsibility for. I have to receive the impressions of the memories, receive my life as it is, discover the new feelings that arise as a consequence of this solitude.

Yet I am never alone. There is, after all, this hole that God flows into. 

The divine flows into us in direct proportion to how we concentrate the intelligence of our Being, and how much we respect it. It is a functional and objective fact that we are inferior and do a poor job of these two things; yet even seeing that can be helpful, because the intelligent and active acknowledgment of one’s servitude actually opens one more to a higher influence.

Go deep in your heart, and be well-


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Single drop

April 27.

Here I am in this body.

There is a wood dove cooing outdoors; this bird song is one of my favorite sounds. It brings back memories of moving to Hamburg, Germany when I was seven years old. One of the first things I remember about the spring of 1963 is the doves that would sing in the Jenisch park, which was located just across the street from us as the dove

That sound has served as a leitmotif throughout my life for places that touch the soul in a unique and hidden away. For example, there are many doves in the forests of the Yucatan; at one of my favorite retreats, San Jose Cholul, their song drifts through the timelessly romantic ruined walls of an old henequen plantation. To arrive there and hear the doves is to hear the call of the heart; to awaken suddenly in an ancient place of great beauty—and realize that somehow, one has actually been there all along.  

Doves have a haunting sound to them. A pure, tiny drop of God’s sorrow is placed in every dove’s heart at birth: paradoxically, it emerges as a mournful joy. Everywhere it’s heard, The Perfection is expressed. The doves carry it on wing from place to place as witnesses.

The organism I am in was meant to receive these impressions. That is its primary purpose; to see, to hear, to sense, to feel. To take in life as a sacred substance. All of the intellectual and social material of my life is allowed, for a moment, to take a back seat to this. It’s there in me; but compared to Being, it has very little mass, even though it takes up an enormous volume that is quite distinctly separated from my Being. 

It’s good to clearly sense that difference, for now. It puts things in perspective.

The stillness is present once again; and this time is the only time. For now, this place is the only place.

Soon enough that will change and I’ll have to put this impression aside in order to be quite ordinary and do my work for the day. 

Yet I can always carry the impression of the difference between what has gravity in me, and what does not. 

The gravity of Being itself concentrates a droplet of the divine on the tongue of my soul; and that, in turn, does not just remind me of the song of the doves. It helps me pick up the note and repeat the sound within, like the fading vibration of a brass bell. 

As it becomes less and less audible, it seems not to cease, but to go deeper and deeper into Being, searching for a secret place where it will continue to resonate forever, underneath all things. 

That single note of Being sustains life, even as it passes.

Go. and sense, and be well.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.