Monday, November 30, 2020

Inner Influences

In the morning, after I awake, I have a wish to attend to inner influences first.

During the night, the soul opens to the many places in heaven which are populated by Being. These realms are confusing to those of us still in mortal bodies; within them we encounter messages and experiences related to the condition of the soul, which we call dreams. 

Because we're not so close to the soul in the course of ordinary life, dreams present mysteries. There is a mystery behind life itself that only the Lord knows; and it perpetually flows into our Being, regardless of conditions on the planet. 

Each affliction we encounter is actually metaphysically designed to teach us on the subject of Being; the proximate physical causes are deceptive. The whole point of life is to help Being develop in the direction of heaven. To the extent that we understand this, the Way will be opened to us. Goodness flows in from this; and it is a powerful antidote to all the evil I find in myself, which constantly tries to distract me, seize me, and have its way with my Being.

Today I wish to remember this. 

Right now, first thing in the morning, I'm more open to higher and heavenly influences and they settle into me in such a way that I remember my place. I can sense, within this field of awareness, the extraordinary goodness that creates Being. It stands in contrast to everything I am and all that my thought creates. 

It is of itself, not of me; yet I can come into relationship with it and receive it.

So I sit here quietly in the midst of this rich meal provided by goodness and received by life. Nothing else is necessary. My attention and all that I think, all that I am, are invested simply in receiving this material. 

If the Way remains open in me through the day, the influence of this spiritual energy will be with me always. It will influence everything I do and everything I say; the day will become a day of worship, not in any outward sense where I am on my knees or praying or singing, but where I inwardly give thanks for everything that God has wrought. 

In fact, the outward sense of prayer becomes entirely unnecessary if the Way is open and I turn towards it.

Go deep in your heart, and be well-


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, November 27, 2020

The confluence of time and attitude

July 11

Some further thoughts about the confluence of time and how the arising of my awareness is related to it.

Awareness is an eternal rebirth into the present moment. 

I use the word eternal to refer to an event which lies outside time; because time does not exist in the present moment. 

Each present moment is an instant that exists unto itself independent of reference to the moment before it in the sense of its existence; and independent of the next moment. 

The only reference to the moment before this instant of time can occur in the sense of a consciousness or awareness; that is, the reference requires an agent of perception.

Yet by being conscious or aware of the previous moments, that agent consciousness already establishes its independence. It can see previous moments within its memory; but it is unto itself of this moment, not those moments. 

It has a perspective from eternity, from NOW, on all that went before, as well as an ability to anticipate the movements that will come afterwards.

Awareness is born now. When Meister Eckhart speaks of eternal rebirth and eternity itself, he speaks of these matters. Yet it almost isn’t of consequence; the philosophy and metaphysics of it are compelling but unnecessary. What is it necessary is to live it as fully and organically as possible, with a concentrated and focused but very gentle intensity that encounters this present moment as a truth, and inhabits it. 

This takes place on a scale, by degrees; awareness can approach the present moment on a sliding scale, but to inhabit it fully belongs to God alone. Because of our fractional nature, the fact that we are iotas separated from God, we can never fully inhabit the moment, because the moment includes all of creation, and it is (to those of us with sufficient humility) self-evident that we're functionally unable to encompass all of creation in our comprehension.

"Okay," you're saying to yourself, "van Laer is off in his abstract thought territory again. Where’s the stuff about normal life?"

The point is that this IS normal life. Awareness exists independent of time; but it is concentrated in this "substance" of time. My attitude emerges from it; that is, the way I am, the attitude I have towards my life and other people, emerges as an independent entity within each moment due to the confluence of all the forces that bring me to it.

There are both inner and outer forces that bring me to this moment in my life. The outer ones are material and subject to arbitrary action, what Gurdjieff called the Law of Accident. Some people are rich; others poor. This woman has enough food to eat, that one doesn’t. He is sick, she is not. These events spring from material forces that give birth to, crush, and extract materials from one another in what could be assumed to be almost random patterns, but for the fact that we assign them significance and meaning by using agency to discover an order in them.

The inner forces that bring my awareness to this moment are quite different. If there's no supervision, they can indeed be as random as the outer forces; I can run around like a ninny, behave like a child, sit around making horrible remarks about other people who are not like me on the Internet–or, if I’m a media figure, on television, where everyone in the world, so to speak, can hear me. 

But I don’t want to behave without inner supervision. I have a wish — perhaps old-fashioned and outdated, but for me very real, nonetheless — to behave like an adult, to show respect for others and to not irresponsibly spread negativity around as a source of amusement and ego-gratification. 

That is to say, I'd like "someone" to be in charge of the inner condition. I would like to understand it in terms of a responsible order. To be a responsible person. Not an arrogant fool.

If I see my intelligence properly, understanding the function of memory and the way that it knits elements from the confluence of time-events together, I understand that already my consciousness has a function designed to create an order, to supervise (to "see from above") the events that bring my being to this moment. When I spoke about memory the other day this element was a part of the question. The point is that this moment in time, from the perspective of consciousness, comes from somewhere. When we say that eternity is born in the present moment, the independence of this present moment in time from others still has a conception, a gestation period, before its birth. My own perception of time is the intelligent comprehension of that parentage.

In allegorical terms, we might say that God the Father, from the personal point of view, inhabits all of that space before this instant. God the Son is this eternal moment within me, born of consciousness. And God the Holy Ghost represents the force that knits these two independent yet co-joined forces of Being-creation together.

This, of course, is a bit too much of a naturalistic description of what is actually a spiritual event, but perhaps you catch my drift. We embody the intention of the universe and of God when we become aware. To the extent that we become more mindful, more aware, and more responsible of our supervisory responsibility for our being, to that extent do we reflect the Will of God. The less we do so, the more we reflect nothing more than our own will, which is driven by a confluence of reflexive reactions to outer forces: in a word, stupid, in the sense that it is in a stupor, dazed, hypnotized by the outer world, its temptations, its pleasures.

Its hatreds.

My attitude towards my life is formed from everything that went before, but the attitude exists eternally. It’s always in me right now. 

I need to see my attitude right now, within this eternity (separate from time.) It is a product of time, because it contains time within it, but it also has the ability, the capacity, to be entirely independent of time. The influence of everything that came before me does not necessarily have to dictate my attitude. This gives us a hint in the direction of what all the spiritual teachings are trying to indicate when they speak to us about “freedom.”. Freedom is not freedom to do whatever I want. We can’t define it in material terms; as many famous political prisoners have pointed out, you can put a man’s body in jail, but it is impossible to imprison his love, his thought, his attitude. 

What we have within us is a potential for freedom from the burdens of the past and the inflections of attitude; we have the potential to inhabit the moment freely, that is, open to the present possibility, and be filled with a gentle and intelligent love that is prepared to receive it.

Everything in us that comes from the past and imparts an inflection to prevent that is a clear and present danger. 

The issue is that the confluence of time and events within memory puts an enormous amount of pressure on us to live externally, to act externally, to determine who we are based on the action of these external forms, forces, and circumstances. The external world is forever trying to impose its own mindless and partial order on us. Only by becoming responsible inside can we change that.

We have many organic tools within being that can help bring the force against this insistence of outwardness and the destructive capacity of time, in its influential nature as an arguer for the material. 

These organic tools are of a spiritual nature, because they are constructed by ancient forces with capacities and abilities whose roots lie beyond the molecular manifestation of creation. The molecular manifestation of creation, however, is so close to these roots that it drinks directly from them in every moment; and if we come into relationship with that very fine creative force that is present in us — even now, as you read this — it can act as a support. 

But it only does that if I am mindful enough to bring love and care to this moment of being, to pay attention to the relationship between my mind and my body.

Today's photo is a tulip tree silk moth, which Neal found dead next to a neighbor's house yesterday. Tallman State park hosts a substantial stand of tulip trees, so the moths are probably far more common in the area that our sightings of them might otherwise indicate. At one time it was thought their cocoons might serve as the basis for a native American silk industry, but that never came to pass, because the work of unwinding the silk was too labor-intensive and expensive to render it practical.

Go deep in your heart, and be well-


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

A Higher Influence

July 6

In the midst of my confusion, my immersion in the world of external things, I can be penetrated by a much higher influence.

This changes everything; and suddenly I enter life in a new way in which love and relationship are the first experiences I encounter. 

They're present as living forces that receive everything else that takes place.

In this way I become the representative of an awareness that lies at the root of all creation. I understand the world and life differently. My physical experience, my feeling, and my intelligence all cooperate; and I see how different this is than my usual separated nature.

The odd thing is that when my nature is separated, I’m barely aware of the fact. When it comes together, the condition is obvious; and yet from the other side of Being, it’s invisible. I become the invisible man; I cannot see myself clearly. My self rediscovers a direct relationship to that sacred place of joy and sorrow in the soul which lies so close to God that it cannot be touched or easily spoken of; and that relationship is not so often present in me.

I don’t think that it’s that I’m not worthy of it. There are parts of me that are not aligned properly. The fact is that these parts only align with help from that selfsame higher place; the soul only finds itself within itself under the influence of God’s Love, which flows into being through mysterious channels at the heart of creation. I’m not in charge of those things; I don’t control any of it. I can only digest as much of this food as I’m prepared for; and the meals are prepared for me accordingly.

Folks who read my diary are probably by now accustomed to my habit of running down threads of narrative in complex and interesting ways. It is a task; and I do my best to discharge it according to the flow of intelligence in me, which is equally a part of this creation we participate in, and not my own property. 

Yet to participate in something deeper, which touches at the root of the soul, carries a different responsibility; and I do not speak out of place when I say that this sacred responsibility is a much greater thing than any intelligence can chase down and weave into colorful and intricate fabric. It comes with a depth of color and texture that is beyond the threads of intelligence and the loom of creativity as we understand them. It lies closer to the heart than any ordinary experience; it brings the riches of the kingdom of heaven and deposits them in a safe place, where they cannot be touched or corrupted by what is coarse and common.

We should each of us live in such a way as to be prepared to receive this force. All of the goodness we can find in life is transmitted through its grace.

Under this light, which is much greater than the light of any earthly sun, all things discover their own perfection. It is here within this life and within my own being that the table is set and I am offered a moment where the peace of God which passes all understanding can enter me.

And so, with great good fortune, I return to this place which Love has made and which is so freely offered, without any expectation of recompense.

The heart of its stillness enters me.

I see that I am lost and do not know where to go; yet the hand of the Lord reaches to me from the darkness and says to me, 

Child, be quiet. I am with you. 

And so I am told,

Go, then, into life

And find yourself in Me,

For there is nowhere else that you can be,

No words you can find,

No thought you can think, 

No love you can feel, 

That is not of my gift to you.

Go deep in your heart, and be well-


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Notes, Nov. 16

Glacial striations caused by ice flow 
in puddingstone bedrock, Terrace Pond, NJ.
This example of the bedrock is very light on the pudding.

November 16. 39 years sober today.

Couple of notes from this evening.

First of all, my blindness to myself is not voluntary. It is intentional. 

Everyone thinks the way they don’t see themselves is some kind of an accident. This is a way of not taking responsibility for it. If it were merely voluntary or accidental, it would be passive. But my blindness towards myself is an active force. It is an intention; or, as one might say, the anti-– intention. It is closely related to what alcoholics call denial.

If I don’t begin to see that my blindness towards myself is intentional, I will always be a slave to it.

Second point. You will always forget your sensation. 

The only way to deal with this is to bring your sensation to a point where it does not forget you.

There is a third point. 

Ignore everything. Go forward. Always go against what it wants.

Today I had a second cortisone treatment for the trigger finger in my left hand. The doctor was expeditious, because he knew I knew what was coming, and he got out the cortisone, filled the hypodermic, put my hand on the table, sprayed the anesthetic, and jammed the needle in before either one of us had any time to think about it. 

It was best that way. 

While it was comprehensively agonizing, I was also sitting there with the needle in my hand thinking about how good it was that this was taking place. This is the kind of thing that sensation can do for us. It acts as a counterweight to everything we have in us that fears and resists.

My hand probably won’t get too much better. It is likely I am headed for surgery at sometime in the next 6 to 12 months. But that, as well, will just have to be dealt with.

Another thought from this evening. What we hate the most in other people is what we love the most about ourselves. 

If we learn to hate these things about ourselves and love them in other people, things will be different.

Think well on yourself today, and live.

And goof around a bit.


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

A goodness which flows into Being

July 4

Each day, I returned again to the goodness that flows into us as Beings.

Life may not seem good. It’s filled with difficulty and suffering. For example, I learned yesterday that a childhood friend has broken their back and is paralyzed from the waist down. This is on top of a series of other very, very difficult trials they have gone through.

The odd thing is that I had not heard from this person for some time. They're reclusive, with some good reason, and I was afraid they had died. It's entirely plausible they could do so without anyone telling me. When I got the call from them, I was so glad they were alive that the fact that they had merely broken their back seemed like a good thing to me. 

The contradictions are evident.

A great deal of suffering is yet at hand for them, to be sure; yet this is surely what life has sent to them to help them learn how to Be. Being involves taking in all of the events in life, not just the ones that one prefers. The situation reminds me of my mother, also bedridden, who faces her own moment of slow descent towards death with courage and conviction. 

I know my friend will do the same; they also have great courage.

The word courage comes from the Latin -cor, meaning heart. Courage lies, like the heart, at the center of Being — it is what pumps the blood of will and determination through our manifestations. We care about life; and thus we persist in the face of adversity. 

The word care itself comes from the Old High German chara, which means grief or lamentation. Courage allows us to persist in the face of grief. Grief is something that we produce in ourselves, a feeling response to adversity; and so we go against ourselves, we go against the feeling-sensation of difficulty, and move forward into life. This engraves itself on our being — it builds character. ( 

In the midst of all the material difficulty we face, the individual difficulties of earning a living, tolerating the physical disabilities we encounter as we age, the struggle to understand love, and the wider social struggles for justice and the humane treatment of one another— including, last but not least, the struggle against pandemics, of course —there is still a goodness to life. This goodness is greater than the goodness we can create for ourselves: greater than a goodness that emerges simply from our material circumstances. There is a goodness that can be received in Being through a realignment from within.

Goodness is born directly in this experience from the flow of the divine presence into one’s heart. In this sense, divine presence flows into one’s courage; yet courage is not what it bestows on us, although that is a side effect. 

What it bestows first and foremost is love. This love, if it is received (and I say if, because it's not at all guaranteed we will open ourselves to it) will fill us with an understanding, an unerring understanding in every cell of our bodies, that we have been given this life filled with goodness and that it's here to support us.

In remembering the story of Exodus, which I wrote about in earlier diary entries, one recalls that one plague after another was brought down on Egypt. Yet Pharaoh hardened his heart. This is an exact story of the liberation of Being: we live in these material circumstances from which we seek to discover a spiritual freedom, and yet we harden our heart and refuse the selfsame divine goodness that freedom could bring. We're so invested in the material that no matter how bad things get, we're convinced that we should cling to it. What we don’t understand is that in the midst of adversity, if we surrender our hearts to the Lord, we'll receive everything we wish for and more.

I thought of this a great deal yesterday as the flow of grace and divine love was available. Here I was, in the midst of a pandemic, my mother suffering the difficulty of stroke and disability, my friend with a broken back. Socially isolated, uncertain of any future. 

Yet life was supporting me. 

It's supporting me now. 

The love that creates life is within me, not somewhere else in a theory or religious practice. 

God’s presence is in me right now loving and supporting. 

This is the only place it can never be found; it isn’t out there waiting to appear after I pray enough. It's here in me right now, awaiting the moment that it can bring that great love which surpasses all thought —

if I let it.

Meister Eckhart writes a great deal about this in the Book of Divine Comfort, a piece of writing I think every person participating in the process of this pandemic and its social repercussions ought to read. We're all wounded — not just by the damage that life inflicts on us, but (more than anything else) by our own overbearing egos, which seem determined to damage everything they can in pursuit of their own selfish interests. 

There is certainly a better way; there is a way of love. Yet we harden our hearts. In doing so, we become cowards, because a hardened heart has little courage. It feigns courage; it struts and poses on the stage of life, adopting outward signs of how tough it is. Perhaps it doesn’t even wear a mask to protect itself and others from disease. It wants everyone to think that it is stronger than the rest. Yet, like Pharaoh, it is blind and foolish; it may have armies, but they are powerless in the face of love.

Again, I remind myself here that I speak not of any outward love, but of the love that is formed within from the inward flow of the blessing of Grace. 

This is a fine substance that penetrates every tiny space between the molecules we are made of.

I stop for a moment and I offer my heart quietly to that potential. I feel a sorrow; because I do not deserve and I’m not worthy. 

Yet I am here; love and grace are not withheld, no matter how foolish, inconsistent, and unable I am. 

Love still flows; love still arrives. My sorrow arises from my inability to understand this. I feel that I ought to understand, that I ought to honor this great support that has been offered freely simply through the act of Being. Yet once and a thousand times, I don’t understand. I simply know that this great goodness is offered, that it flows into Being, and that even one moment of participation in it is a more precious thing that all the jewels and gold of the world.

Yesterday, this force was present in abundance. There was nothing greater than love in that day. The day was unto itself a thing filled with good; the visit of my daughter and her husband, a torrential downpour. The planting of plants, the tending of gardens, the cheerful, staccato song of goldfinches and the mellifluous call of the wood thrush. The black and white flicker of a red bellied woodpecker darting up into the woods. Bees all over the oakleaf hydrangeas. 

Each one of these things took place; and all were held in the hands of grace and filled with love from the heart of Being.

These things are true things which cannot be taken away, no matter how bad life gets. Until the day we die, we have the privilege of breathing in and out, of seeing the clouds in the sky, the stars and the moon. That very act alone is a blessing.

Will I pause for a moment today to receive that grace and to attempt once again to understand it? 

There are no certainties here. I am a weak creature, and vain; yet if I humble myself, even that will be forgiven, and love will arrive. I have been taught this many times — I need to be taught again every day, because I’m foolish and I forget. Yet if I wait, and remember, the teacher will come again. That teacher is infinitely patient with its students, and has no greater wish than the best for us.

I think I will end here for this morning.

Go deep in your heart, and be well-


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Why am I?

July 2.

I never know what I’m going to say in my diary in the morning. 

In the same way, I never know what is going to happen in life. Someone who was trolling me a number of weeks ago call self contemplation a “luxury.” The inference was that self contemplation is excessive, unnecessary. Yet the self, my Being, is what receives life; and if I don’t use the intelligence of all my parts — the sensation, the feeling, as well as my intellect —then I only receive a fraction of what life consists of. 

What flows into my intelligence alone is confused and subject to the relativity of what we call “rationality.” Rationality has, today, the meaning of being sane, properly organized, objective; yet in a supreme irony, the root of the word actually means the opposite. Rationality comes from the root ratio, which literally meant, in its Latin form, “reckoning,” that is, a process derived from counting various things and then drawing a conclusion from them — in other words, a personal evaluation, an opinion. 

In the etymological sense, then, to be rational means to be opinionated — and as we have seen, being opinionated swiftly becomes a poison pill in the hands of those who fail to contemplate their opinions.

Contemplation, in its own turn, comes from the Latin root contemplat, which means a place for observation. It shares meaning with the Latin templum, or sacred space. 

Contemplation, in other words, is an effort to see from within a sacred or consecrated place. To see; and to care. To care for others as well as myself.

Perhaps the difficulty with humanity is that we are indeed rational; that is, we place far too much weight on our opinions. It engenders stupidity; and that word, continuing on our etymological journey, comes from the Latin stupere, a word that means amazed or stunned. 

We are indeed amazing and stunning; but not in a good way.  Witness the lurching manner in which many Americans, at the behest of “leadership” and “freedom,” staggered towards the supreme idiocy of not wearing masks, only to turn tail and desperately run back on this whole rational process as it becomes apparent (as it always was, ahem) that not wearing masks can kill both you and others. I was saying to my friends and family in January that everyone should immediately wear masks if we wanted to mitigate the spread of this virus. 

It's JULY, folks: and Americans are still arguing about it. 

We still have many people in the US who insist on their “right” to not wear masks: my second day back in Manhattan yesterday, I saw approximately 5% of the people on the streets around me not wearing masks at all, and another 10 to 15% who seem to feel that having a mask somewhere near your face is good enough. Perhaps hanging from one ear, for example.

All of these people will calmly (or maybe not calmly) explain to you how rational their choices are.

It may be tempting to view all of this as a single example; yet this kind of rationality penetrates everything I do. It isn't a compassionate action; it's an enumeration skewed to the results I want for myself.

Only if I come into much more intimate touch with the sensation of my being and the feeling of my being, these other two faculties that can help me perceive correctly, will my rational mind — my opinions — have a counterweight to lend them gravity.

How to do this?

Well, it has nothing to do with putting on a mask. The odd thing about masks is that while I may refuse to wear a mask outwardly, because of a set of selfish personal beliefs, I have inner masks that disguise who I am from me. This is part of my rationality; my intellect explains everything away in perpetual dialogues of self-justification. It’s a form of psychological tension, a string that is stretched tight inside me and almost never relaxes.

Every morning, I try to begin by sitting quietly for a few moments — it doesn’t take a long time — to come to a sense of myself within my organic sensation, the natural sensation that arises from the action of my breath and the way that the air feeds my being. 

I don’t need to change anything here, just be present to it. If I breathe in and out and I bring just a little awareness to it, a certain kind of vibration spreads through me which intensifies my physical awareness of being. This arises from a very fine substance that interacts with the molecules in my whole body. That isn’t a spiritual fantasy; it’s a fact that the air I breathe in and out actually affects the molecules in my body. This delicate interaction, which I'm barely aware of, provides the basis for my being. If it stops, I die. If the coronavirus has taught us anything, it has taught us that if we can't breathe, we die.

Yet if we can’t breathe our life in and out, we also die. We die spiritually. Our soul is starved of its subtle oxygens.

That breath comes not just through the physical interaction of air and molecules, the physical experience of muscles, bone, and diaphragm in a rhythmic conjunction; it comes through what I sense and what I feel. 

These are also a kind of breathing; in the end, everything is a kind of breathing. As impressions arrive in me; I inhale; as they filter themselves into my being and deposit their effects on the surfaces and interiors of my cells, I exhale. This is the action of taking in an impression and then reacting to it. (Think about this as well: if I"exhale" unmindful reactions to my impressions of life on others, I contaminate them.)

For example, I have yogurt, flaxseed, and mango in my bowl when I take my brief break in the morning at the office; I take in the impression of the colors, white, brown, and orange, and then I react by taking a spoonful and putting it in my mouth. This offers a whole new range of impressions. 

It’s part of what sustains me; and, I've found, just taking a five minute break with that set of impressions in the morning reminds me of the simplicity of life, of how grateful I ought to be for the good food that I'm given and am able to eat, the amazing flavors of sweet mango and sour yogurt, and so on. 

A sense of gratitude arises that's independent of all the more or less dramatic events taking place in external life, for example making textiles and getting them delivered, which is what I do for a living. 

It refocuses me on the fact that living isn’t about what I do; it’s about how I am.

I have four serious questions in front of me that can be asked in any moment. 

I can ask myself, where am I; what is my relationship to my physical body? This is asked through my sensation.

At the same time, how am I; what is my relationship to my feeling? This is asked through a more subtle and intimate emotional quality, an inner attitude.

And, the third action, who am I, contemplation (not a luxury!) of the relationship to my intellect. This requires slower, more deliberate thought which attempts to pause and become aware of itself.

These three questions, all asked at the same time with each of my parts, lead me to a much larger question which is the question of individuality, the question of the undivided self:

Why am I?

This question is asked by the soul, once it awakens from the slumber all the external forces in my life may lull it into.

When I start in the morning, not knowing what will happen today— not knowing what I will write, what I will do, what will happen—I try to gather the intelligences of these three parts: my sensation, my intellect, and my feeling, and bring them together quietly in a gentle place that just rests, where they can encounter one another without expectations or demandsand just know that they exist together. 

I re-introduce them to one another and remind them that this enterprise of life to a great extent relies on their cooperation and awareness of one another.

In doing so, I hope to provide an active field of awareness that will help me reach into this question, why am I?

Our rationality, our stupidity (remember: being opinionated and then stunned by the adverse consequences) arise because of the failure to engage in this simple action a few times a day. 

It isn’t that difficult to do; yet no one is taught to do it, no one is taught that it's important. It is a foundation of mindfulness; yet we don’t want to be mindful, we would rather be rational. 

We would, it seems, rather count the numbers of our life than love it enough to pay a little attention. 

The accountant in me has a lot of opinions about how the musician in me should save and spend what I earn; but the accountant doesn't know how to carry a tune.

Go deep in your heart, and be well-


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Memory and being, part II

Gurdjieff used to say, use the present to repair the past and prepare the future.

It might be better said as follows: use the present to repair the past in me, and prepare the future in me.

In light of the previous post, which was written in July (along with this one, which was not published as the last one was), we can easily see that the past exists in me. That is to say, my memory is the repository of the past I must repair; and all of the molecular relationships, the magnetic attractions between various events, my feelings, thoughts, and physical experience of them, is what the past consists of. 

The past, in other words, is a very complex pattern of molecular relationships, energetic relationships, that is alive with in me now. All of these relationships have formed for purpose; and that purpose is to support Being within the present moment.

To the extent that these relationships do support being within the present moment, they are intact, unimpaired; they do not need repair. Yet this usually isn’t the case. A lot of what is in me doesn’t support my being: instead, in one way or another, it undermines it, because my relationship to my past is chaotic, disorganized, unexamined, misinterpreted, and above all improperly valued. I have a bad attitude towards my past — at least, a lot of it.

If I acquire any Being at all, it is better than none; and to the extent that I do acquire Being, it is the result of this past that lies within me. 

Let’s say I develop a very good relationship to my sensation; it would be an established fact that every event that took place in me during my past, all of the results that bear on the present moment, is a direct contributor to the realization of that possibility. 

So in fact, since I have realized a good possibility, all of the past in me that helped me realize that possibility is also good.

Repairing the past involves repairing this existing past that is within me now, not the actual past. No one goes back in time and fixes stuff that happened. No one, equally, goes forward into the future or does anything right now that will project itself into the future for better physical and outward result. In both cases, the moment of now is used to prepare myself inwardly. 

I repair the past inwardly; I find a path towards a better attitude towards it, a better evaluation of it. I see how it helped me. Even if it was extremely bad, I see how it helped me. In equal measure, I use now to prepare myself for a better inner attitude in the future. The outside will be what it is. Maybe half the people around me will die from viruses. I don’t know. But the point is that I can lay a foundation right now so that my attitude in the next moment is a better attitude than the one I have now.

Of course, it’s possible that the future I envision for myself involves having a bad attitude; I don’t know. That depends on what your aim is. It is an unfortunate truth that you might decide to have bad aims. I can’t stop you. The point is that no matter what my aim is, if I want to prepare for the future I need to do it now. I can’t do it later. 

Think about the irony: I think I’ll prepare for the future later. The dysfunction is self-evident.

We should spend more time within ourselves pondering the attitude we have towards our past and our future, because we stand balanced forever between the two, both existing only in our imagination. We are forever within the moment of molecular relationship which both remembers the past and anticipates the future, but must of necessity live within the present. Our agency, that which makes us move and do, lives within this balanced moment. All of the agency we will ever have emerges in this instant from this molecular relationship.

Perhaps you see now, from this discussion on memory, why I emphasize in such a determined way that you need to come into relationship with the magnetic sensation of your molecular relationship, which I originally called the organic sense of being when I first mentioned it over 10 years ago. 

Without this sense of yourself, the rest of your work may be spectacular, but it does not have a firm foundation within it. If your feet are not on the ground in this way, everything else you do will result in you eventually slipping and falling on your ass.

That may sound crude and offensive, but these are just plain facts. Trying to rationalize one’s way around them with the mind or argue with them will not change the facts. 

The facts always exist as outside agents; my attitude towards them is what matters. I can either have a good attitude towards facts and accept them, or I can reject them. This practice of rejecting the fact is quite normal for me and for everyone else. 

Repairing the past and preparing the future has something to do with accepting the facts. 

My past is a fact. I can’t live in it and I shouldn’t blame anyone for it. Lots of my parts want to do that, but every one of them is engaging in wrong behavior. 

My future is a possibility; I can wish for it, but I can’t count on it. Only my effort in the present moment can help anything affect the future; and even then, what it always affects — and in a sense the only thing it affects — is my attitude. If I focus on futures that make me rich and wealthy, but I act like a jerk and then miserable, what good will it do me? I can claim success — but I will be a jerk. That’s not a success, because it is not inward success.  If I’m in an inner work, success is always measured inwardly first, and never in relationship to material circumstances and the outer.

Go deep in your heart, and be well-


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Memory and Being

July 5

Yesterday, during a conversation, the question of memory, the past, and the purpose it serves came up. We take this function for granted; yet it lies at the heart of every action we engage in, because the form of our Being exists and is rooted in the collected impressions of our lifetime.

We remember our experiences individually, but they form a collective whole within us. One of the hopes and aims of memory is for us to come into a greater tactile relationship with that greater whole, so that we act from a larger, more measured and mature context than the less nuanced and intelligent emotional reactions that prompt us in individual situations. Emotion is there to react, but without a greater intelligence to guide it it acts mostly according to animal instinct and survival motives. 

Yet it’s the wholeness of our lives that we hope will come to bear on situations; this is part of what mindfulness is all about. If I just react from the animal parts, I'm partial. 

In the most basic way, memory serves the function of care. The repair molecules in our cells care about the way things are arranged; their molecular memories contain information about how DNA should be sequenced, the way molecules should be folded, and so on, and all of their actions—their expression of agency— emerge from comparing the molecules they encounter to this library of forms. 

We live on a much larger scale, but we're not different; our memory serves as the form of our Being, and we attempt to repair that which we find around us — to reorder it, to configure it so that it works properly both within and outside of us —so as to serve our library of form and understanding of order accordingly.

The difficulty, of course, is the difference between subjective and objective understanding. The cell’s molecules engage memory relative to objective forms: one molecule sweeps up and disposes of cellular trash, the other one doesn’t. Either molecule A, the sweeper molecule, can sweep or it can't. Perhaps it's weary... it's having trouble sweeping. It’s something of a black-and-white situation. 

In the case of human form, however, the inner library of memory, it’s much more complicated. Form has undergone a mutation that introduces a much wider range of subjectivities. On top of that, there's a conflict between the inner and the outer. Objectively, the outer has its own impetus and will do whatever it wants regardless. It's only the inner part of myself, the memory, that can be reconfigured. I cannot as a single human being impose my will on the exterior and assume it will conform.

I'm the one that needs to find a way to conform.

Examining memory through the taste of things past, the history of my life, reveals that it leaves more than one kind of pattern in me. It’s not just the words, the thought, the events that are recorded in me: every sensation and feeling is also there. So although it isn’t spoken of very much, I have a lifetime of history in sensation and a lifetime of history in feeling which form whole repositories of memory in their own right, repositories that in some ways have even more influence over me than the thoughts I have about those past events. 

All three of these different sets of memories — thinking, sensing, feeling — are consonant in me at any given moment. They sound their notes together. I only notice the thought, and perhaps the feeling, if it is strong. 

Yet the wholeness of my being emerges from the simultaneous memory of these three parts.

As I contemplate this (i.e., observe it from the sacred space of my inward temple) perhaps it occurs to me that many of my memories are “broken.” I learn, with experience, age, and maturity, that things I did in the past weren't well informed. I wasn’t present to them; I didn’t understand other people. I did things that were ill advised. 

I gradually come to see that the past lives within me as a template for present behavior; but it's a template with undesirable distortions. I somehow need to come to terms with that template and repair it so that it can serve better in relationship. After all, that's the primary purpose of memory; it is the template for relationship. 

If there are nonconformities and distortions, it turns out, they arise from the difference between objective experiences that are taking place now and my subjective template. 

What happens now is objectively true. 

As my teacher used to say to me, “what is the truth of this moment?”

I better serve relationship by discovering the incongruities between my past, my memories, and what is true now. In every case, I can’t rely on an outdated and poorly formed template. I need to be clever and nimble, to discover a way to act that includes the template but is in a large part free of it. 

The template isn’t as useful as I thought it was. It can’t be used in a rigid way where I try to force everything into it. I need to be present to it, to include it, but the template is what needs to be adjusted as I live and respond. It has a lot of good in it, but I need to be aware of where the mutilated spaces in it are, the places that are not well formed. Otherwise "molecules" of impression will arrive which do not well fit the available docking locations in my mangled template, and these "molecules", which have important foods for my Being in them, will be rejected.

Unfortunately, as we grow old, our template of inner memory tends to become more rigid, whereas the opposite ought to take place. The more we open our hearts to Being... the more we trust in life and invest in love... the less rigid these templates of memory appear to us. 

Perhaps it’s okay to let go of past angers and feelings of injustice. Perhaps I should just act from the love that is present now and not my misconfigured attachments to things that happened before. 

I can take each moment as an opportunity to live now and to discover a new way of living. I don’t have to let the past influence everything I do.

There are more complicated thoughts here about the relationship between memory and time, and our experience of it, but I won’t speak of them now. Instead I'm returning to that delicate and intimate place between the actual molecules of my body, where they form magnetic relationships with each other and with the world at large, of which they are a part.

These magnetic relationships are produced by positive and negative charges, which result in attractive and repulsive forces. My body operates in this way on a mechanical level; yet the mechanics of it are the least of the story. My entire being arises from a magnetic relationship that exists between the cells. My consciousness, my awareness and everything in it, including my memory, emerge from this vibration of attraction and repulsion. The two forces need one another in order to be in relationship; and their activity, the exchange between the two, reconciles their relationship and moves towards equilibrium.

This is a technical description of the situation, but the harmony of vibration within my cells is directly available to my awareness. The more sensitive I become to how I am, the more quietly I reside within the innermost core of my being, close to the soul, the more deeply I sense the nature of this vibration, of the way it arouses being itself from a passive slumber into an active state. 

I can explore the world from this state. I have that opportunity today. If I am invested in this magnetic sensation, this organic sensation of Being, I can live more directly. There is a certain level of objectivity to it; it doesn’t think or invent things with its imagination. It resides within the fundamental field of Being. I'm here with it. I just need to remember that through the simple act of sensation alone, not by thinking it up.

This subtle harmonic vibration that creates my Being emerges out of an active force of love. If I’m fortunate, if I deepen my sensation of myself enough by sitting quietly and experiencing being as it is — not as I wish it were through memory or intellect — then I participate in this love in a new way.

Go deep in your heart, and be well-


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.