Friday, December 31, 2021

What is the Primary Function of Memory?


There was a discussion the other night about self remembering in which someone asked what it actually consists of.

It’s useful to think of my various minds as members, that is, “limbs” with which I both sense my world and move about in it. Arms and legs, if you will: tools through which consciousness extends its agency into contact with the world. 

In this way, the mind of feeling engages in emotional contact with the world; the mind of sensation engages with physical contact; and the mind of the intellect engages in organizational contact. These limbs have, like the myth of Osiris, been separated; the body of agency and consciousness has been cloven  asunder and the parts aren't available in any kind of unity. The “re – membering” of the self is a reassembly of the limbs, a reattachment to the body of consciousness and agency.

Consequent to this question of remembering was the question of what memory is

I raised the question of what the principal function of memory in this work (specifically, the “Gurdjieff” work, that is, the ancient work of The Reconstruction of the Soul) might be. 

Although I posed the question, no one answered it; and so it falls to me to give you the answer here.

The principal function of memory in the Gurdjieff work is to engender remorse of conscience.

Once this is said, it seems self evident; yet, I feel quite sure, you have not heard it put in these terms before; and this is probably because the thinking part of the ancient work has been in large part atrophied by modern living.

In order to explain this principle in greater detail, one needs to examine the nature of the question in a bit more precise terms.

Events give birth to three different types of memory:

Memory of feeling

Memory of "things" and their relationships

Memory of the body

Each of these types of memory has a unique and different characteristic from the others; and each one acts within the emotional, intellectual, or physical center according to the nature of its origin. Each of these types of memory, moreover, is a function of the impressions that created them, which “engrave” the molecular relationship of their nature into Being.

These three different kinds of memory combine together, if agency is active and the being is “re –membered”, into an active conscious condition that can engender remorse.

I say that this is the principal function of memory in the ancient work because, although memory has many other different and quite important functions — for example, my wife pointed out that memory supports me in knowing who I am — the most important thing that an organism can undertake is an objectively moral and ruthlessly intense examination of its own agency, action, and motives. All of this work, in modern terms, could be called an examination of the “ego;” yet what is at stake here is a more delicate matter, that is, the growth of the soul, which is an independent entity not ultimately subject to the authority of the ego. 

When we look at this function of memory, we begin to see that it is in fact a spiritual activity of great depth and meaning. Yet this is entirely ignored and actively misunderstood, because memory has become the victim of science and sentiment, removing it from the domain of the soul and placing it instead in a much more profane context. 

At its best, memory engenders the religious impulse in a human being, and it does so strictly based on the objective evaluation of one’s Being and one’s nothingness. Once the ego gets hold of it, however, it appropriates everything that memory can achieve and memory becomes a reflexive stimulus for desire rather than an entity for a sacred process.

May God bless your efforts at Being today. Be well.



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Morning Prayer

Sunrise, Hudson River, May 21 2021
As seen from the picnic grounds, Tallman State Park

May 21.

This May, I’ve taken to writing prayers first thing in the morning, because the morning seems to be the moment when everything begins again. 

The moment where I know nothing, despite the fullness of this life. 

The moment when I myself am resurrected into the day that is a gift from a higher place and a giving that comes from a higher intelligence than anything I can know.

The more deeply I understand the relationship that I have with the sun and what it brings to the planet, the more called I am to a relationship with my fellow human beings. The more deeply I'm called to both of those relationships — one from the level above me, one lived horizontally — the more I understand how everything in it depends on the level below me, which provides the organic and harmonic support for relationship above it.

The sun is God's representative; she brings us a good and even great food; and there is no theory in Gurdjieff’s solioonensius, which is a fact and not some set of ideas. 

Yet the relationship that it cultivates, one of the beauty of the world and the necessary duty of worship, also opens the door to my inability. I begin with relationship on this level, relationship with my fellow human being, by seeing how I fail in it.

I remember that the signature feature when I woke up nearly 20 years ago changed inside was that I saw how I had never understood relationship. This may sound like a minor thing; but it’s in fact a life-changing event that shatters every assumption and forces a reassessment of Being itself. All of that centered, of course, around the event where the Virgin Mary touched me; and this great reordering that was demanded — nay, not even demanded, but commanded — was all aimed at a new education in relationship that is still taking place.

In the delusion of our ego, we so firmly believe that we understand relationship. Yet a human being on their own understands almost nothing of relationship; and it’s only through the action of God's grace and the food that it provides, combined with a firm rooting in the understory of molecular being, that anyone can begin to embark on a path that might — I stress that word, might — lead to the beginning, and only the very beginning, of an understanding of relationship.

Our understanding of relationship is forever complicated by the intense, swirling cloud of very dense impressions of personality, which are thick and difficult to cut through and have an insistence born of their opacity. This particulate maelstrom will always be with me as it is with everyone, and since we live in it, we consider it to be an ordinary condition. Even the least separation from it reveals it as anything but; and yet if I reach the edge of the storm and leave it for a moment, the world apart from it—the stillness— seems disturbing and unfamiliar; and before you know it I turn my face back towards what is, in essence, and for all intents and purposes, hell.

Yet we’re called out of that hell; the voices of angels echo in it and perhaps we can turn our heads in that direction. After all, love wants to teach us about relationship and call us out of the intensity of our self – inflection. 

But can I listen? 

In order to do so, a revolution must take place, and as I am, I’m part of the bureaucracy. I am the authorities; I am the police, I am even the Gestapo. I myself have established the very regime I want to topple.

The sun sends help. No enemy can thrive in the light of the good and of God; ultimately, they must all shrink back into the cracks of darkness in which they better dwell. They have a place there; they become a binder for the goodness that can become whole in Being. In order to serve in that way, however, they have to be cement, crystallized factors, and not the liquid  that they prefer to be which creeps into every element of my agency.

Increasingly, I see that life becomes a choice between the active and intelligent wish for relationship with others and the force of my own desire. This can be seen not only in the broad strokes of the brush, but in the tiny details filled in with the fine tip of the crowquill pen. By this I mean the daily instants of action and interaction. My desires here are like little children; my wish for others is the place where the adolescents and the adults enter. I recognize the authority now; and yet the child does not want to grow so much.

By repeated action of prayer and submission, despite my inattention, I return to the moment of compassion, where the inflow teaches me. It is far more generous than my narrow way of seeing; far more patient with me than I am with myself, far more loving than I can be. I should listen; I should listen. It is my duty, in fact, to hear the call of this truth. This is why I was put on the planet.

Hopefully today I can attend to that responsibly.

God Bless, and be well.



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

In the midst of grass

Detail from The Nativity, by Jacques Daret, about 1468
The Prado, Madrid

Men and women are born from a deep need of the earth to care for itself in new ways.

I can feel that care as a vibration within myself; and often I call it “sensation,” because this is the word I have been given by my language. 

The word derives from the Latin word sensus, which means the faculty of feeling, thought, or meaning. Of the three potential roots, the one indicating meaning is perhaps the most interesting, because it implies that my sensation is what gives meaning. It is a validation; it tells the truth, it roots me in my body as it is now and as I am here and now. It does not have the capacity for lying, for misrepresenting things in the same way that my thoughts and feelings can.

This leads me to wonder why my thoughts and feelings have become such liars. They are undisciplined; they wander around like lost sheep instead of dwelling in the immediate pasture. They’re impatient and inattentive; easily distracted by the imaginary thought that there is better food elsewhere.

So I hope to root myself here within sensation, as I call it, an organic sensation which plants me firmly in the relationship of life on the planet. 

It probably seems to many that I go on about this too often and that the subject has somehow become boring; after all, there are so many other ideas in spiritual work — the idea of sensation is peculiar to Gurdjieff, who was himself peculiar, wasn’t he? Perhaps this idea of sensation is an idiosyncrasy, a private brew that doesn’t belong in the greater world, say, of Christianity or Buddhism.

Yet to dwell within is essential to sensation; and sensation can be alive in ways that men and women are barely able to comprehend. When Jeanne de Salzmann said that sensation can become permanent, she meant that a living vibration that arises in the very molecules and atoms of our cells can become comprehensively and tangibly present to our awareness at every moment. 

This takes place when the two forces of gravity and magnetism join together in the singular union that is most natural to them. Gurdjieff called these things laws; that which is laid down and fixed. All of molecular Being arises on this planet because it is that which is laid down and fixed beneath the state of Being itself; and the question of molecular Being is an essential question, because the nature of the cosmos, the fabric of its existence itself, begins to ask its own questions and see its own life in the molecular structures that find relationship with one another.

We can participate in this most directly through an awakening of sensation; and then we have a legitimate and foundational premise from which to ask our questions about Being and life. It doesn’t so easily wander out of the pasture to look for grass elsewhere because it knows it is already in the midst of grass. The awakening of this faculty is essential to the first beginning of any understanding about who I am and why I’m here.

Perhaps, if I’m an intelligent and patient gardener, if I work with mindfulness and sensitivity, the grass will grow greener and richer within me and its leaves will present their greater mysteries, the ones that Walt Whitman reminded us of from the emotive presence of his own understanding… I refer to his presence as emotive, but in absolute terms it was quite definitely a feeling-presence of a higher kind, which has been recognized by all the generations that have followed him.

It’s this feeling-presence that sensation lays the foundation for; and when I truly begin to feel, then I truly begin to care. My relationship with the planet becomes a sobering function that draws me away from my own interests and my functional obsession with things human, and into the extraordinary chemistry and magnetism, the heavenly attraction of gravity, of the world around me.

Well, these are big thoughts, to be sure. But they emerge from the field of sensation effortlessly, because the field of sensation already contains them without my interference. I merely bring them to the doorstep so that those who wish to can see what dwells within this house we call a body. 

There’s an invitation here at the threshold, to enter and be well fed by the meal that is set on the table of Being. It’s a very different meal than the meals of money and power, sex and ordinary food — each one of which is a tiny and in its own right beautiful fragment of everything that there is, but just a very tiny fragment which needs to much better find its place in this confusion I have created for myself.

Sensation begins to bring all of the fragments together around a center of gravity: not the magnetism of attraction that pulls me from one thing to another, but the gentle and persistent weight of a solid Being that provides an anchor in life.

Ah, this Being is quite silent. 

It quiets the agitation and draws life together around it in the way that a mother collects her children in the evening, giving them a safe place to gather. It’s interesting that we automatically sense this action of drawing life together in the feminine, in the care of a duck for her ducklings or of a mother dog or cat who nurses her babies. Motherhood itself contains a gravity in it that draws us back to the truth. This is what the Virgin Mary represents in the Christian tradition; and she has her counterpart in others, such as Guanyin.

Notably, these female figures — which actually represent a living entity present in the body of the planet — emanate compassion, a togetherness of feeling. This is what sensation can begin to form a foundation for.

A pasture filled with grass may seem to be a strange place to try and find compassion. When we think of the parable of sheep and shepherds, it seems as though they are the main actors in the story; yet always, there is the grass. The wish of the shepherd is for the sheep to always find the good grass beneath their feet and eat there. 

This is the underlying premise of the parables, the unspoken foundation — the leaves of grass. They are the goodness given by God; they are like the lilies of the field that toil not, neither do they weep.

Yet they are clothed in glory, these simple blades of grass. 

And I think we should take care, lest we trample what was put there to eat for the good of our soul.

These are my thoughts for this morning.

May the spirit of Christ be with you today. Be well.



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Love and Being


Nativity- Bartolo di Fredi, 1374
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

May 17 

I often say that life flows into us.

This can be understand physically, in the literal terms of the impressions that enter our bodies; these impressions, from the outer world. And this is a powerful exper
ience — not a metaphor. It is a functional fact of existence. To be present to the outer form of life as it flows into us is to take in a sacred food which is provided for Being.

There’s a second way of understanding that life flows into us, however, and this is on the order of understanding that life is a substance.

Last week someone asked, at the annual All and Everything conference, what “The Sorrow of His Endlessness” was. I sympathized with the question: after all, it’s all very well to talk about this Sorrow, but what exactly is it?

I gave what I think is a quite simple answer, although an extensive metaphysical discourse might have been in order. I pointed out that the Sorrow is a physical substance. That is, it’s the fundamental form of matter and exists at the root of the arising of the universe. While this doesn’t deal with the complex and intricate questions of why there is Sorrow, it does establish the simple fact that it is material. It is material, moreover, in a metaphysical sense; that is to say, it is woven into the metaphysical materiality of the universe rather than the physical materiality. It may sound like a contradiction to speak of these two things in this way, as both being material. Yet that is the case. The metaphysical has a substance to it just as the physical does. The question has to do with how fine the rate of vibration is.

In any event, I bring this up because life itself is a substance that flows into Being through us. When we experience what are called “higher energies” in the Gurdjieff work — an oddly sterile way of describing the inward flow of divine love into being — this is exactly what we are speaking about, life itself. The best point of reference for understanding this from a technical point of view is not found in the Gurdjieff literature, but, rather, in the works of Emmanuel Swedenborg, who was not only a real scientist — Gurdjieff was at best a dabbler, who often comes across as a crackpot in his writings —but also a man gifted with extraordinary insights into the nature of spiritual being. Those who study Gurdjieff while overlooking Swedenborg are, in my opinion, making a somewhat critical error of education.

Life flows into us and creates being. This “higher energy” — the grace of the Holy Spirit — which flows into us is life itself, not a sensation, a thought, or a feeling—or, for that matter, a “presence.” All of these things can be said about life as it flows into us, but each is a property of life and of nothing else, so let us be clear that life — both physical and metaphysical — is the primary carrier of all of the thoughts, feelings, presences and so on within every created thing. Life is in other words the field of energy that creates the universe and all the Being within it.

That force is the fundamental force of Divine Love. So when we participate in relationship with a “higher energy,” we aren’t engaged in some clinical activity, partaking of some chemical food — although it’s entirely possible to pick it apart with our minds and describe it in that way. 

The activity we’re engaged in is living.

This brings new meaning to Gurdjieff’s phrase “work in life.” Life isn’t what happens outside us — it is equally what happens inside us. It is what happens above us. It is what happens below us. It is, in fact, ubiquitous; and so if we “work in life,” we work everywhere, both physically and metaphysically, both horizontally and vertically. We insert the effort of our awareness into the midst of Love and Being in all its aspects.

The mind has a way of distracting us from this action. Life is a whole thing which has a wish for us to serve it; and yet from an early age our minds are by accident trained to mostly serve themselves. The separation of the mind and Being from life is described by analogy in Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson when the comet hits the planet Earth and creates the moon. This happens early on in the formation of our being. We become disrupted; fragments of ourselves are separated from us.

Coming back to life, receiving life as it flows into us, is by way of healing this wound. We are indeed vessels into which the world flows; and while we may never understand that mystery, we can still participate in it as a mystery.  We could say that life flows into us; equally, that Christ flows into; and above all, that God's love flows into us. This is a mystery; and it is a mystery that gives us great purpose, insofar as we may sense it.

Yesterday I described the way we live in our body as though we were customers who’ve entered a shop filled with wonderful things. This shop is called our lives. The shelves are fully stocked, with so many riches that it would be impossible for any one individual to buy or own them all. 

Yet the moment we walk into the shop, we acquire the mistaken impression that we’re the owner of the shop. We think that everything in it belongs to us; and we forget that this is a place of transactions where the owner must be paid for each thing we take. 

The proprietors of the shop (a divine couple, if you will) are eminently fair and just and loving; yet they’re perpetually faced with a clientele who think they own the store, and behave as abusers and thieves.

It’s important to rethink this place of transactions, both physical and metaphysical, which we live within through an act of Grace. The very idea that we could own anything in life is already a circus of absurdities; we are never anything more than custodians, and that for a brief period during which, if we discharge our responsibilities in a dignified way, we may acquit ourselves with honor.

That is, unfortunately, rarely the case.

Be well today, and Live.



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Fran Shaw's New Book

 Fran Shaw, author of Notes on the Next Attention,  has published a new book, available on Amazon:

I Am Stories

Love and decency, Part II

My friend Chris Wertenbacker, author of the book “The Enneagram of G. I. Gurdjieff,” remarks that Sigmund Freud maintained the ego is primarily a body–ego. 

That is to say, the ego is a creature of impulse and desire, of the apparently crude (but in fact frighteningly sophisticated) needs of the body for survival and reproduction. I think you can see at once how closely tied that is to the fantasies of power and money. What this means is that we have produced societies that are themselves and slaved by unconscious and animalistic impulses and urges. This turns out to be clear enough from history; it's difficult to imagine a more contradictory situation than watching a collection of creatures who call themselves "conscious,” and even celebrate this supposed capacity as the pinnacle of evolution, proceed to mechanically behave in the most heinous and atrocious ways that can be imagined, where every principle of decency and love for others is continuously violated in a international spectacle of deprivation, cruelty, terror, and murder. 

We are, in a word, so much in love with ourselves and the animal cravings of our bodies that we will kill for it. And we prove it every day.

Decency derives from the Latin verb decere, which gives us "decent" in Latin, meaning to be fit. The word thus begins, at its root, with the inference that what is appropriate will also be healthy; good for others as well as oneself. We can draw a straight line from the idea of decency to Christ's adage, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13.) 

It is doubled down on, compounded, concentrated and expanded by Christ’s other comments in Matthew 22:

But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” 

Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

The law, in other words, rests on decency – on the honorable love and respect for the authority that is higher than us (God) and the honorable love and respect for those around us. Love lies at the heart of these actions; decency rests on this foundation of love, of care for others and care for their welfare under the eyes of God.

Because we're far from God and in a dark corner from which we can see nothing of Him and within which no real sound of His voice reaches us—only faint echoes which we routinely misinterpret — perhaps we can forget about God and commandments and so on—along with the pretensions that we truly understand them— for the time being and just devote our attention to the question of doing the right thing and behaving decently. 

This is of course terribly difficult, because the imagination seizes this question and turns it in to one of the ego, where what is right and what is decent is interpreted to mean getting what one wants for itself. Only the adage of The Golden Rule can directly and uncompromisingly help us to untangle that mess. We can't be decent unless that decency is devoted to care and love for others. It may begin in ourselves; but it begins in our self unselfishly, through an awareness of others and an instinctive sense that we should at least, above all, do no harm to the other.

An acquaintance from Ireland recently sent me Annie Lou Staveley’s Little soliloquy on the Christmas story, which can be found at the following Facebook post from the Gurdjieff society of Virginia. Buried in the evocative allegories of this narrative is the birth of decency, of what it means to be human. 

The birth of Christ represents the birth of everything that is good and decent, of what is human, in us. We are called to help that property called decency be born in us not as a single event, but as an organic attitude that prevails in each situation. To see this birth as having happened once, in the past, isn’t enough; the birth of decency must be brought to every moment. In this sense it mirrors the eternal act of creation; it is timeless and puts a perpetual demand upon us to honor it. As Staveley points out in her essay, this demand is meant to gather all the disparate parts of ourselves around a central principle that recognizes what is good. 

It's utterly pointless to practice any kind of inner discipline or religious inclination without understanding this first. The question ought to be in front of us at all times. It's so important that angels celebrate it and announce it and kings and wise men travel towards it from far away places to honor it and offer up gifts to it.

Of course Staveley’s story embraces the descent of higher energies to this level; and the embodiment of those higher energies, should it take place, leads to the transformation of the ego–consciousness of the body not simply because the impulses of our existing body have been overcome or vanquished, but because we have grown a new body — an “astral” body, the body of Christ. 

Christ personifies the growth of this body for Christians, although many of them may not understand that — but it is a non-denominational body, because the body of God is at the same time the body of humanity and of decency, of what is right, of what ought to be manifested throughout the planet and in every human being on it.

That noted, may we grow into the body of Christ during this Christmas season, with the faith, love, and hope of a new awareness of being and decency.



Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Love and Decency, part I


Piermont Pier, December 2021

It would be best if we could clearly see where we are and what we are doing, but it turns out this is quite difficult.

Truly seeing yourself where you are and as you are is a sobering experience; the distractions are many and the rewards, so it would seem, are few. 

The imagination generally serves as the steward of self-love. To understand that one is a tiny creature with little or no actual power over life and none whatsoever over death, it's a very humbling experience, and no matter how much we protest to the contrary, on our own we're not humble. It's only when we're exposed to cosmological forces ("higher energies") much greater than ourselves and are able to organically acknowledge them that humility can arise; and, for reasons that are not well understood, the human organism's ability to sense such forces has degenerated a great deal. Gurdjieff, of course, wrote a new mythology about that in Beelzebubs tales; but it’s an allegorical mythology that provides at best a rough template for the situation, not quite an exact explanation of its spiritual and biological roots.

This brief preamble brings me to a question I've been pondering over the last few weeks, in fact, most likely, the last few years – and maybe, just maybe, for my entire life.

This question is the question of decency.

The question calls to mind Victor Frankl's contention that there are only two kinds of people in the world, decent and non-decent people. This, as well, is an abbreviated and encapsulated version of what Swedenborg said about the nature of love and being.

We find ourselves in the middle of this life. No matter what else we believe, no matter how many imaginary events we construct in our mind, we are forever faced in every moment with the question of whether to behave like decent people who respect others, who love others, and to try to form intelligent and caring relationships with others, or to behave like self-loving creatures who take for themselves and care little for others or their needs. 

You can throw the whole lot of philosophy, whether esoteric or ordinary, politics, society, and so on into the dust bin for the time being. This is all one really needs to know in order to begin. 

Is one decent or non-decent? 

Should one be decent or non-decent?

These questions get lost in the shuffle as folks practice esoteric religion, or any other flavor of the external variety. The more external the practice of religion, of course, the less decent it often becomes; but this is not always the case, just a general trend. The difficulty with it is that it forms buffers in people that allow them to pretend they are decent while they aren't being decent at all. It is a spectacular form of lying when it functions in this way. 

Yet it turns out that many of the cultural and social institutions we have are equally spectacular forms of lying. Currency, in fact—which we would take to be "real" because we have printed sheet of paper and coinage that supposedly make it so – is a non-existing thing invented wholly in the imaginations of men which can collapse in a matter of moments, from a historical perspective, the moment peoples or societies lose confidence in the lies and imagination that create a given currency within a country, or for that matter in a set of digital electronic pulses on a computer. 

What this means is that the entire premise upon which the exchange of wealth and power in societies is based on is a complete fantasy. The collision between this and other spectacular fantasies from the western world — property ownership, for example — was what utterly baffled Native American peoples, who were simply unable to combat what they were unable to understand. We vanquished them first with our imaginations, and only afterwards with our cruelty and weapons. 

This little vignette is quite similar to the struggle between essence and personality: essence, which may be rather simple and straightforward, uncomplicated to what might seem to be the point of naïveté and even stupidity, and personality, which manages to invent an endless series of clever lies to prop up its machinations and intrigues, most all of which revolve around – you guessed it – money, and power, which are paradoxically tied to an actual essential thing that is real, that is, sex.

Untangling this ball of fishing line can be terribly difficult if one uses the mind to attempt it. The mess is produced by the mind in the first place; looking there for solutions to it isn't so helpful. It's only by sorting out experience through the capacity for sensation to receive it more deeply that helps to put it in perspective. And at that point it's quite important for feeling to enter from a different level than the ordinary emotions of life. If our sensation, rather than our mind, meets our life directly as a practical fact rather than a set of absurd fantasies that everyone has agreed are "true," we can perhaps begin to rewrite the general order of things in us. We don't have to throw away all of the imagination and the institutions we’ve created with it in order to assert our independence from them. 

We don’t, in other words, have to do anything except refuse to be enslaved by them.

I happen to be deeply religious; most people who know me know this. But it almost doesn't matter in regard to this question I'm raising, because God is a long way from us and we live in a very tiny, dark corner of the universe. We have to be responsible for where we are now and not on some unimaginably vast cosmic scale that we have absolutely no contact with, let alone control over. As we are, we exist as though we were microbes in the gut of some great being and nonetheless believed, as individuals, that we could control it. One delusional bacteria in the gut of a mammoth believing it is in charge of the whole mammoth. 

This won't do. We need to drop these crazy arguments about our power, our insight, all the philosophy and the nonsense and refocus on being here now, on trying to see what the truth of this moment is. 

If this practice is rightly understood, it immediately calls the sense of decency into place; there can be no rightly ordered organic relationship that does not acknowledge this sense. The moment that you see it violated, you realize that the violator has no real center of gravity or character of Being, but is, instead, a slave to external principles and external circumstances.

The principles that are installed in us by societies and belief systems are flawed and unreliable because they haven’t developed within us as organic entities, as organs that sense the true nature of Being. And without an organ in us that senses the true nature of Being, we can't actually be anything. We are then, instead, prisoners of our imagination. 

This development of character of Being, of becoming a real human being who acts decently towards others, is one of the chief basic aims of inner discipline. 

It's a quite simple thing, really, and yet we have become so complicated we fail to see it.

May the spirit of Christ dwell in us, now and always,



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021



Our role in terms of maintenance is to act within the context of the electromagnetism, the gravity, and the chemistry of this planet.

It’s only through sensation of these forces first—before the psychology, the feeling, the intelligence of the intellect—that we can begin to participate more directly with a physical and organic understanding of our role.

The introduction to this idea comes in Ouspensky’s writing and the context of the chemical factory. This is the intellectual version of the story; the physical and feeling versions of the story emerge from the teachings that matured later in Gurdjieff’s career.


In order to participate in maintenance, instead of asking what I can get out of the moment, I need to ask what I can offer it. 

Should I be in the moment for myself, or on behalf of others? 

I have the opportunity to be here on the half of the community and the planet. 

I have the opportunity to be here on behalf of my own responsibility.

I have the opportunity to be here in the moment on behalf of the dead.

In essence, I can try to be in the moment as little as possible on behalf of myself and as much as I can on behalf of others.

External considering is related to this question, and, indeed, to the question of maintenance in general.


The Gurdjieff work can’t be appreciated or understood when viewed through the lens of an organization. It can only be appreciated and understood through one single point of view, and that is through the lens of Being.

To view it through the lens of an organization automatically attracts the idea of the organization “doing” something; and then, already, everything that the tool is is already misunderstood. The fluid is frozen in an ice cube tray; and everyone begins to argue about which ice cube is preferable.

If we come to this question of maintenance through the question of Being, rather than the question of whether or not the “Gurdjieff work” “knows” anything about what “ought to done out there”in the “real world” (and whether it should in fact “do” anything all) we come to the question of maintenance without any confirmation bias instilled by the Gurdjieff work—or, for that matter, any other religious or philosophical inclination. 

Then we must take responsibility; then we must see our duty. And here, indeed, the tools and language of the Gurdjieff work come into play, because Being-parktdolg-duty— a fundamental responsibility which, as we all know, indicates threefold duty, the duty of all our centers – lies at the foundation of the question of maintenance at this level.


In this sense, there isn’t any point in attempting to identify or understand any contradictions between the Gurdjieff work as a “thing” (like Meister Eckhart’s cow, in his comment that people want to love God the way they love a cow) and the outer world. Even beginning to do so betrays a lack of understanding. The moment we turn the Gurdjieff work into a cow, we want to milk it; and then we’ll make cheese. Inevitably, we end up making a stinky cheese, because stinky cheese is more exciting. We spread it on toast, proclaiming its excellence to others; and we of course disagree on which kind of toast would be best.

But the cosmos requires more than cheese to maintain it.

In this sense, from the perspective of maintenance, we need to put more than cheese on the table. This means we must make an effort from within Being to discard the confirmation bias of the philosophy, the interminable interpretations, the prevarications, and the incantations, and view the question of maintenance from a context that includes everything at once. This will, of course, remind folks of Gurdjieff’s description of conscience to Ouspensky in “In Search of the Miraculous.” 

All of this depends on a state of conscience introduced by real feeling. But that is a revolution; and everything in us, even our intense perception of the Gurdjieff work, which is self-created, is designed to prevent a revolution.

Maintenance becomes an effort, then, closely centered around that perspective of self interest and the lack of it so simply presented in the well-known early essay, “The Meaning of Life.” The mythological pageantry of Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson put the terms of the transaction — because it is indeed a transaction between myself and life — into a beautiful costume; but the naked body beneath it forever turns on the question of selfish versus unselfish behavior, which is the selfsame axis upon which all of Swedenborg’s premises about heaven and hell are centered. 

The force that turns everything is, of course, love; again, simply put, because love is unselfish by its very nature.

In this sense, there can never be a contradiction between Being and maintenance if the matter were truly understood; and that understanding has to flow into us through being grounded in sensation and awakened to an opening of feeling. If our intelligence is poised between these two powerful forces in an active way, all the possibilities to maintain anything and everything are perpetually and directly in front of us.

In this sense, we act only on the smallest of scales; in each apparently tiny and momentary action of attention, the greatest maintenance is achieved. 

Reciprocally, the grand deeds we imagine and the influence we believe we are having on the outer world — which are always, as Tolstoy pointed out, delusional and insignificant —shrink to an appropriate scale of their own, one which reveals their insincerity.

Readers take note: there will be two extra posts this week, Tomorrow and Thursday, as commentaries leading up to Christmas.

These posts were written on Dec. 18 specifically for Christmas week.

Hurrah for using all three parts today. Be well.



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.