Sunday, February 28, 2021

To be clearly seen

 Oct. 19

I need to let my resistance become quite clear to my awareness. I need to be within it and to see how it operates and to accept the fact of its operation. I can only do this by inhabiting it, not by denying it or pretending that I have the power to overcome it.

This resistance stands in steadfast opposition to my Being and to the kingdom of heaven itself. It insists on being what it is and it insists on asserting itself. 

If I stay with this very carefully for some time, I can make inner adjustments that accommodate the difficulty. This takes intelligence, foresight, and the will to remain clearly and intensely focused on the resistance itself as it arises. Not to oppose the opposition, but to look at it straight in the eye as it is, for what it is. 

It's important to understand that this is not an act of violence, but an act of suffering what I am quite clearly, without pity for myself. Pity won’t help me; but a real feeling that tastes the difference between the soul and the ego can help. This is how I pay for it.

Most of the time I'm so absolutely identified with these impulses that I don’t deal with them. This of course is one of the meanings of the prayer, “I call to thee from the depths of mine iniquity. I have not delivered myself sufficiently unto thee; I know not how.” 

My iniquity doesn't take place outside of me in my outer actions. This is the reason that the prayer refers to the depths of my iniquity. The iniquity is rooted deep in the soul at the heart of things. It is a parasite that feeds on the soul. It takes the love that is emanated and tries to keep it for me.

This is an action so perverse that it needs much further deep contemplation. 

This is the condition I am in, and there's no use arguing about it. 

It's not a situation I'm capable of striking bargains with or beating in some exchange because of my cleverness.

It needs to be clearly seen.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Somewhere in the Middle

 October 16, 2020 

Little enough in my active intelligence sees how I am and where I am. 

What is in me and of me is small and unaware. It is generally attached to outer life and my imagination of it.

Yet there are other forces at work within Being. There is a part that is in me but not of me; it flows in from the place where the soul brushes up against God. And from this place God flows in; and to the extent that God flows in, there God is, and that part is in relationship with me but not of me. I become subservient to it. I see that I am a servant; and it highlights how worthless I am in relationship to the force of God’s Grace and God’s Being.

How did this come about? I don’t know. I don’t actually know anything; I don’t even know what the question is. All knowing arrives in the act of unknowing; and all unknowing is invested in and wears the cloth of God as its arrival. 

This is the wedding gown. It is what unites me with God. If I put this robe on, I am prepared to receive God and receive life in equal measure, because they are not different. God is in life and life is in God. This does not mean that life is God; that would be the error of naturalism. Rather, God is in all things, and in life by greater measure than in that which, although also of God and in God, is still.

Yet life affects my vision of God, it prejudices me; and in the case of a man or a woman, like myself, it becomes so prejudiced that it mistakes itself for God. This is so commonplace it gets labeled ego and cast aside; I know what that is, no need to contemplate it.

Yet there is a need.

Affecting a stillness within brings one closer to that quiet affirmation available to those things which are not alive and yet also equally of God. This is the foundation of Being and of life; and it is not inanimate. Its animation, rather, is in rest itself. And perhaps I can discover a portion of that in myself, since even though I am of life, life begins in those materials and their own stillness.

As I rest and receive, I realize that life is a great bounty, a single note of vibration that is struck within every creature in its own harmonic. I am offered the objects, events, circumstances, and conditions of today as a blessing where I begin, a blessing I receive within this moment even as I write. All of the potential to Be and to live is embodied in this beginning. I am always at the beginning here, receiving life.

I have heard others this week speak of how things have a beginning, a middle, and an end. From the perspective of the conceptual mind, this is true; and yet these are arbitrary things, markers that do not actually mean what they appear to. 

For example, yesterday I was walking in Chelsea. It was a beautiful afternoon, mild and balmy, with very few clouds in the sky. The city streets were largely emptied, as they have been since the coronavirus epidemic seized us. An extended line of children threaded past me with their physical education instructor, wearing masks, on their way to the playground.

As I ambled along, I encountered patches of fairy light: beautiful emerald green fragments of glass from a beer bottle scattered on the pavement, in an oddly repeating pattern. I saw one small patch of these; then, one yard further, another one. And again.Even on the lowly concrete sidewalks of the city, God's gentle fairies were here; but they were hidden in the glass. They are great masters of concealment, after all. The smallest angels are forever sent to all the smallest places. We never notice them; our very size is blindness.

Each one of these small collections of glassy fragments had a perfection to it; as the sun shone through their resurrection into beauty, a blessed, luminescent green emerged. No real emerald ever gifted more.  

From one point of view, this is a story that began with silica, had a middle where there was a beer bottle, and ended in fragments. Yet for me it was the beginning of a great beauty of emerald light reflected up from the pavement, a pattern that spoke of joy and purity and growth and life. From one perspective it was litter, trash, and garbage; from another, it was enlightenment and hope. 

So what had its own story in one way had a different story in another one; and I see that there was no middle, beginning, or end, except as seen from one perspective. In reality, all objects, events, circumstances, and conditions are seen from every perspective by God, not just one; and so the linear inflection of reason has nothing absolute to do with how things actually are. 

This is one of the aspects of what the Masters called eternity. Eternity does not have a beginning, a middle, and an end; and God lives in eternity, in all the perspectives, outside of time and outside of the imposition of a storyline.

My Being in itself is of the same nature. Yet my awareness at once shrinks it down to a storyline; and then I believe the story line. It closes off all the other perspectives. The doors are shut. I am in this one room. 

Yet I could live in all the rooms; there is a big house here.

Perhaps this little essay serves as an illustration of how the mind can be useful in acquiring a different understanding of things. I am made of attitudes. Things are either broken glass or experiences of beauty. But they are actually both things, not one. In fact, they are many things. If my attitude tells me this or that is garbage, that is an end. 

Yet even garbage is the beginning of something as well.

How much does each of my attitudes weigh in Being? There is a gravity within. It is said that imagination fills the void of self; yet sensation establishes self. In establishing, it rests in stillness; in stillness it already fills.

When stillness is full, imagination completes itself without artifice. 

It is not the imagination that distracts us; it is the artifice attached to it.

It’s commonplace for me to write essays that seem to have some kind of a point and a direction. Yet these are just personal notes; and I suppose there is no great lesson in them. Just an attempt to be within life, to receive God’s blessing, and to contemplate the great glory that flows into us every day, which we are slow to recognize and even slower to give thanks for.

So this morning I give thanks for this day. I hope to meet it with the honor it deserves.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, February 22, 2021

A Secret Practice, part II

 I would speak again of the secret practice which must be performed inside oneself and which one must dedicate oneself to without revealing it to the outside world.

The worship of God is a sacred thing which should not be touched by our ordinary life and the way we live it. 

It's permitted for God to touch ordinary life; in fact it is the right order. But it's forbidden for ordinary life to attempt to touch God. This is one of the secret meanings of the story of the Tower of Babel. All of the ordinary parts were long ago cast into the confusion of tongues so that they would be unable to conspire to touch God. This arrangement continues within human beings to this day.

The paradox is that we find ourselves in the midst of the confusion of tongues, which was referred to by Gurdjieff as the doctrine of having many “I’s.” Their separation from God and their inability to work together was created intentionally so that they could not conspire against the sacred work of God that takes place within each person.

This work is for each creature God’s greatest work; the way that He brings creation itself to the threshold of each Being and gives it form. Each Being begins as a perfect and loving expression of that will and act of creation. Each being is a representative of that sacred and secret word of God, which must not be spoken and never be touched.

Within each being is the door to the Kingdom of Heaven. All of creation has this same door at its heart; and everything that is created emanates from it in a radiance of Perfection that is so great that it annihilates Being itself if one gazes directly into its light. Thanks be to God that we do so rarely, if ever.

If through good fortune and great suffering and an honesty and sincerity God should open even a tiny crack in the door to the Kingdom, it persists within the soul and a small amount of that radiance leaks into ordinary life. 

In this way, God can touch ordinary life; and for those who have such a crack in the door, they already know forever that they cannot touch that radiance, for it belongs to itself and is immeasurably greater that the results of the creatures who receive it. 

Until and unless such knowledge is born in a human being, they will forever think that they have authority. This is the end of a real work.

To receive the light of the Kingdom of Heaven is to Be. One can then begin to form, reciprocally, that secret work of prayer and thanksgiving and prostration that's required in response. There are many guidances on this kind of work available in the great religions, but in the end it is impossible for any external force to lay out the proper template for an individual. The template is created only by the radiance of the Kingdom of Heaven itself; and in knowing that radiance, one is called to and gradually knows what must be done in response. Some know of what I speak.

This must never be shown to other men or women; and although it may reflect the attitudes and norms and forms and substances of the great traditions, it must become its own tradition that belongs exclusively to he or she who receives the radiance of the Lord’s light. 

In this way one becomes responsible as a living and organic expression for the actual tradition, not its form or its theory or its theology or the ideas and intellectual propositions that delineate its parameters. Until this takes place, we live within the theory and the idea, not the breath and the practice. 

Yet it is the breath and the practice one must hope for; and one must come to that breath and that practice on bended knee, with song and prayer, both old and new, both spontaneous and planned.

We are not truly worthy to receive the gifts of the Kingdom of Heaven; yet they arrive. This mystery cannot be comprehended, but we can agree to its propositions as they arise. The truth that they bring is  self evident.

And so one withdraws into a quiet and still place that lies within the soul; and one finds a moment in the morning when all is still, in darkness, and one can remain hidden from everyone else, even one’s loved ones. 

There one comes to the time and place where one offers one’s heart and soul to what is right and what is good, pray for forgiveness for the inability to understand and receive, and ask for help.

How this ought to be done I cannot explain. Only intimations and directions can be given. 

The entire sum of one’s lifetime and all of the experiences and impressions that one has taken a need to be brought to bear upon this particular moment. It is not a moment of sitting as is practiced in the Gurdjieff work or in Buddhism. It is a moment of prayer; and they are not the same thing. Prayer contains an active element in it that does not compromise itself in silence. 

I speak here not of the silence of God, which never contains compromise, but our own silence, which is of our own authority and remains compromised from the beginning. 

I speak here of mysteries which you must attempt to understand yourself. It is not seen, for example, that the silence we usually seek is a silence of our own authority and not the one which is given by the Kingdom of Heaven.

Without forming the secret practice, there is no receptive soil within the soul. There may be earth everywhere, but it has no water, and no light reaches us.

 Ponder that for a while.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Silence, Sensation, Care

 October 14

There's a place where nothing whatsoever needs to be done at which life flows into Being. 

This place is a point of experience within awareness.Of course the body is the vehicle for this location, but the location itself isn’t physical, even though the expression of it is experienced that way. The location is spiritual; it is the point at which the soul touches life and God touches the soul. 

In this way we understand the soul as the mediator between God and life. On the one hand, beyond us, in a realm that is forever hidden, God brings forth the emanations that create. On the other hand, life presents itself with all of creation as it exists. Our awareness rests in the middle between these two places. It is fed from both places, by the inflow of God and the inflow of life. These two forces are not contradictory. But our attitude towards them is. We think we must have one or the other; and above all, we believe that in order to have God, everything must be pure, be perfect, that somehow life is corrupted and in contradiction to that relationship.

Yet God begins pure and purifies Himself. Am I capable of such an action? I don’t think so. Perhaps my belief in purification under my own agency is mistaken. Perhaps the issue is not in the purifying of action or deed, but merely the purifying of intention and agency themselves. Perhaps this is the only part of me that can be pure; the aim, the intention. It needs to take both the perfection of God and the imperfection of life into account and reconcile them in the attitude of my awareness.

This is a confusing place to be. On the one hand, God’s intelligence within is objective; and on the other, life is not. In the distraction of its presence, the impressions of life deliver the greater weight during the average day. Only by balancing them with the inner impression of the inflow of God’s Being can a counterweight arise. And this isn’t so easy, because presence is wallpapered over with action.

Something inside therefore needs to become much quieter and devoted only to the impression of Being. This action lies outside the purview of ordinary intellect, which we also call associative intellect. This intellect has an impetus that can’t be denied; so perhaps I am in a dilemma here. I can’t get rid of the associations.

Yet I can be separated from them. They are not who I am and what I am. They’re part of a complex machinery within me that generates imaginary potential. Successful association is intelligent and intuitively brings the things that are in relationship into contact with one another. Yet this is an association that functions in the context of relaxation, not tension, and it is very unfamiliar to most. One might say that the more intellectually intuitive an individual is, the more properly their association functions. But for the most part, association is at best automatic and at worst becomes a thing to be manipulated for evil purposes.

The best thing to do with my associations is to leave them alone. 

I sit here this morning, for example, with a nearly blank slate in terms of association. This quietness allows for intelligent impressions to arise of what association there is; and it's deeply grounded not in the act of thinking, but first — before any thought – in the active sensation of Being. 

It’s a practice to spend some time in relationship with this active sensation every morning, to clear the mind and just be within the sensation. One doesn’t need to engage in special or ritual activities to do that; on the contrary, one should just try to be as ordinary as possible and to do ordinary things. The rituals have their own intelligence and their own place, and there’s no point in trying to use them to force sensation, to demand it to appear. The sensation should be allowed to appear anywhere it chooses, especially in the absence of ritual and special conditions. It should be encouraged to have the freedom it needs to anchor manifestation in every situation. If I train myself to believe that it is only attainable under special conditions or when I pray or meditate and so on, I'm already putting the leash on what needs to run free. Organic sensation of Being must be given the freedom of movement within Being in order to achieve its potential.

That potential is great. As I mentioned the other day in my notes, the reason I don’t have enough interest in sensation is because I fail to understand its potential. Everything can begin here in sensation at the foundation of Being. The harmonic tone that arises from this particular point is dominant and gathers other tones unto it, aligning them so that there is not just harmony, but, potentially, melody. There will be no harmonic consonance if sensation doesn't sound the first note.

I have heard people argue that this isn’t true, and that one can begin from some other place. This argument is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of exactly what organic sensation of Being is. That is, it emerges from a place that is already misaligned relative to the harmonic consonance of Being; and anything that emerges from such a place already fails to bring relationship between the tones that create the music. It is like adding another dissonant note to what is already dissonant in the belief that that will create harmony. It is more noise, to be sure; but the noise just compounds the problem.

In the sense that there is anything to be purified, my intention towards my sensation is what must remain pure. I make this my aim in the morning. The intelligence of the mind rests principally in its silence; the intelligence of the body rests in its sensation. The intelligence of the feeling rests in its care. Silence, sensation, and care can all be unified at the root of Being, in the place where the soul rests. When these three elements come together, nothing needs to be done. Where they rest together, agency is born without manipulation. This is the point at which I can inhabit my Being. 

I need to care about that. The issue is that I don’t care enough, I lack respect. If care and respect are present in this action of silence and sensation, everything is renewed.

There’s the parable in Matthew 22 about the wedding guest that showed up without a robe. He's thrown out into the darkness — the only one that is truly "chosen" in this parable. He is chosen to be excluded from the wedding, the union. Both the good and the bad get to stay, just not him. So the Kingdom of Heaven is actually very inclusive. 

It just can't include him.

He is wordless, and he has showed up physically, but he lacks care. Of course the parable is much more complex than this simple observation; yet this element of respect is at its heart, because the one who is ejected is ejected because of the lack of respect for the process. He has showed up with the wrong fabric, the wrong material, to participate in the union.

Isn’t this how life is? The kingdom of heaven is the union between soul and God and life. Everything in me is invited to this; and yet part of me shows up unprepared, unwitting, uninformed. Wordless. Inappropriately clothed. That part assumes that it has a right to be where it is; and yet the opposite is true. The most important thing to bring to the wedding is respect; and yet I lack it. Somehow, the king who has organized the wedding senses this; and he must exclude me, because I do not belong. There is a metaphor in here I need to study more carefully.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Notes from October 13


“Humility consists in knowing that in what we call ‘I’ there is no source of energy by which we can rise. Everything without exception which is of value in me comes from somewhere other than myself, not as a gift but as a loan which must be ceaselessly renewed. Everything without exception which is in me is absolutely valueless; and among the gifts which have come to me from elsewhere, everything which I appropriate becomes valueless immediately as I do so.”

_Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, Routledge Classics, p.31

Notes from October 13

I’m not so interested in my sensation, really, because I don’t truly understand its potential. 

Everything that I think I know about it is already false from the beginning; for example, I think I am in charge of something here, rather than just Being which comes into relationship with it.

I can’t be too precious about it either. I can’t walk around all day long thinking I’m going to somehow break my work. I drop it all day long anyway.

 I need to simply ask, what is my relationship with myself right now? 

Not overthink it, but just experience where I am. Sensation can help me understand that life is a whole thing.

Why am I trying this? Why do I do this? I need to see how theoretical I am. Where is the force that grounds thinking and challenges it to acquire a different quality? The effort has to begin with something real. I can’t start from imagination and expect the real to just wander in somewhere. 

If I think I know what the result is or should be, already, I limit myself. 

I can’t work forwards or backwards from where I am. I need to just work from where I am. 

How is my work when it becomes my own and isn’t so much under external influences?

These are various notes I wrote to myself over the last few days. As always, the question of why people don’t understand sensation and mistake the quite ordinary sense of the body, however enhanced, as organic sensation is in front of me. 

The difficulty is with the inflow. If the higher energy is not always flowing in, and I am not always in relationship with it, I lose my Being immediately and with it my organic sensation ceases to exist. 

For most, this is normal, and they want to understand why. Or at least, those who understand what organic sensation of Being is want to understand it. Yet there's no true understanding of organic sensation unless it's permanent. This changes the nature of individuality. So the wish to understand remains separated from understanding itself, because the sensation isn’t permanent. 


I'm dependent upon the inflow of a higher energy if I wish to work. I must submit to this force. The mistake that I constantly make is that I think the force is mine and that I can do this and that. I don’t see that all of the force and strength I draw from for my work comes from the relationship with this higher force.

Once I see this, perhaps something can change. Perhaps I will begin to act serious about my work and a little less seriously about the external circumstances of life. Until then, I will have it the other way around; I think that by acting seriously in an external way, I'll be serious. This is sheer foolishness. I can only be serious inside, where it matters. Outside, not so much. It’s important to be alive, to laugh and have a good time. This is not contradictory to work. 

Seeing my dependency changes the ego as well. It is a different creature when it sees that what it needs does not belong to it and can’t be taken. It begins to learn respect.

I remember, many years ago my teacher Betty Brown said to me, “enjoy your life.” This was said in the midst of instructions, very specific ones, to work. Both things go together. They aren't contradictory. Nothing in life I do has to be changed. My work has to be added to it. Everything I subtract from life in the hope of working will ultimately end up being a loss. 

This is a lesson hard won.

Flagellation will not drive the soul into heaven.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Laws

...and what is the structure of law? What laws can we come under?

A proposal from the treatise on metaphysical humanism:

Have a day filled with life.



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

There is no Freedom

The world sets a false promise in front of us; and we take that false promise into ourselves.

There is a belief that I can become free of what I am; that there’s some form of liberation available, that I can “be free,” and so on. 

To be free is the shining light that starry-eyed I seek. They write songs about it. This should at once make us suspicious; but no — we sing along.

Every spiritual liberation practice relies on this snake oil to attract followers. In fact, it’s nothing like this; there is only the recognition of obligation. In the Christian sense, which is the deepest and most accurate sense, I can never become free of sin. Sin is not what makes me bad; it is what turns me back towards God. If I lost sin, I would lose the spurs with which the horse might be directed. I would lose the path that takes me through the wilderness. 

I need my sin in order to humble me. 

If I try to become “free” of it, I usually do this because I have a sense that I want the freedom. It has become part of my desire for myself, and already it’s tainted. I don’t see how I want to be special and how everything in me turns around this axis. In fact I will insist that’s not the case the moment I encounter this idea; my ego is a specialist in continually asserting that it’s not an ego and assuring me that it isn’t there. I’m too easily deluded by these protestations until I don’t even know I am deluded. I spout the ego’s party line even when I pretend to be objective.

I recognize obligation through the condition of sin.

If one understands this single phrase, it helps to realign priorities in a remarkable way. Yet understanding it takes many years of suffering. Suffering is another function that I need in order to grow from within. Attempting to become free of it mistakes the very nature of suffering itself, and furthermore mistakes the need for my engagement with it. Some branches of esoteric Buddhism rightly recognize this issue; Christianity certainly does, having centralized it in the symbol of Christ on the cross. Yet by and large, even within these practices, the naïve believe that there is some safe place we can go. When Christ said “the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the son of man hath not where to lay his head,” this is what He meant to indicate.

Devoted followers of Gurdjieff’s practice will no doubt by now be thinking of Jeanne de Salzmann’s numerous adages about freedom. Remarks about it are peppered through her personal notes.

Perhaps I will provoke feelings of rejection and anger in devotees when I tell them that there was something she perhaps misunderstood here. Of course, she didn’t understand everything; when she was asked by others to help them, she remarked that she would, “as far as I can.” We understand from this that she had, as Dr. Welch once said of her to awestruck disciples in the kitchen at Armonk, to “put her pants on one leg at a time like everyone else.” 

She didn’t know everything. She got some things wrong. Though I owe her an enormous personal psychic debt that can never be repaid, I do repay in small part when I help to expound the Dharma within my own limited context. 

When JDS used the word freedom, I believe she meant it within a context that may be understood. We cannot hold it up as a shining light we go toward with the promise of salvation. 

Freedom, in the context she used the word, is only freedom from the laws that enslave us — in order that we can come under other laws that do not treat us as slaves, but, rather, subjects. (For the record, I don’t think she actually misunderstood any of this. What she misunderstood was how eagerly people would read her notes and then misunderstand her.)

A subject is different than a slave. We are slaves to the mechanical; but we can become subjects of the Lord. A subject recognizes their obligation and their duty and discharges it. A slave mindlessly follows the directions that are given to him or her. This is the essential difference between slavery and obedience. A slave must be told what to do; an obedient servant knows what to do. One might note that even God Himself is not free of the taint of slavery: the organ kundabuffer enslaved mankind, and the situation is quite exactly described in Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson as such. 

A sobering recognition. Even the Devil himself is in God, who contains all things. The philosophical metaphysical struggle with this inherently factual contradiction is eternal.

The word slave, of course, is a loaded gun in today’s world; yet the word is here with us, and it must be dealt with. In the world of sin and salvation, slaves belong to the devil — the mechanistic, godless forces that crush the actions of life in order to extract the goodness and feed on them for their own benefit. Servants belong to those who intentionally turn towards goodness in order to help it, for the benefit of others. In this way we understand the difference between slaves, who have been enslaved not by God but the devil and themselves; and servants, who voluntarily undertake their obligations towards God. Slavery is involuntary and imposed; this is in the nature of the devil, and sin itself, which enslave us against our conscious will, and force us to what takes place. Service is voluntary and chosen; it is a way of adopting obligation in an active and intelligent form so that I serve what is right and good, not my own sin.

My own sin is perpetually attempting to enslave me; and indeed, it has one of my feet firmly in hand as it tries to pull me into its grave. If I don’t plant the other foot firmly on the ground, if I don’t remember where I am, I will slip. An awareness of my sin helps me keep my balance; and it reminds me of where I am.

Ponder that for a while.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Obligation and Intention


Hudson River, at the Piermont Pier, dawn, Aug. 2019

I cannot deny that pain is a grace that‘s sent to help me.

If I don’t have a set of obligations that I impose upon myself, I have no intention.

The word obligation comes from Latin obligare, which means to bind towards. To go towards something and bind yourself to it. 

This is closely related to the word attention, which comes from Latin attendare, to stretch to.

A human being needs to set themselves obligations, duties that they will attend to upon awakening. A ritual, a rhythm, a set of circumstances that immediately puts a demand on one’s attention and one’s life and requires one to execute a certain set of actions not because one has been told to, or ought to, but because one wishes to put oneself in a bond with oneself. 

If I don’t have an obligation towards myself, I can never form an obligation towards God or towards other people.

For this reason, the first thing that one does every morning is attend to one’s obligation to God. 

There is very little difference between the obligation one imposes on oneself and the obligation one owes to God; they ought to be the same thing, and one ought to understand this quite clearly through the imposition of self-discipline. This doesn’t need to be a set of superhuman tasks, but rather a routine of prayer.

Prayer outside the context of obligation is worthless. I do not pray in order to get something, but because I am obliged to pray. I must put myself under the authority of something greater than who I am and submit to it. I need to see my weakness; and I need help doing that. So the only thing I pray for is an ability to see where I am and to assume the obligations I ought to have.

Ponder that for a while.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Thought and the Word


Oct. 9, Sparkill, NY

Sometimes it’s necessary to conceive of the universe very differently in order to understand it.

Gurdjieff explained to us that the sun has emanations it emits, which can be felt instantly throughout the solar system when they take place. 

What he did not explain is a cosmological context I will now pass on to you.

First of all, what Gurdjieff said was not an allegory. It was an actual fact about cosmology and astronomy that cannot be appreciated without understanding that solar systems are, taken in their entirety, a living creature, with a metaphysical body that shares its cosmological and structural identity with the human body. We're simply built on a smaller scale.

The influences of the sun are felt throughout the solar system; and they aren’t directed at any single planet as an individual per se, because the whole system is a single functioning organism. Each emanation of the sun has a functional purpose according to relationship throughout the system. The overall functioning is identical to that of a human being’s body: the regulatory systems that, for example, direct the way our liver works may seem to be directed towards the liver and for the liver, but actually they serve the whole body. Nothing in the liver takes place outside the context of its relationship to other organisms.

In the same way, solar emanations that may seem to affect the earth in one way or another (as Gurdjieff indicates in his descriptions of solioonensius) actually serve the comprehensive cosmological entity we call the solar system by attempting to bring the earth into alignment with the rest of the system. There are other emanations that affect the other planets; but taken together, it's all part of one thing.

Solar emanations are actually the language of the body of the solar system. 

Each emanation is a word that is spoken; yet this is a bit more than that, because each emanation is actually a thought of the sun’s, a directed impulse that is shared by the entire body in the same way that a thought in the mind arises in man and has an impact on the state and action of the whole body.

Think, for example, of the way an athlete hits a tennis ball. The thought that animates this action is a comprehensive form of thinking, undertaken in large part by the thinking part of moving center, and it spreads through the whole body instantly to coordinate a specific, intentional set of actions.

This situation explains why even though the sun may be facing away from us when a sunspot erupts a flare, or we may be facing away from it at the time this happens — it can happen, of course, in the middle of the night — that emanation has an impact that flows directly into us in that instant, no matter where we are and no matter what position the sun or the planets are facing in. 

The thoughts that the sun emits are comprehensive and universal within the solar system; they reach us regardless of which direction the flare appears to be pointed in, or the direction the earth is facing when they take place. They travel in the same way that impulses travel through neurons; for all intents and purposes, they are instantaneous. The physical presence and attitude (location, inclination and direction of movement) of the planets presents no obstacle to the movement of thought, any more than the heart gets in the way of the functions that are directed towards the liver. By further analogy, thought reaches the arm of the tennis player and directs it no matter what position it is in. 

There is enough here for any thinking creature to ponder in regard to the whole situation. The important thing to remember is that we are part of a much larger body. In this model, the Earth is an organ, Jupiter is an organ, and so on. 

We don’t need to worry so much about that; the body takes care of itself. It’s seeing our place that is helpful here. 

We receive emanations from the sun which can animate our being. 

We are in this sense tiny representatives of the overall thinking function of the solar system. We have an important role to play in this regard; reciprocally, the solar system is "our" whole body on the larger scale, and our actions, thoughts, feelings, our physical presence itself, are all a part of that system. We are the microbes in its gut that help it digest its food. All of the electrical and electromagnetic phenomena in the atmosphere of the earth and other planets and the sun—flares, solar winds, auroras, sprites, lightning— are signals from the nervous system of the solar system. They're a form of communication within the living creature of the solar system; the same phenomenon as the exchange of energies between our cells.

Every atom, molecule, and quanta in the solar system is a part of that system and they all participate together and play various roles in the functioning of the astrological and astronomical body of this particular system.

Solar systems, by the way, play the same role in regard to galaxies. And galaxies play the same role in their relationship to the cosmos. Galaxies have emanations that represent the sum total of the function of their solar systems. These emanations are the way the various parts of the body of the universe communicate with one another. They are not just dead physical substances that race around bashing into one another; they are part of an active thought. The vibration of the One Word of God (Θео-мерт-ма-логос , Gurdjieff’s Theomertmalogos) that resonates throughout the universe is present within these emanations, no matter where they take place. The vibration adumbrates from the entirety of its body into the smallest of its constituents in the same way that our own awareness is able to grow roots down into the molecular presence of our being.

On our own scale, it is entirely possible for a human being to become open to and under the influence of these thoughts, that is, the emanations, of our sun. These thoughts are of a much finer quality than our own thoughts and carry a great deal of spiritual food for being. They are part of what helps form the roots that connect us to the organic sensation of being.

One aim of inner work is to become open to those influences so that they penetrate the molecular structure of being much more intimately and concentrate themselves within us. The effects of this are extraordinary and do not have anything to do with us, in a certain sense. We are merely custodians and stewards with an obligation to help. This is that same astral “help” discussed by Gurdjieff in Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson in the chapter The Holy Planet Purgatory.

One might say that these are mysteries that cannot be approached through intellectual understanding; but that simply isn’t true. The deepest mystery can never be revealed, but the functional and structural nature of various laws that express it conform in such a way that they can be understood. This is part of Gurdjieff’s obligolnian striving to know evermore and more about the laws of world creation and world maintenance.

We have, you see, a very different place and purpose in the function of nature, the planet, the solar system, and the universe itself then we conceive of. We are so distracted by the mechanistic rationalism of our culture and the imperatives and greed that drive our own survival that we forget these things. They were known in ancient times; but now they seem like quaint myths.

If one awakens organically to the “quaint myth” one discovers that reality is quite different than what one thought it was when one first reached for the cudgel of one’s intelligence to "conquer the world."

 Ponder that for a while.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Notes from October 6


Some notes from October 6, 2020

On care

Either I care who I am, or I don’t. 

If I don’t care, nothing will ever change.  

I have to find the part in me that cares and do my work from that part. I can’t just learn to listen to that part; I have to learn to live in it. It has to be stronger than the part that doesn’t care. I need to learn a love for it.

I don’t see very clearly how I’m divided into parts that care and don’t care. This is part of the problem, the way I don’t see my lack of unity. If I clearly see what cares and doesn’t care, I much more clearly see that I’m not unified, that what I call my “struggle” — and labeling it is a mistake, because when I do that I think I know what it is, and I don’t —is between parts that care and parts that don’t. This is the essence of the matter. Most of me doesn’t care about being who I am.

Folks who don’t care who they are can do just about anything, no matter how stupid or irresponsible. We see this around us every day. It angers us, but we don’t see we are just like this ourselves.

On sensation

Within sensation is a path to the other parts. I keep thinking that this is a place I go to from where I am; but in reality, it's the place I need to start from. From that place, I should go to the other places. I begin in sensation, not in thinking, not in feeling. This is where home is.

The essence of sensation is that it plans both feet in truth. It doesn’t judge. Everything I want to understand about going away from associations, from distancing myself from the parts that want to make all the decisions by themselves, begins in the sensation.

There are two kinds of sensation. There is the organic sensation of Being, the molecular sensation of the spirit and soul, and then there is the sensation I understand from this side of the river. They're very different. For a long time I used to mistake sensation from this side of the river for something from the other side of the river. 

But today I know they are very, very different, and belong to different levels of Being. I need to respect this, to remember it always.

The organic sensation of Being arrives from a higher level and begins the harmonic overtones of its resonance from a planetary, not earthly, level. It is attuned to the vibrations of the moon and the sun and obeys their laws, which are of the higher laws on this level.

The laws on this level are additive, so 24 of them come from the levels above me. I need to come under those laws.

Ponder that for a while.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.