Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The Sirens Sweetly Singing


One of my favorite songs by the rock band Cream is Tales of Brave Ulysses, which features some terrific guitar playing by Eric Clapton. 

In the last post, I pointed out that sensation is the mast of our ship, which we need to be tied to. The analogy is broad and the allegory is flawed: it's meant to serve only as a picture of us standing upright in the middle of life, in a fixed position, like the man in the center of the trembling dervish movement with the prayer book. This movement, by the way, has everything to do with what I said in the last post. 

The Cream song is equally incorrect. Ulysses wasn't brave.

You’ll note, in the Odyssey, that Ulysses is unable to resist the attraction of the Sirens voluntarily; he's too unconscious. He wanders through the world lost because he hasn’t developed a personal center of gravity. 

In the end, of course, he gets home and commits depraved acts of violence — the only way he knows how to be. He lives in an encompassing contradiction where he wishes for security on every shore he's cast up on, yet has made his whole life a process of waging war, murdering, and pillaging. When he has the power, ships, and men, he lands in foreign countries, disembarks, slays, and seizes women and treasure; but when he is powerless, naïvely — like a child — he wants the kings of the nations he stumbles into to shower him with gifts and praise. 

I think we can fairly say that he's no hero, but just a slave and a fool of the ego, acting out through all its conceits and rage. 

He has no center of gravity. He asks others to do his work for him; others to tie him to the mast.

We need to tie ourselves to our own mast.

Bravery involves courage; encourage comes from the heart. In the midst of the Corona pandemic, as I encounter folks who feel bereft and perhaps even desperate, alone and isolated — everyone is going through some kind of emotional reaction related to this — I've often told people, especially the younger ones, that we need to have courage. 

The word courage itself means “of the heart.” We must come to our lives not just from a fixed position, but with feeling — from the heart. This means that in addition to having a solid sensation of ourselves which unifies our Being, we need to bring our feeling, our care, up against that sensation and join them intimately. “I am” has this quality. We can’t just say it with the mind; we must also say it with the body in the wordless action of sensation, and we must say it with the feelings in the wordless action of care.

Meister Eckhart says, in sermon 95, “The powers of the soul, which are so many and far-reaching, he must transcend—even those that operate in thought, although thought can work wonders in itself. But this

thought too must be transcended if God is to speak to the powers that are undivided.”

In this way we begin to understand, perhaps, that “I am” transcends words. He goes on to say, a little later in the sermon, “the soul does not know itself except by likeness, but angels know themselves and God without likeness.” 

What this means is that in the true “I am,” we know ourselves without likeness. We are not like this or like that; we are

This is the fixed position from which the Sirens cannot lure us; it is the place of knowing ourselves that comes from the heart, an infallible compass. 

We cannot be bound there by the crew of our ship; for the binding to be effective, we must bind ourselves.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Notes on Being and Association

There's often discussion about how my associative thoughts “take me away” from self remembering, self awareness. 

Self remembering, the self that is aware, appears to be weak.

I need to find a new position in myself. I need to be in a fixed position and act flexibly from it, not occupy a series of flexible positions and try to fix things from them. 

“Things”: that is, what I call objects, events, circumstances, and conditions, cannot be fixed. These represent truths that I encounter and must correspond to.

Another way of understanding it is as though I sit in a room and the associations come and go in and out of it. Yet I'm always in that room. I have an identity. “I am” resides in a fixed position within Being that doesn't change. 

If I gather my center of gravity and concentrate myself, then associations become interlopers, not agents.

An interloper is someone who doesn't belong in a place. They interfere. They may be positive or negative, but the point is that their interference is accidental. If I am like a dog inside, I follow them as though they were my master. 

Yet I want to be the master. They should be the dogs.

Interlopers are different than visitors. A visitor becomes an honored guest. This is the tradition in Islamic societies. I have an intention towards the visitor that is quite clear; and I play a role. Do you see and understand the correspondence here? If parts of my associative Being are visitors, I already have a very different relationship to them than if they are interlopers, vagabonds that wander in and out of my house as though they owned it and take anything they want. 

This is my house. I ought to be generous in sharing it; but I also want to be attentive to it and value it. I can’t do that if I live in it like some kind of Hurrah’s nest, where everything is thrown about in confusion.

I want to say a few more words about associations and how they become agents if I have no fixed center of Being. When I say that they become agents, I mean that they acquire an independent force of their own which empowers them with the ability to lead me wherever they want to. I believe in them. I follow them, as I said earlier, like a dog.

There's a real place in ourselves where we can stand our ground and be firm, seeing these things come and go.

As always, the sensation of presence, the organic sensation of Being, provides the center of gravity and the attractive anchor of Being from which this becomes possible. Sensation is the mast to which Ulysses is tied in order to avoid the Sirens. 

 May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The Force of Presence


The force of presence flows throughout the body in equal measure in all parts if it is mature.

This does not mean it has no capacity for concentration in specific parts. Rather, it can concentrate in any part according to need. The difficulty is that even if we have presence, we do not precisely understand what need there is. Because presence is composed in no small part from intuition, we can allow the energy to concentrate according to its own intelligence. It may, for example, concentrated in the hands; or in the solar plexus, or at the top of the head, or the forehead, or the soles of the feet, and so on. All of these locations, the reader will note, are part of the yogic tradition of chakras. Yet presence in the field of energy that imparts life needs to be allowed to do its own work with these parts once it is active.

More important overall is to gather the stillness that this energy imparts and concentrate that quite intimately within being. There doesn’t need to be any overall special condition for this; one can sit quite simply and quietly in relaxation in the morning without some elaborate meditation practice, and just be present to the energy of presence, which by its reflexive action and the recognition already concentrates such as is necessary.

At any given point of development, one can concentrate no more than what is necessary without bad results. So the matter is delicate. It requires a sensitivity that is not born of the mind and its plans, but the energy itself. Everything is about the relationship. God always comes to us in the right measure. It is when we decide to take that things go wrong.

I often talk about the blank spot these days. The blank spot is a place of emptiness and stillness, rather like a white canvas that is not been painted on, from which all that is intelligent and good emerges. It is hidden behind a veil, and must ever be so, because the purity and intelligence of its nature should not be violated by man. We are simply creatures that express, if we are relaxed and open, from this place. The creative arts are one of the primary places from which the results of this emptiness can be manifested; but any part of the social activities of man can be influenced by it, even the sciences or — dare I say it — politics. The point is that the blank spot, the open place within being that allows a better influence than the influence of selfishness to throw in, is a place of miracles. You never know what is going to emerge from the stillness if you allow it to do its work.

The stillness, of course, will not manifest the action of presence and being if I am busy doing everything everywhere at all times. I need to cultivate a new relationship with presence that will allow me to act at all times from within stillness, even when I’m quite busy. This is a difficult trick, because if the energy of presence is not legitimately alive, intelligently active, and I am not constantly vigilant, I will instantly become mistaken about the source both of the energy that animates me and the action I undertake. I get confused. There are some words for this, among them the Buddhist word attachment, Gurdjieff’s word identification, and the Christian word “sin.” Sin is already a falling away from grace; and the failure to be in relationship with the energy of presence is exactly that falling away from grace.

I often use the word organic sensation of being to describe presence. I’ve noticed lately working with people that almost everyone misunderstands the word “sensation” when I use it. Even when I qualify the word by saying “the organic sensation of being” or, “organic sensation,” or, “intimacy,” people get confused about what I’m talking about because they don’t seem to have an experience of this quite permanent force of presence that ought always to be active within being. Swedenborg called it the inflow; Jeanne de Salzmann called it an influence. They mean the same thing. It is the force that flows into us and creates being. This is a very active and powerful force that, once it becomes manifest, is indelible and inviolable.

It may wax and wane according mostly to solar influences, but it does not go away. It is quite different than any ordinary physical sensation, so different that it is like the contrast between darkness and light.

I don’t use the word presence to describe this most of the time because I have always chosen to use my own language, which is something else Gurdjieff asked his people to do. (Those who doubt me can refer to the 1943 wartime meetings where he makes exactly such a comment.) If we don’t make an effort to express ourselves as precisely as we can using our own language, we fail both ourselves and the work. The Gurdjieff work has fallen in to a set of habitual language conventions, I suspect no matter what group one is in. Everyone in the group is supposed to be very different in order to work together effectively; and trying to make everyone the same and have everyone say the same things in the same way is thus a great mistake. Yet it happens, because humans would rather conform than be themselves.

Anyway, the question has arisen in me whether I ought to start using the word presence so that people understand I am not talking about ordinary sensation. The usage would be exactly in keeping with the way the word presence is meant when it is slung around like cafeteria food. The difficulty with the word presence is that it comes with its own fully packed suitcases, that is, it is luggage everyone carries around. People confuse this word with lots of different things, but most especially with the idea of charisma, because they believe that presence and charisma are related.

Although this is true, charisma is a malevolent force.

True presence does not spread itself all over the toast like butter. It remains hidden in order to conserve its energy and does not broadcast itself to every Tom Dick and Harry. In fact, if it is truly concentrated, it does not broadcast itself at all through the energy fields that it has the capacity to use. That’s not how it ought to work; because when it does this, it dissipates itself in an unnecessary way.

Well perhaps I have said enough about this for one morning. I would just ask you to think carefully about it, to feel and sense it as well as think about it. To see what the relationship between this set of ideas in your own experience or presence is.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Notes on Sensation, Dec 2 2020


Notes from Dec. 2

Unfortunately, because so few people have a concrete and deeply examined experience of Being these days, we're left in a situation where so much of what is said are quotes from various dead authorities.

I’m not dead yet; and I don’t claim to be an authority. But 20 years of immersion in various "signature experiences" of Being have left me with some distinct and carefully examined impressions.

The attention needs to be given the freedom to rediscover its own center of gravity. Thought won’t do that. People are perpetually confused by thinking and thought and the way that it produces an impression and begin to believe that this is a path to Being. 

It is not a path to Being. It is an accessory to it; and a vital one. But the path does not begin in the thinking.

I need to be rooted in my body without compromise. 

Then, I have the ability to wait.

There's a huge difference between the sensation that one encounters in exercises and through the volition of the mind and its attempt to connect, and the sensation that arises and manifests as a living part of the organism. One is fleeting and directed, without authority. The other one is powerful and permanent, and exercises its own authority throughout. 

If one doesn't understand what this means, one doesn't understand sensation. If one's organic sensation isn't permanent, always there, exercising its authority, no one is home. Fragments are there; the thinking is. But without the permanent authority of sensation in one's body, as its own independent entity, one is not there. One just thinks one is there.

The authority of sensation roots us permanently and irrevocably in life. This is not a happy or pleasant moment, although it does carry its satisfactions. It is a moment where one can no longer avoid what one is. One is required by the conditions and the laws one comes under to serve what one is, and this means one has to serve the things one doesn’t want to be as well as the things that one does want to be. One is required by the conditions and laws to see these things. 

One isn't going to like it. It isn't for liking. It is for Being.

The general problem with us is that we don’t want to Be. We want to like ourselves, and we want to like Being. 

There's a huge difference between Being and what we like. 

Being isn't here to be liked. It's here for us to serve within it. Actually, to be quite frank, none of us want to be here and serve. One might say this is the essence of the problem. If you go through Meister Eckhart’s sermons for many years, with some attention to detail, and a direct understanding of this question of Being, you'll eventually see that he talks about this all the time, although he doesn't talk about it in the rather simple and unreligious language I use here. 

Perhaps the first step ought to be to stop liking everything. When Gurdjieff said “like what it does not like,” what he was in essence saying is that you don’t have room to like things here in this work. Everything has got to go. My own teacher — another dead person whose authority I will now ironically quote — said to me, “the things you love the most are the first things that have got to go.”

I would urge you to do nothing but contemplate the question of this authority of sensation until you understand it. 

I know some few people who truly understand this; and each one of them recognizes the other because one is different if one has this understanding. Even in the Gurdjieff work, the understanding is quite limited; far from everyone has it. And the reason for this is before any other reason the belief that one does have it and one does understand it. 

That has got to go. 

When you reach a sensation, an authority of sensation, that is permanent and irrevocable and nails what you formerly were into the crucible of a harmonic awareness of Being from which you cannot escape—in which what you think you are is dead and you become alive again in a different way—then you have an understanding. 

When you're confronted with the terror of being unable to escape, then you have an understanding. 

When you're required by law, and not just by circumstance, to see how you are, then you have an understanding. 

This isn't a territory where compromise makes itself comfortable. It isn't a territory where commitments can be casually betrayed. It is a territory, quite frankly, that one won’t want to be in at first. 

With time, the humility and generosity that this condition teaches you with will become your best friend. But it will not be the friend of your life and the way you behave. It will be the friend of your inner work; and until it has that friend, your inner work is weak and alone. 

This is a difficult circumstance, because in order to be strong, inner work must have a relationship; and that relationship has to be rooted in this authority of sensation. If this grounding wire is not always grounded, then the positive and negative currents cannot flow through the cables that provide them. If intelligence and feeling are not rooted in sensation, the current in them fluctuates constantly, sometimes creating spectacular sparks which you think are important spiritual experiences, otherwise leaving everything that flows completely dead. You can't remember yourself. Your awareness springs in and out of being only according to the accidental flow of the grounding force. 

This has to stop being accidental.

Imagination is the enemy. Sensation is home territory. Don’t let the associations and the imagination they produce take you away from home.

 If this was the only advice I ever gave anyone, it would already be enough to begin something practical.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Notes from Nov. 30


Personal notes, Nov. 30 2020

The intellectual mind is perpetually locked into a self-inflected state of reasoning.

It can’t help but refer to itself. This is its natural tendency. It is furthermore constructed in order to do this.

Unless and until a counterweight is developed in the mind of sensation— and, afterwards, in the mind of feeling — nothing else can be done.

Each of these minds also has its natural tendency, its inherency, and hence its limitation. But the limitations of a mind without words are fundamentally different than the limitation of a mind that has them. These minds all need one another, because ultimately it turns out that a mind with words is indispensable for external relationship; and the development of all three minds depends to a large extent upon that factor.

Yet the intellectual mind serves as the thread that connects this; it’s not of itself the center of gravity of Being. That center of gravity rests first in sensation; this is that which knows that I am. It rests second in feeling, which knows that I care; and only then, if it is firmly grounded in these two principles, being and caring, does it effectively express itself in the medium of intelligence and meaning. 

Intelligence and the consequent development of meaning without these two grounding factors becomes what Gurdjieff would have called psychopathy. 

These are technical matters which won’t be of help unless one understands the permanent nature of sensation. One must begin there in order to conduct this investigation effectively. And when one begins there, one begins, essentially, in nothingness, in the fundamental field of vibration that receives. Only by beginning in nothingness and receiving is the fundamental field of feeling stimulated. 

I’ve been pondering this question this morning because there is a sense of the end of things, and an understanding that feeling needs to come to the highest state of its own intelligence in confronting that inevitable fact. Here one brushes up against the reason that the intellectual faculty of each center is essential for its development; and that while each center, like the whole Being, needs to be grounded first in its sensation of itself and second in its feeling of itself, they all need to develop into the highest possible state of intelligence, which Gurdjieff would have called the objective intelligence, in order to grasp the essential nature of one’s Being and oneself. 

Paradoxically, the objective intelligence of Being does not rest within one’s self; it's manifest from a higher place and a state of grace. That's a subject for long discussion.

Pondering this, one sees that a certain form of wisdom must develop not just in the mind, but also in the sensation and the feeling. That wisdom is an awareness not of grand expansions, but of tightly constrained limitations. It is within the tight constraints of those limitations that Being must dwell; and it is not given a choice in this matter. It's as tightly constrained as the place to which devils are banished. 

All aspiration, in a certain sense, consists of fantasies about exceeding these limitations; yet we'll not exceed the limitations, any more than we'll avoid the inevitable consequences of our own mortality. 

We are within the limitations; and this is the truth we must absorb.

In this context, it becomes essential to see fantasy for what it is. One can't eliminate it; and one must have it, because it is a form of play for the intelligence. The intelligence, if it's deprived of play, will quickly sour in one way or another. Intelligence is a child of Being; and like any other child, it needs to be given toys to play with in order to keep it occupied. This, while the adults of Being settle down to the real job, the real work, of making a serious effort.

Serious effort always begins from and remains within the limitations. The limitations help both to create and define one’s nothingness. 

Nothingness and the sense of thereof is actually a support for the emotional center and the development of feeling. It's only when it's contemplated as a property of the self and a thing to be owned that it becomes damaging. One could have a long discussion about the way that depression emerges from this self-inflection of nothingness. Self-inflection of nothingness is no more than an effort to retain somethingness in the face of the inevitability of death.

I’ve been reading Meister Eckhart’s sermon 89 over the past week. This is a long and complex sermon that has many important thoughts related to the above questions, although the relationships may not reveal themselves easily. 

It's the taste of material like this that needs to be rolled over on the tongue of one's spiritual being, again and again, in order to get a better sense of where we are and why our suffering is necessary.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Tastes Like Water

I’ve never been a big fan of René Daumal, despite his outsized influence on the Gurdjieff work and the undeniable appeal of his work Mount Analogue.

The man was a self-destructive drug addict. There is no doubt that creative and acute thought and insight can come from such states, but when they propagate themselves throughout the course of a life, absolute error creeps in. Those enamored by the genius of kaleidoscopic intelligence will always be hypnotized by it; and so of course error begins to look like genius. 

Dare I say it — think of Donald Trump. He is a certain type of addictive genius, a true hasnamuss in the most insidious and objectively factual sense of the word. He has hypnotized vast numbers of people; they are certain what he says is true. And we must always be on our guard against such men.

Is Daumal in the same class? Not even close. He is of a very different flavor. His deconstructive metaphysics, which reject all dogmas in favor of a transcendental nihilism, are far more intelligent and nuanced than Trump’s simplistic philosophy of destruction of everything in favor of the self. Daumal, along with others who I fear may have all too well both understood and at the same time misunderstood  Gurdjieff's work, proposes the destruction of the self in favor of everything; and this is close enough to the marrow of the bones of religious experience to create a tremendous attraction to his ideas, even to validate them, because many of them are drawn from a well filled with truth.

One forgets, in doing so, that wells do not always just contain truth. No well is absolutely pure; and almost anything can be put in them. Thus the water is affected, even if water is still water, looks like water,

tastes like water.

There is a certain paralyzing irony in the fact that Daumal’s work, in its rejection of dogma and, by implication, text itself, survives (like all its brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles) only as a text. In a certain sense, the kind of work that he writes about and inspires, the work that he himself aspired to, cannot be textualized. And no matter how hard those who wish to deconstruct all meaning in favor of a (perhaps, but perhaps not blissful) transcendental or metaphysical void try to do so, they always turn directly to the tools of meaning itself, to words, in the attempt.

Because there are no other tools. 

One is drawn to the question of whether the action of words is a cataphatic or apophatic entity. Interestingly enough, some of those who consider themselves the more sophisticated of the philosophers insist, more or less, that they are apophatic, even though this is functionally impossible. Apophatic philosophy itself is in and of itself a form of meaning that contradicts its own end. Put bluntly, the apophatic path has to abandon itself at the beginning in order to reach its own goal; and if we abandon, under the considered advice of its own impetus, the apophatic path, the only other three places we can go are the cataphatic path, limbo, or nowhere at all. 

This dilemma is rarely discussed. It leads us to the proposition that one should abandon everything to go nowhere; and if this isn’t the nihilistic apotheosis of meaning and wisdom, then nothing is.

I suppose some will argue I have misunderstood the propositions; and it’s entirely possible. When discussing the idea that each of us has a superpower some time ago, a friend asked me what I thought mine was. 

“Stupidity,” I answered myself, because my ongoing and lifelong experience of myself is that I am not really that smart. I say this simply because I measure my intelligence against what is needed in the world, and I always find it distinctly lacking.

His reply was that my superpower appeared to be an excess of modesty. 

I think it was a very clever retort, but I am anything but modest. My ego boasts from within in a relentless cacophony of self-congratulation, and I spend the better part of my day arguing with it.

Think well on yourself today, and live.

And goof around a bit.


Friday, March 12, 2021

Secrets of the Solar Cycle, redux


Nick van Laer

Nov. 13 2020

My Father's Birthday.

Some notes on the nature of sunspots

If one is able to sense the emanations of the sun directly, a wide range of solar energies become available to the inner organism not just as passive, but as active supports for life, feeling, and inner work.

Sunspots play a special role for all the planets and sentient organisms in a particular solar system. Sunspots are the results of the inner work of the sun, as it matures from within the inner Being of the sun and emerges on its surface. 

Each of these regions is the product of an unfathomable amount of conscious labor and intentional suffering. The flares that they emit represent the expansion of the love and anguish consequent to such labor and suffering. These have a profound impact upon the being of both planets and smaller sentient awarenesses in each solar system.

It is not just about the flares and their dramatic impacts. The sunspot itself does work over a long period of time, little of it visible to us. All along it digests and matures the effort of its own inner work. 

This means that a sunspot may begin by emanating a particular influence; and that may have one effect on a person’s work. Yet as the sunspot ages, grows, matures, and slowly fades, it reaches a point where the work it has undertaken attains a reproductive zenith and dispenses its benefits. (Its work is esoterically sexual.) This part towards the end of a sunspot’s existence provides very rich food for the spiritual growth of the rest of the solar system.

Human beings are capable of participating in this cycle of spiritual food throughout the course of their existence if they become open to the direct influence of solar emanations. 

This can either take place harmoniously or inharmoniously. That is to say, one can be either consciously or unconsciously influenced by solar emanations; and within that range, one can either be harmonized with the vibrations, or end up in a dissonant condition. 

Dissonant conditions produce pathologies. Of all the pathologies that can arise in relation to solar energies within systems, unconscious dissonant influence produces the most pathologies.

We could roughly map the four different states of solar confluence within individual humans as follows:



Conscious/dissonant (Hasnamussian)


Be well within today.



Tuesday, March 9, 2021

November 20


Notes from November 2020


What changes my intention? I want to have a real intention in life. It should be inward, not outward. All my outward intention takes care of itself very easily, it's driven by little engines of desire that already know what they want. It barely needs me to function.

There is a much larger intention connected to my inner life that I need to pay much better attention to. It is alive and is interested in life itself and in living itself, in Being, not in doing. 

It precedes what is done. 

It is interested in the will of the absolute, not my will, and how I might become aligned to that within the roots of my soul.

Otherwise, why all this effort? 

Why bother with anything? 

Why have Being?

Can I sense the play of forces without characterizing them? Can I be within the forces with some sensitivity, be in relationship with them? 

Can I let my intelligence, my sensation, and my feeling come into an intentional conjunction that functions as a result of inner conditions, and is not just led around by the nose because of outer ones? 

I need to be very serious about these questions, because this is the center of my life. Not serious in a depressing or ponderous or intellectual way, but serious in the sense of life and joy, which are the most serious things that there can be.


I only ever work on one thing: sensation first, then the rest.

If my work is fragmented, what can make it more whole? If sensation does not participate, forget about it. Nothing will become whole because the anchor is missing. The ship drifts. Even if the ship needs to go somewhere I need to know where the anchor is, to haul it up and to keep it stowed in the right place, because I will need it over and over again.

I should know that what I say makes sense before I speak. I should never need to end something I say to another about work with, “does that make sense?”, Or, “if that makes any sense.” If I’m not speaking sense fully, with sensation, why speak at all? Seeing involves being present enough to bring a native intelligence to what is said.

 If I speak and I speak vaguely and don’t have something specific to say, if my effort isn’t good enough to bring the real question, what I offer is oatmeal. It is flavorless mush. I need to be bringing bacon, not oatmeal.

To be touchy-feely is not enough. This isn’t actually practical work, it just makes me feel good emotionally and think that something meaningful is happening. 

Everything is with the head. Imaginary. 

I need to focus my mind clearly and use my thought in a practical way, with an economy, so that it evaluates with efficiency and stands ready to serve, rather than wandering around in a daze.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Notes on real "I"


In order for man to become a man or a woman to become a woman, many parts must be blended together.

This isn’t just a matter of the centers cooperating, of developing a real “I.” Of course that is essential; yet what is a real “I?”

“I” is composed of many different substances and materials, a vast range of impressions and associations which have fallen onto the surface of the planet during the course of a lifetime. One isn’t just an “adult,” one also contains within oneself the child, the adolescent, the young adult, and so on. One even has a dog and a cat in oneself; and other creatures as well, for example, a snake. Everyone has a snake in them, and the way in which they deal with their snake is critical to the nature of their being.

In order for a real “I” to even exist in the first place, all of these different elements —which are indelibly engraved in the stone of one’s essence and being — need to be integrated. They all have to exist together. Anyone who doubts the nature of this function or how it manifests in a developed human being can read about it by discerning Gurdjieff’s character in, for example, The Women of the Rope, or some of the way that he presents himself and says things in the book of meetings from 1944 — which is, to date, only available in French. 

Gurdjieff gives many clues about this particular situation, but it is up to the intelligent man or woman to digest them and compare the situation to their own inner state. Much of this question of repairing the past and preparing the future has to do with the integration of all these different parts. One still, for example, has a child in oneself; and one must learn to satisfy the child as much as the adult, because if the child isn’t satisfied, the child will throw tantrums. Many people are like this; and everyone’s child occasionally throws a tantrum, even if you were Gurdjieff himself. He threw tantrums and swore; unapologetically, as it happens, even enthusiastically.

It’s unavoidable. This is in the nature of children; so one has to be discerning, one has to use one’s mind, one has to learn to discriminate. How to satisfy the child? Each child, as with all children, is different and has specific needs. Some children are even “special needs” children. One has to know what kind of child one has (there is more than one child in us) and make sure that the child is given the lollipop when necessary, and so on. It’s the same with the teenager: he or she has to be allowed to behave the way a teenager behaves once in a while. Otherwise the teenager will rebel, and we all know what rebellious teenagers are like. 

In equal measure, the man has to be allowed, on occasion, to be a man, even though it may be politically incorrect; and the woman must be allowed to be a woman, even though that may damnably frustrate the men.

Perhaps you can see from this how complex and social the inner life of a human being is. There are only two ways to organize this society: consciously or unconsciously. The unconscious organization of one’s inner society, one’s inner family, is chaotic and you never know who's going to be in charge. 

In the conscious organization of the inner family there is both a nurturing and loving mother and a paterfamilias, a father who oversees everything. The tradition of the holy family is actually a story about this inner organization and about how something very new and much higher can come into it if it is well coordinated and everything — the animals, the wise men, the Angels, the shepherds — all come together in one place to honor a higher principle, the birth of something new.

Much more could be said about this, but I think what I've remarked on here is quite enough for now. 

Any thinking individual with a sensitivity to themselves and their inner life will be able to go from here into valuable territory.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Notes from October 19


Notes from October 19

You think you have an attention, and yet everything we learn in this work shows us we don’t.

You think that attention belongs to you. But it’s the other way around. And yet an attention is possible. 

It isn’t my attention. I participate.

The pandemic has refocused the question of my own work. How do I more intelligently gather my personal magnetism in the midst of isolation? I don’t just need to bring the “parts” into relationship. They are big things, clumsy pieces of a puzzle that has a great deal of detail in it. It’s the details that need to come into relationship. If they don’t, the big parts won’t fit together. So the magnetism, the attraction of the molecular parts of being needs to concentrate itself.

Is there an organized work in me? Perhaps I don’t establish the order. I just allow the laws to do so. If I’m going to do this, I need to be very gentle with my ordinary parts.

I always want to adopt someone else’s point of view. I change it a little and call it my own. I'm a hunter that specializes in having my photograph taken with other people’s kills. 

It would be useful to let this go and to try and allow an original intuition. One that doesn’t rely on posing with the ideas of others in order to make me look important. It would be useful to stop posing and to just stand within my own life and allow it to be ordinary, allow myself to be ordinary. 

If I really think about it carefully and I experience the question in a living way, I begin to see that everything that comes out of human beings is this kind of posing. For a human being to just be themselves is a very big thing, and quite rare. People who do this appear to others to be simple and perhaps even stupid; posing by adopting a cloak made of what everyone else is and does brings us into sympathetic relationship, but it conceals our actual nature at the same time. 

The minute all of that is gone, it turns out we are like the man in In Search of the Miraculous who, when he was reduced to his essence through hypnotism, turned out to only be interested in raspberry jam.

When we hear this story, we're tempted to laugh at how simple the man is; yet that simplicity rests in a foundation of absolute honesty, something that none of those who laugh at it have in them.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.