Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Notes on Feeling, part 3: Seeing and Feeling


The third of three parts.

So I brought up the difference between seeing and feeling in the last essay, and I sense that folks are perhaps going to misunderstand the distinction here.

To see is indeed essential; yet I want you to think carefully about this activity for a moment. We find ourselves at what might be called for many of us the beginning of our work — for everything is always a beginning — and yet it is quite literally a beginning, because we’re learning to see how we are, and that function, no matter how lofty our ambition, how sincere our intention, how committed our endurance to it may be, is a function for now of the outer parts. 

That is to say, although seeing can effectively serve as a bridge between the inner and the outer parts, which we cross in one direction (from without) in the hopes of being able to go within and stay there —, in other words, more fully inhabit our Being instead of experiencing Being as a tourist in Disneyland taking snapshots — it is essentially a function of the outer parts.

Now, in the discussion between inner and outer parts, it is easy to make the mistake of devaluing the outer parts, and it would be a terrible mistake indeed, because without them, we would cease to exist. Being is dependent not on the inner alone, and not on the outer alone, but in a developed relationship between the two. The outer must take its responsibility for that action just as the inner does. A close reading of Meister Eckhart’s sermon three, which I published commentaries on not so long ago, will help describe the relationship; and eventually, I’ll be publishing a commentary on sermon two, which casts further light on the subject. 

But for now, let’s understand that seeing is an outer action. It will always be valuable; it will always be, within its own right and the natural limits of its activity, essential for us.

Yet any fool can see (you’ll excuse the pun) that seeing alone is not enough. A fool can see; but a wise man discriminates and judges. The aim of seeing is, ultimately, to discriminate and then—yes—to judge. 

Yet when we use the word judge the word does not perhaps mean the same thing you think it does.

Judgment is generally considered to be a punitive action. A judge identifies a crime and convicts according to it. The judge corrects a misdeed, and so on. We all have a judge like that in us who beats us up constantly; and yet this isn’t the kind of judge we need.

Lest you think to yourself, “well, Gurdjieff never said anything about judges,” remind yourself that Gurdjieff said a great deal about policemen. The intellect, as he pointed out, is meant to function as the policeman of our inner being. Hopefully you’re familiar enough with his comments on the matter that we don’t need to discuss that further. The point is that the analogy by no means ends here. There is a higher authority than the policeman; and that is the judge. The judge is prominent feature in most traditional religions; and we need to go there for a better understanding of the actual role of discrimination and choice, which is the essence of judgment.

We all know that a person who has bad judgment makes for poor company. So we don’t want to have bad judgment; we want to have judgment… and it has to be “good.” 

But how?

To judge comes from Latin roots that mean to speak the law: a determination is made. Gurdjieff did in fact speak a great deal of judges from within, although he never used the word. Objective mentation is a form of judgment. This is not judgment that finds fault with the self in anger; it is judgment that sees the self from a larger perspective and corrects it. This bears a close relationship to Meister Eckhart’s comment on the source of goodness in sermon two and three; true judgment comes from a higher level. It flows into the soul from God. Yet this kind of judgment is impossible to achieve without a very different relationship of our inner parts.

Most of the judgment that we encounter comes from our outer parts, who have set themselves up as an authority. They appear to have all the power; and indeed, under ordinary circumstances, they do, because the inner solar system is arranged such that the center of gravity is askew. Reforming the center of gravity in sensation is essential in order to right the functional movement of the planetary bodies. 

At that point, once law is established — the planetary bodies in the solar system are in a rightful gravitational alignment — then what is “objective”, that which flows according to law, can exercise itself in a right way. This is related to the Buddhist concepts of right thought, right action, which are alternate interpretations of exactly the same thing.

Our perspectives, then, must be formed from seeing and from without — at least initially. 

Yet we intuit, and have had tastes of, a different perspective—the inner perspective from across the bridge that seeing has provided—in which everything looks entirely different. This isn’t just an attractive place; we sense that we didn’t know it was there before, and that it has more gravity and intelligence in it than my outward manifestations do. It is as though I’m a completely different person from that other side of the bridge.

I am. 

Here is where the danger lies, because I can’t assume thereby that I should throw the other person out. Paradoxically, I need to be two persons; and I don’t know anything about how to do that — in fact, it seemingly contradicts all of the things I’ve ever heard about inner unity, overcoming dualistic thinking, and so on. 

But leave that aside for a moment, because it is just intellectual meandering and distracts me from the task of inhabiting both persons, which is entirely possible, as long as I stop thinking about it all the time.

This is where feeling comes in. Feeling is buried deep within the capacity of the inner being. It is not a thing of the outer world; and this is what separates it from emotion. Yet it is asleep; as Gurdjieff put it when he described remorse of conscience (a not-so-encoded phrase meaning real feeling) it’s buried in our subconscious. Our chief hope, as he pointed out, is that its concealment within this underworld of our psyche (which is, in its own right, the “real” part of our psyche not destroyed by the outer world) has preserved it almost intact, rendering it a huge potential asset in our effort to understand ourselves.

Yet it is (like the secrets of Serrabona) hidden; and all too often, that which is so hidden is hidden for good reasons, because as we are in our outer self, if we take it out into the light we will do so without care and intention,and we may just damage ourselves even further. Our outer parts have become accustomed to damaging our inner relationships, so much so that they not only believe they have the authority to do it; they see it as their duty. 

So I need to form a new understanding of what duty is — Gurdjieff’s “Being-parktdolg-duty”—before anything else happens here; and my first duty is not to meddle too much. This is why in Gurdjieff’s approach we don’t try to work directly with feelings, something my own teacher emphasized to me.

Yet feelings must be invoked; and so what do we do? We are in urgent, yes, even desperate need of this faculty of remorse of conscience, real feeling, and yet any encounter we have with it is likely to tip over under its own weight, because we don’t know how to balance these vital inner faculties with the crude shoveling of our outer personality.

So we approach; but we approach on tiptoe. 


We approach with the question of what feeling is. Feeling, after all, is the inner corresponding part of outward seeing. We see outwardly: we feel inwardly. These two actions together, if they are rightly formed and balanced together, can bring a new kind of discrimination and judgment.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Notes on Feeling, part 2: What is the aim of work?

The second of three parts.

I speak much of feeling these days, and there is a reason.

There is a long period in inner work where, although aspiration is high and belief is strong, nothing more takes place than that material is gathered. This is because the concentration of force, the attraction of inner gravity (what Gurdjieff called magnetic center) has to become sufficient to reach a critical mass. 

This phrase has a double meaning, because the mass does not just have to reach a certain threshold, which is what the phrase implies; it also has to have the ability, through its own weight, to engage in a critique. This word is derived from the Greek kritike tekhne meaning a critical art. It is an art, not a science; that is to say, it is not arrived at just by the mechanical actions of formula and material deduction but also by the agency and craft of intuition and feeling. Ultimately, of course, the word critic comes from kritikos, related to the word krinein, to judge.

What we are talking about, here then, is a dual art. It is not just the art of discrimination; it is the art of judgment. We arrive at judgment not just by a formula — that is mechanical judgment. We also arrive at it through intuition in feeling, that is, through an active faculty that allows us to care. This is why it’s functionally impossible for formulaic interpretations of work to meet the requirement.

The properties of our Being that allow us to discriminate and judge have to acquire enough matter (that selfsame critical mass) to have sufficient weight in our inner work such that inner work becomes voluntary. That is to say, my work is no longer a thing, an object I push around using the outer force and formatory action of my psyche, where I argue and cajole, but a living entity that exerts its own influence—which is in subtle and certain ways quite definitely and visibly (from within, that is) different than my ordinary self.

This critical mass has the consistent and irrevocable property of centering itself in my sensation. The sensation is the only part of me which,, if awakened, remains functionally removed from the intellectual and emotional arguments of the other two centers. It stands apart of itself and within itself and forms the core, the magnetic body, of the planet – soul which then durably acquires the charge of its power, the resonance of its harmonics, and the material influence of its gravity. 

This alone creates the stability that the other two centers can rely on.

Then, the planet of the inner life can begin to form an atmosphere which will even, over time, acquire oxygen in exactly the same way that the planet Earth eventually developed an oxygenated atmosphere. 

This results in the arising of a new kind of life, an evolutionary life of the soul which mirrors in its own development the evolution of more and more complex life on earth. Life on earth as we see and understand it today is the feeling-body of the planet. We should consider this very carefully because we are in the process of destroying it; and the deterioration in man’s psyche and the social institutions we have is taking place in part because we are destroying the feeling-body we dwell in. It is very much like a form of insanity or mental illness in which the emotional center is torn down by its own intellectual part, and everything else goes with it.

In any event, the formation of this inner planet with its atmosphere and life all center around the gravity of the planet we form within our Being. 

The aim of sensation and its development is a fundamental part of this process.

Yet that is just the beginning; because all along, our inner planet is receiving light from the sun. We begin by forming our planet through the magnetic center, a planet of sensation; and yet that planet of sensation receives a light, an inflow of higher energies from divine sources that will, if there is a planet correctly formed to receive them — I stress that remark — form an emotional body, a feeling body. 

Our inner earth will give birth to life.

For ourselves, the feeling-body is the “sun” of our own inner solar system: and no matter how powerful they may seem to us, how much they drive us to the heights of joy or terror, no matter how many outer triumphs and catastrophes they produce, our ordinary emotions are as different from this feeling body, this inner sun, as night is from day. Indeed, our ordinary emotions are night; the valley of the shadow of death.

And even here things fall short; because in the creation of the feeling-body, all we effect is the creation of a mirror that receives the light of a much higher feeling. All of this is deeply tied to Mr. Gurdjieff’s discussion of the Sorrow of our Common Creator, that most essential substance which penetrates the fabric of the universe. Without the feeling-body, all of this remains nothing more than a set of ideas; and, as we know, ideas—you argue about.

Even Gurdjieff’s ideas.

In the proper formation of the body of sensation and the body of feeling, there are no arguments. The moment you encounter arguments between people, you can know whether or not they have a properly formed body of sensation or (much more rarely) a proper body of feeling. Swedenborg wrote much of his meetings with spirits formed mostly of intellect, who are extraordinarily clever in their prosecutions but actually quite dull and dead inside. Each was a victim of his or her own insanities or, as Gurdjieff so often referred to it, the idee fixe.

You may think that people who are “serious” or appear to have “authority” are the real deal, because it’s the habit of human beings to judge what is “real” according to these power possessing beings, who more often than not are actually what what Gurdjieff called “hassnamusses,” because they seem to have some kind of power. 

And they do; because it is entirely possible to form both the body of sensation in the body of feeling in a wrong way. This is what Gurdjieff meant by “wrong crystallization.” In essence the phrase denotes, to one degree or another, an individual not perpetually and deeply troubled by their conscience. Gurdjieff’s “evil inner god of self-calming” is in every case at attempt to avoid this action.

If the body of sensation is properly formed, it creates the organic sense of Being; and this is inseparable from the sense of mortality, which is why it represents the additional “organ” mentioned at the very end of Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson. (See The Sixth Sense). Said organ, if implanted in a human being, reminds them at all times of their own death. 

This particular organ, should one acquire it, is the active organic vehicle of sensation — that is to say, it creates a harmonic compatibility in the current that carries the inflow of higher energies into one’s inner center of gravity, the magnetic center of the planet. 

There is a specific and lawful result of this action, which is the activation of voluntary remorse of conscience and the consequent humility that follows it. While this current will not flow at exactly the same level of intensity at all times in Being, at least a trickle of it will always be present, in the same way that a pilot light functions on a gas stove. And without the action of this humility, the foundation for the feeling-body will not be laid. To be sure, remorse will come and go: but for remorse to make a difference, it must stay, and this must be an aim.

The feeling body always, always — if it is rightly formed — crystallizes exclusively around this humility, and to the extent that it crystallizes correctly, it becomes durable and transparent in such a way that the light of the sorrow — for it is a lightness and a joy, not a weight and a heaviness — flows into the soul as food. Until this happens, we are utterly opaque to its influence.

There are many consequences of this as well. One forms two additional bodies; the inner solar system acquires the ability to function within the light of its own sun, which is dependent in its turn on the galaxy it exists in.

These are much greater questions. Yet a rough sketch of the actual aim of the inner work we engage in has now been achieved. Everything else around it is a subset; and the philosophies, arguments, and endless milling around within the ideas lives within that subset, not within the lawful actions as I have described them here.

In a certain sense, if you wish to work, you can forget about everything else and just concentrate on acquiring the material needed to make your inner sensation permanent. This is the method whereby your inward Being can acquire the critical mass discussed earlier in this essay.

Without that critical mass, you’ll become very clever, no doubt; yet you’ll always see yourself outside yourself looking in, instead of feeling yourself inside yourself looking out. 

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Notes on Feeling, part 1: An Unattached Feeling


The first of three parts.

Never mind the things that have happened to me. 

Forget about the good experiences, the bad ones, the psychic insights, the peaks, the valleys, the discouragements and failures. 

How do I feel about my life and my work from within? 

Can I approach a feeling which exists independent of the things that happen?

Everything gets personalized. This would be absolutely correct but for the fact that it’s always about the wrong person. It’s about the person who forms themselves in relationship to all these outward things, once this and that and thinks such and such and so and so about other people. 

There's a different person within who is an actual human being, not a substitute built of falsehoods. It’s that real self, that inward person who perceives and receives, that has the real question about who I am. 

How does that person feel?

There is a quiet place within where things come to rest. This place is pregnant with the possibility of feeling; it is always there waiting for the nourishment that brings the birth of feeling about. You might say that's its main purpose.

Yet the feeling that that place is designed to receive is not the feeling of myself, my person. It's a feeling that belongs to the fabric of the cosmos. It's a sorrowful feeling that encompasses everything and has nothing to do with me and how I am. 

It comes in stillness; and it owns everything.

It ought to be possible to be present to this feeling, this receptivity, without all the noise and agitation. It's a location that can be inhabited; it's a small but persistent flame that cannot be put out. It's a truth that persists against the lies of the outside world. And I think every human being has this place that can receive within them, if only we cared.

Yet care for anything real is an expensive proposition. There's no way to manufacture it; you might as well try to build a rosebush. It can only grow; and at that it only grows if it's fed in a right way. That kind of food can only be acquired through suffering, through contemplation, through the action of conscience. 

It doesn't arrive because a peak experience made me feel good. 

It doesn't arrive because I've behaved properly. 

It doesn't arrive because I punish myself for my sins. 

It belongs to its self; and it comes and goes in accordance with laws I don't understand.

So, to examine this capacity for real feeling. What is it? Can I come into contact with it for a moment?

I always presume that feeling is “about” something. It always seems to be a reaction in me. Yet isn’t there a feeling that is not a reaction, that is in fact just an action? A feeling that is born independent of circumstances? 

Can I taste that for a moment?

May you be well today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

The Third Question


3. What is the true origin and the meaning of individual differences?

This is the Oh My God question. 

As I explained in my examination of the second question, all true origins are hidden behind a veil of mystery.

This may sound like a copout, but it isn’t. It is perhaps the most important observation we can make in this lifetime, because everything about our attitude, our limitations, our understanding, and our abilities is defined by the extent to which we absorb this fact and allow it to act on us. It is, in essence, the essence of questioning itself.

All true origin is concealed in the unknown. The one fact that we do know is that an origin has taken place. It is already a true origin, because we are in it. It bears a direct comparison to the “true nature” of things in the Buddhist conception, that is, the Dharma. An all-encompassing truth that already exists and is indelible unto itself.

Although we don’t seek the origin of all things here. All we are asking about is the “true origin” of individual differences. In order to really understand this, we would need to turn the clock back to the Big Bang and understand what motive force created the instability in the energetic singularity, causing it to collapse into a material universe of differences. 

Individual differences between human beings are by this directly tied to individuals between solar systems and even between galaxies; and all of that put together, the entire universe, consists of an individual difference between everything compressed into an infinitely tiny and infinitely perfect point, and an expanding universe in which everything continues to become more and more different through the action of time.

While the scales here are too big to imagine or reasonably contemplate, we can turn the dial back in to the level of a personal life” something that Henri Tracol said: “I was born of my wish to be.”

This statement, of course, follows on the already-completely-expressed Dharma of “I am.” Said Dharma engenders the wish to be: “I am” is not enough by itself. It seeks relationship. Being can only be defined through relationship; “I am” can only know itself to the extent that it knows that which is not itself. 

It cannot know what is not itself if there is nothing outside itself. 

This means that human consciousness, and perhaps all consciousness, can only arise through an essential and initial apophatic action: I can only know myself by knowing everything which I am not. The more that I, through my awareness, dismiss everything I encounter by questioning and rejecting it, saying, “not me,” the more clearly the boundaries between “I am” and the outer world are defined. The action becomes most interesting when I begin to understand that the action has to be applied not outwardly, to things that obviously aren’t me (a tree, a bird, my uncle) but inwardly, to things that I generally assume to be me but in fact aren’t me at all.

In this sense a large portion of the psyche turns out to be a parasite that has grown within me and feeds on my Being. Meister Eckhart’s sermons two and three touch deeply on the question of needing to reject not just the premises and suppositions of the outer world as “I am,” but also the suppositions and premises of the inner one. 

One is reminded of the signs posted in stores which are closing: “everything must go.”

The wish to be involves an examination of this kind; and its meaning is contained within the search itself. I will confess that I don’t think I have yet brought the question of meaning, which I examined at great length in my Treatise on Metaphysical Humanism, up against this question of difference in sufficient measure.

Although the phrases “I am” and “I wish to be” are uttered sequentially — because they must be, there is no alternative — I am not so sure they’re different. These are just two manifestations in time and definition of two aspects of a single thing. I’m not sure that we can divorce “I am” from “I wish to be” and be left with anything real. Being contains the wish to be with in it already. In fact, intoning the two statements sequentially already begins to give us the mistaken impression that they are two different things, one a state at rest, and another a state in action. I just don’t think it’s that way. I think that the two forces are reciprocal and exist in a unified state beyond the veil of our limited awareness.

The meaning of individual differences is buried in this wish to know oneself. This is in essence an unfulfillable wish, because the self only comes to exist in the context of not – self, and the perceptions that arise because of relationship between the two. 

This relationship is in eternal movement and evolution, and never the same from one moment to the next, so the wish to know oneself ultimately becomes the action of a wish to live in the present moment and see it clearly. There is a meaning to be discerned here; and yet its nature cannot be written down, because it is molecular, not verbal, and consists of feelings, and an intelligence of insight born of care, which the word wish already expresses.

Meaning is, in other words, organic; and this is the means by which it must be explored. We must go deeper; the surface of the ocean reflects light: it creates beautiful effects, but is in fact a kind of rejection. 

The light that is received by the ocean, on the other hand — the light that passes through its surface, penetrates into its depths and feeds its creatures— gives rise to great wonders and mystery.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Thoughts on Three Questions: The Second Question, Part 3


I’m tempted here to conduct a further discussion about the unified dualism of the quantum state, and the reconciling nature of conventional reality as it arises from it; but we will stick with gravity. 

Gravity is a force of consciousness that attracts and concentrates. It is, in a sense, the One Thought of the universe or the mind behind it that draws things together. So a human being’s spiritual awareness is a function of inner gravity, something I explained at some length in The Quantum State of Being. That spiritual awareness is born of a gravity, or consciousness, that is already supernatural from its inception; and although it is certainly stronger or weaker in each individual according to the unique and exact circumstances of their birth and the vibrations around them (as in Gurdjieff’s story) because it is a gravitational body of Being, exactly like a solar system, it will continue to attract materials and incorporate them into the structure and relationship of its astrological bodies (suns, moons, planets, comets, and so on, metaphorically speaking) throughout the course of a lifetime. There are possibilities consequent to this action in every life; and yet because of the laws of accident and the fundamental law of difference, the possibilities will vary. 

In his references to “all three-brained beings of the great cosmos” Gurdjieff implies that under ordinary circumstances, every three brained being has a more or less equal opportunity, through their own agency, to attain spiritual insight. Yet things are not arranged quite that way on earth anymore. The planet is “damaged goods” from a cosmological point of view. This analogy squares well with Gurdjieff’s lifelong observation that children are never properly educated—are in fact ruined—by what adults impart to them. The analogy, for those who understand this question as expounded above, is quite exact.

There are much greater metaphysical questions raised by this situation; questions of God’s will, predestination, predetermination, fate, accident, destiny, and so on. 

This is a very complex piece of territory, but we can considerably simplify it by invoking the simple actions of agency, intention (= choice) and responsibility. 

No matter what life a person is born to and what they’re gifted, within the limitations of their own inner solar system, they’re offered the opportunity to act with agency, intention, and responsibility. 

This is the threefold axis on which Swedenborg’s world of spiritual life turns; and Gurdjieff’s is no different. Even the village idiot acts—within the range of their own abilities—with agency, intention, and responsibility. It’s not whether one makes grand contributions to human society or not that makes a difference in the attention to and development of spiritual life; it is measured strictly according to the development of agency, intention, and responsibility within the context of one’s own life and awareness

In this way a great man and a fool have equal opportunities to act within the measure of what they have been given; and either a great man or a fool can make good or bad things of what they have.

In this sense, the one who lacks spiritual awareness (who can perhaps be related to Gurdjieff’s obyvatel, a Russian word meaning, more or less, good householder or ordinary man) but nonetheless discharges these personal forces in a respectable manner that serves others and God, may attain more than one with greater gifts and lofty ambitions who does a poor job of it. This is another conclusion that we find amply foreshadowed in Swedenborg’s texts. It is a man’s intention that matters; and the man who loves God and his neighbor, who may be simple but who does the right thing, has more right to enter heaven than the man who is a genius with great power and yet does the wrong ones.

In a certain sense, spiritual awareness ultimately turns on Swedenborg’s principal of selfishness versus unselfishness; and to the discerning mind, Gurdjieff’s teaching equally rests its weight here. Spiritual awareness is ultimately a choice we make. If God made it for us there would be an element of coercion in it; so the answer to the question as to why some have spiritual awareness and others don’t, while it may in some sense be related to abstracts such as past lives and the like, is actually straightforward.

People who don’t have spiritual awareness don’t have it because they don’t want to. This is not a condemnation; it is an observation. 

In the end, the question of gravity and the way that forces are concentrated in being has much to do with the expression of difference. The question of exactly why it is this way is veiled in the same mystery that God veils himself in; one can but touch, as I have here, on some of the proximate causes for the difference, rather than the ultimate ones. The ultimate ones lie in the threefold gifts of agency, choice, and responsibility. 

I am able to act.

I choose to act.

I act in relationship.

My awareness, from within this field, either turns towards God…

 or the devil. 

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Thoughts on Three Questions: The Second Question, Part 2


Because character, attitude, emotional inflection and level of intelligence cannot possibly be determined solely by the physical actions of pumping blood and receiving nutrition from the umbilical cord, we must presume — and in fact, per our own sciences, we know — that an infant awareness is growing and taking in data from the world around its mother well before birth. Consciousness is, in fact, already present in the sperm and the egg when they meet. It’s just on a smaller and much finer scale than us. It simply begins with what is already its own and grows it with the growth of the fetus. The intelligence of each new being grows commensurately with the gravitational acquisition of new materials (elements such as iron, carbon, sulfur, and so on which are necessary for the construction, maintenance, and lifecycles of cells) and begins to take in impressions from the sounds it hears outside the womb. 

It is highly likely that by the time an infant is born, by the way, it has already heard enough words through vibration passing into the abdominal cavity of the mother to actually understand some of the language it will speak after it is born — all it needs to do is acquire the physical skills to form the words, which takes quite a long time after birth.

There is no essential difference between the acquisition of elements such as iron, carbon and sulfur, by the fetus for the growth of its cells and its own body and the acquisition of elements by a solar system and planets, in which — exactly as in cells — the elements are ordered according to a set of physical laws.

This may seem long-winded, but the point behind it is that human beings have differing capacities for “spiritual” understandings depending on two different factors: one is the original material available for the formation of their solar system, in terms of the physical substances they encounter, which are on average much the same for everyone, and the other is on the quality of the vibrations that they are exposed to while still in the womb. All of the impressions that flow in ultimately help determine the nature and character of the solar system, and how well attuned it is to finer vibrations.

Gurdjieff actually alludes to exactly this phenomenon in very specific terms very early on in in Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson. He says of “Bon Ton” (conventional) literary language that he never learned it, explaining it thus:

And if nothing stuck, it was not through any fault of mine or of my former "respected" and "nonrespected" teachers this human labor was spent in vain owing to an unexpected and quite exceptional event that occurred at the moment of my appearance on God's Earth, at which moment—as a certain well-known European occultist explained to me after very minute what are called "psycho-physico-astrological" investigations— through the hole in the window pane made by our crazy lame goat, there poured vibrations of sound from an Edison phonograph in the neighbor's house, while the midwife who delivered me had in her mouth a lozenge saturated with cocaine of German make, moreover not ersatz, which she was sucking to the sound of the music without the proper enjoyment. 

Aside from this event, rare in the everyday life of people, my present situation also came about because later on in my preparatory and adult life— as, I must confess, I myself surmised after long reflection based on the method of the German professor Herr Stumpfsinnschmausen—I always, both instinctively and automatically, and sometimes even consciously, that is, on principle, avoided using this language for intercourse with others. 

The whole story seems a bit peculiar until we begin to consider the formation of impressions and the way in which an individual character begins life. The situation caused Gurdjieff to “speak a different language;” that is, he saw things differently—and, as our questioner observed, had a much stronger awareness of spiritual matters than others, language being the vehicle through which understanding is acquired and transmitted.

Gurdjieff’s law of accident certainly plays a role here; that is part of the point of his little tale about his birth. He refers to “psycho – physico – astrological investigations” because the psyche, the body, and the cosmos must all be considered in understanding the origin of an individual being; this is in fact the point of my earlier comments about the quantum state and gravity. He injects, above all, the element of care — which is what gives rise to wish — as a critical one: she was “sucking to the sound of music without the proper enjoyment.” The inference here, subtly understated and in fact hidden, is that he observed this, saw the lack of care, and reacted to it by deciding to do things differently. At least this is one of the possible interpretations.

In doing things differently than through convention (”Bon Ton”) Gurdjieff set himself apart as “more different;” and indeed his entire book Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson is about how things are on earth, and how they ought actually to be quite different. The whole set of tales are, at their root, investigations of agency, intention, meaning, and discrimination. 

These forces lie at the root of difference and give birth to its existence and action. All of them, ultimately, are formed by gravity: the attraction of the dualistic wave/particle manifestation of quantum forces that unify their twofold action-in-relationship in the creation of the material world, already a very different realm than the quantum realm that births it. 

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

A brief little note


NGC 2276, from the Hubble web page

I wrote the recent piece about the first question, about why there are differences in the universe, some six months ago. Because my publishing schedule runs well ahead of the material I write, it has only published within the last week or so. And during that same week, coincidentally, the following piece about a giant arc of galaxies appeared in science news.

The importance of this piece is that it posits a fundamental flaw in the mechanistic rationalist explanation of the universe: matter is not, after all, more or less equally distributed throughout the universe on a large scale. That is to say, differences are built into things as a fundamental property. You can't just average them out with a theory and subsequent assumptions, statistics, and math.

Of course, the idea itself is stupid; everywhere we look, matter isn't distributed equally, whether on a small or large scale. NOTHING is distributed "equally." A common idiot can see that. Scientists of the mechanistic rationalist persuasion, however, are uncommon idiots who doggedly insist on interpreting everything according to a single flawed premise.

One could spend a good deal of time contemplating the reason that the universe has produced beings whose superpowers rest in the ability to be absolutely, as opposed to relatively, blind to things that are easy to see. Yet that superpower seems to express itself in human beings so consistently that we can presume it, as well, is a necessary element in the universe; and so rather than feeling angry and frustrated about it, we should probably feel sympathetic towards those with this super power; including, of course, ourselves, because all humans have it—albeit in unequally distributed measure.

Human blindness must serve some important universal purpose we don’t understand.

This brief note recommends that you file this science article in the expanding folder labeled, “everything we think we know is wrong,” and move on.