Tuesday, November 30, 2021


The flowing-in-of-life is the point at which perception encounters the external.

It is a point of construction that leads to instruction. Construction is, roughly speaking the action of putting things together externally; and instruction is the action of putting experiences together internally. Both are necessary. 

Things meet together in time at every single instant, both inwardly and outwardly. They are perceived; that is to say, they are seized together as a whole thing. Under the best of circumstances, they’re “understood;” that is to say, we’re aware of the fact that our ego and our consciousness are, relative to all that is, subordinate entities — part of a much greater whole. Yet that understanding is fugitive in us most of the time. In the end, we’re not really aware of the situation.

The difficulty continues to arise from our intuition that perception is separate from the external, that it is not part of a single whole thing. There’s no unity in the experience of Being. I don’t see my dependency on the All-Arising, chemical and molecular nature that surrounds me, and the way in which I am in fact, in absolute totality, an inseparable part of that All-Arising. My mind keeps insisting that “it” is “out there” and that I’m different from “it.” 

The idea that we’re the same thing never occurs to me. The very existence of such an idea is a threat to “my” autonomy, my mastery of the universe as it stands. In this sense, we are all infected from the beginning of perception with a certain pathological megalomania. 

It takes a lot of work to put this particular individual in the back seat of the car.

Perhaps, for a moment this morning, I can come into somewhat closer touch with a breathing perception of the molecular state of vibration which creates my being. This quality is here now; and it fills the entire body with an intelligence of the molecular level, which is — paradoxically, counterintuitively — a higher intelligence than the one that my mind produces. 

If I do encounter it — and this is, for most people, admittedly rare — I immediately know and immediately understand that it’s superior to my own intelligence. This point is the point at which the flowing-in-of-life begins; it’s a consonance of molecular vibrations that align themselves with one another in order to exchange information. I am, in other words, a point of exchange with higher influences which are always speaking to me from the foundation of my essential being, these selfsame atomic and molecular vibrations. Each time I stop for a moment and attend to the breath and its presence as it spreads its influence throughout the body into every molecule, I’m reminded of this absolute fact.

This fact is much bigger than I am and much bigger than all the facts I have been stuffed full of as though I were some kind of enchilada. The enchilada is bulging; but it isn’t really filled with any sense of a finer quality of vibration, and in the action of attending to the flowing-in-of-life I can immediately see that. It’s possible, for a moment, to understand that the enchilada and the plate it is on don’t have a lot to do with the actual action of life. Almost everything that humanity has constructed to distract itself and serve its desire stands apart from what might instruct, what might teach inwardly; and instruction begins with my molecules, not books or forms. Not the “teachings” which have been stuffed into me and which I consume as eagerly as the ice cream I like to have in the evening while watching television. Ooh la la!

In point of fact, I have a greed even for “teaching,” the wish to better myself through some “discipline” that provides an “improved” lens through which I can view life and — most importantly — myself. I need an improved lens to look at myself, because whenever I look at myself for even one tiny second objectively through the lenses I already have, their distortions and insufficiencies become apparent. I think that the tools I’m using to look at myself aren’t good enough; so I try to improve the tools. 

But maybe it’s not the lenses that are distorted.

I don’t see that the discipline I need lies in a relationship to the molecules I am made of; and I don’t see that “improvement” lies in this same intimate relationship to the chemical and physical entity which gives birth to my essential being. If I begin there and discard the enchilada for a moment, I discover that although I obsessively order up one enchilada topping after another, there’s better food on the menu.

I don’t see how absolutely repetitive I have become. How I use the same language over and over — words that aren’t even my words, but which I have adopted and adapted to because they mirror others around me and help to preserve the illusion of meaning. 

How interesting it would be, if it were to happen, that something original might happen in me, something that’s born of my molecular vibration itself and not all of the consequences that have arranged themselves around it like parasitic entities. My thoughts and my constructions are constantly stealing energy from the original state of molecular vibration, which has a state of purity, of being untouched. It is, in a word, virginal; and it remains that way forever, because it begins in a place that has not had intercourse with life. Perhaps you see where I’m going here; the Virgin Mary has something to do with this, but not in the sense we think we know of Her as, although Her ordinary form is quite useful from a feeling point of view. I think that the reader who understands what I’m getting at will understand that there are important and delicate nuances here, the beginning of an allegory that opens a mystery which has not at all been explored enough.

As usual, I began this essay this morning from nowhere, having no idea of what I’d say or how I’d say it. Yet these are my thoughts for this morning; and perhaps I will just leave it at that for today.

Do something real today. Be well.



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, November 27, 2021


April 20

I bought a new bike this week, after 23 years. My old bike was still working; but it was showing its age, and despite our long-standing relationship, it seemed as though it were time for a change.

The new bike weighs a lot less; it takes advantage of the extraordinary advances in technology of the last two decades. After all is said and done, when I was getting back from my second 10 mile ride on it yesterday morning, the most essential feature of the bike was this: I didn’t know I had it.

That is to say, the ride became more transparent; the bike seamlessly integrated itself into the action of riding and exercise in such a way that it disappeared. It occurred to me, after making that observation, that a musical instrument is the same way: at a certain point, if the instrument is well designed and integrates into the task well, it disappears. If the editor of the book or the engineer who crafts the sound of a piece of music does their job well, they cease to exist. There is no barrier between the art and the experience of the art. 

The tools are not the point anymore.

Mankind loves its tools; all of our technologies are tools of this kind. We turn them into fetishes, amulets and objects of worship in themselves. Yet the tools, in the end, have almost nothing to do with living: if one took all of them, 100% of them, away, the experience of life would still flow in. And it’s the experience of life that counts. In a very concrete sense, every tool is nothing more than a facilitator for the flowing-in-of-life in one way or another. We presume, of course, that the way tools affect the flowing-in-of-life makes it (we hope) “better” in one way or another; and there's an unspoken premise that dictates that better tools make for better flowing-in-of-life. That isn’t, of course, always necessarily the case; and in fact we have tools such as guns which presume, in a perverse and pathological irony, to make the flowing-in-of-life better by causing the life to flow out of others. How this could be remains unexplained; is death an enhancement of the experience of life? 

That philosophical question will need to be put aside for the moment.

The point that I’m making here is that the flowing-in-of-life is what ultimately matters. When the tool disappears, we see life more clearly. And this is a very important point in regard to our inner work.

I had a friend, a person with many years — let’s say a whole lifetime, for practical purposes — of experience in the Gurdjieff work who spoke to me last week about their struggle with the way that “work ideas,” the form of the work and the thoughts that accompany it, arose immediately and constantly in relationship to everything that was happening in their life. That is to say, life would flow in in this way or that way and then at once a “work idea,” some part of the conceptual form of Gurdjieff’s ideas, would instantly interfere and cause a stream of associations which distracted from the actual fact of life itself. It sought to add to the experience; but it was actually subtracting from it.

This is a true example of the tools attempting to become the experience. I think this happens to us so often that we just take it for granted and begin to live a life of tools rather than a life of experience. 

The phrase that I used yesterday to describe this issue was thus: when we put the tools in place of experience, it does nothing more than give us the skeleton in the museum, which is life with all the life peeled off of it so that it can be put on display as life.

We cannot erect our lives on an armature of thought. Thought is a tool; ideas are tools. We need to come to a moment where the tools become transparent and life is itself, not the tools which are used to make something of it. 

The real question is, why do I need to make anything of life in the first place? Life is already here; it doesn’t need my help to fix it or teach it. It calls on me to participate in it; and if I focus on the tools around me, the things, and the ideas, and make those the chief feature of life, I beggar the question. Life is calling me to be with it as a mother, as a sister and a brother, as a father: it wants me to be part of its family and offer me the richness of its relationship, which is a family not just of human beings, but of atoms, molecular chemistry, and a whole planet of life. 

Yet I seize the ideas that tell me it’s this way and that way; and before you know it, I’m not a human being; I’m a Republican or a Democrat — I have been demoted already into a subhuman category that does not take the fact of my humanity, the feeling and sensation that created, into account.

I bring the political labels into play just to illustrate the lack of transparency that we have towards our humanity. These two examples are perhaps the best that we can bring to bear on the question in this moment, because they are the chief feature in America’s society today. Each one is a delusion created by a set of ideas that demote humanity out of the kingdom of heaven and into the realm of tools. Not just any tools; the tools we seem to prefer are crude ones which we used to better one another.

Transparency can help to overcome this issue. Transparency begins with the focus not on the thought, but on the sensation. If the sensation learns to become the center of gravity, the possibility for a real feeling arrives. And a real feeling always moves one in the direction of one’s humanity, not towards the obsession of the tool user, who flakes chips off a stone core like an idiot, fascinated by the shape and beauty of the spearhead— all the while conveniently forgetting that it will be used to kill.

Well, perhaps this image is a bit too grim to end with; but the contrast is important, because if I am not a human being, it is all too easy for me to become a killer of human beings. We have learned this lesson too many times to count; and yet we keep picking ourselves up and carrying on as though there were no school room.

  Hurrah for using all three parts today. Be well.



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

The Corset of Philosophy


Nature Unveiling Herself before Science
Musee D'Orsay, Paris

The modern world has a vague, mechanically expressed understanding that thought arises from chemistry. 

This understanding is mechanical — a consequence of mechanistic rationalism — because the modern world believes that everything arises from mechanics of one kind or another. It isn’t seen that mechanics are a subset; that functions of this kind are themselves living things that evolve.

This ought to be completely evident by now; after all, the surface of the planet we live on has been engaged in extraordinary experiments in evolutionary chemistry for the last, oh, one or two billion years, perhaps even three. Yet the implications of this are largely lost on the modern mind. In this sense, thought is understood as a “thing,” an inanimate object, subject to manipulation and control by man himself. Take a few special pills, and we can control it. Eat some mushrooms.

Tolstoy understood this problem; yet he cast it in slightly different language. What he was trying to get at in War and Peace is that everything in human affairs is much larger than anything we can conceive of. It reminds me, as well, of the famous line in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: there are more things in heaven and in earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Horatio is all of us; philosophy, a dream.

In a certain gross sense, of course it’s true that thought arises from chemistry; yet this is the gross, the coarsest of understandings. It isn’t just coarse; it is a corset. A garment we have forced the body of our Being into strictly, in the end, to make ourselves look better.

In order to acquire a broader view, it is important to recognize that sensation also arises from chemistry; and that feeling equally arises from chemistry. It’s the awareness of that chemistry that counts in a human being. Chemistry is a function of the centers of gravity of individual atoms and molecules; and chemistry lies at the foundation of galaxies as well as cells. The interaction between centers of gravity and elements creates the essential fabric of the universe as we know it. 

Be aware of the fine centers of gravity in your cells.

An awakened sensation begins to develop a functional and practical understanding of this question. Difficult to understand though it may be, one cannot “be” anything at all without an awakened sensation. It’s a linchpin; without it, thought and feeling alone are unable to form a connection, because sensation is the essential intermediate element in translating differences in speed between the two. That is to say, thought and sensation can form a connection, because the most refined action of thought and the least refined action of sensation lie directly adjacent to one another in the inner harmonies of sympathetic vibration; and exactly the same thing can be said about sensation and feeling. It’s as though, for example, it’s a gearbox, and the drive train cannot shift up from thought to feeling without the intermediate gear of sensation, which it must use in order to transition.

In this sense, all efforts to bypass sensation in one way or another and presume that thought and feeling can come into any kind of meaningful and  permanent contact without it are absurd. They, like the rest of the cosmos, are part of a living system that functions under a certain set of laws.

I’m writing these notes to myself this morning because I recognize, after almost 20 years of work with an awakened sensation, conducted for the most part on my own — because so few I have ever met have an understanding of this capacity, and the essential teachers in the work I’m in with expertise in this area all died long ago —that it takes many years for the organism to acquire all the substances needs to create a functional bridge between sensation and feeling.

 Because all of these functional bridges are chemical in nature, from a “mechanical” (it is actually living) point of view, one eventually begins to develop an understanding, an organic and mindful understanding, of the chemistry itself, which reveals that we are under laws we understand little of and in fact cannot circumvent except in our fantasies. 

An awareness of that law is always rooted in the present and always includes an organic understanding, in the marrow of the bones, that the expression of law is not an abstract entity, but always and ever something that takes place now

I’m within that expression. I bring my own baggage to it, and if I’m even the least bit mindful, I realized that everything I packed is useless. I wasn’t prepared for the weather here; I don’t hardly even know how to breathe the air, even though — lucky for me! — my body has a mechanical (again, living) capacity to do so in adequate measure.

I mention this mostly because readers — of course there is an intention to put these questions in front of people — may think something can be achieved quickly and without paying much for it. The whole modern world has trained itself to believe everything is like this. These ideas are tales told by fools; but every one of us wants to be a self-made fool, don’t we? That is, from what I am able to gather, what being modern is all about.

Think on these questions carefully. Our very existence as a three-brained-being wholly depends on a better understanding of them. If we place ourselves, as Gurdjieff so succinctly told Ouspensky, “at the place where impressions enter the body,” it’s a help. The place where impressions into the body isn’t on the surface of the skin, or in the pupils or the ears — that place is “now.” 

It’s not a location in space, not a physical location, but a location in time, a much more subtle medium which not only erodes what we are but causes us to slip away from ourselves into greater nothingness than the one we have already created—

believing all the time that it is something.

Anyway, I believe those are enough notes for this morning.

Hurrah for using all three parts today. Be well.



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Good Nothings and Bad Nothings


April 16.

There are mornings when there's very little on my mind and I begin in silence and emptiness; and then there are the mornings where the sun gives light from within and something real is heard, a vibration which creates worlds that I did not know of and cannot conceive of having in me.

My aspiration is always to acquit myself honorably of my duties in this life; but if I’m honest with myself, which ought to be a duty in and of itself at this age of 65 years old, I'll admit that I have already failed. 

This is the consequence of reaching a moment when remorse of conscience is active.

When one is younger, one thinks of much; one thinks of this and that. One thinks, among other things, that one has “understood” remorse, that one knows what the word means and that one has had this or that magical experience of it. But this is impossible. Remorse is a substance that builds slowly in the marrow of the bones and it’s functionally impossible, under any ordinary set of circumstances — and we are none of us extraordinary, not one single one of us — for enough material to deposit itself in the molecules of Being for real remorse to begin to arise until one is in one’s 60s — perhaps even older. I can’t say. But what I can say is that despite a lifetime of work and experience, it is only after very much effort and the perspective of many decades that a harmonic consonance deep enough to produce real remorse arises.

Remorse is what is felt in the bones of one’s life, a fine substance that re-creates the very structure itself.

In this way it is quite close to the soul. The soul needs to feel its pain and suffering in order to grow; it’s the fertilizer from which leaves that can breathe the carbon dioxide of our daily life may grow. The soul is separated from that world; it lives on the oxygen that is produced, that is what it breathes; and its roots grow throughout a person to the extent both that the sun shines and the darkness lives within.

There was some speaking the other day about the unity of Being. 

This question isn’t well understood,especially when one is young. But eventually one perhaps begins to see how we are divided; and how convenient this is. Divided, we always have someone else to blame for how we are and the way we behave. If we acquire unity, there is only one being to assume responsibility; and we would prefer to avoid debt, because we don’t want to be responsible. In division, there is always somewhere to run and hide from what we are and the way we do things. In unity, there is no place to rest our head. If there is one of me, I can’t run away from him into someone else.

Then there are the arguments about unity and what produces it. As though there could be subjective interpretations of this, a question. Yet there is only one true answer, and that is the action of sensation. Not the crude and ordinary action of sensation, but the sensation of the organic, the molecular, sense of being. This is what produces our individuality; and one either understands this or one doesn’t. There is no middle ground here. To understand this is to begin to understand many things; and to not understand it is to begin to understand nothing.

There are good nothings and bad nothings. The moment that one understands one understands nothing one is in a good nothing. Before that moment, before that real moment of understanding which inserts itself into the space between one atom and the next one and creates a spark that lives, one lives in a bad nothing, that is, a nothing without value. 

One should be quite clear that there are nothings with value and nothings without any value. If one looks closely in life, one can see that both of these manifestations exist one next to another. 

Nothings without value are the norm. It takes an attention to see the nothing with value in it.

One would be best off with simple thoughts. Thoughts want to be complicated and add over and over again to everything. They’re idiots this way. The whole world works on this; let’s put some more stuff here and there, let’s add to this and that, let’s think more, let’s do more, let’s act more and argue more. 

This is not a good nothing. In a good nothing, the action is subtractive; we prune the bush, we rake away debris, things become emptier and more focused. I don’t need this thought. I don’t need that one. I need to sense, to breathe.

Please, dear thoughts, quiet down and go sit in the corner over there for a moment. We love you, but you aren’t helping here. There are too many of you and while you are allowed to make noise and play, good behavior is also required in this classroom.

When this class is over, we will all die, so it is important to pay attention now. Even you, as unruly as you are, but to begin to sense this and be a bit quieter.

Hurrah for using all three parts today. Be well.



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

The Remembrance of Things Past, from the Gurdjieff Point of View.


April 14, redux of the redux

Let me be clear, the title of this post lies. There is no Gurdjieff point of view here. 

It is just Lee’s point of view; it has been polluted by "Gurdjieff," rather thoroughly, but in the end has almost nothing to do with him, because 99.99% of Lee is Lee and not Gurdjieff. 

As with all the other additives that have been mixed into him (Lee), "Gurdjieff" is just a few molecules in a very complex chemistry of Being that has countless other elements and molecular structures in it. You might argue that "Gurdjieff" is the carbon molecule in this chemistry, or the oxygen; that is, that it plays critical structural roles. Maybe that’s the case. If so, perhaps Lee is not feeling quite himself. But what you are getting, nonetheless, is Lee, not Gurdjieff, so blame him loudly for whatever follows.

The contemplation of one’s past and the digestion of both the fiber and nourishment that passes into one’s being as the vessel receives the flow of the world rely on an attention that can make use of retrospection, that is, re-examination. 

The word remorse means, more or less, biting into something all over again; it's as though we eat the material that flowed into us a second time, in order to extract more nourishment. As we grow older, if we’re rightly formed, the feeling-parts of ourselves, the ones with the greatest sensitivity, become capable of digesting much finer food, especially food related to the action of suffering and remorse, which is a food generally rejected in the earlier stages of life. 

Now it becomes a taste that one senses might have value; and one begins to examine everything one has ever done, in the nearest sense one can get to the word “everything,” in order to find its real value.

That real value is only derived in the sense that one understands, from the remorse and the remembering, perhaps or perhaps not in this order, the following things:

1. The absolute, irrevocable, and objective mystery of life.

2. The haunting sense of one’s own nothingness.

3. An overwhelming organic remorse for every deed that failed to honor relationship.

I’ll confess, this is a rough list and I just made it up; but I think it captures the essence of the affirming, denying, and reconciling elements of this action which takes place in a vessel that has reached a certain age, assuming it managed to rid itself of at least some small portion of the bullshit. Perhaps we just clear enough of it away to uncover an aperture through which we can see something real; that would be a start. 

However we proceed, however, we must be ruthless about it.

This reminds me of a question I asked myself last night. There was considerable discussion about impartiality and what it means. During the conversation, I asked myself, “where does the measurement of Being begin?” 

We all want to measure ourselves from within as to how we are; but measurement always takes place from one point to another. When I measure an object I always have to make sure that the beginning of the measuring tape is at exactly the right place; and so I need to be clear about where I’m measuring from before I can measure anything, anywhere, in any way. If I don’t know where I begin measuring, the measurement will always be inaccurate. 

This is one of the reasons I need to be quite clear, in the first place, about where I am and who I am. This is a matter in which some amount of unity of Being serves very well indeed — in fact one begins to see that it’s indispensable.

So the measurement of Being begins where I am as the world flows in. All of the bullshit is politely asked to step aside and sit in the chair over there in the corner, where it will probably nag and whine; but this is how the classroom is constructed. The education is in the relationship, the return to the moment and what is happening: irrevocable, true, like the death of siblings. Thinking of the death of a sibling or loved one, as it happens, can be a galvanizing factor in the grounding of the current. Thinking of death in any real way, in point of fact, has a way of shrinking the BS into a much smaller part of the corner. 

The issue here is that our concept of death is usually, like everything else in us, a comic book concept; and what it needs to become is an organic concept that is rooted in our sixth sense, that is, sensation.

The world flows in. 

Here I am. 

If parts one, two, and three of my formula are all applied here where I am, the taste of something new arises. 

It would be a disservice to to describe it exactly or even imprecisely; its reliability and the magic of its action within Being rely on the fact that it can never be correctly expressed. 

That taste, like all tastes, makes no sound but lives in silence, at the point where life enters in and it is evaluated in terms of its nourishment. If the spiritual tongue, the tongue of my soul, isn't sufficiently developed, I won’t distinguish between what is nourishing and what isn’t; so I need an educated pallet.

And I think this is enough on the matter for now.

Hurrah for using all three parts today. Be well.



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, November 15, 2021


April 14, redux

 Perhaps it’s possible to form a hypothesis of some kind; I speak, that is, about a real hypothesis, not one of the many heaps of bullshit that I pile around me in defensive mounds. 

The real hypothesis would have to be formed from real material, actual impressions of actual life, not the theories I’ve collected in buckets from everyone around me, from all the books filled with all the opinions.

I remember that as a youth, while life and my parents and teachers were filling me full of their own piles of bullshit, I always felt like a blank slate, an empty vessel that knew nothing, really, other than what I was as myself. 

I felt like an idiot. 

Somehow I always have.

I can draw a line connecting my childhood to my present state that has a gap in it. This is a bit difficult to explain, but I’ll try to.

I acquired a more permanent form of Being — be careful when you read that, for all these things are relative, mind you —  just under 20 years ago in the wake of the collapse of my entire outer life. 

I woke up one morning and everything in me was different. 

Ever since then I have had a certain permanence of continuity within myself. The struggle between presence and absence has never gone away; but it isn’t mediated by hundreds of different people. There is one of me. This allows the suffering of oneself to become most wonderfully concentrated; but that isn’t the point here. 

I see from this perspective that my state of being an empty vessel that knows nothing is very much the same state that I was in when I was quite young, from three or four years old—the earliest that I have specific and continuous memories of what life was like—until I reached, more or less, adolescence. Adolescence was, in a sense, my first transapalnian-perturbation: an event in which the world was destroyed. The second event of that kind in my life was when I woke up changed in 2001.

I don’t know the person who was there before June 2001, because there wasn’t anyone there. There was a real person there when I was young, but he did a disappearing act for something on the order of 30 to 35 years. 

Notably, factually, and with little embellishment, when things changed in me in June 2001, it began with an encounter with the Virgin Mary; and it ended with a great light that flowed into me and showed me we are vessels into which the world flows. 

This is exactly the way I experienced myself as a child; and it was exactly what transformation, within the narrowly limited scope of this experience and this discussion, consisted of. What “happened in between” was fiber that ended up filling the digestive system with coarse substances that proved useful mostly in the sense that they produced a massive bowel movement that rid me of their presence. Once that took place, the digestive system was able to absorb impressions much more meaningfully and finally begin, after all those years, to extract some nourishment from them. If you wish to look at it in a biblical sense, you could say that I “became again as a child.”

Inevitably, readers will equate this with Christ’s statement in Matthew 18:2,3, “and Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

I could say some things about that kingdom, but this is not the place for it. 

Christ used the word “verily” in order to indicate the certainty of his statement, the absolute truth. Speaking from my personal experience, I believe his comment has something to do with the description of experience that I had as a child, where I truly knew that I was a single person and an empty vessel that the world was flowing into. I didn’t see at the time that the materials the flow of experience was coating in me would leave a subjective residue that I would interfere with and construct a falsity from. It all looked good on the way in, even if I didn’t understand anything. I can see now that everything I thought I understood was because everyone around me—my parents, my teachers, my friends—told me it was like this or like that. This is analogous to reading all the books about spirituality that tell you what it’s like. I swallowed the Kool-Aid; I ate bullshit at first by the teaspoon, then by the tablespoon, and finally by the plateful. 

I learned to believe that it was delicious.

Yet the vessel can in some sense be re-emptied; although the bullshit has taken up permanent residence, it can be compacted and stored in a separate place. In this manner it can be identified and dealt with — again, only to a certain extent, because anything with a mass this large within Being exerts a certain gravity of its own that has to be reckoned with. 

The point is to see a separation between who I am and the hypothesis of who I am. Every time I begin to develop a hypothesis, the gravity of the bullshit draws me closer to its event horizon, and if I flirt with that territory, I usually fall in, as it is said, “up to my eyebrows.”

It’s quite interesting to see correspondence between my nature as a child and my nature, so much later in life, as a candidate for becoming a human being. Both of them involve allowing life to arrive on its own terms. Letting go of the delusion, so deeply rooted, that anything can be done on my own terms other than to allow life to enter. 

As a child, I always experienced life from moment to moment, never knowing what would happen next — and oh my, a lot of things happened! — and constantly bewildered by the new things, every day, that there was no actual way of dealing with but that just were the way they were. Much like the day my sister died, which could not be “dealt” with (the hundred thousand forms and family matters in its wake still left Sarah dead) but had to be accepted. Beginning at the point of acceptance made the experience harmoniously meaningful; and that harmony is still with me this morning in the sense of her presence and Being, which still reverberate as a rich series of tones within me, at a time when I have none of my nuclear family left and have reformed my familial core around my children. 

These experiences cast an important light on Gurdjieff’s opinion of our relationship to our parents and our children. He said a lot of useful things on this which you already know, if you are familiar with his teaching; yet they're useless unless you apply them quite directly and intelligently to your own experience, the actual fact of your own parents and children, the roles we play with one another in the succession of Gods in our tiny universes.



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, November 12, 2021

The Gurdjieff Hypothesis


April 14 begins here.

Over the last week, I’ve encountered a number of situations where folks are talking about what Gurdjieff was like, what he wasn’t like, what he said, what he didn’t say, the things he did, whether we should do them or not.

One of my friends pointed out that what we really know of the man, despite all the writings and memoirs, is ultimately negligible. Almost all of it is a collection of written words, whose already crippling limitations get filtered through the subjective lenses of equally limited human beings. 

We know a bit more about Gurdjieff’s approaches to the acquisition of real Being than we do about the man himself. But just a bit. In the end, what we truly know about the acquisition of Being only comes from two places: the older people who taught us something about this effort, from their own (not Gurdjieff’s) real experiences, and from the experiences — of whatever kind — that we have had ourselves. In this sense, it isn’t the hypothesis of Gurdjieff or the books that one can read about him that matter; it is the tested experience that life brings as it flows into us. 

This ought to be a deeply organic, chemical, and psychospiritual process; not an endless series of complicated thoughts that compete with one another both within ourselves and between ourselves and others. The chemistry of Being and the property of its harmonic vibration are paramount; talking has little to do with it.

In this sense perhaps one should say that we ought to talk less and concentrate the force of our Being (which is at the same time both an enormously powerful and surprisingly gentle force) more. The concentration of the force of Being consists of a distillation, not the application of pressure. Yet both inwardly and outwardly, we’re far more accustomed to exerting force through pressure in order to concentrate anything. We pressure ourselves; we pressure each other. We let ideas and thoughts pressure us and we use them on other people to pressure them. “The media” that everyone wails about these days is just one outward example of how this functions. It ’s in us first, before it finds any outward expression. 

“We”are the media.

Taking this matter into hand the other evening, it occurred to me that our aim ought to be to begin, always, with the simplest question, the question of how I am. A question experienced through an inward contact with harmonic vibration: through relationship. It’s through this action relationship that we begin to understand Being; not through the hypothesis of relationship. Relationship can never remain a hypothesis; one has to do more than talk about it, one has to live it. 

To have relation, to relate, means to return to, to come back from somewhere. Turning towards the past is, in a sense, a form of anti-relationship. The aim of relationship is to return not to the past, but the present. Efforts to return to when Gurdjieff was alive and do things the way he did them are doomed from the beginning. If we truly return, if we remember where we are and what relationship is, we always return to now. Part of the mystery of now is its rejection of hypothesis in favor of fact.

It occurs to me, on writing this, that every hypothesis we develop is already weak. We are weak men and women; as my teacher Henry Brown once said to us, “We’re in this work because we’re weak. A strong person wouldn’t need to work.” 

Weak men and women can only develop weak hypotheses. These will not serve us in the search for truth; they are subjective and immediately we fall in love with them, because that’s how we’re built: we love ourselves, we love the way we think things ought to be. We love our own ideas about how things are. Our confirmation bias immediately traps us, and this is where we stay.

Facts have a different influence. If they flow into us clearly, avoiding (and this is a delicate matter indeed) our subjectivity, our associations, the myths and fables we make up about our lives and what their aim is, the taste of life is quite different. It leaves me in a world without Gurdjieff; he isn’t here now, he’s dead. In a certain sense I need to become fully responsible for life as it is and understand Gurdjieff and everything he represents as a single punctuation mark in a vast novel; perhaps the first period at the end of the first sentence of Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson. 

That particular period looks like this: “.” It marks the point from which measurement of all the rest begins.

Hopefully I have made my point.

May we try to avoid hypotheses today—



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.