Sunday, February 27, 2022

July 23


July 23

Gradually, the molecular intelligence of one’s being gathers itself into a single place. This happens over a period of time and the increments aren’t so easily noticed; but eventually molecular sensation acquires enough gravity to perceive on its own.

Then one is required to submit to the conditions. The conditions are quite simple, really, and so is the perception of them. The complications of the mind turn out to be relatively unimportant in this place. Conditions, exactly as they are, without being changed in any way by opinion or desire, are a duty to meet and an experience to be taken in.

The discovery of the unknown lies within this; and here, as well, is where grace may be encountered, which is an infinite force given without regard for worthiness. Yet it can only be taken in to the extent that one is willing to submit; and submission consists of allowing the wholeness of grace to penetrate, and leaving no part of oneself unexposed. In doing this, one sees that one is nothing and that one has no goodness in one’s own being; and that all things and all goodness, all real Being, lie within the realm of grace alone. 

The purification of feeling can begin to take place under these conditions.

This is the whole of it; so pay close attention to the question. Everything one plans, everything one thinks one is capable of or deserves, everything one thinks of this or that is useless here.

Grace can help to teach that each individual and small action is a prayer, and that the phrase “Lord have Mercy, Christ have Mercy” is eternally appropriate to every action. This prayer does not refer to the tiny and relatively inaccurate conceptions we form through the words Lord, Christ, and Mercy. It refers to forces beyond the ken of human beings. 

In this sense one does not pray to the known and what one knows, but to the unknown and what one does not. Of course, in hindsight, one sees this was inevitable; but the intellectual mind eternally believes in itself and its power. Only the granular attention of molecular Being is ultimately able to take this in to any degree of satisfaction.

This is a place where real feeling can perceive; and it sees quite differently than the intellect.

One only has one day in which to work; and this is this day. All of the ordinary things, even the things of man’s will and desire, must be discharged in the way that ordinary things are discharged. It is within them and alongside them that the duties of attention and prayer must be undertaken. There is no point and no profit in eliminating what’s ordinary from this, because it’s an essential part of the conditions. It’s the relationship to them that matters; and that becomes the whole of the matter in itself.

This experiment, this worship, is what all of the parts — sensation, intellect, feeling — were made for; and it is undertaken strictly as a service to what we do not understand.

On behalf of our search for inward relationship,


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola magazine.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Dying at the Top of the Mountain


July 17

I’m generally not too comfortable with talking about my psychic experiences, but at this age, I suppose it really doesn’t matter that much anymore.

I had to think the experience I had yesterday morning over and ultimately label it psychic, although one could call it spiritual. Another friend asked me if I was channeling, and I’m not sure, because I’m a bit unclear on exactly what channeling means. Even though I’ve heard of it on many occasions.

What happened was that Mme. De Salzmann said something to me in person. Now, of course this sounds peculiar because everyone knows she died many years ago. But, as I have most definitely learned through personal experience, dead people aren’t dead and they’re not gone. They’re just not in our realm.

Mme. De Salzmann has visited me twice before. Both times it was in dreams and she appeared very vividly. The first time she gave me an instruction to use the prayer, “Lord God our heavenly father, I call to thee from the depths of my iniquity. I have not delivered myself sufficiently unto thee. I know not how.” I’ve been using this prayer every morning in my morning prayer practice ever since she gave it.

The second time, many years later but not so long ago from this perspective, she came to me in a dream and challenged me on the quality of my work, asking me, “how many mountains have you climbed lately?” I took it quite simply as an admonition that I had not made enough real effort in ordinary life, and I redoubled my effort.

Yesterday, she came to me not in a dream but in broad daylight while I was doing yoga, and explained something. It was quite simple. What she told me was that life is a mountain we climb; and that our aim must be to die at the top and not at the bottom. This was a deep organic insight she implanted in me, much like the prayer.

My presumption is that she told me this because my work since her last visit has been satisfactory enough to deserve an insight. At least I hope that is the case and that she’s not wasting her time on me—if she is it is wholly my own fault. I think it’s important to report it, because she well knows I communicate with others on matters of the work on a regular basis and I believe she wants this to be heard. 

The point is that we all die. We all reach the end of this life. In the sense, however, that she meant to explain it, death is not a going down, a winding down of the body into disability where everything ends at the bottom of the hill in a meaningless expiration date. It is a climb upwards towards something of great value and immense importance; and death is not the nadir or the bottom of life, it is the pinnacle.

This is worth much contemplation, I think.

My friend Philip asked me if this was channeling; and I don’t believe it was. Mme.’s presence was rather a visitation. I say this because when the presence of someone who has passed on comes during the day when you are a wide awake like this— and this has only ever happened to me a few other times in my life  — it’s as distinct and clear as meeting a person you know on the street. You know exactly and at once who’s visiting you — even if it’s someone who you have never personally met. 

This happened to me, for example, right after I started dating my wife Neal; over a period of perhaps seven days, her father, who died when she was 21, visited me repeatedly to check me out and I felt his presence in the room over and over again. Once he’d had me under observation long enough and was satisfied that I was acceptable, he stopped coming and never came again. But it was quite uncanny the way I felt him in the room while he was there. So in a peculiar way I’ve actually met Gerard Harris, even though he’s been dead for, I believe, about 50 years.

The other time I had a visitation like this was with the Virgin Mary, and I've already spoken about that briefly, but enough, in other places.  

The angelic visitations I’ve had were nowhere near as personal and of a distinctly different order. I get the sense that the angels are quite different creatures than we humans. Because of this they’re much more frightening at first encounter. One wonders whether they actually know how to confer with us without scaring our pants off. I guess they can’t help it.

Anyway, this question of visitations, whether by angels or people who have died, is of interest to the extent that we operate on this plane under the influence of forces we have almost no understanding of.

In the meantime, I report the question of dying at the top of the mountain for everyone to consider quite carefully as a part of their effort to move forward into age with intelligence, sensitivity, patience, and dignity. How we begin and live life outwardly almost doesn’t matter; but how we end life inwardly is everything.

Readers who visit this place on a regular basis know that my mother was given a tremendous gift of grace at the end of her life and acquitted herself at the end of her life with considerable dignity. This shows that help is sent for many of us. 

And it is a cause for great hope.

On behalf of our search for inward relationship,


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola magazine.

Monday, February 21, 2022

The soul is present through every moment of life


Washington Valley Road Farm, Morristown, NJ

This week a conversation with a good friend, quite a bit younger with me, highlighted the division that people see between “ordinary” life and spiritual matters. There’s a persistent yet quite false belief in us that they are somehow separated, that spiritual thoughts, questions, attitudes, and actions are somehow separate and different than profane ones.

Let us be clear about this. The soul is present through every moment of a human life. 

We don’t see it. We think we live through ourselves, that we have some kind of ownership here. Yet we only live through the soul, from which God flows into life through us. 

We don’t own anything; the concept itself is delusional. 

We manifest, but we don’t own.

Life is a single thing. Perhaps one of the greatest difficulties with human beings is that everything gets compartmentalized so that we can pretend there’s a difference between our immediate wants and needs and the right thing which ought to be done. The wants and the needs of the moment, the desires, are assigned the imperative. 

This is a false doctrine; yet it’s the doctrine we believe. Almost everything in us proceeds from this initial fallacy; and if we struggle within ourselves for clarity, the struggle always begins here first.

In the abstract, intellectually and in terms of our philosophical constructs, most of us inhabit a world where our intention is to act morally and ethically towards ourselves and in regard to situations. These constructs are aspirational; they represent a wish for goodness within us. Yet because they’re aspirational, they come prepackaged with the idea that they can be put aside for expedience. 

Think about it for a minute. They’re aspirations; they are what we hope for — so we perceive ourselves as not being there yet. And everyone knows that our aspirations don’t always have enough life in them to breathe in and out on their own all day long.

Hence the separation we perceive between “ordinary” life and our aspiration causes us to put moral and ethical action, even in the most minute sense of simple interactions with other individuals, on the shelf whenever we please. Desire trumps aspiration because it’s an immediate thing, of the moment, of the creature we inhabit. The beast is stronger than the man or woman.

How can we be different?

Perhaps there needs to come a moment where we see that spiritual and ordinary life are the same thing. That they’re joined together through the natural action of the body.

There is a natural action that begins in the body. It joins everything through sensation. Here in this place, where there is a natural stillness that is organically engendered by Being itself — everything begins there — God is already present from the beginning. 

This is one of the secret meanings of the comment that opens Genesis, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” This action isn’t some action that took place in some distant past; it is a description of the current birth of Being within the conscious sphere of our own existence. 

We lie within and live within the eternal moment of creation, even now as you read this. The waters, the fish, the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth — all of these are created in our psyches by the inner and outer impressions of this moment. The human Being that we are — the consciousness that has the capacity for awareness, compassion, and love — is also born within this moment and no other moment. If that Being of compassion isn’t born here, now, and in this moment, it will never be born, because this moment is the only one that it consists of, the only moment that it can exist in.

From this we see that we have an extraordinary responsibility within this moment to be more than the beast alone. If we don’t, there’s no one to blame but ourselves for that situation.

In this action, the intellect complicates things. It needs to be let go and the body must receive first. If the attention is placed precisely where the body receives from life, without judgment, only then can the intellect and the feeling exercise the profoundly positive influence that rests within their potential. Otherwise, it’s bumper cars all the way through the ride. Everything within us clashes, there are loud noises and the world is upset.

I come back once again to this idea that the soul is present through every moment of the human life. 

Do I try to sense that in each moment? 

Do I pause before I react? 

Do I remember that I need to make a better effort to Be? 

Maybe I don’t; but at the very least, these questions ought to be provoking me at every moment, because when they do, there’s more time in a moment for the soul to breathe in and out; and when the soul breathes in and out, the natural intelligence of Being prevails over the constructions of the mind.

These are my thoughts for this morning.

On behalf of our search for inward relationship,


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola magazine.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Feeling, Time, and Mind, Part 3 of 3

Care is a mycelium that spreads its threads throughout life in every direction, invisible, yet the sustaining force of the mind – body itself. Because care is metaphysical — impossible to describe or explain strictly through the materials in which it arises, whether molecular or organic — it remains intangible and invisible as a thing unto itself, remaining visible only through its action. And indeed, major religions including the Gurdjieff work center the interest in man’s Being in one way or another in the action of care. Gurdjieff’s remorse of conscience is a reflection of the long action of feeling and care throughout the course of a life. Christianity and Buddhism’s compassionate practice are the immediate action of feeling and care in the presence of another human being and in the relationship that particular moment calls for. It is the way in which we care that defines us; and this reminds one of Swedenborg’s contention that a man’s being is defined by what he loves.

Examining this question a bit further, it occurs to me that intellectual thinking is more on the order of discrimination, whereas feeling and emotion are more on the order of sensation. Feeling itself is a heightened form of sensation; a perceptive tool to receive and engage with the immediate environment. Thinking, in the intellectual sense, is a tool to weigh the relative value of the components of those sensations; and indeed, when we engage in sensation exercises in the Gurdjieff work, we attempt to develop a different value of our sensory capacity within ourselves. With enough work on this question, it may eventually become evident that our sensory capacity in terms of body-sensation and feeling-sensation is actually enormous, far exceeding the expectations that ordinary experience in these areas usually imparts. This in itself changes the discriminatory understanding of the intellectual mind; a rearrangement takes place.

Because the perception of feeling and body sensation live so close to the immediate moment, and because the immediate moment passes so relentlessly before us and is gone, this causes a time-generated phenomenon in which our perceptions become fragmentary and are easily lost to one another. The sequential nature of emotional and feeling experience is such that we have an emotion of one kind, then it’s gone. Then the next one comes; and so on. This quite naturally and almost by accident needs to the creation of what Gurdjieff called many different “I’s”, that is, individual accretions of personality that collect around habitual and consistent feeling-reactions. It’s the nature of the relationship between time and feeling that creates this in the first place. 

The task of the intellectual mind is to more comprehensively organize the discriminatory perception of this perpetual serious of events; and it’s the task of the body-mind, the mind of immediate sensation, to lay the foundation for a fabric that binds these experiences together into a single perception of Being, rather than the fragmentary one which so easily arises as a result of the rapid sequential experiences of emotion.

We may be creatures of time; yet we’re created with three separate tools, intellect, body, and feeling, which have the capacity to bind time together in a new way. Put in simplistic terms, time without mind is stupid.

Care serves as the fulcrum for this binding, and it brings us to the question of wish. If I wish for something, I care for it. If I have an aim, I care for the aim. Because care is so firmly bound to the present moment in its initial impulse, the closer my wish and my aim are to being real, the more my wish and my aim find their center of gravity in the present moment. It’s only after this that they draw nourishment from past experience and extend their tendrils into anticipated futures; and that is a task to be guided by the discrimination of the intellectual mind.

Gurdjieff said many times that men are machines; yet what he did not mention — which seems evident as a result of this discussion — is that we’re time machines. Although we can’t physically travel into various different times, the mind exists in them eternally: the mind of feeling has the capacity to care about the past and the future at any moment, and the mind of intellect has the capacity to guide this. 

So now we finally come to a snapshot of the function of feeling and intellect in the context of time. While we live forever in the present moment — because perception and physical presence can never really put us anywhere else — the entire intellectual and feeling capacities of the human mind place us throughout time, as though we lived in an extended or eternal moment that can include all moments of the past and future. 

This may give us some clues and interesting new perspectives on Gurdjieff’s comment that man should use the present to repair the past and prepare for the future.

On behalf of our search for inward relationship,


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola magazine.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Feeling, Time, and Mind, Part 2 of 3


This morning, I had a brief encounter with a lost cyclist who I gave directions to; up until then, I’d spent more than an hour on my bike without any contact with another human being. Our exchange was longer than just a brief hello — the most typical relational exchange during a bike ride, where one nods one’s head or says good morning — because I had to give rather elaborate directions. From a certain point of view, it was nothing more than a technical exchange of information between two perfect strangers; and yet as I rode away from it I noticed a distinct feeling of satisfaction arising in me. It made it quite clear to me in an organic way that there’s a food for Being in the action of relationship that helps to keep feeling healthy. That is to say, properly fed feeling moves in a positive and supportive direction. My impression is that our increasing reliance on the Internet, email, texting, and so one is substantially depriving human beings from this form of sustenance, which explains the increasing insanity of the modern world and the collapse of social relations. Real feeling-relations have to be undertaken in person with another human being in order to provide the right kind of feeling-food for us.

The mind works more slowly than feelings; and so it can be more said that feelings help form the mind than that the mind help form feelings. This is easily proven by watching the way in which human beings form their thought patterns around intense emotional reactions, especially when it comes to politics and the nonsense that circulates on the web. In this way, time creates a fabric making feeling possible, and then feeling produces mind in conjunction with, but essentially as a product of, it. It is, of course, not quite that simple, but this is a general sketch of the situation.

In this way, we can come to understand the thinking mind as an accessory to things that take place after the fact, and is entirely dependent for its health and well-being on care, which is imparted by feeling. No thought ever arises without care behind it somewhere.

This brings us to an examination of the speed at which the thinking mind works relative to emotion and feeling-mind. The fact that the two minds work at different speeds at all highlights how firmly they are embedded in the matrix of time; and yet as we undertake considerations in this area, we need to remember the way in which Meister Eckhart insists that the mind of God is eternal, that is, existing outside of time. In the Gurdjieff cosmology, even God is dependent on and exists within time; in Meister Eckhart’s, this is emphatically not the case. Creation and all of its elements are immersed in time, but God isn’t. We see from this, preferentially selecting Meister Eckhart’s cosmology, that man’s mind in its multiple natures (body, emotion, intellect) exists within time; but because it’s a reflection of God’s mind, has the potential to manifest in eternity, that is, outside of time. This ‘eternal’ territory might be construed as the eternal now of Buddhist doctrine and mindfulness practice.

But is there a legitimate escape from time available to us; and if so, how does it relate to feeling, agency, and care?

In attempting to formulate a construct for this problem, let’s consider emotion and the feeling mind as the “immediate mind,” that is, the mind with the swiftest and most concise reaction to the presence of current events. This is how Gurdjieff characterized it; and a considerable amount of scientific research supports that contention. An emotional reaction propagates neural communication of a powerful nature that is nearly instantaneous. Characterizing it in the crude mechanism of stimulus/response alone, it appears to be nothing more than a reaction. Yet concurrent with the neural response is the instant arising of care. A simple illustration of this is road rage — an experience almost everyone has had to one degree or another. The care that arises here is negative — anger — but it is nonetheless nearly instantaneous. So care is immediate; the thought that can temper its reaction flows on a much slower timeline. If there is any part of any mind within a human being that lives in the now, we could therefore propose that it’s the progenitor of feeling and care.

This brings to mind a comment Gurdjieff made to the effect that a human being can only truly know something real through feeling. That is to say, through something that takes place in the now — perhaps not in eternity itself, but in the nearest thing to eternity which we have in us. Yet feeling is not just instantaneous (relative, at least, to the external event itself) but also works on much longer time scales when the elements of remorse of conscience and grief are at work. This suggests that feeling works much more flexibly and with far deeper tendrils throughout the entire medium of time than one might expect for a mind which is, from a mechanistic point of view, constructed to live so firmly and instantaneously in the present.

On behalf of our search for inward relationship,


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola magazine.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Feeling, Time, and Mind, Part 1 of 3

The difference between emotion and feeling is that emotion means to move out from — that is to say, it implies, based on its Latin root emovere, to emanate from. It could have any particular quality; emotion can be rage or love or indifference. 

Feeling, on the other hand, implies a caring —the arousal of feeling implies not just an emanation, a movement out of a being and into the world, but also a direction to it. Feeling has a preference in a way that emotion does not.

Feeling is deeply tied to the question of agency, because agency presumes a preference. In the simplest molecular sense, a molecule repairing other molecules in the cytoplasm of the cell prefers that proteins be folded in a certain way; and if they are, it returns them to the nucleus for repair. Agency always acts either out of self interest or altruistic interest. Because pure agency understands organically that it’s part of a community, it doesn’t presume a difference between self interest and altruistic interest. They are the same simply because the interests of the community are the same as the interests of the individual. In highly evolved insects such as termites and bees we see this in its most essential expression. This is in fact by far the most intelligent and naturally perceptive understanding of relationship in community. As the Gurdjieff work maintains, “it isn’t for me.”

Feeling, as it is unto itself, is a heightened form of sensation. We look to sensation of body and being as the ground floor of feeling, which can bring elevated impressions of it according to intensity. All of this is input for the mind; and it occurred to me this morning, considering the mind and the question of agency and impulse, that we spend very little time examining the mind carefully, especially given the fact that we spend so much of our time — in essence, all of our time,—within it in one way or another. In terms of day-to-day experience, it’s the room we almost never leave.

My wife asked me the other day what the relationship between time and feeling is. This gave me pause; with all of my extended thinking about the nature of meaning, it’s a question I never considered, and so I’ve decided take it up as an investigation.

In order to tackle this question, I rephrased it a bit from where my wife began and retitled the investigation feeling, time, and mind

Human beings undertake almost nothing unless an emotional impulse — and a feeling, which imparts interest — exists. One of the classic symptoms of extreme depression is physical, emotional, and intellectual paralysis, in which only anguish functions. There is no way to correct an individual whose emotional impulse and feeling are defective from outside. I have known more than a few— and I’ve tried it, with absolutely no success. Motivation does not work unless there’s already an energy for impulse there. Once there is, one can do a great deal; but without it, inertia rules both mind and agency.

In the most basic sense, impulse and feeling function in order to preserve survival: there is a behavioralist, mechanistic, and Darwinian understanding of these actions that presumes to explain them, but they don’t give us a fundamental reason for why they exist in the first place. Molecules don’t actually have a need or reason to organize themselves in a mechanistic universe; they might as well do nothing. In this sense, the mechanistic rationalist model of the universe is one of eternal depression in the sense that there is no meaning to anything; it all just happens by accident. Yet this model presumptively edits feeling and its weirdly powerful action out of the picture, along with a whole range of extraordinary results of care for oneself and the community.

None of these phenomena could emerge without time to support them. In this sense, impulse, agency, emotion, feeling, and care all emerge on the loom of time as warp and weft threads that create a fabric. The action of care — of compassion — emerges from the action of time. An individual event divorced from all its circumstances and conditions has been stripped of everything that gives it meaning and creates the potential for care. So without time, compassion could not exist. It’s the sequential arrangement of affairs itself that gives rise to the potential for feeling and for care. In a chaotic arrangement — let us suppose, for example, a universe in which time can run in almost any direction, forwards or backwards or even in a loop — the potential for compassion and care is destroyed, because causal relationship is sabotaged. In this sense, we see that time and its subordinate servant of relationship become the most important factors in the arousing of feeling. 

Remembrance of things past : Jan 8, 2014.

Movement, the Inner, and the Outer

 On behalf of our search for inward relationship,


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola magazine.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

I am nothing


Truly intelligent thought has a grasp of things that lies well beyond the ordinary; and it is not under the direction or control of ordinary thought.

Ordinary thought is, generally speaking, a big mess. It takes everything at the same level and can reduce the finest thought to something as stupid as a rock. This reduction leads to a kind of fixation in which thinking appears to be fluid and nimble but is in fact set like concrete. There is a structure; but the structure is slow-moving and essentially dormant, despite its appearance of activity. It sits like a dead log in the middle of life and occupies the path that living and being ought to be following. At best, one needs to stop one’s bicycle, get off, and climb over it to proceed anywhere real. Yet the log itself looks so real that it commands us in an eternal appreciation moment, where we contemplate its awesome nature and forget the fact that it is in the way of where we want to go within being.

In this sense we fall in love with the log. Theoretically, like all wood, if it is shaped and formed it ought to be useful for us; and yet what we become good at is lighting logs on fire. People are seized, almost constantly, by their sex energy and other energetic parts of being that aren’t functioning harmoniously, and the friction of this uses ordinary thought as fuel to create exciting fires that mostly cause problems for oneself and others. It’s no reach to comment that this explains our proclivity for destroying our environment without even a second thought to it. The principal function of thought which is burned in inappropriate conflagrations is to destroy.

I had occasion to comment this morning on a meditative tool intended, I think, to focus this problem more acutely. It consisted of the practice of saying, “I am nothing. I have nothing. I want nothing.”

This nothingness sounds important; and I think the thought behind it is in fact important. Nonetheless —I am on board with it, but only halfway on board.

The temptation is to illustrate this with a somewhat facetious example, but I don’t think that pays due respect to the essential nature of the question. And it could easily be misunderstood, because my perverse sense of humor is just as likely to do damage to a situation as enhance it — a fact I have learned to my own consternation on more than one occasion.

The issue I find with the statement as it is is that only half of me is actually like this. One of my natures is capable of perceiving this intelligently and organically; the other one has no clue about it and at best absorbs it philosophically, taking it at about the same level as everything else it encounters. So only the one part that is still within understands and appreciates the fact that I’m nothing.

The other half absolutely insists that I’m something. It wants things. There is no use denying this situation. For example, that part of me has spent most of the weekend wanting a specific Stratocaster. God knows I do not need more guitars. But the part that wants this guitar is a piece of steel reinforced concrete.

Where, then, exactly, does that leave us? The situation reminds me of a comment Wade Davis makes about the Kogi in his new book, “Magdalena — River of Dreams.” They believe that an individual should sin from time to time so that goodness has a context within which to operate.

Elaborating on this premise, if we don’t have the part that thinks it is something and wants things, the other part is unable to manifest in contrast — which is, in the end, I think, exactly the point of it in the first place. It would lose its purpose; and a thought without purpose is a lonely thing. 

“I am nothing. I have nothing. I want nothing” represents, taken in its entirety, an impulse towards nothingness. It is meant to be a force that leads me in the direction of understanding that. In a paradox, the force itself already becomes a thing. 

What are we to do with that? Perhaps it’s a koan; and that would make sense, because generally speaking the purpose of a koan is to present an irresolvable dilemma that forces the action of thinking and form itself past what it is into unknown territory.

On behalf of our search for inward relationship,


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola magazine.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Some thoughts about thinking, part II

June 18, continued

 The difference between mechanical thought and actual thought is that actual thought can observe; and, in a paradoxical bootstrapping nature, can even observe itself, because self awareness is exactly that. The third kind of thought is, however, not observable in the same sense because it takes place in the realm of true thinking, that inner place so amply examined by Meister Eckhart where the soul comes into contact with God. This is a silent realm that’s influenced by divine qualities, not human ones, and represents the point of contact between the information that flows in from mechanical thought and actual thought – that is, things of creation, of the outer world — and the divine itself. 

The contact with God here, of course, is not direct — direct contact with God occurs only in the single highest angelic realm — but it’s contact with the angelic realms through which God’s influence flows into us. This particular piece of territory provokes a much higher kind of thinking, and from here all truly original and creative thought flows into the “reservoir” of mechanical and actual thinking that exists within an individual human being. 

In this sense, the soul receives its tiny portion (“our daily bread”) of the divine thought of God, a purified substance gathered, as the honey of heaven, by the bees of the divine realm. The more still and quiet the entire Being is, the more of this substance may become available. Generally speaking, it flows in at night and there’s a certain reservoir of it present at the beginning of the day, which can either be augmented and concentrated by a work of mindfulness, awareness, and actually thinking, or quickly expended in mechanical action. 

Because the raising of the rate of vibration from mechanical thinking to actual thinking depends on the assistance from this divine thought which concentrates itself, so to speak, beneath the floor of one’s being as a support, if it’s expended early, there is nothing but mechanical thinking available for the rest of the day.

I make these comments in order that I might perhaps concentrate my attention a bit more on the nature of my thought and see the emotional center of gravity in mechanical thinking and the way it drives it. I need, so far as I can, to become more aware of this and inhabit the nature of mechanical thought more fully — without attempting to impede it, but rather stay very close to it and follow it as it proceeds — in order to see how it functions and to make more clear to myself the difference between who I am and what mechanical thinking says about myself and about life. 

Mechanical thinking has gathered enough information from the outside world to create a mirror that appears to be an accurate reflection of what is going on; but the contamination from selfish emotional impulse always renders that reflection inaccurate. Discussion of mirrors and reflections of the moon and so on in Buddhism are all allegorical references to this issue. Yet if I don’t see the action of selfish impulse and the nature of its influence on mechanical thinking, I haven’t actually seen anything true. Instead my mind, which can act in complex and impressively Baroque ways, sees everything through selfish impulse of one kind or another and immediately pronounces it true. This active pronouncement is reflexively and automatically built into the process. I should thus be aware of pronouncement when engaged in this activity of observation. Pronouncement is the enemy. It’s the messenger that brings forth and calls out loud conclusions based on selfishness. 

It draws its strength from drowning the other parts of thinking.

This action of inhabiting actual thinking, however, is nowhere near as reductionist and clinical as the description I’ve just given. It’s actually a form of suffering, that is, a form of thinking that involves all three centers: and everything that involves all three centers ultimately becomes a form of suffering if it’s properly understood. 

To be with one’s mechanical thinking is uncomfortable and provocative. One has to have the critical faculty to stay there; this is one of the things that Jeanne de Salzmann was referring to when she said we have to “stay in front of the lack.” In this case, the lack is the lack of unselfishness in the form of thinking; and to stay in front of the lack is to become acutely aware of the selfishness of mechanical thinking. This is a form of emotional suffering, because in the end, this seeing involves three things.

The first thing is being in the body physically in the present moment, which provides the root of the awareness-function in seeing.

The second thing is having an active mind in the present moment, a mind that does not derive its initial impulse from selfishness, which provides the supervisory or analytical function of seeing.

Once these two elements work together, the third thing is to have a real feeling, that is, a feeling that is fed by the divine food stored in the reservoir of the soul, which can come into the equation and provide a completely different impulse to the seeing than the impulse from the selfish part of thought. This provides the suffering function.

These three things together provide what could be a real thought, rather than a mechanical one. Yet when they’re not together, over 90% of what takes place is automatic; and although a great deal of it very effectively mimics spiritual work of one kind or another, such thinking is in every case ersatz and leads only back to itself in one of two selfish results, self-aggrandizement or self-judgment, each of which is actually an ego action. 

It can become quite interesting to watch self-aggrandizement in particular, because it attempts to insert itself into one action after another all day long. We might call self-aggrandizement the politician of our inner life. This is the easier of the two things to see, because self judgment does a terrific job of posing as a preacher. The difficulty here is that both of them, the politician and the preacher, are inveterate liars. 

I can’t trust the politician. I can’t trust the preacher. 

Someone else needs to get into the game here.

On behalf of our search for inward relationship,


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola magazine.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Some thoughts about thinking, part I


June 18.

One has to immerse oneself quite deeply in what one thinks, remaining aware of the thought while being inserted into it, in order to appreciate the nature of thinking and the struggle that arises from it.

Whether we’re aware of it or not, we spend most of our day immersed in thought of several different orders. It acquires its impulse from emotion; and the associations consequently function in a structured prosecution of emotional inflections. There’s an automatic and mechanical nature to this process; once the ball starts rolling, it gathers speed and momentum as though it were rolling downhill. The end result of this process is a powerful reinforcement of the emotional inflection.

These emotional inflections have strength of low, middling, or powerful nature. Generally speaking the more selfish they are, the more power they exert. This determines the duration of the associations, which might be likened to ripples in a pond after a stone is thrown in. Little stones create small ripples; big stones create big ripples and even waves, and so on. If a person’s inner life is constructed so that associations of this kind have a very strong self-reinforcing durability, we call it obsessiveness or compulsiveness. Obsessiveness, in this analysis, relates to the duration of the wave phenomena; and compulsiveness relates to their magnitude.

This is what is called thinking; and although its structure, which relies for the most part on a logic — usually perverse — of one kind or another imparts a certain air of agency, autonomy, and validity to it, it isn’t actual thinking, but rather accidental thinking. Accidental thinking is always lived in the service of self and selfishness. This kind of thinking dominates almost everything human beings do.

When thinking is externalized and provoked by curiosity about the outside world and its nature, independent of the personal gain that can be realized, it’s a somewhat higher order of thought. This type of thinking promotes questioning and inquiry; and questioning, which shares a root with quest, a search, invokes the action of seeing: that is, an attempt to perceive more clearly. Mechanical thinking doesn’t want to think more clearly; it merely wants to reinforce the self; and any clarity that does not serve that is discarded at once.

So you can see there are two different wishes at work here. If you look carefully at your own inner life, you may be surprised at how much of what you think is “inner work” of one kind or another is actually mechanical thinking. Mechanical thinking is a ubiquitous force and it adopts everything one encounters into its structure and actions. Thinking that comes from the wish is already quite different.

So then we have this second kind of thought which comes from the wish. The impulse is less contaminated with self. The second kind of thought, because it is superior, can become an observer of the first kind of thought because it locates its root within the essence, the “I,” of the individual.

Once this part becomes more active, it’s possible to allow mechanical thinking to take place quite actively and yet not be identified with it. This is an interesting proposition, because one begins to see that there isn’t always just one thought process taking place in Being at a given time; and the various types of thought processes are not of necessity mutually exclusive of one another. That belief is engendered by the experience we take away from mechanical thinking, which pushes everything else aside in order to serve itself. 

Furthermore, thought processes are hierarchical. The thought that comes from wish has a higher rate of vibration and is of a finer substance than mechanical thought.

The third kind of thought to be discussed here is of a still higher nature; and it doesn’t function in the same observable realm as the other two kinds of thought. 

On behalf of our search for inward relationship,


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola magazine.