Sunday, July 31, 2022

The Murder of the Soul


March 1

Yesterday, I was reading a book that I bought already feeling favorably disposed towards. I had read an extract of this book from the introduction some years ago, and I felt what it said was both smart and well informed, with important insights. The book was about (or, supposedly about) inner practices in Buddhism.

The author went on to say intelligent things and make what appeared to be pithy observations, and obviously had an enormous amount of Buddhist education, lore, and experience to draw on. Everything about the book had only the best of intentions.

There was, however, a caveat.

I realized fairly early on that the author did not actually understand inner practice. This is a very subtle thing, because it's possible to be encyclopedic in your knowledge of inner practice from the point of view of study, information, "facts," and apparent experience, and still not understand inner practice. 

True inner practice leads to very specific places that involve very specific energies and states; and many of those energies and states aren't the ones described in literature, precisely because of this problem. It's not just that the results of inner practice can't conceptually be put into words, but that they literally cannot be put into words. In the end, the practice deepens to a point where the awareness of it itself can be seen to be separated from the descriptions and the words. 

Even the awareness does not have words.

The difficulty, I believe, arises because both the inner world and the outer world manifest within us, that is, within the range and limits of our awareness and our psyche. It takes a great deal of discrimination to see both of these worlds arising within us and understand which thoughts, emotions, and sensations are attached to the outer world and which ones belong to the inner one. 

I suppose it’s no surprise that this becomes an issue, because as we are we have almost no contact with the real subtleties and awareness of an active, conscious, and conscience-saturated inner world. It’s possible to configure the inner attachment to the outer in such a way that it appears to be this thing, when in fact it isn't this thing at all. Many contradictions arise here; and many indeed are those who appear to have grasped some inner characteristic when in fact nothing of the kind has happened.

To the author’s credit, they realize this and talk about the dilemma. They even acknowledge their own struggle with this problem, which I think is a good thing and shows a degree of honorable intention. 

Yet what I'm searching for is those who write from a legitimate understanding of what is inner. 

Identification with the outer world is intense in human beings. The inner psyche becomes the outer world and what happens in it; and when in this condition, the game is already over, because an impenetrable barrier is formed between new information, understanding, and what is already there. Early on in my "enlightenment" experience — I always put that in quotation marks, because enlightenment has its stages and is always a very relative thing (to realize you're a fool, for example, is already enlightenmentcompared to not knowing it)— I saw this feature of impenetrability and called it the iron gate, because it’s like a medieval portcullis that slams down to keep everything I don't like out of me. Because we like, more than anything else, ourselves, and because that, in our inner dialogue, is the devil who always tries to configure everything around its own axis, it engenders a world of selfishness that satisfies itself exclusively with the outer world and what is in it. Only the awakening forces of organic sensation – which are physical, but at a higher level than this physical body in its ordinary state —and conscience, which is the evolutionary consequence of emotion when it reaches a rate of vibration that crosses over into feeling – can provide us with the inner tools of the psyche to begin to know the difference.

I realize that's a very complicated sentence. The point is that unless sensation and feeling awaken, we’re invariably identified. A higher sensation, an organic sensation which becomes more permanent, and the feeling of conscience are the only parts of the psyche that can successfully separate from identification. This isn't just a technical matter; the life of the soul depends on it. Without these faculties, the soul can’t breathe; and although souls are able to hold their breath for extraordinarily long periods of time, if they’re deprived for long enough they ultimately die. 

Then you get people who don't care about anyone but themselves and undertake operations that can even lead to the deaths of thousands or millions of other innocent souls around them in order to gratify their own poisonous desires. These creatures — they are no longer human beings, because a soul is what defines a human being, and they have murdered theirs — live exclusively in a delusional outer world of their own making which they have created inside themselves. When Christ said that the kingdom of heaven is within us, he did not feel it necessary to mention the obvious corollary, that the kingdom of hell is also within us. When we rely on the outer world to build the kingdom of our psyche, we're always building on the border of hell—and hell always wants to invade. Nothing more need to be said on that point.

We all stand at risk of becoming murderers of our own soul; and when I say murderer, I mean murder in the first degree, because there is a part of us that wants to do this intentionally in order to satisfy our own desire. The killer in us rarely sleeps. It is a diseased thing dressed in finery. One of the points of self-remembering is to see this clearly.

Hoping that you find yourself in good relationship today,



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

February 20


It is only just beginning to be light. It grew very cold again last night after a few warm days. 

I can pause here and become quiet for a moment and appreciate the connection between the breath and the body. Each breath is essential and I can't do without it; yet I forget this almost completely. So it's a good thing that I have a few moments in the day where I stop and honor that fact for a moment. 

To remember it.

I've been in contemplation over the last week about the point of contact in the soul. That point is the point where the soul and God touch one another and the Presence of God can be sensed. 

One secret thing to be known within the inflow of God's Presence is that the breathing is connected to the point of contact in the soul. They are, so to speak, next-door neighbors.

 This situation is—perhaps with good reason—well hidden from us; and it takes, under any ordinary set of circumstances, the cultivation of a very good and concentrated attention to even begin to come close to understanding this question. People spend years in meditation doing this; or they even undertake exercises, which can be dangerous, because the mechanism is delicate and interfering with it in mechanical ways can cause serious problems.

Yet there is a natural path to sensing the breathing without tension, a path in which we don't interfere, and this is what interests me. Because if I follow this down to the bottom, in that pause, perhaps I can begin to get a proper sense of the way that the breathing is attached to the point of contact in the soul. That point of contact becomes stronger if the fine substances that are made available through good attention are concentrated; and to concentrate those fine substances using attention in conjunction with the uncomplicated and natural act of breathing is a simple, direct, and reliable method.

So I just become aware of the breathing. 

That's all I do. 

It’s a Zen practice, to just sit and to just be. 

I'm not trying anything. 

I’m just here with my breath.

There is already a goodness in this action. It is a true goodness of the body and of life itself that has nothing to do with imaginary goodness or a wish to be better or to help others. 

Those things can come later, maybe; but for now, I have to draw what I am towards myself and become responsible for it, without interference. Interference is what comes from the mind; and, let's face it, the mind generally doesn't know what the hell it is doing. It charges around like a bull in a china shop and the emotions just stoke it up. 

There are a lot of things that ought to be left until later.

Right now, we need to quiet things down here and just be.

Real goodness is already here within me. I've just overlooked it. It isn't mine; but we can be here together in the breathing for a little while this morning. 

That will lay a foundation that can serve well through the rest of the day.

Hoping that you find yourself in good relationship today,



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, July 25, 2022

In the Land of Death


Hudson River, From Nyack
Feb. 2022

In the Land of Death

Oh Love,

Where do I find myself?

In the land of death,

Where many with a single eye

Still have no hearts that see 

No hands that touch,

No gentle spirits to command.

There is no kingdom here

But artful things

Which wash against the jetties of desire


Seeking shoreline

Already lost in flood.

Oh Love, 

I would return to thee

The cradle of the soul

That cares,

That compassion which embraces

Without a thought of Mine.

Where am I?

I do not know the way.

Command me,

For I cannot command myself.

Blindness needs new words, 

Echoes off the surface of a truth

Not heard before,

A reconstructed gospel for this age.

Oh Love,

Without you,

Nothingness is King.

Be then my Lord,

Come, although

It be against my will

— it cannot be otherwise—

And let us find the way


...Feb. 16, 2022

Hoping that you find yourself in good relationship today,



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Empty Within


Feb. 10

Pondering the many times during the last few weeks in which people I know have remarked on the way in which they feel they’re empty within.

This remark is never on the order of a "good," or desirable, emptiness such as that which Thich Nat Hanh discusses in The Other Shore. It always denotes a lack of anything real within oneself.

Now, one might argue that this does indeed corresponds to TNH’s conception of emptiness; but I think not, because what those who sense this quality in themselves are trying to describe, above all, is a lack of feeling and meaning; and TNH’s emptiness is a quality that endgenders feeling and meaning. The distinction isn't even a subtle one.

One might further speculate that the supplicants presenting this "picture of a lack" are somehow confronting their own nothingness; and yet one can't even allow that, because what they’re suffering doesn't have the sensitivity to do that in a way that relates to their work. It is as though they're blank, that there’s a void where there ought to be something real. An itch that needs to be scratched. 

That, of course, is real enough in itself; and it relates to the well studied phenomenon of depression and emotional dysfunction in general. Healthy emotion has a better quality to it than this; it not only provides something that is there– not absent – but also something that assists in the functioning of the organism and an at least practical attitude towards motivation in the execution of daily life requirements.

So people speak of being empty. This is distressing; and it's more than just the average irritating little thing that bothers one. It's inwardly global— Weltschmerz, “world pain,” a fundamental void that somehow demands to be filled with something one doesn't understand or even know how to get. A disturbance in The Force, as it were. 

There ought to be more here in me, and there isn't; I ought to have a feeling about myself and my life, and I don't. 

Why isn't something more real going on?

I’m reminded of Gurdjieff's ”filling exercise,” spoken of numerous times — but not precisely described — in Paris Meetings 1944. 

What does this mean? 

What do I fill myself with? What can I fill myself with?

I can't claim to know much about his exercise, although I probably know a little bit, because I've been taught a few exercises.

But I can rely, in this case, on my own work and an individual, if not traditional or collective, understanding of what it is to become full of something more real.

I place my attention on the place where Being begins. 

This is a quite interesting place, because it's generated by the contact between breathing in an attentive manner and the way in which the breath inwardly forms a connection to sensation. 

The air contains the particles of higher substances that can help increase the rate of vibration of sensation, but they can't be extracted unless the attention is already concentrated at a certain level of vibration itself. That's a tricky thing, of course; and yet once the attention learns to concentrate itself at that rate of vibration it is nearly always possible to enter a conscious relationship between breathing and sensation. 

It wouldn't do, of course, to stress that or use force on it; and one doesn't actually need to, because the ease of availability afforded by a right level of vibration tends to remove the need for any use of excess force in the first place. The relationship becomes natural because it is available; and I am available because of the inner rate of vibration. 

From this place I can better study where Being begins. I don't imagine that I’m "further ahead" from here than where I was before, or that I'm about to cross some loftier threshold than those I’ve known before. 

I ‘m just right here where things begin. 

Anything that is added to this is imagination, and right now I'm not interested in imagination. I'm interested in Being.

It’s very important to understand the distinction between imagination and Being. When imagination thinks it contains Being, there is nothing there, because where it began was already empty of anything but thought. 

When Being contains imagination, however, the real begins. I can then see imagination instead of living in it as my ordinary landscape. It becomes a separate thing which can be useful for both practical and recreational purposes; but in any event, I know what it is and I can clearly sense the difference between that and the beginning of life, the beginning of Being.

This place where Being begins is quite interested in forming a relationship; it’s the initiation of a space that can receive a higher energy that inwardly forms my parts in a different way. And so if I come to it gently, and without too much force — relaxed, as is often said in the Gurdjieff work – there’s a reciprocal force of Being in which myself-as-I-am and Being-as-it-is feed one another in partnership. This sounds like addition and subtraction, but it isn't. Nothing is added here; and nothing is taken away one from the other. 

We are together, here, I and myself, in this place where Being arises.

This is a beautiful and mysterious place. It doesn't have anything at all in it, and yet it is completely full. What is that mystery? I'm quite interested in staying here and investigating that, already knowing that I won't find an answer.

The investigation gives birth to an even finer vibration. 

Here I am.

There is a stillness in the place where Being begins. That is, perhaps, its prominent and most attractive characteristic: a stillness that has nothing in it. This is a new kind of emptiness. Unlike the emptiness that leaves me feeling void of value, this emptiness is value. I didn't know before that emptiness could be value; but now I understand that, because I’m filled with it as a substance and inhabit it as the beginning of a space within me. That space is fecund; it’s generative. 

The stillness is here to serve as a vessel that receives my life. That is what it's for.

I don't need to explain why I have a vessel or why life should fill it; from this place where Being begins, that doesn't need to be explained. I'm simply called to participate in what is a miraculous event that is filled with real emptiness, not the emptiness of my imagination, but the actual emptiness of my Being. 

My Being becomes a space that receives what life brings.

This isn't an exercise. This is just a set of impressions of how I can approach this question. Really, if I wish to be filled, I need to approach the place where Being begins and explore on my own, without demands or preconceptions, without assumptions. 

Hoping that you find yourself in good relationship today,



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Meister Squeakheart


Meister Squeakheart (aka Dojo)

Feb. 8

5:30 am, or thereabouts. Dojo the cat spends a good deal of time prowling around on my desk, right in my face, if he hasn't been fed in the morning. He has an odd, very high-pitched squeak unique to me in all my years of being a cat custodian. It’s endearing. 

He's a fluffy white squeaking hairball, Meister Sqeakheart. Having a presence like him around one first thing in the morning gives one cause for optimism about the future. If evolution can, in the end, produce Meister Squeakheart, it has miraculous properties (it's true we already knew that, but it's good to be reminded) and may do other very great things for the planet. 

It is not over, and all is not yet lost. 

Meister Squeakheart proves it.

We find our self here in the midst of the great unknown of life, making it known by living.

There is this mistaken impression that we can— that we do— somehow make the great unknown known by thinking, but the thinking alone can’t do it. The body has to exist its way through life and the feelings have to feel their way through life. For the most part, they’re creatures of the present moment. Thinking can imagine, which in some ways frees it from the present moment; but already this is misleading.

For example, I'm here this morning with a bit of time to think and write before I begin the other routines and tasks of the day. When I do have this time, I use it to evaluate; to see how I am inside from a relatively simple point of view, living in this one moment and experiencing this single life that I know of. 

As anyone who reads my notes from the morning knows, this always begins with breathing and sensing; but those are mostly of the body, and it is this immersion in the experience of the body and its own intelligence that interests me first. The mind wanders all over the place during the day like a stray dog; it can be trained, but only to an extent. The Self needs to be aware of it and keep an eye on it, but restraining it too much would be a mistake, because the dog would suffer and refuse to cooperate when cooperation is needed. But the body; the body stays here and is always a reliable partner. So it's where I begin.

From here, I will live today forward into darkness.

One of our friends is dying, perhaps already dead, as this is written. Last night, we collectively honored her presence and her life in a group meditation; and one hopes she will move into this last great unknown, the great gift of all the love that there is at the beginning of life, throughout life, and at the end of life, with as much freedom and care, attention and grace as she has moved through it so far. The intrusion of this thought punctuates where I am; a pause.

A stop.

Everything with we humans ends up being a long statement of opinion. Even opinions about the opinions of ourselves and others. Little enough time is spent just being here, taking things in, being grateful. This is why I begin in such a way each morning, in order to try and just be. 

True; it's my opinion this is a good thing. Yet through experience I know it provides me with an organic consistency that cannot be had from most social media, from the New York Times or Fox News or CNN. This organic consistency cannot be left in the hands of others or relied on without attention and intention. I have to know it’s there, to form a good relationship with it, to be here. In the midst of this great unknown, it’s a relatively small thing to ask myself to be responsible to this extent.

There’s some thing about us that believes that we can become great enough to know the unknown; that there’s something in us that could grow to be larger than what we are. Generally speaking, I find this to be true; yet what grows, if it grows and as it grows, grows here within the original small self. The original small self is a fragment of the Natural Self, the Original Self; it can only reassemble itself into any larger Self incrementally and through long work and suffering.

Even so, to presume that anything on this level can know truly things from other levels is a form of arrogance. I remember my teacher Betty Brown, who was of not-inconsiderable insight and development, asking me whether I didn't think it was a kind of arrogance, that we try to grow into creatures of greater understanding. She certainly came to that conclusion late in her life; and although I haven't reached her November age yet, I begin to see what she was getting at. We all secretly believe that even if we are not gods, we can become them. 

This lie lived out right in the face, so to speak, of our nothingness.

Well, these too are opinions. It's what we consistently fall back on.

These are my thoughts for this morning.

Hoping that you find yourself in good relationship today,



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Year of the Tiger


Tuesday, February 1 

In Asia this is the beginning of a new year, the year of the Tiger.

I find myself here in this body once again, as takes place every morning. 

The experience always fills me with the impression that this is the only day there is.

What goodness can I try to bring to this day? It’s already filled with goodness; yet I have the responsibility to act mindfully and with intelligence and attention to try to add to it voluntarily, from my own effort. The day is a blank slate which I must make an effort to write goodness for others into. 

I’ll already have quite enough goodness for myself, it’s given in the first place. The question is what I’ll do with it. I have a responsibility to this body, this being, and this day to make an intelligent, sensitive effort towards what the day brings. 

This is quite difficult because so much of my psyche and my spiritual intelligence turns inward. That isn't a bad thing of itself, because turning inward is necessary in order to cultivate the growth of the soul; yet the ego also turns inward, and it easily deflects this action to its own purposes. The next thing you know, the day is about me and mine and what I want, rather than everything and what it is. 

This question of taking everything and what is in with equanimity and the stillness of a receptive compassion is, for me, where life begins. 

This is where attention is born and where it forms the kernel of what could be mindful action within life. That's only going to take place now, not some other time when I'm better prepared. I can't keep waiting to get my game on. I have to make an effort now.

Because I was a bit sleepy this morning, I made my hot chocolate without honey. It's OK; it's still good. As I drink it I feel the contrast of the nourishment that it brings to the stomach, the gut, and I can distinctly sense the difference between this nourishment and the nourishment of the air which I’m breathing. Each one feeds molecular sensation in a different way, and they combine together to form a more complete nourishment. This morning, as always, the third food of emotional impression and the consequent arousal of feeling is a bit less organized. Perhaps it needs to be that way, because I need to use my instinct and my sense of touch to navigate through this complicated territory, balance the many different factors that combine in it, discover that stillness of receptive compassion that allows feeling to become more sensitive, more intelligent, more informative of the whole.

So much of inner prayer is becoming tactile, touching what is real, keeping an attention and using a delicate and gentle contact with the whole of being.  

Who knows what will come next?

I don't know. 

It's inevitable that I will judge much of what I encounter today; and yet do I see that every judgment I have is far, far more a reflection of who I am and what my attitude is than of that which I judge? 

Perhaps I can suspend a bit of the judgment and just receive life as it is. 

Maybe this is the difference between judgment and discrimination: judgment is the speaking of the law, discrimination is the seeing of different things. 

I want to make myself the Law. 

This is where things go wrong.

Do I know the Law?

One of the impression that has been troubling me lately as a white male in his later 60s is encountering the fact that, above all other sexes and races, white males tend to think that they are The Law. It's in fact quite astonishing that looking straight into the sharpened teeth of our own mortality, the majority of we white males keep insisting — delusionally, there is no doubt —that we know better than everyone else. There's something about aged testosterone that turns foul; yet men in their later years seem to crack open the cask in their private reserve on a daily basis and drink it with gusto, congratulating themselves on how well it has aged.

I've never had much patience with that fraction of the male community who believes that everything is a contest, some form of judo where you outwit your opponent and demonstrate your superiority. Yet the subtle (and too often far-from-subtle) thread of that activity runs through most of what takes place in men. I'm not sure if there's anything quite like that in women; perhaps so, but I'm not a woman, and can't exactly say. It has always struck me, however, that women generally have a somewhat better feeling capacity for living than men do. 

Well, I can't fix these things. 

I do, however, have a responsibility to see clearly and with a critical mind and to see my own place within these actions. 

How am I? 

I need to come closer to the organic sense of my being if I want to develop the potential for real compassion, real discrimination. The golden rule needs to become a more intelligent and active force in life for me. For myself, I remind myself daily and often that above all, I should try to do no harm. It’s much easier to do harm in almost any situation than it is to be kind and act with care.

So these are the questions I have this morning as I breathe in and out, and these are the considerations and aims I put to myself for the day.

Hoping that you find yourself in good relationship today,



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Dead Zen Masters


January 30.

It is only about 11° outside, after snow yesterday. 

The coldness exists as an actual condition that can be felt even in the midst of the warmth of the household, because everything is connected and even though it's warm in here, and I’m in my pajamas, the objective condition on the planet here is that it is cold, and the warmth of the house and the coldness of the outside are not separated. They are together here.

I have parts in me that are cold and warm too, and they are not separated either. For example, my feet are colder right now than my heart. I can feel the difference quite distinctly just by putting a light touch of attention on each one.

This is what it means to be human, to have parts that are a different temperatures. Temperature is a function of the vibration of molecules. Even thoughts can have different temperatures. This is why we say that some people are hot tempered. Others are for example passive aggressive, and although this is equally oppositional, it’s a cooler condition. 

The temperatures of thoughts affect one another; some thoughts can raise the temperature of other thoughts, and then there are thoughts that can cool things down. Ideally, one reaches an equilibrium of temperature in which there is not so much chaos and convection. Meditation can help with such things. It’s useful, however, to think about this from time to time: to take the temperature of my thought, to see how things are in me.

I was reading The Other Shore by the Zen Master Thich Nat Hanh last night. He says many right things and had very good insight — some would call it enlightened insight. However you look at it, his thoughts were of a much more homogeneous temperature than those of most other individuals. He correctly assessed the nature of being — calling it inter-being, which is another word for relationship — and he knew essential things about the universe, such as the fact that the entire universe is contained in the period at the end of this sentence, although he didn't describe it quite the same way I have in other pieces years back. 

Well, he wasn't me — despite a similarity in the temperature of our thinking, we are different people, and we think somewhat differently — and it's perfectly OK that we each use our own descriptions. It's good that we do, because we should not repeat what others say like parrots, but rather find our own way of saying things.

What strikes me about Thich Nat Hanh isn't that he was a Zen Master. In many ways that’s a bad turn of phrase because it obscures his true nature. 

His true nature is that he became a human being. Even as a dead human being, he is still a human being, because there is not as much separation between living human beings and dead human beings as as there might appear to be. That is a long subject and rather too much to discuss here, but it's pretty interesting and maybe I will write about it later.

When we use the label "Zen Master” we create a separation of sorts. The aim in life isn't to become a Zen Master; it is to become a human being. The minute you have Zen Masters, already you have creatures that are distinct from and supposedly somehow “above” other human beings, and who really needs that? What we need are more human beings, not more Zen Masters. Zen Masters, as it happens — the real ones, that is — basically know this and are constantly trying to get their disciples to become human beings, not Zen Masters. We have more than enough Zen Masters, but we are desperately short of real human being on this planet. 

It reminds me of the story about the Zen Master whose disciples found themselves together in the dojo when one of the disciples came back from a trip to another country. They brought an exemplary wooden Buddha back with them. The Zen Master was suitably impressed and spent time praising the excellent qualities of the wooden Buddha.

Finally one of the disciples became irritated. "Why are you making such a fuss over the wooden Buddha?” he said. “it's just an object. Not a real Zen Master.“

“Real Zen Masters are a dime a dozen," replied the Zen Master. “A good wooden Buddha is hard to find.”

Underlying this whole conversation is one of the meanings of the phrase, "if you meet the Buddha in the road, kill him." The aim of practice is to become a human being, not some artificially elevated creature. 

The etymology of the word master is from Latin magister, which likely derives from magis, meaning more. So the master has more of whatever it is that he has mastery over. 

Yet to be a master of being human is simply to be more human than the next human being; and this aim of deepening our humanity ought to be what we strive for. This means coming into a deeper relationship, a more connected and concentrated state, with both our thinking, our feeling, and our bodies. It produces a kind of humility in which the mastery is not over the outer world, but over the temperature of our inner being, the confusion of our thoughts, the conflict of our emotions, the desires of our body. We do not need to overcome these things but rather to come into a balanced relationship with them. This is a complicated and difficult task, being human, it is no easy thing. It takes many decades of living and many years of practice in order to begin to approach it.

The successful master becomes the servant of what it means to be human, not the overlord. To become a servant is different. 

Yet of course, everyone is trained from childhood to want to be the overlord of something, anything, just as long as they are allowed to have control over it. This is a terribly childish impulse that stalks human beings throughout a lifetime and causes them to do reprehensible and tragic things.

These are my thoughts for this morning.

Hoping that you find yourself in good relationship today,



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

God's Presence


I would say a few more things about God's goodness this morning, because one must only talk about it when it is present.

God's goodness can be with us always. It is never very far away, for the soul that has a wish to be good; and even though our souls are creatures of sin, it is entirely possible for them to have a wish to be good. 

This is already enough to gain the attention of the Lord and for help to be sent.

That can come at any time, in any day or at any moment. It is not reserved for times of prayer or repentance. The characterizing feature of God's goodness is that it is abundant and merciful and omnipresent. The best literary source that speaks of this is Brother Lawrence's record, The Practice of the Presence of God.

I'll admit right up front that this is a high practice, and we cannot expect to become Brother Lawrence just because we admire his writing or the depth of his faith. But we can seek to follow his example, because it is so simple and so eloquently presented. I have always said that not much more is really necessary if one wishes to understand one’s place in the world and the extraordinary generosity which flows down into the creative world and into life itself from God.

To which I would say, do not attend to the mischief of the world and those in it who would do harm. Attend rather to yourself, and the love of God which can arise in you. This is the place in which our attention should be concentrated and our treasure should be stored.

God’s goodness is given without the expectation of return; it is given simply because God is already very good and already very merciful, and cares for us the way a mother cares for her daughter or a father cares for his son, only ever more so. We’re not just coarse creatures of the flesh; equally, we are God’s spiritual sons and daughters and we carry a fragment of his light in us always. Those who know this in the faith of their soul and the marrow of their bones do not forget it; and what is not forgotten is ever – present. It is always prepared to receive God when He comes.

Truly, I do not expect most people to understand this. When the grace of God is not present it is already hard enough for me to understand it, and the grace of God must by its very nature withdraw from time to time, else my own wish would grow weak. But when the grace of God flows in, then, yes, then, one can understand the bounty of creation and the mercy that fills it in every atom and molecule of its existence. And those are the moments in which the promise of faith is fulfilled.

Hoping that you find yourself in good relationship today,



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Works Without God Himself


There are many who would have all the works of God without having God. These are the men and the women of the earth and of things, who make the world of themselves and of things and nothing else.

This is foolishness, because God cannot be removed from what is already God’s; to do so is to empty it of all goodness, to pour it onto the ground as though the blood of life itself was swallowed into the earth and disappeared. 

Yet in the act of not having God, already, these folk have no god except themselves. In a world of creatures that have no God except themselves, there are many Gods, as many as there are creatures; each of them a lowly God that will — sometimes secretly, sometimes openly — wish to kill all the other Gods and those that worship them. 

This is the world we live in. It could be a paradise filled with goodness; but of our own wills and egos we make it into a hellfire filled with many great demons. We fashion them ourselves, out of our own desire.

Many of the things that Gurdjieff said were and continue to be terribly misunderstood not by the general public, but by those who purport to follow them. When he spoke, for example, of conscious egoism, he meant that we need to have an ego that is conscious not of itself, but of God. An ego that does recognize its place in service to the higher will of God is a damaged thing; yet — and this is the great danger — it is the very thing we tend to worship first, because we can't imagine anything else. We worship the idol, the symbol we have created of ourselves and for ourselves, rather than worshiping God. This is the same exact thing as being of the earth and of things. 

Few are able to see, even unto the end of life, how this ends in nothing. It is catastrophe; but we human beings secretly love catastrophe. No surprises here.

To wish for something real is to wish for God. I note with puzzlement that so many reject God and think God is the one thing that is not real, whereas the exact opposite is definitely and absolutely true. There is a knowing of God that is different than the thinking of God; and there is an understanding of God that is not a believing in God. This knowing and this understanding are not just in the flesh and blood of Christ, they are in the marrow of the bones. All truth proceeds from this. 

If we come into contact with this truth, all goodness and all truth will be given to us; without that contact, we are given the whole world, which is nothing. It is the dish with great taste that has no salt.

I know already from many years of experience that it is impossible to convince the heathen. Those who don't want to know God will not know God. You have to begin with this wish; and what is absolutely clear about so many is that they believe they understand what a real wish is, when in fact they have absolutely no idea. The only real wish is the wish to know God; and unless one begins with that wish, all other wishes are ultimately useless. 

Yet no one can make a self that is selfish have a wish that is not its own; and the wish to know God from within, to know what it is to live in the kingdom of heaven, is not a wish of the self and for the self, but a wish of God and for God. One can know those who worship themselves by this very fact.

Self-worship is of the devil; and we all have the devil in us. Everything in us that wishes for ourselves and not God must be carefully examined, question, challenged. We are permitted to have the earth and things; but only to the extent that we put God before them, and temptations make this a difficult task. The phrase "lead us not into temptation" is about this very matter: we must put God before the earth and things, receive His goodness first. This goodness will sweeten the earth and things in the same way that milk nourishes and honey sweetens everything it is put in. One does not know how much the earth and things are missing until ones puts the milk and honey of God’s goodness in them. 

I say these things only as a witness, because I understand already that those without God and who are not for God cannot be convinced. They are lost not to God but to themselves; and there is a point late in life where this cannot be turned around any more. As Christ said, “Let the dead bury their dead.” 

But for those who have doubt and uncertainty in the midst of a secret faith that is yet willing, I do testify this: to persevere is possible. 

To wish with all the fiber of ones being for the understanding of God's goodness is an act that will be heard amongst the angels; and help will be sent.

Hoping that you find yourself in good relationship today,



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.