Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Manifesto of Grace

St. Dorothy and St. Catherine
Museé des Beaux Arts, Dijon
Master of the Passion of Darmstadt, circa 1440

There is an eternal Grace that is forever present within us.

God sends so much goodness, and so much beauty, and so much of His Perfection into the world at every moment that no matter how much evil humanity engages in, it is impossible to overwhelm it. Do you see this? I have seen it every day.

Grace is the power of Love; and everything in creation, even the worst of it (whatever that is) is made from that beauty.

When we open our hearts to receive Grace—through long and diligent action, through obedience and submission— eventually it rushes in so quickly and so deeply and profoundly that no force in heaven or on earth can stand against it; for we are the children of the Lord and One with Him, and He does not forget us, no matter how much we may forget Him.
There is a just and righteous obedience that’s necessary, that’s true; and we must submit to it in the midst of our sin and confession, because it is only through this humility of knowing nothing and a confession of sin (which is nothing more or less than turning away from the Lord) that we can render ourselves vulnerable enough to receive the Great, and Good, and Just Grace that is afforded unto us, as God’s creations.

God rushes us into us then in the same way that air rushes in to fill a vacuum; for there is no more natural place for God’s Love to dwell than in a man’s or woman’s heart, and no worthier receptacle was ever created for that Love.

One can know this immediately and personally; there is no need to wait or to argue, to hypothesize or engage in conjecture. The Lord’s Grace is already present within us, in that secret place where the Great Sense of the Soul resides.

There are times when I am so close to all this beauty that the rapture it induces seems impossible; yet I am tasked to live this life in an ordinary way, and have no privilege to celebrate it, no matter its intensity. Rather that rapture becomes a daily companion that informs (inwardly forms) the absolute goodness of everything that takes place. Indeed, the greater my acceptance, the more honest my admission of how God walks with me in every footstep, the deeper that inward formation.
One might ask, why witness such things in this way? Well, we live in a world where so much evil witnesses; every man, woman and child witnesses for his or her self, and nowadays men and nations become the bearers of dark torches and prophets of woe. The devils have many voices, and loud; and they are unloving, for devils use all love for themselves. It is in their nature.

Someone must stand against them and speak for truth and goodness; everyone who stands on the side of God must speak out in truth and goodness, against these numerous damnations.

Don’t despair; because no matter how many devils speak, they cannot overcome love. The more it is tried and tested, the stronger it becomes; and it is the duty of every good religious man and woman to stand here, in the midst of God’s Beauty, Grace, and Goodness, and to bear those trials together.

It’s true, in doing so we must confront our own fear and sins and anger; but we never do this alone, because God’s love is always here to help us, if we wish it.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A senstivity to contradictions

From the Altarpiece of St. Margaret
Museé des Beaux Arts, Dijon
Master of the Cobourg Roundels, end 15th century 

I’m filled with contradictions.

The difference between awareness and the lack of awareness is the difference between seeing the contradictions as they manifest, and believing that there is nothing contradictory in me.

In reality, I’m made of many competing forces. My awareness occupies a place in the center of them, if it is there.

I have many different wishes and desires. All of them are partially intelligent and wish to satisfy themselves. It takes a greater intelligence to help align them with a greater vision; and even then, they are persistent, because they do contain some fraction of the truth within them. Often, that fraction is close enough related to legitimate motivations and needs of the soul that it gives up its independence reluctantly.

So in a certain sense, I can entertain wishes and desires and even celebrate them, as long as I don’t become their victim. I become their victim if these elements of partiality begin to dictate courses of action that harm others (first) or myself (second.) I put others first because if I harm myself, at least the damage is limited, whereas if I harm others—especially in conditions where I am responsible for their welfare—my sin is grave indeed.

Nonetheless, I will find it inevitable, at times, that I contradict even this, after I know it intelligently. If I do that, I commit a sin which is difficult to redress.

So I am here in Hong Kong, reading Epictetus, digesting his stoic material, and examining my own contradictions. Yesterday in the elevator, I was surrounded by many Chinese people who were doing their best to do what people in elevators do: ignore each other, and be polite when we had to acknowledge one another. It occurred to me at that moment, as I saw the contradictory and abstracted flow of associations moving through my mind, and the impressions that were coming in in the elevator, that every other individual in that elevator had an equally contradictory and abstracted flow of associations taking place at the same time.

All of us were, collectively, in relationship and in community in that elevator, yet the relationship was incomplete and the community was fractured. We live, in this sense, in isolation, each one bringing their own contradictions collectively to each moment in time, which we then experience together. The community is tangible; yet the contradictions we nurse are invisible.

This particular moment may not seem very useful, yet it illustrates quite strikingly how isolated I am. How isolated we all are. No wonder we yearn to discover a loving relationship with other people; to come into relationship in a way that is free, that has a genuine spirit of goodness to it and is unhesitating and uncritical. We are even willing to do harm in order to get such relationships (think of what happened to Troy, which is fresh on my mind as I read Epictetus.)

Following on my earlier meditation on the nature of love on this trip, and of the inevitable contradictions that arise within the context of this question, I’m interested in exactly what our sensitivity to contradiction is. We are required to inhabit it, whether we want to or not; what is not required is that we see it.

To see it — or to even wish to see it — is a higher level of effort, will, and aspiration than to just let the contradictions run my life.

They can run my life; they do, in many cases, run my life.

Yet I need to be in front of them and ask them why they are so insistent, why they have such a great wish to exercise power.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

On self remembering

Now our Lord says, "Whoever abandons anything for me and for my name's sake, I will return it to him a hundredfold, with eternal life to boot" (Matt. 19:29). But if you give it up for the sake of that hundredfold and for eternal life, you have given up nothing; even if you give it up for a thousandfold reward you are giving up nothing. You must give up yourself, altogether give up self, and then you have really given up.

—Meister Eckhart, sermon 17

What does self-remembering mean?

The self, experienced from our perspective, is a complex object. Any opinion that the self can be “observed” in a context that limits it to the status off what can be observed is already insufficient; in reality, the self expands to fill the available space, when considered from this angle. So there is no theoretical or practical limit to what can be observed; and conventional imagination is unable to grasp both the scale and scope of the matter.

I think the first time I had an inkling of this was at the age of nine when I first saw Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights; and although it’s impossible to comprehend the vast nature of the teaching which that painting attempts to impart, it implants a seed. It is, in its own way, the late medieval version of Gurdjieff’s All and Everything; our psyches embody not only the possible, but the impossible, and the soul has no definable boundaries from within which we can accurately measure its nature. Certainly not, in any event, from within; yet in the practice of self-observation and self-remembering, that is where it’s proposed we begin.

Eckhart’s contention, then, that we should “give up self” implies an abandonment of our attempts to measure that which cannot be measured; his exhortation here is very nearly Buddhist in its scope, and seems to fly in the face of the whole idea of self-remembering.

Having spent the greater part of a lifetime engaged in a discipline which is, in large part, based on this selfsame activity, the practical experiences by now outweigh the philosophical conundrums; and the question still remains. There is an apparently inexhaustible reservoir of advice and direction from which folks pump “self-remembering help” materials for the public; and it is burned like so much fossil fuel, filling the atmosphere of the inner planet with spiritual smog. Perhaps it is more in the naming of things than the doing of them that the devil collects his dues; for the moment we name what we do, we presume some mastery over it, whereas it would seem the whole point of self-observation is, in the end, to see that we do not have any mastery.

In this way, perhaps the living of life with an inner eye turned towards it ought to remain nameless; and in this sense we ought to forget about both self-remembering and self-forgetting. A presence that accepts the material of life as it flows inwards does not need definitions of the mind; it creates its own parameters which are composed more of wordless feelings and sensations than of the words that capture them.

Reading Jeanne Salzmann’s comments about imagination of self (The Reality of Being, # 72) it’s possible to intimate how much imagination plays a role in this situation; and in the contact of that compound essay, especially its last few lines, perhaps we catch a glimpse of Eckhart’s direction:

“The imagined "I," my imagination of "I," will continue to be reinforced even in the most unconscious layers of myself. I must honestly accept that I really do not know this. Only in accepting this as a fact will I become interested and truly wish to know it. Then my thoughts, feelings and actions will no longer be objects for me to look at with indifference. They are me, expressions of my self, which I alone am here to understand. If I wish to understand them, I must live with them, not as a spectator but with affection, and without judging or excusing them. It is necessary to live with my thoughts, feelings and actions, to suffer them, from moment to moment.”

To live with and to suffer is to sense and to feel; not to think over. It is the immediacy of the inner action that connects us to a greater sense of being, not the intellectual inferences.

Earlier in the passage Salzmann says,

“But today the controlling influence is the idea of myself, and this imagined "I" desires, fights, compares and judges all the time. It wants to be the first, it wants to be recognized, admired and respected, and make its force and power felt. This complex entity has been formed over centuries by the psychological structure of society.”

We don’t really see it, but it is this exact entity that thinks it can observe; this entity which thinks it can see, and remember. 

And it’s this particular “self” which Eckhart refers to when he speaks of abandoning the self.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Obligate consciousness, and duty

Auberive, France

I recently coined the term “obligate consciousness” in order to try to better define the nature of the relationship between man and God. This term embodies an ancient idea that man and God are dependent upon one another and not actually separated.

While there are texts all the way from the Vedas through to relatively modern times (Ibn Arabi, Gurdjieff, Swedenborg, Sri Anirvan, etc.) that allude to this, it seems worthwhile to investigate the term in the context of this expression.

Obligation, in the Oxford English dictionary, means the binding together of one thing with another. The word derives from the same root as ligature, that is, a tether that binds. The idea that we are bound to God is embodied in the Catholic and Episcopalian ritual of prayer:

it is meet, right, and our bounden duty at all times and in all places to give thanks unto the Lord.

Of course, this is a formalized version of Gurdjieff’s subtle adage to remember oneself “always and everywhere"; —it means much more than it sounds like it means—but more important, it expresses the point of our duty to God, and the fact that we are bound to Him, not at all in the sense of bondage, but in the sense of reciprocity.

It is impossible to be separated from God, even if one denies God and disclaims His existence. Even that action is, paradoxically, of God, because all things are of God. If it sounds confusing to you, consider the fact that you are your own God; yet undoubtedly, you have parts of yourself that are confused and reject the others. This is a normal condition, and every person with a conscience is plagued by it. One can’t sort one’s psychology out without confronting it.

In any event, we are obliged towards God: that is, we are bound to God by the very nature of consciousness itself, which is a manifestation of God’s Being and Presence. Even the relative ignorance and darkness of the human intellect, which is tiny, cannot dispel this condition or entirely cut the tether. We are bound to God through duty; we are God’s representatives, and our conscious nature and Being itself are already microcosmic and fragmentary representations of God’s entire Being.

The part of a human being which is most supposed to be able to sense this organically (rather than think about it) is one’s feeling part; and it does this through the sensation of sorrow and remorse, whereby it relocates its sense of value so that one understands one’s relationship not to oneself — this, of course, is what we are always obsessed with, even though it is unimportant in the end — but to God. And coming around to that point, feeling has a powerful tool that is supposed to help realign our understanding of ourselves and our relationship to others and to God.

It is called shame.

It is from a German root, Scham; and worthy of examination from that perspective alone. The Oxford English dictionary describes it as follows:
the painful emotion arising from the consciousness of something dishonoring, ridiculous, or indecorous in one’s own conduct or circumstances (or in those of others whose honor or disgrace one regards as one’s own), or of being in a situation which offends one’s sense of modesty or decency.

Now, the Germans have a word which means, roughly, brazen or outrageous: unverschämt. We could also say, unashamed, but that doesn’t quite convey the sense of violation that the German word has built into it.

If one forgets ones obligation to God, if one loses the ability to sense that, this particular faculty of Unverschämtheit—outrageousness— can exercise itself without restraint. And we see a very great deal of that in the world today.

It is, basically, the opposite of humility, which derives from the word humus, for earth. To be humble, in other words, means to know where one is — in a very low place, on earth. Once one forgets that, one has mislocated one’s value and thinks that one is God.

Perhaps we could roughly equate that with egoism; yet egoism is no longer sufficient to describe modern human behavior, because egoism has recently undergone an inflationary event much like the Big Bang at the beginning of the universe. It has expanded to proportions that in its own "eyes" release it from obligation — it is no longer, in its own vision, bound by any sense of obligation or duty towards something higher.

It would be putting it mildly to say that this will not end well for humanity. 

Yet here we are.


My new book is now available in paperback, and as a PDF.  While the book, in its first half, discusses Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson at considerable length, it also looks at the nature of the universe in some depth from a cosmological point of view in the second half, The Information of the Soul.

For the text of the introduction, see the PDF link.

Novel, Myth and Cosmos at Amazon (paperback)

PDF file for digital devices cab be ordered at:

Novel, Myth and Cosmos PDF format

An iTunes bookstore version will be available soon.

Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

On what we value, part VI—a summary

This series of essays has covered a fairly wide range of territory, but its central premise is quite simple. We don’t know what to value. Egoism causes us to value ourselves in almost every single situation we find ourselves in. And egoism, like all the other features in being, is not a psychological action or theoretical premise; it isn’t, furthermore, an intellectual feature which can be expelled by an action of the mind. It uses all of our parts, intellect, sensation, and emotion, for its own purposes. It is, in other words, a collective entity, not one who can be dealt with from a single point of view. Even if one constructs significant intellectual barriers to it, it will find ways around them using the other parts. So a harmonious approach to the discovery of real being — which is what Gurdjieff advocated — needs to be employed; an approach which integrates all of the centers and re-forms their value around a right understanding.

Practices that understand this correctly from the technical point of view that is, in many senses, essential to the process are rare. Every tradition understands this, in one way or another, from an allegorical or metaphysical point of view; yet perhaps we need to apply a science to it first so that we understand exactly what is going wrong. That science cannot be a science of mechanistic rationalism; because it cannot presume that everything is an accident.

In order to truly understand the need for our lack of value, we must understand first the entire integrated technical process of where we are going wrong; because every assumption that starts from a point other than the exact point where the incorrect valuation takes place already creates its own mathematics, which will acquire in most cases an absolutely consistent structure of its own which nonetheless deviates in every way from the structure that is necessary. The cases in which this takes place are as numerous as the individuals who undertake spiritual effort.

The exact place where our sense of value goes wrong is right here and right now. It is well to examine that carefully; because if we do not study this exact point where the division between selfishness and unselfishness, decency and indecency, heaven and hell, takes place, we can’t understand anything about why our world is the way it is.

Perhaps the greatest irony in this situation is that because of our ability to take in and concentrate both consciousness and the representative of the Creator (the particles of sorrow) we cannot only alleviate God’s suffering; it lies within our power, if a community works this way, to alleviate a great deal of the suffering we must undergo ourselves; this, because when a community works in this , a powerful force of love is attracted which can act against the forces of entropy and dissolution on a local level.

It must take place, of course, within individuals first, before it can manifest in community; and here is why it is so important for us to consciously undertake a search for valuation which begins in God.

All the valuations which attempt to invert that understanding and point in other directions are always doomed to end in failure and violence one way or the other.


My new book is now available in paperback, and as a PDF.  While the book, in its first half, discusses Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson at considerable length, it also looks at the nature of the universe in some depth from a cosmological point of view in the second half, The Information of the Soul.

For the text of the introduction, see the PDF link.

Novel, Myth and Cosmos at Amazon (paperback)

PDF file for digital devices cab be ordered at:

Novel, Myth and Cosmos PDF format

An iTunes bookstore version will be available soon.

Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, January 1, 2018

On what we value, part V—the difficult actions of the soul

Do not forget that Gurdjieff said, in Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, that existence in the universe must, in the end, be nothing but suffering. Our search for value must be tied to this action; indeed, it means nothing without it, and of course the Buddhists know how essential the question of suffering is to the action of spiritual search. This question is central to all real religious traditions regardless of their age or origin.

The action of the sorrow as a universal “active representative of God” that is collected and concentrated along with the concentration of consciousness as an action that leads to the distillation and purification of that consciousness as it absorbs, without exception, all of the impressions and encounters. This is a terribly difficult activity; the conscious soul is not excused under any circumstances from encountering all of the consequences of creation, including the ones that appear to be negative or evil. It has to free itself from subjective (personal) experiences and interpretations related to this and attempt to understand it in the larger context which Sri Anirvan explains to us. In doing so, it must employ the feeling faculty, which is the most sensitive part of a human being; and that faculty, which provides a connection to astral forces (read The Sixth Sense) comes into its full operation at the note La on the Enneagram, that is, the point at which purification takes place. This is associated with the throat in the chakra system; and it is, logically enough, related to purification because the representative of God (the particles of sorrow) are what allows God to speak. That is what a representative does: it carries a message from what it represents and presents it: it stands in the place of what it represents and speaks for.

In this sense, then, when we speak about listening in all inner works what we are listening to, in the end, is the voice of this sorrow the way that it expresses itself. It offers us an opportunity for emotional purification through its action, if we listen. Listening involves being willing to take on the suffering in a conscious way — Gurdjieff’s “intentional suffering.” While I haven’t written many things about this over the years, this is probably the most comprehensive overview on the subject, because it ties so many of the questions together — and, of course, centers around a valuation of being that begins in God and not in myself.

The most difficult action of the soul, however, isn’t in absorbing the emanations of the sorrow of His Endlessness; and it isn’t taking in the often horrifying impressions of the terrible violence that we do to one another on this planet, or the results of accidental catastrophes such as tsunamis or storms. The most difficult action for every soul is to stop its mechanical action of egoistically locating its sense of value in itself. I use the word difficult because the soul has to give up so much in order to turn its sense of value inside out.

Swedenborg argued that the line between selfishness and unselfishness demarcated the boundary between heaven and hell; and everything in Gurdjieff’s teaching about recognizing one’s own nothingness also turns on this point, if it is understood. In a certain way a soul has to give itself up to discover the real value of life, which lies in God. It is a soul sacrifice; but it is not a sacrifice to the devil. Instead it is a sacrifice to God. The irony here is that the whole action of the soul under ordinary circumstances is already the sacrifice to the devil that everyone fears so much in Christianity and other religions.
 I’ll wrap this lengthy discourse up with a practical example. Last night I woke up in the middle of the night and was plagued, at once, by selfish automatic thoughts about a situation I am currently in in which I thought I should get something. Thoughts of this kind our persistent in all of us. Yet at the same time, as is so often the case in the middle of the night, the organic presence of the Lord was active; and I had to keep turning my attention back to her relationship with that, because that was the priority: to rediscover and really concentrate the relationship with God, which consisted of directly suffering my incarnation and mortality. The part in me which wished to yet and to have from life, and that felt the situation I was contemplating was somehow unfair, had to be dialed all the way down to zero; and it is like this with everything I want for myself. In the ordinary action of life, it is acceptable want for oneself up to a certain point; but no more. And the relationship with God must absolutely come first. It has to be inserted as the postulate, before my opinions and cravings.

The situation reminds me of Gurdjieff’s adage that a man should make as much money as he can, but only with his left leg.


My new book is now available in paperback, and as a PDF.  While the book, in its first half, discusses Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson at considerable length, it also looks at the nature of the universe in some depth from a cosmological point of view in the second half, The Information of the Soul.

For the text of the introduction, see the PDF link.

Novel, Myth and Cosmos at Amazon (paperback)

PDF file for digital devices cab be ordered at:

Novel, Myth and Cosmos PDF format

An iTunes bookstore version will be available soon.

Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

On what we value, part IV—the existence of sorrow

It is terribly difficult for a human being to understand that our relationship to God’s consciousness is reciprocal; and that we participate together in what is called obligate consciousness. 

That is to say, the consciousness of man and God is bound together; one depends on the other.

Human beings who don’t want to believe in God (remember, their valuation already begins with themselves) look around them in the world and see awful things happening and say to themselves, “there can’t be a real God or a merciful or loving God, because these awful things take place.” 

This lack of understanding arises because of failure to understand the nature of the obligate relationship of consciousness. 

When God created a reciprocal consciousness, all emanating from himself, within the material universe, that consciousness — which was inevitably a fragment of his own absolute autonomy — demanded autonomy of its own, because the autonomy of God is within His nature. 

God was morally required, due to the obligate nature of the relationship, to release this fragment of his own consciousness from his absolute control and allow it to have its own autonomy. With that autonomy came the potential, inevitably, for rejection and rebellion, because autonomy includes the possibility of difference. 

When God did this, he did it out of absolute Love, understanding that the growth of Being — which is what His aim was in creating the universe, that is, the concentration of responsibility, the gathering of impressions, and the return of them unto the Godhead — absolutely and irrevocably depended on its ability to exercise its own autonomy.

In the instant of creation, God already understood that releasing this force carried the potential for great evil as well as great good; and yet the Love of his creation and its creatures required Him to allow such choice. 

So a great metaphysical gong of anguish was sounded in Heaven at the instant of creation; it was already known that creation would include both good and evil, both creative forces that concentrated responsibility and destructive forces that denied it and tore it apart. Part of the obligate nature of the relationship of consciousness was God’s willingness to allow this; if He did not, it would never be possible for the diffused supreme energy of His Being to re-concentrate itself, because that action had to take place voluntarily, by choice — otherwise it would not be a worthy action aligned with God’s own cosmic intelligence.

In this way, creation and everything that took place in it was automatically granted responsibility for what happened: in the same way that God became responsible for allowing for the possibility of good and evil as described above, human beings and all of conscious creation became responsible for its execution. In a certain sense, the release from absolute moral obligation at this level was required in order for the level to properly reflect both God’s nature and our own potential; yet it was already known in the realms of heaven that this action opened the gates to the potential for staggering disasters.

The universe began, then, with the sounding of the gong of anguish; and the reverberation of that anguish passed through from the heavenly realms throughout all of material creation, penetrating all of material reality with what Gurdjieff called the sorrow of the creator:

And concerning this he once said as follows: “ ‘The factors for the being-impulse conscience arise in the presences of the three-brained beings from the localization of the particles of the “emanations-of-the-sorrow” of our OMNI-LOVING AND LONG-SUFFERING-ENDLESS-CREATOR; that is why the source of the manifestation of genuine conscience in three-centered
beings is sometimes called the REPRESENTATIVE OF THE CREATOR. “ ‘And this sorrow is formed in our ALL-MAINTAINING COMMON FATHER from the struggle constantly proceeding in the Universe between joy and sorrow.’

This sorrow is, furthermore, a material substance of a very fine nature that penetrates everything; and it needs to be of that nature, because it needs to stand perpetually prepared to respond through the loving action of God — His anguish on behalf of his creation — to every evil instance that arises. 

It is on the nature of a metaphysical substance that is already there as the antidote for everything that goes against Love, before the rebellion takes place. In this way, God foresaw the consequences of autonomy in the world of obligate consciousness and placed a mechanism at the foundation of reality to counteract, at least emotionally and through a Love-feeling, the worst of its effects. 

In this sense, any and all sorrow and anguish we can feel are cleansing substances, purifiers, antidotes, and healers of the evil that inevitably arises on this level. God has foreseen the eventuality; and in placing this substance at the root of the cosmos, He has furthermore created conditions that automatically convert all evil actions that take place into good on a much larger cosmic scale:

The mind, unable to penetrate behind the veil, cannot grasp the total plan of the divine providence and, in its characteristically one-sided view of things, finds it equally easy either to approve or to decry; like the Kantian antinomies, the arguments both for and against appear then to be logically valid. As long as this duality of mutual contradiction prevails, it is not possible for the mind to evolve an ethical ideal that will have any eternal value, unyielding to the challenge of temporal or environmental changes. 

…there is also possible an insight into a deeper subjective experience, which in the thick of the blind and maddening rush of events reveals to the heart the unfolding of a secret purpose that can be measured only in the terms of the silent joy of the spiritual blooming of the individual to which the whole cosmic process is made subservient. This spiritual intuition of the good, variously called lila, anandam, or the perfect self-poise of the liberated soul, is the ultimate basis of all ethical standards. But as is usually the case, this supernormal vision at one step further becomes warped by the partial vision of the tendentious mind and gives rise to the current norms of morality, which always contain a seed of violence… 

The mental limitation thus imposed on the integral perception of the spirit can be done away with only when we can live in the higher altitudes beyond mind in the stratosphere of the cosmic buddhi, where the conflict between the universal moral order (rita) and its perversions on the mental plane (anrita) can be so resolved as to secure for the action of the individual a sanction, not of the code of traditional morality but of the direct vision of the divine purpose behind it. 

It is the vision which reveals to the discerning spirit the mysterious ways of the divine action (divya karma) which are evolving the eternal good through apparent evils, the abiding values through the vicissitudes of circumstances, first in the crystal-clear inner vision of the realized man, and ultimately in the totality of the world movement which, however, always remains an enigma to the surface mind.

—Sri Anirvan, Inner Yoga, pos 80-81

It may appear, by now, that we have strayed far from the subject of valuation. But in the next post I will explain how these subjects are tied together.


My new book is now available in paperback, and as a PDF.  While the book, in its first half, discusses Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson at considerable length, it also looks at the nature of the universe in some depth from a cosmological point of view in the second half, The Information of the Soul.

For the text of the introduction, see the PDF link.

Novel, Myth and Cosmos at Amazon (paperback)

PDF file for digital devices cab be ordered at:

Novel, Myth and Cosmos PDF format

An iTunes bookstore version will be available soon.

Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

On what we value, part III

There is a power in the soul, of which I have spoken before. If the whole soul were like it, she would be uncreated and uncreatable, but this is not so. In its other part it has a regard and a dependence on time, and there it touches on creation and is created. To this power, intellect, nothing is distant or external. What is beyond the sea or a thousand miles away is as truly known present to it as this place where I am standing. This power is a virgin, and follows the lamb wherever he goes. This power seizes God naked in His essential being. It is one in unity, not like in likeness.

Meister Eckart, The Complete Mystical Works, p. 161

Well, we are not quite stuck here in this condition. The divine inflow (the Holy Spirit, or prana) is already active in us; the difficulty is in our sensory apparatus, which does not receive it properly so that we are consciously aware of it.

This little question lies at the heart of everything Gurdjieff and Mme. Salzmann said about consciousness. Our awareness is deficient; and the deficiency begins at exactly the point where the inflow begins or, as Salzmann would put it, we “receive the higher energy.”

The yogic traditions have a range of bliss-related teachings on this subject which cannot be denied; yet in my opinion they are baroque and subject to a great deal of unnecessary embroidery. Meister Eckhart was aware of this and attempted to describe it more simply by defining the right effort as an unclothed approach to the unclothed God. (Eckhart said so many things about this idea it requires a separate document to recount them, and stands as a study in itself.)

Yet we don’t need to concern ourselves with the complicated nature of these questions, because they all come after the single most essential question, which is how we may discover our value first within God, instead of ourselves.

If one is serious about spiritual effort, one can’t afford to treat this as a theoretical proposition which deserves hypothetical investigations.  In this enterprise, our practical receptiveness determines everything.

Now, I will tell you something true: receptiveness is actually the ground of Being, which is why Eckhart said,

“There is still another way of explaining what our Lord terms a noble man. You should know that those who know God naked, also know creatures with Him: for knowledge is a light of the soul; all men desire knowledge, for even the knowledge of evil things is good.” (p. 562.)

Man’s primary purpose on earth is to serve as a vessel that receives the impressions of life, regardless of their nature; in this mystery, which cannot be grasped by the mind or any ordinary part, all things are good within God, even though it’s impossible for all things to be good within man’s sight.

In order to craft—and it is crafted, though in subtle ways—a receptivity to this energy a certain kind of stillness is needed. Yet even this stillness cannot originate from my own sense of value, from where “I am;” instead even this stillness itself arrives from where I am not; and that place exists right next to me, but is not of me.

Eventually, the inner material necessary for perception of this kind can be deposited in sufficient amounts to increase one’s capacity for such work; and this is the real work of a human being, which extends into every corner of life as it expands. One becomes God’s representative, or vicegerent, in the action of perceiving; and this is a matter of the subtle vibrations of Being which have the capacity to form inner relationships in a quite different way than the ordinary parts of being.

It can be fairly said that value itself changes as this begins to take place, because value is inverted; and the perception of life itself is inverted accordingly, so that the equanimity (Gleichgültigkeit) of Eckhart’s teachings and sermons becomes an apparent and inherent property of life’s events, not a premise that needs to be applied.

In this action of finer substances, one is gently drawn nearer to God. This action is a loving action and an action of intimacy that I do not initiate. As I am myself, instead, I become passive towards myself as I am: a part forms that does not participate, but stands aside.

This part has the potential to receive in a new way because already it has separated itself from my false sense of value.


My new book is now available in paperback, and as a PDF.  While the book, in its first half, discusses Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson at considerable length, it also looks at the nature of the universe in some depth from a cosmological point of view in the second half, The Information of the Soul.

For the text of the introduction, see the PDF link.

Novel, Myth and Cosmos at Amazon (paperback)

PDF file for digital devices cab be ordered at:

Novel, Myth and Cosmos PDF format

An iTunes bookstore version will be available soon.

Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, December 25, 2017

No other way

Capital, Vezelay

"If people within the church have ignored the Lord and recognized only the Father and have closed their minds to other thoughts,they are outside heaven. If people have divided the Divine into three in the world and held a separate image of each one without gathering and focusing these three into one ,they cannot be accepted."  Heaven and Hell, Swedenborg

A reader asks, 

When you say Christ, and Swedenborg says the Lord, are we talking about a "person" who was born in 2017 and all that, or is Christ really something else ? 

And do we have to have faith/belief in Jesus Christ exactly in order to go this way and enter heaven, or is something else meant here ?  

From a philosophical point of view these questions are perhaps difficult. Yet I’ll just try to speak directly to them based on what is true.

Christ is a person. This is not meant in some supernatural way, for there is nothing more absolutely natural than Christ, who is God. Swedenborg’s discussions about the trinity were meant to explain how Christ is God, who is Born. 

The birth of Christ is a perpetual action, an eternal action, which takes place outside of time but is forever manifest within each moment of creation, throughout all of creation. 

This Birth consists of the absolute action of Love, which is the chief emanation of the Lord from whom all things come; but that Love is precisely divided between Joy and Sorrow because they are inseparable. 

Of this, it can be said the portion that is Joy belongs to the Lord; and the portion that is Sorrow belongs to all of creation. In fact, of course, it is all of the Lord in the end. 

The Love that creates the universe is nothing but personal.

To the extent that we are willing to suffer and receive His Grace, Christ is born within us in all places and at all times. This is a mystery which is impossible to explain, and leads nowhere but here. The Kingdom of Heaven is within and it is only in this place that Christ can be born; even though He is born everywhere and forever within the material, only through a relationship with Him can His Grace be made manifest.

In this way we are always and forever on the threshold of God’s Grace as His servants; and it is only through an inner seeing of this that Grace can be received.

And so, then, there is no other way.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

On what we value: part II—Saying no to Love

Whoever would name the soul according to her simplicity, purity, and nakedness, as she is in herself, he can find no name for her. 

Meister Eckart, The Complete Mystical Works, p. 148

Try to think of our inner Being, such as it is, as a willful child. A child who has its own way almost all of the time and can’t see its relationship to other children, or the world at large. 

All of the life one has is exactly such an entity. Now, it’s true there are some children too intractable to tame by any ordinary method; but for the average child, or really perhaps any child, if one wants the child to come to a new and different sense of value one has to gently draw that child nearer through love—not demands, or corporal punishment. 

In a perversion of both intent and means, because of the way we are already constructed inside, we automatically tend to begin with the idea of demand and punishment as a means. This simply isn’t going to work; it goes against the very nature of inner Being itself because it’s based on the wrong postulate. By analogy, it’s as though we start out in our spiritual work with the postulate that parallel lines always meet. No wonder we get bad results! 

There has to be a different place to begin. The entire enterprise of inner spiritual work needs to be realigned and reimagined using a new set of tools which is not based on coercion or punishment. We are never going to whip our souls into heaven. 

The intimacy of God’s Love is such that, if it begins to flow inward into Being, it will without our interference slowly begin to correct our dislocation. It has a natural and Divine ability to engage in all the changes that are necessary, if we are willing to get out of the way. This is the secret meaning of the phrase, “God’s Will be done.”

Now, you are not going to believe this (due to the dislocation of value) but God’s Will is the most extraordinary, subtle, and powerful force in the created universe, and exists at all times and everywhere. Indeed it cannot be said to exist anywhere, or even at any time, since it is beyond time and beyond creation and exists perpetually. It is what causes all of created reality to manifest—and is the root value of all that we are and everything we do, despite our own dislocation of value.

God’s will is forever seeking us. Meister Eckhart’s sermons do a phenomenal job—over their full range, of course, but often even in any single sermon—of explaining this. God has no greater wish than to correct our dislocation of value but this cannot happen unless we let Him. Herein lies another subtle point; because (as Swedenborg pointed out) God loved his creation so much that when we willfully demanded our own autonomy (a cosmological action that lies at the root of all the legends of the fall) He granted it to us.

 This incredibly selfless action left God in a position where His creation was granted, through Love, the power to say no to Love.

In our dislocation of inner value, this is precisely what we are doing. We refuse the intimacy of the Lord; we think we are important, even though everything we are begins and ends in total dependency on God’s grace. So each of us is, in a certain way, a manifestation of Satan, such as we are—and yet we wonder why things work out so badly on this planet, both for ourselves and each other. One might say, without hyperbole, that earth is a planet of demons—machines that intended to resist the Will of God from the very beginning.

 In this sense, both hell and purgatory are not external places or conditions, but a state which we inhabit voluntarily from the moment that our inner work begins with self–valuation. 

Ah, and the arguments begin! All from self-will; and prosecuted with an extraordinary vigor that  defies every effort to temper it. Our resistance to the inflow is very nearly bullet-proof. So even now, whether or not you are spiritually inclined, you are rejecting this, that or the other premise here. You know better than God. This conviction is so ingrained in you that you would quite frankly rather die than let it go; and many, many people do.

This is what hell is all about. Hell isn’t a bad place at all; in fact most people like it there, as it’s exactly suited to themselves and their own opinions. That is what hell is: a place that is all about me. Most of us spend the vast majority of our lives in hell without even realizing it. It isn’t somewhere else we go after we die (that’s a very different question.) Hell is as eternal and ubiquitous as heaven, and God granted us the right to live there, if we should wish to, though Love alone. The choice is ours.

 Perhaps this will, if you study Gurdjieff’s ideas, give you some new insight into “the Sorrow of His Endlessness.”


My new book is now available in paperback, and as a PDF.  While the book, in its first half, discusses Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson at considerable length, it also looks at the nature of the universe in some depth from a cosmological point of view in the second half, The Information of the Soul.

For the text of the introduction, see the PDF link.

Novel, Myth and Cosmos at Amazon (paperback)

PDF file for digital devices cab be ordered at:

Novel, Myth and Cosmos PDF format

An iTunes bookstore version will be available soon.

Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

An Epistle for the Christmas Season

Virgin and Child
Metropolitan Museum, NY

Hong Kong, Dec. 8th.

An Epistle. 

One spends a great deal of time “doing” this, that, or the other thing.  

One thinks one works.

 One perhaps even senses work, or feels it; or at least one construes it so. 

One is filled with the arrogance of believing, instead of the humility of waiting.

Yet one is forever immersed in this humility of waiting, whether one knows or not; whether one wants to be or not; and there are exceptional times when that wait is rewarded, above all (if a reward is real) with true humility and the absolute Grace of organic sorrow and organic contrition, which exist as Truths—which originate far above this level on which we are required to labor in services.

These two elements, organic Sorrow and organic contrition, are atomic elements of the soul—gold and the silver, irreducible noble metals of inner alchemy. 

They are purified factors which reveal exactly how blessed we are, how blessed this life is: in which the very smallest things, the moment-to-moment existences of things mundane, are revealed themselves as Perfect Graces.  

When we acquire this appreciation of the Perfect Graces, which is intimate and too sweet to bear for every long, then and only then does real insight arise within us.

One learns, very slowly, to live in more and more abject humility while awaiting these Perfect Graces; and one learns as well how thoroughly one’s own existence (as it is—I speak solely of awareness here) is inadequate, unable. 

Yet at the same time we are made absolutely whole in God’s most Perfect Grace, and may thereby know His Glorious Presence, if but for that single instant.

Here we meet not just the Lord; but our brothers and sisters of the soul. We will know, together, that the blessings of the Lord are far too great for us; and yet we were precisely crafted to receive. What undeserving creatures we have become! Our heads will bow in shame as we see how generous God has been. We will know one another then, in Christ; let us pray together! Love to all of you.

It may seem strange to say that all of a spiritual life is lived in the hopes of receiving the Sorrow; yet Christ’s example stands perfectly before us as not just a suffering and a Grace and a sacrifice, but as hope and prayer and all the good things which we men and women may bring to one another in the Holy Spirit, if only we but receive this single Perfect Grace. 

So, let it Be.


My new book is now available in paperback, and as a PDF.  While the book, in its first half, discusses Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson at considerable length, it also looks at the nature of the universe in some depth from a cosmological point of view in the second half, The Information of the Soul.

For the text of the introduction, see the PDF link.

Novel, Myth and Cosmos at Amazon (paperback)

PDF file for digital devices cab be ordered at:

Novel, Myth and Cosmos PDF format

An iTunes bookstore version will be available soon.

Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.