Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The roots of Being, part IV: Tipping over inside me

 So today, come back again to that living force, those roots of Being, that are already active in us and that give rise to our being as it is. 

This is the whole of life; to allow life itself to flow into Being and feed Being, which is a sacred condition.

 Don't think of anything else. Just be present to this and don't think at all. Allow life to flow in; it is a thing of great beauty and great truth, that has no parallel and cannot be replaced by anything else. If I have this, and nothing else, I am alive; and if I don't have this, even if I own the world and everything in it, I have nothing whatsoever of value, because all value is created within the moment that life flows in.

 There are many different levels of sensation connected to the roots of Being. I can't use a single word to describe this or talk about it; it would take a number of volumes to break down all the different phenomena that relate to it and explain each one of them. That is certainly possible; but why bother? This isn't the point of living. We can't act like we are laboratory chemists who want to write down everything and notebooks. We have to come out of our heads and be alive within the uncertain, extraordinary, demanding context of relationship in our life. We are going to have to get a lot of things wrong in order to do this. We can't be afraid of that. We have to have the courage to meet life from within the context of the roots of our Being and accept. 

We aren't going to like it. Liking it is never the point. To like or not like has little to do with love.  Love, in fact, always finds its greatest expression in the difficulties, not in what is easy. A love that is not born in the midst of adversity has little value. Love that's born from the roots of Being is willing to accept the difficulty of conditions; it doesn't know much of anything about how to do this or that, but it knows how to put a foundation of love under the rest of life so that it has a stability, that it doesn't tip over inside me.

 Life too often has no sound foundation and tips over inside me like this. If I'm present, I can even see and feel it happen. The roots of Being, this "new sensation"  I speak of, and the active prayer that it engenders can all help  to build that foundation that keeps things from toppling. 

And even if something topples, if love is there to catch it, it does not fall.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The roots of being, part III: prayer and Being

 Search for the force of life and the roots lie within you. These are real things; they have nothing to do with all the nonsense that the world throws at us. Much of that nonsense, of course, can be swallowed, digested, and organized into finer structures that do make sense; but that only happens if the parts are correctly organized within themselves, and then correctly related to one another. This takes many years. You aren't going to achieve it in that work weekend or intensive retreat you thought would be so special, so forget about that.

Spiritual work takes many decades, because the roots of being are very fine things. They are very much like the delicate mycorrhizae of mushrooms, which grow hidden within the earth or logs for years until they suddenly produce extraordinary, beautiful flowering bodies. Until then, their work is to penetrate thoroughly and prepare for the moment when they will emerge.

Everything works the same way. All being grows from roots of its own, regardless of the type of being it has. If one understands this properly from an organic and practical point of view, one will realize that the crystalline structure of DNA, for example, has a root that it grows from, and that crystals in general are flowering bodies that grow from the roots of the physical, chemical, and even quantum and atomic properties that underlie the principle of their Being.

 That's interesting, of course, but I don't want us to think about that today. Let's just think about being within the organism and forming an intelligent relationship with that, so that the possibility of sensing the roots of being arises, and whatever small form it can. The beginning of prayer lies at the root of that action; and prayer becomes a living force that grows from the roots in the same way that Being does. Prayer and being are not separated; and prayer should not be seen as a special function of the organism, but its ordinary state. All intelligent action and all movement, all feeling, should ultimately be seen as functions of prayer. This should not be seen as some unusual activity, but as the objective ground-floor of our present circumstances. Our relationship with the roots of Being in this moment will make that quite clear if we participate in it.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The roots of being, part II: with contrition

 Picking up from the last installment on this question.

Come into relationship with the roots of being and understand them, through a new sensation (which is so new it is no longer what I thought about before.) These roots are living things, not concepts. My life feeds itself from them and I feel this taking place actively within me, in the cells. My conscious being is connected to my cells in a different way, because they are no longer ideas about what life is made of, but Beings that compose my Being. 

We are a community together.

 Through this, quietly and gently, I come into relationship and understand within stillness and without words that I am here. I understand the words "I am," but they are no longer words and the presence of the action is no longer "I" or "am." Like "sensation," which is now no longer a word or a concept but an event, Being is an event that I participate in directly. It is mysterious and can't be related to or qualified by outer life: it just receives it, objectively.

 Through this, quietly and gently, I begin to understand the sacred nature and purpose of my life, which is a gift given by the Lord. I'm here to receive His blessings and His Mercy as active forces; not to receive the things of life, which are necessary but temporary, and ultimately deadening compared to the living force of prayer. 

To the extent that I open my heart to this inflow, the living force of prayer becomes more active in me. It can help to cleanse me of "sin," which isn't really wrongdoing but simply just my attachments to all of the material things of the outer world. The more I let go of these things from a physical, practical, and organic point of view — not from a philosophical one — the more the power of this living force can enter me. Ultimately, the only thing that matters in my practice is receiving this force,  quietly and gently, over a long period of time. I don't need to do anything with it. I simply need to participate as a receiver. It has its own action and effects inward transformations that my ordinary mind isn't capable of understanding. I shouldn't waste my time trying to figure that out. I should simply participate, objectively, by honestly and honorably standing ready to come into relationship with that force, which is a force of love.

 This force, quietly and gently, ought to be present at all times, feeding me in a trickle of life and truth that enters my Being no matter where I am and what I am doing. 

I need to study this carefully, with contrition. 


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

What one doesn't want to suffer.

September 11,  2017

The only suffering that means anything in life is the suffering that we do not want to undergo.

 This difficult question presents challenges, because of course everyone thinks that there is no kind of suffering that they want to have. 

Yet the fact is that there are types of suffering we embrace and even crave; and all of those sufferings are tied up with the nature of our desire. Even though those sufferings are tremendously difficult and anguishing, they are mechanical and automatic sufferings, because they are suffering we are willing to undergo.

There is another kind of suffering that we are not willing to undergo. This is a very different kind of suffering and it has nothing to do with our desires. We don't want to have this kind of suffering; it is what one might call non-egoistic suffering and does not belong to us or the external nature of our life.

One of the secret meanings in the difference between desires and non-desires is hidden here. One ought to think about this much more carefully.

It is necessary to suffer a great deal and to suffer, above all, the things that one doesn't want to suffer in order to grow internally. In a certain sense, one must suffer everything in the world. As Gurdjieff explained, all of the world is suffering, and if we develop an astral or even solar sense of Being, that becomes a manifest reality instead of a theoretical or philosophical position.  But this doesn't have anything to do with what you think suffering is, so forget about it. Try to find some new sensation of what suffering consists of.

 If you get a sense of that, remember that at this point, in one's work, one is required to take it in with intention.  There can be no turning away — everything must be dealt with. 

Every detail, every scrap of light, every grain of dirt.

 The whole question of what love consists of ultimately pivots on this single point. Mark it well.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The roots of Being, part I: it never goes away

There's a lot of talk about coming and going, of being present, in the moment, and how "difficult" it is.

In the midst of this, everyone consistently underestimates sensation, because sensation is not well understood. One has to make it one's aim to understand sensation in a different and new way, so that the word no longer has meaning.

I want to stress this, that the word no longer has meaning. The meaning of the word from where we stand and how we approach it within our ordinary associations is helpless. It has no relationship to a new sensation. By the time we understand the relationship, we cannot really call it a new sensation anymore, because already, the word sensation is inadequate. One can't have a word for it, because when the living force of Being awakens and participates, we at once enter areas that words don't function in. Other things, much more powerful things, function; and although it's okay to describe them and work with efforts to define their parameters, they have to be allowed their own functions, not the ones that are associations assigned them.

I said the other night to someone that sensation is the force that has the power of staying when the rest of me goes away. It can thus function like a landmark within my Being which I can always see from no matter where I am; I never have any doubt of my location relative to it and can always turn back towards it, because it never goes away. My other parts may go away; but "sensation" does not. I put it in quotation marks because this is the old word which deadens its meaning by its very existence. What ought to be understood inside those quotation marks is a living force, something that creates the roots of being.

 I have an opportunity to remember this day and make it sacred, not for any external reason, but because the day itself is already sacred, having been created by the Lord in order to allow Being to flow in. 

I can be present to this and honor both the living and the dead of all times if I make an effort to understand how the support of the inward flow enlivens my functions.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, September 8, 2017

...Think like a kangaroo

When Gurdjieff was asked what it meant experience a different level of consciousness, a higher rate of inner vibration, the way he described it, according to one account, was "everything more vivid."

While this is certainly true, it can't possibly convey an enhanced vividness of feeling and intellect. Physically vivid experiences, such as enhancement of color or sounds, pale in comparison to the understanding that there are awarenesses — that there is, in summary, an awareness – at a much higher level than that of our own.

Because of what we are in the level live on, we’re incapable of conceiving of any awareness as larger than our own, unless we are directly touched by it; and even though people prattle on about such things as though they were commonplace, they’re exceedingly rare.

To be truly touched by consciousness from another level is to recognize, above all, that that awareness is, from our point of view, alien. It is other; it is not like us. This is why angels traditionally and typically inspire terror in those who encounter them. It's not because angels are inherently threatening more dangerous; it's because they are conscious and aware, they are beings, and they live outside the ordinary range of my experience.

One might compare it to encountering a ghost; but a ghost is a creature of a much lower order and, even though it is frightening, actually has more of a relationship to the level we’re on, since ghosts are representations of a reflected “consciousness” originally from this level. Ghosts are not from a higher level, they’re from lower ones; whereas an angel is from a decidedly higher and entirely different level.

This morning, in attempting to explain the difference between levels to my wife Neal, I explained it as the difference between apples and oranges.

You can put an apple and an orange next to each other, and they may both be round (let us presume, for the sake of this discourse, that roundness equals consciousness) but neither the apple nor the orange can ever be anything other than itself.

Consciousness does not transform in such a way; the consciousness of the apple can’t turn into the consciousness of the orange, and the orange can’t become an apple. The most that they can do is be conceptually related by their congruent properties; for example, they both contain sugars, although of different kinds; both are food; both are round. It’s in the intersection between the two — the space between the apple and the orange — that human awareness, conscious awareness, can reside.

It doesn't mean that it does reside there; this isn't a given. It's entirely possible for apples and oranges to exist side-by-side without any awareness of the fact that they exist at all, let alone that there's a difference.

Only with the intervention, the agency, of a conscious awareness that can see both — let me emphasize, that can see both — do the nature of the apple and the orange become apparent. Their nature isn’t defined by their own inherent being, but by the agency that brings them into relationship. That agency occupies the "gap" between the two; and it is in this peculiar place that we find ourselves, human consciousness — as a piece of thin wire that connects two levels.

We are not, in other words, "brains" so much as connective tissue between neurons.

I bring up these various analogies in order to try and explain how impossible it is for us to bridge this gap with the ideas we currently have.

Let's say that the lower level is the level of the apple, and we think that we can become an orange. We're an apple; and already, just because we are round and sweet, the idea that we can become an orange is patently absurd; yet that's exactly what we think, because the apple cannot think of anything that isn't an apple. It's apple; this is its essence, it's substance.

It can no more think like an orange than an orange can think like a kangaroo.

It's not in the cards.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

True Being

One of my favorite Oscar Wilde quotes is:

Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.

I think the danger of following anyone else, following an example, the manifestation, the way another person is, is that we cease to become ourselves the moment we do it.

The axis of the manifestation of Being is to manifest oneself. One must become an idiot. A unique manifestation of being that belongs to one's self, not to the idiocy (selfness) of others. As Gurdjieff pointed out, even God is an idiot: he called God the Supreme Idiot. There was never any disrespect meant in the term; what Gurdjieff was saying is that this specificity, this personhood, of Being is the whole point of Being.

Swedenborg made much of the fact that every being is a person, even God. The teaching is subtly identical to Gurdjieff's; Swedenborg's personhood is Gurdjieff's idiocy. It isn't meant to imply silliness; it's meant to imply authority, in the sense that a unique and specific being is the author of their actions. This does not just imply power; it implies responsibility. The author of an action takes responsibility for both its authorship and the ensuing action.

If I understand this idea of taking on both the authorship and the consequences — the agency and its results — I begin to see what the whole thing means. This is what consciousness consists of; authorship and consequence, agency and result. The responsibility takes place in the awareness that inserts itself between these two sets of entities.

I can't be someone else. I have to be myself. And I have to be myself rooted and in residence within this body, this being. There may be other modes of being, other ways of being, besides this; but that doesn't matter right now, because my responsibility such as it is extends to this organism first. Everything else is theoretical.

I need to discover the limits of the organism and what it consists of not from outside, using outside stimuli and measurements, but from inside, using inside stimuli and measurements. The more sensitive I become to these, the more of an idiot I can hope to be.

And I must hope to become my own supreme idiot if I wish to have any true Being in this lifetime.

Let's start over.

Let's erase the blackboard and take all of the preceding notes off of it, and just sit here within ourselves as we are.

There's no need to label anything.

Just to be.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Museum of Self-Remembering

My friend J. recently had an encounter with a senior member from one of the Gurdjieff  foundations who quite wisely told him that the most important point of the work was to work in life, to be present in life.

 Of course, although this direction — or instruction, if you will — is correct, so little is truly understood about how necessary it is to sense oneself within the body, to truly have an aware sensation of Being. An organic sensation of Being. Even after decades, people who pursue this type of inner work constantly mistake actions of the mind and invoked sensations as being of this order. They can’t understand why it’s so difficult to bridge the gap between fa and sol; even though one quick glance at the enneagram would make clear that one can never pass directly from fa to sol, but only by transition through other notes in the octave.

 What this means is that several parts have to come together and assist one another for an active or voluntary sensation to arrive. And that sensation senses me; I don't sense it. This was the gist of something said by another senior member in April at the New York Foundation; and it is very true, but, as I keep pointing out, not properly understood.

 Sensation must become alive.

 Perhaps I sound judgmental when I speak in this manner, even though there is no such intention. I sometimes have a tone that begins to as though I’m criticizing other people’s efforts. I apologize for this.

 In point of fact, my heart goes out to everyone with this problem. That's because the question is so difficult to explain in words, and so impossible to "teach" someone about. The only way to approach an active and organic sensation is to have it within Being oneself; and the down payment for this is quite enormous—a fact that’s rarely acknowledged. Down payments on an organic sensation can take 20 or 30 years. Do we understand that? 20 or 30 years. Harmonious development takes 30, or 40, or 50 years just to begin it. You can't begin it very late in life, or go about it lackadaisically, halfheartedly, and hope for miracles. One has to be quite dedicated, in a gentle and non-forcing manner, to this work for many decades in order to allow the seed to grow.

 If it doesn't grow at the right rate and in the right way, the stem will be soft and fall over; or it will be too hard; or 10,000 other things can go wrong. There is no substitute for slow, gentle growth.
 That growth takes place in life. It doesn't take place while I am sitting with my legs folded and my eyes closed. It doesn't take place when I am in a group having a philosophical conversation with other people, or pretending to have a deep inner work in myself while really I am just sitting there in a relatively blank space, not knowing what to do or what to say, and afraid to open my mouth because I don't really have anything to contribute.

 No, I don't reach anything real that way. It's far more likely I reach things that are real when I am in states of extreme discomfort, out in life, where I'm required by circumstances to confront my own contradictions in action — not examine them post-event in a philosophical haze of intentional misdirection and rationalization (a.k.a. lies.)

 Analysis is also an obstacle when I’m in action. There’s nothing wrong with an intelligent philosophical analysis of exactly where I am and what I am working on, in relationship to the ideas and the structure of the system, when there’s time to do this and I have the leisure to contemplate the hierarchies and structures I participate in. Yet most of the time I can't possibly think of this usefully— any more than a musician who is playing a jazz solo has time to think about the structure of the solo he is playing. He has to just play it; there's no time to think about playing it. The more he thinks about playing it, the worse it sounds.

 Well, you know exactly what I mean. This is how it is in life. It's a jazz solo. One has to be on one's toes; one can’t think about the work. One has to have an organic sensation of the work in oneself and allow it to happen from within, without any words to support the effort.

 Something that has struck me lately in life, especially with the men I know, is how consistently we all play the fool without knowing it. We are silly little creatures; anyone who doubts this need only look around for a little while to see. The gravity we ought to have — a gravity that goes down through the bones and the marrow into the planet itself; – is rarely present. We’re frivolous; we’re self interested. There could be so much more of an anchor in us just where we are, doing what we do, being present to it in a quiet and subtle way that does not involve any heroics. A weight that does not involve analysis of the parts, in which various manifestations are shoved into a group of shoeboxes and stashed under the bed which say this part, that part, association, identification, and so on.
 This is being the curator of a museum of self remembering. Forgot about it. The Museum of self remembering ought to close. No one should visit it, ever. It is only full of dead things and skeletons.
 Don't “remember” the self. Be within the self, organically.

 Discover the many variations in it, the nuances and subtleties of consciousness, without attempting to explain them. Simply come into intimate and loving relationship and see… and see… and see.
 See from that quiet, still part that is carried within as everything else is in movement without. See from within that heart that maintains its own silence in the midst of company. See from that part which is intelligent when the rest of me is foolish.

 See, see, see.

 Every action of this kind is the ingestion of a very fine food that goes deeply into the silence of the inward night. It goes into me like the vision of every leaf on every tree as they unfurl in the spring; it goes into me as does the mist on top of the Palisades on a gray morning. It goes into me like the Hudson river, broad and deep, which I cross in the morning on my way to work.

 Over and over again, there is one single truth: it flows into me. This is how life is. If I participate, and I'm actively receptive to this, believe it or not, everything else will take care of itself.

 There are actually no needs for charts and diagrams, hydrogens or instructions. Life knows how to live; it's human beings who have forgotten it. We can rediscover it in every outcrop of rock and branch that spreads if we look. But first, we must look organically, with the parts that don't use this insidious weapon we call language to interpret the world around us.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The organic intellect of being, part IX

One of the things that gets lost in the discussion of the three minds, or centers, is that they ought to be a single entity. This is what Gurdjieff meant when he discussed three-centered being.

In an early draft of Beelzebub’s Tales that has never been published anywhere, Gurdjieff makes a series of strong points about the fact that these three parts ought to form a single mind, but that this faculty is completely broken in ordinary human beings.

In order to better illustrate how the two minds — the higher and lower mind, or, the higher and lower natures — ought to function, I've created the diagram that accompanies this final post on the subject. In it, the minds are arranged to show the way that they touch one another at the point of conscious awareness.

Each mind occupies a different realm. The spiritual mind of man inhabits a higher realm than the ordinary one we live on; and the natural mind of man is designed in order to come into relationship with that in mind, presuming it acts as a single, whole entity.

In drawing this diagram, I took care to preserve the three parts of each part of each mind, and the way in which they combine when they're in proper relationship. This is not an arbitrary science and one can't just (for example) glue the body, mind, and emotional parts of the emotional mind together haphazardly.

They're laid out on the diagram in the positions they are in for a specific reason; and if one studies the diagram and understands why these parts are placed where they are (relative to the diagram of the enneagram in the previous post) it will elucidate a number of fascinating things about the system and the nature of inward relationship in both the lower and the higher mind.

Most particularly, it can help to explain where the connective "tissues" between the critical parts of centers lie.

On both levels, from an overall perspective, feeling serves as the reconciling force between intellect and sensation. On the lower level it corresponds to remorse and conscience; on the higher level, it corresponds to love; yet they're all part of the same thing.

Anyway, I will not go on about this too much, because I could spend hours explaining the diagram further; yet I think readers should do work on these ideas themselves.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The organic intellect of being, part VIII

So we’ve now spoken about the organic intellect of Being, and the stillness it engenders…

a stillness which is carried in the midst of the ordinary movement of life.

It’s an inner stillness, not an outer one, and that stillness can be present even when I am involved in many other outward things. It is a secret place that receives the Lord. I want to remind you that we have both inward and outward places inside us; one part of ourselves is turned outwardly towards the world and the other part is turned inwardly.

Understand this, and one can understand a very great deal.

That inward stillness extends not just to intellect, but also to the sensation and feeling. That’s because at the fifth stopinder, the note sol, which is the place of the arising of awareness, a stillness need be present.

The requirement applies to all three minds. This was explained in Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson; but what is not explained, in general, is that this stillness naturally arises from and resides within the higher parts of all three centers. It is an innate or inherent part of them.

The entry point to begin a flow from those parts, to arouse their contact with the ordinary world, is always one of stillness. We find ourselves, so to speak, in suspension. Our awareness converges here—but not delicately. Its feet are firmly planted in the act of receiving these forces from the upper parts of the mind.

In this moment, once their action becomes voluntary, there is a stillness of intellect; a stillness of sensation; a stillness of feeling.

From within this stillness, nothing need be done. Everything that is necessary is already there; at each of the parts has positioned itself so that it can receive life actively, without any interference from the lower parts of our mind, which are forever occupied with the activity of manipulating everything they encounter. Both parts need to be present.

When one experiences the stillness of sensation, the stillness of intellect and feeling, one of the first impressions that one has is how undisciplined the lower parts are. The Buddhists have a word for this; they call it monkey mind.

Yet what they don't point out is that there are three different monkey minds, each one of which is involved in its own mischief and nonsense. All three of the monkey minds need to be counterbalanced by this inner stillness if there is to be any peace in the monkey cage, any discipline, any dignity. And this, above all, is what’s lacking: dignity. A monkey has no dignity. It shows its bum to onlookers and flings feces at those it dislikes. Does this sound familiar? It's how we are. We have the potential to be much more than this, but first an inner stillness must settle on us, must find us in the place where we are.

Of course one practices for many years in meditation to encourage this; but in meditation, the state is always fragile and created under a special set of artificial conditions. It's only when the action of the higher minds become voluntary organic that this stillness is manifest in ordinary life alongside– not to the exclusion of – my ordinary mind and being. It’s an additive process.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The organic intellect of Being, part VII: an entirely new understanding

The higher parts have an entirely new and different understanding.

This means that until I’m in touch with the organic parts of my Being—intellect, sensation, feeling—absolutely all of my understanding about life and the world is a function of my lower parts: mind, body and emotion.

They form very good pictures of the world, it’s true; but they have inherent limitations. Their activity, as is graphically illustrated in the previous post, is entirely separated from the understandings from the level above them.

There’s a point of contact, which is called consciousness — our awareness. That awareness occupies the gap between higher understanding and the lower understanding of the ordinary world.

This difference in understanding is so profound that it's nearly impossible to explain or describe. The understanding from the higher level is an understanding from the planetary level, which marks the beginning of the angelic kingdoms. Understanding from that level is quite different in every center than it is from within the centers that exist on the lower level. Both understandings, of course, are absolutely necessary in order to understand the world: because the world is composed of levels, and in order to understand "the" world, one must understand not a single world, but worlds, that is, two worlds and how they come into contact with one another.

To be more precise and entirely accurate, one must actually understand three worlds, because the understanding must include the world or level below us as well; and that’s an equally new understanding. It is just as separate from us as the level above us; yet it exists at a much finer level of detail than the one we live in and understand at present. The organic sensation of Being is one of the tools that helps to connect us to that level; yet, it belongs to the higher level of the minds, not the lower one.

In a certain sense, imparting this information is futile; although one thinks one can understand this with this part or that part on this level—for example, as it’s imparted here— one can't. Only the inward flow of material substances from a higher level — the "finer energy" that we hear about in some spiritual works — can bring about the transformation of understanding. The transformation of understanding represents a different order of Being; and of that order consists of intelligence of a different nature, substance, and attitude than my ordinary nature, substance, and attitude.

To say that this understanding has a different nature is to say that it has different essential qualities and properties.

To say that it has a different substance is to say that it has different underlying properties, is made of a different tissue and material.

To say that it has a different attitude means that it is pointed in another direction.

We associate this new understanding, in metaphysical terms, with the astral body because of these three things. It is a different tissue (sensory body), with different essential properties (intellect), directed towards God (feeling), not the outer world.

Perhaps this is the most important point one could make, because everything we understand from this level is always pointed towards the outside world and the world of appearances. We constantly mistake our inner work and what it takes to conduct it as a part of this lower level, this material world we live in; and we see dependencies within that world, as though reciprocities produced by our interaction with it could somehow stimulate our higher being. Yet that’s impossible; in fact, only the much finer substances of active relationship — exchanges between various aspects of Being, which we also call impressions — can stimulate higher Being, because only they lie at the level of vibration that higher Being can relate to properly.

There’s a stubborn insistence on everything in us to rely on what we know and understand from this level in order to conduct our inward and spiritual work. This is materialism is treacherous, because it presumes that lower materials and higher materials can directly influence one another; whereas, actually, they belong to different realms and must be treated that way.

This, in a nutshell, is why I actually have to forget everything I know and understand in order to work. There is no other place to begin.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The organic intellect of being, part VI: The structural nature of the minds

Here we enter a realm of theory which may not be interesting at all to some readers; so if you aren’t, you had better skip it.

The higher and lower minds consist of three entities that engage with the ordinary world — the ordinary parts — and their corresponding “mirror entity” parts that reside in the higher part of being, that is, the organic part. Seen from the perspective of the enneagram, the progression for each of the two sides of being, the natural or worldly and the spiritual or conscious part, is simplified and has some important implications we will get to later. For the time being, however, I’ve laid out a linear chart, which is far more static and less accurate, but gives a geometric representation of the relationship.

There are multiple ways of representing this, but I’ve chosen one I think keeps it simple, insofar as that is possible. The diagram relates directly to the enneagramatic version, since the spiritual parts have a light green color, in the natural parts a blue one. Readers who study both diagrams will see that, for obvious reasons, it’s impossible to lay out the interactive relationships correctly in this first format, but never mind. The important thing here is to understand that each of the centers has a lower and a higher part.

Within the context of both natural and spiritual being, movement along the access determines which center dominates at any particular moment. This has to be a fluid and changing environment whether one is in the higher or lower centers, because the parts need to vary their responses depending on which one is most needed at a given moment. The difference between the higher in the lower centers is that there is far more fluidity in the higher ones. Within the realm of natural being, human beings tend to get “stuck” in a particular center and continually react from it, which can be called habit. This arises from identification, that is, a failure to distinguish between Being and existence. Being is conscious awareness; existence is the simple fact of material manifestation.

The point of intersection between the higher and lower minds is indicated with a yellow circle outlined in red. Each of the three lower intellects as a point of intersection with the higher part of its intellect in which conscious awareness can manifest and bring them into relationship; but this point of intelligence, conscious manifestation, is usually passive, that is, inactive. The horizontal line between the green spiritual box and the blue natural one represents the intersection of the higher and lower awareness.

On the left side of the diagram, one sees a vertical scale between conscious awareness and sleep. Awareness can be located anywhere on this line; the higher up, the more conscious and awareness is, and the lower down, the less. This is a lawful arrangement applies to both the higher in the lower minds. It goes some way towards explaining why Gurdjieff said there were many different levels of consciousness. Awareness moves along both the X and the Y axis of this diagram at all times.

Each center has its own three parts. So, the lower mind has a physical, emotional, an intellectual component, which we are calling body, emotion, and mind for the sake of consistency. The same is true for each of the three centers. The situation becomes quite complicated, because these three parts are in constant movement or rotation “around the center” of each center. Taking intellect, for example, the triangle represents the “central” or whole manifestation of intellect, and its intellectual, sensational, and feeling parts orbit around it in a constant rotation, so that at any given moment, one of these three parts might be touching the lower mind. The same can be said for the lower mind; so there is a constant exchange of information between all three of the parts of both the higher and the lower centers.

This may seem confusing; and indeed it is nearly useless to try and analyze this or pick it apart during ordinary functioning, no matter what level of intelligence one is functioning at. Yet it's helpful to understand how complex and interactive the system is, because it helps explain why human thought — for example, this is also true of sensation and feeling — displays such an extraordinary range of potential and expression. Completely iterated, there are 27 different ways in which the higher and lower minds can touch each other as their constituent parts rotate, which is why there are 27 types. I haven't bothered to draw out the chart, but in order to understand that, just imagine that where mind intersects with intellect, the physical, emotional, or intellectual part of lower mind can at any given time intersect with the intellectual, physical, or feeling part of higher mind, thus, 3 x 3 =9 different potential arrangements here. Each individual has, as a rule, a dominant contact between two of these lower parts of higher and lower centers within each center. The way that those parts interact with one another determines what Gurdjieff called type. Everyone is, no matter what their level of being, under some minor level of influence from the higher parts, and they "color" the functioning of the lower parts.

The most important function of this diagram is to emphasize the role of active awareness and bringing the higher and lower parts into relationship with one another. While man is generally dominated by the influences of natural being and usually has a deep investment in that portion of awareness, ignoring the spiritual side, it is also possible for a human being to develop in the other direction and become excessively spiritual. This will result from a withdrawal from the real world; and it's generally understood in the Gurdjieff system, as well as Sufi disciplines and some other practices, that such withdrawal is undesirable, because the whole point of manifestation within a body is to occupy the intersection between these two worlds, not favor one over the other in either direction.

It would be remiss to finish this discussion of theory without wrapping up with an examination of the enneagram that relates to the question, because that diagram is a far more accurate representation (insofar as anything two-dimensional and static can be) then the first diagram, which could turn out to be deeply misleading without its companion. When I drew this diagram, the most striking thing about it to me was the gap between sol and fa, or, mind and sensation. Readers will note there is no direct linear connection between four and five in the diagram. The "gap" in this location is a visual indicator of why it is so difficult for any individual to acquire a permanent sensation. It also gives a clue as to the process needed in order to do that. A study of the diagram and the progression between notes 4, 2, 8, 5 yields a precise explanation of the nature of the work necessary for sensation to become active, permanent, and voluntary. That is the point of work at which remarkable new things can begin to happen, because at this point sol the spiritual functions acquire a certain level of mastery over the natural ones.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The organic intellect of being, part V: A voluntary intelligence

A voluntary intelligence is this organic intelligent intellect of Being which arrives on its own, without being demanded, divorced, or manipulated.

It makes its appearance within being and supports the effort and the work without any prompting from the associative mind. There is a stillness that is preserved within its Being, carried into ordinary life, from which this capacity flows; and it manifests according to the magnetism of Being, the inner gravity of sensation.

It's a peculiar property of this organic intellect of being that it can’t manifest without its partner, the organic sense of Being. The two have to be there in conjunction in order to support one another's work; otherwise, they remain weak. And although you may think, well, it's a chicken/egg thing, it isn't in fact a chicken/egg situation at all. In our inner hierarchy, which has some peculiar inversions in it (maybe I will try to explain them later) the organic sensation of Being must arrive first in order to anchor the organism and its functions. 

Without this pendulum that swings back and forth to regulate activity and lend weight, an intelligence and Being that arises from sensation, the intellect of Being can't express itself; and the feeling of Being most certainly can’t express itself until the other two are aligned and in conjunction. Even though in order of rates of vibration the progression is intellect — sensation — feeling, the regulatory mechanism — the reconciling factor — in the relationship is always sensation. In this sense, without holy reconciling, neither holy affirming nor holy denying find the ground of Being for their manifestation.

My teacher Henry Brown used to call this phenomenon—a voluntary intelligence—the effortless effort

It can’t be invoked. 

The stillness arises

It's a companion to the active movement of the ordinary mind, and actually needs it as a support: yet it's the higher part of mind and of intelligence. It needs to volunteer itself, by itself, as this stillness that has its own capacity for receiving. And that stillness does not have any of the analytical components we are using to describe or discuss it here; in fact, all of the teachings about the mind: free attention, false personality, identification, my “parts”—all of this material falls away. 

The ideas here are like dead pieces of skin that are sloughed off in order for what is living and real to become manifest. Even using the word silence or quiet is unhelpful; once again, already, it’s analytical. I need to just be within the stillness, and appreciate the motion all around me, including my own motion, which surrounds the stillness. 

The stillness is the seed of the soul which receives life and all its Grace.

While all of this is essential and important to practice, it is also important to understand quite precisely exactly how it relates to the ordinary parts; and this is important in general terms, because in order to understand the disabilities our ordinary form of consciousness imposes upon us, it helps to know the way the harmonic structure functions, in the same way that it is good to understand music from a theoretical point of view. 

To extend the analogy, there's an entire theoretical structure of music which can become very helpful in the elaboration of it; yet in the end, in the practice, one must play music, which is very different than thinking of it. One must, in general terms, both think about it and play it; yet one shouldn’t think about it while playing, and one shouldn’t play it while thinking about it. The two exist side-by-side, but are separated; the playing is the higher activity, because it is the perfect and absolute expression of truth relative to what music is; within playing, there the stillness lies. 

Yet all around that, the theoretical structure forms the shell for the seed which can grow: so there you are.


Part 6 of this 6-part series will publish August 21.

Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.