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.