Thursday, February 11, 2016

Angelic Eagle


Angelic Eagle

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate on iPad Pro with Apple pencil


Hosanna.





Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Inwards towards now

Merode Altarpiece (Detail)
The Cloisters, New York 

Sometimes I think we spend so much time revering the past, interested in the past, because we've made such a mess of the present.

I remember my teacher Betty Brown saying, "What is the truth of this moment?” 

It's a call to be here as I am, now, and to live

Yet I seem so determined — as we all are — to live through some contemporary resurrection of one dead teacher or another. You see, even here, I bring up Betty, who has been dead some years.

It's true that we are filled with what has passed; everything that brings us to this point is already over. I am a peculiar intersection of a past that will never come again, and a future that is completely unknown. I hold on to the past as though it was what had value; and I imagine the future, even though what will take place is always impossible to imagine. 

I'm always cherishing lost things and believing in what can't happen.

 If I turn my attention into the present, I need to fold both of these corners of being inwards towards now. In doing so, I gather the edges of the fabric of consciousness towards me, so that I am more familiar with them; it doesn't mean that I discard the past and the future, but rather that I bring them so close to one another within me that they touch

They touch right here, now, in this moment that I am here. Can you feel it? This is what always takes place in us, forever. It's a kind of coming together rather than being lost in reminiscence or imagination.

The body is a great help for this. It really provides a center of gravity for now. But I have to let it do its job by inhabiting it, by being in relationship with it without any demands or expectations. 

I can't exercise my way into now; I can't meditate my way into now. I can't emote my way into now. But if my body, my mind, and my feelings all fold together so that the various corners of my being are touching, it creates a little pouch of awareness that can contain whatever comes to it and hold it there, gently, flexibly. 

Who knows what could happen then? It's a completely different premise than the one I usually use to understand my life. The idea is to create an empty space with these parts and then sit there within it. What will happen? I have no idea. I don't even need to know; all I need to do is be here.

 This folding of the self, of awareness, inwards towards now is not a now of outwardness— it isn't born of what takes place outside me. No, the folding and the gathering begin within, as though there were a natural silken thread inside me that pulls all these parts of myself together, independent of outside influences. 

It's a beautiful thing, this; like a flower that closes its petals to conserve its nectar, instead of opening them to be robbed by the bees. Not that the bees don't deserve what nectar they can gather; but why give them anything more than what's necessary?  


That's what I need to do with the outward world, give it what is necessary; and the rest turns inward towards God, who needs much more than just the material.

Hosanna.





Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Goddess


Goddess

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate, with iPad pro and apple pencil


Hosanna.





Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Dream of Flatware



Merode Altarpiece (Detail)
The Cloisters, New York 


Friends will know that I occasionally enjoy interpreting dreams from the point of view of inner spiritual work. In doing this, one adopts the postulate that all of the characters in the dream represent parts of the self which are trying to communicate one's present state and challenges.

 It's not too difficult to get the hang of this oneself once one understands that ground rule, and subjecting dreams to analysis on this basis can often yield some interesting results. I probably ought to mention that Wilson van Dusen had a number of interesting observations about dreams in his book, The Natural Depth in Man, that work along these lines. The book is well worth reading for those of you who might be interested.


Below is last night's dream. Remembering it just after I woke up, it did not seem to have much content, but it was actually quite rich.

Dream of January 10, 2016

 I had a peculiar dream last night.

We were sorting out inheritances; there were many boxes of silverware, various precious objects, mostly serving pieces of one kind or another. Some boxes were modern; some represented chests that had been in the family for a long time, made of fine wood, with numerous drawers. There was some question as to what might be in them; they came from my grandmother or even earlier generations, and had an air of mystery to them — at least to me. One of them was hidden under a table, more or less, shoved to the back under a tablecloth, and we did not open this one.

Several of the boxes (mostly a bit larger than shoeboxes, maybe double the size) were opened and had obscure silver tableware devices in them. But one — and, ultimately, two — had small and extraordinarily finely crafted sets of forks and knives in them — in other words, place settings, but of dollhouse size. They were in every way utilitarian, and made of real silver, not imitation. They furthermore had such detail on them that one imagined they were full-size silverware that had simply been shrunk down. I distinctly remember a collection of knives, perhaps a dozen in all. Surely, there were forks and spoons as well, but I cannot remember seeing them as clearly. The knives are what stood out.

My wife and my mother were in the area as we looked at these things. I wanted to call my wife's attention to the tiny place settings, but she was quickly off somewhere else. 

The scenery quickly shifted from a parlor-room to a balcony outdoors, up high enough that leafy trees surrounded us. It was a more natural and sylvan setting than the area where the inheritances were stashed in boxes — outdoors, not indoors.

Ultimately, I ended up in an argument with my wife, feeling that she was not paying sufficient attention to me. A younger woman, K. from the office — a good friend who I've been mentoring — came onto the scene but politely excused herself when she saw that there was conflict. 

In this particular dream, I wasn't married to my wife yet, oddly enough — even though I perceived her as being in the same relationship we have, which has been a married one for many years. I asked her why she wouldn't agree to marry me, and just where the relationship was going. I could see within myself, in the dream, that I was cooking up a confrontation to push things to a point where she would have to commit to the relationship — something that in the past was at times a real bone of contention between us in actual life. 

Although her role in the dream was a prominent one, I can't remember a lot of response or interaction from her. As is the case in real life, I did most of the talking.

The dream deflected from the dinnerware theme to the conflict theme without any clear reason. I woke up as we were in the middle of the argument.

Interpretation

I have a wide range of impressions of life (the silverware) which I have inherited through the course of my living. They are somewhat organized, but obscure to me; hidden in boxes of varying qualities.  By having different levels of quality, the boxes distinguish the more or less value  various impressions have, according to my own inner system of discrimination. Although I have collected these impressions myself, and they all have value — all of them are silver — I'm unclear on exactly what they mean and what their value is, and I have stashed them in many different places without clearly understanding what they represent.

Some significant number of impressions have a value in terms of helping me to dissect and digest very fine inner (spiritual) foods. This is the meaning of the tiny sets of flatware. They are exquisitely crafted because they represent impressions which, while tiny, are  of a very high value in my inner work. I don't even know they are they are; yet there are a lot of them, and many of them fulfill nearly identical functions, as evidenced by the fact that there are sets of them (the knives.) The reason I remember the knives most clearly is because these inner tools are tools of discrimination — that is, they can cut things apart and separate them one from another — and because, as evidenced by the fact that I don't know what all these impressions are and don't have them sorted properly, discrimination is what I need to acquire the most. It's worth noting that these impressions — the knives — are also tools. In a certain way, they represent a limited but vital range of "higher" impressions than ordinary ones.  Their small size indicates that it is the small things, and my ability to discriminate in them, that matter. (Readers might want to know that Meister Eckhart, in the very last thing he told his followers before he died, said this exact thing.)

My wife and mother both represent feminine sides of myself: my mother, the one that gives birth to me from above, that is, a stand-in for the Virgin Mary, from whom these blessings flow (my mother, in the dream, occupied the location between the place where all these objects of value come from and myself, in a line of inheritance) and my wife, my personal active relationship with the feminine within my own world.

I can already know that there is a dysfunction in my relationship with the feminine within me, because I am not clearly cognizant of the value of my impressions or what I have in me. The argument I am having with my wife is an argument with myself, because I feel that the part of me which receives does not interact with my ordinary self enough. Somehow, that feminine part which receives ought to, in my opinion and in my understanding, have a better idea about all of these inner parts — the silver, the place settings — than I do. After all, household materials and dining, along with the eating of food in general, somehow fall into the realm of feminine responsibility. 

So I'm seeking a closer relationship with that responsibility— The female part of myself, my wife— even though I am already in relationship with it.  And I'm pretty much complaining to "her" because in one way or another I don't think she's doing enough to contribute. I'm married to her, but I am arguing with her about why she won't marry me. Duh.

In other words, the dream is telling me that I already have the relationship I need, but I am blind to it, and still arguing that it ought to be there. Other female parts of myself (represented by the woman K. who I am mentoring, who arrives but then wisely an discretely  excuses herself) are already in the wings and ready to join in the kind of inner work that is necessary to understand this material, but my belligerent and argumentative nature prevents them from coming in and participating.

 The scenery shifts from indoors to outdoors representing the inner and outer life, but also two levels. One of them, the inside scenery where I am sorting through the silverware, represents the inner space where former associations are stored and impressions of outer life are digested. It contains elements of the past interacting with the spiritual tools that process them. The outside space represents my present and outer life, and my current psychological state, seen in a surrounding of nature. The fact that it's on a balcony represents the idea that this confrontation is taking place in the higher parts of centers, not the lower ones; and the presence of trees and green leaves represents the idea that there is a real life here, even though there are struggles underway. 

The interior space in the dream is devoid of such living, growing things, and represents a more "technical" and mechanical location. That is interesting, because it also represents a place closer to God, as evidenced by the presence of my mother as an interpretive figure for the impressions of value that are stored there. My mother actually does not get involved in explaining any of the silver items, even though she is the custodian and and ought to be well aware of their uses and meanings. This is because I am expected to do this work myself.

All in all, the dream does not represent a negative, because it offers abundance and continuity — the passing of inheritance from one to another. The relationships I need in myself are already present and loving, I just don't see that clearly. So the dream is there to help illustrate a lack in me — a lack of acceptance of my place, and the failure to see and understand that everything I need is already there.



Hosanna.





Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Deep Sea Creature


Deep Sea Creature

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate, with iPad pro and apple pencil


Hosanna.





Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Questioner Within Me, Part IV — My Life and the Living Of It


Merode Altarpiece (Detail)
The Cloisters, New York 

When it comes to my weakness for confirmation bias, perhaps what I need to understand is that what I confirm—what I want to verify—represents my desires. 

My desires don't represent, in other words, a wish for what is true and what is right—they represent a wish for what I wish for

They are, in other words, of the self, and selfish. If I want to understand the idea of my non-desires prevailing over my desires, I have to be willing to pursue the via negativa—to go against myself. 

That means being suspicious of what I want to be true.

There's a fine line here, because eventually one develops, in the spiritual life and in the spiritual parts (in the organism) an instinctive sensation of what is true and right. This is different than an intellectual theory or opinion about what is true and right. Gurdjieff spoke often about this capacity for an organic, or, shall we say, integrated and essential understanding of what is true and right which first of all does not belong to me, and above all causes me to instinctively shy away from that which is untrue or wrong; and in this area, we can't treat it in quite the same way.

One can tell when the active sensation, the objective faculty, of discerning the right and the true, is present when all the following conditions are fulfilled:

1. One feels through abject and sincere humility the absolute fact of one's own nothingness;

2. One understands through direct sensation (not just thought) that one understands nothing, seeing one's own helplessness;

3. One feels an organic and sorrowful love for all of creation;

4. One understands that one must never take actions that will harm other living sentient Beings;

5. One experiences profound and comprehensive remorse of conscience for all of one's life and actions (organic shame);

6. One feels an anguished and irrevocable nostalgia for reunion with God.

When all of these inner conditions are fulfilled at the same time, one can know that one is in a state where the right and the true can be discerned. All of the above factors stand in contrast to my desires, which—unlike the above—are essentially selfish in nature. 

We can equally recast this question in terms of liking what "it" does not like—"it" being my ego. 

Somewhere within me there needs to be born a seed of perpetual return; and what it perpetually returns to is this sensation of my own nothingness, which engenders respect for life and for what is around me. 

Absent this respect, what I respect is myself alone, and that obsessive-compulsive reliance on self obscures both my life and the living of it.

Hosanna.






Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Caddisfly


Caddisfly

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate, with iPad pro and apple pencil


Hosanna.





Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Questioner Within Me, Part III — “Except Me”

Merode Altarpiece (Detail)
The Cloisters, New York 

I'm prompted to examine this question of inner questioning more closely because I was in a situation two years ago where an individual close to our family did some things that were, measured from some points of view, deeply unethical and amounted to a betrayal. 

The situation caused an enormous amount of anger and frustration; and it did considerable damage to family relationships. It also caused the other relationship, the one outside the family, what appeared to be irrevocable damage. When one's financial and personal interests are betrayed, and one is falsely accused of motives one simply never did have, the anger towards another person can be immense. 

I never stopped to think carefully about how it looked from the other side: how the other party’s fears, needs, prejudices, and confirmation biases were affecting the situation. It never occurred to me that they would simply be unable to see it from our point of view; or that even if they could, it would appear very threatening to them. That is to say, after a year or more of contemplation, I saw that my own reactions and anger, while appropriate within the limits of my own circle, were inadequate to describe the whole situation.

I suspected as much by instinct long before I came to this with any clarity; and I attempted to repair the relationship by extending some overtures to this individual, all of which were summarily rejected. With other people, I've had moments where it was possible to just drop all the BS, admit that the whole situation was a horrible mess, affirm the friendship and move on — but this other person was just not willing to do that. They were too invested in the idea that this war was a war, metaphorically speaking, to the death. 

Unfortunately, when we wage wars this way in our inner life,—which is always the real battlefield—what dies is us — and I think that my effort to reach out to this person was an effort to find a way to emotionally survive, not just for myself, but for both of us. 

This is the hard ground where forgiveness really gets tested — one has to be willing to forgive unconditionally and find the moment where one can take some responsibility for one's own actions without blaming the other in order to move on.

In any event, when I say that my reactions were appropriate within the limits of my own circle, what I am saying is that there was a much larger arena at play here which I failed to appreciate. I see that now; and I'm even able to say that the other party, within the limits of their own circle, was as "right" as I was — given the limits of their own vision, which didn't extend any further than their circle. I had equally limited vision; and our visions were mutually exclusionary. 

It's odd and disturbing to come to a conclusion later in the situation that the other person was right — I have had to surrender 100% of the anger and resentment in me in order to see it from their point of view. Of course, we were both right from our own points of view, wrong from each other's — and it's only in the wholeness of giving that up that one can see where the real need to lay, which I think was more in their camp than ours, no matter how theoretically or actually unethical the way they handled it was. One must, in the end, even forgive the unethical behavior — because we all act unethical at one time or another, and if we do not forgive one another those moments, we aren't actually being forgiving. One sees the disastrous consequences of a refusal to forgive in the punitive and objectively cruel functionality of the American penal system. It is a reflection of how we are inside ourselves, isn't it?

This is how we harm ourselves and each other.  The other person looked at my wife and I out of fear and anger, and saw in us a wish to harm them; and I don't think I did any better on my end.

 Moving past the personal ethics of the situation, which demand forgiveness on both sides but cannot command it, the larger question is why we both saw only what we wanted to see, and refused to see it from the other persons point of view. Not enough questions were asked; not enough concessions were made on either side. It's striking how childish this behavior was all around; and it's even more striking that this kind of thing takes place among those of us who claim a place at the table where the adults sit. 

Everything goes like this with people, doesn't it?

 Yet we focus so strongly on the external that I'm not sure we spend enough time evaluating our inner life and how it leads to these things. If I do so, ultimately, I have to suffer what I am — and this always leads to a shock when I see how completely I misunderstand both myself, my inner motivations, and my life. 

Mr. Gurdjieff, of course, pulled us over and over again that we are this way — yet in the heat of the moment, we never believe it. Our confirmation bias leads us to believe that others may be machines, others may be reactionary — but no; we —we are objective.

 It reminds me of something I said to my group many years ago: Gurdjieff’s adage is that no one should display negative emotions— 

except me.

Hosanna.






Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Mantis

Mantis

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate, with iPad pro and apple pencil


Hosanna.





Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Questioner Within Me, Part II — Die Verwandlung

Merode Altarpiece (Detail)
The Cloisters, New York 

I've been planning to write this essay about confirmation bias for some time; yet I put it off, because there is always the danger that one is indulging in confirmation bias about one's confirmation biases. That is to say, I needed to digest the subject before I ended up saying what I expect to say, rather than what needs to be said. They are not always the same thing. So in the process of writing this piece, which was written at one time — despite the logical break that creates publishing entities of a discrete and manageable size — I'm discovering what I think needs to be said, rather than what I expected to say.

This “more objective perspective” that I’m interested in emerges as I give up one cherished belief and opinion after another. It involves what Mr. Gurdjieff called outer considering — the placing of myself in another's shoes. This is a fascinating and undervalued exercise which is talked about, but rarely invoked. When, for example, was the last time you heard anyone suggest that we outwardly consider others as a task — that we really take something that we fervently and perhaps even angrily believe in and try very hard to see it from an opponent’s point of view, see it very clearly, so that we become them? 

No, we don't try this; because it's damned uncomfortable, and we have to give too much of ourselves up — which is the last thing we ever want to do. 

If we try to do it with people like terrorists, it’s a repulsive and perhaps even disgusting suggestion — yet real outer considering has to go that far. We can't ever understand ourselves if we don't try to turn ourselves on our head, turn ourselves upside down to see not just the shiny carapace of our ego with its delightful, carefully crafted colors, but also the underside, with its multiple, verminous legs that scuttle around in filth. ( think of Kafka’s Gregor Samsa here in Die Verwandlung—The Metamorphosis.)

 It's only when I get to this point of turning myself upside down and seeing the scuttling legs waving in the air helplessly that I begin to see the creatures I have built within myself, the negative creatures that scuttle around throughout my psyche finding ways to poison my attitudes towards both others and, ultimately, myself — because every poisonous attitude I have ultimately corrupts my own being first, before it touches anyone else.

Now, we all like to think of ourselves as good; and no one thinks they have a scuttling little insect living in them, even though every single one of us does have dozens of them. One of the points of the paintings  Hieronymus Bosch left us with was that all of these scenes of hell, which we see outwardly, show us ourselves inwardly. Those hideous, deformed little creatures? They are parts of our psyche, our confirmation bias in action. Each one of them reflects the torment we've probably wished on an enemy; or an opinion we have about them, or ourselves.

Hosanna.






Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Gone Giraffe


Gone Giraffe

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate, with iPad pro and apple pencil


Hosanna.





Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Questioner Within Me, Part I — Confirmation Bias



Merode Altarpiece (Detail)
The Cloisters, New York 

Confirmation bias
is the phenomenon whereby a person believes something, and then looks around them for evidence to support the belief. 


It's a common mechanism in human beings; and anyone who wants to aspire to objectivity needs to be deeply suspicious of it in themselves. Yet we're all perpetual victims of confirmation bias; it's nearly impossible to avoid. One might just about say we are hardwired for it; it is built into us. And it is one of the favorite tools of the ego.

Confirmation bias begins with what I believe is mine — that is, my beliefs. This begins with an endorsement of my own agency and an unspoken — even unconscious — that "I" am the agent of my own activities and even my life itself. Simply put, it states that everything is about me.

Implicit in the endorsement of my own agency, in most cases, is an assumption that I am right about things. The via negativa — the "negative path" — attempts to avoid this by assuming that I am wrong about things, which can be quite useful. It attempts to head confirmation bias off at the path.

Gurdjieff was committed to helping his pupils avoid confirmation bias. "Question everything,", he advised them. "Even me.”

Well then. Let's question everything.

Ahhh…  Suddenly, it's not so easy, is it? When we encounter people who purport to embody true spirituality,  who say or do things congruent with our own beliefs and expectations, we’re eager to find what we expect to in what they do and what they say. Before we know it, we and other like-minded people find ourselves in a community where everyone agrees on things, quotes the same material, uses the same words (which spread through the community's language like a virus) and nods sagely at one another in rapt consensus. 

Outsiders, heretics — anyone who challenges these deeply held and deeply cherished beliefs and assumptions — are calmly and quietly nodded at sagely, and dismissed. That dismissal often comes in the form of passive-aggressive attack, where the collective membership of a group, organization, or cult dispassionately and patronizingly ostracizes the dissenter, advising them that they just do not understand the "higher wisdom" of the elders.

 Every spiritual organization is in danger of behaving like this. The sign of a solid one is that it tolerates and even encourages dissent —with love. 

We are supposed to fold both assent and dissent into the ranks of our practice; and yet the evil inner God of self-calming encourages us to edit out the dissenters. They make us feel upset, after all; and we shouldn't have to put up with that, should we? After all, we are intelligent adults who have spent many years on our spiritual search, and we shouldn't have to put up with these damned idiots who challenge everything. 

They are disturbing our carefully cultivated inner serenity, the fools.

Even though Gurdjieff told us they are the first people we need to keep things on the straight and narrow.

 Well, this sounds like a description of an outer process, doesn't it? Yet it isn’t. The questioner within us is treated in exactly the same way as I’m describing here. If I don't admit the one who objects to my inner practice — if I don't test its strength by doubting and looking at the opposite side of the question — if I don't disbelieve what I believe in order to see if I can truly believe it — I can't wear down the sharp parts and hard, resistant bits of the ego that insist on making everything its own. 

So I have to question even the inner questioner.

In the end, as harsh as it may seem — and it isn't meant to seem that way, as I don't think it's harsh at all in the end — I have to burn down every inner village I erect. Most especially, my assumptions and the things that I cherish the most. In my own case, as I grow older I see how I have nourished many opinions and ideas about other people that are dismissive, pejorative, destructive, angry, resentful, and so on. I have long-winded inner dialogues about how this or that person is, or — equally destructive — how this or that situation is, leaving me to opinionated and egoistic conclusions about how things ought to be — most of them designed to make me look better, if I'm honest and I peel away enough layers of this onion.

Once I have Potemkin villages like this built in me, my inner dialogues make sure that they are always nicely painted and properly populated.  At that point, every new incoming impression encounters my confirmation bias and is, in one way or another, co-opted as a support for the structures. 

I make the world say what I want it to say, inside me.

Generally speaking, in my own case, I don't realize that I am getting to the bottom of my own confirmation biases until I have to give up something that makes me extremely uncomfortable. An idea about another person, for example, that entitles me to hold on to my condemnation of their behavior. These things are extremely subtle, and capable of morphing into new forms the moment I confront them, so the only way to detect and question my own egoism is to dig down layer after layer through these sediments. All of them have been deposited through past associations; and it never occurs to me that, like an archaeologist to wants to prove a pet theory, I am arranging the layers to say what I want them to say. I have, in short, no objectivity about the nature of my own life.

Yet as a more objective perspective develops — and this is possible, to the extent I am willing to give up the things I love — the inner things, not the outer ones, let me stress that — I begin to discover what we might call objectivity. 

More on that in the next installment on this question.

Hosanna.






Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Gone Fish


Gone Fish

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate, with iPad pro and apple pencil


Hosanna.





Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Small-Minded Individuals

Christmas window 
Saks Fifth Avenue, New York

A reader asks:

I noticed a strange thing happen ,as some times before ,obviously ,but stronger now.
I noticed I was asleep and I went in direction of thoughts and seeing myself as if from above the planet but for real.
Then I remembered to kind of break that state and go with sensing instead and sensing the body started to "kick off" and then I  noticed as if another "me" struggling to actually impose its fantasy/thoughts of what to do and what  awakening is about and with all the structures of thought or of what I consider my life or me.

Do you know what I mean? I assume the other "thing" is personality(because of the "allness" of what it seemed to think of as "me" or "my world") or mind and not just one "I".

My comment:

We always have multiple beings within ourselves struggling with one another for supremacy. These are small-minded individuals. There is, on top of that, a large small-minded individual. If I become sufficiently aware of the small small-minded individuals, they gradually coalesce into more of a whole who is the large small-minded individual.

 So here you and I are, more or less living in our large small–minded individuals, and attempting to understand where we are. 

That individual uses thinking to try and determine most of what goes on; and indeed, it's useful, because that thinking can lay some intelligent foundations unless it goes into aberrant territory— led either by the emotions, which often delight in dark places, or the body, which only wants pleasures.

 This idea of investment in sensation, if I can remember, is very useful, because over a long period of time I can train the body to think more actively through it. With enough effort, eventually, maybe the body will wake up and my sensation will become more permanent and alive. That would make a difference; this thinking within the large small-minded individual won't. So I need to get over the conviction that the thinking and the impressions the conclusions I draw from them are going to help save me. They are not part of the enemy; there is no enemy. But they are part of a distraction that keeps me from paying attention to the living elements within me that ought to be honored more attentively. I have these many fascinating different living elements in me, each one of which emanates from a spark of divinity; and yet I employ them all willy-nilly, like a village idiot who has been given a fine clock and uses it to prop open the gate on the pigsty.

This is one of the reasons that I find it useful to abandon the interpretive methods and just try to sense life as it comes. Real interpretations of life derive from three centered work; and they are rare enough, and anguishing. All the other interpretations are fantastic inventions, as you observed here. Fantastic inventions have layers; and each successive layer pasted on top of the prior one gives the illusion of superiority. In a certain way, without devaluing the facts of life, one has to abandon the illusions of superiority for a comprehensive understanding of inferiority of everything that arises within me, here on this level. 

I use the word inferior not to mean substandard, but below. That is, everything here happens below a higher level which is quite different than the layers of fantasy which gets stacked up in me. 

That higher level has an objective nature which I am alienated from.


Well, I think I have gone on enough about this. You get the idea.

Hosanna.






Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Gods of War: The Sixth Beast


The Sixth Beast

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate, with iPad pro and apple pencil


Hosanna.





Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Further notes on the deconstruction of the second striving

Griffin
Metropolitan Museum, New york

In December, a close friend in the Gurdjieff Work contacted me with the following comments about the deconstruction of the second striving:

Not sure quite what to say here. That is, what you say is true but it seems to be said in the tone of an attack. So while I agree in principle and personally feel quite strongly that consciousness is attention is love, and that it's time to wake up to the fact that it is everywhere around and in us, I can't go along with attacking myself or the rest of us for not being perfect lovers Jeepers, Geez, I'm only human! G himself often attacked us for our failings and I did the self-attack thing into the ground years ago and ended up sick, learning it is easier to try to be perfect than to be who you are.

My response was as follows: 

Let's remember first that it is Gurdjieff himself who brings up this issue of "self-perfection"—not me. So if anyone has to be charged with the issue of making perfection the goal, it's him. If you find the idea of perfection is distressing, I would suggest your fundamental quarrel must begin with what he said, not my comments about it. 

I explored the question on the terms he laid down when he made the remark. I happen to agree with his idea about perfection being a goal; in other words, my examination of the question is doctrinaire in the sense that it accepts his statement and then attempts to understand it.

Your own core issues are a struggle with a tendency towards perfectionism. Since that's a trigger point for you, you tend to have a confirmation bias that reads this struggle into the material you encounter. I believe that's worth thinking about. (This question of our confirmation biases is a fascinating one that we all ought to look at more often than we do, I think.) 

At the same time, I honor your question, and agree with your conclusion — we should not (ever) engage in self-examination that becomes self-destruction. Indeed, our whole point of life and living is to build positive value — which is more or less the point of my contention that we ought to become perfectly loving. I think, oddly, that we are both saying the same things here, each in our wildly different way.

As it happens, if you were following the long thread of my writing on the subject — which I don't expect or ask you to do— you would know that I have recently begun to speak about The Perfection, which is my own phrase for my experience of what Ibn al Arabi refers to as The Reality, or,  more concisely put in Christian terms, God.  

We all inhabit this Perfection, which is eternally loving and eternally knowing (that is to say, wholly loving and wholly knowing, outside of time.) That Perfection is available to us as a daily and permanent inner experience, according to the level of inner magnetism we develop and the degree of inner sensation we acquire. It is an undeniable and ubiquitous condition that the organism was designed to receive and concentrate in the form of greater and greater love, as it develops. (Being exists to concentrate Love through magnetic attraction, which is a material and organic process related, at its root, to breathing and organic sensation.)

The Perfection coexists with ordinary life, but stands outside and aside from it as a separate influence — in other words, it is the second nature we oft talk about, but don't really understand. Perhaps one ought to point out here that we won't understand it and can't understand it — the whole point of it is to become the active source of our question, which needs to migrate out of our minds and directly into the energy from which it draws all its life and power.

In gross metaphysical terms, the Perfection by default arranges everything so that it is already perfect — even apparent imperfection. A right relationship to organic sensation can lay the foundation for understanding this in immediate terms that get past the inevitable dilution with words, allowing the mind of sensation and the mind of feeling to more fully participate in a direct, active, three-centered experience of this perfection. I fear this question of the other two minds is poorly understood, in general.  From what I can see, people don't generally understand what I say when I speak about the two of them becoming much more active.

One of the unfortunate — to us — consequences of understanding the Perfection better is to understand that everything, arranged exactly as it is — with all of the woe, anguish, fear, and destruction that it also contains — dwells equally within the immediate and absolute Perfection of God.  (Every time a person has what we call, in the work, "a moment," they have for an instant brought the centers close enough together to experience, to a greater degree, the Perfection— which was always already there..)

In other words, everything we fear, deny, or struggle against is actually perfect, because it is there to help us. 

This is a confusing conundrum our (I include myself here) ordinary parts aren't able to process; and I doubt they ever will be. (Again, I am hardly the first person to say this — Ibn al Arabi, Swedenborg and Meister Eckhart all got there first, each in their own inimitable way.) But the three-centered process of Being can help us to encounter this in a way that includes understanding from a different direction.

 Oddly, this leaves us in a peculiar position, metaphysically speaking, because all of our progressive doctrines which presume we going from "here" to "there" and in which we "improve" are somehow wrong; again, something that can't be properly processed. The irony here is that we already dwell within Perfection, and just don't know it.  (Christians who speak of being held in the eternally loving hands of Christ and God are speaking of this, whether or not they have anything more than a theoretical experience of it.  We don't go from anywhere to anywhere; we go from now to now.)

I think the majority of your own personal struggle has been a growth into greater awareness of where we are, in these same terms. That's what I intuit about you, anyway, and from my perspective that growth has been a healthy, powerful, and positive one that has allowed you to transcend many self-created obstacles. I'm in the same boat, struggling with a similar class of self-created obstacles, so your process and results inspire me and give me hope. 

This kind of process is reciprocal and, I think, why we work together in groups, after we strip away all the blah blah blah.

Things have changed in me since last fall, radically in some ways, and I now spend my days contemplating this state from a more direct and practical perspective, inwardly formed through these other two minds—which can become much more alive in us, according to magnetism.

 I make no call as to where that will lead, except to here, or what it means, except what it means now. The most delightful and intriguing thing about it is that it brings me to a sense of immediate presence where I don't know the meaning, but know that I can help "create" life as it stands—on the fly, in this moment. 

That process can be filled with love and effort, which I always need as companions to overcome my perpetual and immediate limitations.

Hosanna.






Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Out of Darkness

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate, with iPad pro and apple pencil


Hosanna.





Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Returning to the Glory, Part II

 Early Christian grave marker
Metropolitan Museum, New York

 It's the evening for me now. 

I have spent the day deeply, profitably, and satisfyingly divided between the Presence of the Perfection and the manifestation of my own decidedly and amusingly imperfect Being. 

I have made a deal with this devil which seems to work out well for both of us, even though half of me is going to hell most of the time. 

It's good to see this; God wants me to remember that half of me wants to go to hell so that I will keep at least 51% of me on this (the Heavenly) side of that deal. Otherwise, once I die, a great unpleasantness will ensue.

 I have had occasion today to notice the ubiquity of gratitude that permeates Being when one remembers the extraordinary things that take place in life. They seem so small; yet everything of God is in them. 

I remember, for example, being about eight years old and walking down the small lane, lined with ditches, that lay between two streets on  the way to my house at Pikartenkamp 18 in Hamburg, Germany. 

Every day these ditches lay on either side of me, and in the spring and summer there were frogs in them. 

This is not all of it, not by half; the walk between the S-Bahn and my house was a brief trip to a rather magical kingdom.

It was 1963; you could still smell the war somewhere in the trees, even though it had been over for about 19 years. Eurasian magpies haunted the train station; I was pretty certain, at the age of eight, that they represented magical beings of some kind—not quite sure which ones, but definitely magical. 

There was a Baba Yaga house on the way home nestled under a massive, improbably dark and mossy thatched roof of greenish straw; and that roof was itself dominated by an even more massive grove of pine trees, which hung their branches over it like the dark hands of fate. 

Collectively, the whole thing looked like a witch's hut to me; again, I'm pretty sure it was one, and it inspired fear in such a way that I would run by it on my way home, sensing a malignancy that, while almost certainly imaginary, provided the excitement necessary to propel me towards home just a little bit faster.

Later, I would come to the ditch, which had a few standard and relatively unimportant wetland plants growing in it. It was the frogs that were special; I was fascinated by them — as I have been ever since I was a tiny child, perhaps three years old, when my mother reports that I sat still by a pond for an extraordinarily long amount of time (impossibly long, according to her, for a three-year-old) until I actually caught a frog — a feat she was certain would be impossible for me.

I guess I really liked frogs.

In any event, remembering those things today; while passing by a house with coaxial cable coiled up on its side like a starving snake; watching birds dart into trees overhead; it occurred to me that everything is indeed perfect, and that the presence of God animates us not only within being, but animates all things. 

I could taste the way that it stretches from 1963 to 2015; I could taste the way that everything lives in me as it lives in all people, and that there is a poetry not just of substance, but of spirit, that carries us forward into the dawn of each new day.

Gratitude penetrates every one of these events; and perhaps it's possible to live with the devil and deal with him, while also letting go of everything he represents, and even appreciating the fact that he helps me to remember God.

This, anyway, is what I think to myself tonight on the night of December 16, in regard to the passage of this day. 

It's all part of returning to the Glory, which is always here when I look for it.

Hosanna.








Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.