Five Blind Imams, Six Blind Scholars, and the Doors of Perception

Likely you are familiar with the Sufi parable of the five blind imams and the elephant. As the tale goes, each of the five groped one part of the elephant — tusks, ear, tail, trunk, leg — and came up with a completely different mental picture of the beast and what it was like, and ended up quarreling amongst themselves because all insisted that their’s alone was the true one.

It’s a parable about what Jean Gebser would call “deficient perspectivisation” and also of narcissism, and the parable itself provides a clue to what Gebser also understands as “aperspectival” consciousness, or the overview rather than the point-of-view. Interestingly, the Buddhist parable has six blind scholars instead of five blind imams, and that variation on the tale is quite significant in itself. The imams or scholars are symbols of the physical senses, but Buddhism recognises six rather than five primary senses.

Thai Buddhist Mural of the Six Blind Men and the Elephant

Thai Buddhist Mural of the Six Blind Men and the Elephant

The Thai mural reproduced here shows the six blind men, but also a seventh — the elephant driver. This seventh is “Buddha Mind”.

Along with the traditional five senses — sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch — Buddhism also includes the body-mind as a base sense, or what we call “ego-consciousness” or ego-nature. It is considered to be a constituent part of the sense base of physical existence, among those senses that are attuned to physical reality. So, in effect, the five blind imams or the six blind scholars are the same as William Blake’s “Doors of Perception”, and in Buddhism the body-mind (ego) is also considered a perceiving organ.

Ayatana is the term that translates as “sense-base” or “sense-sphere”, but a better term would be Marshall McLuhan’s “sensorium“, keeping in mind that this sensorium also includes the perceiving ego-consciousness/body-mind. As it turns out, McLuhan’s notion of the “sensorium” is quite parallel to Gebser’s “integrum“.

I suppose it is helpful, in some ways, to think of the body-mind as an additional sense, although it’s probably more correct that it is the aggregate structure of the physical senses. There is also a variant on this. In Thinking and Destiny, Harold Waldwin Percival insists that there are only four physical senses, while the aggregation of the impressions made upon consciousness by the physical senses is called “mind”.

Each physical sense has it’s own associated consciousness structure, according to Buddhist doctrine — visual consciousness, olfactory consciousness, tactual consciousness, gustatory consciousness, auditory consciousness, each being associated with one of the five primary elements — fire, air, earth, water, or space (akasha), respectively (as illustrated in the table in the above link to the  “Ayatana” article in Wikipedia). The dominant sense in the sensorium or sensory mix would thus define the “species of consciousness” with which that sense is associated, so Gebser’s own civilisations as structures of consciousness in terms of the archaic, magical, mythical, mental-rational, or integral would not only be associated with one of the primary elements, but also with the dominance of one or another of the physical senses.

In Modernity, the eye has been the dominant organ, along with its associated structure of consciousness — the mental-rational — for the last 500 years, while the sensitivity of the other senses has atrophied somewhat (Nietzsche thought of his “nose” and the sense of smell as his most valuable asset!).

McLuhan believed that the switch from mechanical forms of energy to electronic was also bringing about a shift in the “sensorium” towards an integration of all the senses. Thus the “sensorium” corresponds to what we have been calling the shift from “point-of-view” to “overview” as well, and since each of the senses is associated with a particular structure of consciousness, it follows that there will also be an integration of those structures, through the sensorium, in the form of what Gebser has likewise called “the integrum“, regardless of whether we hold the “sense-base” to be four, five, or six.

This is, I believe, the context for William Blake’s belief that the New Age would be a recovery of sensuality and the cleansing of “the doors of perception” — a kind of “coming to one’s senses”, as it were. A “re-membering” after a dis-memberment in which the senses are unified. Likewise, in Buddhism, the correct training of the organs of perception is an important part of self-overcoming, and that’s represented by the elephant driver or “mahout“, which name seems quite evidently related to “mahatma” or “Great Soul”.

So McLuhan’s Understanding Media and his thoughts on the sensorium also run parallel to Gebser’s interest in the emerging integrum. And much that McLuhan wrote there and  on “The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man” is very applicable in coming to appreciate also what Gebser means by “the mental-rational consciousness structure”.



12 responses to “Five Blind Imams, Six Blind Scholars, and the Doors of Perception”

  1. LittleBigMan says :

    Oh, dear teacher and master…..there are parts of this world where the word “Imam” is at least as much detested as the name Harper up there in beautiful Canada. I would certainly not liken any parable that involves Imams or anything they do or say (the ultimate symbols of duplicity) with anything that that great man, William Blake, had to say. Now, imagine, if you will, the impact that the rule of 600 to 800 years of Harper type personalities could have made in Canada and that’s the type of damage that you have in those corners of the world where Imams have been allowed to have an audience for that long. In short, an “Imam” is the shell program that accepts input and acts on behalf of Money Changers 🙂 The ultimate Agent Smith with very bad intentions.

    What Imams are tantamount to would make the worst scandal in the history of Catholic Church look like kindergarten stuff.

    • Scott Preston says :

      “Imam”, “scholar”, or “rabbi”. All basically have the same meaning in terms of their activities.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        I would separate the scholar from the other two. On the ground, an “Imam” is the ultimate symbol of duplicity. In terms of their activities……there are pictures, Youtube clips, and real stories I have come across over time that even Larry Flint and Hugh Hefner wouldn’t dare consider publishing, and even if they did, they would get arrested for it since many (but not all) involve homosexual acts with the underaged. An exemplar of them is this guy, one of whose former medical attendees, has revealed that he has an STD (either gonorrhea or syphillis)

        The list, of course, goes on and on and on……But the rabbi is quite an adaptive creature. Many of the rabbis (including the man above) now cloak themselves in “Imam” attire and call themselves “Friday Prayer Imam” and stand in front, leading a Friday Prayer Mass at mosques all over this planet.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        By the way, note that the last name of the “Imam” in that wiki-page I posted refers to an ancient town called “Shiraz.”

        People of the region now know that a last name that ends in the name of town is one of several sure ways of identifying an agent of The Free Masons or the ancient cult of Money Changers (I say Money Changers, because this cult does not include all Jews, but only those Jews who have deep roots in Iraq and Palestine – Israel Shahak also mentions them in his book. Many, if not all, key power figures in Iran are Iraqi Jews or closely related to them through Free Masonry or other secretive clubs).

        Other examples are “Rafsanjani”, “Khalkhali”, “Khomeini”, all of these people rank very high on the list of most brutal murderous personalities this planet has ever seen to itself and they all bear a last name after a town!

        Words could never do justice in truly describing the nature of these so called “Imams.” Those who know them well wouldn’t even compare them to animals, because all animals are divine. But to clarify, let me give another example:

        In particular, this excerpt from the above clip is worth noting:

        “After the Iranian Revolution, Pakravan, was among the first of the Shah’s officials to be executed. It is well-documented fact (confirmed by many Iranian officials, including the late Shah, in his memoirs) that Pakravan was a key in convincing the Shah to commute a death sentence passed on Khomeini in 1963 for his role in the 1963 riots into exile.”

        Now, even that’s nothing…..some of these “Imams” sent their own children to meet the execution squads because they had joined opposition groups and were threatening to “reveal” the secrets of their parents.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        Here’s one key Iraqi Jew, and a key recent member of the ancient cult of Money Changers who was instrumental in beginning the process that changed the name of one country in the middle east from “Persia” to “Iran.”

        And here’s another key Jewish Iraqi figure who has cloaked himself in “Imam” attire who heads the Guardian Council.

        The Guardian Council decides who is going to be the next filthy bastard who’s going to be the so called “Supreme Leader.” of course, it’s supreme leader my butt 🙂

        • Scott Preston says :

          There is no substantive difference in function between an imam, a guru, a rabbi, or a scholar. That’s why the parable of the blind men and the elephant works in all cultures. You can substitute the “imam” or the “scholar” with “rabbi” or “guru” with the same result.

          That’s because their specialist function in their respective cultural milieus are identical — to interpret, teach, and apply the Canon. And whether they do that with fidelity or with perfidy, it is the same everywhere.

          The parable is about “authority” in that regard, but especially about the “authority of the senses”, and in no wise does the parable express a preference for one type of authority over another. Like the physical senses themselves, the imam, the rabbi, the scholar, or the guru can interpret the canon well, or they can interpret the canon badly and in a self-interested and self-serving way.

          That’s why the parable works, and it is the same everywhere. The Western type of secular scholar is just another “imam” or “rabbi” or “guru” by another name, who pays homage to the Canon well or badly, which Canon is the principles of the European Enlightenment.

          In that sense, gurus, rabbis, scholars, or imams are all partisans of their particular historical Canon and traditions, and they all function in the same way, well or badly, in their respective milieus. They are the same “archetype” as it were, expressed differently.

          • LittleBigMan says :

            “That’s why the parable of the blind men and the elephant works in all cultures.”

            Well, let’s just say that “Imam” is the one that concerns himself exclusively with the reproductive organ of the elephant, whereas a rabbi, a guru, or a scholar might be interested in other organs 🙂

        • LittleBigMan says :

          Sorry, it’s actually “The Assembly of Experts” that decides who will be the supreme leader. But it doesn’t really matter what’s what, since everything is a big sham with all governments in the middle east.

  2. LittleBigMan says :

    But discussing such scandals concerning “Imams” can get someone executed in those countries. Not to mention this behavior is how they indoctrinate new young future “imams” in the schools where young “imams” are trained. Like the one in Feyziyeh:

  3. LittleBigMan says :

    Just remembered that this “Imam” died of AIDS:

    No wonder why these people head some of the most misogynistic regimes in the world.

    • LittleBigMan says :

      ……of course, the reason of death listed on the Wiki page is just ridiculous. He died of AIDS, reported by anonymous practitioners of medicine who were familiar with his situation.

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