Avatars

For the sake of the numerous new subscribers to The Chrysalis, I want tell the backstory for the blog — the reason why I launched the blog, (as well as the late and now retired Dark Age Blog), and why I pursue the issues that I do in The Chrysalis. Older readers of The Chrysalis, (and indeed some who have been around since The Dark Age Blog) will remember it as my “Dream of the Fish”. It bears repeating on occasion, if only to remind myself why I’m doing the things I do. Besides, with the retelling of the story I always seem to discover new and intriguing aspects to it.

“In the beginning”… A few years back I had a dream. I dreamed I was a fish. I had, indeed, what I would call a “fish consciousness”. Perhaps it would be better to say a fish “sentience”, and a fish sentience is a strange thing.

In this dream, the fish that I was took a lure. There was no pain, but a pressure and then a pull — an upwards pull that I naturally resisted and fought against. As I broke the surface of the water, which was itself a startling effect, I saw, as fish, this fisherman standing in a boat, fishing rod in hand peering down at me. And then in a sudden moment of realisation, I “knew” that I the fish was also the fisherman. The fish and the fisherman shared the same identity.

Of course, the fish didn’t “think” in those terms. Its knowing is a more visceral kind of knowing which, for that reason, is best described as sentience — a very basic awareness but which was, nonetheless, shared by the fisherman in a kind of continuum. I experienced that awareness I call “my awareness” as being simultaneously in two forms — as fish, and as fisherman.

The effect was so startling, in fact, that I immediately woke up and sat on the edge of the bed pondering how my awareness could be in two separate forms simultaneously, when it suddenly occurred to me that there had been yet a “third” form — the now bemused “watcher” or witness of the dream, the ego consciousness I normally call “myself” in everyday life named “Scott”. My awareness had actually been in three forms simultaneously — as fish, as fisherman, and as the witness.

There was a moment of shock at that realisation. But in that moment of shock, too, came the awareness that there was yet a “fourth” awareness — which was also “mine” — which had constructed the dream scenario, was the architect of the whole shebang and that was intending the fish, the fisherman and the witness all as aspects of its own awareness, and that the normal everyday being I call “me” was but a tiny fragment of itself, a portion of its own vast awareness. And in that moment I knew that the creature called “Scott”, the fish, and the fisherman all had the same ontological status — both real and yet unreal at the same time. We were all equally avatars of that shared vaster awareness.

This vaster awareness was darkness itself, not because it is the darkness, but because it appears that way to the ego consciousness — the “witness”. It appears as darkness because it is incomprehensible and impenetrable to the intellect, for it has no definition, neither beginning nor ending, and is outside the framework of beginnings and endings and therefore of time and space. It appears as nothingness and emptiness, but is, at the same time, infinite fullness of potentiality and the creative source. As far as I can determine, it is exactly what Jean Gebser calls “the Itself” and “ever-present origin”, and what appears in Castaneda’s works as “the dark sea of awareness”. Yet it’s awareness was also the awareness I call “my awareness” without contradiction. It’s darkness was simply its vast, inscrutable, fathomlessness. The tradition metaphor of “ocean” or “sea” doesn’t even quite do it justice. But it does bring to mind a snippet of poetry I once read: “Darkness is His pavilion”.

It was at that moment of witnessing the “Itself” that everything around me took on a very different hue or tonality. Things glowed slightly with an aura of inner vitality or inner light or electricity. Everything was an avatar, as it were, of it’s intent. Nothing had inherent solidity, but the same status as “dream”. Buddhists would say that the things have no “self-nature” or that they are “empty”. Well, it’s because with this mode of perception what is “real” and what “unreal” has no meaning. There are no objects. There are only events. And events are intentional events, something like props in a theatrical performance. Everything is energy in various states of transformation.

The effect was very short-lived because the moment I started intellectualising it, it dissipitated, and everything looked “ordinary”. The effect occurred again a few days later when I was out in a field, but then again, the moment I tried to cognise it, the effect dissipated, and the world returned to “normal”.

Now it’s all just a memory, but certainly a transformative one, because I can’t think of “world”, “reality”, “consciousness”, “identity” in quite the same ways as previous. They have different meanings for me now. I have, as a consequence though, an intuitive feeling for the validity of Blake, Gebser, Castaneda, Rumi, and the Seth material and some aspects of Nietzsche’s philosophy, and my interpretation of certain passages also from the New Testament don’t correspond to what you might hear in sermons from the pulpit.

In retrospect I sometimes think that the experience was showing me the actual reality of Gebser’s four structures of consciousness: the fish corresponding to the magical (shamanistic), the fisherman to the mythical (fishermen tell stories), the “witness” or ego consciousness to the mental structure, and the “Itself” to the archaic structure. I don’t know, but it has some attractive resemblances. And if awareness can be in different “places” at the same time, why not in different times and timeframes simultaneously too?

I suppose the one lesson I learned from it all was non-interference. The ego-consciousness should not interfere with the workings of that “intent”. It is not the source of the vitality. I understand the ego consciousness in exactly the way Iain McGilchrist described it in The Master and His Emissary — as the emissary or the ambassador. The ego consciousness, as Gebser put it, should learn a certain psychic etiquette, of knowing when to let happen, and when to make happen. That’s what a good emissary or scout does.

That’s why I’m a bit taken aback by proposals for “marketing 3.0” or “holistic branding” and “brand religion” — it strikes me as the worst sort of interference with the intentions of that vaster awareness that we are implicitly. The willfulness of the ego-consciousness can end up perverting and distorting the implicit creativity and intentionality of that greater awareness, working at cross purposes leading to disastrous outcomes. It’s the meaning of the Prodigal Son parable, and there’s an intuitive aperception of this in the prayer that runs “not my will but Thine, O Lord”. And so McGilchrist calls the Emissary a “usurper”, and a usurper of the Master’s intents.

Blake, Gebser, Seth, McGilchrist, Castaneda, Rumi et alia taught me that mine was not just some quirky eccentric experience, but the fundamental reality of every consciousness. We are more than we know, and we also create the reality we know, albeit in subtle ways. The ego consciousness is a jackass, and I, me, mine is no different. But… at least I know it now.

There is a kind of progression in the dream of the fish that is intriguing, in a way — the fish wakes up from its immersion in the ocean and discovers it is the fisherman. The fisherman wakes up from the dream and discovers he’s a “real boy” in a “real world”, and the real boy in the real world wakes up to discover that he’s just a fish in a vast ocean of energy and awareness. It’s kind of humorous, and very poetic.

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22 responses to “Avatars”

  1. Mystic sofa says :

    Fantastic! Thank-you. I would be particularly interested to discuss with you the subtle glow that you noticed. I have a similar visual experience – actually I’ve since realised it goes across all the senses – and I have been exploring what it could be and what it means for several years. When I have more time I’ll try and set something down in this thread.

    • Scott Preston says :

      As far as I can determine, it’s the glow of awareness.

      • Mystic sofa says :

        When musing on this I often come back to Castaneda’s description of learning to see, when he realises that he’s been seeing energy as it flows in the universe all his life, but had never realised it before due to his system of interpretation. For me, it wasn’t like something new was added, but that I became more intensely aware of something that had always been there. It started as a growing awareness of a luminous element of vision that led into further exploration of that phenomenon, which ultimately has lead me to conclude that, at least phenomenally speaking, there is no distinction between inner and outer and everything is composed of this luminescence. This is not (only) cerebral knowledge, it is ongoing experience. I now think of it, in my more poetic moments, as the creative movement of the universe manifesting itself continually. What my ego experiences as ‘I’ and ‘world’ arises out of this one dynamic movement. This doesn’t stop me from being an idiot most of the time, but I know how to return in an instant if I need to. Does this resonate with your experience at all?

        • Scott Preston says :

          Yes it does. And I can’t think of anything more to add than how you put it here.

          • Mystic sofa says :

            One of the reasons I ask comes down to part where I wrote ‘at least phenomenally speaking’, which is a reflection of my own questions about the ontology of this experience.

            Many years ago I discussed this luminescent experience with a friend, who put it down to the activity of the physical structure of the eye, the firings of the rods and cones. Although a very simplistic and philosophically naive explanation it did prompt a biological line of thought, and ultimately has led to another possible interpretation, i.e. that it is a function of the activity of the biological activity of the organism ‘bringing forth a world, in Maturana and Varela’s terms. However, for me, this still brings up the question of where this perception takes place. Effectively it leads to the same kind of conclusion as Castaneda, in that it pertains to the seeing the ongoing construction of the phenomenal world, but couches is slightly different ontological terms, as it doesn’t quite make the same non-dual claim that the luminescence actually IS what the universe is made of. There is still an external world of sorts, it just doesn’t have any pre-set objective features that can be defined independently of any organisms ‘structural coupling’ it.

            From a pragmatic perspective it doesn’t appear to make a difference – it is what it is. From a philosphical perspective (if that’s the right word) it does, as it brings up various questions about epistemology and ontology – truth claims, I guess. I hadn’t come across Gebser before reading this blog, but have just recieved my copy of The Ever Present Origin. I was wondering whether perhaps this might have something to do with his notion of ‘verition’, which seems to pertain to truth claims with reference to integral awareness, but from the little I have read so far I must admit I don’t really understand it yet.

            • Scott Preston says :

              My impression is that the perception of the luminescence has very little to do with the physical structure of the eye or brain, for that matter, and more to do with the “mind’s eye”. When I tried to cognise the effect, it dissipated. I don’t see why it should do that if it were simply physiological. I would say what don Juan explained to Castaneda — “the eyes are minimally involved”. Someone blind would experience it as “vibrational touch”, which I think is one of those “inner senses” that Seth mentions in his books. (I’m just in the process of re-reading the Seth material again — indispensable for any student of consciousness, and I want to try and be thorough about the meaning of marketing 3.0 in relation to the shaping or “in-struction” of consciousness).

              Seth does have something to say about this “glow of awareness” or luminiscence, which recalls in some ways the “luminiferous aether” of the Old Science, which may not have been such a hair-brained notion as some people think (it’s returned as the notion of “akashic field” or “quantum field” in some ways). If I recall, Seth says the glow has to do with general electro-magnetic properties of awareness, if I recall. I’ll try and locate that. In fact, I should try and build an index for those Seth books, as they haven’t one.

              As for Gebser, his “transparency” and “translucency” of the world are pretty much synonymous, and a good number of people do talk about the “inner light” of things. Sometimes it’s represented in film, perhaps as an intuitive aperception not fully conscious as yet — in Avatar for example, or in Lucy, and especially in The Matrix. Whether this is an incipient manifestation of a latent potentially emergent in consciousness now, I don’t know. Perhaps it is a reflection of Gebser’s anticipation of “diaphaneity”.

              Of course, “diaphaneity” (and “vertition”) and translucency mean more than direct perception of this “glow of awareness” or luminscence of things and beings, but intuitive insight into their meaning — like Blake, Gebser is primarily a poet, not a scientist or philosopher. For Gebser as for Blake, all the world is a metaphor or symbolic form, and all forms are expressive of essential meanings, including the physical body and every aspect of the physical body. It’s all poetry in motion — the flux of energy is also music and song, in Blake’s case.

              Did you see neuroanatomist Jill Bolte-Taylor’s TED talk on her “Stroke of Insight”? She talked very movingly about the “trillions of molecular geniuses” that make up her body, and she use the term “genius” explicitly and pointedly about that. They possess awareness. How did she come to know that? Well, that’s what Gebser would call “verition”.

              Seth says there is basically no limits to the potentialities of consciousness. It can shrink to the size of a moleculre and travel through molecular structures if it wishes, or spend a century resting in a nail or as a tree. Or, it can expand to cosmic scale and perceive reality from that stance. Our ideas of space are quite erroneous, he says. And I think that’s also what Gebser is attempting to get around with his critique of perspectival, quantified, three-dimensional space concepts.Then we carry our erroneous concepts of space over to time, and apply them to time too.

              Error doesn’t get much more fundamental than that! If our basic understanding of space and time is erroneous, it follows that our understanding of physical reality as a whole is erroneous. Seth calls such ideas of space and time as we have “root assumptions”, and suggests they actually have no relationship to the actual facts.

              I think that’s where we actually have to go then, to these “root assumptions” — especially the root assumptions we have about space and time.

            • Scott Preston says :

              I might add, too, that the thought, personally, of passing through life having falsified and misconstrued my own experience of it all as a result of faulty “root assumptions” is a terrifying one. I’m the sworn enemy of “the common sense” in that respect, and therefore necessarily also the sworn enemy of all political conservatism with its “common sense revolution” mumbo-jumbo. And, of course, Gebser is all about exposing those “root assumptions” that make for any one over-specialisation of a consciousness structure — the root assumptions that inform and instructure a consciousness structure, and which therefore preclude the realisation of wholeness or integrality — what we call “wisdom” in other words.

            • Mystic sofa says :

              Thanks Scott, this is very useful. I did see Jill Bolte-Taylor’s video, but I’ll go back to it again and use it as a reference in conjunction with the writing on verition in EPO.

              Re fundamental errors in conceptions of time and space, the experience of ‘seeing’ – in the sense that we have discussed it – was the trigger to begin the examination of those cognitive categories. I’ve thought of this, in Castaneda’s terms, perhaps as ‘responding to the perceptual solicitations of a world outside the description that we have learned to call reality’.

              In my own case, I came to realise that an examination of my own phenomenal experience does not support the separate categories of self and world. I used to think of ‘myself’ as being ‘in here’ and the world being ‘out there’, however through being curious about this anomalous visual experience of luminescence I cam to understand that these two separate spaces are in fact a unifed space. Then, (again at least phenomenally speaking) that everything is continually in flux, a dynamic manifesting process, rather than objects that exist in space and persist through time. I’m not particularly familiar with Buddhism, but I think this may be related to the notion of ’emptiness’.

              I suppose some of the difficulties involve relating this experience to the modern scientific picture of the universe, which cannot currently adequately account for qualitative experience. For me, my direct phenomenal experience – seeing – cannot be adequately accounted for by the representational paradigm.

              Your comment about the aether reminded me of something that Bohm wrote on this matter – an illustrative example or metaphor or some-such. I’ll see if I can find it and post it here.

            • Mystic sofa says :

              Another connection just popped into my head re dynamic manifestation vs. spacetime, from Henri Bortoft. He argues that modern quantitative science is still based on the assumptions of Plato, particularly in the difference is excluded from being, which yields a static picture. He proposes that the process of the universe continually ‘coming-into-being’ is a process of self-differencing, thereby introducing movement and resolving the duality. I think I need to go back and read his book again!

            • Scott Preston says :

              Wow. I just looked up Bortoft and his list of publications is quite the kind of thing I’ld be looking to read. Thanks for the reference.

            • Mystic sofa says :

              I can highly recommend ‘The Wholeness of Nature’, which I most familiar with. The snippet in my previous comment is from the more recent ‘Taking Appearance Seriously’, which I have read but not in as much depth as the former.

            • Mystic sofa says :

              Here’s the Bohm quote I was thinking of. It’s from Wholeness and the Implicate Order, so you may well be familiar with it already. One other thing that you may find interesting, Henri Bortoft was one of Bohm’s students, which is how he came to be interested in the problem of wholeness.

              Quote:

              “According to quantum theory, a crystal at absolute zero allows electrons to pass through it without scattering. They go through as if the space were empty. If the temperature is raised, inhomogeneities appear, and these scatter electrons. If one were to use such electrons to observe the crystal (i.e. by focusing them with an electron lens to make an image) what would be visible would be just the inhomogeneities. It would then appear that the inhomogeneities exist independently and that the main body of the crystal was sheer nothingness.

              It is being suggested here, then, that what we perceive through the senses as empty space is actually the plenum, which is the ground for the existence of everything, including ourselves. The things that appear to our senses are derivative forms
              and their true meaning can be seen only when we consider the plenum, in which they are generated and sustained, and into which they must ultimately vanish.

              This plenum is, however, no longer to be conceived through the idea of a simple material medium, such as an ether, which would be regarded as existing and moving only in a three dimensional space. Rather, one is to begin with the holomovement, in which there is the immense ‘sea’ of energy described earlier.”

            • Mystic sofa says :

              Bohm’s description here reminds me of Buddhist descriptions of the ‘clear light’ of the void. Something that perhaps connects to this perception of the non-duality of inner and outer, and the luminescence we were discussing earlier.

            • Scott Preston says :

              Your quote from Bohm made me want to dig out my old copy of Wholeness. I read that in university, and that was some time ago. I did, at least, retain the word “plenum” from reading it.

              More recently I read the Bohm Krishnamurti dialogues, but found it less engaging.

              I took to calling the void, in past posts here in The Chrysalis, “The Big Empty”. Sometimes I sense it more strongly than at others, and at such times it seems also that nothing really is… it is all emergent — and that instead of speaking of “a tree” we should speak of a “tree-ing”, just like we do “be-ing”.

              Well, there’s the old Aristotelian notion of actus and potens — everything in the process of either actualisation (emergence) or in process of returning to latency or potentiality. That’s all contingent or conditional on the act of perception itself, whether via the senses or the instruments of science, which are just extensions of the senses. I’m fairly convinced that Nietzsche’s “will to power” is what appears in Castaneda as “intent”. I’m assuming that his intuition of the will to power as a general principle in the cosmos was the fruit of his “stare into the abyss”. Hard, otherwise, to reconcile his “Great Nothingness” having, nonetheless, a will to power. I do, then, believe that his “will to power” is the same as don Juan’s “force of intent”.

  2. abdulmonem says :

    Thank you Scott for narrating the dream in a more poetic reaching manner. It is beneficial to the old crew also. The fourfold carried to a higher level. It is the story of knowing of knowing Him through disentangling the layers of the self. I was reading Ibn Arabi in his journey to Him saying that if your remembering him and if this remembrance does not result in your listening to his remembering you there is something wrong in the communication. I congratulate you Scott for a successful communication, through that glow of awareness that kept you flourishing across the years. The spiritual journey that knows no stopping place, because there is no resting in the way to him. Intuitive perspicacity ia a sign of spiritual gain.

  3. davidm58 says :

    This matches the way I interpreted it also:
    “In retrospect I sometimes think that the experience was showing me the actual reality of Gebser’s four structures of consciousness: the fish corresponding to the magical (shamanistic), the fisherman to the mythical (fishermen tell stories), the “witness” or ego consciousness to the mental structure, and the “Itself” to the archaic structure. I don’t know, but it has some attractive resemblances. And if awareness can be in different “places” at the same time, why not in different times and timeframes simultaneously too?”

  4. wtquinn says :

    Hail Oannes, Emissary of Ea, teacher of wisdom to mankind.

    http://www.britannica.com/topic/Oannes

    Worthy are those called to be Amphibious!

    • Scott Preston says :

      I think that’s the first I’ve heard of Oannes. A pretty interesting mythologeme. I’ll have to look into it. thanks.

      • wtquinn says :

        I took a little risk at attempting humor with the Amphibious comment, plus I sent the wrong link. Below is the correct link. Obviously your complex dream is mostly serious subject matter in your journey to understand and engage with it in some fashion.

        Just remember. It’s not Mermaid, it’s …

        • Scott Preston says :

          A little humour in this business always takes the edginess off. What is interesting about that snippet from Zoolander is this recurrence of the mythical elements in contemporary advertising. Unfortunately, advertising also tends to empty the mythologemes of meaningful content through trivialisation. Trivia is a kind of interesting word with an interesting history in its own right, for it originally referred to a science of the sacred. But by the end of the Middle Ages it had already entered into “deficient mode” along with Christendom itself — had become somewhat decadent.

        • Scott Preston says :

          A current example I have in mind is one that Todd Stein retells in his essay “Zen Sells” — an ad for Ford Ranger that depicts a man, apparently meditating on a mountain top surrounded by stuff and gear. The pitch in the ad runs “In order to become one with everything, you have to have one of everything.” And, of course, a Ford Ranger to haul it all around in.

          That’s pretty witty and wry humour, but at the same time very trivialising of the ideal of wholeness. At the same time, it is very revealing about the attitudes of the acquisitive society and possessive individualism, which recalls one of aphorisms

          “More! More! is the cry of the mistaken Soul. Less than All cannot satisfy Man.”

          The “All” of course, not being “one of everything” but the Whole which, in spiritual terms, is understood as the Perfect because complete. In the ad, though, “perfection” or wholeness becomes a matter of accumulation. Thus the ad is a perfect reflection of the perversions of marketing 3.0 or “holistic branding” and the assumptions of consumerism. And that’s terrible.

  5. abdulmonem says :

    We are created to create out of the one awareness that permeates everything and in which we all tap in, through the given human consciousness to improvise our unique individual interpretation. There is only one awareness, but there are billions of human interpretations that are all in constant movement to ward having a glimpse of his indescribable essence. What we are reading nothing but different human interpretations passed to us across time and space. Some clear ,some very obscure. The important thing for every human is to make his own unique understanding path to ward him, the field in which everything is created,sustained and is subjected to constant creative change, even death is nothing but an in-between move in this process of continual change, without forgetting the purpose of our existence and our active role in this serious game of our existence. It is stillness in his presence is the way toward the required understanding, notwithstanding the inputs of others human seekers in the path without being slave to their interpretations.There are tools that are used by different cultures to activate the divine epistemological field to enhance the human understanding. We are all in constant epistemological journey to ward that understanding, that is why the mechanical mental mode of exploration is giving way to the spiritual exploration to be the guiding light in this darkness.

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