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.