Diaphaneity: Unfolding the Wings of Perception
“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” — William Blake
“Purify your eyes, and see the pure world. Your life will fill with radiant forms.” — Rumi
“The mystery, or the secret, of the sorcerers’ explanation is that it deals with unfolding the wings of perception. The nagual by itself is of no use, it has to be tempered by the tonal. The sorcerers’ secret in using the nagual is in our perception.” — don Juan to Carlos Castaneda, Tales of Power.
In his book The Ever-Present Origin, Jean Gebser describes the new (integral) consciousness as being chiefly characterised by “diaphaneity” or “the transparency of the world”. The citations above are other attestations to the fundamental reality of the “diaphainon” (as Gebser names it) that is the core of the new consciousness and that which makes transparency or diaphaneity of perception possible and effective. As we have mentioned frequently in the past, in William Blake this diaphainon is named “Albion”, which is the vital centre of his “fourfold vision” and his “four Zoas” of “Albion divided fourfold”. Thus Blake’s conception of the essential human form is that it is an energetic entity structured as a Tetramorph, symbolised in the mandala. This understanding is quite common among those who have attained to insight. In other words, the physical form is only a concretisation or physicalisation or manifestation of the energetic form.
In Castaneda’s works, what Gebser calls “diaphaneity” is referred to as seeing. A Seer is someone who sees — who has, in effect, learned to “unfold the wings of perception” and attained clarity. Effectively, this “clarity” is the same as Gebser’s “diaphaneity” or “the transparency of the world” in which we and our reality is perceived immediately and directly, without mediations, for what it truly is. In Castaneda’s description, seeing in this manner is the immediate and direct perception of “energy as it flows in the universe”. This is an interesting way of describing it since it also recalls physicist David Bohm’s conception of fundamental reality as the “undivided wholeness in flowing movement” or the “holomovement” (Wholeness and the Implicate Order) as well as certain matters that arise in Iain McGilchrist’s neurodynamics described in his seminal book The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World.
Among seers, then, it is understood that we possess fundamentally two modes of attention or perception which, in McGilchrist’s description, are called “the Master” and “the Emissary”. In Castaneda’s works these are referred to respectively as “the nagual” and “the tonal”, and sometimes as the “second attention” and the “first attention” respectively. (This likely is implicated also in Coleridge’s distinction between “primary imagination” and “secondary imagination”, so there is consistency in this). The “tonal” is the attention of ordinary everyday life and is heavily sense dependent. As such it is sometimes called “Sensate Consciousness”. This is called “the first attention” in Castaneda’s works and is associated with the body’s right-side awareness. The “second attention” is called “the nagual” and is associated with awareness of the left-side. This, of course, aligns with McGilchrist’s findings in neurodynamics as well, and with his Master and Emissary modes of perception or attention.
There is, then, one awareness that effectively functions in two distinct, but mutually entangled, modalities. In most cases, what McGilchrist calls “the Emissary” is named “ego-consciousness” or “the ego-nature” or “the Selfhood”, and even as “the false self”. This double-nature of our perception or attention gives rise, then, to dualism in thinking and a kind of either/or logic which is deficient insight. When the Christian mystic states that “God is closer to us than we are to ourselves”. This implicit “presence” which informs or underlies the two modes of attention is also what Gebser calls “the Itself”, which is in itself undifferentiated energy-awareness and is spaceless and timeless (hence infinite and eternal). The diaphainon is the self-manifestation of the Itself and forms the vital centre of the new integral consciousness.
Given the two modes of attention, and their “intensification”, as Gebser perceives this, there arises then paradox. In Buddhism we find these referred to similarly as “Ultimate Truth” and “Relative Truth”, or what we might otherwise call “the truth that sets free” and “the facts of the matter” respectively. The tendency today to emphasise a new paradoxical “both/and” logic to supercede the exclusivity of the “either/or” dualistic form of thinking is testimony to the irruption of the paradoxical, and the irruption of the paradoxical (which many people still find uncomfortable) attests to this “intensification” or activation of the two modes of perception, which perform the same function but in much different ways — the tonal and the nagual in Castaneda’s terms. These may also be considered in terms of the mediate and the immediate, respectively.
Much of the new thinking and new logic has accepted the paradox as central to its thinking, as we find, say, in Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy or David Bohm, for example. Much of this has been made necessary by the irruption of the paradoxical in the new physics. The irruption of the paradox as a symptom of the intensification of consciousness (or “quickening” as some might say) also manifests as what Gebser calls “the double-movement” — a disintegration and a re-integration as two aspects of a singular dynamic, which is the self-manifestation of the diaphainon.
Because diaphaneity (or clarity) is the core feature or faculty of the diaphainon, all older forms of speculative philosophy and metaphysics become obsolete, to be replaced by what Gebser calls “eteology” or “being-in-truth” which he calls “verition”. Verition is immediate perception of truth that dispels mental confusion and perplexity. When Castaneda first learned to see (or what we mean when we say “the scales fell from my eyes”), the most surprising thing to him was the realisation that he had always seen reality in this way. He just didn’t know he did. This obstruction to direct and immediate perception is the work of that which Blake calls “Urizen”, the false deity the also calls “Satan”, “Selfhood”, and so on who is clearly the same as the demon Mara in Buddhism, also called “Architect” or “Lord of Illusion” and “Lord of my own ego”, who the Buddha had to overcome on his way to enlightenment in the famous episode under the Bodhi Tree. Figures like Urizen, Satan, Mara, or even Sauron in The Lord of the Rings seem clearly to be what Jung refers to as “The Shadow”.
So, the diaphainon is already latently present within the human psycho-spiritual structure. But owing to what McGilchrist calls the Emissary’s “usurpation” of the psychic household, it has remained obscured or opaque to our consciousness, even as it is the real “power behind the throne”, as it were. “Show me your face before you were born”, as the paradoxical Zen koan puts it. But Gebser is quite confident that the diaphainon is leaving its place of concealment or confinement and is becoming more and more manifest in our times, albeit not without disturbance, turbulence, anxiety and even paranoia on the part of the “emissary”, which seems to be losing its grip.
But that, too, is a paradox.