JOY: The Journal of Yoga
September 2002, Volume 1, Number 1
Breaking Through Anew
was easy enough to find something to do, but how was one to know it was the
thing that needed to be done?”
path laid down in walking’ came to him. . . .
Thus he would narrate the challenge of laying down a path whose next step was impossible.”
he was convinced a certain truth was carried by whatever could be imagined,
and by that very fact, the imaginable situated itself within the domain of the
search is intrusive, for it changes what it searches.
Its outcome in language is little more than a description of the search
itself and thus a most limited insight into the object of cognition.”
cave people] were bound to be strangers to conceptual terminologies ordered
by rules of grammar and syntax. . . .”
vision of the caves’ profound reality and of a contact with their first human
inhabitants looked to facts not for confirmation, but rather for the sense of
amazement they conferred on the existence of the evidence as such. Thinking the fact, with all the insecurities caused
by such a breach in the solid rampart of objectivism, presented itself now as
a real necessity.”
could anyone have satisfied Tallini’s hankering after a particular lived moment
and a specific individualization: a first differentiation, the instant when
an accidental chipping is recognized as special, and a distinction is
drawn within the hitherto indifferent mineral universe.”
“Within the security of a self-motivated immanence, he had thought in terms of leading his life and, somehow, even his destiny. Suddenly, that feeling had been displaced; some other agent was guiding him.”
It is extremely difficult to truly grasp the newness of the leap humankind took at that time. So far as we know, no other animal has ever become aware that it is aware. Yet somehow, over the course of our species’ evolutionary history, we have learned to use the very processes of thought and reflection that were incredibly new and potentially awe-inspiring during their inception to deny newness itself. Nowadays, we are often taught that we can tap the wells of creativity only if we get thought out of the way, either by quieting the mind or by carefully channeling it into an activity. The same process that must have seemed like magic when it was discovered (albeit in a much different form) is today the very thing veiling us from the glory of the universe. How, then, are we to regain a sense of wonder about our very ability to think itself? How can we recover the freshness of perception that will enable us to take true stock of our capabilities?
“No, he needed new eyes, he must forget all he had ever seen and all he knew. He had to regain the eyes of a child at the onset of the human species’ many tens of thousands of years of conscious and self-conscious seeing and thinking.”
Even those of us who are attempting to consciously engage our evolutionary potential find ourselves limited by the forms given to us by a limited mindset, that mindset being the currently typical level of human consciousness. As Charlene Spretnak repeatedly points out in her book Resurgence of the Real, we are all swimming in a sea of assumptions about ourselves and our place in the world (or lack thereof) that she associates with the term modernity. We are entrained from birth (and possibly before?) to feel like autonomous entities more or less divorced from the world in which we live. Our position is such that we can discuss in eloquent detail our independent, alienated condition, while continuing to absent-mindedly breathe the earth’s air and consume food grown in its soil. This “alienated” state of affairs has been shown to be largely false in numerous fields, from physics to biology to ecology (thus science, the greatest tool of modernity, has now undercut the attitudes that gave birth to it). Why, then, can we not feel this to be true?
The problem, again, is that the forms whereby we access new information tend to limit our intake of that information in such a way that it does not truly infiltrate our lives. It’s no wonder that this is so, as tens of thousands of years of evolution and decades of cultural indoctrination do not tend to change very easily. Max Planck observed that new scientific truths do not triumph by convincing their opponents, but because those opponents eventually die off and make way for a new generation that has grown up familiar with those truths. If that observation applies to my current topic, then we as a species (and a planet) are in a lot of trouble, as we may not have time to wait for the guardians of the old ways to die off. If, on the other hand, those of us who are, admittedly, using outdated modes of thinking and communicating can acknowledge the limitations of our methods, perhaps a new way can begin to make itself known--by seeping in through the cracks in those methods.
Most of us remember little, if anything, of our earliest childhood, and
the memories that do remain are often almost dreamlike.
In my own case, I remember very little from before the time I learned
to read, an ability that was quite established by the age of four.
Of course, we begin to be indoctrinated into the world of language well
before that; but something about the act of reading
seems to solidify the particular sense of self that we then carry over into
adulthood, and which makes the memories dating from the time we learned to read
so much more vivid. Granted, many
(if not most) people may not follow this line of development; but for those
of us whose lives are almost unimaginable without the act of reading (and writing)
it may be useful to look more closely at this act that we find ourselves engaged
with so instinctively now: the act of reading.
pursuit was aimed at a state of mind immediately preceding its opening to language,
so this essential humanizing step could itself be experienced.”
is the moment of the real becoming of [the human], not in the generality but
specifically at that early interglacial moment when the words came, or even
more precisely, when the word came.”
. . . [H]ow could he describe what had instructed him when he left the beaten
track, with regard to being, doing, risking? How
could he convey his state of special awareness where each step’s progress gives
rise to an exact correlation with its means?”
would describe improvisation in terms of a decentered thinking that was often
inconceivable to nonimprovisational minds—highly intellectualized minds in particular—and
therefore subject to a gamut of misinterpretations.”
improviser can never know what he is doing, where he is going, because it would
close off the unknown, the improvisational future.
He must remain entirely in the moment, where the form is being built,
unstable from moment to moment, in disequilibrium, a process ever unfinished.
What he is doing reveals its meaning only in the future, but it has to
be acted out in a past that did not as yet possess the sense of it.”
Most academics also tend to undervalue
the written word, by forgetting to notice or take advantage of the dynamic interaction
that can occur when what we are reading is allowed to come alive.
Our tendency to see these words as objectively there
on the page is, of course, partially accurate; unlike in a lucid dream, for
example, when one looks away and then looks back at the page, the words remain
the same. So how can it be that
certain arrangements of words, if the conditions are just right, seem to come alive? Many of us
have had the experience of words speaking directly
to us, as if they are a secret code waiting for our hearts to unlock the
treasures that lay inside. This
experience is, of course, not limited to the written word; I often find that
it comes through very clearly through recorded music. Yet in this particular encounter, words are all we have.
characterize the nonimprovisational mind as reading. . . .
[U]nlike reading, improvisation does not gather in its own moments; the
gathering occurs between those moments.
It is a preparation consisting of all that is known, all that has been
cognized, experienced, remembered, learned, and lived.
Ideally, none of this is ever present in any detail at the time of improvisation.
It exists as a totality, however, as the improviser, the individual,
whatever makes him whole.”
thought he detected, in minds from which all concern with improvisation had
been eliminated, a fundamental incapacity for a kind of freedom that was most
they began to inscribe the stone with their chronologies and their impressions
and beliefs . . . they neglected the practice of their remembered images.
It enfeebled their penetrating vision because they began remembering
in words; this practice caused their eyes to be covered by a translucent shield.
The sickness of your life is this shield that defends you from what you
perceive. Now you are as blind
as were they who had never seen.”
was nothing but a stone, yet it was all stone with all its qualities,
its potentialities. And then you
noticed it was hard and could pound on things . . . and you thought of it as
hammer. That instilled it
with usefulness. But with its new
name, it lost its qualities of stone. . . . And so began a long chain
of events of ever greater usefulness and dependence, which grew into the complex
instrumentation now indispensable to our way of life.”
My experience and description of the field trip make it clear that I have myself fallen prey to a process I mentioned earlier, that of demonizing thought as being that which veils us from reality. This is undoubtedly true, in a sense, but need we look at it that way? How different might our thoughts be, might our quality of language be, were we to grant them the awesome power that drew our ancestors to engage those domains in the first place? Are we currently fulfilling the capabilities that these pioneering humans were striving for, or have we perhaps overshot our goal?
became certain that his error was in looking backward, trying to contact the
cave mind in a past, a retrospection entirely foreign to those he was attempting
to emulate. Not only was his conduct
contrary to their travail, but it implied that they were aspiring to his own
present state. . . . He was making temporal presumptions.
In fact, the construction of past/present/future was his problem,
The related powers of thought and language are incredibly potent and multi-faceted tools, but tools that are easily abused. It has occurred to me that the entire history of the human species, dating from the period during which we made our initial differentiation from uroboric sleep, may have been like an extended hallucination, wherein we have become so enchanted with the powers that awakened within us that we have completely lost sight of their original intent. Could human history as we have variously understood it over the centuries be the fulfillment of the differentiation and awakening that occurred within those original beings daring to be human? Or, to reiterate, have we merely been getting sidetracked in every way imaginable, with our true human purpose not yet manifest?
thinking—if that was the word for what reached him—was not directed toward any
aim. It was not used for knowing
or comprehending, but was at most a silent sound of their perception. . . .
It was an internal sound, speaking from soul to soul.
And slowly it infused him with the spirit of their time, a time of transition.”
My unspoken assumption all along has been that these earliest humans made some kind of effort; that the process they underwent involved intention on their part rather than just dumb luck. There are evolutionary biologists who could argue eloquently for either of these positions, blind chance or conscious choice, or the nearly infinite gradations in between. Ultimately, objectively, it is a mystery. Yet the reader should know by now that sticking exclusively to objectivity is not the name of this game.
“The time is ripe for a turn whenever newly accessible experience can no longer be inscribed by means of the tools currently given.”
“In this manner Tallini tried to persuade himself that he was, with this new adventure, still in command of the conduct of his life.”
“…[O]ur next dimension has already been expressed in the ideologies of mathematics, physics, and cosmology, and still we are unable to live the new world. The formulas for matter and space-time are there in front of us, nineteenth-century epistemology lies in shambles, but we live and think like good burghers of a century ago.”
problem is where to find this elevation from which we shall espy the next dimension.
But . . . we are already living in it, and it will just take the adequate
coign of vantage . . . to open not only our eyes, but our feelings as well,
open them to a new world.”
Gebser calls the new structure of consciousness the integral because it is that which integrates all previous structures of consciousness. It does not do so in linear fashion (archaic + magic + mythical + mental = integral), but in such a way that each capability that has evolved along with us is co-present and in proper relation within the context of all there is. The individual is not over-valuing and misusing any capability for her/his own sake, but is rendering transparent the very process by which these capabilities come into being.
infinitely connected alliance works itself together in pursuit of common experience.
Within the changing equilibrium of global self-adjustments emerges a
world of momentary mutual satisfaction.”
One of the most difficult, and yet crucial, features of Gebser’s integral structure of consciousness is its time-free nature. He claims that each of the structures of consciousness has had its own particular way of experiencing time, but that our task now is to transcend any single, limited experience of time, and deal directly with time itself. Gebser argues that when we fully come to terms with and integrate all previous ways of experiencing time (i.e. don’t remain stuck in the rational experience/conception of it or revert to an earlier structure), we then come into direct contact with what he calls the ever-present origin. This origin lies before time itself comes into being (but not “before” in a temporal sense), and may relate closely to that “state” we have been searching for throughout this paper, the state of the earliest humans on the edge of conscious awareness. Gebser explains, “Wherever man becomes conscious of the pre-given, pre-conscious, originary pre-timelessness, he is in time-freedom, consciously recovering its presence. Where this is accomplished, origin and the present are integrated by the intensified consciousness.” This is the fount of creativity wherein we can perhaps find the necessary wisdom to answer one of my original questions, that of what needs to be done. Without contact with the very source of our humanity, how can we possibly expect to be fully human?
“Here all senses and faculties were trained to specific tasks of recognizing and identifying a totality in which they took part. And yet great nations were squandering energy and treasure on the conquest of desolate sidereal realms, where, encapsuled in an artificial environment, humans would be incapable of experiencing their hollow triumph.”
The passage above illustrates the difference between, respectively, macrophase and microphase wisdom. Microphase wisdom has taken numerous forms over the course of our evolutionary history, forms that I equate with Gebser’s notion of deficient forms of each structure of consciousness. Macrophase wisdom has always been here, waiting for us to grow up; it is intimately related to Gebser’s ever-present origin. Macrophase wisdom inspired the initial differentiation that Vandenbroeck’s character Tallini ached to understand. Macrophase wisdom inspired every great leap, or mutation, we have taken since as a species, every new power we have embraced in our journey toward becoming the Universe Awake. And macrophase wisdom is with us now, coaxing us to embrace our true calling, to wake up and start living what we already know.
again, this relates to Tallini, who . . . experience[s] that this human being
and his inside is itself part of the outside.
He places himself in the world, and in this truly engaged posture, he
lets it think. And acts and feels
according to that thinking.”
The problem with looking for that which we must do is that we are assuming we are the doers. We are co-participants in a glorious process, so to consider the question in isolation is to miss the point completely. When one really pays attention to the vastness and complexity of the process playing itself out in our hearts and before our eyes, it staggers the imagination, and humbles the inclination: what do I know about what must be done? Often those moments wherein I stop to fret about the possible right answer are those in which I am already answering incorrectly.
“Where was Tallini? This metamorphosis staggered his senses, and he heard nothing, saw nothing, felt nothing, and yet experienced it all. The world revolution of billions of years ago had come upon him, overwhelmed his being and englobed the total experience of his quest. . . . This was Terra Firma, the world that had become inside him and on which he stood and moved and acted. The Earth that was born was himself.”
“Hardly a new idea . . . [it] has been called ‘the proper gesture.’ The gesture that does perfect justice to the moment.”
 Vandenbroeck, p. 90
 Vandenbroeck, p. 197
 Vandenbroeck, p. 3
 Vandenbroeck, p. 210
 Vandenbroeck, p. 27
 Vandenbroeck, p. 14
 Vandenbroeck, p. 26
 Teilhard de Chardin, p. 184
 Vandenbroeck, p. 12
 Vandenbroeck, p. 339
 Vandenbroeck, p. 81
 Vandenbroeck, p. 184
 Vandenbroeck, p. 117
 Vandenbroeck, p. 47
 Vandenbroeck, p. 197
 Vandenbroeck, p. 163
 Vandenbroeck, p. 51
 Vandenbroeck, p. 163
 Vandenbroeck, p. 163
 Abram, p. 131
 Vandenbroeck, 333
 Vandenbroeck, p. 363
 Vandenbroeck, p. 343
 Vandenbroeck, p. 343
 Vandenbroeck, p. 22
 Vandenbroeck, p. 282
 Gebser, p. 94
 Vandenbroeck, p. 205
 Feuerstein, p. 43
 Vandenbroeck, p. 205
 Vandenbroeck, p. 300
 Gebser, p. 289
 Vandenbroeck, p. 373
 Vandenbroeck, p. 240
 Vandenbroeck, 370-1