Monday, November 19, 2007

What do we perceive with?

Everything is a matter of perception. That is to say, the entire inwardly formed world that arises in a man over the course of a lifetime is a function of what is taken in. (It might be useful to review the concept of the inner solar system in this regard.)

This question of our inward formation and how it proceeds came up over the weekend while I was working on sound edits of the Flinsch readings of Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson with our small but dedicated team.

Today I find myself pondering it from a different point of view.

What is it that perceives within us, and how does it perceive? Put in another way, what does the receiving apparatus consist of?

For me, the very idea instantly brings to mind a bit of doggerel in German from Beelzebub:

"Blödsinn, Blödsinn, du mein Vergnügen
Stumpfsinn, Stumpfsinn, du meine Lust."

The inference of the second line in this passage is that our ability to sense life is essentially blunted, and--perversely--that we prefer it that way.

In studying my own everyday life, and "knowing the difference," as it were, it seems a point well taken.

The body itself is an exquisite sensory apparatus, containing within it the ability to sense things we do not sense at all under ordinary conditions. In chapter 30 of Beelzebub, which I was sound editing over the weekend, Gurdjieff presents a long allegory describing the steady deterioration of man's sensory perceptions over the course of human history, until he can only see a tiny fraction of the rays of light he once saw, and only hear a fraction of the sounds he once heard. Considering the sensory abilities of even very common animals such as dogs, the tale is all too believable.

In order to develop a finer perception within life, we need to deepen the inner connections within the organism. The task in front of a man who wishes to become whole is to re-establish and complete the connections shown in the enneagram, in an inner sense.

This process begins with a careful, lifelong, and systematic inner study of our conditions.

Our body itself is the receiving apparatus--if we don't have a cultivated relationship with it, one that reawakens the organic connection between the physical self and the mental self, we cannot receive what is possible. Impressions cannot fall deeply enough into the body to do us any good unless the appropriate channels are open and active.

The reason that Dogen extolled the absolute virtues of Zazen was that it cultivates the necessary relationship. Speaking only for myself, I have no doubt that Jeanne deSalzmann introduced "sitting" (it's Zazen, folks) to the formal repertoire of Work practice precisely because of this. Her insistence on the primacy of developing an entirely new sensation of the body (referred to as "attaining the marrow" or "getting the bones of the master" in Zen) was another outgrowth of this specific understanding. We cannot receive higher food from incoming impressions unless this inner relationship changes.

However, do we perceive solely with the body? I think not.

The body is the receiving apparatus, but what engages in perception is the attention. That aware and awake part of us that is capable of mustering awareness. Attention to be understood as -a-tension, or, a lack of tension.

Something in us need to relax in order for channels to open and water to flow.

In approaching this, we may begin to see that the understanding of perception as being divided into individual senses (five or six, take your scientific or Buddhist pick) is a mistaken one. In the same sense that six flowers are one flower that connects one level to another- note do connecting to note do-, six senses are one sense.

In awakening our birthright of organic sense of being, we may discover that perception within life is an enterprise undertaken, and received, by the entire organism at any given moment, not just by what we refer to as the senses. The body/mind becomes a metasense, a sensory apparatus that is impartial, or undivided.

In the open way, we have the potential to live and perceive through all that we are, not just through the narrow gateways of the eyes, nose and ears. Our very cells themselves receive our life; we may become joyfully drenched, gratefully saturated, in this experience of life we dwell within.

And there in that place hangs the fruit that trees may bear, if wells yield water.

Much love to you all today.

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