Saturday, February 2, 2008

Electromagnetism: and Vacation in Guatemala

One member of my "Gurdjieff circle" who is exceedingly intelligent has a great interest in the idea that we do not perceive time correctly.

I completely agree with him, but it seems as though grasping this with any ordinary part of ourselves is so difficult that the subject doesn't lend itself to easy discussion.

Of more interest to me is his contention -- correct, of course -- that every known phenomenon in the universe arises from electromagnetism. Taken down to the subatomic level, everything is an electromagnetic soup. The reason that it configures itself the way it does, giving rise to what we call reality, is something that we may be able to analyze using mathematics, but will never fully understand. The phenomenon cannot be reduced; it can only be experienced. Like time, we come up with words to describe it, but all words are inadequate.

There is a third fundamental thing, like time and electromagnetism, that seems to be impossible to fully grasp, and that is gravity. Indications that gravity is actually nothing more than a bend in the space-time continuum beggar the experience of the phenomenon. Just try falling down, for example.

Pain transcends physics.

Dogen's point of view on the Dharma as a transcendental phenomenon, one that cannot be grasped in any ordinary way, holds true for all three of these forces.

Yet, dear readers, I assure you it is possible to come up against a tangible experience of these forces within the body itself.

We are, after all, entirely composed of electromagnetic forces, and we have the cellular capacity for sensing them. I do not mean that we have the mental capacity for sensing them -- that isn't the case. We have a cellular capacity, that is, something inherent within the nervous system, within the ganglia and neurons of the organism as they are distributed all over the body.

The work of sensation is an effort to connect with that experience. Sensation has many different levels; to encounter one deeper level of sensation may be quite extraordinary, but one needs a wooden dipper with a very long handle for this kind of work. Ultimately, the sensation we seek resides within gravity and electromagnetism, not within our idealized perception of the concept. The whole body is a magnet; the whole body is a weight. Every cell can begin to attract every other cell; all the cells together can seek the planet in the same way that the soul seeks God.

These specialized parts of the nervous system, distributed all over the body, relate to what the yoga schools call nadis. In the chapter "The Holy Planet Purgatory" in his magnum opus "Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson," Mr. Gurdjieff explained this system as the distributed sensory parts of the emotional mind. He indicated that this was the Holy Reconciling force that acts between the Holy affirming part of the brain and the Holy Denying part of the spine.

I don't think we need to get too analytical in trying to figure out just what this means. It's much more important to connect with the breathing, to deepen the inner connections, to cultivate the inner state, and to seek an intimacy that may awaken the capacities we do not know we have. In order to do this, I think we have to stop believing in what lies outside us for a little while.

Not forever; after all, it, too, is part of the Dharma. But we have to penetrate the inner before we reestablish our relationship with the outer.

Once we know ourselves, and our cells know us, and all of us together know how we stand here on this planet in the midst of life, in the midst of time, gravity, electromagnetism --

Then we know something, and we can begin to know more.

Neal and I will be in Guatemala for the next week. I'm not sure how internet connections there will work out. Blog postings may be interrupted.

May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.

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