Sunday, February 17, 2008

Inner and outer sensation

There is an unfortunate tendency to resort to reductive analysis in order to understand where we are, what we are, and what we are doing.

Writing this blog inevitably feeds that tendency. Reading it does the same. The only hope we have is that, in addition to the good food for the mind that can be encountered in writing and exchange of this sort, something tangible and practical is occasionally offered, or the reader (or writer) manages to connect something that is said to something practical, i.e., related to practice, within their own work.

I say this because in the end the work that we engage in must be eminently practical. That is to say it must be immediate, of the now, within the moment, and be composed above all of an organic experience, a tangibly physical encounter with life which also carries within it reasonably balanced components of the mind and feeling, that is, real emotion.

We need, in other words, to sense our lives.

Every once in awhile I arrive at a point of work where a suggestion arises that points towards something a bit new and a bit different. Today I will discuss one such point.

Readers who follow this blog will know that for some months now we have examined the theme of the "coarse" five outer senses (the five ordinary senses of taste, touch, hearing, sight, smell) and the "finer" six inner senses, which comprise the inner structure of emotional center as delineated by Gurdjieff in the last chapter of Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson. I have emphasized the need to develop an attendant discrimination in order to know the difference between these two things.

In the course of these discussions, we have also intimated that Zen masters such as Dogen probably had a similar understanding, and that the understanding of the division between the inner and outer senses is essential to beginning to sense our true nature.

A few days ago, I mentioned the "granular nature of reality," that is, the possibility of the organ of the skin -- which might be considered, essentially, one of the "outer" senses, as it represents the absolute interface between the body and material reality outside of it -- receiving impressions of vibration at a very fine level. This particular kind of perception transcends the ordinary function of the skin, which is to convey what we would call touch. What I might say here is that touch is the least of what our skin is able to convey to us.

Those of you who are not very deeply into such work may not recognize it yet, but the work of sensation, which begins inside the organism in an effort to connect it, is intimately related to the question of breathing air and developing a better connection to the body. Eventually, the understanding of this work must become twofold: that is, it must involve not only the air organ that fills the vessel (the lungs) but also the organ of the skin. It is necessary to develop a capacity for feeding oneself not only through the lungs and the sensation of the inner centers as they acquire something finer for our work; the same capacity must be arrived at with the outer organ of perception and breathing, that is, the skin.

In this way, one begins to have a sense of receiving such finer impressions through the entire exterior coating of the body and, at the same time, having the prana within air feed the inner centers inside the body, so that one is being penetrated both inside and outside by a finer type of vibration.

Exercise aimed at this kind of work may be difficult. I have some ideas about it, but it is not appropriate to offer them in a blog. I can only ask readers to investigate the question of vibration and sensation in an inner sense carefully -- as Dogen would say, "I respectfully ask you to take good care" -- and then to attempt to gradually extend this understanding to the outer coating.

For those of you who like the scientific angles we occasionally examine together in this blog, let me say that the potential is there to discover that we are Klein bottles, that is, topological constructs that do not have an inside or outside, but that exist within a medium that penetrates everything on all sides. You might also say that we are vessels with both inside and outside, and that the outside of the vessel is just as important as the inside.

Coming at this from a philosophical point of view -- which brings us back to those unfortunate mental constructs that we all love to rely on, but invariably get trapped by -- the vessel is a temporary container, always.

What is within the vessel is always also outside the vessel, and what is contained will never be contained forever. The vessel receives what it is given, and offers it back up. This is the way with every vessel of any kind. In some senses, the vessel is a temporary manifestation of individuality that belies the universal properties it encapsulates. Because the vessel has an apparent "separate" temporal existence that can be perceived, the individuality appears to be concrete, but in fact it is a result of circumstance and not a reflection of the essential nature of the absolute which the vessel mediates.

Consciousness is not the vessel. It is just the steward of the vessel. The vessel -- in this case our body -- is a tool that consciousness uses in order to objectify specific sets of impressions on a temporary basis. It is, in the alchemical sense, a retort for the refinement of those impressions.

The effort to sense the inward and the outward nature of vibration within this context can help to clarify more exactly the nature of consciousness and its relationship to what we call reality.

I would not presume to tell you what this consists of, because it does not belong in a set of fancy words ...nor can it be stuffed into them.

The experience, however, which must always remain private for each individual, certainly has something to do with what Jesus did when he changed water into wine.

That seems to be a pretty good place to wrap things up and go to church on this Sunday morning in February.

God bless you all.

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

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