Sunday, September 1, 2013

Everyday impressions, part II

In taking up the subject of everyday impressions, I drew (if you will excuse the pun) an impressionistic and experiential picture of the question — what are impressions and our relationship to them?

I'm not sure if I got the point across. Gurdjieff talks a great deal about taking in impressions, a subject that you will not hear about in any depth or at any length from other disciplines or religious practices. He had an objective understanding of the question which was born of an inner science and direct experience. The issue here is that our equipment for the taking in of impressions has deteriorated so drastically.

I brought up the subject of stones along the Hudson River and stone circles from ancient times specifically because stones give an unusual and unique impression. As Gurdjieff explained, everything is alive — and things live on different levels and a different speeds. Lower forms of matter such as stone are exceedingly stupid from our point of view — that is, there is no intellect or emotion present that we can see — and yet these inexorable forces, which are actually atomic in nature, exist not just as potentials in the chemistry of stone, they are realities. When you meet a human being, it's easy to forget that they are actually composed of various mineral substances, and that the existence of intelligence and emotion is the emergent appearance of those very qualities, which are embedded in the fundament of material reality itself.

So stones have a life, and they absorb what is around them in a certain way, biding their time, and acquiring a certain kind of presence or material which they then radiate. Under ordinary circumstances, it's rare for a man or woman to experience this presence unless they are under the influence of a psychedelic chemical such as LSD. But the presence of stones is a real and immediate one that never goes away; and ancient peoples were much more under this influence and aware of its effect on things than we are. The very magnetism of the earth itself is affected by the bedrock in the area where it manifests; and this is why traveling from Rockland to Westchester County across the Tappan Zee Bridge (which crosses the Hudson River not far from where I live) one immediately "feels different" once one gets to Westchester. This is because the granite bedrock in Westchester conveys a very different electromagnetic environment to the sensory apparatus of the human body than the sandstones and basalts in Rockland County. A great deal of the feeling of various landscapes is actually part of the magnetic resonance, which is sensed on a cellular level and has subtle effects on the human psyche that have never been accurately or intelligently measured by science. One doesn't have to to go all the way to magical ley lines or crop circles to understand that these electromagnetic forces affect us.

Our ability to take in impressions ought to be much finer; and if it were, we would sense things about the landscape and the environment we live in which are opaque to us at present. We are actually saturated by fields of energy that we have the capacity to sense, were we but more developed; and occasionally one of these sensory experiences leaks in, such that we realize the world is nothing like what we thought it was.

Stone circles were built to represent and convey a certain impression about the relationship between the earth and man. It may well be true that they had astronomical purposes; but the impression of the stones alone contained a subtle power that escapes us in these modern times. Our experience of the stones is largely intellectual and visual; the visceral and physical content of an encounter with stone is lacking unless the apparatus for receiving impressions is more sensitive.

Asians, whose society preserved a deeper understanding of these questions, revere stone in ways that is foreign to Western societies. One will inevitably find interesting stones in temples, put there specifically because they have a quality that they emanate.

 Stones are quite simple, it's true. Once we get to more complex things such as biological organisms, butterflies and cat mint, for example, we are faced with a far more complex and miraculous set of impressions. But there are times when it's important to begin with the simple things and see how even they contain an ineffable mystery and emanate a truth which is inherent, not applied.

 May your soul be filled with light.

A note to readers: part III of everyday impressions will be published on 9/2/13.

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