Monday, April 20, 2015

A hierarchy of sensation

 During the walk with my wife — the first walk since I have returned from China with the famous dog Isabel, who is elderly but still very game! —I was pondering the question of sensation yesterday.

Gurdjieff mentions sensation some; and of course, I frequently speak about the organic sensation of Being, which is essential to Being itself. When Gurdjieff originally described this property of living within Being to Ouspensky, he described it an unusually scientific terms: he referred to the sensation of various higher hydrogens, the fact that a person needed to learn what each higher hydrogen was and the effects that it had. What he did not say, straight out and in plain language, is that all of this  revolves around and depends on sensation, that is, physically received impressions within the organism that do not consist of thoughts, but, rather, physical sensations of one kind or another.

Jeanne de Salzmann made a great deal more of sensation in what she taught in terms of presence, using the word quite precisely. This is important and significant; yet she never created a descriptive bridge between the essential action she urged us to understand, and the original, "chemistry-oriented" remarks that Gurdjieff made about the subject.

Now, having been immersed in the question of the organic sensation of being for many years, and having had the opportunity to collect what is, based on my proximate experience with others, an unprecedented amount of data on the subject, I realize — engaged in the type of reflection I mentioned in the last post — that one does not really find much, if anything, in the literature about these matters. In any spiritual literature, for that matter, although there are hints and peripheral understandings, specific understandings that relate to specific traditions, that treat the subject in one way or another.

By and large, there are a number of different levels of organic sensation, each one of which is stimulated by a specific and particular higher hydrogen, as Gurdjieff would have called them. I'll confess that I haven't been able to sort exactly which hydrogens are involved in various types of higher sensation (actually, not that interested in doing so), but the sensations themselves are consistent, replicable — in the sense that when they come, one always recognizes them as belonging in a particular class — and have varying degrees of action on the presence of Being.

Having understood this, it occurred to me to try and sort out the various different types of organic sensation that may arise in the context of spiritual work on Being. There are, inevitably, limitations on these types of analyses, because one has to use descriptive words for them, and the words always fail.

Various classes of organic sensation at levels outside the ordinary include the following:

1. A powerful sensation of "grounding" inner gravity. This provides the anchor for vertical awareness of self. It always involves downward movement, and is strongly associated with help from the sun, which is always available when solar flares take place. It can arise under other conditions, but various solar influences produce different versions of it.

There are a number of essays in The Reality of Being that discuss this.

2. The sensation that is atomic, that is, allows each atom in the body to assume an individual consciousness of vibration that can be sensed by the whole, as a global phenomenon, but also as an individually particulate experience.

 Descriptions of this are included in a number of Gurdjieff's talks with Ouspensky and others.

3. Sensations in individual chakras. These usually involve the arrival of a powerful and ecstatic energy in a specific location, commonly abdominal, but also occasionally thoracic. Energies of this kind release substances that produce involuntary and powerful relaxation, which illustrates for the adept the difference between voluntary relaxation, which is something Jeanne de Salzmann asked her pupils to engage in, and relaxation through Grace, which is of a much higher order.

 Descriptions of this are frequently found in books on yoga.

4. Ecstatic sensations in individual peripheral locations, frequently the fingers.

 Swedenborg described these and explained them as inspections of being by angelic forces.

5. Piercing sensations. Sharp, knifelike pains in specific places, often the spinal column (base, center, and top) which represent temporary piercings of the knots, or granthis,  that block the flow of higher energy.

 Descriptions of these are also found in books on yoga.

 6. A sensation that feels like worms: all over the body. This can be localized or general. This is accompanied by the arrival of a beneficent energy.— a sensation of lightheadedness. This can be quite unpleasant and often takes place in the initial surge of energy as it reaches Being.

 Exercises invoking this particular sensation are described in yoga and Tantric Buddhism.

7. A sensation of pins and needles. This is a lower order sensation that can be quite unpleasant, but is also global in nature, and arises whenever energy penetrates into the body to relieve microscopic, atomic level blockages in the nadis.

 Not described in most literatures.

 I have attempted to arrange these in a very rough kind of hierarchy, from the "highest" orders of "hydrogens" to the lowest. There are subclasses of these different kinds of energy, so one can experience greater or lesser versions of each; and some are related to one another.

The above descriptions are meant to describe day-to-day sensations that arrive and stay for extended periods of time, not religious ecstasies, which are of a different order and cannot be classified in the same way. In particular, the first two in the list ought to become permanent in Being to one degree or another. The remainder generally assume peripheral presences, and are intermittent in nature.

 There are also a range of spinal energies that involve circulation of energy, which fall into a different range of experiences and practices not dealt with in this essay. Many of the intermittent energies and sensations relate to the breaking up of inner blockages and improved circulation of energy in general.


1 comment:

  1. Lee wrote:
    2. The sensation that is atomic, that is, allows each atom in the body to assume an individual consciousness of vibration that can be sensed by the whole, as a global phenomenon, but also as an individually particulate experience.
    Good morning, Lee. I am grateful for this essay.
    Regarding the second category, is this the same as the usual 'sensing' we do from early in the Gurdjieff work please? Or is that more a 'cellular' sensing, and this something finer?
    Thank you,
    Judy C. (Cairns, Australia.)


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