Friday, February 26, 2016

The Clockwork Laboratory, Part I

Someone asked the other day about the difference between our psychology of self observation, and a movement towards higher consciousness

It should be said at the beginning that most of what we talk about when we talk about inner work is actually psychology of one kind or another. This isn't said to put it down or dismiss it; it's truly necessary for us to use critical thinking observe and analyze the various parts of ourselves, and it shouldn't be discounted. 

The difficulty is that it becomes the primary inclination.

Even now, most of the parts in me that are writing this — and in you that are reading this — are composed of psychological machines, that is, various pieces of clockwork, much like gears, that tick away in logical and predictable fashion. Each part of the psyche — the external, personality-directed psyche, that is — is crafted over many years to be of a specific size, proportion, and fineness of operation. Some people have lots of very fine gears; other people only have a small assortment of coarse ones. Either way, all the gears mesh together in the particular way that that person's machine of personality is designed, and although the machine can generally incorporate some new parts over the course of a lifetime, by the time we reach adolescence, much of it has formed, and it's very difficult to undertake a major change to any machine which already exists.

All of this by way of analogy. The point is that we are what we are; and from the point of view of psychology, there isn't much we can change there. We can insert a few new gears; we can take a few gears out. We can retool a particular gear. But taken together, as a whole, we can't change most of the gears without destroying the machine and its workings. In point of fact, this is to some extent necessary and is what inner work is all about; but with real inner work, we attempt to dismantle the machine carefully, with sensitivity, so that it keeps operating and can be stripped down to its barest and most essential principles, at which point a new and better working organism can be organically assembled from within.

Again, it's an analogy. The point is that consciousness exists independent of this machine in me. It is a force that creates everything; and it’s related to the nature of the universe itself, which naturally produces complexity — which is, in some senses, what produces consciousness.

When I say it “produces” consciousness, this isn't quite accurate, because consciousness is only expressed by the complexity of material existence; it is in existence before it, and the material universe arises as a consequence of it. (In this case I use the word consciousness as a proxy for the word God, which is more accurate but less definable.)

We can't rely on our psychological parts to understand consciousness. To understand this better, let’s try to compare the psyche to the phenomenon of time, and consciousness to the phenomenon of light. 
A clock measures time; but if you try to use it to detect photons… well, you can see how much luck you are going to have with that. It just won't happen. Yet somehow, using these clocks — these machines — of psychology and personality that make up most of what we are, we think we are going to detect photons and study light. 

In point of fact, an entirely new machine is needed for that. In this sense, we are all like researchers who are told to research photons and then put in a lab expressly designed to study the passage of time. The equipment is wrong; the location is wrong. We have none of the tools that are required to undertake the research we're asked to undertake. We have to be very clever indeed to find a way to conduct our research, because we aren't given what we need to do it in the first place.

So already, as you read this, you’re using the incorrect tools to understand it. We can just take that as a given. This material is, furthermore, being produced within me my a very clever set of individuals who have employed tools to try and write correct things; but even here, the limitation of words and concepts means that I'm employing the wrong tools, and you should remember that too. 

The hope that we both have is that something of this wrong approach has a rightness to it that penetrates deeper into our Being and can help those parts understand in a new way. 

It's a tricky enterprise; there's no guarantee of success. 

But we try.


Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

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