Friday, September 8, 2017

...Think like a kangaroo

When Gurdjieff was asked what it meant experience a different level of consciousness, a higher rate of inner vibration, the way he described it, according to one account, was "everything more vivid."

While this is certainly true, it can't possibly convey an enhanced vividness of feeling and intellect. Physically vivid experiences, such as enhancement of color or sounds, pale in comparison to the understanding that there are awarenesses — that there is, in summary, an awareness – at a much higher level than that of our own.

Because of what we are in the level live on, we’re incapable of conceiving of any awareness as larger than our own, unless we are directly touched by it; and even though people prattle on about such things as though they were commonplace, they’re exceedingly rare.

To be truly touched by consciousness from another level is to recognize, above all, that that awareness is, from our point of view, alien. It is other; it is not like us. This is why angels traditionally and typically inspire terror in those who encounter them. It's not because angels are inherently threatening more dangerous; it's because they are conscious and aware, they are beings, and they live outside the ordinary range of my experience.

One might compare it to encountering a ghost; but a ghost is a creature of a much lower order and, even though it is frightening, actually has more of a relationship to the level we’re on, since ghosts are representations of a reflected “consciousness” originally from this level. Ghosts are not from a higher level, they’re from lower ones; whereas an angel is from a decidedly higher and entirely different level.

This morning, in attempting to explain the difference between levels to my wife Neal, I explained it as the difference between apples and oranges.

You can put an apple and an orange next to each other, and they may both be round (let us presume, for the sake of this discourse, that roundness equals consciousness) but neither the apple nor the orange can ever be anything other than itself.

Consciousness does not transform in such a way; the consciousness of the apple can’t turn into the consciousness of the orange, and the orange can’t become an apple. The most that they can do is be conceptually related by their congruent properties; for example, they both contain sugars, although of different kinds; both are food; both are round. It’s in the intersection between the two — the space between the apple and the orange — that human awareness, conscious awareness, can reside.

It doesn't mean that it does reside there; this isn't a given. It's entirely possible for apples and oranges to exist side-by-side without any awareness of the fact that they exist at all, let alone that there's a difference.

Only with the intervention, the agency, of a conscious awareness that can see both — let me emphasize, that can see both — do the nature of the apple and the orange become apparent. Their nature isn’t defined by their own inherent being, but by the agency that brings them into relationship. That agency occupies the "gap" between the two; and it is in this peculiar place that we find ourselves, human consciousness — as a piece of thin wire that connects two levels.

We are not, in other words, "brains" so much as connective tissue between neurons.

I bring up these various analogies in order to try and explain how impossible it is for us to bridge this gap with the ideas we currently have.

Let's say that the lower level is the level of the apple, and we think that we can become an orange. We're an apple; and already, just because we are round and sweet, the idea that we can become an orange is patently absurd; yet that's exactly what we think, because the apple cannot think of anything that isn't an apple. It's apple; this is its essence, it's substance.

It can no more think like an orange than an orange can think like a kangaroo.

It's not in the cards.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.


  1. Indeed, we certainly can't manage with current ideas but 'we' are not 'connective tissue between neurons'. :)

  2. Our awareness is just exactly this. But it takes a certain inner state to experience that.


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