Wednesday, November 24, 2021

The Corset of Philosophy


Nature Unveiling Herself before Science
Musee D'Orsay, Paris

The modern world has a vague, mechanically expressed understanding that thought arises from chemistry. 

This understanding is mechanical — a consequence of mechanistic rationalism — because the modern world believes that everything arises from mechanics of one kind or another. It isn’t seen that mechanics are a subset; that functions of this kind are themselves living things that evolve.

This ought to be completely evident by now; after all, the surface of the planet we live on has been engaged in extraordinary experiments in evolutionary chemistry for the last, oh, one or two billion years, perhaps even three. Yet the implications of this are largely lost on the modern mind. In this sense, thought is understood as a “thing,” an inanimate object, subject to manipulation and control by man himself. Take a few special pills, and we can control it. Eat some mushrooms.

Tolstoy understood this problem; yet he cast it in slightly different language. What he was trying to get at in War and Peace is that everything in human affairs is much larger than anything we can conceive of. It reminds me, as well, of the famous line in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: there are more things in heaven and in earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Horatio is all of us; philosophy, a dream.

In a certain gross sense, of course it’s true that thought arises from chemistry; yet this is the gross, the coarsest of understandings. It isn’t just coarse; it is a corset. A garment we have forced the body of our Being into strictly, in the end, to make ourselves look better.

In order to acquire a broader view, it is important to recognize that sensation also arises from chemistry; and that feeling equally arises from chemistry. It’s the awareness of that chemistry that counts in a human being. Chemistry is a function of the centers of gravity of individual atoms and molecules; and chemistry lies at the foundation of galaxies as well as cells. The interaction between centers of gravity and elements creates the essential fabric of the universe as we know it. 

Be aware of the fine centers of gravity in your cells.

An awakened sensation begins to develop a functional and practical understanding of this question. Difficult to understand though it may be, one cannot “be” anything at all without an awakened sensation. It’s a linchpin; without it, thought and feeling alone are unable to form a connection, because sensation is the essential intermediate element in translating differences in speed between the two. That is to say, thought and sensation can form a connection, because the most refined action of thought and the least refined action of sensation lie directly adjacent to one another in the inner harmonies of sympathetic vibration; and exactly the same thing can be said about sensation and feeling. It’s as though, for example, it’s a gearbox, and the drive train cannot shift up from thought to feeling without the intermediate gear of sensation, which it must use in order to transition.

In this sense, all efforts to bypass sensation in one way or another and presume that thought and feeling can come into any kind of meaningful and  permanent contact without it are absurd. They, like the rest of the cosmos, are part of a living system that functions under a certain set of laws.

I’m writing these notes to myself this morning because I recognize, after almost 20 years of work with an awakened sensation, conducted for the most part on my own — because so few I have ever met have an understanding of this capacity, and the essential teachers in the work I’m in with expertise in this area all died long ago —that it takes many years for the organism to acquire all the substances needs to create a functional bridge between sensation and feeling.

 Because all of these functional bridges are chemical in nature, from a “mechanical” (it is actually living) point of view, one eventually begins to develop an understanding, an organic and mindful understanding, of the chemistry itself, which reveals that we are under laws we understand little of and in fact cannot circumvent except in our fantasies. 

An awareness of that law is always rooted in the present and always includes an organic understanding, in the marrow of the bones, that the expression of law is not an abstract entity, but always and ever something that takes place now

I’m within that expression. I bring my own baggage to it, and if I’m even the least bit mindful, I realized that everything I packed is useless. I wasn’t prepared for the weather here; I don’t hardly even know how to breathe the air, even though — lucky for me! — my body has a mechanical (again, living) capacity to do so in adequate measure.

I mention this mostly because readers — of course there is an intention to put these questions in front of people — may think something can be achieved quickly and without paying much for it. The whole modern world has trained itself to believe everything is like this. These ideas are tales told by fools; but every one of us wants to be a self-made fool, don’t we? That is, from what I am able to gather, what being modern is all about.

Think on these questions carefully. Our very existence as a three-brained-being wholly depends on a better understanding of them. If we place ourselves, as Gurdjieff so succinctly told Ouspensky, “at the place where impressions enter the body,” it’s a help. The place where impressions into the body isn’t on the surface of the skin, or in the pupils or the ears — that place is “now.” 

It’s not a location in space, not a physical location, but a location in time, a much more subtle medium which not only erodes what we are but causes us to slip away from ourselves into greater nothingness than the one we have already created—

believing all the time that it is something.

Anyway, I believe those are enough notes for this morning.

Hurrah for using all three parts today. Be well.



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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