Wednesday, March 15, 2017

All Resides in the Body: Corporeal Panpsychism

Given that all experience takes place in and through our nervous system and brain, and given that what we refer to as "the world" is our experience, there is only one place wherein experience takes place—the body. Most of our experience follows a foreground/background structure. Using a sonic model, when we listen to music we are focused on the notes that operate in the foreground of our attention. However, when looked at a bit more inclusively, we can take note of the attention that encompasses the past notes that have been played, the future notes that are anticipated, and the present notes that embody the past and future of the melody. In a way, the entire sonorous structure is both anticipated and projected. Husserl called this type of structure, when the present is pregnant with the past and the future, retention and protention. We have retained, i.e., our bodies have retained, what has occurred prior to the present note(s) and by doing so we are able to anticipate what is to follow. When an appropriate note follows, the melody is intact. When an inappropriate note follows, we often immediately "know" that the melody has been played incorrectly.Please, give this a moment of reflection.
Now, let's add an additional type of perception to the mix. Let's say that we have left out an essential ingredient or aspect of the melody. Yes, the silence! The melody is being played "against" the background of silence. I say "the" background for us to note the universal commonality of silence. It defies specificity of instantiation (sorry). Silence is an equal opportunity presence. It never discriminates. It is always yielding sound, any sound, equally. But, we may ask, where is this silence? Where would or should we localize it? Is it in the melody? Yes and no. It is a necessary component of the melody but it is not identical to the melody. We can discriminate between silence and sound, but never separate them. Saint John of the Cross called the silence the "sonorous silence." It is a sounding silence that includes melody and the silent context in which music or the bird's song is heard. Again, we must ask where this silence is located. There is only one place where it can be, everywhere and nowhere—in our experience. We are the silence that makes sound possible. We are the silent spatiality that is "un-heard" in all sound. What of the sound? Where does the sound take place? Well, if we are the sonorous silence, then we are the sound as well. That is, the experience of the bird song is taking place in the tree in our experience, in us. When a gentle, focused, whole body attention is paid to the silent/sound, one can, with some practice, begin to "feel" the evanescent movement of the sound as we become the silence. It abides in our heart. Try it! 

A visual model of this evanescent movement of sound would be a candle flame. One must admit that the flame of a candle is a movement. As the flame is coming into being, the flame is simultaneously disappearing from being. Without the death of flame, there is no flame. In its coming there is a going; there is a going out. Flame, like sound, has the three "moments" of past, present, and future occurring simultaneously. If it were not for this evanescent movement, flame could not exist. Now, we must take note of a similar structure of fire to sound. Where is the darkness that flame illuminates? There must be an illuminated for there to be an illuminator! The darkness is yielding the light. Darkness and acoustic space are the wombs of light and sound. Yes, darkness also occurs in the body. We are the experience of darkness and light. We are illuminated by light because we abide in the dark. Does not the movement of light give rise to form? What was once obscured by darkness is now revealed by light. It is in this sense that fire gives rise to form. Again, we must take note of the fact that this manifesting of forms takes place, yes, in our experience, i.e., in our bodies. Without our nervous systems coming alive to the forms we see, there can be no forms, whether we take them to be outside of us or inside. In either case, our bodies (prakriti) are taking form as forms. One can feel this movement as it takes place in our (practiced) silent and restful body. Once we can bring about a silent attention, the experience of forms is alive in our bodies; we can feel it. An object can only take form in our experience, therefore in our bodies. Our bodies are alive with the manifestation of all forms. We feel them in silence.  

If You think that I am able to behold Your cosmic form, O my Lord, O master of all mystic power, then kindly show me that universal self. (Bhagavad Gita, 11, 4) 

Now, let's take these models to another level. What about knowledge? What about significance? How is all of my circumstantial experience like the experience of sound and form? Let's move on carefully, please. Let's start by comparing time to the movement of sound. Time, as lived time, is the movement of one circumstance into the next circumstance. Now, let's remember from a prior note in our blog, that circumstances are movements of significance or meaning. We live in meaningful time. The progression of time is the progression of meaning. Meaning, as thoughts and perceptions, is ever moving ahead from within our past to our future, one moment based on prior moments of significance projected into a significant future—movement like sound and fire.  Normally,  there is no halting of experience. We cannot stifle experience, I.e, we cannot stifle meaning from flowing out of our experience to a future which is anticipated. This is what our circumstances are made of.  As with melody, so with experience. We retain the past notes of the melody in anticipation of the notes to come. This is pure process. Time is process (or even "processing"); it is significant and fully humanized in all experience. The humanization comes from the past (think karma) and is protended as the future in the present. What has happened and will happen is present in what is happening. This is why, on an ethical level, we are often exhorted to take only those actions of body, speech, and mind which give rise to happiness in the future. This implies a movement of virtue. Ethical living (now) is a prerequisite for a happy future. Want to be happier in your future? Practice happiness as virtue now. 

So we may now understand that space, time (past, present, and future), and meaning are evanescent movements of experience. We have not exhausted this notion of experience, but we have isolated several of its key aspects. Now we must add another dimension, hinted at above. We must discuss the role of history.
The meaningful past, I.e., the past loaded with prior human acts of body, speech, and mind, is—as we have noted—the "stuff" of the present in the meaningful anticipation of a future. (Think the movement of a melody.) This is the only future that lives. All other kinds of future are theoretical and abstract. The living future is shaped in the meaningful present towards an anticipated, meaningful future. (Note this when you get a glass of water.) You will note that there are present those meaningful past acts in the present toward obtaining a glass of water. All three moments of time are evanescent and necessary. They are a sheer and significant process. These moments have been structured and filled out with the acts of body, speech, and mind from the past. What we do now, will structure a present toward a future—all taking place now. I'm not speaking of a moment of abstraction where we believe we can "catch" a now; I use the word "moment" to focus our attention on the movement of life, not an abstract present moment—as if there really were such a thing. Moments exist in our imaginations alone. Time is living experience in the womb of a dynamic and living space giving rise to thoughts, words, and deeds. It goes without saying that each act counts. The universe hinges upon them.  

Burning as living, Living as burning

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