Foundation for a New Consciousness,
chapter 4 Copyright © 1987 John Caris
Copyright © 1987 John Caris
Improving our mind is possible if we are willing to make the effort. First comes the desire and then the decision. Circumstances may play a part by forcing us to act. Alfred Bester dramatizes the human endeavor for growth and fulfillment in his novel The Stars My Destination. Gully Foyle, the main character, starts as a brutish man and finishes as a god-man. Gully symbolizes the alchemist's dream of transforming base lead into gold. The path of mental growth is open to all; it is only a matter of choice. Gully's transformation occurs through the process of living. Revenge is a powerful force, and it operates on a very instinctive level. It is also ego-centric. Being at the center of his own world, Gully must pay back in kind: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. He slowly stops worshipping the power of hate and moves toward the power of love, for he realizes that only a slave worships hate while a free human being reveres love. By extending himself outward and increasing the power of his mind, Gully progresses along the path of enlightenment.
Gully first learns the iron-fisted power of the instinctive part of his body consciousness. He is forced to learn self-control over his basic passions, for his face has been tattooed with a hideous image. Although the tattoo is removed, the original etching cannot be erased. So whenever rage strikes him, the tattoo mark glows and becomes Gully's sign; he is the man with the terrible tattooed face. To preserve his anonymity Gully develops self-control. It is a question of survival, and survive he must if he is to accomplish his revenge. Gully perfects himself in many ways, and each step places him closer to success. Yet at the very moment when he has revenge within his grasp, he discovers its power has dissipated. He gives himself up to the power of love and is freed.
So it is with all of us. We may choose our path because of very base desires, yet if we continue on our journey and eliminate the bonds that fetter us, we may ultimately reach a higher place and be free. But choose we must, act we must. The path first involves the training of our body consciousness. But before training can begin, it is necessary to become aware of our body consciousness, which for most of us lies in the unconscious region. How many of us know what our body is doing at any given moment?
All human societies provide their members with such training. We may not realize that it is available until we look closely. Mental training begins with increasing our awareness of the environment. Explore your space, for places have different qualities, both negative and positive. You may feel better in one location than in another. At first you may believe that all spaces are the same. Try it and see if they are. Choose a room and explore the total floor area. Become aware of the subtle differences, but don't worry about what might cause these differences. You can also try this experiment outside, perhaps in the backyard or in a park.
When you find a place that has positive vibes, sit down and let go. When you are seated comfortably and relaxed, immerse yourself totally in the presence of that place and feel the presence through your body. Now focus your eyes on a small spot in front of you, and keep your eyes focused on that spot as long as possible. Do you notice any changes in the visual image of the spot? Do the colors change? Does the amount of light increase or decrease? Does the shape of the image change? Now look at shadows and see them as physical objects. Try it also with open spaces between things like branches of a tree or bush.
Rest your eyes and listen to the sounds of the environment. Don't try to identify the sounds but immerse yourself in them and experience their rhythm and pitch. Is there a pattern? You might try blindfolding yourself since it prevents visual distractions. Now what feelings arise along with the sounds? As you listen in on your mind, you will begin to experience both the feelings and sounds simultaneously. By increasing our awareness however slightly, we are developing our body consciousness.
The American composer John Cage has said that if we properly hear environmental sounds, all musicians will be out of a job. Cage is well-known for blending environmental sounds with music. At first the listener may be disconcerted by the annoying and often harsh contrast of sounds. Of course, Cage is calling attention to the influence that mental associations have. We associate the sound of a siren with its everyday source, perhaps a fire engine or police car. But in a musical composition a siren wail "harmonizes" with the sounds of other instruments. In his composition 4'33" Cage puts the listener on the edge of existence. A musician sits down at a piano and after preparing to play, sits quietly for exactly 4 minutes and 33 seconds! At first the audience fidgets and wonders when the performance will begin. Coughs, rattling of programs, scuffling of feet, and other noises fill the concert hall. Has music been performed for the duration of 4'33" or not? The listener must decide.
The way we visualize the world deeply affects our knowledge of it and influences our behavior and attitudes. Because of its importance techniques for visualizing are practiced throughout human society. One can visualize with either the eyes open or closed. Closing the eyes is probably easier because external stimuli are absent; however, keeping the eyes open can be extremely useful, especially when in an everyday situation.
Visualizing one's hands is a helpful exercise. First look at your hands and then close your eyes and "see" them. When the visual image dims, open your eyes and repeat the process. Gradually, you will form a sharp image. Next visualize the hands aging; watch them grow old. Once they have, reverse the procedure and see them growing younger until they are the hands of a baby. While visualizing your hands, become acquainted with them. Touch, feel, and gently massage them. Identify muscle knots and congested areas. Soon you will discover the lines of binding. As your hands become more relaxed, these lines of binding will dissolve. Say to yourself, as you relax your hands, "Let go. Let go." Familiarity with your hands will strengthen your ability to visualize them.
Other parts of the body can be concentrated on for relaxing purposes. How much time and love have you given to your feet? Touch, feel, and gently massage them. Compare your little toes to your little fingers. How much dexterity do they have? Exercise them. In fact, exercise all your fingers and toes. The wearing of shoes has bound our feet and made many distortions in the original pattern. Although society requires some sort of footwear, we can at least keep our feet healthy, remembering that our body is a whole system and that each part is innerconnected with all the other parts.
Modern shoes throw the center of balance onto the ball of the foot. So we moderns, constantly off-balance, go lunging through life never stopping lest we fail on our noses. A properly designed shoe tends to bring the center of balance back onto the vertical axis of the body. The vertical axis must be in its natural position if the body's energy system is to function correctly. There is a line of thought that proposes that bare feet make a better contact with the earth's energy and that those who wear shoes, because of their insulation, often have energy crises. No wonder the Christian mystic St. Teresa of Avila tried to reform the Carmelite order by refusing to wear shoes. Many followed her by going barefoot, but eventually the resistance of the inert shoe wearers was too much.
Loosening the binding of the hands, feet, and remainder of the body will help one's breathing exercises. In yoga one learns the different levels of breathing and their occasions. The levels range from the short, quick breath to the long, deep breath. Deep breathing stretches the diaphragm and increases the energy flow in the groin region. Visualize the image of Buddha sitting in a lotus position. Notice the openness of the groin-pelvic area. With the help of gravity the diaphragm is pulled down along the backbone. The abdominal and groin regions fill with breath and energy. The diaphragm snaps back expelling the air, and the process is repeated. The Hindus believe that human breath should be in tune with the breathing of the universe.
Once the body is in a relaxed state and breathing is regulated, you are at the gateway. Step through and discover the still point. This is a mental state in which you are able to weather the storms of both external and internal energy. This is one of the mansions in St. Teresa's interior castle. Here you can program your body consciousness. You cannot force yourself through the gateway; you glide through when you are prepared.
Another technique for developing body consciousness is the crossed eye focus or sometimes called the third foot focus. Consider the painter sighting along the thumb extended at arm's length. Focusing on the thumb, one perceives the background in double image and often as fuzzy. Turning the focus to the background, one sees a double image of the thumb. The crossed eye focus sharpens and extends the visual field. It can be used to superimpose one image onto another, which creates a stereo-image. Try the crossed eye focus with the two sets of figures below. Focus your left eye on the left figure and your right eye on the other. Now bring them together until a sharp 3D image is formed.
An interesting experience, isn't it?
Now try this focus with your feet or thumbs. Place them a few inches apart and bring the two images together. With practice you can use the focus any time you want. (If you want to try the visualizing exercises at this web site, go to the entrance page.)
Thinking about the symbolic level of this focus, we realize that two images have become one. It is the dissolving of duality and remaking of unity. Often only shocking or stressful events are capable of breaking the duality habit. There seems to be a basic tendency to experience the world through a duality consciousness. This, no doubt, reflects the micro-macrocosm concept. Duality is inherent in the universe and so its reflection occurs in our mind. The crossed eye focus shows that the process of changing duality into unity is also inherent in the universe.
In Childhood's End Arthur C. Clarke dramatizes how duality can be dissolved by reversing the values. Alien beings have arrived on earth and have taken control, but they do not show themselves to the human population. Several human generations lapse before the aliens present themselves. When they do, their physical appearance resembles the Christian image of the devil. The aliens, knowing full well that their appearance will repulse the humans, wait until the humans have accepted them for their actions.
Often an art work will zap our minds with an imaginative challenge. In Zelazny's Nine Princes in Amber Corwin uses a special deck of cards to communicate with his relatives. Each card is a portrait of one relative. By intense concentration Corwin establishes communication with the person whose portrait is on the card, which functions as a mandala for telepathy. Once contact is made--and the other person can refuse it--Corwin can use the card and mental contact as a space jump gate. Several times he jumps into the room where his relative is.
If we are to reprogram ourselves, we must change our habitual ways of experiencing the world. For example, pretend that you are a portrait painter. Look at faces as if you were going to paint their portraits. What are the dominant characteristics? You might select the eyes, nose, or mouth as an important focal point. And certainly the planes of the face, whether flat or protruding, should be considered. You can also choose a particular painting style to use, like realism, cubism, or pop. Notice how, as your perspective changes, your experience changes.
Pretend that you are a sculptor of stone or wood. Select a block of material and decide on the sculpted figure. Look at the block and visualize the figure hidden within. Your purpose is to carve away the extraneous material and liberate the imprisoned figure. Whether you actually sculpt the figure or not is unimportant, for the mental activity of visualizing is an excellent method to break habits.
We can also change our mental habits by making our own music. Ancient chants are, of course, valuable methods for inducing meditative mental states. Unconventional and strange vocal sounds have the power to break through the cultural programs resounding in the mind. We are all aware of the internal dialogue that occurs, and often we may wish that it could be turned off or at least decreased in volume. Inner silence is required if we are to transform our mental habits. Another possibility is to make instruments out of available objects like bottles and cans that are filled with water. The size, material, and amount of water will determine the pitch emitted when the object is struck.
Many 20th century composers have shattered the public's expectations with their music. Edgar Varese in his Ionisation employs 13 musicians who play more than 40 percussion instruments, including a siren. The listener does not hear a conventional melodic development with its predictable form; instead, a multi-dimensional sound structure permeates and fills space. The siren adds an emotional quality because of our personal associations while the atonal scale creates a feeling of suspense and uncertainty.
Many 20th century art works have upset our normal way of looking at the world. Art movements, like the dadaists, have arisen to intentionally shock and break up common attitudes. Perhaps, something is happening in the 20th century that the arts are attacking. Looking closely, we notice that the arts have moved away from the public's expectations. A recognizable visual image, a pleasing melody, and a regular rhythmic pattern are no longer important, yet the public wants and expects them. Are the arts, then, responding to contemporary society? Certainly, the new technology is spreading and promoting automation and standardization. Is it this type of programing that the arts are countering? We seem to face the stone wall of predictability and repetitious behavior as if we were a broken record or a TV replay.
An unusual art work named Seek, which was constructed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology students and exhibited in 1970, illuminates one dimension of the modern predicament. Seek is a special environment controlled by a computer. A 5x8 foot platform with enclosed sides is the playground of a small computer that is programed to use its electromagnet and sensing devices to build structures with several hundred toy blocks. The computer would be very happy with its lifestyle if it were not for the small colony of gerbils who also inhabit the playground. The gerbils, of course, rearrange the toy blocks for their own purposes. From each point of view, gerbils or computer, the environment is unpredictable and constantly changing.
An interesting literary example of habit-breaking occurs in Tom Stoppard's drama Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Toward the end of the first act, preparatory to questioning Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern engage in a game of questions. As in tennis each must serve and return a question. The type of consciousness reflected in this game is interesting. The average person, if asked a question, would try to answer it and usually with a direct statement. How easily does our mind respond to a question with a question? If a question-answer pattern is usual, then playing this game can be beneficial. Zen koans carry this a step further by presenting paradoxes.
As our body consciousness grows, we begin to realize the influence of our language program. Spoken words come first and only later do we learn the written form. The human voice has power to shape our mental state, and we often respond more to the sound of a voice than to its verbal meaning. Listen carefully to different voices and discern your emotional responses. Notice the sound patterns of words and the various voice styles--the authoritarian, the pleading, the indifferent, and the kindly.
Music, of course, relies on the shaping power of sound; in fact, music can be thought of as sound organized according to certain principles of rhythm, harmony, and melody. Like painters using colors, composers have selected musical keys that are known to evoke specific emotions. The feelings that one has while listening to the key of C major are different from those when hearing the key of B minor. The listener's mental state also influences the musical experience. Mental images and memory associations are often triggered off by music. Anton Webern's Five Pieces for Orchestra, based upon the 12 tone scale, seems formless and unorganized to many listeners. But even so, their imagination is usually touched, and images and feelings, sometimes forming into stories, arise. Toru Takemitsu's Water Music evokes memories of water sounds even though the music has been modified by electronic devices.
Poetry, too, uses sound to enhance its artistic expression. Words, of course, have meaning on the two levels of denotation and connotation, of the literal and metaphoric meanings; but the sounds of words and their rhythmic pattern convey another dimension of meaning. Poetry has never forgotten that it began as a spoken art form. When we remember that learning to speak occurs before learning to read, we realize that impressions are buried deep in our memories.
In meditative tradition each word is a focal point of energy; it is a set of sound vibrations that has power to shape the mind. Without making a physical analysis of any word-sound, we still can readily understand the underlying idea. Hidden within daily speech is a secret language, one that has a spiritual source. The mixing of the two realities, physical and spiritual, occurs continuously, and the universe cannot exist without it. The sacred language has been given many different names, yet the inner voice always speaks it. When a sparrow sits on the window sill and chirps, do we listen to its message? Masters of meditation are well-known for their ability to hear environmental sounds and yet not be distracted from their inner voice.
Because the voice is also a vehicle for everyday speech, we should become more aware of the words that someone uses. Language reflects specialization, that is, a person's background, education, and interests; and specialization is equivalent to a mental stoppage, an enclosed corner in one's mind. From a broader viewpoint language mirrors the dominant consciousness of an individual or group. In the 20th century this linguistic relativity has been firmly supported by the studies of Benjamin Whorf and Edward Sapir. Language is a frame of reference for experiencing and measuring the world. Indo-European language has a conceptual structure that is radically different from, say, Chinese or Hopi. Thus, the raw material of experience, when it enters the brain, is arranged and interpreted by the particular language that a person uses. English has a subject-predicate logic, actor and action, and three time categories. What if one's language has only two time categories, for example, manifest and non-manifest? Or the language centers on happenings and events so that linear causal links (actor-action) are not described?
When Alice steps into the looking-glass world, she begins a magical journey, based upon a chess game, through a strange and anamorphic universe. At one point Alice walks through the no-name forest where she meets a fawn. Since neither can remember any names, they have a friendly journey. When they leave the forest, both remember their names; and the fawn, recognizing that Alice is a human child, becomes alarmed and darts away. As Martin Gardner points out in his annotated edition of the Alice stories, the no-name forest is the universe itself upon which symbol-manipulating creatures impose their labels and verbal counters. When Alice meets Humpty Dumpty, she advances further into the understanding of language. She learns that when Humpty Dumpty uses a word it means just what he chooses it to mean. "'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master--that's all.'" All these strange adventures culminate in Alice's crowning. A large banquet is held when she becomes queen, and all the looking-glass creatures are there to celebrate the golden occasion.
In the episode before the crowning Alice meets the white knight who is something of an openhearted, affectionate fool. The white knight, when not falling off his horse, mentally designs new inventions. From him Alice learns the distinction between language and metalanguage--the difference between the names of things and the names of names of things. No wonder Odysseus, by calling himself noman, tricks the blinded Cyclops; for Cyclops is unable to make this distinction. When his neighbors arrive and ask who is harming him, Cyclops can only answer no man!
Improving ourselves often involves making small changes, ones that can trigger a series of changes, like waves spreading out into the distance of space and time. Isaac Asimov dramatizes this idea in the story The End of Eternity. Reality has two basic dimensions: the historical world and the dimension that the Eternals reside in. Both dimensions are physical, but they are separated from each other. Those living in the historical world are not aware of the Eternals; a few have heard rumors and stories but have no actual knowledge. The Eternals, who were originally selected from the historical world, are involved in regulating and manipulating human affairs. Harlan, the protagonist, is an Eternal whose duty is to make minimum necessary changes in the fabric of reality. Computers are used to analyze all the consequences of a particular change. Then Harlan decides which change will produce the desired effect with the fewest side effects. Such a change can extend one to two hundred years into the future. One minimum necessary change occurs when Harlan moves a bottle from one shelf to another. The bottle is found too late for its use, and a new direction occurs in human history. This idea implies the connection of all things within a particular time unit.
We may have noticed small changes in our everyday world and not thought much about them. Yet these changes can signal a series of important events. And perhaps we may have made small changes without realizing the chain of events that followed. A change can function as a sign with all its singularity and intuitive quality.
By dissolving our mental habits we can open up to the wondrous and mysterious cosmos, yet there are dangerous powers that can overcome the unprepared. This problem occurs in Piers Anthony's Macroscope. Once humans devise a machine which allows them to probe the galaxy, they are touched by the destroyer, which is a frequency, emitting the strongest and clearest signal, located at the center of the galactic broadcast band. When tuned in, the frequency transmits a program which can destroy the mind of the viewer. The program is a type of learning process which, starting from basic concepts, builds a system so strange and complex that the human mind is shortcircuited. The destroyer channel is superimposed over another frequency that contains very advanced concepts and technologies.
Ivo Archer masters a technique allowing him to sidestep the destroyer and tune in the other frequency. The destroyer program unfolds in rhythm with the viewer's increase in understanding. Many viewers are so charmed by the program that they cannot turn it off before the mind-devastating denouement. Ivo, when he feels too great a comprehension, breaks contact. He tries to follow the symbolic pattern without committing himself to full understanding. Eventually, he is caught; he knows too much and is irresistibly drawn to the conclusion.
When the universe explodes, Ivo escapes into his alter ego, Sidney Lanier. His mind focuses on events which culminate in Lanier's marriage. After he regains consciousness, Ivo knows that he was only stunned and can now find his way around the destroyer. He realizes that the destroyer is a separate channel which is superimposed upon another and that the two channels must be separated. Once the destroyer is isolated, the knowledge conveyed by the other can be taken and used. The other frequency contains many programs, like radio stations on the same band. If one fastens onto its sign, its trademark, then the destroyer can be side-stepped. So listen for the still, small voice, and when you hear it, ascend the shining staircase.
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