Sunday, September 25, 2011

Inward to the Center

The number of man was said to be six, because man was created on the sixth day, after the whole physical world had been made; it is out of that world he was created. And any point in the physical world can be described by using the six directions: up, down, left, right, front, back. In mathematics they use the x, y, and z axes and it’s the same thing. But six is not the "final" or holy number, seven is; seven points towards God. The seventh is his day. But why? Because there is a seventh direction in addition to the six. For lack of a better term I call it “inward,” but you have to be careful here. if you walk into a room, inwards towards the center, you are still moving in one or more of the six directions, say, diagonally forward and a little to one side. What I’m talking about is something else, something, you might say, that is outside of three dimensional space.

Here is what I mean, a particularly fitting example. A doctor conducting brain surgery can look through his patient’s brain for a lifetime and never find a thought, never see an emotion. He can go up, down, left, right, backwards and forwards through all that brain tissue but he will always miss it. Often when surgeries like that are done, the patient is awake and aware, as they use only local anesthetics. This way they can prod around and get a response from the patient, and thus know what brain centers they’re prodding, and thus not cut the wrong part. Those reactions would seem to confirm the doctor’s prejudice, that all existence is contained in what I’m calling the six directions. That is, all that exists is the material, physical universe, and nothing else; he sees all behavior as caused mechanistically by the brain’s machinery, which he can himself affect by poking it.

Yet, if this were so, why can’t he find, in all that neural wiring, in all those electrochemical impulses, a single thought, a single bit of meaning? He has ignored the seventh direction, the inwards. Living is an inside job, you have to get into it. The doctor, of course, being alive and sentient, knows this at some level but has trained himself to not see it; he wears the self-imposed blinders of his scientific profession.

Is this really all there is to the mind?
It works as far as it goes, of course. Modern medicine can do things almost unimaginable a century or two ago; the same with science in general— its principles are for the most part sound. But there is a flaw in the scientific philosophy of materialism. The scientist, when he hears me say “get into it,” might assume I mean to keep analyzing, that is, “cutting apart.” He thinks that he can understand the mind via dissection, that by breaking a thing open, he will find the center. But all he is doing is following the six. You cannot get to the inside from the outside, so to speak; you cannot find the center by using the outer directions, because the center I’ve been discussing is not in the physical world as such. All one ever gets by cutting is more outsides.

You cannot dissect a brain and find a thought; all you will find is an electrical signal passing along a chain of neurons. I don’t deny that reality, but that is the “outwards” aspect of thought. We know that there is an “inwards” aspect to it as well, the meaning, the subjective experience. It seems to be a sort of duality, but I think it is only a duality when seen from outside, from the objective point of view, which is a fantasy.

Consider how unusual an idea objectivity is. Here are we, come from the same stuff as the rest of the universe—which is true whatever your philosophical camp: strict biblical creationism, a looser theistic or pantheistic creationism, or a purely scientific cosmology—here are we, clay of the earth, dust of the stars, totally dependent on the air, the earth, water, space, other living beings… and we claim to stand somehow apart, somehow neutral, somehow isolated from the rest of creation. Really, the only big leap in all of this is the line we’ve drawn between ourself and everything else; that is the hallucination.

The point is, if we first claim objectivity, then try to discover the secrets of the universe, we will be eluded, because we are trying to divorce ourselves from creation, and thus actually move away from truth. We are trying to be pure observers, forgetting we are pure participants; and that it is only because we are participants that we are even able to observe; the “observer” is there only because there is a living body that is totally connected with the greater universe. You see, subjectivity comes before objectivity; the center is the starting point for the six outward moves. Or more accurately, they occur or arise together-- you cant have one without the other.

Calm and clear in the center
When you are observing from the status of participant, you gain true understanding. Otherwise all the science in the world is just a catalog of facts that don’t really go together in a truly meaningful way. Trivia. If you want to know what a thing is, observation alone will suffice; but what really is the point of that? That just yields a sort of dictionary. No one wants to read a dictionary, you want to read an adventure, a romance, or even a self-help book. You have to participate in the creation to understand what it means. And what this all means is that the center, the “inwards” is not a place so much as a way of being.

The “inwards” is like the still point around which a wheel or a planet turns, steady and unmoving and not even composed of the stuff of the world, not something you can hold in your hand; yet all the while absolutely integral for all movement, for all being. It is around this seeming emptiness that the whole thing revolves. It doesn't move, and so all movement is. And thus the metaphor: God rested on the seventh day.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting you focused on six. In Buddhism theory, there is something called the six cognitive shen:

    “Cognitive Shen” (识神) is a generic name indicating the first six consciousness, i.e. the sense faculty responsible for seeing 见, hearing 闻, smelling 嗅, tasting 味, touching 触 and knowing. Yes, there are further underling consciousnesses beyond these six. Cognitive Shen often functions at the superficial level like the leaves, twigs, branches or trunk of a big tree while other underling consciousnesses act like the root which locates deep and invisible but function fundamentally."


    And, I was just involved in a discussion with a medical researcher about brain studies and Alzheimer' can examine brains and see what looks like should be Alzheimer's, but the patient has no symptoms of the condition, and conversely, some demented persons' brains show no physical indications of such trouble. There are so many weird things going on that we cannot predict or control.