MOMENTARY ENTHUSIASMS (R18)


We amble along living from day to day, whatever the circumstances, locked into the prison of a long succession of present moments which we don’t normally think about; they add up to what we have grown into the unexamined habit of calling ‘consciousness’; because we have the word we take it for granted that ‘consciousness’ is some kind of entity that we have constantly at our disposal. It can be filled with all kinds of piffle – sinkrpoosarams, my favourite Gurdjieff neologism meaning belief in any old twaddle.

Take a person who talks endlessly about their ‘career’… Such an abstraction was always totally meaningless to me; it’s true that I did function as a full-time paid teacher for the last twenty-four years of wage slavery life but I never thought of it as a ‘career’. A person who talks proudly of their ‘career’ has, with much else probably, filled their so-called ‘consciousness’ with similar meaningless abstractions – in reality (so to speak) like myself, they just did things to pass the time perhaps imposing self-chosen meaning on whatever it was they were wasting their time on.

The good thing is that if the entity we call ‘consciousness’ can be filled it can also be emptied out like a bucket full of washing up water. Just the idea that it can be emptied is interesting; what would it be like if we did empty it? Maybe it could entertain novelty. From Nothingness can come a deliriously happy something or other. Gurdjieff said that until you can make yourself into No-thing there is no chance of developing your self (or selves).

The bucket metaphor is misleading though. Neither ‘memory’, nor learning nor ‘consciousness’ should be subjected to it; the metaphor is false, indecorous: buckets can overflow; when somebody says, “I can’t take any more of this, there’s no room for anything else, my brain hurts…” you know they subscribe to the bucket-brain model. An alternative self-reinforcing, far more resourceful belief would be ‘The more data you choose to allow to enter your neurons the more connections you’ll be able to make…’

The long succession of present moments bounces around in what, for convenience, we could call ‘consciousness’. It’s possible, looking back, to put significant moments, those which have meant something relatively permanent to us – meeting some significant person, achieving something, failing in some way – into more or less settled story-form with beginning, middle & end: meeting so & so changed my life, etc, becoming a teacher resulted in a mental enlargement that’s lasted fifty years, getting a rejection slip for a poem I sent to Time & Tide when I was 16 dogs me still. And so on.

Even the moments which seemed insignificant at the time can build to a certain neat story when focussed on and pieced together – bends in a road, getting on & off trains, arrivals & departures, a collection of places haunted by the person who was with you at the time.

Moments don’t have to cruise by us without our noticing them; they can be fixed forever; we can be very aware of every moment, as it happens. The mantra ‘I shall remember this moment for the rest of my life’ has always worked for me – great processions of events remain present in my mind because, very early on, I got into the habit of saying just that to myself; these days I rely on Gurdjieff’s concept of ‘self-remembering’ – a different label for what probably amounts to the same thing: ‘this is me being me here & now’. This is all part of my story.

I subscribe to the existentialist notion that life is completely ‘absurd’ in the technical sense – it has no ultimate purpose or meaning. This is, paradoxically, a very positive idea in that it presents us with quite a bit of self-dynamism. The thing is that we create meanings for ourselves as we amble along.

Though we are normally unaware of it every moment is a link in the great chain of so-called ‘consciousness’ and helps form emblems & patterns that go into the Other-than-Conscious Mind (archetypes, forms, metaphors) to make a meta-reality that gives shape to our thinking. For example, when I mow the lawn in stripes I’m aware of the surrounding shrubbery which gives me the meta-reality I often use to categorise experience as consisting of order & chaos, light & dark, clarity and the need to search for it, to iron it out.

Then in the middle of the daily swarm of events there come moments of severe enlightenment if you’re lucky or have been engaging in ‘Readiness Potential’ – Aha! understandings when things just seem to fall into place, a phrase in a symphony, a line of poetry, an inch of wash in a watercolour drawing. As simple as that.

How do we become alive to such meaningful moments? Something perhaps that happened in childhood to prepare us for noticing them (and finding them valuable enough to record). Something about giving them permission to land.

I stayed in a nice B&B once in Murgleton for the night. In the morning while I was eating the hearty breakfast she had prepared for me the landlady said, “Did you sleep well?” I said, “Yes, except for the noise of all those airplanes…” She said, “Ah, I noticed you left the landing light on all night.”


While everybody’s life is made up of moments not everybody makes a habit of collecting them together in the way that I know from experience is possible. Not everybody makes them into stories. Some people make up stories about abstractions rather than moments: the Great Person abstraction, the insane Desire for Profit abstraction; Career, Ruler, Terrorist, Destroyer, Teacher, Comrade, Peacemaker – abstractions all…

But, moments! Looking at an old brick or a pebble on a beach… Not everybody would have a strong feeling for an old brick or a special pebble found on a beach. On the evening of the VJ bonfire at the bottom of our suburban road (September 2, 1945 it might have been) I lost a cheap tin whistle and cried all the way home, being eventually soothed by having a warm bath. If I had not written this down the moment would have been lost forever & ever – not that it could possibly matter two hoots to anybody but me!

As a result of participating in formal NLP time-lining exercises I can easily nip back down the years and fish out moments, see, hear & feel them in detail and bring them forward into what I think of as NOW. For example, the moment in the school air-raid shelter (1944 or 5) when I heard one teacher say to another that I was a ‘round the corner’ little boy. The dimness of the earthy tunnel, her voice and the way she looked at me as she spoke, my incomprehension, being put down. I can still feel the incomprehension. Maybe that was what the world was like, I thought, no rhyme or reason, nothing you could easily understand. At least, I think it was then that I decided that I would be an open spirit, not afraid to reveal as much about myself as I wanted to. Everything can have a positive effect.

The practical upshot was that for many years I experienced not exactly a fear of authority but a judicious subservience. And I polished the idea that adults invented things to suit themselves: they could judge you in ways that didn’t make sense.

Then there was the revered prefect Austen at KGS who, on the wooden steps of the sports pavilion, said, à propos of nothing I can think of, “Do you know, Blundell, you’re a fool?” I wasn’t quick enough to ask him what he meant by that – nor, if I had thought of it, would I have been bold enough to ask it!

It seemed that everybody else had a built-in uncertainty about them; I became wary of them, what they might think of me. However, another ten years and I found it difficult to believe how far ahead I was intellectually beyond fellow students at James Graham College of Education, near Leeds, after I had assumed to start with that they must all be superior in everything to me. I concluded that I was no fool, then, and the thoughts of others began to became of no consequence to me. I had been biding my time.

During the war years, in spite of bombs & doodle-bugs, I had always felt very safe till I went to school, though one incident (1944 or 5) still stands out. I was dawdling innocently outside a shop that sold Meccano and similar upmarket toys, looking in the picture window, fascinated, waiting for my mother who’d been off somewhere, when a woman who seemed like a witch grabbed me by the arm and dragged me through the door of her flat above the shop round the side. Still holding me she bellowed upstairs, “Have you heard the bell ring?” The answer came down from a shadowy figure of what was probably another witch, “NO!” but she persisted in accusing me, cowering in a corner, of ringing her doorbell with such vigour, that I began to wish I had done so. Adults were not at all trustworthy. A moment of terror and imprisonment.

I think I’ve always felt that ‘I’ stopped at the world-me interface but that I was capable of extending my Meta-I out into the universe when I was in the right frame of mind, collecting as many moments as I could manage into a conglomerate. I think I’ve lived with the idea that life is about accumulation. Accumulation first and then fitting everything together in creative ways. Enneagram 5 – Hoarder: ideas, objects, stones, music, books, writing, bits of things with texture, shape, colour, miles (long distance cycle rides), passions, enthusiasms. There has been a total self-driven commitment to whatever I was passionate about especially all these little moments.

‘The Outsider is a [person] who has accidentally had an awakening and suddenly realised the sheer absurdity of human existence… The Outsider knows that the kind of existence most people accept is not worth calling ‘life’…’
Colin Wilson: Voyage to a Beginning


20 thoughts on “MOMENTARY ENTHUSIASMS (R18)

  1. And so, this set me thinking…. Very annoying as I was doing so well …
    Consciousness is then, in your eyes Colin –
    “the prison of a long succession of present moments which we don’t normally think about; they add up to what we have grown into the unexamined habit of calling ‘consciousness’
    if the entity we call ‘consciousness’ can be filled it can also be emptied
    ‘consciousness’ (as) with similar meaningless abstractions – in reality (so to speak) like myself, is a catchall for the things they just did to pass the time, perhaps imposing self-chosen meaning on whatever it was they were wasting their time on.

    According to Wikipedia (and several books wot I have read)
    In Taoism or Buddhism, consciousness is understood as a momentary experience. It is the perception of becoming one with the unplanned rhythms of the all, called “the way” or “Tao” that one has at a particular instant. (I think what Colin might refer to as Meta-I)

    There would be no assumption of perceptual continuity: what my consciousness is now is not necessarily was it was a moment ago or what it will be a moment from now. Since all things in Way are subject to transformation, consciousness would be presumed to be fluid, not static. Chuang Tzu is the first source that comes to mind here. His comments on dreaming suggest a continuum or interweaving of, not a sharp break between, consciousness and unconsciousness:
    (I love this)
    You might dream that you’re drinking fine wine, then the next morning you’re weeping and sobbing. You might dream that you’re weeping and sobbing, then the next morning you’re out on a rollicking hunt. In the midst of a dream, we can’t know it’s a dream. After we awake, we know it was a dream – but only after a great awakening can we understand that all of this is a great dream. Meanwhile, fools everywhere think they’re wide awake. They steal around us as if they understood things, calling this a king and that a cowherd. It’s incredible!
    Confucius is a dream, and you are a dream. And when I say you’re both dreams, I too am a dream. People might call such talk a sad and cryptic ruse. But ten thousand generations from now, we’ll meet a great sage who understands these things. And when that happens , it will seem like tomorrow. (32-33)

    The “great awakening” he mentions in the first paragraph is, a realization of our incapacity to comprehend Way. And in that incomprehensibility is our inability to completely understand the difference between consciousness and unconsciousness, dreaming and not dreaming.

    Daniel Dennett (who seems to have an uncanny physical resemblance to Colin,) developed a contentious multiple draft, model of consciousness, I think in my relative ignorance that he is referring to memory rather than consciousness. In his book, Consciousness Explained, he says

    “the brain does not bother ‘constructing’ any representations that go to the trouble of ‘filling in’ the blanks. (oh yes it does, especially when we experience trauma for example or when we have repressed something or half heard or seen something) That would be a waste of time and (shall we say?) paint. The judgement is already in so we can get on with other tasks!” (but I think it’s the brain’s way of making sense of things.)

    So, I think what Daniel Dennett is describing. although claimed to be consciousness, might in fact be combined with what we have named memory, and so becomes conscious awareness, here’s why I think that. Again, taken from his words.

    “there are a variety of sensory inputs from a given event and also a variety of interpretations of these inputs. The sensory inputs arrive in the brain and are interpreted (differently) at different times, so a given event can give rise to a succession of discriminations, constituting the equivalent of multiple drafts of a story. As soon as each discrimination is accomplished, it becomes available for eliciting a behaviour; it does not have to wait to be presented at the theatre.

    Like a number of other theories, the Multiple Drafts model understands conscious experience as taking time to occur, such that precepts do not instantaneously arise in the mind in their full richness.

    Yes – I do see here that he might be talking about conscious awareness, rather than consciousness. It rather depends…

    from a Taoist perspective he’s talking about awareness and from a Western perspective he’s talking about “conscious” behaviour – where we have taken a decision about what something means and how we might respond to it and so consciously know what we are doing.

    According to Dennett,
    “consciousness is to be found in the actions and flows of information from place to place, rather than some singular view containing our experience. There is no central experiencer who confers a durable stamp of approval on any particular draft.
    Different parts of the neural processing assert more or less control at different times. For something to reach consciousness is akin to becoming famous, in that it must leave behind consequences by which it is remembered. To put it another way, consciousness is the property of having enough influence to affect what the mouth will say and the hands will do. Which inputs are “edited” into our drafts is not an exogenous act of supervision, but part of the self-organizing functioning of the network, and at the same level as the circuitry that conveys information bottom-up.
    The conscious self is taken to exist as an abstraction visible at the level of the intentional stance, akin to a body of mass having a “centre of gravity”.

    Analogously, Dennett refers to the self as the “centre of narrative gravity”, a story we tell ourselves about our experiences. Consciousness exists, but not independently of behaviour and behavioural disposition.”

    Dennett says, “I grant that conscious experience has properties”. Having related all consciousness to properties, he concludes that they cannot be meaningfully distinguished from our judgements about them. (An diametrically opposing view to that from the East.)

    In other words, once we’ve explained a perception fully in terms of how it affects us, there is nothing left to explain. In particular, there is no such thing as a perception which may be considered in and of itself (a quale). Instead, the subject’s honest reports of how things seem to them are inherently authoritative on how things seem to them, but not on the matter of how things actually are. (Yes)

    And so, to return from whence I came… I think recalling moments we choose to take notice of, is all the more powerful when anchored to the visceral physical sensation we name emotion that we felt at the time. I would lay odds that it is the emotion that gets triggered first when recalling experiences from the past. I say that because I’m me, for someone else it will be the sight or the smell or the sound or the taste or the physical sensation, depending upon their preferences.

    Colin says – “we can be very aware of every moment, as it happens.”

    Can we though? Surely only those we choose, and we each choose according to our own evolving preferences, otherwise we really would be in overwhelm. Just too much sensory input. I think we can do this from time to time if we are deliberate, but not as a general rule.

    He goes on “Though we are normally unaware of it, every moment is a link in the great chain of so-called ‘consciousness’ and helps form emblems & patterns that go into the Other-than-Conscious Mind (archetypes, forms, metaphors) to make a meta-reality that gives shape to our thinking.

    For me, this is conscious awareness. (We know that we know because we have sorted and filed in a particular way and the retained knowledge shapes our responses to life, our behaviour, and our view of the next experience).

    Colin says “I heard one teacher say to another that I was a ‘round the corner’ little boy. The dimness of the earthy tunnel, her voice and the way she looked at me as she spoke, my incomprehension, being put down. I can still feel the incomprehension.”
    What counts is what you decided at that time, as to how you would live your life ongoing.
    All I can say about what was said, is that in my experience, the judgement of someone who perceives a little boy to be “round the corner” comes from someone who can only look straight ahead and is therefore, at best, only partial, and some might even say warped.

    I suffered both incomprehension and humiliation at the hands of a teacher at about the same age as you; I was 4 and gone to school early because my mother was unwell. Just as you can still feel the incomprehension, I can still feel the stinging humiliation given the right stimulus and similarity of context. I also have a physical response for all to see when it happens and blush from the waist up. The flushing happens at the emotional recall. No amount of therapy or NLP has made it any the less. Hence, I avoid presenting like the plague; just in case anyone asks me a question that I get wrong!

    From Colin – “The practical upshot was that for many years I experienced not exactly a fear of authority but a judicious subservience. And I polished the idea that adults invented things to suit themselves: they could judge you in ways that didn’t make sense. (Ditto – just not all from one experience – but a lifelong avoidance of answering questions that require a factual or right wrong answer in front of other people.)

    ‘The Outsider is a [person] who has accidentally had an awakening and suddenly realised the sheer absurdity of human existence… The Outsider knows that the kind of existence most people accept is not worth calling ‘life’…’ Colin Wilson: Voyage to a Beginning

    All hail the outsider.

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    1. Thanks for your commentary on Daniel C. Dennett, Pat! I’ve read a number of his books – Consciousness Explained twice!! – and while I still don’t completely understand everything about his Multiple Drafts model, I do think it’s as close as anyone has gotten to explaining consciousness. Besides Colin, of course 🙂

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    2. Thanks, Pat! Now I have to re-re-read Dennett’s book with its very pretentious title and plough through all the examples in order to get at his general drift. I’m finding it quite easy to read in the way that President Kennedy is reported to have done – taking my eyes down the centre of the page – just thought I’d give it a whirl. The idea has been in my ‘consciousness’ since 1961 when I first knew how he read so many books.

      I think Dennett’s right to broaden the habitual concept of ‘consciousness’. If the end of the Kybalion is right (as I think it is, in my pretentious kind of way!) everything is ‘mental’ so in one way all experience can re-occur in what we choose to call ‘consciousness’. The concept itself and all writing about it obfuscates whatever it might actually be as ‘noumenon’ (the thing in itself); as ‘phenomenon’ (from observation – Dennett points to Kant’s valuable distinction), it has to be a something-or-other either way since I could not be writing this sinkrpoosarams if I didn’t have it.

      My conscious awareness incorporates all my remembered stuff (as noted above once or twice) but, as you say, Pat, it’s never the same two seconds running. It (whatever it might be as ‘noumenon’ (in itself) won’t keep still for a moment. That’s one way of conceiving it.

      Then one might come into the here & now and do something to notice how just ‘being conscious’ (probably what we think of as ‘being aware) can be changed into something quite other. For the last few seconds (minutes, maybe) I’ve just been tapping away on the meaningless keyboard but NOW I say to myself ‘this is me being me here and now being me…’ and the focus changes: capital C Consciousness happens to make me more fully ‘conscious’, noticing things as I wasn’t noticing them before – the red apples on the tree outside my window that I should be out there picking, my hands that have been there for 84 years doing all sorts of things dancing around on the keyboard, the clock ticking up there on the wall, the mess on my desk, the things I should be doing, the next step. I could keep this up indefinitely but like you say, Pat, there might be a bit of overwhelm. But some guy I have on my shelves says we could experience ‘satori’ all the time and ordinary ‘consciousness’ is just a poor human inability to be in Consciousness all that time. It strikes me that the more one can be in ‘self-remembering’ as Gurdjieff/Ouspensky call what I think (pretentiously) is roughly the same idea the more alive one is.

      One might make the effort. I think one can cue the onset of Capital C Consciousness as an Eighth Covey Habit – maybe it’s implied in the First Habit (putting a gap between stimulus & response or Gurdjieffian STOP!)

      What I find really interesting to contemplate is the idea that there’s no such thing as consciousness. Just tossing the word around or imagining that one might ‘explain’ it doesn’t mean that there is such a thing – and that’s it: the very existence of the word ‘reifies’ the entity. Reification is a sin of the first order.

      All that can be called ‘consciousness’ is an abstract emergent property from seen/heard/felt/smelt/tasted experience that issues into images, conceptualisations, mental patterns, and further into attitudes, grumblings, models, theories, remembrances. It’s systemic. This is more or less what Dennett seems to be saying except that he doesn’t diagram it as a system in the way that I shall do when I write the next Glob which you’ve made me conscious that I shall have to do, Pat, when I’ve cast my ‘I’s down a bit more centres of Dennett’s pages.

      Hmmm… Ah well! Back to common or garden small c consciousness and the picking of apples.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Tee hee – I doubt you ‘have’ to read Dennett’s book, even speed reading. I do enjoy his analogy of multiple drafts though – in that it is endlessly alterable; almost by definition. A question occurs, its probably daft. If my consiousness is altered by being conscious to my experiences, does it no by definition alter my view of all similar experiences from before.

        I think you have it here – in my humble opinion that is to say.

        “The concept itself and all writing about it obfuscates whatever it might actually be… ”

        perhaps you could invent a new word?

        and

        “What I find really interesting to contemplate is the idea that there’s no such thing as consciousness. Just tossing the word around or imagining that one might ‘explain’ it doesn’t mean that there is such a thing – and that’s it: the very existence of the word ‘reifies’ the entity.”

        I think that’s it isn’t it. because we have language we think we can explain the unexplainable. What if we accepted that what ever it is, is a phenomenon that cannot be explained. Because when it is not mental, it is entirely experiential and what’s more entirely individual dependent and as well as moment dependent? It’s funny how cobbled we are by language isn’t it? And how it fools us into thinking we know stuff, just because we have a word for it.

        I look forward to the glob and the diagram, meanwhile enjoy the apple picking.

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      2. There is a children’s song …

        Row row row your boat
        gently down the stream,
        merrily merrily merrily merrily
        life is but a dream

        Just came to mind, can’t think why!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I have had similar experiences and thoughts, Colin. I have read much of Colin Wilson, including “The Outsider”, recently, about which I wrote: https://lookabooka.wordpress.com/2021/03/03/the-outsider/
    I have learned social skills which, to some, give me the appearance of being an ‘insider’, but I’m not. I’m still outside, observing, sorting, resorting, summarizing, etc. Ever more frequently I land peacefully at the doorstep of Zen: “All are flowers in a flowering universe.”–Söen Nakagawa Roshi

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  3. Your description of “moments of enthusiasm” that you collect into stories you remember for the rest of your life is remarkable, Colin! It helps me to better understand what has always amazed me about you – how you seem to have remembered every book you’ve ever read and every experience you’ve ever had. And as usual, I thoroughly enjoyed the personal memories you shared. What was up with that old “witch” who nearly kidnapped you???

    Liked by 2 people

    1. 🙂 For many years I’ve regarded remembering things as a reconstructive process (IMLHunter: ‘Memory’ which I see I read in 1966 – a very good year!). I have to dredge my past in order to come up with things. It’s true that many of the things I recall (books, people, occasions) are there because I said to myself (one of my selves and virtually, as it became) ‘I’ll remember this forever’… Is this not something we all do?

      The Reconstructive Process is an important part of ‘consciousness’ – belongs to Meta-I, no doubt. I must remember that – a new thought!!!

      ‘ROOM 15’ should be nearing your neck of the woods soon, Tom!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Room 15 arrived in yesterday’s mail, Colin! Thanks as always. I’m especially looking forward to reading your comments on William James, as well as those on Timothy Snyder and Iris Murdoch. And after reading your reply to Pat above, I’ll also be looking forward to your promised glob on Dennett’s “Consciousness Explained”. Onward!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I think the teacher who said I was a ’round the corner’ person meant that I was deviously uncouth in some way, hid the consequences of my actions, did things furtively so nobody would notice.

    I’ve no idea what the old witch who tried to kidnap me was afflicted by. When I told my mother what had happened she wasn’t inclined to confront her. From this I learned to just let sleeping dogs (or witches) lie. I avoid confrontations even now. Life’s too short.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Can you imagine me being ‘deviously uncouth’?

        By the way – ‘consciousness’ is a polymorphous concept. I like the word ‘polymorphous’ – I just thought it ought to be here…

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I agree about the word polymorphous!

        As for being deviously uncouth – I can’t imagine it no! Mind you we are all very different from the people who went to school.

        And forgive me for this – it is said with great love – I just thought she had judged you as being a bit round the bend, in the way people do when you think differently to them or behave in a way that resists control.

        Speaking personally – I quite like being considered as a bit round the bend. X

        Liked by 2 people

  5. I enjoy the way this glob twists and turns its way along like a river and may I say that the river can be seen as the finite mind, filled with all sorts of moments, some full of small but wondrous objects, stones and whistles, others of a darker nature, witches and slow witted teachers. While the sea can be seen as the infinite mind or consciousness and yes, I believe it can be emptied and although this remains somewhat of a mystery, you’ve charted it out rather nicely here.

    The world is absurd and many great teachers and mystics would agree but they’ve also suggested the possibility of transcending such absurdity but I always start there, a person slips on a bar of soap and dies, something terrifying is going on here.

    What is the nature of our consciousness? What is the nature of our Awareness? Are they interchangeable, have they always been there? Is my body responsible for duality?

    These are the questions your glob has inspired. Sometimes it seems that my story like yours is full of duality with moments of heightened realizations, but my awareness has always been there as my consciousness also. When I examine them by asking a question, “what do I know about my awareness?” I’m not looking for an answer, instead I get Nothing and if I sit with that every day that “Nothing” becomes Peace.

    This glob is full of gold like in alchemy. There is something Divine being spoken about. Gurdjieff said, we see the world upside down, we fill it up with thoughts, feelings, projections, antipathies, and any old thing and this blinds us from Seeing.

    When the river gets to the sea it becomes the ocean, infinite.

    Liked by 1 person

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