I wake up at 6 o’clock when the sun is not long before appearing in the sycamore east these autumn days when the apples outside my window have all been picked and the sounds scents & colours are settling into a dreamy haze. And then with complete lack of thought
white as morning
a haiku which could be the result of all sorts of worthy attempts to classify sudden jumps out of ordinariness while retaining objectivity: being in the combined mind/nature unity of ANWhitehead’s ‘organism’; experiencing James Hackett’s ‘interpenetration’; being, by means of common words, some steps on from Gurdjieff’s ‘pure impressions’ (see later); istigkeit; satori; being settled in a non-dual Zen apprehension of ‘reality’; coming from inner directedness; an authenticity; a drift deriving from Sartre’s ‘pre-reflective cogito’; a peak experience; an emergent property of an unconsidered (natural) balance of intellect/emotion/action/gut feeling; concocted by Right Brain consciousness; just a mystical event, one of many down the years – revelation of the calm reality behind what seems ordinary, part of a protest against choosing to let it become the pedestrian norm.
As a result of writing this haiku I am not the least bit what I thought I was the night before; nor is the universe (that is, everything-there-is) a bit like it was when I went to bed. Me alone. Turning inward gets you freedom; turning outward lurches you towards purpose & goals.
And then we’re back to consciousness, a potent Nothingness (‘mere wind blowing towards objects’, as Sartre says) which just happens to be there, allowing all this ramble (notice right now that you’re employing consciousness to think about consciousness in some way or another), either pointedly directed at this here now computer hum or potentially boundless, capable of being infinitely filled with intensity as a result of something out of Whitehead’s ‘…experience drunk and experience sober, experience sleeping and experience waking, experience drowsy and experience wide awake, experience self-conscious and experience self-forgetful, experience intellectual and experience physical, experience spiritual and experience sceptical, experience anxious and experience carefree … experience normal and experience abnormal…’
The cataloguing of all this is my own attempt to make meaning for myself within what I take to be an absurdly meaningless universe. The idea I long ago took on trust from Sartre that there is no ultimate purpose or point in existence is for me far from negative because it leaves us free to define our own purposes – what a colossal freedom! Beneficent, so long as the drive to express purpose in behaviour is accompanied by Godwin’s one moral principle – that one should never do anything to harm another person.
Plague isolation has made me realise to the full that self-chosen purposes come from love of living – nothing much to do with any particular bit of life but related to pure need beyond specific events & objects, out of time & space. Consciousness can very well be out of time & space.
Having just finished re-reading Colin Wilson’s Beyond the Outsider (repetitious & flogging dead horses, disappointing except for the usual highlights) I was reminded of ANWhitehead’s levels of perception which I prefer to express as a system, consciousness being the emergent property. Such a model can stick at any point but we can keep going round it to great advantage when we’re aware of the possibility.
Because it formed the basis of everything I did in teaching from 1968 till very recently, I frequently quote ANWhitehead’s observation (The Aims of Education) that formal education often (mostly) presents us with knowledge which remains ‘inert’ unless we are encouraged to do something with it; the true aim of all education is to make everything we come across into our own lively possession. Grasping with prehension is the stage where we can make learning into our own possession as I’ve just done here by making the ideas spread out over many pages pages in Colin Wilson’s book into a system, a mode of operating which is deeply embedded in my consciousness. Wilson seems unaware of systemic processes which might have saved much repetition in his writing.
Time flies… I woke up on the 4th of July 2003 thinking BRACKETS!
Or If you are the proud possessor of Room Ten you can find what followed on from my waking thought on 4/7/2003 there (in Combologue 11 to be precise).
When we ask the question how consciousness selects the way it wants to be at any one moment we might engage Edmund Husserl and his notion of ‘bracketing’. Because everything is otherwise so complicated, we pretty well inevitably bracket things off from one another in order to focus on what’s in a single bracket, one part of a system, for example, ‘immediate perception’ as it might be, to the exclusion of the rest of the system. Bracketing has the negative effect of preventing ‘joined up thinking’, of separating a political slogan, for example, from what a politician actually stands for – eg in the UK the current Tory bracketed slogan of ‘levelling up’ when everything they do is a confirmation that they intend to preserve the power possessors’ unequal advantage; a majority of voters are apparently happy to insert ‘buffers’ (Gurdjieff’s idea) between contradictions they find it impossible to reconcile, self-calming themselves into accepting the bracketed lie that Tories are ‘born to rule’.
But ‘bracketing’ can be a potent way of thinking: in mathematics, just as I do now, brackets can be multiplied together systemically to get out of the usual limiting single-minded way of looking at things (the ‘natural standpoint’); bracketing off perceptual modes can result in the useful observation that each represents one of many multiple ‘I’s, for example, awareness of which enables us to travel around in consciousness from one to another, adding up the consequences: Immediately-perceiving-I, Perceiving-with-intention-I, Engaging-in-conceptual-analysis-I, leading to the question – how many others might there be? I count at least one!
Heidegger points out that we don’t really see colours, shapes, movement and so on; we read them but so quickly that it seems like seeing. Consequently, there’s a stage before what we like to think of as ‘immediate perception’; the reading process already puts labels on things-read so that they form impressions already subject to classification and likely distortion; our choice of labels is inevitably conditioned by past experience, belief, hangups, pre-suppositions of all kinds.
Gurdjieff talks about the ‘Food of Pure Impressions’ being far more important to human life than either the food of oxygen or the things we eat from a plate. How is it possible to remove labels and just see cleanly without the intervention of any kind of ratiocination? Here’s a way of doing it! Gathering-in-the-Food-of-pure-impressions-I.
Go for a walk and look around you. There will be many things to notice on which you will have imposed labels (trees, sky, birds, buildings and so on…). Take a moment, one step after another, to forget the names – just look at shapes, colours, movements, sounds, remembering that you have an inborn proclivity to read such things. Acknowledge that shapes, colours and so on are still labels you are pinning on to things,… Forget these different kinds of labels… Then forget that you are forgetting anything and forget that; the result will be that you will find yourself walking through pure impressions. When you walk back the same way you came, notice the difference now. Breathe in the purity of impressions. Our system becomes:-
Given this revised system of consciousness, the haiku
white as morning
could be deconstructed thus:-
I wonder what we shall wake up to tomorrow.