This article started from a simple question on the blog but things have deepened since I last explored the topic.
First, by senses, I mean our abilities to experience qualities in and around us. We have physical sense organs for sensing physical qualities like the visible spectrum. But our ability to sense and experience is not at all limited to those organs.
We have more subtle mechanisms for subtler levels all the way down to and including consciousness itself. Sensing is built in to the nature of reality. The world is created to be experienced and we’re here to experience it.
However, our senses remain specialized, designed for certain key qualities of the environment. We sense a very narrow but key band (“visible light”) of the electromagnetic spectrum, for example. This a pre-filter that varies some by person and species.
We also heavily filter what we are sensing. This makes sense if you consider the processing power we have available. There is a lot of sensory data but only a small portion at a time needs our conscious attention. It’s a little like browsing the web. There are billions of web sites but we can only view one at a time.
The mechanism in here is interesting. Biologically, our brain compares incoming sensory information with past experiences to determine what is important. This happens in the fraction of a second before any sensory experience becomes conscious. We’ve already pre-filtered before anything reaches our awareness. This is why past impressions have such an influence on our world-view.
But we do not store these past experiences in the brain. The brain is more like an antenna to access them. Sheldrake describes morphic fields but it’s more complex than that. We store unresolved experiences in several layers. We can store aspects in the physical body, the energy body, and the mental body. Each has their own characteristics that relate to their medium. We can think of them like solid, liquid, and movement qualities although residuals are more like sludge than liquid.
Our memories are primarily stored another step deeper, in the “knowledge” body, Vijnanamaya kosha. This is also known as the intellect or Buddhi and the intuition. It’s the intellect that discriminates the significance of incoming sensory data. Westerners have referred to memory as the “akashic records.” Akasha is the subtlest element that means space. Space is the field of vibration or becoming.
However, space isn’t a suitable medium for storage. Storage needs structure. Hence we step forward into the “Air” body where structure or subtle geometry arises. I’ve mentioned before how space is nested, spaces within spaces. We could call memory structured space. The space defines its vibrational characteristics, associating it with your lived life. The structure gives the platform on which to “hang” memory.
This means our brain is reading the “akashic records” constantly. Our brain is continually changed by new experiences. As new experiences arise, new connections are made, sometimes supplanting some older experiences we’re not referring to. Access to those old memories fades.
In past writing, I’ve suggested the intellect kosha is free of the detritus of unresolved experiences seen in the mental and emotional bodies. But it has become clear that we can store patterns or templates that don’t support us in this “knowledge” body.
In Indian philosophy, they generally see the mind as the source of the senses but I’d say it’s better to see the mind as the processor of sensory information. The sense organs send their data to the mind and it filters and digests experiences much like our digestive tract digests food. The result ends up in memory and we learn from experiences and add to our knowledge body.
The mind also assembles a “picture” of the world from this data. This sensory picture you’re experiencing right now has little to do with how the world actually is, as physics tells us. The picture is a convenient working model we learn from those around us in our first months of life. We copy others models or templates so we have a common way of organizing experiences. Because of the way the mind processes experiences and hangs them on a conceptual model, it’s always working from the past.
But the mind is not the source of sensing. Otherwise, we couldn’t experience the mind itself, the celestial, or consciousness. We can’t quite say consciousness is the source of experiencing as that begins before consciousness. But we can call consciousness the medium of experience. In the 3-fold nature of self-aware consciousness, we have the experiencer, the object of experience, and the process of experience between them. The last is the one we’re least aware of and the deeper source of sensing.
In self-aware consciousness, attention flows within itself to objects of perception. We could say the object responds by feeding back its qualities. The senses pick up the data they’re attuned to.
However, when we recognize that we are the object also (Unity), it’s more accurate to say the attention enlivens the qualities and they’re sensed. Because we are the object, we then know the qualities directly in consciousness. There isn’t really a back and forth. The experience is more direct.
This is why some curious sensory things are possible. Like the finger pulling back from heat before the signal can get to the brain and back. Or the pro baseball batter having to swing before the pitcher has let the ball go. The brain isn’t just quantum mechanical, it’s an antenna of consciousness.
Attention flowing to the object is the reverse of sensory information flowing to the subject as is commonly understood. Yet this is how it operates more deeply.
Certainly there are processes taking place on all levels of sensing. The enlivenment does create qualities we can trace to sensory responses in the physical senses. But these are reflections of deeper movements and not the cause of perception.
We sense from enlivening qualities in what we put our attention on. The more awake our perception is, the more layers and qualities we enliven and the more we can sense. And the more we awaken the environment.
Attention behaves a little like dropping a pebble in water. The focus enlivens the medium, and it flows out, awakening its surroundings. It also collapses the probability wave form into a specific form.
This points to the source of experiencing itself, the pure Shakti’s of the Divine. Shakti is like threads. Where consciousness touches them, we experience the point value and an enlivening of objects of perception. This, ultimately, is the source of perception.
This is why consciousness is aware of itself both globally and at every point. And this is why, when we become identified with the content of perception, we experience ourselves as individuals, a point value.
Further, it points to why perception can be the last we let go of. And why it’s easy to get caught in chasing experiences. The senses are intimate to our sense of self, purpose, and knowing.
Yet consciousness is universal. It’s not my consciousness sensing, it’s the consciousness. From another perspective, it is the cosmic body experiencing through the universal devata body, managing the process of experience.
Part 2 >