Inner Knowing: Consciousness, Creativity, Insight, and Intuitionby Helen Palmer, Charles H. Simpkinson (Foreword by)
Inner Knowing illustrates that the human mind possesses the capability to consistently function at significantly high levels of perception, creativeness, and intuitiveness. Indeed, everyone has at one time in his life experienced a sense of mindful clarity that led to a Eureka! moment. In this latest addition to Tarcher's successful New Consciousness Reader series, Helen Palmer, author of The Enneagram, has compiled a collection of writings that explore such abilities and illustrate how they can be developed. Essays on exercising the mind, understanding synchronicity, experiencing "flow," establishing communication between the conscious and subconscious, utilizing the active imagination, listening to the body's feedback, and witnessing psychic displays of walking on fire, clairvoyance, and similar phenomena make up this enlightening, thought-provoking, and fascinating anthology. Contributors include: Bruno Bettelheim, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Sylvia Boorstein, Pema Chodron, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Betty Edwards, Erich Fromm, Daniel Goleman, Aldous Huxley, Carl Jung, Jack Kornfield, J. Krishnamurti, Philip Novak, Charles Tart, Montague Ullman, Frances Vaughan, Mark Waldman, and Roger Walsh.A sophisticated book representing the essence of the NCR series, Inner Knowing offers readers confidence in themselves as they reawaken subtle senses while learning to trust and utilize new ways of perceiving, knowing, and living.
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1. Doors in the Wall by Aldous Huxley
Writing in the 1950s, Aldous Huxley was far ahead of his time in articulating the limitations of the intellectualism that surrounded him. He was a superb and impassioned exemplar for those of us who were barely on the edge of recognizing our own potentials for an inner life. Just by being who he was, Huxley gave off the message that a direct, personal experience of higher consciousness was possible for ordinary people, precisely at a time when American education was focused on behaviorism. The Doors of Perception, which contains this selection, was written by a man struck with awe at finding his own place in a transcendent order of consciousness. It is an anthem of its time, not only because Huxley dared to speak of altered states of consciousness, but because he had the gift of communicating his inner worlds to others.
That humanity at large will ever be able to dispense with Artificial Paradise seems very unlikely. Most men and women lead lives at the worst so painful, at the best so monotonous, poor, and limited, that the urge to escape, the longing to transcend themselves if only for a few moments, is and has always been one of the principal appetites of the soul. Art and religion, carnivals and saturnalia, dancing and listening to oratory--all these have served, in H. G. Wells' phrase, as Doors in the Wall.
In a world where education is predominantly verbal, highly educated people find it all but impossible to pay serious attention to anything but words and notions. There is always money for, there are always doctorates in, the learned foolery of research into what, for scholars, is the all-important problem: Who influenced whom to say what when? Even in this age of technology, the verbal humanities are honored. The non-verbal humanities, the arts of being directly aware of the given facts of our existence, are almost completely ignored. A catalogue, a bibliography, a definitive edition of a third-rate versifier's ipsissima verba, a stupendous index to end all indexes--any genuinely Alexandrian project is sure of approval and financial support. But when it comes to finding out how you and I, our children and grandchildren, may become more perceptive, more intensely aware of inward and outward reality, more open to the Spirit, less apt, by psychological malpractices, to make ourselves physically ill, and more capable of controlling our own autonomic nervous system--when it comes to any form of non-verbal education more fundamental (and more likely to be of some practical use) than Swedish drill, no really respectable person in any really respectable university or church will do anything about it. Verbalists are suspicious of the non-verbal; rationalists fear the given, non-rational fact; intellectuals feel that "what we perceive by the eye (or in any other way) is foreign to us as such and need not impress us deeply." Besides, this matter of education in the non-verbal humanities will not fit into any of the established pigeonholes. It is not religion, not neurology, not gymnastics, not morality or civics, not even experimental psychology. This being so the subject is, for academic and ecclesiastical purposes, non-existent and may safely be ignored altogether or left, with a patronizing smile, to those whom the Pharisees of verbal orthodoxy call cranks, quacks, charlatans and unqualified amateurs.
"I have always found," Blake wrote rather bitterly, "that Angels have the vanity to speak of themselves as the only wise. This they do with a confident insolence sprouting from systematic reasoning."
Systematic reasoning is something we could not, as a species or as individuals, possibly do without. But neither, if we are to remain sane, can we possibly do without direct perception, the more unsystematic the better, of the inner and outer worlds into which we have been born. This given reality is an infinite which passes all understanding and yet admits of being directly and in some sort totally apprehended. It is a transcendence belonging to another order than the human, and yet it may be present to us as a felt immanence, an experienced participation. To be enlightened is to be aware, always, of total reality in its immanent otherness--to be aware of it and yet to remain in a condition to survive as an animal, to think and feel as a human being, to resort whenever expedient to systematic reasoning. Our goal is to discover that we have always been where we ought to be. Unhappily, we make the task exceedingly difficult for ourselves. Meanwhile, however, there are gratuitous graces in the form of partial and fleeting realizations. Under a more realistic, a less exclusively verbal system of education than ours, every Angel (in Blake's sense of that word) would be permitted as a sabbatical treat, would be urged and even, if necessary, compelled to take an occasional trip through some Door in the Wall into the world of transcendental experience. If it terrified him, it would be unfortunate but probably salutary. If it brought him a brief but timeless illumination, so much the better. In either case the Angel might lose a little of the confident insolence sprouting from systematic reasoning and the consciousness of having read all the books.
Near the end of his life Aquinas experienced Infused Contemplation. Thereafter he refused to go back to work on his unfinished book. Compared with this, everything he had read and argued about and written--Aristotle and the Sentences, the questions, the Propositions, the majestic Summas--was no better than chaff or straw. For most intellectuals such a sit-down strike would be inadvisable, even morally wrong. But the Angelic Doctor had done more systematic reasoning than any twelve ordinary Angels, and was already ripe for death. He had earned the right, in those last months of his mortality, to turn away from merely symbolic straw and chaff to the bread of actual and substantial Fact. For Angels of a lower order and with better prospects of longevity, there must be a return to the straw. But the man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less cocksure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable Mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend.
2. The Archaeology of Consciousness: An Interview with Owen Barfield by Gary Lachman
Here is a lovely glimpse of the Western philosophical tradition in the flesh. Barfield, now in his nineties, is a seminal thinker in the related fields of language and the evolution of consciousness. To the few who recognize his name, he is identified with the emerging term "participatory epistemology," the knowing that occurs when perceiver and perceived are united as a single consciousness.
In this excellent summary, Lachman consolidates key points from Barfield's work: that consciousness is perpetually evolving; that the history of language itself reveals an "original participation" with nature and the environment; and that imagination is the vehicle for participatory consciousness, a fact that is self-evident to anyone who has ever received a significant dream. This was certainly true for me when I had accurate waking visions of supposedly unknowable future events.
But rather than stay with the passive knowing that occurs in dreams and reveries, Barfield sees the next evolutionary step for humanity as an ability to actively recognize the inner meaning of our surroundings through heightened powers of imagination.
Owen Barfield is not a name on everyone's lips. Even in the relatively small community of scholars who should know him, mention of Barfield usually brings looks of ignorance or, at best, dim recognition. "Oh yes. He's that fellow who was friends with C. S. Lewis, wasn't he?" Given some familiarity with Barfield's work, you might receive a more in-depth but not necessarily more enlightened remark, as I did when mentioning him to a university academic in a London pub. "Barfield?" he said. "You mean that Coleridge loony?"
With perceptions like this, is it surprising that a writer of books about the origin of language and the evolution of consciousness should be unknown to the general public? Hardly. But when that writer is one of the most interesting thinkers of the twentieth century, one can only comment, "More's the pity."
Owen Barfield--scholar, philosopher, poet, novelist, friend of C. S. Lewis, and interpreter of Rudolf Steiner--is, at 97, one of the most remarkable men alive today. Born in North London in 1898, Barfield fought in the First World War, lived through the Blitz, [and] endured the tensions of the Cold War.... In terms of intellectual and cultural history, his career has been a chronology of twentieth century thought. Early books, like History in English Words (1926) and Poetic Diction (1927), were written in the suffocating atmosphere of logical positivism, when philosophy as a "love of wisdom" was abandoned for a sterile hair-splitting of syntax. Barfield's belief in language as an archaeological record of "the evolution of consciousness," was as at odds with the reigning Zeitgeist as you could get....
The Archaeology of Consciousness
The basic idea behind the evolution of consciousness is, as Barfield briefly put it in Romanticism Comes of Age, "the concept of man's self-consciousness as a process in time." Compare this with the notion of the "history of ideas." In the standard history of ideas, an ancient Greek and a postmodern American have very different ideas about the world, but both perceive the world the same way--with the understanding that our ideas, informed by modern science, are closer to the truth. There's no difference between the consciousness of the ancient Greek and ours, only between the concepts "inside" it. When we open our eyes, we see the same world. It's just that we have better ideas about it.
For Barfield this is totally wrong. Not only do their ideas about the world differ, but the world the ancient Greek saw and the one we see are not the same. The kind of consciousness we enjoy--if that's the right word for it--is very different from that of the ancient Greek--or the Greek of late antiquity, or a person from the Middle Ages, or even one of the early Modern Age. Not only our ideas about things, Barfield tells us, but our consciousness itself has evolved over time. And if we are to take seriously the contention of philosophers like Immanuel Kant--that the world we perceive is a product of our perceptual apparatus--then a world produced by different consciousnesses at different times will be, well, different.
One of the most fascinating conclusions Barfield draws from this is that all ideas about the pre-historic world, from paleontological textbooks to popular depictions like Jurassic Park are, at the least, questionable. "They project a picture of that world as it would be seen by a consciousness alive today. We have no way of knowing what that world looked like to a different consciousness because we have no record from a consciousness of that time. We can only speculate." To the contention that we have the palaeontological record Barfield replies, "It's nevertheless our consciousness that discovers fossils and organizes them into the schemata of ancient life."
But if we can only speculate about the nature of reality before the rise of consciousness, there is another record, one we find not by digging through ancient earth, but by scrutinizing ancient texts. This is language, the study of which, according to Barfield, is "a kind of archaeology of consciousness." As he writes in History in English Words:
... in language ... the past history of mankind is spread out in an imperishable map, just as the history of the mineral earth lies embedded in the layers of its outer crust. But there is this difference: whereas the former can only give us a knowledge of outward, dead things ... language has preserved for us the inner, living history of man's soul. It reveals the evolution of consciousness.
And whereas the orthodox view of evolution has a pre-existing, external world much like our own, made up of distinct, independent, impermeable objects, the record left us by language, Barfield argues, suggests something different.
From Poetry to Prose
"The standard understanding of the evolution of language," Barfield told me, "is that all words referring to something spiritual or abstract have their origin in literal meaning. So when we refer to a `spirit' enlivening the physical body, what we are talking about is something like breath. We find this in the Hebrew ruach and the Greek pneuma." Or, as he wrote in Poetic Diction:
... it is a commonplace ... that, whatever word we hit on, if we trace its meaning far enough back, we find it apparently expressive of some tangible, or at all events, perceptible object or some physical activity ... Throughout the recorded history of language the movement of meaning has been from the concrete to the abstract.
The result of this is the insight, voiced by thinkers like Emerson and Nietzsche, that modern language, with its abstract terms and nuances of meaning, is, as Barfield writes, "apparently nothing ... but an unconscionable tissue of dead, or petrified, metaphors." The further we dig into language, the more metaphors we find.
But there's something wrong with this, Barfield says. Etymologists, like the famous Oriental scholar Max Mueller, believed that early humans began with very simple, literal words and phrases for tangible, perceptible things. Then, with the "dawn of reason" (itself a metaphor), our ancestors began to use these phrases "metaphorically," to describe inner and outer experience. If we take this theory to its logical conclusion, Barfield argues, "the result should be that today, after millenia of metaphor building, we should all be spouting poetry whenever we speak." And likewise, we should, being so much more sophisticated, find poetry from earlier times rather less poetic. Neither of which, of course, is true. Homer still thrills like nothing else. Mueller and his followers erred, Barfield believes, by adopting an unquestioned Darwinian approach to the history of language. Just as simple organisms became more complex over time, so too language evolved, from simple "root" words denoting tangible "things," into our highly abstract and metaphorical speech. "The only problem with this, is the evidence from language itself," Barfield argues.
What the history of language tells us, Barfield says, is that "our ancestors didn't use language as Mueller believed, because they didn't see the same world as Mueller did. Mueller projected the world as perceived by late-nineteenth century European man into the past. That's why the only account of the history of language he could give was one that followed Darwinian ideas of progress." The kind of world ancient man saw--and our ancestors continued to see until fairly recent times--Barfield believes, was one in which human consciousness "participated." At that stage of the evolution of consciousness, the distinction between "self" and "the world" was not as rigid as it is today. What Mueller misunderstood as metaphoric was early man's ability to see the "inside" of things, just as we now are aware of our own "inside"--our minds. Accounts of nature spirits; folk tales and myths about fairies, nymphs, and sylphs; legends of gods walking the earth, are all rooted in this "participatory consciousness." This was the kind of world (and consciousness) that poets like Blake, Coleridge, and Goethe believed in and at times felt. It was also the kind of consciousness described by Rudolf Steiner. Barfield calls it "original participation."
Original and Final Participation
"Original participation," according to Barfield, is a "primal unity of mind and nature, with no separation between inner and outer worlds." At that point, nature, he believes, was as subjective, as inward, as we are. But what happened is that gradually "unconscious nature" became localized in human consciousness. If we think of "unconscious nature" as a vast ocean, and the initial separation of human consciousness as wavelets lifting themselves up from the surface, we'll have an idea of what Barfield means. Gradually this process continues, with an increasingly tenuous link between our new "self" consciousness and its "unconscious" source, until we arrive at our present state: a completely other "outside world" with separate islands of inwardness housed within our individual skulls. At this point we are as far away from "original participation" as we can get.
But although some bemoan our exodus from the garden, this estrangement from our source was absolutely necessary, Barfield tells us. The path of evolution, he says, isn't a straight line; it is much more like a U. The left hand of the U traces the path from "original participation" to our current estrangement from nature. By the nineteenth century and the rise of a completely materialist "explanation" of the world, including the most "immaterial" thing we know, consciousness, we had reached the bottom of the U. Now we are just beginning to make our ascent back up, this time on the right hand of the U. This is the essential difference. Because now we can begin to "participate" in "the world" not passively--as we had as "primitive" humans and as animals do today--but actively, by becoming conscious of the power of our imagination in creating "the world." (And if we need an example of the difference between active and passive participation, we need merely recognize the difference between our dreams, in which we passively encounter a series of strange symbolic experiences, over which we have no, or extremely little, control, and the consciousness of an artist or poet focused intently on his work.) We had to leave the security of "original participation" in order for consciousness to take the next step in its evolution. Having hit bottom on the evolutionary curve, we are beginning our ascent to what he calls "final participation," a conscious participation in the cosmos.
Polarity and Creative Imagination
The idea of an evolution of consciousness, though unorthodox, is not as strange today as it may have seemed when Barfield first presented it. Since then it's been argued by several thinkers, notably the philosopher Jean Gebser in The Ever-present Origin, and the Jungian theorist Erich Neumann in The Origin and History of Consciousness. But Barfield's take on it is peculiar, and perhaps his most startling idea is a reversal of the standard materialist account of mind's emergence from matter. Rather than a fluke product of material evolution, Barfield argues that consciousness itself is responsible for "the world." That's why there's no answer to questions about the "origin of language" when asked from the orthodox position. Asking about the origin of language, Barfield says, is like asking about "the origin of origin." Language didn't come about as a way to imitate, master, or explain nature, as it is usually assumed, because "nature" as we understand it didn't exist until language did. According to Barfield, the polarities mind/world and language/nature are the result of splitting up "original participation." To understand language, Barfield tells us, we must imagine ourselves back to a stage at which human consciousness hadn't yet separated from its unconscious background. At that point there was no "nature" and no "consciousness"--at least not as we understand it. "Nature," Barfield tells us, didn't exist until human consciousness came into its own. The "world" we see is the result of thousands of years of work by the human mind.
Meet the Author
Helen Palmer is the bestselling author of five books, including The Enneagram, and codirector of the Center for Enneagram Studies. She lives in California.
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