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Matter into feeling
A new alchemy of science and spirit
By Fred Alan Wolf
Moment Point PressCopyright © 2002 Fred Alan Wolf
All rights reserved.
The Island of Feeling We Call the Body
No man is an island, entire of himself; every man is a piece of the continent.
Much like Narcissus, who was punished by the goddess Nemesis for resisting Echo's call, spirit embedded in matter as self—meaning body consciousness—resists spirit's call. In doing so, embodied spirit makes a primary distinction: recognizing itself as matter, it becomes entranced, lost in the image of itself as separate from spirit. An illusion, and a powerful one. Thus we, as self, begin the lifelong process of distinguishing one thing from another, a process from which we derive both joy and suffering.
The ability to carry out this action, to make objective discriminations, constitutes scientific intelligence and remains necessary for material survival. The difference between scientific intelligence and spiritual intelligence lies in this ability to discern. It seems the two forms of experience produce a complementarity.
To explain, in quantum physics the principle of complementarity says that the physical universe can never be known independent of an observer's choices of what to observe. Moreover, these choices fall into two distinct, or complementary, sets of observations called observables. Observation of one observable always precludes the possibility of simultaneous observation of its complement. For example, the observation of the location and the observation of the motion of a subatomic particle form complementary observables. Hence the observation of one renders the other indeterminate or uncertain. So the more objective we are in our observations, the more difficulty we will have in dealing with spirit, and the more likely we will become drawn into the material world. Conversely, as we become more spiritually awakened, the less concern we will feel for our material existence.
It's true, scientists have mastered the ability to find particles of matter standing alone with separate properties. Yet they witnessed every electron behaving exactly alike and each atom differing not a chemical whit from any other atom with the same atomic number. Hydrogen is hydrogen and copper is copper, wherever they may roam. This principle of scientific identity seems to hold throughout the universe and indicates that matter only exists according to certain basic structural rules. So although matter appears as separate particles, the fact that they are identical particles tells us that their separation is illusory.
Scientists could have imagined all kinds of matter, but something compelled them to find a simpler, rational basis for all that we experience as matter. That basis culminated into only perceiving matter objectively. With the discovery of quantum physics, however, science uncovered reality's own subjective nature; it found everything connected, joined in identity as if mirrored, and this, in the sense of identical particle construction, pointed to a unity of all matter. It also showed that a deeper, non-material reality played a significant role in determining how objective matter behaved.
But in spite of the compelling evidence of material unity and the recognition of matter's deeper, non-material basis, scientists, with a few notable exceptions, still find spiritual concerns troubling. Thus the battle of spirit with its own reflection in matter goes on. And together matter and spirit make the world into a series of separate "islands." Each island appears to itself and sees the other islands as distinct. As each of us comes into the world, we begin to see ourselves as isolated beings, separate islands seemingly adrift in the vast ocean of life.
In this chapter, we will explore the nature of "island formation," how the individual islands we call our separate lives come into existence. We will learn how coming into feeling— bringing mind into the body—on the one hand gives us the experience we call life, and on the other hand provides each of us with a sense of loneliness and separation from all others. And we will learn to see, though perhaps only dimly, that we are still one. We may appear to ourselves as islands, but we form a continent of life.
The Ego, Stress, and Its Relief
Narcissus dies at the edge of the river gazing at his own reflection. Each of us suffers a similar malady as we gaze intently at the images we call our bodies. Unlike Narcissus, however, we don't just lie there, lost in our reflection. We move on, all the while feeling the loss as we miss the echo of our soul—our spirit calling to us. We live in continual stress arising from the anxiety of the ongoing battle between matter and spirit (body and soul). Some of you may object to this idea, claiming that through special techniques, meditation, spiritual practice, or simply being a good person, we may experience relief from this stress. But, like the suffering of Narcissus, the stress I refer to must continually arise from spirit and body opposing each other. The battle results in a continual conflict we all feel as our common human suffering. Ironically, it is this very condition that makes life worthwhile and leads to the wonderful drama of our daily reality.
Our human condition depends on the rise of spiritual stress. And here the mind enters the game. More than any other causative factor, our thoughts amplify this stress. More important than any medical care, good mental habits promote relief from this stress amplification. By good mental habits I mean simply thinking positively about every situation we encounter, even when critical thought is required.
And while human existence is dependent upon human thought, thought is dependent on our self-concepts—our egos. Sigmund Freud gave us our basic concept of the ego. But Freud was so involved with materialism, in scientifically proving the ego's existence as something real, he got caught in science's objectivity trap. Since then, the concept of the ego has undergone many revisions. The ideas of Freud, along with the more recent ideas of spiritual teachers such as Da Free John, J. Krishnamurti, Paramahansa Yogananda, and the disincarnate entity Seth, have provided me with an insight into the quantum physics of the construction of the ego.
The Freudian Ego
Freud saw the ego as a construction within the psyche (or soul) that arose out of a previous psychic construct he called the id. He envisioned the id as being the oldest psychical apparatus, an idea that arose from his basic assumption that every human being has an inner mental life that comes about through a psychical apparatus. This apparatus, Freud believed, materially exists, possessing both spatial and temporal extent. Freud never hinted as to where the id exists or from what it is constructed. He only said that the id "contains everything that is inherited, that is present at birth, that is laid down in the constitution—above all, therefore, the instincts, which originate from the somatic organization and which find a first psychical expression here [in the id] in forms unknown to us."
In materialistic terms, Freud saw the id and ego as follows: The ego arises out of the id, because the id must interface with the "real" world of stimulation and sensation. That portion of the id called the ego undergoes a special transformation. From the surface of the brain cortex itself—that is, a cortical layer—a special organization arises which acts as the intermediary zone between the id and the outside world's stimulation. The ego, in consequence of the preestablished connection between sense perceptions and muscular action, has voluntary movement at its command. It has the task of self-preservation, a task that it can perform by becoming aware of stimulation, by avoidance of stimulation, by memory, by adaptation, and by learning. It operates within the id by gaining control over the id's demands (the instincts), by choosing which demands to satisfy, by postponing the id's satisfactions, and by consideration of tensions produced by stimuli. Further, the ego is able to differentiate between these tensions in terms of what is felt as pain (non-pleasure) and pleasure. The actual sensing of pleasure exists as a vibrational pattern between two poles of tension called the pain and pleasure points. An increase in tension is felt as pain, a decrease is felt as pleasure. In his theory of the instincts, Freud put forth that the main tensions arose not between the points of pain and pleasure, but between two basic instincts: love and death.
We owe much to the genius of Freud. Since his time, ego has become a major word in Western vocabulary and a point of much consideration for the rational human. Today, however, we see that ego arises as a spirit/matter interface. Let's look at some of the more recent ideas concerning ego.
The Spiritual Ego
Da Free John considers the Freudian ego to be a devastating construct that keeps human beings from realizing their god-selves. He points out that we each live in egoic stress. The ego, he says, is a process of self-possessed physical, emotional, and mental reaction to the circumstances of life—the ego's action is stress production. And stress, he explains, is easy to trigger through either the frustration of self-motion or through the fear of taking that motion. The stress, therefore, is released by either making the motion or by relaxing and releasing the frustration reaction.
In order to accomplish this release, one must learn to notice when stress is arising, a major insight gained through selfknowledge. Sounds simple enough, but few of us actually notice when we are becoming stressed. In fact, noticing that we are stressed and at the same time feeling the stress is like the proverbial rub-your-stomach-pat-your-head trick. In a typical situation, someone may say something to you that is particularly upsetting. You might react by getting angry or feeling depressed. Although you are certainly aware of how you feel, you normally aren't aware that a stress has arisen as a result of these feelings. In other words, you feel, but you don't know you feel.
For example, we have all witnessed, at one time or another, a person who is obviously angry but who answers "no" when asked if he is feeling angry. On first impression, we might think the person is lying. He must see that he is angry, we say to ourselves, why can't he "tell the truth." But from where you stand, you have some objectivity—something the angry person does not have. Remember, knowledge of a feeling and the feeling itself are complementary to each other.
The knowledge that you are having a feeling will alter that feeling. Paramahansa Yogananda describes the ego as the root cause of dualism—the seeming separation between man and his creator. According to Yogananda, ahankara (desire) brings human beings under the sway of maya (cosmic delusion), by which the subject (ego) falsely appears as object.
J. Krishnamurti suggests that our brains, when looked at collectively, are very old. A human brain is not any particular brain; it doesn't belong to anyone. It, instead, has evolved over millions of years. Consequently, there are built-in patterns for success and survival that exist today, but that may be outmoded. One of these patterns is the ego and its tendencies.
The disincarnate entity Seth describes the ego as specialized in expansions of space and its manipulations. The ego arose in tribal environments as a necessary specialization; it enabled data from the senses to be differentiated emotionally and otherwise. Tribes formed in which members were considered as being either inside or outside the tribe. This tribal consciousness was the first group ego. Later, as group consciousness waned due to adaptive evolutionary increase in individual awareness, consciousness was not able to handle the tribal ego as it was, and individuation began to take place.
A Quantum-Physical Model of the Ego
So what do these definitions of ego all add up to? We need to recognize that the ego is dynamic—it changes depending on the feelings a person has. We are all familiar with the terms "crushed ego" and "big ego." Based on such common sense terms, we might say that if a person feels expansive the ego actually expands and the person feels a sense of exaltation. I'll explain this in more detail further on, but note here that I don't mean the ego inflates in the Jungian sense of inflation, meaning puff up with pride. Indeed most likely Jungian inflation results from a blow to the ego resulting, paradoxically, in its contraction. If a person feels contained, the ego undergoes a contraction, possibly a depression or feeling of humility or compassion.
I would like to expand (pun intended) on this metaphorical picture of the ego by introducing a model based on quantum physics. Quantum physics deals with mathematical imaginal forms that represent physical possibilities in the real world. This quantum physics model represents mental forms that represent psychological possibilities we may feel when our egos are involved in any life transaction.
Just as quantum physical models determine and represent the stability and energetic behavior of matter, this model will determine and represent the stability and feeling behavior of mind. I believe this suggests that the ego appears real, not physical—it is not a material object but a construct of mind. Thus the ideal place to find the ego would be in the imaginal realm, the mathematical world of quantum physics. Here the ego appears as a closed surface, like the surface of a sphere or the six sides of a cube. In general, any object enclosed within a boundary will possess an ego.
Particles Have Egos
Many physicists believe that all matter is composed of trapped light, a belief embodied in Einstein's famous E=mc2. According to this equation, when matter emits light energy, it loses some of itself—its mass diminishes. Thus, matter is imagined to be trapped light.
In one of my earlier books, Star Wave, I speculate that human feelings such as love and hate could be described in terms of simpler and more primitive base feelings found in the matter-light transformations of electrons. For example, hate (which I take to be synonymous with desire for isolation), is connected with the fact that no two electrons will ever exist in the same quantum state. Love is explained in terms of the behavior of light particles—photons. All photons tend to move into the same state if given the chance; thus, in a physical sense, the phrase "light is love" is no exaggeration. Hence love represents people tending to be in a unified state of consciousness, as in, for example, lovers being of like minds, or becoming one with God.
In a similar sense, we all suffer from loneliness and other pain connected with our material bodies because of this isolation—or hate—property of electrons. Electrons composed of trapped light desire freedom. Electrons "feel" some form of suffering because of this confinement. Our human suffering arises from theirs and comes out of a desire to become light once again. All of our human feelings and emotions are rooted in these simple physical properties of matter. Or perhaps better put, in light of the new alchemy spirit, the physical properties of matter and the feeling properties we experience come from a deeper place where mind and matter are not separate.
The Quantum Id and Its Feelings
As we saw above, the id is the womb of the ego. Since the id, according to Freud, is composed of timeless states, these states accompany the energy states of the complex humanenergy system. Out of the id arise emotions that cause the body to move and give rise to sensations. That means energy states and emotional states are one and the same in the body. Thus, when feeling expresses itself, energy transforms— changes from one form to another, as when you get up from a chair and transform the potential chemical energy of the body into kinetic or motion energy.
Not everything expressed energetically, however, is sensed. What we call the sensation of feeling arises from transformation of energy, and this transformation requires a rather complex neural network.
Perhaps it would be useful to emphasize that feelings and sensations are not the same thing. I'm using these terms as Carl Jung did. Sensations involve movements of electrons or other electrically charged particles from one place to another—as, for example, in the nervous system or in the brain or muscles. A sensation implies the existence of a disturbing event, such as a pin prick on skin or a grain of sugar melting on a taste bud. Sensations include vibration, heat, cold, taste, smell, sight, and sound. For a sensation to arise, some location in the body must register it. Sensations occur when some particle interacts with a registering device in the body, usually a nerve ending in the skin or, in the case of sight, the retina of the eye. The skin registers a pin prick, for example, while the tongue registers a taste.
Excerpted from Matter into feeling by Fred Alan Wolf. Copyright © 2002 Fred Alan Wolf. Excerpted by permission of Moment Point Press.
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