Selected Correspondence Peter
Apperception vs. Choiceless Awareness
RESPONDENT: My first questions relate to what is (apparently) lost in AF. If there is no imaginative faculty, no mind-space at all in which to visualise objects and processes, how is it possible to understand systems and processes that do not occur right before one’s eyes?
For example: could Peter continue being an architect if he were to experience the final physiological transformation that Richard has undergone? By what means could he design and mentally manipulate new architectural plans if he had no imaginative faculty? How could he understand and discuss plans with a colleague, without seeing an actual representation of them? How could he rearrange mental images if he has no ‘mind space’, no inner eye? Would he become useless (as an architect) without his CAD software?
PETER: The reason I thought to respond was that I have made a living as an architect whilst being a ‘normal’ person and continue to do so whilst being virtually free of malice and sorrow. I have also had numerous PCEs so I know by experience what it would be to be work as an architect free of the burden of passions and imagination.
As I remember it, when I was normal the design process was a somewhat tortuous process – it was an essential part of the process to try and form a mental image of what I was designing before I tried to convert the mental image into a drawing. This forming of a mental image sometimes began even before the job started, before I met the clients or saw the land. The mental image was then based solely on what ‘I’ wanted to do, which was often at odds with what the client wanted to do or had the money to pay for or what best suited the site, the climate, the local regulations, the ease of construction, and so on. In other words the image of what I wanted to do was utterly selfist, passionate and imaginary and not at all not rooted in actuality.
This process of forming a mental image and then trying to actualize it in some form is often termed ‘the creative process’ and I very often suffered angst and anguish going through this process – feelings that are well-documented as being part and parcel of being a ‘creative’ person. Of course many self-aggrandizing feelings also arise – there is no more smug feeling than ‘me’ feeling that ‘I’ am being creative – particularly when ‘I’ receive the plaudits of others for being ‘the creator’.
However this feeling of smugness always had a hollow ring to it for me because ‘I’ was often aware that ‘I’ was claiming credit for something ‘I’ was not responsible for. Sometimes I would put this feeling into words such as ‘it wasn’t me who did it’ and I have heard others do likewise. I have also heard people say things like ‘there is a creative force that works through me’, often implying that ‘there is a Creative, aka Divine, Force that works through me’ and the more megalomaniacal even get to think and feel that ‘I am the Creative Force’. There is so much self-indulgent twaddle that has been written about creativity as to make the word creative hackneyed and I was aware of this even in my pre-actualist days.
When I became an actualist I started to become more attentive to my feelings and this included the feelings that were happening when I was trying to mentally conceptualize a design, as well as those feelings that were happening during the putting-it-down-on-paper stage. I started to become attentive to not only the emotional ups and downs that I went through but also to the effect these feelings had on others in my interactions with clients and builders, as well as those most close to me.
Late one night in my first year as an actualist, as I was working on the drawing board, I had a pure conscious experience whereby my mind became aware of itself working. There was apperception happening in that there was no ‘me’ being aware – there was simply the brain being aware of the brain in operation, in this case doing the task of designing a house. The process that was happening was fascinating to observe – there was a continual consideration of the parameters that governed the design: the client’s requirements, past experience, site considerations, planning and building regulations, structural considerations, climate considerations, budget, ease of building, appearance, durability, workability and so on.
There was a repeated shuffling of ideas and information operating – a trial and error process of working out the best solution – and it was magical to observe, even more so because there was awareness of only part of the process that was going on, there was a good deal happening ‘on the back burner’ as it were. Sometimes a particular issue was set aside for a while whilst another issue was addressed and when I returned to it later the best solution came instantaneously which made it apparent that there was an awareness only of the surface activity of the brain in action.
The operation of the human brain is such an exquisite intricacy as to be truly wondrous. With no ‘I’ in the road to agonize over the process, nor a ‘me’ present to either exalt or despair at the outcome, there was simply the brain doing what the brain does – think, plan, reflect, evaluate, compare, compute, assess and mull over, as well as simultaneously being aware that this is what it is doing. And not only that, whilst the brain is being apperceptively aware, it is also serving as the central processing unit for the sensory perceptive system of the body – continually processing the myriad of sensate information that is this flesh and blood body’s sensual sensitivity to whatever is happening in this moment.
In a PCE, it is wondrously apparent that the brain itself is not doing the sensing, it is only interpreting or making sense of the sensory input – and only doing so when and if it is needed to do so. There is an awareness that it is the eyes that are doing the seeing – there is no image of what the eyes are seeing that is transferred to the cerebral brain, there is an awareness that it is the ears that are doing the hearing – there is no sound that is transferred to the cerebral brain, there is an awareness that it is the skin that is doing the feeling and touching – there is no tactile response felt in the cerebral brain … and so on.
In a PCE, the brain, bereft of any illusionary identity together with its associated affective faculty, is incapable of forming mental images or indulging in imaginary scenarios – it is either apperceptively aware that it is involved in doing what it does, thinking and interpreting sensory inputs or it is not, in which case there is no thinking or interpreting going on, simply a sensual awareness of being conscious of being alive.
Now whilst such ‘self’-less experiences of apperception only occur in a PCE, an actualist who has got to the stage of being virtually free of malice and sorrow can operate and function with very little of the debilitating effects of ‘I’ stuffing things up or ‘me’ strutting the stage like some disembodied drama queen in a dream, or a nightmare, of ‘my’ imagination. In virtual freedom it is readily apparent that there is no need to indulge in imaginative fantasies nor to attempt to create mental images – in fact should they occur they are quickly seen for what they are – a pathetic substitute for the sumptuousness of actuality.
To bring this back to the business of being an architect, it means that any attempt on ‘my’ part to form a mental image, either prior to or during the design process, only inhibits the doing of the designing – a practical doing that happens anyway and happens at its very best whenever ‘I’ am absent from the scene.
I don’t know if that answers your question but I had fun writing of my experiences as an actualist. As I said, there is so much twaddle written about so-called creativity that it is good to have some sense written about the actuality of creating something.
PETER: The operation of the human brain is such an exquisite intricacy as to be truly wondrous. With no ‘I’ in the road to agonize over the process, nor a ‘me’ present to either exalt or despair at the outcome, there was simply the brain doing what the brain does – think, plan, reflect, evaluate, compare, compute, assess and mull over, as well as simultaneously being aware that this is what it is doing.
RESPONDENT: Ah, I see my mistake now. The I-complex tends to regard itself as the very heart and soul of intelligence, which is amazingly stupid in hindsight.
PETER: What I was describing was the functioning of the human brain in a pure consciousness experience when ‘I’ am temporarily absent, and as you know, a pure consciousness experience is a rare event. In normal experiencing the ‘‘I’-complex’, to use your words – doesn’t regard itself as the very heart and soul of intelligence, ‘he’ or ‘she’ so totally dominates that there is precious little thinking happening that is not ‘I’ thinking and moreover whatever thinking is happening is most often dominated by ‘my’ feelings. In short, ‘I’ don’t tend to regard myself as being the centre of ‘my’ world, ‘I’ am the centre of my world.
The actualism method is specifically tailored to break down dominance and if the process is allowed to fully run its course self-immolation is the end result.
RESPONDENT: I should know better already. Whenever I’m playing music, programming or writing at my best, ‘I’ get the hell out of the way, and that’s when all the interesting stuff starts to happen. I suspect this is a common hurdle for newcomers to AF. If ‘I’ am equivalent to ‘my’ intelligence or creativity, then the absence of ‘I’ is absence of intelligence or creativity. Not so.
PETER: Yes, but as you know, there is a vast difference between single-mindedly focussing one’s attention on a task and having a ‘self’-less pure consciousness experience, which is what I was talking about.
I don’t want to put a damper on your reflections about the subject but history shows that seeking fulfilment and meaning via the single-minded fixation on artistic, academic, scientific or sporting pursuits is a fickle business. I remember about 10 years ago doing a job when everything went well – not only the design but the building process as well. When it was completed I remember thinking ‘now what’ – this is as good as it gets doing what I do for a living and even if every job was as good as this it was definitely not the meaning of life. I then understood experientially that what I did to make money – what people pretentiously call ‘being creative’ – was no more and no less than what I did to make money, which helped in that it put a final line through the idea that what ‘I’ did for a living was the meaning of life.
PETER: The issue of worthy or unworthy seems to me to be a bit of a side issue. The main question is what do you want to do with your life?
RESPONDENT: I think what I want to do with my life is only apparent from one moment to the next and that seems to be constantly changing but it seems to do with being curious, seriously curious about the workings of self. I had actually decided to end this ego self 10 years or so ago but because it was self trying to end self without a ‘relentless inquiring attention’ there was bound to be failure. Now with the aid of ‘How am I question...’ more of the moments are caught rather than the usual see one moment then skip a few moments and get lost in self intellectualization again. Curiosity I think, needs to be given complete leeway.
PETER: I was trained as an architect but on graduating found working in an office to be too removed from the building site where the business of building buildings actually happened. Consequently I became an architect-builder-carpenter as my interest was more in the practical implementing of a idea.
When I came across Richard I had spent 17 years on the spiritual path attempting to end the ‘ego-self’ but was ready to abandon the effort. I had begun to have some Altered State of Consciousness experiences but the suspicions and doubts I had of the Master-disciple business, the God-men’s lifestyle, how they were with their women, etc., meant that Enlightenment was losing its attraction. I was also becoming more and more aware of the fact that Eastern Spirituality is nothing more than Eastern Religion. I soon came to see that there were two identities preventing me being happy and harmless – the ‘normal Peter’ who was father, man, architect, etc. and the ‘spiritual Peter’ – the believer, searcher, superior one, etc. So I set about dismantling both these ‘I’s by actively challenging the beliefs, feelings, emotions and instincts that gave substance to both the psychological and psychic entity that was ‘me’.
What I increasingly discovered was that the brain of this flesh and blood body has an inherent ability to be aware of itself, an ability of apperception. When I ask ‘What am I thinking?’ or ‘What am I feeling?’ or ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive?’ it is this apperceptive awareness that can provide the answer. It was enormously difficult and bewildering sometimes at the start but as fact replaced belief, clarity replaced confusion and sincere intent replaced ‘open-ness’ and listlessness, ‘what’ I am – not ‘who’ I am – gradually emerged and became apparent. At first, the whole exercise can feel like a weird ‘self trying to dismantle self’’ exercise, but soon one realises that it is fact dismantling belief, apperceptive awareness dismantling self that is happening.
So for me, in hindsight, it was apperceptive awareness – the ability of the brain to be aware of itself – that does the job, dismantles and demolishes both the normal and spiritual, both the psychological and psychic entity. When one has a realization about a belief and ‘sees’ the facts there is an actualisation that can occur which is not of ‘my’ doing. In the face of the blinding and glaringly obvious fact, sensible down-to-earth action can ensue. In the spiritual realm, one merely ‘realises’ and takes on board a new belief such as ‘I am really God after-all!’ or ‘I am Immortal – thank God!’ – and non-sensical action inevitably occurs.
Many people who have read a bit of the Actual Freedom writings think that the dismantling of spiritual beliefs is some sort of side issue, or a sort of ‘put down’ as is common in the spiritual world between various teachers and Gurus. This is to miss the essential iconoclastic nature of Actual Freedom. To live in the spiritual world ie. to have spiritual beliefs is to be twice removed from the actual world. The spiritual world is an imaginary world that the spirits dwell in. The psychic entity or soul within the flesh and blood body is a ‘spirit’ i.e. non-actual and metaphysical. The self as soul ‘dwells’ in the spiritual world while the self as ego ‘dwells’ in the normal world.
RESPONDENT: Indeed there are the occasional pop up thoughts of fear, but that is not my main problem. Mine is one of ‘trying’, the effort of thought rather than the effort to be aware. This though is an intermittent fault only, with the help of the Question.
PETER: The effort of thought rather than the effort to be aware has got me stumped a bit...
RESPONDENT: What I meant is that I was thinking about whatever presented itself and not giving it complete attention.
PETER: Thinking has had a very bad press in the spiritual world – ‘You are not the mind’, ‘leave your mind at the door’, ‘no-mind’, etc. are all phrases that attest to the spiritual belief that thinking is the problem, while not only letting feelings off scot-free but piously giving full reign to the supposed ‘good’ set. This misinterpretation of the human dilemma is based on the ancient ignorance of the genetically implanted instinctual passions and their subsequent effect on human behaviour. The revered ancients firmly believed that violence, masochism, torture, rape, etc. were the result of being possessed by evil spirits, and you can fully understand this if you have ever felt rage well up from somewhere deep inside you. ‘Something overcame me’, ‘It wasn’t me’ are common expressions used for this experience. For the less spectacular feelings such as sadness, melancholy, irritation and annoyance the ancients pegged thought as the problem – hence the Buddhists’ emphasis on ‘right thought’ and the meditative practices aimed at stopping thought.
Given that it is 1999, our knowledge and understanding, not to mention our physical circumstances, have so dramatically altered that we now can clearly see that these archaic beliefs about the workings of human biology, neurology, genetics and behaviour have no basis in facts. We now know why the spiritual ‘solutions’ didn’t work and why they can never work. The belief in God is an obvious fairy-tale but the belief in Good feelings will be a tough one for many to shake. It appears that good feelings – love, compassion, etc. and the accompanying morality of good and bad, and the ethics of right and wrong, are all that stop humanity from running amok. Indeed, they do a reasonable job – despite the fact that this has been the bloodiest century so far in human history, a substantial number of people have been spared the horrendous experiences of total warfare, me included. It is only from this reasonably comfortable and secure position that we are now able to tackle becoming free of the Human Condition in its entirety.
So, given the failure of God, the failure of ‘transcendence’ and the failure of morals and ethics, we now have discovered a method to eliminate the problem rather than merely seek solutions to the problem. The problem is that our instinctually based emotions contaminate thought and produce in us feelings of malice and sorrow, and, when ‘push comes to shove’, our moral and ethical safeguards rapidly break down to reveal the appalling dread, horror and violence of war and genocide.
Given our autonomous human make-up – flesh and blood body, able to think and reflect – the only resources we have available to ‘clean ourselves up’ is our ability to think and reflect.
Contemplative thought is the tool for the job – to make sense of the Human Condition and to become aware of how it is operating in oneself. As one gets the knack, this contemplative thought gradually becomes less contaminated, less churning, less confused and apperception can then occur. Apperception is when the mind becomes aware of itself as distinct from ‘I’ being aware of ‘my’ thoughts. Apperception is a Pure Consciousness Experience – a bare awareness. It is as though one has 360 degree vision or, as Alan said the other day, as though hearing and the other senses are amplified. The brain, freed of the pariah-like ‘self,’ is capable of startling clarity in these times, and much can be gleaned from these experiences.
The trick is to try and remember these ‘gleanings’ so one can take them back into ‘normal’ life, as it were. It can be difficult at the start as one has no emotional memory of a PCE, but I would often write things down, jot notes, look at how I was in ‘normal’, see what action was appropriate to take, see what the issue was, think it through. It’s enormous fun, although sometimes a bit overwhelming in the beginning and I often felt quite split, as though I was two people. Looking back, these experiences often eventuated from setting aside time for contemplation and I would use Richard’s Journal as a catalyst, a kick start, to get the old brain working after all those years of spiritual drifting and day-dreaming. The brain really ‘likes’ to think, just as the legs like to walk or run. Thinking is its job, its function, and a brain freed of feelings and emotions is an amazing thing to behold. I’ve written more on this subject in the Intelligence chapter in my journal, if you are interested.
RESPONDENT: Just wanted to pop in and say hi! My name is <> ... and I just discovered this site yesterday ... and so far, it is just what the doctor ordered. I have been working for some time with #1 bringing in more awareness to the present moment and #2 dropping belief systems/ reference points. There is rich material on this site to assist with this.
PETER: As you will discover when you dip a bit deeper into the Actual Freedom Trust website, the actualism method is not about ‘me’ ‘bringing in more awareness to the present moment’. Such a practice can only result in an increased ‘self’-centeredness – not only do ‘I’ think and feel myself to be the centre of ‘my’ world but, with time and effort and practice, ‘I’ can eventually get to think and feel ‘I’ am the centre of the whole world, and all sorts of narcissistic feelings and altered states of consciousness can result. Actualism, on the other hand, is about being attentive to how I am experiencing this moment of being alive with the committed aim of doing whatever is needed to become as happy and as harmless as humanly possible.
As for #2, if you are sincere in working on ‘dropping belief systems/ reference points’ then this sincerity will serve to provoke you into examining the nature of your current spiritual practices and beliefs. The first part of this examination is to determine whether your spiritual beliefs can stand up to intellectual scrutiny – i.e. do they make sense? Most people who have come across actualism have baulked at this preliminary stage of questioning their beliefs and have resorted to raising objections to the central tenet of actualism – objecting to becoming happy and harmless in the world as-it-is, with people as-they are.
Should you manage to get beyond the stage of defending your spiritual beliefs – defence being the first naturally occurring instinctual reaction – then the possibility arises of being able to read what is on offer on the Actual Freedom Trust website with clear, non-spiritual, eyes and then the unbridled fun of investigation and exploration as to what it is to be a human being can really begin.
RESPONDENT: I have been discovering so much within myself ... that in the past I could only see in others ... and I have been discovering that so much of the time I appear to be ‘lost in thought’ ... and that the great majority of my life has been this way.
PETER: Should you one day decide to become a practicing actualist, you will discover that rather than being ‘lost in thought’, you are in fact ‘wallowing in feelings’, as is every other sentient being on the planet – which is precisely why the salient traits of the human condition are feelings of animosity and anguish. Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way. With the discovery that it is now possible to become free of the human condition in toto, a grand opportunity beckons for those who are sufficiently motivated to become free of this instinctual and social heritage.
RESPONDENT: How delightful to finally notice my own hands on the steering wheel as I drive to work ...
PETER: Yeah. When I came across actualism I was challenged to stop blindly following the wisdom of the past and to firmly grab the tiller and steer myself out of the mess I had unwittingly landed myself in.
RESPONDENT: … or the richness of a body-guilt feeling as it begins to emerge.
PETER: Maybe you could explain what a ‘body-guilt feeling’ means to you as the term doesn’t make sense to me. It could well be a rich topic for discussion – only if you want to, of course.
RESPONDENT: With all of my heart, I want to know more about life. I have been down many spiritual roads ... dead ends to be sure.
PETER: Yep. There’s far more to life than the pursuit of spiritual fantasies. What actualism points out, in clear and unequivocal terms, is that there is a perfect and pure, peaceful and pristine, actual world – right here in this moment in time and this place in space, under our very noses as it were. And not only does actualism make this clear, it also provides a pragmatic method to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ – to get from being an instinctually-driven socially-embroiled being trapped within a grim instinctual reality to incrementally becoming what you are – a sensuously aware flesh and blood corporeal body able to think and reflect on the infinitude of this, the only universe there is.
RESPONDENT: I am left again with just me ... and I am happy with that ... for there is much to see, feel and explore with this alone.
PETER: If you aspire to be an actualist, you will have to set your sights a good deal higher than being happy being just ‘me’. The Eastern spiritual teachings of ‘be content with being ‘who’ you are’ has enticed so many seekers to give up seeking peace on earth and conned them into settling for second best. I couldn’t do it.
RESPONDENT: I am fascinated right now with intent ... to use intent in the most fierce way to #1 live in the present more and more ... and #2 to shed the numerous skins of beliefs and identities.
PETER: Well, you are on the wrong mailing list if your intent is for ‘#1’ but you are on the right mailing list if your intent is for ‘#2’. You seem to have serendipitously come across a fork in the road – which way you go is solely a matter of your intent.
GARY: I still find it absolutely fascinating to be writing to someone on the other side of the world and be able to compare notes about experiences, which are to some extent universal to all humans. The potential of this medium is astounding. As you say, it does take time to write, and it does take time to respond to these posts, and I ordinarily go through cycles of interest and disinterest with it. Generally reading a post and allowing it to infiltrate my consciousness for awhile before responding, but working at it over several days in a slow, methodical way. And I must say that I find myself forming mental images of the people with whom I am talking, and these mental images crop up from time to time. It does seem to me, however, that the imaging process has gotten less and less and I am more concerned with the content of the post and responding genuinely and sensibly based on what is being written to me. Also there is the realization that one’s images probably have little or nothing to do with the actual flesh-and-blood person. Why is it that we form these images and why is it that they are important to us? One can see it happening with this Internet medium, but one also sees it happening in more personal, face-to-face interactions: one may make a friend, say, at work, and then one wonders about them, forms images of them, wondering about what they are really like, with their family, with their lover, etc. It clearly is an activity of the imagination.
PETER: I was watching a National Geographic program the other day – one of those usual ones that always end with a doomsday guilt-laden scenario ... unless we humans see the Light.
The Guru-scientist summing up at the end of the film blatantly stated that it required imagination to see the worst – to be able to concoct a doomsday scenario for something so robust, reliable, consistent, abundant, exuberant, copious, resplendent and immense as this paradisiacal planet. He didn’t say the last part of the sentence – this is what is so obvious to me from watching these programs and from my own observations ... even to the point of simply glancing about me as I sit at this keyboard.
Imagination – be it real-world fear-filled or other-worldly bliss-filled – only serves to obscure the magnificence of what is physical, palpable and sensately evident and to prevent a direct sensual intimacy with the people, things and events that comprise the actual world we live in. Imagination always has an emotional component to it – most commonly it is fear-fuelled or desire-fuelled or, if you are a spiritualist, it often has a fantasy-escapist ‘I am a goody two shoes’ or ‘I feel so Good I must be God’ bent.
The only effective way to eliminate imagination is to progressively eliminate this emotional component – to take the wind out of its sails. As you do this, you are more and more able to become aware of the brain functioning – the brain being aware of itself in operation, which is apperception. This bare awareness then enables you to be aware of what you are as opposed to ‘who’ society and blind nature fashioned you to think and feel you are.
Apperception is not an innate quality in human beings – it is a quality that is evident in a PCE and obtainable by anyone willing enough to sacrifice all they hold dear for an actual freedom from malice and sorrow. An ongoing apperception is something only ‘you’ can cultivate by dismantling ‘you’ as a social and instinctual identity. There are no short cuts in the process, no quick fixes, no journey other than the journey and who would have it any other way.
Apperception is the beginning of the end of ‘me’ – the alien parasitic spirit entity that dwells unhappily and resentfully within this corporeal flesh and blood body. Once it starts to happen it does take a while to gain the confidence that it is the real thing and not another figment of your imagination. As confidence gathers it is from this solid base of bare non-emotionally-corrupted awareness that you can quietly and anonymously slip out from control – and the freedom that was always here then becomes more and more actual.
GARY: Nowadays while there is occasionally that cognisance of an emotional void needing filling or feelings of boredom, I recognize these as opportunities to delve into in order to pump as much information as I can about ‘me’, rather than as negative emotional states that I either need to flee from or seek the emotional solace of others in order to soothe. What happens is that in fairly short order, the feelings dissipate and I can return to the fascinating business of being here: a really outstanding, second-to-none happening.
PETER: I was thinking the other day about the difference between the words awareness and attentiveness. If we look at the dictionary definitions –
– it becomes apparent that awareness and attentiveness have different qualities and can even mean totally different things in certain circumstances. If we take the first definition of awareness, it generally alludes to a ‘me’ being aware whilst the second definition of awareness can be taken to be a knowledgeable form of consciousness such as the Divine awareness claimed by spiritual aficionados. Thus, in common usage of the word awareness, everyday awareness is always ‘me’ being aware and spiritual awareness is always ‘me’ feeling superior. In actualism the process is to incrementally remove the ‘me’ out of awareness such that a bare and ‘self’-less awareness can increasingly operate.
The word attentiveness, however, has less of the ‘self’-centred implications of the word awareness and the dictionary definition includes both thoughtfulness and intent – two attributes vital to an actualist. No doubt this distinction between the meanings of the words awareness and attentiveness is why Richard uses the word attentiveness and not awareness when he describes the method of actualism.
But to get back to your personal observation, an actualist has times of feeling excellent when the normal debilitating human feelings are in abeyance and one is in a state of an on-going attentiveness that incrementally reveals more and more of the sensual delight and perfection of this material universe we flesh and blood bodies actually live in.
PETER to Alan: So, to continue our discussion about ‘the wide and wondrous path to Actual freedom’. I keep thinking of the appropriateness of Richard’s phrase as we enter this stage of looking at, and experiencing, the rudimentary animal self ‘at work’ so to speak. What an amazing thing to be able to dig so deep into one’s own psyche that one can get to the core of the programming in the brain – beyond the programming in the ‘Modern Brain’ and into the primitive brain and the genetically implanted instinctual self. No doubt, you read of the work of LeDoux in investigating the pivotal role of the Primitive Brain – the Amygdala – in inducing fear, and we have put together a schematic diagram showing the central role of the Amygdala in producing instinctually-sourced emotional responses. It is the first of the posts – it’s a bit big at the moment to send in this post but it’s worthwhile clicking it open as it forms the scientific neuro-biological basis of what it is we are doing ‘live’ at the moment.
It is indeed serendipitous that LeDoux is mapping the effects of the Amygdala at this very time and that it coincides both with Richard’s experiences and writings and our discoveries as well. I do like the factual and actual – the path to freedom from the Human Condition gets wider and wider, more blatantly obvious, easier and better mapped with every passing day.
If you will indulge me a bit, Alan, I want to write about the schematic diagram for a bit. LeDoux empirically investigated the pivotal role of the amygdala in producing the feeling of fear, in particular the relationship between the thalamus (relay centre), the amygdala (feelings) and the neo-cortex (modern brain/thoughts).
These investigations also substantiate the fact that no matter what degree of control is exercised by the neo-cortex in terms of morals, ethics, good intentions, etc., when ‘push comes to shove’ we revert to type – and reverting to type means animal-instinctual. This is clearly verified by the being ‘overcome’ by rage, fear or sadness and being unable to stop it.
On reading this, I am reminded of the Steve Martin movie – ‘The Man with two Brains’ – if I have got the title right. Again the example of being overcome by rage, fear or sadness is a good one, for often the source of these emotional reactions is seemingly unconscious to the thinking brain – the neo-cortex. No doubt the childhood trauma therapists will use this as a justification for their work but, as we know, the problem lies not with the emotional memory but with the dominant position and influence that the instinctually-sourced emotions have in our lives. The quick, dirty and hard to control Amygdala, or primitive brain, forever condemns humans to animal behaviour. That the most significant human activity over the millennia has been – and still is – the waging of war is testament to the dominance of the primitive instinctual brain.
Back to the diagram and we will see that our area of concern is the psychological self in the neo-cortex and the instinctual self in the Amygdala. ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive?’ causes the neo-cortex to focus its attention on the activities of the psychological self that has been instilled since birth. This focussing allows us to see the over-arching role that emotions have in causing us to be malicious and sorrowful, and we find that we can reduce their influence in our lives with sincere intent.
The other area this awareness operates on is demolishing the social identity – the morals, ethics, values, beliefs and psittacisms instilled to keep the instincts ‘under control’. This is a crucial step on the path to Actual Freedom as it is both a radical and iconoclastic step. This step can only be undertaken with a memory of a Pure Consciousness Experience – an experience of self-lessness that gives one the confidence to venture beyond what is considered safe, sensible and sane. This memory of the PCE can give one access to pure intent to ‘venture into the unknown’, or to be more prosaic, become aware of the raw instinctual emotions of the Amygdala – to look at one’s animal heritage.
These two facets – reducing the influence of feelings and emotions – both the supposed ‘good’ and ‘bad – and demolishing the social identity, the ‘guardian at the gate’ ultimately brings one’s bare awareness to focus on the Amygdala and its instinctual programming. The focus is then on the instincts in operation both in the body and in the brain – with minimal psychological and emotional effects. This would explain your current experiences – ‘The sensations I am experiencing have no affective element – as I said in my last mail, it is ‘fear’, without being frightening.’
I can’t emphasise enough the fact that this deep sea diving into the depths of one’s instinctual being can only be undertaken with the removal of the social identity and this can only be done with the pure intent borne out of the PCE – i.e. one needs to know where one is going and have the confidence that it is safe to do so. The only thing that could go wrong is that one will instinctually grab for safety – the good emotions – and Enlightenment will result. It’s interesting to note how the survival mechanism kicks in, and one’s identity does a life-saving grab. I actually experienced this as an instinctual grab in one of my ‘death experiences’.
PETER to Alan: I can describe the process as the death throes of ‘me’, and a chemical death throe at that, but there is no doubt that, as this builds, the end of ‘me’ will be a weird and passionate affair. I have used the word dispassionate in my writing lately and thought I needed to clarify its use. The human mind, as I have discovered on this journey into my psyche, has the ability to investigate, explore and unravel its own workings. This ability is what the word apperception means – the mind becoming aware of itself.
Or as Richard-the-wordsmith says –
It is this apperceptive awareness that enables the brain to be aware of the process that is happening in the brain. In the early stages of developing apperception one is able to discern the difference between thoughts and feelings, and as one proceeds to see the influence of morals and ethics, to distinguish between belief and fact, to determine what is silly and what is sensible. As one dares to dig a little deeper one encounters the emotions that underlie the surface feelings and then one can dig deeper still to explore the instinctual passions. When one can finally investigate and explore the instinctual passions in operation dispassionately – i.e. being able to see them in operation without being affected by them – one is clearly able to see and experience them as an unnecessary and unwarranted intrusion.
To get to this stage involves a deliberate and persistent process of removing the impediments to this apperceptive awareness becoming possible. Then periods of pure consciousness are possible, as in the pure consciousness experience, and this is a potential for anyone willing to remove the impediments of a social identity and the passions of one’s instincts. As such, during this process of elimination, one has many dispassionate glimpses whereupon one’s sensate perception and awareness is free of the influence of instinctual passions – hence my use of the word ‘dispassionate’. After these glimpses, one returns to ‘normal’ and becomes again these passions, morals, ethics, beliefs, etc. and incapable of dispassionate thought – and this is where sincere intent comes in. One can then use those passions for one’s own sincere intent – towards actualizing the ending of ‘me’.
RESPONDENT: So I have now modified the question to ‘Am I experiencing this moment of being alive?’ This has been quite useful in reminding me to experience rather than feel this moment.
PETER: Well, I did it the opposite way. I became vitally interested in ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive?’ And if that meant I was feeling angry, sad, melancholy, lacklustre, depressed, then I would track back to find out what it was that bought on that feeling. What was said, what happened, when did it happen? I wanted to understand feelings, their source, how they worked, what caused them to kick in, etc. Only by understanding them, could I begin to get free of their insidious grip. I also knew that until I was rid of the source of feelings entirely – ‘me’ – I would have to live with them. So best to understand them and best to aim for the felicitous and innocuous ones – and feeling happy and feeling harmless are surely the best one can aim for of the feelings.
The other point is that conducting an active investigation into one’s very psyche is a way of neither expressing nor avoiding feelings – one simply waits with interest and fascination for the next feeling to turn up to be investigated. The very act of observation, investigation, contemplation, understanding and insight is the only way I, this flesh and blood body, can rid myself of the psychic and psychological entity that prevents my sensible, sensate experiencing of the infinitude of the actual world.
So, my experience is to become fascinated with what you are feeling and why you are feeling it. It can be scary business to investigate feelings and emotions, for the Human Condition is an animal instinctual condition but the investigation is actually liberating.
RESPONDENT: And how can we know that the next day and the day after will be perfect even when we’ve left ‘the self’ behind? It might in fact be a total disaster and we might become extremely depressed or whatever. Is the ultimate state really to be perfectly happy all the time?
PETER: You can’t know until you have experienced the perfection and purity of the actual world in a pure consciousness experience. If you have already and can remember it then you and I both know that your question is yet another furphy. But if you steadfastly believe that human existence is meant to be a suffering existence then you will forever cut yourself off from finding out.
The key to the ultimate ‘self’-less sate of purity and perfection is to maintain an equal focus on the ‘harmless’ bit of becoming happy and harmless, for one can never be happy unless one is harmless. This harmlessness is an unconditional harmlessness in the world as-it-is, with people as-they-are – not hiding away in some spiritual community of like-believers, run on strict moral and ethical codes in order to keep a lid on undesirable behaviour. Actual harmlessness is not an ideal, as in pacifism, but comes from having no identity or person ‘inside’ who can feel offended, feel attacked, who is constantly and fearfully on-guard and ever-ready to defend or attack.
There is no malice and sorrow in the actual world.
RESPONDENT: This sounds sane to me ... but I still have problems with understanding the self-less state. Do you mean having no identity whatsoever, not even as a flesh and blood creature? So it’s the end of self-consciousness...? One just exists without reflection of who one actually is? And the perfection you mentioned does it mean that one will FEEL good all the time also?
PETER: One has no psychological and psychic identity whatsoever. No ‘I’ in the head – who ‘I’ think I am – nor ‘me’ in the heart – who ‘I’ feel I am. There is simply this thoughtful, reflective flesh and blood body brimming with sense organs being apperceptively aware. Apperception is the brain’s ability to be aware of itself – a bare awareness. There is no ‘I’ being aware, there is simply awareness operating by itself as a function of the brain of this flesh and blood body. The brain, freed of the neurotic burden of a social identity and the chemical surges emanating from the instinctual animal ‘self’ is able to operate with salubrious clarity. The physical senses – literally the stalks of the brain – are freed of their burden of guard-duty imposed by a fearful instinctual ‘self’, are heightened to an extent that one experiences purity and perfection as a sensual actuality that leaves any paltry feelings for dead.
RESPONDENT: Great stuff Peter, I must say I bought the spiritual idea of the self watching the thoughts in our brain. That ‘insight’ (actually delusion) served me as very clear and logic evidence of the existence of the soul/self. I often pointed this out to other people; look, this makes perfect sense! We’re watching ourselves from the ‘centre’, the real self is watching the dream existence, what else could it be than definite proof of the existence of a mysterious other world (the spiritual world). I didn’t for a moment consider the possibility of this being the works of the mind alone. This shows how limiting one’s beliefs can be and how gullible I was.
PETER: This ‘self’-less awareness is something that is only possible to experience in a pure consciousness experience. An understanding that a ‘self’-less awareness is possible is certainly an excellent start but the proof is only by experience, lest it remains yet another belief.
PETER: I am definitely wrong with you but there are, and will be, others who welcome a sincere and ‘open’ discussion even if it steps over that sacred and holy barrier of daring to question the Teachings themselves.
RESPONDENT: What teachings are you talking about? Osho never gave any teachings, at least none that I am attached to.
PETER: There seems to be a common use of this phrase ‘attached to’ in spiritual circles that is indicative of the creation of a ‘watcher’ – another identity who watches and is not ‘attached to’ what is actually observed with the senses, what is actually written, said or felt.
Hence one is not concerned with, interested in, or effected by what is actually happening – one remains merely watching and observing. Many take it to the point whereby, when they feel sad or angry (sorrow and malice) they are not ‘attached to’ it or merely watch it. This they then wrongly interpret as ‘being aware’. Merely to remain a dis-embodied, uninterested and unattached ‘watcher’ is to cop-out of the act of being an aware , senate, reflective flesh and blood human -fully involved in the act of living.
For me the awareness sparked by continuously asking myself, each moment again, the question ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive?’ left no room or possibility of remaining a dis-embodied and unattached watcher.
I became vitally interested, then fascinated, then obsessed with any thoughts, feelings and actions that prevented my happiness in this, the only moment that I can experience. This, of course, assumes that ones intent is to be happy in this moment – a rash assumption I know.
PETER to No 30: I know you addressed this to Vineeto, but since I was mentioned, I feel like replying. <SNIP>
RESPONDENT: If you identify with the watcher, as Vineeto points out, then you are deceived. You are caught in the trick of the mind that splits itself... one part is you watching the other part. But both are your mind! Only when you get this insight, that the watcher is a thought, can you let it all go. Then, there is a real watcher, a witnessing that isn’t thought, only pure awareness.
PETER: I see, we now have a ‘real watcher’ while others claim their ‘watcher’ isn’t a ‘watcher’ but a ‘witness’.
‘Who’s watching the watchkeeper’s watcher while the watchkeeper’s watcher watches his watch?’
To be a watcher, or a witness, is to watch oneself living life.
Why remain a watcher – why not live life? such as there is no difference between you doing it and it happening.
Why withdraw into an inner world when this physical universe is such a magical event, all happening this very moment. A simple walk on the beach reveals an ocean ebbing and flowing with the tide and rippling with waves. A sky of such a delicious blue and an unfathomable infinite depth. A sun of such intense penetrating warmth that it surprises me every time. Air that I often seem to be ‘swimming’ in, breezes that ripple the hair on my skin. Air that is sometimes laden with moisture, other times lively and fresh. And it is drawn into the lungs and you don’t know where the air stops and the lungs begin Or the smells on the air,... nature’s bouquets. The potency of the frangipani, the incisiveness of eucalypt, the smell of the ocean. Senses on stalks ... Alive.
Or the delight of sitting in my chair, typing these words – two fingered with thumb on the space-bar – giving a ‘twang’ every now again. There was another one ... or four... The soft lighting, the sound of the TV in the background and of crickets outside ...
Oh dear. I’ve been off on one of my raves again...
PETER: To be a watcher, or a witness, is to watch oneself living life.
RESPONDENT: No 12 here: This is where you go wrong! Witness is a transcendental state, no self, no identification to a self, no self to watch, and no thought. To me, it is from ‘knowing’ this space, that my experience of living life is momentary.
PETER: It’s all a bit like the Pope and Galileo. If you insist on having a conversation on the basis of you’re right and I’m wrong we will get no-where really quickly.
So now, what you are proposing is that your watcher, who was really the witnesser, and who became the Real watcher, is now the transcendental, non-identified, un-watchable, no-thought, of one-mind, space – with a male and a female side to it. Why do you keep insisting that the entity that ‘feels’ – who you ‘feel’ yourself to be – should stay in existence? It just means that you are going to be forever on a see-saw of emotions – sorrow, depression, sadness, boredom, excitement, frantic, blissful. Up again and down again, keeping the lid on, aiming to be good, aiming to get out of it by any way possible – alcohol, drugs, meditation, Realization.
Why not get rid of the churning emotions and instinctual urges and enjoy an actual personal peace 24 hours a day for the rest of your life – free of the feelings of sorrow and malice. It takes a bit of effort at the start to get rid of them but their elimination is permanent.
I remember clearly thinking at one stage, near the end of the journey, what a relief it was not to keep up an identity any longer, trying to be good, trying to fit in. It was all an effort and so tiring, so exhausting.
To be free of malice and sorrow I am free to be here as me, this flesh and blood body – no longer racked by churning thoughts and emotions.
For me back two years ago the two major things that stood in the road of my freedom were the feelings of fear and pride. I just figured it was silly to let such paltry feelings run my life. I wanted to be free of them, for ‘my’ feelings were ruining my life – spoiling my happiness and causing me to inflict them on other equally inflicted people around me.
RESPONDENT: To quote Osho on this point:
PETER: Ah! I see you still want to compare what I am talking about with what the mystics say. The mystics all talk of an ethereal mystical world, the inner world of feeling peace and feeling God. They knew something was wrong with us human beings, but their solution was to attain an altered state of consciousness (ASC) such that the identity shifts from being a mortal, lost, lonely frightened and very, very cunning ‘self’ to become the ‘Self’ – Realizing that it is God and Immortal. The ASC only got rid of half the problem, the ego, and the soul is free to run amok such that they believe they are God and that they are immortal.
It would all be okay except others believe them, and proceed to worship them as Gods ... and yet another Religion is born.
What I am talking of is the actual world, where flesh and blood mortal human beings live, here, now, on this planet. What I am offering is information about a down-to-earth freedom from self-centred neurosis and churning feelings and instinctual drives. Not some flight of fantasy – there are no spirits in the actual world, they all dwell in the spiritual world.
PETER: You seem to be having some fun with all this, I certainly am. I always wanted to be able to discuss these matters in my spirit-ual years, to get down to the bare bones of things. To be able to question absolutely everything and anything, the lot, without fear of getting my head ripped off, being sent to Coventry, or told I was being ‘negative’. And to be able to look at things without the typical straight-jacket of ... ‘right or wrong’, ... ‘good or bad’.
By the way, is this new format of writing okay? I would welcome some feedback. It is easier for us, but is it clear your end?
So, to get back to where we left off –
The great thing about asking yourself ‘how am I experiencing this moment of being alive?’ is that it works. Which is why I write about it with such aplomb, which others merely see as arrogance.
RESPONDENT: Yes, I do the same. Make my distance’, follow my perceptions, express my self, learn. all I know is what I know at the moment, and when I follow it I see it change. Sometimes that is scary, sometimes not, but it’s never stagnate, unless I don’t express.
PETER: The query I would have with this is – ‘make my distance’. In many spiritual paths we are advised to ‘be the watcher’, to become an ‘observer’ of one’s actions and thoughts. This ‘watcher’ then is merely ‘watching’, unconcerned about ‘changing’ the feelings, emotions and thoughts that go on – with their resulting ‘ripples’ with others, or lack of peace and harmony in you.
PAUL LOWE: All we have is this moment – unconditionally. <Snip> Life is about expanding our consciousness and maturing through experience. There is no particular direction to this, because each of us is totally different, unique.
PETER: ‘Unconditionally’ means to accept the Human Condition as-it-is – in other words, that human beings are meant to suffer and fight for it is part of the overall game plan of ‘the source’. To unconditionally accept the Human Condition as-it-is, is to deny the possibility that flesh-and-blood human beings can ever be free of malice and sorrow. ‘It is the way it is because that’s the way it is and that’s the way it’s always been, so that’s the way it always will be’ – sad indictment of human existence on this paradisiacal planet.
As for ‘there is no particular direction’ to this ‘expanding our consciousness’, the direction has been well mapped for thousands of years and nothing different or unique has resulted. A God-man is a God-man, a religion is a religion, and the fights and feuds that go on between them are legendary and on-going. Nothing different, nothing unique, more of the same ... and nothing changed.
PAUL LOWE: Ask yourself ‘What am I doing and what am I doing it for?’ This is not the esoteric, ‘Who am I?’ It is a more practical, ‘Who am I in this moment. What is life about for me right now?’
PETER: The difference between the esoteric ‘Who am I?’ and the more practical ‘Who am I in this moment?’ totally escapes me. An Actualist asks the question ‘What am I?’ in order to find a practical, down-to-earth answer. Asking the spiritual question ‘Who am I?’ has always, and can only, lead to one answer – ‘I am God’.
Asking the question ‘Who am I in this moment’ leads to such inanities as ‘I am watching my ‘self’ be angry but it is not me being angry – it is only anger happening’. One begins to create a second entity – a ‘me’ who watches an ‘I’ being angry and who then begins to disassociate and disconnect from the bad or negative feelings, emotions and passions.
An Actualist remains firmly rooted in the facts that there are only two things in operation in this moment of being alive. There is the actual, physical flesh and blood body me – what I am – inside of which dwells a parasitical entity – the ‘me’ who I think and feel I am. By asking the question ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive?’ one has the opportunity to discover and investigate, and incrementally eliminate, the alien entity who is causing me, the flesh and blood body, to feel sad, feel lonely, act violently, be cunning, be malicious, say something spiteful, feel resentful, etc. etc. These feelings, emotions and passions are real in that they are ruining my happiness and causing me to be harmful to my fellow human beings. It’s a simple business, nothing complicated.
There is a ‘what’ I am and there is a ‘who’ I am. No need to get your pronouns in a twist and no sense in continuing on with the spiritual deviousness of creating a third ‘I’ as the watcher. There is a cute little ‘Vineeto diagram’ that says it all.
PAUL LOWE: Somewhere inside ourselves we are all looking to let go, to finish with the unpleasant past. Then we can start again. Right now, you can start your life anew.
PETER: The spiritual Gurus preach that human anger, violence and aggression are the result of the inevitable conditioning of one’s pure soul since birth, that anger, violence and aggression are an unchangeable part of the ‘design of this dimension’, and that one can transcend these bad feelings simply by letting them go. Put even more bluntly – ‘acceptance and the expansion produce the good feelings.’ Good feelings can then be expanded into Grand feelings and Grand feelings can expand into ... ‘Oh God, I am feeling Good’ then ‘Oh good, I am feeling God’, and for the chosen few – ‘Oh God, I am God ... oh .. Very Good!’
Of course, this is the world of institutionalized insanity – the spiritual world – and, as such, it’s so easy to poke fun of. It would all be a joke except for the fact of the appalling human suffering and misery that is enshrined and perpetuated by the God-men and their followers.
Up until now the only escape from the real world has been into a world of fantasy – the spiritual world. There is, however, a third world, this actual world of purity and perfection that is inaccessible to the alien entity that dwells within the human flesh and blood body – ‘who’ you think and feel you are. The usurper, the impostor, the spoiler, the fake, the sham, the phoney, the charlatan, the fraud.
So, to recap a little on what is being revealed in this review:
An Actualist is careful and accurate in the use and meaning of words. For the spiritualist the misuse and disregard of words and avoiding sensible communication is necessary in order to get away with what they do. An Actualist does not play this game for one would then only be fooling oneself – a sad state of affairs indeed.
The wide and wondrous path to Actual Freedom is a search for what is genuine, sensible, down-to-earth, authentic, unadulterated, factual, verifiable and actual and, as such, involves the systematic observation, investigation and elimination of all that is false.
Which is why self-immolation is the inevitable result.
Peter’s & Richard’s Text ©The Actual Freedom Trust: 1997-. All Rights Reserved.