Something happens. This is usually the beginning and the end of my philosophical reveries with my dear friend Peter. We usually set out from that island of acknowledging that we both are under the clear impression that something is happening. And after sailing through dialectical storms to islands of reflective beauty we always return to the same port of call: Something happens.
My feelings existed before I named them. I can’t immediately recall this, but I trust that something was felt even before I started talking about it. I can recall sensations of fear and safety from my pre-talking self. They are usually triggered by smell or touch. My self wasn’t clearly defined yet, so what happened did not happen to me it merely happened. There was no one it happened to, no self. It just happened as things tend to do when not seen through the limitations of subject and object.
My feelings still exist before I name them. And if they go away, I would not be able to put my attention to them and then name them. Just like I don’t randomly blurt out the names of coloured animals unless I am inspired by a sensation. The sane does not have the prerogative of suddenly saying “pink monkey!”.
My feelings do not arise as words from a magic eight ball. They are not like letters swimming around in a murky pond, slowly floating together to form words. My feelings exist like sensations, much like those of my senses. They are slightly different in nature though as they often take up the spaces that my senses do not.
Many of my feelings are inside my chest and belly, where I’m notoriously low on nerves. But it is not the case for all feelings, some also live on the surface of my face. I can get a feeling of sadness that is like a warm wet blanket on my face. I can get a sense of joy that is like an uplifting sensation of my jawbone. Many of my joyous feelings lift my body up, and make me forget about gravity. The feelings I identify as sombreness are usually paired with a weighing down. Even pleasant physical tiredness is like a sense of anti-gravity, a strange lightness paired with a buzzing sensation on my skin. A feeling of tingling at being still. The opposite can be an agitation of my joints that I identify as a desire to move or change something.
Sometimes when I perform a kind of physical therapy I will hit upon a place in a body where there is a stiffness. I usually perceive this as a way of holding against the feeling happening there. A guarding reaction of the body, like the one you have if you sprain your back. With a sprained back you will feel lots of pain at moving, and so you learn to hold your muscles ready and tight to keep everything from moving too much. This same reaction I often feel in other bodies. Just today I had the experience of feeling someone holding back an intense feeling of heaviness around the front of the upper chest around the collarbones and throat, and I asked whether or not it felt lonely, and drifting – if it felt vulnerable. The reaction was very immediate.
As a therapist I am often put face to face with feelings described by words. Usually people are very adept at saying what they feel like, but they have no idea about what it is that they identify as this feeling. It is a bit like people so adept at seeing that they can’t see the light but only the flame. I may ask what sensation it is that makes them identify the flame, and they simply say that they see it. They see the flame. But there is no such thing as seeing a flame, it cannot be seen. A flame has a sound and a spelling, but it has no light, except if you look at the printed word. A flame is an interpretation of a particular pattern of light. When I report a flame, it is because I see a brightness that overloads my eyes, I identify this as direct light. Around it is a coloration that is usually reddish, which gives rise to a pattern that I identify as a flame. A lightbulb is different because it is more round in its shape, and the area around it isn’t coloured red. But I see neither lightbulbs nor flames, I see light.
A flame has five letters and the light it shines has the exact same number.
And going even deeper I don’t even see light, because light is simply an expression of the phenomena we experience around the area of our pre-ontic space that has to do with vision. We have identified this as “being somewhere” close to that which we identify as thought. But all these things are essentially just different things in the same space. Like squares, triangles and circles are just different things in the same space (shapes on planes). Thoughts and light – and even the sensation of pressure and taste – are the same in that pre-ontic world. So there is no light, just sensation – or phenomena if this tastes better to you.
This particular sensation I identify as light, and then as flame. The first identification (from pre-ontic whereabouts to light) is not a mental process, it is a spatial process performed by my whole being. It is more an expression of how I am wired together as a being. There is a connection between some things that spatially puts the sight apart as a thing, it is a systemic identification. The second identification occurs when the systemic identification pumps the signal into the brain and the brain spews back a visual image of the word/spelling, a sound and other associations (fight, flight, eat, have sex with, etc.).
So I don’t feel love, fear, disgust, compassion and all the other words my brain may produce as interpreted associations for the thing that happens. Somewhere in the space I have access to (my entire body with brain and all) something happens. This is happening at a place, as dictated by its location in the three-dimensional interpretation and its cybernetic position as dictated by its connections to other things in the system. This which happens may well be happening in the belly or in the throat. Then after it is placed in spatial terms, it now has a pre-ontic disposition that may give rise to a mental ontological analysis (which is indeed what is being performed here). After this is achieved the everyday-mind produces associations for the pre-ontic disposition and produces what most identify as the “reality” of what is going on. It is a bit like playing a computer game and thinking that the things on the screen is really what is happening in the computer. Obviously your computer isn’t full of pacmans, orcs or plumbers, this is simply an ontological interpretation of the associations based on the pre-ontic input. It has been gifted with the quality of being. This quality is the hardest one to understand for our minds, because they are currently only working with this. It is as difficult to access the pre-ontic as it is to play a computer game only seeing the code flow by. So to access the pre-ontic one must first learn to read the pure output of reality. This is not easy, and it is also very easy.
The idea of qualia infects much of consciousness talks in an attempt to talk about what being is. But it fails in its pedantic use as the redness of red and the beauty of the sunset. These rather harmless attempts tend to shroud the more disconcerting idea of the quality of being.
It is not easy to read the pre-ontic because all we have learned is to function in an ontologically digested world. Things are labelled and defined by our common interaction with them. Signs, labels and buttons are most of what we interact with. It is rare that we interact with raw substances, and this is often confusing to us. Chemistry, physics and software are seen as mostly confusing. Dance, sex and feelings are even more arcane. Because the first set are bridges between the empirical and the rational – which essentially is the same as pre-ontological and ontologically-digested. The second set are actions which have a clear pre-ontological nature to them. They are inherently ungraspable by the tweezers of rationality, they cannot be fully understood through decomposition.
It is easy to access the pre-ontological because you wouldn’t function without this skill. You have done it all of your life, and you will never stop doing it. But most likely you have gotten so reliant on the ontologically digested that you aren’t able to see the forest for the sky scrapers and power plants you built on top of it. You are out of contact with nature, because you constructed a huge city of concepts on top of it. You have defined understanding as seeing how a new building can fit in with the others. This means that understanding is performed through naming. A child with no language who points questioningly at a cup is answered by “cup” by the well-meaning parents. But this would most likely lure a martian into thinking that we perceive physical things as aids for remembering sounds, and not the other way around.
If a martian points to a cup, we would likely demonstrate its use in various scenarios. But when dealing with humans we have decided that understanding is simply naming. This gradually turns into an over-reliance on words and interconnected webs of words and grammar (made of words). They are used to solve problems, and we only notice that they aren’t solved when everything comes crashing down. Economies are essentially structures made from words, and they are very functional, but they end up overshadowing what they were built upon. To such a degree that people are surprised when they watch documentaries about how economies started and what actually drives them. You could say that the gold and silver standard has been removed from our entire language. There is no backing anymore to words describing feelings. The feelings of love, lust, desire, hate, fear etc. are now purely fictional implements subject to crashes and sudden fluxes. Just like economies with no backing.
Many spiritual practitioners promote some of the ideas I touch upon here. But do so by layering even more words and concepts on top. So I must underline that I am in stark disagreement with 99% of any spiritual practitioners who speak of embodiment and awakenings. While I think they have the right idea, they simply lack the skill and intelligence to fully grasp it and end up digging themself into another word.
I believe that personal seriously curious introspection is the only cure to this. To sit down and just notice exactly how the process of identification is happening. Some of my greatest teachers have pushed me into meditation and I strongly support this practice. But blind meditation is pointless, one should first have a grasp of the space outside of the brains mindless regurgitation of associations. Before that it often becomes a mind-game. A trying to “not thing”, which feels like “I try to do nothing, but fail” when performed under the illusion of being “just a brain”. I suggest exploring movement first, aggressive and pleasurable, practices of dance, martial arts and tantric yoga inspires many. It can help to open up the eyes to that which is outside the mind. But it must be personal and not guided by a teacher. The journey must be one of curious exploration, of true introspection. And this begins with understanding that you are the only one who is travelling in the space that is you. There are no teachers here but yourself. There is much more to being you than meets the brain.
Postscript. You who are reading this, are for all intents and purposes an ontological creation. You have named yourself and so created yourself in your own image. You are the false god of your own stories. But false gods have much more power than real ones, because false gods doesn’t need to follow the rules they put out. Perhaps I should name you a free god instead. Free will is a strange spillover from the ontological analysis and self-naming.