Awareness

Self and Other by Alan Watts

Inability to accept the mystic experience is more than an intellectual handicap. Lack of awareness of the basic unity of organism and environment is a serious and dangerous hallucination. For in a civilization equipped with immense technological power, the sense of alienation between man and nature leads to the use of technology in a hostile spirit---to the "conquest" of nature instead of intelligent co-operation with nature. Alan Watts

Now, the subject of this seminar is 'Self and Other,' and this is therefore to be an exploration into the subject that interests me most, which is the problem of personal identity, man's relationship to the universe, and all the things that are connected with that. It is, for our culture at this time in history an extremely urgent problem, because of our technological power. In known history, nobody has had such capacity for altering the universe than the people of the United States of America. And nobody has gone about it in such an aggressive way.

I think sometimes that the two symbols of our present kind of technological culture are the rocket ship and the bulldozer. The rocket as a very, very phallic symbol of compensation for the sexually inadequate male. And the bulldozer, which ruthlessly pushes down hills and forests and alters the shape of the landscape. These are two symbols of the negative aspect of our technology. I'm not going to take the position that technology is a mistake. I think that there could be a new kind of technology, using a new attitude. But the trouble is that a great deal of our power is wielded by men who I would call 'two o'clock types.'

Maybe you saw an article I wrote in "Playboy" magazine called "The Circle of Sex," and it suggested at least a dozen sexual types rather than two. And that the men who are two o'clock on the dial, like a clock, are men who are ambisexterous, named after Julius Ceasar, because Julius Ceasar was an ambisexterous man, and he equally made love to all his friend's wives and to his good-looking officers. And he had no sense of guilt about this at all. Now, that type of male in this culture has a terrible sense of guilt, that he might be homosexual, and is scared to death of being one, and therefore he has to overcompensate for his masculinity. And so he comes on as a police officer, Marine sergeant, bouncer, bookie, general--tough, cigar-chewing, real masculine type who is never able to form a relationship with a woman; they're just 'dames' as far as he's concerned. But he, just like an ace Air Force pilot puts a little mark on his plane each time he shoots down an enemy, so this kind of man, every time he makes a dame he chalks up one, because that reassures him that he is after all a male. And he's a terrible nuisance. The trouble is that the culture doesn't permit him to recognize and accept his ambisexterity. And so he's a trouble spot.

But that kind of spirit of knocking the world around is something that is causing serious danger here. It arises, you see, because this tremendous technological power has been evolved in a culture which inherits a sense of personality which is frankly a hallucination. And we get this sense of personality from a long, long tradition of Jewish and Christian and Greek ideas which have caused man to feel that the universe of nature - the physical world, in other words - is not himself. You may think that that is a very odd thing to say, because one always assumes that oneself is one's own body, or at least something inside one's body, like a soul. And that naturally, everything outside is not oneself. But this is, as I've said many, many times, a hallucination. Let's think, here we are in the middle of New York City. And you know what happens when New York City goes wrong. When there's a subway strike, or when the power fails, or when the sewers back up, your life is in danger. Because you are not only constituted by the bloodstream of your veins and the communications network of your nervous system. An extension of your bloodstream, and of your alimentary canal, and of your nervous system, is all the communication systems of this city.

In other words, you know well every night streams of trucks pour into this city, carrying food. I understand there is even a kind of big drain pipe which brings milk in. You consume three million pounds of fish a week. You then also have to have the exit end of this. The sewers are very complicated. The water system and all it's pipes, the telephone systems, the electric light systems, the air conditioning things, the traffic streams. All these things going on are essential extensions of your own inner tubing. And therefore, you have to be aware, more and more, that the city is an extended body for every person living in it. And not only of course the city, because the city depends on untold acres of fields where farm products are grown, cattle are raised, on lakes and underground water sources; on the constitution of the atmosphere, and finally on the location of the Earth on this propitious spot rather close to the sun, where we have our basic heating system working.

And all that is not a world into which you arrived, from somewhere else altogether. It is a complex system of relationships, out of which you grew in exactly the same way that fruit grows on a tree, or a flower on a stem. Just as these blossoms here are symptomatic of the plant, and you identify the plant by looking at the blossoms - here are these little oranges, you see - we know that this is an orange tree. Now in exactly that way, you are all growing in this world, and so we know that this world is a 'humaning' system - and therefore it has a certain kind of innate intelligence, just as this tree, with its roots, has the innate intelligence which comes out in these oranges.

So the cosmos in which we live is a network of communications. You don't need to think of it in an authoritarian pattern, namely there is God the father, who makes it all work, because that doesn't really answer anything. That's just applying to the world an explanation derived from the political systems of the ancient Near East. You realize that? The great political systems of the Egyptians and the Chaldeans, where there was an enormous father figure in charge of everything, became the model for the idea of monotheism. And these great kings, like Hammurabi and Amenhotep IV, laid down legal systems so man thought of a prince, a king of kings, a lord of lords, in the words of the Book of Common Prayer. It's a political idea. And I often wonder how citizens of a republic, who have to curse and swear that they think that this is the best form of government, can put up with a monarchial conception of nature. Very funny. You know, a republic, and it says 'In God We Trust,' and most people by God mean a king of the universe. Very strange.

But you don't have to think that way in order to have the faith that the universe is something other than mere stupid, blind energy. What we are coming to see is that the total universe, consisting of all its galaxies, and not only this galaxy, is a living organism. How will we define that? What do we mean by a living organism? I mean a system of intercommunication of extreme complexity. Just like you are. You try to define what you are, and you go into it, you suddenly discover that as you take off the skin and look underneath, that we are an enormously complex system of tubes and fibers, beautifully patterned. When we look at it with a microscope, we say 'Oh my, look at that. Isn't that gorgeous?' Have you seen those models of cells that the Upjohn Company has made? They're exquisite. And incidentally, you should all, if you've never done so, go to the Charles Darwin Hall in the New York Museum of Natural History and see the glass models of the tiniest microorganisms, called radiolaria. They are also such things as are running around in you, and they are incomparable jewelry.

Now I suppose if we looked at ourselves from that microscopic point of view, all these funny creatures that are running around us that don't look like people, would if you got used to them seem like people. And they would be having their problems. They've got all sorts of fights going on, and collaborations and conspiracies and so on. But if they weren't doing that, we wouldn't be healthy. If the various corpuscles and cells in our blood stream weren't fighting each other, we would drop dead. And that's a sobering thought, that war at one level of being can bring peace and health at another.

So we are, inside us, each indivudial body, an enormous ecological system. And what we have to recognize is that that interconnected system which constitutes the beauty of a human organism, that sort of interconnection is going on outside us. Do you remember in early science fiction that was published in the 1920s, by people like Olaf Stapleton and some of the early writers? They pictured the men of the future as having huge heads to contain very big brains. It was expected, in other words, that the future evolution of mankind would be an evolution of the mind and the brain, and so bigger brains. But what has happened instead of that is that instead of evolving bigness of brain, we are evolving an electronic network in which our brains are very swiftly being plugged into computer systems. Now some very awkward things about this are arising, and we've got to watch out for it, because what has increasingly happened is this: nobody is having any private life left. The invasion of ordinary privacy by the telephone, by your watching television, which is after all looking at somebody else's life going on, by people watching you - all the people with bugging systems and snoopers, and credit agents, and everybody knows everything about you. Even in California, all the houses are built with picture windows looking at other picture windows, and if you draw the curtains, everyone thinks you're snooty. Like if you build a fence in most Midwestern communities, they think 'Who the hell do you think you are, building a fence to keep everybody else out? See, you're not democratic.'

But the reason for all this is, imagine the situation when all the original neurons became linked in with the central nervous system. They said, 'Well, we're losing our privacy.' So it's a very serious question as to how we're going to be linked in with other people. I feel - it may be old fashioned of me - but I feel very strongly that privacy should be maintained as much as possible. But the reason being that human beings, in my experience, are a combination of two worlds - the private world and the public world - such that a person with a very strong and different and unique personality is not an isolated person, but a person extremely aware of his identity with the rest of the universe. Whereas people with nondescript, mass-produced personalities tend to be unaware of this. They tend to be the kind of person who is taken in by the system.

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Focusing Awareness of the Present: By Gabriel Chiron

There is a clarity of awareness which functions at the back of the human brain as consciousness of the here and now, the living present.  It does not go into the conditioned memories of the past in the midbrain nor does it project the future in the forebrain.  This center of clear awareness at the back of the head is associated especially with the faculty of seeing, of visual perception.  Neurocognitive investigations of the functioning of the human brain have shown the location in general where the brain assembles the information of light and color from the eyes.  The eyes do not see, but bring the visual information that becomes what we see at the back of the brain, which our cognitive faculty then projects in the front hemisphere of our bodily environment, which gives the surrounding world the character of something like a brain-generated holographic movie.

Do you want to go into this incredible subject of neurocognitive non-duality?  If you can keep your attention at the back of the brain with an intense focus, the forebrain (the Future) and the midbrain (the Past) will be mostly quiet, still.  Krishnamurti went to great lengths to describe experiences of greater awareness that he would have with this kind of attention.  Tilopa called this Mahamudra, the Great Position, which in several verses brought out a perspective of natural effortless Superconscious awareness.  This text is preserved in the Kargyudpa Sect of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism.  These same Tibetan Yogis call this the process of LhagThong, which means Seeing More.  In the teachings of the Naqshbandiyya Order of Sufis, this organ of advanced seeing is called the Khafi subtle faculty, which is one of the five subtle faculties that Dervishes are advised to “activate” and develop.  In the school of the Nagual lineage of New Seers of Mexico as transmitted by Juan Matus to Carlos Castaneda, this kind of practice is called Stopping the Internal Dialogue in order to Stop the World and unfold the experiences of Heightened Awareness or Dreaming Awake.  Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras right from the start points out that the deliberate cessation of cognitive functions will immediately reveal the actual nature of our Spirit-Self, Purusha.  So it should be perfectly clear that there is this extraordinarily important center of Superconscious awakening potentially existing at the back of the brain.  In fact, the Mahayogis of India call it the Lalana Chakra, the Secret Wheel or Vortex of conscious energy of attention, Chitta.  No tradition has an exclusive handle on this center of potential greater awareness of the sheer living present at the back of your brain, but all good teachings about it are useful and inspiring.  Krishnamurti adherents or exclusive followers of course do not like it that people of Ancient traditions and lineages have achieved his level of self-realization and even more and better, but that does not matter for you or I.  Krishnamurti’s particular contribution to all this is welcome and even rather inspiring.  We can take the positive essence of his teaching without having to become trapped in his exclusive and dogmatic anti-traditional ego trip he created around himself over his illusion of being the World Teacher or the most liberated person on Earth.  The old Indian Buddhist Siddha, Tilopa, was far more liberated and superaware than Krishnamurti was ever able to become.  If you want a really impressive example of superhuman heightened awareness, try Tilopa and get yourself out of the Krishnamurti cult. 

Now, assuming that you are deeply and sincerely drawn to extended awareness of seeing in the present without the brain activity of the past and future, it might help you to watch the world enter the back of your head from the surrounding front as the seed-syllable, “HUHM” when you inhale, followed by the generation of an objective outer scene from the back with exhalation of the seed-syllable “SUH”.  This “UH” in each seed-syllable rhymes with the U in words like luck or butt.  So the mantra Hamsah (Huhmsuh) of the Indian Yogis is actually a universal cognition of non-duality because HUHM in cosmic language means subjective space or concept and SUH means objective space or concept.  Initiation of early Aryan Yogis into Hamsah was given originally by Extraterrestrial Yogis, in fact.  So this particular important Yoga is actually practiced throughout the Universe by uncountable extraterrestrial practitioners.  In actual cosmic fact, extraterrestrial practitioners are instructed to visualize the SUH outbreathing as also being the expansion of the quantum universe and the HUHM as the contraction of the quantum universe.  Very few of the Yogis of Earth have been intelligent or cosmically knowledgeable enough to sustain this kind of cosmic Hamsah of mental mantra with the watchfulness of breathing, and the poor Buddhists generally never got into the mantra itself because it implies belief in Selfhood, Atman.  Dogmatic anti-mantric ignorance did not begin with Krishnamurti!  And of course the Sufis in general would not touch a Sanskrit Mantra with a ten-foot pole, but have to have something “holy” in the form of an Arabic Dhikr which eliminates the cosmic breath for the most part in order to maintain Islamic neuroconditioning.  So, if you can grasp it, which I doubt, you can do Hamsah breath-watching at the back of your head as a genuine cosmic yoga without danger of becoming an ignorant Hindu or identifying with exclusive Indian Yoga or developing the illusion that Hindu Yogis have all the answers.  Your innate Buddha-nature is not a mere Buddhist and your Shivatma, Godself, is not a mere Shaiva Hindu.  You can go ahead and go cosmic with your cognitive non-duality of perception without having to be either traditional (Hindu) or anti-traditional (Krishnamurti) or New Age (Da Free John).  You can realize extensive awareness of the living present even better by transcending all the sociological turmoil of petty authorities and anti-authorities and quasi-authorities.  You might even become incredibly clear and happy without having to try to prove it to anybody.  It could be your first step to the stars and getting entirely off this wretched planet of proud, ignorant and neurotic believers and disbelievers.

So there is this extraordinary center of potential awareness at the back of your brain where seeing expands beyond the past and the future in a limitless now which is simultaneously both Here and There.  Do you understand this personal opportunity?  When you put a stop to the past and future in your brain, you enter into the vast unknown.  In this state of extended awareness, the brain activity is no longer constricting your consciousness to the pattern of pathetically normal sensory materialistic so-called practical reality.  You can then learn to pick up or lay aside the stupid “practical reality” at will.  You can act normal with your dumb relatives and neighbors, but you are no longer personally trapped in their emotionally disturbed little world of dullness, which is so unbelievably boring and draining.  You can learn to be patient and sweet on the emotional level but ruthless and cunning on the cognitive reality level, which is what the Mexican Seers call Controlled Folly of the art of Stalking.  This gives you psychological support for developing heightened awareness.  It is the path of liberation from superficial pseudo-reality without having to destroy what you personally, physically need on the everyday level.  You leave dull normalcy far behind with your ruthless cunningof pretending to remain normal and stupid, while the dull normals are unaware that you have left because of your patient sweetness.  You then have the awakened heart, Bodhichitta, of a Vajrayana Seer, of Void-Wisdom and Merciful Compassion, which the Sufis call Ruh, Spirit and Qalb, Heart, which they learned from the Buddhist long ago in Central Asia, but will never admit because the Orthodox Muslims would be upset.

So what is it that actually suspends the cognitive functions of midbrain (the Past) and forebrain (the Future)?  It is simply the force of attention in the backbrain(the Present).  That is where the Vast Darkness of the unknown gets lit up.  Armed with non-dual cosmic insight of Huhm-Suh breathing at the back of your brain, there is no limit to your seeing if you will sustain your intent for brain stillness and seeing.

Enough of theory.  Now get on with it directly for yourself and see what happens.  What others have realized is possible for you too.