NOTE: Thanks to everyone for allowing me a hiatus since Christmas, 2015. Other things in life impinged, but now I’m back for more fun and adventure in the crazy world of The Mind!
The Yogic View of Consciousness (YVC), I think, can be considered wide, but not deep. I don’t go into any particular topic in great depth (other than explaining the general model of the yogic view of consciousness). But along the way I touched on a number of topics that can be further elaborated. Therefore I foresee myself doing a series of “Look Back” articles, intended to go deeper into some of the points I only skim in YVC. This is the first of the Look Back articles.
I broached an interesting idea in Yogic View of Consciousness, one that I would like to explore further. That is the idea of the relative nature of things. Here are some of the key quotes I gave in YVC:
From van der Leeuw:
“In this world of relativity each relative thing is related to all else; there is not an atom in this universe of mine to which I am not related, even though I may not be conscious of the relation. I have no existence at all as a separate creature, though I may at times imagine myself as such; rather am I part of an intricate web of relativity in which all things mutually determine one another.”
“There can never be freedom for the relative, since every relative thing is at least partially determined by all else that is relative. Only the Absolute is free since there is naught beside It.”
From Swami Krishnananada:
“…in a world of relativity…everything is determined by everything else, so that nothing can be known absolutely. We are caught up in a peculiar difficulty in the understanding of the essential nature of any object in this world on account of the relatedness of this object to everything else in this world, so that we cannot know anything unless we know all things.”
And this one I didn’t use in YVC, but is a quote from Alister Crowley’s Book of Lies:
“A red rose absorbs all colours but red; red is therefore the one colour that it is not.”
These quotes offer a very strange perspective, one that is wholly alien to Western thinking. Everything is relative to everything else. What this means is stated clearly by van der Leeuw: “I have no existence at all as a separate creature” and “all things mutually determine one another”.
In YVC, I used the simple metaphor of puzzle pieces. A single puzzle piece by itself means nothing. The meaning of a single puzzle piece is defined by its place relative to all the other pieces. But even this metaphor is inadequate to capture the true meaning of the relative nature of things. The metaphor fails because we can imagine a puzzle piece as a thing all by itself. But what relativity means is that we cannot imagine any object as a thing by itself. There is no such thing as a thing by itself.
Instead, each seeming object or thing is actually a condensate, or a point of focus of all the rest of everything else. This is very much the essence of Leibniz’ monad idea. But the difference is, Leibniz was being metaphysical and was trying to identify the “true essence” of the seemingly individual things we perceive with our senses.
van der Leeuw, on the other hand, is not being metaphysical. He is being absolutely literal. When you look at some object, you are literally seeing all of everything else expressed as that apparent object. This is precisely what Swami Krishnananda is getting at when he says “we cannot know anything unless we know all things”.
What this comes down to is the ideas we use to conceptualize our experience. We break experience up into nouns and verbs. We think of experience as a set of “things” that “act”. But this is wholly and completely arbitrary. This is what the yogic term “sabda” means: the mere sounds, the mere names, the arbitrary interpretations we give to our experience.
What I am getting at amounts to a shift in perception, a redefinition of how we interpret experience. The example I like to use is Galileo and the shift to the heliocentric or Sun centered view of the Solar System. People literally used to perceive the sky as revolving around a stationary Earth. Our perceptions are not different from past peoples. What is different is how we interpret the movement we see in the sky. Now we interpret it as the Earth spinning. It is a shift in how we interpret our experience in our mind and with our ideas.
This is analogous to what I am trying to get at with this relativity stuff. Right now we interpret experience as a series of objects (nouns) each of which does actions (verbs). But if the relativity idea is correct, there is only one “thing”, one “object” and that is the entirety of Manifestation. This one thing, Manifestation, also only does one action: it reflects itself in itself. We don’t even really have a verb that describes this action.
Perhaps the closest we have is the mathematical word “self-similar”, as found in fractals. But even this falls short because it brings to mind only the mechanical repetition of a pattern made of ever-smaller (identical) copies of itself. As we can clearly see by looking around, the “reflections” of real life are not identical copies. Even when things are of the same class (galaxies, stars, humans, German shepherds, grains of sand, snowflakes) each individual instance is completely unique in the details, although it is of the same class.
I struggle to find words to even define the situation, the necessary shift in perception to capture what is really going on in the relative Manifestation, where each thing does not exist at all as a separate thing, but in some very real and literal sense, is the entire rest of the whole, projecting itself, focusing itself in the form of what appears to be a separate object.
I won’t resolve this conundrum here and now. I raise the issue, first, as a Look Back, a point deserving further elaboration from YVC, and second, as something I will continue to think and write about. If any of you have ideas to offer about this topic please leave comments below. Many minds are better than one mind, and I would love to hear your thoughts!