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..:: The Mental Field II ::..



Alan Schneider


              The various estates of the Mental Field appear to be more or less discreet, that is, bounded, from each other. This phenomenon is clearly evident on what has been described as the Physical Plane of Manifestation in previous SEARCHLIGHT articles. When experiencing physical sensory perception, we find our consciousness surrounded by an ongoing cavalcade of perceived objects and processes apparently interrelated to each other in relatively predictable ways. The Physical Plane is clearly a region of dense form (and forms) that includes as its central feature the body, human and otherwise. We can perceive the bodies of other beings and creatures, but we personally experience our own bodies and physical sensations. The body is the anchor of experience on the Physical Plane, holding us in place in a fixed manner in life for the duration. Yet, persistent as it seems to be, the body is still just another, particularly sharply bounded aspect of the Mental Field. This sharp boundary is the result of the physical senses interacting with those external circumstances of perception known as the physical environment.  This environment extends from the body itself to the far reaches of the physical universe, but, like the body, it remains solely another collection of perceptual elements in the Mental Field.  

            One of the more important processes in the physical environment is evolution. This process applies to more than the progressive development of species – it includes the development of all other processes in the universe. Whether we accept the Theory of Intelligent Creation or not, the universe is clearly unfolding within deterministic parameters that are controlled by physical rules of interaction. In this sense, the Sun and solar system are evolving, as is the Milky Way galaxy, and the interstellar constellations. The Earth is evolving as well – undergoing specific physical and chemical transitions as it passes through time. And, even though we are currently located at the very beginning of this process from the perspective of universal history, there is every reason to suppose that human consciousness is evolving, too. This generates a paradoxical situation in which how we perceive and experience within the Mental Field appears to simultaneously be emerging from a non-experienced state, and to be an absolute condition that simply exists as it is with no apparent origin. Our consciousness has been described as “a mutation from zero to everything”, a mutation that appeared quite abruptly with the dawn of tool use in distant prehistory.  The “tools” in question may have been no more than rocks to be thrown at targets of interest, but the interaction among the tool, the user, and the target became manifest, and our consciousness became manifest along with it.  

            In the individual case, the emergent human consciousness and the Mental Field also seems to be related to the emergence of subject-object perception. The first differentiation of the Primal OM vibration into an object of interest and an interested observer demarcates the appearance of the ego and primitive self-perception in consciousness.  However much logic dictates that the infant physical body must presuppose the emergence of this conscious self-perception, we do not perceive this logical relationship – we perceive our first instant of differentiated self-awareness and experience. As I have said, I do not have my awareness, I am my awareness.  

            Beyond the Physical Plane of Manifestation and the sensory experience that creates and sustains our material impressions of the world and universe, there is a sequence of many additional mental states arranged in an apparent hierarchy of levels and interactive relationships. Probably the next sector of bounded experience is that of emotionally linked behavioral drive states. These are also quite physical in nature, rooted in the body, and intimately related to the processes of evolution and the survival of our species. There are arguably only a very few basic emotional states – fear, rage, grief, joy, and curiosity would possibly be included among these, although there is much disagreement in the professional community of behavioral “authorities” about the extent of this list, and the cultural processes that then differentiate the basic physiological emotional responses into acculturated motifs. No one doubts, however, that we experience emotions, and that they are powerful motivators of perception and behavior.  

            Related to the emotions, but still perceptually separate from them, are the equally physically grounded instinctual drive states. These emerge in the Mental Field as cravings for a variety of experiences. Probably the most immediate craving is the physiological need for oxygen and breathing, which must be satisfied continually as long as we live. We must drink liquids daily, become very uncomfortable after even one day without food, suffer from exposure within a few days if we have no shelter, and are frustrated if we cannot obtain sexual gratification for prolonged intervals. And the emotions and the physical drive states are interactive, but this interaction is heavily influenced by acculturation, and its natural extent and character is suspect for that reason.  

            This brings us to the focal process of perception – acculturation. As we grow and develop from infancy to adulthood, we are exposed to an increasingly complex series of associative mental links through cultural reinforcement that builds on the basic instincts and emotions to produce the ego and the total personality.  Very little is unaffected by the acculturation process – our preferences, attitudes, beliefs, morals, external behaviors, refined emotional states (love, compassion, humor, hatred, resentment), and inhibitions are all determined by cultural conditioning. Most of the time most of this is at least subject to conscious processing – if I stop to consider my situation, I can actively recall the information about what I believe and esteem, even if I cannot recall how I came to believe and esteem. The roots of the acculturation process are frequently lost in personal history and childhood, and may very well be accompanied by fear and repression linked to violent negative conditioning possibly used to produce that acculturation.  In all probability, this process accounts for the great bulk of human behavior through the rubric of social behavior, even including the creation of the ego. Deepak Chopra has called the ego “a social fiction”, and there is much evidence to support this view. 

            The incidence of repression in social behavior brings us to consideration of the vast region of the Mental Field known as the unconscious or subconscious mind. In most individuals, this region accounts by default for the majority of mental activity.  It amounts to much more than the simple neuroses and psychoses associated with repression – these are just the local, individual unconscious areas surrounding the conscious mind. Beyond this region, which is itself a boundary layer in the Mental Field, there exists an enormous area of more or less collective expression that has been assortedly called the Racial Memory, Group Mind, and Collective Unconscious.  Located in this region are the major and minor Archetypal symbols, once again arranged in a hierarchy of influence in the Psyche, Freud’s term for what I have called here the Mental Field, and spiritual theory has termed the Soul.  

            As we move beyond the well-defined area of conscious awareness, the activities of the Mental Field become increasingly obscure, as do the boundaries that separate them. The Archetypes, the root processes that generate the archetypal symbols, are probably distinct, but lie beyond the threshold of observation – so this probability cannot be directly supported by evidence. The archetypal symbols themselves tend to emerge in acculturated formats, and are certainly distinct images of many varieties – the Warrior, the Seer, the King, the Mendicant, the Seeker – all are independent modes of expression that interact to subconsciously influence conscious perception of objects and events on the Physical Plane and beyond.

            The archetypal symbols are elements of the Mental Field that belong to what the Western Mystery Theories refer to as the Astral Plane of Manifestation.  This Plane represents the first interpretive layer beyond simple physical interaction, and, although it is very turbulent, a boundary condition definitely exists here.  This boundary can probably be best experienced through meditation, in which we induce a state of mental relaxation, thereby calming the turbulent perception induced by the ego and its incessant chatter in the Mental Field. The boundary can actually be experienced as perception shifts from the external world of physical experience to the internal world of mental experience. As is typical of the Mental Field, however, the boundaries rapidly become more tenuous the further in we travel – the archetypal symbols tend to emerge into conscious perception either individually, or in very limited interaction with each other (as in dreams and fantasies), or (on rare occasions) in what Jung called a “Big Dream” – a lengthy interactive manifestation of archetypal symbolic themes that define the individual’s life processes.  

            There is much divergence of opinion with regard to the Mental Field hierarchy beyond the Astral level, probably due to the difficulty of conducting clear observations of the internal state. Western Theory holds that there is effectively a separate “body” for not only the Astral state, but the presumed Mental state at the next level, called the Astral and Mental bodies, respectively. The Mental state or Plane, as it is called, is presumed to be concerned with social attitudes, ideas, and psychic perception, things which I have assigned to acculturation here. I have also commented that the archetypal symbols are influenced by acculturation, and equated them with the Astral Plane, so Mental Plane phenomena associated with attitudes, ideas, and psychic perception might just as well be considered as acculturated too, albeit on a higher, more refined, level of manifestation.  

            As we tend to move deeper into the Psyche (or Mental Field) we also move into a realm of more relatively major archetypal symbols and symbolic expressions. At some point, at the very deepest level, we encounter what can be called God archetypes – Divine images at or near the absolute foundation of consciousness. In terms of the Mental Field, these are expressions of the Primal OM resonating in the Mind as the First Vibration of consciousness. This is the Primal Light at the core of all Being and knowing – the pre-differentiated Light from which we all emerge with the appearance of the ego and first self knowledge, and to which we all return when that ego dissolves in death. The Divine archetypal symbols determine our root feelings and perceptions about life, death, and manifestation on all the previous Planes, regardless of what theoretical system one uses to classify experience.  

            In this sense, the God Archetypes are Primary Manifestations beyond which nothing else can be experienced. However, if we observe our perceptions carefully enough, an interesting discovery is made – another phase of something exists beyond even the God expression in consciousness – a threshold beyond description, but not beyond experience – the Pure non-dual Awareness of Oneness. At this level, subject and object merge into a single phenomenon in a stream of consciousness that just is. This level is very important, because all creativity, all new expression, emerges from the unknowable on the other side of the Planes of Manifestation. Buddhism calls this place Nirvana, and the experience of contacting it Satori. For the Buddhist, the highest state of awareness is no awareness – being in not being and not being in being.  

            Is there a boundary layer at Nirvana? In a sense, there definitely is – one where we pass from everything back to zero again! This is a pure existential boundary, a boundary where existence becomes active nonexistence, a fertile void that is pregnant with all of the possibilities of creation in pre-actualized form.  

            I have tried to give some idea of the topography, the relational characteristics and connections, the interactive form, of the Mental Field in this article. All of the major classification systems in the Mystery Studies attempt this task with significant measures of success, and all remain flawed, both Eastern and Western, because they are interpretive – the Tree of Life is an intellectualization, the Chakras are implicitly judgmental, the Blood of Christ is an abstraction, the Dao is indistinct, the Jungian Sphere cannot portray the Void. Perhaps the final answer to riddle of existence is the riddle of non-existence. Perhaps the Mental Field exists as estates of consciousness because this is as close as we have come to demonstrating a truly integrated Psyche – regions of influence separated by conceptual boundaries that we assemble into a patchwork identity because, in the final analysis, we do not really exist.


                                          - With Love, Alan -

                                  (CR2008, Alan Schneider)


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