Essays2008 Essays2009 Essays2010













..:: Observation ::..


Alan Schneider


              The primacy of the observer’s role in the experience observed was suggested at the conclusion of the last essay, entitled “Curiosity”.  This essay expands upon that theme with a more detailed investigation of the phenomenon of observation.  We are all well aware of the fact that we conduct many daily observations in the course of life. We may not be so aware of what phase of our consciousness is making those observations, where those phases are located, or even that they exist as discreet conditions. 

            The observer role most easily identified on the Physical Plane of manifestation, the first level of human perception, is our old nemesis, the ego – our waking personal sense of identity.  The ego is generally only too happy to “announce” itself and its activities to us as we make our way through external sensory reality by commanding and focusing our attention. The location of this mental mechanism has long since been determined by psychological and neurological science to be the prefrontal lobe of the cerebral cortex – the ego is a phenomenon of brain morphology. Moreover, it is the result of lifelong social and cultural conditioning. In the absence of this conditioning (i.e. as demonstrated in the cases of feral children and aboriginal populations), it tends to assume a much less prominent role in waking consciousness – in fact, it may not be functionally present at all, at least as defined by the concepts of private property and personal space, both largely absent in many aboriginal cultures. The ego relies for its existence on historic and concurrent dialog among individuals, who literally use language to “talk” it into a form of pseudo-collective social manifestation. Nonetheless, our brains have evolved to the level of complexity required to easily form and reinforce this social manifestation, as most of us then do – as I myself am doing in writing this essay, for example.  

            Because it is the result of physical cranial and neurological evolution on the Physical Plane, the ego is essentially incapable of recognizing the validity of other than physical sensory stimuli, and the logical conclusions to be drawn from the rote observation of those stimuli.  As far as the ego is concerned, all other mental expressions are of a lesser order than physical stimuli and the process operations concerning those stimuli.  Thoughts are important primarily as they concern functions occurring in external reality, in fact, the “external” adjective may not even be recognized in consciousness if the ego in question is primitive enough.  Other mental manifestations such as dreams, fantasies, psychic visions, and all but literal, object-related emotions may well be relegated to the “imaginary” realm of significance, or even flatly rejected, by this type of completely unenlightened, closed ego consciousness.  

            The action of the senses continuously reinforces the presence of the ego and its conclusions about “reality”.  The mechanisms and foci of our senses seem to follow us around as we travel through the world, and even seem to be predominantly located “behind” our eyes, ears, and nostrils, “above” our mouths and tongues, “inside” the region of the cranium, and extending irregularly to the balance of the physical region we come to know as the body.  The environment of the Physical Plane tends to be a hostile and assaultive place – we rapidly learn not to disregard the many dangerous situations that occur there, further reinforcing the sensory condition known to Yoga and Tantra as Maya – the impression of a world continuum constructed by the interaction of the ego and senses.  And certainly something is out there at the ends of our nerves and perception – of this there can be no doubt – the question is what.  This question may very well not arise in most human consciousness, as we struggle along for survival and social advantage.  In many, perhaps most, cases it remains a philosophical distinction for the amusement of intellectuals, scientists, and metaphysicians.  

            As a member of all of the aforementioned groups, the question of what certainly has occurred to me, and I have pursued the enormous range of answers with a life-long passion.  This question ultimately cannot be answered by sensory investigation, even with the support of the most sophisticated instruments of science – it must be found by turning paradoxically away from sensory inquiry and searching inward within the realm of consciousness itself.  With the advent of this more extensive investigation, the nature of observation and the observer assumes a greatly expanded context.  Where the ego can be more or less reliably placed in the cranium, all of the additional observational  conditions cannot – yet they still seem to exist, in many cases with more finality than the ego.  

            How can this be? How can a fantasy be more cohesive than a sensory experience? Well, for one thing, it is more persistent in perception – sensory experience comes and goes, while our fantasies are the lasting signposts of mental and spiritual growth.  It is a matter of what we choose to focus on – the internal vs. the external.  I personally spend a minimum of my waking time transacting with the external world, doing only what is financially and morally necessary to maintain homeostasis on a very basic level. The balance of my time is spent in internal investigation and perception in one or several alternative states of observation.  These alternative states can be correlated to the Yogic and Tantric Chakras of Conscious Perception, referred to so often in these essays.  

            Essentially, each Chakra has its corresponding “observer” of experience.  As we have already noted, the observer of the Physical Plane is the ego, and this is also the observer of the First Chakra, Muladhara, concerned as it is with physical survival and rote sensory experience. As has been noted earlier in this essay, most people are not aware of the distinction of Muladhara or the Physical Plane – they simply are functioning in a preconscious trance state that they are largely unaware of – as C. G. Jung once observed in The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, they are “not yet born” psychologically.  The birth of consciousness does not really occur until one begins perceiving in Svadhisthana, the Second Chakra, analogous to the Freudian subconscious, the Id.  This is a perilous birth process, because it is here that the Kundalini Energy, the driver of all consciousness, is first differentiated, and this can consume the unprepared observer of this realm with psychoses, severe psychosomatic reactions, and even death – Hindu  author Gopi Krishna provides a chilling account of the potentially devastating effects of the Kundalini in his insightful book, Living With Kundalini. The observer function in this case is the pre-formed, or barely formed, infantile ego, to whom the emergent Kundalini is a ferocious, overpowering libidinal force. The world of the infant is a frequently terrifying place, both internally and externally, in large part because it does not yet know the difference between inside and outside, and this is the frame of mind that the initial observations of Svadhisthana take place in.  Whether in therapy or maturation, this delicate consciousness must be nurtured and guided until it develops enough strength to assimilate and begin to work constructively with the Kundalini as the reality at this level of perception.  Anyone who doubts that this is a mental region prone to lasting trauma need only observe the media fixation with ignorant sex and garish violence to see the enormous amount of cultural evidence to the contrary. We are born in Svadhisthana, and it is a violent, dangerous, and difficult birth that leaves its mark on us more often than not.                         

              Following the passage through Svadhisthana, the Third Chakra, Manipura, is encountered.  The observer at this stage is the Emotional Mind, driven by the increasingly ascendant Kundalini, and typified by adolescent observations, whether developmentally or psychologically. As anyone who has taken the least time and trouble to study adolescence can tell us, the hormonally exacerbated emotions of this stage represent yet another level of violent, turbulent personal upheaval for the individual psyche.  The element associated with Manipura is fire, symbolic of both passion and rage, and the mind functioning in this condition will experience plenty of both.  This turbulence will persist until the emerging self is socially tempered enough – i.e. socialized in some system of acculturation – to have acquired the initial behavioral skill set of adulthood.  This may well be only a very basic skill set that is never elaborated upon – witness the legions of alcohol-infatuated sports fanatics and soap-opera-obsessed housewives of today’s world – but at least the storms of Manipura have been passed through in some fashion.  Again, it is a perilous and dangerous passage, one with its own unique set of casualties and traumas.  

            If one succeeds in carrying an intact consciousness through Manipura, the possibility is presented of entering Anahata, the Fourth, or Heart, Chakra.  The observer at this level of consciousness is the Soul or Hindu Atman, and the nature of observation shifts radically from sensory/motor assessment to spiritual/intuitive assessment.  Anahata is the center of moral consciousness, and requires the sacrifice of selfish personal motivation for the selfless and universal service, support, and understanding of others as its price of entry. Needless to say, this is a price that most are not willing to pay in any sense other than lip service.  This is indicative of the great gulf between Manipura and Anahata, one that requires a mental Leap of Faith into the materially intangible to cross.  The ego is literally not there in Anahata, but the Higher Self, the Soul, is, as distinguished by the presence of compassion. Most of the world’s great religions, and even the “lesser” spiritual systems, agree that the Soul is the purpose of physical and perceptual manifestation, and originates itself at even higher levels of “observation”.  

            The Soul is subject to spiritual evolution through the influence of Karma and Dharma.  Karma is the spiritual “roadmap” (or perhaps obstacle course would be a better characterization) assigned to the Soul by the Logos upon incarnation on the Physical Plane.  As the Soul negotiates this series of spiritual lessons to be assimilated,  and does so successfully, Dharma is achieved in the accurate perception of the higher meaning and purpose of living as represented by the next Chakras in the sequence – Vishuddha, Chakra Five, the Throat Chakra, Ajna, the Brow Chakra (or Third Eye) Chakra Six, and Sahasrara, the Crown Chakra, Chakra Seven. At each of these successive levels of observation, the nature of both the observer and the observed radically shifts again, as more and more sublime perception of consciousness through consciousness becomes possible. 

            In the case of Vishuddha, the vibrational nature of Higher Conscious perception is demonstrated, as exemplified by the chanting and singing of spiritual expressions known as Mantras. The Mantra is designed by one who has intimate knowledge of the Higher Conscious states to mirror, or invoke, those states in the consciousness of the practitioner.  The well known chant of OM, the Primary Mantra,  is a good case in point, and there are hundreds of other Mantras as well, each custom-tailored to produce a specific spiritual result, thus elevating conscious perception and observation to yet higher levels.  At the level of Vishuddha, the observer form is passing from the Soul to into the Buddha Mind – the more intuitively defined and responsive mode of perception than Soul-consciousness alone demonstrates.  This process will continue in Ajna, as the Buddha Mind transforms into the Monad, the highest differentiated observational mode, characterized by the “observation” of the Divine Light radiating from Sahasrara by the Kundalini itself as the direct observer, and occurring in the Third Eye. This is the “All-Seeing Eye” that achieves total intuitive perception both internally and externally, often simultaneously. But even this level of perception is still subject-object differentiated into an observer – the Monad – and observed – the Logos, existing in Sahasrara, Chakra Seven, the highest level of manifestation and observation attainable. 

            At the level of the of the Monad, the vibration of the Kundalini Energy has become an intense flood of light and sound that expresses OM on every conceivable level except one – Sahasrara.  At this final level the observer and the observed fuse into The One, as the Kundalini Shakti – the Divine Female energy – merges with Shiva, the Divine Male energy, to form the Supreme Absolute Truth of Consciousness.  The Hindu term for this Supreme state of Being is Samadhi,  the ultimate bliss of non-dual perception in and of God as The One Without a Second.  At this level, the female Kundalini has completed her spiritual journey, and we are back in the womb of the Great Presence, residing in utter peace and harmony with all of Creation as the nature of our observation. 

             So it is that there are at least seven principal modes of observation, and there may be many others as well. I have heard that there are as many as three hundred and sixty Chakras present in the individual human perceptual system, with each one presumed to have its own unique observational traits!  Kundalini theory further stipulates that the Lotus of Sahasrara – all of the Chakras are traditionally portrayed as Lotuses in Yoga practice – has one thousand “petals”, each one representing an aspect of the Divine Manifestation, and observable from the Monad in that sense.  I once perceived the infinite expanse of the Akasha, God’s “memory beyond time”, while in Astral trance, and realized that the Totality of the Supreme Absolute Truth was completely beyond any form of ego-based perception or interpretation, that my ego could even not exist there as an observational expression, and simply let my perception of the Physical Plane go, then and there.  This is the essence of spiritual growth – we are required to release the elements of one perceptual level in exchange for the next, higher, more complete, expression of the Truth.  I realized in perceiving the Akasha that the spiritual adventure never can be exhausted. That’s the great thing about the Mysteries – there’s always another one waiting to delight the observer, right around the corner! 


                                                                                 - With Love, Alan -

                                                               (Copyright 2009, by Alan Schneider)


                                                                                      Return to Top