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..:: The Observer I / The Body ::..


Alan Schneider


               The role of the observer in observation is of paramount importance – far from being neutral in this process, the observer literally creates the observation, no matter what its apparent nature may be – physical, psychological, or spiritual. This consideration is so important that it deserves special attention in all of life, and will receive special attention here in this series of essays.  

            Communication theory deals with messages of all kinds occurring in all contexts – for the communications scholar, everything is a message – but, have we considered the case of messages sent from observers to observers as observers – metamessages?  Have we considered the observer as the creator of the observed experience?  When viewed from the most distant perspective, what is the conscious dynamic of the dance of observation? Let us press on and attempt to answer these questions.  

            Regardless of to what extent, and whether or not, we are directly participating in the observed experience, we are first and foremost observers of phenomena.  This is the primary role of human consciousness in the universe – thus, let us begin with the consideration of this deceptively simple fact.  If we make the customary assumption of the Mystery Theories that very little in life is truly accidental, then the fact of our universal nature as observers of phenomena carries some interesting implications with it, among them that our occurrence in this respect is also not an accident – we were and are what we were intended to be in this regard.  Evolution, if we choose to accept it as a reality in the creation process, is no accident – our emergence as the intelligent, observing, deliberating species we are is the purposeful and inevitable end result of a highly directive and selective process governed by the physical, chemical, and existential rules that have shaped our destiny.  Even if we ourselves did not appear at this juncture in history, another similar species would have – the driving forces of nature insist on it. Sooner or later a sentient, self aware observer species would have appeared on our planet as the consequence of its location in the biosphere – the life sustaining region of balanced ecological factors located around the Sun.  It is this phenomenon of dynamic balance that has enabled life, and, in consequence, humanity, on Earth.  

            A concept that has been mentioned often in these essays is the field of consciousness – the perceptual environment which we actually experience in realtime, and seem to be centrally located within.  This concept can conveniently be translated into the observational field – the perceptual environment which we again experience in realtime, and also seem to be centrally located within, with the distinction that our observations are seen as constructing our consciousness when viewed through the lens of the observational field.  In this essay, we will use the observational field as the preferred concept of perception and experience.  If we are constructing our consciousness through the operation of our observations, the next questions that naturally arise are these – how is this construction taking place, and where is it taking place?  

            From the perspective of generally accepted psychological theory, personal observation occurs in two more or less distinct “regions” of awareness – the waking conscious awareness, and the unconscious awareness of the subconscious mind.  Interestingly, the conscious content of observation is usually only a small part of our total observational perception – the great bulk of personal activity present during any observation is unconscious, that is, not directly registered in the individual observer’s waking awareness.  In Freudian terms, this includes not only the instinctual material of the well known Id in the subconscious region of the mind, but a vast array of conditioned responses that have receded from conscious perception, frequently including many features of the Superego (i.e. moral and social regulations that have become habitual conditioned responses) as well.  All of these unconscious elements of perception figure into the complex of information present in even a simple observation of internal or external events.  

            As has been noted often in these essays, the observational focus of the waking mind is the ego, although it should be mentioned here that we may very well not be conscious of this involvement when it is occurring, and may instead be so engrossed in what we are observing that we have lost touch with the where and how of our participation on that level.  The psychological dynamics of perception present during an observation do not make self awareness an experiential requirement, only an option!  Nonetheless, many sufficiently motivated and aware individuals do learn how to notice their ego acting in waking observations – in fact, the first step along the long road of personal, social, and spiritual Enlightenment.  A concomitant development is the recognition in our awareness that most of what we observe during the wakeful hours of our lives can be summed up as impressions occurring on what the Mystery Theories refer to as the Physical Plane of Consciousness.  This recognition establishes the possibility of the existence of other, different Planes of Consciousness, occurring on different levels of awareness, beyond the interpretations of the ego. The content of these additional observational perceptions is largely found in the unconscious regions of the mind already noted in the preceding paragraph, and embraces many expressions. 

            We all exist in individual form in this life – the body of flesh – and this form determines our personal, individual perspective on experience.  No two individuals ever perceive either internal or external events in exactly the same way, although there may be social similarities present, depending on acculturation, and the general level of sophistication of a given person’s awareness. Even the perceptions of instinct, universally inborn as they are, cannot be assumed to be identical for all observers.  However, there is at least some theoretical justification for the presumption that certain very basal emotional states linked to the body’s physiology may be approximately universally experienced by most observers.  F. S. Perls, M.D., Ph.D, defined these states as: grief, rage, joy, and orgasm, suggesting that they were the four foundational organismic quasi-emotional response modalities common to the human condition. Author Mary Ann Williamson has suggested that the polar existential experiences of Love and Fear are the common denominators of consciousness. The most probably universal perceptual phenomena, in this author’s opinion, are suffering and ecstasy – we all seem to experience the extreme overloading of our condition, and the accompanying loss of homeostasis, as either notably uncomfortable or pleasurable.  

            The issue at hand regarding observational perception concerns the gestalt interaction of all of the additional unconscious perceptions inherent in the observations we make with the conscious waking perception, itself no simple construct.  When the factors of ever changing unconscious and conscious observational perceptions concerning the same event or events, caused by learning and deliberation, is entered into this complex equation, the truly daunting nature of our task here begins to become apparent.  And we must finally add the fact of the continuous flux of all of the events of both the internal and external environments into this mix.  Not only does nothing remain the same at any level, but the resultant observations also do not, nor does the observer making them!  Under these circumstances, we are left with only vague generalizations as conclusions to be drawn about this life. Bearing this in mind, let us attempt to characterize the observational gestalt further.  

            The evident common factor in observational experience is the physical, organismic platform supporting our observations – the body.  No matter how far reaching they may be, and no matter how free of interpretation of any kind, our observations are clearly at least supported through the agency of the physical organism.  For this reason, and because it is one of the more scientific theories that is also grounded in common sense, I will begin working with the F. S. Perls classification system of grief, rage, joy, and orgasm already noted in the previous paragraph.  This system has the advantage of granting the primacy of the organism in observational perception, maintaining simplicity of form, and also allowing for the expansion of the four states specified into a comprehensive system of observational classification in realtime – the here and now of human experience. 


                                                                               - With Love, Alan -

                                                             (Copyright 2009, by Alan Schneider)


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