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..:: The Observer II / The Emotions ::..


Alan Schneider


              In considering Perls’ classification of the basic emotional states, emphasis must be made on the fact that emotions as such are rooted in the physical expression of the body – emotions come from the body directly into mental experience in the mind, just as physical sensations do.  The distinction is that emotions are influenced by self perception and the ego state of the observer.  In this sense, the basic emotions of grief, rage, joy, and orgasm are free floating as organismic response modes, and are “tagged” for personal response by the ego, based upon the customary hedonistic considerations present on the Physical Plane of manifestation.  

            The four responses considered here are indications of the nature of our rooted condition in the body and physical sense perception – they are essentially pre-packaged in the nervous system, and, we may presume, have survival value for the physical  organism of the observer.  Of course, Perls’ system is only one of several existing in psychological theory, but it is a simple, comprehensible one for the lay reader to grasp, and is also psychologically valid, hence, my choice of its use for The Observer essay series.  As has been previously noted, the mechanism of evolution has generated human consciousness, and placed it at the pinnacle of species behavior on Earth.  At least some of the Mystery Theories consider evolution as the Hand of God (and the Soul) expressing destiny in the cosmos, thus, what has evolved into manifest sentience is of the utmost significance.  This is the role of the observer in the universe – our role, and we were not placed in it by accident, but rather by intelligent design. 

            Before proceeding to the root emotional responses and their meanings for observational dynamics,  I wish to briefly revisit what is also a fairly simple, straight forward observational classification system of the stages of human consciousness – the Yoga Chakra System.  The Chakras correspond to and describe the general level of conscious development of the observer, beginning with Muladhara, Chakra One, the Root Chakra, and progressing through six additional levels of expression, culminating in Sahasrara, Chakra Seven, the Crown Chakra.  Muladhara, like all of the Chakras, is located at the Etheric, or Astral, level of perception, itself corresponding to Svadhisthana, Chakra Two, the Reproductive Chakra, actually one perceptual level beyond the Physical Plane of manifestation.  This means that we must have begun to function at the level of Svadhisthana to even perceive the existence of the Chakras – at the level of Muladhara, we are only concerned with the rote struggle for survival, and little or nothing else.  At the level of Muladhara, we are completely trapped in the observation of the Physical Plane, and do not customarily even “observe” that this is where we are!  We do not attain the Astral perception of Svadhisthana until we have begun to function at observational level two, frequently with the onset of puberty, and may not even have perception of the Chakras at this stage, nor at Manipura, Chakra Three, the Solar Plexus (or simply Solar) Chakra, the next in the series, and analogous to the Mental Plane of the Mystery Theories.  

            The first three Chakras represent the set of perceptual and observational modes that define all that can be known and experienced by the ego through the operation of the senses.  In succession, we must first successfully resolve our physical survival issues at the level of Muladhara, our sexual and reproductive issues (perhaps generating a family in the process) at the level of Svadhisthana, and finally our social power and status issues at the level of Manipura, if we make it that far developmentally.  There is absolutely no requirement whatsoever that any observation of the Chakra system need take place for these matters to manifest up to and through the level of Manipura – any number of alternative classification systems developed by the individuals culture of origin may stand in its place.  The introduction of Chakra observation into conscious perception is a matter of individual Karma and personal destiny – God must decree that we should know these things in a given lifetime.  More will be said on these matters presently.  

            Muladhara is the Chakra corresponding to our ongoing survival activities, and the root emotions of Perls are the key observations in this process. Without these basic responses, we would probably have fallen by the perceptual and evolutionary wayside long ago.  Beginning with Grief, let us examine, nay let us observe, what these signposts indicate for humanity. Grief is the emotional response to the loss or removal of something perceived on the Physical Plane by the ego as desirable or valuable.  This root emotion is characterized by the occurrence in the observational field of sadness, crying, loneliness, and a painful vacancy where once pleasant sensations occurred in consciousness.  What is the survival value of grief?  Well, for one thing, it affords us with a way to cope with loss, and loss is one of the inevitable processes of life – everything is lost eventually, even life itself.  Without the mechanism of grief, we would wander through life in a deepening delusion of fantasy gratification of things no longer present, unable to detach or release our psychological bonds to the temporary objects and processes of living, increasingly unable to attend to reality, and doomed to premature demise from any number of environmental factors.  And grief also enables personal emotional growth and development – through the grieving process, we are able to assume a higher, wiser perspective on life as a whole, and experience the “observational process” known as existential learning.  Thus, successfully and completely experienced grieving is one of the essential components of human survival.

             The survival value of Rage, the second emotional state on Perls’ list, would seem to be evident to most observers – Rage enables frequently aggressive, and always decisive, action on the Physical Plane, in response to an affront or threat to the ego.  Rage is most relevant to the case of the theft or forcible removal of something again perceived as desirable or valuable by the ego, as opposed to accidental or inevitable loss.  Rage may also be a part of the larger grieving process, and often is, although it tends to occur spontaneously, quickly assuming full emotional form, passing rapidly through manifestation, and then just as rapidly subsiding.  Many episodes of rage may be required to completely dissipate the emotional burden of a sustained long term trauma to the ego.  In the absence of rage, the organism is left functionally defenseless against life’s most serious (and frequently nefarious) assaults, with dire consequences for individual self esteem and well being, possibly leading to a progressive downward spiral of self destructive behaviors culminating in suicide, and certainly in sustained, deep seated psychological impairment – thus Rage has clear survival value for the organism.  

            The third emotion on Perls’ list is Joy – the observational experience of sustained bliss and ecstatic happiness that is the obverse of Grief.  Grief and Joy are the emotional poles of consciousness across which the range of less extreme emotional responses is perceptually constructed, ranging from sadness, through frustration, ambivalence, neutrality, pleasure, and happiness.  By comparison, Rage and Orgasm are emotional peak experiences that define another continuum of such observational experiences – including episodes of emotional content, ranging through irritation, confusion, boredom, interest, and laughter. Joy tends to be a sustained observation in consciousness, associated with conditions of significant ego and organismic gratification present over periods of time in our perception.  Joy results from the presence of that which is observed as desirable and valuable in our lives.  Without the capacity to experience joy, our lives would become a dull series of listless, meaningless events, or worse, and we would decline into lengthy depressions of increasing severity, accompanied by the self destructive behaviors already noted in the discussion of Rage, again including the possibility of eventual despondent suicide.  

            As was mentioned above, Orgasm is the obverse of Rage in Perls’ classification system, and is the final such state he identified as the basic emotional valences of the organism.  Although this term certainly includes the sexual orgasm as one of its cases, it more broadly includes any burst of positive, peak excitement accompanied by organismic arousal of any positive, pleasurable kind.  Orgasm is to Joy as Rage is to Grief – the peak supporting episodic expression punctuating and demarcating a continuum of experience.  Like Rage, Orgasm is a necessary element of self expression – if either one is blocked for some reason, the impact on the survivability of the individual is cumulative and eventually becomes pronounced.  Outbursts of delight and gratification are as important as those of anger and hostility – both celebrate the psychological freedom and health of the organism.  The deprivation or restriction of access to Orgasm has comparably negative consequences for the individual to the restriction of Rage – a progressive buildup of frustration, self destructive impulses, and negative behaviors.  

            Thus, the primary emotional states observable on the Physical Plane interact psychologically to provide a matrix of survival behaviors for the organism.  Any of them may occur with regard to any of the first three Chakras, even if the Chakra system is not known to the individual – again, the Astral awareness of the Chakras, or any other Astral awareness, for that matter, is not required for the action of emotional responses – they emerge directly from the organism in automatic response to ego perception.  The ego is the neurological pilot mechanism of the organism, and is itself a significant part of the evolutionary design for human survival.  We do not even need to be aware of our emotional states as observations for them to be effective as survival measures – we simply need to be capable of practicing them under appropriate conditions.  Obviously,  the Creator intended evolution to culminate in a very durable sentient condition represented by Muladhara on the Physical Plane! 

            The complex of our emotions, drive states, and hedonistic motivations floats into and out of conscious perception, and hence possible observation, while we are awake – I say possible observation here because we must first be prompted by some additional factor in consciousness to notice, and thus observe, our mental condition and behavior.  Something must interrupt our stream of habitual activity long enough to stop us at some critical point in the process, and evoke our curiosity long enough to initiate a legitimate observation of what we are doing.  More often than not, this event is the Jungian synchronicity, or meaningful coincidence, occurring outside the framework of our normal experience.  The synchronicity is the voice of Karma – and hence of God – speaking to us on the Physical Plane about what we are doing with our lives, and how well that doing corresponds to the ultimate level of observation – the Divine level occurring in Sahasrara Chakra, as far away as possible from the ego-mediated level in the first three Chakras.  The simple processes of survival on the Physical Plane may well be of the utmost level of sophistication, when they are finally observed as they are – God’s Creation – but they are only the beginning of the total observational field described by the sequence of the Chakras.  

            A basic chart of correspondences among the Planes of Ascension, Chakras, and Observational Field manifestations may be useful at this time:


                            Chakra                                 Plane                                          Observer

                          Muladhara                             Physical                    Body, emotions, senses, waking ego.

                        Svadhisthana                            Astral                      Archetypes, light meditation, dreams.

                           Manipura                               Mental                   Spiritual Archetypes,  social self/power.

                           Anahata                                  Atmic                   The Soul, compassion, selfless service.

                         Vishuddah                               Buddhic                  The Buddha Mind, chanting, the Self.

                              Ajna                                    Monadic                 High spiritual insight and Inner Vision.

                         Sahasrara                                Logoic                    God, the Logos, Supreme Light.


            Although I realize that much remains to be said, particularly regarding the upper sequence of observational states beyond Manipura Chakra and the associated Mental Plane, this little chart at least represents a useful cognitive tool for the reader.  

            There are several other systems of classification of observational modes in use.  Christianity simply has the human observer (the ego) on the Physical Plane, connected through the Christ Consciousness (the Soul) on the Atmic Plane, to God (the Holy Spirit) on the Logoic Plane.  Cabala uses a very complex system referred to as the Tree of Life, featuring anywhere from ten to twelve stages of spiritual progression, interlinked in an intricate matrix that offers three primary Paths of Ascension,  called Pillars.  Buddhism uses the Noble Eightfold Path as the means of attainment of the Supreme State of Nirvana.  Yoga, the system referenced in this essay, traces the ascent of the Kundalini, the Divine Spark inborn in humanity, through the sequence of the Chakras to the highest stage of observation in the Seventh Chakra, Sahasrara.  And the Western Mystery Schools use a bewildering array of systems and stages, known as Planes of Ascension, one of the most popular of which is shown in the diagram above.  Each of these has valid portrayals of the development of observational consciousness to offer the student of perception, and I will refer to all of them when appropriate in these passages in The Observer Essays.  

            The physical body is the fundamental platform of observation as it occurs on the Physical Plane of Manifestation.  All of the information we of which we are aware – even the Mystery Theories, Planes of Ascension, and the Chakras – comes to us in conjunction with the operation and presence of the body, the physical senses, and our emotional perception relating to internal and external events.  Particularly with regard to emotions of any kind, it is critically necessary to be aware of their presence and effects on the observations we make of the world around and within us.  In the absence of this level of conscious awareness, we are functionally controlled by them, and not in control of them, nor of our role as observers.  This absence of conscious control will fixate our spiritual development at the level where it occurs until it is brought into the light of conscious perception and assimilated there.  So it is that we must come to constructive terms with the first three Chakras and the physical organism to progress further in the observational field as observers of total consciousness!  

            In the next essay in this series, we will examine the effects of subconscious versus conscious vectors of observation on the quality of the process as it occurs in consciousness.  As we all have experienced to some extent, the repression of potent emotional material into the subconscious regions of the Psyche, thus rendering it unobservable to the waking ego, has profound biasing effects on the entire observational matrix we function within, invalidating most or all of what we perceive in specific cases.  Please feel free to return here for our next foray into the fascinating observational field!


                                                                                - With Love, Alan -

                                                              (Copyright 2009, by Alan Schneider)


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