For those of us whose interest in the mechanics of perception and the arising of visual experience runs deep, contemporary Dzogchen teacher Jackson Peterson offers a pithy lay summary. What are the implications for us as ‘artists’? What are we actually attempting to express? Are we furthering the illusion of a solid-state world or are we inquiring into its genesis? What can we express about the ubiquitous “knowing sentience”? And where does this leave us as viewers of both art and the world we feel is so unquestionably ‘real’? Fasten your seat belts!
Perception is an acquired phenomenon.
– E H Gombrich
Understanding our visionary world experience of ordinary perception as being a mental or brain/mind construction arising instantaneously, from moment to moment, is a profound insight. The Source creates visionary experience through a human brain. Having a human brain is the only way to have uniquely human experience.
Perceptions, as neurological, electro-chemical signals, are processed and immediately appear as virtual 3D images like a movie. Along with that arising of a movie-like experience is the arising of a perceiver. It’s not that there exists a pre-existing observer that ‘views’ the various movie-like perceptual images, but rather the ‘perceiver’ perceiving arises with the perceptual vision, as a part of the projection. The perceiver is imagined.
This is identical to what occurs when we dream at night. The dreamed self-identity is not a pre-existing entity that then ‘views’ the separate dream scenery, rather the perceiver of the dream scenery is equally a simultaneous projection of a subconscious creativity. The ‘perceiver perceiving’ is a mental projection. The same is true in the waking state. There is no actual separate ‘perceiver of perceptions’ other than an imagined one. The ‘me’ is merely a projection of karmic propensities. There is no actual aware entity within that milieu of projected me-thoughts, me-sensations and me-beliefs. What that ‘me’ does or intends is purely determined by karmic or brain conditioning. So free will loses all meaning. There is no ‘me’ entity that chooses or decides anything.
There is no stable and objective universe ‘out there’. There is only the world and universe manufactured by your brain/mind at any, and every, given moment. There is however a vast and infinite quantum electro-magnetic informational field that moves or waves through the body’s perceptual organs, which becomes the basis for the 3D movie that appears in consciousness. And actually the movie doesn’t appear ‘in’ consciousness, but consciousness appears as the 3D virtual movie along with its artificial ‘viewer’. All events are occurring only within the brain.
Light is not bright nor colorful. Light is invisible. The brightness and colors we see in our ordinary vision only exist in the brain/mind. Brightness is a brain manufactured phenomena, along with all the objects we seem to see. Again the perceiver of objects, brightness and colors is also a mentally manufactured entity made up of neural conditioning and conceptual designation. There is no actual entity that ‘sees’. When we fall asleep at night that entity disappears and is replaced by a new dreamed entity that also thinks it’s seeing pre-existing dream scenery. It’s constructed to think that, the same as our waking state ‘self’ thinks that it is seeing a pre-existing world.
Sound only exists in a brain. The universe is silent. Movements of molecules cause the ear drum to vibrate, which creates electro-chemical signals from which the brain creates the inner neurological experience called sound.
We think we smell the fragrance of a flower, but instead no “scent” enters our nostrils, only odorless molecules. The brain then creates the fragrance as a neurological experience from odorless molecules.
Taste is the same. Foods contain no flavours; only brains do.
Sensations of pressure and heat and cold are the same as well.
Seeing that the experience and substance of our dream visionary experiences is identical to our day time ‘waking state’ visionary experience, in that both are both equally 3D brain/mind manufactured projections, is a profound insight. Neither the viewing subject nor the scenery viewed are other than subconscious projections occurring in the brain/mind. There is no real person ‘in there’ having experiences. That whole ‘me’ story is also just a projection of electro-chemical neural activity. The entire notion of being a real individual person, an autonomous self, is pure, brain generated fantasy.
But a quality of knowing sentience pervades all experience equally. It’s not viewing the dream, but rather the dream or experience is what ‘knowingness’ is. It’s like the reflections that appear in a mirror. The brain and its functioning are also reflections appearing in the mirror of knowingness. But the mirror is never a person with an identity or personal story. That entity is merely a holographic reflection that appears and disappears completely from moment to moment with no continuity. There is no personal self except as an assemblage of neurological signals arising in the holographic, 3D movie that we call ‘our life in the universe’.
By noticing the inherent presence of knowing sentience to be within and AS all experience equally, that ‘noticer’ itself will dissolve into its changeless mirror-like, transparent awareness without border or center.
No one realized anything. No state became stable. That ‘me’ as a seeker just disappeared, dissolved, like a foggy mist that naturally evaporates in the morning sun.
- Jackson Peterson
See Jackson Peterson’s website – The Way of Light
He is also very active on Facebook, which is where I sourced this article. It has received only minor editing. Thank you Jax!
The top image is from the Glass Brain Project.
“This 3D brain is not a model — it’s a real human brain, firing electric signals as it thinks. “We are not just recording brain activity in real time, but also visualising it for people to experience how the brain functions,” says neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley of the University of California San Francisco, who built the Glass Brain project along with the Swartz Centre at UC San Diego.”
Visit the link to play with the model – it’s a wonder in every sense of the word.
The remaining images are from the gallery at the Human Connectome Project.
“Navigate the brain in a way that was never before possible; fly through major brain pathways, compare essential circuits, zoom into a region to explore the cells that comprise it, and the functions that depend on it.
The Human Connectome Project aims to provide an unparalleled compilation of neural data, an interface to graphically navigate this data and the opportunity to achieve never before realized conclusions about the living human brain.”
You will never think of so-called grey matter in quite the same way again. Or, indeed, your world.
The only thing worth expressing is the inexpressible.
– Frederick Franck
Can art serve to help the world, and, if so, what does that require of the artist? It is our belief that there are certain practices for the artist that help address this question, such as contemplation, meditation, retreat, listening, and discipline. As a result, we are providing a context for artists to investigate those elements on their own and within community.
We believe that art has the capacity to genuinely help our world, to instill it with sanity, awareness, joy, and beauty. This does not mean that art has to look a certain way or achieve a standard aesthetic or tone, nor is it an endorsement of a “love and light” approach to art. It does mean that art needs to be tethered to truth, according to the logic of the process undertaken or the piece being created.
How does one cultivate this tether to truth? Our inspiration has been through slowing down, making friends with oneself through meditation and contemplation, spending the time to develop one’s craft, know one’s materials, and fine-tune the senses as tools for communication. Most of all, we are interested in supporting artists in genuinely finding their way.
– Text and graphic sourced from the Hemera Foundation website
The Hemera Contemplative Fellowship programs were created to make the unique benefits of contemplative practice in a retreat context more widely available. Find more information on this page:
The precision of naming takes away
from the uniqueness of seeing.
- Pierre Bonnard
… a short excerpt from Rupert Spira‘s book, Presence, Vol 1, with paintings by the artists he mentions …
- – -
An artist tries to represent, that is, to re-present, to present again a vision of experience that evokes its reality, to make something that has the power within it to draw the viewer into its own reality.
That is what the French painter, Pierre Bonnard, was trying to capture: the timeless moment of perception before thinking has divided the world into a perceiving subject and a perceived object and then further sub-divided the object into ‘ten thousand things.’
And what did that vision look like in Bonnard’s view? It was a world brimming with colour, intensity, harmony and dancing with vitality. It was world in which the edge of the bath or an old wooden floorboard were given the same attention, the same love, as were the curve of a cheek or the gesture of a hand.
It was the same moment that William Blake wanted to evoke. He was once questioned, “When you see the sun rise do you not see a round disc of fire somewhat like a guinea?” And he replied, “Oh no, no! I see an innumerable company of the heavenly host crying ‘Glory, Glory, Glory is the Lord God Almighty.’”
Likewise, William Turner who is reported to have been returning home from Hampstead Heath with a painting under his arm late one evening, when a local resident stopped him and asked to see the painting. After looking at it for some time the resident remarked, “Mr. Turner, I have never seen a sun set over Hampstead Heath like that,” to which Turner replied, “No, but don’t you wish you could.”
The body and mind of the artist is the medium through which nature interprets itself to itself. It is the medium through which nature explores and realises its own identity. As Cézanne said, “I become the subjective consciousness of the landscape and my painting becomes its objective consciousness.”
Links to related pages and posts on this site:
I’m delighted too. Imagine my joy at meeting a painter and artisan whose practice is driven by the desire to express “that which is innate within us all” in an offering of beauty – right here in my little hometown, Mullumbimby, NSW, Australia.
Welcome to the artisans’ gallery, Melinda Blair Paterson (drum roll!)
From Melinda’s page:
At the moment my art is an exploration of colour and movement within the simplicity of a circle, starting and finishing with my first love – white. Keeping it slow and simple is how goes these days, for it is that which is innate within us all that has my full attention, and the seeming ‘stopping’ that catches a glimpse.
Melinda Blair Paterson, Sahaja Earth, 1200×1200, acrylic on canvas, 2014
The paint is poured onto the canvas, then moved in tandem with the body, like a Sufi dancer spinning into stillness. The paint finds its own path across the surface, delighting the Seeing whichever way it goes. Layers upon layers are created until a maze of colour sits reflecting the viewer. Then for reasons that are never understood, it is time for white, which is poured to cover and reveal a new form. And the Seeing is yet again exponentially delighted.
Visit Melinda’s page to view more examples of her work
and read the entire text:
He and fellow poet Allan Burns have created their first annual of fine haiku and art. It’s a compilation that aims to “encourage the development of high-quality nature-oriented haiku in English”. The poets featured express – each in their own unique voice – their wonderment, curiosity and compassion regarding the natural world, and the accompanying images bring an added depth of contemplation and beauty to the words.
“muttering thunder is an annual of nature-focused haiku and art that will be published each November as an ebook, available for free online viewing and download from this page. The first annual, dedicated to the memory of Martin Lucas, presents approximately 100 previously unpublished haiku by almost 60 premier English-language haiku poets from around the world.
It also includes a reprint of a classic essay by Robert Spiess – Specific Objects in Haiku, and a wide-ranging interview with leading haiku and lyric poet Wally Swist.”
If you are a lover of haiku and appreciate sensuous and sensitive nature photography, I know you’ll be as delighted as I am at the launch of muttering thunder. The annual is a feast for the eyes and the heart – a fine companion for one’s contemplation of the sheer wonder of nature, and of our seamless intimacy with the fabric of the world.
You might also be interested in these pages on haiku and haiga:
The links below feature a selection of pages and posts on this site.
The search box can be found at the foot of the page.
Thank you for visiting!
fellowships for contemplative artists
- the Hemera Foundation's retreat program for 2015
how painting can help to save the world, actually
- an essay by jordan wolfson
The purpose of art is to take the senses on a journey back to the source of perception, which is pure Awareness.
- Rupert Spira
In order to understand the true meaning of Abstract Art, we have to conceive of ourselves as a reflex (reflection) of reality. This means we have to see ourselves as a mirror in which reality reflects itself.
- Piet Mondrian
The body is a sensing instrument of consciousness. Without the body and the mind, the trees couldn't see themselves. Usually we think that we are looking at a tree, but the tree is looking at itself through us. Without this instrument, the tree doesn't get to see itself. We are the sensing instruments of the Divine.
Art is a form of supremely delicate awareness ... meaning at-oneness, the state of being at one with the object.
- D H Lawrence
The heart of creativity is an experience of the mystical union; the heart of the mystical union is an experience of creativity.
- Julia Cameron
I am Not,
but the Universe is my Self.
- Shih T'ou, AD 700 - 790
It is [the] flash of realization of not-two-ness, that is both the center and the endpoint of our human experience.
- Frederick Franck
I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas.
I’m frightened of the old ones.
- John Cage
God created the giraffe, the cat, the elephant ...
He has no real style, he just keeps trying things.
- Pablo Picasso
Slow motion opens the mind.
Smooth motion opens the heart.
Slow smooth motion
the inexplicable delight.
- Paul Reps
Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist.
- Renee Magritte
- arts and consciousness
- contemplative education
- dharma art courses
- dialogue in consciousness
- education for wholeness
- fellowships for contemplative artists
- non-dualistic pedagogy
- science and nonduality conferences
- the art of learning
- the course in consciousness
- visual arts at naropa
- yoga art
- zen arts
The basic project of art is ... to close the gap between you and everything that is not you.
- Robert Hughes