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