Dole, Holographic Psychology II
I suspect you won't mind if I review very briefly what I covered Monday morning. I'm working in these lectures on the assumption that we understand ourselves as spiritual beings by means of models drawn from sensory experience. Newtonian physics, which treats matter as exclusively made up of particles, has provided us with most of the models that are currently popular. Contemporary physics, though, finds that matter also has wave properties; and this discovery has unlocked unexpected potential.
I find Swedenborg describing spiritual reality as having conspicuous and important wave properties, especially in dealing with influx and with the nature and the communication of love and wisdom. I might mention one explicit instance of this, from T.C.R. 173.2, where Swedenborg states that in heaven, no one can pronounce a trinity of persons each of whom separately is God, because "the heavenly aura itself, in which their thoughts fly and undulate the way sound does in our air, resists it."
As my title indicates, the particular wave phenomenon I'm working with is the hologram. This is a recording on photographic film of the interference pattern between two sets of light waves, one coming directly from the source, and the other indirectly, reflected off the object being recorded. The resultant plate has two distinctive characteristics. Light shining through it in a particular way will recreate a three-dimensional image of the object recorded, and the whole image is recorded on every segment of the plate.
I find this phenomenon helpful in understanding a number of things Swedenborg says about immediate and mediate influx, about the pervasiveness of the human form in macrocosm and microcosm, and about the communication of thoughts and feelings in the spiritual world. I got as far as talking about boundaries, and that is where I want to pick things up this morning. By way of review, I'll just quote my summary sentence from Monday's lecture: "To summarize the suggestion, it is that we need boundaries, that the holographic model is open to a multiplicity of boundaries, and that it is then vital that we stop regarding our boundaries as somehow inherent in the nature of things, and start evaluating them for their appropriateness."
Our sensory experience is a continuum. Day and night, our senses send us continuous signals, without any gaps. We make sense out of this by means of our selectivity, which takes at least two distinguishable forms. One is that we mark things off from each other and group them into categories. The other is that we ignore a large percentage of what is going on. I'll pursue the former device in a minute, but I'll remind some of you and inform others of the fovea of the eye. This is the area in the center of the retina, the only area where the photosensitive cells are packed densely enough to allow us to see detail. It constitutes one forty-thousandth of the total area of the retina. If you want to check this out, sort of, take a printed page, fix your gaze on one letter, and see how many words you can read without shifting your center of focus.
As to the other device, we need only to look at the way language works. There is a spectrum of colors, a continuum shifting from one end to the other. We draw boundaries in it, and label red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Other languages divide it differently. In a book called The Universe Within, Morton Hunt has a page filled with line drawings of objects, the central theme being "cups." But these are all of different proportions. Take one of our coffee cups here, broaden the base, and at some point it won't be a cup but a mug. Make it gradually taller and slimmer, and at some point it will be a vase with a little handle on it. Make it flatter and broader, and it will be a bowl with a handle.
The point is that the word "cup" does not refer directly to one particular object different by creation from all other objects, but to a mental category of objects. The boundaries of this category are quite arbitrary, but they are also widely accepted among the native speakers of a given language. Further, it turns out to be best to regard the meaning of any given word as having a kind of core meaning or center, with rings of extended meaning spreading out from that center, oddly like what happens when you drop a pebble in a pond. And finally, these areas of meaning overlap all over the map. I can refer to our cat as a cat, a pet, a problem, an idiot, a lump, a fierce hunter, a snob, and so on-- always referring to the same furry object, but putting her in different categories.
Now if this is true of the way language relates to observable physical reality, where we can point to something and say, "Now that is a cat" (or "Now that is a baby"), it must inevitably be more true of the way language relates to things we cannot see. It is not easy at all to decide what someone else means by the word "love," for example. Theology is very largely a matter of drawing such boundaries in the unseen realm, and it behooves us to do so with some care, always with attention to the appropriateness, to the use, of such boundaries.
The boundaries we draw around ourselves are particularly important-- what I call "me" and "mine." Swedenborg is quite clear and consistent in telling us that spiritually, we decide who we are. We "appropriate" certain qualities to ourselves; we claim tham as our own, and they are then functionally our own. Now I'd like to call your minds back to that pond with all the pebbles dropping in, and suggest that each of us is like the impact of one of those pebbles-- an area in this continuum of reality where the Lord's direct inflow intersects the horizontal, indirect inflow.
In this model, what gives us our individuality is not our boundaries, which are really quite arbitrary, but our center, our location. This again gives a particualar cogency to some of Swedenborg's descriptions. From the Arcana (n. 2057.2), "The very form of heaven is of such nature that everyone there is like a center, a center especially of communication of happiness to all, arranged according to all the differences of . . . love, which are beyond counting." Or try this one (A.C. 3833):
When we are being led into the true and therefore into the good, everything we then learn is fuzzy; but when the good is united to us and we look at the true from that standpoint, then things become clear, more and more so as time goes on; then we are no longer in doubt as to whether things are true or not, but we know what exists and that it is true. When we are in this state, then we begin to know countless things, because we are proceeding then from the good and the true which we believe and perceive as if from a center to surrounding things, and as we proceed, we see the surrounding things over a wider and wider area, constantly extending and expanding our boundaries.
I'd also refer you to the discussion recorded in C.L. 380.7 on the relationship of center and expanse, quoting only the question, "What is crazier than saying that the center is derived from the expanse?" If it is true that we are centers, that we are held in being through our inmost, then what could be crazier than trying to define ourselves by our boundaries?
Monday I promised you something I hoped would be a surprise, and this is the place for it. Listen for a moment to a paragraph from Heaven and Hell (n. 438).
I may add to this that every individual, as long as he or she is living in the body, is as to spirit in a community with spirits without knowing it-- good people in an angelic community and evil people in a hellish community-- and that each one arrives in that same community after death. People who are arriving among spirits after death are often told and shown this. People are not visible in this community as spirits while they are living in this world because then they are thinking naturally; but people who are thinking withdrawn from the body, being then in the spirit, are sometimes visible in their communities. When they are visible, they can be readily distinguished from the spirits who are there because they move along lost in thought, silently. They do not look at others: it is as though they did not see them. And the moment any spirit talks to them, they vanish.
This, for me, raises a question. What happens to these silent individuals when they vanish? They can't stop existing on that level of reality-- we all exist there. That is where we now are as to our spirits (cf. T.C.R. 1). In fact, if any level of our being ceased to exist or were missing, we would cease to exist. Swedenborg says we have all these levels, but that they are opened only by the way we live. Why aren't we always visible on all levels?
I begin to get a glimmer of an answer from our wave properties, namely, that it is our consciousness that draws boundaries around us and makes us visible. Otherwise we are just part of the general pattern. We sort of blend into the landscape.
It would seem as though things are different here in the physical world, as though our bodies continue to be discrete from other bodies whether we're conscious or not. But listen to this sentence from A.C. (n. 7270): "Inflow is patterned by these stages [namely "discrete degrees"], for the divine-true that emanates directly from the divine-good flows in by stages, and in its course, or at each new stage, it becomes more general and therefore coarser and hazier, and it becomes slower, and therefore more viscous and colder."
If you'll cast your minds back a bit to that pot of white sauce cooking away on the stove, it will serve as an illustration. When it is just starting, it's pretty thin. You stir it, and you get lots of quick little ripples that bounce off the sides of the pan. You stop stirring it, and it quiets down pretty quickly. As it gets thicker, two things happen. The ripples get slower, and they last longer. They have pretty slow reflexes.
This suggests to me that we should regard matter as viscous rather than as permanent. It does respond to spirit, but slowly. It is our consciousness that holds our bodies together; but when that consciousness leaves, it takes these sluggish bodies quite a while to disintegrate and become part of the landscape again. By contrast, spiritual substance is immeasurably more responsive. All kinds of effects are quite promptly visible that might take years to manifest themselves in this material realm.
Another of my favorite little passages supports this-- one that has been mistranslated by reason of the mortal sin of ignoring the subjunctive. It's from N.J.H.D. (n. 36), and reads as follows:
We are so created as to be in the spiritual world and in the natural world at the same time. The spiritual world is where angels are, and the natural world is where mortals are. And since we are created in this way, we have been given an internal and an external-- an internal through our involvement in the spiritual world, and an external through our involvement in the natural world. Our internal is what is called the inner person, and our external is what is called the outer person.
Everyone has an internal and an external-- good and evil people alike. . . . But for evil people, the internal is in the world and its light, and their external is too. So they don't see anything from heaven's light, only from the world's light. . . . This is why matters of heaven are in thick darkness for them, and matters of this world are in the light. We can see from this that good people have an inner person and an outer person, but that evil people have no inner person, only an outer one.
I'd paraphrase this in our present context by saying that we all have these levels all the time, but that we gather as persons, we come into human form with human boundaries, only as we begin to become conscious-- to see in the appropriate light.
Even as physical creatures, we are in a constant process of change. We eat, digest, and eliminate matter. If we were to draw a simple diagram of this, matter would be flowing into us and out of us, and it would be "alive" while it was inside us. For me, at least, this makes it easier to understand my physical body as something whose integrity and boundaries are maintained by my consciousness rather than as something inherently discrete from the rest of the world.
To return to more general considerations, though, to live and to function as finite creatures we need boundaries. I don't find this problematic in the holographic model, which is susceptible to all kinds of boundaries. It becomes possible and necessary, though, to use boundaries with sensitivity to their effects, realizing that they are concessions to our need rather than intrinsic features of the Lord's creation.
I want to illustrate this by returning to the example of "my" lectures, which in a way contain nothing I can call exclusively "mine." But in order to see more clearly what is involved, I think it will help to have another look at the holographic model.
I've made only slight reference to one of its startling and paradoxical features, the presence of the whole image in every segment of the plate. I mentioned in Monday's lecture, but not in today's review thereof, that the smaller the segment, the less detail there is.
So let's look at a familiar principle and see what we can do with it. It's succinctly stated in N.J.H.D. 11. "Everything in the universe that is in accord with the divine design goes back to the good and the true. Nothing exists in heaven, and nothing in this world, that does not go back to these two. The reason is that these two, the good and the true, emanate from the divine, the source of everything." An implication of this is explicitly stated in D.L.W. (nn. 77ff.): "The divine is the same in the largest and the smallest things."
This means that a baby opening its eyes for the first time sees a complete image of the divine. It means that the divine is wholly present in each one of us. It means that it is absolutely pointless for me to try to give you anything good and true that is not already within you, because there's no such thing. The D.L.W. passage continues,
It does seem as though the divine were not the same in one person as in another-- that it were different, for example, in a wise person than in a simple one, different in an elderly person than in an infant. But this appearance is deceptive. The person is a recipient, and the recipient or recipient vessel may vary. A wise person is a recipient of divine love and divine wisdom more aptly and therefore more fully than a simple person, and an elderly person who is also wise more than an infant or child. Still, the divine is the same in the one as it is in the other . . . .
It seems to me that in order to deal with things and people as they are, we need to take this into account. We need, that is, to recognize what's the same in all of us, and what's different. To this extent, I'm even prepared to be guided by something like common sense. And for me, the clear implication of this section of D.L.W. is that while I can't give you anything that isn't already in you, I may be able to help you recognize what is.
There's a confirmation of this from common experience. Think of a recent time when you've been "enlightened," when some book or person has presented a new idea that really worked for you. If your experience is anything like mine, along with the sense of newness there is also a very strong element of recognition. This is something I've been looking at all my life, but I've never been quite able to see it. I almost knew it, but not quite.
If I think of this in terms of that pond with all the ripples, what has happened is that instead of seeing a mass of confusion, I suddenly see a pattern. It's as though someone pointed out to me the place where one pebble had landed, and I saw its ripples as primary and others as secondary. What I'm seeing is in a way no different; how I'm seeing it has changed.
So I do have a potential use in your lives, and you in mine. That use does not depend on what I possess in the way of knowledge, not in any mechanistic sense. It is not that I have more of one thing inside my boundaries, and you more of something else. That's an awfully common assumption which I'd suggest is awfully misleading. Everything I "have," everything you "have," is flowing in from the outside-- from each other, and ultimately from the Lord.
No, what's distinctive about me is not how much my boundaries include, but where my center is, where I am in the overall pattern. So I don't need to defend my identity by defending my boundaries, by claiming anything as exclusively mine. The only way my identity could be threatened would be for someone else to be exactly where I am spiritually-- to have led my life and made my decisions just as I have. I don't think I need to lie awake nights worrying about that.
In my closing lecture, I'll suggest some things it probably is worth worrying about, which will finally get us a bit closer to the matter of health and healing. By that time, I hope some of all this will have begun to come together a bit