Bodily Unawareness (re-edited)

Under altered states of awareness... one of the first changes an individual perceives is an overall bodily discord of sluggish mobility and disorganized limb...

Under normal mental conditions, one’s aesthetic awareness – his sensual perception or “consciousness” – if viewed in terms of an optical lens can be likened to a pinpoint rather than a panoramic vista. Given the limitless breadth and depth of environmental stimuli that assails us at any particular moment, this pinpoint ensures that only a fraction of the potential sensory input breaches the realm of the mind, and lesser still that is able to pierce the unconscious veils that defend our usual “awareness”, awareness which perceives “things” as “things”, precious and delicate. 

Among its many responsibilities, this pinpoint discriminates, preventing the individual from becoming completely overwhelmed by the seemingly endless phenomenological inessentiality of our world and cosmos, allowing a man to move his body through space and time in a more or less efficient manner, unhindered by the constant need to stop, assess, integrate, repeat. All things equal, if an individual reacts or responds to stimuli, it’s only that which is most necessary for his immediate survival. Once the threat is passed, it’s quickly forgotten unless the stress was sufficient (i.e. life-threatening) enough to warrant its memorable impression whose locale can be readily accessed in the event that a similar experience was ever encountered again.    

Circe Offering the Cup to Odysseus – John William Waterhouse

Circe Offering the Cup to Odysseus, John William Waterhouse

Under non-normal mental conditions however, in heightened and otherwise altered states of awareness, that pinpoint often expands to a circle, then a sphere and eventually a globe. As the critical function slackens its usual tension, one of the first changes an individual perceives is an overall bodily discord of sluggish mobility and disorganized limb. As the state develops, movement becomes so sea-tossed and treacherous that the individual must at some point sit down, then lay down. In extreme cases, bodily movement becomes more or less impossible, though here one rarely considers one’s limbs, much less their mobility or lack thereof.

Accordingly, as the arms and legs slow, so does one’s perception of time: at the height of “unawareness” the clock seems to literally stop and deepen, almost to the point of fourth dimensionality, a condition that can be likened to an “Objective” state of mind, utterly foreign to the subjective relationship man typically has with his own body, no matter how faintly felt.

Into one’s yawning aesthetic perception speeds an incomprehensible flow of information which begins to overwhelm the individual to the point of sensual “death”: the severing of man’s coherent communication, expression and interpretation of and with the world of his cultivated senses. One is literally drowned in a deluge of symbols and images that, if not continually ignored by everyday sight, would have, out of sheer terror and unending astonishment, prevented the species from achieving the dominant position it now enjoys.

1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD. 4 Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. 6 The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.” 7 Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” 9 He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.) 11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” 12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” 13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the LORD, “Please, LORD, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, LORD, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him. 17 Now the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Commentaries for Jonah 1 Jonah 2 1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. 2 He said: “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. 3 You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. 4 I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ 5 The engulfing waters threatened me,the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. 6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit. 7 “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. 8 “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. 9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I h

Jonah and The Whale, Pieter Lastman

Trapped beneath this archetypal ocean, the Aesthetic is left with two options: (1) sink further into the oblivion of out-of-body bliss or (2) fight upwards towards the light of “the re-emergence of self as Self”. To resume cognitive function – to reduce the globe to that pinpoint as it were – one’s perception has no other choice but to re-embrace its primordial role of sacrifice, to the slaughter of all (or most) of the sensual wonderment he “objectively” perceives.

By so doing, one’s learns to identify what is extraneous and inessential in one’s self, identification that demands an individual learn to distinguish between what is “his” and what is not, namely, that which belongs to his culture, specifically his moral culture.  

Jonah Leaves the Whale's Belly, Tintoretto Jacopo

Jonah Leaves the Whale’s Belly, Tintoretto Jacopo

To resurrect the Self, all that is superfluous and external must be suspended, however fleeting and nuanced. For it is precisely through this phenomenological suspension that the External can be revealed – and later dispensed – for what it is: the world’s objectification; that which deludes and obscurates the Individual’s own self-understanding.

To say it another way, for The Self to emerge from the non-bodily experience of objectivity, it must differentiate itself against objectivity; it must war against every moral-emotional entanglement that seeks to keep it tethered to everything prior, communal, universal – even himself as prior, communal, etc; entanglements that ultimately preclude one’s authentic expression; authenticity which alone founds a man as the source of his own power.   

Athena Revealing Ithaca to Ulysses, Giuseppe Bottani

Athena Revealing Ithaca to Ulysses, Giuseppe Bottani

What’s more, such violent aesthetic exercise isn’t relegated to the altered state of mind alone, but manifests its qualities in the everyday life and thinking of the newly-realized Subject. On the one hand, such a man becomes harsher with himself, more demanding, essential, profound, strange, proud, solitary, and unapologetically so. On the other, he becomes less demanding in his dealings with and expectations of others, aware now of how difficult the gauntlet of sensual resurrection can be, one that is all but impossible for the vast majority of men (and rightly so). He also finds himself more open to and particularly desirous of contradictory and often paradoxical ideas, and also more sensitive to the profound uniqueness of experience itself, even something as formerly mundane as the experience of everyday life.

In short, The Self, having overcome the struggle against the ineffable awe of objectivity, begins at long last to take the first of many difficult steps towards becoming his own master: of his mind and moral source of his beginnings; progenitor of his own desires, evoker of his own fears, impetus for his own impulses; arbiter of his own destiny and maker of meaning; the artist who continually remakes the sole subject of his obsession – himself.