Any personal blog runs the risk of turning into an “egomaniacs charter”. What I will discuss here most definitely runs the risk of falling into that category because it is a personal disclosure, done for my own benefit to try to build some mental /spiritual cohesion at this time. I would be lying though, if I didn’t harbor a small hope that it may be of interest to others.
As an engineer by trade, I am concerned with the mechanisms that create physical change and my religious outlook is “coloured” by such thinking. If I can define the mechanisms, then that gives the experiences more credence and relevance for me. To a lot of people, this is not a concern, because the experience is more prominent and the mechanisms don’t really play much of a part in their outlook. The experience is everything. I tend to view things slightly differently.
There is an old saying that states “Sometimes you can’t see the woods for the trees”. My experience of this thing I have come to accept as my Druidry, is that the quote is most apt for me in this context.
A few days ago, when reading some comments in relation to my last blog post, I was confronted by these thoughts from a fellow TDN member… ” Funny how you see a long and complex thread and one line leaps out and roots into your soil… The mindfulness of physicality… that stirs some thinking in me. That personal identity is intrinsically wed to, is not separate from, the physical. But when the physical is constantly dying and remaking itself on a molecular scale… how does that work? “. I am reasonably read in both physics and biology and immediately I began to consider the physical processes involved in such a thing.
But then something struck me. The scientific viewpoint creates the basis for its conclusions using the role of the impartial observer to best present evidence and make conclusions. It is a methodology proven to work within the scientific framework and is very useful in explaining processes. But it occurred to me that the detached observer hypothesis has its limitations and whereas I could consider the physical processes involved in the maintenance of the human body using that model, the model was very limited when trying to explain the “mindfulness of physicality“. The thought struck me that mindfulness may not just be a characteristic of the mind and attempting to define it through the detached observer model could only ever present a partial view.
We all know that the personal identity we have created within our bodies is one that is mostly a mental construct. It is very easy and very “natural” to consider the voice in our heads to be distinct from the body housing it. This duality has been the basis for religious thought for millenia. The idea of reincarnation is implicit, in some regards, to this idea of a duality because it suggests that though the body may perish, the “real” us will continue on in later times possibly through the inhabitation of a new physical form.
Indeed, the classical Druids propagated this idea of reincarnation and it was claimed in the classical writings that this belief would lead to acts of great, and in the views of some of the writers recording them, seemingly “crazy” acts of bravery on the battlefield because the fear of the “final” death of the body was largely negated. This position of the classical Druids is unusual because it has not been challenged in any serious way by either academia or the Neo-Druid community. If ever there was a “given” in modern Druidry, that is one of a relatively small number of the generally accepted ones.
The evidence today that we have through the various scientific studies available at this time, reveal that the human body is in a constant state of rebuilding. Everything from toe nails to the skin are constantly active because they are in a constant cycle of building and dismantling. We view our bodies as “fixed” because they are as we largely expect them to be at any one time. And this fixed status represents the foundations which our mental faculties use as their basis. We assume we think coherently because we assume we experience fixed physicality. Yet the organ most associated with the mental “us”, the brain, is not exempt from this cycle of building and dismantling. It too, is completely rebuilt every so often. Which, when we consider the “fixed” notion of the body, is actually quite disconcerting.
It is now taught that the processes of the brain that lead to mental cohesion are created by synoptic pathways that are created through the bodies physical experiences. Our habit of thinking of things in a fixed and final form means that the “logical” position, in relation to the brain, is one where we consider it ( the brain) to be like a combined central processing unit and hard drive of a computer. It can be thought of as an area of information collection, processing, distribution and storage. However, unlike a combined CPU & hard drive which is physically fixed, the constant cycle of rebuilding in it and around its environment, means that the brain is not fixed in the same way.
Because if it was, when the brain oversaw the destruction of part of its physicality through this renewal process, the information present within that area being destroyed would be lost in the destructive part of the cycle and presumably would have to be downloaded again. Thus creating a problem with a “top down” model. And to download the information, it would have to have been stored in either another area of our physical form, externally, or we would have to “relive” the experiences again to reform the pathways (groundhog day anyone?).
It occurs to me that there is no particle on Earth that has not, at some time, been recycled (unless we consider large impacts from bodies striking the Earth from space). Recycling on Earth is a natural process and is responsible for the physicality of the Earths systems and the lifeforms dependent upon them. The land we stand on is subject to Subduction meaning that even the seemingly solid Earth we stand on, has probably been recycled beneath the surface at some time in geological history. Therefore all the forms present on the Earth at this time, must also be made exclusively of materials that have been subject to natures recycling process at some time.
So, what’s the answer to this conundrum and how does it relate to the questions raised at the beginning of this post?
If everything has been subjected to the process of recycling, then it seems to me that it is more than reasonable to assume that everything also has come into contact with this thing we label as consciousness, especially if like me you hold an animist viewpoint.
I experience the Earth as a living entity therefore, again, it is not unreasonable to assume, using these experiences and that understanding, that all materials on the Earth will possess some “memory” through the result of having come into contact with consciousness. Because we sometimes take the simplistic approach that consciousness equates to lifeforms displaying physical movement, an inert object is assumed to not possess any animating life force or other such qualities.
That assumption is flawed in my opinion and now, more importantly, in my experience (and I confess as to following that simplistic logic of equating life with movement, for a good period of my life). Interactions create movement and change (a phrase I particularly like in relation to this is transmutation, within a shamanic context), they are changed by interactions with “others”. We know from the rebuilding of the brain, that there is a reasonable suggestion that information may be stored in other things, be them physical or other. Our understanding of the “I” we experience tends to paint the intellect as somehow separate from the body, something that oversees the bodies functions through the sub-conscious and that the body is subject to the will of the intellect. A tool with which the intellect experiences this thing we know as life. A “top down” model for the experience of life.
But using that model leads to the position noted in the earlier quote ” But when the physical is constantly dying and remaking itself on a molecular scale… how does that work? ” . It is assumed that the brain is directing both the destruction and rebuilding of the physical whilst maintaining our personal identity.
So let us consider an alternative, away from the brain “top down” model.
Let us consider the idea that the “new” materials that are introduced into the body on a regular basis, or even those that we may be in contact with in the external environment (noting the earlier position that nothing is actually “new”) are in possession of the “latent ability” of transferring consciousness into the new host. They are enabled through their earlier interactions with consciousness prior to the recycling process. They may retain some of the information exchanged in their previous guise, which can be either untouched or refined through the recycling process.
Therefore the intellect may be able to connect to the new materials at the beginning of the bodies recycling process, through this enhanced suitability of the introduced materials. The intellect may then be in a position to work with or transfer into, these new materials almost immediately.
It maybe that this “suitability” enables the intellect to engage with materials at this early stage without large resources within the brain having to be engaged in the transfer of intellect or information. This idea then reduces the complex model needed for the brain to do the delicate juggling act of overseeing the destruction and recycling of the physical form whilst retaining the intellect.
Therefore, it’s not the brain taking total responsibility for the transfer of the intellect (the top down model) but the interactions and conditions created by the introduced “primed” materials maybe playing a proactive part in the bodies recycling process (a bottom up process). Introduction of the materials may then lead to this thing we call mindfulness being present within the body.
It may now be the case that the brain does not have to commit large resources to the act of the retention of the intellect, because the acquisition of fresh “infused or primed” materials the body comes into contact with may provide a “primed conduit” that makes the transfer of the intellect into new materials seamless, efficient and resource reduced.
It’s a subtle change of emphasis but it fits better with both my personal experiences and understandings at this time. It is a “bottom up” process, not a “top down” one. Constant interactions with recycled materials throughout historical time give rise to the idea that everything the materials came into contact with may have left markers in those materials. This fits in with a very old impression I had ( I think I was about ten when the idea occurred to me) regarding how the physical form may leave “markers” at all the places we visit in the physical world.
If we are also of the opinion that the lifeforms we may experience in the non physical side of life are subject to the same laws of nature, and my own Druidry is implicit in its premise that there is nothing outside of nature, then it can only be the case that these materials may also contain markers from the non physical side of life as well. Which leads one down the path as to a possible explanation for the mechanisms that may be in play when someone experiences life “outside” of the physical norm. Our ancestors, Gods or Goddesses’ may indeed, be alive within us in a very “real” way.
The idea of bottom up consciousness fits better into my animist viewpoint and experiences because the building of mindfulness and it’s maintenance are reliant upon the materials from the Earth in providing conduits that may create a greater number of connections for consciousness to develop within the physical form. And these materials, far from being just inert materials, may actually be proactive in creating the conditions for us to experience interactions that may then go on to shape our thoughts, ideas and experiences.
This idea of mindfulness being a result of materials infused by previous interactions with consciousness and then being enhanced by natures recycling processes, is probably the “best fit” in regards to a more “complete” understanding of my Druidry at this time. Of course, this process need not be “one way” and my own physical practices within my Druidry suggest that we are capable of deliberately adding our own “flavour” to these hosting materials.
These ideas fit my experiences well at this time. And as with most things within modern Druidry, it may not actually represent anything other than a personal and / or unique expression of my own Druidic experience and practice.
It’s an idea that is going to take some further thinking. It’s entirely possible that others may have come to a similar conclusion much earlier on than I have and may be much further down this particular line of thinking than I am. I believe that I always “knew” this concept, but until now, wasn’t in a position to adequately express it through the written medium. But the more I think about this idea of a bottom up consciousness that is the root of religious experience, the more it appears to make sense to me at this minute in time.