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Centres of Awareness

The First Chapter

Psychological Principles Related to Ontology

A. Maturity

It is customary to declare adult the child, who having reached a certain age, is judged to know how to use his physical, affective, and mental faculties so that he may take an independent position in the play of society. In everyday living, the transition from the egocentric position of acquisition for the benefit of the person to the position of conscious utilization of this person to perform a social function, introduces the state of true adulthood.

Similarly, in the domain of ontology, as dealt with in this book, the mature adult serves mankind by bringing the values and currents of the nonpersonal world into the personal world, actualizing a unity at the level of consciousness where there were two separate aspects before. The training that he undertakes is not for his own satisfaction, which would make it merely another form of acquisition, but for the purpose of enabling him to actualize the Divine. It is possible, however, that the initial motivation may apparently be acquisitive, but is in fact a response to unconscious promptings of the deeper kind. Though the transition to the state of true adult may not be made immediately, training toward a more objective and radiating position will show the way.

It remains evident that each human being must learn the functioning of his person (persona = mask, instrument of expression) and the nature of the environment or "area of play" in which the process of actualization takes place.


B. Affinities.

All human functioning and activity of any kind involves an affinity between subject and object. This relationship, whether attractive or repulsive, goes through successive and opposite aspects in the course of the individual and collective development of man. In the first phase which, for the sake of simplicity, we will term the child phase, the responsibility for the affinity movement is left to the object. One loves because of what one receives. One is repelled by what displeases. And to achieve the happiness to which he aspires, the person in the child phase tries to modify the exterior which he believes to be responsible for his happiness. In acting along this line he is in a position of dependency.

After many deceiving experiments, the maturing person realizes that it is more realistic to modify his position with respect to the object than to attempt to modify the nature of the object. Thus he gradually makes the transition to the adult position. In this second phase he realizes that he himself bears responsibility for the causative impulses in the play of affinity and learns how to handle them. In the relatively undeveloped individual the field of conscious affinities remains very restricted. In the true adult it is vast and nuanced. To the man of wisdom... but one shouldn't go too fast! Suffice it to say that the degree to which an individual assumes responsibility for his affinities and broadens his conscious play provides a yardstick for evaluating his degree of evolution.

A man's affinities determine his contacts with the surrounding world, as well as with the events which happen in it. It is possible to formulate a general principle: Of all possible events, those that happen to a given individual are those that are allowed by his affinities, whether they are conscious, subconscious, or supraconscious. One who clearly observes his life and the lives of others becomes aware of this selective process. In certain cases it stands out particularly clearly; in others, it is tempting to attribute it to mere chance. But what is mere chance? It is in fact the borderline where knowledge ends and ignorance begins. Is there a practical difference between one who, though unable to provide a rational explanation for given facts, refuses to use the word chance, and one who uses this concept of chance to provide a rational answer? Yes, there is an important psychological difference. The first, even if he recognizes his practical limitations, doesn't oppose the play of possible affinities. He therefore allows himself more opportunity to broaden his capacity to become conscious. His position is objective. The second shuts himself up in the narrow circle of his current knowledge. His position can lead to an end to the extension of consciousness in the field in question, since he doesn't take into consideration the play of affinities still liable to act.

Modern physics has shown that it is possible to unite into new syntheses apparently contradictory observations by introducing one or more new dimensions. This principle also holds in psychology, permitting solutions to apparently insoluble problems. For example, in considering the case of a complex that dates back to a trauma in childhood, the question can be raised as to why one child will register a particular shock while another remains unaffected. What is the source of the child's specific affinity to the trauma? Very often the real cause is concealed further back than the apparent origin. Although it is useful to know the circumstances from which a complex started, one should not confuse start with basic cause. In pursuing the basic cause, the science of psychology, in the beginning an investigation of the mechanics of the mind, affect, and sensations, becomes increasingly a science of Soul, which is in fact the etymological meaning of the word psychology. Although it is not appropriate to dwell at this point on the causes of affinities, we can note the play of the two factors which they derive: the deep nature of man and his function in a given environment.


C. Attention.

When an affinity connects subject and object, a tension is set up at the psychological level which is called attention. Attention is therefore ad-tension (or tension in the direction of) which implies the bringing into action of an energy operating in both directions between subject and object.

Attention can be of a conscious, subconscious, or supraconscious nature, or can be characterized by any combination of these three. When something is worrying a person the attention which is directed to it is mainly unconscious; as soon as the problem is solved the person feel relieved and freed, and is clearly conscious that the energy taken up by the problem is once again available. The nature of the energy itself is multiple. In the concrete it is nervous, but approaching the abstract it exceeds the physical and acquires the qualities of the plane on which it acts. This implies that the exercises that are proposed in this book can bring energies into play without, at least in the beginning, apparent psychological difficulties.

Are energy and attention to be confused? No, because attention, which is a selective and directive faculty, has the power (more or less wide according to the degree of development) to channel the different energies which derive from the base or life energy. Attention insufficiently focused can be diverted by stray currents (for example, a train of thought by the intrusion of an association of ideas) or affected by environmental disturbances (such as exterior noise). The achievement of unremitting attention requires certain preconditions. One of the most important is the development of the capacity to relax. Relaxation will be discussed later in detail, because of its significance for the development of the selective and directive faculties and the realization of perfect isolation. Relaxation does not imply any dulling of the faculties or slipping of attention. On the contrary, even in the deepest relaxation, the attention is always wide awake and the consciousness alert. If to this non-passive relaxing a real interest is added, especially if the interest is in response to a deep aspiration, the conditions favorable to free attention are realized.

Conscious training of the faculty of attention allows the transition to deeper and deeper levels of abstraction to take place with such a natural and complete concentration that interferences are no longer possible.

The Ancients used to say: "You become what you contemplate." Focusing attention on certain values facilitates, by a feedback process, the play of those values in oneself and later enables one to generate them with one's individual coloring and texture. Clearly, the more different the contemplated values are from the usual consciousness the less rapidly they will be integrated.

It should be noted, however, that it is possible for this unremitting attention to bring about errors of judgment (or illusions). It is one thing to comprehend a value, to feel it, and to take it into oneself, but it is quite another to make it work so that it produces tangible effects in and around oneself. The conditions necessary for this will be described in the text.

It is not really possible to deal with attention without involving concentration. Although the work which is proposed here has the effect of increasing concentration, the use of this word is delicate for psychological reasons. Ordinarily, concentration is supported by will and this is generally associated with tension. Indeed, the accepted symbol of an effort of concentration is the furrowed brow. However, this is really the result of a parasitic tension. Tension is not associated with the condition to which we refer, and to avoid any such implications we therefore prefer to use the term definite attention rather than concentration. It is however an incidental result of the exercises described in this book that they do develop to an unusually deep degree the faculty that is usually referred to as concentration.

In order to create conditions that promote definite attention, certain aids are sometimes advocated, such as music, reading, specific postures, and so on. Their use can be justified, so long as they are not permitted to become indispensable.

Although for the sake of clarity it has been necessary to present the above psychological principles as separate entities, it must always be borne in mind that they interact simultaneously as parts of a coherent whole. This is particularly true for the ideas of affinity and attention briefly introduced here. In practice, it is evident that they are linked. Indeed, interest implies affinity. Moreover, daily life entails the constant interplay of multiple affinities, though particular external or internal conditions may result for a period of time in the relatively exclusive play of one or the other of them.

Theoretically, when deep interest is present, definite attention is spontaneous and unforced; in practice it depends upon the state of personal equilibrium, which may be such that any disturbance (source of parasitic tension) will affect it. This possibility can be nullified or decreased by deep breathing and relaxation, which will allow an increase in the energy available for attention. However, the usefulness of such exterior aids is relative, for it is evident that to center oneself in centers of awareness (to be described later) automatically intensifies the concentration. Moreover, at a more advanced stage, the actualization of Being (Divine Presence) allows one to act consciously on the state of one's person, rendering reliance upon any other help obsolete.


D. Conditioned Responses

Only some aspects of conditioned responses, which are well known in psychology, are of interest in this work. Conditioned responses operate automatically as the result of repetition of experiences made under specific circumstances. Each time the subject meets all or part of the abstract or concrete sensation to which he has been conditioned, the association is set up, and he reacts predictably.

This particular property has always been used, consciously or not, in education for self-development. Schools teaching inner development often recommend that exercises in concentration-meditation-contemplation be done at the same hour and in a specific posture. Repetition of an exercise in the same way and at a set hour automatically creates a psychological effect, which makes it possible to leave the daily routine and enter the sought-after state very quickly. It is unquestionable that in the beginning this method is most helpful and permits a real gain in time. Upon entering the created mood, the desired state simply sets up, spontaneously triggered by the conditioned response. But such techniques have some drawbacks. As long as the objective of the activity is simply an experiment in concentration, one can agree that the techniques are useful, but it is sensible to consider as an end what is really only a means? If two friends meet on a very crowded street and one of them notices in the other an urgent need for a strong heart radiation, is he going to tell him: "Wait, I am going to take the lotus posture in order to give you what you need"; or: "I cannot help you now, it is not my hour of meditation"? The example seems ridiculous; however, the beginner might soon find himself psychologically bound to the exterior conditions which he has set up to trigger the desired response.

In any case, a stage develops later when conditioned responses are no longer needed. Conditioning is therefore regarded as useful only if: 1) it is used simply as a means and not as an end in itself; 2) it is a temporary expedient for a specific purpose; and 3) the consciousness remains its master.


E. Imaginative Faculty

Imagination is generally held to be a whimsical and irrational faculty. However, closer scrutiny in structured situations shows it to be a system of associations which, like all systems, presents a logical structure. The successive images are connected along a directive line or "motivating current," which may be conscious or unconscious, more or less basic to the student, and involving greater or lesser dimensions. It is important, however, as we will see later when we deal with perception (see Part I-3) not to confuse the images with their underlying current. It is another characteristic of the imagination that the same image can be lived mentally, affectively, and sensorily. For example, if the image is of a forest, one might have thoughts about the type of trees in the forest or the time of year when one is "seeing" it; one might have feelings of pleasure in the seclusion and beauty, or of being threatened by the bare boughs; and one might experience the sensation of the smells of the damp soil and fallen leaves, or the sounds of the birds and distant streams. All of these characteristics will be used in these basic exercises (see Part I-4) to enable the student to reconnect with the original motivating current by using images. In fact, the relation between imagination and underlying current is reciprocal. For example, the more the student develops the capability of starting consciously from the deep base of the underlying current in order to set the imagination to work, the more effective the imagination will prove to be as a means of making the student aware of motivating currents which up to then have been too abstract for his consciousness.

The reciprocal function renders particularly valuable service in the field of directed fantasy techniques (oneiro-therapy). Directed fantasy used in the manner described in Part II-1-A has the specific advantage of promoting the play of a sensitivity considerably broader than that of the daily consciousness. The entirely symbolic aspect, generally not understood by the student, gives him total freedom of expression. Unconscious of what he is describing, he allows what was hidden to become apparent. Directed fantasy techniques thus present the possibility of bringing into play all the functions, from the highest supraconscious to the deepest subconscious. Under certain conditions, this allows motivating currents beyond all mental, affective, or sensory expression to be manifested. At this level it can be used, in one form or another, to introduce vividly living states of consciousness unknown to the usual experience.

Directed fantasy techniques are of particular help in solving the problem of the relationship between the personal and the nonpersonal consciousness. Besides effecting psychological structuring (self-realization) they can also be used in psychotherapy and for effecting psychosomatic cures. The only limitation to their effectiveness appears to be the limitations of the person who is conducting the experience. It is vitally important that he should really be able to "live" with the student or the patient all the nuances of what the subject is living during the directed fantasy, or even to precede him, so that the subject always feels secure. He should not be doomed to venture alone in an area whose dimensions are beyond the capacity of the leader of the fantasy, as may happen when the underlying current becomes very abstract.


F. Principles of High Fidelity

When one listens to the same note played by different musical instruments, one can recognize that although the note sounds the same, the tonal quality is different in each case. Each instrument imparts its own characteristic quality to the note. Technically, each instrument emits a vibration of a given wavelength which gives to the note its pitch, which is pure only in theory. At the same time, other vibrations occur which attach themselves as harmonics to this fundamental note. The capacity to produce these harmonics varies from one type of instrument to another, indeed between instruments of the same type. It is the number and intensity of these harmonics which determine the distinctive character of different sounds. The fundamental note gives the basic pitch and the power of the sound. The harmonics contribute to the brightness, the body and richness of the sound and carry the characteristic of the individual instruments. Technically speaking, all of the harmonics are not always consciously recorded by the hearing, although the listener can certainly perceive enough harmonics to determine which instrument is playing. They nevertheless have an effect upon the listener, even though they may be registered unconsciously. The harmonics also have a value in that the richer the sound the better it interplays with other sounds.

Although a simple sound system reproducing sounds from 100 to 5,000 hertz allows the listener to recognize the piece of music, the sound seems dull and the instruments are not very well differentiated. If the quality of the components is increased to transmit 70 to 8,000 hertz frequencies, the effect is more finely shaded, although a substantial amount of harmonic response is still lacking. One can only speak of high fidelity when music is heard not only within the usual audible spectrum, approximately between 20 and 20,000 hertz, when the components of the stereo system are of the highest quality. At this point it is possible to detect nuances in the vibrations of the metal and skin of the percussion instruments and to register clearly the brightness of the brass, the particular warmth of the strings, and the clarity of the piano.

It is also known that the body is able to respond to infra- and ultrasonic vibrations, although the ear of a sensitive listener may register only within the 20 to 20,000 hertz range. When the pitch is higher or lower than the hearing range of the listener, the ear can no longer translate the vibration into sound, but the vibration and its host of harmonics nevertheless has the effect of rendering the sound richer and fuller.

It is possible to make a rather simplistic analogy between the functioning of a human being and the functioning of a sound system. One can say that some individuals function dully and thus exhibit a limited high fidelity. Most reach the quality of average response and some are sensitive enough to realize true high fidelity.

It is further characteristic of a sound system that it must be balanced if it is not to have a tiring effect -- that is to say that bass and treble should have sufficient intensities to round out the sound within the acoustical properties of the room or environment. The analogy with human beings holds in this respect also. Certain human beings are balanced, but others are not and because of this are tiring to their surroundings. A human being continuously transmits waves which are consonant or dissonant; but unlike a stereo set, cannot be on or off at will.

The above remarks suggest more comparisons between acoustics and human functioning. A relatively insensitive person is only operating in the mid-range of the vibratory scale and bass and treble balance and/or high fidelity are limited. This lack of sensitivity implies limited means of action. Such a person is hard to accommodate in high fidelity company because of his narrow pass band (or range) and lack of nuances. Pursuing the analogy further, one can say that the high-fidelity human being is able to express and respond to a wider range of frequencies, resulting in a greater richness of living and interaction, while the more limited one can only vibrate restrictedly, grasping only limited, tangible and immediate facts. Hence he gives an impression of massiveness, without depth or lightness. As we have seen, the more harmonics the fundamental note presents, the more it can interplay with other notes and other instruments. One who is able to transmit only a few or no harmonics communicates with difficulty and remains relatively self-enclosed.

As we shall see later, the expansion of consciousness follows a general pattern of symmetrical expansion in both directions from a median starting base, resulting in increased high fidelity. An aspect of the work proposed in this book is that an effort is made to broaden the pass band (possibly beyond audible frequencies) by directing specific attention toward, and using in a more sustained way, the high and low frequencies. Another one is to adjust more and more one's capacity of response to high fidelity. It will be shown that perceptions, whether mental, affective, or sensory, are actually more or less accurate reflections of what one could call a current or a wave, which is not recorded consciously. However, sustained attention toward this underlying current causes it to become increasingly familiar to the point at which it is possible to verify whether the expression really corresponds to the basic current (see examples in Part I-4). The training of the attention could be compared to the familiarization with more elegant high-fidelity circuitry. Pursuing electronic analogy, we can say that training allows one first to perceive beyond audible frequencies and respond more to high fidelity, then to bring this new situation to the level of the consciousness and finally to reproduce it when needed. In this way, high fidelity and possibly ultra-high fidelity is realized, though the latter requires exceptional qualifications.

So far, quality of response has been described solely in terms of conscious and unconscious human response to waves of currents of a wide range of frequencies and high fidelity. We will see later that another kind of action pervades the above processes, which may be experienced as Presence. This is of Divine significance.

Continued in the book....