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A Second Scientific Revolution


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A New Science of Soul

We live in an age characterised by a soul-less understanding of both science and spirituality, by soul-less commercial calculation and exploitation, by soul-less philosophies and soul-less thinking, by a soul-less medicine, and even — most disastrously — by supposedly therapeutic or scientific ‘psychologies’ which fail to acknowledge the nature and reality of the soul or psyche, identifying it instead with the mind or brain, with patterns of behaviour or bodily processes. The new age mantra of ‘mind, body and spirit’ notably leaves out the word ‘soul’. The word has become emptied of meaning, treated as a term incapable of any rigorous definition or referring to something intangible and insubstantial, something whose very existence cannot be ‘proved’. The time has come to correct this situation. The essence of my philosophy is the articulation of a rigorous and precise new science of the soul – a science that transcends all previous religious understandings of the soul as some sort of disembodied spirit contained within the boundaries of our bodies.

The first and most important principle of this new science is that the soul is nothing intangible or ‘suprasensuous’. Instead it has its own tangible and sensual qualities. I call these soul qualities ‘qualia’. When we speak of someone’s ‘warmth of soul’, that is nothing intangible or ‘suprasensuous’, but a quality we sense tangibly. Soul science embraces a whole range of soul qualities or qualia. These include soul light and soul warmth, soul colours and soul shapes, soul sounds and soul tones. Using these terms of course, begs the question of what constitutes ‘soul’ as such. The answer offered by my new soul science is that the essence of soul is quite simply awareness – and that awareness as such has its own innate sensual qualities, qualities that we sense and may appropriately describe as soul qualities or psychical qualia. A light or dark ‘mood’, for example, is a quality of awareness with a sensed and sensual character of light or darkness. What I call ‘the qualia revolution’ is the revolutionary new scientific understanding of all the sensory qualities that we are aware of in the world around us — qualities such as shape, colour, sound, light and darkness, warmth and coolness, heaviness and lightness etc. What is revolutionary is the understanding that these sensory qualities are the manifestation of something quite different but no less tangible — sensual qualities of awareness. What we call the ‘soul’ is made up of these sensual qualities of awareness or qualia. Our sensory world, on the other hand, is the sensory manifestation of these soul qualities. A colour for example, is the sensory manifestation of a particular colouration of awareness, just as a sound tone – for example the tone of someone’s voice — is the sensory manifestation of a particular mood or tonality of awareness. Similarly, a sensory shape or pattern is the manifestation of a shape or pattern of awareness.

This fundamental distinction between soul qualities and sensory qualities is a scientific revolution. Why? Because our current understanding of ‘science’ is based on the idea that it is founded on the evidence of our senses – and that reality consists only of sensory phenomena and sensory qualities. This is an absurd and indeed contradictory understanding of ‘science’ for three main reasons. One reason is that the type of science that has developed out of it, far from being based on the evidence of the senses, cannot in fact explain a single sensory quality of the world we perceive around us – the redness of a rose for example. Instead it reduces all sensory qualities such as colours to quantities such as measurable wavelengths of light. The second reason is that this understanding of science ignores what is most tangible and meaningful to us in our everyday experience of the world. That is not sensory qualities but soul qualities. When we feel our souls touched by the colours of a sunset, it is these soul qualities manifest in these colours that give meaning to our sensory experience of them. This brings us to the third reason why the concept of qualia or soul qualities is a scientific revolution. Science is an attempt to make sense of the world. Within our current understanding of science, ‘making sense’ of the world means giving a rational account or explanation of it. But giving a rational account of something through a scientific explanation does not make that thing meaningful to us. That is why science can give no answer to questions related to the ‘meaning of life’ and of our everyday experience of the world. But the very idea that we need science (or religion, or psychology) to ‘make sense’ of life implies that meaning is something we cannot directly sense. That is why the new science of soul qualities is so meaningful – for it is based on the recognition that soul qualities, as sensual qualities of awareness, are not only the basis of all sensory qualities we are aware of. They are also the very essence of meaning or sense - directly sensed. What gives meaning to life are those directly sensed soul qualities that find expression in sensory experiencing.

Modern science has no interest in the meaning of things. It is more interested in abstract mathematical ‘quanta’ than in meaningful qualities of soul manifest in nature and in human beings. To persuade the scientist of today, or any individual whose thinking is shaped by the modern scientific world view, that behind the sensory world lies an invisible world of soul and soul qualities, is like trying to persuade someone who has not learnt to read that behind the words he sees on the page lies an invisible world of sense or meaning. Then again, it is like trying to persuade someone who has never recalled a dream that a dream world exists. You cannot. All you can do is teach them to read or recall their dreams. Then they will know for themselves. When it comes to the scientific reality of soul, logical persuasion is as futile as blind faith. All one can do is to teach people the methods by which they can discover this reality of the soul for themselves – or rather acknowledge its reality in their everyday experience.

Soul is in essence the pure awareness of sensory experiencing – not just of the world but of our inwardly sensed body and even mind. For even thoughts are things we sense within the awareness space of our mind, and can be experienced as having subtle sensory shapes and qualities (for example auditory qualities). If we attend to our awareness of a sensory quality – whether a somatic sensation, the different qualities of a sensory object, or a sensed thought or feeling, then we begin to ensoul that sensory awareness. If we attend to the unique tonality of a sensory quality — the colour of an object for example — we begin to ensoul that awareness. Through this ensoulment of the senses can come about a sensualisation of the soul. Our awareness of the sensory quality – whether a colour or sound — begins itself to take on the unique tonality of the colour or sound. Then we no longer see or hear the colour or sound just as sensory qualities. Instead we sense them as the expression of an invisible ‘colour tone’ or ‘tone colour’ of awareness. We feel this tone colour or colour tone within us — and at the same time know it as the very inwardness of the outwardly perceived colour or sound. Conversely, we recognise the outwardly perceived sensory quality as the sensory manifestation of this inwardly sensed soul quality – this intensely sensual quality of our awareness itself.

The second most important principle of the new science of soul qualities is that the soul itself is nothing bodiless. It is not a disembodied ‘spirit’. For what we experience as our ‘body’ is simply the felt boundary of our soul – a felt boundary of our awareness distinguishing what we experience as ‘self’ from that which we experience as ‘not-self’. The soul is nothing simply contained within our own skins. Its only boundary is the felt boundary of our awareness, which can expand beyond or contract within the boundary of our ‘physical body’. This felt boundary has the character of an interactive ‘field boundary’ or ‘interface’. It is not a boundary that separates things in space. Instead, like a circle drawn on paper That simultaneously distinguishes and unites two areas or fields – the white area or field contained within the circle and the field or area around the circle. What we call ‘soul’ is simply awareness in its field character – like the white spaces or fields within and around the circle. What we call ‘self’ is awareness in its bounded character, like any white space bounded by a circle or by circles within circles. Conversely, what we call ‘bodies’ are those very field-boundaries of awareness as such – the circles, or circles within circles — that both demarcate and unite an outer and an inner space, an outer and an inner field of awareness.

What appears to us as someone else’s body is simply their own field-boundary of awareness – not as they experience it from within, but as we perceive it from without, as we perceive it in our own outer field of awareness. If we represent our bodies as circles, the body of the other is like another circle present in the space around ‘our’ circle. The two circles are not separated by this space. For the space around our circle is just as much part of our ‘soul’ – our awareness field – as the space within it. It is the outer spatial field of our awareness. The other person’s body too, like a circle has a spatial field around it. This is the outer field of their awareness within which our body also appears as a bounded entity, another circle. The illusion this generates is that the space between the two bodies, like the space between two circles drawn on a piece of paper, is empty space separating them. The illusion arises from the fact that we do not acknowledge the obvious — that both circles are just as much defined by their surrounding field or space as by the space or field they surround. Unlike the two circles however, both of which are drawn on the same piece of paper, our bodies, do not exist ‘in’ a common space at all. We perceive other bodies in our surrounding space, just as they perceive our body in their surrounding space. These surrounding spaces are essentially spatial fields of awareness – theirs and ours. They are not pre-existing physical spaces but soul spaces. We perceive each other’s bodies as bounded objects in the space around us. We cannot perceive our own souls or those of others in the same way we perceive bodies in space because what we call the ‘soul’ is essentially the very space of awareness within which we perceive other beings as bounded entities or bodies – a soul space which we falsely identify with an empty physical space separating us from others.

‘Space’ and ‘time’, as the philosopher Kant recognised, are not themselves sensory objects of perception. That does not mean they are not real – for they are the very condition of perception of any object whatsoever. The soul too, is indeed no object of sensory perception that we can localise in space or in time. But that does not mean it is not real. For it is the non-local field of our spatio-temporal awareness. Such non-local fields of awareness are the very condition of emergence of any localised object of sensory perception for a localised subject of perception. ‘Soul’ is the field character of our awareness. Soul qualities are those field-qualities of awareness — qualities which, like moods, lend a particular colouration and tonality to our awareness of ourselves, other people and the world. Soul qualities are not the private property or attributes of individual ‘souls’. Rather the individual soul is a unique and in-divisible combination of soul qualities. Nor are soul qualities merely qualities of the human soul. Instead the qualities of the human soul are each an expression of divine and trans-human soul qualities – qualities which find expression in the entire outer world of the senses – in nature and the cosmos — as well as in the inner world of the ‘self’. Both our inwardly sensed self and our outwardly sensed world give expression to soul qualities. So does our inwardly sensed world – the world of our thoughts and feelings, mental images and dreams — our inwardly sensed body. That inwardly sensed body is not just our physical body as we sense it from within. Instead it is the fleshly shape and substantiality of our awareness as such – it is our awareness body or soul body. That soul body has an anatomy very different from what we perceive, outwardly, as our physical body. It is what allows us to feel heavy or light, tall or short, big or small, fat or thin, substantial or insubstantial, in a way that bears no relation to the measurable quantitative weight, size or density of our physical body.

The qualities of our inwardly sensed self, like those of our inwardly sensed body and of our outwardly sensed world are the self-expressions, self-embodiments and self-manifestations of the soul and its qualities. I say ‘the soul’ rather than ‘our soul’, yours or mine, because the soul knows no boundaries of identity. All that we experience alters our self-experience. Every experience ‘of’ the self affects the sense we have of ourselves – alters our felt sense of self. The simple experience of being in different situations, relating to different people or having different feelings alters our sense of the self ‘having’ those feelings. Our awareness of how we ‘are’ or ‘feel’ — of our experienced self — is not that self. Only by attending to our awareness of all that we experience – including not only our experienced world but experienced body and self – do we free ourselves from limiting identifications with different elements of our experience. Awareness is ‘experiencing without an experiencer’ — not confined by identification with a particular aspect of our experienced self or world. Attention to what we experience is one thing. Attention to our awareness of all that we are experiencing is another – it is what Castaneda called “the second attention”. Through the second attention both the soul (awareness) and self (identity) become free to expand, being liberated from limiting identifications with particular aspects of our experienced self or world whilst at the same time allowing ever-new aspects to be experienced.

Awareness is both the soul dimension of experience and its sensual dimension. For if we do not identify with a particular thought, feeling, will-impulse or perception our experience of it takes on a purely sensual character. We experience a thought as having a specific sensual quality of depth or superficiality, a feeling as having a specific sensual tone or texture, a will-impulse as having a particular sensual intensity etc. We experience our awareness itself as having its own qualities of shape and substantiality, colour and tone, weight and density. Through so-called ‘transcendental’ awareness – the pure awareness of experiencing – we do not leave the realm of the sensual. Instead we begin to experience the innately sensual dimensions of awareness itself – we enter the realm of soul. All true art arises from an ensoulment of sensory experience, one that allows the artist to give expression to the soul qualities manifest in our experience of nature and bodyhood, self and world. All true religion is the ensoulment of human relations, allowing human beings to recognise and ‘resonate’ with each other’s trans-human or divine soul qualities. Out of the ensoulment of the senses comes a sensualisation of the soul and with it a capacity to directly sense and resonate with soul qualities. Out of the pure awareness of sensory experiencing comes a richer, more sensual experience of awareness itself. All true science is ‘soul-science’, the direct experiential exploration of the infinite variety and groupings of soul qualities that are embodied in human beings and made manifest in the cosmos. It is ‘ cosmic qualia science’ in all its fields – from soul-cosmology to soul-chemistry.

My work is therefore also the first attempt to create a comprehensive conceptual, experiential and experimental science of the soul since the work of the 19th century theosophists, the evolution, out of theosophy, of Rudolf Steiner’s ‘spiritual science’, and the attempt by Freud and his successors to develop and refine ‘psychoanalysis’ as a science. Were this attempt to have succeeded, we would have seen the rigorous and successful application of psychoanalysis to a whole range of domains beyond the analytic consulting room. We would have seen the successful development of a psychoanalytically-based medicine and the use of psychoanalysis to gain a deeper understanding of political events and dramas as well as personal dreams. Instead the first and only major application of psychoanalysis was its cynical exploitation by the advertising industry. Attempts that were made to extend the orbit of psychoanalysis to the domains of medicine, politics and mass events came to nothing through lack of a proper philosophical foundation. The vacuum left by this failure has in the meantime been filled by soul-less cognitive-behaviourial psychologies and by biological and genetic reductionism of the most superficial and unscientific sort.

Freud’s first mistake was to reduce the innate sensuality of the soul to its sexuality, understood as a set of instinctive, biologically and evolutionarily determined drives. At the same time he identified meaning with its expression in dream symbols or its representation in words – focusing on symbolic sexual meanings in particular. Identifying meaning as such with its symbols — with indirectly signified sense — it was only natural for him to regard as ‘unconscious’ the entire realm of directly sensed significance. Resonance with the wordlessly sensed and sensually experienced meaning of a patient’s words or dreams, gave way to methods of ‘intepretation’ in which the sensed significance of a word or symbol was reduced to its signified sense – the sense that could be made of it in words or through association with other symbols. Both psychonalysis and spiritual science sought and claimed a type of scientific knowledge of the soul or psyche. Freud’s second mistake, further accentuated by Jung, was to reduce knowledge of the soul and its sensual qualities to knowledge of symbols. Yet meaning or sense is not essentially a property of symbols at all but rather intrinsic to sensual experiencing. It is something directly felt before it is given form in words or images.

Rudolf Steiner’s mistake was to reduce knowledge of the soul to knowledge of spiritual beings. Both mistakes are equally disastrous. For any true ‘knowledge’ of the soul must begin with the recognition that what we call soul is in essence itself a type of knowing. ‘Soul’ is itself a direct knowing awareness, entirely free of symbols and yet imbued, like music, with intrinsically meaningful sensual qualities. This knowing awareness is not the property of any beings, human or spiritual — for in essence it is an awareness of those unbounded potentialities of beings that are the source of all actual beings. The ancient term for inner knowing was gnosis. My philosophy and psychology is gnostic in the deepest possible sense, for it understands soul as that knowing, sensual yet free of symbols, that is the source of all beings. No true knowledge of the spiritual world can arise as a type of science that is ‘entitative’ — that postulates as its starting point a set of actual pre-existing energies, things or beings. True knowledge begins with essential gnosis — the recognition that knowing precedes being, and is the source from which all beings and all realities arise. The soul is not what we know ‘about’ it, for it is itself a condensed knowing that constitutes the core of our own being. Our being is but the ever-changing way we express and embody that knowing.

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