Process in the Symbolic Re-Creation of the World
by Sam Webster ©1992
There is a profound similarity between the description of the symbolic re-creation of the world given by H.V. Guenther and the flow relationship between an actual entity and its world and that world’s larger context, sometimes termed ‘God’ in A.N. Whitehead’s philosophy of organism. I will use Whitehead’s terms and strategies to interpret the Tibetan process.
The symbolic re-creation of the world, bskyed-rim, or ‘developing phase’ is described as an “iterative feedback process between the outer and inner world… [implying] the co-ordination of the conditions for simultaneous differentiations that retain dynamic interconnectedness.”1)
For Whitehead, the “iterative feedback process” occurs when an actual entity concresses, that is ‘grows itself together’ out of the plurality of feelings it harvests from its world, driven by the Divine Subjective Aim2) that it embodies. When it forms itself into the unity of its being, it’s unity is characterizable as a complex eternal object, which is a gestalt of information. This gestalt is received by the whole of the system, called ‘God’ and becomes thereby a determinant influence throughout the entire system, effecting everything including (most especially) the next concrescence of the historical entity.3) In other words, in the becoming of an entity, HOW it becomes is derived from the ‘System taken as a Whole’ (God), WHAT it becomes is determined by the world-context in which it is becoming by being the felt unity of all of that world-context on the part of the becoming entity AND qualified by what eternal objects it applies harvested from the infinite potential also present in the ‘Whole of the System’ (God) AND its decisions about how to integrate these two. This results in the felt unity of the entity, which is equally the felt unity of the World in which it emerges and the solidarity of the ‘Whole of the System’. This particular unity is ‘enscribed’ throughout the System in this moment of solidarity (the enscription is called an eternal object), and thus is accessible by any subsequent entity, meaning the eternal object has effect upon that entity. This is an active process on the part of the concrescent entity, building itself, in direct parallel to “the frequencies of the environing world… met actively by the organism in its holistic self-organization”.4)
The differentiation between ‘inner’ world, bcud, and ‘outer’ world, snod, is found in the philosophy of organism in the harmony and intensity of feeling in the satisfaction of a given entity on the one hand and felt solidarity of the world in the concrescence of an entity characterized by a complex eternal object on the other. The first constitutes the spectrum of joy and sorrow for Whitehead while the other constitutes the way an entity experiences its world. Since ‘happiness is [an entity’s] optimization dynamics’5), the first parallelism is exact. For Whitehead the most general statement to be made about Being is its thrust towards creating conjunction6) and that with the greatest harmony and intensity of feeling, the ‘optimization’ of the experience of any given entity.7) The second parallelism is also exact since snod is the ‘lighting-up of the five fundamental forces in the images of their dynamics’8) where ‘lighting-up’ is the lucid experience of ‘reality’, the experience of sufficient contrast among relevant constituents to make them apprehensible, and where the images must be gestalts (whole forms) in the same manner as the felt solidarity of the world in the concrescence of an entity is the feeling of a complex eternal object.
This leads me to postulate that the developing phase is the same as concrescence and the fulfilling phase is the satisfaction of that concrescence. The only value of such a mapping of one system of thought upon another would be in what each has to offer to extend the range of the other. The philosophy of organism functions as a kind of public language that handles process. Its power is in its ability to describe process with (potential) adequacy and rationality. Yet, as Guenther points out, “only to the extent that in this context the experiencer is at the center of experience does he figure prominently when it comes to defining what is meant by the term bskyed-rim, which in addition to be a developing phase … reveals itself as a deeply transformative experience.”9) While Whitehead’s approach says that transformative experience should occur, no method is given to place the experiencer at the center of the experience. The value of the Tibetan version of this process is that it is imbedded in a technique for experiencing it rather than merely thinking about it, as philosophers are wont to do. Exploring some what it means to be at the center of experience and how we get there is the purpose of this paper.
One piece of this puzzle centers around the term lha, translated as deiform energy. I postulate that this is a kind of eternal object, prehended in a particular manner. To demonstrate this I will show the isomorphism available between the two descriptions based on a quote from sGam-po-pa that Guenther uses to give an overview of the developing phase. I reproduce that here for the reader’s convenience.
to restore radiance to mentation through the felt image of it as a deiform energy, by having repulsed mentation’s trend to end up in the common subject-object dichotomy.10)
For Whitehead, intellectual processes are the integration of eternal objects conceptually prehended, and their end product is a single complex eternal object. This is isomorphic to Klong-chen rab-’byams-pa’s statement that ‘any deiform energy is one’s own mentation,”11) As a felt image of mentation a lha is isomorphic to any prehended eternal object as a felt determinant, if ‘image’ can be generalized to include all perceptive modes. A lha, imbedded in a holistic system radiates throughout the system. An eternal object, actualized in the concrescence of an entity, upon its satisfaction is incorporated as a determinant influence throughout the ‘Whole of the System’. Since an eternal object can be used to experience the separation of an entity from its environment or its solidarity with it an a single continuum (by means stated above), an eternal object as a lha could be used to repulse “the common subject-object dichotomy”. An eternal object as the characterization of the unity of an entity can not be localized to that entity upon its satisfaction and ensuing solidarity with the system in which it concresses, dividing that system into subject and object, rather its presence throughout the system as a determinant influence shows its nature as “a pointer to a dynamic quality of a psychic force termed mentation or mind”12) by Guenther or the mental pole of the entity by Whitehead. Another quote from sGam-po-pa supports this theme:
The gestalt quality of deiform energy is the object pole in the intentional structure of thought. That which sets up this intended object is the intending subject pole in the act of mentation. By coming to know that subject and object do not exist as a duality, one will understand that all the granular entities which are supposed to make up our reality have no essence in themselves. This is what is meant by seeing reality.
Beyond all of these demonstrations of isomorphism, it is this ‘dynamic force’ and its application that we are most concerned with here.
The fundamental character of a prehension (of something and characterized by an eternal object) is a vector.13) A lha is “an indicator of direction, a stimulus for an intended effect”.14) When either of them are integrated by an experiencer of them, effect, or more generally ‘change’, is induced. When that eternal object is a lha, the effect upon the experiencer is such that ‘he’ feels that “his live body is the center of a milieu, and orientational point from which spatiotemporal coordinates organize and structure the milieu and also house the psychic strivings that initiate the organization and structure of the milieu.”15) The particular nature of this is the ‘holistic experience of the system's self organization and self-renewal in which the broken symmetry and lost unity are rediscovered and restored in a new higher-order level, which is deeply appreciated” by the experiencer.16) These last two statements indicate the manner in which the lha as eternal object is prehended.
As a magick user, this particular approach validates certain experiments in the process of invocation. In an invocation a deity form is built up in the mind of the mage as a felt unity of a determined set of attributes and characteristics. This unity is felt with as much intensity and focus as the mage can manifest. The deity is then ‘dismissed’ at the end of the meditation. One peculiar phenomenon that magi experience after engaging this process is a high level of synchronicity. This manifests as experiences of certain phenomena coming into vivid attention who’s qualities are harmonious with the form invoked. Usually those attributions of the deity included in the invocation form the content of the phenomena.17) A certain resonance between the object of invocation and the phenomena is felt. This maps closely to “appreciative discernment is, as the creative dynamics of the total system’s resonance with itself, a cognitive process in which the rising of a content and its releasement into the totality do not constitute a duality. Although in its excited state is may be aware of an object, it does not follow it up by way of externalization, but remains an undivided projective glow.”18) Here, ‘the rising of a content and its releasement into the totality’ is the object of the invocation. What is added is the idea that this is expected to behave as a unity by being a self-referential resonance, which explains the phenomenon of synchronicity.
Another place where Whitehead’s doctrine of concrescence aids us in understanding the symbolic recreation of the world is through its isomorphism with the phase transitions associated with the three in-depth appraisals. This association is such that “each phase has its own autopoietic dynamics which from the viewpoint of cognitive activity, constitutes one of the three in-depth appraisals.” 19) The particular phases Guenther finds important here are those of “the dying phase, the re-organization phase, and the renewal phase”.20) Our task will be to see how each phase transition and its associated in-depth appraisal also manifests the process of concrescence.
The perishing of an actual entity comes with its completed satisfaction. The moment it has attained to the end of its process of becoming and simply is, it ends its existence and becomes as influence on the next entity’s concrescence. As it was a particular response to the conditions of its particular world, an adaptation to its challenges, the entity’s ‘death’ comes with the failure of that adaptation to meet the conditions of the new environment in which it finds itself existing. This is the impact of novelty on the entity. Since novelty can not come from the settled past but only from the radically open and undetermined ‘System as a Whole’, this is the impact of ‘Being-in-its-beingness’ upon the perishing entity. It “is the momentary presence of a felt lucency, openness, and undividedness that as the sheer lucency of Being’s meaning-rich gestalt, implies both the death of old and familiar structures and the possibility of new structuration in terms of the familiar”.21) This is a dynamic impact and not static, being the thrust of creativity as ultimate and the conditions there for, and which is eternal in the sense that it does not have a beginning nor end. For Whitehead, this is the phase of ‘conceptual origination’ which is infinite in its adjustment of valuation, the accessing of all potential in the system, able to be incorporated into the succedent entity. This is referred to by bsTan-pa’i myi-ma as “Being’s open-dimensional facticity”.22) Also, in its drive to achieve actuality it is Being in its “character of cognitive excitation”.23)
“The ‘world-spanning lighting-up in-depth appraisal’ describes how Being’s pure potential comes to presence as a luminous horizon of meaning, which manifests as a kind of disposition toward another and is felt as compassion that, because of its world-spanning character, is as yet not confined to a specific object. Nevertheless, it already addresses itself to a possible domain of activity.”24) In concrescence this is ‘physical’ origination. Here the entire world of the concrescent entity is prehended as a whole. This is the world-spanning character. The prehension of that world is a species of compassion as it is the feeling of the feelings of those entities that embody that world to be incorporated into the becoming entity. This world is a particular world, constituted by those entities already concressed and exerting their determinant influence upon it. The particularity of this world constitutes the horizon of meaning for the entity to become. As this entity is not yet determined, nor will it be wholly determined by its world, this appraisal can not be said to be confined to a specific object though it is addressed to a particular domain of activity, the world constituted by its antecedent entities. The lucency of this appraisal is the process of integration that is concrescence which receives the feelings of the entire world into its constitution. These it has either the opportunity to dismiss elements of those feelings into irrelevancy, thus failing to achieve the fullest appraisal, or to maintain them for integration into its being.
Feeling the openness of raw potential and feeling the entire world of its becoming, the potential entity begins the “stabilization of specific structures, shaped by systemic conditions in their interplay”.25) This is the ‘causal momentum in-depth appraisal’. Compassion responds to the conditions of its becoming and projects what becomes its “operational domain”.26) “The emerging structure is experienced as the maturation of a new dynamic regime [and] is a gestalt acting as an ideal norm within the experiencer’s life-world, which is both the potential for and the guiding image of cultural design.”27) In concrescence this is the satisfaction of the entity wherein it attains to entitative status. This is particularly important in Whitehead’s system in that only entities can have effect on anything else, and the only actual ‘things’ the system has in it are these entities.28) In the concrescent process, the feelings harvested from the world and from the ‘System as a Whole’ are integrated by reason of the aim derived from the ‘System as a Whole’ and decided by the entity itself. This integration is the ‘stabilization of specific structures’ in that it is the creation of a unity out of the multiplicity of feelings by grading their relevance to each other. Some are highlighted, and some are diminished in importance. How this has the potential for being an ideal norm for an individual or a society in the philosophy of organism is through the ontological principle. If only actual entities have effect, then for an ‘ideal’29) to have impact, it must be embodied in an entity. But by being embodied it must have effect, since every actual entity prehends all other actual entities in its world. The grading of the relevance of the constituting prehensions of an entity to produce a efficacious eternal object is “where the system [as a whole] discloses itself as a spontaneity in its first utterance—the gnoseme. This… is not a talking about but the immediacy of a felt image that is simultaneously an imaged feeling. It constitutively enters the realized presence that is the ‘world’— the whole and yet nothing. The immediate consequence of this symmetry break is the simultaneity of the physical and psychic evolution in the universe as world and mankind”.30) This Whitehead calls ‘the creative advance into novelty’.31)
Next we will examine the structure of the visualization-as-invocation. It is a recursive triadic structure occurring throughout the system of the visualization. The triad is the same pattern explored above as the three in-depth appraisals and they form the basis for the system of invocation. This is understandable as this pattern is the ontology of the system, thus the whole structure should conform to its nature. The triad is also the three phases of concrescence; the perishing of the previous entity and conceptual origination, physical origination and prehension of the becoming entity’s world, the integration and satisfaction of the prehension into a unity that is the entity itself. Equally, applying thus Whitehead’s process of concrescence, this is also an ontology, and thus should also be expected throughout the system.
In review the pattern we are using can be expressed in short-hand as: first, the attention to Open-Potential of Being-in-its-beingness, second, the contextual and actualizing potential of lit-up enworldedness, and third, a causal-operator-being in a world context who is also a manifestation of Open-Beingness’s self-organizing and optimizing expression. Due to the limited scope of this paper the following will be a only sketch of this structure, leaving its detailed exploration for a later date.
The outermost manifestation of this triple structure is to be found in the Preparation, the Tuning-in to a State of Composure, and the Remaining Tuned-in when Reemerging from the State of Composure. The first part ends what ever condition the meditator begins in and grounds ‘him’ into the ‘way’ of transformation embodied by the Triple Jewel. This part is further the separation from previous states by the banishing of obnoxious spirits and conditions. The whole of the visualization constitutes the contextualization of the process and thus the actual transformation to be engaged. This part is actually occurring in Being’s sheer lucency and is a bar-do and thus corresponds to the growing together of actual concrescence. Remaining Tuned-in to the deiform energy which one embodies when emerging from Being’s sheer lucency constitutes the manifestation of the operator-being, the satisfaction of the concrescence in Whitehead’s terms.
Being a recursive structure each subphase also exhibits this pattern. In the Preparation, Disengagement and Refuge terminate previous states and focus attention on the Being’s sheer openness and possibility. On the basis of this possibility, one awakens world-spanning compassion, wishing all beings to be released from suffering. This is the cultivation of Boddhichita as the second phase. The Special Preparation constitutes the embodied-operator or third phase. This is where the most local attention is given to removing those spirits that might interfere and preparing the space and materials for worship by sanctifying them with Being’s essence. The banishing effect here is the manifestation of the being as operator.
This Special Preparation also exhibits the triform structure as does (at least) one level below it which we will omit here for brevity. Driving out obnoxious spirits and closing loopholes is another manifestation of contact with Being-in-its-beingness by being the elimination of the unwanted, and by reducing the ritual space to a symbolic structure of a tent. The contact with Beingness is especially expressed in the preliminary attention to the presence and openness of reality from which one conjures the Heruka to cast out the spirits and in the vajra-as-scepters=diamond-as-Being that compose and adorn the tent. The lighting-up phase is present in the Feeling of Being Spiritually Revitalized where “the gestalt quality of [the] mainsprings [of authentic existence] makes an indelible impression, their message is conveyed in the gnosemic nuclei, and their resonance with the whole inscribes itself into one’s finitude, establishing the context for the operator-being to emerge in. This last step, the third phase is embodied in the actions of Hallowing the Articles used in worship wherein the operator is operating.
Moving back to the larger scale of attention, the next major phase, the most important for our study, is the actual process of visualization. The recursive substructure is available in every step of the way and we will be focusing on how the Being, World-Context, and Entity pattern is used. However, the following quote shows that this pattern is also the finest structure in this visualization:
Tuning-in has three aspects: (1) tuning-in to a gestalt experience felt as Being’s imprint; (2) tuning-in to an information experience felt as Being’s communication; (3) and tuning-in to Being’s sheer lucency felt as resonance with the whole.32)
The first phase of tuning into the gestalt of Being is accomplished in the Retracing of the Three In-depth Appraisals. They also function as a recursive structure of the three-fold process we are exploring. As this is a tautology, since we are using them as the basis of the structure we are exploring, we will consider the discussion above sufficient. Also, as this level of analysis is relatively trivial, we will simply mark it out. The second phase is present in the Construction of the Palace and the Activation of the Deiform energy. This will be explored in more depth next. The third Phase is to be found in the Involvement with the Presence of the Deiform Energy, which is obviously the phase of its effect upon the system, its embodiment and satisfaction. This last phase also has its own three-foldedness, which we will dispose of briefly. The ‘Lucency of its Observable Features’ corresponds to the deiform energy’s emergence from Being as a Gestalt, the first phase. The ‘Consolidation of the Proud Feeling of Being an Aspect of the Whole of Being’ is its coming together into a context, the second phase. The ‘Keeping Before One’s Mind the Symbols and Understanding Them’ is attending to the felt effect of all the symbols as evoking that to which they correspond united in the Causal-Being-in-its-World, the last phase.
Now to attend to the core of the ritual. The first layer of structure is constituted by the Terracing of the Fundamental Forces, the Erection of the Palace and Setting Up the Throne, and the Activation of the Deiform Energy. Each respectively manifests a phase in the process discussed above. Each imaginative procedure is also the transmutation of a certain aspect of existence out of samsara’s blundering along through existence focusing on its separateness and thus is opaque into attention to its interconnectiveness and mutual resonance, gestalt quality, with coherence and coordination.33)
In the ‘Terracing the Fundamental Forces’ we move from the openness Being’s potential manifest as a dark blue down-pointing triangle through each of the elements in the Vedic order (increasing density) until an axial mountain is formed on top of them as a foundation. The elements-as-fundamental-forces are used here to be emblematic of ‘the fundamental forces… shaping the universe, including the human being”.34) They comprise a foundational minimum and whole set giving them a certain quality of completeness. This is a useful strategy for grounding the process into Being’s openness. It gives the meditator something simple with few details, there are only six items, to start with, and they are all very abstract. Their quality as a whole set is important in that it thus reflects Being’s wholism. The process of bringing a number of parts into relationship with each other into a single complex whole is present throughout this visualization process and is essential to the strategy for evoking the experience of Being’s gestalt, communication and resonance.
The next phase and whole set is the Palace. Its purpose is the transmutation of “the compulsive and dissociative tendency to take as concrete entities the social milieux and countries in which sentient beings move around and go about their daily business, as well as the houses and cottages in which they dwell”.35) In the same manner as the elements embodied the cosmic order foundational structures function as ‘substance’ or the ‘objects of activity’ in this system, the parts of the palace represent all of the activities and functions of being in the social and enworlded setting. Each of symbolic part of the palace is specifically tied to an action or set of actions in the Dharma-way. Taken as a whole it is the symbolization of the Dharma-way which is the highest manifestation of ‘worldly’ activity, the articulation of the action of the Being-to-become.
The Throne recapitulates the morpho- and ontogenetic process whereby the Being-to-become comes into being. Its parts, lotus, moon, and sun, “by virtue of their being both an expression and the expressed, these images facilitate the accessing to the higher order reality”36) thus tieing the birthplace of the Operator-Being again back into Being-as-a-Whole of which it is an expression. As the symbolic embodiment of the morpho- and ontogenetic process, the Throne is yet another whole, yet another access point and manifestation of the Whole.
Now in turning to the invoked and visualized Being, the Deiform Energy, we turn to the entity for whom the rest of the symbolic structure serves as context. As a whole, this is the embodying or third phase. This part brings the Deiform Energy into play in its world-context as causal momentum. Internally it shows the marks of the three phases. The activation procedure itself is the emergence out raw Being, the first phase, by being the “presence felt in the gestalt quality that the deiform energy of Being’s systemic originary awareness may assume out of the unity of bliss and openness”.37) The concepts associated with the deiform energy expressed in its symbolism center on the experiences (compassion and appreciative discernment, &c.), the modes of awareness (the four immeasurables, &c.), and the qualities of the gestalt’s manifestation of Being (invariance of Being’s meaning rich potential and undefiled by defects, &c.) that the deiform energy as a being embodies.
Inviting Being’s Originary Awareness constitutes the second phase. “After discussing the transmutation of the individual’s body into a gestalt experience and the transmutation of speech into utterance, the text now touches on … the individual’s sociality”.38) This is the world context from the point of view of an enworlded being; the people, the other entities one lives with. This is handled symbolically by a quintessentially social act, the request to be seated.
The acts of Worship and Praise are the final step of attending to the efficacy the deiform energy. The Homages to the Twenty-one Taras provide a classic example of this procedure.39) In it are listed many of the things the deiform energy called ‘Tara’ does upon her invocation. By saying such a prayer, the meditator is systematically evoking the feeling of all the powers that the deiform energy brings to bear. In the worship of Tara this is coupled with the ‘benefit verses’ which specifically state the benefits to be attained by her invocation. In that context this procedure is called ‘arousing her heart with praises’, and excellent symbol for attending to her power.
As we examine the text of “The Symbolic Recreation of the World” we find in it a description of recreating out of ‘The Undifferentiated Totality of Being’ the entire world complete with a being at its center. Out of space, are drawn the four elements from their gnosemes. Then the world-plain is visualized and a palace and throne is built in the midst of it. At last, a deity comes forth upon the throne and is welcomed and established there. All together this forms a holistic expression of a Being-in-a-World with all parts of that world symbolized as richly valued and graded into that whole. What Guenther adds to this is that this process can be seen the System-as-a-Whole’s recreation of itself out of raw potential and creation of a whole-being ready for the task constituted by the actual circumstances.
In Whitehead’s terms this three-fold pattern also breaks down into the three parts that constitute a prehension. The one plus four fundamental forces constitute the objects of prehension. They are what there is actually to be felt. The palace represents the modes of apprehension here expressed in the optimal terms of the Dharma-way. The deiform energy as a gestalt is the unity of the subjective forms of the prehensions expressed as the goodness of successful autopoeisis.
As an invocation, this entire process is the visualization of a series of symbols each of which is tied to specific concepts. The place where this is most directly expressed in the text is in the analysis of the iconography of the Palace and the Deity. Yet since these are visualized and not merely thought about, what is being focused upon is how those concepts feel. The section on “Keeping Before One’s Mind the Symbols and Understanding them” pertains especially to this link. The intensity and vividness of the visualization is directly proportionate to the relevance the symbol has in the constitution of the being who is both the visualizer and the concrescent subject-entity that is becoming. Symbol is built upon symbol creating an ever more complete (i.e. wholistic) and complex set of symbols tied directly by their referents and by their very ‘substance’ to the ground of being. They climax into a unified symphony of feeling out of the plurality of symbols-as-notes-of-music into the feeling of being a Being embodied in a World.
The subject, as Whitehead would point out, is also a superject, its very existence having efficacy in the world due to its actuality. What the Tibetan Buddhists have developed in this process is a profound technique to access the power embodied in such a form. The process of recreating the world brings that form (i.e. the deity) into efficacious relationship with the entire experienced world by being visualized as part of it and by each part of the world being visualized symbolically with it.
What is given in this process is a key to bringing the whole world into union with the causal form, the deity. As to what is to be caused is dependent on the deity invoked, but the process remains independent of that specificity.
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