Quest for the Soul: 5
Will-O-The-Wisp (mixed media) kindly made available by Patricia Allingham Carlson
Creatures previously encountered:
- Free Will – and its trusty assistant, Envisaging
- Discernment – and its debatable alias, Resonance
- Thinking – and its handy accessory, the Internal TV
Our search now carries us deeper into the tangles and thickets of the human mind, for today’s creature lives in the back regions before thought and action. Indeed, according to legend, Pre-Thought is the trigger for whatever we think and do – but legend also asserts it can never be found. So our film crew will need to be especially lucky.
Let’s begin with a simple incident. Earlier today I wondered if I had my notebook with me. Except I didn’t get so far as wondering. I simply patted my pocket. And that was it. I didn’t visualise it, didn’t verbalise it. There was nothing for the Cameraman beyond a moving hand, nothing for the Sound Recordist beyond the rustle of motion. So how did I think without thinking?
Let’s try another instance. Recently I was trying to remember a word. After the usual attempts I stepped away from the problem, leaving the brain a few clues (it seems to have two or three syllables – might begin with an ‘e’ – means something like ‘hard to find’). Then I thought of something else until suddenly, bam I’d got the word: ‘elusive’ in this case.
Now how did that happen? We can rewind the camera film, listen to the playback – but once again nothing. The word just appeared. Whatever Pre-Thoughts produced it, they stayed undetected.
So it seems we’ll need a different tactic if we’re to get anywhere near this beast. How about this? You see, as we fall asleep all sorts of things can happen in the dopey area between waking and sleeping. Pictures can fade in and out, words, scenes, phrases. Let’s set the film equipment going and see what we find.
The camera registers an Arab street scene, then an old man limping along a Victorian alley, then a bunch of grapes in a bowl of tomato puree, or maybe all three morphing into each other. With a slight shift of awareness I notice words sloshing around too: “Never trust a passerine... Severance pay in archery... The duty of a tourniquet...” They float in and out of the brain without logic.
Another failure. However, we seem to be getting closer. We saw the words and images arriving, just not where they came from. So let’s stay awake longer this time. No more lolling on the bed: sit upright and stay alert. In fact – oh dear – it’s meditation time (somewhat inconvenient as I’m out of practice; never mind, I’ll give it a go).
Now, the trick is to sit very still (so make sure you’re comfortable). Then close the eyes and relax the muscles (systematically if need be). And, of course, slow the breathing. That last part is particularly important because – guess what? – as the breathing slows, so do the thoughts.
For a while it goes as you might expect. A bit restless, a bit stiff in the back, a bit needing to scratch my nose. But the key is to stay with it. And not move unless you really have to. Then after a while it all settles down and – lo! – as the breathing slows, the thoughts do indeed slow. Not entirely but we’re getting there.
Then – oh heck – maybe I’m getting tired, maybe I’m just rusty, but I find myself drifting into that half-sleep realm of random images and nonsense phrases again. Darn it. I’m like an aeroplane trying to rise into clear skies but entering a cloudscape. Full of random words and images. Buffeting me like half-condensed water. Lightnings popping away in the distance.
Luckily, though, I have a good auto-pilot because suddenly I emerge. Above the clouds and into sunlight – with my mind bright, clear, awake.
And, best of all, not thinking any more.
It’s aware, yes, but not actually thinking. So I am aware of an intensity of focus in the middle of forehead. I am aware of a tingling sound in the head. I am aware of a spreading sensation about the shoulders. But I don’t get trapped into thinking about these. Thoughts, if they exist, seem to drift some way below me, like strands of cloud, trying to catch at me but too distant to reach.
Another thing I’m aware of, eventually, is it’s time to stop. So that’s what I do.
As the eyes open I return to the world of thinking – and realise I have some amazing data. If I want to know where Pre-Thoughts live, the answer seems to be some vast cloudscape. It contains my dreams and memories and urges and irrationality. It plays with them in dreams each night. It blurs my mind with them as I get tired and dopey. It prompts me with unsuspected urges and impulses throughout the day.
Now this, of course, is the unconscious mind, and we’ve all read about it, heard about it. But it’s something else to fly through it – to observe it, as it were, from above. And to see it looming, as it were, below you – a great reservoir of unconscious force. It’s an experience to make you walk around in a daze of discovery.
Not that the Cameraman and Sound Recordist see it that way. Indeed they didn’t notice a cloud bank at all. They saw a vast swampy lake in the depths of the jungle. “Yeah, loads of steam coming from it,” says the Cameraman. “Probably why you thought you were in a cloud.”
“And didn’t you notice the will-o’-the-wisps whistling all round?” adds the Sound Recordist. “Weren’t they the Pre-Thoughts?”
Well well well, did we capture the beast with our equipment after all? Now, I wonder if any river comes out of that alleged lake, because our next exotic beast will be Creativity, and if there’s one thing Creativity does, it flows...
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And now, may I invite you to make certain purchases? (I may? Why, thank you...)
(a) The Salamander Stone (by my most excellent and trusty pal, Mrs Me) from one of these outlets:
Direct from the publisher, Burst Books: click here
Amazon UK: click here
(b) The Two Worlds of Wellesley Tudor Pole (by Mrs Me’s most excellent and trusty pal, Me):
Amazon UK: click here
Amazon.com (US): click here
(You’ll be getting both of them? Well, that is an admirable choice, if I may say so...)