The View from Inside The Big Bang (or The Big Flash)

Admittedly, we can only speculate – and there's something about speculating that involves a kind of inspecting -- and introspecting.  Let's follow the bouncing ball.

The Big Bang – or The Big Eye-Opening – was an emergence of “something” from “nothing.”

Leaving aside the question as to how something can emerge from nothing, for the time being, the nature of that “something” was very different from what we conceive of as, “something.” It was a “something” that was, in a basic way, indistinguishable from “nothing”; it had no form, it had no length in time, and it had no size. I’m referring to the immediate product of The Big Bang.

How can that be?

Here’s the first problem with the scientific description. At the beginning, before the Big Bang, science posits the existence of the “seed” from which everything emerged: a “naked singularity.” Everything was within that naked singularity in potential form; nothing was outside it. From that naked singularity, the entire Big Bang emerged, so it is said (never mind where that naked singularity came from, a point too easily glossed over, since it is really basic to the whole consideration … but even excusing that question, we ask …)

Where was that naked singularity? Since the naked singularity was the repository of all that could be, there could be nothing outside it, not even space, and certainly not a viewpoint from which to view the naked singularity. There was only an inside. (That, in fact is the definition of a naked singularity: a celestial body with no “event horizon” – i.e., defining boundaries.) There could be no boundary, no ‘skin,’ no limit, since such would have had to be a boundary between the inside and something outside, and there was nothing outside.

Outside was absolute zero. If you think you have a grasp of it, that cannot be it because that would be something.

The naked singularity, itself, had no size. It wasn’t “very small,” since size is relative and there was nothing outside the naked singularity against which to compare it, in size. All comparisons of size are based on what is “within” existence, which meant within The Naked Singularity, which at the time had no distinguishing features to permit comparison. Our conception of size is based upon ourselves; the “inch” is based on the approximate length of the thumb from tip to first joint. Since The Naked Singularity was The Only, comparisons of size are impossible.

Scientists who speculate about the size of the Naked Singularity, from which The Big Bang was said to emerge, do so in a very slippery mental environment, given the relative nature of everything. Size requires a frame of reference for measurement, and astrophysicists infer the size of The Naked Singularity from what they can see, today (which assumes certain things about the unchangeability of space – which astrophysicists say is expanding!). To The Naked Singularity, itself, from its own point of view, it had no size; it had only Itself, and not even any parts of itself by which to compare one part to another. Nothing can be said about its size in absolute terms or in relative terms.


The Naked Singularity existed in a “condition” of no space, no time.

Said to have expanded in a Big Bang, the expansion of The Naked Singularity took time. From astronomical data, scientists have arrived at an educated guess (based on a cosmological upper limit, the speed of light) as to how much time was required for the Naked Singularity to go from its seed state to the first stage of its expansion – raw energy of inconceivable magnitude.

The estimate of time is something like a billion times faster than the blink of an eye. The Big Bang, in a sense, was The Big Eye-Opening.

Of course, that estimate is based upon an objective comparison with time as we experience it.

But there was nothing outside or inside The Big Bang against which to compare it, in terms of length of time. Our conception of time is based upon ourselves, as the frame of reference: the “second” is the approximate length of time between a first heartbeat and a second heartbeat (hence the term, second). Scientists who speculate about the time involved in that Event do so with a bias: their own frame of reference, which didn’t exist at the time of The Big Bang. Time requires a fixed point of reference against which to be measured (which astrophysicists assume to be related to the speed of light and measures of distance). However, since there were no objects by which to measure distance, to the Big Bang, from its own point of view, it took no set amount of time, neither large nor small: it had only Itself and no frame of reference outside itself by which to compare its beginning to its progress.

At the moment of The Big Eye-Opening (if we can locate such a point in time), there was nothing – no form. The first moments of The Big Bang consisted of pure energy, pure motion, but nothing in particular to be in motion – again, no form – because no matter had condensed, yet. If you can grasp it conceptually, that’s not it, since concept-formation developed long after The Big Bang.

No size, no time, no form. The emergence of nothing from nothing. No problem.

Now, if we identify with The Big Eye-Opening, as if it were ourselves (which is in fact true – since existence continues in perfect continuity from then to now), what we might experience is, in a metaphorical way of speaking, the Rousing of a Sleeping Giant, perhaps something like what you may have experienced forcibly rousing yourself from a dream -- a primal urge to motion to wake up in possession of your full faculties. Only, The Big Eye-Opening had no faculties, other than that of the motion of emergence – the emergence of something from nothing – but with a lot of enthusiasm!

Let’s take a fresh look at The Big Eye-Opening.

First, a new assertion: The Big Eye-Opening didn’t expand into anything; what it did was divide itself -- another case of, “How Can That Be?”

Let’s try a metaphor. Among living creatures, reproduction (multiplication) is accomplished by means of division – whether division of a cell, of a seed, or of a fertilized egg.

Let’s use an egg as an example. An egg encompasses the entire potential of its lifeform. When an ovum, or egg, is fertilized, the first thing it does is divide (meiosis).

One cell, the egg cell, becomes two cells.
The two divide, and two becomes four.
Four becomes eight.
Eight becomes sixteen.
Sixteen becomes thirty-two.
Thirty-two becomes sixty-four.
Sixty-four becomes one hundred twenty-eight.
One hundred twenty-eight becomes two hundred fifty-six.
Two hundred fifty-six becomes five hundred-twelve.
Nine steps from one to five-hundred twelve. And the multiplication goes on. Multiplication by dividing. A spherical ovum becomes a spherical blastula, which then shapes itself to become an embryo, and away we go.

A blastula is bigger than an ovum, but it gets bigger by incorporating nutrients from its environment into itself. The Naked Singularity had no environment from which to build itself or expand into; all it could do was divide.

The act of division was the first creation of relative size. But from the point of view of the Naked Singularity, there was no size.

The Naked Singularity had no material existence; it was energy, only. Its very intensity precluded the condensation of matter; it was raw flux, pure motion, again inconceivable. If you can conceive of it in your imagination, that wasn’t it.

Let’s talk about energy and motion.

In our present Universe, light energy exists in a continuum (spectrum) of frequency, which we experience as color, from low (the red side of the spectrum and below) to high (the violet side of the spectrum, and beyond).

Again, in our present Universe, different atoms give off light at different and unique color combinations of the spectrum. Atoms can be identified by the light they give off.

But there were no atoms at the time of The Big Eye-Opening – no matter, no anti-matter, no nothing. At most, there was light (as in “Let there be …”) and since all light travels at the same speed in a vacuum (which was all there was, if that), there was no way of measuring time (which is only known in terms of motion) because everything was the same and there was no scale of differences in size by which to make comparison of distance from “here” to “there.” No time.

The first emergence, beyond mere timeless, sizeless formlessness, would have had to be the emergence of wavelength, or color, of light. In particular, it would have had to be with there being more than one wavelength, or color of light. The “oneness” of all colors would have had to divide, at minimum, into a basic, primordial “twoness,” or more than one wavelength, in order for there to be a difference, and from there, the full range of wavelengths along the mathematical lines discovered by physicists. Again, multiplication by division. There is a paradox inherent in this appearance of “more than one”; the paradox is that, at the time of The Big Eye-Opening, every ray of light exists at a certain frequency and moves at a certain speed, which is the same as that of all others; but from the position of any ray of light, all others exist at a different frequency, even if they all move at the same speed. Things that are the same appear different – another, “How Can This Be?”

For preliminary answers to these questions, we must do something dangerously anthropomorphic; we must speculate on a teleological (developmental) imperative – let’s call it, a tendency. We can speculate this way only because we have, as part of our nature, all of the attributes of our origin, and we have the tendency to develop, just as this essay is developing, and just as the Universe is developing. (The danger is in taking the analogy too literally, because the state of development of our attributes is different from their primordial state. But since they still exist on the same line of development, so we can make metaphors that give us some sense of understanding.)

Because The Big Eye-Opening happened, we seem compelled to allow that some tendency was at work.

Here’s the speculation: The tendency of emergence of something from nothing involves two beginning steps; there are more than two, but for simplicity at this point in our consideration, we will confine ourselves to the first two steps, and those are: awakening and differentiation. Awakening is the emergence into a new realm of existence; differentiation is the distinguishing of the features of that new realm of existence. The tendency behind the emergence of The Big Eye-Opening is the impulse To Be.

The first moments of The Big Eye-Opening can be seen as an emergence of (or into) something new – a new realm of existence -- physicality. But without distinguishing features such as size, shape, or time (motion), no experiencing of that emergence is possible, since there is nothing to experience and no one to experience it. But the impulse To Be, as a drive, has within it a Drive to Be Something. (I told you this line of thought is anthropomorphic.)

The Drive to Be Something has in it two faculties: an outward impulse (radiation) and an impulse to take things in (gravitation). These two faculties show up in living beings as (yang) the impulse to move into experience, intention, and as (yin) the impulse to take experience in, attention. Intention and attention. I’ll touch on this point only that much, for now, and go much more into it as we proceed.

Back to the two faculties.

Scientists who discuss The Big Eye-Opening state that somehow, gravity trapped light and turned it into matter, starting with the simplest sub-atomic particles (if there is such a thing as a simplest particle) then forming hydrogen ions -- protons and free electrons, and proceeding through cosmic evolution (star formation, planetary formation and development) to develop all of the complexities of matter and chemistry we see, today.

There is a big, big gap in that explanation. First of all, if all light was radiating evenly throughout the nascent Universe (and it had to be, or some prior, organizing principle would have had to be operative), why would matter have congealed more in some places than in others? The tendency for matter to appear would have had to be the same everywhere; with equal distribution of forces, nothing could have congealed, anywhere, or everything would have congealed evenly, everywhere. Equal gravity everywhere, equal light everywhere, equal congealing everywhere, including in the space between particles. It is a puzzlement. Again.

So let's look at a "what if".  What if everything expanded outwardly, evenly, and no congealing of matter would happen throughout the expanding sphere of existence.  It would only happen when, at the end of the expansion cycle, the mass / motion at the center of that moving sphere gravitationally drew the periphery back into the center, where all would congeal with a single "clap".  Repeatedly.  If it made a sound, the sound would be, "wacka-wacka".

But that didn't happen, did it?  Noooo. Somehow, the works got stirred up.

The simplest way it could get stirred up was rotation.  Could have been a simple, down-the-drain type vortex --- but that only applies to rotation in a single plane, spin.  We're talking four-dimensional, here, pal, maybe five.

The point is -- TURBULANCE!  And we're not talking fluid turbulence, here.  There are no fluids.  What there are is movements of radiating light.

So, the question, How do you get mere outwardly-bound radiation of some wavelength to stop traveling in lines and to coalesce into localized spaces?  That's some pretty tight curvature.  Gravity won’t do it, since gravity, as the weakest basic physical force, can’t even retain an atmosphere on a celestial body as large as our moon, which, compared to you, is huge. How’s it going to get motion occurring at the speed of light to Hold it Right There! and form matter?

Question:  What force physically affects the physical manifestation of light (hint: "electromagnetic radiation").
Answer: magnetic fields, verrry strong magnetic fields, with innumerable magnetic vortices, or centers, many with features in common.  Patterns.  Strange Attractors.  Probability Wells.

Mere dumb physical forces is an insufficient explanation. There has to be an organizing principle beyond the organizing of inert matter by uniformly active forces. I’m not saying what that is, but let’s take a look at the usual way of explaining these things.

In science, the structure of organizing principles is defined mathematically. Laws of physics and chemical behaviors follow mathematically defined and definable patterns. It’s these definable patterns – predictability -- that give science it’s vaunted air of reliability.

But let’s pause. We cannot let the logic of this speculation escape unquestioned. When did mathematical laws come into existence? For that matter, why did mathematical laws come into existence? Why are there mathematical laws, at all? Why did things “develop,” instead of stay the same? The contemplation of these mysterious questions is “similar” to the contemplation of, “where did The Naked Singularity exist?” Isn’t it?

I suggest that mathematical structure isn’t a primary cause, but is a secondary development of The Big Eye-Opening, itself.

Again: from nothingness, somethingness indistinguishable from nothingness (oneness). From that somethingness (oneness), the emergence of difference (twoness). Awakening and differentiation. Now, for some smoke and mirrors.

The two different elements of a two-ness have no distinct existence apart from each other; neither can be known as “something” except by its difference from and comparison to something else. That’s the “mirrors” part.

However, I used the word, “known,” didn’t I? Oops. That implies a knower. In a dead, unconscious Universe, no knower, no perception, is possible. However, we know that the Universe isn’t dead, at least not completely, because we exist and we know, from our experience of the existence of things, that there is consciousness. Question is, How far back does consciousness go? We have no basis for asserting any beginning point other than The Big Eye-Opening.

Why did I raise this point about consciousness? The reason has to do with the imperative, To Be. I am developing a view of an increasingly sentient (conscious) Universe, starting with consciousness in its most primitive, primordial forms – the impulse To Be and the impulse to experience Being -- the Rousing of The Sleeping Giant.

Here’s a principle peculiar to all living beings: we perceive change, and that’s all we perceive. Stare into a mirror for long enough, features of your face start to disappear. To get them to reappear, you have to move. We perceive motion (or change).

From the first moments of The Big Eye-Opening (if there were any) to now, there has been only a succession of changes and that is what has kept The Big Event in view. But I get ahead of myself.

The driving impulse of The Big Eye-Opening (now, we have to change the name, since we know that a succession of events has been involved – OK, let’s call it “The Big Show”) the driving impulse has been To Be Something. To Be Something requires, at first, emergence, and then, differentiation (formation of differences), the pre-requisites for change to occur.

Differentiation is very nice, except it’s not the full story. (Nothing ever is.) Let’s take a look back at The Big Show, just after two or more frequencies (or wavelengths, or colors, starting with the first line of the Lyman Series, for all you physics fans) of light appeared within view of any viewpoint.    Wherever rays of light of any two frequencies interacted, by proximity, they formed a third frequency (or wavelength, or color) – just as by adding red light and blue light, we get yellow light.

That’s a way of looking at the process objectively. However, all experiencing involves, at minimum, two viewpoints: objective and subjective. Let’s speculate about the subjective side of things.

Working with the premise that the primal impulse or tendency of the Universe is To Be, and to experience Being, why the differentiation of one color of light into two? An answer: as a necessary continuation of the impulse To Be. Remember that experience fades with monotony. The impulse to experience requires the emergence of The New, and when your playing pieces are as sparse as they were at the beginning of the game, you use what you’ve got. The next possibility, from Oneness, is a movement of (or within) Oneness. To experience existence over a period of time requires movement. How does mere movement result in the experience of more-than-oneness?

Let’s bring in a little thought experiment. Paging Dr. Einstein. Paging Dr. Einstein …

A peculiarity of light is that it moves at a uniform speed in a vacuum, regardless of the speed of its source. If the source moves toward the viewer, the light gets to the viewer no sooner, but appears to the viewer to shift frequency in the “violet” direction of the spectrum ("Blue Shift"); if the source moves away from the viewer, the light appears to the viewer to shift frequency in the “red” direction of the spectrum ("Red Shift"), again, arriving from the light-source to the viewer (or view-point) in the same amount of time.

Remembering that peculiarity, let’s say that primordial light, all of one frequency, has traveled a certain distance since the inception of The Big Show. Let’s allow that the boundary of conscious existence (the world of form) exists at the farthest reach of all the light that has radiated outward and that this consciousness, as it fills or pervades The Big Show; let us allow that conscious existence gathers in primordial experience from all directions. At the boundary and facing outward, there is an Unknown, Unknowable Mystery; at the boundary and facing inward, toward the origin, is all the radiation that has yet to reach the boundary. Assuming that The Big Show is expanding in a sphere, light moving away from this side of the expanding sphere of The Big Show and toward the other side is invisible to us (assuming there was someone to view it, which there wasn’t). Light moving somewhat away from us would be perceived from this side as radiating at a lower (redder) frequency. Because opposite sides of The Big Show are moving away from each other at twice the speed of light, neither side of The Big Show could be seen from the other. However, lines of radiation moving somewhat in the same direction would be seen as being a slightly different, redder color from each viewpoint, even if both were vibrating at the same frequency. Oneness experienced as twoness, because of differences in direction of movement.

The phenomenon of attention works similarly: If you project your attention forward, you can’t perceive things behind you; if you project your attention forward in time (imagination), you still encounter an Unknown at the limit of your imagination. You can perceive things to your sides, but they always appear as being other-than you and different from you. And if you project your attention back in time (memory), there is a limit beyond which lies a mystery – the same mystery as exists forward in time.

Getting back to The Big Show … The mere difference in direction of lines of motion makes for a multiplicity of objects of perception, even if they are, in their essential nature, the same.

We’ve talked about the first two processes of emergence, awakening and differentiation, and we’ve discussed how differentiation follows naturally from motion, even the motion of light, by virtue of differences of direction of movement.

However, we haven’t discussed how matter forms.

See, in the primordial scheme of The Big Show, everything is light. The odd thing about light is that there is no way to perceive light without matter.

Consider: the stars in the sky radiate light in all directions; outer space is full of light. But the night sky appears dark except for points from which light comes directly into our eyes – stars, planets, our moon. Whether radiated directly or reflected from a material body, the outpouring of light from all the stars is invisible from the side and visible only when it strikes our retinas directly. Doesn’t that strike you as odd? The sky is full of light but appears dark, except as it impacts us, directly.

Consider the primordial Universe. Light everywhere, no matter anywhere. Light everywhere, darkness everywhere. The experience of light comes from the existence of a perceiver, and not just the physical existence, but the conscious existence that somehow interprets inanimate, mathematical vibration into living color. The universe generated lifeforms that could generate the experience of light from what was otherwise darkness. The experience of light comes from lifeforms.

The concretizing of light into matter comes not only from gravity, which is only a physical force, but also from the ingathering tendency of the primordial awareness. This is to say that awareness is an inherent feature of the Universe, a living element of the causality of existence. I’ll say more about this point as we get to the discussion of The Ladder of Experience, which shows the correlations of the basic physical expressions of the physical universe – matter and energy – with the functions of movement and sensation, intention and attention, attributes of living beings that experience life.

For now, let’s say that there is an organizing principle whose function is to generate centers, of which matter with gravity is one physical expression.

So, now, we have identified some.
  1. The primary impulse of all impulses is to Be.
  2. Differences of movement make two objects that may otherwise be identical apparent as two different things, and thus knowable as “something” different from “something else.”
  3. The multiplicity of objects starts with the multiplicity of their directions of possible movement.
  4. Experience is possible only by means of contrast, differences between two or more objects – at minimum an experiencer and an object of experience, which must seem different from each other, when regarded individually, conceptually, but experientially, cannot be distinguished as "two".
  5. Light, or free outgoing motion, is invisible unless met directly by a material object, and is then experienced as incoming experience.
  6. Gravity is the incoming counterpart of outgoing light, just as attention is the “gathering” counterpart of intention, which is outgoing.
We are verging on a discussion of the next process of emergence: integration:
  • step (1) awakening
  • step (2) differentiation
  • step (3) integration
Integration is the gathering of things into a pattern, a whole that, by virtue of the pattern, is more than a mere collection of different things. Integration of things brings into existence a new pattern of function.

Back to light and matter.

Light can’t be perceived without matter. In fact, it can’t do anything but move outward without matter. Even if rays of light intersect, they still can’t do anything but move outward. All we have is motion.
The only way to know something is moving is to have a fixed point of reference. Matter provides that. The appearance of matter came into existence as a necessary means by which to witness the nature of light as a distinct, observable “something.” (Observation always requires a viewpoint separate from that of that which is being observed.)

This line of consideration, as worded, implies some sort of intelligent intentionality, a Primordial Impulse. To entertain that viewpoint, of course, flies in the face of scientific materialism, but dovetails with our own living nature and that of all living beings. (Just an aside to chew on, for a moment.) This conception of the impulse behind The Big Show requires a shift of point of view from that of the Universe as a dead process of mechanical objects haphazardly assembling themselves into chemical processes called, “life,” to that of an ongoing emergence of a living impulse, islands of organization coalescing within a sea of chaos.

We’re at the point where matter emerges to provide a fixed point of reference from which to experience motion, present as free light.

Matter has this handy little property: as soon as a fixed point of reference appears (matter), something else appears: gravity. Gravity didn’t cause the appearance of matter, its congealing from light; it coincided with the appearance of matter as a simultaneous expression of the impulse to gather experience of a new kind. Of what kind, we ain’t sayin’, yet.

Let’s just say that just as the primordial light became divided/differentiated into different frequencies of light, the spectrum (or continuum of color) of light consisted of frequencies of light that were multiples (or fractions) of some constant:  Planck's Constant (or the Planck Length). There was a mathematical order to that spectrum – a structure, a regularity -- another dimension of experience to be known.

To experience light required a contrast of some sort to be introduced, some sort of variation. Gravity provided one variation: it could bend light. This bending exists in contrast to the straight lines in which light otherwise would tend to travel (Law of Inertia), if it weren't being bent up and wriggled along by gravitational fields along its path of travel. Gravity also causes changes of the speed at which bodies of matter move, providing variations (frequency shifts) in the spectrum of light, making things appear redder or more violet, according to the speed and direction of the movement of material objects radiating or reflecting light.

(deep breath)

Our Universe, such as it is, provides examples of how gravity bends light, but no examples of how light might behave in the absence of gravity. That’s because gravity extends throughout the Universe; it pervades it, strongly or weakly. Magnetic fields, on the other hand, also extend throughout the universe, and they have a strong influence on light at a much more local (smaller) scale.  Conclusion:  Light is there to be bent.  We’re now at a stage in The Big Show where the interaction of energy, matter, magnetic fields and gravity are at Center Stage.

Matter provided another variation in the experience of light. Light could change from a freely moving phenomenon to one almost completely stopped, and then reappear again as a freely moving phenomenon going an entirely new direction and at a different frequency or set of frequencies – the process of reflection of light by matter, which is really absorption and re-radiation of light by matter. New behaviors! A little bit like a rabbit being chased.  How novel!

The emergence of matter is a new integration of tendencies of experience: speed, duration (time), and transformation. By itself, light doesn’t transform; it just goes. Matter transforms light.

And light transforms matter. Thing is, matter can’t be known in and by itself. It can only be known by the energy (light or electromagnetic radiation) it absorbs and re-radiates and by the distortion of the gravitational field. Even its motion can be known only by the motion (behavior) of its fields. The kind of matter is known by its electromagnetic (electrical field) properties, which underlie and are part of its chemical behavior. The behavior of matter has a structure that is related to the structure of the light spectrum. We see these differences of kind and behavior categorized in the Periodic Table of the Atomic Elements.

With matter, another set of experiences emerged: attraction and repulsion. Whereas rays of light neither attract nor repel other rays of light, they do repel matter; they exert a pressure upon matter, both a physical force and an electro-magnetic force. Light (or energy) induces matter to vibrate, to radiate light, and even to disintegrate, both at the level of molecular structure and at the level of sub-atomic structure. Think "microwave oven", which uses radiation to make water molecules vibrate -- or for you retro types, think "radiometer" (a kind of toy with a four-paddled rotor mounted balanced like a compass on a needle point in a bulb containing a vacuum, made to rotate by light). Radiation exerts pressure.

Both | matter/congealed gravity | and | light/radiation | are needed for experience to happen. Light provides a way to have a "matter" experience, even as matter provides a way to experience light. Light and matter are interdependent.

Now, it’s one thing to know these things as a matter of scientific theory and another thing to experience them, directly. You might remember that the theme of this essay is, “The View from Inside the Big Bang.” Inside.

And we have a view, from the inside, of the interaction of matter and energy (or light). It’s our experience of being alive.

Now, we don’t generally experience the molecular, atomic, and sub-atomic subtleties of matter. We experience matter at a higher level of organization. Remember, I made reference to integration. As living beings, we have a physical existence as organisms (somas), which has both common and unique characteristics of organization, relative to non-organismic matter. Likewise, we have an experience, from within, of those unique characteristics. Those characteristics are the characteristics of the body (and world), as sensory experiences.

Our being alive is a way of The Big Show experiencing the emergence of yet another dimension of experiencing: not only are we centers of experience with characteristics of both light (sensation) and matter (motion); we are moving centers. Not only are we moving centers (planets move, as do other inanimate processes affected passively by physical forces); we are self-moving centers.

It seems that the emergence of something from nothing has gone full-circle in us, living beings. We all seem to come out of nothing; we know life and we know ourselves by means of contrast of ourselves with our environments and relationships; we grow in our experiencing by moving into new domains. We distinguish ourselves from others and we integrate our lives with those of others.

With us, first comes The Big Eye-Opening, then, The Big Event of Emergence, then, The Big Show. We know ourselves by our reflections from others, from the ways we are stopped by life and the ways in which we are redirected, the way we put our lives together and by the changes we go through as our lives disintegrate and reintegrate in epochs of universal ("kosmic") and biological ("somatic") evolution.
The Universe emerged as a way of experiencing (existence), first in inanimate ways with no center and then in self-moving, animate ways with centers. The Universe persists by transforming; so do we. But we are not the same as the inanimate Universe, or rather, we are a new emergence of its potential and its new potentials emerging.

The Universe is expanding not only its physical limits (into what we do not know), but also the range of possible experiences within its potential. We are the product of The Big Eye-Opening without a break from ancient time and we exemplify its principles in our conscious life, which is still emerging at an accelerating rate, it seems. We are the Big Eye-Opening Experienced from Within, pressing outward into the Unknown and taking experience in. The Big Bang (or "Big Flash" or "Big Eye-Opening") isn't something that "happened"; it's something that is still happening, and we and our current universe are IT.

On Deep Creativity

Deep creativity is a name for the deliberate creation of new forms that, when contemplated (by the creator or by others) open a window to intuition of our silent, formless depth. It's the steadying of attention, the integration and transcendence of experience (ref: "Form is emptiness; emptiness is form").

We distinguish "deep" creativity from "superficial" creativity by both the process and the outcome.

The primary characteristic of deep creativity is unified intention. "Unified intention" means non-distraction, coherence, cohesiveness of directed attention. It is the creation of a "space of attention" into which a new creative impulse may emerge.

The tangible form we create in such a space of "coherent attention" ("dhyana" or absorption of attention) reveals, when we place our attention upon it, two "layers" of existence in addition to the tangible manifestation, itself: 1) a subtle communication of a feeling intuition and 2) silent empty space (without center or boundary) perfectly coincident with manifested fullness, our own essential self-nature.

The evident characteristic of superficial creativity is the lack of cohesiveness or of intuitive depth; it lacks simple integrity and communicates scattered attention. Most creativity and "art", stemming from mental ideation rather than intuition, falls into this category.

When we create from a deep place, we are engaged in a process of deliberate feeling-attention, with intention poised for new intuition. Deep creativity is not "random" creativity, but deliberate, coherent creativity, not synthesizing from existing parts from a mental place of "good ideas"; deep creativity manifests "something from nothing" using the creative medium to make something more than the mere sum of parts -- a holon, not a pile. We create from source; we create as source. The distinguishing characteristic of such deep creation is a sense of wholeness, of singleness, of unified integrity that gathers and steadies attention in contemplation.

We start by directing attention into what we intend, holding attention there in a disposition of expectation with creative intention poised, as a cat stalks a bird. We are, at once, open, receptive, and poised for activity. This is "active samyama" -- the contemplation of an object (even the emergence of a subjective object -- a creative impulse) until its essential nature is perceived.

As perception of the essential nature of the thing you are creating emerges, we experience an "originating intention" -- creative insight that can be enacted deliberately as an act of creation. Still in subtle form, an originating intention has sufficiently developed (in a kind of intuitive gestation) when creative energy (attentional force) congeals into a coherent intention (morphogenetic field) characterized by sufficient intensity -- creative thrust -- to bring it into tangible form.

Creating a coherent originating intention (morphogenetic field) involves recognizing and releasing/dissolving any ideas, feelings, or intentions that are influences upon your creative process other than what you are creating. These "other influences" surface as you exert effort or intention into the process of developing your originating intention. (Again, to create a coherent originating intention involves placing attention in the direction of what you want to create; those "other influences" appear as distractions to that creative process).

We then create a form that expresses that originating intention ("Upper Left") by acting deliberately upon a creative medium (words, paint, sound, resources, something "Upper Right") -- a creative process that might be termed, "tangification" -- the act of making something tangible (ref: Y.Y. Meru -- "The Creative Spiral", as presented in books, "Origination","Mastership" and "Attunement", and the Creative Spiral Opuses). To do so requires sufficient mastery of attention, intention, of our own actions, and of the medium in which we are creating to create deliberately. In a way of viewing it, creativity involves bridging between subjective interiority and objective exteriority, the capacity to view manifestation from both viewpoints, simultaneously. The simultaneous fidelity of inner and outer and the difference-in-appearance of inner experience from outer expression make all creativity an act of paradox (ref: Da Free John -- "The Paradox of Instruction").

The tangible "creation" becomes a feature of culture ("Lower Left") and a component of cooperative society and its infrastructure ("Lower Right").

In the case of this present writing, for example, the act of deep creativity required setting an intention -- to create an essay on deep creativity, the time needed to formulate an expression that fulfills that intention, recognition of what that expression would be, and sufficient mastery of language to implement that intention; in other media, other kinds of mastery pertain, but the same requirements for creative intuition and adequate mastery of the medium of creation apply. The combination of an originating intention and mastery of the medium make possible a creative act with a high degree of fidelity between originating intention and tangible result.

Once a creation has been brought into (or taken) form ("tangified"), it is available for contemplation. Contemplation of the tangible creation reveals the degree of its fidelity with the originating intention, allowing for refinement of the tangible expression. Sufficient fidelity between subtle perception ("originating intention") and its tangible creation, such that the subtle and formless layers may both be intuited, constitutes a successful "deep creation."

Once the tangible expression has been brought to a high degree of fidelity with the originating intention, its place within the milieu of already-manifested-actuality may be seen and understood by means of observation of that milieu, and reflection and consideration of the place of the "new creation" within that milieu; once that reflection has reached maturity, we may offer that "new creation" for integration into that greater milieu.

Then, we may begin the process again in a cycle of awakening, differentiation, integration, and transcendence.

For examples of deep creativity in sound, click

Somatic Spiritual (Evolutionary) Practice -- The Big Pandiculation

Hanna Somatic Education® is a highly accessible doorway to spiritual practice. It provides means for integrating and transcending psycho-physical (somatic) limitations and instant feedback as to the success of the practice.  

It's primary technique, "Pandiculation", puts principles into operation that apply equally well to subtler and "inner" aspects of the human being, i.e., the emotions and thinking mind, and the mind of subtle intuition -- the emotional and mental psychic fields -- as they do to the "outer" physiological body/organism.  So, I refer to the grand process of human evolutionary transformation as, The Big Pandiculation.

This essay explains how this is so, and also identifies the advantage and limitation of Hanna somatic education as an element of spiritual practice.

An entire human life may be summarized as moving from one state and degree of contraction to another -- with varying degrees of habituation.

Spiritual practice may be summarized as "increasing involvement with and increasing transcendence of" the conditions of life -- increasing involution and increasing evolution -- awakening to what we are constantly doing and being. I suggest that one of the most powerful means of spiritual practice is pandiculation -- applied not only at the sensory-motor level, as in Hanna somatic education, but also at emotional, mental, and intuitive levels.   I call this, The Big Pandiculation.  Correspondences with Kinetic Mirroring and Means-Whereby (explained here) also apply to those other levels. For non-participants in Hanna somatic education, I explain the term, "Pandiculation", here.



Spiritual practice has two aspects:
  1. awakening to and outgrowing (transcending) archaic, habituated patterns of function and perception
  2. awaking into new faculties of function and perception
In the language of somatic education, (1.) addresses "sensory-motor amnesia" or "attentional-intentional amnesia" -- indicating that the person is suffering (a) the results of inherited, unevolved habits of thought, feeling and action and (b) impairments of their functioning from injury or emotional trauma.  (2.) addresses "sensory-motor obliviousness" or "attentional-intentional obliviousness" -- indicating that the person is suffering from the lack of faculties that have never yet awakened.

The first category is that of loss; the second category is that of limited development.

I know that's a lot, and I'll clarify, as needed, below.

For students of Ken Wilber, let me say that these two aspects of spiritual practice correspond to what he characterized as "state pathologies" and "stage pathologies" -- where a state is analogous to "weather" and a stage is analogous to "climate".  All problems from category (1.) stem from functional impairments that occur within a given stage of development (broken personal integrity); all problems from category (2.) stem from functional deficiencies that occur because the person needs to mature to his/her next-higher stage of development.

That said, what is the role of somatic education?  To answer that rhetorical question, I should first define my terms.

The term, "somatic" (derived from the ancient Greek word, "soma") refers to the experience of our faculties -- awareness and control -- from within -- autonomy, self-regulation, freedom and responsibility.  The term, "education" (derived from Latin "e ducare") refers to the drawing out and making functional an individual's latent faculties so that they come alive.

In this day, both words, "somatic" and "education", are abused and misused in popular parlance.  "Somatic" is used to refer to the flesh-body or to cells of the body (as opposed to the mind), so that the word, psychosomatic is not recognized as the redundancy that it is.  (Remember, "soma" includes both bodily (or incarnated) existence and awareness, from within, of ourselves and our faculties.)  Likewise, education is used to refer to mental learning of more and more things -- facts and rules, without the recognition that such mental learning relies upon a more basic learning -- the learning of how to pay attention and to exercise intention in action (to get specifically intended results).  These abuses of words point to the degeneration (category 1.) and unevolved stage (category 2.) of our human culture.

So, we have to rehabilitate these words and their meanings for this essay to be meaningful.  If you accept that rehabilitation, read on.

Somatic education does two major general things:  it awakens perception (sensory awareness) and it awakens self-control (and by extension, control of things and others).

Understanding that point is "huge", since it is the basis of entire human lives.  Somatic education increases the effects of ones actions upon oneself and others.  It frees (and in effect, causes) one to be more aware of what one tends be, and, as habitual functional patterns are set free, to be more intensely "what's left" -- in effect, a surfacing (like the body of an iceberg as the top melts) of unconscious/subconscious habitual material.

The enterprise of spiritual practice appears in many forms in human culture -- everything from nature-spirit worship to organized religion to self-transcending practices.

For the purpose of this writing, I especially mean self-awakening and self-transcending practices.

At this point, we have to rehabilitate another slippery word:  transcendence.

People commonly use the term to mean "being above" and dissociating from some kind of experience -- not experiencing it anymore.  That's a formula for neurosis, pathology and breakdown; it's not transcendence.

The proper understanding of the term is "being inclusive of and more than" some kind of experience -- experiencing it consciously, with understanding, with mastery.  This understanding goes along with Einstein's declaration that "It is impossible to solve a problem from within the frame of reference within which it was created."  To solve a problem, we must first have mastered and transcended its original frame of reference.

This kind of mastery involves two stages:  differentiation and integration.

Differentiation means clearly seeing the distinctions that define something as it is.  When cooking, it is "helpful" to distinguish the taste of salt from that of other ingredients so that we can regulate how much salt we put into the cooking.

Integration means putting things together into a satisfactorily functioning whole so that all the parts complement each other.  When cooking, it is "helpful" to balance the taste of salt with other tastes.

We can't know how much salt to add by tasting the salt we are adding; we must taste both the salt and the rest of the dish-in-progress and balance them with each other.  By so doing, we transcend both the taste of salt and the taste of the rest of the dish -- we include them and occupy a frame of reference that is greater than either.

The somatic principle we have identified as applying to this situation is, "Somas perceive by means of contrasts."  The corollary is, "Whatever doesn't change fades from perception."  Try staring at something, sometime, and see what I mean.

How does this pertain to somatic education?

First, we understand that all of our experience gets processed through the body via the senses -- brain-based learning of how to interpret experiences.  This interpretation applies to physical sensations, to emotions, to mental processes, and to higher intuitions that don't have physical objects but which are felt (e.g., music and other forms of coherent art).

Secondly, we understand that that process of interpretation is subject to the distortions of Category (1.) and to the obliviousness of Category (2.)

Let's clarify how injuries and emotional trauma distort both perception and function.

Memory consists of two aspects that make up ordinary experiencing:  sensation and response (or movement, or behavior).  All memories exist as states of "readiness to respond", manifested as patterns of muscular tension that keep us ready for action.  The common term is, "nervous tension".  A technical term would be, "motor habits".

All experiences leave imprints on memory; intense or repetitive experiences leave intense imprints on memory -- and stronger patterns of muscular tension.

These imprints overlie each other as patterns of tension that show up as posture and "body language", breathing patterns, body-sense or the sense of "self", and also thought patterns and emotional responses.  "I" am patterns of memory, in action.

"Don't ask me to relax; it's my tension that's keeping me together."

Most of these memory imprints are below the surface and only get activated by circumstances, but reside at a low level of "idle".  When activated by circumstance, we call that "emotional reactivity".

For a more detailed and elaborate discussion of how these memory imprints show up as neuromuscular tension patterns, I refer you to "An Expanded View of the Three Reflexes of Stress", "Is the Body 'Self' or 'Other'?" and "Sensory-Motor Amnesia is Not a Disease."

Now, we get into it.

Somatic education provides a means of shifting those memory patterns from "automatic" to voluntary, turning "emotional reactivity" (for instance) into "emotional responsiveness" -- not in a wholesale manner, but progressively and specifically, and also activating latent faculties to which we are oblivious.

Just as muscular tensions can be brought under control by the three basic techniques of Hanna somatic education, "Means-Whereby", "Kinetic Mirroring" and "Pandiculation", so the logic of those techniques can be applied to emotional, mental, and intuitive levels of the being.

In general, three effects make somatic education useful in spiritual practice.  (1) It shifts unconscious/semi-conscious habits from unconscious to conscious.  (Some would say it integrates the mind-body connection, but it just awakens what is already the case.  Please see, "There is No Mind-Body Connection | There is No Mind-Body Split) (2) It awakens and integrates more of the "neural network" of the brain to make possible more complex and more finely articulated perceptions and behaviors, and (3) It re-activates awareness of personal functions that has been lost in Sensory-Motor Amnesia, so they can be integrated.

These effects correspond to (1) incarnation, (2) maturation, and (3) integration of "shadow (psychological) material".

Mere conception is not incarnation, nor is mere birth.  Conception and birth begin the process of incarnation, which involves identification as "body/mind" (soma), so that we experience the body "from within", as our "acting" selves.

The "incarnation" step applies especially to people who tend to live in their dreams, thoughts or emotions, whose fantasy or mental life substitute for engagement in relationships in the world.

Development of our capacity to experience and to act is progressive and proceeds by the formation of memory patterns along the developmental lines outlined by Piaget, Rogers, Maslow, and others, which involve progressive development of perception, conception, and action (behavior).  It's the development of functional sophistication (more or less).

The "maturation" step applies especially to people who have unevenly developed competence in various areas of their lives.

Integration of "Shadow (psychological) Material"
Shadow material consists of behaviors and feelings that have previously developed and then been distorted by reactions to traumatic experiences of various kinds.  They're ways we "won't let ourselves be", but which we still have impulses to be.  They're actions "stopped mid-step", both active and opposed by us at the same time.

The "integration" step especially applies to people who have been traumatized.

I'll tell you a few personal stories to illustrate my points.

Incarnation.  I grew up in an emotionally dissociated (but financially well-off) family, in which my emotions and wishes felt generally invalidated, even as my material needs were satisfied, without much social contact or play time for ten months out of every year (required to practice piano during the time when the boys on my block were out playing, together).  At home, I lived in frequent anxiety, boredom and alienation; in school, I feared for my physical safety and suffered frequent humiliation from more aggressive boys.  I was small for my age, but intellectually well-developed (which earned me the name, Peabody, after the brainy cartoon dog-character on "Bullwinkle" -- "Sherman and Peabody" -- from one of the boys).  In my free time (after piano practice), I read copiously -- astronomy, paleontology, anatomy, physics, chemistry, science fiction, and the entire World Book Encyclopedia, cover to cover.  In physical education classes, I had the least prowess of anybody and was always the last chosen for team sports.  So, I was mentally well-developed, emotionally intimidated and alienated, physically undeveloped, and socially out of synch with my peer group.

In my teens, I developed incapacitating tendonitis in my right hand/wrist that resulted, ultimately, in my getting Rolfed.  The point of this narrative is that my "incarnation history" led to this:  My rolfer described me as being "like concrete" and "the most contracted individual" he had ever worked on.  I was largely oblivious to my condition, and I had so little bodily sensation that my forearms and abdomen felt as insensate as wood.

Rolfing was the beginning of my somatic education, and in the process, what aroused my great interest is that I was starting to perceive myself, my body, and my behavior, in ways that had never before awakened.  The awakening of feeling and the changes of how I was moving were giving me a viewpoint for self-perception other than the one with which I had been identified -- the contrast making possible new self-observation.

My process of maturation gradually progressed, with Rolfing, and accelerated with movement practices designed to speed the integration of the changes from Rolfing.

The movement practices had the same effect of awakening new self-observation (by means of contrast between the state I generated with movement practice and my habitual state) and it had a further effect, development of a kind of psychic sensitivity.  I recall one afternoon, working the counter at my father's print shop, when the front door opened and a man came in, and with him, an emotional field that I would characterize as "a downer".  It came in with him, specifically (and not the same way with other customers), so it wasn't a matter of "oh, another customer"; it was about, "wow, feel what just walked in the door".  Practice of the Structural Patterning Movements typically magnified that psychic sensitivity by calming my mind and quieting and sensitizing my nervous system -- a lower "signal-to-noise ratio".

I stayed with Rolfing for about twenty years, and in so doing, built up a mass of contrast between my physical state and my habitual subjective state (memories of "how to be" and "how I am").  It was to be the basis of a rending, wholesale transformation (that has continued to this day).

At age 36, after a fairly easy divorce, but also during a wrenching time of change during which I went back to university to train as a physical therapist (living in the dorm with 18-21 year-olds), and during which I lost my entire social network, accustomed diet, work and living situation and had no source of income.  I was fairly maxed-out on stress.

Shortly after the end of my university studies, I returned to my previous town in a completely different situation than the one I had left, without friends or income, still maxed out on stress.

During that time, my Rolfer plopped a copy of Somatics, by Thomas Hanna, onto my lap and said, "You might be interested in this."  The book contained somatic exercises "for neuromuscular stress", which I began to practice.  Surprisingly, instead of reducing my stress, they made it worse.  Much worse.  The exercises, by surfacing unconscious processes and developing more responsiveness in my process, intensified both my awareness and my manifestation of my state of stress, physically.  The exercises made me experience more the state I was in.

That may not seem like a good thing, but by intensifying my experience of stress, it also made me available (and irresistably compelled me) to undertake further spiritual training and intensive inner work to "disarm" the stress.

When I entered training in somatic education with Thomas Hanna, I was in so much stress and so intense that I deliberately wore a red tee-shirt with the words applied to it, in white letters, "Too Intense".  Mutual practice of the somatic education techniques among students alleviated my stress by about 50%.  At the conclusion of training, we had a celebratory barbeque, at which time my peers burned that tee-shirt.  As one of my peers said, as testimony to their acknowledgement of how much I had changed, I wasn't wearing the tee-shirt when they burned it.

After training with Thomas Hanna, circumstances brought me into contact with a teacher of The Avatar Course, which consists of methods that have the same underlying principles as Hanna somatic education.  Using those methods has been instrumental in disarming so much of the accumulated stresses of my earlier life, intensified and revealed to me through somatic education.

This is a fairly summary recounting in which I omit a lot of details -- but the essentials are present.

Spiritual practice does not occur in a vacuum or in a state of obliviousness.  Bliss is not oblivion.  It's equipoise -- which means active, participatory ease or grace -- what Thomas Hanna termed, "the fair state".  It entails both momentary deep intuitions of the formless self-nature ("original mind"), emotional peace,  and progressive deepening and integration into life.

Somatic education awakens human faculties so that we come more awake as we are, develop our faculties, and see more vividly the ways in which we are "stuck" in unconscious memory-and-action patterns that befoul attentive consciousness and prevent the awakening to increasingly free being and transcendental intuition.

In practice, clearing up each habituated action-pattern frees and integrates creative energy (attention and intention), so that we have more of ourselves available to put into action.  That means we get more effect from the same amount of felt-effort as before.  We also feel that effect more keenly and also feel "what's left to do" more keenly.  We become more "how we are" and get more sensitive to ourselves and to others, more keenly discerning.  As a result, we experience a progressive revelation of our habituated state, to ourselves, leading to "the next thing to clear up", and that progression happens faster and more intensely than before.  The term, "the Fire of Practice" attains meaning.

Somatic education activates the great Truth Teller -- our actual feelings, apart from idealistic mental notions or deluding spiritual enthusiasm.  "The Body Doesn't Lie."  It decreases the likelihood of "spiritual bypassing" -- in which we assert idealisms rather than working with our actualities.

By the same token, Hanna somatic education has a limitation -- its greatest strength is sensory-motor integration, with the secondary emotional and mental benefits described earlier -- however, at some point, the somatic limitations seated at the sensory-motor level have essentially been dealt with, and habituated limitations remain in the subtler "bodies" -- emotional, mental and intuitive.  These remaining limitations must be dealt with at those levels on their own terms, even though they may show up as problems in the physical body.

At that point, one must engage processes that apply the principles of somatic education in techniques analogous to those of somatic education, but that apply to those higher bodies.

In summary, the effects of somatic education on spiritual practice are:
  1. relieving impediments left behind by trauma
  2. organizing attention and intention to a higher level of integration
  3. increased effectiveness of intention and action
  4. increased sensitivity to the effects of intentions and actions
  5. progressive revelation of somatic habituations, leading to
  6. progressive integration and transcendence of habituated adaptations

The Big Pandiculation is exactly that process of conscious incarnation and transcendence, awakening experiential awareness and control, and coming out of the habituated state of identity that characterizes the unawakened individual so that (s)he can be her or his free and responsible, unique self.


Here's a link to an internet interview on clinical somatic education, as found on Happiness After Midlife (

"The Immortal Harold Somaman -- What Keeps Him Going?"

The Immortal Harold Somaman -- What Keeps Him Going?

            He began in his own time an ordinary boy, a bit precocious, a bit intellectual, but of average disposition.  Unselfconscious.

            It just shows, one never can tell.

            How would one guess that Harold Somaman might evolve to the point that he could, by means of conscious movements mistaken for exotic patterns of stretching, influence the unseen quantum flux network that held the pattern of his body, and by doing so, maintain his physical body at a kind of dynamic equilibrium.  Said another way, Harold Somaman had arrested his aging process through a kind of psychokinesis.

            At least that’s how the public understood it.

            People saw in him a strange case of mind over body, like firewalkers or the Shaolin monks whose mastery of Kung Fu and of breaking bricks and sticks is legendary, or as an Olympian of longevity.  They saw him as the exception – one of the few chosen who could “do it.”  He was regarded as a genetic anomaly, an oddity.

            That, of course, was not his opinion, and he regarded people who held such views as of a “tabloid mentality,” their explanation for his longevity, hilarious.  He sometimes jokingly referred to himself as a mutant, but as far as he was concerned, anyone could do what he had done, if they did what he did.  It just might take them a while to realize it.

            Quantum flux network?  Psychokinesis?  Leave to these people to love ten-dollar words.

            Well, once he came to public attention in the local papers, the tabloid reporters and scientists followed.  Both interviewed him.  The tabloid reports had at least got it less wrong, writing about the mind-body connection, even if they had made it sound like something from outer space.  The scientists immediately had wanted to explain it all in terms of hormones and genetics, and keep the mind out of it, thank you very much.

            They studied him.

            In the neuro-physics laboratory, they’d measured his neural conductance in different parts of his body, they’d had him CAT scanned, PET scanned, electromagnetically mapped, x-rayed and MRI’d, and taken his temperature over a forty-eight hour period.  The verdict?  He was healthy -- as healthy as a thirty year old.  He was, at that time one hundred eighty three.  He looked good, but his face looked a little older than thirty.

            At the medical lab, they had drawn blood and wanted urine, semen and stool samples.  But he had another engagement.  “I’m in a hurry,” he had said.  “Here, take my shorts.”

            At the psych lab, they’d recorded his brain waves while they attempted to get him to get a match box to slide across the table.  They tested him with ESP cards.  He’d told them, “That’s not my thing,” but research grants being what they are, they insisted.  They said, “We’ve heard you have psychokinetic abilities.  We’d very much like to see.”  “It’s a different kind of psychokinesis,” he said.  They wouldn’t listen.  After four hours of countless cups of coffee in a glass observation booth, during which time they became increasingly nervous, fidgety and bad-tempered, they finally gave up.

            Then he told them, his type of psychokinesis came from a higher integration of mind and body, and that it basically affected his biological processes, his mental functioning, and the results of his actions.  That didn’t mean he could slide a matchbox across a table or cause apples to bounce, spoons to bend or watches to stop and start.  He couldn’t influence slot machines or cause red traffic lights to turn green -- well, not usually.  It meant that, by means of a combination of intention and actions of a specific type, he could energetically enhance his body’s functional blueprint at the level of physiology – his nervous system, his muscular system, his sensory awareness, his circulatory system – he could get them all to function more efficiently.  He also explained that, because he was functioning more efficiently, he exhibited a higher than average creative capacity.  This intrigued them.  Finally, he said, it made him smarter.  They looked at him dubiously.

            So, then, they start asking questions about what he means by “mind-body connection” and he says, “Can we talk?” and they say, “Yes, of course,” thinking he’s about to give them some answers at last.   And, he says, “That’s it.”  And they say, “That’s it?  What?”  “The mind-body connection,” he says.  “What is?” they ask.  “Talking,” he says.  This stops them.  He says, “You guys always make everything so complicated.”  He looks at them looking at him and starts to laugh and laugh.  He spends the rest of the afternoon explaining the mind-body connection using terms he’d read in a tabloid article about him.  Soon, they’re nodding, yes, yes.

            Now, in the biomechanics lab, they weigh him, test his strength and endurance, and measure his bone density and body fat composition.  He puts up with it all patiently.

            In the biomechanics lab, they’re going to do some before-and-after studies.  Somaman is going to demonstrate some of the mind-body movement processes that he says are his means of arresting the aging process.  He’s going to demonstrate them while under measurement.  They’re going to get video of the whole thing.

            This time, the physics boys are in on the game.  They bring devices for magnetic flux measurements, temperature measurement at a distance, a mass densitometer, infrared and ultraviolet cameras, and a scale to measure his weight in case he starts to levitate -- very sophisticated.  These guys have seen Ghostbusters and they know what they’re doing.

            So, Somaman starts, a slow, twisting standing movement, first one way and then the other.  Then, he starts twisting his arms as he turns.  His arms and shoulders roll forward and backward along his sides in a twisting movement.  Then, he starts to turn his head along with his torso, as if looking over each of his shoulders.  Then, he starts to turn his eyes in the direction of his twist.  So, he’s doing this kind of dramatic super-twisting movement side to side, and now he starts moving his lower jaw side to side with each turn, opposite to the direction of his eyes.  He stops and holds his position in an extreme turn and switches his eyes and jaw from side to side.  Now, he’s starting to look really crazy.  Then, his spine straightens, a bit, and he seems to get taller.  The scientists stiffen in their chairs and their eyes widen.

            Meanwhile, the guys at the EMG readout are going crazy with the data that are coming in about the pattern of his muscle firings.

            Somaman starts to breath loudly.  An exhalation, and silence, then an inhalation, and again, silence.  Again and again, six times, and then a long silence.

            One of the guys catches a look at the expression on Somaman’s face and says in a low voice, “My God! Do you see that?!”

            Suddenly, a light seems to flare around Somaman, or rather, his features seem to be etched in sharp relief and suffused by a radiating hard light of no particular color, other than the color of Harold Somaman himself, only brighter.  Even the air around him seems to shine.

            He begins to untwist and face forward, again, in slow motion, and as he does, he begins to straighten, to get even more erect.  He ends with arms outstretched wide, palms forward, legs together.  He looks like a caduceus, the winged medical emblem.  Light still shines from around him, but it is fading with a kind of fizzing quality that leaves him illuminated only by the laboratory lighting.

            Without a word, he starts again, this time in the opposite direction.

            When the light has faded a second time, he smiles softly and says, “How was that?”

           “’What was that?’ is more like it,” says one of lab techs, quietly.

            One of the computers beeps.

            A couple of the others in the room, dressed in white coats, close their mouths and resume looking at their computer screens and start tapping some keys.

           “Look at this,” says the EEG tech.  “All four patterns at once.”

           “Look at that symmetry,” says someone else.

           “It spikes and then it all goes to near zero,” says a third.

           “Where is it, now?”

           They look up to see him looking at them with a bemused expression on his face.  "Looking at the instant replay?" he asks.

           They look back to the monitor.

           “Delta and alpha.  Look at the amplitude. ”


           “What happened with the EMG data?” someone asks.

           “We’re converting it for visual display.  Over there.”

           Now, Somaman is getting interested, so he asks, “May I see?”

           “You’ll have to stand until we get that sensor-suit off.”

           “That’s ok.”  He comes over.

           An image comes up on the monitor, not this time Harold Somaman, but a kind of transparent figure in three dimensions.  As it starts to move, it moves like Harold Somaman.  Bands of light start moving through it in synch with the movements, connecting his torso and limbs.  They extend and retract themselves from the center of his belly to his fingertips and feet, which glow brightly, getting brighter and dimmer with movement.  At the moment of his greatest turn, they shine brightest, connecting his feet, through his calves and thighs, to his pelvis, up through the chest, with a kind of spiral shape lit up in the shoulders and arms and a twist through the spine, neck and head.  Some are brighter than others, and they’re all lit up when the breathing movement starts.

           The breathing movement looks like a pumping action in which the figure’s whole torso expands and contracts, with a light brightening and dimming at the bottom of the pelvic region.  As it continues, the figure straightens a bit and seems to shift its balance just a little, and then the pumping breathing stops, and a small streak of light passes from the mouth down to the center of the torso.  The light at the bottom of the torso is very bright, then suddenly dims as a light at the center of the torso brightens.   Suddenly, all the lit areas come to equal intensity.

           “That’s just the EMG,” someone says.

           “What do you mean?” someone asks.

           “Look at the playback of the magnetic densitometer readings.”

           The magnetic densitometer is a measurer of magnetic field strength and field size.  It’s an indicator of changes of electrical activity in his nervous system and the magnetic field around his body.

           “Put it up, split screen.”

           The monitor display divides in two, showing another figure at the side of the first.

           “Start it over.”

           Playback begins, and this time, when the figure lit up at left, a sudden flare expands to surround the figure at right, looking like a slightly irregular plum shape made of shimmering lines of light with a core of light at the center of the figure.

           The figure at left is holding very still in a twisted position.  As it starts to untwist and face forward, the plum shape surrounding the figure at right flares even larger and brighter and then, as it brightens more, the figure inside it disappears inside the brightness.  The irregularities in the plum of light start to fill up and even out.

           At last, when the figure at left faces forward, the light pervading the figure at right fades at the edges and subsides to a glow.  The figure stands very still in the pose of the caduceus.  Playback ends.

           “Pretty fancy,” says Harold Somaman.

           Nobody says anything.

           “Well, got your data?” he asks.  “May I go?”

           “Wait a minute.”  One of the techs taps some keys.  “Let me check.  OK, everybody?”

           Voices respond one by one in the affirmative.

           Somaman peels off the sensor suit and drapes it over a chair, then heads out the door.

           “Where’re you going?” someone calls out.

           He turns and smiles over his shoulder, “I’ve got a date.  See ya later, boys.”  He winks and walks out, leaving the door slowly sighing closed behind him.

© Lawrence Gold  5/15/2011 6:20 PM

Facets of Superman
exercises like the one described here

Somatic Ethics

There is a way about somatic education that can be seen as a kind of ethic or approach to life.  By that same token, there is a way of seeing how the way someone participates in somatic education is the way they participate in life.

For one thing, we're dealing with matters of relationship, where relationship isn't a static thing like an abstract concept, but a dynamic of play -- how we do things.

For our first example, let's take the case of how a somatic educator may conduct a session of somatic education with someone.  In general, our way is to observe and understand, from within, the predicament of our client.  We may look at him or her standing full length, and by observing the stance of that person, replicate its feeling in ourselves.  There's a feel to what we see.  We kind of get inside you like a hand in a glove and, aided by our theoretical understanding of the behavior of the three major reflexes of stress and our recognition of interconnected movement patterns, we discern what's going on in you.  Of course, we cross-verify those findings with your history of injuries, palpation (manual assessment)  and your current sensations.

So, here's the first ethic:  We get information from both inside and outside, in feeling and in understanding.

Having done that, we choose and guide you into the easiest, most accessible, and generally, most direct route into what you're already doing habitually.  We have you make it more.  To do so, you must first recognize it as something you can do -- and then do it.  So, we guide you, we direct you, into replicating elements of the action you are habitually doing (differentiation) then guide you into assembling all those elements into an integrated pattern -- the more integrated and complete, the better.  You go in; you come out.  You learn the path into and the path out-of.  We help you find it.

You see what I mean about relationship, yet?  There's are patterns in us formed by the physical, emotional, mental and intuitive stresses of experience, patterns of remembered tension in our musculature and arrested-but-held impulses to action.  We guide you to awaken to what each one is -- and generally, no sooner has that awakening occurred then you are already at least partially, if not largely, out of that pattern.  It happens before you know it, actually (although we feel it).  Then we have you move about so that you can feel what's changed.  Then we do some more.

Into . . . . . out of

The Rule of Thumb, here, is "Whatever they are doing 'wrong', have them do it MORE, and then less -- alternately.  Imagine the liberation.  "Destination -- Jello" -- but Jello with an attitude!

Now, I suppose there are various ways of going into and out of -- some of which look like going around the problem.  So there are degrees of relationship -- degrees of directness -- degrees of relevance -- degrees of comprehensiveness.  See?

Now, consider that language:  relationship, directness, relevance, comprehensiveness.  Those four terms are sufficient to define an ethic.

Relationship | Directness | Relevance | Comprehensiveness

Here's where some variation can creep in.  An additional "point on a continuum" is "more and less", "consistent and inconsistent".

"More or less" may be more or less force, more or less speed, more or less intensity, more or less subtlety.

"Consistent and inconsistent" are terms having to do with times and occurrences and also with changes of rules.

Do we change the rules in the middle of the game or do we change the rules between games?

In the case of somatic education, since we are showing a person how to go into and come out-of, some consistency is "desirable".  We want to make enough of an imprint in a person's memory that they can find it at will, and then they have also found the way out.  In general, "The way it goes in is the way it comes out - and "The way it comes out is the way it goes in."

That's a high-speed strategy because it makes the greatest imprint with the least effort.  Another ethic:  A case of "get more result with even less effort".  Targeted, rhythmic repetition helps a bit.

That kind of high-speed strategy makes even lesser efforts cumulatively effective.

But of course, the point is to get the result -- not to reduce effort.
Another ethic:  The way to conserve effort is to get the result very efficiently -- at least as efficiently, and perhaps even more subtly than by less focussed, less specific, less intent, less attentive efforts.

Those are just of few of the ethics we may see in the process of somatic education.

I have observed other variations on ethics among clients.


There are some interesting ones.  I gave them names.
  • The Cooperative Helper
  • The Wooden Man
  • Half-Hearted Participation
  • The Really Hard Worker
  • It's Over Before It's Really Over
  • "Doesn't Know When to Quit"
  • All-or-Nothing
  • Criss Cross
Cooperative Helpers go right along with you but never really relax at the core: they've learned to be in control in your groove -- they-re very cooperative -- but if they get into anticipating too much, they get jumpy and never relax.

The Wooden Man appears, to others, to change slowly, if at all, but he reports how much change he is feeling.  This is a really sensitive individual.

Half-Hearted Participants don't really put much into it.  They don't "ramp up" enough really to engage.  You've got to ask them.  Repeatedly.

The Really Hard Worker on the other hand, never quits!  (S)he springs into action, sometimes ahead of you so it's a little like reigning in a horse.  Thoroughbred.  Jumpy.  A bit high strung.  Tends to hurt him or herself by excessive effort or by never taking rest.  We repeatedly have to remind him or her to use less effort and to go more slowly.  Be more leisurely.

It's Over Before It's Really Over is the person who, somewhere near the middle or three quarters through a movement, suddenly gives way and quits.  Understand, this is a movement for which the person set the effort-force level to begin with -- and (s)he gives way, feeling overpowered by someone who matched her example at the beginning!  Misconstruing that she is resisting being overpowered by them, rather than they that are respectfully resisting her, she feels overpowered.  Pacing, follow-through -- and recognition of responsibility -- are the teaching, here.

Doesn't Know When to Quit never takes a vacation.  This is a person who is a bit slow to enter the relaxation from a "movement into tension" and a bit slow to relax faster.  Even after a move to complete relaxation, this person also springs into action at a moment's notice -- even when you want him to relax and have said so.  It's a learning thing.  We take such a person down in stages, having him/her use progressively less effort with each repetition.  We sneak up on the relaxation state.  (Shhhhhhhhh.)

All or Nothing -- such a person in a high-powered sports car would be dangerous.  (S)he knows only "all on" and "all off".  It's "pedal to the metal" or "hit the brakes!"  Fitful.  Sudden.  Not much gradation of control.  Can you imagine?   Workaholics.  Such people may look forceful, but tend to cave in a bit more suddenly than you might expect.  They just need practice floating in the mid-range of things -- the so-called "Middle Way" -- which is not mediocrity or "centered balance", but variable, floating self-regulation with capacity for the extremes.

and Chris Cross -- this is a very interesting person.  Confuses right and left.  Ask him to lift his left arm and he lifts his right, for a moment.  Sometimes a long moment.  You ask him to look right, he looks left, for a moment, then looks right.  Catches himself.  Feels dumb.  This typically happens with new, non-habitual movements.  Here's the news:  four (4) out of five (5) people do this a few times during a session.  It's very confusing for the person when I bring it to his attention -- and it is for that eventuality that the sayings, "the other right" and "the other left" were framed.  This is a person who means to do one thing and does the opposite.  Which can be handy -- if we're engaged in learning the way in and the way out.  But also amusing.

Anyhow, you can see that these types together define a kind of ethic and more types could be added to make a more complex ethic.

But let's look again at what we have, here.
  • The Cooperative Helper MEETS Chris Cross
  • Half-Hearted Participants MEET Wooden Men
  • All-or-Nothing : It's Over Before It's Really Over
  • The Really Hard Worker : "Doesn't Know When to Quit" 
Looks like we've defined some ethics, here, doesn' it?

Here's the last somersault:  We contrast/relate the sets of ethics:

  • The Cooperative Helper MEETS Chris Cross   |   Directness OF Relationship  
  • All-or-Nothing : It's Over Before It's Really Over   |   Comprehensive Relevance
  • The Really Hard Worker : "Doesn't Know When to Quit"    |   Getting More with Less
  • Half-Hearted Participants MEET Wooden Men    |   Focus with Consistency

We get information from both inside and outside, 
in feeling and in understanding.
It goes "Inside-out" and comes "Outside-In".
Somatics has an inside.
Fun, huh?

The Integration of Unevolved and Evolved Views of the Body

If people consider the matter of the body at all, we regard it in two ways:  an unevolved view and an evolved view.

The unevolved view of the body is as  "vehicle of the self".  So viewed, we are "within" the body, which exists to carry us around and bring us toward desirable experiences and away from undesirable ones.

This view of the body concerns us with conformity, the "hard body", political correctness, pain, pleasure, and mortality.  It is the point of view of cosmetics, Western medicine, glamour magazines; hard drugs, tobacco and alcohol; corporate culture, social status, consumerism, dance competitions, "youth culture", and violent entertainment (including many video games, crime shows, and much "reality TV").  It is the unevolved view.

What makes the unevolved view, "unevolved", is that it regards the body as "object" -- "my body" -- something to be possessed, controlled and lost in death.  This view considers mind and body separate, "I" being "my" mind (which, oddly, linguistically also considers the mind to be a possession, but one which we cannot reliably control, and which we hope continues after death).

The unevolved view of the body is unevolved because, while the faculties of external perception (awareness of the world and social relations) are more-or-less developed, the faculty for internal awareness is more-or-less undeveloped.  The unevolved body-mind (soma) reacts to situations automatically and without all that much self-awareness.

The evolved view of the body is as the tangible expression or manifestation of self.  So viewed, we recognize the sense of self (physical, emotional, mental, and feeling-intuitive) as a bodily sensation, not "within" the body, but as sensations of the body.  So viewed, we move toward desirable experiences and shy away from undesirable ones, as before, but with our inner life of self as observable as the outer world (psychological "shadow" aspects and unawakened faculties being "compost" for further evolution).

This view of the body concerns us with relationship, with will, integrity, fulfillment of our intentions in actual results, with walking our talk, with how we organize our lives and with knowing our own mind.

What makes the evolved view, "evolved" is that it recognizes that the body is not a "thing" -- or "object" that proceeds into the world as a "non-negotiable" self, but a living experience, the very location of self that changes moment-to-moment.  In that view, death is recognized, not merely as a mystery, but as a transformation continuous with life, even as life is a series of transformations into new (mysterious) events of life.

This view of the body allows for something that the unevolved view does not:  deliberate self-development and self-evolution.  The unevolved view of the body wants to meet life merely as it is ("non-negotiable") -- take me or leave me, "That's just the way I am."  The evolved view of the body recognizes that we can deliberately change to meet life more artfully, more smoothly, more intelligently -- and finds that ability intriguing, finds life's challenges and opportunities, its teaching moments, illuminating "grist for the mill" of self-transformation (whether through will or through surrender -- and with or without angst).

To take a deeper look into the evolved view of the body, we find it helpful to look at the basis of what gives the body its characteristics:  memory.  Once we have done that, we will be in a position to consider how the body contains and distributes memory and the self-sense holographically.

The unevolved view of the body sees memory as a function of the mind and of the brain (regarded as an object-possession, even though no one has a direct experience of their own brain).

The evolved view of the body sees memory as embodied as the whole body -- holographically, meaning distributed among the whole, not contained within a part, such as the brain.  Lest you think that I am speaking merely theoretically, I will bring this statement down to Earth.

One quality characterizes all of life:  self-initiated movement.  Plants have it, insects have it, and animals have it.  Movement is life.

Inanimate objects also have consistent behavior patterns, (e.g., the consistent behaviors of atomic elements and compounds seen in chemistry and physics),  but they are not self-moving (in the sense of being able to change behavior in mid-act by self-volition).  The memory of inanimate objects is simply their predictable behavior -- though, in this view, the memories of inanimate objects are relatively "uneventful" and contain no mental or emotional content.  (Note that computer memory consists of patterns of electrical charge stored in silicon circuits -- inanimate.)

In this way of seeing things, the whole Universe may be regarded as a vast system of memory -- interrelated, interacting memories that are changing and evolving -- anchored as patterns of physical reality with internal experience.

For life-forms less complex than humans, most movement consists of instinctual behaviors; the more complex the life-form, the more instinctual behavior is complemented by learned behavior.  In humans, learned behavior dominates, by far, instinctual behavior.  In either case -- instinctual or learned -- behavior is movement.
Movement carries with it an inner side -- experience.

Experience leaves its imprint on, in, or as memory.  Experience becomes memory -- and a memory is nothing more or other than a lasting imprint of sensations and movements.  Remembering how to do something (long-term memory) is remembering how to move in certain ways (patterns) and what experiences attend that movement; short-term memory is a tracing of patterns on the waters of consciousness, patterns that quickly fade -- but still have duration, however short.  Memory is nothing more or other than the persistence of patterns of behavior (movement) and experience.

Predictability decreases (and unpredictability increases) with complexity, so that the more complex life forms are, the less they behave by instinct and the more they behave as they have learned.  Higher complexity includes all of the characteristics of lesser complexity, and something more:  room for more memory and something else -- the capacity to look at memory, itself, and to operate upon ones own memory, to change it: deliberate learning and also . . . . . emergent behaviors.

Emergent behaviors are upwellings of change unpredictable on the basis of previous behaviors -- and the formation of memories unpredictable on the basis of previous memories . . . . . creativity and evolution.  Each new integration of two or more "behaving entities" into a new whole (each formation of a new relationship between two or more participants) brings forth emergent behaviors unpredictable before the integration occurred.  That's emergence.  ("Emergencies" typically involve the formation of new relationships on short notice!)

Having covered the span of memory from the most primitive to the most emergent life-forms, we're now prepared to look at how the whole body-mind (soma) contains and distributes memory holographically.

I must first dispense with the notion that memory is distributed equally throughout the brain.  This is not so.  In the brain, as in the rest of the body, different locations have different functions.  However, the interrelation of the different locations -- their synergistic cooperation and interplay -- produces the full range of behavior and memory.

Take an easy-to-understand example:  balance.

Movement at balance requires coordination; lack of coordination is awkwardness.  Coordination involves closely-timed movements among the "parts" of the entire body; the entire body is involved.  Balance is the feeling we get when those closely-timed and coordinated movements result in a minimum of effort to move as we intend; awkwardness always involves a sense of excessive effort because some parts have bad timing.  Coordination is a space-time experience of economical, intended movement.  The brain controls and senses, the rest of the body acts; they are a functional unity.  Seen as the body, we look (viewed from outside) a certain way at any moment; we feel (from the inside) completely different from we look; though different, they are the same event perceived from different viewpoints.

The basic unit of memory in the body is DNA, which makes healing of injuries (restoration of the memory of the whole-body sense) possible, and which is the most highly predictable (chemical and physical) aspect of memory.

However, as a whole we are far more complex than our cells are, our behavior is far more complex, and our individual memories are far more complex than those of cells.  Cellular memory, as it is described, is not the deepest or most profound form of memory; it is the shallowest and most superficial.  The profundity lives in the larger complexities of which cells, tissues, and organs are simpler parts.  Human behaviors are far more complex than the behaviors of individual cells.

The memory of behavior exists as patterns of shape and movement that exist among cells and tissues throughout the whole body.  Patterns of connection exist among neurons of the brain and as patterns of coordination (and feelings) among all of the muscles of the body.

Every thought that passes through us shows up as patterns of tension in the musculature.  Dreams (an internal experience) can be measured (externally) electrically as changes of muscle tone and electrical potential and observed as eye movements.  Voices heard by schizophrenic patients have been observed to coincide with electrically-measured micro-movements of their own vocal apparatus.  People move their lips when they first learn to read.  Thought is the body, thinking; emotion is changing physiology.  The inner experience has an outer expression.

Memory consists of habituation in whole-body patterns of muscular tension and physiology -- generally, states of readiness to take action in familiar situations.  Tension (and other physiological states) are the external side of memories, of which sensations are the internal side.

Back to coordination and awkwardness:  there exist better and worse -- more and less economical -- patterns of organization as a person.  In general, better patterns of thinking go with better patterns of coordination.  (It's possible to have specialized patterns of coordination that work well for special situations and still to be incompetent in other situations -- just as some people may be geniuses in certain way and doofuses, in others -- or even "clumsy geniuses" and "absent-minded professors")  However, in general, the better coordinated we are, the better we think, and the more ways in which we are well-coordinated, the more versatile our thought processes can be.

Likewise, memories depend upon the body.  People commonly accept that sudden shocks to the body cause amnesia, though people don't commonly understand how that is so; they commonly think it has something to do with a blow to the brain.  While that is sometimes so, the larger answer is, physical shocks that happen faster than the brain can register them create a discontinuity of memory, a gap in "how I got there."  It's not just "amnesia", but "sensory-motor amnesia".  People in sensory-motor amnesia have forgotten how to get from their altered state back to their familiar sense of self, mentally and bodily.

As more and more coordination develops in different ways, the person becomes both more complex and better integrated.  As (s)he becomes better integrated, (s)he has more command of his or her own faculties -- attention, intention, sensation/feeling and movement.  With each new degree of integration, new emergent (unpredictable) faculties appear (creativity and evolution).

This assertion may seem novel and questionable to you, and so must be tested to be verified (or disproven) to your own satisfaction.  I can say that my own experience of Rolfing and of somatic exercises (both of which develop higher integration, higher coordination and higher efficiency of function) is the origin of this assertion.  (Ida Rolf said, "Rolfing is not concerned with the palliation of symptoms, per se, but with the development of more efficiently functioning human beings.")  The clarity and depth of my own thinking is evident in the writing of this article.

Thus, both the unevolved and the evolved views of the body (and its primitive and more complex functions) have their place in the human -- and the evolution of human beings is a tangible process involving both the bodily (external/objective) aspect and our mental (internal/subjective) aspect -- in processes of "complexification" and integration.

article:  Is the Body 'Self' or 'Other'?
article:  Psychotherapy and Integral Somatic Education
article:  on somatic exercises
video:    about somatics
resources: available somatic exercise programs