Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Towards a Heathen Theory of Perception

Let's introduce the idea of a heathen conception of perception. In the Cartesian theory of perception that has ruled the Western world since Descartes, there is the classic separation of subject and object, so that when I perceive a tree, the Cartesian idea is that there is an external object, the tree, and then there is an external subject, who is me, and there is a visual gloss whereby all that I am doing, in a very surface manner, is taking in that surface gloss. It's merely a visual trace.

But if we look at things from a heathen perspective what we have instead is that each object, each wight in the world, is like a fountain, and it is pouring out its megin, its particular frequency, its particular flavor, its particular type of megin, of energy, and that therefore when I am beneath a tree, say, and I am beholding it, I am taking it in. I am not just engaged in a subject-object separation, but the megin or the energy of the tree is actually pouring into me and through me. In order to perceive anything, there must be that continual pouring-forth of its megin, of its energy, of its power.

With that in mind, the basic heathen principle of Drink Deeply comes into effect, and we turn the ordinary, mainstream ideas of perception on their head, wherein subject-object separation is normal, and the participation-style of perception is seen as quaint, something childish, something primitive. From this perspective, when we turn it around, people who engage in that subject-object separation are impoverishing themselves, because there are literally sources of strength surrounding us. In the great strength of the Ash tree, and in the beautiful green of the grass, and in the lovely fluttering leaves of the shrubs, and in the bird-songs, there are draughts of intoxicating and strengthening fluids. This isn't just a surface aesthetics. It's far deeper. There are strata that go far beneath the surface. Perception is the act of opening oneself up and taking in all of that deep strata.

We don't often do that. We're in the midst of life and in the midst of business. We can't be perusing the depths of the world at all times, but the heathen philosophy is that perception has that depth capacity, and that it is worthwhile and enriching and strengthening to regularly open oneself up to the depths of those strata that can be found radiating forth flavors and qualities of strengths and energies from the wights of the world, through the simple but profound act of perception.

If we look at perception, the word literally means, looking at its Latin root, to "capture through". There is an element of capturing ("ception"). But there is an element of capturing and letting it go through us. There is a throughness of opening ourselves up to the being. Opening ourselves up to be captured, to be entranced by it for a moment, and letting its energy pass through it. There is a moment there of participation, where our being, and the being of the wight are in alignment for a moment, and even communion. Other traditions may speak of this as a moment of meditation, but here it is a beholding, an openness to being, in which the megin of that wight pours out, and we drink deeply of it, strengthening ourselves, without ever diminishing the being at all, because to be alive is to constantly be radiating and sharing the essence of one's being, like an overflowing fountain. Since we ourselves are so giving ourselves to the world, which gets to drink of us, we in turn have place to drink deeply of the world.

Drink deeply!


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