The Phenomenal Self pt 2 - Experiential Flow
the Universal Life Force at the Heart of Human Experience
We can think of the flow of experience as a wave of energy that spontaneously emerges from the universal energy field, iterates within a pattern of unfoldment laid down by eons of evolution, forms the most subtle feeling of becoming shaped by perceptual participation into an episode of knowing, and completing as the experience of a self that is the center of the whole. The self then is something that the kosmos composes, moment to moment, by gathering energy into discrete constellations of phenomena. This is what the kosmos does—gathers energy into constellations—galaxies, star systems, and selves.
We know that this generative sequence through the modes of experience follows the evolutionary emergence of life, from simple cells with primordial experiences that could qualify as protoselves, to simple animals with sensory receptors and a core self, to higher animals and humans with large cognitive capacity for storing, organizing, and retrieving knowledge with an extended self. We also know that this generative sequence is followed in human embryogenesis.
There was never a time when we were not awash in the human affect stream because the human embryo is embedded in the mother’s circulation system. The affective (feeling) state of the mother has important epigenetic influences on how the baby’s neuroaffective body-brain develops. In a romantic and a literal sense, the child is conceived in feeling.
We can think of embryogenesis of experience as laying down the ‘channels’ of feeling, the pathways of perception, and the storehouses of knowing. First, the neuroaffective channels develop, then the pathways and organs of the senses, beginning with touch and balance, then taste and smell, and finally hearing and vision. Even memory and learning, such as the familiar sounds of the mother’s voice, begin to function before the baby is born.
Deep phenomenological practice trains us to examine the processes of experiential flow and to discover the way the sense of self-ness is composed by them, as an experiential center of feeling, perceiving, and knowing in a continual process of becoming. It is a practice where we trace back through the developmental and evolutionary dimensions of our being, down to the origin of becoming. By training our powers of concentration, we can slow down the processes of experiential flow and bring them into our conscious awareness.
We can practice ‘holding patterns’ where we retain only the most primordial and subtle feeling of being, and then in a disciplined and rigorous way, intentionally allow in or subtract out sensory modes of experience. In this way, we begin to understand the origin of experience as deep affective energy and the sculpting or shaping function of perception that creates an intersection between self and world. At this intersection of self and world, knowing, the third mode of experience, emerges in the constitution of image and idea.
I really love what you’ve written here, Bonnie.
How exquisite that the being of a human is formed by inter-being. The embryo comes together with and by the stuff of the mother, energetic, emotional, physical, dna and also hormones, immunity and nutrients. Even after birth nursing continues to transmit both nutrition and immunity and serotonin in the pleasurable moments (not all nursing is easy/pleasureful...in which case, the anxiety and stress is also transmitted). It took me a long time to understand my presence my body my voice as a transmission, despite how clear this connection is, as an experiential flow to be tracked, traced, slowed. What a gift my authentic movement practice was post partum to have a space to practice gently to let go of the tight overlap.
And then if we expand our frame, to a global scale, we are, as humans, along with all other life forms, utterly dependent on the body of earth, her abundance feeds us energetically emotionally physically as we find ourselves in an experiential flow with what holds us, the space, the texture, the elements, the narratives of place.
This intersection of self and world...affective and perceptual and ongoing. this is something I want to explore more.
This is a brilliant distillation and an interpretation of experience that draws on many fields of inquiry while also trimming much of the dead-end baggage that has been accumulating through history. The moment you comprehend what Bonnie is saying, you can't help but feel the whole process playing out locally in that same moment. It also aligns with everything I happen to know about how nature evolves and operates. Knowing the big story of nature in which this process unfolds brings with it a sense of a deep, recursive continuity; that my experience is not only mine but an elegant fractal of the whole.