Monday, May 02, 2005

Introduction to the body-model of the whole person

Ah, it's nice to be back at my desk in NJ, without the pressure of an internet kiosk waiting for another buck, clicking off seconds while my post is loading, possibly kicking me off line and disappearing an hours worth of writing! Whew!

I have, in the last bunch of posts, introduced a whole bunch of language in a sort of casual manner and without much explanation, knowing that I would have to come back to the terms and explain something of what I mean by them. Sometimes that's a choice I have to make in order to continue a strand of thought without running off on explanatory tangents, and now is a good time to double back and make more sense of the references. I have used three categories in particular, namely the physical, the psychical, and the noetical, to reference levels of the person.

I have already gone on a bit regarding models as such, as well as described a model for the path of self mastery, namely the six pointed star. In the first chapter of my other online book,
  • Integral Anatomy
  • , I explain these levels of the person using the language and model of the body, adapting the terms and categories of Daskolos to my own understandings. So I footnote Daskalos, aka Stylianos Ateshlis, as well as the works of Kyriacos Markides here, and acknowledge that I am not always exactly clear what they mean by these terms, but I have borrowed them, and I know what I mean by them! Perhaps we mean the same thing, and I have borrowed the meaning as well, in which case I'm happy to credit them for that as well, but if I've got it all wrong relative to their meanings, I am more than happy to take responsibility for the meanings I have layered into their terms. Got that?!

    So rather than reinventing the wheel here, I am going to paste in slightly modified sections from Chapter One of Integral Anatomy where I outline a model of the whole person based on a three-body perspective, those being the physical body (which I am committed to explore at length in the subsequent chapters of Integral Anatomy), the psychical body and the noetical body, the details of the latter two being more carefully explored in The Heart of Service.

    The model of the body implicit in the concept of the whole person includes several specific bodies, and together they constitute the human body fully understood. The physical body, the psychical body, and the noetical body together make up the whole human body. As noted above, I borrow freely from esoteric traditions here as well as studies in psychodynamics, because I find the categories provide useful leverage points for opening up that pandora’s box which is the human form. One point common to many esoteric traditions is that the physical form of the human body coexists with an etheric form, sometimes called the "etheric body" or the "etheric double." Physical death involves not only the dissolution of the physical form but the etheric form of the physical body as well. In these traditions the etheric form is usually understood to be an energetic pattern or matrix within which the physical form itself is built up. The etheric double of the physical body does not represent “the soul,” but rather simply a mold. On this view, the physical form corresponds exactly to and is very much the artifact of the etheric double of the physical body. Certainly any scientist who may be reading here must shudder at the resurrection of a term so seemingly archaic and politically discredited as “etheric.” I would say that it is no more preposterous a notion than that of “the vacuum of space,” that deus ex machina of physics computations, and that it is highly serviceable for modelling human form! The etheric double when posited renders certain realities explicable (to be discussed later --later in Integral Anatomy, that is-- eg. ageing, nerve function, phantom pain, self anaesthesia, etc.) which might otherwise escape explanation. Consider it for now as a place-holder in the realm of the “commonly unknown,” but not unknowable.

    The psychical body proper, which like the physical body also has its corresponding etheric counterpart, is also a real human body (it’s not a dog or cow, after all!). It has form. It is composed of those emotional patterns and dispositions which constitute the emotional life of a person. It helps here to be able to extend one’s general concept of form to include aspects of our common reality like emotions and thought which are outside of the range of what we generally refer to as physical. The very tenuous and spacious nature of matter as energy revealed by modern physics should at the very least stimulate the imagination as to the possibility that emotion and thought could also have form, even if of a more spacious quality than physical matter per se. Something need not be “physical” to have form. A form only becomes “physical” when it has slowed to a certain rate of vibration and in so doing accumulated/congealed “material/energy/etheric substance” to an extent that it begins to reflect physical light and have other properties that we commonly associate with physical “stuff,” like tri-dimensionality and relative bump-into-ability. The psychical body “outlives” the physical body as it is not subject to deterioration in the manner that the physical body is. The implication here would be that our accomplishments with regards to emotional development, the disciplines and maturity whereby our emotional life is rendered more and more coherent, organized and clear, are "heavenly treasures" which, unlike physical riches, can indeed accompany us beyond physical death. On the “down side,” the emotional turmoil produced by an untutored and reactive emotional life can generate burdens and liabilities which will require balancing beyond the temporally structured terms of a given physical life. During physical life, there is an intimate relationship between the physical and psychical bodies, each built up within its respective etheric counterpart. The characteristics of that relationship are unique to each individual and make for a fascinating exploration. What is the relationship between my physical and emotional life? How do my responsibilities as regards my physical and emotional life differ? What is the relationship between my emotional life and my physical shape and genetic expression? These and other similar questions are fair game for the common discourse of integral anatomy, as well as conversations revolving around the path of self mastery and service. The study of physical anatomy can function as a lever to understanding our psychical form. Likewise, the integration of the body of our emotions can transform our experience of our physical body.

    The noetical body and its etheric counterpart constitute the body of ideas, concepts and principles which both precede and “outlive” even the psychical body. The noetical body itself is a function of pure thought. It affords definition and direction and purpose to the specific project of a spirit incarnating. I have already made some reference to Machael Small Wright and her Co-Creative Science in an earlier post, and apply her concepts here to help explain the qualities and character of the noetical body. With respect to our human body, its noetical form is made up of the definitions of movement or digestion or the principles of sensation or immune responsiveness, which are antecedant requirements to subsequent psychical and physical movement, sensation, etc. As a matter of fact, the noetical body as compared to the physical or even the emotional body is decidedly abstract by its very nature. Fortunately, there are two related "leverage points" for filling in the entailments of the noetical body as part of the model of the whole human form. They can help us “get a grip” on the noetical body.

    First, the capacity to provide "definition and direction and purpose" is the particular endowment of human intelligence, as compared to the intelligences of nature under the auspices of which the "matter, means and action" are organized to fulfill such purposes. (do put Co-Creative Science on your reading list!) If the whole human form is a garden and spirit is the gardener, the noetical body would be the set of plans defining what kind of a garden the specific body is to be, its general purpose, and the more particular purposes of the varied elements out of which it is composed. The capacity to generate the definitions and purposes whereby a form so spectacular as a physical human body might come into existence seem far, far beyond our typical endowment of human intelligence. Such capacity humans generally regard as divine, and the prerogative of a creator. I should say they regard it as divine in enlightened moments only. From my confessedly esoteric religious perspective, there is little more utterly ridiculous than to assume that the phenomena of life which fill our planet, including the miracle of our own bodies, are the fruit of accidents of lightning strikes on primordial soup and subsequent natural selection and survival of the fittest. Left to its own devices, the primordial soup would, I guarantee, be inedible!

    Although I in no way regard myself as a “creationist” of the fundamentalist christian pole of the infamous debate, I do have sympathy for their scepticism regarding the brute stupidity out of which the cohorts of Darwin’s legacy purport the world to have evolved. Some like myself perceive the sheer counterentropic tendency of life and the magnitude of organization it represents to indicate an awesome and intelligent precedent. One need not align with an equally mindless biblical literalism or doggedly refuse to acknowledge the most basic discoveries of mechanistic science or the geological record to reverently and mindfully acknowledge the source of all, should the recognition of its loving omnipresence pleasingly dawn upon you!

    Further contemplation might even allow for the identification of that creative source within ourselves, should one permit a truly grand expansion of what one considers one’s “circle of possibilities.” I know there is company out there among intelligent, spiritually active people--think Mathew Fox or the legacy of Teilhard de Chardin--who refuse to succumb either to the dogmas of atheistic scientism or those of fundamentalist biblicalism! Speak up, wherever you are! The plans for our body come to us as a gift. Yet admitting the humble exersize of our own abilities, it is in the very image and likeness of the source of those “master plans” that we qualify and alter and individuate our general endowment with our own definitions, directions and purposes, which we generate throughout the whole course of our lifetime. In so doing, our noetical bodies assume form peculiar to the character of our own chosen purposes, and the impact “trickles down” to our psychical and physical structures. We define our very selves, and step, consciously or unconsciously, into the role of co-creators of our given lives. Thus our noetical bodies are comprised of the general set of principles and definitions which give rise to our psychical and physical bodies, as well as the particular set of purposes and directions supplied by our own selves for our lives.

    Now for the second point with which to fill in the entailments of the noetical body as part of the model of the whole human form: when I consciously generate freely chosen thought forms of specific and positive intent and support them with honest, heart felt emotion, I am aligned with a method for moving mountains and manifesting a new creation. I am freely exercising my endowment of human intelligence in a manner that develops my noetical body and rightly orders my psychical and physical bodies to align with my conscious intent. On the contrary, when I randomly react emotionally, generating charged but unconscious, undisciplined, and spurious emotion-thought forms, I set myself up for more distorted emotional experiences and inner turmoil which have ramifications for my physical health and well being. Thought as the lapdog of emotion is a formula for disaster! Further, when I play the victim to my physical impulses and subsume my free will and purposes to the peculiar qualities of my physical endowment, I abdicate my responsibility as co-creator of my life and subject myself to the undirected vagueries of a horse with an incompetent rider. If the rider does not direct the horse according to hi/r proper role in the mutually cooperative endeavor of a walkabout on planet earth, the horse will munch, romp, meander and mate, it is true. That’s about all that happens when destiny is left to the impulses of the horse, and the rider won’t get very far down the path.

    The capacity to supply definition, direction and purpose are talents to be developed. The proper domain of such talents is the noetical body. We are granted free will to excersize these talents and enjoy such freedom to the extent that we recognize and acknowledge and accept responsibility for our choices. Where we abdicate responsibility we simultaneously imprison ourselves as if we have been locked up without a choice. We allow the horse to drag us about, dominated by physical propensities, or we live a life of emotional reactivity, pointing errantly to our bodies or anyone else as the cause of all of our suffering. The victim consciousness is the bottom of the scale of integral development and self mastery, because by abdicating responsibility for life experience the possibility of the very freedom whereby we excercise choice over our direction is denied: denied to the self, by the self. The principles and definitions whereby one lives an embodied life serve a structuring function for the discipline of emotions and physical impulsivity. Healthy and vibrant emotional expressiveness defined by choice in turn manifest positive signatures in the physical form. The well-harmonized co-vibrancey of the noetical, psychical and physical bodies represent personal maturity and an integration of human form based upon which a whole new level of service can be undertaken. All the great teachers this planet has known came not for power over others but to serve, and they did so from a place of inner harmony, clarity of principle, and personal integrity, not as victims but as masters. Integral anatomy as a moral and spiritual science pursues self mastery with a view to service as a basic orienting goal. The physical, psychical and noetical bodies provide a model of human form coherent with this pursuit and rich enough to sustain a prolonged, rich and fruitful exploration.


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