Who or what is the perceiver?
[Excerpt from SANE]
The body exists in a swirling maelstrom of data. Data is gathered and transmitted through sense organs.
The on-going assumption is that the me, the self, the ‘I’, is the perceiver, organiser, controller and interpreter of this data.
But what is that self exactly? Where does it reside? What is it made of? And how does the self exist if not via the same perceptual process as everything else?
Could it be that this self that seems so real is also just a creation of perception?
And that it is in fact less real than the apparently real world perceived by the sense organs? Because, when it comes to the self, what actual information is it based on?
Nothing is coming into the sense organs. It cannot be heard or felt or seen. There is a body but where is the self?
Could it be that this real individual self is only an idea? A delusion?
As this ‘self’ seems to be the basis of our entire existence, it deserves a fairly close examination.
We have considered how what is perceived is a function of the perceiver.
And we might have ended the last previous chapters with the thought: Ah ok. I get it. Individual realities. I perceive certain things differently from others. That makes sense. I have different likes, dislikes, associations. Different perceptions. No biggy.’
Well it is quite a biggy…
Because now we are considering the possibility that the ‘I’ doing the perceiving is not the ‘I’ that we commonly believe to be the individual self, the me, myself.
And again, yes I know, this sounds insane.
Because if the ultimate perceiver is not the me here, this identity that is me, then what is it?
Let’s consider sight…
Light stimulates the retina and causes chemical reactions. The optic nerve is stimulated and sends electrical impulses into the brain. The impulses go back to the visual cortex. These can be tracked.
But where is the perceiver of this information? Where does the world appear. What is it that sees, hears and feels?
All this electrical information is going somewhere but there is no image, sound, sensation or world in the brain.
If we consider the cat of the previous chapter. It appears as electrical impulses in the brain. But who is making the cat appear? Who is seeing the cat? Where is the watcher? There is no mini Clare in the brain turning all this data into cat.
And yet this information is received and constructed as an idea of the world. Who or what is doing that? And where does that perceived world reside?
It is the same for hearing with sound waves stimulating the ear drum.
It is the same for touch with pressure stimulating receptors in the skin.
We believe it is perceived by the self. I am seeing. I am hearing. I am writing.
But what and where is that self?
We can’t find the self in the brain. We can’t find it in any part of the body.
And this is almost impossible to comprehend. Because what looks through these eyes, what hears, what touches is believed to be this individual self.
There is this tight, almost unbreakable identification of this idea of self as the seer, hearer, feeler, doer.
We say ‘I am listening’.
But we cannot in any truth say that ‘I, this individual self, am listening’ because there is no individual self making listening happen. Listening is just happening or not happening. There is no ‘I’ making it happen or not happen. If the ‘I’ had to explain how it was making listening happen, how it was taking vibration and converting it into meaning and imagery, it could not. It could not because it is not doing anything.
There is no ‘I’ making seeing happen. Seeing is just happening. There is no ‘I’ making touch or sensation happen. Touch is just happening.
And this is ENORMOUS.
It is almost beyond comprehension.
It might sound so nihilistic. It might sound as though, if we don’t exist as the self we have always believed ourselves to be, then we don’t exist at all.
But for sure existence is happening. Awareness is happening. There is aliveness and life. Experiences are taking place.
It is just not being ‘done’ by the self.
Because the self is, itself, only an experience, a perception, an idea, a thought, a belief.
In other words, the self is, itself, being ‘done’
It is a creation. It is not the creator.
The realisation of this?