Saturday, May 16, 2015


Someplace in the last weeks I read an article about the planet’s oceans being cleared through the action of some tiny creature that lived in great numbers, and how that clearing so increased the usefulness of seeing that the smallest creatures began to evolve to be light sensitive.

One of the great appeals of writing is that, properly done, the "water" clears and one can see.  Then one begins to evolve an eye (and an ear) that sees, but is unseen.  Somehow there is an illusion that an unseen viewer will be seeing unguarded truth.  This is probably not true, since most censoring is done by the one who is looking, in his or her own head, seeing on terms of suspicion.  It is opening the mind that counts, not opening some shutter.

The Ebola eye is on the right, dilated for examination.

In the same news-span we have learned about the doctor who was cured of ebola, except for his eye, which turned green because the virus was still in the vitreous fluid of his eye.  Other things we laypeople learned was that there are small reservoirs in the body where the immune system is blocked out because the place (the eye and the testicles, for instance) is too delicate and crucial to tolerate the battle the immune system will put up against intruders, maybe even turning on the person.  The phrase you need to search for is “immune-privileged regions of the body.”  Other viruses can taken shelter in the placenta, hair follicles, and  the haematopoietic stem-cell niche” in bone marrow.  It’s not easy to find information about these niches because there is so little known.  

The human brain also has a blood barrier for many substances.  More is known about this because docs want to get meds past the barrier and so do those wanting to experience derangement of the neurons in order to get high.  These “immune-privileged” parts are supposed to be sanctuaries, but there is something in some humans that psychologically despises all sanctuaries or privileges.  Nor do we necessarily admire unembellished nature.

A friend, who acquired one of those antibiotic-resistant hospital infections when surgery was done on his leg, struggled for more than a year to get rid of it.  In the end, they removed some immune cells, tagged them radioactively, injected them back in and traced where they went as they traveled to fight the virus.  Then they injected the most powerful drugs right into the “sanctuary” location.  It worked.

When doing an autopsy, the investigator is likely to take a biopsy of the vitreous fluid of the eye, perhaps by withdrawing some of it with a needle.  The fluid is likely to preserve a record of substances that have cleared the rest of the body.  The tissues of the eye are the slowest of the body cells to replace and the least able to resist intruders, which is why toxoplasmosis worms like eyes, even though they can be seen there.  

The progression of this post has been from ancient limnology and the development of first life to the persistence of primitive life within the complexity of the human body.  Now let us step over to a spiritual level.

from Emerson's notebook about his essay on nature.

Ralph Waldo Emerson has been key for those who have strong sympathy with the Transcendental style of Unitarian thought that was influenced by Buddhist and Hindu sources brought to Boston by Yankee Traders on the seas.  It also speaks to those who see the Sacred in nature.  But the place where Emerson had his key epiphany of fusion with creation was on Boston Commons, a city park, not during the wilderness treks his essay inspired in Henry David Thoreau.  Emerson was simply going about his business when he was struck by a deep experience of felt meaning.  Every time I’ve ever preached about these moments, people have come up afterwards to report their own light-struck interval.  They were always mundane times doing routine things, that were suddenly interrupted for a few moments.

Standing on the bare ground,—my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space,—and all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God. “ -- Emerson

The idea of the transparent eyeball first appeared in Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay, "Nature", which was published in 1836.  The eyeball is not the theme, which is instead nature as the closest experience to experiencing the presence of God.  This process requires absolute "solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society" to uninhabited places like the woods where . . .  "We return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, — no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite spaces, — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson is often thought of as a wise old man with no troubles, which is a cultural archetype we are constantly pushing.  But in fact he was so in love with his wife that he insisted on marrying her though she was too young and suffering with tuberculosis, the HIV of the time.  After she had died, he would occasionally return to her tomb and open it to see if she were truly dead.  Dealing with his guilt was complicated because she had family wealth which he inherited and which supported his genteel philosophical life so that he could leave the Unitarian ministry with which he often quarreled.  

He finally arrived at the idea of an Oversoul that includes everything and is palpably felt in the experience of being a “transparent eyeball.”  It’s closely related to the notion of the “Oceanic feeling” which might be welcomed or rejected, depending on the psychology of the person and whether they have had the experience.

by Joseph McGurl

From Wikipedia:  “The concept was coined in a letter of December 5th, 1927 from Romain Rolland to Freud as part of their correspondence, where Rolland writes:

“Mais j'aurais aimé à vous voir faire l'analyse du sentiment religieux spontané ou, plus exactement, de la sensation religieuse qui est (...) le fait simple et direct de la sensation de l'éternel (qui peut très bien n'être pas éternel, mais simplement sans bornes perceptibles, et comme océanique).

“In strict translation:

“But I would have liked to see you make an analysis of the spontaneous religious sentiment or, more exactly, of the religious sensation which is (...) the simple and direct fact of the sensation of the eternal (which can very well not be eternal, but simply without perceptible boundaries, and like oceanic). Similar as an independent contact, the feeling is fundamentally subjective.”

Freud is another we press into the mold of genius wise old man, unchallenged.  (At least he spoke French.)
Alex Grey, visionary

The ideas of the oceanic feeling -- fusion, love, and loss -- are merged and culturally recognized in the lyrics of a song from “Nine Inch Nails.”

Staring at the sea
Will she come?
Is there hope for me
After all is said and done
Anything at any price
All of this for you
All the spoils of a wasted life
All of this for you
All the world has closed her eyes
Tired faith all worn and thin
For all we could have done
And all that could have been

Ocean pulls me close
And whispers in my ear
The destiny I've chose
All becoming clear
The currents have their say
The time is drawing near
Washes me away
Makes me disappear

And I descend from grace
In arms of undertow
I will take my place
In the great below

I can still feel you
Even so far away

And that's only human love!  This complex of metaphors evades both the cold mathematics of theological argument and mawkish commercial hearts and flowers.  Once felt, it is haematopoietic, the term for the bone marrow stem cells at the core of the body that can give rise to vital tissues in the sanctuary niches of the mind.  And eye.


1 comment:

Timothée Barrus said...

"Standing on the bare ground,—my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space,—and all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God." -- Timothy Leary, Emerson's long lost brother who was found wandering around naked and his neurons were deranged in Concord, Massachusetts, where many of the resident MIT neurons are deranged by people who think they are at Harvard. In defense of LSD, I never felt less deranged in my life. In defense of deranged, I would argue that it's the neurological status quo, the sober brain, that is aberrant in some mysterious way. The mean brain, the cruel brain, the sadomasochistic brain, The cop brain, the cop brain with a fetish (I know cops who love getting tied up naked as a baby, and having their tits tortured brain), the seemingly benign brain, the Hitler brain who could do what it did but we are all the Hitler brain and we could all jump into the genocide brain because of radio waves in Rwanda), and last, but not least, the boy brain on Mountain Dew deranged brain of french fries, grease, cocaine when he can get it brain on Skittles walks around with an erection brain until he's 21 and can drink himself into a stupor brain that are what passes for normal brains or we could go bipolar but it's a vacation in Bangladesh on a dollar a day at the Hotel du Nord not a fun brain, there's no pool, and you have to pee in the street, so bipolar is out; it's the normal brains that are not the normal brains. Only writers are deranged.