I vowed not to write anything about the The Geography of Consciousness until I finished it, but earlier today I reread a part of the introduction and was struck by the obvious and simple observation Arkle makes there, and how this obvious and simple observation truly is the cause of so much of our current ills – that a great deal of our misery and suffering in this world stem from our inability to perceive the world as it truly is. Arkle writes:
You could say that ‘magic’ is a recognition that you have been underestimating the world, assuming that it is boring and limited when it is your own mind that is bored and limited. And this is important, for it brings the great fundamental insight, the insight that has come to all mystics and poets : that a large part of man’s misery and pain is his own fault. For nearly three thousand years, cynical philosophers have been declaring that human life is disappointing and brief and miserable, and that the wise man has no objection to dying. But moments of ‘magic’ bring a clear recognition that the world ‘out there’ is infinitely interesting – so interesting that if we could ‘turn on’ the magic at will, we would probably live for ever – or at least, want to. The magic doesn’t get in past our senses, which have thick filters on them. Blake recognised that it is as if man lived in a cold, damp cave, when outside there is warm sunlight and fresh air. ‘Five windows light the caverned man, through one he breathes the air . . .’
Once this recognition has been grasped, there is only one important problem : how to get out of the cave into the sunlight. For Blake also recognised that through one of the ‘windows’ man can ‘pass out what time he will.’
Of course, William Arkle was not the first thinker in the world to understand the truth contained in the passage above, but I found the simple and clear manner in which he reveals the fundamental problem inherent in consciousness in this passage rather striking. (Other parts of his book are far more difficult to get through; hence, the slow reading approach.)
When I reread the paragraph above, I clearly recognized that removing the filters from our senses really is the critical first step. Most of us live exclusively in cold, damp caves utterly oblivious to the warm sunshine and fresh air beckoning a short distance away. Many who catch glimpses of the sunlight refuse to accept it as real, or are perhaps afraid to leave the cold comfort of their caves. One thing is certain, however you choose to look at it – we should not resign ourselves to living our lives out in cold, damp caves when we are perfectly capable of living in the sunshine. A change of attitude and perspective is required, followed by a dedicated effort to peel the filters from our senses.
This is what the initial steps in consciousness development boil down to in the end. The first step is recognizing we are in the cave. The second step is acknowledging the sunshine beyond the cave. The third step is the most difficult, but the most crucial. It requires the refinement and realignment of consciousness so that it can tune into the magic again. Perceiving the magic and understanding its reality will dissolve any and all metaphysical doubts and denials.