Public Citizen - Larry Barnett


Regarding all appearances as divine

Human existence can be organized within two orders of experience. A first order experience is felt: unmediated sensory awareness responding moment to moment to the space around us. A second order experience includes image and thought, which arise due to the first order experience, and impels communication to others about it.

“The space around us” does not mean floating unprotected in outer space like Sandra Bullock in “Gravity;” we can’t survive in that kind of environment. The space in question is our living space – completely filled, entirely taken up with stuff – all of it constantly interacting and “falling” towards the center of our planet as we find ourselves within Earth’s gravity well of distorted space-time. This inconceivable totality is part and parcel of the first order experience that is felt.

Moreover, everything, all the stuff – the objects, the air, the water, the vapor, the rocks, the creatures, the plants and so on and so forth have been combining and separating and recombining and separating in a ceaseless soup that arose, as best we can tell, from a dimensionless singularity 14.3 billion years ago at the very beginning of time and continues ceaselessly right up through the present moment, which we conventionally call “now.”

Thus all stuff is simultaneously different and the same, separate and joined; matter is energy, form is emptiness. We humans tend towards the mind of separation, finding difference and naming it in a ceaseless making-of-distinctions, but unity underlies all difference, and actually is difference.

All second order experiences are imaginatively symbolic – a coming together of image, meaning and description – conveyed through language, itself symbolic. We think in words and metaphor. In conveying the impossible-to-fully-describe first order experience of what is felt, second order experience at best points towards the moon but never sees it. Seeing the moon is a first order experience. For the listener or observer however, the expression of others is a first order experience; a great speech, performance or dance is felt. Actually, everything is felt, no matter how “minor.” Nothing is excluded.

The first order experience of naked awareness, the continuous unbroken sensory consciousness of direct perception in automatic operation, regards all appearances as divine and accordingly makes no distinctions. This is why we hear all sounds that our physical apparatus allows, see all scenes, taste all tastes, smell all odors and can touch all things. Herein lies the great equality of appearance. Though we are habituated to our mind of separation, that is the mind of second order experience, the product of recursive feedback, an imaginary simulacrum of wordless first order experience.

What is divine? A mystic might call it profound, the sacred or God or spirit or essence; a scientist force, phenomenon, or field. A new mother can feel it in every expression of a newborn; a child in holding a rubber ball or cradling a sleeping kitten. It’s peanut butter on toast. A sip of tea. What’s felt is divine and we are so utterly, completely taken with it we are compelled to express it. We did so by drawing on cave walls at the very beginnings of history and we have never stopped. We ceaselessly sing the divine; we draw it, write it, say it, build it, cook it and dance it because, at our very core as human beings, we are it.

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