an ancient sacred metaphor: the vine of many branches

The vine of many branches

Notice any distinctions now: anything. Notice the distinctions of the colors of green and anything that is not green. Notice the distinctions of the ideas of loud and quiet. Notice the distinctions of the words quiet and quite, or the letters O and Z, or the following shapes: O and Z. There is a distinction between a shape and a letter, one word and another, different ideas or labels, and different colors.

Notice the distinction between all of those contrasting distinctions and the act of perceiving itself. Perceiving is what makes the difference between a shape of a Z and a letter Z. There is no external difference between the shape of a Z and the letter Z. One is witnessed as a shape without any label of it being anything but a distinct shape. The other is not just that shape, but that shape as a symbolic representation of a buzzing sound: “zzzz.” The symbolic representation of the buzzing sound is a letter. That same sound could be represented by a different shape (and in other  encodings of written alphabets, a different shape is used to represent that sound).

So, the process of perceiving is also distinct from whatever is perceived. Further, the process of noticing is itself distinct from the process of perceiving, which can go on by itself with or without any noticing.

Further, can there be a shape present without noticing it? Just look at the following shape and then focus on it briefly, then focus on something else: Z. Notice if the shape changes even when noticing comes and goes: Again, here is a Z shape. Look at the Z and focus on it, then, without removing the Z from your field of vision, simply stop focusing on it briefly, and then focus on it again: Z. Does the presence of the shape depend on noticing it? Isn’t the shape itself entirely independent of noticing it?

In ancient poetry, these distinctions have been made of the actual process of perceiving, the various particular objects of perception, and the process of noticing. Noticing is referenced in the poetic language of psychology as “conscious attention,” as distinct from processes that are unconscious or subconscious or even something called super-conscious. However, that terminology is rather abstract.

Here is some simpler poetry for the distinctions of perceiving, perceptions, and noticing. Perceiving is the capacity to perceive, and that is like a parent or Father. Without the capacity to perceive, there would be no perceptions. The perceptions are like a child or Son- an experience resulting from the originating Father of the capacity to perceive, what we might even call the ‘fruit.”

Finally, completing the trinity of the major psychological traditions of the last several thousand years, the process of noticing is like a Spirit or Ghost (or what modern psychology calls consciousness or attention). Sure, the capacity to perceive and the perceiving of various perceptions may happen by themselves, but when one notices not just the various external objects of perception but the concept of the process of perceiving, that perceiving of the concept of perceiving as distinct from external perceptions is like a rebirth of sorts.

When noticing the process of perceiving itself, then all perceptions are recognized as mere transitory effects. One may have identified with particular transitory perceptions (as in concepts or words) or even against particular transitory perceptions (as in concepts or words).

However, noticing the process of perceiving itself, which is not transitory, but boundless or everlasting or eternal- that is quite distinct! The process of perceiving persists even as a seeming infinite multitude of transitory perceptions come and go.

When one notices the process of perceiving itself, then one may identify with it directly- rather than identify exclusively with a particular transitory object of perception, such as the temporary appearance of a physical body. In poetic language, one might say that “the Father and I are one” (I identify with the eternal process of perceiving, which, by the way, is the same for all creatures). One might even say that “I am the vine” while the various multitudes of transitory perceptions are the branches.

Even closer may be that there is a single process of perceiving, with many distinct noticings of that same singular fundamental processes (like branches of a vine), and then an infinity of transitory “fruit.” Of course, all of the vine is the vine. The branches are all part of the vine and so are the fruit. By the way, the fruit do not so much belong fundamentally to any particular branch, but to the vine itself.

Published on: Dec 29, 2009

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2 Responses to “an ancient sacred metaphor: the vine of many branches”

  1. Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.” « Inspirations Says:

    […] an ancient sacred metaphor: the vine of many branches ( […]

  2. bill morton Says:

    Thanks for putting a link to my notes on Perception You ceretainly have many links!

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