Hubert Benoit
Zen and the Psychology of Transformation
The Supreme Doctrine

Chapter 14

EMOTION AND THE EMOTIVE STATE

Classical psychology, in studying emotivity, misunderstands an extremely important distinction from the point of view of the inner evolution of man. It certainly describes this 'movement of the soul' which wells-up as a result of an impulse from the outside world, in response to an image consciously perceived, a movement of anger, of love, of remorse, etc.... But the play of emotion, in us, is not confined to that. I often feel the existence in me of a durable emotive 'state' concerning which I see clearly that it is not released in me by images that I have in my head at that moment; I am more or less gloomy, for example, while thinking of a thousand harmless matters. If then I demand what images have brought me this state, sometimes I do not find any, but often also I find the worry which lies underneath my surface associations and which releases my sombre state of mind. When I was not thinking about it my worry was motionless in my mind (fixed idea) and released a durable emotive 'state' that seemed motionless. Now that I think of my worry, when I evoke an imaginative film about it, emotive movements are produced in me, like those of which we spoke at the beginning; but I feel that there persists beneath these movements the motionless emotive state, and I feel that this state was certainly in relation with the worry that I have just brought up to my surface mind.

Inner experience shows me then that, under dynamic emotions, there exists a static emotion. But how is one to understand this last? Its name even seems paradoxical; emotion implies movement; can one speak of static movement? In order to resolve this contradiction and show how the emotive state can be at once a movement and an immobility, it will suffice to compare those 'movements of the soul' which are emotions with the movements of the body which are our muscular contractions. If a muscle can contract dynamically in a contraction it can also contract statically in a spasm, or cramp. Emotions connected with conscious images are psychic contractions, the emotional state connected with subconscious images is a psychic spasm.

In order to be clear we have, to begin with, thus established our distinction by means of words of approximate exactitude. We can now be more precise. The phenomenon 'emotion' represents a short-circuit between the psychic pole and the somatic pole of our organism. One should not speak in connexion with emotivity, of psychic contraction or of psychic spasm, but of contraction or spasm of our psycho-somatic organism; the emotional centre is half-way between the intellectual (or psychic or subtle) centre and the instinctive (or somatic or gross) centre. Similarly if we spoke at the beginning of emotions and the emotive state released by images, that is by psychic, subtle, excitations, we must not forget that our emotivity can equally be released by somatic, gross, excitations. A somatic indisposition can be the releasing cause of my gloom, which is an emotive spasm of my psychosomatic organism. In any case, whether the releasing cause has been psychic or somatic, the spasm that results always affects both the psyche and the soma; a certain muscular spasm (of my muscles striated or non-striated) always accompanies my psychic spasm based on a subconscious image and vice versa.

Coming back to the idea that emotivity in general represents a short-circuit of energy between the intellectual and the instinctive poles, let us see how, from this point of view, dynamic emotion (we will call it simply 'emotion' in future) is distinguished from the static emotional state (or emotional state for short). Making use of an electrical comparison one can say that emotion corresponds with a spark uniting the two poles. This spark can last for a certain time, but it is not static, for the reason that the contact which it establishes between the separated poles is a contact in continual repetition, a contact which shifts; the spark does not simply fly from one pole to the other, it also flies in a lateral direction. The emotive state, on the contrary, can be compared with a passage of energy which occurs between the two poles when they touch one another directly along a surface that is more or less considerable.

This comparison already shows us one of the factors which renders the emotive state more dangerous than emotion. Emotion, because it shifts, is visible, conscious; the subject is made aware of it by his inner sensibility; on account of that diverse defensive mechanisms come into play at once, which succeed in reducing, then in interrupting, the short-circuit that eats up energy. On the contrary the emotive state does not give the alarm quickly enough to the defensive mechanisms; it only gives the alarm tardily, when its regrettable consequences have become visible; and the defensive processes which are necessary at this moment carry a very tiresome aspect; they are neurotic (giving this word its widest meaning), and reduce the contact between the two poles through a certain deterioration of the poles themselves. Emotion is comparable also with a visible hemorrhage which disturbs the sufferer and endangers the treatment; the emotive state is comparable with an invisible and continuous hemorrhage which undermines the sufferer. He will have himself treated nevertheless some day, but at a time when the curative value of the treatment will be much less effective.

But these somewhat rough comparisons leave aside the most important considerations. In fact in these comparisons we assumed that the combustion of energy in the spark was similar to the destruction of energy in the contact of the poles. In reality it is not so; there is a fundamental difference between the two phenomena. In the case of emotion the two poles are separated; the spark which unites them is not, properly speaking, a short-circuit; in this spark the energy burns and frees itself, something is produced. In the emotive state, on the contrary, the two poles touch, there is a real short-circuit; the energy passes from one pole to the other; the total energy of the subject— energy which depends on the difference of tension between the two poles—is destroyed since this difference of tension is reduced, and it is destroyed without producing anything. The emotion is part of the manifestation, of the life which manifests the 'being'; therefore it can be called normal. The emotive state on the contrary is not 'alive'; it is destructive without a counterpart. The energy which it consumes cannot be used for liberation, and since it cannot lead us to our norm we must call it 'abnormal'.

Another comparison may help us to understand all this better. Let us imagine a horizontal wheel, which turns but whose centre of rotation does not coincide with its geometrical centre; its rotation is eccentric. This wheel is set in motion by two kinds of forces; first a rotative or 'dynamic' force; but the wheel as a whole is affected by a centrifugal force which tends to move it from its centre of rotation; and this force, which has no effect, can be called 'static'. The movement of rotation, which in this illustration represents the emotion, can be used; if I fix a belt to my wheel it will be able to work machines. On the contrary the static force which tends in vain to project the whole wheel far from its centre of rotation, cannot be used; it symbolises the motionless spasm, a cramp of the emotive state.

The man who has attained realisation, man after satori, may be compared with a wheel whose centre of rotation coincides with the geometrical centre; he will have emotions, but he will not have an emotive state. The natural man, before satori, may be compared with our eccentric wheel. And this image of the eccentric wheel allows us to demonstrate certain important aspects of our affective life. Everything happens in me as if there exists, between the centre of rotation of my wheel and its geometrical centre, an elastic band which tends to make them coincide. When my wheel turns slowly, when I have little emotion, the centrifugal force is weak and the elastic suffices to maintain the centre of rotation not far from the geometric centre. But now violent emotions arise in me; my wheel begins to turn rapidly, the centrifugal force increases; despite the elastic my centre of rotation moves away from my geometric centre. This shows us how the emotions determine the appearance of the emotive state; when I have just experienced violent emotions, I feel myself thereafter quite 'ex-centric', as though out of my axis, internally displaced, and a certain time has to elapse before my elastic exercises its action and brings together my two centres, of rotation and geometric. Never before satori can the two centres of my wheel coincide absolutely; indeed where the natural man is concerned, who does no correct inner work, if the emotions may sometimes be of slight intensity they are never inexistent. The wheel turns sometimes slowly, but it turns all the same; there is always a certain centrifugal force which prevents the elastic from making the two centres coincide.

Satori corresponds, in our image, with a moment in which the wheel entirely stops turning; it is an instant without duration, but this instant suffices for the two centres to coincide. When they have coincided, if only for a single instant, they will never again be separated from one another; however fast the wheel turns now, its rotation can no longer bring about the appearance of any centrifugal force. After the moment of satori, in which there is neither emotion nor the emotive state, there will again be as many emotions as one may care to suppose, but never again an emotive state. The elastic of our image corresponds to the profound nostalgia which man carries within himself for satori. This nostalgia is not, indeed, felt as nostalgia for satori since the natural man cannot have any conception of this event (it is felt as a nostalgia for such and such temporal things or for an inadequate image that we make of satori), but it is none the less nostalgia for satori. The further a man is, in his emotive states, from satori, the further his elastic will be stretched, the more intensely will he experience the nostalgia of its attainment in whatever way he may envisage it; the nearer a man approaches satori, the more his elastic slackens, the less strongly does he feel his nostalgia for its attainment. On the verge of satori, in the moments which precede it, all nostalgia of its attainment disappears; then, for lack of any nostalgia, he who attains to satori does not feel it at all as an attainment; he can say, with Hui-neng, 'There is no attainment, there is no liberation', liberation only existing in the eyes of him who is not liberated. In our image liberation is the complete slackening of the elastic; but, in satori, the elastic is destroyed and there could no longer be any question of its slackening.

Man before satori can imagine nothing positive concerning man after satori. In a negative manner only can he conceive that the emotions experienced after satori will be profoundly different from those experienced before satori, since they will no longer release that emotive state, that inner spasm, which was responsible for our distress. This leads us to a fresh understanding of the distinction between 'emotion' and 'emotive state' which we are studying at this moment. Emotions can be positive or negative, joys or sorrows; but the emotive state is always negative. Following our image, the wheel can turn in one direction or in the other; but in both cases the centrifugal force remains centrifugal. A concrete examination of our affective life shows us this; when something very pleasing happens to me, releasing in me violent emotions of joy, the central displacement, or shifting of the axis, of which we spoke a moment ago, takes place in me just as it takes place as a result of violent negative emotions; distress appears under my joyous images, distress connected psychologically either with the fear of losing the affirmation which has come to me, or to the unsatisfied demand which my affirmation endlessly increases right up to that absolute accomplishment of myself that I am always waiting for in the depths of my being.

The emotive state, or profound emotivity (opposed to the surface emotivity which the emotions create), corresponds with that profound psychic, or subconscious, plane on which is tried the 'case' of my Ego in connexion with the situations in which I am involved with the outer world. The emotive state is always in relation with a doubt concerning my 'being'; this doubt, this dilemma between 'being or nullity', menaces me unceasingly, and my 'case' goes on in the unrealisable hope of a definitive temporal absolution.

Some euphoric people appear to be constantly possessed by a positive emotive state, and this fact seems to contradict what we have just explained. The study of the apparent happiness of the natural man is very interesting because it can help us better to understand what the emotive state is. If I observe myself continuously I perceive that I am occasionally euphoric and that this state corresponds with a moment at which my doubt of myself is transitorily asleep. An external situation that is moderately affirming and which appears sufficiently stable, added to a good physical condition, puts my inner 'trial' to sleep; for lack of incidents in court judge and witnesses have gone to sleep. My subconscious psychological plane is drowsy. At the same time I am in an agreeable 'state'. But this agreeable state does not correspond with a positivity of the emotive state in activity, it corresponds with a non-activity of the emotive state; it does not correspond with a decision, favourable at last, of the trial, but with a temporary suspension of this trial; it does not correspond with a destruction of my illusory belief that I lack something, but with a temporary quiescence of this illusion. How is this possible? Since the Ego continues to exist how can its trial thus be suspended?

An examination of the man who is habitually euphoric will give us the answer. Where this man is concerned the need of the Absolute is weak, often practically non-existent. When his desire for egotistical affirmation is assured of a certain degree of satisfaction this desire is calmed and asks no more; this man can rest satisfied with what he has. Soothing mechanisms have developed in him: he knows how to present to himself the situations which face him in the outer world in such a way as to look at their affirming aspects and to avoid seeing their negating aspects. For the profound inner trial there is substituted on the surface a monotonous apology for oneself; the trial is almost always asleep. It is interesting to observe that this man is particularly unsusceptible; one can criticise him fairly severely without wounding his self-respect, and this anaesthesia of self-respect corresponds with the putting-to-sleep of the trial. This man appears more or less devoid of an Ego. The Ego exists nevertheless but, on account of the weakness of the need for the Absolute, the compensations that have been established keep all their efficacy in the use that is made of them. Doubt of oneself is put on one side beneath a shelter that time does not weaken; such a man does not tire of the attitudes (compensations) which he assumes before the external world. But the apparent positivity of his emotive states only corresponds with the neutralisation, with the inhibition of the emotive state which is, by its very nature, negative. This man experiences plenty of joys, but these joys file across in front of a background of sleep, of absence; the background which conditions them is not a real, profound, flexibility (or relaxation of the emotive state), it is unconsciousness, by inhibition, of the deep spasm. (It is analogous to the courage of the man who does not perceive danger.) And this is possible on account of the congenital weakness of the need of the Absolute, a weakness which renders the compensations sufficient and everlasting.

In the case, on the contrary, of the man in whom the need of the Absolute is intense, the compensations are effectively established with difficulty (this man is too exacting, his appetite for egotistical affirmation is too revendicative in quantity and in quality) and these compensations, if nevertheless they are established, are little used. Also the trial is rarely very drowsy, perhaps never. The further this man's life proceeds the more his possible compensations deteriorate beyond repair; his trial knows no more suspensions; this man more and more clearly envisages everything that happens to him, all his situations in face of the Not-Self, from the angle of self-doubt; in his subconsciousness, never asleep, he lives unceasingly in the expectation of an illusory verdict on which he feels that his absolution or his final condemnation depend. His self-respect is incessantly in question in one direction or in the other; he is touchy, and this constant excitation corresponds with the permanent activity of his subconscious emotive state and of his irritability. Whereas the man who has little craving for the Absolute is calm, the man who has a great need of the Absolute is hyper-excitable, overstrained. Everything concerns his Ego, he envisages everything that he perceives from the unique angle of his self-respect.

Let us finish this passage by affirming that the emotive state can only be negative, a spasm of distress, and that the activity of the subconscious in which this emotive state operates is in relation to the need of the Absolute and consequently to the need of intemporal realisation. The presence of distress and the need of satori are intimately connected in any given individual.

After satori if a man still experiences emotions he no longer experiences them against a background of constant distress; and this modification of the background is a modification so immense, so fundamental, of our whole affective life, that we cannot correctly imagine anything about the emotions of a man after satori.

The inner work to attain satori should aim at this moment, perfectly non-emotive, the necessity for which we have seen. This work of restraint of our emotivity cannot be correctly understood as long as the distinction between emotions and the emotive state is not understood. The emotive state by itself is abnormal and contrary to satori; emotion itself is normal and not contrary to satori. But it is a thousand times easier to perceive the emotions than the existence of the emotive state. And so man often believes that it is good to curb the emotions; and all his work is vain because it is misdirected.

Correctly directed, the work will aim at curbing the emotive state; it will aim at obtaining not a disappearance of the contractions of the psychosomatic organism which are the emotions, but the disappearance of the spasms of this organism. It is for the organism as a whole as for the aspect of it that is merely gross: the virtuoso pianist has not suppressed his muscular contractions: he has suppressed the spasm which, at the beginning of his apprenticeship, was the troublesome background against which his muscular contractions took place.

But how can one obtain the annulment of the emotive state, of the distress-spasm which constitutes the basis of all our affective life? It would be vain to attempt it directly. One might think it would be useful to make an effort of voluntary muscular decontraction, in the hope that this partial decontraction might automatically bring about a general decontraction. Such efforts, directed against a particular object, are in reality powerless to touch the generality of the being; a central spasm necessarily accompanies the effort by which I relax one aspect of myself; I cannot envisage anything particular without spasm. One could also try to fight against the emotions, since the emotions release the emotive state; but that would be to injure our very life; the problem is to relax the emotive state without touching the emotions, without touching anything particular.

We cannot obtain any modification of our total organism except by using the law of Three. That is why any direct effort that tends to reduce something within us is inoperative as regards our totality. On the contrary we ought to respect, directly, what we deplore in ourselves and bring up face to face with it the antagonistic and complementary element; this brings into play the conciliatory principle and, as a result, the resolution of the regrettable element. This element is reintegrated in the whole and disappears by losing its illusory autonomy.

Let us see how this law applies here. The profound spasm of my total organism, although affecting my organism as a totality, is not itself total, it is not absolute. It is more or less intense, but always partial; at each moment only one part of my possible spasm is found to be effective, while all the rest is ineffective, unmanifested. My deep attention (the attention which functions on the profound plane) is, in a natural manner, always focussed on the manifested part of my spasm. The disequilibrium resides precisely in this natural partiality by which I am only attentive to the manifested part of my spasm. The desirable equilibrium consequently requires that I be attentive to the non-manifested part of my spasm at the same time that I am attentive to its manifested part; in other words, at the same time that I am attentive to my interest in such and such a particular thing I ought to be attentive to my indifference towards all the rest of the manifestation.

This time again there arises the temptation, to which we are so well used, to act directly; I am tempted to make a voluntary effort by which I may perceive my indifference to everything with which I am not concerned at the moment. But this is impossible; the indifference to which I am required to be attentive is non-manifested. As soon as I wish consciously to think that I am indifferent I perceive the manifested idea of 'indifference' and not the unmanifested indifference. The non-manifested necessarily escapes my dualistic consciousness which comprises a subject that perceives and an object that is perceived, both of which are manifested.

Once I have escaped the snare of this last temptation to act directly, I am brought back to the fundamental law of our evolution towards realisation: only pure intellectual comprehension is effective. No useful modification of my inner phenomena can result from a concerted manipulation, no matter how ingenious one may imagine it. Every useful modification, useful in view of intemporal realisation, should come spontaneously from our Absolute Principle, owing to the breach made in the screen of ignorance by intellectual intuition. Each piece of intellectual evidence that is obtained concerning the problem of our realisation is a breach operated in the screen of ignorance; by this breach is accomplished thereafter, without our having to worry about it, the process of our transformation. In the case which concerns us here the intellectual evidence to be obtained is the following: we radically deceive ourselves with regard to our profound emotivity; we believe in the existence of our emotive state only, of our spasm. We do not believe in our profound emotivity except in so far as it manifests itself by a spasm, in so far as it shows signs of life; we misjudge all the rest, we misjudge our emotivity in so far as it does not manifest itself, in so far as it does not show signs of life. But, our emotivity in so far as it shows signs of life is limited, whereas our emotivity in so far as it does not show signs of life is infinite. What is real in my affectivity, at every second of my existence, what therefore is really of importance for me, is not my emotive state, my spasm, my partiality, but on the contrary, behind that, my perfect indifference, my freedom from spasm, my impartiality. That which counts in me, as far as I am a sensitive being, is not what I am in process of feeling but the infinity of that which I am in process of not feeling; in short my emotive state actually manifested is in reality without any interest for myself.

This intellectual evidence, when I obtain it, is a revelation which upsets my whole vision of my inner life. This vision does not immediately destroy my affective partiality for my emotive manifestation but it installs in me a counterbalancing intellectual certitude which affirms my emotive non-manifestation, my serenity relaxed and non-manifested. Thanks to this new intellectual certitude, an attention develops in me to the infinite indifference which dwells in me underneath my limited interests. This attention operates in the Unconscious and gives me no dualistic perception; but it operates none the less (in the degree that I understand), and this invisible action is revealed ultimately and visibly by a progressive diminution of the intensity of my emotive states. Thus it is possible for me to make my way towards the non-emotive state which will permit the release of satori.

The correct operation of our profound attention is revealed in the long run, in the course of our general evolution, by a diminution of our emotive states. But general evolution comprises transitory periods during which the emotive spasm increases. We will see why this is so.

In the case of a man who has not yet understood the distinction between emotions and the emotive states the attention operates in the following manner: the surface attention, on the plane called 'conscious', is fixed on the emotions (or, more exactly, on images of the emotive film); the profound attention, on the plane called 'subconscious', is fixed on the emotive state. The ordinary average man is not conscious of his emotive state (that is why classical psychology ignores this state); he only has a 'subconscious' sense of it, and it is only by inductive reasoning that this man sometimes arrives at the conclusion 'I am very irritable today'; he is not directly conscious of his irritability, but only of the images which pass across the background of it.

The understanding of the distinction between 'emotion' and 'emotive state' will produce, in the degree in which it is obtained, a deepening of the task of the attention. The surface attention, which was operating on the conscious plane of the imaginative film, will now tend to operate on the plane hitherto subconscious of the emotive state (that is to say, this man, thanks to his understanding, becomes capable of directing his attention towards his emotive state); and meanwhile the profound attention will tend to operate in the Unconscious, a domain that is infinite and immutable, against which stand out the variations of the emotive state.

If this understanding were complete from the first this shifting of the profound attention would be realised immediately, in its entirety, with stability; this attention would be reinstated in the Unconscious (or Self or Own-Nature of Zen), and satori would take place. But it is far from likely that the understanding would be complete from the first. Between the first moment at which it is conceived theoretically and the moment at which it has acquired, by contact with experience, all the third dimension which it lacked at first, there should elapse a more or less drawn-out period of maturing. The obtaining of theoretical understanding does not sweep away at one stroke all the illusory beliefs which were there before it and which are supported by automatisms, affective and of comportment. Faith and 'beliefs' will coexist for a more or less long time. The maturing of understanding consists in the progressive erosion of errors by means of the truth obtained at last; the good grain grows and stifles little by little the brambles.

In the course of this maturing, an antagonism exists between the understanding (or Faith) and the affective automatisms which support the errors. Faith tends to make a man conscious of his emotive state; but his automatisms raise up the obstacle of distress between his conscious vision and this emotive state which is the place of the distress-spasm. The emotive state will lose its illusory poison of distress in the degree in which it is observed; but in the measure in which my automatisms still prevent me from seeing while my understanding directs my gaze towards the emotive state, that is in the degree in which the vision of the emotive state is attempted without success, the emotive state increases. A critical recrudescence of the emotive spasm is therefore to be found on the route to relaxation (the dragons placed on the path to the treasure). The man should be warned in order that he may not let himself be frightened and discouraged; if he knows this he will strive without respite for progress in his understanding, even when his condition seems to be getting worse. When consciousness has courageously penetrated at last to the plane of the emotive state, hitherto subconscious, there will be revealed the penetration of the profound attention into the Unconscious, the domain of Absolute Positivity which dissipates all distress.

We have remembered that only pure intellectual understanding is effective, and that no concerted manipulation can modify our inner phenomena in a direction that is useful for satori. It is important to insist on this point and to reject all the conceptions according to which we think we can ourselves effect our metaphysical transformation. However, this being admitted, we will show how a voluntary inner gesture to perceive the emotive state intervenes at a given moment of the liberating evolution.

As soon as my understanding has reached a certain degree, and my major compensatory attitudes have been left behind, my profound emotive spasm increases. My understanding, as I have said above, will then tend to displace my attention towards the depths, it will make clear to me, with evidence, the value of an inner gesture that is neither natural nor automatic, leading to the conscious perception of the emotive state which until then had been subconscious (that is to say the value of no longer running away in the face of distress as I have until now, but on the contrary of facing up to it with a spirit of investigation). This comes from the understanding alone, the decision to make this inner gesture flows spontaneously from the understanding. The gesture is not commended to me by an idolatrous affective attitude ('duty' of 'salvation', 'spiritual' ambition) which would seek to impose itself on me by pushing back other tendencies; the decision to make this gesture takes effect in me spontaneously when I see, with evidence, its utility. Then only, after the accomplishment of the long task of necessary understanding, I am able to effect the gesture whose utility has become evident to me; until this moment any attempt at carrying it out would be premature and inopportune. If we now suppose that the required intellectual evidence has been obtained and that the decision to make the useful inner gesture flows entirely from a complete certainty, if we suppose then that I am at last capable of successfully executing this gesture, then I realise that this execution cannot flow spontaneously from the understanding alone. The gesture is decided by the pure intellectual intuition, but it is executed on the plane of the concrete inner life on which all my automatic mechanisms operate. This non-natural gesture is executed on the plane of natural mechanisms and against the current of the automatism which unceasingly draws my attention towards images.

We should stress this essential point, we should remember that all inner work in whose undertaking the irrational affectivity has played a part, is by that very fact bound to fail from the point of view of satori. These indispensible oratory precautions having been clearly formulated we can go on to speak of the practical inner task looked at from the angle of this study.

This task consists in making, whenever we can, an inner gesture aiming at the perception of the emotive state. But let us see at once what there is of paradox in this perception. My emotive state affects me, affects my psychosomatic organism, in so far as that is a totality; it cannot then be the object of a dualistic perception comprising subject and object. It is illusorily objective as long as I do nothing in order to perceive it, but it does away with itself in the measure that I seek to perceive it. The liberating inner gesture aims at the perception of the emotive state but it could not achieve that; it achieves a certain perception of my total organism, or perception of Self, across the emotive state which covers and hides this Self at the same time that it points out the way. This gesture results then in a moment of real subjective consciousness obtained via the partial annihilation of the emotive state, by 'Looking into one's own nature'.

The natural man, apart from all inner work, believes that he can perceive his emotive state; but, when he ends up with the observation that he is 'irritable', he only perceives a mental image fabricated in connexion with the illusory objectivity of his emotive state. All his reflexes, all his mechanisms, are conditioned by his emotive state; the importance of this state is, then, immense; but this importance is implicit, subconscious, and the emotive state in reference to which the man considers everything is never itself consciously considered. The natural man lives uniquely in reference to his Ego, but he never questions himself regarding this Ego. Thus the emotive state, in the functioning of the human-being, plays the role of a fixed point round which everything turns; in other words, the natural man is centred round his subconscious (centre of rotation), whereas his real or geometrical centre is the Unconscious.

In reality the emotive state is not a fixed point; and it is its illusory fixity which conditions all the illusions of our egotistical life. When I deliberately direct my attention towards my emotive state (that is to say towards my total coenaesthesis, in reality towards my Ego under this coenaesthesis), then I see that 'this' is not fixed, that 'that' moves, I feel intuitively the intimate pulsation of my life (it is not, therefore, noumenon but phenomena; the Ego cannot be the Absolute since it moves). This partial abolition of the illusory fixity of the emotive state brings my centre of rotation near to my geometrical centre, and I 'normalise' myself.

This vision that 'something moves' at the centre of my phenomenal being is not analogous to my vision that a stone that is thrown moves. In the vision in which 'something moves' in me neither space nor time exist any longer, nor forms; it moves where it is and without changing; I touch there the eternity of the instant.

In practice this work should entail inner gestures repeated, but short and light. It is not a question of laboriously dwelling upon it as though there were there something to seize. There is nothing to seize. It is a question of voluntarily noting, as in the winking of an eye, instantaneous and perfectly simple, that I am conscious of myself globally in that second (through an effort to observe how I am conscious of myself in that second). I succeed instantaneously or not at all; if I do not succeed at all I will try again later (this may be a few seconds later, but the gesture should be carried out at one go). It is to my interest to make this gesture as often as possible, but with suppleness and discretion, disturbing as little as possible the course of my dualistic inner life; I have to interrupt the consciousness that I habitually have of my dualistic life by a 'break' that is clean, frank, instantaneous, but without doing anything which modifies it directly. The normalising modification will be carried out by the Absolute Principle through the instantaneous 'breaks' produced by this inner work.

The distinction between emotions and the emotive state allows us to state precisely the nature of the perception which a man has of his affective life. That which is called a sentiment is a complex phenomenon comprising on the one hand an imaginative film and on the other hand an emotive variation.

If I envisage first of all the imaginative film I see that I have an indisputable conscious perception of it. The images which file across my mind are fixed by my memory and stored up in me; they constitute a stock of subtle forms that I can call up, bring back under the notice of my attention, examine at leisure, and describe in words. I have power over my images, I dominate them, I maneuvre them, and I seize them in an active perception in which my consciousness-subject seizes the image-object.

If I now envisage the emotive variation, my sentiment properly so-called, the situation is quite different. In a sense I have a certain perception of it; in fact if my sentiment is sad and someone asks me: 'Are you gay?', I can reply with conviction: 'No, I am sad.' If I had no perception of my sadness I would not be able to reply thus. But if I try to perceive my sadness with an effort of investigation, in order to examine it and know it, I realise that what is presented for my examination is always a film of images, sad or saddening, but not my sadness itself in its indivisibility. I fail completely in seizing the same active perception of my sadness that I can seize of my sad images. It is completely impossible to me to seize my sentiment in a mental capture and to know it as I can my images; I seized my images, decomposed their initial form into partial constituting forms, analysed them, and saw into what elements they were reducible. I simply cannot do as much with my sentiment; I know its existence in me (I am not therefore without knowing something about it), but I cannot know it by means of a similar analysis.

Since I have nevertheless a certain perception of my sentiment, there exists between my surface consciousness and it a certain articulation. But this articulation is manifestly not of the same nature as that which exists between my consciousness and my images since it does not allow me any capture of my sentiment. In the articulation between my sentiment and my consciousness my sentiment is active and my consciousness is passive. An illustration will help us to understand this. Suppose that in the darkness I seize an object and turn it round in my hand; I have thus an active perception of this object which gives me information concerning it. Let us suppose now that in the darkness an immense giant takes me in his hand, turns me round and presses me; I realise the existence of the giant, I find him more or less agreeable or disagreeable according to whether he caresses me or crushes me, but that is all; I have obtained no information about the giant himself, and it is impossible for me to describe him.

In the course of such a sentiment as I am in process of experiencing I can say, then, that I seize the images which form part of this emotive phenomenon, but that I am seized by the global emotive phenomenon of which the images form part. My consciousness is a seizing-consciousness on the part of the images and a seized-consciousness on the part of the sentiment. Everything happens as if I were conscious of the Images which form part of my sentiment and as if my sentiment were conscious of me.

But this way of looking at it corresponds with the illusory perspective of the natural man, according to which he considers his surface consciousness as constituting him, as being himself. In reality my surface consciousness is not 'me', it does not constitute the principle of all these phenomena by means of which my psycho-somatic organism creates itself, principle which alone can be called 'me'; it is only a certain plane of these phenomena which manifest my principle. Instead of saying that my sentiment seizes my consciousness, I should say then that my subconscious seizes my surface consciousness. My subconscious is still 'me'. If I feel this seizure of my consciousness by my subconscious as an alienation of my liberty, that is not because that which seizes my consciousness is foreign to me, but because that which seizes my consciousness (and which is still 'me') is asleep, and that, because of this sleep, my subconscious acts under the complete determination of the outside world. Everything happens as though, in my sentiment, the outside world seized me. However the outside world confines itself to determining the modalities of the play of my sleeping subconscious, but the real motive-force of this play is not foreign to me, it is my own principle, it is 'me'. In my sentiment I have been acted upon, certainly, but only because as a result of my actual sleeping state I allow myself to be acted upon.

Arrived at this point of understanding I realise that what I have called my 'subconscious' is illusory, that it forms a part of the dream of my sleep of man-before-satori. That which seizes my surface consciousness and moves it is my first and only motor, my principle, the Absolute Principle which moves me as it moves all created things. This Principle, anterior to all consciousness since it engenders all consciousness by manifesting itself in it, we ought to call here the Fundamental Unconscious (No-Mind or Cosmic Mind of Zen). That which I have called my subconscious is only the illusory manner in which I represent to myself, imaginatively, the action which the sleeping centre of my mind exercises on the superficial phenomena, alone actually awake, of this same mind, that is to say the action which the Unconscious exercises on my surface consciousness. In fact the subconscious, this intermediary stage, has no reality; the Unconscious has an absolute reality (noumenal), the surface consciousness (imaginative film) has a relative reality (phenomenal), but the subconscious has only an illusory reality; it is only an intermediary and hybrid representation which, if one regards it from the point of view of activity, is the acting Unconscious, and which, regarded from the point of view of passivity, is the superficial consciousness that has been acted upon.

Man-after-satori will not then become capable of seizing the sentiment which the man-before-satori was incapable of seizing. For satori, or the awakening of the Fundamental Mind, dissipates the illusory hybrid representation which we call sentiment. And it is precisely the fruitless attempt to seize the unseizable sentiment which results in the awakening of the Fundamental Mind. There is no more sentiment for man-after-satori; his surface consciousness is acted upon directly by the Fundamental Mind in a reply that is cosmically harmonious to the excitation of the outside world; this reply takes account of the particular outer circumstances but it is not at all wrought upon, 'in-formed' by it.

top of page