Cornerstones of Perception
Based on their map of energetic anatomy, a unique offering from the Toltecs is that of presenting a distinct organization of perceptual abilities—cornerstones of perception. They are reason, talking, feeling, imagination, seeing, will, and the energy fields. Reason, talking, feeling, imagination, seeing and will are tools for learning, whereas the energy fields represent domains of learning—regions of consciousness where learning may occur.
The cornerstones are scattered about within the physical body, not in a straight line as are the chakras. Yet all perceptions of the chakras may be accounted for by the cornerstones and vice versa. It is easy to work with both, as each is energy-based. The value of knowing both languages is flexibility.
Each cornerstone has a specific location.43 Reason and talking are in the brain, for instance, while imagination is found in the adrenal glands and seeing is relegated to the pancreas. Imagination is related to the adrenal glands and feeling to the heart.
Reason. Reason offers a way to make order out of the immensity of existence. It collapses infinity into a usable format. However, it is enmeshed in subject-object relationships and therefore provides indirect, or representational, awareness. It removes us from the world. Perceptions of something “out there” are measured in relation to oneself. The world then becomes objectified. While it is a marvelous tool, this cornerstone takes command of perception and inhibits intimate connections with the world.
The brain, the location of this cornerstone, is but one part of the body. Our complete body connects us with infinity, while reason is responsible for only that portion of infinity that has thus far been rendered reasonable. It offers a delectable slice of the pie but it is only a slice. When we have a more full-bodied relationship to ourselves, we awaken our capacities of perception.
It may also be that for the most part the brain registers, not controls, what is taking place throughout one's being. Determining "first cause" of an event is an effect of the model used to describe what's taking place. In the shamanic reference, energy is first cause as it is in some physics models. But if we look just at material cause and effect, then the staring point is physical since that's all that is being considered.
Just like shamans realized the assemblage point doesn't determine awareness, it may also turn out that science documents that, as evidenced by memory storage in soft tissues and extremely rapid communication throughout the body due to the living matrix, the entire body is responsible for awareness that is now relegated solely to the brain. For this accounting, various forms of energy are part of the mix. James Oschman thinks all of these energies form a "symphony of vibratory messages" and that consciousness is the totality of these vibrations.44
Talking. Talking, whether it is internal reflection or outward speech, maintains order. We tend to take the ordered sensibilities of reason and then constantly bounce that information around inside cohesion, like bouncing an image off a set of internal mirrors, and then in a more complex way we do the same with others. The reflection becomes what is real, and it doesn’t even have to be reasonable; it just needs to sustain focus to have an effect on behavior. Talking may restrain awareness by keeping us in a self-reflective world. For all its majesty, talking, like reason, becomes a force to harden cohesion; it usually removes awareness from infinity rather than offering steps to encounter it.
There is an order beyond thought and reason. It is the order of the cosmos, the order resting within potential. Interestingly, talking about potential makes infinity seem reasonable, and reflecting on the world from a variety of angles helps make it possible for us to suspend talking in order to awaken other cornerstones. The more we discover the relativity of worldviews, the less sway they hold.
Feeling. This is the affective part of us, both the seemingly passive perception of listening to the world and the vibrant emotive ability. Each influences the other although “feeling” and “emotion” are often used interchangeably. Feeling is a principal navigational tool in a world of energy. It bridges physical and nonphysical worlds. Oschman holds that there is a biomagnetic field associated with the heart that extends indefinitely into space.45 This field connects us directly with the world and enables us to better sense, and make sense of, our environment. Affective skill allows you to be in touch with and influence cohesion, and thereby regulate the assemblage point.
Imagination. As used here, imagination does not mean flights of fancy, but rather a sophisticated, disciplined mode of viewing self and world. It may be a simple, fleeting image, a problem-solving technique, or even a full-bodied experience. In Toltec literature imagination is often referred to as dreaming.46 Used in this way, dreaming is a sophisticated activity with many levels synonymous with the learned use of imagination.
Another way of looking at it is that skillful dreaming is a technique to access and use imagination. For example, sufficient focus of imagination makes it possible to have awareness of a body, some type of form, which travels within imagination itself. This faculty has been called astral projection, the dreaming body, and the out-of-body experience (OBE). In these experiences, perception doesn’t leave the physical body; rather shifts of cohesion, and the degree of the shift, produce different states of imagination.
Seeing. This native ability directly perceives energy. It results from consciously realizing the connection between oneself and emanations, or between internal and external energies. It also corresponds to awareness of or about something, and provides immediate understanding of what is being observed. One might say it is accessing a different bandwidth of energy.
When seeing, it is normal that the daylight world becomes darker or a night environment lightens up. Seeing auras often precedes seeing the full energy world beyond auras. When we fully see energy, the world may seem comprised of packages of energy. Humans may be represented as oblong, well-contained blobs of concentrated light. No physical objects are present. Everything appears as variations of light.
While Eastern metaphysical systems tend to place seeing, or third eye, capabilities in the pineal gland, the Western Toltec system associates it with the pancreas. The common denominator is that both pancreas and pineal gland are in the endocrine glandular system. It may be that using this mode of perception activates that entire network, a full-body effect, which then permits us to see. Relegating to one place or another simply reflects the culture giving rise to the system. Another common denominator is that the perceiver must recognize a sense of oneness with the world for seeing to activate. Yet another is that we must step out of thinking and reason in order to engage the world directly.
Will. The cornerstones of feeling, seeing, and imagination are all centered at will, while reason and talking are centered in the brain. Will and the brain represent two primary means of perception: direct and indirect. This separation is not a Toltec artifice; it has been expounded upon in classic Eastern and Western philosophies. In The World as Will and Representation, for example, nineteenth century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer makes a case for these different faculties of perception.47
Will is also the raw energy existing throughout the universe. Through personal will this energy is at our disposal. The ability to change awareness and manage will, results from the application of intent. Through intent we shift and then re-stabilize our cohesion; we manage will. We can intend to walk, for example, or to imagine. The basics of it are that we can intend and that intending has effects.
Will is a dominant part of energetic anatomy, the central energetic system. In the Toltec schema, the central nervous system (brain) is a minor epicenter and the will (gut) is a major epicenter. The “brain-gut axis” is scientifically well-documented.48 Of note is that there are chemical compounds, neurotransmitters, in the intestines that help form pathways between the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system found in the gut. A reaction in the intestines (due to a milk allergy, for instance) could affect the brain and influence behavior. Toltec philosophy may therefore hold valuable insights regarding how the gut affects perception and behavior.
Will is energy, not a concept. It is not dedication, commitment, or persistence. It’s a force. It’s the binding vortex of the cornerstones. Managing our cohesion and our cornerstones—achieving various alignments of energy—is performed with will and intent. On a greater scale, will is the substance of emanations and emanations embody intents that affect us in many ways. In their material forms, we can touch and smell it, taste and hear intent. If it is dense enough, we can sit on it. Or we can mold it and fly through the air in it as we do with airplanes. In the more rarified forms of perceiving energy, we can feel it and see it.
Next Section: Reflection and Projection