I had a mini-, or maybe not so mini-, revelation this morning of the distinction between the Observer and the commentator. The Observer just sees, notices unities, but keeps its attention on the One. The commentator has to start blabbing about what is seen.
Now that’s not always a bad thing; if the commentator is skilled enough it can point the way back to what the Observer has observed. (Obviously my commentator is writing this.) But if not–or worse, if he takes other commentators as observers–we end up on the slippery slope that takes us down to where we start seeing other humans as, well, other. We find that we can become capable of terrible acts of inhumanity.
It is evident that the Observer is the “higher” of these categories. It is the original faculty, an expression of the One, which looks at its creation and “sees that it is good.” It corresponds to the highest on Plato’s Divided Line. It is noesis: it requires no proof; it is all intuition. It is Reason as distinct from reasoning. In Plato’s account, it is the faculty that allows us to “reason” about geometrical shapes and other mathematical concepts without actually seeing them. Or to reason about where things will end up if we start to see other people as other.
The commentator is a step down from this. It uses the wonderful gift of language to apply discursive reasoning to the subject, but lays itself open to the traps of language: logic, duality (at least), with its distinctions between superior and inferior. It is dianoia, or understanding. (I could give examples, but I’m trying to keep this on a level of noesis. I’m also aware that I’m creating a duality between them.) And if we get in the habit of listening to it, it will keep on commenting on anything and everything, and eventually we will forget the Observer altogether.
In the teachings of the East, this would be the distinction between the Atman and the manas; the former is identified with the One, the latter is the servant of the One. It is like the senses or discursive mind; the crew and the suitors as opposed to Odysseus. So it really comes down to the relationship between the two. Competition? Cooperation? If the Observer rules and counts on the commentator as its servant, things are working as they should. If they are in conflict–which always starts with the commentator trying to usurp the role of the Observer–we begin the slide down the line to opinion. And then we are really lost. Until, if we are lucky, the Observer reasserts its primacy, and we turn our gaze again to the One.