Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom
Excerpts about Preconceptual / Precognitive Structures
Working Through Preconceptual Structures
The process of working through these structures has the same stages as we have described. One becomes aware of a rigidity structuring experience, which upon investigation reveals an underlying emptiness; the understanding of this emptiness leads to the emergence of essence in one or more of its aspects or dimensions. Working through her early, preverbal, precognitive, or preconceptual structures tends to lead the soul’s experience to very subtle and deep dimensions of true nature. It is these structures that, if not worked through, form a hindrance to the clear experience and integration of the basic, mainly noncognitive dimensions of true nature. However, because these structures tend to block the soul’s openness to such deep levels of presence they also function as barriers to more discriminated aspects of presence, for essence is not organized like a layered cake but more as coextensive interpenetrating dimensions.
The Inner Journey Home, pg. 213
Because They are Not Created by Our Mind the Preconceptual Structures are Not as Delineated or Defined as Other Kinds of Structures
In contrast, the preconceptual structures have almost no definition and cannot be included in the narrative self. When we are experiencing them, we don’t have words, we don’t have mental concepts, we don’t have self-images. Because they are not created by our mind, the preconceptual structures are not as delineated or defined or definite as the other kinds of structures. When a primitive structure arises, the experience is different. Often we don’t know what’s going on, but we just seem to be behaving a little oddly. Much of the time, if a primitive structure takes over and we are not aware of it, it is usually other people who first notice that we are behaving strangely. But if there is a sense of presence, an awakeness from realization, as those precognitive structures begin to arise we can recognize that they cloud the clarity of our consciousness and create a fuzziness in our experience. Our experience becomes more ambiguous and unformed. And we might even experience the structure and notice that something is not right. The way primitive structures mostly appear are as physical contractions. It is as if your body has some kind of stiffness, some kind of twist or distortion, some kind of thickness or some kind of pattern that is hard to discern. In the experience of the primitive structures, the soul and the body are, in some sense, not entirely differentiated.
Runaway Realization, pg. 178
Precognitive Structures are not Structures Created by the Mind: they are not Structures of Concepts
These earliest structures of the soul—formed exclusively through direct impressions—I call precognitive or preconceptual. Psychologists call them preverbal, but I think it’s more accurate to think of them as precognitive. We can easily overlook these precognitive structures because we tend to believe that the deepest work we can do is to see the reifying and conceptualizing tendency of the mind. The mind structures experience by conceptualizing it and then reifying that conceptualization, which then creates the clunky part of our consciousness that persists as an obstacle to the freedom of our being to appear spontaneously. Reality is then funneled through those structures or has to go around them and manifest in constrained, distorted, and limited ways. But this kind of work on representations, on reifications and conceptualizations, does not really address the precognitive structures, because they are not structures created by the mind, they are not structures of concepts, they are not structures based on reification. You can de-reify as much as you like and you can stop conceptualizing, but you will still be run by your primitive structures. This is because they were formed before you were able to conceptualize, before you were able to reify. The process of deconstructing mental structures—by seeing through reification and conceptualization—is not effective when it comes to these primitive precognitive structures.
Runaway Realization, pg. 175
Precognitive Structures Precede the Distinction Between Conceptual and Nonconceptual
However, these nonconceptual dimensions, although useful, are not completely sufficient for opening up and understanding preconceptual structures. Nonconceptual awareness deconstructs concepts, but the precognitive structures are not structures of concepts. Precognitive structures are more like nascent or potential concepts, in the sense that they could be known because they happened. Once our conceptual capacity develops, we can recognize that they are knowable. In fact, working through these structures requires understanding them, which means that we will begin to know them. If we think of these structures as potential concepts, as preconcepts that have not been isolated, that have not been known, that have not
been thought, we can begin to see that the nonconceptual dimensions won’t clarify them completely. Pure, primordial, nondual awareness can penetrate these structures because it doesn’t have concepts that will obstruct it, but it cannot completely illuminate them. These structures are not simply nonconceptual; they are preconceptual. This means that they precede the distinction between conceptual and nonconceptual and, therefore, require a more total nonconceptuality than the dimensions of radical nonconceptuality ……… Total Being manifesting as total nonconceptuality powerfully challenges and illuminates precognitive structures.
Runaway Realization, pg. 195-197
Preconceptual Impressions are Forms in the Consciousness, Not Images in the Mind
But precognitive structures are not conceptual at all. All you know is that you feel sort of amorphous and that your functioning is a little bit out of whack. You notice a loss of equilibrium; you notice that your homeostasis has changed. And you might be with this sense for some time but, when you start thinking about it, nothing much happens. So the understanding of these preconceptual structures is not accessible to the thinking and discriminating power of the ordinary mind. You cannot grasp anything definitively enough to discriminate it. Nothing in your experience coheres into anything tangible and knowable in the ordinary way. These structures are some of the most difficult to work with because we cannot understand them with our usual capacities. …….. preconceptual impressions are forms in the consciousness, not images in the mind. Later on, more developed structures can become intertwined with these early impressions and can accumulate into complex structures where the uppermost layers—those that are most accessible to consciousness—are the cognitive structures.
Runaway Realization, pg. 179
Reappearance of the Self in More Primitive Forms Because Our Consciousness Simply Regresses
As we work through the more evolved structures—the conceptual and representational structures—the self seems to dissolve and disappear. There is no self for a while, but it comes back again in more primitive forms because our consciousness simply regresses to an earlier time when there were still structures that defined something that we could call the self. As we work through the representational structures, what arises are the primitive libidinal structures and, as we work through those, what arises are the preconceptual structures. The sense of self comes back again and again because there are earlier structures that we haven’t yet seen. The tendency of the self to reappear is very powerful and instinctual. It continually reverts to earlier times and regresses to earlier structures in order to maintain its existence. All these different kinds of structures are intertwined and can arise in complex ways. For some of us, the primitive and preconceptual structures might arise earlier, before we even work through our representational structures. Other people, depending on how their overall ego structure has developed, can experience these primitive structures as dominant from the beginning of their work. And these preconceptual structures might arise because of our life situation. A great deal of stress or pressure in our life can bring up the primitive structures that control our experience and pattern our sense of self and our perception of reality. One effect of being dominated by these primitive preconceptual structures is that our experience tends to be amorphous, vague, and difficult to understand.
Runaway Realization, pg. 176
Structures that Develop in the Soul before the Soul has the Capacity to Identify with Mental Images and Representations
The preconceptual structures we will now discuss develop before there is cognitive development, so they are exclusively direct imprints of experience on the field of the soul. Strong impressions leave deep traces on the soul that structure it in a relatively permanent manner, forming the forerunners of actual ego structures. They develop before the soul has the capacity to identify with mental images and representations. They set the original template, the original general terrain of the soul’s structure. These structures are generally impressions of physical organs and processes that predominate at the beginning of life. Most of these seem to form the preconceptual foundation for the libidinal soul in particular. In fact, it is by inquiring deeply into the animal soul that we are able to discriminate these preconceptual structures, just as the primitive structures arise as we thoroughly explore ego structures. When the preconceptual structures arise they have a more physical component than the other structures; they tend to appear as various physical tensions and contractions. They do not feel like memories, so the visual component tends not to dominate. We simply sense that the substance of the soul is thick and inflexible, without mental content, with this thickness possessing shapes and forms. In the course of investigating these structures, memories might arise, but not necessarily. These memories tend to involve a telescoping of these early impressions with later but similar remembered impressions.
The Inner Journey Home, pg. 211
The Structuring Impact of Prenatal Experience
It is our observation that when inquiring into preconceptual structures, one eventually encounters structures that cannot be understood without considering the structuring impact of prenatal experience. These are even vaguer and more difficult to recognize than the other three types. For instance, in deep stages of the unfoldment of the soul you may experience yourself as wrapped with something thick and tight. You might physically feel as if you are in a straightjacket, tight and thick, but there are no accompanying memories, images, or specific feelings. You feel hemmed in, maybe vaguely depressed. Upon exploration you recognize that there is a thick and tight boundary around you that makes you feel contracted, but not as an emotional reaction. This may then reveal that there is some movement, some convulsing pulsation in the walls around you. You feel you want to get out, but it is not really up to you. This is an experience of a structure that developed in the womb toward the end of pregnancy, where the uterine wall, because of the size of the embryo at this stage, molded the soul’s sensitivity strongly and continuously until it created a lasting impression. Unable to differentiate her own body from the wall of the womb, the soul incorporates its pattern into her own structure.
The Inner Journey Home, pg. 214
We can Effectively Inquire into Preconceptual Levels of Structure Only when Our Field of Consciousness can Manifest in the Nonconceptual Dimension
When we investigate the preconceptual structures they begin to reveal their meaning and origins, but this process generally feels vague and obscure. The fact that the soul was not so developed cognitively at the times these structures developed means they are impressions without a recognition or discerning of what the impressions mean or are. Therefore their experience is more like a regression than a remembering. The process of inquiry continues, but experience will feel amorphous, vague, and not so amenable to the normal discriminating faculty. In fact, it would be almost impossible to understand what these structures are and how they function if we were not able to be present in deep states of being, in particular at the level of nonconceptual mirror-like awareness, where there is differentiation of forms without
discrimination or recognition. More precisely, we can effectively inquire into preconceptual levels of structure only when our field of consciousness can manifest in the nonconceptual dimension, because both lack concepts. But we also need to have integrated this dimension of true nature with that of basic knowledge; this integration makes it possible for our experience to be in the nonconceptual dimension, while at the same time the discriminating capacity can function, recognizing the forms and their meaning. Thus we can have cognitive insights even though we are investigating precognitive experiences.