Consider reality as a vast data field which might appear to be chaotic. Objects are holographic constructs generated by a beholding, but not necessarily by an observing, mind/individual/Humaning. In fact, it seems more important to use the word “behold” then to use the word “observe.” Currently “to observe” has a clear scientific flavor. The old English origins of the word “behold” suggests that the word means “to hold thoroughly.” The idea of beholding would seem to include the concept of apprehending without necessarily comprehending. For example, if I say, “I am beholding the stars” it would clearly indicate that I’m apprehending those stars without implying that I have any notion about how to comprehend the stars. The idea of beholding the stars also is different from that of observing the stars; observing may include various scientific efforts to analyze the object, label and identify it, categorize it, etc.
That which we behold we understand as “reality” whether that is a shared apprehension or a clearly personal apprehension. Indeed, beholding is primary, and comprehending is secondary; I must behold the stars before I can attempt to comprehend the stars. Beholding seems to be the primary reality for artists. Van Gogh’s painting “Starry Night” is an example of beholding translated into artistic expression. The concept of beholding also helps us understand how we might all behold some event (like a beautiful sunset) without needing to analyze how different individuals might see the same sunset. It also might help us understand how what one of us beholds with some excitement others might behold with disinterest.
From the mBraining perspective, beholding would be primarily an activity of heart-brain, pelvic-brain and gut-brain. All the information we have about perception and reactions to those perceptions indicates that those perceptions (or beholdings) happen much too quickly for a head-brain analysis. If our ancestors had had to process frightening stimuli through the analytical head-brain, they wouldn’t have lived long enough to pass their DNA along to their descendants. The reactions of these three brains would be transmitted to the head-brain via the ANS, which would have already started reactions in the heart, gut, pelvic brains. As the individual moves toward coherence amongst the brains, the individual would also move toward integrating the experiences of beholding and observing a particular reality.
All individuals might be described as equal opportunity beholders. Whether one has a Ph.D. in astrophysics or is starting kindergarten next fall, each one of us can behold stars, thunderstorms, delicious food and emotional experiences. I don’t have to define love to feel it and I don’t have to analyze rejection to experience it. Beholding moves to observation as the cognitive attributes of the head-brain start processing events and asking, “What just happened and what does it mean?” This often leads to analysis and various forms of learning which may eventually countermand the fight-flight-freeze response which explains why various “experts” like fire-fighters, police officers and medical professionals can respond in useful ways to crisis situations. It has also been suggested that observation may reveal unexpected and unexplained details which the observer would then behold. There might be a dialectical movement from beholding to observation and back to beholding and then of course back to observation. One of the responses of Humanings to fresh beholding would be awe or fear.
Beholding is not just a visual activity. I can behold the sound of music (which I do mostly with my ears). I can behold affection, love, rejection, anger, etc. because I behold the sounds, sights, gestures, facial expressions, touching (or not). Beholding is a full body activity involving all our brains and the ANS. Beholding involves intuition: many of us have beheld experiences that enchanted us or frightened us, and it is only retrospectively that we devise explanations for these experiences. Most people have made decisions based on intuitive beholding. Later, when the decision has been implemented, we often discover (cognitively) what our intuition was telling us.
Beholding is what mystics do. Many meditative practices which encourage us to stop observing and analyzing are freeing the self to behold as they encourage us to clear our minds. One of the fascinating things about the way young children tell us things is that they report their beholding and frequently this surprises the analytical, logical adults and opens the door to intuitive beholding at a deeper level. Our scientific culture pushes us to explain and strongly hints that if we can’t explain something it isn’t real. This is one place where religion and science have bumped against each other. My experiential encounters with Godding are beholdings. I recall very clearly beholding such an encounter one evening long ago when I was trying to decide what to do about developing a career or profession. What I was observing at that moment from my bedroom window was an early evening star hanging just above some hazy clouds. What I was beholding is Godding inviting me to pursue the Christian ministry—which I had never really thought about before. The spiritual life, however one practices it, must allow space for beholding.
If we understand that beholding is a whole body event, then we would do well to learn to become aware, at an intuitive level, of what the whole body is sharing as our beholding becomes manifest.