The Unity of Consciousness: Two, One, Blessed Off! (7.27.10)
Schuon wrote that "One of the keys to the understanding of our true nature and of our ultimate destiny is the fact that the things of this world never measure up to the real range of our intelligence. Our intelligence is made for the Absolute, or it is nothing. Among all the intelligences of this world the human spirit alone is capable of objectivity, and this implies – or proves – that what confers on our intelligence the power to accomplish to the full what it can accomplish, and what makes it wholly what it is, is the Absolute alone." Along these lines, he quotes Dante: “I perceive that our intellect is never satisfied, if the True does not enlighten it, outside which no truth is possible."
Consciousness is constituted of awareness; intelligence; will; and sentiment. As mentioned yesterday in the brief discussion of Schopenhauer, human beings have an automatic bias toward concretizing the explicate aspect of their own consciousness, which we call the ego. But the ego is only the local constellation of a much more encompassing, nonlocal "implicate" consciousness, which includes unconscious and supra-conscious levels (i.e., the lower and higher vertical).
Analogously, the ego is like a cloud against a clear blue sky. We focus on the cloud, but do not see that it is simply the end result of a global weather pattern -- a small "ripple" against a vast and unbroken substrate of nonlinear meteorological processes. Or better yet, compare it to an ocean current. Imagine reifying the current, and thinking that it is somehow separate from the ocean that produced it. This goes not just for the ego-island atop our own little pond of consciousness, but the presence of human beings within the cosmic ocean that tossed them up like a tangle of seaweed upon the shore.
But exactly where do we draw the line with regard to consciousness? Presumably there is an absolute line between you and me -- or your consciousness and my consciousness. Therefore, we invented language in order to link minds to other minds. But that is not exactly how language works. Rather, language is very much like consciousness itself, in that it has an implicate/explicate order -- in other words, its particular meanings rest upon a much deeper kind of holographic field that unifies us within language as such.
I see this vividly in my two year old son, who is in the midst of "language acquisition." He has always been extremely talkative, even though his speech had no discernible content. While it had pitch, modulation, emphasis, dramatic pauses, musicality, etc., he seemed to be using a private language. Some days it sounded like Chinese, other days German, but it was possible to have lengthy, animated conversations with him merely by mimicking his speech patterns.
In my opinion, what the boy was doing was laying down the implicate order of language, in which he first links up directly with other minds. Only afterwards have actual words been superimposed upon this deep connectedness. So on the one hand, language "divides" the world into units of meaning, but it rests upon a sea of primordial, holistic interconnectedness. Language doesn't "invent" the interconnectedness so much as take advantage of it and ride piggyback on top of it. The oneness is our prior condition.
This is what makes humans so different from computers, which also "talk" to one another, but only in an atomistic and linear way. In fact, there are many people with various mental disorders who use language more like a computer than a human being. We might call them "autistic," "schizoid," or just a little "off," but what they lack is a feel for the music that lay beneath the words.
Furthermore, this is one of the primary barriers to accessing the world of meaning present in religion. The obligatory atheist or doctrinaire materialist is, for whatever reason, unable to "read out" what is being conveyed through religious language. Instead, they reduce it to its explicate form, which immediately forecloses the implicate.
As we discussed a couple of days ago, it is not so much that there are two realms -- conscious/unconscious, implicate/explicate, or phenomenal/noumenal -- but different ways of looking at the same thing. For example, while the purpose of psychotherapy is to "make the unconscious conscious," it is not as if one can ever know the unconscious directly. Rather, one merely begins to look at oneself -- ones actions, beliefs, and feelings -- from a different "angle," so to speak, which in turn reveals a world of hidden meaning. But it's the same world. There are no bright lines in the mind.
Likewise, to enter the realm mapped by religion is not, strictly speaking, to enter another world, but to regard the same world from a different perspective. However, it can feel like another world, simply because the focus is on the implicate side of things; to put it another way, everything about religion bears on unifying the complementarity that creates the empirical ego to begin with: whole vs. part, eternity vs. time, One vs. many, Absolute vs. relative, wave vs. particle, consciousness vs. matter, etc.
Now, another way of looking at this is that we must discern between the created and uncreated aspects of our own consciousness, or between the Intellect (the nous, not the lower mind) vs. the ego. As Schuon writes:
"The Intellect, in a certain sense, is ‘divine’ for the mind [i.e., ego] and ‘created’ or ‘manifested’ for God: it is nonetheless necessary to distinguish between a ‘created Intellect’ and an ‘uncreated Intellect,’ the latter being the divine Light and the former the reflection of this Light at the center of Existence; ‘essentially,’ they are One, but ‘existentially,’ they are distinct, so that we could say, in Hindu style, that the Intellect is ‘neither divine nor non-divine,’ an elliptical expression which doubtless is repugnant to the Latin and Western mentality, but which transmits an essential shade of meaning. However that may be, when we speak of the Heart-Intellect, we mean the universal faculty which has the human heart for its symbolical seat, but which, while being ‘crystallised’ according to different planes of reflection, is none the less ‘divine’ in its single essence."
Now the heart is an interesting organ, for it has always been the symbol of man's implicate consciousness -- that which joins as opposed to the brain, which separates, distinguishes and analyzes. Do you remember your first broken heart? Exactly what was broken? I don't know about you, but for me it was the entire unity of being. Suddenly I was a cosmic orphan, disconnected from the very source of Life and Love.
But subsequent therapy revealed that this broken heart was superimposed upon an earlier brokenness, or primordial disconnection, and that it was simply the "occasion" to realize it. In fact, the "falling in love" itself was an attempt to recapture the broken unity, which was one of the reasons why it was charged with an intensity well beyond what was healthy or appropriate.
It reminds me of something one of my psychoanalytic mentors once said about relationships. Unhealthy people always want to go from two to one. But a healthy relationship involves going from one to two. If you try to use the other person to complete yourself, you are headed for trouble of one kind or another. The idea is to complement a self that is already reasonably whole.
But there is horizontal wholeness and vertical wholeness, and no human being can achieve the latter in the absence of some kind of active spiritual life. In this respect, we do want to go from being two to being -- or realizing -- One.