Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Unity of Consciousness: Two, One, Blessed Off! (7.27.10)

Well then, it all comes down to consciousness, doesn't it? What is it? What's it doing here? If consciousness is just a fluke, a total cosmic accident, what makes us think that it can truly know anything, much less the truth about itself?

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.

31 Comments:

Blogger Smoov said...

I just want to quickly note that the past four or five entries have been classic examples why I came to OC in the first place. There simply isn't anywhere else to find this. Unfortunately for me this series of superb--luminous--essays is being published just as I'm sequestered away with corporate lawyers for most of the day, every day.

I'll be free soon though. Then I will savour!

7/18/2007 08:41:00 AM  
Anonymous zophiel said...

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,

A couple of days ago, I was discussing Pseudo-Dionysius's Mystical Theology with some people, and he uses very similar language to try to get the reader to let go of human conceptions of what around here is generally referred to as O.

Also, ditto what smoov said (well, except the lawyers).

7/18/2007 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger juliec said...

"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."

Oddly enough, I tried to gently point out that very fact to my sister a couple weeks ago in almost those words (it's the opposite of what she usually does, so you can probably imagine how many relationships she's had over the years); she asked, and I didn't say it in a critical way, just made an observation and left it at that. I don't know that it'll sink in, though - she's too busy trying to find external completion. Sometimes, my heart breaks for her.

***

Much to chew over today, Bob. I'm going to go swimming in a while (a good side effect of having my niece visit last week was that I remembered how much I love to swim), hoping that, out of shape as I am, I can still swim a mile. While I'm in the water, I think I'll meditate on the wonder that I, made up of a good portion of saltwater, do not simply become the pool (a saltwater pool) while I am in it; after all, at a certain level there really isn't much of a distinction between it and me, only a membrane holding together a functioning framework, with a lot of ways for water to move through it.

I can't fathom not being able to see the vertical. It is a type of blindness, deafness or numbness that I honestly can't even comprehend, almost as difficult as imagining not existing at all.

7/18/2007 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

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.

Breakup
stepping off the grid
avoiding all sidewalk cracks
talking to herself

7/18/2007 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

I think Schoun said (in some book or other) that sadness pertains to temporal things; you are sad for awhile. But when those things are no longer relative but take on the climate of the absolute, the sadness becomes despair.

And that is a broken heart...

7/18/2007 11:52:00 AM  
Anonymous dloye said...

Not a shot I could chew that up and digest in one go...but the comment about despair and the connection to language...(In the beginning was the Word.)

Despair is much better described in Spanish, 'desesperado', separated from hope, or that's the best I can do with it from my gringa pov.

WV: rxpzfhw, the generic of pzfhw, pshaw, is now available over the counter.

7/18/2007 01:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Jacob C. said...

What kills me about the atheist perception of the Bible is that it's EXACTLY the same as the doctrinaire-fundamentalist interpretation. Both parties read only the text, not the subtext; one sees ridiculous stories about talking snakes and guys coming back from the dead, where the other sees rules and regulations and history set in stone. In both cases, the dimension of metaphor is not present. The atheist and the fundamentalist alike see the words on the page as something that is supposed to be taken for literal truth; one rejects it and the other accepts it blindly, both either without awareness or in complete denial that there is anything between (or beneath) the lines.

7/18/2007 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, along those lines, this book looks promising.

7/18/2007 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Jacob C - I'm probably about as fundy as it gets around here, and I don't know any believers who don't seek a right interpretation of the Bible. That includes careful consideration of all the beauty and nuances of language, context, history, metaphor, figures of speech, etc. Anyone who reveres revelation, has a heart for God, and who longs for Truth, however lacking they may be in their interpretation, beats the atheist any time, hands down.

I don't worship the Bible - far from it - but I do love it for the way it feeds and grows my spirit and moves me closer to God.

7/18/2007 09:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding the realization of unity via an active spiritual life.

Doesnt that involve engaging religion as a transformative esoteric process?

The truth is, that with extremely rare, exception there is no esoteric religion in the USA. Humungous amounts of self-serving exoteric religiosity but no esoteric practice(s). Such is in fact taboo. Alan Watts wrote a marvellous book on this taboo.

Also regarding Berlinski and his fellow ID proponents. They attempt to "prove" the existence of God by pointing to the complex patterns of cellular life---implying that only a "creator" could possibly be responsible for such complexity.

Never mind that all biological forms disintegrate and die and that the vast unexplainable Cosmic process is completely indifferent to the survival or even the well-being of any and every thing.

Where is even the reason for "hope" in all of that, let alone a "proof" that God exists.

Also to ask the question "does god exist?" is to affirm the negative proposition that God does not exist. Such a question is only asked by those to whom the existence of God is in doubt. If God were obvious the question would not even arise.

And what about the "creator" god proposed by the ID crowd? The concept of the "creator" is entirely dualistic in its nature and reductionist in its effects at the level of culture.It is the product of a "mind" that is already divorced from the Indivisible Unity of Existence-Being --- a mind which is, by self definition, thoroughly godless.

It also implies that the "creator" is outside of the Cosmic Unity. Which is of course both absurd and impossible.

My advice would be to flee from anyone who writes a book with the title The Devils Delusion. Some kind of dreadfully "righteous" applied politics is lurking in the shadows---the applied politics of "total truth" by those who presume to possess the "truth".

Especially when the said person(s) have very direct associations with groups that would like to turn the USA into a theocratic state.

7/18/2007 10:00:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Nomo said: "I'm probably about as fundy as it gets around here", operative part: gets around HERE.

Dude, you must be hangin with believers of a 'higher quality' than some I've had occasion to try to discuss these things with. I'm wondering if it's not just a question of 'capacity'. Some people just seem to need rigid/inflexable single-meanings, or are currently unable to UNPACK the Logos very much. Logos translates as Word, so that must mean the word(s), small-case, that we see written (ie Scripture).

The concept that the Logos is much more than words, as we know them, seems confusing. I've gotten lots of 'circle-the-wagons' behavior in response. Fear, fear, fear. Daddy-God might get angry! Don't go there! And they inevitably trot-out social grooming stuff too: see, we inside the circle all agree with each other, so it must be true!

What drives me nuts is the patting each other on the back for it & reinforcing the group cohesion over any effort to actually unpack anything.

Gosh, can you tell it's a pet-peeve?

7/18/2007 10:19:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Anon:
WHO, exactly, "would like to turn the USA into a theocratic state"

Have you been reading HuffinNpissed?

Is your thinking as convolute(d) as your comment reads?

Just askin

7/18/2007 10:29:00 PM  
Anonymous alan said...

Anonymous said: Some kind of dreadfully "righteous" applied politics is lurking in the shadows---the applied politics of "total truth" by those who presume to possess the "truth"

What greater claim of truth than by the founders...

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

You cannot separate truth claims from politics - except in some bizarro world. The question is the accuracy of the truth claims.

We in western civilization have truly been taught stupid - as anonymous' writing exemplifies.

7/18/2007 10:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Jacob C. said...

ximeze:

Exactly my point. The atheists and the doctrinaire fundamentalists are making the same mistake - assuming that Scripture = Logos. Or, to be more exact, that the Scripture is the totality of the Logos. What about the Unscripted, the things left implied rather than explicitly stated? Is there no further meaning to be drawn out of the words? You go too far in one direction, you get the dismissal of biblical stories as "fairy tales about talking snakes"; in the other direction, you get the nothing must ever be changed, and there is no interpreting to be done because everything that needed to be said is in the book attitude that devout Muslims have toward the Koran.

The difference is this. Which set of assumptions are we asked to believe - that the Scripture was divinely inspired, or that it was supposedly dictated? There is a world of difference between the two possible ranges of responses.

7/18/2007 10:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alan,
Most if not all of the horrors of western history have been perpetrated by true believers of one kind or another, whether so called religious or atheist.

Look at the post Reformation religious wars of Europe. People slaughtering each other holus bolus because of different ideas of "truth" rattling around in their brain.

I was not in any way arguing that there is no such "thing" as Reality, Truth and the Beautiful. With a capital R,T & B.

7/19/2007 02:00:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

It would seem to me that the composite consciousness defined in today's OC is a somewhat different concept than the "consciousness" which Ken Wilber and Andrew Cohen talk about. Their "consciousness" seems to be a primary field and even act as a substrate that enables and sets the scope for all the functions of mind, but itself depends on nothing except the universal field of consciousness. In short, their "consciousness" is something like what the Bible calls spirit. (From my limited experience they may well be identical.)

7/19/2007 03:40:00 AM  
Anonymous ...a friend from afar said...

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj:

When I see I am nothing...that is wisdom.

When I see I am everything...that is love.

And between those two, my life moves.

7/19/2007 04:31:00 AM  
Anonymous dougman said...

"People slaughtering each other holus bolus because of different ideas of "truth"..."-Anon

Can you picture the world today without all of the killing in the name of G_d?

I'm completly serious here.

7/19/2007 05:46:00 AM  
Blogger juliec said...

Easily, Dougman - it would be a world filled with people killing in the name of envy, and it would be a much worse place.

7/19/2007 07:52:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Wish I hadn't missed today, in a similar boat as Smoov's, luckily no lawyers though (no offense Joseph), and I'll add my Me Too to what he said.

7/19/2007 07:56:00 AM  
Anonymous zophiel said...

Anon:

. . .there is no esoteric religion in the USA. Humungous amounts of self-serving exoteric religiosity but no esoteric practice(s).

Which is as it should be-- mind you, I speak here as someone quite familiar with several flavors of esoteric. And one of the key elements that keeps it useful is that it needs to be sought after-- it cannot be handed to one on a platter. The Exoteric is necessary for the beginning of the journey and, in my experience, are also useful in keeping the Esoteric Student from going off the Deep End (which I have seen many a time).

The other thing to keep in mind is that that which makes a thing esoteric is, by it's nature, less accessible to most people than the more basic, exoteric stuff. As with any subject of study-- take cooking. Most people can manage toasting bread, boiling pasta, and making a sandwich. Baking a souffle, on the other hand, is done by far fewer. And preparing non-toxic pufferfish is done by the least.

As with cooking, I do not lament that the esoteric is so rare, any more than I lament that safe pufferfish is so rare.

Consider, too, that perhaps a thing is esoteric because it is naturally rare, and not rare because it's esoteric.

7/19/2007 08:13:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Afraid I've got to go with Ximeze & Jacob C. on this one Nomo. I just heard a fundy on the radio driving into work this morning railing against how reading Harry Potter leads to devil worship - not to equate the two, but I'd be curious to hear what he thought of Shakespeare.

Another fundie at my last work, it was being renovate and doors and walls kept appearing and dissappearing as new halls or rooms were added or removed, one morning I remarked that trying to get to our office was like walking through a Harry Potter book (moving stairs, etc) and he stopped dead in his tracks and said "I wouldn't know what you're talking about, Harry Potter is the devil's work and we have nothing to do with it around here".

Another time I caused a bit of a tizzy in the midst of one of his many comments about the need for an unswerving and literal reading of the Bible, when I noted one of the psalms and asked him where the 'House of Mirth' was located?

They are out there.

7/19/2007 08:21:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/19/2007 08:33:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

I know they are out there, I just don't believe they're predominant. Unfortunately, they do get all the "press" - which only furthers the cause of the dark side (oh yeah, that's what the press is generally for).

7/19/2007 08:35:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

anonymous said "Look at the post Reformation religious wars of Europe. People slaughtering each other holus bolus because of different ideas of "truth" rattling around in their brain."

At the risk of being misinterpreted... there are worse things than slaughter over the correct interpretation of the Truth. Much is made of the religous wars of the west, but at least they were fighting over what they saw was right and wrong, I'd say that the long drawn out stagnation of the Orient in particular, the unrelenting caste systems and ignorance with its resulting poverty, famine and disease cost hundreds of millions more lives than all the religous wars of the west combined.

The cost of being wrong is far less than the cost of believing that there is no sense in trying to determine right or wrong, let alone defending your judgement.

7/19/2007 08:35:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Nomo, I know what you are saying, however I'm finding that there are more of them out there than I thought there were.

Still, I'd say that putting the two on the scales, I'd say that the balance of value tilt towards the fundie side, than the (standard relatavist) athiests side.

Even taken as literally as possible (and you can't completely, just can't) the stories of the Bible create ... can't find the word while debugging code... some substance of soul... within a person, which non-judgmental relativistic beliefs steadily corode away.

7/19/2007 08:44:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"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."
"

Just wanted to see it again. Talk about resonating...

7/19/2007 08:49:00 AM  
Blogger juliec said...

"The cost of being wrong is far less than the cost of believing that there is no sense in trying to determine right or wrong, let alone defending your judgement."

Thank you, Van - missed your comments yesterday :)

As to the Harry Potter thing - there's actually a website that evaluates movies with Christian families in mind (I know because I actually got a phone call from them once, asking for support), based on content, language and context. They give Harry Potter an abysmal rating, because of the magic and witchcraft.

7/19/2007 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

JulieC,
Thanks, and yes I know they're out there, I think the guy I heard this morning was promoting such a site.

Obviously I think they are wrong, and as for those who condemn the Potter books - and imaginative literature in general - for being simplistic or escapist , here's my recent take on the matter.

7/19/2007 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger BrianFH said...

Reminds me of the Sci-Fi fans' retort to those who call (hard) science fiction escapist: "In fact it's the only literature which isn't." The anti-escapists, in general, are either without imagination or in hiding from what they imagine they might imagine if they did. Imagine.

7/20/2007 10:12:00 PM  
Blogger BrianFH said...

juliec;
Preferably, "complement two selves that are already reasonably whole."

But there aren't that many out there, and as they hook up with each other that leaves only the more or less desperately incompletes looking for something to possess or submit to.

7/20/2007 10:17:00 PM  

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