Consciousness, really, is one of the most important things in life. In it and through it life is lived. All our hopes and dreams, lifes events, our self, and our beingness are found in this phenemena. It’s nothing to look at lightly.
To me, consciousness is more than awareness. What most people call consciousness is nothing but an awareness to me. Consciousness is a reference to an awareness of us in the world, our beingness within the beingness of existence. In that sense, its a combination of two awarenesses: Our self and the world. As such, it displays a duality. Like all situations of duality there are dilemmas and problems in the interplay of these two opposing qualities (our self and the world), which greatly affect consciousness. In many ways, a lot of consciousness is nothing but the tensions caused by these two opposing forces.
These opposing forces and the tensions between them create a tug-of-war between them that creates a ‘life’ or ‘vitality’ in our lives. Without it, our lives would be dull and dreary. This tug-of-war, also, creates a continued tendency to be aware and awake in life.
Our self consists of a sense or awareness of us as separate from the world and other people. Because of this, a sense of self begins with a sense of ‘apartness’. Our sense of self begins our being lonely in life, of a sense that someone is not there to help us, a sense that we are somehow lacking. This sense of lacking seems to instigate us to look for whats missing. It can be compared to a hunger of sorts, and just like hunger we search for the thing that will satisfy it. In a way, when we develop a sense of self we become ‘orphans’ and, like an orphan, we yearn to know our parents, of our origins.
This means that our sense of self creates a hunger, a want in us. This forces us to look out more into the world, to satisfy this hunger. Its because of this that we – meaning human beings – play such a big part in the world around us. We see more into the world, we see meaning and symbols in the world, and we participate with it. It seems to me that the longing created by the sense of self creates in us a consciousness of the world.
Once we develop this consciousness of the world we begin to project our self onto the world. By doing this the world becomes, really, an extension of our self. We begin to see the world as only an aspect of our self. The problem is that, by doing this, we actually become alienated from the world. This is because the world is not us, but something else. In the modern world, and any high civilization, it seems that the sense of the world as ‘something else other than us’ is lost. This creates a sense of alienation which pervades these societies. People feel disconnected, not ‘with it’, and lost. In addition, this projection of self means that they fit the world into their conception of themselves. This means that the world is interpreted only in the concept of a philosophy or point of view. The world, though, cannot be fit into any philosophy or point of view completely. Not only that, this conception originates from the person, the sense of self, not from an awareness of the world. This shows that developing too much of a conception of the world, by portraying it through a philosophy or point of view, actually moves us away from the world.
It seems that a big part of a healthy consciousness is the sense that there is ‘something else other than us’. This ‘something else’ cannot fit into our view of our self or any conception we created. This means that, with the consciousness of the world, there must be this sense of ‘unknowing’, or ‘mystery’ about it, that it is beyond us and beyond any conception we can create. Often, this mystery element is nothing but a conception of Divinity or God.
All this reveals what can be called a ‘spectrum of consciousness’:
Self–Conceptions of ourselves–Conception of the world–World–The world as beyond us
Consciousness, as I use it then, is really a spectrum of awarenesses that make up a whole. On each end of the spectrum are the polarities of Self and World. It seems that this spectrum is common for most people.
But it even goes beyond that with some people. Things do not end with the Self and the World on each end, creating a spectrum. In reality, there is a connection between the sense of Self and the sense of the World as beyond us that is reflected in some people. This is the area of whats often called ‘mysticism’. By ‘mysticism’ is usually meant a sense that there is another ‘self’ that goes beyond the normal self. This self is as if rooted in the ‘mystery’ element of life. This is usually practiced in various forms of whats often called ‘contemplation’.
In this case, consciousness can be described as a ‘circle of consciousness’:
| Conception of self
Mysticism Conception of world
World as beyond us
People who take this point of view tend to be more spiritual and religious in makeup. In many cases, it can border on a madness, or so it may appear. These include people like shamans, monks, yogis, and such. Here mysticsim is practiced as a real entity, not as a concept or belief.
I mentioned above about there being a ‘healthy consciousness’. Because of the importance of consciousness I feel that its good to develop a good consciousness of the world. The fact is that there is a healthy way to be conscious and an unhealthy way to be conscious.
It seems that much of religion, knowledge, culture, and wisdom is really nothing but creating a healthy consciousness of life. As a result, much of human life is already geared to creating this condition. That makes sense, as its such an important part of life.
In western society, because of its intellectual dominance, it seems that one of the things they need to do is to practice more the ‘mystery’ element in life, that they cannot conceive of everything in life, that there is a point where intellectual thought fails. This seems very lacking in this society.
A good thing to do is to practice the spectrum or circle of consciousness. By this I mean to actively be aware of all the elements of the spectrum or circle. Normally, we just do whats convenient to us which tends to neglect other aspects of the spectrum or circle. In that way, we become as if ‘lump sided’. To truly have a healthy consciousness the whole spectrum or circle must be practiced.
The spectrum or circle must also be experienced. That is to say, you cannot ‘think’ about it. For it to have any benefit there must be active involvement.
A person must also practice awareness, as it is the beginning of all consciousness. Being aware, though, is not as easy as it may sound. There seems to be stages in awareness that I’ve noticed:
– The opening up of ones self to things. In reality, many of us are closed to awareness, though it may not seem like it. We are as if closed the curtains of our minds. To be truly aware, though, you must be open minded and receptive to what happens. The less preconceived notions you have the better. In a sense, you need to become like a child.
– A development of an attitude or stance. When you open yourself up and perceive yourself in the world its only natural to develop an attitude or stance in relation to things. For to be in the world you must see yourself in a certain perspective (an attitude or stance) in that world. Often, this attitude or stance is of an ‘unspoken’ nature. That is, it never reaches the point of being thought about. It just ‘is’. Other times it is this attitude or stance that is the base or foundation of any philosophy or point of view we have of ourselves in the world. That is to say, it creates various forms of conceptions.
– A conception is created. The attitude or stance creates a particular perspective of how we see ourselves in the world. This often creates a conception or some mental image of this relation in our minds.
From these three processes awareness helps creates a wisdom in life, of looking life in a proper perspective. Awareness places you in the world. It creates a sense of being a ‘person’, of participating in the world. This means that it can affect how a person lives their life. It shows that a healthy consciousness helps has like a ripple effect the ends up effecting a persons whole life.
It seems that where we often fail is in the conceptions we develop. We often have the wrong conception of things or a warped one. This often leads us off the track in life, I think. One thing that consciouseness has taught me is that conceptions are not that great. A persons notions, philosophies, points of view, etc. really aren’t as important as it seems. We make a far bigger deal about it than we think. It’s for this reason that its good to keep conceptions down and to look at things simply. The best conception, I’ve found, is a ‘sense’ not a philosophy or point of view.
We must remember that the value in consciousness is in being conscious not in having a philosophical viewpoint. Consciousness is consciousness, nothing else.