I always speak of “awareness” and “consciousness”. It made me wonder what the difference were and got me to thinking. Here’s some of my thoughts:
“Awareness” means that a person is ‘open’ to the world but that there is not a strong sense of self.
“Consciousness” means a person is ‘open’ to the world but with a strong sense of self.
By ‘open’ I mean:
- A person senses are working and ready to receive stimuli.
- A person is absorbing sensations and taking them in.
- A person is ready to react.
If a person is ‘closed’, on the other hand, it means that they are ‘dead to the world’, so to speak, and are not absorbing sensations and/or not reacting to it.
A person can be both ‘open’ and ‘closed’, in which case they only react to certain stimuli or elements but are ‘dead’ to everything else. This is ‘variable awareness’. In reality, we all live in a continual ‘variable awareness’, in some form or another. It’s just a question of if we lean to being more ‘open’ or ‘closed’. This ‘variable awareness’ fluctuates all day, even second-to-second. This is because we cannot be aware of all things going on around us. If we did, we’d be overwhelmed with sensations and stimuli. ‘Variable awareness’ is one of the ways we keep the world “manageable”, tolerable, and within our limits of capability. It also allows us to focus on what is important.
This ‘variable awareness’ creates gradations in our awareness/consciousness, so that it changes constantly and at all times. In other words, awareness/consciousness is not a constant entity but continually fluctuates. This is ‘the principle of fluctuating awareness/consciousness’.
This fluctuation creates a spectrum of awareness/consciousness. This spectrum, it seems to me, is greatly dependent on the influence of the self. The reason for this is that the self gives awareness/consciousness its ‘base’ of existence. This is because the self is beingness-in-the-world, a putting together of oneself in existence and it is through awareness/consciousness that the self “communicates” with the world. As a result, awareness/consciousness places the self in the world and associating with it making a very strong and critical association between awareness, consciousness, and the self. This shows ‘the awareness/consciousness/self connection’.
It seems to me that a lot of the self is in imitation of the ‘world perception’. In other words, a person creates a ‘world perception’ before they can develop a ‘self perception’ because their self-will depend on the world they live in. In this way, the self is based on the perception of the world. This is ‘the primacy of the world-before-the-self’.
The self is a form of self-protection and self-realization, which allows someone to live fully in the world. It must react to the conditions it lives in (the world). This need to react makes it so that there is a great burden placed on the self. This burden causes growth and development of the self. This need to react is ‘the principle of self-reaction to the world’. The self must react to the world . . . it is designed to do this.
This shows the very world-centered orientation of the self. This means that the self must have a means to perceive the world . . . this is awareness/consciousness.
The self looks out into the world with the ‘gaze’. The ‘gaze’ is the window of the self. Through the ‘gaze’ the self is opened to the world. Because of this, the ‘gaze’ is associated with awareness/consciousness.
The ‘gaze’ – the ‘looking out into the world’ – creates a single centered point of ‘reality from which all perception is based. It creates a sense of I-in-the-world: the self. It gives the illusion that we are all that there is in the world, as the “I” – the self – is the base for this ‘gaze’. Because of this, the ‘gaze’ creates, really, a one-sided and narrow perception of reality, purely based in the “I”.
But the ‘gaze’ is not a constant force. As I said above, the awareness/consciousness is in constant fluctuation. The fluctuation of awareness/consciousness is caused by the ‘gaze’. The fluctuation of the ‘gaze’ is caused by a number of factors:
- How strong/weak the ‘gaze’ is. We can make the ‘gaze’ strong or weak, as required, and it will often automatically fluctuate as situation requires.
- Where the ‘gaze’ is directed. We can direct where the ‘gaze’ goes. It can also be directed where situation requires it to be.
Both of these show that the ‘gaze’ can vary depending on a number of conditions:
- What we want – the self.
- Where situation requires – the world.
This shows that the ‘gaze’ is effect by both the self and the world, showing that the self and the world are equated and treated the same because, as I said above, the image of the self is based on the image of the world. As a result, we react to what we want and the world wants, as required.
There are two types of ‘gaze’:
- The ‘centered gaze’. This is the ‘gaze’ that is centered on something specific. The self, or a situation, can initiate the ‘centering’ but, once centered, the self takes over. As a result, the ‘centered gaze’ is something the self controls. As a result of the strong self association, when we have a ‘centered gaze’ we are very ‘conscious’ of it.
- The ‘background gaze’. This is the ‘gaze’ that is not ‘centered’ on anything specific. Because of this, it does not necessarily encompass the self. As a result, we are not usually aware of it. It is the part of us that is always ‘looking out’ and reacting to the world, often without our knowing it.
So, we can see that the ‘centered gaze’ involves a strong sense of the self and so creates ‘consciousness’. The ‘background gaze’ has a weak sense of self and so consists of ‘awareness’. If the self is totally unaware of the ‘background gaze’ then it is ‘ unconscious’.
Generally, we are very “aware” of the ‘centered gaze’ because it is ‘centered’. This makes it very obvious. In fact, what we generally think of ‘consciousness’ is really a strong ‘centered gaze’ directed toward something specific. Because of this, the self is very strong and dominant giving this quality of I-am-there (being conscious). In reality, though, this is only a form of consciousness and tends to be very fleeting, lasting a few moments oftentimes. But, because it involves so much of the self, it tends to be remembered and noticed.
But, in actuality, the ‘background gaze’, in my opinion, is the most dominant in our life, and the most consistent. It also seems to entail more of us in its makeup (things such as heartbeat, alertness, balance, etc.). In general, because the ‘background gaze’ is usually not sensed much, it tends to be disregarded and we tend to not realize the effects it has on our lives. The ‘background gaze’ does many things for us such as:
- It is almost always there working no matter what we do.
- It is always ready to react to the world.
- It is always being aware.
- It brings up material from deep within us.
- It keeps us ‘balanced’ in the world.
These are things that are, really, like a foundation to living and existing. They create a “general sense/awareness-pool” upon which we live and react to in life. It seems to me that the self, with its ‘centering gaze’, as if “floats” upon the ‘background gaze’ and moves back and forth along it, as required, making the ‘background gaze’ very critical in life functioning.
But, because of the dominance of the self in the ‘centered gaze’, it gives the illusion that it is the dominant form of awareness. As a result, it makes other forms of ‘consciousness’ seem ‘mysterious’ and vague and even trivial. It’s for this reason that it seems to create a “consciousness myth”, which is a point of view that everything revolves around the ‘centering gaze’. Because of this, there is a tendency to use the ‘centering gaze’ as the platform to look at all consciousness, as if it were the measure of everything else. This, in my opinion, distorts things and makes a one-sided viewpoint. It also disregards the influence of other aspects of the self.
THE SPECTRUM OF THE SELF
With the ‘gaze’, and its association with the self, there develops a spectrum of the ‘self’ depending on the gaze/self association. This spectrum goes something like:
- The self-as-perceived. This is the ideas, principles, etc. that define who and what we are. As a result, it is associated very strongly with the conceptual self (the ‘thinking’ self) and the social self (how we perceive ourself in society). This is all based on known and defined qualities. It is the ‘gaze’ directed toward self-perception.
- The self-in-the-world. This is the perception of the self in the ‘doing’ of life, in the experiencing in life. It is the ‘gaze’ directed toward self-doing.
- The self-alone. This is awareness of ones self in solitude, as a single entity in the world. It is the ‘gaze’ directed toward self-awareness.
- The deeper unknown self. This is the self that lies hidden deep within us and which comes out from time to time, such as the ‘dream-world’ and in manifestations of the unconscious. There is usually a great ‘unknown’ quality here. It is the ‘gaze’ directed toward the unknown self’.
As you can see, this is a spectrum of ‘known-self’ to ‘unknown-self. This spectrum gives the self great variety, depth, ability, and strength. This allows the self to have great adaption and fluctuations to the worlds conditions. In fact, I think this ability at fluctuation is one of our greatest strengths. It does this a number of ways:
- The ability to continually change.
- It brings up various aspects and abilities within ourselves, often that lie deep within us and which we are unaware of.
- It allows us to see the world from many different angles and points of view.
All this shows that awareness/consciousness is important because of its association with the self. It allows the self to be aware of the world. Not only that, the self is based on world perception which gives it its form. This gives a very strong bond and connection between awareness/consciousness/self/world. It is through this association that we are able to have great variety and ability to adapt and fluctuate to the changing conditions in the world.