(A concise exposition of significance to living a happy and pragmatic life as a human being; presented for contemplation, reflection and meditation.)
Consciousness – Self – Existence – Mystery
Are you conscious? Are you aware?
The taking for granted of consciousness is a most peculiar hallmark of contemporary human culture. Consciousness is the in-practice foundation of both the Self and of reality (should one even begin by making such a distinction); without consciousness of existence, existence is both meaningless and unknowable.
The essence of consciousness is completely opaque to investigation by way of being the ground in which, in-practice, anything may be known, including the agents, instruments and methods of scientific and empirical investigation. Being is nothing if not conscious – in the sense that if the fundmental principle of consciousness – that which we might dub the subjective-qualitative – were not present, being would be meaningless.
Likewise, consciousness is the root of the human condition. Necessarily, for all practical purposes, consciousness is the ontological root; there is no way to explain consciousness in a fundamental sense. Consciousness is a mystery. That there is something it is like, to see, to hear, to feel, to think, to be, is a profound mystery.
Indeed, it is a profound and startling mystery that there is anything at all – that there is consciousness. This principle stands independent from anything that is known. In this way, one who significantly ponders these self-evident though generally ignored facts of our nature is necessarily startled.
In this way, we may intuit the first hints of a significant deviation between our socially-conditioned sense of ourselves and reality, and the in-practice, experiential actuality or truth of our existence. We are surprised to discover that existence, self and reality, are far more magnificent than ordinary.
The self is consciousness.
Not-Self – No Self – Emptiness – Fullness – Divinity
What is that from whence our thoughts and actions arise? Surely it is the self. Yet, in so being, it must necessarily be distinct from our thoughts and actions. In fact, if we look closely, it cannot be anything whose form changes at the same ontological level as thought. That is, the self cannot be found directly in any changing phenomenal experience.
What is it that has remained with us, unchanging, from birth? Surely it is the self – or the essence of it at any rate. One cannot deny that the workings of perception, thought, understanding and activity remain a fundamental mystery. Just as one cannot deny the profound and mysterious nature of the consciousness in which all these phenomena appear and recede.
The fact that upon close inspection, we are unable to find the self, draws our attention toward that which is ontologically prior to all experience. Indeed, for all practical purposes, the self is the origin of all experience and volition.
In this way, it may be said that no discrete phenomena or qualia is self. Somewhat confusingly, it may also be said that there is no self. That which we usually associate with the self is merely the futile attempt of the mind to make static that which is an inherently dynamic process – the unceasing mutation of mind, body and environment. Even such division is essentially arbitrary.
In this way, we may say that self is empty of any intrinsic characteristic or quality. It is neither light nor dark, big nor small, old nor new. In fact, for all practical purposes the self is literally prior to any concept of time and space, and the relative workings and discernment therein.
In the same vein, we may say that self is full or divine. Being indistinguishable from the ground principle of experience, consciousness or the subjective-qualitiative, the self is a marvel. The self is the stage upon which reality unfolds. It is the potential from which all inspiration and creativity manifest. It is undefinable substrate of all that is. Without resort to speculation, self and reality are fundamentally indistiguishable, and any potential difference in definition is of necessarily limited practical utility.
In practice, the principle of consciousness itself is engaged in a totally and complete intimate union with the content of consciousness. Take notice that there is no effort, no lack, nor anything to want from the perspective of the witness, the principle itself.
Consider the typical paradigm with which most of us relate our person to reality. The visual aspect of experience seems calibrated in most people to provide a very potent sense of mind-body autonomy and a consequent sense of a finite self within the constraints of time and space. Yet, consider that all that is ever experienced – vast horizons, the near, the far, phenomena tiny and gargantuan – the principle of space itself is most fundamentally dependant upon the visual aspect of depth perception. There is a specific quality of the visual qualia, that is ‘depth-like’. Pondering the nature and principle of vision itself, in this way, ought to at least draw your attention to the inferences commonly made. Whilst an undeniable functional reality, space itself is nevertheless an inference upon the perception of depth. Further, we cannot really say what it really is – except that for all intents and purposes, it is completely synonymous with consciousness.
This depth aspect is just one of many aspects of experience. Similarly, hearing can also have this quality of depth. So too, the other senses – such as where the body is located in space and the input of certain stimuli.
Experience is all really quite strange. Where is consciousness located in space – indeed, is consciousness in space, or is space within consciousness? What is the size of consciousness? Am I within my body, or is my body within me?
The limited self is a seldom questioned belief, itself based upon an inference, which itself appears in consciousness. In a closer examination of that which is our reality, eventually it becomes obvious that somewhere we made an innocent though grievous ontological mistake. The self is quite distinct from the mind-body. Indeed, for all practical purposes the self is indistinguishable from reality.
The self is free, unbounded and without limitation.
Universality – Unity – Self – Reality – Undying – Eternal
Consciousness is universal. Though at first glance, and intellectually, this may seem quite unintuitive to the conditioned human psyche, it is not.
Consider that consciousness is for all practical purposes, all we ever know. Every experience, every mental state, every understanding takes place within the perspective of consciousness. Indeed it is the only perspective we have. What is perceived, is always the interaction of phenonena within consciousness. Even if we speculate as to a reality, ‘out there’, we never come into contact with it. In this regard, consciousness is for all practical purposes, universal. Though we may go further.
Consider that sane individuals in our society generally maintain what might be called, the ‘inter-subjective-agreement’. You agree that I exist, and am conscious, and visa-versa. Yet in order for us to interact, to perceive each other, or a shared realm of time and space, and to communicate, it is necessary for interaction between our presumed separate consciousnesses. I, nor my works, cannot appear in your consciousness unless there is some underlying interaction between both. Thus, whatever the substrate of interaction is necessarily at a level that is ontologically equivalent-with or prior-to that of consciousness – that is, interaction occurs within or prior to consciousness.
Since consciousness is congruent with reality, vis-a-vis the self, we cannot ever see beyond consciousness. For all practical purposes, any interaction between apparently separate consciousnesses can be described as occuring within consciousness itself.
Moreover, the root principle of your consciousness and mine are indistinguishable. Ignoring gross experiential manfiestations of human or animal consciousness – waking, dreaming, sleeping – the principle that is common to all of these is that for which we are fundmantally concerned. In this way, for all practical purposes, the fact we interact and acknowledge the existence of each other, necessitates that the principle which is consciousness in essence, is shared between both apparently distinct local consciousnesses. That is, your consciousness and mine share the same root principle.
Finally, there is no rational mechanism which can posit the emergence of consciousness from any relationship of its contents, so discerned by the mind. Consciousness is the ontological root. In this way, consciousness is all that is known, is shared between all apparently distinct conscious agencies, and is inseparable from speculative theories as to an underlying objective reality. Thus consciousness is universal.
Being outside of time, consciousness is eternal. Whilst the character identity of the person or individual body-mind with which you associate will necessarily die, that which you are cannot. The self and consciousness are congruent. In this way, for all practical purposes, you have never been subject to birth and death. Such necessary transitions are always an occurance that is the contents of consciousness. Consciousness itself, and as a principle, cannot meaningfully be caught-up in these transitions.
Self is unborn and undying, and fundamentally universal.
Happiness – Belief – Desire – Agency – Suffering – Conditioning – Ego
Every being wants happiness. You may posit and claim the supremacy of other desires, but fundamentally, all movements of being are reducible to this principle. Even the altruist, who claims his highest goal is the wellbeing of others, is attempting to find fulfilment and ultimately happiness through his principles and actions.
Happiness is fundamentally the absence of individual will. At first, this may sound to the individual ego a rather impoverished view of happiness – absent freedom, joy and the thrill of adventure. Our imagination is often misleading. Absent all manifestation of the individual, limited agency (both gross and subtle), there is no existential tension.
Happiness is the natural or default state of being. It is that to which we return, periodically, when and to the degree that existential concern has subsided. When you see something whose beauty takes your breath away, for a moment, existential concern is in abeyance. When you accomplish a significant task, for a moment, existential concern is in abeyance. Often in the moments prior to and immediately following an awakening from deep sleep, existential concern is in abeyance. At these times, there is a sense of peace without end.
Alert peace – the curious mind – spills over readily into joy and wonder at the profound mystery of the content of consciousness, the manifestation of reality.
Though the functioning of this movement toward happiness can be more or less direct – most often it is the latter – the movement is always present.
Paradoxically, the appearance of an individual will is the primary obstruction in human beings to abidance in the natural state of happiness. Suffering (as distinct from pain) is literally the appearance of a desire for escape. Suffering is the appearance in consciousness of existential concern.
It is assumed that the expression of individual will is necessary to restore and maintain happiness, and to prolong existence for as long as possible. Paradoxically, nothing could be further from the truth, because the very appearance of the individual will is the premise for its own continued future emergence, and constitutes the very manifestation we call suffering.
As circumstances are continually in flux, so too, the technology of the mind is continually changing. The psychological self is a toolbox. Used as a toolbox, there is no problem. Used as a model for how reality ought to be, this is existential concern. It is an inevitable product of the normal functioning of mind that in the presence of a continually changing experience, any belief which ties happiness or existence as dependent upon a particular content of consciousness will soon give rise to discomfort. This is suffering – this is existential concern.
The response that most of us experience to the appearance of suffering, is an attempt to adjust and realign our outer and inner worlds. In so doing, even if we are initially somewhat sucessful, we inadvertantly set the stage for a re-emergence of suffering as circumstances again change from that which we now believe are necessary for happiness.
Suffering implies the existence of one who suffers. In so doing, unseen, it perpetuates the very belief in the one for whom the suffering is concerned. The appearance of suffering, the emotional discomfort, is existential concern, is the premise for the scramble to adjust our circumstances, and is the very apperance of individual will. This is a a very significant observation to discover, through your own investigation, within your own psyche.
This cycle of suffering is a conditioned response. Further, the vast majority of thoughts and actions experienced on a day-to-day basis are recycled. The origin of our beliefs and opinions is often second-hand, not based in our primary experience. Our beliefs about the nature of self are formulated in the early years of life and few will experience a sufficiently pressing concern to motivate a sufficiently deep examination of such, to uncover the lie.
Genuine agency ought never to have been attributed to the individual. Conditioned responses are automatic, and the individual is only notional, only a belief. They are only notionally responsible for their thoughts and actions – the majority of which flow seamlessly from one conditioned response to the next, through the predominantly unexamined behaviours of mind.
It is intrinsic to this naive self misunderstanding, that thoughts and actions tend to revolve around the conditioned beliefs and presumed needs of the individual body-mind organism. The delusion of separatation, of limitation, of dependence, is intrinsically ego-centric.
The ego self-construct is a creation of the self. In recognising this, it is no longer necessary to constrain activity to the straight-jacket of this conditioned belief structure. Because it is a construct, an abstraction, to push the ego around in order to manipulate and understand reality, is to attempt to live life through a lifeless abstraction. Further, there is no sane reason to anticipate that the way the ego ‘conceives’ of reality should have any relationship to how reality actually is – a conception is a static entity, bereft of freedom, but life, indeed the self is of an entirely different order. Understanding this, we may begin to understand the meaning and futility inherent in any conceptual sense of self identity.
Happiness is the natural state. Ego – conditioned perceived individual agency and existential dependence – is the foundation of human psychological suffering, and all ego-centric motivation.
Heart – Reason – Freedom – Agency – Creativity – Wisdom
Is it ever possible to be free of the influence of the conditioned mind? Conditioning sets so many of the rules which govern our thoughts, emotional responses and actions. The nature of conditioning is a kind of memory. The nature of conceptual knowledge is also a kind of memory. And the nature of memory is limitation, just as the nature of the conceptual mind is division. To be reliant upon memory and a divisive faculty of mind alone, is to be an astable automaton. There is no intrinsic stability in this rule-based and abstraction-dependent mechanism.
Control of the conditioned mind is twofold. When we think of controlling our mind, we are witnessing the impact of a kind of feedback loop. In this regard, the content of thoughts themselves forms the principal input into the unseen origin of thoughts, through which the flow and direction of thought is controlled.
Less obvious is the underlying principle which governs not only mind, but all of experience. The principle of uncertainty – or what we might call the creative principle – is fundamentally that from which our experience of mind emerges. Our thinking about mind is a secondary form of control, which acts only abstractly and through feedback upon the true origin.
The origin of thought is unseen, just as the subject of conscious experience is unseen. They are in this way, for all practical purposes, equivalent.
Decision making is a prime example of the limitations of conceptual mind and reason, and the absence of genuine agency. How do you decide what to consider, in what sequence to consider, and which consideration to recall first? Why in one moment, is a decision said to be pending, and in the next, a decision is said to have occurred?
Fortunately that which most of us call the mind might readily be described as comprised of two distinct faculties. It is our experience that this is so. There is the faculty of reason, of abstract thought, concepts, language, the internal dialogue, mathematics, discrimination, contrast, comparison and symbols. This is the divisive, conceptual mind. There is also what we might call the faculty of creativity, of perception, of intuition, insight, spontaneous action, imagination, feeling and beauty. This is the wholistic, creative mind.
The creative mind is the key to genuine freedom. It is only against the backdrop of inner silence that spontaneous insights appear. Indeed, it is only against this backdrop wherein they can be heard. Where knowledge, belief and memory are intrinsically finite, limited and divisive, creativity is intrinsically without known bounds.
The dichotomy of creative and conceptual mind is a simplification. In reality, no such dichotomy can really be said to exist. Though the description of such may assist one to enquire within as to the behaviour and limitations of the conceptual mind. In so doing, one may gradually discern with greater clarity, the relationship between self and that which we commonly mistake to be self.
Any misunderstanding of our own psychology will necessarily impart a bias toward a certain chaos upon our thoughts, perceptions, feelings and activities. We will leave a wake. This is what is meant by misunderstanding. The operation of unseen, unexamined beliefs in various unfounded and spurious limitations of self, culminates in a significant dysfunction of mind, in so much as the experience of ourselves becomes intolerable, futile and impractical.
A fundamental problem that arises in abandoning long-held belief in fundamental separation and genuine agency, is that of oritentation. How is one to orient oneself to reality? Examination of the finer points of the concpetual mind will eventually reveal a blind mechanism, essentially absent any ground or direction upon which to derive meaning or morality.
You may argue this is not so. Killing is killing. Rape is rape. Whilst these simple examples are abhorent to most, most of our opinions are not so easily categorised, if we dare to think about it. Killing may be generally considered taboo, nevertheless, war is a significant feature of human civilisation.
The greatest dissonance occurs, however, if we attempt to place the culmination of our individual actions into some greater context – if we attempt to posit a meaning or direction for society across the endless expanse of time. Doing so, we will eventually be forced to admit that any meaning is a temporary imposition of the mind, taking a stand always within a mentally-defined, finite window of time. To say, “this is good” and “this is bad”, is, even against the backdrop of the inter-subjective agreement on mundane reality, an increasingly proposterous proposition as we attempt to discern ever greater existential concern.
Conceptual meaning is always based on the imposition of a central concept about which the entire conceptual network of relations is interpreted. It is inherently relativistic and baseless. Not only can you not discern black without white, up without down, wrong without right, but these discernments are without inherent conceptual meaning until a matter of existential concern is imposed upon a particular concept within the network of relationships.
For most people, the imposed matter of existential concern is the conceptual sense of the individual self, and all of the beliefs and idiosyncrasies within.
Since these relations differ between every individual, there is always ample room for disagreement. Existential concern imparts upon the whole tangled web, an imperative, from which discussion must inevitably descend into argument and war.
This appears to present us with a significant personal challenge. Therein is the key – a personal challenge. Is there a principle about which our consciousness can come into a new and more stable orientation with reality? In dropping the personal, the known, the domain of the conceptual mind as the basis from which to derive meaning and direction, there is an opportunity for the transpersonal, the unknown to take up the challenge.
The creative mind or unknown mind, might also be called the heart mind. It is inherently transpersonal. At the mundane level of ordinary lived experience, it is transpersonal because it does not perceive the distinctions of the conceptual mind in the same way. Profound insight, that which conceptually does not follow from any established notion, also originates from this space. This is the first potent hint that the creative faculty is deeply transpersonal. Eventually one may come to recognise that this faculty is not limited to the local body-mind organism. In theory, it has no limit and whereas the conceptual faculty sees only pieces, the creative faculty sees the true totality.
Heart is an appropriate moniker for the creative mind. In seeing the totality, without discrimination, there is total and unconditioned acceptance in perception. It is an all-embracing and ceaselessly-understanding faculty. This parallels the unconditional care, or uninhibited intimacy that might be considered the ideal of a parent and a child, an artist and their work, or a lover of any kind.
Reason and belief combined, ask us, can we trust it? Can we trust that which we cannot know? Indeed, we have begun to examine the limitations of conceptual mind. Absent a definitive principle upon which to stand (and none such is intrinsic), the conceptual mind is forever adrift and readily confused into unwitting acceptance of that reckless futility most of us have come to intimately know as the personal self. Superficially at least, we must conclude our unwavering trust in reason alone is irrational. Moreover, given the transpersonal characteristics of the creative mind, we have reason to suspect that in leiu of a better alternative, it is the most trustworthy faculty from which to derive our direction, our meaning and our moral compass.
Such an admission is not cause for despair for the unwavering rationalist. Inherent to the creative principle itself is acceptance. Indeed, just as the artist channels creativity through the technology of the conceptual mind and their craft, the creativity of life may be channelled through the technology of mind toward mundane functioning.
The distinction is one of order. Whenever reason is given the upperhand, we are forced perpetually to ask of ourselves, questions such as, Am I on the right track? How do I know? And the ungainly, Is my intuition trying to tell me something? Whenever creativity has the upperhand, these questions simply need not arise. As the self understands this, a harmony gradually ensues between the two faculties. The technology of mind is engaged as a faithful servant. The creativity of mind provides meaning, direction and motivation.
The caveat is that if the self harbors substantive belief in a personal self, such an engagement of faculty is more likely to lead to madness than enlightenment. It is a matter of the direction of control. When a personal ego exists, it is intrinsically that which would seem to interpret and direct the transpersonal creative. Universal creativity in the hands of a personal ego is more likely to be an arsonist, or a narcissist than an artist or a altruist. On the other hand, when no such personal ego is manifest, the self is not misdirected by such and is free to utilise the technology of conditioned mind along-side the creativity of spontenaeity.
Wisdom is understanding the proper role and limitations of the known self.
The known is the technology; the life is the self.
Truth – Understanding – Experience
Truth is the self, is reality – the totality, beyond name, beyond limit.
Any approach toward truth is in effect, a process of progressive negation. It is a negation of unsubstantiated belief, and investment in belief, a falsification of that which does not withstand scrutiny, until that which remains is the self-evident truth.
Predominantly it seems the approach of most people toward a discourse of this nature begins and ends with conceptual understanding. This is memory, or the accumulation of further belief. It is thus entirely incongruent with any genuine understanding of what is discussed. Out of such an approach, the suffering individual person can only find further suffering and dissonance.
Transformation requires experiential realisation – experiential understanding. For some reason, although we are generally familiar with this principle when it comes to mundane tasks, such as the proficiency of learning to read and write, to drive or to play a musical instrument, when it comes to learning about the nature of self we seem at a loss. Even for those who have experienced a profound transformation in their way of being and relating to reality, the first years or decades are often fraut with apparently little progress. There is a tendency to take on faith what is articulated, because superficially on one occasion it appears it may make sense. Some of us engage in blind, dull repetitious practices of meditation and contemplation for years, seemingly without end.
Most people do not seem particularly interested in understanding the self.
Those of us that claim interest in self understanding often look toward phenomena, such as external discourses and philosophy, ahead of that from which all experience emerges. The self is the true subject of such discourse, and ever intimate and immediate.
Recognising this, reliance upon authority – the authority of others and the authority of ego – is diminished. There is an opportunity to discover the self first-hand instead of mere conceptual hearsay.
Experiential understanding is spontaneous. Though in truth it is uncaused, from the perspective of the student of self-delusion, the investigation ought to be alert and sufficiently focused to bring about conditions ripe for understanding. It is this way for any understanding, whether it be the self, or the comparitively mundane disciplines of human technology.
The ideal state of consciousness for such understanding might be described as one of alert focus. This is that state which arises spontaneously when one is listening intently, but without the appearance of one who listens – a furrowed brow, a shrivelled nose and so on. Such muscular tensions have nothing to do with listening. In this state, the noise of mind is in abeyance, but the faculty of understanding is very much engaged. It is a live curiosity.
The thinking mind is a tool for organising, planning and communicating conceptual information. Though people do not ordinarily expect to become adept or satisfied from reading a recipe in a cookbook, for some reason when it comes to the self, we often expect transformation from a mere passive reading or engagement with so-called spiritual or philosophical teachings.
The transformation, the satisfaction, such as it is, is always available to the degree there is a cessation of the one searching for understanding. Abiding satisifaction is spontaneous to the degree that the unseen, unexamined beliefs about self are obliterated in the light of first-hand experience.
If you are to do anything at all, let it be an ever progessive turning toward that unexamined enigma at the heart of being – the very essence of self.
The self is always immediate, always available, always sufficient.
Paths – Dharmas – Teachings – Futility – Technology
All paths lead nowhere. Each person necessarily has a unique path, a unique journey. The journey has no existential destination because being, or self, is unborn and undying. Only the journey itself is that which changes.
Even when a genuine glipse of truth has become evident, confusingly, the deep multi-faceted nature of the psyche generally ensures that the body-mind organism continues to labour unnecessarily under the duress of the unconscious ego. Any teaching (or Dharma) on the journey of self-realisation can ultimately only serve as an injunction to the self, to cease the charade or to investigate the nature of self further, so that the masquerade may be spontaneously discerned.
Our ability to hold conflicting beliefs is without parallel.
There is a significant bind apparent in attempting to go beyond ego-centric motivation when the attempt itself is motivated and mediated by the ego. Ironically, to really see this futility, for yourself, is to set the scene for the un-grasping of ego identification.
Discourse on the nature of self is an injunctive technology to sow the seeds of understanding; germination does not happen on the timeline the ego demands.
Attempting to discern progress on a journey that is not going anywhere, is folly. You may only approach such a task with existential abandon, lest you create another hook to ensure the re-emergence of the ego delusion. The self has no need to verify itself and has always been whole. Become comfortable with self and rest ‘there’.
Though the journey is not going anywhere, on a human scale the progressive dropping of unsubstantiated conditioned patterns of ego is witnessed as a progressive transformation. Witness these arising patterns and boil them with alert curiosity until only the unadorned essence (not detail or conceptual misdirection) remains exposed for the imposter that it is.
Discussion in spiritual circles often gives rise to imaginations of what the living truth will be, or ought to be like. These are all false.
You are the path. Observe everything intently.
Awakening – Dharmas – Evolution – Journey
In the most basic sense, an awakening is simply the first hint of lucidity of the self, in recognising itself as existentially distinct from the phenomena of experience, whilst simultaneously remaining entirely intimate with the same. It is analogous to becoming lucid in a dream, only, within the waking state, wherein the waking state is also recognised as being no more real than a dream from the perspective of the self, or the dreamer.
Post-awakening, the psychology of the dream character must undergo transformation – usually quite gradual – as a direct result of the ever increasing lucidity of the self. In the same way that one may use tools within a dream, to check if one is dreaming, tools or dharmas exist to examine waking-reality in a similar way. As in a dream, your lucidity may vary, so too in waking. As in a dream, until there is lucidity, the impact of the activities and thoughts of the dream character is somewhat limited – with increasing lucidity, the self no longer feels like the existential victim of the dream.
Awakening is a doorway to continued evolution within the human psyche, not a definitive point or accomplishment. Likewise, stability in equanimity is best viewed as a byproduct of lucidity, not as a goal in itself. Goals can easily become objects of desire at the level of the dream character, which leads to strengthening of the belief in the character, potential (though temporary) loss of lucidity and prolonged suffering. The dream character has no agency because they are not real. The self is the origin of thoughts and experiences, yet most importantly, the self cannot be found within the dream. Evolution is change, which corresponds to the activity of the self, which in turn corresponds to genuine experiential understanding.
Fundmentally, all that is necessary is to continue to astutely and alertly watch the play of consciousness, of form, impartially. In seeing, understanding arises. With understanding, action arises. With action absent the intermediary abstraction of conceptual mind and belief, there is no distance (in neither time nor space) between the observer and the observed. Spontaneous activity does not give rise to the illusion of a separate agency, nor the agency-dependent phenomenon of suffering.
Absent agency, there is no existential desire. There is no existential imperative.
Absent imperative, life becomes a journey without a destination – an adventure – a celebration.