The idea is to find a standard, an understanding on which we can communicate – if not operate. Consciousness seems a good place to start.
Things change and to appreciate that fact there must be something constant which enables that observation, otherwise there could be no reference point from which to confirm the change.
My understanding of the term consciousness is totally influenced by what I have learned from non-dualistic Vedanta (the confidential teachings of the Vedas as exposed by Shankara, kevala advaita Vedanta). This might be the right time to expand on that for those not familiar with this unique standpoint.
But first, a summary of the situation as it appears today.
Wherever one turns today there is talk of consciousness, as in “a crisis of consciousness”, “a need to raise consciousness”, “transformation of consciousness”, and what have you.
There is a strong chance that we are confusing consciousness with “understanding”, “awareness” or “thinking”? A case of mistaken identity or more simple, the wrong nomenclature?
Awareness is generally confused with Consciousness because of their intimacy, would it not be more sensible for the definition of awareness to include an object to be aware of, therefore a someone to be aware of the something and a context, as in not being aware due to the non-receptivity of the senses?
The very nature of Consciousness is “light”, the source of brilliance allowing intelligence, inspiration, perception, cognition and revelation, a totally different beast from the electromagnetic and infrared frequencies from the sun illuminating and enabling our waking state.
Consciousness in the Oxford English Dictionary is considered to have several synonyms, awareness and wakefulness being of that number. Wakefulness says it all, but not many people hear the essential nuance of context which that word contains? It reveals about one third of the truth. Just because there is consciousness in the waking state does that mean it is the only state which consciousness illuminates? Definitely not, but the outcome makes for one of the most poorly understood terms of our epoch, if not all of time.
So can we redefine Consciousness?
Firstly with a capital C, because it is the only one there is.
Back to India. There is a common belief that eastern philosophy is about “becoming” one with the All. That may be so, but from the Vedantic viewpoint it would be a grave misconception, because there can be no question of becoming for the simple reason that you are already one with the whole. Due to ignorance of the true nature of yourself, however, you do not or choose not to see it.
The very idea of trying to define Consciousness is one of those anomalies of human understanding. If we all have it and nothing can exist without it, how could it be possible for a component part to define the whole. What is more, where is the need to try and limit it by words as if it is something to be measured. Such reasoning is radically opposed to its very nature.
Consciousness is limitless, one, omnipresent, all-embracing. In other words, a real whole shared by one and all, it cannot be differentiated by category of species, protein (animal, vegetable or mineral) or broken down into parts such as atoms, neutrons or whatever, it refuses classification whether divine, human or mane, for the simple reason it is the foundation and cause of all that exists. The downside is that it can be neither affirmed nor denied, reason can neither prove nor disprove it, it is not a subject of belief as a possibility, or rejection as an impossibility and perfectly beyond the reach of mundane words. This means that it cannot be proved by modern scientific method.
The conviction of my own reality is intuition-based and no one can dispute my Self, even if they did, I would not be in the least affected, I know I am. I employ the first person singular deliberately to emphasize the individual nature of this universal persuasion and would further argue that this holds true for every thing one encounters in this universe. However, if one is asked to prove the reality of anything other than your own Self, you are going to insist on some very solid evidence and still risk remaining sceptical.
Your own individual experience is called to witness here, you are not expected to adopt Hindu philosophical tenets, let alone adhere to what is written in the Upanishads now or in the future, however, in case you would like to explore more along these lines these references have been added as a matter of utility in support of this notion of reality. The people who wrote these texts spent much time observing before committing their findings to print and their very anonymity is a striking sign of their sincerity, at least in my view. Here is what the Chandogya Upanishad has to say, “All this (world) is essentially one with this Being, that is real, that is the real self and you are that”, 6.16.3.
That we have lost the capacity/sense/know-how to tune in to the world is in all likelihood the outcome of exaggerated egocentricity, perhaps the influence of materialism, further complicated by a belief in human superiority.
It seems a reasonable supposition, in keeping with the individual intuitive experience, that we are in intimate connection with not just one another but all that surrounds us, both animate and inanimate. But such a credo requires a quantum leap in understanding and a mega humility event because it means that you, as a human, are somehow on the same footing as the insect that just flew by, the unseen amoeba in your glass or the distant mountain. It requires a progressive replacement of the ego – as the centre of the experiential subject-object world – as the gradual realisation comes about that in actual fact the ego never really existed as anything other than Consciousness.
Nature of Consciousness
Duality and its immediate successor on the world-stage, multiplicity, can be viewed as a consequence to the seeming appearance of differentiation, which makes truth disappear like an ice-cube in a glass of hot water, and the singular reality of unicity gives way to the usurper.
A brief explanation as to how Vedanta reaches this conclusion might be welcome for those not familiar with its methods. In passing, it is significant that there is no term in Sanskrit for the concept of matter, which might indicate the importance given to the material by the designers of the system.
Consciousness is, come hell or high water, present in all the states known to man and is ALWAYS there. Perhaps it could be expressed as the unqualified principle of gnosis (subject/object-free knowing), unobstructed by a subject (knower) or object (known), the intuition that you are aware, able to perceive. It is most probably shared by every one and thing around you, not just sentient beings. It is the intimate sensation that pervades all three states of waking, dream and deep sleep. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the feelings caused by neurones or the nervous system which though of a material nature, totally rely on its intimate support. Consciousness is omnipresent and all-pervasive, requiring no input although input cannot be perceived without it. Awareness is not Consciousness but cannot happen without Consciousness.
Awareness of something is the result of its perception by one of the sense-organs. One can well imagine that this happens due to the agency of conjunction of perception and the object, which in both cases in all likelihood occurs thanks to Consciousness and some form of resonance or tuning of frequency. As Consciousness is a constant without any need for a perceiving subject, object perceived or the conjunction of the two, it is also the raison d’être of existence and no different from it. Similarly, reality depends on Consciousness for its being, not on the way man thinks or behaves. That is not, however, what we are taught.
Most of us experience life as a continuity of existence. We know, as in gnosis, intuit if you prefer, only one thing throughout our entire earthly existence – I am. Even when you wake after sleeping well, you are convinced that it was you who slept and are convinced that the state abandoned prior to sleep resumes on waking. Some thing was there to witness the interim experience. This knowledge is an enduring companion and a most convincing one, what is more, it is consistently encountered in all the three states. Thanks to Consciousness we have a thread to our existence and it is the only unchanging constant. Now there is something that deserves a moniker for itself and that is the sense given to it and will be used here.
This “I am” thread experienced whilst awake and often in dream, is undeniable. If you look back over the past, even if there have been immense transformations in your life, changes of personality perhaps, career, etc., there is consistently the notion of “I” that runs as the underlying associate. Ultimately, this “I” is all we have to work on in a quest for the exact nature of this elusive individuality, this Consciousness Pimpernel! Much has been written elsewhere on this subject, so this is probably repetition for many, it nevertheless remains a fact of life. The “I” is here to stay for the duration.
It would seem very normal that this “I”, being nothing other than Consciousness – the unique component shared by one and all, can assume aspects such as what we refer to as the conscious, subconscious, unconscious or superconscious, component of the mind for the simple reason we are not truly familiar with its real, all-encompassing nature and we need to express the apparent changes as a comparison with matters that correspond to what we believe we experience, know and, of course, being human, think we control. Such terms are merely adjectival to the principal noun, Consciousness.
From the very outset of our human life we are easily duped into believing this “I” to be something other than what it truly is. It starts out with the notion that “something is not quite right”, a malaise that can assume huge proportions if denied and I think of the state of mental depression, amongst other modern problems. Refusal to listen to one’s conscience, that inner voice which soon learns to keep quiet in view of the barrage of cerebral resistance opposing it, is a sign of the material gaining the upper hand. If one manages to maintain a balance of head and heart, there is a chance that much stress can be avoided.
With the passage of time, the effects of education, peer-pressure, habit and what have you, we learn to assume the reality of the physical body as being a thing of constancy, with perhaps a decreasingly vague notion of what “I am” or the mind thing that is somehow attached to me and an even vaguer idea that spirit is involved in the overall picture. Yet all the while, we know that there is something more to life than the material body.
What is this inner thing, a voice – so to speak – which is especially familiar in childhood, dream, moments of intuition, meditation, that would imply there is more than meets the eye in our world so influenced or even fabricated by intellectual reasoning and logic?
The All-conscious or Intelligence of the Heart
In answer to that question, I opt for the heart intelligence which is conscious of all that we are or can be aware of. That part of our being, as opposed to the intellectual reasoning capacity which latter I refer to as the cerebral intelligence. Its nature is all-embracing and it deserves a more worthy label than the subconscious, which is a strange epithet for that part of us which operates all the time, taking care of all bodily functions, without so much as asking a by-your-leave from the cerebral with regard to breathing, digestion, flow of blood and nerve instructions, let alone distribution of energy, ensuring that we sleep when tired, keeping us out of trouble – when we listen.
From now on it will be referred to as the all-conscious.
It is the storehouse of memory, it would be difficult to imagine that memory is stored in the cells, although quite probable that the cell has its own memory – who’s to say? But it is taking a broader approach if you admit that the heart intelligence has the memory, it is merely one more vain attempt to give the physical body a reality by saying that memory is in the cells. Which cells? How many cells stay in a body throughout our entire physical existence? Not too many if science is to be believed. What happens if those cells are not replicated during mitosis in exactly the right way, do the memories get warped like the cells?
It is a remarkable exercise to seek out harmony between the cerebral – the thinking side – with the heart, and one of the first rewards is smooth memory. I think there is something very real in not allowing the cerebral mind to act as a dictator with the heart. In the Kahuna tradition (the native Hawaiian cultural belief system covering a broad range of practices), the belief is that the subconscious is the seat of the emotions and memory, they are closely linked by the necessity of stored sensual experience. We talk of “tricks of memory” when we cannot remember something. Might it not be the heart getting its own back at the cerebral because the cerebral does not listen to the former?
The crunch comes when a person becomes aware that they have a conscious choice in deciding whether the “unenlightened” self, identified with the body, mind and all that these can circumscribe is all there is to life. It seems perfectly viable that behind this call of what is right for your own self lies an instinct, a refined conscience that resists being over-ridden by what is not right. The word “right” is not used in a judgemental context but as the balance point for harmony. This instinct of self-love is the driving force in life, striving for the ultimate purpose of life, all life, not just that of humans, namely unicity, oneness which can only be of the nature of love. Deliberately neglecting this call is ignorance and harmful to the individual, neglecting it out of unawareness is nescience – not knowing, it causes pain but hopefully motivates the individual with the desire to learn and correct matters next time round.
They say that familiarity breeds contempt, and nowhere more so than in this case. Because Consciousness is so banal, here day in, day out, we risk developing a certain ennui, giving rise to a pseudo identity. Things start early in our existence, we learn to transfer the reality of this Self or Consciousness to an object of the mirrored, cerebral or psychological awareness, “I am a child”, “I am an adult”, “My name is such-and-such”, etc. and we gradually learn and are encouraged to form a firm belief in this society-imposed paradigm of name and form, and in the process lose touch with the underlying but ever-present reality.
This is all quite natural because in the majority of cultures we are taught, to a certain if not extreme degree, to believe we are the person whose physical form we have assumed, with a name, status in life and society, family, profession and image.
Regrettably, such is not just applied to the physical but all that relates to it. So instead of the accent being on reality, it is on the manifestation, which of course is real because of what enables it to be but surely not what we believe it to be.
Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, is reputed to have said that man does not have a soul, in fact anatta (no soul) is a fundamental and firmly held Buddhist doctrine. The heretic in me is fond of saying he is probably not far off in the form of such a statement but wide of the mark in substance, it would have been more accurate had he said, the soul has a man. Is it not more likely that the physical is an extension of the spiritual, the contrary would be quite absurd, but positively human.
We place the cart before the horse, by putting a totally unwarranted emphasis on the physical and neglecting the spiritual. By spiritual I mean that energy aspect found in all forms of life, responsible for its creation, maintenance and destruction, apprehended solely thanks to individual experience and belief in the waking state. It is encountered in its totality in deep sleep but, of course, not recognized. You were never formally introduced. A verse in the Chandogya, 6.8.1. says, “In sleep, one is lost in oneself”. There can be no physical without the ill-defined energetic reality of the “spirit” and if we were to deny this, we would deny our very existence, which some people manage to do quite cheerfully, but it is a trifle superficial and very detrimental.
Only if you are dissatisfied with what is available in the explanation-market or of a very special frame of mind will you start looking for alternative options in this dance which has its foundation in the identity of Consciousness as your Self.
That search is far from evident for a number of reasons. Firstly, many will think you are deluded, not accepting what everyone else “knows” and takes for granted. Secondly, such a quest is liable to place you in a position of considerable vulnerability, where does one go to find answers, who to ask, let alone trust? Thirdly, it is immensely effort-consuming and fourthly, it is a subtle form of suicide, replacing the material with the spiritual has only one exit which even though that exit awaits us all in any case, is considered, for a very simple reason, more risky. So why not use this physical manifestation to achieve life’s remarkable objective?
The Dalai Lama is recorded as saying “Whether we talk of the transformation of consciousness or of the introspective empirical analysis of what occurs in the mind, the observer needs a range of skills, carefully honed through repetition and training, and applied in a rigorous and disciplined manner.”
I would contend that Consciousness does not transform, it cannot. Otherwise you would need another consciousness to recognise that the first had transformed into something else, resulting in a regressus ad infinitum, it is simply your impression of it having done so. Although the context is not specifically the nature of Consciousness, the fact remains that this notion of transformation of consciousness leads to confusion, because according to Buddhist doctrine, Consciousness is not an eternal principle but momentary, therefore irrelevant and of no consequence in a discussion on reality.
What is far more relevant, leaving logic to one side, is that this does not conform to our experience of Consciousness. It is, at all times and for every individual. Similarly, notions of degrees of consciousness cause further confusion, it is simply a matter of opinion, with a whiff of scientific measurement attached, or worse, a form of new age superiority, not of something that immutably is. There can be no degrees of Consciousness, there are merely more or less strong convictions of being in the physical, therefore in the ego and less implicated in the spiritual. The trick is recognizing that Consciousness is the foundation of the physical, kinetic and potential, and it generally takes a life-time to learn.
One may have the impression of consciousness having undergone some kind of transformation but that is because of the integral nature of Consciousness. It is part of everything that thought can encompass, so quite easy to mistake for some “thing” or thought when, in fact, it is a constant in the sublimest sense, regardless of the context, whether in physics “What is the origin of the world?”, or metaphysics, “Who am I?”.
Based on the belief that Consciousness or spirit animates whatever is, one finds it easier to understand the idea of unity, with its foundation of love – because if there is only one, there can be no difference. In the case of humans, at least what I know about this one, the spirit impels thought, and it is thought which forms the soul once thought is in sufficient aggregate and, in turn when it is time to materialize the thought into action, the body physical comes into existence. The concept of “spirit” underlying everything without exception finds resonance with the teaching of Vedanta in the Rg Veda, “prajñānabrahma” (Consciousness is Brahman), “Sarvam khalvidam brahma” – (All this is verily Brahman), Chandogya Upanishad.
Consciousness is never affected or contaminated by what it is associated with, otherwise our experience could never be one of constancy. This is where the trouble of mistaken identity starts. If Consciousness is the substratum, so to speak, of everything that exists and is a constant, what is it then that changes?
Vedanta is free of any personality cult, it has no dogmatic theory or bounds, the aim being to remove the abstractions or illusions we take for reality and firmly place the underlying reality of Consciousness as the basis for whatever is, or for that matter, whatever is not. The advantage of such a standpoint is that irrespective of what the world throws at you, you have a basis of reality that remains unchanged. The hard bit is making sure you apply it at all times.
The three states
As is so often the case with language there is an evolution in usage, invariably followed over time by an amalgamation of the potential sense(s) of the word. The “world” is known only during the waking state, but it would be risky, to say the least, if we are sincere in looking for the truth, to knowingly blank out the dream and deep sleep states where we spend a large part of our lives, especially as it is not only within our scope of intuitive understanding but corresponds to our intimate experience.
If in your view, the world comprehends the totality of reality, why restrict the world to the waking state? Would it not be an illusion to believe that your experience in life is limited to what you encounter whilst awake? Should you do that, it would be a partial view, excluding as it does the “worlds” of dream and sleep, are they not equally real in their own specific manner?
The very unique method of Vedanta offers an explanation of life which encompasses all the three states experienced by humans in the conviction that as all three are present in life, they must be included in the framework of investigation if that is to be worthy of the name.
The world and all its contents, body, emotions, worries, and so on come and go with waking. Outside of the waking state, there is no world evident to awareness let alone the senses. It can be inferred to exist but that would be a purely imaginary construct which of course cannot operate anywhere else but in the waking state.
There is a power at work here in the waking state which presents an externalized view of things which – the view – becomes totally incompetent when turned to an analysis of what goes on in dream and sleep. To do that, one needs an internalized tool, operating by means of intuition and inference. A problem arises when the understanding revealed by intuition is processed by the intellect as it inevitably will be, in the waking state. The conclusion reached by the intellect or the conscious cerebral, is one of the major riddles known to man.
A riddle because it appears to be in the nature of whatever is examined by the intellect to become the exclusive domain of the intellect, as it were. As of the time “I know” something, that it has come under the scrutinizing light of my Consciousness, it is considered by the mind as categorized, monopolized and of course no longer a potential threat due to doubt as to the intention or purpose of its existence.
Incredibly primitive but oh so common. A potential justification which might well explain why one considers the world of the waking state as being the only reality.
Time and space, the vital components of change and its opposite – constancy, are the cornerstones of the world experience in the waking state. It is only from the standpoint of the waking state that we are able to consider dream and sleep but it is not possible to concede one way or another their reality despite their distinct and specific characteristics. Dreaming only happens when a person is asleep. In deep sleep there is neither dream nor waking, these three are mutually exclusive. To the extent that sleep abolishes the waking awareness and vice versa, so by what right do we attribute a greater or lesser actuality outside of the belief in the phenomenal world being the only reality. They are all a part of Life. No?
Almost all philosophers and physicists agree that the world as perceived by humans is mainly determined by the organs of perception, thanks to the intellect and the senses. Vedanta takes issue with that because intellect and the senses are invariably and strictly accessory with the waking state.
Our senses and their perceptions are of no use whatsoever when applied to the state of dreaming and deep sleep and yet we spend a fair amount of time in those realms, which are very real, albeit only known to us via intuition and that alone, but essential to our continuation as humans, for without sleep we die, especially in the waking world.
We can intuit, imagine and theorize to our heart’s content but we can never be sure, let alone in a position to say with certainty, “this is how it works”. There is one thing, however, which can be said regarding our world, probably universe, as perceived by us bipeds, it is a place of law and order, it is not an accident, nor is it chaotic. There is organization and direction, which implies purpose and what is most intriguing, the possibility of finding a coherence to its functioning. Without Consciousness, however, there would be no constancy. The subtlety lies in the perception and that is where awareness becomes a useful term in the context of subject-object, me-you.
Consciousness, however, remains the key to the whole façade. For practical reasons we can say that we share Consciousness with one and all, everything has it, not just sentient beings, because as of the time something exists it has derived its reality from the kinetic aspect of life with which Consciousness is related in the waking state. You become aware of it – you and the object. There presumably must be a bridge between the two, whether of a physical nature – a quantum perhaps, or another undefined energetic form, a frequency?
It is noteworthy that the Hindus along with the Chinese believe that the heart is the seat of Consciousness in the human body. This probably relates to what is commonly called the “intelligence of the heart”. It seems to be synonymous with what we call intuition, which would be perfectly logical because we know that when we act in harmony with what is right and what we should be doing (our karma), rather than listening to the dictates of the cerebral intelligence (brain), we generally get things right.
From a Chinese perspective, the Tao seems to be the closest one can get to Consciousness, in the Huainanzi, the Way (Tao) is eulogized “It covers Heaven and upholds the Earth… (yet is) Intensely subtle and minute”.
Some people have experienced and recounted existence in other forms than the physical, in near-death, out-of-body, etc. experiences, but it is revealing to see that the “I am” remains the constant under-current irrespective of what is happening. This is clearly not an illusion for those living such events and it would be reasonable to maintain that this knowledge is dependent on Consciousness which has no spatial, temporal or other dimensional limits.
Perhaps our understanding of life is an illusion – albeit a very convincing, illusory reality, but as something has yet to be produced from nothing, that illusion must have a basis, so why not Consciousness?
Individuality is a notion dear to us all. Yet, were you ever taught or encouraged to discover the nature of this compelling presence? Your Self. While it would seem logical enough for a human to ask at some stage in their existence “What or who am I?”, that is a question few bother with in any depth. It might be quite useful to know, or at least investigate, because it can only enhance your understanding and appreciation of life in all its aspects and, consequently, make you more efficient at whatever you do, let alone the metaphysical consideration of discovering a purpose to human existence.
We are all in love with ourselves, it is the foremost instinct, and quite rightly so. If, however, we wish to avoid suffering, it might be a good idea to identify this self and so avoid the pain of identification with the physical, which is a constant source of problems – health, emotional, psychological and so on, simply due to the fact that we do not recognize who we really are.
There are quite a few “I”s which you deal with in your everyday routine, so confusion makes it tempting to give up on the seeming impossibility of ever coming to any satisfactory conclusion as to the “who”. These seemingly separate identities are all very real, the “me” who slept so well but has to get up and put on the suitable dress to go about the money-making business, and of course before getting to that place, the “me” that is so threatened (by traffic, late trains/buses, discomfort, etc.) on the way there. Then there is the “me” that thrives in the love of immediate family, or suffers physical or emotional pain. And…, and…, and so many more.
To date it has proved impossible for science to determine either the exact moment of the commencement or end of a human’s life. While it is perhaps not important to find this out, either from an individual or collective level but one fact remains – existence is the one universally recognised corollary of human life which we all, as humans, share because we KNOW we are alive, even if we are not sure exactly what that means, let alone involves. This is a fundamental issue, not a metaphysical one, so we naturally turn to “science” to provide some answers. Silence ensues.
If life is assumed to consist of a large dose of existence, would it not be risky to exclude anything that exists from a comprehensive study of life? But that is exactly what modern science, religion and philosophy do and we blindly accept. By differentiating the imperceptible energy that surges in water, that pulses in our veins, that nourishes us in the air, is it not foolhardy to expect to find anything but measurable components that form the whole, but can never be the totality? By not considering climate, poisons such as polluting thoughts, let alone the body’s individual condition, as being influences that affect life, we are depriving ourselves of understanding and harmony.
Something indiscernible to the senses cannot be quantified in the same way that sense-provided information can be, but that is surely not a reason to disqualify it, however hard it might be to qualify. Nevertheless, we do so without any hesitation by ignoring the effect of almost every environmental condition that impacts our existence which we cannot put a name to, especially the electromagnetic radiation which is so prevalent today.
The search for the origins of individuality must perforce remain a personal enterprise, a psycho-physical rather than a mechanical effort. Experience – which is a purely individual business – supported by inference and subtle understanding (commonly shared components), allows no room for differentiation, whereas for science, especially the physics, differentiation forms the very basis for all the imagined (therefore fictional by definition) theories. Quite why rather negatively limiting expressions such as ‘tangle’, ‘mechanics’, etc. should be used for something so perfectly arranged is a question of ordered (or otherwise) thinking perhaps.
Science has a very useful place where it belongs – in the material world, and indeed it does not pretend to explore or explain anything other than the phenomenal world, so leave it there. For us humans, it is only from the physical that we can start to access other experiential domains or dimensions and we rightly suspect that while the phenomenal is real, it is not perhaps the whole of reality. As with religion, science is a very useful means to keep humans toeing a line in society, until such time that you ask what is going on, and you start searching for a meaningful alternative.
Although the tools for comprehension of the mental and spiritual spheres can only be accessed from the physical, it would be tying one hand behind your back to expect anything other than material results from a material application. In order to overcome the restricting limits imposed by the physical envelope, we need perhaps to discover and develop other senses or attributes for there seems little doubt that we possess more than the rather meagre five senses which Aristotle, quite vicariously, told us we have in De Anima, Book II.
Where he reputedly went to school in Egypt, there were 360 or 365 senses according to traditional Egyptian teaching. Rudolf Steiner reckoned these numbered twelve, in groups of three: 1) awareness of personality, balance and awareness of thought, 2) sight, perception of the pattern of light and temperature, 3) touch, perception of the pattern of movement and hearing, 4) smell, perception of sound and taste. This seems to neglect substantially the heart-mind functions of sensitivity, the awareness of others and their emotions, awareness of one’s surroundings, the ability to project thought, conscience and quite some others. In much the same way as unused muscles, unemployed senses perhaps tend to atrophy, so if not used for a life time it is hardly surprising those untapped resources react weakly or not at all.
While this kind of dialogue is perhaps familiar to many, it is not necessarily apprehended in the same way because these concepts evolve not only with the person’s state of awareness and conditioning of the sense-organs, but culturally with the passage of time and varying conditions from place to place, hence the facile rejection by the consensus of all such matters as being pseudo-science, magic or non factual. The proponents of such views are totally correct, life energy does not fit into the empirical domain for the simple reason it is all domains, a part of the whole which we can only intimate from our human perspective in the waking state. To appreciate that requires an immensity of awareness in keeping with what one really is rather than what we are told we are.
Our modern paradigms work on the basis of causality, which is convenient for the purposes of explanation but ultimately unreal. As a person moves closer to reality in their understanding, their conviction of there being nothing but Consciousness as the “cause” for this world gains strength, thereby gradually diminishing the role of the material, then the mental and finally the energy factor. It is as if the body merges in the mind and the mind merges in the vital force, in a very orderly fashion.
There are quite a few useful texts concerning this, especially the fall of the physical, in the Upanisads (Brhadaranyaka, Chhandogya, Prasna, Mundaka and Kausitaki) and chapter IV of the Brahma-Sutra Bhasya.
This way of considering the phenomenal seems to be shared with several other ancient traditions, especially the Egyptian and Chinese. Unfortunately, too much time has elapsed between the epochs when a true linguistic and mutual understanding might have been possible, perhaps that is also true for the Indian system although it is less obscure than the Kemitian. So much information has disappeared over the course of history, the mnemonic traditions, which made for much easier transmission before a suitable writing medium, were destroyed by war or natural disasters, the written records have been lost to concealment (deliberate or otherwise) or natural means, and nowadays due to vested interests and propaganda.
What do the Indians (Hindu) have to say about the relation between body, mind and spirit? We have some voluminous literature on their physical knowledge in the Caraka and Susruta Samhitas, but very little on the relationship of the three human components.
It is not just very little, it is fleeting! Snippets and allusions would be more exact a description, but their place in Indian literature gives them extreme importance.
A quick word about Indian lore. You cannot become a Hindu, according to the Manu Smrti (the book of law), you are born a Hindu, you cannot elect to become one. Having been born into that elevated status, you are considered even more fortunate to be born into one of the top three castes because that entitles you to read the Hindu sacred texts, but not otherwise according to orthodoxy. These books are revealed, not authored and as such they are considered to be timeless. It is the modern Western academic method that insists on a date. Now whether the time of writing makes any difference to the message is debatable and that falls into the domain of the “scientists”, it is not our concern.
The message is the important thing. However, unlike the Q’uran, also revealed by Gabriel to Muhammed, the Hindu texts are much more oriented towards the “spiritual” rather than immediate worldly affairs. They do not have a great press, an all too common reaction in the world today, much like the neglect of Egyptian knowledge – much of which is written on the walls for all to see!
Messages are only good if you hear them when you can and are ready to hear them.
Here is some insight to what the Hindu scriptures have to say about energy, specifically related to the human condition and how it works in that respect:
Prana is the Sanskrit word for breath, energy, spirit, life or vitality with its root from the verb ‘to breathe’.
“Prana is born from Atman, as a shadow is attributed to the body, the Prana comes to the body owing to the thoughts of the mind.” Prasna Upanisad III.3. and in verse 6, “Atman is surely in the heart”. The Atman could be defined as the Supreme Intelligence in its humanised form, the individual Consciousness so to speak. This amounts to saying that the individual creates their world according to their thought by bringing their will-power to bear on their desires. The localisation of organs, their functions and connections was common to Indian and Chinese cultures, no doubt the fruit of years of contemplation and observation, followed by anatomical examination.
It is noteworthy that they believe that the heart is the seat of Consciousness in the human body. This might relate to what is commonly called the “intelligence of the heart”. It seems to be synonymous with what we call the soul and its functioning (intuition), it would be perfectly logical because we know that when we act in harmony with what is right and what we should be doing (our karma), rather than listening to the dictates of the cerebral intelligence (brain), we generally get things right.
Then, “Mind is made up of food, Prana is made up of water”, Chhandogya Upanisad VI, viii, 6. This is easy enough to verify if you eat nothing for several days, the mind becomes increasingly less active and often, after five days, the memory ceases working but without the least mental stress. We also know what happens when we remove water from the human biological process. This does not mean that energy (Prana) is water, but Prana is the essence of water, the energy-provider for us humans, which is also the origin of food of all sorts, therefore our mind and by extension all living beings, plants and minerals.
“When this man is about to depart (approaching physical death), (his) speech is withdrawn into the mind, (his) mind into Prana and Prana into light (tejas), and light into the Supreme Being.” Ch. Up. VI, v, 4. On approaching death, the first sense-organ to cease functioning is speech, followed by the other sense-organs (touch, hearing, seeing, smell, taste), then the mind lapses, as in deep sleep, into Prana; Prana is absorbed, so to speak, by light or individual Consciousness before merging into what it has always been, Pure Consciousness or the Supreme Being.
So, when the physical body falls, the soul finds itself in a new (unfamiliar because formless) form, one of more luminous energy or radiation following the disintegration of the material. The physical body loses its heat, which is not an attribute of the corporeal entity but of the subtler “light” energy, hence the drop in temperature of the dead body.
The Upanisad further states that “Then when anyone departs from this body thus, he goes up along these rays” Ch. Up. VIII, vi, 5. Rashmi being a ray or beam of light. In the next verse mention is made of the connection between these rays and the specific nerve running from the heart to the top of the head. Does this imply that the soul follows the ray to the source of light? That would be in keeping with the idea that the soul heads west (where the sun goes) and even the Egyptian term of “westing” – going to the west.
Although this is of interest, it is not perhaps conclusive enough to get a firm idea as to the process of dying. It is, however, more than one can find in any medical textbook so deserves our attention and merits further contemplation and inspection in relation to what we can gather from other sources and human experience as recounted in near-death events.
© Christopher Freeland, 2016