Consciousness Alone Exists – Part 1: Preamble

Since relocating to Havana I have been enjoying, as a aspect of my activity, writing for the blog made available for me by David Spero's website. Writing evokes meditative awareness, along with avocations such as music (tabla), poetry (Ramprasad/Hixon). Also important are taking out the garbage, getting plenty of rest, watching good movies from Cuba's excellent black market, and getting inspiration from a few choice texts always on my bed table (D.S., U.G. and J.K.). I am usually finding fascinating things going on in the world in which I detect some fragrance of the Divine. I go back and forth to New York, now mostly here. This time I brought articles and many videos to feed my latest addiction, Neuroscience, where there is an emerging paradigm shift from materialism to metaphysics with certain scientists and philosophers in the vanguard*. Now with the house acquired and pretty much improved for living, mundane fun has curtailed. Moving here made it possible to live within my retirement means and do more of the things I love most, paying attention that way, raising the sail to the wind of grace. Clarification of Conscious Union is the gift that keeps on giving . The Divine Relationship is everything and is in everything. In the last blog entry, the first written in Havana it seems I started a thread.

[Note: All use of the term “Conscious”,“Subject”, and “Absolute” are capitalized since as the title suggests, Consciousness is Absolute and all that is Conscious is in actuality the Conscious Subject].

In the previous blog entry, I shared an understanding of Conscious Union implying an Absolute not only manifesting as infinity but also inclusive an intuitive experience of personal life that pulsates in clarity from a circumscribed, fragmented experience of internal Conscious individuality, to individuality merged with the external Conscious world, to an experience of what I now designate as “Consciousness Subject”. The topic of that previous entry was the “transmission of enjoyment”. That transmission is defined as clarification of what it actually is for us to be, to exist, a transmission revealing the limitation of pleasure enjoyed in the reality of the body-mind, in the contents of individual Consciousness. Clarification occurs with the realization that the apparent limitation is in actuality the unlimited Bliss of Absolute Consciousness, the Conscious Subject.

The assertion I support is that metaphysical nondualism is best designated as “Satchitananda” (Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, as designated by the philosophy of Vedanta). Clarification, or “tasting” more encompassing union exceeding the operation of thought in the body-mind, opens insight that “I am the world” in excess of the occluding range of thought, then to full clarity and Absolute Conscious Union. It is a pulsating periodic clarification of more and more encompassing union, a wave as it were. I have not experienced a permanent state, not a state, of Absolute Conscious Union, but I assume that the tasting of it is revealing that “always having been and will be” actuality. Clarification is not, however, a process or result of the exercise of individual will occurring in thought processes which are not capable of operation outside the brain. The assertion is that Satchitananda is clarifying the experience of the contents of individual Consciousness, our reality, revealing its union with the actuality of infinite Consciousness. Satchitananda is the teacher.

[Note: “individual Consciousness” or “personal Consciousness” denote Absolute Consciousness as manifested in the individual or personal thought sphere).

In this blog entry I am reiterating that our thought, our individual reality as the content of our Consciousness, is limited from knowing the actuality of Consciousness because Consciousness is not an object of knowledge. We think we can teach ourselves the information we need, and so know what Consciousness is. Given the recent history of humanity we are conditioned to find the needed objective knowledge by scientific methodology, a methodology presently imbued with the philosophy of materialism. I support the assertion that there is such a thing as clarification in the mind-brain relationship revealing the actual existing experience of Absolute Consciousness. It is , however, not a personal self-revealed experience that Absolute Consciousness is the case. We cannot willfully create this experience by any path or methodology employing thought operating in time-space. Free will, whether it exists or not, is an operation of thought either way. Either choices are made from memory spontaneously or are determined by memory entirely. Feeling the experience of Satchitananda can only be regarded as the teaching of Consciousness itself. We could and so do call it spiritual teaching. The discussion of this entry focuses on what I have been studying about an emerging movement in the field of neuroscience because of how this movement is juxtaposed to spiritual teaching in this historical moment.

In this endeavor I am putting in play the philosophical position of Vedanta with respect to the philosophy of materialism. Though certainly Sachitananda is the “Guru”, this does not discount the existence of human spiritual teachers. However, they should be vehicles of “Guru” to the degree they have tasted or are tasting Conscious Union - “tasting” evoking the flavor of pleasure merging into awareness if infinite Bliss. In Vedanta various degrees of tasting are categorized, according to specific characteristics of the dissolution or cessation of thought, as different kinds of “samadhi”; that is, involving characteristics associated with degrees of loss of the content of personal body-mind Consciousness. In addition, however, there is no limitation of body-mind Consciousness in the case of an individual human being temporarily, and episodically, functioning fully in the human body-mind with Conscious Union. This is called “sahaja samadhi”. This would be a person one might hope to be associated with as a spiritual seeker as she would be to some extent an active vehicle of the Guru, and available as such.

Then there is the case of a human being continuously in sahaja samadhi. This person is fully human of course, but in a sense, a human of a transcendent register. In Vedanta such a person functioning as a teacher, as a world teacher indeed, is called an Avatar – in some religious traditions analogous to an incarnation of God. But how are we to know? As we have posited Satchitananda as the teacher, but manifested as the Avatar, the possibility of direct relationship arises. To the circle of spiritual seekers organically attracted to this Avatar, she would be a powerful transmitter of the Energy (“Shakti”) which awakens and clarifies the infinite scope of feeling possible, inclusive of the contents of individual Consciousness content, yet infinitely in excess of that limited domain. The transmission of the Avatar is not, to be precise, from a center towards a periphery, but rather a clarification of infinite proportion, nondualistic and omnipresent as Satchitananda.

To we who are associated with David Spero, such transmission is a given personal experience. A characteristic of this circle is that we have had some awakening such that there is recognition and detection of one or more modalities of transmission found in our relationship to David. Our awakening is self-evident. I know the awakening of intuition over decades has been accelerating exponentially since meeting David a few years ago. By “intuition” I mean the experience of Consciousness expressed in the Upanishads by such phrases as “Thou art That”, “All this is Brahman”. Can I say “I know Brahman”? Well, I would answer as that question is answered in one of the Upanishads: “I cannot say I know it not”. The transmission in relationship to David is transmission attending the advent of an Avatar of Shakti, experienced as the Feminine active Awakening Power of the Absolute. It is an active Power in the “Mind at Large” (Note: I also place in quotes certain phrases that are in current usage in the field). For the circle who have entered into a personal relationship with David there is also the potential for an emotional connection, a devotional feeling for David as Divine Mother. Such a Divine Relationship is for us the culmination of Bliss revealed by the Grace of the guru.

To conclude this preamble, let me introduce more clearly how this series of blog entries focuses on what I have been studying about an emerging movement in the field of neuroscience. This movement represents a paradigm shift from materialism to metaphysics. It is important to me how neuroscience is juxtaposed to spiritual awakening in this culturally historical moment. Science is a mainstream element of the current cultural configuration of the world, so its gesture towards metaphysics in neuroscience inspires my allegiance to its foreshadowing a shift in all of scientific study. Culture, being a powerful conditioning agent of society means this paradigm shift, I argue, would change human relationships in clearly beneficial ways.

Obviously, we are predisposed to our experience of Consciousness, to our state of being as experiencers of the personal contents of Consciousness, as being seated in the material operation of the brain. With the operation of thought in the brain we know objectively our own story of personal existence. This is retained by memory and it is with every moment of input from the body's sensory apparatus that this input is met by memory. During the last couple of hundred years our understanding or interpretation of the process has overwhelmingly been influenced by philosophical materialism. Indeed, it is very difficult to think otherwise given the cultural conditioning attending the advancement of civilization through technology. The prevailing model at this historical moment is something like every material particle of present sensory experience being a transition in space-time as a wave between the pole of past memory and the future pole of a novel state of memory. And that is all there is to it. It is a nondualistic material time-space ontology.

Materialistic philosophy, however, has been facing refutation in philosophy of science by a vanguard of neurologists in recent decades. Any inquiry about matter depends on mental knowledge. Knowledge is dependent on the brain. So neuroscience investigates the relationship between mind and brain. All knowledge is contained in the mind of the knowing individual, is content in the Consciousness of that person. Stimulus to the brain received by sensory apparatus, or stimuli indirectly introduced to the brain modifies the contents of Consciousness. Some neuroscientists say it is not to be concluded, however, that modifications of the content of our personal Consciousness, which are objectively knowable, produce the Conscious Subject. It is a serious current scientific hypothesis that is rooted in the following statement: “nothing we can or could know about the content of what anyone is knowing tells us anything about what it feels like to be anyone”.

The neuroscience being discussed is by scientists who grasp the limitations of a materialistic hypothesis. They accept as fact that we cannot measure what it feels like to be someone, and this means a new hypothetical paradigm that is metaphysical is required. The materialist hypothesis is sufficient to gain as much knowledge as possible about objective, demonstrable, information about the physical universe. Metaphysics is not going to somehow reveal anything more in this regard. Metaphysics is needed, however, if we want to try to say anything about Consciousness itself. Recognized by some within the community of scientists exploring an emerging metaphysical model is also the insight that metaphysics not only pertains to humans, but by logical necessity to the “Mind at Large”. By that is not meant just the physical universe at large, but also what it means to be the universe. The purpose of subsequent blog entries in this series is to unpack that metaphysical assertion. Most significantly, to my own project here, is to offer the distinction between the materialistic “subject-thinker” [my term which I think is more helpful than “self-image” or “the self”], and the metaphysical Conscious Subject inclusive of the “subject-thinker”.

* More or less in order of significance:

Scientists: Thomas Metzinger, Rupert Sheldrake, David Chalmers, Bernardo Kastrup

Sam Harris on secular spirituality, but also in interviews with the above

Philosophy of Science: Alfred North Whitehead, Karl R. Popper, Thomas Nagel

Others on “the hard problem of Consciousness”: John R. Searle, Colin McGinn, Kristof Koch, David Ray Griffin, Galen Strawson

David's talk at the Science and Non-duality conference recently is very significant

The interviews of Bernardo Kastrup by Rick Archer also!