Throughout my writing constantly arises the subject of consciousness… so I figured it best to discuss what this means early on! I’m all about options… so you can keep reading on, or watch the video instead!
For many, ‘consciousness’ means to be awake or aware, and this is true with respect to literally walking around with your eyes open; as well as being extra perceptive of various truths. Others understand ‘consciousness’ as a state of mind i.e. conscious, subconscious, unconscious and superconscious. This is also true, as these 4 mental states are objective categories of external and internal awareness. In fact the highly revered Swami Vivekananda, who was the first to use ‘consciousness’ as the adverb to explain the ever-pervading ‘life force’, describes it as “a mere film between two oceans, the subconscious and the super-conscious’. He drops ‘unconscious’ from the category list and focuses on the 3 states of mind associated with some form of awareness. You see for Swami Viv… there was no question of the unconscious, if ‘consciousness’ was his description of the eternal and ever-evolving force of creation, then how could it ever be unconscious?
Now lets figure out how this relates to us by taking all of the above information and forming our own definition of ‘consciousness’ as, ‘a progressive energy, acutely aware of both physical and metaphysical existence’.
Look around you… that lamp in the corner, the tree outside the window. Really engage all of your senses, can you smell a neighbours cooking? Can you feel your phone battery overheating as it’s plugged into your laptop? Maybe you can taste ‘cigarette breath’, or perhaps you can hear some foxes getting freaky. You are able to perceive this rather mundane setting because of a cool trick called ‘sensory processing’… long story short your body uses your nervous system to transmit messages to the brain according to what you may see, hear, smell etc. We are going to focus on sight to drive this point home.
Time to get a little scary… In our entire lives, we will never TRULY see anything in its present form. Anything that falls within our direct or peripheral vision is a light frequency travelling via the nervous system and processed through the eye. The eye sends this ‘signal’ to the brain, who then graciously projects the image within your mind. Your brain does many things, storing information and controlling your body are its most basic tasks. Think of your brain as a radio receiver, it receives signals and transmits them appropriately and according to the information encrypted within the frequency. So tis not your eyes that see, but rather your mind which projects. If we apply our definition of ‘consciousness’ to this process, it becomes immediately clear that it is at the core of all earthly functions, and is therefore the ‘life force’ within all things that naturally evolve through time.
We are still able to perceive things in a state of subconscious, some would argue more strongly; and in a state of super-consciousness, the capacity to perceive is at its greatest. This provides great insight into why we all see the world so differently. The more ‘conscious’ a person is, or rather, the more aware a person is of their consciousness, the more intricate the world they interact with will appear. This is due to their brain processing more frequencies’ faster and more efficiently than others. People fine-tune these abilities through disciplined regimes of meditation and yoga (even 30 minutes of each every day makes a difference!).
So how can we say that the force behind all creation is ‘consciousness’? Surely evolution is a process of geology, biochemistry and adaptation to an already existing environment… isn’t that how our sensory processing function would have evolved? Absolutely. But let’s look more intricately at the way in which things evolve. What was once a basic atom, evolved into a more complex atomic structure. It later developed into minerals and molecules, and then cell based organisms, followed by tissues and organs, then, into various types of animals and plants. This tells us that whatever propels the process of evolution, does so with ‘increasing complexity’. This fact alone makes it very clear as to how evolution can be considered as an ‘increasingly complex expression of consciousness’ as consciousness is consciously trying to become aware of itself… the result is you and me.
This understanding of consciousness brings to light the concept of the ‘Ātman’ (pronounced At-Maa), which many would understand to be the soul, life force, energy, or the ‘Holy Spirit’ within. Ātman is a Sanskrit word, most directly translated as ‘inner-self’ or more appropriately, consciousness. This is an elemental Vedic principle explaining the science behind the eternal energy that propels the universe. Despite it’s Vedic roots, this principle fits comfortably within any theology or scientific theory, as it recognises an integral rule of physics and religion, ‘energy cannot be created nor destroyed’ it merely transfers or transforms from one location to another. So whether you’re Atheist or religious, I am positive as to how you can see this concept fitting into scientific theory such as Einstein’s ‘conservation of energy’, as well as theological descriptions of the eternal and omnipotent Lord God.
This helps us to understand ‘consciousness’ as a metaphysical force that supports the material infrastructure of the universe, and in turn offers an answer to it’s location; that beneath the physical world in which we are so effortlessly engaged, lies pure and absolute consciousness. It’s very difficult to materialise this concept with words, because we can all detract different meanings from any word, just as we did earlier on… so I will once again turn to Vedic philosophy to help me explain it.
This image shows Vedic Goddess ‘Kali Devi’ standing on the chest of Lord Shiv Shankar, known to most as ‘Lord Shiva the Destroyer’, yet he seems to be in a state of absolute calm. As with most religious art, it is essential to know what the deities symbolise in order to make any sense of the image. Kali Devi represents the following:
1) The feminine energy that makes up the material universe:
The material universe was born from feminine energy, like all things that come into existence. The ‘Feminine’ is the force behind all creation, whether woman or man we are all created within the ‘feminine’. This is where the concept of ‘Mother Nature’ is born.
2) The truth of mortality:
Kali represents our mortality, the decapitated head and blade on one side depicting the inevitability of death; and on the other she gives blessings with one hand and offerings with the other… signifying the blessing of birth. This seemingly paradoxical image is a metaphor for universal balance… light cannot exist without darkness, good cannot exist without evil. These are the fundamental rules of the material universe depicting an eternal ‘give and take’ dynamic.
Lord Shiv Shankar represents:
1) The masculine energy that forms the metaphysical universe:
If feminine energy is creation, masculine energy is conception. Just as a sperm cell fertilises an egg, masculine consciousness provides the energy for feminine creation. Lord Shiva is understood to be the ‘point of all light and knowledge’, he is consciousness, light, sound and time. Vedic theology depicts Shiva in the form of the Shiva Lingam, a phallic structure representing this masculine energy. Shiv Shankar is the anthropomorphised form of Shiva… from this is born the concept of ‘Father Time’.
2) There is no beginning, so there is no end:
Lord Shiva is known as ‘the Destroyer’, but is truly understood to be the ‘establisher’ of each new age. Every creation will face destruction, but only in destruction is creation born. Just as Einstein’s conservation of energy theory suggests, “energy cannot be created or destroyed” instead it evolves with increasing complexity. This means that any physical manifestation is born out of chaos, and will die in the same way. The Big Bang is a great example of creation and destruction born of chaos.
Now that we understand who’s who, we can look at what the picture is actually saying. It’s quite simple really; the physical feminine universe that we interact with is supported by a masculine metaphysical consciousness. Only within the feminine realm of physical creation is masculine consciousness able to express itself. But in order for the feminine realm to manifest anything material, it requires the constant flow of consciousness to conceive or express itself. This once again alludes to the ‘give and take’ dynamic depicted in various ways by various theologies, the most well known being ‘yin and yang’… we’ll refer to this as ‘universal balance’.
So we’ve talked about a lot here… what consciousness is, how we engage our own consciousness, evolution as a process of consciousness, the Ātman, universal balance, and an alleged location of this cosmic energy… and in all honesty we’ve only really scratched the surface. But I think this is a great place to walk away and let these ideas marinade. We will explore consciousness in more depth through different philosophies and theologies in the future! But in the meantime I hope this foundation course in consciousness has been an enlightening and uplifting insight into how we can begin to build bridges between science and spirituality, and therefore gain an intrinsic understanding of universal physics.
Conscious or Not Video: