Modes of Conscious Integration
Reality has a “psycho-physical” nature; in other words, it has both mental and physical aspects. The “mental” aspects refer to the capacity for awareness, feelings, thoughts, and so on. The “physical” aspects refer to matter, energy, and so on. Philosophers and scientists have long explored and debated the nature of the connection and interaction between the mental and physical aspects of reality (often referred to as the “mind-body connection”) as well as the very mechanism by which consciousness arises. An understanding of these issues require some insight into the nature of quantum physics, and will be addressed in detail in 1:9 Atheology, following an exploration of quantum physics.
Suffice it to say, for now, that the physical and mental aspects of reality do mutually affect one another. Physical stimuli can have an effect in one's consciousness: one is aware of things which affect one's physical senses. Consciousness can have an effect in the physical world: one can reflect upon the state of one's own consciousness and report about this to others.
The activities of all sentient entities, i.e., all entities which experience pleasure and pain, are guided by the experience of pleasure and pain, in such a manner that they are driven toward pleasure and away from pain. This fundamental, inescapable drive is referred to as the pleasure/pain response. The ability to experience pleasure and pain requires consciousness; in fact, sentience, in isolation, is the lowest level of consciousness found in the natural world. Consciousness is an extremely powerful survival tool; the more complex and integrated the information of which an organism is conscious, the more complex and powerful will be its survival activities. Thus the pleasure/pain response operates or manifests differently in different creatures, as determined by the nature and complexity of their conscious integration. Conscious integration can be divided into three distinct modes: sensory, perceptual, and conceptual.
Inanimate objects exist without conscious guidance. They do not feel pleasure or pain, or sensations of any kind. As non-conscious, non-sentient entities, they do not actively seek their own survival, but merely respond to the physical forces which act upon them.
(The fundamental nature and cause of consciousness will not be addressed at this time. It will be noted, however, that some extremely low level of proto-consciousness may – or may not – exist even in so-called “inanimate,” fundamental particles. This issue will be addressed later in this writing.)
Purely Sensory Consciousness
The very simplest type of consciousness is purely sensory consciousness or pure sentience. Pure sentience is characterized by an awareness only of immediately present sensations, with neither memory of the past nor anticipation of the impending future. This is possessed by the very simplest of biological organisms which carry on survival activities that are too complex to be performed without this minimum level of conscious guidance. Pure sentience allows only for an extremely limited degree of choice: having neither memory of the past nor anticipation of the impending future, all purely sentient “choices” are nothing other than purely automatic pleasure/pain responses to immediate stimuli. While such automatic pleasure/pain responses do not allow for very complex behavior, such behavior is more complex than would be possible in the complete absence of any consciousness whatsoever.
Above the levels of purely sensory consciousness is perceptual consciousness, i.e., the ability to automatically integrate sensations into percepts. Perceptual consciousness allows organisms to be aware of and to respond to various elements of reality as actual entities (objects, creatures, things, etc.) rather than merely as non-integrated sensations; this allows for much more advanced survival activities than are available to purely sensory consciousness. A very wide range of organisms exists at the level of perceptual consciousness; these include (but are not limited to) such organisms as fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals (including newborn humans).
Human beings (other than newborn babies, or humans with certain serious physiologically based forms of mental deficiency) have conscious faculties beyond those of mere sensation and perception: they also have the faculty for conceptual consciousness. (This is not to say that other animals do not also have some limited degree of conceptual ability; any such ability that they do have, however, is extremely limited in comparison with that of humans.) A concept is a mental classification such that entities with sufficient similarity may be considered as members of a class, while other entities with sufficient difference from members of that class are not considered to be members of that class. Conceptual consciousness enables the retention and organization of enormous amounts of concrete and abstract information into integrated concepts, and the further integration of concepts into even higher level concepts.
It should be noted that concepts can sometimes be “plastic” in the sense that they can change depending upon the context of the situation. The concept of a “chair,” for example, might typically be thought of as a piece of furniture having four “legs” and a “back” which is suitably shaped for sitting; however, if a leg breaks off the chair in such a manner as it would not be suited for sitting and now only has three legs attached, it would still be considered a chair, although a broken one. If one comes upon a three-legged, backless stool, one is very likely to recognize it as a type of chair as well. If one is out in the woods, furthermore, in the absence of a chair, one may choose to sit on a suitably shaped log, and even begin to refer to it as a “chair.” If one then builds a fire and throws the log on the fire for warmth, one typically stops thinking of the log as a “chair” and instead thinks of it as “firewood” or something similar. This “plasticity” or flexibility of concepts actually allows for more complex thought than a rigid adherence to unchanging definitions would allow.
Concept formation may thus be viewed as a process similar to theory formation in science. No theory (whether it be called a “hypothesis,” “law,” “theory,” “principle,” or whatever) is ever really considered to be ultimately, absolutely true; instead they are considered to be of varying degrees of reliability. As more and more evidence is uncovered that supports any particular theory it is regarded as being more and more reliable, but the possibility always exists that some new evidence will be uncovered which modifies or even negates the theory. It is similar for concepts: in different contexts, or as new information is integrated, one's concepts will become modified.
It is important to recognize that concepts are mental constructs, and as such they are not the same as the things they represent, in much the same way that, e.g., the letters c-a-t on a page spell the word “cat” but do not constitute an actual cat. In fact, one of the great errors in human thinking is the confusion of a concept or symbol with the thing it represents. This confusion lies at the heart of much human irrationality and mysticism, and also lies at the heart of many techniques for controlling individuals through their irrationality and mysticism.
Human beings form concepts by their inherent, inborn mental nature. Human concept formation, however, may proceed essentially automatically and unconsciously (in a sort of feeling-based approach) or it may proceed under the direction of conscious, intentional guidance (in a much more reason- and reality-based approach). Completely reality-based, conscious, intentional concept formation requires disciplined, honest mental effort, just as completely reality-based scientific theory-formation requires the same.
Modes of Conscious Relation
Distinct from the modes of conscious integration are the modes of conscious relation. “Conscious relation” describes how one's consciousness processes the relationship between oneself and the other people and things in the world. Just as the hedonic response operates or manifests differently depending upon the mode of conscious integration, it is further modified by the mode of conscious relation.
While all normal humans operate in the mode of conceptual integration, they can vary widely in their modes of conceptual relation. As one progresses from one mode of conscious relation to the next, one begins to reprogram one's narrow, default and often limiting way of relating to the world, and begins to experience the world in an ever more expanded, free, and loving way. The progression from “lower” or more restrictive modes of conscious relation to “higher” or more expansive modes is what is sometimes meant by the phrase “expansion of consciousness,” or the “freeing of one's mind.”
There are other types of consciousness-expansion as well, such as that experienced when learning new things, for example, although all of these types of “expansion of the mind” tend to reinforce one another, such that expansion in one area tends to facilitate expansion in another. All consciousness-expansion is beneficial and desirable. Methods for changing one's mode of conscious relation, or for “expanding one's consciousness” will be described later in this writing.
This is the default mode of conscious relation, the mode which humans are born into as children, and which many hardly ever escape. It is almost a sort of “unconscious consciousness,” in the sense that one is largely unconscious of the forces which drive one, or of the possibility of there being any alternative way of relating to the world.
It is called the “driven mode of conscious relation” because in this mode one is driven almost exclusively by one's hedonic, ego-based demands. This is appropriate for babies and small children, as such drives are a necessary survival mechanism. When hungry or otherwise dissatisfied, a baby cries for food or whatever other need it has; this is the proper behavior for a baby. As one gets older, however, it becomes possible to engage in proper survival activities in a “consciously conscious” fashion, without being driven like an automaton by the hedonic demands of one's ego; for most people, however, this mode remains their dominant way of relating to the world.
In the driven mode of conscious relation, one is driven by ego-based, dualistic cravings, fears, hopes, pleasures, pains, and emotions. Life is characterized by incessant and often unpredictable swings between positive and negative emotions and feeling. (These swings are typically very fast and extreme for babies and young children, who are often laughing one moment, crying the next, and then laughing again.) Due to this, even the “good times” are often marred by the knowledge that things can change in an instant, causing anxieties or fears about the future. Even when the future seems rosy, it is always possible to generate an essentially endless array of new fears, or even to ruminate about undesirable events or conditions in the past.
The driven mode of conscious relation is often characterized by “dualistic” types of thinking. This type of thinking is dominated by "I versus other" mental constructs, which set one against others and the world at large. In the game of “me versus the world,” there is only one “me,” but there will always be another “you,” or “them,” that needs to be feared, dominated, avoided, subdued, impressed, put down, seduced, or whatever one's ego-based demands require.
Different people may be operating in the driven mode of conscious relation, but each may have a different particular “focus.” Some focus primarily on achieving physical or financial security; others may focus on achieving certain emotions, feelings or sensations; others may focus on achieving social status and power. It is also common to seek forms of distraction or “escape,” often without realizing that this is what one is doing. This can come in many forms: drugs and alcohol, religious fantasies and prayer, sports, television, gambling, risky or unhealthy sexual activities, and so on. The list of such distractions and escapes is endless – and ultimately all are futile. While they may temporarily change one's focus or deaden one's mind, the underlying problem remains: one is living as a slave to one's own dualistic, hedonic, ego-based demands.
As one moves into the mode of loving conscious relation one begins to become “consciously conscious” of the hedonic, ego-based demands which have driven one's thoughts and behaviors. Just becoming conscious of this allows one to downgrade the power of these demands to mere “preferences.”
It is called the “mode of loving conscious relation” because in this mode one is beginning to relate to others, and even to events and conditions in the world, with real love and acceptance. This “love and acceptance” should not be misconstrued to mean that one simply “settles” for things as they are, never striving for forward-moving improvement. It simply means that one becomes less perturbed by things which do not meet one's preferences, and makes forward-moving improvements with an attitude of loving the process of improvement, without the need for anger, anxiety, disgust, jealousies, hatreds, or other negative feelings.
The act of accepting or loving one's experiences, oneself, other people, and the world at large, allows one to escape from being driven by hedonic, ego-based, dualistic demands. One is able to see the world and oneself a bit clearer, and finds oneself free (or at least freer) from all sorts of negative emotions, and concomitantly freer in one's thoughts and actions. One may actually begin to associate with a wider variety of people, or engage in new activities, as one becomes free from one's previous and unnecessary ego-based drives.
The loving mode of conscious relation is often characterized by a more “unitary” or “unifying” type of thinking than the “dualistic” thinking of the driven mode of conscious relation. The adversarial relationship between oneself and others begins to fade as one begins to see others as precious beings in their own right, each on his or her own path of growth and expanded consciousness. When one perceives that another is doing well on the path one feels genuine happiness for that person; when one perceives that another is doing poorly on the path one feels genuine compassion. One does not, however, get wrapped up in feelings of superiority or inferiority regarding one's place on the path in relation to anyone else.
Part of accepting that which one would prefer to avoid is also not being overly “grasping” of those things which one would prefer to attain. Instead, one adopts a more “neutral” internal response to both that which is preferred and to that which is not preferred. This puts one on more of a stable emotional path, rather than the emotional roller coaster which often characterizes the driven mode of conscious relation: the large upward and downward swings become more gentle rises and dips. As one's emotional track becomes more level and steady, one will naturally notice that while the ups and downs are smoothed out, the “baseline” or the normal level of one's emotional state tends to gently increase over time.
This increased freedom from ego-backed drives and their resultant negative emotions also gives one greater freedom and opportunity to enjoy positive emotions. Rather than constantly swinging between positive and negative emotions, life begins to take on a more steady “glow” of happiness. “Normal” moments, and the people and things around oneself become infused with beauty. The longer one spends in the loving mode of conscious relation, the more one begins to sense that the world is providing one with not only “enough,” but with an abundance. One begins to find that one no longer seeks out distractions and “escapes:” even as one may have certain unmet preferences, one gradually comes to see much of the world as a beautiful bounty.
The longer one spends in the loving mode of conscious relation, the less that one gets “caught up” in the moment to moment dramas of life. One begins to experience one's own consciousness and life, as well as events in the external world, as a spectator or observer, from a calm, peaceful vantage point within one's mind. One still has preferences, and one still acts to achieve that which is preferred and to avoid that which is not preferred, but with equanimity and emotional quietude .
In the driven mode of conscious relation, everything is associated with some judgment as to whether it accords or conflicts with one's hedonic, ego-based demands. In the loving mode of conscious relation, this is alleviated somewhat as judgments take on a more loving aspect, and as the power of ego-based demands are downgraded to preferences. In the observational mode of conscious relation, however, judgments have less experiential significance. Judgment and preference still take place and are observed as such, but without necessitating a stirring of the emotions.
This points to an important fact: biological drives and judgments of all sorts are necessary to further one's survival and to advance the conditions of one's life and those of one's loved ones. This is an inescapable part of human life. When operating in the observational mode of conscious relation, however, drives, preferences and judgments are noted and heeded as may be necessary, but are calmly observed as “happenings” within one's mind without eliciting emotional reactions.
Just as occurs in the loving mode of conscious relation, the freedom from emotional swings puts one on an emotional “even keel,” and over time one's baseline emotional state steadily rises, providing a quiet, still and fulfilling sense of contentment, happiness and well-being. Even this increase in one's baseline emotional state is not actively judged, however, but serenely experienced and observed as part of the playing out of one's “here and now” life and conscious experience.
The driven, loving and observational modes of conscious relation are each characterized by some level of subject-object duality: one experiences oneself as separate from the rest of the world. It is fairly obvious to see how this is the case in the driven mode, as one is constantly being pushed and pulled by all sorts of external stimuli and conditions: these are experienced as “drivers” with oneself as the “driven.” The loving mode continues this experience of duality, as things are essentially experienced in a the dualistic sense of “lover” and “loved.” The observational mode also retains this duality, with the duality now being experienced as “observer” and “observed.”
In the mode of unitary consciousness, however, the experience of duality and separation vanishes – one experiences oneself, the world, and all the things which one encounters in it as essentially a unitary “happening.” In the unitary mode one is still an observer, but the observation of one's inner world and the outer world are no longer differentiated as being “self” and “other,” but are experienced as a single all-encompassing “flow.”
It can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to communicate the experience of unitary conscious relation to someone who has not personally experienced it, much like trying to describe the experience of “red” to a blind person. The hedonic, ego-based demands of the driven mode are absolutely abolished. One has transcended the drive towards pleasure and away from pain altogether, and instead experiences the sublime and ineffable “pleasure of freedom from the drive for pleasure,” so to speak; this is a most profound type of freedom. Even the preference-based thoughts and actions of the dualistic loving and observational modes essentially vanish to be replaced by a deep, profound, natural flow of wisdom and love.
The unitary mode is extraordinarily rare. There are billions of individuals on Earth, yet there are perhaps only some tens of thousands or so who have experienced it at all – something like 0.001% of all humanity. Even rarer are those who have developed the ability to experience this mode of conscious relation on a recurring basis, perhaps only several hundred or so. The most rare, of course, are those dozens or maybe few hundreds who consistently experience this sublime state.
Specific techniques will be presented later in this writing for moving up from driven, to loving, to observational, and finally to unitary consciousness. As stated, however, unitary consciousness is extremely rare, so one should not be discouraged by its elusive nature. The joy, harmony, wisdom and love experienced by living in the loving and observational modes provide more than a wealth of fulfillment, even if one never experiences the unitary mode at all; yet they also do provide the perfect springboard for possibly catapulting one into unitary consciousness.