1:4 Modes of Consciousness
Modes of Conscious Integration
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 pleasure/pain response operates or manifests differently in different creatures, as determined by the nature and complexity of the information integrated by their consciousness. Conscious integration can be classified into three distinct modalities: 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.
It must be noted that, while inanimate objects do not possess a unified consciousness as that object, there is a (very minute) separate consciousness inherent in each of the psychons (Planck units) which process the information which ultimately comprises that object. So, for example, there is no consciousness of a rock as a rock, but there is a (very minute) separate conscious component involved in each psychon which processes the information physically manifests as the constituent particles of the rock.
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 purely sensory consciousness, at its most fundamental level, is the modality of consciousness which operates in raw consciousness itself, both in its nature as the infinite, eternal psychonic plenum, and in its nature as individual psychons within the infinite, eternal psychonic network which they comprise and which serves as the matrix from which physical reality emerges.
Very simple biological organisms also operate on a purely sensory level, although biological sensations involve the organized integration of much more conscious information than operates in any single psychon. Biological sensation involves the integration of psychonic information across multiple psychons, in a fashion which simply does not occur in inanimate objects. Biological sensory experience is therefore much more rich and complex than the basic sensory experience of individual psychons.
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, it does allow for behaviors which are simply unavailable to inanimate objects. The survival advantage inherent in this has lead to its biological evolution via natural selection.
Above the levels of purely sensory consciousness is perceptual consciousness, i.e., the facility for the automatic integration of 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 seriously debilitating mental deficiencies) 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 of entities with sufficient similarity into a class, while other entities with sufficient difference from members of that class are excluded from that class. Furthermore, concepts have a hierarchical nature, such that more complex concepts are founded on simpler ones, with the most simple concepts being founded upon percepts.
This is easy to illustrate. One may encounter just a small number of objects, some metal, some wood, with various other differences between them, but with certain distinct similarities, and then conceptually group these objects into the class of tables. Another group of objects, again, with some differences but also with certain distinct similarities, one might group into the class of chairs. One may further group both tables and chairs, as well as couches, beds, and other items, into the broader category of furniture.
The hierarchical nature of concepts ultimately enables the retention, organization, and processing of enormous amounts of concrete and abstract information. Conceptualization allows one to take a set of of concepts and then, if one can identify previously unrecognized relationships or similarities between them, one can further integrate them into even higher level concepts. Humans have not yet discovered a practical limit to such conceptualization; furthermore, by using computers as a tool to assist with the integration of information, any such limit as may exist is eliminated.
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 allows for much more complex thoughts and conceptualization than a rigid adherence to unchanging conceptual definitions would allow.
Concept formation may thus be viewed as a process similar to theory formation in science. No scientific theories (whether called a “hypothesis,” “law,” “theory,” “principle,” or whatever) are 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 could be uncovered which would modify or even negate the theory. It is similar for concepts: in different contexts, or as new information is integrated, one's concepts should change to reflect the change in context or information.
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.
(Think of the way that humans treat such symbols as national flags, for example. These are really just colored pieces of cloth, but they are typically treated with a type of reverence far beyond other similar cloths such as sheets, blankets, or towels, because of what they symbolize, rather than what they really are. In other words, flags are typically related to in a mystical manner. This same principle can be seen through a vast array of human activities. Think of the essentially mystical way that people often relate to money, politics, or religion, just to name a very few examples. Since words are actually just verbal conceptual symbols, they too are often related to in a mystical way: just think of how this so often applies to such terms as honor, faith, or duty.)
Human beings form concepts by their inherent, inborn mental nature. This 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. The completely conscious, intentional formation of rational, reality-based concepts requires disciplined, honest mental effort, just as completely rational, reality-based scientific theory-formation does.
An important note must be made regarding how the hedonic response (pleasure/pain principle) operates differently in sensory, perceptual, and conceptually conscious entities. Purely sensory consciousness merely reacts in automatic response to the sensory pleasure or pain of the immediate moment. Perceptually and (much more so) conceptually conscious entities, on the other hand, make choices by selecting, from the recognized available options, that option which is mentally associated with pleasure or pain in such a manner that the thought of choosing it provides the chooser with greater immediate pleasure or less pain than the thought of choosing any other option; this is the hedonic response, as applied to both perceptual and conceptual entities.
The wise individual, the Scion, will work to develop within oneself the association of pleasure with basing one's conceptual integrations upon reason and reality and, conversely, the association of displeasure at the thought irrational or non-reality-based conceptual integrations. This entrainment of one's conceptual consciousness can be effectuated by consistently and self-honestly embracing reason and reality – and rejecting irrationality and non-reality – while simultaneously reflecting upon the value of the former and the disvalue of the latter, until this becomes an ingrained reflexive habit. Over time, this will become an integral part of one's psychology, delivering immense value into one's life.
Modes of Conscious Relation
Distinct from the modes of conscious integration are the modes of conscious relation. Conscious relation can be roughly described as the consciousness experience or processing of the relationship between self and other. (Note that other, in this context, can also include things such as perceptions and thoughts, which are sometimes viewed or experienced as though they are separate from one's self.) 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 the normal operating mode of conscious integration of all normal humans is the mode of conceptual integration, individuals vary enormously in their modes of conceptual relation, i.e., in their experience of the relationship between self and other. Intriguingly, there are methods which one can employ to intentionally modify one's mode of conscious relation. As one modifies one's mode of conscious relation, one begins to reprogram the narrow, default, and often limiting way of relating to the world which is employed by the vast majority of individuals, 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 such phrases as “the expansion of consciousness” or “the freeing of one's mind,” or simply as “awakening,” “enlightenment,” or “illumination.”
There are other types of consciousness-expansion or enlightenment, not very directly related to conscious relation, such as that experienced when learning new things. That said, however, 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. Essentially all forms of consciousness-expansion are therefore beneficial and desirable. Methods for expanding consciousness or achieving awakening or enlightenment by specifically changing one's mode of conscious relation will be described later in this writing.
This is the default mode of conscious relation, the mode which humans are born into as babies, and which most people largely remain in throughout the course of their lives. It is almost a sort of “unconscious consciousness,” in that, when in this mode, one is largely unconscious of the forces which drive one and (even more importantly) 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 natural and proper behavior for a baby. As one matures one's thinking and behavior naturally becomes more sophisticated and complex, but for most individuals this merely means that they are acting on their drives in more complex and sophisticated ways, while being driven nonetheless.
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 can often be laughing one moment, crying the next, and then laughing again.) When in the driven mode, even the “good times” are often marred by the knowledge that things can change in an instant, causing anxieties or fears about the future. These anxieties or fears are often pushed into the subconscious, manifesting as a manic drive to fill the moment with any number of meaningless or empty diversions. (And “diversions” is a really apt term here, as these serve to literally divert the mind from the unpleasant aspects of the drives to which one is subject.) Even when future prospects seems positive, it is always possible to generate an endless array of new insecurities and fears about the future, or to ruminate about unpleasant events or conditions in the past – and one's egoistic drives ensures that this is exactly what one does.
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. This is not to say that competition is bad, of course. It is entirely appropriate for one to compete for various values as one goes through life: for money, for romantic partners, or whatever the case may be. This is natural and healthy to the degree that it is carried out consciously, as a means to attain actual values; it is unhealthy, however, to the degree that it is carried out unconsciously, as a means to irrationally protect or stroke a fragile ego.
The driven mode of conscious relation often manifests with a different particular “focus” in different individuals. 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. Many unconsciously seek distraction or “escape” through a wide variety of things, from drugs and alcohol, religious fantasies and prayer, sports, television, dancing, gambling, violence, 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 – and these demands are insatiable.
It must be noted that many of the things just mentioned actually can be engaged in in a healthy and positive manner, at the appropriate times and places, and most fully and deeply enjoyed when not motivated by a driven ego. Because most people, however, do operate in the driven mode of consciousness, most activities serve to contract rather than expand their consciousness.
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 growth or improvement. It means, rather, that one is becoming less perturbed by things which do not meet one's preferences, while still recognizing and working to change that which does not meet one's preferences. One is growing and improving with an attitude of loving the process of growth and 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 gains some degree of freedom from one's previous and unnecessary ego-based drives.
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 their 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 and 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 state 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 is less inclined to seek out distractions and escapes: even as one may have certain unmet preferences, one gradually comes to see much of the world, just as it is, as a beautiful bounty – and a bounty of beauty. While the world may not always seem perfect, it will certainly often seem beautiful.
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 greater 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 hedonic 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 being clung to or eliciting undue emotional reactions.
Just as occurs in the loving mode of conscious relation, the freedom from emotional swings engenders emotional stability, and one's baseline emotional state continues to steadily rise, 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 and internal stimuli and conditions: these are experienced as “drivers” with oneself as the “driven.” The loving mode continues this experience of duality, as things are 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 largely 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 experientially differentiated as being “self” and “other,” but are experienced as a single all-encompassing “flow,” with oneself at the center.
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 is instead experiencing a 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.
There is a long tradition of various non-mystical Buddhist practices for pushing one into “higher” modes of conscious relation, with the ultimate goal of awakening to the unitary mode of conscious relation. It is important to stress the non-mystical nature of these Buddhist practices: despite the many undeniably mystical Buddhist notions regarding karma, reincarnation, and a host of others, there is a also rational and reality-based core of powerful meditative techniques (the efficacy of which neuroscience has conclusively demonstrated) as well as certain valuable and profound insights and understandings regarding the human condition.
The Scionics Institute has integrated this non-mystical core of Buddhism with the empiricorationalism of Scionics to produce Scio-Buddhism, a fully non-mystical, rational, and reality-based approach designed to elegantly, efficiently, and effectively facilitate the transition of one’s mode of conscious relation “upward” from driven, to loving, to observational, and ultimately to unitary. While Scio-Buddhism draws very heavily from non-mystical aspects of traditional Buddhist practice, it also draws upon certain non-mystical features of Stoicism, which are remarkably similar to Buddhism. The distinguishing feature of Scio-Buddhism, however, is that it completely dispenses with their mysticisms, instead replacing them with the pure empiricorationality of Scionics.
The Scio-Buddhist techniques for moving up from driven, to loving, to observational, and finally to unitary consciousness are already quite powerful, but they are being even further refined and improved over time. As stated, however, unitary consciousness is extremely rare; 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 these higher modes do provide the perfect springboard for catapulting one into the sublime state of unitary consciousness.