There is a completely different order of consciousness than we usually know. Most of us have experienced it sometime in our lives, at least momentarily, but as conditioning and beliefs solidify, they prevent experiencing the consciousness beyond thought.
Since the cognitive breakthrough in humans about 100,000 years ago, the default state of the human brain is the symbols and memories of thought. There’s apparently something inexorably evolutionary about that.
It seems that the creatures in which ‘higher thought’ evolves have a strong tendency to carry over the adaptation of utilitarian separation and manipulation of the environment to a psychological realm. Then content of memory becomes our reality, rather than what is in the present. Then division, conflict, and fragmentation become the rule, rather than wholeness, unity, and harmony. In short, we need knowledge, but we don’t need the known.
Is it because the separative mechanism is so powerful that an animal in whom it evolves can’t help but mistake separation for the way the universe really works? Is it because throughout human history awakened consciousness has been assigned to shamans, mystics, and illumined people, rather than to ordinary human beings?
Be that as it may, the global ecological crisis, which man’s fragmenting mind has produced, is generating a growing pressure for a breakthrough in consciousness. It’s not our ecological footprint, but our psychological imprint that’s at issue.
Science is founded on the premise of separation. Without presuming that parts make the whole, there probably could not have been modern scientific discoveries and advances. And because it has become such a powerful tool, science is starting to take on the characteristics of a global religion—an all-encompassing explanatory system.
If one regularly experiences radical shifts in consciousness through meditation, one naturally wonders why the brain doesn’t default to awareness in the present, rather than the content of the past. The older one gets, the more of a problem this becomes, though older people usually grow quite comfortable living in the past.
Many people aren’t even prepared to acknowledge that another kind of consciousness is potentially available to the human being. For those who perceive nothing but the known, or hold knowledge as the highest value, a state of consciousness that is beyond knowledge and the known is impossible, even nonsensical.
But no one can explain away, or enclose with knowledge a state of consciousness in which the mind is as still as a millpond, and through which insight flows. Then what is the right approach to the images, words, memories, and experiences that define and delimit our reality? What ends their rule, allowing cosmic consciousness to be?
Mental effort sustains psychological separation. That’s why systems, methods, and techniques of meditation are inherently false. The will cannot do anything but hypnotize thought into an artificial condition of stillness. Thought cannot observe itself, but the brain has another faculty that does not presuppose an observer—awareness.
An effortless negation of thought-consciousness through passive attention to its movement is not only possible; it’s become imperative. Nature can act as a mirror, since listening to birdsongs, watching a creek flow by, smelling the new growth of spring, and feeling a breeze on your skin are intrinsically enjoyable acts that don’t require concentration (that is, effort and will), which are the enemy of meditation.
After a little while in nature, even a city park or one’s backyard, one’s attention naturally gathers and quickens. Thoughts and emotions inevitably arise. If one listens and watches them in the same non-interfering way one listens and watches nature, the whole movement of the past unscrolls in awareness.
However if the watcher continues, and directs, judges, and evaluates one’s mental/emotional content, the associations of the ‘monkey mind’ go on, and the mind does not fall silent.
However the watcher is a very powerful program, and habit. What ends it?
Passive watchfulness allows attention to gather and awareness to grow quicker than thought. Awareness then catches thought in the act of separating itself from itself, ‘me.’ And the moment it does, the infinite regression of psychological separation ends.
At that moment there’s an explosion of insight, and the process of transmutation begins, or is advanced in the individual. That process aligns the human brain with the inseparable silence, love, and regenerative and creative ground of death that permeate the universe, and which gave rise to the cosmos. That’s my religion, if you can call it that.
So can great science still be done if wholeness is primary, or would scientists turn into contemplatives sitting under sycamore trees?
I don’t think so; I think they’d do even better science, and certainly they’d be better human beings.