The Crisis of Consciousness

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    Featured Columnist – Meditations
    Martin LeFevre

    There’s a lot of talk these days about a “revolution in consciousness.” The vast portion of it is just that—talk.

    It simply isn’t true to say “we’re in the middle of a revolution in consciousness.” But does the verbiage indicate that a genuine change is occurring in man’s consciousness? No, not at this point.

    A revolution in consciousness refers to a radically different way of perceiving and thinking about nature and the world, not the knowledge neuroscientists are gaining into the mechanics of mental processes. It’s brainless to equate a revolution in consciousness with brain research.

    Much more importantly, the darkening and delimiting of man’s consciousness is increasing exponentially. That’s primarily because the fundamental assumption at the core of what we think of as consciousness—the center as self—not only remains unchallenged, but is idolized.

    As the crisis of consciousness intensifies, some commentators are reviving the old Freudian division of the conscious and unconscious minds. That old idea certainly won’t provide a light at the end of the infinitely regressing tunnel.

    The unconscious level is no more important or intelligent than the conscious mind. It’s largely the storehouse of unexperienced experiences and unfelt emotions. In other words, the unconscious is the repository of unexamined conditioning. And psychological conditioning is never intelligent.

    The unconscious level is the active dimension of the past. Without self-knowing, people act out of it, and become conduits for the growing darkness of collective consciousness.

    Dispensing with the silly distinction between the conscious and unconscious levels, and without creating another duality, we need to make a sharp distinction between two orders of consciousness. Only then can we give any clear and coherent meaning to a revolution in consciousness.

    There is the consciousness we generally experience, based on thought and memory. But with the ending of that consciousness, even momentarily, there is another consciousness, which flows from awareness and insight.

    In other words, the brain dominated by thought generates the consciousness we know. But there is another kind of consciousness altogether, which awakens in the brain (and is infinitely greater than thought-consciousness) when thought falls essentially silent.

    Most of us, most of the time, have a partial consciousness based on thought, which blocks and precludes true consciousness. Moreover, that partial consciousness, which once contained the richness of myth and tradition, is devolving dangerously in humankind.

    What reverses the movement of darkness within man, individually and collectively, and awakens the consciousness of the cosmos in the human being?

    There is no method, but I find that the negation of memory and experience in the act of undivided, unwilled attention in the mirror of nature creates a profound shift in consciousness.

    The action of spontaneous, undirected attention quiets and cleanses the brain, temporarily at least, of its useless, accumulated content, allowing the mind to fall silent and participate in the consciousness of the cosmos.

    To my mind, that is the true meaning of meditation, which entails the ending of thought. For millennia people have tried every trick and technique to achieve a deeply quiet mind, but these are also devices and products of thought. The silence they produce is a specious one, a form of self-hypnosis.

    Is the endarkenment of consciousness inevitable with the evolution of sentient species? Apparently, since thought-consciousness accumulates harmful content over the centuries, eventually producing the crisis of consciousness we see in man today. It’s a process exactly the opposite of Teilhard de Chardin’s progressive evolution toward an ‘Omega Point.’

    Can the dark matter of thought-consciousness ignite, allowing true consciousness to emerge? What would an actual revolution in consciousness (which again, has nothing to do with scientific knowledge or the conditioning of the unconscious) look like?

    There have been two great creative explosions since the beginning of civilization. They produced the previous differences in consciousness between the East and West.

    The Greek explosion was primarily intellectual and materialistic, emphasizing the rational mind of the West, at the expense of the emotional and spiritual dimension in the human being.

    The other creative explosion occurred in India at the time of the Buddha, and was deeply inward, spiritual, and affective in nature. It is, as far as I know, the only precedent for the revolution in consciousness essential to the survival and flowering of humanity.

    This is perhaps why Buddhism has such appeal in the deracinated West. But as Buddhism became an encrusted tradition as well, it slowly lost its insight and perfume. Besides, tradition itself is dead, and has become a tremendous impediment to psychological revolution.

    Humankind is in the thrall of thought-consciousness. Is the increasing pressure of man’s fragmentation of the earth and humanity using ‘higher thought’ driving us toward a true revolution in consciousness?

    Martin LeFevre

    [email protected]

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