Correcting our model of consciousness
[A few years ago – four, to be exact – I sat down to write about guidance. I wanted to tell people how to get into touch with guidance, which would mean their having some idea of the pluses and minuses of the process as I have experienced it. But I didn’t necessarily want them all doing automatic writing, and I shuddered to think of beginning an epidemic of Psychic’s Disease. And yet, it is no less dangerous for people to have to rely on external authority when they will be in the position of having to choose the proper authority, not having any basis to do so! In other words – depending on their guidance to find a source of external guidance. Perhaps not so bad a plan, but not without its eccentric points.
[So I turned to asking my friends Upstairs how to go about it. They used my distracted, unfocused state of mind as an example: ]
It is an example of how little your lives are in your consciousness. You will recall that Albert Einstein complained late in life that he could no longer think on many levels at one time – and his hearer did not know from experience what Einstein meant. He thought it was an ability of Einstein’s that he did not share. He was partly right. But it would be more nearly accurate to say that Einstein was more aware of, more connected to, the process. You all have many strains flowing at the same time. You are relatively unconscious of most of them.
Take, for instance, the drunken monkey, or the disk jockey. Two examples (though they seem one, to you) of processes going on within you that proceed on their own rules, occasionally interact with consciousness, and continue to proceed regardless whether you are in contact with them.
Let us re-state that. We are saying something very different. Try to actually hear what we mean.
Your model of consciousness is wrong, and so you understand things wrong. Of course, your model is wrong because you understand things wrong, too – it is a feedback loop. Models reflect understandings from experience, while distorting or at least molding understandings from experience — which, in practice, limits possible experience.
But never mind that. The point is that your model of consciousness is wrong. We will give you another model (if your fear of contradicting authority does not disable you as intermediary) and you will see things differently. The new model will enable you to see things differently, by freeing you from exclusive reliance on the old inadequate models.
Begin with the image we gave you, of the individual being actually a container of many threads. Now, don’t get nervous about all this. If it doesn’t work out you can scrap it! It isn’t that big a deal!
Sure. Go ahead.
You are not a unit, except seen a certain way. The less you see of your situation, the more you seem to be a unit. The more clearly you see, the clearer various divisions and amalgamations become to you.
You have a body. You are confined physically to the time and space that your body occupies. If you think that neither soul nor mind exists, you think that the physical conditions surrounding the body determine what seem to be mental and spiritual processes. This is the extreme position – you are only a body; anything you think is the result of what your body experiences. If you could know everything it experiences, you would account for everything you think you think; everything you seem to feel; everything you seem to intuit.
We will reserve argument about the various levels, merely saying that any argument, even the most ridiculous, has at its base some kernel of truth, some grounding in a true principle. However, that same true principle, that same kernel of truth, may serve to construct very different appearances, when seen from different viewpoints. Viewpoint, like faithfulness, is all. And there is a sense in which viewpoint is faithfulness. We leave you this cryptic gem to examine for yourself.
People who are unable to subscribe to the idea that the body accounts for everything split into two camps. (At least, it may be seen that way.) One camp adds mind, another adds mind and spirit. We are not aware of – cannot conceive of – a camp that would in theory add spirit and not also mind, but in practice this does occur, as we shall see.
Well, mind. Seeing the individual as body and mind is in theory a difficult position to maintain, as it implies a dualism that wonders which is master, which is servant. Someone who believes in body and mind – only – does not really believe this, but only deceives himself – herself – that s/he thinks this. Because in a two-fold scheme, one is primary and one secondary. There can be no equality of being in any mixture. So one is driven to the position of saying one is primarily a body, upon which mind has grown, or one is primarily a mind that has manifested a body. Historically both ways of seeing it are represented.
Either way of seeing things tends to unconsciously assume that two things are being discussed – a body and a mind – even though in more analytical moments the same person thinking about it recognizes that the body is actually a collection of cooperating systems and the mind is —
Well, actually, this gives too much credit for discernment, that in fact is not all that common. For the moment let us leave it at this: the points of view that see only body and mind tend to see a body and a mind, and they differ as to which is primary.
Psychological experience convinces others that the scheme is inadequate. Not from theory but from life they say that they are composed of body and mind and spirit. In your society they very loosely mix the terms spirit and soul, not knowing the difference, hence not knowing how to distinguish between them. But this anticipates. The third level is body and mind and what is termed either spirit or soul.
By spirit (or soul in this mistaken view) is understood something primary, something that precedes or at least is co-equal with the body and mind. We are not aware of a tradition or even a thought-form that considers spirit to be the result of body and mind – or either one by itself. Anyone who would be temperamentally liable to think spirit the creation of body and mind would – is it not obvious? – be more liable to discard the concept of spirit entirely. Spirit dependent upon body and mind is a misunderstanding of the difference between sprit and soul. But before we discuss the soul, let us say briefly that there are those who think the spirit is created at the same time as body and mind. This, too, is a misunderstanding of the distinction between spirit and soul, to which we now proceed.
Those who perceive spirit as one of the elements of a human being see it as an immaterial “something” that is necessary to life. No spirit, no life. Extinguish life, destroy the bond between body and spirit. We have no quarrel with that view. In practical terms, “it works.”
There is a difference between spirit and soul. The spirit is the “something” that gives life. No one shapes spirit; nor does spirit shape our lives. Spirit animates us, it provides the vital link that “keeps body and soul together,” as the old saying is. But it is not particular to us in any detail. Like the wind, to which it is often compared, spirit blows where it wants to blow, according to its own laws of being. There is nothing personal about spirit. Yet – you must hold the contradiction – spirit is a closer part of you than anything else, and so may equally justly be described as entirely personal in the way we experience it. To put it again, because we are part of spirit, we experience it entirely personally. Because spirit is so vast and apparently animates everything, it is in its essence far beyond personality. So – personal and impersonal. The breath of life – how often have you heard it called that, and not really heard what was being said – and yet the animation of worlds. This is stuff of the gods. We will return to it.
Where the spirit animates, the soul personifies. Those who perceive body and mind and spirit and soul see now (at least) a four-fold being, not nearly as simple and unitary as first appeared.
What is a person’s soul? You might look upon it as the flower you create in the living of your life. All your life, you choose what you are going to be. You learn this, you bypass that, you encourage these threads of behavior, you choose (deliberately or otherwise) not to encourage others. You do, and so you become. You choose, continually, from the many choices presented to you – for any situation presents choices, if no more than a choice of how to react to the inevitable. As you continually choose, you continually shape your soul.
You must not think that this “soul” you shape is something concerned with heaven or hell. That is but superstition compounded of misunderstandings of what was believed. Look at it this way: The soul is the photograph of your being. It is not a static photograph, because it changes as you, by living, change it. But it is who you are. It is the template by which you could be recreated if one had sufficient skill, materials and tools. Where the spirit is impersonal in that it cannot be shaped by your life, the soul is entirely personal, and is entirely shaped by your living of its potentials.
The body holds you in one time and place at a time, and drags you (kicking and screaming sometimes!) to the next moment, and the next.
The mind observes, participates, directs, learns, reacts, concludes, resolves – and in short provides the awareness needed for the body to function in its surroundings.
The sprit provides the energy that fuels body and mind moment by moment. Unseen, unfelt, unfailing, it is the background that is unseen because it is the universal support. Being universal, its presence has to be inferred, practically, for in time-space there is no place where it is not.
The soul is the local manager of the body-mind-spirit combination. It is the universal record of this particular expression of life. It records every moment – perhaps we shouldn’t say records, as much as incorporates every moment first to last. This is not merely what you may have heard, or heard about, church doctrine. Hear us: We are describing something real, not something deduced or invented. We have no agenda provided by a church or religion. (Indeed, they will likely regard us as illegitimately poaching on their privatized soil.) Your soul has as much to do with the color of your hair and your taste in paintings and the kind of jokes you prefer as it does how “good” or “evil” you are. It concerns your weight, your talents, your amusements, your illnesses, your irrational preoccupations. It incorporates the effects of your home life, your commuting to an office, your paying taxes, your playing games. It includes your best and worst moments, your pets, your car, your house –as they interact with you – and, in short, your life.
Your life is not (as Shaw once said) a moral gymnasium. Life is about living. It is about choosing who and what you want to be. All of this becomes the soul, so that it might be said, truly enough (from one viewpoint) that a lifetime begins with spirit and body, adds mind, and grows soul. True enough for rough estimates.
But now, having come this far, have we come to the limit of differentiating among the pieces of what to some seemed a monolith, comprising body alone, with all else subordinate or illusory? We have not.
The model – we repeat – is wrong. This model we just sketched is entirely wrong (from our viewpoint) because it assumes solidity where there is only flow, and identity where there is only community.
A little more and we will stop for a while to let you get more coffee.
Take the body. You have learned to separate it conceptually into four – physical, energetic, mental, emotional. As working definitions these work well enough. The more closely they are examined, however, the less they will seem separate or, indeed, existent as separable entities.
The physical body is made up of a huge number of sub-systems, each of which functions autonomously and well. Is it one body with subsystems or many intelligences cooperating to produce a functioning whole? Either view is true enough. Hold the thought a while.
The energetic body is really a subsystem of the physical body – that is, this is one permissible view. It is a subsystem large enough, autonomous enough, that it is worth considering separately for specific purposes. But of course by definition it has no purpose but to provide the energetic superstructure of the physical body. It is true that without the energetic body the physical body could not function; it is equally true that without the physical body the energetic body would have no reason for being.
The mental body is a representation of an interaction between “mind” and “body” that is more or less unsuspected by the culture at large – even though body-workers for instance are well aware of the connection. Touch a spot inside the brain with an instrument, and a memory appears, as fresh as the day it was imprinted. Whether the spot is actually the carrier of the memory or the gateway to storage elsewhere is immaterial. For practical purposes the brain could be mapped, if one knew how to do it – so that the memories were located and labeled. Well, similarly, the body. Traumas of all sorts are located at different parts of the body, so that a massage therapist may press on a calf muscle and find that the client responds by breaking into tears at the strength of a suddenly remembered event from long before. Thus conceptually one might map the body’s stored areas of trauma and other experience.
The emotional body, similarly, is a representation of where the body stores emotional memory.
Now, all these substructures, these subsystems, are what we might call logical derivations of function. In a way they do not exist except as useful abstractions. In a way they do exist in that as conceptualizations they offer a way to work with the underlying reality. And what do you want beyond something that works? The trick is to prevent useful tools from becoming superstitions.
Again, before we stop to let you catch your breath – you have been doing this 90 minutes, somewhat longer than usual but we wanted to get this all out in a breath, so to speak, so that it would have the same feel — remember that this entire model even with the sophistications and the nuances we have just provided, is in our view not a good model for what humans are. It is true enough but now you will require better tools, better models, and this we propose to give you.