The mystery of Consciousness

Consciousness in humans is awareness. Seems right, does it not? Can I say anything comparable about animals and plants? Kirlian photography suggests a level of sensitivity in plants to being cut or burnt; some plants have reportedly shown such sensitivity even when a neighbouring plant is adversely treated. This is not good news for us, especially vegetarians. Is sensitivity equal to awareness? (Semantics can be a nuisance, can’t it?)
As for animals, judging by family pets, do they not display both awareness and sensitivity (as human do)?

Examining consciousness further: Are we conscious in deep sleep? Or, is there something we refer to as the subconscious which alerts us to possibly-threatening sounds? What about warning smells? Or, a dream which effectively warns about safety or security?

One night, in deep sleep in a strange room, I had what felt like a dream. My ‘dream’ was that my bed was collapsing while also tilting sideways? I jumped out of the bed, not quite awake, and switched on the light. What I saw was a big-framed picture, which had been hanging on the wall adjacent to the bed, had now slid to the ground with a crash, in the small space between the bed and the wall.

Was this the sequence of events? Sound of sliding, falling picture. I hear this in my sleep. My mind generates a warning in dream form. This led to my flight out of the bed. Was that evidence of consciousness during deep sleep?

Curiously, Eknath Easwaran, in his book ‘The Upanishads’, refers to the ‘states of mind’ of waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep as representing “layers of awareness, concurrent strata lying at different depths in the conscious and unconscious mind”. Awareness existing in layers? Awareness in the unconscious mind?

He also refers to ‘states of consciousness’: and challengingly asks – ”In the constantly changing flow of thought, is there an observer who remains the same?” The idea of an uninvolved observer within us represents the core of Upanishadic Hinduism. However, I can cite an experience which is suggestive of an internal observer.

As a young man, I once lost my temper (never before, never again). It was a highly-charged emotional reaction. Then followed a physical development: I was about to cause terrible harm to a fellow human. Suddenly, from somewhere in my mind came a thought: “What are doing, stupid?” (It was a very clear thought.) As a consequence, no harm occurred. On reflection – I seem to have been operating at 3 levels of consciousness.

Consciousness at a normal, operational, human level is certainly confusing. The following extract from Easwaran then takes consciousness from the Earthly level to the cosmic level. Relying on one of the Upanishads, he states “… the powers of the mind have no life of their own.  The mind is not consciousness; it is only an instrument of consciousness …”

So, what is Consciousness at the cosmic level? In a recent post, I asked “Does Consciousness explain Reality?” What a wonderful mystery.


How do souls retain mind and memories?

This question arises from my real experience when I began to investigate e.s.p. (extra-sensory perception), otherwise known as psychic phenomena. My initial exposure to a clairvoyant, and his extra-ordinary and quite inexplicable skills, involved the manifestation of my favourite uncle’s spirit.

Incredibly, my uncle communicated psychically with the clairvoyant, obviously heard a comment I had made to the clairvoyant (by responding to it), and displayed his memory of a relevant segment of his recent Earthly life, and referred to his knowledge of the tragedy I had experienced long after his demise.

It was obvious that this insubstantial entity, while thus lacking a brain, ears and eyes, had retained – more than 4 decades after the cremation of his body – his Earthly mind and its memories; and was able to offer advice to me about my spiritual advancement (implying an awareness of my potential future).

How could a spirit, presumably residing in what I refer to as the Afterlife, also retain capabilities normally associated with an efficiently operating human on Earth – to hear, think, speak (mentally in his situation), and probably see as well? Here is evidence that, at death, the soul of a human being continues as a spirit in another dimension, retaining both mind (with its memories) and sense-and-brain related facilities. Unthinkable!

As for our physical organs of sense – the known 5 – what is seen, heard, tasted, touched and smelt – need to be processed and stored in the brain. The mind, clearly associated with the brain, may not be resident in the brain. Indeed, I use my mind to search the brain for recorded memories.

Yet, the brain can also project information even before I begin the search. I have had this experience doing crossword puzzles. Sometimes, my brain also projects relevant information before I ask my mind to go search. Here I am proposing that my ego (my personality) is indeed separate from my mind; the latter being a facility.

Thus, does memory, associated with the brain as a storage facility, also exist outside the brain? How else could the soul of a human being take both mind and the memories contained therein into the Afterlife? (Denying the existence of souls, the Afterlife, and the capabilities of spirits is not now an option for me. Experienced reality cannot be denied by closing one’s mind.)

In this or any other context, I do not accept the concept of an Akashic Record which registers every action of every human being on Earth. What would be the objective of such a massive record of inconsequence? Confusingly, I lost the memory of quite a few faces through my heart attack. A few years later, progressively this memory was recovered.

Did changes take place in my brain enabling recovery of memory? Or, was relevant memory reinstated from outside my brain? Is this not a relevant question? While the recall of memory reportedly involves the whole brain, the impetus of such a memory search would have to be the mind. In my case, it was a conscious search for memory.

Food for thought?

(Refer my previous post “Where resides the soul?”)

Where resides my soul?

As a metaphysical Hindu (that is, one beyond rituals), I accept that the Cosmic Creator (not necessarily a physical entity), as both transcendent and immanent, may have a presence in all that is created. A fragmentary essence of this Creator could thus be within me. I have read that this presence is located in a walnut-sized space within my heart.

Is this presence my soul, the real me, that traveller through time, through repeated re-births? That cannot be. That is because each soul is said to be polished (improved morally or spiritually) through the reincarnation process, and then returned to be boundless Ocean of Consciousness (or Aether) from which it is said to have risen. A fragment or essence of the Creator will surely not need to be polished.

Rather, its role may be to remind me that, in times of travail, I need only look within me for succour and spiritual (and mental) peace. The lessons of Destiny – both personal and communal – do need to be accepted with equanimity.

My soul is clearly a unique insubstantial entity, the essential me, carrying the compound lessons acquired through a series of past lives. Does it remain a passive record keeper, uninvolved in the normal turbulence of life? Or, does it, in its own interest, influence me by allowing me intimations (on occasions) of my immediate past life?

I have become somewhat sensitised to this influence through: some instinctive responses to events; visions of a past life through auto-hypnosis; information offered by a psychic healer whose Spirit Healer can apparently read my past life traumas; and my ‘casual’ clairvoyant who saw me as I apparently appeared in my immediate past life. I await, with hope, further illumination.

Developing my ‘third-eye’ vision may enable me to become more intuitive about such matters. I doubt, however, whether the embodied I will ever know what the essential I (my soul) is doing.

What I would like to know is whether my soul resides in my body, or whether it surrounds me as an ethereal (or cloud) entity (like the Internet). When I die, will my soul gather my mind and its memories on its way, because they too exist in a ‘cloud’ around my brain?

Could I now explain how I recovered the memory which I had lost when I had a heart attack? Perhaps my memory exists at 2 levels; at a operational level, which can be damaged, and at a holistic ethereal level beyond bodily weakness.

Fascinating! Pity that I will be denied an answer. As my soul takes off to the Afterlife, it will not (I guess) be concerned by such Earth-based ruminations. The caravan must (and will) move on!

(Note: While I cannot prove the existence of a Cosmic Creator and the ways this all-pervasive, ever-existing essence may influence human existence, no sceptic can disprove such a belief. As for the reality of souls and the reincarnation process about which I have written, my experiences and reliable research findings over decades being real, cannot be denied.
Doctrinal religion does not offer needed illumination. Regrettably, some scholars cannot step out from their religion-imbued castles.)

Business Quotations – Bureaucracy

A memorandum is written not to inform the reader but to protect the writer (Dean Acheson, politician)

I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious. (Thomas Jefferson, US President)

Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status. (Dr. L.J. Peter, Canadian educator)

(Source: The Chambers Book of Business Quotations)

Cross-cultural issues (2)

For a few centuries, many of the nations of Europe had enjoyed controlling vast areas of the globe occupied by coloured peoples. Their newly-acquired superiority in armaments had enabled this result. A sad consequence was that there evolved a view, supported allegedly by certain academics in the eighteenth century, that white people are genetically superior to all others. The lessons of history were thus ignored.

In Australia, an admirable ambition was to create a nation of white people where no man would deny any kind of work – such was the egalitarian principle which underlay this hope (the indigene excepted, as elsewhere). At the beginning of the twentieth century, the White Australia policy was legislated. Although Australia had little to do with colonialism (except briefly in New Guinea), the people had come to hold views which were patently racist.

However, by mid-century, the independence of adjacent nations had led to a gradual lessening of the colour bar, initially by permitting the arrival of (mainly) British-educated Asian students. Although we spoke good English (my matriculation was from London University) and behaved properly, our very presence and our comportment discomfited many of the locals.

The explanation was quite simple. We were intruding into ‘white space’ (as enunciated by academics). We were also violating the prevailing ethos of the superior white man, through our clothing, assumed wealth, educated speech, visible indifference to public rudeness, and our non-combative response to discrimination. For instance, my father had taught me thus: If someone spits at you, do not retaliate. Move on, but do not turn the other cheek.

We were also of foreign faiths; the effort by so many to convert us to Christianity was testament. Our foods were frequently described as ‘foreign muck,’ with some querying our preference for spices. We used to add chili sauce to guest-house food and to take-away fish and chips, and pies.

My university’s student council even conducted a survey asking how the respondent would react were his sister to marry an Asian (or words to that effect). Even some of our Australian friends might say something like ‘I don’t want many more like you in my country, although you are OK.’ They had clearly forgotten how Australia had been acquired.

The underlying ‘them’ vs. ‘us’ viewpoint was also manifest against the sudden arrival of large numbers of war-displaced refugees and immigrant Europeans. Yet, the main differences brought into the country by the Europeans were their accents and their preference for more tasty foods, with better bread. Australian cuisine then was very British (thereby dreadful from an Asian perspective.)

It was obviously difficult for so many of the locals to have their life changed so much, so abruptly. Yet, their governments had to go down that path. Initially, it was to obtain able-bodied workers to develop the necessary infrastructure. Later it was to avoid unwanted tensions with the emerging nations of Asia.

The reverse culture shock to the young Asians was confusion and a lack of understanding of the antagonistic attitudes and behaviour directed at them. ‘What’s it all about?’ was my thought when I was targeted in a fashionable public arcade on a Saturday morning. It took us a while to understand the reasons for this unacceptable behaviour.

Strangely, few Malayans studying in Britain experienced comparable behaviour. (Snooty chaps are, however, unavoidable everywhere.) The British people are far more tolerant of coloured people and the cultures they represented.

The isolation of Australia was clearly a cause. The principal cause was undoubtedly the enduring relationship between white invader and indigene. Curiously, governments will promise, from to time, to ‘bridge the gap’ between their indigenes and the mainstream. But the them/us divide seems to have a certain durability.