Consciousness

The relationship between moral action and spiritual knowledge is circular, as it were, and reciprocal. Selfless behavior makes possible an accession of knowledge, and the accession of knowledge makes possible the performance of further and more genuinely selfless actions, which in their turn enhance the agent’s capacity for knowing... A man undertakes right action (which includes, of course, right consciousness and right meditation), and this enables him to catch a glimpse of the Self that underlies his separate individuality. Having seen his own self as the Self, he becomes selfless (and therefore acts selflessly) and in virtue of selflessness he is to be conceived as unconditioned.

Many people are willing to rearrange the outer things in their lives, but few are willing to rearrange the priorities of their inner worlds. If your consciousness doesn’t change, you will continually re-create the same old circumstances.

Consciousness... does not appear to itself chopped up in bits. Such words as “chain” or “train” do not describe it fitly as it presents itself in the first instance. It is nothing jointed; it flows. A “river” or a “stream” is the metaphor by which it is most naturally described.

Most people live, whether physically, intellectually or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being. They make use of a very small portion of their possible consciousness, and of their soul's resources in general, much like a man who, out of his whole bodily organism, should get into a habit of using and moving only his little finger. Great emergencies and crises show us how much greater our vital resources are than we had supposed.

The mind is at every stage a theater of simultaneous possibilities. Consciousness consists in the comparison of these with each other, the selection of some, and the suppression of the rest by the reinforcing and inhibiting agency of attention. The highest and most elaborated mental products are filtered from the data chosen by the faculty next beneath, out of the mass offered by the faculty below that, which mass in turn was sifted from a still larger amount of yet simpler material, and so on.

The reflection that strikes the heart is not that the evils before us are real evils but that they are evils to which we ourselves may be exposed... The delight of tragedy proceeds from our consciousness of fiction; if we thought murders and treasons real, they would please no more.

There is an aliveness in people who are living life and not merely observing or intellectualizing it... During the time of catastrophic change, each individual has the opportunity to feel fully alive and resource-filled-awake far beyond the daily soporific states of consciousness in which most of us reside. Living on an edge heightens the human awareness. It does not dull it.

I have often seen individuals who simply outgrow a problem which had destroyed others. This ‘outgrowing’, revealed itself on further experience to be the raising of the level of consciousness. Some higher or wider interest arose on the person’s horizon, and through the widening of his view, the insoluble problem, lost its urgency. It was not solved logically in its own terms, but faded out in contrast to a new and strong life-tendency. It was not repressed and made unconscious, but merely appeared in a different light, and so became different itself. What, on a lower level, had led the wildest conflicts and emotions full of panic, viewed from the higher level of the personality, now seemed like a storm in the valley seen from a high mountain top. This does not mean that the thunderstorm is robbed of its reality; it means that instead of being in it, one is now above it.

The psyche is not of today. Its ancestry goes back many millions of years. Individual consciousness is only the flower and fruit of a season, sprung from the perennial root beneath the earth.

There is no coming to consciousness without pain.

Our culture needs a great deal more than a changed lifestyle. In the Western mind, thought-structures and the relationship between consciousness and matter are badly out of balance, so that our world has become wholly pervaded by a materialism that is threatening to squash us to death. We are in a state of materialistic hypertrophy, and our eventual self-destruction would in fact be no more than the logical consequence of our attitudes.

Structures that were hitherto believed to be objective and beginning to dissolve - that “inside” and “outside,” “I” and “you” are so interrelated that they cannot be disentangled and there is no way of measuring the objective “external” world, because all we are measuring are our own yardsticks so that our measurements are no more than observations of our own consciousness.

Self-knowledge is the primary step in conscious evolutionary change. When people confront and integrate their individual fears and limitations, they facilitate the confrontation and integration of our racial, national, and planetary fears. Lasting social change is only possible when individual consciousness has first been changed.

All relationship is based on the image that you have built around another and the other has built about you... What is relationship? If the image has come to an end, which is the content of consciousness that makes up your consciousness, when the various images you have about yourself, about everything, come to an end, then what is the relationship between you and her? Then is there an observer observing apart from the thing it has observed? Or is it a total movement of love in relationship? Are you getting it? So love is a movement in relationship in which the observer is not.

The fundamental experience which objective experience itself presumes is the fundamental experience of the Other... Moral consciousness is not an experience of values, but access to exterior Being: exterior being par excellence is the Other.

We must consider what person stands for; - which, I think, is a thinking intelligent being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself as itself, the same thinking thing, in different times and places; which it does only by that consciousness which is inseparable from thinking, and, as it seems to me, essential to it: it being impossible for any one to perceive without perceiving that he does perceive. When we see, hear, smell, taste, feel, meditate, or will anything, we know that we do so. Thus it is always as to our present sensations and perceptions: and by this every one is to himself that which he calls self.

Our concepts of the empirical world are fundamentally controlled by the character of our perceptual experience and by the introspective access we enjoy to our own minds. Thus our concepts of consciousness are constrained by the specific form of our own consciousness, so that we cannot form concepts for quite alien forms of consciousness possessed by other actual and possible creatures. Similarly, our concepts of the body, including the brain, are constrained by the way we perceive these physical objects; we have, in particular, to conceive of them as spatial entities essentially similar to other physical objects in space... But now these two forms of conceptual closure operate to prevent us from arriving at concepts for the property or relation that intelligibly links consciousness to the brain. For, first, we cannot grasp other forms of consciousness, and so we cannot grasp the theory that explains these other forms: that theory must be general, but we must always be parochial in our conception of consciousness. It is as if we were trying for a general theory of light but only could grasp the visible part of the spectrum. And, second, it is precisely the perceptually controlled conception of the brain that we have which is so hopeless in making consciousness an intelligible result of brain activity. No property we can ascribe to the brain on the basis of how it strikes us perceptually, however inferential the ascription, can be the crucible from which subjective consciousness emerges fully formed. That is why the feeling is so strong in us that there has to be something magical about the mind-brain relation.

What is then liberty? To be born is at once to be born in the world and to the world. The world is already constituted, but never completely. Under the first rapport, we are solicited, under the second we are open to an infinity of possibilities. But this analysis is still abstract, because we exist under these two relations at once. There is therefore never determinism and never absolute choice; I am never a thing and never naked consciousness.

Consciousness is sometimes compared with light. An increase of consciousness is likened to an increase of light. But we shall see eventually than an increase of consciousness does not mean only that we see with greater clearness what was formally obscure. The quality is changed. For the moment, the man who experiences it himself is changed. It is not merely the quantity of consciousness that is altered, but its very nature.

Speaking generally, punishment hardens and numbs, it produces concentration, it sharpens the consciousness of alienation, it strengthens the power of resistance.