Friday, January 17, 2014

Search for Meaning - Part 4 (of 7) : Inquiry into Consciousness

Part 4 - Inquiry into Consciousness

Skeptics or scientifically minded people who turn away from any inquiry into the meaning of life, into life after death, into the existence of God, or reincarnation, ought to simply admit that they lack the interest, confidence, courage and/or willingness to make the effort to investigate. Just as billions of dollars were spent on building the large Hadron Collider in Europe to conduct sophisticated experiments on subatomic particles, so too investigation of fundamental consciousness takes focused commitment and years of rigorous inquiry. Some scientists, atheists, etc. are surely as bigoted in their refusal or denial of the possibility of subtler levels of reality and consciousness as the most self-righteous religious scripture-thumping fundamentalist.

Let the rationalist consider, too, the hypotheses of science which we readily accept but which lie far beyond reason or the senses: From astrophysics, geology, genetics, and astronomy to quantum physics, string theory and the “God-particle,” we readily accept as true, realities that can only be described (from the point of view of our actual sensory experience or our reason) as “metaphysical!”

Proofs of subtler truth teachings do exist for those who are interested. It’s really that simple. Well, ok, maybe simple but not so easy. Just consider what it takes to be a top-notch physicist these days. Inquiry into consciousness can only be conducted on its own level. There are no tools or machines that can do anything other than hint at the effects of consciousness. Consciousness is the only “tool” to perceive itself. The Greeks counseled: “Know thy Self.” Only by mental and mindful inquiry might we perceive the vastness of the halls of consciousness, opening up to first contemplate and then aspire to become infinity itself.

We are taught to begin with simple inquiry: “Who am I?” Examine your every thought minutely, as if under a microscope, and wonder not at the absence of God. Our daily preoccupations with matters mundane and egocentric number into the thousands. Clear your mind of such thoughts for increasingly long periods of time, and, wonder of wonder, what appears but a window onto Superconsciousness and a universe of Inspirations, insights, creativity, vitality, and joy that has no outer conditions!

Just as to become a scientist or doctor takes years of training, so too one who would plumb the depths of consciousness would have to expend years of concentrated effort under the mentorship of one who has mastered the art. His tools would include introspection and the science of meditation

The agnostic will say “I don’t know, I am interested only in tonight’s dinner and whether I get that promotion.” Both dinner and the promotion however are but thoughts in your mind. They have no reality (at that moment, at least) outside of your mind. The educated agnostic will certainly have no problem believing in science’s tenet that there are at least a hundred BILLION galaxies and that our earth has existed for billions of years and the humans have been on this planet for some six or seven million years? He will admit that his life of eighty years in the context of the length of time humans have lived on earth isn’t all that significant. Further he must admit that his life is not more important than that of the other six billion people on this planet. His temporary delight at gobbling down turkey on Thanksgiving is no more significant than his neighbor’s enjoyment of his vegetarian nut loaf. He might fight back and conclude, claiming to be rational, that all inquiries beyond his own material, bodily, and egoic interests are unnatural and unworthy of contemplation, but he cannot say, objectively, that his personal realities are more real or more important than another’s.

The “enlightened agnostic,” by contrast, will go further and recognize that to be virtuous, honest, loyal, hardworking, and compassionate is a better and more honorable way to live. He will surely believe in the golden rule. If he writes off his belief on the basis of obtaining better treatment from others, then he is but a cynic. What satisfaction or happiness would accrue to such a one who appears friendly only to curry favor? How would he view his love for his wife, mother or his child in the context of his philosophy of life?

There are of course varying levels of such agnostics ranging from cynical to noble but they all at least recognize that we must deal responsibly with the realities we face in life. “Responsibly” is something of a subterfuge for a realization of which few such agnostics contemplate the potential implications. What is the meaning and philosophical significance of that intangible but valuable satisfaction that is achieved when we relate to others along the lines of the golden rule? Those who have lived by this rule know that life is more satisfying, more complete, and, yes, more meaningful. C’mon now: why not admit it: one is happier!

Once again, the hard crust of reason and narrow self-interest, indeed egotism, which like prison walls, begin to crumble as our heart and mind expands to include others. The law of the jungle, while presumably the fate of lions and tigers and bears, is something most of us do our best to avoid! And even in the jungles of concentration camps or in times of war, famine, or catastrophe, there were and are those who reach out to help others. To them is bestowed nobility, strength, wisdom, contentment and inner satisfaction that the bitter and selfish will never fathom.

While reason can endorse this enlargement of sympathies and self-identity, it is first and foremost a matter of the heart. Only in the crucible of testing is the metal of our character forged. Some are born with this enlargement; others earn it in their current life.

And what about the phenomenon in human experience we call the “conscience?” More survival tactics, I suppose? Based on lack of conscience, one will steal and enrich himself; based on the whispers of conscience, another will turn away from the temptation. Which, I ask you, is the more successful survivalist? The former may outlive, out-propagate, and out-prosper his more scrupulous friend. But will he be happier?

Whence cometh this realization, this power of the knowing of our shared humanity, the nobility of self-sacrifice, this reaching for the stars? As we acknowledge biological evolution, is there perhaps a psychic or soul evolution? As we cognize the ever-changing interchange between matter and energy, is it possible consciousness evolves also as it takes on new forms?

Stay tuned, then, for Part 5, Evolution of Consciousness!