Friday, 23 September 2016

How to set-about achieving a higher consciousness

by William Arkle

I am convinced by the overall validity of Rudolf Steiner's 1918 prophecy concerning the spiritual future of Western Man:

The bottom line of this insight is that within a Christian context the number one priority for modern Western Man is to expand and enhance consciousness such that we become aware of the spiritual world beyond the 'five senses', including the divinity of our fellow Men.

This enhanced consciousness aimed-at is not a matter of the kind of hallucinatory, dream or trance-state we associate with shamans and other mystics of former eras - but is to be achieved in and by lucid, alert and purposive thinking.

Overall, not so much about seeing new (and previously unseen) things, so much as seeing old things anew (see Arkle's painting above).

In other words, it is a particular kind of thinking which is to provide us with valid knowledge - but not just abstractly 'knowing about' stuff; but actual experience of the reality of knowledge.

(Why? My understanding is currently that there is a kind of thinking which is primary, spontaneous, and does not depend upon perception or any other kind of 'input' - and this comes form God-within-us, that which makes is children of God: and that is the reason why it is intrinsically valid thinking.)

The 64,000 dollar question is how do we do this? How do we raise our thinking to this level, and keep it there? Where do we even start on this task?

Having been reading Colin Wilson's Beyond the Occult recently, I think one general answer may be that we should start with any of the spiritual, paranormal or enhanced types of consciousness that we personally spontaneously experience. These go by many names, but could include peak experiences, synchronicity, self-remembering, clairvoyance, fore-sight, the sense of being transported to another time or place (what Wilson termed Faculty X)...

Or (especially) those 'magical' (or holiday) times of several or many minutes when we seem to be living inside a narrative or story or tableau, and in a state of awareness of connections and a providential unfolding...

In a nutshell, we can start with those moments or times when the ordinary and the everyday are felt to be meaningful, purposive and we are engaged by them.When this happens, we are inside the kind of thinking we are aiming-at, the kind of thinking we most need - these phenomena are (often) a sign that this is it.

That is the kind of thing we start-with, and what we need to remember, take seriously, and endeavour to build-upon.

Nothing we might do is more important - the task deserves our best efforts.


Peter said...

What about the idea that knowledge is a function of being, that if you change your character and become something different - say, through ascetical discipline - you connect with levels of reality you simply couldn't perceive before.

For instance, all the Christian mystics have said that by reducing ego you see things you never did before.

For myself, the first time in my life I had a trauma that shocked me out of all concern with self and ego I suddenly saw the world in a way I never did before, as literally having more dimensions to it, as alive, and full of joy.

It didn't last, but I had a few more episodes brought on by similar loss of concern with self and ego and success, and eventually I began to notice that all the great religions say in order to connect to the Divine you have to lose concern with self and ego.

I realized my own experiences were neither random nor unusual at all.

Christianity seems highly concerned, centrally concerned with things like humility, meekness, loss of concern with self and ego, indeed that seems to be at the core of the religion, yet oddly you seem utterly unconcerned with these things, Bruce, or at best they are peripheral concerns for you it seems.

I am wondering if you are attacking things the wrong way around, if the transformation of consciousness you seek is a result of the kind of character transformation Christianity teaches but which doesn't seem very much on your radar...

If this is true, then modern Western man is in a real seems we really can't give up our attachment to things like worldly success and materialism (understood as great concern with physical success, like in science), and thus the charachter transformation needed for salvation will be something we will never accept.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Peter - I am essentially an unaffiliated Christian, I am semi-connected with a (dissident) conservative evangelical Anglican church but my theology is Mormon; so I don't fit anywhere. I am a Mere Christian, and I acknowledge the validity of many approaches to the Christian life.

I am delighted by any signs of vitality in the churches, and I don't want to criticize such efforts; however, in the UK and among the native population, there are essentially none (there are specific individual congregations that are vital - that is all).

Therefore I regard it as a matter of primary and urgent importance to explore other ways of being a Christian - in particular addressing the chronic weakness of historical Christianity which has little to offer in the way of changing consciousness except by the elite ascetic monastic 'via negativa' path which you mention.

I have the conviction that what is needed, and what will work, is so simple that a child could understand it and anyone could practise it - but we are being induced to overlook it.

Furthermore, I have a hunch that we are approaching a crux, a time of choice - and the mainstream Christian churches do not seem remotely likely or able to respond to this (being either thoroughly corrupted by secularism, or torn with internal battles fighting the sexual revolution - battles which certainly do need fighting, but which cripple the evangelical imperative; which is of course exactly what the purposive powers of evil intend them to do).

With the churches useless or counter-productive each must do what he can. This blog is my effort - on the basis that people who need this sort of thing may find this the sort of thing they need.

If not, they would be advised to look elsewhere for what they need (and good luck to them!).

Peter said...

Thank you for clarifying, Bruce. It helps me understand what I can and cannot expect from your blog. I also consider myself an unaffiliated Christian, and you are in no small measure responsible for that - thank you - but I realize you are going in a direction that I cannot follow.

I think mainstream Christianity failed because it rejected the great Christian mystics and tried to adopt a middle way between the World and eternity - yet we cannot serve two masters. St John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila were heavily suspect, and Madame Guyon was imprisoned, and Fenelon exiled.

At every point, the Church chose the World, and here we are. And it seems Western man, at least for the moment, cannot do otherwise.

But you have helped me even if I must part ways with you, and for that I am thankful. May you help others. Even if what you are doing now can no longer be spiritually central for me, you continue to say interesting things and I will continue to read, although probably not comment.

I hope all your labors bear fruit and you find the transformation of consciousness you are looking for.

Simon said...

My thoughts:

Essentially, we are aiming at a state of consciousness, or a state of being. I believe this is attained through living by the results of the interplay of intuition and thought. This is a hard thing to describe but it is what I have been doing for the past seven years (without explicitly knowing it the entire time, I only recently came to an understanding of what I was actually doing), and what I think you have been doing as well. I believe this is the main purpose of mortal life.

This, of course, needs to be filled in with the details, which I will try to go into below.

I personally am a Mormon, and became one by following my intuition and reflecting on the feedback I received whilst on my search, and came to the conclusion that it was true. With this intuition/thought process one slowly homes in on the truth. The validity of the Christian religion and Mormonism needs no defence to readers of this weblog.

I believe any religion needs a serious philosophical grounding (I don't mean philosophical in terms of complex abstractions, but in that we must have some reason for making a choice of one thing over another, (you stated this well in your post At root, everything depends on individual human discernment... Then what?. I believe this is supplied by the existentialism put forward by Kierkegaard who recognised the primacy of the individual in discovering truth, described here.

With the knowledge that we can ascertain truth through following our intuition and its interplay with real world feedback and thinking (made philosophically rigorous by Kierkegaard), and the knowledge given us by Christianity, and, as I believe, Mormonism, we are I believe on our way to attaining the desired state of consciousness.

I apologise for the incoherent and fragmentary appearance of this comment but I am still working and thinking this through myself.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Peter - Graciously said.

I have been strongly influenced, convinced, by the 'evolutionary' metaphysic for Christianity implicit in Mormonism and more explicit in Owen Barfield and William Arkle - so that I do not consider the whole scope and range of Christian possibility to have yet been explored.

We could go back, but we may go forward.

So there are not just the metaphysical poles you describe, but other possibilities as well - which have not yet been much more than glimpsed or intermittently attained.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Simon - Yes, it sounds-like we are both on the same kind of path. So far, my success is intermittent - in terms of time and intensity - but quite solid and definite so far as it goes; and I am gradually getting clearer about things (and more patient with the failures and bad times).

For me, as unaffiliated and constitutionally incapable of groupishness, and also because of the importance of creativity in my life, this consciousness 'project' is almost a physical necessity. It is something that I cannot leave-off without suffering ill effects!

Simon said...

Yes, that is my experience as well. I cannot stop it without destroying who I am as a person; I would become a robot. It seems built into me, and for a purpose.

The only frustrating thing is that I now have to "reconfigure" a lot of experiences and assumptions into my new frame of Kierkegaardian inspired existentialism so that they become acceptable to my intuition. I expect a lot of things to change and am not quite sure where things will end up at the moment...

or the new line of enquiry will be rejected, and I will have to begin a new one. But I doubt it, as this simply fits in with the pattern of growth I've experienced over the past few years.

One last thought:

A new state of consciousness would have to be simple and automatic, akin to language acquisition as a child. Those experiencing original participation in the past did not will themselves into that state, they simply where there. Similarly, I believe the only way we will achieve final participation is through permanent change in our being through the intuition/thought mechanism.

Simply put, state of consciousness is not the end point in itself but will merely be a by-product of how we are actually living.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Simon - "A new state of consciousness would have to be simple and automatic, akin to language acquisition as a child. Those experiencing original participation in the past did not will themselves into that state, they simply where there. "

Interestingly, I read this morning in the preface to Barfield's Saving the Appearances that he believed that Final Participation is, unlike Original Partcipation, a product of will and non-automatic - by analogy with Imagination (in the Coleridge sense) which is seen as an active thing.

So FP may be simple (I agree) but it may not be automatic - being necessarily *chosen* and *willed*.

(We are offered the chance to grow-up spiritually, but are not forced to grow-up - indeed, probably we cannot be.)

Simon said...

I believe my use of the term automatic was misleading. What I'd hope to avoid with a state of consciousness is a conscious effort to remain in that state. If one were to go through life thinking "Oops, losing state, must refocus, how to regain it?", not only do I believe that this is impossible for man to maintain, but it is entirely antithetical to how I believe Final Participation should be characterised.

What I understand Barfield to mean by Final Participation is that we get all the purpose, meaning and connection of Original Participation whilst retaining our unique identity with all that it entails (which includes choice and will).

Our task is to discover how we are meant to live...the state of consciousness will necessarily follow.

(BTW, I believe Barfield's adoption of the Steinerian metaphysic to be mistaken; the German idealists (of whom Steiner is a descendant) suffer from a fatal flaw in that their metaphysic is not centred on human experience, and will ultimately be misleading in any attempt to use it to achieve Final Participation; Kierkegaard's critique of German idealism is, I believe, devastating.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Simon - wrt Steiner - I don't know whether you have got to the bottom of philosophy of freedom, but it isn't really Idealism in any historic sense. And I think it is basically correct - with a few Christian/ Mormon-specifically modifications. I've got something I wrote last month but haven't posted online yet, where I summarise my views on this. (My main criticism is that Steiner is doing metaphysics without realising - he thinks he is doing science - Barfield later makes the same mistake). If you want to grapple with this then I would recommend "Rudolf Steiner on his book The Philosophy of Freedom - selections arranged and annotated by Otto Palmer, 1975.

Simon said...

I have read Steiner's Philosophy of Spiritual Activity (which I think is the same as the book you recommended?) and found it worthwhile but ultimately flawed (I also found it to be quite representative of German idealism, particularly when I did some deeper reading on the subject; the influence is there and at a fundamental level (elucidated brilliantly here in four parts: part one, part two, part three, part four).

I initially was very attracted to what Steiner proposed in PoSA, but ultimately found it unfulfilling and unconvincing; any metaphysic that attempts to understand man and how he exists that begins by abstraction, and then proceeds to build upon and draw conclusions from that abstraction will always be found to be unfulfilling and unconvincing. A man is not an abstraction; he is real, he exists. Any metaphysic that attempts to describe man, how he exists and how he is meant to exist, and does not begin by recognising man as he truly is in the world and draw conclusions from that will never be of any use in understanding man.

Man's true metaphysic was described in the 19th Century by Kierkegaard in his Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments.

This is the foundation which I believe Final Participation will be built upon.