Wednesday, 4 July 2018

The evolutionary-development of consciousness re-explained

If we start-out unconscious and immersed-in the whole world, including what we would now distinguish as the 'spiritual' - seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling the divine; and aware of its activities in our own bodies -  then as self-awareness/ consciousness begins to develop, so we incrementally separate-from the spiritual.

(This is part of an individual growing-up, and it is part of the history of Man; these two being expressions of the same underlying reality.)

At this stage we get ritual, formal procedures, special places and practices that re-connect us with the spiritual. It is because the connection has been broken, and a gap opened between the person and the spiritual, that special structures and processes are needed to bridge the gap.

So the emergence of religion, and magic, are evidence of some degree of separation... Man is no longer unconsciously immersed-in the spiritual, the spiritual is no longer integrated-with all of living; instead man is consciously aware of the need to reach the spiritual - and able to devise effective methods of doing this.

However, as consciousness continues to develop, as self-awareness increases; reaching across the gap to the spiritual gets harder and harder, and finally becomes impossible. Man is self aware; but cannot become aware of the spiritual - he cannot any longer see the spirits, he cannot heard the word of God, he cannot feel the presence of the divine. And if he stays in this state - pretty soon he denies the reality of the spiritual.

Modern Man is in exactly this state. Intensely self-aware as baseline; and without the capacity to perceive the spiritual. It is the state of alienation - of being alone in the universe; and for many it is inescapable except by the obliteration of consciousness (for example, by intoxication).

There are three possibilities. The first and usual path is to accept that alienation is reality and to deny the reality of the spiritual, including the divine. This leads to despair, and suicide in one form or another - nonetheless it is chosen by most people because in the short term it justifies and excuses total selfishness of motivation.

The second is to try and move back to the earlier stage of immersion in the spiritual - to try again to perceive the spiritual world: see ghosts and auras, hear voices of angels, smell/ touch/ taste the presence of the divine. This can happen fully only when consciousness is surrendered; and can happen partially only when consciousness is lowered by some self-intervention, by consciousness alteration. This, broadly, is the New Age attitude, of self-engineering; of consciously trying to diminish the level of consciousness; to surrender-to the spiritual.

The problem is that to succeed (which in practice seems impossible for most people) is to become un-conscious. To succeed is not-to-know that one actually-has succeeded...

The third path or possibility is to begin where we are, which is 'located' in our self-awareness; that is in our thinking. But to expand the scope and strength of our thinking to include the spiritual.

This depends on us regarding the spiritual as real and important - so we are not trying to fool-ourselves - to expand the scope and strength of thinking is an active choice, a conscious motivation - something we must want to do and must do in awareness of our doing. So, since this requires sustained effort, we need to know that it is worth doing.

That is our task. Success comes when our thinking includes the spiritual - includes, potentially, everything that we know to be real. Success is known when we inhabit this expanded thinking - we locate our-self in that thinking. And, and because, when thinking derives from our-self (our real self, not a 'persona' nor an automatic habit).

So the third stage is that - starting from a situation of being cut-off by our thinking; we instead reconnect in our thinking.

How? That is for each to discover and do for himself; knowing that it is what is wanted and we are capable of doing it. Learning to do it, doing it in freedom, and with positive intent and proper desire... these are part of the necessary process. 

As usual in this mortal life; it is part of the divine plan that - as much as possible - we do things for ourselves, by our own best efforts; since we are being trained for eventual godhood. I God did everything for us, we never would learn. 

Help is there and will be provided when personal efforts fail - but we need to be aware that the basic 'set-up' is that the world provides experiences, which we need to tackle and learn-from. 


Chiu ChunLing said...

I find this description unconvincing.

I have never once observed this pattern in all of human history. While I am convinced that there are people who simply lack any capacity to perceive the spiritual, all the evidence is that these individuals never had any such capacity in the first place, even as very young children.

Even if I were to accept that this pattern of loss of spiritual sensitivity resulting from increased awareness of cognitive function does occur, I would never characterize it as "growing up".

The denial of spiritual realities is, in my survey of human behavior, clearly a form of emotional regression to a state of infantile dependence. It is precisely the refusal to grow up and accept that certain spiritual realities which are frightening or sorrowful are quite as real (or more so) than painful physical realities. In fact, there is a strong association with the retreat from the one and retreat from the other, it is not absolute, as someone may be physically courageous and stoic while being spiritually timid or weak, and vice versa.

But I have never seen someone successfully trade off one against another, bolster their spiritual fortitude by indulging in physical cowardice, or vice versa. It may never have happened in all of human existence, for all I can tell. It certainly doesn't happen on a vast social scale to entire civilizations as they develop.

What I have seen, is that those who are lacking in spiritual virtues, be it fortitude, endurance of suffering, sensitivity, or anything else, will often try to claim that this lack is a virtue, usually based on the theory that the virtue is 'imaginary' and thus meaningless and a distraction from the 'real' virtue (which they are assumed to possess in greater degree by being 'undistracted' by the 'imaginary' virtue).

But I have not encountered a single case of such claims being true.

As C.S. Lewis says of such claimants, "It is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out. Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so."

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - From "this pattern of loss of spiritual sensitivity resulting from increased awareness of cognitive function does occur, I would never characterize it as "growing up"." I suspect that you may not be understanding me in the way I intend; and presumably you are not alone in this. That's one reason I keep trying out different ways of explaining this business.

Chiu ChunLing said...

I wonder if it's connected with the lack of honest confrontation with the possibility of existential despair, like you were mentioning in another post. Or perhaps the recognition of alienation, brought on by the impossibility of objective verification of the qualia of spiritual experiences (at least compared with verification of external physical experiences).

Or maybe the distinction between emotional and spiritual experience...I tend to forget this because I have never suffered any serious confusion between my emotions and spiritual experiences, though I recognize that emotional depth is as crucial as mental focus to the full enjoyment of spirituality.