THE EVOLUTION OF CONSCIOUSNESS - PART 2
By Roland Watson
In the last article, I explored a wide range of possibilities for the underlying nature of the universe. As all of this suggests, we are still a long way from any real answers. Is it one universe, or many? Interconnected, and a form of life, or not? With substance, or none? Real, or a dream?
The chain of life
What does seem certain is that this spectacular structure, this awe-inspiring organization, in whatever its true form is, exists to grow life, and, life exists to live. We also now have a good idea of what it means to live. There is a whole chain of evolution, the various stages of which, so far, include:
- God created, or became, the universe.
- The universe, in a sense living, gives birth to a variety of structures, including planets - and perhaps other universes.
- Planets, in a sense living, give birth to organic life.
- Organic life struggles, against many great challenges, to survive, procreate, conserve energy, and also to live, to enjoy the experience of being alive.
- Further, all of these goals, but especially the last, are facilitated as life is able to refine its expression of will, through the development of self-consciousness and reason. And, the application of reason includes doing not only what is reasonable, but also that which is not, but not in the sense of the irrational; rather, of reason transcending itself, through the expression of passion, for experience and love and creativity.
This is the underlying design of evolution, of life, and it now appears that it will lead us - the human species - in a number of new directions as well.
Ethical and scientific development
The first of these is ethical development. With the impetus of social and environmental chaos, we will use our reason to change our behavior, to bring about equality for all people, and all forms of life. We will find a way to eliminate social differences, and such that they are never recreated; and, we will learn to minimize our effects on other forms of life, so that they too can continue to evolve.
Secondly, we will continue to pursue scientific development. We will use our reason to solve those puzzles of objective reality that are within our reach.
Development of new types of consciousness
Thirdly, we will continue to develop new states of consciousness. This includes self-intensification, leading to greater personal development and originality; and self-denial, leading to peace, acceptance, and new forms of awareness.
Furthermore, there is no reason to assume that the logical ability that we now have will not itself continue to evolve into new and more powerful forms. I would comment that while we are at the limits of our present conceptual ability here, we have learned enough that a few other speculations can be made. The starting point is to recognize that our consciousness is evolving to find new ways by which we can satisfy our highest needs: to cultivate love, including to increase the frequency with which it is the motive force behind our behavior; to increase our knowledge and wisdom; and to further our creative expression.
Regarding love, we can recall that as a species we are only just beginning to understand it. And, we have a limit in its application. We can love one person, or a few, but not all. Therefore, to love all, such as all life, will require an expansion of our consciousness. Indeed, this is the most important message of Jesus Christ. When Christ said that we should love one another, in practical terms he was saying that we need to evolve our consciousness, such that we are able to do it.
Love is an emotion, so one way to look at this is to consider whether or not emotions can evolve. However, an alternative perspective is that love actually defines the meeting point of reason and emotion. The love that follows from reason is the love of and passion for life.
I have redefined life not as you or I, as individuals, but as our entire lifelines. But, even this perspective is flawed. In reality, there is only one life per planet, in our case stretching back billions of years, and involving what we perceive to be millions of separate species. Each planet that bears life has one life and one life only. To harm other life, therefore, is to harm ourselves.
A new type of evolution
A paradox in this is that a composite effect of our developmental changes is the observed increase in individualism. We are both one, and an increasingly diverse many. Indeed, one would expect that this will have a profound effect on our evolution as a species.
In our successor species, a greater diversity of individuals will exist than in any other species heretofore, including our own. It will not be a case of one species with a high degree of conformity among individuals being replaced by another, with individuals in the new group having a new set of advantages, deriving from a common ancestor or small collection of ancestors.
Rather, humanity is evolving as human individuals achieve uniqueness, which is likely a first in the evolution of life. But, how can a species change accommodate this? There is no underlying consistency to the change, other than the successful pursuit by individuals of all manner of personal objectives, including the expression of creativity in all of its possible forms?
Evolution and topology
Actually, one constant that may underlie this is the change that will occur in our consciousness to further our understanding. In effect, we are considering a boundary, the boundary of knowledge, and we already know that the nature of boundaries is a key issue in the study of topology. With further analysis, then, we should be able to apply its concepts and rigor to all universal systems. And, this includes studying the nature of the boundaries of the universe, and of life, and also of the mind. For instance, the universe as a whole is - in some way - continuous. Hence, it must have an underlying invariant topological form, as must all of the self-contained systems within it.
All forms that are alive exhibit a common characteristic of "expansion." Through internal feedback mechanisms they are "stretched": they stretch themselves. As our consciousness evolves, one would expect our sensitivity to such underlying forms of nature to increase - including to the form of our consciousness, and this includes our sensitivity to their expansion, and to what happens at their boundaries.
It is even possible that one day we will come to view everything differently. Rather than see reality as a collection of distinct particles, that are acted upon by distinct forces, we will learn to perceive everything as a fluid dance of shape and form. In a sense, using our mind in new ways, we will achieve "super-lucidity": we will learn to perceive the super-sensible.
An example of this, which is available even now, comes from the world of dreams. Sometimes, when you are having a deep dream, you may wake up, become conscious, but only a little bit. And, in this mildly conscious state, but which is yet too mild to disturb the underlying unconscious dream processing, you become aware of a rapid progression of flickering shapes, one after another, at least one per second, and perhaps a hundred or more. Then, after observing this with increasing awareness, the progression is broken. The conscious intrusion is too great, the unconscious processing shuts down, and you awaken.
The shapes are not like abstract geometries: circles or squares. They are more irregular and diffuse, less easy to recognize; and, they all are different. But, what are they? I believe they are the "shapes" of our own ideas. In such a state, we can "see" our mental processing at work. We have "form consciousness."
The shapes are the actual development of our thoughts; they are a topological representation of the electrical currents, perhaps even of the quantum energy states, in our brain.
Indeed, our unconscious mind does not think in symbols: in words or numbers. This is much too slow and inefficient. Instead, it thinks in shapes, which develop and change with great rapidity, and which follow hidden topological rules.
This type of consciousness, topological or form consciousness, which would appear to be distinct from the absolute unity of being states that I discussed earlier, constitutes a new source of knowledge. But, this is not mathematical understanding, requiring numeric or geometric symbols; nor is it philosophical understanding, requiring words. Instead, it allows us to escape our perceptual limitations; to gain an appreciation of things we cannot sense, and an understanding of ideas we cannot phrase. Through it we can learn to recognize the development of life's underlying forms, without the need for symbolic interpretation - or reinterpretation, including of form transformations - continuous changes, and evolutions - or discontinuous breaks.
Conscious - unconscious connection
The route to this type of consciousness lies in opening up our unconscious mind to conscious awareness and interaction. And again, a number of examples of this already exist, the first of which is yogic control of bodily processes. Through years of practicing meditation, yogis are able to control the autonomous, or unconscious, systems of their body, such as by slowing down their heart rate. Also, emotions come from the unconscious, from the limbic system, and it is possible to establish conscious control over them as well.
Another example is learning to remember, and then control, your dreams. You can learn not only to grasp the shapes of unconscious mental processing - at least for a few moments, but also, with dreams, their content. To remember a dream, when you awaken from it you should immediately try to go back to sleep, concentrating on what was happening in the dream just as you awoke. With practice, you should be able to restart it. Then, when you next awake, it should be easier to remember the entire dream, because this conscious link has been established. Further, you can cultivate the ability of your conscious mind to serve as a guide in your dreams, such as by leading you away from the sources of danger in nightmares.
To the extent that it is possible to integrate with universal consciousness, or just to increase the depth of our interaction with it, we will have to consolidate our personal consciousness. We must determine who we are: use our will to complete and round out our identity - and break free of social form; and then increase our conscious awareness of our unconscious mind, meaning to pull the latter into the former.
The brain hemispheres
A final perspective on this comes from the knowledge that the two hemispheres of our brain, left and right, look at the world differently. Quoting Gary Zukav, "Our entire society - meaning modern and western - reflects a left hemispheric bias." (Note: this is an astounding example of an arcane form, if ever there was one.) "The left side of our brain perceives the world in a linear manner" - meaning with time, and cause and effect. It "functions logically and rationally." The right side of our brain, on the other hand, tends to view the totality of our experience, what has been termed the "overall context," rather than its constituent parts.
As an aside, it is possible that many of the paradoxes that I have described arise because of these differences in perception, between the two hemispheres.
Other distinctions include that the left is associated with analysis, and the right with synthesis and creativity; the left with language, and the right with music and also emotion; and that the left is considered to be masculine, and the right feminine. A goal similar to conscious-unconscious unification is to increase the communication between the two hemispheres, to eliminate any systemic bias towards one or the other. I can add, traditional eastern society may have a right hemispheric bias.
In conclusion, this recalls the point that the evolution of our consciousness will require an increase in our neural circuitry, and in the right spots. Different advances, in love, absolute unity of being, and form consciousness, will probably necessitate different changes. In the next article, I will begin by considering just what neural programming changes might be required.
© Roland Watson 2015