Meditation on Consciousness

Roland Stahl
April, 2018

      Frequently, in my philosophical speculations, I don’t know which way to apply symbolic representations of yang and yin.  The issue is greatly clarified by the concepts of Young Yang, Young Yin, Old Yang, and Old Yin from the I Ching.  Thus we have the All and Nothing of the Old Yang and Old Yin, but there is also the expanding and contracting of the Young Yang and Young Yin.  But then the issue is further complexified by the concept of enantiodromia, that the consequence of the extreme of either yang or yin is a reversal into its opposite direction.  

     But another consideration that I run into repeatedly is that, given any microcosm (or Macrocosm, for that matter, as a good Hermeticist), while some aspects are expanding as yang, others are contracting as yin.  Thus, for example, we have the world exploding into astonishing levels of complexity, typified by the apparently limitless potential of computers and the internet.  One thing is for sure – we haven’t seen anything yet.  The whole computer and internet age is just in its veriest infancy.  But this has divergent consequences – some of the consequences are very good, while others are very bad.  One simple example is the unbelievable access to information.  In so many ways, this opens up whole new worlds of possibility, accelerating the pace of advancing science and technology, but it also means the total end of privacy as we know it.  Children are now being born into a world where everything is known about everything and everyone, and plenty of people seem to welcome this development, or at least accept it as the inevitable price of our unprecedented access to information.  

     Other developments are a bit more sinister – “the more theoretical control is gained, the more actual control is lost.”  For example, chemical pesticides and herbicides may seem to augment the capacity of the earth to grow more food to feed more people (arguably, not at all a good thing on the face of it), but, in fact, they may be destroying the ecosystem of the earth, killing off not only harmful insects, but beneficial insects as well.  Bees are massively dying off, and the deaths of people to cancer, caused by our increasingly toxic world environment, are not far behind.  And, quod erat demonstrandum, modern technology may create incredibly powerful nuclear weapons, but, rather than making the world more secure, they threaten to destroy all life on earth.  

     Change happens slowly, too slowly to notice.  Personal privacy is not the only thing that is being lost to the modern world.  Many of today’s young people know nothing of trees, gardens, or fresh food.  Four-fifths of every supermarket consists of products which I don’t recognize as food, from sugary drinks to processed “food.”  And hamburgers are not only destroying the last of the ancient rainforests (one of the major sources of pollution is the smoke from the thousands of acres of rainforest burned off every day to make room for more burger-beef), but they are also destroying the health of anyone so misguided as to eat them, thinking they are a kind of food, washed down with sugar water and greasy fries.  

     But none of this was what was on my mind when I took up my pencil today (I am happy to edit by computer, but I compose by pencil, an ancient wooden artifact filled with carbon, formerly used for writing before the advent of computers).  

     I wanted to discuss consciousness.  I have been using the imagery of spiritual elevation leading to convergence at a center of unity, clarity, cosmic consciousness, love, joy, and health.  Distance from this center leads out progressively into error, disharmony, subject-object divergence, anger, and conflict, leading finally to chaos, darkness, and death.  But there is an aspect of consciousness that increases as a function of complexity – higher organisms, representing increased orders of complexity, exhibit greater consciousness.  How do I reconcile those concepts?  Isn’t the expansion into complexity the pattern of moving away from the perfection at the center?  But “a little knowledge leads one away from God; a greater knowledge brings one back, closer to God.”  This is a case of two movements in different directions going on at once – the yang energy of separation and expansion into diversity, and the yin energy of the coalescence of consciousness back to the center of unity, clarity, and love.  These are independent movements – the elevation of consciousness towards unity can be going on in spite of an ongoing expansion into complexity.  

     I don’t have a finished idea to present here; that’s why I call it a meditation.

     I think where I’m going with this is that some “New Age” writers seem to assert that the ultimate origin of the universe is pure consciousness, from which all manifestation has been derived.  This has a really nice “feel good” aspect about it – you know, the Original Mind of God as the Creator of the universe.  But as I look back on my theological speculations, I seem to have been suggesting a more impersonal explanation for the origin of the universe, that the universe somehow “created itself” – came into being spontaneously as an inevitable manifestation of ultimate a priori principles (vide: The Evolution of Theology, Speculations on Cosmic Consciousness and the Love of God, and Philosophical Meditations on the Nature of God, all reprinted in More Laughter).  Then, not only is consciousness a later development, but God Herself is evolving along with Her Cosmos.  In other words, until and unless we find some more evolved beings somewhere, as far as we know, We are the cutting edge of Consciousness, and God and Gaia are evolving along with us.  This is a total reversal of most New Age doctrine, but it makes more sense to me.  

     In many ways, I think I am getting at what Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was talking about as we expand our evolutionary growth of consciousness towards an unknowable Omega Point (vide: The Phenomenon of Man by Teilhard de Chardin).  This evolution of life and consciousness is still going on.  Compare the evolution of Man’s understanding of God, from the very primitive, vengeful, and petty God of the Old Testament (not welcome at my house; if the Old Testament God were to show up at my house, I would offer Him a meal and a place to sleep, out of Christian charity, but then send Him on down the road), to the far more enlightened God of Love of the New Testament, to present conceptions of Gaia, encompassing not just the tribe of Hebrews, nor even the whole human race, but the entire field of life energy on the planet.  

     Human consciousness, too, is evolving on all sides.  Perhaps the Omega Point of Teilhard de Chardin represents the convergence back to the center of unity, clarity, love, and light which enlightened mystics have been describing for a long time.  Perhaps one day a critical mass of enlightenment will propel the human race, along with all life on earth, towards a new Golden Age.

     Let us hope that the energy towards such a convergence will overtake and displace the contrary energy towards divergence, destruction, and chaos which is riding us rampantly (transitive verb) to the edge of darkness.

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