Still reading Consciousness: an introduction. Still thrilled 🙂
The book closes with two chapters about spiritual aspects of the subject: awareness and Buddhism. Just some interesting tidbits thrown our way:
- People who start out meditating are more neurotic than average.
- People who continue their practice are more extroverted than those who quit (us introvert people naturally spend so much time thinking about themselves and life that adding meditation is overdoing it?)
- Meditation is no more relaxing than other relaxing things like taking a nap or dozing on the couch.
So far we’re safely in the zone of ordinary psychology. It gets even more interesting when Susan Blackmore goes on writing about enlightenment.
I was particularly taken with her story of the man without a head. Seriously: Douglas Harding (p. 498) woke up one day with the sense of not having a head. It’s the ultimate blank state: take a look right now. What are you conscious of, subtracting all imagery about yourself? You are conscious, if I may fill it in, of all you can see (my hands typing, sense (my but on the chair) and hear (the cars outside). NOT included in that is my head. Why would I be conscious of my head when I don’t have a headache or am watching myself in the mirror? I can see a few of the hairs that float over my eyes (thanks to the hairdresser I went to after years of doing my hair myself), the top of my nose – but that’s it.
It’s a very simple way of being – but it also makes a great meditation exercise. I’m an introvert, but this one works for me. 😉
It reminds me, in a roundabout way, of one of the more famous of Blavatsky quotes (S.D. 1, the proem, p. 11,12):
The Occult Catechism contains the following questions and answers:
“What is it that ever is?” “Space, the eternal Anupadaka.” “What is it that ever was?” “The Germ in the Root.” “What is it that is ever coming and going?” “The Great Breath.” “Then, there are three Eternals?” “No, the three are one. That which ever is is one, that which ever was is one, that which is ever being and becoming is also one: and this is Space.”
“Explain, oh Lanoo (disciple).” — “The One is an unbroken Circle (ring) with no circumference, for it is nowhere and everywhere; the One is the boundless plane of the Circle, manifesting a diameter only during the manvantaric periods; the One is the indivisible point found nowhere, perceived everywhere during those periods; it is the Vertical and the Horizontal, the Father and the Mother, the summit and base of the Father, the two extremities of the Mother, reaching in reality nowhere, for the One is the Ring as also the rings that are within that Ring. Light in darkness and darkness in light: the ‘Breath which is eternal.’ It proceeds from without inwardly, when it is everywhere, and from within outwardly, when it is nowhere — (i.e., maya, one of the centres). It expands and contracts (exhalation and inhalation). When it expands the mother diffuses and scatters; when it contracts, the mother draws back and ingathers. This produces the periods of Evolution and Dissolution, Manwantara and Pralaya. The Germ is invisible and fiery; the Root (the plane of the circle) is cool; but during Evolution and Manwantara her garment is cold and radiant. Hot Breath is the Father who devours the progeny of the many-faced Element (heterogeneous); and leaves the single-faced ones (homogeneous). Cool Breath is the Mother, who conceives, forms, brings forth, and receives them back into her bosom, to reform them at the Dawn (of the Day of Brahma, or Manvantara). . . . .”
Why does this remind me of the earlier bit? Well – Blavatsky suggested somewhere that there are seven keys to The Secret Doctrine: seven ways to read it. I think there are two main ways her book is read today 1) cosmologically, as a description of the universe and the place of humanity in that universe, including a lot of information about the psychological and spiritual evolution of mankind and 2) spiritually, meditatively. In that second way of reading the Secret Doctrine it’s read as a sort of koan: What do these words do to my consciousness? What associations do they bring up? What images rise up?
With that in mind this sentence ‘The One is an unbroken Circle (ring) with no circumference, for it is nowhere and everywhere;’ is certainly reminiscent of the man without a head exercise… isn’t it?