The Enigma of Consciousness 11b – Wonder-based Consciousness – Part A

Curriculum Focus

  • Religion
  • Encounter
  • Unknowing

Material

Wonder-based Consciousness and the Final Unknowable (excerpts from Chapter 11 please read the original material for complete context)

Marshall, Gene, The Enigma of Consciousness, Realistic Living Press, Bonham, TX, 2012. Chapter 11

..Religion is our finite human attempts to access and express to one another what I will call our wonder-based consciousness. When religious communicators speak of the overarching wholeness of Reality with a capital R, they are actually speaking of our wonder-filled experiences of actualities that are entirely mysterious to the human mind. .And even the most healthy religion is created by humans not by gods or goddesses or God. Indeed, God, gods, and goddesses are all symbols created by human beings to express actualities that are transrational. For example, the God of the Bible does not make sense of anything. God, as that word is used in the Bible, is a word that points to the FINAL NONSENSE, the FINAL MYSTERY, the FINAL UNKNOWABLE. Paradoxical as it sounds to our rational minds, we can know the UNKNOWABLE directly through our contemplative inquiry. This sort of knowing is transrational.

..the word God is a relational term like sweetheart. In the Bible the word God means that to which we are ultimately loyal. So to name the FINAL NONSENSE God, means that we are committed to living realistically within our awareness of this Final Mysteriousness. This awareness is also the awareness of our profound ignorance. Our thinking minds are wondrous, but more wondrous still is the limitation of our minds and the capacity of our transrational consciousness to be aware of the overarching Reality within which we and our minds are one tiny part.

All our disciplines of empirical learning silently witness to the FINAL NONSENSE, the FINAL MYSTERY, the FINAL UNKNOWABILITY of Reality with a capital R. The scientific disciplines are customarily silent about such matters, but being human beings, scientists know or can know that their science is an exploration into the Final Mystery. That same Final Mystery is the root experience that has made religion a recurrence in every human culture. In our actual direct experience of Final Reality we experience THAT which is beyond thoughts. And if we picture this Final Reality as Love for us from a Personal Father, we are poeticizing our trust in this Final Mysterious Reality. We are not describing Final Reality.

Some religions do not emphasize personalized symbols for Final Reality. Instead they use more impersonal metaphors like Tao (The WAY it is) or Dharma, (the Wisdom). Without recourse to a personalized metaphor, these religions evolve practices that have to do with being devoted to that same Final Reality that is indicated in the religions that prefer intimate metaphors, Father to son, Mother to daughter, I to Thou. .A fully realistic philosophy of religion needs to begin with these basic axioms: (1) Consciousness itself is transrational. (2) Consciousness of consciousness is transrational. (3) Overall Reality is transrational. Any religion that loses touch with the transrational quality of life is a perversion of the basic function of religion. Good religion is that religion that is capable of connecting human society to THAT which is beyond the cultural canopies of understanding created by that society.

Good religion is founded upon trust in that Overall Mystery that never makes sense. Nevertheless, the sense-making function of our human minds can be affirmed as good (as gloriously human) by the religions that witness to and trust the Overall Mystery that never makes sense. Sense-making is a function of our symbol-using form of consciousness. In order to live within our transrational consciousness, we do not need to negate the task of sense making. We simply need to be aware that our sense making is finite, temporal, provisional, ongoing, never ending. Our sense of things is never permanent. The FINAL NONSENSE is permanent, and will continually undo whatever sense we have made or will make for the living of our lives. A viable human culture is one that is at least somewhat supported by Reality, yet in the end Reality undermines all of our cultural, political, and economic creations and challenges us to create better ones.

Once we have noticed this limitation of our thinking minds, we can notice ourselves noticing our noticing consciousness This fifth noticing I am calling wonder- based consciousness. If this fifth layer of consciousness is full blown, we can call it enlightenment. It can also be called presence, for this awareness exists only in the now in which we are living. It is only now that we are present in the deep meaning of that word. We can also call ourselves saved, delivered, healed from the despair of fighting Reality, of insisting that our self-made sense of things should be substituted for the enigmatic glory of WHAT IS.

Reflection Questions

  1. Read one of the lines from this reading that caught your attention.

  2. From your encounter with this material, how would you answer the question, What is religion How and where have you experienced this life dynamic in your own experience

  3. Share an example from your own life of transrational knowing

  4. What are some special relational terms you use to identify or communicate with loved ones in your life Talk about why it might be important to understand when we are using a relational term. (2)

  5. Describe the root experience in every human culture. What is the result of this experience

  6. What are examples of stories, names, myths, practices or rituals you use to connect with the Ultimate Mystery at the center of life

  7. Talk about the struggle depicted in this section between our need to make sense out of life and our actual encounter with Reality.

  8. Describe the difference between good religion and bad religion. How have you experienced this

  9. What other line or concept would you like to have the group explore with grounding experiences

  10. What question of this material would you like to discuss with the author for further clarification or guidance .(How would anyone else address this question)

  11. How might I live my life differently because of the awareness provoked in this material

  12. What personal practices might be indicted from the encounter with this material