The Enigma of Consciousness 8 - Qualities of Consciousness

Curriculum Focus

What is Reality
Absolute Attention


Marshall, Gene, The Enigma of Consciousness, Realistic Living Press, Bonham, TX, 2012. Chapter 8

Qualities of Consciousness (excerpts from Chapter 8 please read the original material for complete context)

In observing our own consciousness, we face an infinite well of mystery. Part of that mystery is this awareness that consciousness within the human being includes the capacity to be an observer of our own consciousness. Herein is one of the profound mysteries of our lives: we can be conscious of our own consciousness. So let us notice within our own consciousness some of the qualities we observe about that consciousness:

1. As we are already noticing, a first truth that a contemplative inquirer can notice is this capacity to be conscious of our own consciousness, a capacity that makes contemplative inquiry possible. I, the inquirer, can be conscious of my own consciousness and of my own capacity to inquire into the nature of that consciousness. Though this may seem an obvious thing to say, it is a huge truth.

2. A second truth the contemplative inquirer can notice is that he or she cannot be directly conscious of the consciousness that is within another conscious being. We can observe the behaviors of our dogs or cats or human companions, but we cannot directly experience the inner consciousness of those beings. With other human beings we can observe their behaviors and hear their reports about their inner consciousness, but we cannot be directly conscious of that other humans consciousness. Contemplative inquiry is a solitary enterprise. We can compare our findings with each other, but we must each find our verifications for these findings within in own solitary lives. We can make guesses, even very good guesses about what is going on in another persons consciousness, but the verifications for those guesses can only be found in that persons consciousness of his or her own consciousness. Furthermore, the guesses we make about another persons consciousness are based on our own experience of our own consciousness. The very language we use to make those guesses is defined (or needs to be defined) in terms of our own inward experiences.

3. A third truth that the contemplative inquirer can notice is that an accumulated wisdom about consciousness is possible. Indeed, such wisdom is about half of all that each human culture counts as its common wisdom. All of a cultures artistic collections are expressions of our contemplative accumulation of wisdom. By artistic collections I mean paintings, sculptures, music, dance, story, song, poetry, dramas, and more. Even architecture is an artistic form as well as the design of functional dwellings. Further, all of a cultures religious collections are the result of contemplative inquiry. Those who claim that their formulated religious wisdom dropped down from a supernatural realm are simply making up a story to fill a gap in their understanding of these deep matters. Religious wisdom is acquired through contemplative inquiry, and then this inner experience is expressed in analogies, myths, cryptic sayings, diagrams, parables, dogmas, creeds, rituals, icons, and the like. The truth test for a cultures artistic and religious wisdom is found, and only found, in the type of verifications that can be acquired by singular persons consciously inquiring into their own consciousness.

4. A fourth truth that the contemplative inquirer can notice is that consciousness is both passive and active. It is both paying attention and taking initiative. It is both attentionality and intentionality.

5. Consciousness is a co-creative force along with other forces in the outcomes of history. There are other forces aspects of my own body about which I am not conscious as well as the vast forces of the cosmos. Consciousness does not create the whole of reality, but consciousness does co-create along with these other forces the course of eventsHow inner intentions are linked to outward movements cannot be investigated by either the scientific approach to truth or the contemplative approach to truth. Why Because the scientific approach to truth cannot directly view consciousness and the contemplative approach to truth cannot view anything outside the realm of consciousness. So neither approach is capable of viewing the link between the two. Yet we tend to be quite sure that there is a link even though that link is one of the most enigmatic aspects of both scientific research and contemplative inquiry. We can become quite sure that both approaches to truth are approaches to the same reality, and we can come to realize that our mental make up is such that our reason is not capable of a rational understanding of how this inner intention is linked to outer movement. Consciousness and its linkages with the overall sensory-discovered world are infinitely enigmatic to human thinking.

6. A sixth truth that the contemplative inquirer can notice is that consciousness has a fragile or passing finite quality. Consciousness is not eternal or everlasting. Consciousness of consciousness is a fragile, temporal thing that is not always present or fully present.

7. A seventh truth that the contemplative inquirer can notice is that consciousness is only present in living beings. A rock is not conscious.

Dogs, cats, horses, chimpanzees, porpoises, whales, etc. are clearly conscious beings, but humans enjoy (or are inflicted with) a mode of consciousness I will call the consciousness of consciousness.

Reflection Questions

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

Pick one of the above 7 Qualities of Consciousness and share how you experience this characteristic of awareness in your own life.

In your estimation, why is it important to grasp that contemplative inquiry is the source of all cultural creativity and religious repository of wisdom (3)

What is an example of where you have changed your intentions or actions as a result of having changed your attention or what you were focused upon (4)

What is an example of where you have experienced your interior consciousness co-creating with external forces or the shaping of history (5)

How have you experienced the temporary nature of your consciousness or its fragility (6)

How do you experience yourself as an infinite well of mystery

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)

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

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

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