In 2017 we celebrate conscious communities, Christ consciousness, conscious living, conscious creation, etc. The allure of expanded consciousness and the supposed positive effects of it on society make it easy to lose sight of the fact that the conscious mind is but a fraction of our total awareness. The conscious mind is in fact the one facet of our awareness that is most limited, reductionist, and usually loaded with psychic distortions.
You might be thinking, Don’t we need consciousness, for like, everything? Isn’t consciousness how we learn, how we speak, how we make memories, how we make plans and make changes to things? Isn’t the conscious mind what makes humans human? Consider for a moment that consciousness is not the source of any of these human functions, as Julian Jaynes did.
Given the diminished awareness of many people in the world, it is easy to imagine that those who have developed the conscious mind are the ones operating on the highest awareness, holding the greatest insight, and possessing the most complete schematics of life itself. We are conditioned to think this way.
The conscious mind, as Jaynes discovered in his research, is not a necessary part of the learning process. This is true whether it be the learning of signals, skills, or solutions. “The very reason we need logic at all is because most reasoning is not conscious at all.” Also, consciousness does not make copies of everything like most people think, and even if it did, they would be a narrow version of reality: “Actually we are never conscious of things in their true nature, only of the excerpts we make of them.”
If not the conscious mind, then where in the brain is all our higher functioning taking place? We are conditioned to think (consciously) in terms of spatialization, giving an imaginary or assumed space in our heads as well as the heads of others. Jaynes explains that, “consciousness has no location except as we imagine it has.”
So, where does consciousness come from?
The conscious mind develops out of language, and language is largely developed out of metaphors that are condensed into labels. Metaphor uses a familiar thing to overlay its understood meaning onto a different, unfamiliar or hard to describe thing. “Using machines as metaphiers (the familiar thing) has been at the very center of discovery” Jaynes says, and in my opinion it is this mechanistic orientation of thinking that tends to lock off access to the greater portion of a human’s awareness, which tends to be rather undefinable and is obviously less appreciated by the physical scientist.
The conscious mind is quite busy, usually fluttered with a constant stream of private story-telling. Jaynes describes this narratization, “In consciousness we are always seeing our vicarial selves as the main figures in the stories of our lives. We are constantly narrating when we are conscious. Perceptions that do not fit into the ongoing story are unnoticed or at least unremembered. More important, situations are chosen which are congruent to this ongoing story, until the picture I have of myself in my life story determines how I am to act and choose in novel situations as they arise.”
This made a ton of sense to me. Even though I’ve been using the C word (consciousness) like it was the holy grail of healing, I realize now that my logic was based on assuming it was the lack of consciousness that was acting as a main obstacle between a helpful truth and a person’s awareness. In actuality, it is the conscious mind that is locked up with its story, with its distortions, with its baggage, that is the obstacle between truth and awareness. Consciousness may look like the answer next to a society of zombies without activated free will or any self-direction. And yet, there is more to realize, further to go, more to recognize, though perhaps not consciously.
What, if not consciousness, are we using to operate in this life? This is where it gets a bit more difficult to define things neatly. For me, my awareness is sourced from multiple “places” and I take my subtler sensitivities more seriously than I used to. Being sensitive once meant being vulnerable, but it turned out that vulnerability was a story I started telling myself as a nervous kid. Being sensitive now isn’t weakening, it’s empowering. This would not be the case if I had not cleaned out the distortions at the conscious level. When I am both sensitive and free from the conscious narration of the experience, I have a vastly broader perspective of the world around me and the people around me; I have access to my truth and compassion, my stillness and my neutrality; my free will to respond or not respond; this is sovereignty. I feel like we are meant to function on this level of exchange, relying less on language and physical definitions, and more on empathic/telepathic transmissions and receptions, and all of us from a multi-faceted awareness. This can include energetic resonance, intuition, somatic intelligence, memories, dreams, the subconscious, meditation experiences, visions and sometimes just knowing because you know, even if you can’t put it into words. One of the things I noticed along this journey is that the highest truth we encounter is also the toughest to verbalize and convey to others. It’s like we are meant to restore these subtle senses and awarenesses, and that consciousness has been the belle of the co-opted healing modalities ball.
Final thought: If we don’t need consciousness to learn, to speak, to organize, to love one another and to operate a human existence, and if it’s primarily being used as a way to lock up the access (and the credibility) of the other sources of awareness, then in my book, it’s a tool at best and a weapon every day of the week, Probably twice on Sunday.
Excerpts taken from the book “The Origin of Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind” by Julian Jaynes.