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LATEST DIALOGUES If Everything is Consciousness, is Everything Conscious?

whirlpool

At this year’s conference I’ll be moderating a discussion between Bernardo Kastrup and physicist Christopher Fields. I was motivated to write this essay by some correspondence with Bernardo after my interview with him on Buddha at the Gas Pump. He and I were working from the assumption, certainly open to debate, that everything is consciousness – manifest creation being an excitation of that underlying field. We were discussing whether inanimate objects can be conscious.

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Advaita means “not two”. Advaita Vedanta is not just saying that at some deep, fundamental level everything is unified while the surface level is diverse. It’s saying that there is one unified Reality, and that all apparent diversity is nothing other than the One appearing as the many while actually remaining One. For example, right now we may feel that we’re looking at our computer monitors, but if there’s only Oneness, then the observer, process of observation, and observed must all be the same thing assuming those different functions while remaining Oneness. For the purposes of this essay, we’ll use the term consciousness to refer to this Oneness, although terms such as pure existence, God, Brahman, Unified Field, vacuum state, etc. might also suffice.

If there is nothing but consciousness, then there can’t be anything other than consciousness which would cause consciousness to appear as limited forms. Somehow, consciousness must do this to itself. Bernardo uses the analogy of a whirlpool, which seems to have a form, but is nothing but water interacting with itself. Physics speaks of the Unified Field as having a self-interacting nature, similarly explaining that at that level, there is nothing other than itself with which it could interact.

If consciousness “creates” the “material” universe through self-interaction, how is it that the various forms which consciousness appears to assume seem to lose sight of their essential nature? If there is nothing but consciousness, is consciousness somehow hiding its true nature from itself? In Vedic terminology, this hiding quality emerges as a natural consequence of the self-interacting dynamics of consciousness. Being conscious, and having nothing other than itself of which to be conscious, consciousness becomes aware of itself and in so doing, seemingly diversifies into observer (rishi), process of observation (devata), and observed (chhandas). I say “seemingly” because as Ramana Maharshi and others have pointed out, diversification only appears to take place. It doesn’t actually do so. The rope never really becomes a snake.

It seems to me that the hiding quality of consciousness is essential to there being a manifest universe, or appearing to be one. If every bit of creation were fully aware of its true nature as consciousness from the outset, there would be no possibility of or need for manifestation, no evolution of increasingly complex forms, no fun game of hide and seek which God is playing with Himself! Once the illusion is seen through, the game is over. More than one sage has uttered statements such as “The universe never manifested” or “Nothing ever happened”.

All this talk of consciousness as the sole reality and forms as mere appearance is not meant to imply that we should dismiss our activities and relationships as illusory. Contemporary spirituality is now recovering from a tendency to do that. Many of those who took refuge in the intellectual notion that they were “not a person” and that there is “nothing to do” lost interest in life, and in some cases suffered dissociative breakdowns. The current emphasis on “embodiment” is an attempt to counteract this. With that caveat, I’ll return to my theme.

If everything is consciousness, does it follow that everything is conscious? If so, to what degree? Have material forms entirely lost sight of their essential nature, or do they all retain at least a glimmer of it? There’s a Sufi saying: “God sleeps in the rock, dreams in the plant, stirs in the animal, and awakens in man.” A rock is as much in consciousness and consciousness in it as is a human being. But rocks do not appear to be conscious in any meaningful sense. Yet at the atomic and sub-atomic levels, looking at carbon atoms for instance, a rock is indistinguishable from a human being. Some would argue that even at this level, nature is conscious.

Physicist and cosmologist Freeman Dyson writes that, “Matter in quantum mechanics is not an inert substance but an active agent, constantly making choices between alternative possibilities… It appears that mind, as manifested by the capacity to make choices, is to some extent inherent in every electron.”

In 1973, “The Secret Life of Plants” by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird presented research suggesting that plants are sentient beings that feel emotions, prefer classical music to rock and roll, and can respond to the unspoken thoughts of humans hundreds of miles away.

And it is obvious that animals are highly conscious and emotionally sensitive.

These examples suggest that everything is conscious to some degree, but that that degree spans a vast range. The more complex and sophisticated the physical structure, the more fully consciousness can be reflected. We see much more sophisticated, complex structures in living beings than in rocks – structures capable of reflecting consciousness enough to be conscious, conscious that they are conscious, and in the enlightened, conscious that they are consciousness. God sleeps, dreams, and stirs in the rock, the plant, and the animal because they don’t have brains and nervous systems capable of enabling consciousness to be fully awake to Itself. But human beings do.

Analogously, we might take the raw materials from which a radio is made – metal, silicon, glass, plastic, etc., and throw them in a heap on the floor. They won’t function as a radio, yet they will be permeated by the ubiquitous electromagnetic field every bit as much as would a functioning radio capable of interpreting certain frequencies of that field as music.

Similarly, take the elements that comprise a human being and put them in containers on a table. Like everything else, they are universal consciousness appearing as form. But they are not conscious in any significant way. But “assemble” them properly – or let nature do it – since human intelligence is incapable of doing so – and you have a conscious human being.

The raw elements comprising the “unassembled” human being are consciousness appearing as form no less than those in the “assembled” one. It’s just that the properly “assembled” elements form an instrument capable of conscious experience, while the unassembled elements do not.

If the ultimate reality is consciousness, then what instrument could be better suited to investigating it than the human nervous system? It is far more sophisticated than any apparatus humans have been able to devise. The examples of numerous saints and sages have demonstrated that on this planet at least, the human nervous system (including its corresponding subtle bodies) is uniquely capable of enabling consciousness to awaken fully to itself and enjoy functioning as a living reality, completing full circle the purpose for which it originally manifested.

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31 Responses to “If Everything is Consciousness, is Everything Conscious?”

  1. August 17, 2015 at 2:48 pm, susanna eun said:

    The intelligence that “assembles” the “unassembled” parts is part of consciousness also. The force that created all “unassembled” elements, the intelligence that molds the “unassembled” into “assembled”, and “assembled” final products that are functional, intelligent, and self-aware are exactly same consciousness.

    It’s called the Law of Triyaka in Mahayana Buddhism, which is almost identical to the Law of Trinity in Christianity. In other words, the essence that governs all creation cycles (God the Father), the intelligence that converts dark matter into matter and vice versa (God the Holy Spirit), and the created beings that are self-aware, self-conscious, and self-creating (God the Son), are different aspects of the One Consciousness, Dharma, Buddha, Tao, God, etc.

    All created beings including human beings, flowers, weeds, cockroaches, animals, birds, rocks, volcanoes, hurricanes, stars, galaxies, black holes, white holes, the universe, and more universes are perfect demonstrations of the law of Triyaka. The universe is nothing but a joyful playground of this consciousness, displaying its law of Triyaka, through a myriad of created and to-be-created beings. Those who are awakened to this amazing secret and identify themselves as the products of Triyaka are called Buddha (the enlightened one); the rest is called Avidya (the ignorant one) who can’t escape confusion, pain, and suffering, regardless how much they discuss about non-duality.

    Those who have transcended the three dimensional realities, even for a brief while, may have experienced how absolutely pure, beautiful, and peaceful each flower’s consciousness is. Even though we think they don’t amount much, they are completely content in their inner and outer forms, enjoying every single moment of their existence, deeply grateful of the life force represented in them. At times, such as during heavy rainfalls, they become worried about their own survival. But predominantly, their existence pattern is peace. Perhaps, human beings are the only species not capable of enjoying peace and love that are shared and experienced by all other created beings. However, flowers can never become Buddha regardless how pure they are, only human beings can! What an irony!

    • August 19, 2015 at 11:12 pm, David Storoy said:

      So there is really “God/Creator” in the teachings of Buddhism?

      • August 31, 2015 at 1:44 pm, Julianjulio said:

        Well, it’s different symbols about the Same Experience/Reality… Buddhism does not usually need/use that word God, but there is the ‘Deathless’, and Even Buddha Nature can be equated with God… We have to be very free and adept to not get somewhat-confused with the differing symbols…

      • September 04, 2015 at 8:07 pm, susanna eun said:

        Siddhartha Gautama, who later became Buddha (the enlightened one), said: One Mind Creates Everything (a better translation: all manifestations are merely the products of One Mind). One Mind, which neither has the a beginning nor an end, not bound by any man-made concepts such as truth, absolute, universe, god, void, non-void, time, or space, is all there is. The concept and implications of the word “god/creator” are almost identical to those of One Mind in Buddhism.

    • September 03, 2015 at 12:35 pm, Rick Archer said:

      Hi Susanna, please elaborate on why you say that
      “flowers can never become Buddha regardless how pure they are, only human
      beings can!” Are you agreeing with the point I made in the essay, that
      enlightenment requires a complex, highly-evolved nervous brain and nervous
      system?

      • September 04, 2015 at 9:00 pm, susanna eun said:

        Hi Rick,
        I agree with you in saying that only those creatures with highly complex nervous systems can experience so-called enlightenment. However, besides human beings, there are other species that demonstrate an extremely high-level of intelligence, communication skills, and multi-tasking capabilities. Dolphins, for instance, have larger brains than we do; their brain structures are known to be far more complex than ours. Dolphins may be more evolved than humans in exercising unconditional love or compassion. Can dolphins, with their complex nervous systems and expanded capacity to love, experience enlightenment? That leads us to the question of what enlightenment is all about.

        I believe that It’s not so much of DNA (98% of our DNA is identical to that of chimpanzees) or the number of brain cells we have. Rather, humans were created as the closest replicas of the eternal creator in exercising free will, understanding their own essence, and engaging in non-stop creation activities, at least on this planet. So, instead of phrasing that “enlightenment requires highly evolved nervous systems like humans’,” how about “human beings are already endowed with full capacities to be enlightened, if they choose to?”

        Oh, this question of enlightenment, when will it ever end?

        • September 05, 2015 at 6:38 am, Rick Archer said:

          Hi Susanna. I find this topic fascinating because with all this fuss about enlightenment and awakening, it might be useful to arrive at agreed-upon definitions of those terms. Otherwise the communication is garbled. I have a friend who insists that amoebas can be enlightened.

          Also, I don’t think enough emphasis is placed on the
          role of the physiology in attaining and maintaining enlightenment. Physiologists tell us that every experience, however minor, involves some corresponding physiological activity. Major states such as waking, dreaming, and deep sleep have significant different correlates. So it would seem that something as significant as enlightenment is supposed to be should correlate with profoundly different styles of physiological functioning, especially in the brain. There’s a fair amount of research suggesting that it does.

          • September 06, 2015 at 3:08 am, MK McGee said:

            Many mystics and higher martial artists refer in various ways to superhuman functioning. Rick, I completely agree that physiological changes, neurological and otherwise, distinguish awakening, if not cause it. I also think many people who awaken (actually, I can see an argument that everyone does) do so partially, that they adapt to the small degree of higher level functioning, then stop at that. Maybe leads to a nameless sense of one’s own awakening, and the origin of spiritual ego.

            An explicit desire to “reach enlightenment” does not necessarily instruct a process of awakening as outlined above. Also, to reach an extremely high level of functioning/awakening sounds great, except that it’s not a formula for easy integration into society! Much easier to have an “I am superhuman!” hook to hang your hat on and get back to business as usual.

          • September 26, 2015 at 4:25 am, Thomas Razzeto said:

            The ancient definitions that I received from Timothy Conway are helpful for me in understanding this nondual wisdom in a practical way but of course we can all individually choose whatever words we like to describe whatever understanding we as individuals choose to embrace. Our freedom of choice is vital for our own personal health and the health of our society. And yet it also leads to a lot of confusion since so many different views are presented and the words are not aways consistent from one person to another.

            Be that as it may, the ancient definition of awareness that I use is simply this: the capacity to perceive. And I am talking about perceiving anything – physical objects, thoughts, emotions, intuitive feelings, energy states, nighttime dreams, events and so forth. I often call all of those things just “things” or “objects” or “objects and events.” In other words, anything that can show up in “your” awareness is an object. (Your awareness is the only “thing” that is not an object; it is not am object or a thing since it has no thing-like qualities that can be perceived.)

            So awareness is simply sentience. And personal consciousness is the individual viewpoint or perspective through which all objects and events in the scope of that viewpoint are presented to “your” awareness. (It is not really “your” awareness but it seems like it is yours. It is really the One Source-Awareness and it is not owned by a person.)

            Personal consciousness is an inert but dynamically animated window. That metaphor is a bit limited since we also say that personal consciousness (your soul) is an instrument of God, the flute that is being hollowed out and tuned to perfection by God but let’s continue. Your personal consciousness (your soul) permeates your body and this creates the extremely vivid (and convincing) experience of being a sentient physical human being. When both awareness and personal consciousness are present, they work together and the idea that awareness and consciousness are synonymous works just fine. (This is the point that David, Julianjulio and other have made in their comments.)

            Yet there is more. The intuitive wisdom revealed by nirvikalpa samadhi testifies that “your” awareness is the unconstructed Divine Source-Awareness and that personal consciousness is a construction that can fall away. This is why the nondual wisdom makes a distinction between the two. This distinction opened the door to a clearer understanding of this nondual wisdom for me, as I went into at length in my two previous comments.

            Even though the ancient texts say that all of creation is inert, yet dynamically and spontaneously animated, there is still room for a view that holds that all of creation is alive. While creation itself is not the source of its own aliveness and it is not autonomous, the Divine Awareness-Aliveness permeates every aspect of creation and all of creation reveals this unbounded Intelligence. So it might be said that everything is alive because the Supreme Aliveness is working through everything, just like a transcendent actor works through a dependent character. The character seems to be alive. And within the Aliveness of all of creation, we can still use our conventional understanding of life and death – an animal is born and then later, it dies – since that is very useful and practical and a sage is very practical.

            And somewhat like a person who is both blind and deaf but still fully aware of being alive, you might imagine, for example, that an electron lacks all of our physical senses and yet still retains a sense of aliveness as an electron existing in our physical world. In the Preface by Seth for his book, The Nature of Personal Reality, we find this:

            All consciousness has within it the deep abiding impetus to use its abilities fully, to expand its capacities, to venture joyfully beyond the seeming barriers of its own experience. The very consciousnesses within the smallest molecules cry out against any ideas of limitation. They yearn toward new forms and experiences. Even atoms, then, constantly seek to join in new organizations of structure and meaning. They do this “instinctively.”

            – end of quotation –

            Later, near the end of the first chapter, he adds this:

            Trees and rocks possess their own consciousness, and also share a gestalt consciousness […]. The cells and organs [of your body] have their own awarenesses, [plus] a gestalt one. So the [human] race […] also has individual consciousness [plus] a gestalt or mass consciousness, of which you individually are hardly aware. The mass […] consciousness [of the human race], in its terms, possesses an identity. You are a portion of that identity while still being unique, individual and independent. You are confined only to the extent that you have chosen physical reality, and so placed yourself within its context of experience. While physical, you follow physical laws, or assumptions. These form the framework for corporeal expression.

            – end of quotation –

            This brings us back to the question Rick posed in the title of his post. In a sense, all of creation is conscious. In another sense, creation is all animated in a way that makes it look as if it is all alive on its own and yet it is all alive only because of the sustaining hand of God that pulses as everything and through everything. This apparent aliveness is really the Aliveness of Source-Awareness being played out through this inert but dynamically animated character in the play of consciousness.

            Let’s consider the following example. A hand puppet could appear to write a novel. That would seem to be proof of its consciousness and intelligence. But that is only the outward display of the consciousness and intelligence of the unseen puppet master. While the puppet is inert, it is animated spontaneously in the moment in such a way that it presents the illusion of a thinking sentient being, but in this example, it is hardly a convincing one.

            Yet the illusion of the personal “self” is far more convincing than a crude hand puppet. It does indeed seem as if you (the person) are a separate, mortal, sentient being but the truth (in my opinion) is that you are fundamentally Sentience Itself, without any form at all, without any thing-like qualities. You are the unseen seerer of seeing, the unheard hearer of hearing, and so forth, as the ancient Upanishads tell us. The One Infinite Mind comes forth as the apparent intelligence of all sentient beings.

            So let’s celebrate the One Aliveness that animates all form, some of it with the apparent power of sentience (animals and so forth) and some of it without the apparent power of sentience (rocks and so forth). I find all this to be profoundly beautiful and quite mind-blowing.

            Thanks for reading my long comment. In truth, I honor your divine nature.

            All my best, Thomas Razzeto
            http://infinitelymystical.com

  2. August 18, 2015 at 12:26 pm, Thomas Razzeto said:

    My mentor is Timothy Conway and he makes a distinction between Awareness, which is uncreated and has no form whatsoever, and Universal Consciousness, which is something that is created in a way that is “nondual.” Let’s first talk about that word “nondual.”

    It means of course “not two” and it comes about because God and creation are seen as one Reality, not two. This wisdom holds that the unseen Creator arises as the creation we see all around us. This is somewhat like an actor arising as a character. There is a difference between the the actor and the character since the actor still exists even when the role of the character is dropped. The actor is the source of the character; it’s not the other way around. Yet when the actor arises as the character, they are identical.

    Since the actor is the transcendent source of the character, it is wise to make a distinction between what seems to be “two” and yet the actor also fully permeates the character in a way that paradoxically makes them “One.” When you look into the eyes of the character, you are looking directly into the eyes of the actor. You do not have to go to a deeper level to find the actor. Every single quality or aspect of the character is truly a quality or aspect that is being exhibited directly by the actor, and every single action that appears to be done by the character is really being done by the actor. What appears to be the will and power of the character are really the will and power of the actor.

    A similar thing is happening with God and creation. It is God who is arising as “everyOne” and it is God who is doing everything. Creation is an emanation that comes about when formless invisible Source-Awareness (God) miraculously appears as the form that makes up not only our physical world, but also all spiritual worlds. Ice doesn’t just come from the water, it is the water, and so it is with God and creation.

    Everyone knows that they are aware but most people make the “mistake” of carrying this too far and they incorrectly conclude that they are an aware being, rather than simply pure awareness. We are so used to thinking that in order for seeing to take place, there must be a physical (or spiritual) being that sees. Yet the truth is (ha, my opinion is) that there is seeing but there is no object-like being that sees and this is why it is sometimes said that there is no seer, although I prefer the way this is presented in the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, one of our most ancient nondual texts. It tells us that this One Awareness is “the unseen seer of seeing, the unheard hearer of hearing, the unfelt feeler of feelings,” and so forth. This Awareness is the unsensed sensor of all phenomena and to this I like to add that this Source-Awareness is also the undreamt dreamer of dreams.

    If you take a bite of some delicious food, you will taste it but I will not. Since I cannot directly sense your physical sensations, feel your emotions, see your thoughts, remember your memories, and so forth, it seems logical to say that we each have our own personal consciousness, separate and distinct, and this is indeed what the nondual tradition accepts as an apparent reality. Yet there is another important “layer” to this reality.

    While it seems like it is this personal consciousness that perceives our world, in truth (in my opinion), your personal consciousness is blind; it perceives nothing. Yet it provides a unique and dynamic point of view used by the One Awareness. Only this Awareness perceives anything. What we think of as the power of perception of the personal consciousness is actually the sentience of the One True Self sensing the world through the point of view of the personal consciousness.

    The ancient texts of India refer to the personal consciousness as the “jiva” and Timothy Conway also translates this as the soul or “the viewpoint.” Timothy emphasizes that your personal consciousness is certainly not a limited or smaller version of the Absolute Awareness, with a diminished or restricted power of perception. Again, it has no sentience of its own; it is like a window and a window cannot see anything.

    Through the mystery of creation, this One Source-Awareness arises in a way that makes it seem as if there are many separate, independent “awarenesses” and this reminds me of the light from the moon. It looks as if the moon is the source of its own light, but in fact, the light from the moon is really light from the sun, bouncing off the surface of the moon. Not only does moonlight originate with the sun, it is always fundamentally sunlight. Its nature and qualities do not change at all when it bounces off the moon. (This analogy is slightly flawed since some of the sunlight is absorbed by the surface of the moon and turned into heat, but you get the idea.)

    In this way, the moon presents to us the sunlight that we experience as moonlight. If for some reason the sun were invisible to us, we would never learn that it is the true source of this moonlight and we would incorrectly think that the moon is the source of its own light. And if there were more than one moon, we would incorrectly think of them all as separate sources of different light.

    In a similar way, Source-Awareness, which is indeed invisible to us, creates what appear to be individuated personal consciousnesses, each with what appears to be their own power of sentience. This is the illusion of the personal self; we are tricked into believing the false idea that the personal self is a self-powered sentient being, alive and aware all on its own.

    So in summary, you are not “just” pure formless Awareness; you are also the totality of created reality (all form) and you experience your life from the perspective of your own “personal self.” This intuitive recognition of this nondual wisdom will help bring forth the fruit of enlightenment: loving kindness, compassion, peace and joy.

    Thanks for reading my post. In truth, I honor your divine nature. All my best, Thomas Razzeto, author of Living the Paradox of Enlightenment. http://infinitelymystical.com.

    • August 19, 2015 at 11:09 pm, David Storoy said:

      “My mentor is Timothy Conway and he makes a distinction between Awareness, which is uncreated and has no form whatsoever, and universal consciousness, which is something that is created in a way that is “nondual.” Let’s first talk about that word “nondual.”

      -Awareness is the same as Consciousness/Awareness/Self and there is not actually something that is called universal consciousness. Awareness is Consciousness and it is better to talk about universal mind instead of universal consciousness in my opinion. We cannot experience consciousness directly. Only as a reflection in this world.

      Awareness/Self/Consciousness is ever present,limitless,unborn,uncreated,actionless(not a doer),all pervasive,non-dual etc.

      So universal mind is created. Who is the creator? In Vedanta they call the creator,Ishvara. It is the same as God. We are both microcosmic (jivas,individuals) and macrocosmic(God,universal mind and causal body etc).Unmanifested main source is Awareness,yes. And we do not change our identity as Awareness/self/consciousness when we experience something. The changes is only in our mind,causal body,intellect,brain,body etc.

      • August 22, 2015 at 6:08 pm, Thomas Razzeto said:

        In my book, Living the Paradox of Enlightenment, I have a quotation of my mentor Timothy Conway that might be helpful here. Timothy is an excellent scholar of all the nondual traditions, but this does not mean that we should simply believe what he says. While he does enjoy pointing out what is found in our ancient nondual wisdom texts, he also points out that the supreme teacher is Reality itself even though Reality (Source-Awareness) is not fundamentally an “it” or an object or any kind of being or process or state that can be detected by sentience. So even the ancient texts should not be place in a position of supreme authority and even if that were the case, it would still leave the debate open as to what texts are the correct texts and what the correct translation of those texts really is. So I hope that this post will be received in the gentle spirit in which it is offered. Ponder it if you are inspired to do so, or let it go if it does not resonate with you.

        In my previous post, I said that a distinction between Source-Awareness and universal consciousness can be quite helpful. Universal consciousness is sometimes called the primordial seed-vibration or the creative manifesting principle and it is the first thing that is created. It is the first vibration through which all other vibrations come. This is why it is distinct from Absolute Awareness, which is the vibrationless Witness of all vibration.

        In this regard, here is what Timothy offers us:

        – beginning of quotation –

        The most ancient Upanishad wisdom texts speak of “Brahman” (Absolute Reality) and the “pranava” (AUM/OM, the primordial seed-vibration for the multi-level cosmos). This is also referred to as Brahman and Maya, the illusory play of the Absolute, which is “relatively real, experientially vivid, but ultimately dreamlike.” This is why the sages of ancient India differentiated the unchanging, formless, silent Absolute Awareness (the “Noumenon”) from the “universal consciousness,” which is always changing and constantly morphing, with its dynamic vibrational forms arising as the ever-changing play of phenomena.

        In later Hindu tradition, the eminent sage Shankara (who codified in his commentaries and treatises so much of the wisdom of the Upanishads) distinguished this as “Nirguna Brahman” (formless, “qualityless” Reality) and “Saguna Brahman” (Reality with form, qualities, and dynamism). The Hindu Bhakti and then Tantra traditions distinguished this as “Shiva” and “Shakti.”

        The Buddhists and Daoists have their own way of distinguishing the formless, unchanging, unborn Absolute from the Absolute-playing-as-phenomena.

        So do the Christians: God (or the “Godhead”) and the Logos/“Word,” the primordial Divine vibration by which the One Divine God creates/emanates the “many creatures.”

        In Islam and Sufism, this is “Allah” and “Allah’s veil of creation.”

        In Daoism, this is the “Dao” and its power, “De.” An old formulation runs: “From the Dao (the Absolute) comes the ‘one’ (the principle of manifestation), from the one comes the ‘two’ (yin and yang), from the two come the five (the Chinese 5-element schema) and from the five come the ‘ten thousand things.’”

        The reason why it is so important to have this distinction between 1) the Absolute Awareness and 2) the universal consciousness (the creative manifesting principle) is that the latter disappears in deep dreamless sleep and in formless trance states, hence it cannot be the Absolute. The deeper continuity of Supreme Identity IS and ALWAYS IS, regardless of whether a world of phenomena is arising or not.

        The great sages knew by pure, Divine intuition that underlying all that is changeable is THIS CHANGELESS CONTINUITY OF IDENTITY, the true “I AM,” unconditional BEING. Whereas by contrast everything else is changeable, passing, coming in and out of existence. This includes the sense of a manifest cosmos, even on just a very, very subtle, psychic/heavenly level.

        – end of quotation –

        Here is some more material from my book:

        This transcendent Eternal Reality creates (arises as) an apparent reality, which is only real as an ever-changing experience. Because all experiences arise due to the relative relationship between the observer and all apparent objects, this reality is said to be relatively real. Yet Source-Awareness exists fundamentally without any relationships, and this is why we say it alone is Absolutely Real. And yet paradoxically, this is what creates and witnesses all relational experiences. When all experiences stop – as they do in deep dreamless sleep and in nirvikalpa samadhi when you abide as Pure Awareness – then everything goes away, just like a nighttime dream that disappears when you wake up. Our world exists only as a relatively real dreamlike experience and it is only perceived by the One always awake Dreamer.

        When I first started to attend Timothy’s satsangs, someone repeated for me the ancient teaching, “There is no doer.” Since my understanding at that time was that everyone was busy doing lots of things, this seemed to me to be complete nonsense, but I decided to cast off my conflicting understanding and approach the statement from the perspective of asking, “How is this true?” The normal scientific approach is to examine a postulate by looking for a way to demonstrate it as false. If nothing can be found to counter the postulate, then it is accepted as true and this works great for all the subjects that science is good at. But when it comes to spiritual understandings, there can be fruit in this other approach.

        This is what helped me realize that this invisible Power does everything, and in this way, the doer has no thing-like qualities. So there is doing, but there is no thing or being that does anything. Everything that the personal self seems to do is done by this invisible animating Power. This is one of the central teachings of the most ancient Chinese Daoists and more recently highlighted by the great Indian sage Nisargadatta, and it is a key teaching presented at Timothy’s weekly satsang gatherings.

        – end of material from my book –

        And this gets us back to the question in the title of Rick’s post. Yes, all of created reality is consciousness yet it is all blind and inert, only the One Awareness sees or does anything, as I discussed in my first post.

        Thanks for reading my post. In truth, I honor your divine nature. All my best, Thomas Razzeto, author of Living the Paradox of Enlightenment. http://infinitelymystical.com.

    • August 31, 2015 at 1:39 pm, Julianjulio said:

      Yes, nicely & Well-put.
      However, the distinction consciousness/awareness does not exist (or need to exist = my point) in Spanish, for they mean the same.
      We are meaning IT, that Non-objectified Totality whatever name we like to give

      • August 31, 2015 at 1:40 pm, Julianjulio said:

        in Spanish = la conciencia

        • September 01, 2015 at 4:34 pm, Carl Golembeski said:

          That was a very interestig thing that I’ve discovered recently
          … i work with an organization in Chile and they have no word for awareness.. only consciousness is translated and used for both.

  3. August 19, 2015 at 11:40 am, David Storoy said:

    No, matter is inert. Not everything in the world is conscious.

    • August 19, 2015 at 8:23 pm, susanna eun said:

      Are you matter? Or only your physical body is matter that is inert? Or are you a composite of matter that is conscious of itself? Is water matter, devoid of any consciousness? If so, why does water change its molecules depending on the emotions of an observer? Is planet earth conscious or is it totally inert?

      The point is anything that is created, from an amoeba to something known as the universe, are the by-products of the one big Consciousness,Source, Tao, One Mind, God, Awareness, or whatever else it’s called. This something doesn’t care how much we debate about matter vs. non-matter, duality vs. non-duality, or good vs. bad. It just keeps creating at all corners of the universe, abolishes anything that has been created, only to recreate something else again. Therefore, all matter has be conscious because no matter can exist without the Consciousness’ intent (to create matter).

      • August 19, 2015 at 10:10 pm, David Storoy said:

        No, because everything in this world is a projection(holographic) from Maya. Force of ignorance. We see an object outside ourselves. But the objects is known to me and they are in me. The mind knows the object. It is an idea or thought in our mind.
        So our perception and experience is not trusthworthy when we talk about this issue.Consciousness is the seer/knower and not the seen/known.
        Standing in Awareness – the matter is inert. So we have to examine our experience in the world very carefully and thoroughly.

        Quote from Shiningworld.com – Vedanta self-inquiry and teaching:
        “I am not an Object

        If something is known to me, it cannot be me. Physical objects, thoughts and emotions and my experiences in the world are objects known to me.”

        “Am I separate from Objects?

        Let’s deepen our inquiry. Where do I end and the objects begin? Is there a separation? If there is, what kind of separation is it? If you analyze perception, you will see that the objects are not actually separate from the subject, me.

        Light strikes objects, travels through the eyes and the experience and knowledge of the object happens in the mind. The knowledge of the object is true to the object. If a dog is walking in front of you, you do not see a cat. What is the experience of the dog made of? It is made of your mind, the perceiving instrument. The mind is your consciousness taking the shape of various objects. It can know anything because it is formless and limitless. If you think about the experience of the dog, you can see that from an experiential point of view the dog is actually in your mind, not outside walking on the street. It looks as though it is outside, but if you try to experience it outside, you cannot. No matter how close you get to the dog, it is always an object. You cannot just jump out of your body/mind and experience objects because objects are not located where they seem to be. They always seem to be away from us but they are not.

        Here is one of Vedanta’s counterintuitive assertions: objects are not real. When we say they are not real, we mean that they never stay the same from second to second and they are made up of parts. Which part of the dog is actually the dog? The hair, the teeth, the paws, the nose? And if the dog is the nose, what is the nose? It is an aggregation of particles changing according to various natural laws. So which particle is the nose particle? When you get very close to the dog, the dog is only a patch of hair.

        When you investigate, all objects ultimately break down to the space in which the particles appear and the observer of the space. The observer is conscious of space and objects sitting in it, or they could not be known. And the consciousness of the observer is the consciousness that knows everything.”

        You can read more in this chapter of 14 chapters about Vedanta – science of consciousness.

        http://shiningworld.com/site/index.php/one-year-course?id=99
        We do not experience Consciousness. We experience a reflection of Consciousness/Awareness/Self in this world.

      • March 29, 2017 at 9:13 pm, kellygranite said:

        I found your site tonight, when I was googling…”Everything is Conscious”. I was looking to expand my mind, by remembering… Even the void, before matter is conscious. Matter does not need to exist to create consciousness, and like written above, everything is consciousness, even that which is not human. Is the void “pre consciousness” is an interesting question, would we like this space to rest in, and then return to creating? Is this the black hole. 🙂

        I was given the most amazing “audio clip” by one of the students in Jane Roberts class, “Seth Speaks”. Jane was showing the class that everything is conscious, by telling the “table” in the room to move and show its self to be conscious. For 10 minutes she repeated rather playfully, “Move Table”, “Dance Table” “Shake Table, show us you are here.” Then it started moving around. I could not see it, because it was only audio. But, I could hear it and the reaction of the students in the room. It was wildly fun, to witness my mind expanding. I loved it. And tonight I started thinking about it, while house hunting for a magical old stone house. It seems that the houses are speaking, not all have happy stories. One is near a quarry, where the earth is being blasted open by dynamite, another is totally unloved. I had forgotten that the houses were alive, and I was matching up with them, based on my thoughts and inner reality. Randomly, someone said to me, “maybe the houses are talking to you.” I laughed, thinking that’s true. Her comment reminded me of Jane’s table, and I said to myself, “That’s it.” 🙂 Nice to be with like minded friends.

  4. August 21, 2015 at 10:38 am, MK McGee said:

    I find the term “source” rather than consciousness to be more ideal from a spiritual point of view when making the leap between self and oneness. Precisely for the reason that consciousness itself is experienced differently depending on biological/chemical make-up and boundaries. You could just concluded they are one and the same (oneness and consciousness) but much subtly is lost.

    Certainly does not preclude the fascinating discussion of what consciousness is and whether/how it might be experienced in a variety of living or even non-living things, and how it relates to itself and others.

  5. August 26, 2015 at 5:07 am, Alex Tsakiris said:

    thx for this Rick. I thought you made this point nicely in a recent BATGAP episode when questioning the distinction between big mind and little mind.

  6. September 01, 2015 at 4:42 pm, Carl Golembeski said:

    How are we defining consciousness and awareness here..?. I’ve always thought of consciousness is of “that it” quality. And awareness is of “i am” quality. For example i look at consciousness as a fundamental or substance quality thing (that it) in all form from inanimate objects to thought forms .. and awareness happens when that fundamental substance quality has an ability to navigate its way through a form that is a somebody and recognize itself as separate and other… it seems conscuoisness maybe comes from the word consire – to know. its a fuzzy thing to define and that makes communication with this stuff so delicate. sometimes i feel with all of these distinctions in words that we are not communicating at all…especially if we understand these words as different concepts when spoken about.

  7. September 01, 2015 at 5:55 pm, MK McGee said:

    Why do we have to be cohesive about consciousness? How people frame consciousness to make sense of their world makes it true, not necessarily fundamentally/spiritually useful, but true in the context of their believing. I get a kick out of thinking about the consciousness of crickets, but call me crazy.

    Right now I am seeing the modern punt game with consciousness in terms of metaphysical crisis — spurred by the careless metaphysics of modern theoretical physics, which reflects a sense of ethical erosion, to which some version of “people can’t escape responsibility when consciousness reigns” looks like a saving grace.

    Discernment of pure source on the other hand (which it seems consciousness has been made a stand-in for in many commenters minds) breaks down quickly, sometimes at language, sometimes at bias, sometimes at assumptions, and is never true or false but just IS.

    I honor those who continue to work to describe pure source experientially. It’s been essential because of the lack of physical understanding that connects matter to such source. I also honor those who seek a responsible approach to living, provided it allows for divine longing.

    cosmicomorphic.com

  8. September 24, 2015 at 8:51 pm, Thomas Razzeto said:

    The ancient definitions that I received from Timothy Conway are helpful for me in understanding this nondual wisdom in a practical way but of course we can all individually choose whatever words we like to describe whatever understanding we as individuals choose to embrace. Our freedom of choice is vital for our own personal health and the health of our society. And yet it also leads to a lot of confusion since so many different views are presented and the words are not aways consistent from one person to another.

    Be that as it may, the ancient definition of awareness that I use is simply this: the capacity to perceive. And I am talking about perceiving anything – physical objects, thoughts, emotions, intuitive feelings, energy states, nighttime dreams, events and so forth. I often call all of those things just “things” or “objects” or “objects and events.” In other words, anything that can show up in “your” awareness is an object. (Your awareness is the only “thing” that is not an object; it is not am object or a thing since it has no thing-like qualities that can be perceived.)

    So awareness is simply sentience. And personal consciousness is the individual viewpoint or perspective through which all objects and events in the scope of that viewpoint are presented to “your” awareness. (It is not really “your” awareness but it seems like it is yours. It is really the One Source-Awareness and it is not owned by a person.)

    Personal consciousness is an inert but dynamically animated window. That metaphor is a bit limited since we also say that personal consciousness (your soul) is an instrument of God, the flute that is being hollowed out and tuned to perfection by God but let’s continue. Your personal consciousness (your soul) permeates your body and this creates the extremely vivid (and convincing) experience of being a sentient physical human being. When both awareness and personal consciousness are present, they work together and the idea that awareness and consciousness are synonymous works just fine. (This is the point that Julianjulio and other have made in their comments.)

    Yet there is more. The intuitive wisdom revealed by nirvikalpa samadhi testifies that “your” awareness is the unconstructed Divine Source-Awareness and that personal consciousness is a construction that can fall away. This is why the nondual wisdom makes a distinction between the two. This distinction opened the door to a clearer understanding of this nondual wisdom for me, as I went into at length in my two previous comments.

    Even though the ancient texts say that all of creation is inert, yet dynamically and spontaneously animated, there is still room for a view that holds that all of creation is alive. While creation itself is not the source of its own aliveness and it is not autonomous, the Divine Awareness-Aliveness permeates every aspect of creation and all of creation reveals this unbounded Intelligence. So it might be said that everything is alive because the Supreme Aliveness is working through everything, just like a transcendent actor works through a dependent character. The character seems to be alive. And within the Aliveness of all of creation, we can still use our conventional understanding of life and death – an animal is born and then later, it dies – since that is very useful and practical and a sage is very practical.

    And somewhat like a person who is both blind and deaf but still fully aware of being alive, you might imagine, for example, that an electron lacks all of our physical senses and yet still retains a sense of aliveness as an electron existing in our physical world. In the Preface by Seth for his book, The Nature of Personal Reality, we find this:

    All consciousness has within it the deep abiding impetus to use its abilities fully, to expand its capacities, to venture joyfully beyond the seeming barriers of its own experience. The very consciousnesses within the smallest molecules cry out against any ideas of limitation. They yearn toward new forms and experiences. Even atoms, then, constantly seek to join in new organizations of structure and meaning. They do this “instinctively.”

    – end of quotation –

    Later, near the end of the first chapter, he adds this:

    Trees and rocks possess their own consciousness, and also share a gestalt consciousness […]. The cells and organs [of your body] have their own awarenesses, [plus] a gestalt one. So the [human] race […] also has individual consciousness [plus] a gestalt or mass consciousness, of which you individually are hardly aware. The mass […] consciousness [of the human race], in its terms, possesses an identity. You are a portion of that identity while still being unique, individual and independent. You are confined only to the extent that you have chosen physical reality, and so placed yourself within its context of experience. While physical, you follow physical laws, or assumptions. These form the framework for corporeal expression.

    – end of quotation –

    This brings us back to the question Rick posed in the title of his post. In a sense, all of creation is conscious. In another sense, creation is all animated in a way that makes it look as if it is all alive on its own and yet it is all alive only because of the sustaining hand of God that pulses as everything and through everything. This apparent aliveness is really the Aliveness of Source-Awareness being played out through this inert but dynamically animated character in the play of consciousness.

    Let’s consider the following example. A hand puppet could appear to write a novel. That would seem to be proof of its consciousness and intelligence. But that is only the outward display of the consciousness and intelligence of the unseen puppet master. While the puppet is inert, it is animated spontaneously in the moment in such a way that it presents the illusion of a thinking sentient being, but in this example, it is hardly a convincing one.

    Yet the illusion of the personal “self” is far more convincing than a crude hand puppet. It does indeed seem as if you (the person) are a separate, mortal, sentient being but the truth (in my opinion) is that you are fundamentally Sentience Itself, without any form at all, without any thing-like qualities. You are the unseen seerer of seeing, the unheard hearer of hearing, and so forth, as the ancient Upanishads tell us. The One Infinite Mind comes forth as the apparent intelligence of all sentient beings.

    So let’s celebrate the One Aliveness that animates all form, some of it with the apparent power of sentience (animals and so forth) and some of it without the apparent power of sentience (rocks and so forth). I find all this to be profoundly beautiful and quite mind-blowing.

    Thanks for reading my long comment. In truth, I honor your divine nature.

    All my best, Thomas Razzeto
    http://infinitelymystical.com

  9. October 24, 2015 at 3:58 pm, Carol Giller Rubin said:

    If the universe only exists when there is a conscious observer than everything must be conscious. My house gets wet when it rains whether I am there or not. My dog (who I know is conscious) tears up my shoes when I am not there observing him. The bread dough rises when I am not at home observing it. Is it the consciousness of the birds that fly over the house, the neighbors down the street, etc. that keeps the universe existing–or is it the collected consciousness of everything? Is it my individual universe or everyone’s? If we share the same consciousness, when I dream do the people I dream of have the same memory of that dream? Or is the “real” world like my dream world, mine alone?

  10. March 15, 2016 at 8:53 pm, wefromo said:

    Am I over simplifying things here? There is only Consciousness expressing through infinite expanses. Consciousness is the same in a rock or a human. It is all simply the dance of the cosmos and we, the stars, rocks, etc. are the dancers. We are deluding ourselves in believing we are individuals with freewill or choices anymore than the other physical forms. We did not control when, where we were born, our parents, siblings, early upbringing, etc. We are simply that through which Consciousness is expressing. Perhaps we are evolving from some basic form of life to ultimate Oneness in the process. It is beyond human understanding at this point.

  11. May 26, 2016 at 3:16 pm, mayagaia said:

    There’s an intellectual draw to such esoteric constructs expressly because they allow lots of unfalsifiable wiggle-room. I invite all this cerebral potential to address a more fundamental mystery – “What happens to our self consciousness when we die?” and does the anecdote of my (Google) “nirvikalpa samadhi journey” provide credible evidence for any insight.?

  12. September 24, 2016 at 10:23 am, NE0 said:

    You are not a body, you are not a brain. Thinking the brain has anything to do with anything is, in my opinion, totally missing the fundamental concept of non-duality.

  13. November 03, 2016 at 1:28 am, Starlady64 said:

    Hi Rick,
    I am a shaman, medicine women and I have had crystals, rocks and the planet communicate with me. I can say that rocks and crystals not only communicate telepathically but they also feel and like to be respected. One of my amethyst caves cried after my ex-husband touched one of my crystals whilst I had activated sacred space in my house with the crystal network, prayer and all the elements. This particular amethyst cave was the master crystal that held the sacred consciousness of all the crystals together creating sacred space. The crystal felt totally violated by the fact that one of the crystals had been touched by my ex-husband when sacred objects are not touched ever unless permission is given. In fact after my ex-husband touched the crystal and broke sacred space a dark entity entered the house and I could feel the presence of the dark entity in the house and had to work to shift the dark entity out of the house. My crystal cried for an hour and I had to nurse it and hold it until it settled.
    I attended a sacred ceremony on the bank of a creek and I collected a rock from the creek bed to participate in ceremony with me. The rock communicated with me and let me know its name was Anthony and it laughed and was experiencing joyousness through out the ceremony. I was so enamoured with Anthony rock, that without asking Anthony if I could take him home, I took him home and placed him in my garden. I instantly felt Anthony rocks unhappiness and he communicated that he wanted to go home to the creek bed. So two weeks later I took Anthony rock back to his home on the creek bed and apologised for taking him home without his permission.
    Anthony rock had a different energy to amethyst crystals, Anthony’s energy was joyful but not as light and beautiful as amethyst crystals. Amethyst crystal have a very tentative touch when they communicate and the vibration of the energy is light and beautiful. Every amethyst crystal I have likes to be held and loved.
    I also had a mineral elemental fairy come awake in a crystal of mine and she was beautiful. I took the crystal to ceremony with me because the fairy liked to be apart of the ceremonies and if I didn’t include her in ceremony she would get very angry at me and fly in the air in front of me pointing her finger at me and lecturing me. The fairy loved to fly in front of me (she was invisible, I could percieve her with my third eye or spiritual sight) when reading books to the children at night she found the books fascinating. The fairy was also very joyful, happy and full of childlike energy when happy. My children are adults now, I still work as a shaman medicine women and believe it or not I have three academic degree’s and I am presently studying a Masters of Science in Consciousness, Spirituality and Trans-personal Psychology. I finally found a degree program in which I can be myself and fit in. Rocks are beautiful and they do think and feel and have spirit consciousness just like we do. Here is the name of a book written by Jamie Sams and Twylah Nitsch. Twylah Nitsch is an Indigenous grandmother and keeper of the language of the stones. Jamie Sams is a Navaho/ Senaca shaman. There is section in the back of the book dedicated to the language of the stones you should read it.

    Anyway I enjoyed reading your article I was looking for information for a university presentation.

    Blessings Angela

  14. December 13, 2016 at 3:16 pm, Dr Patricia Long MhD said:

    Hello Rick Archer, its a relief to read your take on how rocks have a conscious to help me not feel so crazy because Ive been connecting with earth rocks since spring of 2013. Starting with a ice age quartz crystal rock I dug from my yard gardening. Even though She is in the shape of a skull doesnt undermine the significant information that downloads in my energy field as do the thousands of over rocks not shaped in the form of a skull. But it does seem Ive collected what could be different species of skulls Im gathering in their families. More conscious I am of the rocks conscious, more drawings, inscriptions, and crystal appear as though my meditations with them make them change and not only I see more, the download of energy I receive intensifies. It is a magnificent feeling of waves passing through me sespending my higherself in a state of gratitude and compassion. physically, my head feels like a humming magnet and tears lighten my heart. The drawings and inscriptions are not only on the surface but etched through inside the entire rock of an intelligence that blows away anything I have ever seen. Some rocks sophistication will appear not only in many layers of different images on the surface but change without me seeing it move. Im taking a big leap in sharing this crazy secret I have about my relationship with rocks, but one of my big mommy rocks seems to be speaking for all rocks “We Are Here”

  15. June 22, 2017 at 9:36 pm, dazwah said:

    Is it not consciousness that is conscious? Is everything “appearing” in consciousness not only consciousness?

    A dream is of a apparent multiplicity but is it really? Do you question whether all the characters or objects in the dream are independently conscious?

    In a dream, there is no mistake that every appearance in the dream is made of the dream. Every “object” is known to be dream, if in the dream world it was to appear that the dreamt character was to look for the stuff its world was made from, the mind would always put an object in front, it requires an object to manifest, deep sleep would occur if the dream had no apparent objects. The dreamt character would need self-enquiry to actually find the true reality of the dream. Its the trail back to awareness/consciousness that the dream world would collapse and be known to be only an illusion. Can the dream appear outside of consciousness?

    Now we can look at the world, we take the world to be more real due to its nature to last longer than a fleeting dream world. In the waking state the dream world is known to be an illusion, it is known that there are no real separate objects. The waking state allows for much better enquiry into reality. Just as the outward search to find the true nature of the dream, no matter what instrument used to find the stuff that makes up the world, it will always require an object. So the enquiry needs to go backwards, beginning at consciousness itself. Can a world appear outside of consciousness? No it cannot. Can objects have consciousness? No they cannot. No thing can have Buddha Nature, only Buddha Nature is Buddha Nature. Only consciousness is conscious. This is the basis of non-duality. The dreamlike waking state, needs “objects” to create a world of multiplicity.

    The Ramana metaphor of the movie on the screen sums it up completely. Paraphrasing; The screen in which the movie appears on is always over looked. The movie on the screen is taken away and the screen remains, if the screen is removed and so is the movie. The objective consciousness model, would be that the character in the movie creates the screen. How is this possible? Is not everything in the movie ultimately made of the screen no matter what movie is playing? The screen like consciousness has no point in time and space as its not the subject nor object, it is as it is.

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