Knowledge is a small thing operating in a single dimension
From Martin LeFevre in California
In recent years there has been an explosion in the mind sciences. The goal of
these cognitive and neurosciences is an explanation, in scientific terms, of
consciousness and the self. The explanation however, will not change the
"Evolution," says the philosopher Thomas Metzinger, "is not something to be
glorified." Indeed, he adds, "biological evolution on our planet is a process
that has created an expanding ocean of suffering and confusion where there
previously was none." That, to my mind, begs the question, or rather questions.
What is the relationship between our normal consciousness (that is, content
consciousness and the self), and suffering? Does so-called mystical experience
(the meditative state) point to a way out of our suffering? And is there an
intelligence (call it God if you like) that wants humankind to make the
transition from content consciousness to another kind of consciousness
Tentatively, I believe that content consciousness and suffering go hand in hand.
Meditation is a process of gathering attention that quiets the mind and empties
the heart. Therefore it ends suffering in the individual, at least temporarily.
And there seems to be a cosmic intent for us, but donıt bet the farm on it.
Can "mystical experience" be explained in terms of discoveries being made in the
mind sciences? I think so, up to point. But the quality of mind and brain that
defines the meditative state cannot ultimately be explained in terms of
scientific theory and knowledge, since that would mean that silence, and the
sacredness that often accompanies it, would be contained by knowledge and
Knowledge and experience must give way for God to be. However much knowledge our
consciousness accumulates, it will always be a small thing operating in a single
dimension. But when the grasping mind lets go and is totally still, the brain
can, with great humility, witness and even mirror the universe and creation.
The mind sciences have demonstrated conclusively that no such thing as a self
actually exists. Though we subjectively experience a self that is at the center
of our reality, the self is actually a model or representation that thought
generates through which the brain filters experience. Usually, we do not see the
self, but see through it. Or rather, not seeing through it we see the world
In the end, I do not think that consciousness as we know it will turn out to be
that big of a deal. Conscious thought will be replicated with computers. Then
content consciousness will seem, to those standing on the fluid shore of insight
consciousness, as a long and painful stage in human evolution.
At mid-day in town it is already too hot to be outside. But itıs ten degrees
cooler in the parkland, and in the shade it is pleasant. I take a cool dip in
the shallow stream. People are barbecuing upstream and down from where I sit.
Every once in a while I catch a whiff of meat cooking, but the smell only
slightly turns my vegetarian stomach. Nothing disrupts the observation that is
invisibly gathering attention and awakening meditation.
When thought spontaneously quiets down, and the heart suddenly fills with joy
and peace, the world seems both near and far away.
Near in the small childıs peal of laughter and delight playing in the water.
Near in the din from the freeway more than a mile away. Near in the movement of
sorrow that is the essence of the world.
But far in the solitude and silence, in the peace and detachment that meditation
brings with its blessing.
The author welcomes comments.