It was a bizarre week in America. The Boston Marathon bombings, the ricin letters sent to President Obama and two Congressmen, and an explosion the size of a small nuclear bomb outside of Waco Texas. Why do the gates of hell often open in April in the USA?
The three elements necessary for a full-fledged police state are in place and were on display in Boston: Overwhelming militarized police presence; media frenzy and complicity; and citizen acquiescence and willing participation.
To what degree the dim state of affairs in America is affecting human consciousness I’m not sure, but it’s clear that the issues are no longer first and foremost particular peoples, but human consciousness as a whole.
Why has human consciousness grown so dark? Why haven’t the great teachers made a difference in the basic course of man? Without separating oneself from humanity, is man incorrigible? Have we entered a protracted dark age, and all we can do is see to our own inward survival and growth, if that?
One of the leading New Age gurus and former favorite of Oprah, Eckhart Tolle, voices some common rationalizations. First he says that humankind’s evolution into a different consciousness is inevitable…eventually.
Then, indulging in the wishful thinking echoed by many others as well, he declares that there is a significant awakening happening on the planet right now. Finally, Tolle says the reason man is on the tremendously destructive path he’s on at present is because the ego is in its death throes.
The problem with this view isn’t just its squishy, comforting theory of human nature, but the contradictory bromide of direness and delay.
Consciousness does not and cannot ‘evolve.’ There is no process of gradually unfolding conscious development. Rather than more and more people awakening, more and more people are numbing themselves and going more deeply asleep. The intensification of the crisis of consciousness may bring about a sudden breakthrough, but it is certainly not inevitable, and it cannot occur through employing time and indulging in wishful thinking.
I recently read something the great religious philosopher J. Krishnamurti said that keeps reverberating within one: “The brain is sensitive, and to remain sensitive, without its familiar self-protective responses, without its customary judgments, condemnation and approval, the only thing it can do is to be utterly quiet, which is to remain in a state of negation, complete denial of itself and its activities.”
That is an awfully high bar, even for self-knowing and contemplative types. For most folks, it probably sounds absurd. How does one function in this world of competition, struggle and relentless pressure and activity if the brain has to “remain in a state of negation with complete denial of itself and its activities?”
So-called mystical experiences can easily become cognitive and emotional memories that one tries to repeat. Therefore they have to be totally set aside in order to keep growing. But meditative states lasting days while backpacking alone when I was younger were instructive and transformative to me, and may be relevant here.
The first night after hiking into the wilderness would produce an intense mental and emotional storm, in which chaotic memories and painful emotions would surface. Somehow I understood that I had to pass through that stage, so I just let things be, like one waits out a night of wind and rain in a tent. The difference being not only that this storm was within one, but that it could not pass unless one remained with it, watching without interfering.
After a tumultuous night, the next morning one would usually awaken feeling calm and unburdened. As attention effortlessly grew during the day of hiking, through undirected watchfulness of everything inside and out, the mind and heart would grow deeply quiet and peaceful. Psychological time would end, and since I didn’t carry a watch, only the movement of the sun across the sky marked the passing of the day.
The senses and brain became so present that there were no thoughts except for the functional necessities—picking the proper site, setting up the tent, starting a fire and making a meal. For the rest of the time in the mountains, one remained in ‘state of negation.’
In such states, nature is intensely alive around and within one, and one often feels overwhelmed by the beauty of the earth. There is tremendous wordless insight and indescribable joy, a throbbing intensity and ecstasy, as well as a feeling of an ‘otherness.’
Make no mistake, I knew that nature didn’t care for me personally one whit, and would as easily snuff out my life as I accidentally crushed the life out of an ant underfoot. But that fact is secondary, indeed even an aspect of an infinitely greater movement of mystery and awareness of which one is inextricably part.
I’ve come to feel that awareness permeates the universe, and the human brain has tremendous capacity and potential for ‘knowing’ (without knowledge) the infinite intelligence that infuses the cosmos.
Without implying a ‘Creator,’ is the brain capable of being a receiver and transmitter of the awareness of the universe? And is there an intrinsic intent within evolution toward the development, through random natural selection, of brains capable of awareness of Mind?
The evolutionary adaptation of symbolic thought, which obviously has enormous utilitarian value, gave Homo sapiens enormous spiritual capacity. But thought is also the greatest impediment to the realization of that potential, as individuals and a species.
Therefore the brain possessing ‘higher thought’ has to learn how to be completely quiet, step out of the known, and make knowledge secondary to direct, unmediated perception.
I hold the question: Can the brain remain in a state of negation, yet still use knowledge and function well in the world?
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