Location: San Rafael, CA
Francis, I am troubled by something that might seem elementary for someone who has been investigating spiritual matters for over 40 years. It is evidfent if we investigate our own experience that everthying we ever experience, whether “internal” or “external”, is experienced by or within consciousnes. Consciousness is, then, the a priori reality of our human experience. Clearly, realizing this most profoundly leads to a life radically transformed by freedom from any sense of limitation. However, to go on to state, as you and all other non-dual teachers do, that consciousness is the a priori reality of all existence, would seem to be an extrapolation, not directly supported by direct experience. The fact that we, as human beings, can never experience anything outside of consiousness does neither mean that there is nothing outside of consciousnes, nor that consciousness is the a prior reality of all that is. All that direct expericen can reveal is that consciouness is the a priori reality of human beings (since it is human beings, and only human beings, who make that assertion). Surely any statement beyond that is an extrapolation. I was dissatisfied by your response to question 125, when you stated: “absence of recollection of a past event doesn’t imply that we weren’t conscious when this event occurred. Therefore…consciousness can never be absent.” The second statemenet does not seem to inevitably follow from the first, but rather to be an extrapolation not supported by direct experience. And the first statement is also open to question: while absence of recollection of a past event doesn’t imply that we weren’t conscious, nor does it imply or proove that we were! The experience of deep sleep, anaesthesia, or any other moment of “unconscousness” suggests that, rather than consiousness being the a prioiri reality of reality itself, it may only be the a prioiri reality of a human being in the waking or dreaming state. That, in turn, would suggest the possibility that the materialists are correct, that consciousness may indeed be an epiphenomenon of the human brain. This wold not contradict the direct evidence of Sel-Realization, only its extrapolations. Similarly, it is often stated that consciousness is eternal, that it survives the death of the physical body. This too, while entirely possible, would seem like an extrapolation. This is only ever asserted by living human beings who, by definition, have not yet died (at least, not physically). Even evidence of near-death expericences, or the testimony of those who have medically “died” and have been revived is not conclusive, as the death process clearly has not completed itself in those cases. So, while the disquieting and unconsoling materialist assumption that consciousness ends with death cannot be definitively proven, neither can the more comforting and consoling assertion that consciousness survives death. It would see that, at least relative to death (and, probably, deep sleep and other “unconscious” states) that the only intellectually honnest position is one of agnosticism. Cheery assertions to the contrary do not constitute proof! Clearly my own investigation of these matters has revealed my own previously hidden materialist assumptions; and, while I am more than willing to explore their limitations, I am equally unwilling to blindly accept assertions to the contrary, just because my spiritual ego prefers them! Thanks you, in advance, for your anticipated response. James Haig
Thank you for your question.
I agree with you that “The fact that we, as human beings, can never experience anything outside of consiousness does neither mean **** that there is nothing outside of consciousnes, nor that consciousness is the a prior reality of all that is.” However, the point that you will have to concede is that, contrary to a very common assumption, there is absolutely no evidence that there is anything outside of consciousness, nor that it is not the a priori reality of all that is. “Anything outside of consciousness” finds itself therefore in the position of the unicorn: spoken of, never seen, with one difference, though: someone may someday see a unicorn, nobody will ever see anything outside of consciousness. “Something existing outside of consciousness” is both logically possible and experientially impossible, whereas “everything existing within consciousness” is both logically possible and experientially possible. The same Occam’s razor we use to eliminate unicorns from our preoccupations should be used to eliminate the useless externality of things and people. I could understand our tossing a coin to chose between two possibilities if there were no consequences one way or the other. But the clear understanding that the discovery that there are no external things and people would put an end to our misery gives us an enormous incentive to further investigate the truth of the matter.
Regarding my answer to Q125, here is the entire excerpt: “Since consciousness and the absence of consciousness cannot be simultaneously present (A), the absence of consciousness cannot be experienced (B). It can only be assumed from the absence of memories left from the experience of anesthesia for instance. It cannot be logically inferred from this absence either (C, since the absence of recollection of a past event doesn’t imply that we weren’t conscious when this event occurred (D). Therefore for you, and that is the only aspect that matters, consciousness can never be absent.(E)”
The logical structure of the sentences is: A implies B, D implies C, B and C imply E
Your lecture: D implies E is wrong, which explains, I hope, your dissatisfaction.
You say also: “The experience of deep sleep….suggests that, rather than consiousness being the a prioiri reality of reality itself, it may only be the a prioiri reality of a human being in the waking or dreaming state” Which experience are you talking about? Doesn’t this experience imply the presence of consciousness during deep sleep, during this experience? and if yes, how does this “suggest” that consciousness is not primeval, in spite of its continuous presence?
A final remark to clarify the a priori statements and the logical implications involved (implicitly or explicitly) contained in my “assertions”:
A priori statements:
S1. There is only one reality
S2. Consciousness is a reality
Logical implications (a few among countless others):
L1. Consciousness is its own reality
L2. The reality of our human experience is consciousness
L3. The reality of our human experience and the reality of the universe is the same reality
L4. The same consciousness shines in all beings
L5. Consciousness is the reality of the universe
If you believe that one of the five logical implications is false, you must face the music and tell yourself which one of the two a priori statements is false. If you believe that there are more than one realities, for instance you and I, you must explain for yourself how these two realities can communicate with each other, as we are doing, without being both immersed in an ultimate reality that encompasses both you and me, in which case you and me are not absolutely real. And if you believe that consciousness is not real, you have to explain to yourself how this non real consciousness could make any true determination, including the determination that it is itself not real.
My goal in answering a question is not to give a solid logical proof of S1 and S2, which is impossible since they have to be known a priori, but rather to guide the readers up to a place from which they can directly realize the truth of both statements to their full satisfaction. I cannot prove it, neither do I claim I can. Sometimes, I use logic to prove the fallacy of a statement the reader may hold to be true, but not in this case. Either we see the truth of both S1 and S2, or we don’t. And we don’t see it until we see it. Having seen it, we never revert to full ignorance. It cannot be seen on the phenomenal level. To see it is to awaken to our true self, and to live it in the depth and breadth of its implications is to be established in peace, freedom and love.