Title: Self Awareness: Size: 21.5” x 30.5”x 1.75″: Media: acrylic, oil, collage & assemblage: Surface: canvas over masonite & board with wooden framework: copyright 2009 Lisa L. Cyr, Cyr Studio LLC, http://www.cyrstudio.com
“The only right and legitimate way to (a mystical) experience is that it happens to you in reality and it can only happen to you when you walk on a path, which leads you to a higher understanding. You might be led to that goal by an act of grace or through a personal and honest contact with friends, or through a higher understanding of the mind beyond the confines of mere rationalism.”
Letter from Carl Jung to Bill Wilson – Jan. 30, 1961
All of our longings, both temporal and spiritual, as well as the pain of new growth are felt both within and without. For me, the pain experienced within has always been the strongest and most difficult to endure. As an adult, I have come to understand more clearly now that something within me, long ago born and over countless centuries grown seeks acknowledgement in consciousness. As a youth, I felt this strange urge to express thoughts and feelings which burst forth without warning, and which I could not comprehend. Each time I would attempt to grasp the meaning of this inner force, bits and pieces of the curious puzzle would become clear briefly, and then vanish in the strictly-controlled religious world of saints and sinners and unquestioning obedience.
Occasionally, I would get glimpses of this inner world despite the pervasive atmosphere of strict controls and absolute rules, but could not sustain the thoughts and feelings long enough to make any significant headway. Looking back over the years, my whole being has now shifted from a traditional middle-class, religious upbringing, to a more unconventional and classless view of life that is a sharp contrast to the way it all began. Between moments of cognition in my inner realm, as rich and expansive as they continue to be, are extended periods of redundancy of obligation in the temporal. While most of these efforts represent necessary items that produce important results, it is often difficult to endure these gaps between meaningful awareness and dedicated efforts to sustenance, and it seems like endurance becomes more the goal than the means to an end at times.
Inner Worlds Within Worlds Art by Norman E. Masters
For some time now, the world outside of me has been at such odds with the world inside of me, that as I strive to maintain stability in both, I seem to be constantly shoring up the walls of one, deteriorating from neglect, and then racing back to devote my energies to the other. The subsequent chaos from running breathlessly between the two usually results in both alternately suffering to varying degrees. To complicate matters further, I have recently gained greater momentum in coming to terms with my inner world, significantly raising my expectations of achieving the goals I established for myself years ago. This hopeful progress, though uplifting, has created serious conflicts with my temporal existence. Thus far I have resisted abandoning my obligations for the sake of my work, and likewise refused to consider abandoning my work in favor of temporal considerations.
As with most esoteric undertakings, increasing comprehension precedes further progress. As my knowledge and appreciation of the complexities and subtleties of the evolution of consciousness grows, the many diverse and related theories begin to coalesce into a synthesis which is more comprehensive and quite beautiful in its depth and breadth. Human evolution, however convoluted or complex, has resulted in access to the penetrating self-awareness which characterizes human consciousness, and precipitated the development of human cultures, religions, and mythologies, as well as human psychology, philosophy, and a variety of sciences, all branching out like the veins of a large leaf, or a complex crystal formation.
The Psyche, according to Pythagoras “is the intermediary between two worlds: the Material and the Spiritual worlds. It is the Vital Energy that nests and inhabits in the matter”.
When we contemplate the astonishing variety of contingency necessary for human life to have progressed to this point, and to continue to progress beyond this point, it compels us to consider even some very unconventional points-of-view. How else can we arrive at such a distant destination in comprehension, as that of human consciousness, unless we remain open to alternative methods of enhancing our current comprehension, augmenting our current capacities, and altering our current level of consciousness? If the development of our ability to access higher levels of cognitive functioning, achieving an expanded intellect, and becoming self-aware, all were only just necessary adaptations for survival, and merely the consequence of natural selection, favoring those hominids with more complex brain architecture, there would be no compelling reason for consciousness to have progressed beyond a certain “survivability” level.
But if, as modern physics has demonstrated, we are all ultimately linked to the universal energies present in the early universe, and made from “the stuff of stars,” subatomic particles floating in the Higgs field, then it seems to me, that whatever forces govern the quarks, and hadrons, and leptons, and most recently, the theoretical “Higgs boson,” must be, in some manner, active within the wider universe of humans, planets, galaxies and super-clusters. All of existence, both temporal and metaphysical, must be a manifestation of and possess some degree of consciousness, only on a much grander scale.
If awareness of consciousness is an inevitable consequence of any evolutionary life process which produces creatures of sufficient cognitive ability and architectural complexity in the cognitive apparatus, then consciousness may well be what we can expect to find at the heart of the universe, manifested in an infinite variety of displays throughout. We will never know unless we expand our range of explanations to include every conceivable and inconceivable possibility.
4 thoughts on “Inner Worlds Within Worlds”
It is tempting to search for our consciousness – its seat, development and emergent properties – within ourselves but maybe we should be searching outside of ourselves? If human brains are open-loop systems which function best when they are ‘linked’ to other people and their brains (hence the punishment that is solitary confinement) then it is likely that our development is also dependent on this ‘link’? For some reason it amazes me to think that I am alive even though all the ‘bits’ that make me are inanimate – I have no idea why this amazes me but it does!
That is a very interesting quote from Jung as well, I must say – I never read it before. I have had experiences in my life that can only be described as ‘mystical’ – I’m sure everyone has – I don’t ever try to have them, they just happen – or not – and I don’t like them much and I certainly don’t ‘trust’ them insofar as I am a most fanciful woman and it would be a very bad idea for me to chase fairies! However, every time I have had an experience like this it has been in reality, interestingly. It has been so much in reality that I have thought it was reality until later reflection or evidence has shown otherwise. They never look or feel like my more fanciful experiences. They just seem ordinary and almost always involve or include others. Which is why I was taken with that Jung quotation. Apologies for random and incoherent commenting – I am tired (as well as fanciful!)
Your commenting seemed fairly coherent to me. (in spite of you being tired) The fact that there are so many unknowns presently regarding our understanding of our consciousness makes even speculation at least a possible aspect of our understanding.
It seems completely reasonable to me, that while our brains and what we all describe as our “inner life,” are both essential components to a comprehensive explanation of consciousness, that it must encompass a great deal more than any of us currently suspects. Alva Noe, who wrote, “Are We Out of Our Heads?” suggested that we could not have achieved an awareness of consciousness without our physical environment, and even though we use the words “inner life” to describe our awareness, it is not intended to suggest that consciousness is something that only exists within our bodies or within our skulls. It is intended to infer a self-reflective property to consciousness; a reference point to indicate that our perception of existing as an entity within our bodies is how it seems to us as sensory beings, but it is not intended to propose that consciousness has any sort of central locus or position within our bodies.
One of the interesting paradoxes of biological existence, proposed by modern physics, is that we are made up of atoms, which are made up of even smaller particles, which are supported by large areas of empty space, and while no single atom of a human body would be sufficient to support sentient life, put enough of them together in just the right way, and they become self-aware. Even the brain requires billions of cells and trillions of synaptic connections to gain access to a level of consciousness that is recognizable as something coherent.
I’m not so sure that EVERYONE has experiences that would qualify as mystical in the broadest sense of the term, but I think everyone has the potential to have them, and many times, as you said, don’t TRY to have them, but they happen anyway. I believe we can nurture our connection to the ineffable and mystical realms with deliberate effort. But as Jung suggests, we “might be led to that goal by an act of grace,” that has nothing to do with our intentions.
Thanks for sharing your comments……John H.
It can be frustrating to be pulled in different directions – I wonder if there is something important about the unique tension such a condition creates. Which produces more consciousness, full union granted or the struggle and need to return to that which we hold most dear? These are just a few questions that popped into my mind as I read this piece.
Your questions have popped into my head at times also. I would be willing to concede that “the unique tension such a condition creates” can be instructional in a way that uninterrupted bliss might not be, and very often, struggling with important matters forces us to examine what is most important in a way that simply daydreaming might never do.
It is my belief that consciousness is not something which we can be said to “possess” in a strict sense of that term, but rather as something we might “have access to” as sentient beings, and which arrangements might allow us greater access or cause us to suffer less access are numerous. The complexity of the constructs and variety of components necessary for consciousness to become manifest in discernible ways forces us to confront impediments to consciousness with a serious concern for our ability to function as conscious creatures. But your point is well taken. My own struggles may just be the catalyst for achieving a greater degree of consciousness, even though they may be perceived by me as obstacles to that goal. They jury is still out on that idea.
Thanks for your thought-provoking comments…….John H.