The Soul That Rises With Us

There is a movement within me, an awareness—a deeply personal transcendent awareness—which, from my perspective, clearly does not originate from some temporal source in the world. There are those who might say such concepts are an illusion. I have often thought that they said such things to make the world seem more comprehensible—to make them feel better about not truly knowing.

The same might be said about some of the things that have happened to me, which seemed objectively real to me. I know my consciousness exists IN the world, and that I have become manifest as a sentient being in the physical world, and yet, everything within me harkens back to the beginning, starting with my first memories, and when I reflect on those earliest recollections of existing as a “self,” it inevitably reminds me of how mysterious life seemed at that time. There were so many questions, and so much of what took place in the world that evoked within me, a deep sense of mystery. William Wordsworth wrote:

“There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Appareled in celestial light,
The glory and freshness of a dream.

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Had hath elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:

–excerpt from Wordsworth’s poem, “Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.”

We often think as we arrive into our advanced years that we have conquered some of these mysteries—that we have penetrated them somehow—at least to a degree. In some ways, of course, we actually have unraveled portions of what previously had been considered ineffable and mysterious.

The comprehension of brain physiology has been enormously illuminating for someone like me, and the advances in neuroscience have expanded our understanding of our mental life exponentially. It often makes me laugh when some prominent neuroscientist feels so confident to assert some “discovery” of why things work the way they do, or what makes us human.

Of all the aspects of our advances in understanding, of all the qualities of our human physiology that distinguish us as creatures who possess a uniquely “human perspective,” our grasp of how the human brain operates, and our ever-increasing knowledge of our particular neural architecture, explain with generally accepted agreement among neuroscientists, the basic fundamentals of how it is that we possess such an astonishing array of cognitive functions.

So much of our ability to make good use of our experience of the world is made possible by our higher cognitive functioning—by the firing of neurons, which send out electrical impulses, which propagate along the strings of dendrites, and by the transfer of ions across synapses—chemicals crossing cellular barriers between neurons—and by the eventual cooperation and coordination of whole brain regions. So much of sensation and comprehension and cognition require this exchange of energy and information, and even the small understanding that we currently possess is absolutely astonishing!

As miraculous as all of this seems, for me, it mostly shines a light on the SOURCE of consciousness, and the FOUNDATIONAL MECHANISM of our ability to be aware of our subjective experience. Everything I see and know and understand, and everything I feel, points toward an appreciation of our cognitive capacities, as a MEANS to access the phenomenon of human subjective experience, which is the link between our temporal existence and our true nature as manifestations of a non-physical reality. I recognize that there are cognitive illusions, and that there is bias, and limited apprehension by humanity of the physical universe currently.

As much as we see and understand, we see and understand so little, compared to what there IS to see and understand. It seems to me and to many others, that most of what we think we know only scratches the surface of what there is to know. Our fullest and most current understanding of our existence as physical beings in a physical universe only POINTS in the direction of the fullness of understanding that is achievable.

We constantly approach thresholds where all of our knowledge and complex scientific comprehension leave us empty-handed when they try to explain the true and full nature of our subjective experience of being alive as sentient cognitive beings. It’s not a failure of our scientific talents and it’s not an indictment of our human version of intelligence as being inadequate to the task.

Author and lifelong teacher, Joseph Campbell, who was the leading mythologist and former member of the literature faculty at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, expressed it best when he wrote that all of our efforts in life are not a search for meaning, but instead, he believed that “…we are seeking an experience of being alive that resonates with our innermost being and reality.” According to Campbell, the life experiences that we have are intended to help us “…feel the rapture of being alive.” In his view, myths are “clues to the spiritual potentialities of human life.”

With an expectation that you will find some causal link between brain physiology and the full explanation of the phenomenon of human subjective experience of consciousness, it seems to me, that you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

It is my most fervent hope in this life, that there is still sufficient time for me to share all that I have learned by being who I am, and that as many people as possible, hear the message—the song of the universe—the song of absolute balance in life—not giving everything away and not withholding anything, just being, surviving and helping anyone we can.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees the world as it could be—there are those who seek to control and manipulate rather than allow and cooperate. As a result, those of us who seek balance have to work hard to prevent as much suffering in the world as we can.

One day, all of us, regardless of what side of the fence we are on, will be confronted by circumstances which require our best life-affirming response. At that moment, we will know what to do. If we are able to do as much right as possible, the world will turn out better in the long run.

4 thoughts on “The Soul That Rises With Us

  1. Loving this latest addition to your collection of thoughts. I’m sure I will have to read it several times to get the most benefit from the mind expanding concepts you describe here; plus I’ll need to allow myself the time to contemplate them at length!
    If only life wasn’t already so full, and so busy!!!

    1. Hello Geri,

      I’m very glad you took a few minutes out of your busy life to share your thoughts with me. I’m sure when you eventually find an opportunity to spend some time contemplating the ideas in this post that you will benefit from doing so. When our lives become so full and busy as you described yours, it’s not easy to slow down long enough to consider our thoughts at length, but it is important that we look for those opportunities and make an effort to set aside even just a few minutes a day for contemplation. In a perfect world, time for contemplation would be woven into the fabric of our lives.

      Wordsworth reminds us of that period of our lives when life was a bit more carefree, and possessed “the glory and freshness of a dream.” Unfortunately, we often seem unable to sustain that feeling as emerging adults, and we may end up waiting for retirement to once again recall and re-imagine our lives as having that sort of freshness. In spite of all my prodigious efforts along the path of my life to dedicate more time to contemplation, I feel like I only succeeded briefly at times throughout those years. Our own occasional online conversations have been a fine exception over the years, and I am grateful for any opportunity to receive your thoughts or to share thoughts with you.

      I hope your life will remain full without being quite so busy going forward, and that you will allow for some contemplation and communication as it may be possible.

      Warm regards…John H.

  2. Very thoughtful, Mr Hyland. I myself am often amazed at how I am able to recall some of my oldest memories and to think about what I may have been thinking about and wonder if this memory is real or a fabrication of my consciousness now. Can all of our perceived memories be real or maybe just a dream?

    1. Arthur…Thank you so much for your comment and for your very important question. Being able to recall our earliest memories is a sign of a healthy brain and not everyone is able to retain such memories well as they advance in age. The human brain is a physical structure which can be affected profoundly by our early development and by whether or not that development was advantageous in the right ways. With the right environment, our brain development can provide us with a rich array of memories of our early life, but if an individual child is deprived of good health by sickness or neglect, the development suffers and the neural foundations of memory can be compromised.

      All of our memories, even the ones we are forming in our consciousness now, are affected by the health of our neural underpinnings and the overall health of our brain. We know now that our memories are not stored like papers in a filing cabinet in our brain, but are reconstructed by neurons firing in a neural network that has been reinforced by repetition and selective recall of important information and emotional content. Some memories are emotionally charged and last longer, some do fade over the years after many years of not being used. What it is exactly that we recall is often not as detailed and accurate when we recall memories from many years ago, and we often only are able to bring up the main points of our memories, losing some details or filling them in as best we can. When we have vivid dreams as a child, we may have a memory of those dreams if they were particularly emotionally important or striking in some way, and after many years the lines between memories and dreams may be a bit blurry, but as long as we have the ability to recall the events in our lives and compare our recollections with those of others who shared those times with us, it should be less likely that we would confuse the two.

      Your question is one addressed by many scholars and psychological practitioners these days, and if you are curious, there are lots of resources to check for a more detailed treatment of memories and dreams.

      Thanks for stopping by and please call me John…Regards…John H.

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