A World of Consciousness and Consciousness in the World

This post has been receiving some attention recently and addresses some important points relating to the posts coming shortly, so i thought my readers might enjoy a review here…

John H.

John's Consciousness

As an attentive consumer of various scientific publications available in the world today, particularly those concerning the science of mind and brain, while the information is often intriguing and illuminating in regards to how the physiology of the brain results in the extraordinary variety of symptoms, characteristics, and behavior of modern humans, what is often lacking, in my view, is the simple connection to humanity itself, which we might wish to describe as the “human factor.” No matter how ingenious these researchers are as they structure the studies to produce useful results, what we frequently end up with in the end is an explanation of a process, or a determination of how it is that our fantastically wondrous temporal mental assets manifest a particular result, either as an ability or some sort of pathology.

What genuinely supports and nourishes our miraculous brains is endlessly fascinating for those of us who…

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A Wistful Winter Morning

I’ve received many compliments on the photo for my “About.me” page and thought the readers might enjoy reading the poem I wrote about the experience of creating the image….Enjoy!

John's Consciousness

Morning Snow2

As I press my hand to the brass knob
Level with my blurred line of sight,
Releasing the bolt which holds the door firmly closed,
Streaks of brilliant light flood the foyer
Through the beveled prisms
Of my uncertainty.

A mechanical clack announces the release
Of the lock as I step tentatively backward,
To allow for the swinging, sweeping sound
As my heart opens to newly born morning light,
Mingled with the winter’s frosty breath,
Provoking both wonder and curious resistance.

Shimmering icy sparkles rise up in all directions;
Stillness soothes the stinging bite of winter breezes;
Solar pulses of colored hues caress the tips of snowy knolls
While rhythmic heartbeats warm my inner frame,
Sustaining the memories of moments within me–
Cherished thoughts and awkward apprehensions.

Stumbling back to the kitchen counter,
Searching for the implements of the morning grind,
A glance again toward the world without
Diverts my…

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Dreamscape

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“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” — C. G. Jung from CW 12, par. 126 and “The Philosophical Tree” (1945). In CW 13: Alchemical Studies

The dream began in a nearly total darkness, with only a sliver of light highlighting the edges of the highway. I seemed to be floating along the road, as I was not inside my car or able to discern any structure around me. It took a few minutes, but I suddenly recognized the location as the road I traveled in the “deep forest vision,” mentioned in the previous post. It felt oddly serene to be traveling in this way, although I wondered briefly why I would even entertain the notion of returning there, and as I approached what seemed to be the edge of the forest, I began to feel a creeping, gradually increasing sensation of dread. This night had already been stressful, and it felt as though the split between my inner and outer self was widening as the dream progressed.

dream house on shoreline

Before I was able to set my feet on the ground, I had to slow myself by dragging them along the surface of the area approaching the clearing where I had previously observed the tree without any leaves. Once I was able to walk on my own, I deliberately began running away from that place, as I had no interest in revisiting it after what had happened there. Before I knew it, I had stumbled upon an open field. I felt my hands lightly touching the tips of tall grass as I walked toward a small, somewhat battered house, which initially felt disconcerting. I heard the distant sound of ocean waves breaking on the shoreline, and wondered why I had not heard them during my last visit. As I approached the house, it seemed much less inviting, and my pace slowed as an ominously darkened interior beyond my viewpoint loomed within. I hesitated to get too close. This was not my destination. There was no one there.

sunlit tree

I turned slowly toward the horizon which now seemed to be brightening, and I once again began running, wanting mostly to go toward the light. Before long, the stark forest landscape opened into a lush, green meadow, with all the leaves lit from behind by the sun. In the distance I could see a small cottage that gave me a much more comforting feeling, almost like coming home. As my steps once again slowed, I saw her standing by the fence surrounding the simple cottage. I wasn’t sure if what I saw was real. I hesitated again. My heart was pounding in my chest.

littlewhitecottage

I walked gladly toward her, gently eased open the gate, and we embraced willingly and joyfully. It was, for the moment, a wonderful moment in the dream that comforted me. She seemed, as usual, uncertain about her course, and even though she pretended to be alright, I knew she wasn’t. She tried to tell me she wasn’t concerned about the darkness nearby, but it was so obviously untrue, that I looked at her squarely and said, “I know what you said is untrue.” She appeared to be stunned for a moment or two, but then asked me to follow her. I took her hand and we walked around to the back of the house. There was a bit of a steep slope leading to a plateau where there was a large outcrop of rock. She led me around to one side and pointed to a painted image of a sunrise over water. As we began walking back toward the house, it was getting darker. I stopped in my tracks, as she turned her face toward me, and let go of my hand. I could feel the dream fading. I didn’t want it to end.

Upon first waking, I sat up in my bed, as if I might see her outside my window. The dream had vanished, completely against my will, and I immediately went to my desk to write it down. My hands were trembling, and I was breathing heavily while I wrote. I sensed increasingly powerful vibrations from far away, somehow shaking me as I wrote. Why hadn’t she sent word? What circumstances could make me feel these intuitions so strongly?

While having only limited knowledge and experience regarding what might possibly explain such feelings and ideas, such unavoidable sensations and thoughts compelled me to acknowledge her presence within me, and my concerns for her well being drove with me to meet her that afternoon at a local park at the time we had agreed.

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We embraced upon meeting, and I immediately felt the same willingness and joy of the embrace of the dream. She excitedly began to relate the tale of her trip to visit a friend, which included getting lost in an unfamiliar area, and being caught in a violent rainstorm. She and her friend had taken refuge in an abandoned farmhouse to wait out the storm. It had been approaching darkness before the storm let up, and it had frightened them both. I said nothing about my dream, and we walked down the path leading to the area she had told me about and which we were about to visit. We spent several hours walking along the paths in the sunlit woods and in open fields. Without any mention to her of the dream, she took my hand, and led me to an overhang with a fabulous scenic view of the mountains in the distance. It was lovely and it felt as though we were closer than before. Stepping down to the return path out of the park, I nearly fell down as I turned to see an image of a sun over water painted on the lower portion of the rock we had just been standing on.

As we sat together on the screen porch back at her house, I told her of the dream and of my certainty that she had been in distress. She listened patiently and seemed to understand that it was unusual, but not impossible that such things could happen. Somehow, we had found each other and were connected in ways we were only beginning to appreciate. She seemed only vaguely aware of a connection between us, and now appeared mildly uncomfortable talking about it. I promised not to bring it up again, and we embraced on parting. We agreed to meet again the next day to attend a family dinner at her parents home. I held her close and kissed her deeply. She smiled and giggled for a moment. The wheels were in motion. It had begun.

Finding Our Quest

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Helen A. Toelle-Cunha

“It is by loving, and not by being loved, that one can come nearest the soul of another; yea, that, where two love, it is the loving of each other, that originates and perfects and assures their blessedness. – George MacDonald

As my time in California slowly drew to a conclusion, I was informed that the requirements of my military specialty as a linguist required an additional period of training for all graduates of the language program. There was no way for me to anticipate this requirement prior to arriving in Monterey, since it only became a policy a month or so before I was scheduled to depart. When I realized the next training program would take place in Massachusetts, at the very same station where my adventure began, it felt like more than just a coincidence. I attended a closed briefing a few weeks before I was scheduled to transfer out, and learned that I would be training as a “Cryptologic Traffic Analyst.” It wasn’t clear to me what the term meant at the time, but it didn’t seem to matter. I was required to attend and was looking forward to returning for a second tour in Massachusetts, especially since I would be arriving in the spring and would be spending the summer in New England.

diploma

Once the last few days of my tour in California were upon me, I began to feel a real sense of melancholy. So much had happened to me in those hills, and in spite of often feeling a bit lost and alone during that time, there were just as many remarkable and beautiful experiences to reflect upon. Graduation Day from the language school was an exceptional day. In spite of all my setbacks during the course, I had finished with my class, and had managed to earn a final grade in the top ten percent. I had made a few friends among my classmates who would be following me to Massachusetts, and several who had already taken the additional training who would travel to the overseas assignment in advance of my arrival, who promised to catch up once I got there. Our instructors had a small reception for us and we were able to express our gratitude for all their efforts in their native tongue. One teacher in particular grabbed me at the reception and expressed great satisfaction in my success. In one of our last grammar classes with her, we had learned a particular form of expression–in German it’s the “so…wie,” construction. In the German language, there are many idioms and phrases which do not translate well into English, but this form worked fairly well. A group of us were standing together when the teacher turned and asked me directly if I was glad that school was finally complete, I said, “So froh, wie moglich!” (As happy as possible!) We all laughed and knew that we had learned our lessons well.

volkswagen-fastback-01

In the last few weeks, I was given an option to either take a military flight home to the East Coast, or to drive myself there, since I was of sufficient rank and time in service, so I traded in the old VW bug, and bought a brand new Volkswagen Fastback, a sportier version of the VW which was a dream to drive in comparison to the old one. I decided to take the southern route across the country, driving all the way up to Oregon to visit with a dear friend of mine who always bragged about his hometown there, and then back down to Southern California and turned eastward at a little town called Needles. When I got there, I stopped into town to find a hotel for the night, and noticed an electronics shop that advertised “car stereo installation.” It was going to be a long ride to Binghamton, New York where my co-pilot for the trip lived, so I had a stereo system installed there and bought a handful of 8 track tapes to listen to along the way. We stopped in Flagstaff, Arizona to see the Grand Canyon, and I stopped into the only country outfitter in town and bought myself a new hat.

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I really hadn’t noticed at first, but the transition from the younger, safari-hat character, to this much different western-movie looking character was fairly startling in retrospect. Since I was on leave for several weeks in between stations, I even felt comfortable growing a beard for the trip, and upon my arrival in Pennsylvania to see my parents and family, it must have been quite a shock to see me this way. Somehow, though, it felt just right to me. The journey across the USA in April of 1975 was an epic flight for a young man in his first new car, bound away from the astonishing beauty of, what was to him, a strange new land, and having narrowly escaped death, creating something akin to a near-death experience within him. This young man had clearly been altered beyond recognition, to others mostly, but also to himself.

The time was quickly approaching to depart from everything I had ever known as a young American lad, prompting me to narrow my focus even more, and to find my quest, it would require giving a great deal more than I could possibly have known at that time.

…next time…. back to Massachusetts…

Post for a friend

image

Back to Square One

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Over the years, I have consistently focused on the subjective experience of my own consciousness as a starting point for exploring most ideas I have considered related to human consciousness, as it seemed to me that, in doing so, I could speak with greater confidence about them and explore them more fully. If I couldn’t find a way to apprehend an idea as it related my own experience, how could I accurately express it or expect it to be viable for others? In that spirit, I have made a practice of maintaining a personal journal for many years, recording my thoughts, impressions, experiences, and investigations as they occurred whenever I could. Every so often, I try to review these writings in the interest of illuminating my current views, and recently I came across a passage that seemed timely:

“There is a connection to the consciousness of humanity, and to the interaction of emotions and cognitive functions of the brain, with an essence that is clearly transcendent of human nature. Our natural inclinations, particularly with regard to the arts, demonstrate a capacity within us that has as its source, a force or character that is inexplicable in terms of neurobiology alone. The ineffable aspects of our existence, and their connection to our very human nature, driven as it is in large part by biology, are never going to yield to vigorous empirical scrutiny, no matter how profound the comprehension of our biology becomes.”

While this passage attempts to address the ineffable, it actually only describes the problem, and it expresses the heart of my concerns regarding how we might discover a path that can address the challenges the are embodied in the essence of this matter.

purpose

The long path of human history, which now seems so familiar to us, was once a future as yet unrealized. As life evolved on our singularly fertile planet at the edge of an unremarkable spiral galaxy, history itself was also forming a foundation of both progress and gradual enhancement of our natural cognitive endowment. The well-worn path of human evolution has provided modern humans with a marvelously complex and adaptive hominid brain, and continues to provide us with access to richly-textured sense of subjective awareness, as yet unrivaled (to our knowledge) by any other known species. The entire spectrum of life on Earth seems to possess some degree of consciousness, and while it is particularly evident in those species whose structure and component systems resemble our own, there is much evidence to support the existence of various degrees and types of consciousness in nearly every living entity known to us.

With the hundreds of thousands of years of a relatively stable environment on earth, humans have been provided with the opportunity to take our natural cognitive endowment, and to evolve and expand our access to consciousness, permitting us to begin to unravel some of the most daunting mysteries of the universe, and to piece together many of the components of the extraordinary progression of life here on Earth. In spite of all our accomplishments, utilizing the cognitive skills made possible by evolution, and the physiological processes of the electrochemical and neural networks within the brain, somehow, the very existence of human consciousness itself remains an elusive mystery, and has eluded all of our attempts to construct a comprehensive understanding of its essential nature.

Some scientists and philosophers have suggested that the intricate web of interdependent systems within the universe itself, not to mention those within the billions of cells and trillions of neural network connections that compose a human brain, by their very nature, are so vast and overwhelmingly complex, that supposing we can unravel them and force them to yield to our scrutiny is somewhere between arrogantly preposterous and laughably hopeless. For those of you who have been following along in my blog here, you know that I tend to disagree with any such evaluation. But in fairness to those who take such a position, examining the development of life on Earth, and in consideration of the astonishing convergence of essential conditions that made intelligent life here possible, you could see how such a conclusion might be drawn.

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Conditions in the early universe were chaotic. They fluctuated wildly for billions of years. The temperatures early on were inhospitable to all but the most fundamental of forces and elements. As the universe cooled and expanded, the heavier elements formed. Swirling clouds of dust and debris only began to coalesce into a semblance of discernible matter after a considerable amount of time had passed. The formation of stars and planets and galaxies followed in accordance with physical laws that took unimaginably long stretches of time to stimulate cause and effect.

What is perhaps most astonishing is that any sort of “life” ever got off the ground in the first place. If the various fluctuations in temperature, dispersal of matter, and sufficiently advantageous conditions which permitted life had even been only slightly different in any of the essential requirements, it is highly unlikely that any “beginning” would have resulted in a physical universe of the sort we observe today. Additionally, on our own blue and white oasis in the Milky Way galaxy, there were so many opportunities for the existence of life to fail, that our very existence as “intelligent humans,” constitutes a victory over every potential variation in those conditions which might have prevented it, not to mention the potential for some sort of cosmic disaster which may have been (and may yet be) the cause of our demise.

Since it is reasonable to assume that many such planetary “failures” have occurred throughout the apparently limitless expanses of our universe, even given such far-flung potential for both disaster and failure, by modern scientific estimations, statistical probability predicts that other “successes” such as ours are also conceivable. By virtue of the improbability of our OWN existence, since we DO exist, seems to suggest that we may not be alone in the universe. Even given this improbability, the potential for other intelligent life to exist elsewhere in the universe, should there be any, must surely, at some point, result in a species of some sort which will acquire a cognitive capacity to acknowledge the existence of consciousness in some manner. A natural inclination for the existence of “intelligent life” elsewhere, should it be discovered, would illuminate and inform our awareness of consciousness as a natural consequence of life anywhere.

My friend Genie (aka Palestine Rose) writes potent poetry and has the soul of an artist, and with great compassion and humanity, expresses all of her creations with grace and love. To know that such souls exist in the world, reignites my own compassion and hope for our world.