The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness. Lao Tzu
Consciousness, says Wikipedia, is the state or quality [my italics] of awareness, or, of being aware of an external object or something within oneself.
Consciousness of our physical environment is often restricted by the distractions of 21st century living; cognitive distortions have an impact on our minds and emotions that falsify our perception of the world.
I believe we are at a fork in the road where we have to make a choice between what human rights activist Natan Sharansky calls ‘fear society’ and ‘free society’, each built on opposing qualities of consciousness. Describing her understanding of these states of consciousness, Naomi Wolf suggests that:
- The consciousness derived of oppression is despairing, fatalistic, and fearful of inquiry. It is mistrustful of the self and forced to trust external authority. It is premised on a dearth of self-respect. It is cramped.
- In contrast, the consciousness of freedom is one of expansiveness, trust of the self, and hope. It is a consciousness of limitless inquiry. It builds up in a citizen a wealth of self-respect.
Which of the two definitions above would you say best fits the society you live in?
Consider the headlines and lead stories in the mainstream media; do they promote fear or hope? Clearly there are situations in the world that give grave cause for concern, however, accusations have been made that these are presented in a way designed to browbeat the masses. Information circulates on the internet that calls into question the motive and integrity of the moguls who profit from broadcasting alarming stories that, for example, result in fear for some of travelling on public transport with Muslims.
Jung said that:
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. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.
It occurs to me that the more of us that seek enlightenment and bring peace into our beings, the better the chance of bringing peace into the world.
It took a life-shattering event for me to ‘face my own soul’; from what I have heard this is a common occurrence. When you have faced your mortality because of life-threatening illness, or when you’ve endured such extreme trauma that life as you knew it no longer exists, you have nothing to lose; you are prepared to do whatever is necessary to make sense of your experience, to find meaning (if you want to not just survive but thrive). You have to go inwards; in this way, abnormal experiences can facilitate the elevation of your consciousness.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who coined the term ‘flow; being in the zone’, says that control of consciousness determines the quality of life. I can attest to that because pre-involvement with a paranoid schizophrenic with psychotic tendencies my consciousness was, arguably, constricted. I only discovered this, however, as a result of the post-traumatic growth that has definitely seen it expand.
I can’t say that my quest has been undemanding; however it has been ultimately satisfying. I’d even go so far as to challenge Jung’s assertion that bringing your shadow into the light is unpleasant (although the neurotic/wounded/inflated aspects of your ego like to make you squirm!); I’ve had to navigate tricky terrain at times but the consciousness of freedom I have attained, and its attendant self-trust and contentment, has been worth every strenuous step.
Hegel said that the history of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of freedom. How our history will be written is in our own hands; it’s up to us to ensure that our essence rather than our ego determines what our legacy will be.
3 thoughts on “Essential Principles, Practices and Panaceas, A – Z: Consciousness”