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The conscious experience

the-conscious-experience

This article is a follow-up to Brain, Science and Consciousness, in which I explore the theme of conscious­ness from a medi­cal pers­pec­tive. In par­ti­cu­lar, I address the dif­ferent fields of conscious­ness, their vibra­to­ry fre­quen­cy, as well as the spe­ci­fic acti­vi­ty of the body and the brain that cor­res­ponds to them.

The ques­tion I now raise is : what brain wave fre­quen­cies could have been mea­su­red when my conscious­ness disen­ga­ged from my men­tal (read My sto­ry to unders­tand what I mean)? The ans­wer is not evident. All I can say is that if, at the time of the events, I had only had at my dis­po­sal the table of fields of conscious­ness (see below), it would have been quite dif­fi­cult for me to deter­mine where I was. I would have felt like I was at both ends of the scale at the same time. That is to say : immer­sed both in a conscious­ness out of space-time – without being in a coma or expe­rien­cing the immi­nence of my death – but also in mind­ful­ness.

                   

In search of consciousness

Letting go and mindfulness

Fields-of-consciousness

The cha­rac­te­ris­tics attri­bu­ted to mind­ful­ness pre­ci­se­ly cor­res­pond to the sen­sa­tions that were mine at that time. Indeed, even though I did not feel par­ti­cu­lar­ly stres­sed, my body was, para­doxi­cal­ly, in a state of alert. Besides, I had the strange fee­ling that I had lived five days in one. As if my brain acti­vi­ty had been much more intense than usual. My memo­ry too : I still remem­ber many details of that impro­bable day.

mindfulnessHowever, I can­not say – at least in these terms – whe­ther I have expe­rien­ced an increase in the pro­duc­tion of gam­ma waves [1] in my brain. Still, it all seems to have hap­pe­ned as it did. For just as the men­tal « lets go » when a cer­tain level of medi­ta­tion is rea­ched, my conscious­ness has final­ly become out of sync with my men­tal. The condi­tions for the medi­ta­tive state see­med to be present. Then this sug­gests that I was bathing in the field of mind­ful­ness.

But I can also posi­tion myself at the other end of the scale because I felt a sus­pen­sion of time. It has given way to the present moment, and thus to an expe­rience of conscious­ness out­side of space and time.

                          

Presence passes through the body

At both ends of the spec­trum – waves close to abso­lute 0 (coma) or gam­ma waves – we can see that conscious­ness is expan­ding. However, in the case of a coma or Near Death Experience, contact with the body is lost. And it can even break if the per­son dies. Whereas in the second case, the per­son is total­ly present in his body.

If I had been uncons­cious, I might have been able to attest to a state of conscious­ness, des­pite the fact that my brain waves would have been close to 0. But I would pro­ba­bly not have tou­ched the pre­sence as I did, since I remai­ned conscious and in contact with my body.

In any case, per­haps the grea­test tea­ching of this table is that it reflects a men­tal rea­ding of conscious­ness. Although it has its use­ful­ness, it says nothing about the nature of conscious­ness. It is sim­ply cate­go­ri­zed and impli­cit­ly pre­sen­ted as inse­pa­rable from men­tal. Thus, one could think that conscious­ness pro­gresses or regresses, taking us for example from a state of uncons­cious­ness – coma, or deep sleep – to a state of mind­ful­ness, or vice ver­sa.

               

When finite meets infinite

In fact, this way of loo­king at things seems coherent as long as conscious­ness is syn­chro­ni­zed with men­tal. In fact, since the lat­ter has a linear func­tio­ning, it auto­ma­ti­cal­ly leads conscious­ness in this way. However, my expe­rience tells a dif­ferent sto­ry : my conscious­ness has gone out of any linear pro­gres­sion, to fall into an immen­se­ly lar­ger space. Somehow, it’s like it’s fin­ding a more natu­ral envi­ron­ment for itself. 

                

analogy-between-ocean-surf-and-consciousness

To give an ana­lo­gy, I would say that eve­ry­thing hap­pe­ned as if conscious­ness were an ocean, and that the point of conscious­ness that I incar­nate in this ocean had cros­sed the wave bar­rier, repre­sen­ted by my brain waves. Then, just as the sur­fer has to cross the wave bar­rier to reach a quie­ter water and wait for the wave, my conscious­ness would have cros­sed a bar­rier of increa­sin­gly short and fast waves of high fre­quen­cy. Till I switch to a state of abso­lute sere­ni­ty, into pre­sence. Then, I would have been able to let any wave that came along pass without affec­ting me.

                        

Consciousness and experience of consciousness

Differentials of consciousness, differentials of experience

However, one can­not consi­der that there is a dif­fe­rence bet­ween conscious­ness and the expe­rience that each one makes of it. Because a dif­fe­rence induces dua­li­ty. And no dua­li­ty can have its place within conscious­ness since conscious­ness under­lies the very expe­rience of conscious­ness. Consciousness encom­passes eve­ry­thing. Thus, rather than dua­li­ty, we can speak of com­ple­men­ta­ri­ty of approach. Then the expe­rience induces a dif­fe­ren­tial of conscious­ness that becomes the condi­tion of pos­si­bi­li­ty of all this ques­tio­ning.

From this point of view, conscious­ness only makes sense in expe­rience. On the other hand, from the point of view of pre­sence, the dif­fe­ren­tial indu­ced by expe­rience no lon­ger exists. Then, pre­sence is like conscious­ness that would not know itself through expe­rience. The phi­lo­so­pher Jiddu Krishnamurti spoke of nothin­gness, in these terms : « Nothingness can­not act, for eve­ry­thing is inclu­ded in it » [2]. Only expe­rience allows us to act, through a move­ment crea­ted by dif­fe­ren­tials of conscious­ness… and, the­re­fore, of expe­riences.

To switch into pre­sence is to no lon­ger be in expe­rience as move­ment. It is to access inner stil­l­ness, immo­bi­li­ty of thoughts, emo­tions and fee­lings. But even this defi­ni­tion is not ade­quate. And none of them are. Because you can’t say any­thing about pre­sence that doesn’t ins­tant­ly get you out of it. However, the only way we can talk about it is through expe­rience. Because the one who speaks is the « I », and the « I » knows only expe­rience.

            

Consciousness, are you there ?

consciousness-without-identity

More prag­ma­ti­cal­ly, we can say that pre­sence is beyond iden­ti­ty. Whereas expe­rience is sub­jec­tive and made tan­gible in par­ti­cu­lar through dif­ferent « fields ». But to rea­son as if one is moving from one field of conscious­ness to ano­ther is to ignore the fact that conscious­ness under­lies the rea­li­ty – or the illu­sion – of those fields. In fact, the lat­ter only exist in our linear and frag­men­ta­ry men­tal. That is why, in my opi­nion, it would be more accu­rate to consi­der that we are acces­sing dif­ferent per­cep­tions and expe­riences of conscious­ness. Because conscious­ness is constant­ly present in the back­ground of our expe­riences and inde­pendent of brain acti­vi­ty. Although the expe­rience we have of it is more or less taken up by men­tal acti­vi­ty.

Therefore, the ques­tion is no lon­ger whe­ther conscious­ness is there or not, the ques­tion is how far brain acti­vi­ty can sus­tain the illu­sion that it pro­duces conscious­ness when it sim­ply allows access to expe­rience and inter­pre­ta­tion.

               

Awareness and consciousness

A subtle fertility

                   

consciousness-and-awareness

Krishnamurti, like Eckhart Tolle, names the notion of stil­l­ness, of pre­sence, using the term « awa­re­ness ». Almost inse­pa­rable from the term « conscious­ness », it intro­duces for English spea­kers a subt­le­ty not found in the French lan­guage when spea­king of conscious­ness. It is all the more rele­vant to dwell on this subt­le­ty as it offers a good sum­ma­ry of my point.

                    

*** Note : my native lan­guage is French, so I don’t know if the fol­lo­wing infor­ma­tion is rele­vant or not for the English spea­king public ! ***

Pure awa­re­ness is stil­l­ness, pre­sence. It’s not about expe­rience. However awa­re­ness sup­ports the expe­rience of the uni­verse. In other words, it sup­ports move­ment present eve­ryw­here. This is crea­ted by a dif­fe­ren­tial of conscious­ness, a pola­ri­za­tion from the conscious to the uncons­cious. The resul­ting move­ment of this pola­ri­za­tion, represent the pre­con­di­tions for the mani­fes­ta­tion of conscious­ness.

Awareness comes with know­ledge, the feed­back that allows infor­ma­tion to reveal itself in the conscious, to move from the uncons­cious to the conscious [3]. Thus, know­ledge creates the poten­tial for access to higher levels of conscious­ness.

                    

To observe or not to observe ?

That is the ques­tion. Consciousness implies an obser­ver [4], and is rela­tive to each obser­ver. It allows us to inter­pret the exter­nal rea­li­ty, and to receive the inter­pre­ta­tion of all other obser­vers. This is how it pro­gresses from the uncons­cious to the conscious. When the obser­ver becomes aware, conscious­ness momen­ta­ri­ly extracts it from the expe­rience. But never com­ple­te­ly. Because the pro­cess of beco­ming aware is itself an inte­gral part of the expe­rience of the uni­verse. The expe­rience stops only in pure awa­re­ness, when conscious­ness rea­lizes that only awa­re­ness exists and the world of thoughts car­ries no truth in it.

presence-and-free-willAlthough the essence of the obser­ver is stil­l­ness, pre­sence, or pure awa­re­ness, the obser­ver can never be ful­ly conscious of it. The obser­ver can­not be conscious that he is awa­re­ness, only awa­re­ness is conscious of being awa­re­ness. The obser­ver is in a pro­cess of beco­ming aware that only awa­re­ness exists. He can only be an obser­ver. And it is only as an obser­ver that he can gra­dual­ly connect conscious­ly with this intel­li­gence, with awa­re­ness.

                    

Dissolve observer identity

But the moment he becomes aware that he is awa­re­ness, then he is no lon­ger awa­re­ness. « Being awa­re­ness » implies that the obser­ver and the obser­ved merge, become one. As soon as there is awa­re­ness, the obser­ver detaches from awa­re­ness. It is then that conscious­ness and the obser­ver appear depen­dent­ly [5].

The obser­ver can­not ful­ly rea­lize awa­re­ness, he can only « become that state ». This implies its com­plete dis­so­lu­tion, i.e. the com­plete and total aban­don­ment of itself. When the iden­ti­ty of the obser­ver dis­solves into uni­ty, conscious­ness returns to awa­re­ness. It is dis­sol­ved and trans­cen­ded into awa­re­ness. Only awa­re­ness exists, inclu­ding the poten­tial of conscious­ness, which then no lon­ger exists as such.

                   


Key points

 

  • Only expe­rience allows us to act, through a move­ment crea­ted by dif­fe­ren­tials of conscious­ness… and the­re­fore of expe­riences.

  • To switch into pre­sence is to no lon­ger be in expe­rience as move­ment. It is to access inner stil­l­ness, immo­bi­li­ty of thoughts, emo­tions and fee­lings.

  • When the iden­ti­ty of the obser­ver dis­solves into uni­ty, conscious­ness returns to awa­re­ness (stil­l­ness, pre­sence).

              

                      

                      



Notes and references

[1] Gamma waves are found in eve­ry per­son’s brain, and are the only waves present in all areas of the brain. However, they are only acti­va­ted when the brain under­takes a las­ting and sus­tai­ned action, such as during an effort of atten­tion or memo­ri­za­tion. The more they are acti­va­ted, the more they make the popu­la­tions of neu­rons present in the dif­ferent cere­bral areas inter­act, final­ly lea­ding them to have a syn­chro­nous acti­vi­ty.

[2] KRISHNAMURTI Jiddu, Les limites de la pen­sée, Paris : Le livre de poche, 2006, p.84, free trans­la­tion
[3] See the article How do we learn ? on this sub­ject
[4] Read also the article about the ques­tio­ning of the obser­ver and the obser­ved in quan­tum phy­sics.
[5] For a bet­ter unders­tan­ding of the fact that phe­no­me­na appear depen­dent­ly, you can also consult the article Indeterminism and entan­gle­ment.
               




 

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