The following entry is little more than a fantasy, but I use it to help place some of the experiences I’ve had in my life. I don’t begin to claim it holds any truth; it simply helps me wonder.
Have you ever been somewhere and suddenly had a sense of the way events might go? And then been frustrated, not because they turned out that way, but because you knew it would happen? It’s almost as if time gives you a little taste, and then that flavor fulfills itself. Or maybe it’s just subtle clues the subconscious tunes in to.
Or have you been talking with someone, and briefly certain images flit through your mind, sometimes with word associations. They feel unbidden. Was it a spark of creativity, or an impression of some kind? So you speak it out loud, and the other person thinks you read their mind. You don’t know if you just picked up on the idea, or had the idea yourself and somehow projected it.
Or the phenomenon of thinking about a person and then hearing them call on the phone shortly after. I’ve heard this so many times from my friends it seems commonplace now. One friend even said she knew whenever I came to visit – it was usually out of the blue – because she always dreamt about it the night before.
Or when I finish matching a film where incredible things are possible, I notice my reflexes and coordination become much smoother. I’m able to take my car keys out of my pocket and insert them into the lock, almost without looking in one fluid motion. How different from those days when nothing seems to go right. Is this me being more confident, or is “life” cooperating somehow because my outlook has been subtly changed?
These events only touch the surface of the strange things I’ve experienced. They cause me to think about the nature of human consciousness, and whether we may be part of something larger, which spans our existence across barriers even of space and time.
I think every part of the universe serves as a model for the whole. That is, each thing symbolizes an aspect of the underlying pattern. An example of this is the way larger systems are composed of smaller ones. We have cells in our bodies, which are made of molecules, they of atoms, then of quarks, etc. Or going higher, we have social networks, then planets, solar systems, galaxies, galactic clusters, etc.
But these are only spatial delineations. What if there are bridges between consciousnesses as well? No one part of our body may be said to have awareness – no more so than a single neuron represents the whole mind – yet the author of this entry is certainly aware. My whole being produces a coherent aspect, which I refer to as my self.
Such synergy could represent a deeper pattern. What if, just as my cells comprise a body and mind who is self-aware, many minds likewise participate in a higher order which has an awareness of its own kind? And these together, and so on, until there is a master consciousness whose waking dream is the pith of existence? This is something I would call the “Ur-soul”, which we are all a part of even while we remain distinct – in the same way my liver’s cells are a part of my existence, yet exist separately in themselves.
But that is just an example in space. Consider time: as an infant I was very different from the person I am now. My childhood – the presence of my thinking during childhood – is impossible to recall now. I cannot see and feel things the way I did then, when the whole world almost fit in my neighborhood. So too with the teenage years, which were filled with a turmoil I simply don’t experience now. Who were those people? They were all separate, in a way; but they also contributed to this present whole.
If I can be divided in both space and time, where is the “me”? Where do I begin and end? If I refer to myself, am I a part of something, or a culmination of parts? What if I am all of these at once?
I think the development of individual awareness is a part of who are. However, believing in a concrete individuality is too much. It’s like that liver cell believing it exists independently from its host. Yet this is the way our selves function: we disbelieve we are merely abstractions of a shifting order – a kind of wave-function riding on unfathomed waters. We envision ourselves wholly isolated; and this, I think, denies us a true consciousness of what we are.
In Zen I once encountered the idea of mutual realities. Take a rain umbrella, for example. Rain umbrellas only exist because of rainfall, even though such umbrellas still exist when there is no rain. As an object, it can be said to have a separate existence from its purpose; but in truth, it does not. If there were never any rain, there would be no such umbrellas. They exist as a part of “rain” – in the form of our desire to be protected from it. In a sense, they are the rain, in just one of its many aspects.
Because where does the rain begin and end? Is it only a single drop? That would not be rain. Is it many drops? How many? Must they fall from the sky? If so, then the cloud is also a part of what “rain” is. Since we have added another object to the idea of “rain”, where does it end?
In fact, there is an entire complex, too diverse to describe, which comprises the experience we abstract as “rain”: the smell, the umbrellas, the wet dogs, soggy shoes, the approaching thunder, the nights when we sit watching fat drops pelt the window. Rain does not begin or end anywhere; it is none of these individual objects: it exists as the entire sum. And yet even there it does not end. There are still many experiences for us to know, each of which will be individual, and will add to our sense of “rain”.
So too with the concept of “self”. Our attention rests in the optic nerve, but we are as much who we feel ourselves to be as we are the experiences that give us those feelings. To feel the wind on one’s face is to be, for that moment, a union of the two: for what kind of experience could we have if there were no stimulus of experience? If there were no wind, no memory of wind, no nothing of any kind, what “self” would there be but mere potential?
In deconstructing my self this way, I mean to suggest that our boundaries are not as clear as we feel them to be. We are conditioned to separate our thoughts in terms of time and space, but these are only delineations. What is the truth of our reality, and the realities we are a part of? Do I sense people’s thoughts sometimes because of a particular sensitivity – or because we are individual parts of one whole, like the cells that make up a larger organism? Are there even higher orders of consciousness, the awareness of which requires us to transcend the confines of selfhood?
When I relax my thoughts, there seems to be a larger flow I join up with, something only loosely affiliated with my present understanding. It is not that I see with other eyes; it’s more like I begin to hear a song echoing from many places – a song which makes its own kind of sense. Things begin to taste “right” or “wrong”, in ways I cannot explain; as if there were a greater harmony, a grander scale of happiness, than what my single body can feel alone.
And if goes on like this, without limit, until the best I can do is abstract the whole under a single name – a global entity with its own purpose, not possessing singular boundaries – whose reality is expressed by and throughout the whole, each part having its own purpose and yet summing to produce the whole. What is this? Do I exist to be a part of its self-knowing? To contemplate and feel the Ur-soul?