Jul 17, 2008

Let`s Straighten the Conceptual Curves and Clear the Fog

In my conscious experience so far I came to the conclusion that there is a general misunderstanding and a lack of understanding of all those elusive concepts and terms that are used to address the intangible aspects of the human being.

Since the ancient times of the Persian and Greek philosophers we have inherited the terminological concepts of the Soul, Consciousness and Mind. From these three many other immaterial terms derive like Spirituality, Enlightment, Insight, Revelation, Inspiration .. they all signify the intangible and hidden contents of human nature.

All these words are burdened with so much conceptual confusion and misinterpretation today, that it is hard to use them without provoking different degrees of prejudice, which is a result of this layered and accumulated misunderstanding throughout the ages.

Despite all the semantic and dogmatic misconception, the fact is that human beings are intelligent and deeply spiritual creatures. Furthermore, intelligence did put us on the top of the vertebrates pyramid, but it is the spiritual ritual that first served as a community-gatherer and fascinated those ancient predecessors of ours.

Spirituality, which later evolved into religion is this deeply symbolic fruit of the sensitive and creative human soul.

Now, let`s define some of the major concepts we often use, so that we leave the least room for misunderstanding and clear up the conceptual fog a bit.

We will start with the Mind. the Mind is a widely used concept in our everyday language and unsurprisingly so, since this term defines this essential entity that you are. Think about it, when you say “I” you generally don`t really mean your body, but this entity in your head that thinks and experiences the world consciously.

In general, the term “mind” addresses the rational and analytical abilities of our brain that distinguishes homo sapiens from all the rest living beings on this planet. This full of beauty, magical planet that gave us life! And on the other hand, the “mind” also addresses another aspect of the human brain, that we feel much closer to what we perceive ourselves to be, namely the Consciousness. Human consciousness is this phenomenon that we address when we say “I”.

The “Mind” concept is like a two-sided coin that, on the one hand signifies the “mechanical” qualities of the human brain like Intelligence, and on the other the conscious perception that the individual has for him/herself and the world.

Let`s take a brief look into Intelligence and its relation to Consciousness, since those two are both referred to by a common “mind” concept.

Intelligence is the overall evolutionary quality of the human mind due to its sophisticated design of neuron networks that give us the ability to learn, remember, think and analyze on a much wider scale and higher level than all the other animals on this Earth. Human memory capacity, for instance, is yet undefined nor there are defined boundaries of human imagination. Our ability to remember, analyze, estimate and think associatively makes us intelligent beings. Yet, intelligence as a property of the brain is not in a direct relation to this elusive consciousness of ours and specifically to the self-awareness aspect of consciousness.

There are numerous examples of this odd disrelation between ingenuity and self-awareness as in being conscious of yourself and analyzing yourself. There have been not one and two geniuses who had deep psychological controversies, unsocial behaviors and general lack of self-integrity. So, it is a fact that intelligence does not automatically lead to higher levels of consciousness as well.

Just as there are those spiritual teachers and gurus who have reached profound insights and deep understanding of their very nature and soul, yet they may not have much of what we call common knowledge of the official sciences of the day.

A controversy this is, undoubtfully. But, what causes it? And why intelligence is easier to develop than your psychological self? The human mind by default is outwardly oriented and our thoughts revolve around issues that regard the world around us in relation to us, but rarely we think about the world within us in relation to what we are. This is because of a very simple and pragmatic reason – our physical senses are outwardly oriented and our psyche has evolved on the background, where we cannot see it nor perceive it as being there. We experience its influence only indirectly as our changing moods, spontaneous reactions or thought associations and in different ways in our behavior and personality.

However, the purpose of this lecture is to briefly define the main ontological concepts we will be using much as we advance further.

We defined the “Mind” concept and its two conceptual and factological “branches” – Intelligence and Consciousness.

Now lets` take a closer look to the “consciousness” concept. As we mentioned above, the term Consciousness addresses our self-awareness on the one hand, and on the other it is used as a wider term that signifies the everyday awake state of the mind, like the opposite of being asleep. So, “consciousness” in our language defines two states of our mind – one is our average awareness of the world around us and the other is our self-awareness that realizes and observes the world within us.

As a quick note, “Consciousness” and “Awareness” are two generally interchangeable concepts that both define the same aspects of the mind. To be aware off.. something is to realize it, to observe it, to comprehend it, to notice its presence.. In this order of thoughts, we can define “awareness” as the active state of consciousness, as in running process that we are engaged in.

While, “consciousness” in modern psychological terms describes the mental wholeness of the human being, that is all your thoughts, memories, views and ideas, character and personality.

The term “consciousness” is related to the term “psyche” in this that the Psyche describes all that the Consciousness addresses in regard to self-awareness, but the psyche goes beyond and encompasses the vast, dark depths of the unconscious part of our minds. To clear it up, “psyche” is the general term addressing the wholeness of the mind in its psychological aspects of consciousness and unconsciousness. You can also think of it as the term "consciousness" encompasses your outwards perception of the world as well as your inwards (self-conscious) but excludes the unconscious part of your mind, while "psyche" relates and encompasses the whole inner, psychological world of your soul only. We are talking about semantic meanings of the words and etymological analysis here.

The unconscious expanses of our minds are very little explored, most notably in the last century with the birth of psychology as an official discipline of practical research. Despite all the amazing advancements in this field made by notable minds in the past and all the empirical knowledge on the subject that has been reflected in the books, psychology is a poorly understood matter by the wide majority of people.

Briefly, the term “unconsciousness” addresses this undefined psychological depths of yourself that unfold into layers as the newest is “situated” closest to your conscious awareness and the farthest goes beyond your individual experience and physical boundaries.

Want to see the border of your consciousness, live?! – then observe yourself! Think about, say an aspect of your personality (behavior) that you do not feel comfortable with. Maybe you are too shy? Or react inadequately in certain situations? You find it hard to fully communicate yourself to the others? Or do you have anger-management problems? Certain things in other people annoy you unbearably? Whatever it is, there is something you can find for sure.

Now, analyze! Remember the importance of the question “Why?” and sincere honesty with yourself. Honesty with oneself is essential, if you intend to deluse yourself and search for justifications you will not achieve any advancement.

So anyway, keep searching for the reasons you think might be behind your behavior and reactions. Follow the cause-and-effect chain down until you are unable to anymore. It may be a very short road, or a longer one. But at some point your thoughts disappear into an impenetrable darkness where you can not follow them any further. This is the realm of your unconscious mind. It is an interesting and very fruitful mental engagement, if you find yourself able to achieve any results. Concentration on the subject you follow is needed as well. And remember – practice makes perfect, it is a golden rule!

The “Psyche” concept is essentially interchangeable with the “Soul” concept, since they both address the same thing.

And lastly, lets` briefly summarize the conceptual definitions we deducted!

  • Mind --> Intelligence and/or Consciousness
  • Intelligence --> Rational and analytical abilities of the brain, memory capacity, imagination
  • Consciousness --> Opposite state of being asleep, realizing the world around you and/or self-awareness
  • Consciousness = Awareness
  • Psyche --> Consciousness and Unconsciousness, psychological wholeness of what you are
  • Psyche = Soul