If you haven't read the earlier sections,
you may like to read them first:
In this chapter we had a look at three different concepts of consciousness, that belong to three different ways of understanding reality.
In the physicalist understanding of reality, the physical world is primary. Within this physical world, consciousness manifests as our human awareness of our own being — our sensations, feelings, thoughts and intentions — and through our senses, of the physical and social worlds around us. In this view, consciousness is not causally active and dependent on a well-functioning nervous system. Within the secular mainstream of science and especially in medicine, this seems to be the most commonly held view of consciousness at present.
In the exclusive spiritual understanding of reality, consciousness is primary. In India, the most widely known traditions that share this perspective — Buddhism, Patanjali's Rajayoga and Shankara's Advaita Vedanta — are based on very different philosophies, but in terms of experience and what they see as the ultimate aim of life, they are not that different. The Buddhists describe the ultimate nature of reality as empty (sunya) and aim at the complete annihilation of the ego-sense (nirvana). Patanjali speaks of purity (kaivalya) and a contentless absorption in ultimate reality (nirvikalpa samādhi). Advaita Vedanta strives for liberation (moksha) and the merger of the self (atman) into the consciousness of the Divine (brahman). In terms of experience, all three aim at a transcendent state that is absolutely pure, perfectly blissful and entirely free of dualism and differentiation.
In the integral understanding of reality, consciousness is again primary but there is a deeper appreciation for the physical manifestation. It stresses two additional aspects of consciousness. The first is that it holds that consciousness is not only awareness but also power: consciousness cannot only witness, but also sanction, initiate and even direct action. Accordingly, it takes it that it is the consciousness in things that determines their qualities. The second is that we humans are not only in our deepest essence one with each other and the Divine, but we are also unique "portions" or "aspects" of the Divine, in the sense that each one of us has a unique subset of the infinite qualities (anantaguna) of the Divine. In other words, we have a permanent and fully real individual nature (svabhava) and law of right action (svadharma), things we can learn, over many lives, to express in the world in a perfect harmony with all other centres of the Divine's consciousness.
Philosophically, the exclusive and integral views both start from the concept of sacchidananda, an essential oneness of Existence, Consciousness and Joy, but the exclusive schools take sacchidananda primarily as the nature of the Transcendent, while the integral view takes it to be the essence of the manifest reality as well. It holds that consciousness and joy are pervasive throughout the manifestation: everything that exist must be conscious, as otherwise it would not know how to be, and everything must be joyful, as otherwise it would not want to be.
Practically, in terms of psychological action, the integral view agrees with the exclusive spiritual schools that we humans are not bound to our physical "vehicle" and that we have the capacity to free ourselves from our entanglement in the physical world and merge back into the transcendence. Where the integral school differs from the exclusive one is that it holds that the evolving, manifest world is as much part of the divine as the eternal, unchanging transcendent, and that it does not accept a merger back into transcendence as the final aim of our "earthly existence". In the integral view, the achievement of moksha, kaivalya or sunya (liberation, purity or emptiness) is not the end of the spiritual journey, but its beginning. It has to be followed by a conscious participation in the further evolution of ever higher levels of embodied consciousness through a comprehensive transformation of our nature so that it can express, in an ever more perfect manner, the unique aspect of the Divine that each one of us represents in the world.
We have argued that it is its capacity to support matter and consciousness in an equal-handed manner that enables the integral understanding of reality to provide a solid philosophical foundation for the whole of science, for psychology as well as for physics. We hope to show in the rest of this text, that acknowledging the dynamic side of consciousness is moreover crucial for a complete understanding of how the world actually "works" and with that for the development of an effective "technology of consciousness" which humanity badly needs to complement the physical technology we already have.
To end, a short list of the main characteristics of the concept of consciousness used in Infinity in a Drop
Further links to the chapters of Infinity in a Drop where each of these issues has been discussed are still to be added.
There is a transitive and an intransitive form of this:
one can be conscious of something, or one can consciously be something.
Consciousness is one with being:
we are our consciousness.
Cit is cit-tapas; consciousness is not only passive, but also dynamic:
it can reject, sanction and work to manifest something.
Consciousness is part of the very stuff of existence.
Each centre of consciousness has only those qualities that it selects out of the infinite qualities of the Divine by its power of exclusive concentration.
Love is the dynamic side of joy.
Each centre of consciousness is in it's core still one with the original consciousness that manifested the world out of and within itself.
Each centre of consciousness can, but need not, contain a complex reality within itself.
"Most bound most free"
As mentioned above, all this follows directly or indirectly from the marvellous, originally Vedic idea of saccidānanda as the ultimate nature of reality: everything that exists must be conscious, as otherwise it would not know how to be, and joyful, as otherwise it would not want to be.
To go back to consciousness as understood
in other knowledge systems:
For an issue-wise comparison of
the three concepts of consciousness:
For the ongoing evolution of consciousness
as meta-narrative for psychology: