(& The 7th Stage in the Evolution of Consciousness)
By David Hesketh, MSc (Neuroscience/Education)
Is my brain conscious or am I conscious?
The ‘Hard Problem of Consciousness’ (David Chalmers) is probably best captured in this question. That is, we don’t really know what consciousness is but
we know that we are conscious – at least, I know that I’m conscious – well,
sometimes, anyway – and that brain function is linked to various states of consciousness.
The current medical, cause-effect, mechanical model of brain function being promoted throughout much of our (social) media, would have us believe that it is the chemistry that gives rise to consciousness.
As a neuroscientist, I can tell you the mechanistic basics of what is happening in the brain, as it relates to the various activities that I ‘consciously’ choose to engage. But I do not experience dopamine (the feel-good neurotransmitter) flooding the neurons in my ‘reward’ circuit when I score a goal in hockey. I just feel the excitement of that positive association. I don’t experience low levels of serotonin (another key neurotransmitter) when I feel low. I just feel low.
So, is it the consciousness, my choices through thought, that is giving rise to the chemical phenomena or is the chemistry giving rise to the experience? The latter suggests that I am just product of biology. My sense of what is true tells me that this is not the whole story.
While chemistry and physics have their place in explaining certain biological phenomenon, they can only claim partial truth. If they were wholly true, then there would not be any variability in their bid to explain life as we know it.
I say partial truth because these sciences have their roots in the classical sciences which arose at the time of the 4th paradigm shift in thinking, birthed by the Greeks, taking hold at the Renaissance and maturing at the time of the Industrial Revolution. As the Evolution of Consciousness, first described by Rudolf Steiner, progressed, this stage is logical and rational (emerges today from developing Left Hemisphere between 10-15 yrs in optimal conditions) and has sought to unite humanity based on those things that we all have in common from the physico-biological body and brain. With it was ushered a humanitarian point of view.
But the more recent Information Revolution, the 5th paradigm shift in the Evolution of Consciousness, outlined more recently by Jean Gebser & Ken Wilber, etc.) beginning in the 1960’s, has unleashed the 6th stage in the development of thinking and consciousness. It has laid bare the error in thinking of classical scientific absolutism and fomented a pluralistic or multi-perspectival point of view (emerges today from developing Frontal Cortex between 16-21 yrs in optimal conditions), where indeed, we are beginning to appreciate the individualistic nature of truth and physiological brain functioning (up to a point).
But even this, doesn’t quite capture it. For we have entered an entirely new phase in the Evolution of Consciousness. The language we are using now is a hint of what is emerging in this 7th stage. Wholeness, Unity, Oneness and Integration all point to it. But what is different is that this is not just a way of thinking, it is a way of being and perceiving (emerges today during integration of brain capacities from 21 yrs onward in optimal conditions); that, in and of itself, transcends ‘experience’ and traditional ways of thinking. This is an entirely new way of knowing. And it is radical. It transcends words. The numbers of us that have evolved to this stage are yet small but continue to grow as people discover the way to enter this phase of human consciousness.
And what is the way to enter this phase of consciousness? Apart from conscious, clean nutrition & body awareness, strength, exercise, meditation and contemplative practices, there is another key to it.
Let me explain it in the following way:
Traditions all over the world, esoteric and non-esoteric alike, state that Spirit, is omnipresent and omnipotent. This has been confirmed repeatedly by Masters and those who have consciously transcended the Time-Space Dimension in which most of us find ourselves.
This means that there is no place that Spirit is not. That includes every atom, every photon, every wave-particle of energy measurable and immeasurable, every celestial body and space itself; every rock, plant, animal and human… everything seen and unseen. That is, there is only Spirit.
For most of us, we are caught in The Great Search for God, for Spirit, which is, in and of itself, a contradiction and denial of this Omnipresent Reality. It is hidden by my attachment to being ‘me’, my separate-self, me as ego, me as identified with and attached to my mind, my ideas, my thoughts, my emotions, my body, MYbrain. After all, I have grown up conditioned to this as fact.
However, if the ever-present Spirit is ever-present and it is everywhere in everything, then, this already present state of things is available to you right now. For there is only now, anyways (Eckhart Tolle, etc.). Even future thoughts and past musings are happening right now, in my present awareness.
In shifting awareness from the mind’s preoccupation with future and past, with thoughts and ideas, to stillness and awareness of your awareness, you move into presence, the timeless, ever-present awareness, Spirit, where you are at one with everything. Always available and always on… 24/7 (as a service provider so regularly reminds me! 😊).
You probably have experienced such a state. People often report this when reconnecting in nature. You don’t see the mountain, you fuse with it. You are One with it. It could be the same with a flower, an animal, another human, a piece of music. You transcend the mind, the ego, the small self. You surrender to Being. You meld with it. For many people, it is an instant in time, a memory, like a door opening and closing. So profound can these experiences be, that we set off searching for it, to experience it again, for inwardly, we know that we have connected to something beyond our separate-selfness.
But, it is this awareness that is actually available to each one of us right now. It is awareness, ever-present awareness, Spirit as such. It is so simple. I have been staring it in the face and have not real-ized it. All these years, I have been engaged in the Great Search.
But I don’t have to search anymore because I now know the key is not waiting for ‘The Great Understanding’ to show up some day, it is realizing that is it here and a shift in my awareness to the ever-present awareness, conscious awareness, is available in every moment, in the now.
I am still practicing ‘this shift’. I has meant that I practice just sitting in meditation, just driving, just watching the landscape or sunset arise in my awareness moment to moment. Just engaging awareness in presence, in omnipresent Spirit, feeling-knowing it is All.
It has meant just witnessing people as they go about their day-to-day business – knowing that as I grow the consciousness of Spirit as everywhere in everything, then I Am Spirit, I Am them, They Are me … because there is nowhere that Spirit is not.
This is the knowing-feeling, not thinking, and a state of being, not doing, that arises with Stage 7 Integral Consciousness (Wilber, Gebser, Gilligan). I still think and do but rather than fighting for ego survival through thinking and doing, I rest in presence of thinking, feeling and doing that become tools; where I Am the user of Thinking, Feeling and Doing, not the other way around. This state is unified, at One and Whole. It is Consciousness as It Is.
And so, from the perspective of Integral Stage 7 Consciousness, I can return to the question that I began with: Is my brain conscious or am I conscious? The answer is ‘yes’ – it is both because consciousness and matter arise together. Because it is One and the Same.
David Hesketh, MSc (Neuroscience/Education) trained in the neurosciences and as a Waldorf Teacher in his birth country, Canada. Since leaving the classroom in 2007, he has been conducting his scientific and spiritual research and practices from his offices in Johannesburg, while coaching and delivering The BrainFocus Seminar to groups and individuals. He is currently preparing an online version of his BrainFocus work. www.brainfocus.co.za