The term higher consciousness is often used by spiritually minded people to describe important but hard to reach mental states. Hindu sages, Christian monks and Buddhist ascetics all speak of reaching moments of higher consciousness through meditation, chanting, fasting or pilgrimages.
Unfortunately the way in which these spiritual people discuss their states of higher consciousness has a tendency to put a lot of secular types on edge. It can all sound maddeningly wishy-washy, touchy-feely and for want of a better word annoying. What on earth do these gurus really mean?
We deeply sympathize with such frustrations not being by nature particularly attracted to the ineffable or the mysterious. However it seems that the idea of higher consciousness is in fact a very interesting one which is nothing inherently to do with spirituality and can be defined simply enough in strictly rational and secular terms.
This is how we see it. As human beings we spend most of our lives functioning in states of lower consciousness where what we are principally concerned with is ourselves, our survival and our own success narrowly defined. Ordinary life rewards, practical, unintrospective self-justifying outlooks are the hallmarks of lower consciousness.
Neuroscientists speak of a part of the brain they call the reptilian mind and tell us that under its sway, we strike back when we hit, blame others, quell any stray questions that lack immediate relevance, fail to free associate and stick closely to a flattering image of who we are and where we headed.
However but rare moments when there are no threats or demands upon us perhaps late at night or early in the morning when our bodies and passions are comfortable in quiescence, we have the privilege of being able to access the higher mind, what neuroscientists call the neocortex, the seat of the imagination, empathy and impartial judgment.
There, we lessen our hold on our own egos and ascend to a less biased and more universal perspective, casting off a little of the customary interests of our justification and brittle pride. In such states, the mind moves beyond its particular self-interests and cravings and we start to think about the people in a more imaginative way, rather than criticize and attack, we are free to imagine their behavior as being driven by pressures derived from their own primitive minds which they’re generally in no position to tell us about.
That temporal viciousness is we now see, symptoms of hurt rather than evil. Ιt’s an astonishing gradual evolution to develop the ability to explain others actions by their distress, rather than simply in terms of how it affects us. We perceive that the appropriate response to humanity is not fear, cynicism or aggression but always when we can manage it, love.
It is at such moments that the world reveals itself is quite different. A place of suffering and misguided effort, full the people striving to be heard and lashing out against others, but also a place of tenderness and beauty, longing and touching vulnerability, of fitting responses, universal sympathy and kindness.
One’s own life feels less precious, one can contemplate being no longer present with tranquility. One’s interests are put aside and one may imaginatively fuse with transient and all natural things trees, the wind, moths and waves breaking on the shore. From this point of view, status is nothing, positions don’t matter and grievances lose their urgency. If certain people could encounter us at that this point they might be amazed at the transformation of our new found generosity and empathy.
States of such higher consciousness are of course desperately short lived. We shouldn’t in any case aspire to make them permanent because they don’t sit too well with the many important practical tasks we will need to attend to. But we should make the most of them when they do arise and harvest their insights for when we require them most.
Higher consciousness is a huge triumph over the primitive mind which cannot envisage any such possibilities. Ideally we be a little more alive to the advantages of this higher mind and strive to make oceanic experiences somewhat less random and less clothed in unnecessary mystery.
Source: The School of Life
Transcribed and translated in Greek by:
Teacher & Consultant of Alternative Therapies
Founder of GrecoDow® Educational Systems