Components of Consciousness
In addition to the different levels of consciousness, there are components of consciousness that influence how consciousness is expressed in the material world. Some components only function at lower levels, but others are active, or present, at every level. Each component is described in the text that follows as a means of showing how our system of consciousness functions. When we begin to understand each component individually we also begin to see the interrelatedness of all of human consciousness and how an unbalanced or unaligned system can create dysfunction and suffering. As our awareness increases, we realize that there is a higher aspect of consciousness that is functioning within us. This highest level of consciousness is like a place (keep in mind that “place” is a word used to hold our understanding, it is not a physical location) where there is oneness of love, truth, freedom, grace—all the aspects of God that are available to us as human beings, and we can bring this higher awareness into our experience of the world.
To give an analogy of how the components of consciousness work together, think of them as a series of lenses, all of which are required to see in focus. When one lens is missing or improperly aligned, we cannot see. If one lens is improperly sized, it distorts the image. Our process of spiritual growth and growth in consciousness helps us to align all the lenses, and helps them function in proportion to the highest spiritual need of the person. In order for this to happen, these elements of consciousness and the various levels of consciousness have to become part of a mutual process of seeing and understanding that parallels the mutual process of seeing and being seen by God.
The ego has a lot of power in the human system, and many of our thoughts and actions are influenced, or controlled by the ego. The ego, which functions like a separate identity inside of us that we protect in various ways, uses fragments from our experiences that include what we believe about ourselves based on our own thought processes, what we believe about ourselves due to what others say about us, what we believe others believe about us, and stored information from our evaluation of our experiences and the emotions attached to those experiences (what hurt, what felt good; acceptance, rejection). Threats to this system of identity can range from mild prompts to what can feel life threatening. We are likely to spend enormous amounts of mental energy protecting the ego, justifying ourselves according to our ego’s needs, or rationalizing our behavior based on threats to the ego’s control. The ego is intimately connected to the awake mind, and many of the processes that feed and support the ego are mental. The ego seems to disappear when we go to sleep and then re-constellates when we wake up. Ignorance, the intentional decision to “not know” something, is one of the characteristics of the ego, and information that contradicts the ego’s self-image is intentionally excluded from within the ego’s own system.
There are many ways that the mind and ego create illusions that mask the truth, and these illusions hide the influence of the mind and the ego on our ability (or inability) to self-reflect. One reason people have difficulty understanding consciousness, especially God consciousness, is because the ego uses whatever concept of God a person has, and sets this up as a place of authority within the person. Some people see God as completely outside of their being, and miss the true essence of God within. Others falsely believe that everything in their consciousness, including God, is a creation of the mind. The ego usually has a role in creating these errors. When consciousness is seen as a capacity or creation of the mind, what becomes manifest is a closed system where a person sees all results in a context which they have created. This condition usually reveals a confirmation bias that selects information according to the needs of the ego. Be mindful that content is not the same as process, function, or capacity. Remember, the mind is a subset of a greater consciousness.
When we function in lower levels of consciousness, we accept this concept of God, a false god, rather than aligning ourselves with the one God, the one source of life and truth. There is a Buddhist teaching that captures the importance of understanding the difference between our mental concept and reality: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” In other words, we must be willing to let go of what we think and believe about God, about truth, and about life, because our understanding is always incomplete. We have to overcome all of our concepts of God on the way to the full realization and revelation of the one, true God within us. When we open ourselves spiritually, when we create a clear channel within us, this opening expands in such a way that all the components of our consciousness harmonize. The ego and the related mental processes function according to our purpose, and they surrender to the pure consciousness and awareness found in God. Our consciousness is then illuminated during the final process of merging with God consciousness. Then, nothing else exists.
Humans often mistake the will for desire—for example, the will to live is often confused with the desire to live—but the will is very distinct from desire because it comes from a deeper part of our being. The will is a life force or energy that moves through us and results in a variety of forms of self-expression. This life force we call the will does not “seek” expression; it only appears to “seek.” There is not an independent mind or intelligence using the will or directing the will at its origin.
The will finds expression according to our decisions and the intentions behind those decisions; the will is consciousness—as a life energy or force—applying itself to a process. When the will is directed by the ego, it results in decisions and experiences that ignore our true source of being. In denial, the energy of the will is corrupted because denial protects the ego’s self-image rather than expressing the true being of God, which is the source of everything good and true. When the ways we direct the will are absorbed into the awareness of pure consciousness, everything becomes possible and within the capability of our being. The will responds to openness and acceptance by expressing the love and energy of its source. The will is directed according to our love and finds its most important expression when it is connected to truth. Love and truth cannot be separated from each other spiritually.
From the Readings
2014-101 It is easy to confuse the mind with the will, but it is best if the relationship is considered to be the mind in service to the will. The will, in many human beings, is like a super ball. It is life energy very tightly compacted so that when it hits something or bounces in one direction, or is thrown against something, its response is powerful and rapid. When the mind is dominant, it sometimes creates a box around the will, and the will accepts this confinement and then bounces around inside the box like crazy, creating anxiety, antsiness. Sometimes it manifests as the need to be physically active—tapping feet, twiddling thumbs, biting fingernails, twirling hair—all of these are symptoms of the mind having captured the will. But when the will, this bundle of energy that is the will, is immersed in purpose, then the energy finds direction. It’s not confined by four walls [the mind trying to box it in]. It doesn’t bounce around. There’s no craziness, because it gets in a groove in its purpose, and all of its energy can be released into all of the ways that the purpose becomes manifest. The undisciplined mind is not the best way to control the will. The mind is best tamed, calmed down, observed by a higher level of awareness. This process of aligning the whole being with the purpose strengthens the will and disciplines the mind. When the mind is in service to the will that has been energized [and directed] by purpose, the mind becomes flexible and open. It sees possibilities. It recognizes opportunities. It is more playful. It is less dead serious, and its capacity to contribute to the overall well-being of the soul is greatly amplified.
2014-102 It is within the purpose of every human being to express fully love and truth that is aligned with their purpose. When there is love and truth without purpose, it is as if one floats and gets captured by things like feeling, infatuation, and obsession, because these are easily aligned with love and can easily be aligned with objects in the material realm. But when connected to purpose, the energy that is the love and truth strengthens the will, and in the strongest sense, aids in the expression of the purpose. True purpose cannot move and grow and become energized unless love and truth are part of the whole package. Though it seems so silly or trite sometimes to say that “home is where the heart is,” this expression is profoundly true when it comes to purpose in a sense of one being within God. When God is seen and perceived and understood as the true home, the heart moves, the love and truth move through the person, and with the person. The power and energy of the will, amplified and refined with the discipline of the mind, these are the things that produce beauty. These are the things that produce well- being. These are the things, when properly aligned, that burn away the dross and the patterns of karma. These are the things that clear the mind, awaken the inner capacities of the soul, such that enlightenment has that quality of light, a radiance and a strength.
The life force or energy of consciousness that flows through a person is also responsible for what we call instinct. The process results in a “feeling” or a special kind of “knowing.” Much of the time humans react to the feeling or special knowledge that they receive without analyzing where it came from. Since many of the instances where humans have reacted to their instinct have to do with survival, survival is the need most often associated with this kind of awareness or consciousness that is beyond immediate recall or deliberate use.
Intuition is also a human faculty with its origins in the life force and the energy of consciousness, just like instinct, but it is of a higher order of awareness and can be used or accessed by the awake mind. The information and knowing that constitute our intuitive response form in multiple layers of consciousness. The constellation of this information, combined with the highest levels of awareness and consciousness, results in an elevated level of understanding and an advanced level of knowledge that are useful in relation to both our subjective and objective experiences. Caution should be used in interpreting the word “objective” as it refers primarily to causes outside of the being. These causes, though understood as objective, and that have been objectified, are not always understood accurately. Objective manifestations should not be confused with fact or truth. Instinctual knowledge often is part of the constellation of information that becomes intuitive knowledge. This sometimes causes a person to confuse “feelings” with intuition. Feelings are valid information that must be carefully considered to ensure we are not projecting our inner condition on a situation. One way to discern feelings is to recognize the feeling of fear—the kind that one feels in the presence of life-threatening danger—and how that feeling differs from feelings of fear of the unknown, or feelings of infatuation or intense sorrow. In the presence of physical danger, our feelings might initiate a survival response. Fear of the unknown, or feelings of infatuation or intense sorrow can sometimes be self-indulgent because we use them—our ego being the “doer” or user—to protect our self-image. These feelings can be used to control our psychological processes. By working with an ideal (a standard of perfection; Cayce, 1942) in meditation and prayer, we can find our way through the many illusions encountered during our life in the material world, and we can properly understand how our intuition can help lead us.
Most people associate the intellect with the mind, but the intellect is much more. It is helpful to think of the intellect as responding to “lower” and “higher” levels of consciousness. When the intellect is materially bound (that is, only sees or uses information experienced by lower levels of consciousness), it suffers from ignorance (Figure 3). At the lower level, the intellect tends to be drawn into the material realm and to work only on problems or information generated by the awake mind. The intellect can move toward non-rational processes because it seeks creative expression, but the various capacities of the awake mind, in combination with the ego, are subject to processes like reductionism, rationalization, or “intellectualization”—lower level processes that are detached or disassociated from intuition, the imagination, and the heart.
When higher levels of consciousness are active, the intellect can move beyond the awake mind’s process of cataloging and comparing (Figure 4). The higher consciousness can interject things for use by the intellect that the awake mind might choose to ignore, for instance, if it is being controlled by the ego. An egoic response to another person might be to see only information that tells us they are against us. This is especially true when that information supports a limited understanding of ourselves. But a new understanding might emerge when the intellect interjects awareness of information excluded by ego- controlled mental processes; information that says the other person is also giving signals of support and care. When the intellect accesses higher forms of consciousness, especially when activated by processes like meditation and prayer, the ego is exposed and its power diminishes.
Figure 3. The "Bound" Intellect
FIGURE 4. THE "UNBOUND" INTELLECT
The imagination develops out of higher forms of consciousness in combination with the will, and we experience the function of the imagination as if there were a dedicated location specific to this capacity, like an organ in the body. The awareness in higher forms of consciousness continues to work in concert with the self-expression of the imagination at the human level, but the higher consciousness needs and uses symbols, experiences, language, images, and information stored in all of the collective aspects of consciousness. Since the imagination is close to pure consciousness, it is unifying rather than fragmenting, and the power of the imagination functions similar to physical (as in physics) potential. In the imagination we have the convergence—the process of unification— of pure consciousness, the will, the archetypal content of consciousness, and the capacity of the mind to creatively express God. Sometimes this expression is limited, but even the most limited expressions also contain truth when they are manifest out of love. The capacity of the imagination can increase over the course of life, or it can decrease, depending on the priorities of love in the person. Self-serving forms of love that confuse the source of truth and being tend to limit the creative expression of the imagination. Forms of love that express the highest ideals found in the consciousness of God grow and continue to unfold. It is through the imagination that the increase of consciousness of a person, in effect, raises the consciousness of all humanity.