Shalom Place Community
God as pure consciousness?
20 February 2006, 05:58 PMPhil
God as pure consciousness?
It's fairly easy to experience pure consciousness. Quiet the mind . . . just-look without evaluating or judging . . . be aware of the see-er looking out at the world through the windows of your eyes . . . feel the lightness, space and freedom you expand into. Take a few moments to try this little exercise. Enjoy . . .
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Shift your attention to the meaning of these words now. What just happened? Did you open into God? Another aspect of self?
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The equivocation of "pure consciousness" as an experience of God has come up on numerous discussions here through the years, most recently concerning Ken Wilber's teachings, David Hawkins' teaching on non-dual states, TM, and in posts by soma.
But what is meant by the term, "pure consciousness?" Is it an experience of God? The human spirit? Both? How does this experience relate to traditional descriptions of Christian mystical experience?
These are the questions I'd like to see used to focus discussion on this thread.
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I'll start things off by saying that I think I know what others mean by pure consciousness - - at least I know what Wilber means. For him, it is the witnessing "I" present in all states of consciousness -- waking, sleeping and dreaming. This "I" can sometimes be experienced directly, without reflection, as a somewhat pure "seeing" in which one is only aware that one is aware, and one is directly aware of other things as well. I hear Wilber equating this "I" with the divine, although he might not mean this in the sense in which it is used in Christian theology.
I consider this "I" to be the non-reflective, observational aspect of the human spirit itself. It is not a different "I" than the subject-of-attention present in more reflective states of consciousness; rather, it is the same "I," only experienced now without the ripples of mental activity distorting what is seen.
If what others mean by "pure consciousness" is what I have just described, then it's clear that this is not the divine as understood in Christian theology and mysticism. The pure consciousness of the witnessing self is more akin to the enlightenment mysticism described in Eastern non-dual traditions (Buddhism, Vedanta). As noted above, it's probably not even an experience of God, except insofar as one senses that even one's "I" is arising from a deeper Ground of Existence along with everything else. That deeper Ground, which has an impersonal "feel" to it, could rightly be called God, only even here, we are speaking about a different experience of God than what Christian mysticism refers to.
So my first objection to the idea of "God as 'pure consciousness'" is that I think it is the non-reflective aspect of the human spirit itself that is being mistaken for the divine. That is why, in these descriptions, we generally hear of the "Ego" falling into the ocean of being, for example. The Ego, as one's mental idea of self, does become lost to one's awareness in the mental silence that is a pre-requisite for this state. But the subjective "I" that is immanent in all Ego states is not a different "I" than that realized in "pure consciousness."
My second objection is that there is little in these descriptions of "pure consciousness" that resonates with the relational mysticism described by the Christian mystics. Where, for example, is Christ, or the Holy Spirit, in "pure consciousness?" Why is there never any mention of love of God? Praise? Gratitude for grace? Such language is generally considered "dualistic," in that it implies that God is "other," which is supposedly be-lied in non-dual experiences.
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I am not arguing against the experience of God, of course, nor that we can come to increasing participation in the divine nature; the transformation process on the Christian spiritual journey (theosis) makes this possible. What I am saying, here, is that this participation in God is understood in terms of love, virtue, the fruits of the Spirit, and the presence of the gifts of the Spirit. It also retains a relational structure with respect to the divine -- that we are forever in relationship with the Father, Son and Spirit. There is also a radical purification of consciousness, and, generally, a movement unto higher states of consciousness, but these higher states in and of themselves do not necessarily reflect union with God.
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Once one decides that pure consciousness is God, then spirituality takes on an entirely different focus. Those disciplines and practices that lead to pure consciousness are considered valuable; teachings like doctrines and disciplines like relational prayer are considered less valuable as they contribute little unto this formation for enlightenment.
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So what say ye?
20 February 2006, 10:56 PM<w.c.>
A very good start. Talking about the grace of God as "pure consciousness" is simply misleading from a Christian pov. I disagree with soma regarding this, as the language he is using, and some of what he describes, insists the meanings are the same yet only appearing differently due to a variation in metaphors.
IOW, soma, I don't believe it serves the Christian community to use language commonly employed among Buddhists, or non-dualist Hindus, neither of whom see God, ultimately, as anything other than pure awareness. For those Christians just beginning a prayer life, it suggests to them that God's presence in Christ as the transcendental, intimate Other is just another extension of their own untapped awareness, and if they meditate deeply enough they will have such a realization.
And so the unity you seem to be in favor of, soma, renders Divine grace as simply an epiphenomenon of human consciousness. IMO, this isn't unity, but confusion, at least from a Christian pov.
20 February 2006, 11:17 PM<w.c.>
I think your distinction between the ground of being, where God can be experienced as immanent presence through the senses via kundalini, and how He communes with the soul beyond the senses via His own Triune nature (which is not our being even when dilated in the present moment of non-dual awareness), is of essential importance to this thread.
Another way of describing the difference is to say that the present moment and the Eternal aren't the same. The present moment may open indirectly to the Eternal, as in immanent presence, but it is inherently unstable, as the fallen human faculties, however rarified, cannot of their own nature procure the transcendental; hence, the eternal comes as pure gift beyond what is known by consciousness, whereas the present moment, which can inflect some of that transcendental presence through consciousness, can be viewed as the product of the mind.
IOW, the present moment cannot uphold the Eternal, as the former is concomitant with the mind, while the latter is beyond creaturely initiatives.
20 February 2006, 11:19 PMspoonboy
The seer, the seeing and the seen are become one!
20 February 2006, 11:33 PMPhil
From w.c.: I don't believe it serves the Christian community to use language commonly employed among Buddhists, or non-dualist Hindus, neither of whom see God, ultimately, as anything other than pure awareness. For those Christians just beginning a prayer life, it suggests to them that God's presence in Christ as the transcendental, intimate Other is just another extension of their own untapped awareness, and if they meditate deeply enough they will have such a realization.
Exactly! And your other points on the distinction between the present moment and the Eternal are also well-taken.
Truth be told, I'm not even sure it's appropriate to talk about God as any kind of "consciousness." That's never been the language of the Tradition. What's curious is that the very people who (rightly) emphasize that God is beyond the mind and its concepts are also the ones who confound the divine with "pure consciousness," which, even in the best of situations, never manifests any of the divine attributes (omnipotence, omniscience, etc.). As Isaiah put it, God's ways are above our ways, and so, too, God's "consciousness" above ours. What we know of God we know "dimly, and obscurely (1 Cor. 13)." That's the testimony of every Christian mystic through the centuries.
-----The seer, the seeing and the seen are become one!
21 February 2006, 12:02 AMFreebird
I am so thrilled that you started this thrread.
I second your opinion and truth that it is not appropriate to talk of God as any kind of "consciousness".
God is Absolute Love and without God's expression of His Great Love within humanity we would be like primal animals incapable of reaching up to Him and loving Him in return. God is an ever flowing fountain spilling forth His Divine Love from His Sacred Heart embracing all of His children.
More later. I logged in immediately to express my joy.
21 February 2006, 03:51 PMPhil
True colors time:
Spiritual harmony may be hidden from us for a while, but it cannot be taken away because sooner or later we will have the ability to see through this illusion of duality and materiality. We only need to acknowledge God�s presence and our spiritual sense will awaken our original, eternal self to God�s rhythm and the harmony that is operating undisturbed. Turning from material beliefs to spiritual beliefs changes our perspective and reveals the ever-present divine Love that I like to call pure consciousness. Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and others point the way. For pure consciousness one may substitute, Tao or God the Father.
This was authored by "soma" on this forum discussion
Notice the following errors (from the viewpoint of orthodox Christian theology).
1. "Duality" and "materiality" are considered to be illusions. This would need much more qualification, for at first glance, it seems to be denying the reality of not only the material creation, but of a distinction between even the spiritual soul and God (dualistic notion of two free subjects).
2. The reference to an "eternal self." Only God is eternal . . . of course, soma might be referring to the immortality of the soul. An immortal being is not eternal, however; it has a beginning, but no end.
3. All you need to do is "acknowledge God's presence" to get right with God. No need to confess sin or accept Christ. Of course, this might be implied in soma's affirmation, but the general spirit of the post suggests otherwise.
4. Buddhism (which doesn't even speak of God) is placed alongside Christianity and Taoism (also a nontheistic religion) as "pointing the way." So the way of Christ does not, it seem, have anything to offer that is distinctively different from Buddhism or Taoism. This is absurd!
5. Finally, we learn that "pure consciousness" in soma's understanding is none other than "God the Father" Himself, who is also equivalent to the Tao. All I can say is . . .
The rest of the post isn't so bad, but you can see from the above just how difficult it is to connect these experiences and the language used to describe them with what Christian mystics have described. This confounding of different religious perspectives is not unique to soma, of course; as noted above, you'll find much the same in Wilber and many others, most notably those of New Age stripes. So I'm not meaning to pick on soma, here, except to show that what some of us have suspected from the first about the New Age quality of his teaching has indeed has found full expression elsewhere (he's apparently been a bit more restrained, here -- though not against Republicans or President Bush
In Christ consciousness the human ego with which most of us identify is nothing but a tool to do service with on this earthly plane, the external reality. The inward reality is linked with the inward reality of the whole universe. In Christ consciousness there is a place in the mind that merges with the Mind of God and draws strength and inspiration from it. Therefore, Christ said, "I and the Father are one." The words, "I and the Father are one" can be interpreted to mean that I, the individual ego does not exist. The Father is everything so nothing has existence except pure consciousness; God is all there is; and I am a nonentity.
Such a happy thought!
And so metaphysically confused I don't even know where to begin . . . .
So I won't!
soma, I have only one question: are you really interested in dialoguing about some of this? If not, you're wasting our time, and I would add that you haven't even been an especially friendly person to relate to, whatever the case.
This topic is broader than soma's teaching, however, so carry on, however you all wish.
21 February 2006, 04:20 PMFreebird
God's greatest expression of love for us comes through His only begotten Son Jesus Christ.
1John 4:8, 9, 10.
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son
into the world that we might live through Him.
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
21 February 2006, 05:27 PMPhil
Following up on my post from above:
See this thread
on catholicforum.com for another instance of soma in dialogue with Christians. A few sharpie Catholics picked up on the New Age stuff right away and tried to dialogue with him. The retorts were the same kinds of responses we've seen here, and it didn't go so well for soma.
If one searches that forum, one also finds numerous instances of Bush-bashing, some copy/pasted from what we find here (or vice versa).
And this forum
tries to explain to him the difference between unity consciousness and theosis. He doesn't get it.
I will give soma a chance to respond, but if it goes the way it's gone so far on this board and others, I don't think it will work out. I'm not interested in providing a space for this mish-mash of Eastern and Christian ideas, nor in continuing to try to moderate and dialogue about them. w.c. Terri, and MM, if you have any objections to my pulling the plug on this guy, let me know via Private Messaging.
21 February 2006, 05:43 PMsoma
This is what I wrote so what is wrong with it?
Christ taught us that God is love, and we saw a sample of it in his compassion and suffering for the mediocre sinners in this world. Through Christ a new concept of God emerged because prior to him most people feared God. This teaching of love is more demanding and more important than his other lessons because it is the main belief of all Christians. I believe that Christian Mysticism is an inner path to understand that meaning of love. Love maintains our sense of unity with a presence and power that is greater than what we think we are. Mysticism is an experience of that unity and love that can't be placed with words so people try to describe the experience or how to obtain it. This might be new to some people and it might be dismissed as New Age similar to what I am sure Jesus experienced with his teachings. I think the experience says it all.
21 February 2006, 08:35 PMPhil
Originally posted by soma:
[qb] This is what I wrote so what is wrong with it? [/qb]
I told you already.
21 February 2006, 09:00 PMPhil
OK, I've banned soma. Call me bad, intolerant . . . I don't care. The exchange above demonstrates why. No real dialogue, nor any intent to do so (which has been the case all along). The specific objections posted above were ignored, and the opportunity was used, instead, to ask a rhetorical question and then follow with what looks like a rather innocuous statement on Christian mysticism (actually, there are a few problems with it, which I'll not go into). Only, in light of the other posts cited above and the objections I raised there, things are not as they seem.
I do not provide a forum for the dissemination of heterodox views of Christianity, especially for people who will not discuss the objections raised (which was also the problem with dattaswami). Nor can I allow such postings to go unchecked without comment, and I don't have time to continue to expose the errors and deceptions in soma's posts. Truth be told, I'm also fed up with the unfriendly spirit that comes across in exchanges with him.
We can continue discussing the larger issue of "God as pure consciousness?" if you'd like, although I realize some of you might want to comment on this banning as well.
21 February 2006, 10:08 PM<w.c.>
We probably tolerated him longer than most.
21 February 2006, 10:16 PM<w.c.>
I wish we'd looked soma up on the net sooner; it might have saved us and him time and energy. For a person who persists in this behavior, there is clear indication they are not open to dialogue, and might even not know what it is - not unlike dattaswami.
21 February 2006, 11:44 PMPhil
My feelings as well, w.c. And it's too bad, in a way, for, unlike dattaswami, soma seemed to be in touch with a deep spiritual experience and had attempted to connect it with Christianity. It didn't work very well, however, from his understanding of "the Father and and are one" to mean the illusory nature of individuality to the apparent denial of the reality of creation. Too many of these kinds of problems, and not much interest in dialoguing about them. Things didn't go much better in the political forum either.
In traditional Christian understanding, our participation and transformation in divinity has been described as the process of theosis. The main distinction between theosis and more monistic perspectives like soma's is that the individual human is not "lost" in divinity, but is transformed into a likeness of Christ, with a perfect integration of humanity and divinity as he experienced. This transformation takes place in Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit.
- see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theosis
22 February 2006, 12:10 AM<w.c.>
Something else, though . . . given soma's previous exploits on other Catholic Christian websites . . . there is a sense for me of possible dishonesty, which may be reflected in the way he resisted dialogue. Was he here just to promulgate his views? It seems that was the case. Now, had Shalom been his first stop in such a tour of pre-packaged selling, then of course, we'd never know. But seeing as how he's laundered pretty much the same material off his own website in an attempt to sell his book to several forums before us, and encountered similar resistance, I'd say there may be some questionable intent involved.
09 March 2006, 12:17 PMGregory
I also have a lot of problems with defining God as conciousness, or merely a state of conciousness. It is also mistaken to associate Buddhist nirvana with conciousness, since nirvana is actually the ceasing of all mental action and conciousness (and the passing beyond it into a non-dual, non-cognitive state).
The first problem with defining God as a 'mind' is we are saying what is inconceivable is understandable in terms of our concepts. This is firmly denied both in the Bible and also by later Christian mystics. God is not comprehensible in his essence. God is beyond being and also beyond any mental ideas and categories we can apply to him.
To say God is 'mind' is in a way to say God is concious. While there are many passages in the Bible which speak of God as being like a concious being, there are also others which emphasize God is not such a being. The closest I see is where it says God is 'Spirit' but at the same time Spirit is not necessarily mind or what we normally associate with 'normal' conciousness.
The Buddhist approach to conciousness is very different to that of Christian mysticism, and while there are similarities, approaches differ even amoung the Buddhists themselves. However, the teachings of the Buddha (suffering, no-self, etc) are essential to accept to begin with along with a practice of Buddhist moral precepts, just as with Christianity you need to engage with the orthodox tradition and beliefs. Buddhism won't work unless you seriously follow the path, and a very good Buddhist monk and writer (Bhikku Bodhi) says this quite clearly.
In the end in Christianity I look for a theistic mystical experience while in Buddhism I look to culivate a more peaceful mind and more compassion towards other people and lessing my selfishness...perhaps this is too syncretic for some, but not for me.
10 March 2006, 12:07 PMTTB
God as pure consciousness? I agree with Phil's point of view. God is beyond/different than the Self and pure consciousness is just part of the Self. And I'm speaking from personal experience here. I was deeply involved in types of practices that aim for the realization of pure consciousness and eventually achieved that realization, but later once I got back to the path I truly belong, I understood the difference between God and pure consciousness.
About the higher states, I believe that you can reach higher states of consciousness with or without God, but without God you will eventually get lost.
I think that some mistake the experience of oneness with all Creation as oneness with God. God is the Creator of Creation and totally beyond it. I have experiences of cosmic consciousness, where I see myself as being the size of whole cosmos, but I don't confuse it as an experience of God. Experience of God is always totally beyond understanding and there's no words or pictures to describe it.
And important thing I've noticed is that I truly began to learn about unconditional love when I got back to following Jesus. You can achieve high states or pure consciousness without truly being transformed. There are so many examples of gurus gone bad. Only the Grace of God brings the true transformation.
10 March 2006, 12:34 PMPhil
I agree with the distinctions you're making, here, Gregory. It's helpful to recognize that there are different kinds of mystical experiences, which is probably why there are different religions in the first place. The confounding and lumping together of these, or reducing them to a matter of semantics, is one of the signs of the times. I probably have 1,500 or so posts on this board dealing with this topic, so it's kept me pretty busy here through the years.
-- cross-posted with TTB. Very good post, TTB. Thanks.
11 March 2006, 01:22 AMGregory
Yes, I agree with the points you have both made.
In Buddhist meditation, at least in the Theravada tradition (the one I practice) 'cosmic' conciousness is one state of meditation, one of about eight different states of conciousness. Monks are carefully made to meditate through these steps, gradually getting rid of all the so called 'fetters' which keep us trapped in our ego-conciousness. The end state, nirvana, is where all these previous meditative states aim at. Cosmic conciousness occurs at about the fifth or sixth level however the Buddhist aspirant must go 'beyond' these states to achieve the highest state in which one becomes an 'Arahant' or 'awakened being.' The problem with cosmic conciousness is there is still a split between the universe, a cognised object, and the cognising subject, and nirvana can loosely be said is a state where all these distinctions are abolished.
I don't want to say Nirvana is 'God' since the Buddha never spoke of Nirvana in these terms. The Buddha tended to refuse to affirm what nirvana was or characterise its nature, save that it was the final peace and highest happiness any human being could aspire to on the spiritual path, and claimed he had achieved this state himself. The closest I have come to nirvana in the Christian tradition is the 'One' Godhead who is above (or rather behind) the Trinity spoken of by Denys the Areopagite and Meister Eckhart...however these thinkers were also rigiously and consistently theistic in their understanding of 'God' and also affirmed its Trinitarian nature. So any paralells need to be read with caution.
12 March 2006, 01:13 PMPhil
I've long been interested in trying to articulate a metaphysical philosophy that can account for different kinds of mejaphysical experiences. One of the problems I run into, however, is that I'm still not sure whether states like nirvana are saying something about God, or about how human beings perceive reality when you subtract from the mind its distinction-making activity.
E.g., if I were to engage in a spiritual practice that slowly destroyed the rods and cones in the lining of the eye, I might eventually come to the conclusion that reality is black-and-white, and that color perception was just something we projected onto reality. I wonder if something like that isn't going on when one uses non-relational apophatic approaches through a long period of time. Is one really breaking through to a new reality, or slowly erasing the mind's tendency to make the kind of distinctions that cosmic consciousness and nirvana "transcends?" It's just a question that has tantalized me for a few decades now, and a suspicion that I can't completely shake off.
12 March 2006, 03:42 PM<w.c.>
That is both an intriguing and practical question/metaphor you pose. But I also wonder about the motivation involved in erasing the mind's tendency to make distinctions. Of course, the standard explanation is that the present moment presents an aliveness that demands this sort of attention; however, this can be no less true, or compelling, than the mysterious and intimate impact of God loving us, something never erased by non-dual moments that arise as the affective ego is dismantled and the integrated true self is restored to conscious life . . . unless you're Bernadette Roberts who has such a sparse following among Christian mystics.
John Ruusbroec addressed this issue, of course, where the soul's dependency upon the Eternal being of God was confused with total union as the creaturely tendencies were dissolved during such deep infusions of grace. Seeing that all is upheld within the Being of God is different than claiming all being is therefore the same. St. John of the Cross, and Ruusbroec, both mention this, something along the lines of . . . . When one is the lense and God is the light, then when the lense if filled with light, it may no longer be able to differentiate itself, while remaining yet a lense in the view of both God and others. Hence, few people probably view Bernadette Roberts as God, although her own experience of infusion may confuse her to this end.
12 March 2006, 04:39 PMFreebird
When one is the lense and God is the light, then when the lense is filled with light, it may no longer be able to differentiate itself, while remaining yet a lense in the view of both God and others.
Excellent point w.c. This is one great error we see repeated over and over again in the union of the lense's light and God's Light. God is still God, because the light filling same lense is His Light. Jesus Christ tells us that we shall see Him as He is because we shall be like Him, yet He is still Christ, Our Elder Brother who made our brotherhood with Him possible.
Blessed are the ones who have received the union with God and do remain humble in their awareness of the Source of Light, God. The union with God is not something we do with human efforts, but a gift of God through His
graces and His love, and His mercy.
The closest I have come to nirvana in the Christian tradition is the 'One' Godhead who is above (or rather behind) the Trinity spoken of by Denys the Areopagite and Meister Eckhart...however these thinkers were also rigiously and consistently theistic in their understanding of 'God' and also affirmed its Trinitarian nature.
15 March 2006, 12:06 PMPhil
Just to comment briefly on this point by Gregory from above. . . As you probably know, Eckhart got in trouble for speaking of the "Godhead" in this manner. The reason, as I understand it, is that he makes some kind of distinction between the Persons and God -- as though there is some kind of experience of God apart from the Three Persons. This would be sort of like saying that one can know human nature apart from its manifestation as individual human beings, or that human nature exists prior to its manifestation as humans, and can be known at that deep level -- pure humanity, or humanity-head, if you will. Godhead refers to the divine nature which the Three Persons possess equally, but it cannot be known apart from the Three Persons. And so whatever it is one is experiencing in nirvanic states, I think we have to look elsewhere to account for it.