The World is a network interconnected by the bindus. We begin our explanation of this idea here by disabusing ourselves of stupid notions of living and non-living matter, pretending we are a fly, and watching a Catholic Bishop kick Newton’s ass.
Contents for The Yogic View of Consciousness:
|Intro||Ch 1||Ch 2||Ch 3||Ch 4||Ch 5||Ch 6||Ch7||Ch 8|
|Ch 9||Ch 10||Ch 11||Ch 12||Ch 13||Ch 14||Ch 15||Ch 16||Ch 17|
|Ch 18||Ch 19||Ch 20||Ch 21||Ch 22||Ch 23||Ch 24||Ch 25||Ch 26|
|Ch 27||Ch 28||Ch 29||Ch 30||Ch 31||Ch 32||Ch 33|
“Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right” The Grateful Dead
Quick Review & Overview
In Part 10 we discussed how, within an individual mind, the bindu works as a harmonic transition or quantum jump across the borders of the various states (or realms) identified in yogic cosmology.
Here we begin the discussion of the 2nd important feature of bindus: they link all of manifestation together. I repeat myself from Part 9:
“Individual minds form a hierarchy corresponding to the natural systems we observe in our sensory experience. Each such mind has its own bindu. This entire hierarchy is linked via the bindus. That is, the whole of manifestation is one vast hierarchical network linked via the bindus of the various grades of mind that exist in nature.”
I will now “unpack” this summary. It won’t be easy because it gets very abstract. We will have to build the picture in stages over a few posts. We start with the living and non-living.
It’s a Matter of Life or Death
The first prejudice that needs to be confronted is the deeply ingrained bias to think of some forms of matter as dead and others as being alive. To the Western mind, most of nature—rocks, planets, stars, galaxies, and so on—are “non-living” matter. It is an amazingly disproportionate view when only the smallest sliver of all known matter, biological life, is presumed to be “alive”, but everything else is not. It is one of those lacunae Feyerabend spoke of. Yoga does not contain such a distorted view of things.
As we have seen, yoga, and Hinduism in general, distinguishes the Absolute, the unmanifest, and the manifest. The basic distinction underlying this 3-fold cosmology is consciousness vs. form. The manifest is all the forms of Nature. The unmanifest is not formed, but has the potential to be formed. The Absolute is the source of it all, and is beyond the distinction of form vs. consciousness.
Let us focus on the manifest. We have seen how the various forms of samadhi reveal the four realms of gunas: visesa, avisesa, linga, and alinga. Taken in total, they are called Prakriti, which is just another name for the manifest. The gunas are patterns of vibrations; vrittis; waves; whirlpools (for newbies, I explain the gunas in the Prelude to What is Science?). All vibrations begin, sustain for a while, then decay (which I discussed here).
The gunas are the form side of things. Anything with the property of being born, existing for a while, then fading away are gunas, and are considered “material” to the yogic mind. This applies not just biological organisms, but to everything: a lightning bolt, a drop of rain, rocks, clouds, planets, stars, galaxies, universes (yep, plural again), and so on.
This logic extends to all four realms of the gunas and is not just confined to the “physical”. The “born/live/die” logic applies also to spirits, souls, minds, gods, heavens, and all things mental and spiritual. Therefore, these are also considered gunas, states of matter.
Thus, in the yogic view, it is not that some matter is living and some is non-living. No. All matter is the same: it is a pattern of gunas. It doesn’t matter if it’s an electron, a rock, an amoeba, a human body, or the Milky Way galaxy. It doesn’t matter if it’s your mind, your soul (technically called ahamkara), or if it’s a heaven-world, or the God Indra himself, or the trinity of Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva. Each and all are gunas.
This is a very different way to think about things compared to how we were raised to think about things. But it makes more sense than the rigmarole we’ve had shoved down our throats.
The gunas are the form side of things. They do not exist of their own accord. They are caused by consciousness. This is the Shiva-Shakti Tattva I spoke of in the last chapter of What is Science? Consciousness is not just awareness, it is also power. It is the power that generates and fills the forms of the gunas. Therefore, every pattern of gunas that exists has consciousness inside of it, causing the pattern to be, causing the pattern to move.
These ideas stem from the yogic exploration of the deep layers of the mind, and beyond. But you can see them operate in your normal everyday life. You know that you are a form—a specific person. The form of which you consist is your physical body and your mind. Filling your body and your mind is your life and consciousness. You are an example of a pattern of gunas filled with consciousness.
This harkens back to my posts on the ungraspable and the graspable. Consciousness is the life side of things and is ungraspable. The gunas are the form side of things and they are the seemingly infinite patterns of relationship that make up manifestation. As relative patterns, they are graspable by our minds; at least to the extent our minds can accommodate a given pattern.
Let’s wrap this up and bring it back to the main discussion. We are explaining the model of the yogic view of consciousness presented in Part 2. In this model, the cave of consciousness (the mind), and the screen of consciousness (our 1st person awareness), are patterns of gunas. They are created, sustained, and illuminated by the light of consciousness.
Here is the equation. Here is our first major abstraction: a pattern of gunas filled by the light of consciousness = a mind.
All the things we see around us in nature are patterns of gunas. By practicing samadhi, it is discovered that each of these patterns is also filled with the light of consciousness. Or said simply: everything we perceive in Nature has a mind: a cloud, a raindrop, an electron, the Earth, Sun, Milky Way galaxy, and so on. Now, we don’t seem to see the mind of the Earth, or of a cloud the way we can so obviously infer a mind in another person or in animals.
Here is the irony: we do see them. We see them all the time. There is no time we do not see them. It’s just a matter of understanding what you are seeing from the correct perspective.
Imagine You Have the Mind of a Fly
Let’s do an exercise to get into the right mind-set to elaborate on the above points and deal with future discussions.
Most of you have had a pet in your life; a dog, cat, bird. If so, you’ve lived with another creature and gotten to see first-hand how they behave and think. For example, as I sit at my desk and type, my cat Ashna often comes up asking me to pet her (sometimes demanding I do so!). Now, does Ashna understand the computer I am using? Does she understand what I am using it for?
Of course she doesn’t. So you have to stop and wonder what it looks like from her perspective. Obviously, she sees the computer, and me sitting at it, but she does not understand the computer at all in the terms I do. One can get glimpses of what the computer means to her: it’s something she can rub her body against when she is happy, or lay behind when she is cold (seriously…she parks it at the back heat vents in the winter!). Sometimes she is jealous of the computer and how it competes with her for my attention.
Sometimes as I sit here and type I see an ant on the floor, or a fly gets in the house. If there is a fly buzzing around in the room as I type, what does he or she see? (Flies have gender, you know). How does Mr. or Mrs. Fly think about me sitting at the computer? Unlike Ashna, or any mammal that displays intelligence and behavior similar to our own, it seems harder to imagine what a fly thinks.
But we can get some insights. A fly obviously perceives its environment, as we all know when we try to swat it. The fly is motivated and driven by urges. It is hungry, hence trolling around the garbage can, or looking for a mate, or, most likely if it is in my room, it is looking for a way out, which is why it is mostly crawling on the window.
I do not question whether a cat, ant, or fly is conscious or if they can think. People who can’t see that animal minds have a lot of similarity with human minds are either dead inside or just really stupid. It doesn’t take much imagination to extrapolate our consciousness and behavior, not only to other humans, but to closely related mammals like dogs or cats. Then it’s not too great a stretch to imagine what goes through the minds of flies and ants (and bats). People that try to argue that animals are not conscious simply engage in sophistry and can safely be ignored and, if you like, ridiculed too.
What is quite certain, however: the fly or ant is completely unaware of the human world in the terms we know it. The fly buzzing around me has no concept whatsoever of me as a human, my computer, you, the internet, or any human thing. Such things are, and will always be, beyond the ant or the fly’s mind. Their minds are too small to grasp our larger minds, just like you cannot fit an ocean in a swimming pool. Therefore these creatures are completely blind to our human realities.
For the stuff we are about to discuss, you have to pretend that you are like the fly or ant here in my office. You have to realize that the world we perceive with our sense—the Earth, the Sun, the solar system, and the stars—is analogous to how an ant sees my computer.
Yes, we see something, but like the ant or the fly, we have no idea of what we are really looking at. Of course we have our ideas as to what these things are. But these ideas are highly conditioned by our needs and motivations. In this we are not unlike my cat, or a fly. We see nature only within the limits our minds are capable. The computer is just an obstacle to the fly, certainly not a good place to lay her eggs. The World seems to be our oyster, but the fact is, we are just too self-absorbed to consider otherwise.
If you take this attitude now, you will fare better as we proceed with the discussion.
Of course, unlike any other animal we know of, we humans can imagine. Imagination is the source of all human invention and creativity. We are about to embark on a massive stretching of our imagination (as if the first 10 chapters weren’t a little beyond most people’s imaginations!).
The game begins when we look at the world around us and can imagine that we are like a fly that has only a very limited, self-centered view of the world it flies through. What we call “Earth”, “Sun”, “Galaxy”, and “Universe” we see in much the same way as a fly sees my computer.
Let’s build into this slowly so we don’t do a “Scanners” and blow someone’s head up. We will now discuss the basic tenants of Idealism as our doorway into the considerably more abstract yogic ideas.
In the model of the yogic view of consciousness, the mind is a closed system but for the bindu. We spoke of the light of consciousness projecting through the bindu. What we now discuss is that light of consciousness is a composite stream made up of the consciousness of several orders of beings.
I told you this would get abstract.
The Good Ole Days
Let’s go to 1710 via a little book called A Treatise Concerning The Principles Of Human Knowledge by the then Bishop of Cloyne, his Eminence Bishop George Berkeley. The Bishop was quite critical of the rise of the mechanical philosophy in his day. He was a clever man, and quite adept at finding “lacunae and contradictions” in this new philosophy-on-the-block.
He saw these new-fangled materialists in much the same way as today’s conservative academics, especially scientists, see the post-modern crowd as a bunch of illogical upstarts whose degenerate ideas and loose values will only bring ruin to the world. However, Berkeley was not a knee-jerk reactionary like people today. As history has shown, he was quite progressive because his criticisms ultimately helped improve the new philosophy.
Berkeley’s first order of business with the mechanical philosophers was to knock their heads together:
“If therefore it were possible for Bodies to exist without the Mind, yet to hold they do so, must needs be a very precarious Opinion; since it is to suppose, without any reason at all, that God has created innumerable Beings that are intirely useless, and serve to no manner of purpose… Since it is a plain Repugnancy, that those Qualities should exist in or be supported by an unperceiving Substance.”
To translate (as if it really needs it): it is repugnant to imagine a Universe filled with mostly dead matter that seems to serve no purpose whatsoever.
He then tells us what we all know already: we do not have a direct perception of the things in the world in the same way we have direct access to our own thoughts and perceptions. Note that when he says “Ideas” you can substitute “perception”, and when he says “Spirits” substitute “mind”. This allows a good interpretation of his meaning.
“…we cannot know the Existence of other Spirits, otherwise than by their Operations, or the Ideas by them excited in us. …the Knowledge I have of other Spirits is not immediate, as is the Knowledge of my Ideas; but depending on the Intervention of Ideas, by me referred to Agents or Spirits distinct from my self, as Effects or concomitant Signs.”
We see here the very beginning of modern Idealism where the mind is seen as the middle man between us the perceiver (observer) and the concrete content of the world (perceived or observed). Yep, it was Berkeley what did done give us Idealism.
In this regard, recall Weyl’s statement from his Open World essay quoted in Part 7:
“The beginning of all philosophical thought is the realization that the perceptual world is but an image, a vision, a phenomenon of our consciousness; our consciousness does not directly grasp a transcendental real world which is as it appears.”
Berkeley then points out that us “little spirits” contribute quite a small proportion to the total of things we do perceive:
“But though there be some Things which convince us, humane Agents are concerned in producing them; yet it is evident to every one, that those Things which are called the Works of Nature, that is, the far greater part of the Ideas or Sensations perceived by us, are not produced by, or dependent on the Wills of Men. There is therefore some other Spirit that causes them, since it is repugnant that they should subsist by themselves.”
Back then it seemed repugnant to a thoughtful person that all the rest of nature just “exists”. Today we are just used to the idea: A bunch of dead matter just waiting for us humans to perceive it. Talk about hubris. Talk about being the center of the universe.
[Sidebar: These materialists always talk about how each new scientific revolution further displaces us measly humans from the center of things. Well, the pygmies just don’t get that their whole philosophy implicitly assumes that all existence is only for our perception, our study, our science. Thereby, hidden in the unseen cracks of their logic, they maintain we are the center of all things. What dummies.]
After the above, The Bishop takes things to their logical conclusion: our thoughts and perceptions, our very minds, exist inside of God’s mind. We not only directly perceive our own thoughts, but our perceptions of the so-called “external world” are actually us co-perceiving God’s thoughts.
“Hence it is evident, that God is known as certainly and immediately as any other Mind or Spirit whatsoever, distinct from our selves. We may even assert, that the Existence of God is far more evidently perceived than the Existence of Men; because the Effects of Nature are infinitely more numerous and considerable, than those ascribed to humane Agents. There is not any one Mark that denotes a Man, or Effect produced by him, which doth not more strongly evince the Being of that Spirit who is the Author of Nature.”
“He alone it is who upholding all Things by the Word of his Power, maintains that Intercourse between Spirits, whereby they are able to perceive the Existence of each other. And yet this pure and clear Light which enlightens every one, is it self invisible. It is therefore plain, that nothing can be more evident to any one that is capable of the least Refexion, than the Existence of God, or a Spirit who is intimately present to our Minds, producing in them all that variety of Ideas or Sensations, which continually affect us, on whom we have an absolute and intire Dependence, in short, in whom we live, and move, and have our Being.”
The bolding is mine above.
Yeah, this is pretty serious. To translate into modern English, he says that we have our own little independent thoughts, but these are inside of a greater stream of thoughts. As is the characteristic Western way, there are only two levels: us and God. But that’s not the issue here. The issue is that the world we perceive is there because we literally perceive God’s thoughts too.
Now, he is not meaning to imply we co-perceive the world the way God does. This is where imaging that you are an ant comes in. We can only understand God’s thoughts within the limits of our mind’s capabilities. We perceive God’s thoughts the way an ant perceives our world of human stuff.
The new element Berkeley introduces to this picture is that our mind is inside of God’s mind, and the fly’s mind is also inside of God’s mind. Both we and the fly co-perceive the world with God; and not just us and flies, but everything in Heaven and on Earth.
We have two more things to note before elaborating the previous points in the next section. First, note this: “And yet this pure and clear Light which enlightens every one, is it self invisible”. Remind you of anything? Remember Fitche?
“Translucent penetrable space, pervious to sight and thrust, the purest image of my awareness, is not seen but intuited and in it my seeing itself is intuited. The light is not without but within me, and I myself am the light.”
“I am “vision” open to reason, a self-penetrating light, immanent sense-giving consciousness”
Finally, Berkeley adds the following for those people who don’t get what he is saying:
“That the Discovery of this great Truth which lies so near and obvious to the Mind, should be attained to by the Reason of so very few, is a sad instance of the Stupidity and Inattention of Men, who, though they are surrounded with such clear Manifestations of the Deity, are yet so little affected by them, that they seem as it were blinded with excess of Light.”
This is what I was talking about when I said we see the World only through the lens of our self-interest, which itself is completely determined by the structure of our minds in the first place, the size of our “swimming pool” so to speak.
Fast Forward to 1969
Taimni says exactly the same thing as Berkeley. He didn’t come to this conclusion from reading Berkeley, however. He came to this conclusion from his knowledge of Hinduism and yoga. This is from Man, God and the Universe (chapter VII, pg. 104 in my edition):
“Now, the important point to note in considering the world of the mind is that this world, in which we live and which alone we are aware of directly, is the result of the combination of two sets of phenomena which are interwoven but which we can separate to some extent if we do a little introspection. One set of phenomena is produced by the impact of the world around us on our mind, and the other set by the activity of our individual mind itself. The rising and setting of the sun and other natural phenomena, as well as the movements of people and things in our environment, produce a series of mental images which are independent of the activity of our own mind. But these images are mixed up with the images produced by our own mind, independently of the external world. So we see that these two sets of images, each having a different source, combine to make our total mental world throughout our life, generally without our being even aware of this fact.”
“What is the source of these two sets of mental images? If we think carefully about the matter, we shall realize that the source of the former is the consciousness of the Logos, Who through the Universal Mind has produced the manifested world, which produces a constant impact on all individual minds. The source of the latter is the consciousness of the Monad who has a set of vehicles functioning on all the planes. These two streams of white light, passing through the prism of manifestation, produce their respective beams of coloured lights on the other side, and it is the mingling and interaction of these two beams in the field of our consciousness which produce our composite and complex mental world.”
To bring it home, Taimni turns to his favorite metaphor, the white light passing through a prism:
“As this idea is rather subtle and difficult to grasp, one can imagine two beams of white light having different sources and different intensities passing through a prism simultaneously and emerging on the other side as a mixture of two beams of coloured lights. The coloured beam derived from the infinitely stronger source is the Universal Mind; and the coloured beam derived from the much weaker source is the individual mind of the Monad working on the different planes.”
Next time, we’ll see this metaphor helps us understand how yoga works. But next time. Let’s wrap up for now.
Minds Within Minds
To put this in modern terms, we are dealing with idea of a carrier wave. This is how radio and TV are transmitted over the air and how wireless internet is sent back and forth through our computers nowadays. (For a few good primers about radio transmission, see here: , , ).
To a first approximation, God’s mind is the carrier wave for our individual minds.
We’ll pick up here in Part 12.