Every morning, I sit at this beach in meditation, facing the sea to the south, surrounded by — nestled in — a range of small mountains. This morning, I found myself contemplating a seeming conundrum: our unconscious and how little of ourselves we truly know. The human species has developed a cerebrum, which allows for conscious thought and contemplation of existence, meaning, the personal self, our collective experience of the universe. Essentially, this is where conscious awareness takes place. But the locations of the unconscious, emotions, memory are less well understood. In a sense, these are located throughout all the rest of us: the cerebellum and other regions of the brain, the brain stem, the spinal cord and autonomic nervous system, our organs, soft tissues, bones, fluids, cells. And beyond all that which constitutes the personal, there’s the transpersonal — by definition, that which is beyond the individual. And ‘before’ all, there’s the pre-personal — the vestigial parts of our consciousness from an earlier time when the human species, its varied cultures, and we as individuals were not only without words but without an awareness of the individual as a being separate from the group as a whole.
So where is consciousness, in all its rich facets, and where is what we understand as the self?
In my meditative state as I gazed with a soft focus upon both the sea and the surrounding mountains, I noticed a particular rounded peak in the east that stood out from behind other hills. I knew that I was only seeing a tiny fraction of the mountain, and it occurred to me that this small peak could represent conscious thought — the cerebrum. The remainder of the mountain would then be the other parts of the brain, spinal cord, and other structures in which our unconscious resides — cellular memory, emotional embodiment, major nerve centers — the ‘body brains’ — and the like. The extended mountain range, to which the one in my focus belonged and from which it couldn’t entirely be separated, could represent the transpersonal — that which is beyond personal boundary but interconnected with it. The pre-personal: the earth beneath the mountain range, indistinguishable, all aspects part of a whole. And to extend the metaphor, the sea became an image of all knowledge, universal consciousness to which an individual is connected, drawing from and contributing to at all times. Finally, the “Eternal Blue Sky” that represents deity for many cultures could be conceived of as the soul, that which infinitely transcends the physical — ‘eternal’, indeed.
Yet I wondered: why has the cerebrum evolved in humans, and to a size that represents danger to the continuation of the species in re: childbirth, if we then use and rely on it to such a degree that we disregard the greater awareness? That we identify ‘self’ with conscious thought, perceiving ourselves as a mind carried by a brain carried by a body supported by an earth supported by a universe? Of what good is this?
It’s my impression that this is very much in the middle of the evolutionary process, nowhere near its zenith — that we’ve evolved a cerebrum and ‘higher-order thinking’, and are focused so much on our new ability that we’ve first of all thrown out earlier forms of awareness for the sake of ‘sophistication’ and secondly haven’t yet learned how to expand into the greater awareness inclusive of intellect.
I remain hopeful.