Unity Consciousness: Reflections on the Nature of Human Duality and Synthesis

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the school of Transcendental Meditation

The school of Transcendental Meditation (TM), founded by the renowned mystic Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (who, incidentally, is probably best known for being a mentor to the likes of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, David Lynch and others), identifies seven basic levels of consciousness, as revealed to the adept in the meditation practice, in the Vedic tradition.

The first three levels are waking, deep sleep and dreaming (REM) – universally experienced by pretty much everyone. The four others are less widely known or appreciated. They may be described as follows:

Transcendental consciousness – which may be described as the pure silence of the deeper levels of the mind, beyond the superficial mental chatter that crowds waking consciousness. This state of mind is best experienced in a deep meditative state.

Cosmic consciousness is achieved when one becomes deeply immersed in the transcendental state, over time and a habitual meditative practice, to the extent that one is able to see through the illusory superficialities of the material world and appreciate one’s true self as eternal consciousness.

Beyond all these levels is “God consciousness,” in which one’s heart opens up to such a degree that one finds joy in the simplest of things and one is enamored by the beauty of creation.

Finally, at the pinnacle of the spiritual journey, achieved through a consistent meditative practice and internal reflection, is the experience of “Unity consciousness” – the rarest state of being that the adept can achieve – a state characterized by the ability to see through and past any form of duality or separateness and to perceive all of creation, all of reality, as an integral, unified whole – all aspects of a single state of being – an universal oneness. In this state of consciousness, there is only the “universal self” – there is no ego and no concept of “the other.”

Unity Consciousness – being at one with the universe

The idea of “unity consciousness” – a state of being more colloquially described as “being at one with the universe” – is hard to appreciate, for all the platitudes and clichés that tend to trivialize the nuance and subtlety associated with its deeper levels of meaning. It is a state of consciousness that we can all appreciate to some degree, because the human mind naturally tends to move in that direction. And yet, it is a state of consciousness from which the human mind is far removed, given that the human condition, such as it is, is fundamentally characterized by duality – one might even say, of alienation or separation from the self and others.

Insofar as we are slaves to the ego and to the superficial trappings of the illusory reality that we find ourselves in – insofar as we feel ourselves to be defined by labels constructed out of ego, ignorance and a limited comprehension of reality – labels based on religious, ethnic, cultural or geographic identity, for example – we remain divided from others and separated from our true selves. For at the core of the idea of “unity consciousness” is the notion that every individual – everything in nature, in fact – is a fractalline fragment in the vast mosaic of reality, or analogous to the crest of a wave in the vast, infinite, universal oceanic field of conscious energy that permeates everything and constitutes the fabric of reality itself – variously referred to as the “unified field,” the “zero point energy field,” or “God.”

Everything in nature is a fractalline fragment in the vast mosaic of reality

These may be difficult metaphysical concepts for the average layperson to wrap their head around, but, perhaps, it is possible to gain some appreciation for what “unity consciousness” really means when we gain a better understanding of what “duality,” its opposite, really means – notably, the duality that characterizes the human condition.

If I may be excused for contradicting myself somewhat by bringing up the subject of television in a blog about “out-of-the-box ideas” – in which I have previously explicitly equated TV with the so-called “idiot box” – I must note that the original Star Trek TV show is one of the few instances of really high quality, intelligent programming on TV – a show that took dramatic television to levels rarely achieved before or since. In some of its best episodes, the show addressed issues that few others have in the domain of popular culture, in ways that remain vivid and accessible to this day, more than half a century later.

A scene from the Star Trek episode Let That Be Your Last Battlefield

One of my absolute favorite Star Trek episodes, entitled Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, deals with two warring aliens encountered by the crew of the starship USS Enterprise. What makes these aliens remarkable is their distinctive physiognomy – they look almost identical, their faces literally being half black and half white – a line of division going down the center of their faces, seeming to separate the left and right cerebral hemispheres while signifying the yin/yang duality of their consciousnesses. And even as their individual consciousnesses are seemingly internally divided by this line of separation, so also are these two-faced beings perpetually at war with each other – perpetually at each others’ throats in a never-ceasing conflict that has continued unabated for over fifty thousand years of tribal warfare.

The aliens’ mutual animosity is completely bewildering to the crew of the Enterprise – especially when considering their distinctive appearance, which makes them seem to be identical twins – at least at first glance. Puzzled by one alien’s derision of the other as the member of “an inferior breed,” Captain Kirk wonders out loud how either of them could possibly consider the other to be any different from themselves. The alien bristles at this suggestion and interjects, “Are you blind?” The alien then points out that each of them is actually the mirror image of the other – not the identical twin. One of them is black on the left side and white on the right, while the other is white on the left side and black on the right.

A scene from the Star Trek episode Let That Be Your Last Battlefield

This seemingly minor detail completely escapes cursory observation from a third-party vantage point, but has become an all-important point of differentiation to the warring aliens themselves – to such a degree that they are irreconcilable, generational, mortal enemies. Kirk, Spock and the others recoil at this realization – the expression of disbelief on Kirk’s face clearly suggests exasperation at the seeming absurdity and triviality of this point of contention.

Rarely have I seen a work of art, on television or elsewhere, that more profoundly captures the essentially dualistic and conflict-oriented nature of the human condition than this episode of a 1960s retro sci-fi TV show! Is this how alien visitors to our own planet possibly see us, especially when they come to recognize the underlying causes of conflict and dissension among human beings, which must be absurdly trivial and insignificant from their point of view?

That duality and division are fundamental to the human condition is evident in any study of history. The earliest literary and historical records recount sagas of internecine tribal warfare between rival factions. The Biblical story of Cain and Abel is one of the foundational myths of western civilization, recounting the tale of a fraternal rivalry turned deadly. Archaic societies as well as more recent tribal societies are frequently characterized by clan warfare. In American folklore and history, there is the Hatfield-McCoy feud of the post-Civil war era and the gang warfare between the Northside and Southside gangs of Prohibition-era Chicago. Around the world and through history, we continue to see this recurrent motif of warring factional dualities – from the Protestants and Catholics of Ireland, to the Shi’ites and Sunnis of the Islamic world, to the Hindus and Muslims of the Indian subcontinent, to the Palestinians and Jews of the middle east.

A scene from the Franco Zeffirelli’s screen production of Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet

One of the all-time greatest poets and playwrights of the western world – William Shakespeare – captured this condition of human duality – of humanity in a perpetual state of conflict with itself – most profoundly and movingly in one of his best known and most popular literary works, the play Romeo and Juliet. In the play’s depiction of the warring Montague and Capulet families of Renaissance-era Verona, Italy, the bard makes the profound observation that love is the antithesis of this condition of entrenched war and hatred that, historically, has characterized the human condition. Tragically, in Shakespeare’s drama, young love is no match for the deadly pressures of the ancient feuds that have ripped apart human society since time immemorial, and Shakespeare’s celebrated star-crossed lovers pay the ultimate price for their innocent dream of a unifying love.

Celebrated French philosopher René Girard

The renowned French philosopher and academic, René Girard, described this condition in human nature as mimetic rivalry. He observed that “mimesis” or imitation is one of the key, central characteristics of human nature:

All conflict, competition and rivalry therefore originate in mimetic desire (mimetic rivalry), which eventually reaches destructive stages of conflict both between individuals and social groups that requires them to blame someone or something in order to diffuse conflict through the scapegoat mechanism.

Wikipedia entry on René Girard

Girard’s key observation, in his earlier philosophical works, is that the deadliest of rivalries and enmities invariably arise between individuals or groups not so much because of their differences but, rather, in spite of their similarities. The deadliest of enemies tend to be identical to one another for the most part – but the relatively minor differences invariably become magnified into a point of major contention and even deadly conflict. This profound observation by the philosophical genius fits in only too well with everything we know about history and the human condition – duality and conflict are central to the human experience and have been since time immemorial.

When we realize this, it becomes evident that the idea of a “unity consciousness” based on Christ-like charitable love (or agape) and mutual empathy and compassion might represent a massive leap

forward in human evolution – as, in fact, suggested in the mysterious text entitled The Law of One, which was supposedly “channelled” from extra-terrestrial authorship, between 1981 and 1984, by a team of independent researchers – Carla Rueckert, Don Elkins and Jim McCarty.

It would seem that the idea of transcending personal ego through the practice of charitable love and forgiveness, aided by a sound meditation practice, is not merely the crux of a positive, healthy lifestyle, nor is it just a feature of 1960s hippy culture, of which John Lennon and the Maharishi were an indelible part. In fact, it may be the key to the next stage in human evolution – to rising to a higher “density” of consciousness – from the current level of “dualistic consciousness” to the higher level of “unity consciousness” – a state of being where there is no ego and no concept of “the other” and one which is, presumably, characterized by both hemispheres of the human brain working together in harmony with one another.

It must be noted, however, that esoteric ideas like these are invariably subject to distortion, misinterpretation and trivialization. Even as duality and conflict have characterized the human condition since the beginnings of recorded history (at least), so also have human beings sought to achieve peace, harmony, order and unity in society through any number of methods – political, religious, cultural, philosophical and educational all describing attempts to “civilize” human beings into living in peace and harmony with one another, to some degree at least. Some of these efforts have been more successful than others – the foundation of the United States of America being a relatively recent, relatively successful political endeavor, while the foundation of the European Union has, thus far at least, been less successful by comparison.

Legendary rock musician John Lennon

All that said, I am personally of the opinion that “unification,” in the mode of achieving an “unity consciousness” – and as expressed in John Lennon’s classic rock music ballad Imagine – must ultimately happen organically and spontaneously, from the heart. The fall of the Berlin Wall is one such event of human unification in recent history, in which divisions were surmounted through a spontaneous, organic, heartfelt movement of popular consciousness. Attempts to forcefully unify dissenting populations through the exercise of political dictates, military might or even rational debate and discourse are invariably doomed to failure. If the heart is not in it, any attempt at unification will, at best, likely be a tentative truce or cease-fire and, at worst, a potentially devastating, bloody failure.

Even so, despite a history of thousands of years of bloody conflict behind us, there remains, all the same, the promise of “Ascension” – of somehow rising above the petty, egocentric, illusory differences that divide us and finding true common ground and truly coming together as a species, from the heart, and ascending to a higher level of being together – achieving “unity consciousness” and a new way of living in harmony with each other and nature.

Thinking Outside the Box

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It’s a common enough expression, but what, exactly does it mean to “think outside the box?”

I suppose, the first thing to do is to define what exactly is “the box.” It might help to play a little game of word association to understand the connotations associated with the word “box”. One may think of constraints and limitations of some sort, especially in one’s thinking. To be “boxed in” is to be entrapped and contained. One may imagine a prison cell or a tiny cubicle. One may think of the pressures of conformity with the norms and conventions of society. One may think of a “jack in the box” a child’s toy with a glove puppet on a tightly wound spring compressed inside a tiny space, ready to pop up out of its confines with the flip of switch. One may think of the “idiot box” television the most widely deployed medium of mass communication in our society frequently regarded as a popular means for mega-corporations to perpetuate a never-ending doctrine of dumbed-down banality, conventionality, and mindless conformity and consumerism.

Each of these concepts associated with the word “box” are relevant and meaningful in their own way. Ultimately, we cannot define the word exactly, in this context it is defined by its connotations and associated iconography.

Once we have an idea of what we mean by “box”, the notion of something being “out-of-the-box” becomes pretty self evident.

Evidently, to think outside the box is to challenge convention and question the status quo. An out-of-the-box idea may be said to be one that redefines established paradigms of reality or one that takes one’s thinking to a new level a refreshing, life-changing, liberating, ground-breaking, paradigm-shifting mode of thinking. It may be said to be an idea that brings about enlightenment and new understanding instead of a sense of fear or entrapment. It may be described as a revelation or an epiphany, a fresh perspective or a higher vibration — in other words, an eye-opening experience. Some examples that readily come to mind include Einstein’s Theories of Relativity, Newton’s Laws of Motion and Kepler’s heliocentric model of the solar system – all of which were revolutionary, out-of-the-box ideas in their times which dramatically reshaped and challenged established paradigms of reality.

The point of this new blog is to highlight some interesting ideas I have come across that challenge convention and have had a dramatic impact on my life. These ideas are not merely new physical or mathematical theorems they are ideas from a variety of disciplines and spheres of thinking. Some of them are esoteric ideas that defy categorization into any modern university curriculum. Others are ancient modes of thinking that have been forgotten and have quite recently been rediscovered. They are ideas about the nature of reality, about human performance, about developing enhanced skills and abilities and about how the world really operates. The common thread running through each of these ideas is that they are intriguing, fascinating, profoundly unconventional and most certainly out-of-the-box. They have the potential dramatically to transform one’s life or, at least, to open one’s mind to powerful new modes of thinking and understanding if one is open-minded enough to take them into serious consideration instead of dismissing them out of hand.

It must be stated, however, that none of the ideas that I intend to showcase in my blog involve any ethical compromise or  violation of what I consider to be fundamental principles of decency and morality. They may, certainly, impel one seriously to question one’s framing of reality and expose the limitations of one’s modes of thinking. But I would never intentionally seek to promote any idea that I would consider to be a violation of some fundamental ethical principles that I personally hold sacred such principles as honoring the sanctity of life, upholding truth and justice, having compassion for others, having common decency and humanity and, most especially, abiding by the Golden Rule of doing to others as one would have done to oneself.

I write this blog out of a sense of positivity, optimism and hope – a belief that by entertaining such ground-breaking ideas, our lives may profoundly be changed for the better and that all people may thrive and flourish in ways that may never previously have been imagined or, indeed, imaginable.

Here’s looking forward to an incredible voyage of discovery into a new world of incredible out-of-the-box ideas!