The Theosophical Forum – January 1941

CONSCIOUSNESS AND SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS — Abbott Clark

Consciousness is awareness of any thing on any plane. It is knowledge or perception of any state, object, or sensation, mental, emotional, or physical. It is all that makes us different from insensate matter. If we were not conscious on this plane we would be asleep or in a faint or a trance. In such cases our consciousness is transferred or tuned in to another plane. We are then temporarily conscious on some inner plane. If we were not conscious at all on any plane we simply would not be at all.

Self-consciousness is an affirmation of duality: I, and myself. But what is the I that scrutinizes myself? It is evidently not the body, nor its life, nor the emotions or desires, for I can scrutinize them and exercise my will upon them. I am not my mind, for I can view and study its operations and train, change and control it.

What then is this mysterious I? This awareness of being an individual? An individuality which never changes from birth to death? It is the Atmic Ray, the Christos, within us. The ray of the immortal monad. If we could turn inward and follow this sense of reality, this stream of consciousness, to its source we should become illuminated. We should realize our divinity.

Consciousness and energy are inseparable, two aspects of one thing. The will in man is the energy aspect of his individual consciousness, of his mind and soul. For purposes of discussion we often separate mind and will and make of each an empty abstraction; but in fact and in nature they are two inseparable aspects of one thing. We cannot be conscious, or think, without motion, life, energy; for consciousness and life or energy are one.

Other beings both above and below man are conscious and exhibit varying degrees of intelligence, often high intelligence. But they are not self-conscious. It is said in the Vedas that the gods (devas) in heaven envy suffering, struggling man on earth. Why is this? Because of man's vast possibilities; because of his having free will and the creative fire. He can think, imagine, will, and create, and so become "as one of us," i. e., as one of the creative gods. There are some classes of gods who have not been through the human stage. They have not developed self-conscious free will. The human stage on any planet is the stage in which self-conscious free will is developed.

Other beings below man are moved to act by a general hierarchical impulse, as flocks of birds and schools of fish. The teaching is that there are classes of devas, spiritually far above man, who have not this self-conscious free will or power of choice and the creative fire. It is they who are jealous or envious of man, according to Vedic lore, as indicated by the story of Prometheus. Most men are far from being fully human yet. They are in a low primitive state of evolution. They move with the "herd mind," are swayed by mass psychology. They have hardly begun to think and reason for themselves. They are experimenting on each other in the use of their wills, and vexatious or terrible is the conflict. Deluded by the sense of separateness, "the great delusion," they injure each other. But nature is beneficent. They learn by suffering.

All the myriad parts of complex man are perfectly right and good and pure in their proper place. They become evil only when out of place, as fertile soil is "dirt" when in the house. It is the limited, egoistic, emotional, personal man that misuses his powers for selfish gratification that makes all the trouble. It is the object of the Theosophical Movement to teach man to know and control himself and use his powers aright. The personal, emotional man and the desires are not to be destroyed or annihilated. Without them we could not live or work on earth. They are to be purified, elevated, perfected and used aright. For example, the creative power which man possesses is a pure cosmic force. It can be used for procreation, or worse than wasted for gratification, or utterly purified from bestial and selfish desire. It can be used on the intellectual, moral and spiritual plane, where one of its powers is kriyasakti, the power to create or materialize objective forms by the imagination and will.

Initiation and masterhood must be accomplished while in a body here on earth.

As man rises spiritward in the scale of evolution the sense of separateness disappears and the conflict of wills ceases. Man's consciousness blends in love and sympathy with his fellow-men and in fact with all nature. He becomes an impersonal force for good, universally beneficent. The object of the human stage of evolution has been accomplished. The human host has joined the army of Compassion. They have learned to use their wills, the power of thought and imagination, and all their creative faculties in full constructive co-operation with the gods.


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