There’s always another side. To anything. A coin can’t have “heads” without “tails.” Being on this side of the wall implies a that side. So I have no problem flipping the pancake of my “Consider a cosmos with no consciousness” post.
Reading the final pages of Suzanne Segal’s Collision With the Infinite this morning got me thinking about what lies behind, beyond, within, and without my consciousness of thinking about those final pages.
Early on in the book I read that Segal had a profound experience at a bus stop in Paris. In fact, it’s listed in her Acknowledgments:
The Parisian mass transit system, for providing a bus stop in lieu of a bodhi tree.
Suddenly she felt separate from her body, a disconcerting feeling.
“I” was now behind my body looking out at the world without using the body’s eyes…Instead of experiencing through the physical senses, I was now bobbing behind the body like a buoy on the sea.
Segal had been a long time practitioner of Transcendental Meditation before she became disillusioned with the TM organizational bullshit and ego trips. Yet, she writes:
The thought did arise that perhaps this experience of witness was the state of Cosmic Consciousness Maharishi had described long before as the first stage of awakened awareness. But the mind instantly discarded this possibility because it seemed impossible that the hell realm I was inhabiting could have anything to do with Cosmic Consciousness.
Her book describes the frustration of consulting psychotherapist after psychotherapist, spiritual adept after spiritual adept, none of whom could explain what had happened to her. Segal eventually earned a Ph.D. in psychology, which didn’t cast light on her condition either.
On her own, with the aid of some intensive meditation, she got it. Which essentially was: Segal was it. Or you could say, IT. That’s all there is. One substance she likes to call “vastness.” In other words, the infinite.
What seems to have occurred at the bus stop in Paris is that the human circuitry of this life started to participate consciously in the sense organ with which the vastness is constantly perceiving itself. The vastness is the substance of all things, existing everywhere simultaneous with the appearance of form.
…The human circuitry is made of the same substance. When it consciously participates in the sense organ that the vastness is always using to perceive itself, the human circuitry becomes aware—not through its own sense organs, but through the sense organ of the vastness—that the substance of the infinite is its naturally occurring state.
Cool. And believable. I liked Segal’s book a lot more than I thought I would. I was prepared for New Agey pabulum. But she drew me in with her apparent honesty and forthright determination to figure out what had happened at the bus stop.
For a long time Segal thought that she was going (or had gone) crazy. That indeed is one interpretation of her dissociated state of consciousness. But she eventually concluded that if the cosmos indeed is only consciousness, realizing this is so “awesome” (a word I don’t like much, but Segal does), it’s crazy to expect that the experience is going to be akin to anything familiar to her, or us, now.
The infinite reveals itself to the mind in mysterious, unimaginable, and ungraspable ways. But the mind, by its very nature, tends to reject what it cannot grasp…In my case, the mind mounted an all-out effort to pathologize the emptiness of personal self in an attempt to get rid of it. This attempt proved unsuccessful.
…Life is being lived out of the infinite substance of which it is made, and this substance—which is what and who we all are—is constantly aware of itself out of itself. What an extraordinary way to live!
Indeed. And a scientific way also, in my opinion. For the vastness of the cosmos clearly is conscious, in some mysterious fashion, of the laws of nature that are identical with the vastness of the cosmos.
As above, so below, it’s often said. But to Segal, there’s no “above” or “below.” Just It.