Category Archives: Consciousness

Levels of Consciousness

Created October 7, 2022

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

The idea that there might be a stepladder of different states of being goes back into antiquity, far earlier than the earliest written records. We all know that sometimes we’re on and sometimes we’re not.

Plato implied there were at least two states of being when he wrote, “The first and greatest victory is to conquer yourself; to be conquered by yourself is of all things most shameful and vile.”

Artwork by Bruce Rolff (bruce-rolff.pixels.com)

What he meant by being conquered by oneself was allowing oneself to be taken over by incorrect inner biases, including fear, anger, conceit, vanity, ego. Conquering those things is what he meant by conquering yourself.

India during the time preceding the rise of written language – going back thousands of years before Plato – was aware of the stepladder of self, and sang about it in memorized sung poetry passed on from generation to generation. They knew that there was a spiritually elevated state of consciousness in which one became aware of being part of God. They also realized that before that stage was reached there were intermediary levels of consciousness. One of these was nivritti, the state in which one was no longer attached to the desires for sensory experiences.

Later in the development of this natural philosophy (science), Gautama Buddha developed the idea of nonattachment in language that anticipated modern psychology. The Greek Stoic philosophers including the greatest of them all Epictetus (must-read The Enchiridion) further honed these ideas into operational language that average human beings could understand, and can follow the practices that bring about this state of detachment. The Greeks saw a condensed stepladder which included hubris, the state of entrapment in ego which is the norm today vs. apatheia, the state of detachment (nivritti).

Also in India there evolved techniques for controlling the senses and which were therefore helpful in attaining detachment. Two paths are reported by Daniel Goleman in his classic The Meditative Mind: The Varieties of Meditative Experience. In this valuable work Dan shows a definite stepladder construct called the Visuddhimagga (tracing back to Buddhism), with one path involving concentration and the other path utilizing insights, both ultimately reaching the state of highest spiritual oneness with the Universe and The One Self causing it.

In India there is another map called the Chakra system, which postulates a seven-stage process anticipatory of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, in which the individual conquering himself/herself over the course of a lifetime (or a series of them), passes through the motivational stages of Security, Pleasure, Power, Love, Creativity, Self-Knowledge, and Self-Transcendence.

Levels of consciousness and the stages of evolution in a person’s own life are definitely related. The way they are related is that the stages in life construct is the longterm view and the levels of consciousness concept is the shortterm view. For example, in every stage of my life I experienced second-to-second changes in my level of consciousness, gradually as I moved up the chakra stages spending more and more of my time in the higher states (Observer and Flow states). You might say that the stages of life are a typology and the levels of consciousness are a phenomenology.

In Judaism, those attaining the Observer state (the lowest state in which the mind is enabled to conquer the ego by metacognition and self-metaprogramming) are called menschen (singular=mensch). In the I Ching, the “superior man” has approximately the same meaning. These are foreshortened stepladders into two possible conditions similar to the Greek hubris/apatheia, whereas other conceptions of the journey involve many more states, such as Visuddhimagga and my own map cited below, as well as an interesting stepladder created by a synthesis of the Rig Veda and Piaget’s developmental stages.

These ancient (and modern day) observations about what the mind can do are very relevant to our world today. Our own Western psychology, in a fight to gain the respect of the “harder” (easier to prove) sciences such as physics and chemistry, has straightjacketed and blindered itself into a heavy emphasis on behaviorism, because of its visibility from outside the subject. This to some extent mirrors Plato’s concerns about how our senses can be fooled, implying to modern minds the need for an external observer to observe the observer. However Plato had his own solution which was to employ the mind without the senses, which was more in line with the Eastern traditions cited above.

As a science, today’s Western psychology has skipped over the value of inner observation out of a distrust for the reporter of inner experiences. This is truly throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Our behavioristic psychology has been strongly involved with neurosis and psychosis, which definitely deserve attention, but insufficiently sparse with regard to the positive possibilities of the mind. Future psychology must repair this faster than present forces end the race too soon.

It might also be seen as a circularity of reasoning. Because individual scientists have ego, whatever they write about what happened within them internally will be distorted by their desire for self-aggrandizement, therefore  causing Western psychologists to think: let us measure third-party-observable behavior and place a stiff taboo on introspective reporting being considered acceptable within science. The reason this is circular is that without the knowledge of the techniques by which to reach higher states of consciousness we cannot get the ego out of the way; but because ego is ubiquitous in modern world culture and rules it, we are unable to learn those techniques that would remove the ego from its hypnotic Orwellian power over us, leading us to our doom.

That’s why I write about these ancient subjects, because they are a necessary part of our immediate future, if we are to have a future. The future psychology must make introspective data admissible within guardrails to be established and verified by third-party observations of behavior. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi gave us that validation system: it is the obviousness of the Flow state, a term which he coined. Some of what attracts human attention through the media is the Flow state that athletes demonstrate, as do great musicians, and performers of many types that we can see on our devices. We are appropriately awestruck watching what a human being can accomplish if they follow the requisite techniques to conquer themselves, as Plato put it.

In my book You Are The Universe, Chapter 21 is devoted to Levels of Consciousness, and offers a construct involving five levels of Flow state, starting with the Flow state of the body, and ultimately attaining the Supreme Flow state of the spirit. The levels shown in that chapter represent my own experience as organized around the map created by Oscar Ichazo and adopted by John Lilly, which was informed by the speculative stepladders of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky.

One of the techniques on the stairway to heaven, up Jacob’s Ladder, that is common to all religions is meditation, but it is not alone, it’s joined by contemplation and concentration. All three of these techniques require the conquering of the senses directly, one of the paths up the Visuddhimagga. The other path involving insights is represented in modern thought, for example, by my manual Mind Magic which is a compendium of mental/emotional self-interventions resulting in the conquest of oneself (specifically the ego part).

Levels of consciousness are important because in the race between education and destruction (H.G. Wells), if we as a species do not bring the subject of levels of consciousness to the forefront of the world media conversation, and into our lives as a daily regimen, we are at great risk of not being able to avert racial suicide which is visibly in its early stages even to an optimist like me. It is the failure of our science and education system worldwide (including the religions) that while maintaining the pomp and ceremony and numinous traces of the teachings of Christ and Buddha et al, we have eaten the seed and thrown away the fruit.

Getting billions of people to recognize that there is an internal stepladder to be climbed and helping them as they try to make their way up the stairway is a herculean task. I see no way around it. We definitely need to start with world leaders and would-be world leaders. May divine intervention make it so.

Love to all,

Bill

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Believing What We Want to Believe

Created September 9, 2022

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

The human race is driving itself insane. What is the root cause of this? I postulate that it is an overpowering desire for hard answers to questions for which we may not have scientifically objective hard answers for hundreds or thousands of years more of the current slogging forward and slipping backward.

So we manufacture black and white answers and defend our somewhat arbitrary/aesthetic positions by aligning with like-minded people, and demonizing all others, who are assumed to all be the polar opposite of what we stand for.

In Mind Magic, Chapter One “Avoid Hasty Closure” provides psychotechnology (mind tricks) to overcome this “mind takeover to relieve aggravated cognitive dissonance”. “If everyone read this one book” (as one reader wrote), it could have significant effect on bringing down the omnipresent Berlin Wall of psychoneurotic divisiveness.

Just telling people to be good does not do it. They need to know the mental and emotional corridors to explore to achieve a steady state of metacognition and self-metaprogramming (which I call the Observer state). Once established in this equilibrium, the mind takes it to the next level on its own (Flow state, the Zone). Flow state itself has levels, and at the higher levels the intuition (hunches) become very accurate (likely to be verified empirically).

Religions were started by people in these latter higher states of Flow. Some of those who became disciples of those religions developed themselves along similar lines. Other followers of specific religions have taken a different path. They are followers in name only, and have lost the essence of what their claimed religion stands for.

These latter people who are religious in name only, are doing that for the purpose of aligning with other like-minded people who have chosen one authority to believe, having the false comfort of mental closure, and also now having a scapegoat group of people on which to blame everything that is not right about the world. Although they may claim to believe everything their one authority said, their actions prove they are being hypocritical, and that they are repressing awareness of their own hypocrisy.

Not that Christianity is the only religion that suffers from false followership, a new article very carefully and authoritatively connects the dots to help Christians get themselves into alignment with Jesus rather than with any political faction. Written by Michael Gerson, Republican speechwriter and journalist, who was steeped in Evangelical Christianity from birth, and was named by TIME Magazine as one of the top 25 most influential Evangelicals in America, this article strikes me as potentially the most important article ever written. If all Christians read it and truly grok it, it will put their feet back on the path. I hope that writers with comparable levels of authority and learning regarding their own religion are able to emulate Michael’s article.

Blaming a religion itself for those who have perverted that religion is not a very intelligent thing to do. This is the same black and white oversimplistic reductionism to which we all flee in Hasty Closure state, because we find that something in us cannot bear not having at least provisional answers upon which to base one’s life and one’s actions. It’s not unreasonable to feel that way but a better response is open mindedness.

All true religions have taught the same moral lessons. Compassion, do unto others, kindness, respect, love. When in the name of religion, a person acts oppositely from these ethical compunctions, and hides that hypocrisy even from themselves, this to me goes beyond neurosis into true psychosis, i.e., a dangerous diseased condition, not just a tolerable level of neuroticism.

The fact that there were and are still religiously driven equivalents of Crusades, the Inquisition, and sexual molestation by clerics, that is not the fault of the religion, it is the fault of the followers in name only.

Religions are losing adherents faster than cable/satellite companies are losing cord-cutters. In the US for example Pew finds that the percent of people who are religiously unaffiliated has doubled to roughly 3 in 10 since 2007.

In another article, Pew explains why this is happening and relates it to a perceived dichotomy (more of the same black/white mindtrap) between religion and science. Science may have ruled out a white-bearded old man version of God, but it certainly has not ruled out the possibility that our own selves are offshoots of One Self (my Theory of the Conscious Universe).

Leading scientists including Einstein, Wheeler, Planck, Schrodinger, Heisenberg, Wigner and many others have put forth scientific possibilities aligned with my notion, which also aligns with all religious writings.

The human race is becoming more open to the idea of animal intelligence and therefore animal rights (as I predicted in a 1972 sci-fi novel Ouroboros). For example, the reading public has recently discovered how intelligent octopi are. Upon closer scientific study it has become now widely known that each octopus tentacle has its own brain. This suggests that each octopus tentacle may have an independent sense of self.

Perhaps the main groupmind of these brains is the controlling sense of self, who can live through the each of the multiple sub-minds. And perhaps the main self can focus in on the one arm that is presently sucking on the most delicious shrimp.

How is that different from my theory that there could be One Self above us all into which we all feed? Is it mere coincidence that the latter lens integrates and depolarizes science and religion?

By opening one’s mind to include this possibility, one can regain a new oneness with everyone, and a new genuine, authentic oneness with one’s own birth religion or chosen religion. And by embodying the scientific method as the way to run one’s life (Foment Empiricism, as Scott McDonald says), one gains a new respect for science by practicing it in each moment oneself.

This lens overrules the impatient Hasty Closure black/white ache in one’s mind. By making sure that one does not jump to conclusions just to have a fake sense of certainty. Having a fake sense of certainty is what allows us to desire civil war to punish all the bad people who disagree with us politically. That fake sense of certainty is the insanity I spoke of in the first sentence of this article.

Coming back to intuition… Kurt Vonnegut in his satirical wisdom said that humans tend to cluster into two types of groups: karass, which is the real group we are destined to be with, and to whom we are brought together by unseen forces (“meant to be”, “bashert”, “kismet”), and granfalloon, a false karass. Suppose he was right. Granfalloons then might in some cases be political parties. In his brilliant article, Michael Gerson contrasts Jesus with Trump, and shows how scripture makes it clear that Jesus warned his disciples to stay away from politics. How can we know when we are following a true intuition and not simply believing what is convenient to believe?

The highest true (empirically verifiable) intuitions tend to give one a sense of peace, a sense that all is oneness, naturally oneness loves it parts, the universe is doing all this benevolently, there will be a happy ending, and from the ending we shall look back and see how the way that reached that end was perfect as it was. How the learning could not have otherwise been achieved. That it all happens for a reason.

Freud called this “the oceanic feeling”. Jung called it the “collective unconscious”. Kashmir Shaivism calls it “The Supreme Self”. The earliest Greek philosophers when they looked inside, and acted so as to foment empiricism, found that mind has hidden powers (intuition), and used them to think about what reality really is. Thales, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epictetus, and later many poets and natural philosophers including Berkeley, Newton, Leibniz, Spinoza, Descartes, and endless more sages throughout hisandherstory, all came to the same conclusion that consciousness is primary, at least as important as the apparent matter-energy-time-space display which we all apprehend.

How can an empiricist postulate that the only thing he/she as an empiricist can swear exists (consciousness), is merely a derivative of a physical brain which is not directly known to the empiricist who needs a surgeon to inspect his/her brain? Unscientific, yet scientists sometimes assume that their intuition is superior to that of other people who sense a Friendly Larger Presence. Let scientists be the first to have open minds!

Love to all,

Bill

 

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You Can Revolutionize Your Thinking

Created May 6, 2022

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

What good would that do you? It would give you a whole new vista on your choices in life. You stand to lose nothing by trying it. If you love everything about your life already, I’d say stand pat. Otherwise, here’s how to revolutionize your thinking.

Disadvantages of conventional thought processing

  • Tends to create ruts which can go on for a lifetime
  • You tend to ignore inner sixth sense trying to warn you or give you just the right words to use in a conversation
  • The awe and electricity of the way life can feel – the zest – trickles off
  • The Flow state (Zone) experience doesn’t happen to you as often as you’d like

One level deeper – the technical flaws in conventional thought processing that make it the most self-limiting are:

  1. You too often fly into following whatever your inner impulse seems to be at the moment 
  2. You are not paying attention to your subtle guidance system – your intuition – so that valuable ideas you need remain “subconscious”

Let’s take these two things one at a time. 

Going with your ego flow (better stop doing it!)

What’s so wrong about going with whatever you feel at the moment? Isn’t that what Flow is all about?

No. That’s not Flow state, it’s the momentum of ego, the built-up viral load of all unassimilated experiences, the robot, the predictable persona that masks as the real you even to you. You may tell yourself it’s Flow state but unless it meets the following description, it’s not, it’s your ego overclaiming as usual.

Flow state is about your ego disappearing, you feeling as if The Force is moving you, your actions are perfect, there is no sense of self versus other, there is no attachment to outcome, you are enjoying yourself, your mind is moving much faster than events.

In Flow state – while it lasts – and especially as you are starting to slip out of it – you will have some terrific thoughts, and then you will actively add afterthoughts that are your ego trying to keep up with your intuition, and the thought packets will not have labels on them to allow you to easily separate the imitative ego from the Flow-inspired giant thought of a moment earlier. Learning the trick of being especially skeptical of follow-up thoughts will help you stay in the Flow state.

Leaving the special case of Flow state aside for a moment, in the non-Flow state most people are in most of the time, it’s a terrible strategy to act on every impulse, or even to take ownership of every thought and feeling you have as being something you totally believe in. Many thoughts we have are autonomic nervous system tapes playing in our heads, reinforced by how often we have played those tapes before. If we do not watch ourselves like hawks, we will stay in the same place for a lifetime, stuck at a certain level.

Not all of your thoughts (and feelings) are equally smart. Most are automatic involuntary reactions like the mental version of kneejerks.

Learn to suspend judgment about each thought and especially each feeling that you have. Pay more attention to the feelings that come upon you suddenly, especially the negative ones, and do not tolerate the immediate giving in to feeling deflated. Pause. Return to neutral. Study what has just happened. Diagnose what caused it. Question why you should allow yourself to not to choose joy right now, in every now. Resist these automatic impulses, do not cave to them instantly anymore. Discriminate carefully before movement and before acceptance of a specific negative mood. Refuse to continue to be a manipulatable creature of habit. Start your life over with a clean slate. Forgive yourself and everyone else for all of history to date and start over in each moment. There is nothing to be gained from carrying along the wounds of the past other than understanding the point of the lessons they taught you so you can apply those lessons going forward.

Making your subconscious conscious

Daniel Kahneman has given us a new linguistic tool that helps in describing The Human Effectiveness Institute (THEI) methods: Kahneman’s System 1 is thinking fast and System 2 is thinking slow, as he describes them. We see subdivisions in his two Systems which we’ll go into in future columns but for now let’s use his apt descriptions another way. Your subconscious can get through to your conscious when you are in System 1, but not doing anything. You might be meditating or just sitting around or walking in the woods, but you are not trying to figure anything out. 

Most people at most times when they are not in any activity requiring focus are daydreaming or letting their minds go anywhere they might based on free association. That’s one way to use System 1 but it won’t lead to revolutionizing your thinking process. The other way to use these times of taking a break is to simply observe your own mind as it were someone else’s. Don’t let it catch you up into any of its dramas. This is surprisingly hard to do the first hundred times you try it, but it starts to get easier after the first session if you keep it up. Question every thought, even if it is a thought you consider to be one of your most important values.

But don’t encourage yourself to debate each item at the time, jot it down in a log of your experiences for later inner debate, and as soon as possible return to taking a vacation from thinking, or to use the technical term, meditating. This is the state most conducive to detecting your normally-subconscious thoughts and feelings.

This brief article attempts to summarize my entire book Mind Magic in fewer than a thousand words. It obviously leaves a lot out, but I hope it helps.

Love to all,

Bill

 

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Erasing Preconceived Notions

Created April 1, 2022

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

As we live our lives, every moment means something to us, gives us certain feelings, has a certain influence on the balance of power in our minds of different ideas to which we have been attracted along the way. Most of this is unclear and subconscious as if we are drifting along in dream state management of our lives.

Over time we start to reach clarity on some things. We form aspirations of what we’d like to do in our lives. Meanwhile we must keep up with whatever life has thrust upon us.

As we look back now, we find it impossible to remember details of certain scenes, and we unconsciously recreate our memories based on the way we’ve told our stories in the past.

In the hodgepodge of memory engrams we’re able to access and manipulate awake or in dreams, there is an underlying layer of motivations in the residue of time within our own self. Things that still propel and compel us in our involuntary and voluntary actions.

We have some glimpses of our own motivators and every now and then focus on making our subconscious conscious so that we might debate within ourself what shall be the meaning and direction of our life. How we shall strive to use our time to make our mark on the world, to leave it with some trace of our brushstrokes on the great canvas.

Meaning is one of the subconscious motivators we all have. We want to understand what this is all for. Why we are doing all this. We feel the urge to make some sense out of life.

Before we became so smart, we automatically developed systems which gave meaning to our lives, and these systems tended to romanticize the world as a living thing. We felt a kinship with nature and every living thing. It did not occur to us that this might be a wrongheaded idea because it was so obviously true to us. Romanticization was part of our natural process, and did not mean that it wasn’t true and accurate to the real world. Our subjective perspective was to us the realest part of the real world, without denial that the other beings and things with which we interacted were not equally real. It was all real to us on every level.

Romanticizing was not a distortion it was a layering of our innate love for life, a natural reaction to being in life. From this root as we learned to use symbolic communication where sounds and gestures had agreed meanings, we wove myths and created art. These co-creational activities arose naturally and led to philosophical speculation and ultimately to scientific experimentation about that speculation.

Then, only a few hundred years ago, science began to feel embarrassed about the notion of God, the idea that there is consciousness greater than the sum of universe parts we are built to perceive. Gradually from one generation to the next this embarrassment built in intensity. We couldn’t prove God exists. We couldn’t disprove it. But we were made to feel like we believed in Santa Claus if we gave in to the natural intuition that there must be something greater than we can detect with our instruments that had something to do with concocting this amazing universe. This idea has been culturally flogged out of most of us.

There are people who do still believe on some level in God, generally a predefined God with rules and rituals that in their own positive way unintentionally train us to also accept authoritarianism from other less innocent directions. These views of God are each compelling, and what arises within us are beautiful feelings of satisfaction at the glory of their testaments. It may or may not be allegory or history or revealed truth but it feels like all of those things and gives us the meaning feeling that we need and always had when we were primitives.

The Protestant, Hindu, Taoist and Native American idea that we can each have our own direct relationship with God could actually be a return to the past in that living sense of a natural system of romanticized love of the spirit behind everything.

And there could be another unsuspected layer in all of this: that we each have innate intuitive powers which are ruled out by scientism (the sense that accidentalism, materialism and science are all locked together into a Truth Molecule which forbids sane adults from the stupidity of magical thinking and superstition).

These last few hundred years of the dominant world culture ruled out the fact that we have uncannily accurate hunches sometimes, and enforced exclusion of our noticing that sometimes the simplest explanation for things is that we are reading each other’s minds.

So while we live generally wonderful lives with astounding technology that is beyond our wildest cravings as children just a few decades ago, there is a general emptiness feeling, the anomie of meaninglessness, arbitrariness, the loss of infinity, the dwarfing of possibility. We do not use all of our faculties and deny that some of the best of those capabilities exist at all.

A trickling back in of what has been lost has been happening in the West, carried back from the East and from native aboriginal cultures everywhere. Our media showing athletes and performers in Flow state brings back the magic although we have not been noticing these phenomena that way, because the word “magic” itself like the word “God” tends to raise eyebrows in skepticism.

As Arthur C. Clarke told us, “Any technology sufficiently advanced would appear to us as magic.”

Erasing our preconceived notions and simply observing reality with an open mind is the way to Flow state and to empirically studying the degree to which you can use your mind in ways beyond what you now consider to be your design limits. Leaving you with this 91-second video meditation:

 

Love to all,

Bill

 

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