The very existence of consciousness itself has me in awe. But what is consciousness? Let’s look at two ways we use the word and explore their essence.
The first is the existential use of the word - the very awareness with which we experience the world. Awareness and consciousness themselves – even being able to write and read this sentence is an awe inspiring concept. When one contemplates deeply the nature of consciousness itself – one can reach some very “high” states of consciousness. This is the result of meditation and being deeply in the “here- now”. I have experienced – albeit fleetingly - that the here-now is the “largest,” “deepest” thing in the Universe – in fact it is the Universe! Mystics and gurus and shamans are adept at reaching this space – it is the stillness of the pure experience of awareness uneclipsed by the chatter of the mind or the pull of the heart. When one enters this state, the Universe opens up and one’s consciousness grows.
The other way we commonly use the word is referring to the “quality” of consciousness. We might say someone has a “low” or “high” or “sweet” or “macho” consciousness. These are all value judgements from our point of consciousness to theirs. We also use it sometimes to describe a degree and/or quality of intelligence. We might talk about “reptilian consciousness” or “dolphin consciousness” etc. These value judgements – or discernments - is a way we compare our consciousness to theirs and is one way we learn about ourselves and the nature of consciousness itself.
Both understandings of the word are invitations to expand and refine our consciousness. One of my favorite ways to do this is to explore and contemplate the consciousness of other beings – either real or possible. Our fellow mammal cousins – especially Dolphins and Whales (Cetaceans), Elephants and Primates have amazing and a very developed and delightful consciousness. The bond between mammals is especially fascinating. There is a delight – a joy – that we seem to share. Mammals are curious and playful across species. There is a telepathy and a love that is palpable when many mammals first meet. And many people develop very special bonds and communication with reptiles and birds as well.
Then there is “possible” or imagined consciousness. What I mean here is when humans stretch to try to understand what a consciousness higher than our own might be like. This is one basis of religion – projecting on a “god” the highest and best we can imagine a consciousness might be. One wonders what states a guru or shaman reaches. How much higher or deeper is their consciousness than our own?
And then there’s the inevitable day when we will meet and open to a real consciousness higher than our own. I say inevitable since the chances that there is not a plethora of highly evolved conscious races in the Universe is infinitesimally small. (See Universe).
It is my strong belief that before that day we can do a great deal to prepare. In fact, the very act of preparing for that day can raise our consciousness greatly. Further, I think this act of preparing for that day is in itself sufficient to lead us out of our self-destructive path as a species.
As I see it there are 4 types of consciousness we could meet that are higher enough than our own to fundamentally change human consciousness. And when we open to really understand any of these 4 we will transform to a sustainable species. Why? Because besides the obvious example they will set with their sustainable way of life, we will have another reference point – another entirely different perspective for which to compare our consciousness to. We will learn as much from that process as we’ve learned collectively since the beginning of Western civilization.
The 4 possible consciousnesses that we could “meet” that are higher than our own and lead to human consciousness transformation are:
1. Gaia or The Universe Herself. If we could really understand the Universe especially as embodied in the wisdom of Nature on Earth, we could turn the corner from species self-destruction to species enlightened sustainability . Indigenous peoples have had this understanding and it is why they have they lived in harmony with the Earth for mlllenia. I don’t think Western civilization will open itself in time to this consciousness – but if it could, we would make the necessary transformation.
2. Whales and Dolphins – the Cetaceans. It is my strong belief that whale and dolphin consciousness holds a key that can transform human civilization. It is also my belief that they are “more intelligent” than we are in several important ways. When we realize that the intelligent “aliens” have been right here all along in the ocean, we have a chance at making the transition to a consciousness of enlightened sustainability. When we find a way to translate dolphin language (especially that of tursiops truncatas – the bottlenose dolphin) then we may find ourselves talking to our necessary teachers right here on Earth.
3. Space Cousins – Decades of junk UFO press and plain old human fear has cheapened and tainted what is likely to be the most significant, powerful, and beautiful consciousness evolution gateway in all of Humanity history. In the vast literature of science fiction and UFO “reporting”, 99+% portray aliens in a scary, violent, dark, or negative mode. Humanity projects onto our potential space cousins the same consciousness that we possess, assuming our present stage of human evolution prevails in the Universe – assuming that all our fears, selfishness, conflict and violence is universal.
Though still only a handful, a few stories are emerging in the collective conscious and public discourse that portray the potential beauty, spiritual wisdom, love and benevolence that is likely with space cousins that would have the means to visit us on Earth. Close Encounters was the first real blockbuster movie that introduced this peaceful highly evolved space cousins concept. Books and Movies like Carl Sagan’s Contact and James Cameron’s The Abyss and Avatar are starting to open our minds to the beauty and power of more evolved species than our own. Star Trek (and all it’s sequels) created a mixed world – with many episodes imagining higher benevolent peaceful races while also mixing in many warlike and selfish races. Star Trek was way ahead of it’s time in preparing humanity for the likelihood that we are part of a Galactic community, introducing or upholding enlightened concepts such as “The Prime Directive”, the sanctity of all Life, and focused many episodes questioning human assumptions and narrow thinking. But both Star Wars and Star Trek assumed that human’s penchant for violence is not only universal but prevalent in the Universe. This may be true but most likely this violence manifests primarily in unevolved races incapable of interstellar transport. The community of interstellar civilizations – ones that have survived the evolution through all the stages needed to achieve a sustainable society (post-war and post-poverty) long enough to master interstellar transport and/or communication are liable to be highly evolved races compared to present Humanity and likely to have evolved beyond violence as a way of relating to others.
It is most likely that we will find a community of wisdom, love and altruism in our space cousins and our contact with them could be nothing less than Humanity’s ultimate saving grace from our present path of destruction or at lest a strong invitation to step and evolve.
4. Humanity’s Future Sustainable Self - There is a teaching in Shamanism where one is taught to draw on the wisdom, strength, and insight of one’s future self. One way to consider this as simply projecting one’s present self into the future as a way to tune into one’s highest. Another – which I subscribe to – is to believe that we can actually tune into that time in the Universe – a sort of consciousness time travel – and draw on the future. One of my teacher’s shared a story about realizing one day – when she was praying and sending energy to her “child” within – that she had reached back to her self and then remembered actually being helped during that time in her childhood by a ‘larger entity”.
I have strong faith that Humanity is guided by our higher collective “Self”. Many religious and spiritual traditions are consistent with this concept. In the Mystic Chrisitian tradition, Christ is seen as a “Deva” of the race – the Planetary Soul – rather than the single incarnation of “God” as expressed in orthodox Christianity. Most indigenous wisdoms draw heavily on the wisdom of the Ancestors both as individual elders that have transitioned to another realm as well as collectively as the cultural wisdom of their race. If we consider the full implications of Buddishm’s reincarnation, we can come to see that all souls of all time are intimatlely connected in a great dance of the evolution of consciousness. Reincarnation explains the ability to draw on the wisdom of ones Soul – no matter which incarnation one is presently expressing. I think of it as “other lives” rather than “past lives”, for in the realm of the Soul, time is not perhaps a one-way flow.
So in the absence of a visitation from space cousins, or a breakthrough in Cetacean communication, or a waking up to the wisdom of Nature, perhaps Humanity will be guided by our higher collective “Self”. However we must do the work - not just wait on wisdom to descend. The fact that Humanity is on the verge of destruction shows that Free Will is up and running in the Universe. Perhaps our “Higher Self” or “The Ancestors” or “The Great Spirit” or the “Planetary Christ” also operates under Star Trek’s Prime Directive. They can guide and inspire – but we must do the work of the evolution of consciousness ourselves. There is no short circuiting consciousness evolution.
So if we can realize that need to meet one of these 4 types of consciousness – we can get to work at “meeting” our future selves now. We must “parent ourselves” and actively choose to evolve. Our survival depends on it. I look forward to meeting you there!