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August 4, 2010

Section IV

2.  Consciousness:  Light of the Self
      Mystical and spiritual teachings equate consciousness most directly with light.  The light of consciousness illuminates the psyche and the activities of the mind/body complex, allowing awareness of psychological processes within inner experience.   The Self–the spiritual soul–is inherently self-luminous, an element of pure light consciousness.  In this vein, Ramana Maharishi refers to the “self-luminous Self,” and notes, “I in the heart, it is consciousness.”  Similarly, Swami Prabhupada explains, this “soul is consciousness and conscious.”  The divine spark is a quantum of pure light consciousness at the heart of being, an element of God-consciousness, the Inner Self.
    These themes are found throughout the mystical literature.  Sri Chinmoy explains:
God is an infinite Consciousness. He is also the self-illumining Light.  There is no human being who does not have within him this infinite Consciousness and this self-illumining Light. ... in the inmost recesses of his heart is his real ‘I,’ his God.  ...  In the spiritual life, the thing that is most needed is the awareness of consciousness.  Without it, everything is a barren desert. ... It is our consciousness that is self-revealing in everything.  (1970, pp. 15, 16 & 19)
    Just as we can be aware of things in the outer world, when light illuminates the objects of perception, so also there is an inner light source which allows consciousness of the objects of inner experience.  Ouspensky (1957) explains this in a practical way:
It must be clearly understood that consciousness and (psychological) functions are quite different things.  To move, to think, to feel, to have sensations-these are functions; they can work quite independently of whether or not we are conscious or not; in other words, they can work mechanically.  To be conscious is something quite different. ... Functions can be compared to machines working in varying degrees of light.  These machines are such that they are able to work better with light than in darkness; every moment there is more light the machines work better.  Consciousness is light and machines are functions.  (p. 55)
The activities of thinking, feeling and sensation provide the contents for conscious experience, but do not constitute consciousness itself.  Consciousness is a  substantive light principle which inwardly illuminates these psychological processes.
      A verse of the ancient Brihadaranyaka Upanishad states:
The self-luminous being who dwells within the lotus of the heart, 
surrounded by the senses and sense organs, 
and who is the light of the intellect, is that Self.
(Ibid, p.104)
The self-luminous being, the Self, is the light of the intellect, and allows for awareness of the contents of the mind and the senses.   Mystics relate the Self to the sun and the mind to the moon.  The moon has no light of its own but simply reflects the light of the Sun.  Similarly the mind has no consciousness or light of its own, but reflects the light originating from the self-luminous element within the lotus of the heart.
    The Sufi poet, Rumi, describes the mysteries of light within the external and inner worlds:
Outward colours arise from the light of sun and stars,
And inward colours from the Light on high.
The light that lights the eye is also the heart’s Light;
The eye’s light proceeds from the Light of the heart.
But the light that lights the heart is the Light of God.
(Whinfield, 1979, p. 23)
The ultimate source of Light–spelled with a capital L–is of God, while outward colours are described as from light, with a small l.   The heart’s Light is also capitalized, as it originates from the Light of God.  The eyes’ light (with a small l) is reflected light, once more removed from the Light of the Heart, and of God.
    This teaching contrasts sharply with the western convention of regarding consciousness as not being substantive.   Instead, mystical teachings associate consciousness with a very substantive light–both supernal (metaphysical) light and natural light. Unfortunately, as semi-conscious, sleepwalking human beings, we do not typically appreciate the nature of light, especially the light within.  Instead, humans live in darkness and in ignorance of their true nature.  The consciousness of the Self is pure light, but this is obscured by our typical attachments, desires, fantasies, suffering and conditioning.  To realize the divine and spiritual Light within ourselves, we must enlighten ourselves by knowing Self and achieving union with the true Light.  The Light of Self is beyond thought, beyond the mind/body complex, beyond the patterns of conditioning and attachment to material nature.  Mystical self-knowledge, like spiritual teachings, brings Light into humans’ hearts and minds.  Both ancient and contemporary mystical teachings reflect these themes.
       The equation of consciousness with light must be understood through self-study and awakening.  Recall Nicoll’s comments, explaining the fourth way psychology:
... what we seek above all things is Light–and Light means consciousness.  We seek to live more consciously and to become more conscious.   We live in darkness owing to lack of light–the light of consciousness–and we seek in this work light on ourselves.  ... And it is very strange this light. ...  In the deep sleep we live in, in the light of the Kingdom of Heaven, we are all utterly insane and do not know what we are doing. (1975, pp.35-6)
The individual can learn to live more consciously in the light, less conditioned by the modes of nature, less attached to mundane thoughts and feelings, sensations and desires.  Humankind lives in outer darkness, hypnotized by shadows and illusions, and yet paradoxically, the dramas of our lives are always sustained from within/without by an underlying realm of Ineffable Light.  These profound claims, about the process of awakening and the nature of consciousness as light, are found throughout the mystical and esoteric literature.
    Unfortunately, scientists consider such ideas to be only metaphors for poets of the heart and soul, and do not regard them as posing serious scientific hypotheses.  Instead of believing in a self-luminous divine or spiritual spark within the heart, scientists imagine that the cerebral cortex manufactures consciousness out of material processes.
    In the Upanishads, the ancient esoteric Hindu scriptures, there are numerous references to the light of the Self and the self-luminous nature of Brahman.  Brahman is the “light of lights,” the supreme principle embodied within the “bright throne” of the heart.   The Self, the individualized spirit soul, is described as being self-luminous, and qualitatively of the same stuff as Brahman, God or the Absolute:
The light that shines above the heavens and above this world, the light that shines in the highest world, beyond which there are no others–that is the light that shines in the heart of men.    Chandogya Upanishad (ibid, p. 64)
Unite the light within you with the light of Brahman.  Thus will the source of ignorance be destroyed, and you will rise above karma. ... The yogi experiences directly the truth of Brahma by realizing the light of the Self within.  He is freed from all impurities–he is pure, the birthless, the bright.  ...  He is within all persons as the Inner Self, facing in all directions.   Svetasvatara Upanishad (ibid, p. 121)
Brahman/God and the Atman/Self are repeatedly associated with light, and described as self-illuminating.  The mystic goal is to “unite the light within the Self with the light of Brahman.”  The yogi realizes the light of Self–beyond life and death, pain and suffering, beyond the intellect–as being the Inner Self facing in all directions and rooted into the heart of being.
      In the Bhagavad Gita, a verse depicts the self luminous nature of the individual Self: 
“... as the sun alone illuminates all this universe, so does the living entity, one within the body, illuminate the entire body by consciousness.” (13, 34) 
Swami Prabhupada’s explains these basic Vedic principles: “... a small particle of spirit soul, although situated in the heart of this body, is illuminating the whole body by consciousness. ... consciousness is ... the symptom of the living entity.” (1972b, p. 659)  The individual soul, the jivatma is qualitatively one with the supreme self, or the Atman.  Thus, the Supersoul and the individual soul, both inhabit the body and are associated with the heart–as the “sun” of the body.  The spirit soul is self-illuminating and its light is an expression of the infinite light of That Self, the Supersoul.  Consciousness within the body/mind originates, then, from this self-illuminating entity.
     The quantum Self at the heart of being is the origin of life and consciousness within the material body, with light emanating and radiating from a central Sun.  The Self is the self-illuminating Sun of the body, while the mind, like the moon, reflects this light.  Accordingly, mystics claim that the head brain does not have a light of its own, but simply reflects the light of the Self originating within the Heart.
    Another authority on Yogic and Vedic metaphysical philosophy, Rammurti Mishra, M. D., explains the distinction between the nature of “Purusa” (the Self) and “Prakriti” (material nature):
In Samkhya (philosophy), the technical name of Self is Purusa.  Purusa is identical with the Atman of the Upanishads;  it is independent of matter and the material universe. ... Purusa is one side which is purely subjective, and prakriti is the other side which is purely objective. ... The very name Purusa means the Principle which uses matter as its bed (puru, matter + sha, sleeper). ... This material body with its perceptual mechanism is for the sake of Self. ...  Consciousness is not a creation of material elements because it is characteristically different from them. ... Consolidation of experience as subjective consciousness is due to the presence of Purusha.  ... Purusha is Pure Consciousness, changeless, ever-present behind all these states.  It is the Light by which matter and material objects are perceived.  It is Self-luminous and It illuminates prakriti and its manifestations (the seen and known).(1973, pp.33-7)
The light of the Self and the greater Self are present within ourselves as the light of consciousness. The purusa is the source of ‘I,’ whereas prakriti is the source of the ‘me’– the spiritual as opposed to the material.  The objects of awareness form on the material side, while the subject originates as as divine light from within the metaphysical dimensions of being.  In this way, the spirit soul is embodied and is said to fall asleep in matter, conditioned by material nature.
    Dr. R. Mishra provides profound depictions of the dynamics of consciousness:
Knowledge-stuff is illumined by the Principle of Consciousness.  As dust particles shine in light and indicate the path of light although the real nature of light is unknown, so each particle of knowledge–stuff carries its own manifestation and awakening in the light of Consciousness.  (1971, p. 37)
   Neurological process in the brain produce varied contents for conscious experience, but they do not constitute or produce consciousness.  It is the presence of the self-illuminating divine spark within the heart which allows the contents of the mind to be illuminated, as dust particles in light.  In a state of yoga, or union with the Self, the yogi no longer identifies with the thought waves (vritti) of the mind, and instead experiences the Atman or Self shining forth in its true nature as pure consciousness and supernal light.
    In part, the light of Self is light as we ordinarily consider light.  However, light must also be understood in its higher nature and  “supernal” forms.  The term “supernal” is defined as: “... pertaining to things above, celestial, heavenly, exalted” (Webster).  The light of the Self is of an exalted celestial nature but is reflected in the material world as the light of individual consciousness which illuminates the heart, mind and body.  The aim, in mystical union, is to unite the light and consciousness of self with the light and consciousness of the greater Self.
    The Gnostics, and early sects of Jewish and Christian mystics, emphasized that to know oneself at the deepest level, was simultaneously to know God within oneself as the origin of pure light consciousness.  The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas relates a story of the disciples asking Jesus where they should go and Christ replies:
 
There is light, within a man of light, and he (or it) lights up the whole world.  If he (or: it) does not shine, he (or:it) is darkness. ... Jesus said, “If they say to you, ‘Where did you come from?,’ say to them, ‘We came from the light, the place where the light came into being on its own accord and established itself and became manifest through their image.’”  ... The images are manifest to man, but the light in them remains concealed in the image of the light of the Father.   (Robinson, 1981, pp. 121-3, 127)


The phrase, “We came from the light,” suggests that “I” originates, emerges or emanates from within a supernal light realm.  The inner divine light is obscured by the images of the light (the maya, the material world, the moon, the cosmic and personal illusions).
    Other Gnostic gospels similarly encourage the disciples to gain the light that is within themselves, as opposed to living in outer darkness.  In the Dialogue of the Saviour, Christ says:
 

“The lamp of the body is the mind; as long as you are upright of heart ... then your bodies are lights.  As long as your mind is darkness, your light which you wait for will not be.”  ... The Lord said, “... when you remove envy from you, then you will clothe yourself with the light, and enter into the bridal chamber.” (Robinson, 1981, pp.231-235)


We have to be “upright of heart” for our bodies to be filled with light.  In various Christian writings, this light is described as the light of the Sun, as the light of the Son (Jesus Christ), and as the Light of the Father.  One gnostic gospel declares: “Search ever and cease not till ye find the mysteries of the Light, which will lead you into the Light Kingdom.”  (Cohen, Phipps, 1979, p.235)  Recall also the words of Christ from the Gospel of Truth, suggesting that those of  “interior knowledge” know that, “in you dwells the light that does not fail ... the light which is perfect and filled with the seed of the Father, and which is in his heart, and in the pleroma.”  This verse suggests the mystical and metaphysical origins of the light of consciousness and the Self.
    Another Gnostic text, Pistis Sophia, also presents the teachings of the light and the light kingdoms.  Christ instructs his disciples:
 

... seek ye all the Light, that the power of the stars which is in you, may live. ... For God shall save their soul from all matters, and a city shall be prepared in the Light, and all the souls who are saved, will dwell in that city and will inherit it. (Mead, 1974, p.41)


Pistis Sophia elaborates upon the possibilities for super-sensuous knowledge and realization for those souls who enter into the Ineffable Light, into the dimensions of Higher Space and the Light Kingdoms.

    Baha’u’llah, the prophet of the Bahi religion, similarly portrays the relationship of the light within the soul of a human being to the light of the “King of Oneness:”
 

Whensoever the light of Manifestation of the King of Oneness settleth upon the throne of the heart and soul, His shining becometh visible in every limb and member. ... all the pillars of the dwelling are ashine with His light.  And the action and effect of the light are from the Light-Giver; so it is that all move through Him and arise by His will. ...  And the splendour of that light is in the hearts ... when thou strippest the wrapping of illusion from off thine heart, the lights of oneness will be made manifest.  (1945, Pp. 22-24)
“Knowledge is a light which God casteth into the heart of whomsoever He willeth.”  (p. 54)


The light within the inner world of human consciousness is of the same light which interpenetrates all things.
    Consciousness, or the I AM principle, is sometimes described as ultimately emerging from a point source, from a spiritual or divine spark.   There is a point source of Light within the heart which is of the Supreme Self and the Infinite Light.  The contemporary heart master, Adi Da writes:
 

... the Divine Soul is Original White Light.  All phenomena are thus a Play of the Original Light, or Unqualified Bliss, of God.  And all souls, or all living beings (human or otherwise), are points or atoms of the Original Light or Radiant Bright Consciousness of God.     (1978, p. 492)


Mystical teachings repeatedly describe a point source of coherent light consciousness established within the Heart.  This point source of light emerges from a realm of infinite light–that is supernal, divine, ineffable Light.  The Self illuminates the inner world through the interior dimensions of a human being, emerging through and within the life of the heart.
    This point source of pure light is enthroned within the Bliss Sheath of the Heart–the Anandamaya Kosha of yogic teachings, or the “causal body” of theosophy.   Saraswati (1987, p. 112) describes this as “an oval mass of unemergent light,” approximately the size of a baby’s thumb or a small grape.  This “unemergent light” does not radiate away from its source, but is contained within a volume of space.  (Similar methods are being developed in fibre optics to contain light within a volume of space.)
    The nature of consciousness, light and space are all profound mysteries, which modern psychology and science are still exploring, and which we will approach from both physical and metaphysical perspectives through this series.  While scientists usually consider the equation of consciousness with light as simply being a metaphor, mystical teachings consistently associate the substance of consciousness with light.   In the same manner, modern thinkers are likely to consider that the idea of the Self as being related to the heart is only a metaphor.  Can we really love with the heart, or know God through the heart?  Or “see the light,” “know the light within ourselves,” or “be enlightened”?   The manner in which these themes–of consciousness, light and the heart–are so persistently articulated by mystical teachers and poets of the heart and soul, should certainly cause us to beware of prematurely dismissing these testimonials to the inner cosmos of consciousness.  Perhaps these expressions and concepts, so ingrained in our language and in religious maxims, have a very concrete reality.  Can we really become knowers of Self and become enlightened, or are we too caught up with the monkeys of the mind, full of ourselves and self-satisfied with the dogma of the head doctrine? Could the poets of the heart and soul truly know awesome possibilities, beyond anything imagined by the scientists, philosophers  and pundits?
    The idea that humans have a zero point divine spark–a God spark within the interior dimensions of the Heart–is a serious scientific hypothesis.   For the materialists, who have not realized spiritual love or seen the light, these concepts are apt to be simply dismissed as mystical looniness, the product of neurological dysfunction, New Age romanticism or religious dogma. As Madame Blavatsky observed: the mind is the great slayer of the real.  From a mystical perspective, western conceptualizations of consciousness are fundamentally flawed, the result of too much head-learning and too little soul wisdom.

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