Something profound has occurred to me within the last few weeks. That is what this entire book is about. My fathers unexpected death was, I believe, the catalyst for this. That was the most painful two weeks of my entire life. I began thinking more about death, life, existence in general. I’ll start at the beginning, so you can understand where I am coming from. Also, let me note, I have no degrees or any specialized training in philosophy, religion or science. I’m a regular guy, 25 years old, putting my worldview down in ink.
You see, I had always been kind of a spiritual thinker, since about the age of fourteen. I questioned religion — well, the more rigid, dogmatic, exoteric side of religion. This change in my cognitive thought process and worldview came about entirely because of my mother. At that age, I really didn’t know any better, so I would just listen and soak in whatever she would tell me. She was coming from a very strong new age influence, she had read books and declared that she was a new and completely different person. Apparently, this had been going on for several years, I just didn’t know about until that point in my life.
I started reading through the bible, my mom even bought me a new one and I was able to inscribe my name onto it. I strongly believed what my mom was telling me and felt like I was on the right path. I probably know what you’re thinking at this point. If he was questioning dogmatic religion, why is he reading the bible? You’re right. Again, at that age, I didn’t know any better. Later in life, I realized the information my mom was feeding me was misconstrued and inaccurately mixed up with other various forms of thought, she was giving me an inconsistent, contradictory mess of a philosophy, declaring it was “the truth”. This was mainly because of things concerning her mental state but I won’t get into that. Some things from Deepak Chopra, certain passages from the bible, this guy she saw on TV and whatever felt right in her mind. So I was on this path for maybe a year or two before I decided to do my own research on the side. I found some authors and books that felt inspiring to me. Dipping my toes in the waters of Eastern religion and philosophy. And I liked what I was absorbing.
I was getting very comfortable in this new age, pluralistic worldview I was developing. Oh, wow, I see, everybody can be right, there is no one answer. I felt like I had really figured life out. Then I had stumbled upon that popular book, The Secret. Yeah. I fell for that, too. Completely misunderstanding science and how the physical world worked while also misinterpreting spiritual practices, belief structures and consciousness itself. I rode that train for a little while, feeling good about myself. As I got older, of course, I found some schools of thought that differed from what I was reading, and books online that shattered my original viewpoint. I then began gaining a better, proper understanding of science and the physical world, as well as esoteric religion and spirituality.
For example, I had learned that the famous Chinese concepts of yin and yang were actually representative of non-duality, instead of what I thought previously, which is that it was representative of necessary duality. I was discovering so many things that were contradicting beliefs I had in earlier points of my teenage life. Then I became kind of obsessed. Really delving deep into existentialism, quantum physics, Hinduism, Zen, Christian mysticism. Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Spinoza, Alan Watts, Ken Wilber. Phenomenology, metaphysics, hermeneutics. Every day I was feeding myself information, buying books, glued to YouTube videos, listening to interviews and podcasts. Going through what I learned in my mind, over and over and over, trying to understand every variable, every equation, every loophole, every possible answer and contradiction. I was on a mission for the truth, I didn’t care where it took me.
Some bad things began happening in my life, mainly depression. That began pulling me away from all of this. I slowly felt more comfortable categorizing myself as an atheist, but still, with a slight interest in spirituality. And then ultimately, I just decided that the big bang was everything. Whatever that was, whatever happened, that’s my “god”, I’ll just believe in that. That worked for me. Life went on, other more important things began to hold my attention and I kind of fell out of that constantly-searching state of mind.
Then we went into the year of 2014, which happens to be the year in which I am writing this book. It’s November. I can say without a doubt that this year has been the single most important year of my entire life. I was a completely different human-being just 10 months prior to now. I had been laid off twice, once from a completely, disgusting workplace filled with atrocious, two-faced people. I’ve had three different addresses, being starved because I didn’t have money to eat. My sister had an abusive ex-fiance and a stroke along with other financial problems. My depression was at it’s worst this year. I took myself to a hospital for a psych evaluation and began the process of therapy and medication. And then my father died. That has lead me to where I am at this very moment.
Who are you? That is a very important question. I don’t think we ask ourselves that very much. When asked, you may get the very typical, “I’m just me”. Others may just point to themselves, “Need I say more?” Well, you aren’t your human body. The body is just a body, it is not you. So, who are you? You might then be tempted to say, “Well, my name is Korey, I’m a husband and father, a construction worker, a Christian, I’m funny and outgoing, I’m a good person just trying to live my life the best way I know how”. Okay. Concepts and ideas. We use concepts and ideas that we attach ourselves to, and think of them as our personality, thus giving us identity. But that’s all they are, concepts and ideas in our own mind that we cling to. Right there, we’ve broken through the first wall. Those are thoughts and abstractions, being examined or looked at, in your own mind. We take anger, fatherhood, job title, personality traits, mood, temperament, put it all in a big bag and slap your name on it. That’s your identity. Who is examining them?
You see, if you can see an object, you’re not the object. You are the subject observing the object. You’ve dissociate yourself from that object. You can look at another human-being and know that they are them, and you are you. You’re observing something outside of yourself, physically. You can do the same thing with an inanimate object. But in your own mind, you’re repeating the same procedure. In your mind, picture a red apple. You’re not the apple, obviously, you’re seeing it. But what is seeing it? Who is aware of this apple? “I am!”. Well, who is “I”? And you might feel inspired to say something like, “My identity is my personal experience, my business. If I want to identify with a concept I can and you have no right trying to tell me what my identity is”. You’re right, your identity can be whatever you want it to be. But that does not disprove anything I have said. You cannot deny that “motherhood” or being “introverted” are concepts. Obviously you can’t take them out and slap them down on the table for everyone to see. You’re aware of these ideas in your mind.
Now just keep peeling back the layers. You’re seeing thoughts, so you must not be those thoughts. Of course, there are biological correlates in your brain firing off in various directions when you think. Neurons are not too complex when considered on their own, and no single neuron can be said to contain any knowledge. Although, when these neurons are large in number, their immeasurable reciprocal action grant rise to something truly stunning apart from themselves: thought and self-awareness. In other words, consciousness. That statement does not entirely work, however, given that it seems to indicate something physical in your brain “creates” something non-physical like consciousness, but we’ll get to that later on. What’s inside a neuron? A nucleus. What’s inside a nucleus? RNA, fluid, proteins — basically it’s DNA. But what does that tell us about identity? About consciousness? Because apparently, we’ll just keep going deeper and deeper and deeper, into smaller and smaller objects. Essentially, nothing that can seem to explain this monumental phenomena. Keep peeling away.
That leaves us with really only one thing left. I hope you know what it is. It’s consciousness. Awareness. That empty, still, ever-present awareness, that does not change, multiply or mutate. You are that which witnesses everything that is arising moment to moment. You are a mirror. Thoughts, concepts, ideas, are all reflections. Now the reflections are temporary, they go in and out, pop up and down, they’re inconsistent. What is consistent, is that which allows the reflections to even exist. It is the page that the words are written on. You are the page, not the words. And you know that for an absolute fact. Right now, you are conscious and aware, aware of yourself in your body, reading this book. No human-being on the entire planet can tell you otherwise. Now think about that for a moment. Because that is absolutely, incredibly profound and beautiful. The one thing in this universe that is aggravatingly impossible to observe and talk about, is the very same thing that you know for an absolute fact is the most real, important and consistent thing in existence.
Now let’s discuss consciousness for a moment. I know just said it’s aggravatingly impossible to talk about, but it is colorful wordplay, so just humor me for a minute. It really is the most important thing in human existence. We take it for granted but it’s been with you your entire life. You cannot remember a single fragment of a moment that it was not there. It really is magic. You cannot, see, taste, touch, hear or smell it, but you know without a doubt that it exists, that is incontrovertible. That is powerful. Consciousness is what allows you to see that red apple in your mind, but when someone cuts your brain open and peeks around, they won’t find an apple. One may be a bit dubious about the state of their consciousness, but one can never be dubious about having it. It is the mirror that reflects all images.
Now, yes, using dualistic, finite terminology to discuss consciousness can get messy. It’s like using the color red to describe the color blue. The only thing you can do is give a vague description, that kind of sums it all up, but ultimately, it is a 1st person, intersubjective experience. When we use words like “location, weight, length,” and so on, we are using 3rd person, objective terms to discuss something “out there” or “over there”. Something you can physically see and point at, or hear, or smell, or touch, or taste. Hopefully, you can do all five. These terms only apply to objective, 3rd person things, so it is completely useless to use them when trying to discuss consciousness….something that is not a 3rd person, objective experience. You can’t use the word location in reference to something that does not have a location.
Consciousness cannot have a location. First you would need to be able to see it, before you could ever make such a judgement. You can fight it all you want to, you will never be able to disprove that. “Well we know for a fact that consciousness is located in the brain.” False! No, you do not. You’re assuming it is. That’s your first mistake. You immediately take that assumption to heart and then go from there, not realizing that the foundation in which all of this consciousness-research is piled on might be untrue. So it’s only going to cause more problems, create more confusion, and leave a bigger trail of inaccuracies.