The term higher consciousness just sounds smug, right? Not for the enlightened the normal lower consciousness that most people about under. Instead, those who are sufficiently spiritually awakened get to breathe the rarefied air of higher consciousness, in which they can presumably see and understand things that the rest of us mere mortals will never grasp.
School of Life nails it in the introduction to this video:
The term higher consciousness is often used by spiritually minded people to describe important, but hard to reach, mental states. Hindu sages, Christian monks and Buddhist ascetics, all speak of reaching moments of higher consciousness through meditation or chanting, fasting or pilgrimages.
Unfortunately, the way in which these spiritual people discuss their states of higher consciousness, has a tendency to put a lot of secular types on edge. It can all sound maddeningly vague, wishy-washy, touchy-feely, and, for want of a better word, annoying.
I’d second the use of the word annoying, which is a shame, because the states they’re describing are incredible valuable, well recognised by science, and, with effort, is available to everybody, regardless of beliefs or a willingness to dress in long, flowing robes.
Anyway, the video is great and breaks down the topic in a clear, totally non-annoying, and even beautiful way. So if you’re interested in expanding your mind, I highly recommend checking it out.
Consciousness ends at death, right? The lights go out, everything goes black, and whatever happens afterwards, it has noting to do with the lump of grey matter in our heads.
Well, things might not be as clear cut as that. According to a study led by Dr Sam Parnia, Director of Critical Care and Resuscitation research at NYU Langone School of medicine, many people who are clinically dead, still retain awareness of what its happening around them.
This particular study is the largest study ever carried out in the world. It was done in 15 medical centres across the U.S. and Europe. And we studied more than 2000 people who’d gone through this cardiac arrest or process of death, and we did not expect people to have any consciousness or awareness, but intriguingly, up to 40% of people came back, and had had a perception of being aware of what was happening to them, even though they had technically gone beyond the threshold of death.
Only a small percentage of this group (2%) had what Dr Parnia described as “full awareness”, where they could describe everything that was going on around them in a way that could be validated. But the research still has intru=iguing implications for our understanding of consciousness, as it’s possible that the rest of the participants were also aware but simply forgot their experiences as a result of the efforts to resuscitate them, much as we often forget the content of our dreams.
But whatever the case, this is a fascinating reminder that there’s still more to learn about what this consciousness stuff is all about.
Most of us go through life feeling like we’re in control. That we can choose freely from the options presented in life and make those choices according to our conscious feelings at that time. But this isn’t actually the case.
The vast majority of our behaviour is governed by the firs, habits and instincts of our subconscious mind. All things we have very little conscious control over, and need to expend significant conscious effort to change.
Aligning the desires of our subconscious mind with those of our conscious mind is considered to be the defining task of our lives according to psychologists like Jung. But there’s a problem; most of us are unaware of what those desires are:
Practices like dreamwork, hypnosis, meditation, visualisation and shamanic healing techniques, are all effective ways to bring the murky underworld of the subconscious to light. Because the subconscious often includes unresolved aspects of our personality, these practices can help us integrate these shadowy parts of ourselves, so that we can live a more fulfilled and equanimous life.