I’ve just finished a book called An End to Upside Down Thinking – Dispelling the Myth that the Brain Produces Consciousness and the Implications for Everyday Life.
The author challenges the materialistic assumption that the brain produces consciousness and takes a tour through all the usual phenomena which make us believe that our consciousness is greater than just our brain. He describes near death experiences, ESP, precognition, clairvoyants, mediums, re-incarnation and out of body experiences. He relies as much as possible on scientific studies rather than anecdotal evidence and does a good job of convincing anyone who was doubting that “there is more in this world, Horatio than your philosophy has dreamt of.”
However, that is as far as it goes. He ends up by proposing that there is this “consciousness” that is not only greater than our individual brains, but it is cosmic. It is a grand thing that all of us tap into. This “consciousness” is the energy that is within and through and created all things. This consciousness is not a Being. It is a state of Being. It is our task, through meditation, to tap into this consciousness and become channels for this consciousness to bring good into the world.
So it ends with New Age mush. This is where it all must end. If you think yourself into an acceptance of a greater consciousness, but cannot or will not accept religion, then you can’t really get much further than the vague awareness that there is something greater permeating all things. There is a name for this: panentheism. Not pantheism–that’s the belief that God is all things. Panentheism is the belief that the Consciousness is in and through all things.
I’m thinking Yoda.
This is Star Wars theology: “May the Consciousness be with you.”
Thus far it is the sort of religion you would make up if you were going to make up a religion. It has everything you want if you go in for mysticism lite. You meditate into a state of bliss. You channel your good thoughts and feelings to others. You try to live a good and balanced life so your can remain in this state of bliss or peace.
All well and good and very nice as far as it goes.
Catholic Christianity is not actually opposed to this kind of religion. In fact we recognize much that is good in it. We too believe that consciousness is greater than the brain. We are not materialists. We also believe that this Consciousness is “a state of Being” because we remember the revelation at the burning bush where Jahweh said his name is “I AM”. We also believe that it is in him that we “live and move and have our being” and that in him all . things were created and through him all things consist.
Mark Gober–the author of said book–sadly spent very little time examining the congruences between his discoveries and classic religious thought. What he has written the mystics, philosophers and theologians have known about for millennia. The monastic and mystical traditions of all religions would have connecting points with this religion.
Catholic Christianity accepts most of what he has described but goes further. It says, “Yes there is a Force, but the Force has a Face.” It is the holy face. Yes, there is the creative consciousness of the universe which the ancients called “The Word” but the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. There is an interface between the unseen world and the seen world and the interface has a face. The unnamed has a Name. The Consciousness became particular.
It is this scandal of particularity which New Age Consciousness believers cannot comprehend. Furthermore, that particularity was not only specific in the person of Jesus Christ. It is particular in his church. In other words, the whole particular structure of Catholicism with her moral theology, her dogmas, its saints, her little country churches and grand cathedrals, her sinners, her scandals and her glorious triumphs–all of it is part of the particularity of the Consciousness becoming real in the physical, material world.
At the end of the book Gober recounts the experiences of some contemporary mystics who have achieved “the bliss” of feeling united with the Consciousness. Through meditation they achieve a sense of unity with the cosmos and feel they are radiating good into the world.
Gober treats these enlightened souls as special models to emulate and seems to think they are rare and super ascended souls here on this earth.
I don’t think they’re so rare. In fact, I think there are loads of people who are making intimate contact with the Consciousness of the Cosmos everyday. I think there are multitudes of people who are practical mystics–who connect with the Consciousness of the Cosmos through meditation, who achieve great inner peace and who radiate goodness in the world to all around them.
The fantastic thing is–they are humble, ordinary people. They don’t sit on mountaintops in their underpants chanting mantras. They do not belong to some religious community where they all wear white clothes and turnip soup. They have not joined a sect, shave their heads and go about in saffron robes and begging bowls.
Instead they are ordinary Catholics who go to Mass, recite their rosary and attend Eucharistic adoration. It is there that they “connect with the Cosmic Consciousness” it is there that they are healed, find peace and radiate God’s benevolent love to the world.
Oh yes, they’re mixed up with hypocrites, frauds, sinners and losers. It’s all jumbled up together, but it is in this marvelous jungle of a jumble that the mystery of practical mysticism is being worked out.
Why can’t writers like Mark Gober see that this is happening? Because I suspect for most secular people in the world today Christianity has nothing to do with mysticism. They are longing for religion to deal with the supernatural and for religious leaders to be connecting them with the “Cosmic Consciousness” or God or all that is on the other side.
But instead we have reduced our own religion to a sappy made up religion of Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism. We’ve reduced our own religion to a bland blend of being nice, doing good, selling coookies and being politically correct. In other words we’ve exchanged the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic faith for Girls Scouts of America.
Therefore we should not be surprised to find those who are seeking an understanding and an encounter with the “Cosmic Consciousness” who is The Great I AM–to look elsewhere.