05-18-2014 | Sunday Sermon
from "Waking Up," Charles Tart, p. 9
There are certain things I will take as givens for our discussion of enlightenment, even though each could be explored at length in some other context.
Awareness Is -- First, awareness is. Our basic ability to have experiences, to know that we are, to be aware of things, has never been satisfactorily explained in terms of anything else. Current Western science likes to assume that awareness will be explained as an aspect of brain functioning, reduced to "nothing but" some action of the brain, but this assumption is an item of current faith and fashion, not good science. Indeed, science itself can be seen as one many other derivatives of the action of awareness, such that we wouldn't expect the part ever to be able to explain the whole.
Consciousness Simulates the Environment -- Second, consciousness, by which I mean that enormously elaborated, habituated, conditioned system of perception, thought and feeling which we normally experience as our mind, has, as one of its primary functions, the simulation of the environment. Consciousness, particularly its perceptual aspects, creates an internal representation of the outside world, such that we have a good-quality "map" of the world and our place in it.
We Have a Basic Nature -- Third, we have a basic nature, an essence. To be human is to have characteristics, potentials, limits. We are not mountains or dolphins or gorillas or angels; we are people. I will not attempt to define what that basic nature is here. It is vitally important, however, not to confuse what our ultimate nature actually is or might be with what we currently think it is is or have been told it is.
We Have an Acquired Nature -- Fourth, we have an acquired nature. Whatever our basic nature is, it has been subjected to an enormous amount of shaping, bending, conditioning, indoctrination, development, and repression in the course of enculturation. In the course of our being made into normal people, fitting into our particular culture's image of what normal is, our basic nature has been selectively cultivated. Our perception, our thinking, our emotional feelings, our assumptions and intuitions, and our behaviors have all been strongly molded. Our ordinary consciousness is not "natural," but an acquired product. This has given us both many useful skills and many insane sources of useless suffering.