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..:: The Mind ::..


Alan Schneider


              The Mind is the sum total of all Consciousness. This is true whether we refer to the individual mind apparently circumscribed by the physical organism, or the cosmic Mind of God. On the personal level, this mind exhibits what is essentially a bicameral structure, having a foreground of expressed perceptual events, and a background of repressed perceptual events. The foreground is customarily referred to as the conscious mind, while the background is referred to as the unconscious mind.  

            The foreground of the mind is composed of the great flood of waking impressions of the senses provided by the central nervous system – an enormous inundation of electrochemical signals that is fundamentally chaotic in character. This mass of sensation is resolved into the much less chaotic world that we actually experience through the senses by the action of primarily one mental structure – the ego. This ego is the result of acculturation – a socialized, indoctrinated entity that noted author and consciousness researcher Deepak Chopra has described as “a social fiction.”  It is nonetheless a perceptible aspect of consciousness that I experience as my personal sense of self – my sentient self-awareness. The ego learns through the ongoing process of cultural exposure what to accept as significant information, and what to reject as inconsequential “nonsense”. The ego constructs the impression of the world that we accept as “reality”. This world has physical, social, personal, and moral features, among others. And it is implicitly composed of what is not rejected by the ego far more than what is accepted!

           We owe our ascendance as a species to the social aspect of the ego’s information processing. Although human beings certainly have the largest, most complex brains of all land animals, brains that support tool use, analytical thought, binocular vision, and upright movement, it is our ability to coordinate our activities that is the supreme human achievement.  Most people, including many intellectuals and academicians, simply take this capability for granted, not questioning its psychological origins in the mind. It is precisely at the juncture of this socialization issue with perceptual psychology that we begin to venture into the background of consciousness, into the vast un-sensed region that, in fact, forms the foundation of waking consciousness and the origin of all consciousness.  

            To a certain extent, the ego is aware of the background. It senses the instinctual drives of the Freudian Id, and the occasionally-felt impressions of the frequently traumatic acculturation process that created it. Because these impressions are generally quite disturbing to the ego, the tendency is not to explore this region too extensively. So we can say that the ego is surrounded, and psychologically defined, by a boundary region of personal unconscious impressions. It is not surprising that the social foundations of culture are not noticed under these conditions – they lay beyond the boundary! Only psychological specialists, philosophers, and social explorers venture into the lands beyond our inhibitions. 

            If a given individual is willing and able to pay the price of traversing the “inhibition zone” (and this price can be a personally and professionally high one) surrounding the ego and conscious mind, a fascinating landscape of symbolism and symbolic expression emerges in the now-extended mental background. Although some of these symbolic expressions are still primarily personal, as one travels father away from the personal unconscious region, they become more universal in character. The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung called these universal expressions archetypal symbols, and postulated that they were generated by certain preexisting instinctual modes that then emerged into perception as culturally recognizable forms. To Jung, the cultural differentiation that has been the hallmark of human achievement results from another layer of instinctual expression that exists apart from the physical drives, yet determines how we comply with them to satisfy our needs through social organization. And just as the ego tends to inevitably emerge in consciousness as a consequence of brain neurology, so the archetypal symbols also emerge on a more subtle level of expression, frequently beyond conscious perception, but on a much more influential basis.  

            As one travels ever more deeply into the background of the mind, or Psyche, in Freudian terminology, the archetypal symbols become progressively more fundamental in nature, culminating in what still stands today as the theoretical origin of consciousness – the Primal Self – or simply Self. This structure is so esoteric that its very existence is a matter of hot debate in academic circles. It certainly can only be accessed in deep meditation, and (presumably) in certain near-death experiences. It is a state of consciousness existing in non-dual expression – the usual polar conditions that allow us to conceptualize reality are absent at this level. It is a Unified Field of experience that is frequently equated with Deific Manifestation – God. This is the structure that lies at the base of consciousness, and generates everything else, including the ego that generally knows nothing of the Self, or its existence. It is at this level that the personal mind becomes the Universal Mind

            The interface region between the foreground and background of the total Mind has assortedly been characterized as “preconscious”, “semiconscious”, and “transitionally conscious” by various different authorities over the years. This author prefers the admittedly non-scientific term “Astrally conscious” or “Astral state”, because it conveys more information about the region in more specific theoretical terms.  

            The Astral state is accessed by turning attention away from the ongoing flow of the senses and ego activity related to the foreground region. As soon as, and for as long as, we defocus in the foreground, we begin to experience some essence of the background. The Astral state includes several distinct types of experiences, including dreams, fantasies, meditative perceptions, simple defocusing, visions, various altered states of perception, emergent archetypes, and many psychic modes of activity including remote viewing, Astral projection, and general extrasensory perception. The Astral state is the supermarket of consciousness from which the ego selects those “products” that it considers appropriate to build our perception of what is “real” and relevant in life. The preferred products will, of course, always be those linked to an immediate and tangible positive outcome for the organism in the material sense. Now, there is nothing necessarily wrong with this, but there is nothing necessarily right with it either. The problem with the ego is that it is only as reliable as the acculturation which produces it, and materialistic acculturation produces an ego state that tends to overlook and denigrate much useful Astral content as being “unreal” or irrelevant in character. It may be true that Astral information is generally intangible, but “intangible” does not equal “irrelevant” or “useless” by any means. The key to working with the often fantastic Astral images lies in understanding their meaning as symbolic content.  

            The Astral state is referred to in the Mystery Theories as the Astral Plane of conscious expression, and is conceived of as immediately presupposing the obvious Physical Plane experienced in the physical senses. It is held in the Mysteries that the images of the Astral Plane “condense out” into the experience of the Physical Plane, and so they do, with the further observation that the acculturated ego is the selective medium of that condensation, determining what is “real” through the use of cultural reinforcement schema. Some of those schema are valid as survival mechanisms – others are most questionable from any point of view. In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church fomented the belief that cats were Satanic creatures linked to the Devil and witchcraft. The result was a prolonged period of cat eradication throughout Europe. Without the cats to predate them, the rats then proliferated, causing a succession of plagues on the continent. Certainly, predators have a ferocious aspect, but eliminating them from the ecosystem invariably causes ruin. The cat is an Astral aspect often present, as are cat’s eyes, but these manifestations must be viewed with a calm and deliberating gaze – not in a panic of fear and irrational prejudice. The first rule of Astral exploration is: no matter what appears to be manifesting, keep your courage and stand your ground!

            There are predominantly two modes of symbolic expression in the Astral state – the personal and the collective. A given Astral symbol will invariably have unique significance for the individual, based upon that person’s background experiences. The same symbol will have a collective, and more or less universal, significance that is reflective of its archetypal origin. At some point, the personal unconscious truly becomes the collective unconscious, as we dive deeper into the Psyche. The basic rule of thumb here is that the personal significance must be understood and accepted before the collective level can be accessed and successfully worked with. If I have been traumatized by being attacked by a dog, this must first be dealt with before the archetype of Cerberus, the three-headed Hound of the Underworld,  can be understood and confronted in the Astral state. And, because we have all been traumatized to some extent or other, the Astral experience should be approached with respect for the archetypal potencies therein, and any investigations conducted carried forth with caution and patience!      


                                                                                 - With Love, Alan -

                                                                         (CR2007, Alan Schneider)


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