I think I was a twinge unclear last time, so let me begin with a slight reset. We are each absolutely and without doubt unique. The network of capabilities, talents, inclinations, perspectives, beliefs, desires and experiences that make each of us who we are exist in no one else but us. This is so. What I’d hoped to convey is not that the possibilities for individual expression are constrained, but that the very root of any thought system—though the flowering of it may indeed be unique—can only and ever be one of two things. Ever.
The root of self-expression and perceptual processing is either reality or image.
Now, before attempting to unpack this in detail, let me assert one corollary: Ultimately—no if’s, and’s or but’s about it—there is only reality at the root of who we are, and there is nothing we can do about that. No choice, no thought, no action of ours can ever change our given nature, and this is the source of both our freedom and our eternal protection. We are free to imagine (and experience the consequences of) alternatives, but every alternative to the truth and reality of who we are is but an image. From this perspective there’s just one alternative—image—which can assume quite a varied array of forms.
So yes, choice is at the root of all that we experience, but this is not the sort of “conscious” choice we make every day, like the choice of what toppings to have on our pizza, or what clothes to wear, or what field of study to explore, or who to work for, or who to vote for, or any of the myriad other choices we generally think we’re making. The choice at the root of our experience is a very deep choice, an old choice, and I would like to suggest—at some level, even—an inherited choice. It is a choice most of us may never actually make unless we work with deliberate, truly conscious attention and heartfelt desire—both together—to make anew.
It’s almost time, now, for a story. Before I begin, though, let me clarify one point. I suggested last time that it’s simply not possible to have a neutral view on consciousness—a view without consequences—and by extension, I should add that it’s not possible to come to a view on consciousness “after the fact.” We can’t bring consciousness to bear on the set of facts we’ve assembled (through the vehicle of consciousness) to then make an objective determination of what consciousness is. It’s just not possible to make a study of consciousness that excludes the choice about what consciousness is at the outset, and I’m okay with this. It is simply our lot. We have to pick one: consciousness is the root of reality, or it isn’t.
There will not be much, if anything, that is truly new in this series of posts, except for the fact that what is said will be offered through the unique proposition that is me. As a result, it will be said in a unique way, and by extension, it may be heard in a unique way. This is my hope. I want us to be honest when we discuss these topics, because like I said last time, “the content of our consciousness is the single most decisive factor in the trajectory of human events, the conditions of the non-human world (at least presently), [and] the quality of life generally on this planet.” This stuff absolutely matters. And so before I tell a story that’s already been told (in my own way), I’d like to be frank about one more point: I have a goal in writing this series of posts. I do. I have a bias, a desire, a longing, a hope, and yes, a need.
I know that not everyone views themselves and the world the way that I do. At the level of “conscious” choices we make about food, capitalism, airlines, immigration, sexual orientation, entertainment, relationships, etc., I believe respect for all creeds and pathways is paramount. Along these lines, when it comes to the topic of consciousness, I would like us to admit one thing to one another: at the present time, with current knowledge, there is no objectively correct answer to the question of what consciousness is or how it originated. On the level of intellectual reasoning and phenomenological evidence alone there is no definitively provable “fact of the matter” about what consciousness is or how it began.
This isn’t to say there isn’t a reality of the matter. It’s just to say there isn’t an externally conveyable fact of the matter. To the point at the outset of this post: we have the freedom to experience what is not so, not the freedom to determine what is so. From here, in the next post, I am going to (re)tell a story—based on the notion that consciousness is the root of reality—about how we got into the predicament we’re in, and how we can move past it. This story will illumine the distinction between reality and illusion that I introduced above, and relate it to this notion of consciousness, and will introduce notions about free will and physical determinism that I think will clarify how both can be “true” together.