by Patrick Quanten MD
If you don't think about it, nothing seems simpler than experiencing the environment.
This simple and ordinary experience is actually the result of many difficult and complex operations. We may be aware of what we perceive, but we are not normally aware of the mental processes behind the scenes, that make perception possible. How do we perceive our environment? Why does our perception change with a change in our internal environment? Anger and fear will interpret a particular environment as threatening while in other circumstances we experience it as lovely and nice.
In order to comprehend how consciousness works, it helps if we understand the structure it is part of. Consciousness is not generated by the brain; it is not a function any particular organ has. And although consciousness allows us to experience our environment, which means it relates to our senses, it also provides us with thoughts and sensitivities beyond the function of any one or a combination of organs.
Consciousness forms a trilogy with its partners, subconsciousness and unconsciousness. The latter two have become mixed up in common language, just as it has in medical terminology. Yet, they are two quite separate states and deserve to be known and viewed as such: three different states of one and the same mind.
The mind is the ultimate "you"; the bit that gives birth to the person you actually are, as well as the bit that controls all your experiences and makes things happen for you. "You" do not exist without your mind. You do, without your body. It is your mind that provides you with a life-experience: orchestrating, directing and performing it. And the way your mind makes it all happen for you, is through three stages or layers.
The Mind Structure
Unconsciousness: This constitutes the inner-core of your being. It is the inner sanctum of the soul. Here, all the turmoil of experiences, wishes and goals, collected from the beginning of your time, are swirling around in a great cauldron of excitement. Like the inner core of the earth, it is inaccessible and mysterious, but it is responsible for the makings of all other layers of the earth's crust. The person you are in this life has been manufactured by your soul, your inner-core, according to your own designer plan, which incorporates the experiences you need to have and the lessons you need to learn. The most outer layer of the unconsciousness, where it touches and communicates with the next layer, can be compared with the ocean bed, the outer crust of the inner core.
Subconsciousness: Moving further outwards, the subconsciousness is the part of you that you sometimes have some awareness of. Occasionally, one has a feeling that there is a "subconscious" reason for, for example, one's fear; a reason that cannot be found in a conscious experience. Beyond that, we are blissfully unaware of the enormity and the complexity of the subconscious. Continuing our visual picture, we can see the subconsciousness as the ocean itself, the water with its own turbulence and its own "life" above the seabed, but depending on it to create the environment in which that particular life can develop.
Consciousness: Above this, and even further outwards from the core of our personality, we find the consciousness. This part of us, we are aware of. Actually, this is the only part we have a real conscious experience of. This is the part in which we live, and with which we live, or so it seems to us. Visually, we can compare it to the air above the ocean's waters. It is here that we live out our experiences in a conscious way. All reason and sensory experiences are seen to be located in this part of our being.
So, that's the structure. How does it work then? - In simple terms.
The Mind Workings
Everything one produces - thought, deeds and emotions - has its roots within the unconsciousness of the individual. It all starts from the core of one's being. Here, everything that relates to you, the self, begins its life. Most of what makes up an individual never sees the light of day, never shows up in our daily reality, never has a direct manifestation on the conscious level. Yet, it is the core structure of the individual, the supporting system without which the individual would not exist. Only small bits of the inner workings find their way to the surface of the unconsciousness, the outer layers of the inner-core, and are coming in direct contact with the most inner layers of the subconsciousness. Here an interaction takes place.
Just as on the ocean bed, volcanic eruptions not only shape the seabed, it also influences the temperature and the environmental conditions of the surrounding area. Gases of all sorts escape into the lower regions and help to shape the seabed and the life forms that it sustains. Similarly, the "bubbles" the inner-core of the mind releases into the subconsciousness, are helping to shape the very base of this part of the mind structure. It is responsible for what "lives" in one's subconsciousness and for everything one rejects back into the core of one's being. Some of these communications will remain at the bottom, and will never develop into anything specific in this life. Others, however, will start their journey upwards and will float away from the lower interactive layers into other interactive parts of the subconsciousness.
Here, each individual "bubble", containing information from the core of one's being, meets favourable and unfavourable conditions, as well as other "bubbles" and hazards on its journey to the surface. Some "bubbles" will disintegrate and dissolve into the ocean that is the subconscious matter. Others will make their way upwards unharmed and undisturbed, whilst a third lot will get caught up in a series of interactions with other "bubbles". This will alter the content and shape of the "bubble" but allow its upward motion to continue.
Now, a small number of "bubbles" that started their lives in the communication zone between unconsciousness and subconsciousness have made it all the way through to the top layer of the subconsciousness, the bottom of the consciousness. These have been more or less altered on their journey depending on the contacts and interactions it has been subjected to. At this level they are ready to enter the consciousness, emerging from the ocean, that is the subconsciousness, into the air above it, that is the consciousness.
The surface tension between the subconscious and the conscious is such that only one "bubble" can be released at any given point in time. The make-up of the consciousness scanning device means that whatever one becomes conscious of, happens with the total exclusion of everything else. One is only conscious of one thing at the time. Of course time moves very fast, and from one point in time to another the thing one is conscious of can change very quickly. Holding one's consciousness onto a particular "bubble" allows us to experience this in greater depth, whereas moving swiftly on from one to the next only gives us fleeting experiences and a shallow existence, as nothing appears to have any great value or deep meaning.
In our consciousness, these "bubbles" meet an outside world, as opposed to the inner world of the sub- and unconsciousness. Here, they interact with the world, containing other people's "bubbles" as well as universal "bubbles" such as environmental and climactic conditions. This interference, once again, alters the "bubbles" and these are now registered within the consciousness by our senses. These organs pick up the information of the experience our "bubbles" are having in the conscious state and feed it back into the subconsciousness, where it sets off a chain reaction in response to the outer journey the "bubble" has made. This can either result in a new "bubble" being released into the consciousness, or for the information about the experience to sink to the bottom of the subconsciousness, and even into the unconsciousness. This interactive play never stops and shapes our lives with the experiences, the interpretations and conclusions we have come to. We are learning and evolving. Our lives our becoming enriched through this never-failing system.
Every thought "bubble" has to come from somewhere below the consciousness level. It is impossible to create a conscious thought in consciousness. First the thought is, and then you become aware of it.
Some thoughts come straight from way deep down inside you. Have you ever had a sudden realisation of what you should or should not do? Have you ever been aware of a powerful notion that seems to have appeared from nowhere? Thoughts, that have no logical connection to anything else you have thought or believed, have, very likely, the unconscious part of the mind as their source. These "thoughts" can be likened to animal instincts whereby one intuitively knows what to do. It turns out that, no matter how "weird" these thoughts are, they always contain the most reliable information. This is because first of all the source of the thought is your own self, and secondly, these thoughts do not get distorted or interfered with during their journey through the subconscious. Their journey time is very short, which allows the delivery of a message almost completely intact. That is why your instinct should be your best friend.
Some thoughts undergo a lot of interactions whilst travelling through the subconscious. Here, the thought gets measured up against the root belief-systems of your being. For instance, a thought that starts its life as "I would love to travel" may come across a belief-system which holds that "It is dangerous to travel because of terrorists", and eventually reaches your consciousness as "I could go to Cornwall".
It is also at this stage that each thought will be labelled according to the filters it passes through. The filters are the things you firmly believe in, and these will almost literally "colour" your world. What you hate, fear, despise, crave, embrace, reject, know, and so forth will inject the power into the thought. The thought is no longer neutral. It now has an inner strength, so it can be used in the way your consciousness needs to. It becomes charged and will therefore be able to interact with other thoughts in the consciousness. A neutral thought has no directing impact in the consciousness as it will just be, not inviting any response from its environment. Later, we will explain how one can have neutral thoughts and their benefits.
Now the thought can be expressed. The way it is expressed, will carry the label and the power the thought has collected on its journey. If the thought is expressed in words, the words chosen and the sounds made will carefully reflect not only the thought but also the kind of filters it has passed through in the subconsciousness. Equally, one will be able to recognise those assets in every deed that expresses a thought. The filter may even have attached other thoughts to the trigger-thought in order to clarify its power and position. Here, we can see that whenever we have a thought that brings us into a certain state, maybe anger, frustration, a sense of failure, it is immediately followed by a number of "standard" thoughts to strengthen its position. "Well, he was asking for that one!" or "You always do that!" or "Well, what do you expect when you ....!", are all examples of this.
Once the thought has reached the conscious level it has a direct impact. Here, it interacts with other consciousness, altering the existing equilibrium. As it discharges its power, it creates a response, a reaction. This altered state is picked up by our senses and fed back into the upper layers of the subconscious where it interacts with other thoughts and the filters that are in place, producing further thoughts. Every single thought has to come from, at least, the upper layers of the subconsciousness, even if it is a logical response to a prior thought, because every thought will be screened and processed, so it can be charged appropriately. Even a reflex action originates from the subconscious, as that is where the evaluation of the impending outcome is done, and the appropriate "action-bubble" is subsequently released into the consciousness.
Logic is only a string of thoughts selected by a certain filter making it easier to predict a certain outcome. What is logical to one person may not be logical to another, as they may be using a different filter. Certainly, cultural differences in "logical" are a result of the different filters used in making a string of thoughts more accessible. So, in a sense, logic is but a simple human convention, and has no value in true experiences other than to restrict them, as it will filter out any experience that cannot be passed as "logical". The non-logical ones will be held back until such time as the filter can be removed.
We link our emotions to our senses. We say someone is emotional, or sensitive. Yet, sometimes emotions go beyond the "reason" of our senses. In other words, we feel much stronger about something, are more emotional than the average person can comprehend.
The emotional basis on which our life is built has been laid down in the unconsciousness and developed in the subconsciousness. We have almost extreme feelings about certain situations because they are part of our fundamental belief-system. These are the remnants of previous unfinished experiences we had in prior lives and are now here to be tested, experienced and concluded. Examples are found everywhere: all stereotyping such as extreme racial hatred, extreme compassion even for the fate of fictional characters (like soap characters), all phobias. All these are now filters within the subconscious which "colour" any bubble that floats through it from the unconscious.
Equally, the feedback loop from the conscious level via our senses drops information back into the subconsciousness and this will be screened by the same filters. The senses project feelings and emotions from the subconsciousness into our consciousness, and pick up the effect of the interaction of those emotions within the sphere of the consciousness to feed this information back into the subconscious. So, our senses put out what you already feel, thereby changing the environment in the consciousness and then experiencing this change as a "reason", an explanation, for the original emotion.
This explains why, when you are in a bad mood, things will go wrong, so that you have a reason to feel bad. Very often people will say "And I hadn't said anything", but they ignore the fact that their feelings are well known to their environment long before the environment changed to hand them a "logical" reason for those feelings. Words are not needed to communicate. As a matter of fact, words are the most restricted form of communication available in Nature.
In plain terms, emotions come from below the level of consciousness, are then manifested in our consciousness and then recognised by our senses as an emotional response inside our conscious world. The sense organs sense our experiences as if they were out there, when in reality they are projected out from the subconsciousness. When they rebound off the outside reality, these experiences are then recaptured and fed back into the system. It works just as an ordinary radar system. In order for us to "see" something, we have to put a set of vibrational frequencies out there, which can then be "read" to show us what is there. This way, one can only "see" the things that show up under those particular frequencies.
This also means that emotions are very individual. Not everybody feels the same thing, or is moved in the same way by an experience. Different circumstances also make for different experiences and therefore different feelings. Don't blame someone else for not feeling angry just because you feel very angry!
A further consequence is that, if you really wanted to, you could change the way you feel about something. If you no longer want to feel hurt, you could stop projecting a sense of victimisation. If someone insults you, you can choose not to feel insulted. If you so desire, you can feel elated when being insulted. If you are fed up with feeling angry about something, then simply stop it, and change it to feeling happy about it. Sounds crazy? Maybe, but when you try it, and with a bit of practice, it turns out anybody can do it. And guess what, it feels so much better being in control of your emotions then being dragged around by them.
All manner of experiences, from extreme happiness to the darkest depression, from a sense of invincible power to pain and mental lethargy, all are chosen by the individual and can be changed by the individual. There is no having to. Nothing is impossible and everything is possible.
You are already feeling ticklish when someone indicates his/her intention to tickle you. You "know" it's going to tickle, because your nerve endings are already being tickled. Once the physical tickling starts, you experience what was already there, the tickling feeling.
Scientific research has now established that the world we see is a combination of projection and recording. How often have you been searching for something that you finally found where you actually had been looking, but you just couldn't "see" it? When we are confronted with a chair, we only see it as a chair because we project onto the object an image of a chair. When seeing something for the first time, one has to "examine" it close-up, turn it over, feeling it (babies and toddlers use their mouths), smell it, in order to get a picture as complete as possible. This will serve as a template for later encounters and allow us to "recognise" what we see by completing the reduced picture one gets from a single viewpoint. You never see the full chair from where you are looking at it, yet you "know" you are looking at a chair. By sending these pictures out into the consciousness and scanning the return we find a match we can identify and therefore "see".
We recognise something we haven't seen before as something new, because it doesn't quite fit any of the templates we have thrown at it. We don't know what to make of it, what it does, how it moves, what's up or down, until we can match it more closely to information we already have. So, left to our own devices, we can only see it as we, individually, see it.
Changing circumstances will change what we see, hear or experience. In the semi-dark a stick on our path may look to us like a snake, and we may even see some movement. It's only a "proper" look that will change our mind. This "proper" look is no more than the brain, and more precisely its logical part, overriding the image and telling you that it would be very unlikely for you to encounter a snake in the middle of Hyde Park in London.
The same principle of projection is at work when we find that witness' accounts of certain events vary greatly in their description. They all have witnessed the same event, but "seen" different things!
If one has lost or never had the capacity of projecting these pictures into the consciousness, there can never be sight. If the scanning device, the eyes, has a defect, one will have a distorted "view". People with long-standing eyesight problems are very restricted in an eye test, but seem to "see" an awful lot more in their normal environment. This is because the pictures they project into their consciousness are easier to match with their reality and therefore they can actually read the time on their watch, or find everything in the house, including their glasses.
A similar truth we find in hearing, smelling, touching, tasting, and the "sixth" sense. Is your scanning device tuned in to pick up the return messages from your sixth sense? Don't we say that people who are hard of hearing have "selective" hearing, that they hear what they want to hear? This is only possible if the hearing is dependent upon the range of hearing frequencies that are being sent out to scan the ether.
Two short intermezzos.
- In psychology, projection is recognised in its extreme as a deviant form of behaviour. Here, the individual "projects" his/her wishes, fears, anger, etc. onto other people as if it were theirs. To the individual it then appears as if those other people have those feelings, make those decisions, think those things. The clinical picture that emerges is one of paranoia, although every individual story is a very plausible one. However, the individual is incapable of recognising the difference between his/her projection and other people's reality. This situation leads to endless arguments and frustrating counselling sessions as the reality perceived by the "projectionist" differs enormously from the one seen by the "screen".
- The term superconsciousness is used in the literature to indicate a form of consciousness beyond the one we are living in. Little is known about the state of superconsciousness as we are struggling to understand the consciousness level that we experience. However, in our visual picture it would be represented by the outer layers of the "atmosphere" (consciousness) moving into "space" (superconsciousness). There is no limit to how far this reaches and therefore the model is still open to further detailed developments. One direct effect from this model is that each individual, each "mind", is the centre of the universe, as from the core of one's being the universe stretches out into infinity.
The aim of meditation is to calm the mind. As we are able to calm the ocean surface, there will be less uncoordinated activity, "waves" will be smaller, and therefore a certain sense of calmness and peace will reign. How does one achieve that?
The fact that one can only have one thought at the time is used as an important tool in our effort to calm the mind. By concentrating on one item, and one item only, the ocean storms burn themselves out. In this kind of meditation one is asked to keep staring at a particular item (a burning candle), or to keep a particular picture in mind (a sunny beach), or to keep concentrating on one thing (the breathing). When we find that we have allowed the mind to wander off in pursuit of another "thought", we just keep bringing it back to the single one we are using. By persisting in doing so, the mind will slowly stop wandering off, as there is no point, as one is not taking any notice anyway. The stormy sea slowly becomes a pond.
The next step would then be to let go of the one thought that one is holding, or the one thing that one is concentrating on. By doing this the mind will become totally void of any thought. I know this is difficult to imagine, but with our understanding of how the mind works you have to admit that in principle this should be possible. If it is possible then, with practice, it can be achieved! A completely blank mind with no "bubbles" reaching the surface!
Why do these methods works?
When a thought reaches the bottom level of consciousness and is released into one's consciousness, it is also picked up by the sense organs. This way it interferes with the values and scans from the sense organs. The result of this interference is sent back into the subconsciousness, where it reacts with other thoughts and is brought back to the surface, all the time charging the messages with powerful emotions and labels. This chain reaction is responsible for the conversations with the self. This is how one holds whole conversations with oneself, by "following-up" each thought. As a result the surface between the consciousness and subconsciousness will be very "busy". A lot of disturbances here will be responsible for a turbulent mind.
Consequently, when one doesn't follow a thought coming into one's consciousness, the waters will calm down as there is no fall back from the interference of the sense organs. A "follow-up" of a thought means that one evaluates the thought, and its consequences. In real terms, one measures the thought against standards which are used by the senses to keep life on the tracks of the belief-system in which one is operating. Not following the thought will allow the "bubble" to float up, just like a balloon in the sky, and disintegrate without leaving any trace, as it has no charge. A "neutral" thought does not affect you and thereforedisintegrates. After some time of not following any of the thoughts one has, the subconsciousness ceases to float thought-balloons into the consciousness as it "knows" this to be a waste of time.
This system of not-following up a thought can easily be used without special set-up or arrangements for a meditation session. It works the same way as "not taking the bait" avoids an argument. Not taking the thought avoids a riposte from the sense organs. The result is that, instead of getting drawn into a senseless self-conversation spun around just one thought, with a whole load more stuck in the subconsciousness waiting for an opportunity to be released, building up the pressure, more and more independent thoughts will be released into the consciousness. Letting go of each one of them will clear the subconscious pressure and allow the surface to become much calmer. So, at any given time, in any given circumstance, one can "meditate". It just means that one does not respond to a single thought, that one has no conversation with the self, and that one does not even "follow" anything anybody else says or does. By leaving everything alone, one starts to live a life of meditation.
A further consequence of a "clear" mind is that more thoughts can come to the surface, which have their origin in the deeper regions of the subconsciousness. It is these thoughts that hold more of the real Self values, as they are less coloured or influenced by the interference of the sense organs. It is this way that one just knows that something is right, or what the right thing to do is. Intuition is directly linked to the core knowledge of the self. In other words, the content of the intuition bubble has originated in or very close to the unconscious level of our being, the seat of the real You. A clear mind makes one a wiser person.
The simple model of consciousness, that we have described here as an ocean (sub-consciousness) with an atmosphere above it (consciousness) and a seabed below it (un-consciousness), gives us a picture as to how the consciousness works. It explains all the intricacies, some of which we have mentioned and others you will experience yourself when using this system to clarify reality.
Equally, it has provided us with a more precise and accurate description of the function of the sense organs, which form an integral part of what reality means to us. Gaining a greater awareness of their function will help you to understand and use the senses in a more constructive way to shape your reality.
Furthermore, we have pointed out how simple it is to stop one's mind running away with oneself. Gaining control over the stormy seas of the mind will not only make your day to day life easier, but it will automatically put you in more direct contact with your intuition. This is where the real long-term value of understanding the mind a bit better lies, as intuition is providing us with the best possible natural prevention method against illness and disaster.
As the centre of the Universe, one is responsible for creating one's universe. It will be up to you whether yours is going to be a stormy or a calm one.