One way or another, each spiritual seeker has the goal to change his being and deliver on his potential, which is present in each human being. Through this search, a seeker must transcend his animal nature and discover the part within him that has its roots and source in the Divine. This part of a human being has been given different names in different traditions, with “soul” being one of them. I call this supreme part of human nature “consciousness.”
For the sake of simplicity, we will consider human beings as having the following levels of existence: the first and lowest level being the physical body, the second level being emotions, and the third level being the mind. The fourth supreme level in this system is consciousness. The upper levels subdue the lower ones. Thus, the physical body is rigidly subordinated to the emotions, whereas the emotions are subordinated to the mind and its desires. Consciousness remains separate in this chain of command, as humans in a normal state of mind do not sense its manifestations.
Each of us is more or less familiar with his or her own body, emotions, and mind and their respective functions. The role and function of consciousness as a separate power embedded in human beings are a different story. Experience shows that most people understand consciousness and awareness as the ability to intentionally and effortlessly think about a topic and, at the same time, retain a clear perception of the world around them. That is, a person’s feelings and state of mind are calm and balanced, he easily maintains focus, and his perception stays clear of any emotional blurring. In other words, by saying “I am conscious,” people mean that they can focus and clearly perceive their surroundings. The state of clear consciousness is understood as the ability to exert complete self-control, while the opposite would be psychosis or an affective state. For example, if one can say when asked what day it is today, then that person is obviously aware of what is going on. Following this logic, consciousness is a derivative of the mind, and the mind’s activity is a result of electrochemical processes in the human brain.
Comment. The question always arises as to how the brain’s functions relate to the mind. It is a well-known fact that a partial excision of the brain’s frontal lobe results in a compromised thinking ability and damages the mind. Based on this evidence, it is easy to come to the conclusion that the mind is nothing but the product of the brain’s functions. But this is not as simple as it may seem. The human brain acts as a control center over all systems in the physical body, responding to external stimuli through nascent excitatory and inhibitory signaling. However, these responses are secondary effects, that is, they do not emerge in the brain per se. They appear in the mind, and the brain, as the organ linking the physical body to the body of the mind, responds to the processes occurring in the mind. Excitation in various brain regions is a reflection of reactions happening in the mind, and there is no other explanation. The nervous system is affected in a similar way when emotions are generated in the ethereal body. A person filled with anger develops increased blood pressure, reddening of the face, etc. But anger always comes first, with all of the somatic symptoms arising later. The same can be said about the mind and brain: The mind reacts first and the associated changes in the brain develop next. Thus, if there is any damage to the brain, it can no longer properly function as a conductor, and the interconnection between the brain and the mind becomes impaired. The body of the mind remains intact, but the communication from it to the brain is disrupted. The physical body is the final destination for impulses and energies coming from the body of the mind and the ethereal (emotional) body. Essentially, the physical body is a vehicle for their manifestation in the physical world. All that we accomplish by damaging the physical body is breaking a delicate interplay between the three bodies, but this hardly proves the statement that humans are nothing more than muscles, bones, brains, and other parts visible to the eyes.
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Based on all the above, the mind turns out to be the ultimate level for a person in a normal state of being. It thinks of itself as both the pillar of consciousness and the pinnacle of creation. Created therein is the so-called ego or a personality by means of which humans differentiate themselves from others and shape their “identities.” This explains the confusion around the terminology and understanding of things happening in a person versus things happening with a person: Everyone equates the mind with consciousness. For the same reason, many of those who practice meditation believe that a meditative state is achieved once the mind is calmed down and try to bring it to silence. It never occurs to them that by doing so, they are merely trying to establish some sort of control over their minds.
The nature of consciousness is entirely different from that of the body, mind, and emotions. The nature of consciousness is the eternal Light, the Divine radiance. One can call it the Divine spark or a soul; no matter what name it is given, there is no effect on its eternal essence. The Lord our God, while creating the world from Himself, has granted Consciousness to every living creature. Inanimate nature is not void of a bit of His Consciousness, but there it is concealed even deeper.
Thus, each of us bears an element of Divine consciousness, which, although tiny compared to the Whole, is by far sufficient for us to live in this world. The kind of our consciousness is tantamount to the kind of God’s Consciousness; for us, however, this fact is not obvious because it is disguised by manifestations of our lower-level bodies. With regards to the mind, emotions, and physical body, consciousness has the power similar to the one God has over His creation. However, humans are deprived of this power, because the mind is placed at the center of their being.
Nature programs humans to continue their development up to the age of approximately 21. During this period, the physical body, emotions, and mind are formed and undergo maturation. Once this process is completed, development pauses; and we take this as a natural order of things. The laws of nature, which are, in fact, a static manifestation of His Will, assume that the inbuilt mechanical program brings us up to a certain point, following which we can sustain ourselves and procreate. Once this point is reached, the program stops. Further development requires our consistent, ongoing efforts. Through these efforts, we must transcend the developmental level preset for us by the laws of nature.