The Scientific “I”

From As “I” See It by John Hargreaves Man does not suffer from conditions but rather from the view he takes of them.

Epictetus

Open thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.

Psalms

The one thing of which anyone can be certain is that I AM. It is possible to doubt everything that pertains to an external universe — everything that comes to our cognition through the testimony of the five physical senses, and everything that relates to another, be it he, she, or they. But, having discarded everything that might be termed an unreliable witness to what is really going on, we are still left with a central conviction which, so far as we are concerned, is beyond question, namely, that I AM. Stronger than the intellectual statement of Descartes, “I think, therefore I AM,” is the certainty that “because I am conscious, I AM.” We are going to develop the theme that consciousness, not matter, is the underlying essence of reality, so that knowing and being are found to be one. In a certain sense, we are our experience, and this leads us to the profound statement by Shakespeare, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Consciousness, as a term, means more than just thinking, because it is not confined to the testimony of the physical senses, nor is it just the activity of a human mind. As we shall find later, this consciousness, or spiritual awareness, is ultimately good, and not a mixture of good and evil. Everything Comes to Us at the Point of Consciousness While we do not doubt that I AM, we can and do still ask, What am I? If we think about it, when we say “I” we are really referring to our capacity to be aware, to be conscious. Statements such as I know, I hear, or I see, relate to this capacity. It is an entirely mental capacity, because everything comes to us at the point of consciousness. It may be a newscast, the behaviour of another person, a bank statement, or a physical diagnosis, but it is at the point of consciousness that it is received. Were this not so, we should not be aware of it. Only when we become conscious or aware of something can we then identify with it by prefixing the capacity to be aware with the pronoun “I.” This means that we deal with everything that comes to us “here” as consciousness, and not “over there” as the phenomenon it appears to be. Mud and Stars The reception of all the information that comes to us is, in turn, conditioned by many factors. Two people can receive the same information and “see” or “understand” it in different ways. As the couplet puts it: “Two men look out through the same bars; One sees the mud, and one the stars.” The reason for this is that the capacity to be aware will be influenced by factors such as heredity, upbringing, nationality, education, experience, and so on. These factors form a mental framework through which what comes to us is filtered, and by which it is coloured. They determine not just what we see, but how we see it. Indeed, what “I” see will not only differ from what another may see; it will almost certainly differ from what I used to see, or will see in the future, because the mental reception station will have been amended by further experience. A Chicken Run A few years ago, Professor Wilson, a member of the faculty of London University, wrote a paper about the experience of a team of people who went to a remote African village to try to teach the natives about a new method of sanitation. They showed the villagers a film and at the end asked them what they remembered of it. All of them could remember one thing, namely, that a chicken had run across the road at one point. Within their framework of perception, the chicken had some significance, whereas the film of the new sanitary system was so outside their experience that it did not register with them. On the other hand, the people who showed the film noticed the chicken only after the second run. The two frameworks of experience determined what was seen. Because the capacity to know reflects a mental framework, within which the knowing takes place, it means that, when we say “I,” we are really referring to what we accept as mentality, or mind. What I humanly know about myself — my birth, background, schooling, friends, circumstances, successes, failures, hopes and disappointments, good and bad — constitutes what I call my mind, and so to me is what I am. And, of course, my assessment of my fellowman by these same yardsticks constitutes what I see to be his or her identity. So, too, will be my assessment of events and of all that is going on around me. In every case, my assessments will be included in what I am accepting as mind, or mentality, and so in what I am. It is not really personal, however much it appears to be that way, but is the universal picture of a material life parading as “my” heredity, “my” experience, circumstances, and so on. It is this that appears to determine the mud and stars of our experience. Now, so long as this I, or ego, refers to a human mind, a particular version of the personal and physical framework of perception — experience will be seen to take on the character and nature of this mind. The mental lens through which everything is perceived or interpreted determines how we see it. We can find an analogy in a movie. The screen is clean and white, but the projections upon this screen may be good or bad, beautiful or ugly. These projections are inherent in the lens and do not belong to the screen. No amount of tampering with the screen can alter the phenomena projected upon it. The Inadequacy of the Human Mind The human mind, or lens, is an inadequate projector. Its nature is duality, and so everything seen through it polarizes as good and evil, life and death, hope and disappointment, and all the mingling of opposites that appears to make up human existence. But these pairs of opposites are not on the screen of experience. They are inherent in the human mind, or ego. Another characteristic of existence seen through this lens — that is, of life as a mortal ego — is that awareness from this standpoint is always partial. St. Paul referred to this view of things as “Now I know in part”6 and, of course, knowing in part, or as a particle of existence, presupposes two things. The first is that there will be many other parts, or particle egos, on which we are dependent, or to which we are related, which may or may not be thinking in the same way. Hence the scenario of wars, disputes, competition, distrust, and all the mental penury of daily existence. The good seems capricious, and a portion of good, a fair share, and a place in the sun, is the most that mortals can seem to hope for. The second effect of “particle” awareness is that, although everything reaches one at the point of consciousness, the universe still appears to remain objective, solidly material, and so outside what we are knowing about it. Thus, any hope of exercising dominion over circumstances seems slight. The human substitute for this dominion is the attempt either to dominate or retreat from an external world. Thus arise the problems that have always faced religion and philosophy, namely, how to reconcile the mental, or spiritual, with the physical, or material. The unsatisfactory nature of particle experience is well summarized in a statement by the American physicist, Professor David Bohm, “We cannot, in the end, do anything but destroy if we have a fragmentary approach.” This destruction is inevitable, because it reduces that which is essentially whole to bits. The attempt to find an explanation for an apparently external universe from the standpoint of a human personality, or ego, must prove abortive. The human mind, which depends on the five physical senses, cannot be the means for reaching and discovering something higher than itself. The human personality — what we might term a “small i” perception — can no more transcend its own limitations than a fountain can rise higher than its source. But what if this human mind, so- called, is not really anything in itself, but just terminology for that which obscures and limits a higher selfhood and awareness? Aldous Huxley, in his book, “The Doors of Perception,” makes a remarkable assertion that each of us is really “Mind-at-Large,” and the word “Mind” is spelt with a capital “M”. He continues by explaining that what appears as a personal, human mind is not something in its own right, but is simply a kind of filter mechanism that allows only that information to pass through which is of immediate application to personal experience. In other words, this so-called human mind is a term for limitation, and nothing else. It presents a false, limited view of things, whilst not making anything other than what it already is. It follows that, only by removing this filter mechanism, can the view be enhanced and the reality seen. This is what is meant by dealing with everything in and as consciousness. The lens, or mentality, is all- important. It should be noted, however, that Mind-at- Large is no more touched by the limitation or filter than the sunlight is touched by the window pane through which it passes. Evidence of Limitation The human mind cannot transcend the limitations of its own nature. It will always be circumscribed by the tools on which it depends for information, namely, the five senses. We can see the evidence of this in three modes of thought, namely, science, theology, and medicine. In each case, research is impelled by an assumption of some universal reality but suffers from the limitations of the five physical senses as vehicles of perception. The search for a new view is hampered by the lens at the viewpoint. No one would wish to deride the deep insights that have been obtained in these fields, nor ignore the devotion to God expressed by many of their finest thinkers. But, wherever truth breaks through, it has to be an ultimate reality appearing which is not wholly hidden by the opacity of an inadequate lens, and not the product of a human mind glimpsing it. Truth itself cannot be imprisoned within the limitations of a mortal “i” or ego. In the research of the physical sciences, it is clear that there is no finality in the work. Each new discovery, far from offering a final answer, turns out to be a false crest — a basis from which a new assumption can be made. But there is always some unknown, some hypothesis, a “factor x,” in this assumption without which the research cannot go forward. In short, however stupendous the goal, the basic tool for research remains the human mind. At no point can the lesser embrace the greater. Only by the fading out of a limited sense, or human mind, could that which is already included in Mind-at-Large, or what we now might begin to call the universal, or divine, Mind, be apparent. This is why we have to deal with everything, not by trying to manipulate what is perceived through the human “mind” but by removing the lens. In theology and religion the search is for ultimate Truth, or God, but the approach which assumes a little mortal trying to understand a big God has been found wanting. Because the tool for this attempt to understand Truth again remains the human mind, it cannot interpret correctly. God, or Truth, or that which IS, inevitably remains the great unknown, and the theological approach is increasingly rejected without too much appearing in its place to fill the vacuum. Prayer no longer seems to work, yet people want to feel and live by their beliefs, as witnessed by the growth of evangelized religion. This offers feeling as opposed to the intellectualizing of much mainline religion. Without the capacity to “feel” their faith, the essential ingredient is missing. Consequently, for all the glitz of material promises, existence for many remains hollow in the centre. Third, in medicine, the attempt to change or improve phenomena must, to return to the analogy of the movie, be tantamount to concentrating on the screen, rather than the lens of the projector. Despite the work of dedicated men and women, the sum total of dis-ease in the world has not really lessened. Some problems are eliminated, but others appear. Indeed, some diseases which were thought to be eradicated, are reappearing, strengthened against the very medicines that were thought to have destroyed them. There is not a physical answer to apparently physical problems. Even when the search is turned back to the mind, as it is increasingly, the focus is on mental disorder and psychosomatic diseases. It is still the human mind, with this mind’s duality, that occupies attention. Its inherent ambivalence remains, and so ultimate healing tends to stay out of reach. It is a sign of the physical interpretation of everything yielding, but not more. Needs Yield to Solutions The failure of the human mind to rise above its limitations is seen now in the understandable and legitimate desire of so many people to find new methods to rise above their circumstances. This may appear in many forms. Meditation, self-realization, and other mainly Eastern techniques reflect the search for a higher self. The cult of personality, often in the most aggressive form but also in the many advertisements that offer ways to increase the effectiveness of the human personality, reflects the same desire to find and be something other than the thwarted and humdrum. A current magazine, for example, advertises books to “improve your self-image,” “boost your belief in yourself,” “act more effectively,” “transform the way you talk to yourself,” and “reclaim your inner happiness.” The prevalence of drugs still points to the same desire for an enhanced experience, even though the method of achieving it is self-defeating and suicidal. In none of these cases, however, is the tool through which this betterment is expected to take place other than the human mind. Yet the comfort behind all this is that, for all the frustration involved in any human approach to a final answer, the fact that people even seek such a thing implies an instinctive sense that it is actually present. It would be impossible to be aware of something, even though apparently remote, if it were not part of consciousness. As so often in history, the acute awareness of a need brings forth its solution. The initiative for discovery is always the fact that the truth already exists, and so is a necessity. It breaks through the mists of ignorance that, like the morning mist hiding the sun, cannot forever obscure it. Moreover, at no point in what appears as a process of enlightenment, is there ever a vacuum. The appearing of the sun is in exact ratio to the disappearance of the mist. The constantly clearer views of everlasting facts never leave a void in experience. While the frustration of the human search stems from the fact that the fountain cannot rise higher than its source or, more starkly, nothing cannot become something, the goal remains a possibility. The need to realize this possibility has never been greater, and its achievement becomes practical as we begin to ask, not what are we seeing, buthow do we see? Then the search is along the right lines. Interpretation from Principle Perhaps the key to answering the question lies in a statement from Science of Health: “The divine Principle of the universe must interpret the universe.”7 Throughout history, the attempt has been made to interpret the universe from some standpoint outside the infinite — a standpoint of perception that is itself a contradiction in terms. We have already touched on the futility of such an attempt. But now this statement is saying that all correct interpretation has to be from the standpoint of Principle, or first cause, and not from effect or from the testimony of the physical senses. The stupendous vision of Moses, for example, glimpsed the underlying essence of being in the recognition that the name, or nature, of God was I AM THAT I AM or, to paraphrase, perhaps one could say, “Truth is that which is.” But Moses — a state of thought as much as a historical figure — did not entirely relinquish his belief that Truth somehow needed a human partner. He knew God, or Truth, to be a presence that would be with him and teach him what to say, but this very retention of a human sense of things that had to be accompanied and taught, kept a belief in duality. Thus, the Promised Land, which might be termed that spiritual state where, as Jesus put it, “I and my Father are one,” was withheld from his experience. And it is still withheld from the Moses thought of today. The teachings of Christ Jesus that man is one with God and that “the kingdom of God is within you”8 — within the correct interpretation of being — were not understood by his followers. Indeed, he said that the time for this understanding could not come until the Spirit of Truth, rather than a personal Messiah, would teach all things.9The result was that the Christian churches have tended to follow in the footsteps of Moses, anticipating a Promised Land, or Kingdom of Heaven, that could be reached only after a desert march of forty years. The Scientific Method of Proof It is against this background that we can see the importance of interpreting the universe from the standpoint of its Principle, or first cause. In fact, this is the only way to understand any science. You start with its principle, and an understanding of this principle and the laws which express it shows up both what is true and what is not. By starting in any science with the premise, and staying with it, all that is true proves itself, whereas that which is not true disproves itself. This is important, if we are not to be swayed by the conflict between the testimony of the senses and the premise that we have decided is true. For example, we may say that God is Love. Then the physical testimony says, but children get hurt. So, do we abandon our premise, or do we let a new understanding of the principle of infinite Love reframe our perception of hurt children? In other words, do we stay with the principle and give it the same respect, or greater, that we have previously afforded its opposite, no matter what the physical evidence to the contrary may appear to be? To abide by the principle is important in any science, and how much more must this approach apply in the case of Divine, or Spiritual, Science, which defines the Principle, laws, and constituency of the entire universe in spiritual, instead of material, terms. This is a subject to which we shall return frequently in the course of this book. Divine Science is the Science of being: the understanding of what is already spiritually true and its accompanying practice. It is not the science of becoming, nor is it a philosophy without accompanying demonstration. It is at this point that we can see the relevance of the first part of this chapter, which concentrated on the mind that we were accepting as our capacity to know. Consciousness is always in the present, and what might be termed either the Moses, or the Christian, or Principle’s own standpoint of interpretation refers to present, not past, states of thought. The inherent limitation and duality of a human mind, so-called, is seen to be an inadequate tool, or lens, with which to perceive Truth. The implication of this is that its only usefulness lies in its fading out of the way. If this mind is just terminology for that which limits and obscures, then the less of it the better. It is not something that can understand more and more, but rather a term for ignorance that, in the presence of understanding, becomes less and less. This understanding constitutes the scientific I, or eye.