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Does Consciousness Depend on Matter?
Jack: Dear James, I have read Essence of Existence* twice, keep it in my backpack and read a bit every day, revisiting topics.
There are two topics the logic of which escapes me:
1. The assertion of existence before birth and after death.
2. That awareness is not an emergent process from physical processes.
The book is certainly the clearest work on awareness/enlightenment I’ve ever read, and significantly better, in my humble opinion, than your prior book How to Attain Enlightenment.
~ Best regards, Jack
(*Editor’s note: Jack must mean The Essence of Enlightenment: Vedanta, the Science of Consciousness.)
James: Dear Jack, lovely to hear from you. Let’s see if I can help you with this problem.
From the point of an individual there is no way you can know experientially. You can take the scripture’s word for it, if you like, but it is not necessary. The fact is that here and now you are either happy or not, and one way to solve the happiness issue is to inquire into who you really are. When you crack the code you will see that consciousness is your nature and that it is free of the body and the world.
However, consider this: existence has to have existed before you are born or you could not have been born. Do you think you just, poof!, materialized out of nothing? This is the problem modern material science is faced with. You cannot get something out of nothing. You may think consciousness is nothing, but this is because you are relying on perception and inference, means of knowledge that are inadequate for the knowledge of consciousness, because consciousness cannot be objectified. If you don’t know that you are consciousness you will think you are the body and you will be limited by your instruments of knowledge.
And think of this: When you were born, weren’t there already conscious beings in existence? How did they get here? They didn’t will themselves here. Furthermore, when your body dies, does the consciousness in all living beings cease to exist? Obviously, it doesn’t. Even before the appearance of human beings on the earth there was consciousness aplenty. Think of the billions of bacteria, nematodes and the like, that make up earth’s biomass. Eighty percent of life on this planet is microbial. They just hitch a ride on various bodies and continue on in the earth when the body dies. Or consider the fact that the solar system operates according to immutable laws. If there was not some intelligence to create, sustain and destroy it, how could it function? You would not get out of bed in the morning, because you could not count on your karma to be continuous from one day to the next. Why don’t people wake up in somebody else’s lives in the morning? Why does the psyche behave according to immutable laws? Why are there universal, impersonal, eternal values?
Even if you believe that consciousness is an emergent physical process based on material forces, what set those forces into play in the first place? Matter and consciousness with reference to time is like the chicken and the egg. Which came first? You can’t have a chicken without an egg, and you can’t have an egg without a chicken. Of course the metaphor breaks down when you understand the fact that consciousness doesn’t die when the body dies. This fact is what we call liberation, freedom from mortality. But the materialist way of thinking – which is where your thinking is coming from – does not account for the fact that you can’t be alive without consciousness and you can’t have consciousness unless you are alive. This statement is only true of reflected consciousness, the individual conscious beings. It does not hold up when you consider the original consciousness that is reflected in the mirror of matter.
You are not aware of difference between limitless original consciousness and reflected consciousness, conscious beings, or jivas. They are one, but they are not identical. One is subject to change and the other isn’t. I suggest that you get my book Inquiry into Existence: The Lamp of Knowledge. All the logic is laid out in it; there is no way that you can’t accept it if you are a rational person. It is available in digital form and as a paperback. Here is the link: Books: Inquiry into Existence.
Please read it and if you cannot accept the logic, feel free to write me and tell me why. I may be able to explain it to your satisfaction.
~ Love, James
P.S. If you are interested in less weighty topics, like love, check out this video on non-dual relationships: Video, Non-Dual Relationships.