Extract from Chapter One of A Radical Ecology by Godfrey Devereux
A human ecology must take into account not only body and mind, but also spirit, or Consciousness. It must recognise the nature of the boundary-less relationships between these three dimensions of human nature. It can be arrived at not by intellectual analysis, but through exploring the roots of human experience. Only then will it have any direct meaning and value. When we examine our own experience we find that it depends on three interlinked faculties. These are the ability to feel, the ability to act and the ability to think. The ability to feel expresses itself most obviously in our senses. The ability to act expresses itself through our muscles. The ability to think expresses itself in and as our mind. This trinity is not one of three faculties equal in significance, nature and relationship. Far from it.
When you were born you did not, could not, think. When you were born you could hardly act at all. What you were doing all the time that you were awake was feeling, seeing, hearing, smelling and tasting. Seeing, hearing, smelling and tasting can be seen as specialised expressions of your ability to feel. Your ability to feel is fundamental to your life, to your experience. As it provided you with information about the world through your tongue, nostrils, ears, eyes and muscles you became able first to move and act, then to speak and think. There is no such thing as a subconscious or unconscious feeling. Whereas subconscious and unconscious actions and thoughts are occurring all the time.
Feeling, hearing, smelling, tasting, seeing something is always a conscious event. When you feel something body and mind are 'coming together’ in the presence of awareness. The sensations being generated by your body are being interpreted by your mind, and revealed by and in awareness. Human experience takes place through this trinity of mind, body and awareness. Sometimes you feel something in your body. Sometimes you are lost in the storytelling of your mind. Whatever you experience, body, mind or both, you experience within the presence of awareness. Awareness is not an expression of your body, nor your mind. It is an expression of Consciousness. The ability to think is an expression of the cognitive intelligence of your mind. The ability to act is an expression of the somatic intelligence of your body. The ability to feel is an expression of the spiritual intelligence of Consciousness. The ability to feel is your greatest resource, that underpins both your ability to act and your ability to think.
Consciousness is the root of human experience. Consciousness is also the core of human nature. It is the source and substance of your spirituality. The longing for certainty, for eternity that generates the Religious Impulse is the muffled voice of Consciousness echoing from your heart. In ignorance of the relationship between Consciousness and your ability to feel, see, hear, taste and smell this echo fulfils itself divisively in the mutually exclusive and magical stories of transcendental religions. These stories take their power from this muffled echo. They speak in their own speculative ways of a truth so deep and so certain that it is beyond the scope of mind to arrive at unaided. It needs the help of your body. It is in becoming intimate with your body that you can most easily discover the Intelligent Presence of Consciousness as the deep core of your being. In doing so you are experiencing your spiritual nature. When you become familiar with the spiritual dimension of your nature you will not need any myths about human nature. You will know that you are a biological being. You will know that you are a spiritual being. You will know the biological and spiritual to be the two faces of your singular nature, two expressions of Consciousness.
Intimate experience of the core of human nature spawns a Radical Ecology.
The spiritual core of human nature has not been fully explored. Nevertheless its presence and significance permeates every aspect of our lives. This is not only because there is no experience without awareness. It is also, though more subtly, because of other expressions or properties of Consciousness. Consciousness has two kinds of expressions or intelligence. Its functional intelligence is how it participates in our experience and lives. This participation functions through the presence of awareness. Its structural intelligence is in the qualities through which its presence can be directly experienced. There is of course much more to intelligence than human intelligence. Just as there is much more to human intelligence than the cognitive intelligence of mind.
Awareness is the functional expression of the intelligence of Consciousness. It participates in, and shapes, our lives in two ways. The most obvious can be called ‘conscious awareness’. This is synonymous with the way that word consciousness is normally used. In this everyday use it refers to the immediate experience of your conscious mind. You are not aware of everything that you do. You often scratch an itch without noticing. You do many things out of such deep habit that you do not need to be aware of what you do. You are also not aware of every thing you think. Most people believe that they do not carry gender, ageist, ableist, class or racial prejudice. Yet their behaviour and vocabulary speak of unconscious assumptions to the contrary. We are not really who we believe or think ourselves to be. In fact, most of our memories, beliefs, assumptions, fears and hopes function below the threshold of consciousness.
We are not usually aware of the deep roots of mind, of our thoughts and judgements. Nor are we ever aware of most of the activity of our body: not even of our muscular activity. We do not feel muscle fibres contracting. We feel only some of their effects. Nevertheless our senses do provide us with a second frequency of awareness: ‘subconscious awareness’. Our sensory-motor nervous system provides the link between subconscious awareness and conscious awareness. So it is that when we are asleep we lose touch with the world around us. Yet even though we no longer notice anything about the world, it still affects us. If an earthquake takes place near you its vibrations will wake you up. As you are woken by subconscious awareness functioning through your nervous system your conscious awareness kicks in. You realise that unusual and threatening vibrations, motions and sounds are happening. You realise that you are in an earthquake. Then you act accordingly.
Both subconscious awareness and conscious awareness are expressions of the intelligence of Consciousness.
As subconscious awareness transforms into conscious awareness experience becomes possible. We feel, do and think things that we know we are thinking, doing, feeling. Yet at the same time our senses are providing our nervous system with continuous stimulations. The excitations generated in your sensory nerves become ‘information’ in the brain. This subconscious information shapes your behaviour and your thoughts. Your senses are the instruments of awareness. They absorb indiscriminately. Their input is then evaluated and filtered so that the conscious awareness of immediate experience is not overwhelmed and you are able to act. In order to act, in order to experience something, this filtering must take place. The inclusivity of subconscious awareness becomes the filtered illumination of conscious awareness. The illuminative power of conscious awareness reveals whatever you experience. Without it you would be an automaton, a robotic zombie. Instead you are a conscious being oscillating in the rhythms of pleasure and pain, happiness and sorrow, hope and despair. All of these oscillations that constitute the texture and flavour of your life take place through the functional intelligence of Consciousness.