Cosmic Sense

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

 

 

Poetry whispers sounds of freedom, transcends rules, turns ideas upside down, builds connections in the dark holes of one’s mind, and waits for the emergence of new ideas on the horizon. The full moon shined so brightly last week as if she was trying to bring clarity into my mind. But I just kept dreaming. “What does it feel like to be an octopus? To be a jellyfish? Does it feel like anything at all? Which were the first animals whose lives felt like something to them?” * Those questions were asked by Peter Godfrey-Smith. What does it feel like to be a chipmunk in a woodland edge garden? I would add. It has just come out of its burrow under the tree stump after it had hibernated the entire winter to climb up the serviceberry. Is it conscious? As a matter of fact, are an octopus and a dolphin conscious? And what does it feel like to be a butterfly or a bat? An invisible frontier separates them from us.  On the branch of the serviceberry rests the playful chipmunk.

 

 

Chipmunk in serviceberry

Chipmunk in serviceberry

 

 

I wish to be as authentic as I can be in the way I proceed. My thoughts seem to run at different levels of a network of highways. Beyond immediate concerns, pragmatic assessments, it’s almost like unconscious thoughts occupy the back of my mind. They do not reveal themselves and work in the background as if they know what they are searching for while, consciously, I am still struggling to arrive at an endgame. In my personal journey, I find it necessary to read and rethink what I wrote in order to pick up where I left and reattach a few broken thoughts. I feel it is important to go back to the original purpose since I clearly stated for myself the goal to reimagine what cosmic consciousness could be.  So let’s put aside the discussion about the nature of reality that touches the science side of the equation and think of this post as a recap on my quest for cosmic consciousness. 

 

Spiderwort

Spiderwort

 

 

By all appearances, the individual consciousness shrouded by emotions and reason projects its own subjectivity on the circumstances, conditions, and objects by which it is surrounded. I can’t help but think that there is something more to the individual consciousness constrained within the confines of a human body. I rather believe that individuality is an illusion. If indeed it is, how can it be dispelled? How can one see beyond the appearance of disunity? Those questions still linger in my head. 

Green-and-gold

Green-and-gold

 

 If consciousness were coextensive with human life and dependent upon the amount of information that circulates within the species, when there is a breakdown in the way that information spreads, it could result in uneven levels of consciousness. That may be the reason why Stefan Wurm alleges that we “just do not have a species consciousness” **and that only a few of us -- comparatively speaking -- consciously picture ourselves as members of the human species. “We have not learned yet to plan as a species,” he adds. 

 

Ninebark

Ninebark

It could be that what really existed in oneself would be found to exist either consciously or in a latent form in other people. For example, when calling others to show care and compassion towards every being and the Earth, if such a call goes unheeded, it may be that a shared connection is lost, buried in the depth of the Unconscious.  If “Consciousness is fundamentally that which reveals or makes manifest”***, it is not that few have a consciousness or even that there are different levels of consciousness but that there are various degrees of receptivity or sensitivity among the species. 

 

Geranium

Geranium

 

 

Reality is full of shadowy objects caught by the individual eye, which may or may not entail the imprint of an original thought.  Human consciousness evolves through the education of senses and the ability to receive and store information.   Our intent to respond to external and internal stimuli drives its evolutionary nature. As time goes by, human consciousness adds more pieces to the puzzle, one encounter at a time. It lifts the veil of the unknown, expands its horizons, moves to a higher vantage point, away from Earth, beyond physical reach, leaps forward away from the Moon, and escapes from the confinement of the solar system to flee from itself. Distances are everything. They provide clear evidence of the Earth-bound nature of human existence

 

Trillium

Trillium

 

In our eagerness to look beyond,  the instruments we use helped to increase exponentially our insignificant extension in space. To the edge of the solar system, Pluto is now closer to its aphelion point about 1.8 billion miles away from its perihelion. With Triton, Neptune’s Moon, it is thought to have originated in the outer protoplanetary nebula. Many objects beyond the dwarf planet, and Pluto itself, share an orbital resonance with Neptune.  I wonder what, if any, alien life forms would swim and leap in ammonia-rich waters under the cold and rigid ice shell. The existence of a subsurface ocean may explain the large and apparently young normal faults and the putative “cryovolcanic” features observed on Pluto’s surface. 

Pluto Majestic Mountains, Frozen Plains and Foggy Hazes (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

Pluto Majestic Mountains, Frozen Plains and Foggy Hazes (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

 

If cosmic consciousness were the overstory that stands above the canopy of the Universe, it would be coextensive with the Universe. Although hindered in its free flow by an army of armors, shells, and layers,  it would fill the Universe. Caught in the canvas of spacetime, it would communicate in an incoherent language, slipping by unnoticed from the first galaxies to black holes, passing through everywhere. The nagging question here is whether human consciousness is just one of the forms that it has taken over time or whether they constantly come upon each other.  

 

Cosmic consciousness is what binds us with the rest of the Universe. It represents the awareness of this interconnectedness of all people and matter existing in the past, present, and future. In a sense, it is a relational concept fed over time by all the different tracks that every object and every being leaves through the Universe, a collective manifestation of an absolute, impersonal consciousness that may well be transcendentally understandable. For a cognitive revolution to happen, there needs to be a collective awareness that there is something transcendental about the human species.

 

After all, it may be that cosmic consciousness is a conscious choice which casual or fateful encounters in one’s life lead us to make, such as the kindred spirits referred to by Elihu Vedder or the flower seed written about by Zen masters. The study of Walt Whitman’s poetry collection Leaves of Grass was the trigger for Edward Carpenter’s awakening. Cosmic consciousness defines a sense of belonging, a sense of responsibility that we share towards the lands we live on, the Earth, and the Universe. That sense of responsibility and the attachment to Earth and the Universe may be hampered by the extent of our own ignorance.

 

 

Initially, if I came to China,  it was to pass on the teaching and save sentient beings like a flower opening its five petals, whose fruit would ripen naturally. (Bodhidharma)

Because initially there was the soil, from the seed of this Earth was born a flower. If, in the beginning, there was no Earth, where would the flower come from? (Huike)

Although the seed of the flower depends on the soil, it was above ground that the flower was born from the seed. If this flower seed was devoid of its productive nature, there would not be birth on this Earth. (Sengcan)

The seed of the flower was endowed with a productive nature. Thanks to the Earth, the flower was born from the seed. If the previous causes had not been harmoniously combined, of all things, none would have been born. (Daoxin)

A sentient being came to sow a seed, then was born an insensitive flower. If the being had been insensitive and devoid of seed, the spiritual land would not have produced anything either. (Hongren)

White Oak

White Oak

 

 *Peter Godfrey-Smith, Other Minds 

**Stefan Wurm, The Human Condition  

***Evan Thompson, Waking, Dreaming, Being

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