California, USA — Wednesday, March 3rd
Consciousness and shadow consciousness
One of my readers sent me this passage from the first chapter of Subjective Evolution of Consciousness where, in a conversation with a neurophysiologist and a physical organic chemist, Srila Sridhar Maharaj says
The soul approaches matter, the material world, but before that, he must pass through a shadowy stage of consciousness called cidabhasa. Consciousness passes through the shadow level of consciousness into matter, non-consciousness. And that shadow stage of consciousness has its personality. It is also conscious, and may be known as "Rahu."
Every material conception presupposes a spiritual conception of that particular thing. The shadow through which consciousness must pass in order to perceive things as material has personality, and in the Bhagavatam, the rishis — the seers of the truth — are addressing it as Rahu. Because they are highly developed, they find the personal aspect of existence everywhere. What we perceive to be dead matter, they perceive to be conscious. Therefore, they always take the personal perspective.
The soul, when going to experience any material conception, will have to pass through a medium which influences his consciousness to see things as material. What is concrete matter is unknown. It is a mere effect of consciousness. As everything material must have some conscious origin, or origin in personal consciousness, there must be a personal conception of the sun, the moon, the Earth, and all the planets. Before we reach the conception of a shadow or any other object, the soul has to pass through a conscious stage. That stage has some spiritual existence as a person. Therefore the Bhagavatam refers to the sun, the moon, and the planet Rahu, as persons. Everything — the Earth, the moon, the stars, the planets — has a personal conception. In the background of what we can perceive with our dull senses, everything that is said to be matter, there must be a personal conception. Without the influence of a personal conception, consciousness cannot reach the stage of gross matter.
and asked me to explain (gulp!) the difference between consciousness and shadow consciousness, and how to perceive material objects.
After deliberating on this complex philosophical subject and Srila Guru Maharaj's rather abstruse explication for a few days, I sent this reply:
The best way that I can think of to answer your questions is to use an analogy that we are both familiar, and have some practical experience, with. Imagine that Srila Guru Maharaj is speaking about computers, computer users, software, and the virtual reality created by a computer programmer who designs a computer game.
But first — some definitions:
a program that controls the functioning of a computer, and directs its operations.
existing or resulting in essence or effect, though not in actual fact, form, or name; existing in the mind, especially as the product of the imagination. [Computer Science] not physically existing as such, but made by software to appear to do so.
a computer simulation of a real or imaginary environment that enables the user to perform operations in the simulated environment and show the effects in real time; the computer-generated simulation of an environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way; an environment that mimics its real equivalent.
the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as decision-making, etc.
Now, read what Srila Guru Maharaj has to say, in light of the above:
The soul [computer user] approaches matter [wants to play a computer game], the material world [on a computer], but before that, he must pass through a shadowy stage of consciousness [the 'artificial intelligence' of the computer program] called cidabhasa [software]. Consciousness [the mind; intelligence] passes through the shadow [artificial] level of consciousness [software] into matter [the computer-game world], non-consciousness [not 'real' consciousness]. And that shadow stage of consciousness [computer software program] has its personality [the peculiarities and idiosyncrasies of the computer programmer]. It is also conscious, and may be known as "Rahu."
Every material conception [virtual element in the computer game] presupposes a spiritual conception of that particular thing [must exist in the programmer's mind]. The shadow [artificial intelligence] through which consciousness [the mind of the game player] must pass in order to perceive things as material [elements of the computer-game world] has personality [represents the thinking of the programmer], and in the Bhagavatam, the rishis — the seers of the truth — are addressing it as Rahu. Because they are highly developed [experienced computer users], they find the personal aspect of existence everywhere [they see the programmer behind the programming]. What we [ordinary, casual game-players] perceive to be dead matter [objects within a game], they perceive to be conscious [they see the thinking and/or objectives of the programmer]. Therefore, they always take the personal perspective [see the programmer, rather than the program].
(If I wrote the program code for a computer game, most users would just see it as another software program, but if you or somebody who knew me personally played the game, they would probably recognize me in, or behind, the programming: "This program must be written by Akinchan Maharaj! Only he would put so many Bugs Bunny references — the hero always says, 'Eh, what's up, doc?' — in an action, shoot-em-up game!" :)
The soul [computer user], when going to experience any material conception [play any game], will have to pass through a medium [computer software program] which influences his consciousness to see things as material [objects in the virtual game-world]. What is concrete matter [the computer code supporting the game world] is unknown. It is a mere effect of consciousness [a virtual reality created by the mind of the programmer and experienced by the mind/imagination and the artificial or virtual 'senses' of the player].
As everything material [in the virtual reality of the game world] must have some conscious origin [must exist in the mind or imagination of the user], or origin in personal consciousness [of the programmer], there must be [the idea of] a personal conception of [the mind of the programmer who creates] the sun, the moon, the Earth, and all the planets [of the virtual game-world created by the programmer]. Before we reach the conception of a shadow [software program] or any other object [within the artificial game-world], the soul [user/programmer] has to pass through a conscious stage [must have his or her own independent existence]. That stage has some spiritual [real] existence as a person. Therefore the Bhagavatam refers to the sun, the moon, and the planet Rahu, as persons.
Everything — the Earth, the moon, the stars, the planets — has a personal conception [a programmer who wrote the program]. In the background of what we can perceive with our dull senses [artificial 'senses' in the game world], everything that is said to be matter [objects within the game], there must be a personal conception [somebody who created that virtual reality with their program code]. Without the influence [program code] of a personal conception [created by the ideas in the mind of the programmer], consciousness [the computer user] cannot reach [interact with and/or virtually experience] the stage of gross matter [the artificial reality of the game that he or she wants to play].
"Do I understand it correctly that it means that the shadow is a particular state of consciousness that we go through in order to make our consciousness gross enough to perceive the material world?" the reader wanted to know.
Yes, I replied. The 'shadow consciousness' is a particular state of consciousness that we experience, similar to the software program that forces our consciousness (the user's mind) to accept the artificial (not really real) reality of, and the rules and limitations of the artificial game-world environment. But! The software program itself can also be thought to be conscious (in that it represents, and is a direct result of, the intelligence of the programmer who creates the program). This 'shadowy consciousness' is lower than real consciousness (spiritual existence and/or awareness of the soul), but higher than the lower consciousness of the human and/or animal species that misidentifies itself with its gross material body. It is the medium, like the software programming code, through which the spirit soul (computer user) must pass before he or she can have any experience of this material world (computer game environment).
"Does this mean that all that we see around us, all the 'dead' material objects (computer, table, chair, etc.), are also a sort of shadow of the spiritual world?" the reader further inquired.
To continue the 'computer game' analogy: The material objects (table, chair, etc.) that exist in the game/material world do not actually exist, physically, in the real human/spiritual world (although they are based on that reality). They are a product of the imagination — what we are forced to see/experience by the (programmer's) software code, that creates all the settings and establishes the rules of the simulated virtual/artificial environment of the game that we are playing.
The jiva-soul is like the human computer user, cidabhasa, the 'shadow consciousness' is like the artificial intelligence of the software program, the material world is like the virtual game-world (and the three modes of material nature are like the rules and restrictions of the virtual world that the soul chooses to participate in and subject himself or herself to). So the user (human/soul) has his or her own individual existence, but to enter into the computer game / material world, he or she must first pass through a virtual, shadowy stage of consciousness (use a computer software program). Without the software (the "shadowy stage of consciousness"), there can be no user experience of that virtual reality ("consciousness cannot reach the stage of gross matter").
Just as we cannot use a computer without first acquiring the appropriate software, the soul (pure consciousness) cannot experience matter without first going through cidabhasa — a 'shadowy stage of consciousness' that forces it to see matter as being real. We may know that the game that we are playing is not real (that the environment and all the characters and situations within the game are an illusion created by the software) but once we willingly participate and our consciousness become absorbed in this artificial, virtual world, it does not matter. For all intents and purposes, it is real — because the software (cidabhasa) forces us to see it as being so.
This is an extraordinarily complex subject matter, but hopefully this 'computer game' analogy will give you a better understanding of how pure consciousness can only experience and participate in this virtual material world after it has been 'dumbed down' — after it has passed through a 'shadowy stage of consciousness' that forces it to see and accept the temporary artificial objects of this illusory world as being permanent and real...
Layout by iMonk — March 3rd, 2010.