To help us begin thinking about the Apophatic Way, let’s begin by thinking about human nature; and particularly about the different ways we human beings are conscious.
We have a way of being conscious that we could call body consciousness. This is the kind of awareness that is rooted in our physicality. We see with eyes, hear with ears, feel, touch and so forth. This is the part of us that is conscious of the experience of hunger, cold, itchiness, or fatigue. We understand body consciousness pretty well. We feel it.
body ego consciousnessBut talking about body consciousness the way we just did, reveals another kind of consciousness. There is a part of us that is able to stand outside body consciousness and observe it. There is the part of us that experiences being hot, or hungry, or itchy… and there is another part of us that can say to ourselves, “Hey! Look at me feeling hot, or hungry, or itchy.”
Part of me is conscious of the physicality of my being, and part of me is able to observe myself being conscious of that experience.
What part of me is observing my body consciousness?
the other youIt stands to reason that this is the part of me I experience through thought and emotion; the part we call ego consciousness. There is a part of me that I experience in my mind; my thought life; my feelings. It is a non-physical way of being conscious. Part of me is able to have thoughts that imagine reality beyond the physical; able to reason and desire. It has distinctive personality preferences. This part might be introverted or extroverted, intuitive or concrete, intellectual or emotional. It is sometimes clear-headed, other times muddle-headed.
It also stands to reason that ego-consciousness is deeper than body-conscious because it is able to stand outside of it and observe it.
Two layers of consciousness; body consciousness and ego consciousness.
One deeper; one able to observe the other.
ego spiritual selfAn interesting part of this thought experiment is that you and I also have the capacity to stand outside of, and observe our ego consciousness. We can both be thinking a thought and watching ourselves do so. You can be reading what I’m writing and be saying to yourself, “Hey! Look at me reading what Doug wrote. Try it.
The big question then, is this; what part of us is doing that observing? And what are the implications of these layers of consciousness for recovering the Apophatic Way?
Next post.

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