Awareness becomes Self-Aware (illustrated)

Awareness becomes Self-Aware (illustrated)

On articles here like Foundations, Creation- in a Nutshell, and The Big Picture, I’ve described the fundamental structure of existence and the origins of everything. However, this is highly abstract. A few years ago, while briefly teaching a grad class on the subject, I used a simple illustration. I’ve been intending to do the same for the blog.Awareness becomes self-aware

In essence, before anything, before even existence or consciousness, there is two what might be called principles or tendencies in That, the silence. They are alertness and liveliness. The tendency to liveliness stirs the alertness and it becomes aware – not of anything, just pure awareness. Further stirred, awareness begins to flow within itself. This is illustrated on the left above. Of course, this flowing is more like water than a rigid line.

The flowing curves, then curves back on itself. On the right, there is recognition. Awareness becomes aware of itself. Existence becomes conscious. And from that self-interacting recognition, all of creation arises. This is not a theoretical or philosophical idea. It can be experienced directly.

Curving Back on Myself, I Create Again and Again” –Krishna, in the Bhagavad Gita
Look at these worlds spinning out of nothingness. That is within your power.” –Rumi

This process happens both globally in creating what is called Atman or the cosmic Self (the koshas), and locally at every point within itself, in the origin of every distinct perceiver.

On the right, you’ll notice I’ve lettered the points. These are described a number of ways in various traditions.
They are:
a subject or observer, b object of observation, and c process of observation

You can also substitute experience for observe. In Sanskrit, these are rishi, chhandas and devata

You can also describe the a and b points as Shiva and Shakti or as Prakasha & Vimarsha from Tantra. Note how it’s clear even in such a simple illustration that they are non-separate. All is one, reflecting on itself.

The process of becoming is illustrated by another key detail on the right. The subtle distinction of self-recognition that takes place on the right (a-b) creates a subtle value of space. Space arises from the boundary condition or “edge” created by self-awareness. As awareness becomes self-aware at every point, space is also nested.

What we call mind or the unified field is that lively inner surface of self-aware consciousness. In other words, mind is the boundary condition of space.

That process of experience (c) determines how we experience time. Time is not a dimension of space but rather of how we’re experiencing. Notice also how c looks just like the left, flowing attention. Another way this is nested.

Hopefully the illustration sheds a little light on who we are and how we come to be.

Last Updated on November 8, 2014 by

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  4. Ken
    Well – this speaks to the weakness of English and the profound abstraction of the subject. I could say “prior to” but this isn’t a temporal sequence as it’s also prior to time.

    For someone Self Realized or in Unity, this wouldn’t make sense either as in that range, Consciousness is limitless and eternal. To say “before” would be meaningless.

    But in Brahman, we step back prior to Consciousness and can then recognize the “origin” of same.

    In other words, the post describes the understanding that arises post-Brahman. It’s not going to be recognized prior but can still be a useful context for what is known.

    1. Hi Andreas
      Awareness is composed of alertness and liveliness so is not “ultimate.” It becomes awareness because alertness is stirred by liveliness and begins to flow as attention.

      This is profoundly abstract and will not even make sense for someone Self realized. We’re also running up against the limitations of language. Words are symbols for meaning based on experience. We both know what “red” means because we share a common experience. But when you go beyond experiencing, it gets difficult to describe.

      Brahman is beyond (and infuses) consciousness and is thus not “consciousness” but rather contains the components of it. So we can say Brahman is alert to itself. You can only know Brahman with Brahman. This is also true of Parabrahman. And actually, it’s also true of consciousness – you can only know consciousness with consciousness or what is beyond it.

      You’ll find lots of material out there describing consciousness as the ultimate or final reality because it is for many people. Even into Unity stage, consciousness is the fundamental reality. It was here too.

      The point of talking about Brahman, etc is not to gain new concepts or debate reality – that’s just mind. The point is to support those for whom this is unfolding. Also, to give a broader vision so people don’t get stuck in Self Realization.

  5. Andreas

    Hi David, thank you for this profound answer! I highly appreciate you for giving a valid map.

    Would you say that consciousness can be conscious of itself – the same question for Brahman, only because there are i n t r i n s i c qualities (“qualia” as contrasted to “quanta”) to be aware of like (even in “pure” consciousness) spaciousness (not: space), luminosity (not: light), power and so on; or in other words: “pure” consciousness is not totally free of qualities?!

    1. Oh yes, conscious is very much about being conscious of itself – this is the whole point of this article. And yes, in itself it has intrinsic qualities that are yet to express. So spaciousness not yet expressed as space, happiness not yet bubbling as bliss, etc. Luminosity too, although it’s already self-effulgent because of its origins in Divinity. On the flip side, silent consciousness that is not self-aware is not effulgent which is why people may experience consciousness as devoid of light.

      Because consciousness is imbibed with intelligence (Shakti), it can be said to have inherent qualities that express when they become self-aware, much as a child expresses through self-discovery.

      Brahman works differently as it’s not self-referral. It is simply still and alert. It’s easier to understand as the after-glow or halo of Divinity. (laughs)

  6. Andreas

    Thank you David. Have you ever heard of Peter Wilberg’s qualia theory? You write exactly what he writes: spaciousness expresses as space, the light of Awareness becomes light and so on. So maybe this is very interesting for you:

    Peter states that Awareness “touches”all objects and feeling the spaces around all “bodies” (physical, thoghts, …) is key in his teaching.

    Obviously I am on the right track 🙂 ! I do not shae Peter’s Marxist ideas, nevertheless your 2 approaches are very similar: What you name Brahman seems to be Anuttara, Ultimate Awareness, aware only of its potential qualities of Awareness which are actualized (Greek: “energein”) by Shakti.

    What I find interesting is the following: he says when you let your awareness sink down you ultimately reach this dimension of Pure Potentiality. For me this seems to be odd as I am conditioned by the idea that going up means reaching subtler dimensions: please what do you have to say about that?


    1. Hi Andreas
      On the book, no. I have quite a backlog of reading. 🙂
      Interesting. But this assumes awareness is distinct from objects. At a deeper level, objects are consciousness as is the space, etc.

      Anuttara is one of those curious Sanskrit words. It means “not superior” or inferior but is also used in the context of unexcelled in the sense of nothing greater.

      No, Brahman is beyond the dynamics of awareness. What you describe is pure awareness, awareness unto itself. Brahman is beyond this. But its not important to distinguish these things until they’re lived. And then it’s night and day.

      And yes, pure intelligence, pure potentiality, these are qualities of pure awareness. There is nothing diminished about this. This is greater than many creations. Ours contains many universes of which we occupy one. It is infinity greater than infinities.

      Up and down are just relative to the experiencer. Same with in or out? Some talk about subtler layers as “higher” and subjectively experience them as above the body but they surround us and infuse everything. Others experience going within and down into subtler levels. These are just subjective distinctions, partly influenced by the kinds of techniques we use.

      One minor note – dimension is a direction in space. Subtler levels are not other “dimensions” but rather finer values of the same space. When we go from the lobby of an office tower up to the 10th floor, we’re not changing dimensions. Finer values are not somewhere else, they’re right here with us always. Think of a microscope. It allows us to see things not apparent to the naked eye. Same with refined perception.

  7. Andreas

    David, I totally agree- Wilberg clearly has created a monistic system in the line of Hegel and Heidegger, but especiallly refering to Kashmir Shaivism., Kaula tantra. He says every “thing” is made up of awareness and is an awareness in its own right. Yes, these spaces are in the same “place” but they have different “frequencies”.

    Last question for now :-): would you say that different “dimensions” (your explanation has been understood and agreed with) are linked with different chakras or can each and every dimensio be entered from everywhere?!

    I highly appreciate your willingness to discuss such concepts with me – but be assured that my practice is becoming more and more dominating over theory …

    When time is ripe.the right Teacher comes – seems to be true for me!


    1. Hi Andreas
      It’s both. The chakras originate in the bliss kosha and express through the other 3 to the prana (energy) body. This is partly why you see them described visually in so many different ways (vortexes, wheels, flowers, geometries).

      Each chakra also has specializations that associate them with specific elements, levels, etc. But they function in all the above.

      So yes, each layer is ever present and can be “entered” from anywhere. Its simply a matter of shifting attention just as we change focus. Now I’m noticing body sensations, then emotions then thoughts…

      (laughs) The “teacher” referenced in the quote is the one that catalyzes our awakening.

    1. Hi Don
      Thanks. This arose spontaneously when I was asked to teach Tape 8 of the SCI course. “existence becomes conscious, then intelligence becomes intelligent.” Much easier to explain graphically. 🙂

      Finally did the graphic for the blog. It makes the basic dynamics clearer. Although, this isn’t a one-time event but rather an ongoing dynamic present at all scales…

  8. Gui

    Hello David! I have a question burning inside of me and I think you are literally the only person in the world that can answer it LOL

    Why the Highest, God, Pure Divinity or ParaBrahman is always choosing through its Consciousness (considering it is a kosha) to be all that is while being That instead of only being That?
    Why the relative, the shakti aspect of consciousness? If the nature of the Atman Kosha is pure bliss why consciousness keep getting more complex and dense in order to have this infinite amount of experiences?
    Is there a choice with a sense of doership in the level of Consciousness or prior to it regarding this process of consciousness perpetually curving back at itself?
    Or because Consciousness is only a kosha it is subject to impulses, being part of its nature to curve back at it self eternally without any sense of self or doership, just the like the mind is bound to think and interpret/create reality for example.
    And if aliveness and alertness are impulses in Brahman that originate consciousness that means that Brahman is also subject of impulses or principles? Its okay to imagine Brahman/That being the creator/vessel of all impulses and mechanisms but Brahman being subject to them feels… weird.

    These are the questions.. thank you so much for everything! xoxo

    1. Hi Gui
      Well, I’m certainly not the only one, but perhaps the only one you know. 🙂

      The way I see it these days is that Divinity itself is fully self-knowing. There is nothing lacking.
      Consciousness arises (per this article) when qualities of Divinity are enlivened within the “afterglow”. We could say consciousness is a pale reflection of Divinity so it expresses to know itself more fully. Each of us are points of perspective within the wholeness of consciousness. Together, we build a comic potential to try and reflect Divinity fully.

      I wouldn’t say there’s a doership in this process. That takes a more expressed level to manifest. The sense of self arises when it becomes self aware, when consciousness becomes aware of its own existence.

      Brahman isn’t a something so there’s nothing for it to be. It’s not subject to anything as it is prior to any expression. In this context, it’s the afterglow of Divinity.

      This isn’t something the mind can fully grok but it can be known through being. Then it’s understood.

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