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"TheConsciousnessWeAre"byPeterKingsley

TheConsciousnessWeAre
ByPeterKingsley*

*FromReality,pp.51013copyright2003PeterKingsley,usedwithpermission.Moreabouthiswork
canbefoundatwww.peterkingsley.org.
ThereisonecrucialpointtonoteaboutEmpedocles'instructionsfor[hisdisciple]Pausanias.Thisisthatthe
thingshetellshimtodoarethingsweneverdoourselves.
Asamatteroffact,theyarealtogetherbeyondourexperience.
Peoplecanlivewhattoanyexternalobserverwouldseemthefullestofliveswithouttouching,evenonce,the
stateEmpedoclesispointingto.Andthisisbecausewespendallourlivesfastasleepinadream.
HisfirstinstructiontoPausaniasisnottoperceivebuttoperceivethatheisperceivingtowatchthe
perceptiveprocessitself.Inotherwordsheistellinghimnotjusttolookortouchorhearbuttolookandtouch
whilefullyconsciousoflookingandtouching,tohearwiththeawarenessthatheishearing.
Andanyonewhostartstodothisseriouslywillbegintobecomeawarethatwhatpassesforordinaryhuman
existenceisnothingbutadream.
Youmayfinditeasy,rightnow,tonoticeforasplitsecondtheobjectsinfrontofyoureyeswhilealsonoticing
thatyouarenoticingthemtobecomeawareforthebriefestmomentofallthesoundsorsilenceinthe
background.Probablyitwillseemsoeasyyouwillwanderaway,quitecontentedbecausenowyouknowthere
isnomysteryhereforyou.
Andyouwillbebackagaininthedream.
Thisstateofawarenessisthetrickiestofthingsbecauseitneverextendsbeyondthepresentmoment.The
reasonwhyEmpedoclesinstructshisdiscipleaboutit,presentsittohimassuchaveryspecificpractice,is
becauseitdoesn'tdoitself.Itisn'tautomaticbutonlylastsforaslongasyoustayconscious.
Themomentyoubecomefascinatedbysomethingyouperceive,youwillbedraggedoffbyyournoseintoa
seeminglyexternalworldofspiralingshapesandcolors.Themomentyouwanderoffaftersomefascinating
thoughtinsideyourheadyouwillbeleftwithunseeingeyes,staringblanklyintospacealloveragain,deafto
thegentlesoundsaroundyou.Andthisishowwepassourlives,silentlytuggedbackwardsandforwardsfrom
onestatetotheother:alwayslost,exceptperhapsinthemostfleetingmoment,toourselves.
ForEmpedocles,exactlyasforParmenides,oneofthemostextraordinaryfactsabouthumanexistenceisthat
peopleappeartobesuchcreaturesofthesensesandyetneverusetheirsensesatall.
Theyarejustusedbythembashedaroundbythem,buffetedhereandthere.Andtheworstaspectofthis
situationisthewaywemanagetobelieve,likeblindpeoplesoblindtheythinktheyarenotblind,thatwecan
seethewhole.

ButsofarwehavehardlyeventouchedthesurfaceofwhatEmpedoclesinthesefewwordsistelling
Pausaniastodo.
Ifhewereinstructinghimnotonlytolookbuttobecomeawareatthesametimeoflooking,thatwouldbe
importantenough.Heisnot,though.Heisexplainingtohimthataswellasbeingawareofwhateverheis
seeinghealsohastobeawareofeverysinglethingheishearingtouchingtastingfeeling.
Nothingistobeleftout.Nottheslightestpreferenceistobeshowntoonesenseasopposedtoanyother.And
thischoiceless,allembracingawarenesscanonlyhappeninoneparticularmoment:rightnow.Forifyoumiss
anythingnowyouaremissingeverything.Youareasleepagain.
Eventothinkaboutwhatyouaredoingistolosethatawareness,becauseinthemomentofthinkingyouhave
alreadyleftthepresentmoment.
Thedemandforsuchcomplete,uncompromisingattentionissounreasonablethatitseemsonlysensibleto
tonedownwhatEmpedoclesissayingtowanttomakehimdemandlessthanhereallyisdemanding.
ButEmpedoclesis,tosaytheleast,notthemostreasonableofteachers.Andwhilethepracticehehasjust
outlinedisfarmorestrenuousthanourwanderingmindscanevermanage,thereisthatotherfacultyhehas
alreadymentionedbynamewhichatanyoreverymomentisperfectlyuptothetaskthesleeplessalertness,
alwayspresentbyitsverynature,calledmetis.
Fewthingscouldseemtodemandmoreeffortthantheprocessofgettingusedtothisawareness.Butnothing
ismoreeffortlessthantheawarenessitself.Andwhathadlookedimpossibletobeginwithbecomeseasier
withtimebecauseeventhougheachmomentofawarenessisonlyanawarenessintheonemoment,metisis
likeanorganismthatactuallynourishesitself.Or,asEmpedoclesexplainsinasinglelinequotedfromhis
poetrybylaterphilosopherswhosenseditmustmeansomethingbutwererathertoobusythinkingtosee
what:
Forhumans,metisgrowsinrelationtowhatispresent.
Thisphraseofhis,"inrelationtowhatispresent,"happenedtobeacommonone.Itwasusedveryoftenfor
describinghowsomebodyacquaintedwiththeinsandoutsofkairos,withtheartofrespondingeffectivelyto
theneedsofthepresentmoment,wouldplanandact.Andthat,ofcourse,isessentialtowhatmetisis.
ButhereiswherewefindourselvesbeingbroughtrightbacktotheheartofthattraditionwhichEmpedocles,
alongwithParmenides,belongedto.
Forbothofthem,accumulatingenoughmetistobecomeaneffectivehumanbeingwasnomorethanthe
smallestofbeginnings.Anymetisthatcomestoanendwhentheshiparrivesinportorachariotraceiswon
hardlydeservesthenameatall.Tothem,itsvaluelaynotinhelpingthemlivehumanlifetothemaximum.
Instead,whatmadeitcrucialwasitscapacitytocarrythembeyondhumanexistencealtogether.
Nothingcouldbemoreparadoxicalthanthistraditiontheybothbelongedto.Ittaughtthat,tobecomefreefrom
illusion,allweneedtodoisacceptillusionwholeheartedly.Tofindwhatliesbehindmovementallwehaveto
doisembraceitcompletely.
And,injustthesameway,togobeyondthisworldofthesensesallwehavetodoisuseoursensestothefull.
Fortoopenupour"palms,"thoseinstrumentsofmetis,andperceiveeverythingwithtotalalertnessrightnow

istoopenthewaytoaworldofstillnessquiteunknowntoourrestlessmindsistobecomeawareofthe
commonfactorlinkingeachsensetogether,motionless,featureless,placelessandtimeless,whichisthe
consciousnessweare.
(FromSunrisemagazine,December2004/January2005)