Well, this is Dr. Rossi with the third part of “Consciousness,” “Consciousness,” part three, that I decided to do based on a follow-up to podcasts one and two on “Consciousness.” I received an email—two emails—that prompted me to think more deeply, and a phone call I had with a friend, and a blog that I read that I will mention, all of which pertains to the whole topic of “Consciousness.” I’ll also add that my wife is currently writing a book through me called Consciousness: A Christian Perspective. I give myself two years—I give us two years—to write it, and if it never gets written, that’s fine, but this third podcast is part of my mental work, working things through.
In an email from a friend, I told him that I was thinking of this book—and it’s a friend I really respect, an author in his own right—and he said that consciousness is the “name of the game” at the present moment. If we’re not conscious, we do all kinds of crazy things. In the last two podcasts, I dealt with thought, and I would add now consciousness consists in more than thought. But thought (logismoi) provides an easy inroad to our deeper self, our total self, sometimes called the nous or the heart. Consciousness consists in an awareness of our thoughts, our feelings, our desires, our drives, what ignites us. So consciousness goes beyond thought to include the total person, the authentic self. The thought interweaves with feelings and desires, and we move and be as a unit, say, as an entity, as a full person, at any given moment.
In the phone call from my friend, which was quite illumining to me, he said that sometimes we tell ourselves a narrative that we’ve been taught, that is to say, we think about ourselves in a particular way based on what has been put into us. Then we come to believe that’s who we really are. The narrative we tell ourselves, then, is not unlike reality TV, which I must admit I have never watched, but I know enough to say that reality TV is a script of reality, written by someone, that is contrived and made-up and understood to be that way by those who watch it. When we become aware that these thoughts, our narrative of ourselves, are merely thoughts, not the authentic me, then we see a larger picture.
And this friend went on to say the unreal narrative of me can be a mixture of past experiences from others and a self I’ve made up to get along better in my world. I come to realize these thoughts are simply not true. Now this friend has OCD, moderate OCD, and a cognitive disorder that he takes medication to handle, and he struggles much with his thoughts. He said that he’s not a violent person, and I know him and he’s really quite a kind and considerate person and wouldn’t harm the proverbial flea. He said that he’s not a violent person, but he does have very violent thoughts that disturb him. He said that it’s a relief to understand that these thoughts are only thoughts, and I must admit, he said that he came to that conclusion after listening to podcasts one and two, which is why I’m doing three.
But he referred to it as a relief. He said that for him, sometimes when crazy thoughts come, he says to himself—when he becomes aware of those thoughts—“Hey, these are my thoughts. They are not the authentic me.” Then he returns to the details of the present moment, and then of course like any human being, other dark thoughts come, and he handles them one way and another, as I talked about in podcasts one and two. By the way, those of you who are listening to this but haven’t heard podcasts one and two, you might want to go back into my archives, because I’ve had a bunch of people tell me that it has really been very helpful to them. So that’s one of the prompts that I have to do this podcast.
Another prompt came from a priest, Orthodox, good, very bright priest, who sent me an email, and he said, “I’ve come to the realization that my all-too-easy focus on my own unworthiness is tragically connected and interconnected to some of my own demons, that is, I’m not good enough and never will be. And I easily call to mind my faults and blunders, and I usually forget immediately anything good that I’ve done.” That’s the end of his email to me, but I’m a clinical psychologist: I see all kinds of people, all kinds of roles and all kinds of occupations. That priest’s astute insight into himself, the inner journey, is a statement of very, very much of the thoughts that I’ve unearthed, had people unearth with me in counseling sessions, both men and women. We feel inadequate. We remember our faults and blunders and not much else.
A third piece, prompt to this third podcast comes from a blog called Center for Action and Contemplation by Fr. Richard Rohr, a Roman Catholic priest. So it’s a blog that has daily thoughts. The question recently was: Where is heaven? Is heaven “up there” somewhere, wherever “up there” is, up near iCloud? Probably not. Rather, heaven is earth transformed by love, when earthly life is lived in love, and the suffering of death is transformed into a foretaste of heaven, when one sees and hears from the inner center of love. Well, isn’t that consciousness? So we’re conscious of heaven within us, what heaven is. We have to keep asking the question. Obviously, eye has not seen nor ear heard what heaven is, but in the Bible the Lord talks of heaven and compares it to many comparisons. We know that even in heaven the wounds of suffering will not be removed, as Christ’s wounds were not removed, but will be transformed by divine love into new and eternal life.
Heaven’s not a place of eternal rest, snoring—[snore]—or a long sleep-in. No, no, no, no, no! Whatever heaven is, it’s a life of creativity and newness in love in Christ, as one with God and one with all things, whatever that means. The one parable of heaven that always strikes me is the wedding-feast. The lord says to his servants, “Go out and call people, and tell them I’ve prepared a feast. Everything is ready. Come to the banquet!” And you know what? The people who were invited didn’t come. They had excuses: Oh, no, I have to attend to my business, or whatever it might be. So do we, but, frankly, I, and no doubt you, enjoy a banquet of gourmet food and lovely music and fine fellowship and rest and lack of conflict and that’s inside us, called love. Christ lives within us, and we can refuse it if we choose.
So the question becomes: What am I going to choose in this moment and in general? Am I going to choose kindness or cruelty, love or fear or darkness? Am I going to choose generosity or scarcity? Am I going to have a joyous heart or an embittered heart? These are all questions inside me that pivot on the question of heaven and non-heaven, which is sometimes called hell. Dostoevsky said that hell is an absence of love. It’s not the painted fiery river that we’re thrown into and scream for all eternity. No, no, it’s an absence of love, whatever that means.
What’s clear is we have a choice. We can choose one side or the other, because heaven and earth are both inside of us right now, and it’s our choice that determines just where we will reside in the current moment, now, and in general. I’m free. I would add that I, and no doubt you, we’re children of Adam and Eve, so we sometimes choose kindness and goodness and compassion and love, and sometimes we just choose to be self-centered and neglectful and dark and perhaps even cruel sometimes. So it’s about consciousness. What are we conscious of?
And as I have been saying thus far, it’s our thoughts… Well, I’m holding a book that’s entitled Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives: The Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus. I’m going to quote just a little bit from the book as I sit and try to open it. Elder Thaddeus says:
Our life depends on the kind of thoughts we nurture. If our thoughts are peaceful, calm, meek, and kind, then that’s what our life is like. If, however, our attention is turned to the circumstances in which we live, we are drawn into a whirlpool of thoughts, and can have neither peace nor tranquility, because everything, both good and evil, comes from our thoughts.
Then he has a very poignant sentence.
Our thoughts become reality.
He goes on to say:
Neither do we understand that we greatly influence others with our thoughts. We can be very good or very evil, depending on the kind of thoughts and desires we breed.
So that’s a book I’ve been reading, and I would recommend to all of us. So the question is: What do I spend my time thinking about and pondering? One thing for sure: if I spend a great deal of time pondering the front of any daily newspaper or the evening news on TV—and I keep thinking about it, wondering about it, worrying about it, and the future, and the way we’re preparing to destroy ourselves—all of that darkness has to do with me. As I said in podcast one, particularly, about consciousness, we have much more control over our thoughts than we sometimes believe. That’s a point I want to make, so I will right now play for us a few bars of the song that I played at the beginning for podcasts one and two.
The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Whom then shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life.
Of whom shall I then be afraid?
And that is the song that we heard and are now hearing. That brings us to think more about consciousness, or as I said in podcast one, thoughts, it’s about meta-cognition, as a psychologist called it—but it really is the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter is our heart, and our heart is accessed, we know what’s in our heart by looking at our thoughts, and we can change them.
With that, I will wrap up, but before I do, I remind me and you to please remember Ancient Faith Radio with our prayer and with our donations.