"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gerald Heard: The Dilution of Consciousness and Ego

Gerald Heard (1889-1971)
In "Pain, Sex and Time," a book that the reigning dean of comparative religious studies, Huston Smith, credits with changing the course of his life, polymath philosopher and author, Gerald Heard makes the point that the next stage in man's evolution must be noetic, consisting in a broadening or "dilution" (to use Heard's terminology) of consciousness beyond our ordinary state of self-consciousness, - i.e., beyond the individuality of the ordinary human ego.

"It is only in so far as man can intuitively or intentionally balance the growth of his mind, and understand himself as well as he understands his environment," Heard observes, "that he can continue evolving and not relapse into strangulated self-consciousness which gives him means without ends and powers without sanction."
[Heard, "Pain, Sex and Time," p. xxx.]

A society without transcendental vision, he suggests, will not only fail to grow, evolve and flourish, but will inevitably fail.
"Without the true visionary," Heard remarks, "the man who has direct contact with (a) larger consciousness (from which all individuals spring, in which they are all still rooted, but from which their individualism cuts them off from conscious contact) human society cannot exist."
[Heard, "Pain, Sex and Time," p. 95.]
Thankfully, Heard notes, there seems to be what he calls "a balked reservoir of vital force" which continues to drive mankind forward to greater understanding and higher levels of consciousness.

"Scanty though the references be, and difficult as are some of them to interpret," he writes, "we can maintain that man's specific evolution, the development of consciousness, has left sufficient traces of the path it took. We can conclude that there is an urge within him to dilute his consciousness and to alter the aperture of his awareness. We can show that those peculiar symptoms, human pain and human lust (because of their significant differences from animal pain and lust), indicate a balked reservoir of vital force, which when permitted to energize higher faculty, relieves the body from anguish and conflict and gives the mind direct apprehension of a supra-animal, supra temporal world."
[Heard, "Pain, Sex and Time," p. 152.]
"If," Heard suggests, "anthropomorphic projection has not been allowed to take place, if man has been able to keep before himself the realization that he and all objectiveness are finally one and that the problem of psychology must always come before the problem of physics, then he can see that the true issue is always whether he can alter the focus of his consciousness and that if these can be done, a reality other than the animal's becomes visible."
[Heard, "Pain, Sex and Time," p. 95.]

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