What is the practical value of answering a high sounding metaphysical question like “What is consciousness?” Why should we care what consciousness means?
Many feel that their life is out of their control. But when we can learn to understand the nature of what we are conscious of, and understand why we are conscious of life in the way we are, only then do we really put ourselves in the driver’s seat of life. Christian Science teaches us that man’s awareness of and understanding of God’ role in consciousness makes us aware of a native element of control too seldom developed. Instead of thinking of life as taking us on a trip, the discovery of the meaning of consciousness causes us to learn that we are in charge of this journey of life – and that it is not our circumstances that are in charge! Situations of life experience which appear to be outside of us, to be happening to us, make us feel that we are not in control.
The good news is that these circumstances are not really external to us! Life’s circumstances and conditions are completely the very product of our own thoughts! To grab hold of the reigns of life, we must learn to understand the many hidden things going on in our mind. What is our subconscious thought doing of which we are not fully aware? How can we convert such thought back to conscious thought? Of what thought factors have we been ignorant and which ones are we unwittingly allowing to jerk us around? In the human mind there are actually many. The study of Christian Science teaches us how to conform our human thought to the guiding and eternal Principle of God’s one, only, and infinitely perfect Mind. Thus we can learn how to elevate our conscious being to a level of confidence which leaves us continually assured of the eternal presence of harmony, in every aspect of life.
Understanding this, we learn to follow the map of life instead of just going along for the ride. We can learn to guide ourselves in the correct direction each time we come to a crossroads, and find ourselves more consistently in agreeable life circumstances. Understanding this concept brings harmony not just to our activities and relationships, but to our health as well! Everything which feels like a material condition is actually the manifestation, the conscious product of both visible and hidden activities of the thoughts and beliefs we entertain.
Defining the Meaning of the Term “God” for the Sake of this Presentation
Let’s begin as we always do in a Christianly scientific analysis with basic logic. The beauty of Christian Science is its assured logic. In this sense, it differs sharply from theology. Christian Science always begins from the starting point of assuredly knowing God’s infinite being and His omnipotent power. Omnipotence must result from that fact of God’s infinite nature. We are talking not in any sense of God as being like a person, but of God as a word which defines the one ever-operating Principle of being, the very law that holds the universe together and prevents its collapse. That Principle is Love itself. Everything which is divine exists eternally and perfectly. Does not Love exist eternally? God is love, as the apostle John reminds us in I John 4:8.
Let’s begin at the starting point – knowing God to be the infinite omnipotence of goodness, without any challenger or opposite. We can be assured of this as truth, because to acknowledge as substantial any secondary power ( such as a devil) would be to remove the natures of infinitude and omnipotence from God. Such an assumption would necessitate something unlike God existing within His own infinity, and would also remove the concept of omnipotence by virtue of the very fact that the word omnipotence means one power. An omnipotent God loses His omnipotence in the presence of another power. And to assign the nature of evil to God Himself is to remove the nature of infinite goodness from God. Christian Science therefore defines evil as invalid, and as pure deception.
The Nature of God’s Allness
The nature of all existence can be explained as the consequence of the inseparable natures of cause and effect. God is the great and infinite cause. Man is His effect. God requires man to be God, just like cause requires its own consequent effect to be cause. Cause must be cause to something in order to be cause. Cause is cause to its own effect. This may sound confusing but is quite simple. If you push on something, the push is the cause. The effect of that push is the moving of the something. If there were nothing to push, no pushing would occur. Push would be push without pushing anything. Therefore, it cannot really be push without an effect – the movement of a thing which it pushed. This is pure simple logic.
Now let’s apply the same logic to God. God, to be God, must be God to something. What is He God to? He is God to man and the universe. They are His effect. Without them, he is not God to or over anything. This is how closely God and man are linked. God acts, and man moves in response.
What is Consciousness?
Consciousness plays the role of God’s self-awareness. God, as cause, cannot be conscious in and of Himself without man. God cannot be conscious in any sense of being conscious independently of man being conscious. He must be God to something, and that something is man. Consciousness is therefore, His awareness of Himself as and through His own effect, man. The same divine consciousness belongs, then, to both God and man. They act together as cause and effect. To explain exactly what consciousness is, let us examine more closely the action of cause acting on effect.
Let us take, as an analogy of the relationship of God’s cause and His effect upon man, the action of a wrench turning a nut. God’s causation is continually and eternally acting upon His effect man. This finite example of the wrench and the nut is just one specific mechanical action used to illustration the meaning of what consciousness really is. A wrench is lying on a nut, ready to be turned. Cause is the force applied to the wrench. In turn, the nut rotates. The rotating nut is the effect of the cause. The potential force of turning the wrench remains inactive until the wrench is turned. The potential but unused force, the possibility of turning the wrench but not actually doing it, is cause without en effect. This cause is insubstantial until it is applied. It means and does nothing until the wrench is actually turned. This illustrates cause without an effect. Nothing is happening. There is no action to witness.
How can the cause, the force, be made known? How can it be witnessed that the wrench can be used to turn the nut? We can only become aware, or conscious, of action – the action of applying the cause to the effect. Until that action takes place, the force being applied to that wrench is not yet manifest, and there is nothing of which to be conscious. Through action, demonstration becomes the conscious awareness of cause acting upon effect. In summary, and at the risk of being repetitive, consciousness is the awareness of action, and action is the acting of cause upon effect. What can conclusions can we draw?
We are all undoubtedly conscious. We have defined consciousness as the awareness of actions taking place between cause and effect. We know therefore, that because we are conscious, action must be continually taking place, or in other words cause is continually acting upon effect.
The important conclusion we can make at this point is that God, the great and only cause, is continually acting upon His effect, man, producing consciousness. Seen from this point of view, it is clear that consciousness, in and of itself, does not belong exclusively to man, nor does it belong exclusively to God, but that the interaction between God and man is the producer of consciousness.
Now we have established what real consciousness is. It is the witnessing of cause producing effect. Since we have admitted that God is all, and that evil is invalid, then what is it that goes on in consciousness which causes human beings to feel that they experience both goodness and health, and evil, sin, sickness, and death? This will be addressed in a continuation of this article. (Maybe. Sometimes I get distracted and do not follow up with Part 2.)