Rosicrucian Writings Online
What Is Christ Consciousness?By Ralph M. Lewis, F.R.C.
[From The Rosicrucian Digest June 1948]
TOO frequently the term Christ Consciousness is left unexplained. It is used as a platitude, or a vague aphorism, the meaning of which is not quite comprehensible to the one who uses it. If Christ Consciousness has an efficacy, to leave it unexplained is to mitigate its benefits. The word consciousness, in connection with the term Christ Consciousness, obviously connotes some relationship to the human consciousness. Whenever we speak of consciousness, no matter with what we associate it, we think of the awareness of something. We think of a sentient state, the condition of being able to perceive through our faculties.
Jesus was a mortal. The personality, the historical character which we recognize when we refer to Jesus, was clothed in a physical body. He was quite mortal in his appearance, not unlike other mortals of his time. There was nothing about his physical appearance that made him seem to be superhuman. Jesus responded to his environment just as did his associates. There was every indication that he perceived the world, objects and conditions outside of himself, in the same manner as the simple people of his time, in whose company he remained almost continuously. When he looked out upon the physical world, Jesus did not refer to any added dimensions; the things of substance appeared to have merely length, width, and breadth, as they did to any other man. We have no record of Jesus ever having perceived any colors or physical objects that others did not see, or having any physical sensations that his fellow mortals did not experience. Therefore, his peripheral, his outer consciousness, we repeat, must have been very mortal. It must have been that kind of consciousness that we know and speak of as the objective consciousness of human beings.
But let us suppose, for the moment, that Jesus was also indued with a unique consciousness. This superior consciousness conferred upon him the attribute, the special faculty that we call Christhood. This would immediately posit a problem. Ordinary mortals, then, the ordinary man of today or of Christ's time, would not possess this special consciousness, if it had been given uniquely to Jesus to distinguish him as the Christ. Furthermore, if it were given to Jesus for such a purpose, humans cannot hope to aspire to it; the exhortation that they should attain Christ Consciousness would be an inconsistency. So, we must presume that the Christ Consciousness was not a unique faculty possessed by Jesus, and which other mortals could not possibly attain.
In our everyday conversation, we are accustomed to speak of the subliminal consciousness--the consciousness that lies back of, or beyond, the normal brain consciousness. We refer to the subjective, the self-conscious state, and also to the unconscious--the latter itself being divided into various terms. All of these terms, however, though sounding different, are not actually different forms of consciousness. All of these words and terms relative to consciousness are but various states of a single consciousness. To make this better understood, let us use the homely analogy of sound. Regardless of the myriad sounds which we hear, all of them are the result of vibrations of air which, through the ear, the brain detects as audible sensations. Everything which we hear is sound; low pitch and high pitch, for example, are not different sounds, but different frequencies of the vibrations of the air impinging upon the diaphragm of the ear. They are, we repeat, but variations of the single phenomenon of sound. All the references to kinds of consciousness, likewise, are but references to variations of the single consciousness of which man is possessed.
Consciousness is the sensitivity of living things. But sensitivity, in itself, is not a sufficient explanation. We must define what we mean by that sensitivity. It is the responsive adjustment of the living organism to stimuli. The living organism adjusts itself, reacts to that which affects it. Now it would appear that inanimate objects also have consciousness because a cursory examination seems to reveal that they respond to their environment. We strike a ball with a bat. The ball flies from the bat with great rapidity. But the ball itself is inherently passive. There is no action within the ball that causes it to move away from the bat. Motion is transferred to the ball from the bat. On the other hand, the responsive adjustment of an organism to an external agency or force is a self-action. The organism acts upon itself, the result of being affected by something else.
Levels of Consciousness
Living things are thus continually adjusting themselves, through their own internal power, to actions upon them from various sources. Common agencies, acting upon living things with which we are familiar, are light, heat, gravity, and thought. All of these cause responsive adjustment. The stimuli or vibrations which act upon man as a living organism constitute group impulses; that is, various impulses are more or less of a general nature and can be grouped together. For instance, we have one group which may be called the external stimuli, and which includes those which come to man through his objective senses such as hearing, seeing, and so forth. Then there is the other group, the organic stimuli, the ones that originate in the organism of man's own body; this group includes the appetites, desires, hunger, thirst, pain, and the like. There is still another group of impulses which we may call reflective, or mental, and by which we are moved. Among these sources are numbered reason, imagination, and aspiration.
Each group of impulses or stimuli acting upon man, produces a corresponding group of responses. These corresponding responses are levels of consciousness. Man has become accustomed to give a different name to each of these group responses or levels of consciousness; he erroneously considers them as quite distinct from each other.
To understand this better, let us think of consciousness as a building in which there are a number of floors. Each floor of this building, of consciousness, has a different phenomenon occurring upon it--different kinds of activity. The first floor of the building of consciousness is a wide one and the most easily accessible. It is, therefore, the most crowded. It is the one with which persons are most familiar. We may call this floor the normal objective consciousness by which we experience the outer world. In fact, the activity of this first floor of the building of consciousness consists of experiencing the external world. The other levels of consciousness, or floors, are more difficult of ascent. It takes a little more effort to climb up to them, and to experience what is occurring on them. Most persons attain these other floors very infrequently. Consequently, the experiences had on the upper floors are more vague and not so well known.
One of these higher floors or levels of consciousness is self-consciousness. The Self is distinct from all else. There is nothing else that you may experience as a human that is quite like your own Self. You know that you are you. No matter how much you may look in appearance like everyone else, no matter how you are dressed, or how similar your mannerisms are to others, you are able to distinguish yourself from all else. However, knowing that you are you does not necessarily explain what you are. What is the Self? Can you describe it even though it is so intimate to you, so contiguous to your whole being?
Close your eyes. Shut out the view of your own body. Immediately, even though you are still not aware of Self, you will admit that it has no determinate qualities. You feel it. You know that you are you, but you cannot describe the Self. The Self does not exist in space. There are no dimensions to Self. You cannot say that it is so high, so long, or so wide. Furthermore, the Self has no time value, because it is always of the Now. Wherever you are, realizing that you are, there is Self. It is always of the present. There is no past, nor future to Self. At times, the Self seems to be absorbed into the Absolute; you even lose your identity at times, no longer considering yourself as "John Jones" or "Mary Brown" but rather that you have a realization of just being--but a being without any limitation, a being that seems to be everywhere and be everything. Self, then, seems to be in harmony with all existence. That, too, is a level of consciousness. To it have been attributed many mystical names.
We have given some thought to the nature of human consciousness including the self-consciousness of man. We have said that insofar as it has been able to determine, the mortal, or human consciousness of Jesus was that of other men. But what was the self-consciousness of Jesus? Could his Christhood have existed in the nature of his self-consciousness? Could it be that the self-consciousness of Jesus was an integration of the superior levels of his consciousness with the ordinary mental, or so-called "brain" consciousness. Did the whole constitute a harmonious unity? Could it mean that Jesus was able to have his mortal consciousness ascend at will, instantly, to the higher levels, to experience the phenomena of those levels and retain them and bring them back to the mortal consciousness? Could it perhaps mean that the absolute consciousness, the highest level possible, would descend at times to the objective consciousness in the form of spiritual impulses to be realized and expressed by Jesus in human terms?
If upon the top floor of a building there lives a worthy group of people, carrying on noble activities, certainly those on the lower floor of the same building will some time or other want to ascend to the top floor to witness what is taking place there. They will also perhaps be able to participate in those activities. Furthermore, if those who dwell on the top floor of the building are truly worthy, they will be anxious to help those on the lower floor to come up and share with them their activities. This interchange of peoples between the floors would result in a constructive unity so that even though there are a number of floors in the building they yet would be all connected and working in harmony for the interest of those who dwell thereon.
Consciousness of the Cosmic
So, too, in the integrated consciousness, in that consciousness where the various levels are closely connected, the Self, or being, that possesses that consciousness, moves freely in understanding between one level and the other. It participates in and enjoys all the phenomena and manifestations that can take place on each level of consciousness.
The consciousness of Jesus, then, was the consciousness of all of his being. It was not divided into separated experiences. The consciousness of Jesus had, as its theater, not only the world, the objective state, but the Cosmic and all those ascending and descending stages in between, as well. From this one-ness of consciousness arose that attitude, that speech and manner which historically we refer to as the Christ. We know that mortals enlarge their understanding considerably through exceptional experiences. We know that travel to foreign lands and the observations one makes of things taking place about him, as well as conscientious study, increase the perspective, the outlook of the individual. Such experiences become the building blocks which help the mortal in his human relationships, to understand his fellows and become a better unit of society. Think of what advantage the experiences of the whole of one's consciousness can be to man, as compared with those which are merely had through one level.
The Christ Consciousness is the Divine mind. It is the entire divine order, the Logos, or the law of God, if you will. In Christ, this Logos or Order of God was objectified in a human, or mortal form. In John 10:30 we find the following words: "I and my Father are one." This means that the divinity of God, to whom Jesus referred as the Father, was reduced in Jesus to human expression. Christ was a mortal manifestation of God, the Law clothed in body. Thus, the teachings of Christ come from the inner, exalted consciousness. They are not just the enlarged understanding of objective experience. The teachings of Jesus are the interpretation of the divine, of the higher levels of consciousness, but they are interpreted by a mortal mind, according to human values and human needs.
When Jesus was baptized, it is said that the Holy Ghost descended upon him. There has been much philosophical, theological, and mystical discussion as to the content of this Holy Ghost that descended upon him. As Dr. H. Spencer Lewis stated in his work, The Secret Doctrines of Jesus, most assuredly this Holy Ghost was not the Vital Life Force; it was not that essence by which a living thing could become animate, for Jesus was a living being, a mortal, and very much alive prior to his experience of receiving the Holy Ghost. Therefore, the Holy Ghost, which descended upon him was, in fact, the consciousness of the Cosmic. It was the phenomenon, through which, at that moment, he was able to integrate all of the levels of his consciousness, to unify them and to appreciate from the objective point of view the spiritual essence of his nature.
In John 14:6, Jesus says: "... I am the way, and the truth." This statement we can interpret to mean that he, in his conduct, exemplified the greater attainment, the result of the integrated consciousness. The phrase, "and the truth" can mean the way of teaching the truth, the way by which every man can have this Christ Consciousness. It is also true that every man cannot in one life experience the illuminated consciousness, the realization of the fullness of his conscious existence.
(To be Continued)
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