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Collective Consciousness: A Study in Words

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Collective consciousness or collective unconscious? It is a question for those working with consciousness studies. And is there a relationship between the collective consciousness and what we call higher consciousness? Or even cosmic consciousness?

The phrases abound: quantum consciousness, universal consciousness, Christ consciousness.. What is consciousness itself? What about altered states of consciousness or consciousness raising or simply human consciousness?

The word is ubiquitous in a society which has an unparalleled longing to understand its finer mechanisms. An awakening society. Is it merely wishful thinking to talk about ‘collective consciousness 2012’, or expanding consciousness? By collective consciousness do we mean shared consciousness? Is there a conscious collective? What about science and consciousness?

When I wrote about this previously, in a piece called ‘Consciousness and Its Alterations‘, I focused on the value of consciousness to the individual in relation to its possible modifications. But under the title of Collective Consciousness I wished to refer to something which is transcendental and healing, which invokes the archetypes of psychology and yet belongs in a child’s paintbox. And that is the spiritual year.

Nothing frames the mystery of human consciousness as adroitly as the inner calendar. Every religious and social grouping without exception has imbued the passage of the seasons with ritual and artistic significance. Without a doubt there is something we collectively and individually respond to in the rhythms of the year.

On the one hand the inner aspect of this depends on your faith; on the other it is a matter of sensitivity to a universal or cosmic consciousness which expresses itself both in the mighty movements of the sun along the ecliptic and the changing color of a leaf. We are wealthy in the resources the world gives us. A child’s joy reveals this; the awe-inspiring symbolism of death and rebirth in spring reveals this.

I suggest, then, that by collective consciousness we mean something which is a trembling sensitivity and which expresses itself in generosity, love and communion. At best. At worst we slip into tribal and sectarian impulses which do the opposite. Of course evil can be conscious and individual too. But evil is essentially manipulative – it plays on the elements of society which have no wish to be awakened. The conscious charisma of evil itself is almost unimaginable. If we wished to we could talk about ‘collective unconsciousness 2012’.

In this briefest of surveys – pointing to the proliferation of uses of the word ‘consciousness’ – I wished to err on the side of optimism: to propose that an intuitive awakening within and away from ancient traditions is the trademark of renewed civilization. We awake within by sensing the cosmic significance of ritual thinking; we awaken away from it by discovering truly individual uses of consciousness which immediately respond to the needs of other people. On both levels this can be called cosmic or Christ consciousness. The ‘collective’ part is more properly a universal vibration within the inner being or self of the individual.

In my own work – and life – I take a conscious and natural joy in the truly mind-expanding changes of the seasons. I try very hard to intuit and gather up the cosmic and spiritual vibrations within those changes. I see a thread of light; I see a stair of light; I discover light-filled beings ascending and descending that stair. I believe that I can do as they do, be as they are, if I can weave that thread of light into the fabric of the world in my own way. I do this by writing. The page is my forum; the light on the page is my contribution to the consciousness of our times. Hence I’ve styled my own collection of writings Light on the Page.

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About Jay Landar