By Geoffrey A. Farthing, 10th October 1996, first made for his colleagues in
The Scientific and Medical Network - http://www.scimednet.org/.
AN ESOTERIC VIEW OF THE RELATION BETWEEN CONSCIOUSNESS AND BRAIN FUNCTION
2.0 Basic Theory of Esoteric Science
2.1 The Seven Planes of Cosmos
2.2 The Sevenfold Nature of Man
2.3 The Aggregation of Lives
2.4 The Auric Envelope
2.5 The Unity of All Existence
2.6 The Hermetic Axiom
2.7 The Process of ‘Ever—Becoming’
2.8 Space?— Two kinds
3.1 Near Death Experiences
3.3 Simultaneous discovery of new knowledge
To possibly be included later:
Table 1, The Seven Principles.
Figure 1, Planes and Principles.
Figure 2, The Auric Envelope.
Appendix I, Consciousness — a summation of ‘lives’.
Appendix II, Consciousness and the field of experience.
Appendix III, Examples from Secret Doctrine,Vol III, Description and 573/5
The electro-chemical activities of the cerebro-neural system and the fact that they are intimately associated with consciousness are well known. The nature of consciousness itself is, however, a matter of continual speculation. Esoteric Science provides a hypothesis which explains this mystery. Some of the basic postulates of Esoteric Science are relevant to the way that consciousness arises out of brain function. Esoteric Science is not limited to the physical objective plane cognizable by our five senses. It asserts that there are ‘inner’ planes of existence constituting a non-physical hinterland to the physical one and with respect to which they are subjective. It is an axiom of Esoteric Science that all natural phenomena proceed from the subjective ‘within’ to the objective ‘without’. This process is analogous to any human activity which will affect the environment: e.g. mental planning first and then effective action. In this sense the inner worlds are causative and the outer world is one of effects.
2.0 Basic Theory of Esoteric Science
2.1 The Seven Planes of Cosmos
There are six inner subjective planes and one outer objective one. Each plane comprises seven sub-planes, the characteristics of each of which corresponds in its nature to those of the main planes. The infinite richness of manifest Nature in all departments reflects the fact not only that there are sub-planes to each main plane but that each sub-plane itself has seven sub-sub-planes and so on. This heptamerous structure of Cosmos provides the whole gamut of possible experience or the field of Universal Consciousness (Figure I).
2.2 The Sevenfold Nature of Man
Man’s constitution reflects that of Cosmos in every particular. The seven main planes constitute a whole series of primary characteristics inbuilt actually or potentially into every manifest thing, no matter at what level it has its being. These planes with their seven sub-planes etc. constitute the whole scale of possible being. The esoteric teaching says that they constitute a series of vibrationary scales. The higher the rate of vibration the nearer the source. The lowest rates of vibration are at the physical plane in the mineral kingdom. The possibility of resonance between planes therefore becomes feasible.
In terms of man’s constitution these planes correspond to 1) his physical body, 2) a non-material form body, 3) a life principle, 4) a state of being corresponding to his emotional or passional nature wherein desire arises, 5) a mental principle, the lower four sub-principles of which comprising what is regarded as the man’s ‘personal’ or lower mind, and the upper three his ‘impersonal’ or higher mind, 6) a vehicle in which spirit, which would otherwise be abstract, can express itself, 7) the highest of the principles, that of pure Spirit (Table l). All these have their sevenfold subprinciples.
All the cosmic planes and their sub-planes comprise in themselves an almost numberless series of characteristics and qualities which manifest eventually at physical level in sounds, colours, shapes, characteristic qualities and in higher forms of life, temperaments and faculties. The total spectrum represents the almost infinite field of potential experience at all levels of being available to anyone with the necessary corresponding faculties developed and operating. In the limit this is the end of the development mode for any particular species such as mankind. It is the process of evolution taken to its ultimate end of perfection at the highest level. Esoteric Science postulates levels of development above the human into superhuman states but at non-physical levels.
The human principles are derived from the corresponding sub-principles of the main cosmic planes, fig. 1. It also shows that the emotional and mental human principles taken as examples have their seven sub-principles. This subdivision into sub-principles is important when considering the varieties of experience to which consciousness can respond.
2.3 The aggregation of lives provides a vehicle for consciousness
Just as every living thing, like a brain cell, has its higher or inner principles, so every living ’thing’ or life comprising any of the inner planes or levels of being is constituted, in its turn, on a sevenfold basis, to fulfil its role at its particular level — e.g. the ‘lives’ of the 4th plane will generate and react to ‘emotional’ stimuli. A man’s emotional vehicle of consciousness will be composed of such lives.
Esoteric Science postulates that the whole universal or cosmic process is an expression of life and is the aggregate of the activities of virtually an infinite number of individual lives (distinct entities) comprising it. According to Esoteric Science there is no such thing as dead matter. It also says as a corollary that every thing has a consciousness of its own kind and degree. In the ‘lives’, of which the kingdoms of Nature are constituted, the consciousness increases or expands as the forms or vehicles of the lives become more complex in their passage from the mineral to the vegetable, to the animal and ultimately to the human kingdoms.
In a sense these kingdoms of Nature are analogous to the levels of being in the subjective realms; they themselves also consist of ‘lives’. The nature or characteristics of these lives in the aggregate constitute the nature and characteristics of the various subjective planes.
Man can thus be regarded as an aggregate of many lives, i.e. all the atoms comprising his body at the physical level, and all the energy arising from the interactions of his biochemical processes and associated electricity. In Esotericism this consciousness is known as the physical Elemental, a quasi-intelligent entity heir to a vast amount of experience at physical level and in numberless bodies during the course of its evolutionary journeys. In the human being this is the intelligence of the body itself which, without impinging on the consciousness of the man, controls all bodily functions.
It follows from the concept of the seven planes and seven principles that there is a similar quasi-intelligent elemental consciousness on each plane. This is the aggregate of the consciousnesses of all the lives comprising the inner or subjective bodies, whatever their stage of development.
In addition to these aggregates there is a single unit of consciousness of the individuality, in man the “I”. This resides in an aggregate consciousness of a group of certain specialized brain cells, the subjective or astral counterpart of which contains the upper mental sub-principles and to some extent the emotional ones, Appendix I. In these upper mental regions the consciousness wells up as the knowledge “I AM” over and above the ordinary sense of “I” which is associated with the personal being, and so it is known as the ‘personal’ consciousness. This rather is where man’s consciousness normally operates. It is identified with his ‘person’.
From these physical and subjective (astral) levels of mind man is potentially possessed of two levels of consciousness. This is reflexive such that at either level consciousness (as subject) can be sensible of its higher or lower aspect (as object), e.g. one can experience an awareness of one’s own immediate (instantaneous) pattern of thoughts.
2.4 The Auric Envelope
The Auric Envelope demarks at all levels any entity from any other (fig. 2). It persists as a ‘spiritual’ individuality throughout the whole long evolutionary journey from start to finish. It associates itself periodically with a succession of forms one at a time at the various levels. The forms are temporary but each during its ‘life’ gains experience of which the ‘spiritual’ part is assimilated at the death of the form into the persisting auric individuality which thereby develops.
Esoteric Science postulates, as mentioned above, fig. 2, that each living entity is demarked from the general pool of life, i.e. other living things, by an envelope which consists of a sheath of very subtle substance. It remains with that entity throughout its vast evolutionary journey through all the kingdoms of Nature. In the case of man it is that by which he can be identified from the very start of his evolutionary journey as a human being. It is known as the Auric Envelope or Egg and it contains not only the developed seed of all his principles, both subjective and objective, but modifications caused by life experiences which result in the development of each principle. These thereby become a record of all that has happened to the entity throughout its existence.
2.5 The Unity of all existence
A major postulate of Esotericism is that the universe is a unity, and that in a very special sense. It is not a collection of numberless parts. Each part reflects the whole, either actually as in a hologram, or potentially according to its place in the scheme of things. Any unit of life, any entity, is itself the whole in its constitution, whether it be on the physical plane of existence or any of the subjective ones. Because consciousness is universal and primal there is no entity without its degree or kind of sentience or consciousness, according to its development and the plane of its being. The whole universe is regarded in this way as ‘conscious’, as an aggregate of the units of consciousness of all the entities comprising it. The order of Universal Consciousness as here postulated is regarded as being way beyond that of any individual human consciousness.
As the universe is a unity there is only One Source for every aspect of its being, whether this be substantial or whether it be energetic. These two poles of being reflect into a Matter-Spirit dichotomy but by reason of cosmic unity these two are aspects only of the Same Thing. This is a postulated eternal ‘Something’ which underlies all existence in the form of the manifested universe.
From this Substance aspect all matter and form at any level derives; from the energetic aspect all the known forms of energy derive. To use our modern expression, this single source energy is regarded as cosmic electricity. Operating in different aspects throughout the whole scale of being. At physical level it manifests not only as the electricity we know but all the forms of radiation, light and heat. It too ultimately has its correlation with consciousness. In this sense then consciousness has an energetic aspect. Matter and energy thus combine to form complex vehicles of consciousness.
This energy also correlates to chemical processes such as those found during cell activity.
Life activity according to Esoteric Science takes place on all the seven levels of being with their corresponding sub-levels previously mentioned.
2.6 The Hermetic Axiom, the Hologram Effect
In Esotericism the law of analogy applies: “as it is above so it is below, as is the inner, so is the outer, as is the great so is the small...” One significance of this law is that the total inner and outer nature of man is not only immensely complex but in its make-up is analogous to that of universal Being. This is true not only of man but of every other living entity. Everything reflects the whole, potentially or actually.
How far any of the aspects of the constituent aspects or principles of any thing’s total being are developed depends upon its place on the evolutionary ladder and its development within that.
2.7 The Process of ‘Ever-becoming’
Another esoteric axiom is that life is ‘ever-becoming’. This is a comprehensive statement which includes all the lives comprising the cosmic process. Their level of ‘becoming’ depends upon the degree of development of the form or vehicle that for the time being they are occupying or operating through. Every living entity has such a vehicle, i.e. there is life as dynamism or energy expressing itself through a suitably developed vehicle. Suitably developed means being able properly to fulfil its characteristic function in its place in the natural scheme of things. The grand process of Universal Being is virtually this process of evolution, which develops by the increasing complexity of vehicles of consciousness. For example, this applies in the human being wherein cells comprise his body or brain; their collective life, that of their aggregation, is that of the composite organ, or the body as a whole. It must be borne in mind that the lives with their dynamism and form aspects constitute the inner as well as the objective planes of being. The cosmic process is immensely complicated, and that of any organism from the simplest is also similarly complicated by reason of the fact that every thing not only has a ‘form’ aspect but an inner energetic aspect to all its principles. Everything in its degree of sentience or consciousness is within the process of ever-becoming, ever expanding. How this expansion of consciousness is achieved is dealt with later.
2.8 Space — Two kinds
1) Physical objective, 3-dimensional, the “room” occupied by things.
2) Subjective, non-physical, non-dimensional, empty field F of consciousness.
The teachings of Esoteric Science are derived from knowledge acquired by past civilizations and hence frequently are termed the Ancient Wisdom. It is said that this knowledge was passed verbally from generation to generation for many centuries or even millennia before writing was developed in the first cuneiform scripts by people with highly developed and spiritual faculties.
3.1 Near Death Experiences
A study of several cases of N.D.E. has shown that in every case where information was acquired about events which occurred while the subject was in a deep coma the most plausible explanation was that the subject could see out of the body. It cannot all be explained by hearing, e.g. the recognition of a nurse ‘s face who was there only during the period of coma when the eyes were shut. The most obvious explanation is that the consciousness has transferred from the physical body to a point outside the body (ordinary physical matter as such is not organized to act as a vehicle for human consciousness) occupying a non-physical entity such as that described by esoteric science or the astral plane of reality. 1)
Historical information obtained during regression has been meticulously checked by researchers. There have been many cases where information could not have been acquired beforehand from books or conversation with others because it was totally lost, e.g. the existence of a crypt in a church in York which had been covered up and forgotten for several centuries until found by workmen after it has been mentioned by a subject under regression. The most obvious explanation is that the mind has access to a non-physical memory on the astral plane and is able to obtain access to this memory during regression.
3.3 Simultaneous discovery of new knowledge
Scientific research workers have noted how often disputes have arisen between workers in the same field of research in different parts of the world regarding who was first with some new insight or discovery. These disputes are too numerous to be attributable to pure chance as the probability of simultaneity is so low. Consequently new discoveries are rushed into print sometimes before full verification is completed. There have been notable cases of severe embarrassment when final verification was not forthcoming. The most obvious explanation is that one scientist’s thoughts have entered the non-physical memory on the astral plane and another scientist on the same “wavelength” has been able to tune in and think the same thoughts.
Psychometry is when an inanimate object like a piece of jewellery can provide information about past events where it was present. This is analogous to the information stored by magnetism of a magnetic tape in a recorder. It suggests that physical matter has associated subtle properties not yet identified by modern science which enables it to record events. The explanation given by esoteric science is that these subtle properties arise from the existence of the astral counterpart to the physical even at the physical atomic level.
The nature of consciousness as it arises in the physical brain is the subject of much scientific speculation. However, Esoteric Science provides a direct explanation for the persistence of consciousness beyond the physical brain. The concept of the astral counterpart to the physical brain as in a state of coma. It follows that consciousness may only persist as long as the astral counterpart of the brain exists as an entity. If it disintegrates as the physical brain disintegrates during decay or incineration that particular individual unit of consciousness may also cease to exist. The detailed working of the higher planes is not known but it is possible that further vehicles for consciousness may exist on higher planes than the astral so that individual consciousness persists beyond the disintegration of the astral counterpart. This is pure speculation but it has to be admitted that the possibility exists within the overall structure of the philosophy of Esoteric Science. The components of personality that relate to the character of the individual are retained in the Auric Envelope and incorporated into each successive reincarnation. The evidence from regression seems to suggest that some degree of awareness of previous lives does persist. This has the obvious implication that consciousness is probably retained in some degree.
Man has an inner model body (astral or morphic) with its seven principles. This body is a counterpart of the physical, with a similar physiology, including counterpart organs, of which one is the brain. All the cells of this ‘brain’, however, are operating at a frequency one octave so-to-speak above the physical one. The astral brain is, however, itself a vehicle of consciousness at astral level and so with the other inner vehicles. The ‘bridge’ between these various levels could be considered as a sort of vibratory resonance. This ability of consciousness to function independently of the physical brain on the ‘inner’ planes is the explanation of such phenomena as the out-of-the-body experiences described by N.D.E.. The subprinciples of the human brain cells can be developed to resonate with the astral and the man will then have some astral consciousness. A man, however, is a whole being with his seven aspects corresponding to the cosmic planes. As he develops his consciousness can move up the planes (by way of his developed inner vehicles) into the higher planes and operate on them. This can be done even when his physical brain is dormant.
We are defining consciousness as the ability to be aware. Consciousness is a function of the capacity or responsiveness of the vehicles at any level which give it expression. It is very dim at mineral level; it opens up as its vehicles on their evolutionary journey pass up through the vegetable animal and human kingdoms. An analysis of consciousness gives three aspects: 1) basic awareness, K, with a value varying from virtually zero in the least sentient forms, to unity when fully developed and alert; 2) the content, C, of which at any time it can be aware; 3) the field of awareness, L, which corresponds to the operative principles in man’s being, i.e, physical, emotional, mental, etc. The awareness aspect relates in man to his conscious identity, “I”, which persists unchanged throughout his life, from day to day, year to year.
These three factors, K, C and L, are basic to all experience. Consciousness (K) registers impressions from both the objective, sensible world and the inner, subjective realms, and the impressions depend upon the level (L) i.e. the mode of operation, e.g. sense impression, thought process and emotional feeling of the perceptive faculty involved and (C) the object or event being observed. Taken together the content and the level constitute a field (f) of consciousness. This field (C + L) varies in extent and depth according to the response mechanism acting as a vehicle for consciousness, Appendix II. In the human being this is the brain, with its specialized cells to which not only physical sense impressions are conveyed but also all subjective stimuli. The ability of the appropriate brain cells to respond depends on not only their physical development but the development of their inner faculties. As we have said, each living thing has its seven principles (one at physical level and six subjective ones) and every thing in Nature has a consciousness of its own depending on its nature and its state of development at all levels of being.
Just as matter and energy can be aggregated into more complex forms, so these forms become vehicles for the aggregated consciousness of the constituent parts. For example, any complex entity composed of lives will have a unit consciousness consisting of the aggregate of the consciousness of all its component lives. These component lives will have a consciousness appropriate to their level of being.
In Occultism, or Esotericism, there is a postulated universal law with a number of aspects; primarily, however, it is a law of cause and effect. Every thing and event is as it is as a result of a preceding cause, state and action. Other aspects of this law include that of balancing, maintaining equilibrium, and of alternation, of cycles. All natural processes obey this law of alternation. It underlies all the rhythms of Nature from the very large exemplified in the seasons of the year to the small such astides, to the smaller still, like in-breathing and out-breathing and heart beats. Alternation includes the vibratory nature of natural energies and rays, such as light.
The total life process of a human being consisting of many lives is of great duration (many millennia) according to this law but it has a beginning and an end. It begins in virtual unconsciousness as far as the individual is concerned and reaches a full flowering of consciousness at the end of the evolutionary process. This is development on that sevenfold scale which provides a framework, the grand cycle, within which are innumerable smaller cycles. One of the smaller cycles is that of life and death, the coming into physical being of a human and his exit therefrom at the death of the physical body. Another example is that of sleeping and waking: these cycles are accompanied by an alternation in the degree of consciousness according to the cyclic alertness of the individual. Esotericism, however, postulates that the total process of life (as a universal dynamism) is continuous even through periods of dormancy. The Auric Envelope and its constituent principles are related to the cosmic principles at the universal level, fig. 2. In fact, there is a direct correspondence between the human and cosmic principles. There is even the concept of a cosmic Auric Envelope.
The Auric Envelope is thus the seat of the unit consciousness of the entity, human or otherwise. In man, as we have seen, this unit consciousness is the aggregate of those cells of the brain specialized to respond to the various physical and non-physical stimuli. In the case of the non-physical ones their response is via their developed inner principles, each neuron in the brain having its six subjective principles as does everything else, and each principle is more or less developed to function on its particular plane. The more developed the neurons are subjectively, the greater the field of consciousness of the individual, at the various levels at which these inner principles can function.
The spiritual development of a person involves the process of the quickening and development of these individual brain cells and their subjective or astral counterparts. Their development depends on use and, at a certain stage in a man’s life journey, his acquaintance with, and use of, meditational techniques which assist in this process.
An important factor in this process of development of consciousness at the higher spiritual levels of being is that between the normal processes of thinking and experiencing at personal level and those at the higher impersonal levels there is a division. This can be regarded as a membrane which is obstructive to interaction between the two levels of consciousness or as a bridge. As a membrane, however, it is permeable, as a bridge it has to be developed. This development involves aspiration, i.e. the will of the individual, to achieve it, and secondly inspiration from the right sources. Right sources can be literature of the right spiritual content or from within as an intermittant then continuous subjective experience.
The point of mentioning this spiritual development in this consideration of consciousness is that the unit of consciousness of a being is said to reflect that of universal being. The more it does so the more a man’s consciousness is said to expand. That means to say that the man can function at the higher levels and his perceptive faculties can respond to finer and finer stimuli at those levels.
Esoteric Science provides a series of postulates which explain the relationship between the physical plane of existence where matter and energy interact and the higher planes where existence is defined in terms of energy and ethereal, subtle, tenuous, non-physical substance.
The aggregation of lives into more complex forms provides vehicles for aggregated consciousness.
The correspondences between the planes and principles of man provides the possibility that consciousness can transfer from a physical vehicle to a non-physical vehicle such as that on the astral plane.
The concept of the Auric Envelope gives a mechanism for the transfer of consciousness and characteristics of the individuality from earth life to earth life and beyond to higher states of existence on subtler planes.
1) Once a famous Swedish professor in brain research, David Ingvar, said in TV, that there is no scientific proof of parapsychology, but that patients, after having been anaesthesized, can say what then had taken place, ”that we can not quite explain”. [Editor's notice.]