“When talking about consciousness and how it interacts with the mind, there is a simple analogy that I like to use. And that is the analogy of a prism.
The Mind as a Prism
When light is passed through a prism it goes through 2 layers of modification also known as diffraction. Diffraction is a phenomenon in which the path of light is changed when it interacts with a transparent surface such as glass or water. Upon interacting, the light seems to “bend and spread” and its intensity becomes somewhat diffused. In a prism this diffraction happens twice: once when the light enters the prism and second when the light leaves it. And so, the end result is a spectrum of different colors (wavelengths) of light; each uniquely identifiable from the other.
Our human brains operate in much the same way. Each of our brains comprises of two hemispheres much like the two surfaces of the prism. They are the right-brain and the left-brain.
Now, the right-brain is the experiencer: it feels, it absorbs, it emotes and intuits. It is designed to induce in us the sense of phenomena, of movement and of existence. The right brain has no concept of time as a linear sequence of events. Rather it is purely present-moment centered. It has no means of differentiating between one moment and the next, because it is always operating in real-time. And so the right-brain’s primary motivation is to experience wholly and fully this present moment regardless of how it may appear.
On the other hand, the left brain is the interpreter: it analyzes, calculates, plans and forecasts. It is designed to take the sensory-based perception of the right-brain and to translate it into information much like a computer processor translates 1’s and 0’s into readable language. And so the left-brain’s concept of time is purely linear. It views every moment as an independent package of time on a sequential number line extending from the past to the present. To the left-brain, the ‘present moment’ is not any more special than any other moment. And so the left-brain’s primary motivation is to “optimize the timeline” for the best possible outcome scenario. At every step of the way, it is constantly recalculating its trajectory based on its view of the past and its projection of the future; much like the GPS on your car is always re-calculating in order to choose the best path forward.
So you can see that these left and right brain functions are actually quite contradictory to each other and yet this whole brain is designed to function as a single unit. And that is because there exists, between these two hemispheres, a communication pathway known as the ‘corpus callosum’. This corpus callosum is a dense collection of neural fibers which enables the transmission of information back and forth between the two hemispheres. And it is in essence where the sense of the self resides.
The Double Diffraction of Consciousness
As in the prism analogy, consciousness enters in through the right-brain (the first face of the prism) which I also call the spiritual interface. Here it experiences its first diffraction: the distortion of undifferentiated consciousness into a flux of conscious energies. These are the emotional and sensual energies that all of us experience. It is this flux which generates within us the experience of a ‘sense of existence’.
At this point in its transition, consciousness has been modified into an energy flux that is experience-able but is as yet unintelligible to the mind. In other words, it can be felt but not reflected upon or understood. For that consciousness must pass through the second hemisphere of the left-brain (the second face of the prism) which I also call the material interface. Here the diffraction further distorts this flux of energies into clearly defined boundaries of experience, which can be interpreted through the faculty of thought. Rather than simply feel, consciousness can now think, analyze, evaluate and reason. This two-step process of differentiating consciousness results in our view of the material world: a world with clear lines and boundaries of experience.
In infancy when our left-brain faculties have yet to fully set in, the experience of the world tends to be more seamless. Our ability to differentiate between things: objects, emotions, people and places is as yet rudimentary. And we rarely use thought other than in the form of a few fleeting images, because language is an ability we have yet to discover. In short, the material world is less material, in the sense that it appears less solid and more fluid, both perceptually and experientially.
But as we grow older and our capacity to reason, to evaluate and to understand increases so does our view of the world crystallize into a more rigid and hence more easily captured sequence of instances. Just like a camera takes a scene and renders it into a number of static images, our left brains render the experience of life into thoughts and images which are informational but in essence have no real ‘life’ of their own.
The Paradox of the Self
Because humans are unique in that their left-brains are so highly developed, the sheer amount of information passing through the corpus callosum, in both directions, is tremendous. As a result of this two-way traffic, not only do we have the ability to be aware, but we also have the ability to be aware that we are aware: in other words to be self-aware. This self-awareness would not be possible if the traffic was predominantly one way. In most animals and even in human infants, that is in fact the case. They are aware, but not fully self-aware. Self-awareness is a function that can only be optimally activated by a fully developed left-brain.
And so what is the self? The answer depends on which direction your awareness is pointing. Because this self is merely a vector. Simply put a vector is a directional pointer: like a weather vane, which points whichever way the wind blows. The self too is simply a vector. In other words, the form it assumes depends purely on the direction awareness is pointed in.
So if the self is pointing towards the external world (to the prism’s second face), it is viewing the left-brain’s projection of a finite material person: the spectrum created by the prism. It sees the body of an individual person and says “this person is me”. It sees thoughts and feelings and says “these thoughts and feeling are mine.” It sees objects and bodies around it and says “this is mine, he is mine, she is mine.” It creates the image of duality: a separate individual interacting with a much vaster world.
Yet, when the direction of the vector is reversed to point towards the inner world of the right-brain (the prism’s first face), the experience of self becomes something radically different. Here things are less clear, boundaries are far hazier and nothing really makes ‘sense’ from a thought perspective. The experience is one of a moment by moment flux of energies, emotions and sensations. It is far more intense in terms of experience, because consciousness has only been diffracted, and hence diffused, once. Here the self cannot differentiate and separate. The experience is more holistic. From this perspective the self cannot say “I am this” or “this is mine”, rather all it can say is that “I am”. And so the inner experience is one of singularity: of oneness and unity.
And so the self can either be experienced as a duality or a unity depending on which way it is oriented. Yet, it has no inherent form of its own. It simply assumes the image of what it is directed at. And this is why the self is often experienced as changeful. It is a chameleon with the ability to adapt to any color within the spectrum but has no original color of its own.
The Nature of Consciousness
When the white light has passed through a prism and casts a visible spectrum (rainbow) what differentiates each color from the next is its frequency. The cooler colors (the blues and indigos) have higher frequencies and the warmer colors (reds and oranges) have shorter frequencies. This is the same within the spectrum of conscious experience. Light-natured experiences and emotions (like joy and love) can be said to have a higher vibrational frequency than the dark-natured experiences and emotions (like fear and anger).
Yet, the “visible” spectrum is only a small portion of the spectrum that light creates. It is only that portion that is perceivable by the human eye. Beyond the visible spectrum lies the greater scope of the electromagnetic spectrum that our eyes are not naturally built to perceive, for which we have invented instruments to detect them (including gamma rays, microwaves etc. on the top end and infrared rays, radio waves etc. on the bottom)
Similarly, there are vibrational levels of conscious experience above and below the levels of human consciousness that our brains are not accustomed to experiencing and that do not manifest in our material reality. We tend to refer to these as the “non-physical planes” for lack of a better word. And within these planes of non-physical reality there are conscious experiences of much higher (light-nature) and a much lower (dark-nature) vibrational frequencies than we can be aware.
But what is the nature of consciousness? What is its vibrational frequency?
Light entering a prism comprises the entire spectrum of frequencies within it, yet has no frequency of its own. Frequency is a term that becomes operative within the boundaries of the spectrum, not outside of it.
Similarly, consciousness comprises the entire spectrum of natures (all levels of light and dark experience) and all the possible vibrational frequencies within it. And yet, it has no vibrational frequency of its own. It is empty of any means of classification. Because every means of classification is limited to the boundaries of the conscious spectrum and cannot be applied to consciousness itself.
And so the nature of consciousness is that it has none. Or another way of interpreting it is that the nature of consciousness is empty.
Return to the self as the vector. We previously saw two possible identifications that the self could have, based on its orientation. The first was the left-brain view of an individual self, separated from the material world: that of an ego. The second was the right-brain view of a single self no separate from the inner world: that of the seamless “I am” experience.
There is a third view, when the vector projects itself past even the left-brain view to contemplate consciousness even before it has been diffracted for the first time. And in this image it sees absolutely nothing. All it sees a blank and empty canvas. This is the image of the no-self. Because in this moment, even that “I am” experience no longer exists. Everything vanishes, including the “I”, the prism and the consciousness interacting with it. All is reduced to nothing.
The encounter of the no-self is like crossing the event horizon of a black hole. Up until the event horizon, even though all matter (ego identity) has been sucked in by its vacuum, light (the “I am”) still persists. But the moment the event horizon is crossed, even light ceases to exist. All that remains is a vast open void of pure potentiality and endless possibility. It is the seed of creation from which an entire universe comes into existence. When the self encounters this perspective, it realizes that its own reality is just imagination.”