A Few Nondogmatic Thoughts on Consciousness
I was thinking how a "consciousness" is the hardest thing to break or to change. That word has taken on more and more meaning to me as integral in what God does in us and by us.
We all have an "outer consciousness" and an "inner consciousness." Outer would be what clothes we like, how we feel about people of other races, our political thought, our normal reactions to things in life which are more or less predictable, our view towards our family and friends in a "this world" sense, and of course the sense of our bodies and our physical needs and desires -- i.e. basically anything which is of this world. ("World" in this sense not meaning a "bad" thing.) Things which are predominant in our outer consciousness, such as gourmet cooking, or taking care of our children, or our historical world view, might in a way produce their own "sub-consciousness" -- and by that I don't mean something unconscious, I just mean "sub" in the sense of existing-in-distinction within the overall outer (of this world) consciousness, like a subcontractor on a house project, who is only responsible for the plumbing, working under the direction of the general contractor, who is responsible to coordinate all the sub-contractors -- my point being that things achieve a distinction in our consciousess in the same way. We have "many consciousnesses."
The normal way of the world is to work in this consciousness attempting to change the same consciousness in everyone else -- the outer man. Advertisers and political evangelists aren't so much trying to sell us on their ideas, as to create a consciousness in our psyches. A whole generation grew up thinking "Frigidaire" was just another word that meant "refrigerator," so well had the advertisers done their job. Political parties don't try to sell us ideas on issues so much as making a consciousness out of associative buzz words which just by their very utterance evoke all sorts of knee-jerk emotional and intellectual reactions -- political parties on all sides do this, I might add. All bemoan the bad consciousness (world view, opinions, ulterior motives) of the other, and all assert their own moral superiority. And that isn't just in advertising or politics, but in sports, in religious viewpoints, in moral judgments, in every avenue of human life on all levels no matter what. Everything operates in this outer consciousness and judges everyone and everything else good or evil on the basis of it.
Inner consciousness is a lttle harder to pin down. I know the outer consciousness pretty well, since it's been my domain all my life. "Inner" consciousness, as I am meaning it, roughly corresponds to scriptural terms "spirit," and "inner man." I'm not too overly technical on this, nor wanting to be, since I think both inner and outer consciousness have their own innate infinity built into both of them. Both seem infinite and therefore ultimately mysterious. The threads running through, and the reasons for, the convolutions in our human mind/outer consciousness/outer man/soul man, which make us think the way we do, or act the way we do (so we think and so it seems), have their own endless quality about them, and are past finding out. This is the task psychiatry and psychology (and all their offshoots everywhere, most especially in "religious" circles) have taken upon themselves, to wade through the miasma of human thinking (either medically or by analysis) and think (there's the problem right there) thereby to fix the thing they can't figure out. They have some limited success which is helpful and we are appreciative of its right uses, but it changes day by day because it is a labyrinth no man can completely map. The world, and often also the church, is convinced that if they fix this monster they will heal themselves, but of course another doomed self-task, another Tower of Babel attempt.
But back to inner consciousness. I am only speaking here in my own experience and not as a dogmatist. But this consciousness for me is not "conscious" at all, except in glimpses here and there, but you have to drink them in deeply for the split second they might appear, because most of the time there is no conscious consciousness of that which I "know." I have come to just "know [be it]," and to accept faith as substance and evidence of that knowing, which isn't a "thing" at all, but God Himself in us with Whom we are "mixed" in "knowing Him."
It did, however, used to be a practice. "I live yet not I" etc., and other words, used to be my mantras. I said them over and over. I thought there would come a day when Who I Am would overcome and change the outer consciousness that I live in every day to make it something altogether different (and Christ-like, whatever that was). So I would chant my scriptural union mantra and wait for the day when I would become different.
John Bunting and I were sitting in the Red Lobster last week, in Columbia, Maryland, with our friend, Alex Cohen. We were discussing between bites coming to the fulness of who we are, and how there comes a day when we realize we have found what we sought, a day "of graduation." Alex said, and we agreed, that we graduate the day it fully hits us that we ARE already everything the scriptures say we are, everything God has promised that we ARE, He has fulfilled in us. (I'm not nearly quoting Alex correctly, but that is the gist.)
Well, that is something incredibly simple. As He is, so are we in this world.
As He is, so are we NOW in this world.
I don't think I'm adding to the scriptures there, but opening the meaning further.
The thing that makes me stumble and doubt it from time to time, is that this recognition of completion and perfection in Him which is absolute, total and effective NOW, which is in complete agreement with the scriptures, has occurred without apparent change in my everyday mind. I have always looked there for my signal that I had become what I wanted to become, or had attained the long-sought-for spirituality or whatever I was looking for. I had, from day one, in ignorance and through having no other place to hang my hat, accepted the idea that it was all this stuff going on everyday in my natural mind that would one day start "being spiritual" through and through.
However that day never came and instead what was really going on just kicked-started itself into my understanding. I saw that all that daily human living thinking, including all the sub-consciousnesses going on, all the hats I'm wearing, became in our baptism into Jesus and the Spirit the house of the Lord. His mansion, that HE moved into, having removed the previous tenant who had put grafitti all over the walls and kind of vandalized the place. The new Lord of the manor kicked the old guy out, and this has been His house ever since, and He hasn't made a duplex out of it, either. He's got the whole house and all the surrounding property as well.
Nothing about me changed whatsoever when one day I grew up "into Him." It was something I simply "knew" by faith, which was just simply responding to the Spirit's question to me one day: "When are you going to believe?"
I saw a preacher on TV tonight tell everybody to search themselves and to make note of the areas of life they needed to improve on. I'm sure all those faithful people in that huge arena, multi-thousands I'm sure, all thought immediately of all the things each one of them has trouble with, the things they felt guilty about, thoughts and attitudes they couldn't shake, probably many of them for the umpteenth time making promises to God to "deal with it" or asking God's help one more time to change or remove it and for forgiveness. No offense to the preacher, but that one's a sure-fire altar filler, because almost everybody in Christ lives in perpetual self-condemnation.
It's certainly familiar territory to me, because I spent long years there.
But one day the Spirit's challenge comes: "When are YOU going to believe?" and that day (today?) you are ready with your answer, "Well, I'll believe now."
How? Don't know. There's no way to hold your mouth right, and no technique one can teach another to show how to do it. It's a gift from God, and a thing of the heart. Can't teach either one.
You just believe now, because now is the time, and there's the belief right there before us, waiting for you to just say yes to it, that's all. Nothing to do with training your mind, nothing to make promises about, no new attitudes to try to maintain, just raw belief hanging there in mid-air waiting on you to just apprehend it as your own. Given as a gift, with nothing on our part to do but accept what has been provided and put right before us on the table.
That was all that kept the children of Israel out of the Land the first time they came to it, after the 12 Spies episode. It hadn't been their behavior coming across the desert. It hadn't been their complaining, their forgetting each and every miracle God had done for them in previous days everytime some new challenge came up. It wasn't even that they made a Golden Calf and danced around acting immorally and wished for leeks and onions back in Egypt under the domination of Pharaoh. It wasn't any of that.
The only thing that kept them out of the Land was unbelief.
They didn't believe that God IS, and that what He had promised, HE WOULD PERFORM. Instead they only saw with their outer eyes, and saw the outer obstacles, and knew their own arms weren't sufficient to the task before them, which was fine if they had moved from there to what Caleb and Joshua saw. But they drew back, and believed not the clear word from God they'd been given, and they didn't enter the land that day.
Unbelief, not their deeds, not their attitudes, not how well they knew the scriptures or even how well they performed their tabernacle duties, but only unbelief kept them out.
But now in our new birth, which is Christ in us, their experience is less a warning to us than a lesson for us, for we aren't those who draw back into unbelief, but are of those who go on into faith, who hear God's word in our depths and believe today.
Which brings me back to this consciousness business.
The Inner is what is absolutely real and true about us. The Inner is where God dwells in us and where we in Him are and He is in us.
The "outer," however, has now been made, as much as the inner has, the dwelling place of God, i.e. His house, His branch, His temple, His instrument, His slave, His servant, His riverbed. All of that now shows up in this "outer" man, the one we've been wanting to change, only for the most part, this outer person doesn't change. A different Person lives in the house, and that's what makes the house totally different.
(Now, to clarify, of course in the new birth we are delivered from sins and sin, and when I am talking about the outer man not changing, I'm not meaning the effects of having righteousness as our inner nature as opposed to the former nature of sin which we lived in. Of course in passing from darkness to light in the new birth, for most of us many things dropped away either quickly or over time that would have been in that category. I'm talking about folks who, like the children of Israel, have had our Passover and exit from Egypt, but are now stuck seemingly perpetually in the wilderness with no Promised Land in sight. We have the Law, which we try to fulfill, and seek to please God, but keep falling on our faces. This is the plight of the new self which is not yet conscious of the true source of its strength and has yet to mature to adulthood, not of the old self which needed deliverance from Egypt.)
Now let me get to my final point here. This new self expresses himself by means of this house we live in, this outer man who is walking around every day. Although everyone, including myself, may sit in judgment of this new self, because it doesn't conform with the judger's conformity, it nevertheless stands uncondemned and perfect before God, forever a son in whom the Father is well-pleased.
And by that I'm meaning the expression, the life, which is coming out of us, coming out of you and coming out of me, is the New Self of Christ in us, living and expressing the life of Jesus in what looks like the chaos of our human lives. Taking stock of ourselves purely below the line, according to only what we can see with our physical eyes, hear with our physical ears, feel with our emotions or sort out with our minds, and judging by that criteria, can only lead to lack, condemnation, and judgment, because it is never a complete or total picture, but only a partial picture, and transient at that. It is fleeting truth.
But we don't live by that when we come into God's rest, even though all that is still going on. Every bit of it. All of life, the good and the bad, the rainy days and the sunny days, when the car runs perfectly and when you want to drive it into a lake, is all still going on as it always has, only now we know it all expresses Him. What we realize also, on Graduation Day, (Rest Day, Marching Orders Day, etc.) is that the Inner, which is imperceptible to human thought or sense, has permeated the Outer, they becoming one (not that they have "become" -- they always "are" but we are seeing it for the first time). Heaven AND earth ARE FULL OF THY GLORY! Both heaven and earth are, meaning currently, in the now, full of God's glory.
It therefore becomes then not a problem of getting God to change anything whatsoever, but only a problem of a vision adjustment, which is nothing but faith (which is nothing but agreement, recognition and acceptance), which then in relaxation in God becomes a settling, and then out of that settling just a spontaneous living as we live in the rest where God rests, and out of that rest are all the dynamics and "works" of the universe. Then we're ready for action, and to quote Mr. Grubb: "No man can out-pray, out-think, or out-work a man in whom the Spirit of God is."
And so, to quote the great wise man and humorist we met in Canada, Dan Thompson, "There you go." (Must be spoken in Canadian)