MORE TOWARDS A SCIENCE OF CONSCIOUSNESS
My recent brush with the hard sciences in an attempt to confirm or disconfirm an underlying identity between our inner subjective and observable world, and our outer observable world, as well as the "laws" that underlie relationships within external observables, such as quantum mechanics, has led me to adopt a new attitude towards creating a science of spirituality--a rigorous discipline as opposed to comfortable beliefs that make us feel good.
From this point of view spiritual concepts that do not have any observables, or potential observables attached are useless impediments to finding truth.
Concepts such as Kali, God, Chi, Shakti, Kundalini, resonance, entrainment, Self, self, ego, Shiva, Christ Consciousness, karma, rebirth, spiritual evolution, non-dual, Sahaj Samadhi, no-separate-self, etc., need to have some repeatable experiences or predictions associated with the use of that term, otherwise we are filled with a melange of concepts that are just unverifiable beliefs rather than truths to live by.
Most of these terms have their early origin in tribal and naturist folktales of three to five thousand years ago, folktales that were invented to make people feel they understood the world to a degree and made them feel more comfortable and at peace.
Kali is a delightful concept used to describe certain feminist traits ascribed to the universe itself, but how is it used by people today? It is used as a comforting symbol to make us feel we have grasped by mind and heart some small truth about the universe or life or death. But have we? Of course not. We just have an idea that makes us feel certain emotions, or a sense of peace through understanding.
The problem with any new science of spirituality is to define "observable."
In outer science we can define exactly what an observable is: what instruments are used, what energies, what frequencies, what weights and measures.
With the inner sciences we speak about inner observations that are not generally accessible to all, but are found through certain kinds of "experiments" such as methods of meditation, self-inquiry, prayer, chanting, drugs, silence, Shikantaza, Koans, etc.
Now, different "brands" of spirituality have different methods of exploration and therefore should be expected to reveal different observables.
For example, Soto Zen emphasizes a meditation called Shikantaza, or just sitting, not letting the mind focus on any one thing. In its rigid sitting, the attention gets global, embracing everything, until the boundary between inner and outer world disappears and you have pure, non-dual awareness or consciousness. The world over time, becomes brighter, more alive, and one's sense of self becomes more attuned to the external world.
On the other hand, we have monasteries where Christian monks practice silence, various types of prayer, worship, thinking about surrender, visualizing Christ--whatever. And what kinds of experiences can we generalize are the results?
In Soto Zen, one rarely hears about Self. Self does not exist in a non-dual world. Nor will you hear about Witness, the Absolute, etc.
Rinzai Zen, on the other hand, tends to be more focused on direct teaching about the nature of reality and human existence through the use of the Koan system of about 25,000 original and checking situation conumdrums, such as, "What is the sound of one-hand clapping," or short stories of ancient confrontations where the monk is asked to demonstrate the meaning of certain pertinent elements of that story.
The result are monks that are far more action oriented and not much given to pondering the meaning of phrases, philosophies, etc., but who find language untrustworthy, and instead lead to life led from the gut by intuition.
Then we have the naturistsic spiritualities of shamnisms various forms, and Toaism. We have spiritual entities, spirit guides, spirit possessions, magic, alchemy, potions, astral projection, etc.
And we have my favorite, Advaita as explained by Nisargadatta's teacher, Siddharameshwar who posited four levels of consciousness: body/world; Subtle Body (thoughts, images, energies, emotions); Causal Body (experience of non-existence, non-knowing); and Turiya (the body of I-ness, Self, Satchitananda, the ground of beingness underlying all other bodies, AKA the Atman)). Beyond these four phenomenal bodies lies the Witness, the Absolute, the subject which lies entirely beyond Consciousness which Nisragadatta calls the Self.
I make the distinction more clear by calling all levels of our phenomenal existence centered around the experience of a core self, the Manifest Self, while I call the noumenal witness the Unmanifest Self, the pure subject. In the end they are seen as being the flip sides of each other.
The point I am making is that different religions and spiritual disciplines explore vastly different sets of observables often sharing almost nothing in common.
There is not just one Truth that all masters from these differing disciplines adhere to.
However, just to meet a lesser definition of a path or discipline, we just need to propose there are sets of potential observables that one can be made aware of by following certain practices, such as Shikantaza, self-inquiry with its many variations, prayer, Koans, Tantra, etc.
A first step then towards a science of consciousness would be to list all the potential observables each discipline reveals, and what practices or methods are required to experience those observables.
Lastly, we need to list the belief systems associated with religion or discipline, however relevant or irrelevant they are to the actual observables.
With this approach which presumes a great deal of effort by many people working in concert, we would really have a handle on a science of spirituality, and the overall nature of consciousness, or at least its limits, its explored universe of discourse.
Of course my own emphasis is on Self-awareness, one's own experience of personal existence, of the I-sensation, and how that fits in with our other inner experiences, such as emotions, internal energies such as Chi and Kundalini, my awareness of the Witness, thoughts, etc., and how they relate to the world, which itself requires another great deal of investigation.