In The Beginning Is Consciousness, SH Nasr

In The Beginning Is Consciousness, SH Nasr

From A Talk By S H Nasr

Edited by Omar K Neusser

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Your God Is One God, worship none but Him!

Allah says:

spaceSura 17-23

{Thy Lord decrees that you worship none but Him…}

1. In The Beginning Was Consciousness, SH Nasr

This is a transcript of the talk by SH Nasr “In The Beginning Was Consciousness.”(b) However the correct title of this speech should have been “In The Beginning Is Consciousness,” as explained below.(c)


2. A Major Change, A Paradigm Shift Has Occurred

I believe that we are at the present moment at a change of paradigm1, which has dominated Western civilisation since the Renaissance. And this transformation that is coming about has at its heart this question...

(We do believe that) this is a time, when the more important questions that face present day's civilisation will involve not only solutions within the present parameters within which we think, but those parameters themselves, that is the paradigm, or the world view underlying the theories and methodology of a particular scientific subject, within which human beings carry out their intellectual and also practical activities.

So in the beginning was consciousness and the original title of my talk was not only in the beginning 'was' consciousness, but in the beginning 'is' consciousness, because this 'in the beginning' is not simply a past time, it involves a principial reality.(d)

Let me begin by quoting from several of the Sacred Scriptures of the word.2 Now when we turn to traditional philosophies all over the world we see this almost remarkable unanimity.3


3. So Where Is The Exception?

The exception really is to be found in the world in which we happen to live in. Before modern times there were philosophies for which Consciousness was not primary and in the beginning. We see it in the Greco-Roman antiquity, we see it in certain schools of Hinduism, but they are really minor, they did not dominate over the vision, over the world view, Weltanschauung, of these civilisations in question.

And in all of these civilisations there was a mentality in which 'in the beginning' did not imply only in beginning of time somewhere back there. It is very significant, that in English we say 'in beginning was the Word' (whereas) in the Vulgate4 it says 'in principia erat verbum', so ’in principle was the word’ - not only temporarily and these other civilisations were all very fully aware of this.

So the reality of the denial of the primacy of consciousness begins in modern times at the end of Renaissance with the Scientific Revolution.66


4. What Do We Mean By Consciousness?

Now it is very important to define what we mean by consciousness.(e)

There are those people who believe that philosophy should only deal with what is operationally definable, that is (like) making philosophy a handmaid of physics and engineering. Of course there is a certain concept with which they don't want to deal, namely the word ’Veritas’, (Truth), which they don't want to put into the philosophy department, because it cannot be defined - [at least not] from the point of operational methods which are used in analytical philosophy.

But it's the universal concept of philosophy to which I'm appealing and which is the traditional understanding of philosophy. This traditional understanding while being very rigorous, is not necessarily operational, because it is impossible to define consciousness operationally. Each time you try to define consciousness operationally, you have to make use of consciousness in order to do so.57

Now it's a paradox that something as obvious as consciousness cannot be externally and operationally defined. That is true.


5. Consciousness Is The Most Primary Reality

But we all know what Consciousness is, even if through some kind of solipsism58 or at least a kind of inward way of deluding ourselves of being the only reality, we might deny the world out there, or through some kind of sophism59 try to deny the reality of consciousness, we do so in both cases through the use of consciousness.

Consciousness is the most primary reality with which we judge every other reality.

Consciousness for these traditional civilisations, religions and philosophies *was not a state*, it was a substance, it was not a process, it was something that ’was,’ like Being itself. 60 

That is why even the most sceptical philosophers61 had a great deal of trouble negating it.5

But EVEN IF you negate everything, EVEN IF you doubt everything, you cannot doubt the instrument with which you are doubting.6

Anyway even the skeptical philosophers in days of old did not deny the primacy of consciousness. The question was what mode of consciousness, what kind of consciousness.


6. The Scientific Revolution Denied Consciousness

But to come back to the metaphysical significance of consciousness and how its loss impacted on our lives, religiously and otherwise.

Now as I said I believe it was really at the beginning of the scientific revolution that ’in beginning was consciousness’ was seriously challenged. At first it was not challenged outwardly, by those Great Masters who created modern science.7

But once having set up this worldview in which God becomes only the creator of the world8 two things set in:

6.1 Flattening Consciousness

First of all the levels of consciousness are all in a sense reduced to a single level. That is the multi-levelled structure of the world of Consciousness which we had traditionally, from Divine consciousness to the consciousness of the angels, of great intellects, of the great saints and sages - all the way to our consciousness of ordinary human beings - that was all reduced to a single level of reality. And people who spoke of consciousness meant ordinary human consciousness.

6.2 Embracing The Deistic Point of View

The second consequence which is even more devastating from the point of our discussion here, was that it was accepted that God created the world and of course God had Consciousness, because He knew, He is the Knower and He had all the other attributes which were attributed to consciousness.

But after that He had nothing to do with it. That is the Deistic position which came to the fore for a long time and gradually replaced Theism.9

What lasted much longer was Deism within which (consciousness) still functioned to a large extent.10

But the consciousness of God is irrelevant, because once the Big Bang had taken place, then the universe is there and we are not interested in any consciousness in the universe, there is not such a thing. It is always (only) energies and material particles, so consciousness was taken out of God's creation.

And that is what took place in the 17th century. And it became an epiphenomenon11 in the human state.


7. Consciousness Has Become Irrelevant In Human Life

It is with the help of this mechanical view of the universe - complemented by the Darwinian theory of evolution in the 19th century - that essentially the category of consciousness becomes irrelevant in human life.

It becomes irrelevant even if we believe that God created the heavens and the Earth. For everyday life - in a sense - it is - so what! [At least] as far as ’science’ determines our attitude towards things, or our situation in the world - if you accept that ’scientific’ point of view.

7.1 Reductionism

It is this which finally lead to the idea of always trying to explain by reduction. And it is one of the most important characteristics of modern thought: explanation through analysis, but not through synthesis.

That is the whole is never greater than its parts and therefore we are always after ultimate particles.12

As soon as we go to a doctor's office, that’s what is at play. We are reduced to what the MRI says and the board and the rest of us doesn't count - and that is what is not on the MRI and that is reduced to the biology, biology to chemistry, chemistry to physics and so on.

This reductionism which then takes hold and in which in fact - if you even talk about consciousness - it is irrelevant as far as even the signs of the body is concerned13, because we only know too well how our conscience does affect our body in remarkable ways, but it's not supposed to, we cannot explain it according to the prevalent14 model that is around.

And we finally end up at the tail-end, where we are entering the realm of Quantum Mechanics and in which again there is a paradox, that we have to accept consciousness, because we can never know anything without observing it.15

We need to come to terms with this paradox that we cannot really understand the universe quantum-mechanically without a consciousness to observe the events and what makes the state vector collapse, which is a very important philosophical issue, whether it's us the observer or God who is the Creator. A lot of debate has taken place, but anyway the element of consciousness has grabbed us by the neck and won't let us go.

7.2 The Banishing Of Consciousness From The Cosmos

The remarkable thing is that when we come to the end of this period of the gradual dissolution of this Renaissance 17th century paradigm, the other extreme enters into the Western Society. For example Hinduism is at the antipode of this 17th century view, in which everything has consciousness. Stones' being is a form of ’stony consciousness’, if I can use such an English term.

In Hinduism that would be perfectly understandable, in our terms it is not understandable, and up the line all the way to the human beings, but this is not para-psychism, it's quite something else.

7.3 Emergence Of Occultism & Psychism – Filling The Void

So you have the Hindu doctrines and other ideas coming from the East and then you have all the occultism and the pseudo-sort of religious elements which talk about pan-psychism and all kinds of things coming into that very world, which had negated the reality of consciousness from everything in the world except the human beings. - And perhaps God, if you believe in God, if you believe or not it was irrelevant to our situation in the world, as far as the world around us was concerned.

Now this banishing of consciousness from the cosmos, denying that in the beginning was Consciousness and also in principle is consciousness at the present moment has had very deep consequences I believe for the human state.16

Let's not forget that we don't want to accept this, but the scientific theory is that consciousness is an epiphenomenon17 in the cosmos, possessed by very irrelevant people and on a very irrelevant planet, in a very irrelevant galaxy, who [referring to the champions of the predominant ’scientific’ world view] happen to know all of these things to say they are all irrelevant, but that second part no one talks about.

So it's not really considered to be a major reality in the cosmos. In fact it's not even a minor reality, it's practically not there. We have a cosmos which is not only dead, but without consciousness.18


8. What Are The Consequences Of This State of Affairs?

A consequence: first and foremost it was the withering of religious life by reducing levels of consciousness to the lowest and the most ordinary. I believe one of the reasons for the withering of mysticism within Western Christianity - not only Protestant Christianity but to some extent Catholic Christianity - was this loss of the vision of levels of consciousness.

In Medieval times or even in the Renaissance, with (for example) Teresa of Avila who had visions of Christ and so forth and so on, that meant something within that universe.

Whereas with Swedenborg who had his visions in Stockholm… that didn't mean anything in the scientific culture of that time. So the position of Swedenborg’s vision in the Christianity of the 18-century is different from that St. Teresa of Avila in the Catholicism of the 16th century.

So it had a very important effect on religious life.

And also it has a very important effect of course of cutting off man's consciousness from the higher levels of Consciousness, which did not go away by our denying them. It's like taking away the ladder, if you don't see a third floor in this building, you're not trying to go up to the third floor.

And therefore the quest for transcendence, for the empowering you might say and illuminating of our consciousness, which was always the goal of all traditional civilisations became irrelevant. Our desire for profession became horizontalized.19


9. The Realities of Religion Were Lost

Another consequence of this was that the realities of religion became lost.

It became even meaningless, or reduced to metaphors, or simply historical accidents, and so forth and so on.

It's not accidental that all of these philosophies of religion that developed from the 19th century onward were either based on historical reductionism of reducing historical realities to what can be understood materially, while denying everything which cannot be proven in a laboratory at Oxford or Harvard.20

So the whole question of the language of religion, the way it spoke to humanity, from its greatest miracles of the founders of religion to everyday religious life of course became unreal. Turning away in droves people from religion, in the eighteenth and nineteenth century is not at all accidental.


That is: *Religion addresses a humanity in a universe which is full of consciousness.*  Not only is the Divine reality consciousness, you have a hierarchy of angels, of various conscious beings, now reduced to UFOs.21

There is no religion in which the universe is not filled with consciousness. Even those most rationalistic Muslims who try to interpret Islam in a very dry and rationalistic manner cannot deny the reality of the Archangel Gabriel without which there wouldn't be a Quranic Revelation. They cannot deny the verses of the Quran in which this is written.

But this became a very important issue that in a sense reduced the understanding of the language of religion and caused this panic among many people, this fervour to try to reinterpret it.62

(But) it was part of the universe, God could speak to the trees as well as to us. Angelic beings could manifest themselves, they could bring knowledge, knowledge - Consciousness was limited of course within the human order.


10. The Relationship To God Was Affected - Sentimentalized

And it even affected the relationship between human being and God.

Now it's true that these events did not destroy the reality of God in the minds of many people, but it did affect that relationship.

Even the question of prayer and the efficacy of prayer, how does God answer prayer. Of course in a mechanistic universe in which Consciousness is put at the beginning in time,(a) this is a very difficult thing to explain rationally - what are the agencies through which the Divine can come into our lives.

And so it had to be done through emotions.63 Most theologians in the West tried to explain this emotionally without really confronting intellectually in the most vigorous sense the challenge of the mechanistic universe. They tried to circumvent it and of course Christian theology suffered a great deal. It suffered a great deal in the battles that were fought, because it had to accept more and more a scientific point of view.22

Even today we have all these movements for better relation between religion and science23.[None-the-less we have now to face] the lack of attention to nature as a theological category.24


11. The Loss Of The Meaning Of Being Human - Loss of The Eternal Home

Another important consequence of that is really the loss of the meaning of being human.

What does it mean to be human? Don't think this is just an academic matter. Of course we could say someone with an immortal soul - for a Christian. Again we come back - we have a consciousness of only being human, of having a human soul and God being the spirit with a capital s and that's it.

What about being human towards the rest of God's creation, what does that entail, what does that mean? Leaving out the animal- and plant-realms and then also within the human being - what is the relationship between our being human as an immortal soul and the rest of our body?25

More difficult than that was that not only was the sense of the sacredness of human life put into question,26 but what happened was that human beings lost their home. That is we became homeless in the cosmos, [man became alienated.]


12. The Alienation of Modern Man - A Modern Ailment

Every traditional humanity felt it had a position in the universe.27 We don't know where we are, we do not have a home in the cosmos. There's a very profound sense of alienation. And that is what brought into the English language the word alien - in the new sense. Not only has it brought psychological alienation, which is one of the maladies of the modern world, from which traditional societies suffered much less - alienation is something like AIDS - really a modern ailment.

Not that no man was never alienated before, but this strong sense of alienation - to a large extent - comes from the fact that if we think this through and accept this reductionist worldview that came in the 17th century cutting of consciousness from the world in which we live we are very lonely here. We are alienated in this cosmos, the cosmos is not a hospitable place for us.28

But even if that happened and we try to put that into the corner of our mind, we feel that we don't belong here, we don't take this serious. That's why we don't take this seriously. Any person who walks in the street and smells a flower [and thinks] dismissively29 - ’so what - beautiful,’ that person is not taking this point seriously, even if he is a professor teaching his class. Because our human psyche in order to remain sane has to feel at home somewhat.64

Mystical alienation of the world [which is something different from the modern ailment of alienation] is to realise that our home is ultimately Paradise. This Angelic world and we're on a journey here, this is not our permanent home. That's very different from feeling that in fact this has nothing to do with us - we do not belong here. It's a very different sense. And the two should not be confused.30

The world around us from which we have become alienated also becomes worthless in a sense and therefore a value only as far as our own immediate impulses and so-called needs, which really usually mostly pseudo-needs are concerned with the catastrophe that it brings about with the world of nature.


13. The Environmental Crisis Has A Religious, Theological And Spiritual Basis

These consequences of the alienation from the world and this loss of vision of consciousness as being - in a sense - omnipresent throughout creation,65 (exist most of all) in the relation that has been created between modern man (or woman)31 and nature.

This issue of course is now very much in the centre of our attention.32

The fact that the environmental crisis has a religious, theological, spiritual basis, that it is not just bad engineering as some people think, and that it has a deeper root – I think this has everything to do with what we think of the world around us.33

If we had accepted the Cartesian view that these are [kind of] mechanical beings, creatures, machines, who do not share in our reality, we would do with them [our animals] what we we've been doing with the macro-nature [the rest of nature] around us, decimating it. Decimating in the name of human needs and cutting off our own branch on which we are sitting without knowing that we are going to fall and break our neck very soon.34

And we don't think about it any more, but it is of course a crucial matter which I believe is a direct consequence of our alienation from a world in which there is no participation in the same reality.67

There has to be something which identifies with my consciousness, otherwise the word d u s t - what does it mean? There has to be something which has meaning within my consciousness, and that's what is lacking.


14. Supreme Consciousness – Human Consciousness

Now, to get to a more philosophical issue, when you negate that in the beginning was consciousness, and you end up with this idea of consciousness being an island, within certain creatures known as human beings who occupy a certain planet called the Earth, how do we know? How can we know anything?

The Cartesian bifurcation35 has never been solved. Everything you say is really not the complete solution. How do I know that something is out there? Because I cannot say the neurons36 in my brain are reacting. So what? Neurons and consciousness are not the same thing. That's a very big jump, a very big jump. It's like the jump between the board or canvas and the painting by Raphael on top of it. They are not the same thing - we just say this to please ourselves.

But really how is it possible for us to know the world out there, if there's no common category - nothing that unites the knower and the known.

This enfeeblement of mythology68 has everything to do with the total and radical partition between what we call consciousness and matter, whatever the word matter means.37

This is a very, very deep categorical, absolute division between consciousness and matter and therefore how can one know the other?

Now we don't claim that matter knows us – we don't claim the other way – because knowing is one of the attributes of consciousness. And since we don't attribute any power of consciousness to material things, we do not say that they know.38

If you had the traditional understanding of nature that's not so difficult. Supreme consciousness - in a sense - impinges39 - through various levels of reality - upon the ether69 and the ether upon the elements and the elements upon what we see out there, certain norms, certain orders, which then we observe and so even the laws of nature, which we are able to observe.

Far from being simply subjective whims and fantasies, which scientists would not accept either, they would believe it to be objective, and there is a reason why it's objective and it's understandable, it's coherent from that point of view. But of course this is something that we can no longer rely upon in the way that we think about the knower and the known.

And this leads (me) to another very important point, since we've become marginalised, since Consciousness has become marginalised, since we categorically deny the possibility of Consciousness outside of the human domain, we are at loss (to explain) what happens when something in the human domain goes outside of this room that we have determined for it, and either seeks or claims to find Consciousness elsewhere.


15. Ufos, Aliens, Science-Fiction – Filling The Void

This problem (of consciousness outside the human domain) never existed before. Regarding UFOs, aliens, abductions …

This (has to do with a) kind of deep urge of connectedness with intelligence, with consciousness beyond our immediate human terrestrial sphere. And it is not accidental that this (deep wish of connectedness is) now part and parcel of pop culture, children are brought up with it. Movies of aliens and so on… – science fiction. What function does this fill, what is it doing? Why is there so much interest in these things?

They have actually taken the place of all accounts of non-human intelligence and consciousness in traditional civilisations.40

Every civilisation was full of these and it percolated41 (down to every individual). And it satisfied the very, very deep yearning of the human soul for companionship, companionship in the world in which we live.

When you cut that off, when that is no longer relevant it becomes a fairy tale. When we say in English ’fairy tale’ that means something that is false, a myth means something unreal, rather than real. Myth was a reality, now it's unreality. When we change all of these things - (because) we cannot act in a vacuum - in it's place come all of those things just mentioned.

These phenomena… first of all science-fiction itself. Much of it dealing with an attempt to try to fill this (vacuum) with a pseudo-sacred - you might say - writing, and all of these claims of visions.42 These extremely profound issues which deal with the total psyche of a society, which has been banned from having contact or even think it's possible to have contact with a universe in which there are other forms, not only of life, but of intelligence and of consciousness.

Also this alienation has really made a sham of the metaphysical, philosophical basis of ethics.43


16. The Vision Of Reality – A Cosmic Aspect

In all periods of human history ethics was related to a vision of reality, it had a cosmic aspect.44

That is - ethics45 was never only human ethics for human beings it had a cosmic aspect, it was a triangle, for the Abrahamic world at least, you had God,46 you had the human being and you had the world - the cosmos.

And in the world of ethics there was a correspondence. What we have done, is that through this depleting of the cosmos in which we live, - of consciousness - (we have) made any ethical act towards the world of nature contrived.47

So (for example, if we follow) Christian ethics, and I should be very respectful to my neighbour and ’Thou shall not kill,’ etc., but why should one not cut a tree? Why should you not kill a particular animal etc.? In the old days48, animals also have souls etc. and that's all gone and any kind of environmental ethics, which is based on this atomistic, or scientistic49 view of the world is based on sentimentality,63 it's not based on reality. …

16.1 Contradictions -DNA?

In one breath one says ’sacredness of human life’, in the next breath one says ’we are nothing but DNA’. What is sacred about DNA? It's just molecules banging into each other at certain configurations.

If you reject the sacred, if you reject that the imprint upon the DNA is a theological concept, that the word of God is being imprinted upon the DNA, which is a meaningless statement in modern biology, (then) where does sacredness come from? - But in the human world we can still do.

But even the withering away of Christian ethics, which now we see before us after several hundred years - of Christian ethics surviving in a world in which its cosmological basis was gone - this withering away has to do a lot with this, and especially when it comes to environmental ethics.

16.2 Environmental Ethics

Environmental ethics - which if we do not create [our environment in the years to come] in a serious way - we will not be able to live in the future.50 I think that this is one of our greatest challenges, which the coming to end of this worldview will pose for us.51

Finally, if we take seriously the rejection of the idea of consciousness as being not only the beginning in time, but also in principle of the universe, (this then) really shatters all the deepest hopes of human beings.

First of all there are eschatological hopes, immortality, these all become dreams. And that is why, we have for the first time in human history the development of a society in which the vast majority of people do not harbour these hopes.52

If we come from time and space, we cannot transcend time and space.

There is nothing that ever existed at the Omega point, which was not at the Alpha point.53 Because Christ didn't just say ’I am the Omega.’ And if we do not have root in consciousness, which is beyond time, which is atemporal, we'll never return there.


17. The Deepest Aspirations Of Human Beings

And so the deepest aspirations of human beings, which have always been for immortality in its deepest sense, that is for an experience beyond time and space, based on the idea that we are the only beings who are (always?) aware that we are going to die, even if we are good scientists we know we are going to die,54 and therefore the reality of human life, which the determinists call death, and what that implies spiritually, that is of course being very, very strongly challenged.

I believe the time has come, that we must take this challenge very, very seriously, (that is) to rethink what is consciousness in relation to our life, in relation to the life which we live, the world in which we live, in relation to our way of knowing, our sentience55 - our experience and to also realise, what are the consequences, of the negation of the primacy of consciousness.

Although it is totally logical absurd, to deny the primacy of consciousness, because as soon as we so, we do it through consciousness. But a lot of people have done it ,56 who do not believe that there is such a thing as consciousness, and (while) this is logical absurd, they do it nevertheless.

But to realise what is the consequence of this (rejection) for us human beings living in such trying and difficult times, I believe that of course ultimately Consciousness will have the final say.

But it is for us - while we have conscience in this life, which is a great, great gift - to use it in order to understand what it means to live consciously, to live fully with awareness, to know where we are coming from and where we're going.


18. The Talk On YouTube

The talks starts @ 16m43s !


Related texts:

- On Metaphysics, SH Nasr

2016-11-19 vs.1.4; from 2016-11-08
[livingislam][Main New Texts ][Ibn `Arabi - Texts Overview] [Understanding God] [Metaphysics] [our facebook-icon] [next page]

b: Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr held this talk at the Harvard Divinity School on May 1, 2003

Disclaimer: First of all it is Islam that reigns (see Sura 5:3). Traditional Islam does not accept the notion that the world-religions (and even less so any man-made belief system) would be equally valid paths to God, these are perennialistic interpretations. Even so, they (their laws) still reflect some sacred truth, so they did not turn into falsehood by being abrogated. These are 2 (two) different points to be kept in mind.

• In the words of Muhyiddín Ibn `Arabi: ”The religious laws are all lights, and the law of Muhammad MHMD among these lights is as the sun's light among the light of the stars…”

”So all paths return to look to the Prophet's path MHMD : if the prophetic messengers had been alive in his time, they would have followed him just as their religious laws have followed his law.…” [further reading]

  1. In science and philosophy, a paradigm /ˈpærədaɪm/ is a distinct set of concepts or thought patterns, including theories, research methods, postulates, and standards for what constitutes legitimate contributions to a field. Wikipedia

    There is a major change (a paradigm shift) that is at foot, and of course these things do not come so quickly. ...

  2. Rig Veda: Sat, Chit (consciousness), Ananda. In Taoism: The nameless Tao (which is consciousness), Bible: In the beginning was ’My Word’ (which is spirit and life), Book of John & ch 6, Quran: Sura 36, kun fa yakun).
    And so the origin is very explicitly stated in the Quran to be the command of God (amr ), which is considered to be on the level of what we call ‘Logos’ in the logos theories of theology and philosophy, the logos doctrines.

    Logos: ”it is the illuminator of souls or the light which makes intellectual vision possible.” KS18, also this [link]
    Logos: has also been called ’consciousness.’

  3. We think of the zero of the Lambda of Pythagoras, we think of the Agathon of Plato, Aristotle’s Divine Intellect, we think of the Esse of St. Thomas of Aquinas, with the capital E which is also Consciousness which knows, Divine being, and its correspondence of course in Islamic philosophy to which St. Thomas of Aquinas was so close.

    And outside of the circle of Western Asia and Europe in the Abrahamic world, we think of Atman in Advaita Vedanta in Hindu metaphysics which is pure Consciousness, the Self, which is the origin of all things and also the role of the Tao and the New Confucionist philosophies of the 12th and 13th centuries…

  4. the principal Latin version of the Bible, prepared mainly by St Jerome in the late 4th century, and (as revised in 1592) adopted as the official text for the Roman Catholic Church.

  5. You have the supreme example of that scepticism of course in the famous Cartesian method. Descartes, I think was wrong in many ways, but he was right in one thing, and that is if you doubt everything, you cannot doubt the fact that you are doubting. And from this comes of course the famous ”cogitor ergo sum,” (the Cogitor of Descartes), i.e. ’I think therefore I am,’ ( the ’therefore’ is unfortunate, because the ’therefore’ has other consequences. He should have said: ”I think therefore GOD is,” but he forgot that.)

  6. And you may think this [way of reasoning] began with Descartes, [then know that] the great Persian philosopher Ibn Sina, Avicenna, over a thousand years ago talked about ’the hanging man’ (al insan muˋallaqa ). This is about a man hanging in the middle of the space, so his feet and his hands do not touch anything, he doesn’t know where he is; he can doubt the existence of the earth, he can doubt the existence of the air, there is nothing that he cannot doubt, the one thing he cannot doubt is himself that is doubting other things. So in fact Descartes’ argument is not the beginning of it in the history of philosophy - there have been other instances.

  7. Consciousness was not challenged outwardly, especially and certainly not by Johannes Kepler and Isaac Newton, both of whom had even a mystical aspect of religion and they believed not only in God but they believed in a kind of mystical vision of God - each in his own way, and even Galileo the maverick, he could not even imagine denying that God created the world - that was not the point of discussion.

  8. So-called ‘Deism’: belief in the existence of a supreme being, specifically of a creator who does not intervene in the universe. Apple Dict.

  9. after other positions went out of the window, such as natural theism - natural theology was considered actually to be an oxymoron. So Theism was a rather temporary matter. Theism: belief in the existence of a god or gods, specifically of a creator who intervenes in the universe. there are many different forms of theism. Apple Dict.

  10. During the last forty years we keep talking about the Big Bang Theory and how that is related to perhaps to the Fiat Lux of the Book of Genesis or the ’Kun fa yakun’  in the Quran in the Abrahamic world of seeing a Creator God who created the word suddenly and this is very theological.

  11. epiphenomenon: a secondary effect or by-product

  12. In physics we’re still looking for the ultimate particles and we will be running and then particles will be running and we will never catch up to them.

    Because for a metaphysical reason a cat is not just a few of billiard balls that just happen to be very small and we haven't found the little ones in the corner, and we put them up together and we create the universe, because we have this idea.

  13. It’s only now that Harvard University has started the Spirituality & Healing program at the Medical School, and at some other places.

  14. widespread in a particular area or at a particular time

  15. Psycons…

  16. For what we are suffering and what we are going through today and I thought it would be important to say a few words about it.

  17. a secondary effect or by-product, in particular

  18. And even it needs consciousness to study it, (it will be always done) in a particular mode of consciousness that we have.

  19. Horizontalized: i.e. gaining more and more information but not necessary luminous knowledge, which means the transformation of one’s consciousness.

  20. Since we cannot walk on water, Christ could not have walked on water certainly and therefore if people say he did walk on water, they are either blind or they had not been as well educated as us or so.

  21. I shall come to this in just a moment or in the non-Abrahamic world, in the Buddhist-Tibetan tradition of all of the hierarchy of the various levels all kinds of … beings, intermediate worlds, the world of Hinduism, gods and godesses etc.

  22. On the one hand a more a scientific (i.e. positivistic) point of view, on the other hand a sentimentalized - emotionalized63 version of religion.

  23. but it’s always the theologians who have to give, the sciences have never to give anything. It’s always theology that is retreating step by step and therefore left of course a deep imprint upon theological concerns one of which we now pay for a great day and that is the lack of attention to nature as a theological category.9

  24. Which left Christianity in the 17th-century, and has only come back in our own time - so I’m going to come back in a

  25. The indifference to the body as a source of wisdom, which came about at its sudden rediscovery in the 1960-ies - through sexuality and love music and all kinds of things trying to reassert the reality of the body. It was a reaction really to this, which goes back precisely to what happened with this loss of this sense of presence of the consciousness throughout reality.

  26. because the word sacred doesn’t mean anything in the context of modern science - it’s just pure sentimentality.63

  27. At least they (Middle Ages, the Plotomeic system - even if childish, Dante, Meso-Americans) knew were they were.

  28. And of course if we sit down and calculate what are the probabilities for our being here and it come out to be extremely, extremely, extremely small - then that makes of you a stranger. (But that’s another discussion, because as you know that the possibility of one cell being created by accident they say is like a monkey banging (at that time) on a typewriter (now it’s) computers and producing Hamlet, one of The Shakespearean plays, it’s about the same [probability].

  29. dismissively: in a manner that suggests that something or someone is unworthy of consideration

  30. It is as if you come to Harvard University for four years as a freshman until senior, now this is not your permanent home, but never-the-less, you feel you belong to Harvard these years you have spent here, they are creative and you try to take care of your dorm, … but anyway you live here for a few years, you don’t want to live in in a garbage can, (however) that’s not the way modern man feels.

  31. man in its old meaning, not ’male’, here meaning the human being.

  32. S H Nasr refers to his book ’Man And Nature’, 50 years ago the theology of nature was a non-existent category, nobody was interested in this topic.

  33. What is this tree I’m looking at the window? If it is just wood for my fireplace? - If the fox is just skin to put around my wife’s neck? - And this mountain (is it) just iron from which to extract to make cars? This is a very different attitude than if I look upon these things as sharing my own reality (let me put it in a very common, everyday sense), like we do with our pets, I mean no-one would accept to have a fried cat for dinner, God forbid! … We never think of it, because that animal shares in our reality. We talk to our cat, to our horse or dog, we feel they have consciousness.

  34. And the great tragedy is nobody wants to talk about these issues any more, … instead (there's talk) about improving the saddle for horses in Texas or such things.

  35. the division of something into two branches or parts, in this case the division of consciousness and the material, corporeal world.

  36. a specialized cell transmitting nerve impulses; a nerve cell

  37. I don’t even want to use it: ’matter’, instead: the material , corporeal world.

  38. For example, when we just learned integral calculus and that you can integrate the trajectory of a particular object that is thrown into the air through mathematics to find out exactly what that trajectory is and where that thing will land. - Now this object, which we were throwing out obviously doesn’t know any calculus and cannot integrate the function, how does it exactly know where to go, why does it never miss? Why does it always go to the same place? (Formerly the answer always was:) All these are laws of nature, don’t ask about these things in physics, but the professor didn’t really answer the question.

  39. i.e. has an effect…

  40. And somewhere they meet together, that is stories like Tolkien, fairy tales, stories of angels, stories of bi-celestial beings.

  41. spread gradually through an area or group of people - into books read for children, stories told by grandmothers…

  42. …of films which sell millions - why? because children want to see some strange extraterrestrials…, [but how to answer this question] then why is that person good, why is that alien good? [slightly laughing]

  43. A sham: a thing that is not what it is purported to be. - This is a very big claim I’m making and it’s subject for another day, some other person should research this.

  44. We think of the battle of Ahriman in Zoroastrianism, Treatise of St. Augustine on the Good, or Neo Confucianism, there’s a kind of permanent condition of all serious ethics.

  45. moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour or the conducting of an activity

  46. or in Hinduism Ishwara

  47. forced, strained, studied, artificial, affected, put-on, pretended, false, feigned, manufactured, unnatural; laboured, overdone, elaborate; far-fetched;

  48. in the OT and NT there were explanations given for this.

  49. I don’t call this ’scientific’.

  50. That’s why these people - let’s say who are animal activists - they are outside the mainstream, the mainstream cannot accept them, (they are called nutty people … heroic acts by Greenpeace going before big ships, etc,) this is not part of our mainstream, because we cannot develop an environmental ethics, which is also in accord with the worldview, which dominates over our lives.

  51. That’s why there is such a disjunction in our hospitals: the purely mechanical treatment of the human body and the fact that some people believe they have a soul and that the human body is not just a mechanical gadget, and all these tensions that we see.

  52. Now they are coming back - a lot of people are coming back. But in Europe certainly still life goes on. Great fear brings these hopes back, but it doesn’t accord with the worldview.

  53. I’ve written very strong against Teilhard de Chardin and those kinds of theologians, who believe that at the beginning was matter and at the end there will be spirit, because Christ said ’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ he didn’t just say ’I am the Omega.’

  54. and all the films [that we can watch] cannot prevent us from thinking that sooner or later we die - no diversion can prevent us from that.

  55. sentience: the ability to perceive or feel things

  56. many professors of this campus, behaviourists, psychologists and the like.

  57. This is like the famous saying of Pascal, you cannot define ’to be’, because every time you use a sentence you say ’se’ (i.e. ’it is’) and you are already using the verb ’to be’ in order to define it, so of course then you have a circular argument and that is not acceptable.

  58. solipsism: the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist. Apple Dict.

  59. sophism: a clever but false argument, especially one used deliberately to deceive. Apple Dict.

  60. [Consciousness for traditional civilisations] was a substance, it was not a process, it was something that ’was,’ like Being itself, which was at once luminous and numinous, at once knowing and knowing that it's knowing, knowledgable of its own knowledge. At once the source of all sentience55, of all experience, and beyond experience by having knowledge that it is experiencing something.

  61. Even those who were sceptics from a religious point of view.

  62. And all the way from atheists, to theists, from Karl Marx to Schleiermacher in the 19th century and in the 20th century, all different kinds of interpretations of something which people didn't have to explain in the old days because it was part of their general worldview.

  63. Why sentimentalism and emotions are a problem in religion:
    see f.ex.: [The Sentiment(al)] and [sentimental element].

    Sentimentalism is closely related to the decadance of religion, as described by René Guénon - 'Abd al-Wâhid Yahya.
    The stages of decadance of religion (i.e. religion in general) are as follows:

    1. doctrinal dissolution - teachings are neglected, become ignored, therefore:
    2. disappearance of the intellectual elements of religion, then:
    3. decline into sentimentalism, as a weak, insufficient mode of understanding. (See links above.)
    4. no longer religion, but 'religiosity' -
    = vague sentimental aspirations, unsanctioned by any real knowledge (compare William James and the ’subconcious’); from Crisis Of The Modern World; René Guénon / 'Abd al-Wâhid Yahya: Interactive Questions And Answers; p.58

  64. … and somewhere. And this has nothing to do with the mystical alienation, which a lot of these people writing on the environment today have confused it, too.

  65. This should be taken to be a somewhat flowery expression of otherwise difficult and subtle realities, it is not the place to lecture about aqídah.

  66. Tradition And Civilization, Some Quotes from René Guénon

  67. Because even if you say ”my body is made of stardust I share the dust of the stars,” this is all nice poetry but doesn't mean a darn thing. [The world] has to have a meaning within my consciousness.

    Because what consciousness do I have of my own 'dust'? Except a reality within my consciousness.
    And when I identify myself with the star, there has to be something which identifies with my consciousness, …

  68. … which never was a problem for traditional philosophies - nobody was very much concerned with it because it is very easy to explain …

  69. ether, (also aether); Physics (archaic); a very rarefied and highly elastic substance formerly believed to permeate all space, including the interstices between the particles of matter, and to be the medium whose vibrations constituted light and other electromagnetic radiation. Apple Dict.