Consciousness (1)

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The Meaning of the Word.

Let us now consider what we mean by consciousness, and see if this consideration will build for us the much longed-for “bridge,” which is the despair of modern thought, between consciousness and matter, will span for us the “gulf” alleged to exist for ever between them.

To begin with a definition of terms: consciousness and life are identical, two names for one thing as regarded from within and from without. There is no life without consciousness; there is no consciousness without life. When we vaguely separate them in thought and analyse what we have done, we find that we have called consciousness turned inward by the name of life, and life turned outwards by the name of consciousness.

When our attention is fixed on unity we say life; when it is fixed upon ‘multiplicity’ we say consciousness; and we forget that the multiplicity is due to, is the essence of matter, the reflecting surface in which the One becomes the Many. When it is said that life is “more or less conscious,” it is not the abstraction life that is thought of, but “a living thing” more or less aware of its surroundings.

The more or less awareness depends on the thickness and the density of the enwrapping veil which makes it a living thing, separate from its fellows. Annihilate in thought that veil and you annihilate in thought also life, and are in That into which all opposites are resolved, the All.

***Excerpt from Annie Wood Besant. A Study in Consciousness: A Contribution to the Science of Psychology