CONSCIOUSNESS AND SUBSTANCE—THE PRIMAL FORMS
By John White
There is a widespread notion among New Age-oriented people and spiritual
seekers that consciousness is energy and that working with energy will per se
change one's consciousness and bring enlightenment. This is a fallacy, and a
spiritually dangerous one at that. States of consciousness can be correlated
with states of energy, but they cannot be equated.
Consciousness is wholly outside the realm of matter and energy, although at the
same time it is coextensive with the whole of it. As Da Love-Ananda put it in "The
Hymn of the Master," "I AM smaller than the atom. I AM larger than the universe"
(verse 97). Consciousness is omnipresent throughout manifest creation as a
universal "field," yet it is not inherently a property of any part of that creation. As
is classically (and paradoxically) said about enlightenment, consciousness is that
which is totally involved with, yet totally unattached to, the realm of nature and
phenomena. In other words, consciousness is uncreated. It wholly transcends
the cosmos, including energy in all its forms, from the most solid matter to the
most subtle radiations and etheric/celestial vibrations. Consciousness permeates
or bathes all creation. In Da Love-Ananda's terms, everything resides or inheres
in consciousness. But consciousness was present before creation itself and, in
that far distant future when the cosmos is annihilated and withdrawn into the
unmanifest state of God, consciousness will remain.
That is not to say God is consciousness alone. God includes consciousness—
God includes everything—but God cannot be defined as anything, even
consciousness. To define is to delimit, but God is unlimited, infinite—and
infinitely beyond definition or description. God is ultimately mysterious, beyond
all human attempts to encompass in words and thoughts and intellectual
formulae. God cannot be comprehended—only apprehended.
Yet in our apprehension of the Ultimate Mystery, we can nevertheless say that
the two primal aspects of God are consciousness and substance (or
matter/energy). In the terminology of Da Love-Ananda, God or the
Transcendental Domain which enfolds all creation issues forth into creation as
the Radiant Transcendental Consciousness and the Radiant Life-Current. All
objects, entities and organisms in the cosmos, all planes of being and forms of
experience result from combinations and permutations of these aspects of God.
They are the poles of existence from which Humanity begins—although it begins
in in the sleep of ignorance-nescience—and to which Humanity is called to
awaken—in knowledge-conscience and realization of Reality. They are the poles
to which evolving Humanity must align and yield itself in Radical Understanding,
transcending all sense of separateness and independence.
Consciousness and substance are the two primal aspects of Being, and we must
release our attention and open our body-minds to them in profound conductivity if
we are to fulfill our destiny and become enlightened. To identify only with one or
the other is to assume a stance in the world which is incomplete, unfulfilled and
therefore unhappy. The person whose sense of self is thus posited is forever
seeking yet perpetually self-defeated by the implicitly drawn boundary in his or
her consciousness which divides existence into self and non-self, inner and outer,
subject and object. Duality and universal opposites characterize such a person's
perception of reality. It is a most bleak, absurd and sour (dukkha, as the Buddha
put it) existence.
Spinoza remarked that matter is God as extension. That is true, but it would be
more accurate to say that substance (i.e., both matter and energy) is God as
extension. However, even the totality of the universe does not define God; that is
simply pantheism. To complete the picture of manifest creation, we must say that
if substance is God as extension, consciousness is God as intention. Will,
volition, purpose, meaning, motivation—these are aspects of ourselves which can
never be explained in electrochemical terms, astrophysical terms or anything
whatsoever which is some form of matter/energy from the realm of nature. Thus,
substance and consciousness are the objective and subjective aspects of God.
They are, in theological terms, the traditional aspects of God described as
omnipresent and imminent. Although this doesn't define God either—for there is
the transcendent/unmanifest aspect of God which is entirely beyond the
universe—it is more accurate and comprehensive than Spinoza's remark, and
has been called panentheism by Whitehead. To use the phrasing of Da Love-
Ananda, God or the Transcendental Being is the Identity or Subject of all selves
or subjects and the Condition or Objective source of all not-selves or objects.
We see this situation reflected in miniature in ourselves. We are both object and
subject. We are creatures but we are also aware of ourselves as creatures. We
can say, "I have a body, but I am not my body; I have a mind, but I am not my
mind." We are not merely a body-mind, however complex and subtle it appears.
Our true identity transcends the entire body-mind complex. So we can also say
that consciousness is self-created, but that the creative self is not our egoic body-
mind self. Rather, it is the Self of all—which is a traditional term for God, the
Supreme Identity, the Radiant Transcendental Being who is the One-in-all.
Consciousness and substance coexist and interact universally on all levels of
manifest reality, from the most subtle and rarified to the gross/physical, and thus
consciousness is present in the most rudimentary forms of energy and matter,
even subatomic particles. Nevertheless, for theoretical purposes of
understanding, it is necessary to distinguish consciousness from energy/matter.
Otherwise, we run the risk of thinking that generating energetic effects in our
bodies or in the environment is the same as changing consciousness.
Some spiritual seekers, failing to understand this distinction, become "energy
junkies." They learn with fine detail how to manipulate energy inside themselves
or attract energy to themselves from outside. They may generate effects in the
body-mind which are often very dramatic, even overwhelming. They may, for
example, experience great bursts of internal light, ecstatic mind-states, loss of
body-awareness, blissful celestial sounds, skyrides of unearthly colors, and so
forth. Yet when the experience is over, their consciousness has not changed a
whit. They don't understand what occurred, nor do they seem to care to radically
understand. After the internal pyrotechnics have subsided, it is consciousness
alone which can bring understanding to the person. Without that reflection upon
experience, without self-awareness of what it is which can observe experience or
energy at all, they are not mystical—they are merely mystified. Their ego is still
the dominant focus of awareness and the only effect of the experience is to
sharpen their desire for still more experience (through drugs, sex or other energy-
arousing situations, including certain meditative practices which are not true or
real meditation) rather than getting rid of the experiencer—i.e., the egocentric
state of consciousness which seeks experience for personal gain rather than
resting freely in God, the Source of all experience, the Condition of all conditions.
Ask yourself: What is "reflection upon experience"? It is essentially
transcendence of experience. It is disengagement and disidentification from the
experience in all its subjectivity so that understanding is gained through
objectivity. Psychologically speaking, for liberation to occur, the entire universe
must ultimately become an object of consciousness. Only when the cosmos—the
entire realm of nature and phenomena—is transcended in consciousness can
there be enlightenment. Yet in that moment of objective clarity and
transcendence of all creation is the paradoxical discovery that one's true being
includes all which is transcended. As I pointed out in "Healing Is Not the Same as
Cure," transcendence is not mere negation. That, to repeat, is why
enlightenment is described as that condition of consciousness which is totally
involved in the universe yet also totally detached from the universe. And thus
arises the yogic ideal of nonattachment, nonaversion: perfect equanimity, the
unity of opposites.
Energetic effects may accompany changes in consciousness, and often do, but
they are not at all necessary. Energy junkies don't understand that it is their own
consciousness which first of all directs them toward an experience, prior to all
manifestations of energy, and which then imposes itself upon energy to create
the experience sought. They don't understand that it is only because we are first
of all conscious of our energies that we can work intelligently with and through
Furthermore, energy junkies compound their basic mistake of thinking that
energy equals consciousness by then saying there are two forms of energy—
positive and negative, or masculine and feminine—with which to work. This is
nonsense. There is no such thing as positive and negative, or masculine and
feminine, energy; there is only energy—period.* The perceived duality of energy
is a reflection of the mind perceiving the energy, not the energy itself. As St. Paul
put it: to the pure in heart, all things are pure. There are positive and negative
effects, but those effects are a function of how the energy is applied or
experienced, and it is always consciousness which applies or directs or
experiences energy in all its forms. The mind interprets things as positive or
negative, according to its understanding (which is to say, according to its level of
consciousness), but the energy itself remains undivided, seamless as the
* In the electrogravitic research of nuclear physicist Thomas E. Bearden, who
has developed a theory of psychotronics which demonstrates how
electromagnetism and gravity are unified, both negative energy and negative
time are primary aspects in his theory. However, it does not lend credence to the
popular misconception of "negative energy." Bearden's use of "negative" is
specific and quantifiable. Moreover, he himself acknowledges that both positive
and negative space-time are subordinate to consciousness.
Even healing—one of the best possible uses of energy—does not necessarily
change consciousness in the healee. Remember the story of Jesus cleansing
the ten lepers. Only one of them responded spiritually to Jesus's use of energy
because that one alone reflected in consciousness upon his experience. The
other nine went their way without the least thought of expressing thanks to Jesus.
Their awareness was not changed by the healing energy; they remained egoic,
The eye does not see itself and energy does not direct itself. It is always subject
to direction and control by a senior influence. That influence is consciousness.
There is nothing—absolutely nothing—which can be done with energy in and of
itself to change consciousness. Enlightenment is not possible in any way
whatsoever through the manipulation of energy, no matter how subtle or ethereal
the energy, no matter how celestially vast the field of energy. All that does is
produce phenomena, whereas enlightenment is transcendence of all
phenomena. All that does is produce illusion and hallucination, whereas
enlightenment is the clear perception of Reality through release of attention from
all partial states and from all identification with phenomena. Transcendence does
not deny or reject partial states, nor does it reject or deny phenomena.
Transcendence simply sees them in perspective—as less than infinite and
ultimate—so that attention rests freely in its source-condition, which is unbound
consciousness, consciousness which does not recoil from infinity. That infinite
consciousness is your primal identity, beyond all partial circumstances and
conditional phenomena. And it is none other than God.
There is an incredible amount of energy-oriented nonsense occurring today in
the name of higher consciousness. It leads people to become energy junkies—
all because of the mistaken notion that consciousness and energy are the same
thing. But they are not. The frenzied search energy junkies make for this or that
"energy high" is—I have to say it—pathetic. It is sadly ironic that their glamorous,
alluring notions about energy as the key to spiritual growth are precisely what
prevents their own enlightenment. Some people urge you to wear crystals or
gemstones to "cleanse and balance your aura" for spiritual growth. Others
solemnly declare that you must meditate at rare "power points" of the planet or
else sit inside a pyramid or other geometric forms so you can "receive the
positive energies." Still others say you cannot gain higher consciousness unless
you receive an initiation from a guru who'll transfer vital force to you so that your
chakras are opened and your kundalini energy is awakened. (So how do they
explain Gopi Krishna's enlightenment—or Buddha's?) But it is all—all—the work
of Narcissus—ego—and it leads nowhere except to addiction, compulsion,
seeking and suffering: dukkha.
So long as something (other than the universe itself) is seen or conceived or
experienced as an object of consciousness—as a content of consciousness—it is
still only partial, less than the infinite, ultimate wholeness which is consciousness
itself. The yogic "sword of discrimination" recognized long ago that
consciousness or chitshakti must be distinguished from energy or pranashakti.
The latter is the content of consciousness or that which is perceived. Chitshakti
is consciousness itself or that which perceives. It is essentially the same
distinction as the paired Sanskrit terms, Purusha (spirit, Self) and Prakriti (matter,
Nature). Enlightenment is the condition which understands their difference in the
manifest universe and their ultimate unity at the Source of both, the perfect poise
of Being-amid-becoming. Enlightenment is the condition of being aware of the
universe as the universe—being cosmically conscious. It is the realization of the
union of opposites—of Shiva/consciousness and Shakti/energy, of nirvana and
samsara—and the transcendence of all separateness and all boundaries in the
extraordinary, yet perfectly ordinary, experience of the cosmos being conscious
of itself through an individual. And that is our condition, our matrix, our identity,
prior to all separation, division and differentiation. As I have said before and will
There is only God
From the book ‘The Meeting of Science and Spirit’ (Paragon House, 1990)
By John White. With my thanks to John for his approval to publish here.
With my thanks to John for his approval to publish here.