Politics and Philosophy

Exploring Political Issues Through Philosophy




Raising Consciousness


Richard Wu


1. The Nature of Consciousness

2. Raising Consciousness in General

3. The Nature of Political Consciousness

     3a. The faculties of engagement

4. Raising Political Consciousness

5.  Understand political consciousness through understanding who you are

6. Understanding Raising Political Consciousness by Illustration

      6a.  A quick example of raising consciousness

      6b.  The Practical Application

7. Conclusion





The phrase ‘raising consciousness’ has typically referred to the lifting of political consciousness to a higher level of political understanding.  Beyond that, this ‘raising’ is generally thought of as not only the expanding of your own political consciousness, but the expanding of political consciousness in those around you.  It is both these meanings I give to ‘raising consciousnesses’ in this paper.  It is, however, the personal political consciousness that will be the focus of this study.   If you are asking yourself why this topic would be of importance to me, I hope the next section will immediately provide an answer.

Introduction:  A word about the topic, political.  When I say ‘political’ I do not mean the political party you belong to, or the protest demonstration in which you participated, or even the act of voting.  While these things are political, and of importance, ‘political’ has a wider, more socio-economic meaning.  ‘Political’ can mean deciding which restaurant to eat at, or which book to buy, or simply getting up in the morning and going to work. This notion sounds strange as you think of some or all of these acts as being trivial, voluntary and far removed from issues of power.  The question arises: are not these, and many other mundane actions, completely free of coercion, which is, after all, a central feature of political relations?

 Recognize first that every act, no matter how pedestrian, is a locked into the web of social experience and relations in which you live.  This matrix of social relations is ultimately rooted in the relationships of power located within your society.  Let me make this point with an example: the restaurant in which you decide to eat is within your decision-making range principally because of the power of a politically managed economy that widely influences employment, income, advertising, food distribution, mortgage lending, and the business class to which the owner of the restaurant, and you, belong, etc. Even this seemingly prosaic action is interwoven with many social and economic elements.  Without being aware of it, a system of subtle force guides you through the decision making of even seemingly trivial actions.  

The fact that we do not ordinarily consider these activities as pressed by power relations is testimonial to the pervasiveness of inherited idea systems (ideology) that obscure and direct much of our thinking. Ideology is the premier way in which we are turned away from acknowledging the power relations at work to influence even apparently random decisions.  With very little exception, every act has some implication for this matrix of power relations.  It is also true that seeing the extent of this system may be beyond our prevailing consciousness.  You, and I, as distasteful as it is to contemplate, are creatures, not marionettes!) of political forces of which we are typically unaware.  Part of the raising of political consciousness is the drawing back of this veil allowing us to see the reality of these power relations.

Political factors blend into the social matrix in such a way as to veil the power arrangements and make the factors appear normal and fitting, that is, make them appear a-political.  This veiling represents the transforming power of the prevailing system of ideas (ideology).  In the most general sense all of my social relations (e.g., who I choose to marry, who I choose to befriend, etc.) are political in that the parameters of my living is expression of historically determined power relations. Where I am born, into what time in history, into what class, what race, has profound implications for me and the idea systems that influence my thinking.  I am consciously aware of power relations in actions overtly related to the governing structure of our society – elections, party affiliation, taxes collection, and so on – but all of my other acts, no matter how trivial, and most of my thinking, have elements of power relations about them and are also political, only I am not completely conscious of them.  All this seems very tedious and although I may understand it, I would prefer not to dwell on it.  Many times I actually prefer unconsciousness to political consciousness.  This represents a serious problem in the raising of consciousness.  To get at this, and other issues concerning political consciousness, a general background grasp of the topic of consciousness will deliver much meaning for later in this paper.

The Nature of Consciousness :   To begin with, consciousness is different than awareness.  They are both present in my humanity as brute fact, but are distinct.  I am going to make the claim that awareness is rooted directly in that self-serving part of my instinct for well-being and survival; awareness acts as a homeostatic governor on our sense of well-being that is triggered by our biological drives for survival and procreation.  Consciousness and awareness, as in a Venn diagram, overlap, and therefore bear a strong affinity for each other but it is awareness rather than consciousness that is instinctual.   Consciousness can enhance awareness, but cannot produce it.  Awareness can enhance consciousness but should not be confused with it. They come from the same human facticity, but serve that facticity in distinct ways.

Both ‘awareness’ and ‘consciousness’ have an identical starting physicality: the neural gestalt of the central nervous system, (i.e., the brain).  After this jumping off point, the two (awareness and consciousness) develop separately and uniquely.  It is easy for me to understand that my ‘sentient reaction’ is a product of certain bio-chemical reactions built into my central nervous system.  For certain, I understand that a ‘survival instinct’ (i.e., as an awareness reaction) is part of my mental makeup which I share with most animals.  Consciousness, on the other hand, while very frequently provoked by awareness is something apart from sentient awareness.  We have a sense that consciousness is something ‘higher’ than awareness. This is not to say that consciousness is something ‘spiritual,’ but rather something telescoped, broader and deeper, networked, an encompassing thing that is uniquely human.  For example, I have no trouble saying that my dog is aware of my presence in the room. I am certainly part of her sense of well-being and survival.  However, there is a natural hesitation in saying that my dog is conscious of my presence in the room.  To say ‘conscious’ would imply that the dog has a separate, abstract sense of me apart from my immediate presence in the room. To be conscious implies something more than what we suspect animals of being capable.  I, on the other hand, can be both aware of my dog in the room, and at the same time be conscious of the dog in at abstract sense.

Here is the clear difference: to be aware is a passive process.  When I am aware, ‘things’ outside of me are happening to me.  Awareness knocks against me and puts my sense of well-being on alert. To be conscious is an active process. When I am conscious I am engaged with things.  I am extended into a host of things and events both inside and outside of myself in a pro-active way.  There is something about me that is happening to things.  Those ‘things’ can be outside, can be concrete, as when I consciously consider a tree, another person, or clouds.  These ‘things’ can also be internal products of my mind, as when I consider the abstractions of love, or happiness – or human rights versus political power.  This does not mean that my happiness can not have a concrete dialectical expression outside of me – for example, the person I love as both the provocation and object of my love. Awareness alone can clearly stimulate conscious interest, as in the arousal of sexual interest, but awareness does not cause me to love; clearly love and sexual interest can be related, but are not identical.  Happiness has no meaning outside of my conscious (or perhaps subconscious) grasp of the thing or event.  Happiness is an engaged process, a ‘conscious’ product of my mind.  I am conscious of happiness rather than being aware of it.

Consciousness, while related to awareness, discloses its distinct shape along the line of focused, intentional curiosity.  Intentional curiosity is part of a syndrome unique to humans.  Of course, many animals show an interest in things in their immediate environment.  They do exhibit behaviors that are sometimes referred to as ‘curiosity.’  But this is not intentional on the part of animals.  They are engaged, are seized, if you will, from without by things and events having direct relationship to aspects of their survival and well being, (e.g., predators or food). To suggest that animals other than humans have a special curiosity about such things as the nature of clouds, the history of their species, or magic, is absurd.  These are the products of intentional curiosity.  They are part of a curiosity syndrome[1] that energizes only humans.  Animals other than humans are aware not conscious; they are engaged rather than engaging.

All animals (including humans) are aware. This is part of the instinctual, survival makeup common to all animals.  All animals have senses that are receptive to stimulation from the world around them, a receptivity that is the neurological pathway to a sentient reaction.  As stated above, I hold that this awareness is quite distinguishable from ‘consciousness,’ just as instincts for survival and well-being are distinct from the development of abstract curiosity or a curiosity syndrome.  However, I will argue that the instinct for well-being is the trigger for this curiosity syndrome, abstract and otherwise; the ultimate manifestations of curiosity appear so remote from instincts for survival and well-being that any connection can seem tenuous at best, but I am confident that rearward looking analysis will trace ‘curiosity’ to material factors originating in our historical need to survive and be well in their most general sense. As strange as it might sound at first, it might even be said that the realization of death is the universal human instigator for our sense of curiosity.

Further, I do not consider that this use of the words ‘aware’ and ‘conscious’ are in any way part of a private language, or private understanding.  We all have a reasonably strong grasp on the words and we understand that the words ‘conscious’ and ‘aware’ are similar by implication, yet we also understand that they do mean something different in their application. 

None of what I have said above is to be construed to mean that awareness is a secondary factor to consciousness, or less important.  While they are distinct, awareness can be a powerful force on its own, a force of great moment for humans.  It is fair to say that awareness and consciousness very often act in concert, like two individual people on a dance floor, with awareness frequently the leader of the dance team.  This leads to an important consideration: awareness can provoke sudden shifts in consciousness.  Certain key events of awareness can trip a powerful response in consciousness.  Awareness can impact people in such a way as to force sudden and compelling changes in consciousness.  In a manner of speaking, awareness can flip the switch on the preverbal ‘light bulb,’ unexpectedly, and often with virulence.  However, the ‘light bulb’ itself is internal.

Unlike awareness, to say that I am ‘conscious’ is to suggest that something about my Being[2] is active rather than passive.  Consciousness is that part of my Being that actively ‘reaches out to engage’ things beyond me, beyond my individual state. This ‘reaching out to engage’ is driven by that basic human ability to be curious, itself a manifestation of deeper needs for well-being.  This reaching out is aided by another human ability: focus.   I motivate this focus, this willful ‘reaching out’, by intentional curiosity, which directs focus outward, toward something.  To say ‘direct it outward’ or ‘reaching out’ does not necessarily mean reaching toward something outside of my individual being, but only distinct from my consciousness, per se.  For example, I can direct my consciousness at internal things as well as external things.  I can also direct consciousness at itself in what we typically call self-consciousness.  This thing, this focus, is an intentional or willful act: I intend to do this thing.  To say that I intend is to acknowledge that I have an understanding of future time.  This recognition of time is yet another uniquely human ‘understanding.’[3]

Focus goes beyond reaching out to a thing.  Focus, as part of the curiosity syndrome, is also an envelopment of the thing.  Focus, as an intentional act, is a tool of consciousness that envelops the thing aimed at by consciousness, and then separates this thing from the surrounding environment for an internal viewing.  The separation I will call uncovering and the internal viewing reflection. This last is rooted in another uniquely human capability: the ability to arrange and rearrange complex patterns which is a form of revealing.  Reason, or reflection, is nothing magical, but is part of our natural hardwiring, an ability built-into the neurological gestalt. Only the gestalt must possess things revealed on which to act as in a reflecting surface. Reflection is the bouncing of the enveloped thing off internal things, qua abstractions, previously revealed – now abstractions integrated and secured in a place that for the sake of simplicity I will call knowledge.   In this context I might say that reflection acts as an internal pinball machine, reflecting things off solid knowledge, shaping it until the perfect slot is found.  The development and nature of these slots increases the overall stability of a growing intellectual gestalt.

This ability to reason, this reflection also possesses a willful or intentional element, and is both a tool and a result of consciousness.  The precise origin of will is, for now, uncertain[4], but it is clear that will (and intent) exists tangentially to our ability to reflect, and reflection is a development of ‘understanding’ which is rooted in knowing.  Will and reflection are powerful tools in a human arsenal that augments instinctual survival and well-being to a level much higher than that experienced by the other animals. More pointedly, these tools are what make us uniquely human, for only humans have the capacity to know in the abstract sense (i.e., to hold reflection in suspension.)

So, consciousness is not merely the reaching out to things, but also, by the medium of focus, consciousness is the drawing in of things for an extensive search and grasp of the uncovered, which leads to the revelation of meaning of through intentional reflection.  Focus is the active envelopment and removal of things from background clutter.  Focus allows for intentional reflection and manipulation by knowledge of the enveloped things. Meaning is revealed, and advanced, through willful envelopment and manipulation by those things that we already know.  Thus, I advance the uncovered by ‘reflecting’ the uncovered off the mirror of my previous knowledge, guiding it toward the appropriate slot in my intellectual framework.  This framework grows and develops according to the level of dedication applied to the process described.

Thus consciousness exists within a dialectical reality: consciousness is both a product and a provider of revealed meaning.  This advancement in reflective ability is a dialectical aggrandizement unique to our species.  This reaching out, or aiming, and manipulation, is part of the process of ‘thinking,’ but it is not identical with thinking, just as we seem to understand that consciousness and thinking are not exactly the same things. Rather, I might say that thinking is the intermediary, the factuality that binds consciousness to knowledge. That thinking and consciousness are not the same thing can be illustrated by the reality that I can be conscious – that active reaching out – without thinking, but I cannot be thinking without being conscious.  Consciousness precedes thinking.  Without consciousness there can be no abstract knowledge, and without knowledge there can be no thinking.

If the difference between consciousness and awareness still seems obscure let me offer an example.  A deer may become aware of wolves in the vicinity.  Awareness is the alertness, the ringing of the survival bell.  The deer’s well-being is clearly at issue. At this point evolutionary programmed instincts take over the deer’s behavior as the deer reacts to those things acting on it.  The deer is not curious about the wolves; the deer does not direct a reflection on the meaning of the wolves, or reflect on what it knows about the behavior of the wolves (indeed, if it truly knows anything about wolves in some abstract sense) nor does it consider alternative actions regarding the wolves. The deer is aware rather than conscious of the wolves and merely reacts within the limited scope that evolutionary instinct has provided.  A human, once made aware, can exhibit curiosity, can reach out with focus. That is to say, a human being can direct consciousness in a probing way at the meaning of the wolves, and then can ‘reflect,’ climb across the web of knowledge he or she possesses about the wolves, and then select a course of action based on a variety of alternative actions abstractly known about the wolves and the situation.  It is clear that these pro-active elements of focus and reflection, which are adjunctive tools of consciousness, are factors uniquely human.  Yet, even given the originality offered by humanness there exists only the possibility that willful focus and reflection can happen.  Just as with the deer, instincts are present in the human.  These instincts can be overridden by the curiosity syndrome, by focus and reflection. However, reactions can be programmed in such a way by prevailing idea-systems so as to short-circuit reflection and cause actions to be reflexive.  Therefore, intentional reflection is only a possibility for our species.  Ideological programming will have great impact on the possibility of raising consciousness in general, and raising political consciousness in particular.

Although it seems unnecessary to add, I feel the need to point out that I can exist in a state of both awareness and consciousness at the same time; this might be filed under the heading of being consciously aware.  These two things, awareness and consciousness, can also come in either order, i.e. sentient awareness can precede conscious, or visa-versa, focused consciousness can precede sentient awareness, though this arrangement, where consciousness precedes awareness, is a rare spark, which is no doubt facilitated by imagination – i.e., the creative reflection and rearrangement of known things that leads to some unexpected or serendipitous revealing (i.e., meaning) of an unknown thing.  Imagination might, in some sense, be dubbed the basis for genius.  However, even a genius must be in possession of many known things.  In the absence of a store of knowledge there would be nothing on which to exercise his or her imagination.

Raising Consciousness in General.  If the development of consciousness turns on the development of knowledge necessary for reflection, as it clearly seems to do, then raising consciousness must be part of a process concerned with the augmentation of knowledge. This augmentation is not the same thing as learning more, although ‘learning more’ is, without a doubt, a necessary ingredient of the augmentation process.  Knowledge, in the way in which I use it here, is the revealing of ‘meaning’ rather than a manner of thought or analysis which is more in the arena of intentional reflection.  ‘Revealing meaning’ might make it appear as though the raising of consciousness is as simple as merely reading another book. This is way too superficial an understanding of the process. The raising of consciousness presents a far more delicate arrangement of the intellectual factors involved in the process of envelopment and reflection. The intellectual factors must be arranged in such a way as to make two things possible: (1) to make the envelopment conform to true and actual reality and (2) to allow for the knowledge matrix demanded by precise reflection.  This arrangement is not so easily accomplished.  Reading another book is a helpful factor, but is not a complete answer. A discussion of these factors in total, and why the arrangement of these factors is so difficult, is the first task.

An example will provide a broad description as to the arrangement and development of these intellectual factors.  Consider the solar eclipse.  Today, in the modern world, I think very little about the mechanics of an eclipse.  A solar eclipse, while an awesome spectacle, is not a mysterious, or a supernatural event.  I also know that this was not always thought to be so. While astronomers have, for a very long time, had a realistic grasp on principles surrounding a solar eclipse, for the human population at-large an eclipse had definite overtones of supernatural intervention.  An incident involving the pre-Socratic philosopher, Thales of Miletus (ca. 624-546, BCE), serves to illustrate the arrangement and development of these intellectual factors required for envelopment and reflection.

It is reported by Herodotus that Thales successfully predicted a solar eclipse in 585 BCE (modern astronomers place the date at May 28, 585 BCE).[5]  On that date there was a battle raging between the Medians and the Lydians.  On seeing the eclipse both armies threw down their weapons and refused to fight, the soldiers believing that the eclipse was of supernatural origin and showed divine disapproval with the bloodletting.  This event ended a bitter five year war between the two states.  What does this situation tell us?  It tells us that the masses of the army and their rulers were superstitious enough to think that the solar eclipse was a sign from their gods.  Thales understood the event in other terms.  This demonstrates that there existed two very different grasps on reality.  We now know that Thales’ understanding of this event was not just different, but an accurate and true picture of a universal reality; Thales’ consciousness was functioning on a ‘higher’ level than that of the army and its generals.  In getting to understand Thales’ grasp I can come to grips with the intellectual factors leading to his correct interpretation of reality as opposed to the masses of Medians and Lydians whose idea system lead them to an incorrect interpretation.

I know from historical writings that Thales tended to explain natural phenomena using rational principles as opposed to supernatural principles.  This ran counter to the ideological order of the day, an order that consistently advanced supernatural explanations for natural events. Thales was able to step outside of and reject the prevailing idea system (ideology.)  I know also that Thales had a good working knowledge of geometry.  I do not know of the exact methods he used, but he certainly aware of solar eclipses as they occur worldwide at different places for different observers at least twice a year.  He also knew of their relation to the cycle of the new moon. This is enough information to give him a jumping off point.  As opposed to the empirical observations made by Thales and others, the average person of his day would have had no tools other than superstition to reveal the meaning of an eclipse.  Thales possessed a store of knowledge not widely available at the time.

What can I learn from Thales about revealing the meaning of things?  What is it that is involved in Thales’ intellectual processes that makes his grasp of reality accurate and true?  How is the example of Thales relevant to the consciousness achievable by all human beings?  To begin with, there are four identifiable factors. The first three are endemic to human physicality.  (1) Reason; (2) accumulation of knowledge; and (3) imagination; (4) empirically grounded observations. The actuality of these first three factors certainly seems inherent in the human neural system and is in no way mysterious or spiritual. The fourth factor is a derivative of experience.  It is the conviction that things occur in the real and physical world and not in some spiritual or metaphysical world.  This conviction emerges as a result of the first three factors tampering with experience and is no way an innate or instinctive reaction.  This fourth factor represents the ability to pierce through the suffocation of inherited idea systems (ideology) such as superstition.   I should add that the first three all are an outgrowth of the universal human characteristic of curiosity, which is itself rooted in the instinct for survival and well-being shared by all animals.  This was detailed above.

Let me now apply these factors to the Thales situation.

First Thales utilized of the power of reason as the basis for understanding the world.  Reason is clearly a human facility made possible by neural hardwiring.  This facility assembles the raw material we have gathered through our senses and social relations facilitated by what appears to be a natural human predisposition to orderly (i.e. logical) structuring.  Reason is the manner in which we form combinations of observed reality, the way in which we track down links between events. Reason can be, and ought to be, a creative, fluid process that avoids the rigid idea-systems (ideology) that provide prefab answers to real world issues and events.

How and why Thales achieved this critical understanding and reliance on reason is not known, but there can be no doubt that not only was Thales possessed by curiosity – that ultimate enemy of superstition[6] – he was also a keen observer.  It follows that he must have also possessed the tools to accurately observe. We know that Thales had a superb educational background[7] that gave him the tools needed to observe. Thales was not just aware, he was conscious of possible alternative explanations for events such as a solar eclipse.  The possibility of alternative explanations, alternatives made available by the human gift of imagination, was chief among his tools.

Both reason and the recognition of possible alternatives rest on the second factor, a rich storehouse of knowledge.

Second, knowledge is hard to avoid.  We are constantly taking in information and warehousing it.  It is in the nature of the warehousing that the difficulty begins.  Knowledge can and often does involve raw information developed in pattern formation via the process we call reason. However, and unfortunately, we all too often store knowledge in a prefab structure. The structure of the storehouse is one of many possible idea systems (ideology) we are presented with upon our arrival in his reality.  Depending on a prefab ideological structure usually means the jettisoning of any experience that conflict with the ideology.  In making the preservation of the ideological structure predominate much knowledge is lost.  The dominate idea system may not be the best to advance the third and most vital factor: imagination.  Most ideologies are impediments we must overcome with the aid of reason and imagination.  In the main, suspicion of dominate ideas systems is always justified and warranted.

Third, besides reason and the storing up if information, there is a factor truly unique to our humanity:  Imagination.  Imagination is the projection of all of what I know about certain types of events into a current perception of reality.  I then work to combine, recombine, tweak, fiddle and adjust the things and events in creative ways until a combination matches up with current perception.  We all possess this imaginative ability.  It is entirely possible that pattern formation is hardwired into our neural gestalt.  Some of us possess the imaginative ability to an extreme.  We call these people geniuses.  However, imagination is ultimately (and perhaps ironically) grounded in accumulated knowledge. Even a genius must possess knowledge to realize the potential of his or her gifts.  If that knowledge is faulty our current perceptions (or those of a genius) will not properly align with reality and thus a crippled imagination – one lacking sufficient components of knowledge – can lead us in a fruitless direction. 

Fourth, Thales’ rising consciousness convinced him that physical explanations, rather than supernatural explanations, lead to a true understanding of the world around him. An empirical grasp of the world is a vital step in gaining material truth.  Superstition is an old and oppressive enemy of humanity. Therefore overcoming an ideology of superstition proves to be a crucial factor in the revealing of a true and accurate meaning behind events and things.[8] 

Raising consciousness involves the utilization of all four of these factors – (1) the ability to reason, (2) accumulating knowledge, and (3) use of imagination, and (4) empirically grounded in the real world.  The first three are a natural part of our humanness and need only refinement through use.  The last depends on the development of the first three.  All are necessary tools for the advancement of consciousness.

I speak of these four factors as vital to the revealing of realities. These realities are often a web of circumstance or relations which are clearly related to ‘knowing,’ but are not empirically obvious.  Remember, that although I am speaking of consciousness in general, I will next address political knowledge of political relations, and how these relations which are typically concealed from us.  The concealing is sometimes deliberate manipulation by the power relations themselves. After all, secrecy is a primary source of political power.  Sometimes the concealing is historically “deliberate” in the sense that it is a product of inherited idea systems (i.e. ideology). These things make the uncovering and revealing of political relations a far more difficult task and all the more dependent on the above four factors.

Political Consciousness .  Now that I have introduced general consciousness, the question becomes: what is political consciousness?  Political consciousness begins its actualization along the similar lines as general consciousness: that is, a reaching out to engage.  The difference is specificity.  Political consciousness is a reaching out to willfully engage the power relations found in a specific social order. 

Political consciousness, like consciousness in general, is engendered by that ‘curiosity syndrome,’ that derivative of my instinct for survival and well-being.  It utilizes the tool of focus to envelope specific things, and draws them back in for intentional (which is to say willful) reflection. There are, however, levels and degrees, and the objective of political consciousness is stated as specific.  In other words, political consciousness has a distinguishing intention that sets it apart from general consciousness.  It is curious about power relations.

To illustrate this specific intention let me look into a most basic level of political consciousness, which is not a true political consciousness at all but a reaction I will call political awareness.  I am using ‘awareness’ in the same sense as outlined in the above discussion of general consciousness, that is, awareness as a manifestation of more fundamental instincts of survival and well-being. This political awareness is an awareness of power that lacks the fully conscious grasp of power relations.  This awareness is aroused by the force of power acting on it.  This bears some elaboration.

All things political are, by definition, a reflection of power relations.  In some form or another all societies cohere in the way that they do because of the specific arrangements of power within that society.  For me, the solitary individual, the social pressures that guide my daily decisions and movements are located within the power relations found in the social structure in which I find myself. This is a basic description that cannot be avoided in any study of the social process.

These power relations are usually veiled, but the veil can be drawn back.  The uncovering of power relations is the first step in raising political consciousness.  Through the processes described above, the uncovering then leads to the revealing of specific meaning in the observed power relations.  As this happens the ideological façade will be fall away and the revealed relations will lose their mystery.  Often the revealing process will lead to the power relations being stripped of much of their revered legitimacy, thus undermining political authority.

In suggesting a loss of political authority through unveiling, I am claiming that much of political ‘authority’ is granted by a sense of reverence that leads to mood of legitimacy.  That is to say, that much of political legitimacy and authority is actualized through reverence for metaphysical principles (e.g., patriotism, sanctity of law, nationalism, racial purity, etc.).  A grasp of this sense of ‘reverence’ serves to illustrate the difference between political awareness and political consciousness.  Reverence veils the power relations behind metaphysical principles leaving one with a vague sense of the coercive forces at work without any clear grasp of their true origin and purpose.  I am ‘aware’ of the coercive forces at work around and on me, but I fail to fully understand them.  Consequently, awareness, as opposed to consciousness, tends to ‘feel’ political pressure rather than grasp and understand it.  Awareness will usually view political authority in some metaphysical term of legitimacy, per se, with the actual working of the power relations behind the legitimacy as wholly misunderstood or veiled and out of ‘sight.’

To elaborate: in the case of ‘political awareness’ the individual is only passively aware of power relations.  I can get a parking ticket, receive a tax bill, be inducted into the military, or denied medical coverage, and all this can happen to me without my possessing any precise knowledge of the power arrangements at work behind these events.  I am aware only that something disagreeable is happening to me.  I am compelled to move here and there without understanding the exact reasons compelling the move. Drawing on the example offered previously, the deer is aware of the wolves in the same way that I am aware of being acted upon by forces outside of myself.  Like the deer, I move, almost instinctually, responding to an unseen threat, but understand very little of those forces making up the threat.  I am passively aware of the power in the vicinity and have only a vague notion of the nature of the power behind the threat.  This pawn like response is the lowest level of political sensitivity.  This level of political sensitivity (i.e. political awareness) will tend to leave the individual feeling confused, powerless, and even dazed, in the face of the forces surrounding him.  This state of confusion and helplessness is to the advantage of the powers that control the social structure and is often deliberately fostered.

In keeping with the defining characteristics of general consciousness, political consciousness is an active, engaged process.  At the risk of pointing out the unmistakable, to engage requires facilities of engagement. The discussion now revolves around the questions: what is the nature of these faculties that facilitate political consciousness and from where do these faculties come?

Faculties of engagement.  Passivity requires only inactive reception.  This is not to say a pervasive dullness at-hand, but rather an alertness that lacks intentional curiosity.  As opposed to this, every form of reaching out must abandon inactivity and proceed actively, this is facilitated by the free reign of curiosity.  While it is true that reaching out to engage springs from the curiosity syndrome, engagement must possess the power of dynamic action; that is, for me to reach out I must possess the dynamic tools to do so.  Besides the obvious – that is, my central nervous system – what is the nature these tools.  To reveal the nature of these dynamic tools let me try a simple illustration.

I sit at my desk and I look over at the corner of the desktop.  I see a coin.  From where I sit I am only aware that the coin appears elliptical.  I know it is not elliptical.  In spite of how the coin appears to me from where I sit I know the coin is round.  Let me examine what has occurred.  I glance at a coin and what I see and what I know clash.  I am aware that something is not quite right with what I see.  My curiosity about what has happened to my ‘looking’ is aroused.  I now reached out to the coin with curiosity about what I see.  I focus, that is, enveloped the coin.  Next, with willful intent, I draw the vision of the coin back for an engagement with reflection against my previous knowledge of coins and looking.  Through reflecting the meaning of what I was seeing is revealed.  I am now conscious that ‘perspective’ caused the coin to appear elliptical.   The chief dynamic tool that I used to actively engage and realign appearance with true reality was my knowledge about coins.  The dynamic nature of the enveloping tool is focused curiosity.  The reflection of the engaged against previous knowledge is the source of revealed meaning. This is a very simple example.  Yet even for more complicated or exotic issues the dynamic nature of the engaging tools remains the same: they are curiosity and knowledge.  Without those dynamic tools awareness never reaches the level of consciousness.

Along with distinguishing political consciousness from political awareness, these factors of focused curiosity and knowledge not only allow me too actively and effectively engage with my environment – in this case, my political environment – they tend to replace, not just the confusion, but also the feelings of helplessness, that drifting sense of powerlessness. It is also true that with knowledge comes frustration and anger, but without the helplessness that denies direction for the anger. Through knowledge my frustration and anger can be directed and pointed. Through knowledge I find myself feeling a sense of control rather than being controlled.  With knowledge I can anchor myself. 

Raising political consciousness.  The first thing to note about political consciousness, and in particular the raising of political consciousness, is that this is an action that will take place in a hostile atmosphere.  It is a rare individual (or group of individuals) who would find himself sitting in the highest seat of power and at the same time show any interest in a growth of political consciousness within the social order.  Political consciousness is one of the few authentic threats to the power structure.  A poor education or better yet, no education at all is a mainstay for any governing elite.  Ignorance is a form of secrecy, and secrecy is a major source of control and therefore power.  Make no mistake, where there is a political structure there is a political hierarchy with its own set of vested interests that are not intended to come to light. Lack of developed knowledge exacerbates a mood of helplessness and alienation.  It is in the interests of the power structure to frustrate the free flow of information and knowledge, together with the acquiring of the tools to organize this information.  The rigidity, ruthlessness and absoluteness of a political structure’s governing elite vary only by degree.  This is not a hopeless situation for the raising of consciousness.  Knowledge, by its very nature is universally available, and therefore ‘knowing’ is always possible, even in the harshest of political environment.  However, an inhospitable environment makes the achievement of political consciousness a true uphill battle.  The question is how to take that first step.

Let me return to the example of Thales offered above.  Thales lived in a time where the real nature of material events was often shrouded in mystery.  The chief ideological formations were variations of superstition.  This bears a resemblance to the fog surrounding politics.   Political institutions are typically shrouded in the metaphysics of patriotism, destiny, and duty, lost in the superstition of xenophobia and nationalism, all often wrapped in the gilded mysteries of the national or constitutional law.  The real workings of power relations are largely unknown to the population at-large.  Like Thales, before me I must come to the realization that something solid and real is going on here.  The chauvinism of the state has a purpose, a design I am not meant to uncover. It is here that political awareness serves its best purpose.

The wolf and the deer.  Like the illustration of the deer above, we humans also possess survival instincts, instincts that support an alert system I have been referring to as awareness.  Awareness is an opportunity.  Awareness is a trigger for curiosity and therefore consciousness.  How often have I heard my neighbor grumble about taxes, or those fools that keep plunging the country into wasteful wars and painful depressions, or the rich bastards that have everything while everyone else just gets-by.  This grumbling is an alert system. It is my political awareness. I am not imagining things.  I am as the deer that knows wolves are in the area, and I am alerted.  I need only trust myself, my own instincts: what I think is happening is probably happening.  Like the deer I can ignore this alert, this awareness, but do so at my own peril.  However, at this point, possessing awareness alone, I am lost, not knowing which way to turn, how to escape the wolves, or I can become their willing prey, even their accomplice in my own destruction. 

Ideological claims: Taxes are my patriotic duty, I must sacrifice for the greater good of the nation, our leaders are wiser than I, the rich have worked hard and are deserving of their wealth, etc.  These are common political claims in our modern world, yet often these claims feel wrong. This gut feeling that something is not quite right with some or all of these claims is my alert system at work.  Like the deer, my first step is to trust my gut feelings, my survival instincts. The deer is an intimate of the terrain and knows the manner in which a twig snaps, or a stalk of grass bows, and senses when these events are not congruent with the landscape.  Like the deer, I am an integrated component of the political terrain, and can sense or feel when events around me do not properly line up.  When they feel out of place, I feel out of place.  These feelings will prepare me to reach out to the situation or event with the best tools I find available.   

First, I must judge the best direction to reach out.  Here, I separate myself from the deer.  My instincts will prove inadequate to proceed beyond feeling and awareness.  Unlike the position of the deer, the wolves in my life are not operating solely on instinct. These wolves are highly skilled and have developed habits based on a cunning manipulation not only of their environment, but of knowledge concerning the terrain in which they hunt. There is always the danger that the wolf is more conscious than the deer.  The terrain in which both the wolf and the deer inhabit is the social and political landscape in which history has placed the adversaries.  To elevate my consciousness I must learn the social and political skills of the wolf.  This learning is fashioned by the nature of the manipulation and knowledge of the political landscape.  If I fail to learn the social and political skills of the wolf I will be their accomplice, their willing quarry.  If I do not come to understand the terrain I will not survive.  I will be eaten.

Raising my political consciousness means a more carefully study of the power relation in which I live.  It is vital to understand that I, myself, will be initially resistant to this kind of reflection. This is a natural reaction. I am not lazy, or stupid, but alienated. (“Who cares, and anyway there is nothing anyone can do about it!”)  Rather than being stupid, lazy or uninterested, I am overcome by an apathy that has its roots sunk deep in feelings of powerlessness and alienation.

One of the intents of power is to promote these feeling of alienation and apathy. The most clever power relations program this into the political landscape through a legal framework that causes change to be so time-consuming, arduous, expensive, or even dangerous, that frustration leads to a desire for unconsciousness. To be unconscious shields me from my own powerlessness. To desire unconsciousness is a natural reaction.  It is also a mark of a highly successful ideology that it cannot only inculcate feeling of powerlessness in the general population, but to also blind the population to the source of these feelings.  To blind the population to nature of the power structure is a heady accomplishment for any ideology. To cause the population to want to be blind is the ultimate achievement for any power structure.  It is easy to judge the power of the political hierarchy by how much the populace wants to avoid political involvement.

The terrain is the world in which I live.  More specific to my point: the political terrain in which I find myself is the system of power relations that does not merely surround me, but is a system into which I am fully integrated.  It is this landscape of power relations that I must uncover and reveal in order to acquire the tools to reach out and fully grasp the things and events that attempt to manipulate and control my life.  I must first realize that the totality of the circumstance in which I find myself is real, not fantasy, not metaphysical, not surreal.  This means that I must first suspect that the tools I was given, that the inherited idea-system is part of the trap.  I must being with an examination of myself, uncover the ideology that compels me, the ideology that organizes my vision of the world. This uncovering of ‘myself,’ that is, the consciousness that defines me, is the first step in the process we call the raising of political consciousness. 

I must also realize that the real, concrete terrain into which I am integrated is different for everyone.  No two individuals stand in the same place at the same time, or are in the grip of the exactly the same idea system, share the same view of the landscape, so as I am different from you, my consciousness will be different from yours.  This fact alone goes a long way toward accounting for the vociferous disagreements between individuals as to the issues our society faces. The problem may not alone be some hand-me-down ideology, but simply how our position in the terrain produces or promotes one idea system as opposed to another. This is a way of saying that my position in the socio-historical landscape encourages an idea-system that defines my individual consciousness – that is, defines me.  Although we may share many aspects of consciousness, no one will need to uncover and reveal the exact same features of the terrain to raise individual political consciousness.  To a certain extent this streamlines the process. To be effective every uncovering experience need only be appropriate to an individual’s position in the social matrix, shared with others or not shared.  Ultimately, it is an individual self-discovery, a self-revelation.  This specified uncovering and revelation will bring a change to who I am and therefore greatly effect my position in the landscape.  In this sense, political consciousness raising, even mass consciousness raising, can be witnessed as an individual process.  

Understanding political consciousness through understanding who you are: Who am I?  This is the most penetrating and universal question I can ask to launch the search for individual consciousness.  It is also the question I will ask to expand my political consciousness. The question – Who am I? – connects the personal world with the objective world.  It greatly increases the possibility of a deeper consciousness of both worlds. The weaker is my engagement with the facticity of my existence as it is integrated within this specific landscape the more likely will I display a political schizophrenia in interacting with the power relations that work hard to define me.  My political responses will not just be inappropriate, but more vitally a failure of political consciousness will cause me to lose a true sense of who I am.

In the earlier section on consciousness in general I suggested that consciousness was a bit like describing who you are, or somewhat oddly, how you are.  Locating, uncovering, and revealing an answer to ‘who are you?’ is a giant step. This giant step will locate your existential position in your world.  Knowledge of this position will put you in a place to actively reach out, engage and envelope the things in your world. To raise your consciousness, that is, make the most of this engagement you will need to develop the relevant tools to reach out into the world, to connect with the facticity around you.  I have already stated them above.  You must come to see yourself as rooted in this real world, you already have the ability to reason, and imagination can be developed.  The power of all these elements is grounded in accumulated experience shaped by reflection into a general web of knowledge.  Knowledge is the central element to the process of raising consciousness.  Knowledge of power relations is the key to the process of raising political consciousness.

Knowledge is the basic tool, but not the process.  Make no mistake about this effort; the raising of consciousness is not an easy process.  The process of raising consciousness consumes both time and energy, and both in great amounts. Your existential position is a complex issue.  You can start by understanding that as a human being you are social, historical and ontological.  This last – the ‘ontological you’ – has far reaching implications in terms of your extended sense of reality, but for the sake of space, and immediate relevance, I must set it aside.  

As I will bypass the ontological issues when asking the question: who are you, I will bind the question in two ways.  First, I will restrict ‘the you’ with a defining reference to the immediate issues confronting you, and second, the consequence of the first restriction requires that who you are right now, (i.e., confronting immediate situations) is all the outcomes of situations you have faced historically.  In other words, who you are existentially (your immediate position in time and space), is a position that is an understandable development traceable to whom you are historically (your presence in accordance with past actions, both individual and historical.)  Together, this dialectical configuration reveals for all who you are socially and politically, which is another way of saying how you are integrated into the terrain which both defines and responds to your engagement.  One sense of this relationship is that the raising of your political consciousness is a consequence of immediate activity that will develop a new historical you.  Demonstrating how this development of a ‘new you’ can happen is my next task.

Understanding Raising Political Consciousness by Illustration:

You are a sophomore student attending the University of California at Los Angeles. Your family is well off.  You sit in a comfortable classroom and listen to a lecture. The study of English, medieval literature may be interesting, and ultimately it bears some connection to the landscape in which you find yourself, but it is not of immediate, dialectical relevance to what you are beginning to confront in your contemporary world.  You are chagrined to discover that much of your studies are like this and are consequently vaguely boring.  They seem to lack any sense of relevance (a common complaint with university students everywhere and at all times.)  As a student you are in a uniquely opportune situation to tackle these issues.

You are looking into a world mired in pain and suffering. For reasons not fully understood by you, this worldview deeply affect you and the life of who you are. The calluses of cynicism that block the light from your distressed spirit are yet to form.  Of great importance is the fact that you are still able to ask a deeply troubling, personal question: what can I do about all this? As you have not yet been made indifferent by incessant exposure you ache for an answer to this question so affecting your life. The ‘I’ in this question being the critical turning point.  Revealing an answer to ‘What can I do?’ will change who you are.

As you view the world, you wonder, is it sympathy you feel, or empathy, or perhaps you sense in the pain and suffering a direct but ill formed threat?  These are ‘alerts’ and any one of them can turn on the ‘curiosity syndrome.’ This is a positive turning-on.  It draws you into the equation.  In many ways your task is less demanding than those hounding your work-a-day contemporaries, your contemporaries that find themselves locked in a world of economic survival and have neither to time nor the energy to contemplate what they feel.  As I said, as a student you are in the perfect spot.  You search only for relevance.

The relevant answer to your search is as easily defined as it is demanding.  For example, the range of the troubles you see is too large to swallow at one sitting.  Instead, you must pick an issue, but not an issue at random.  Select an issue that is, for you, particularly irksome, plays on your mind, seems personal.  Pick a situation that truly gets under your skin because it strikes you as ‘wicked’ so ‘incredibly stupid,’ and somehow menacing (“How could this have ever happened?”  “Who’s in charge here, anyway?”  “Can’t anybody see what’s going on?” “Why can’t we stop this?”)  Very quickly you will find that this irksome issue is in some way related too all the other “troubles.”  But this remains for you to uncover.  The first task is to gather the tools you will need to reach out and grasp this personal, irksome issue.

A quick example of raising consciousness. Allow me to make a small digression as an illustration of how to proceed.  For a variety of reasons I have chosen an example removed from the political sphere, but also one reasonable well known.  I refer to the ‘discovery’ of psychoanalysis made by Sigmund Freud.  As this example will demonstrate, the word ‘discovery’ is often incorrectly used.  ‘Discovery’ implies a sudden sighting (Land Ho!) or a satori, (sudden enlightenment, if I might borrow a concept from Zen.)  Neither of these things was the case with the ‘discovery’ of psychoanalysis, as certainly ‘discovery’ is the wrong concept to apply.  What the case of Freud’s work does illustrate is the uncovering and revealing process that I am calling raising consciousness. 

Briefly, the facts of the example go as follows:  At the age of seventeen, in 1873, Freud entered a university as a medical student.  He immediately encountered the anti-Semitism so prevalent in the Europe of his day.  Freud later wrote of this experience as being more puzzling than shocking, of his having developed an attitude more curious than hurt. There is no telling just how disturbing this encounter with anti-Semitism was for the young Freud, but it is clear that it troubled him.[9]  His response – that of being puzzled and curious – is telling.  It was in these early days as a medical student that Freud began to show more interest in psychology than medicine.  Connecting the two – the encounter with racism and a curiosity about the workings of the mind – is in no way automatic, yet it seems less presumptuous than plausible that the anti-Semitism directed at Freud offered him an element of a personal motive to be curious about those hostile attitudes operating beyond his reach.  This curiosity clearly would have involved who he was in relation to the real and threatening world around him. The awareness triggered a reaching out to the subject of mental disorders as a way for Freud to uncover something about himself as interdependent with the world in which he was integrated.

From the opening of his studies to his co-authoring a first paper on psychoanalysis it took ten years of diligent work[10], hardly a satori.  During this time Freud studied with several individuals, each of who possessed some of the keys to psychoanalysis.[11]   It was though his association with each of these individuals that the dynamics of psychoanalysis were slowly revealed to Freud. This was a slow process of uncovering the many pieces of the psychoanalytic dynamic.  Although it was several others who uncovered the pieces,[12]  it was Freud who finally came up with the revealed common denominator.  It was Freud that took the uncovered pieces and imaginatively rearranged them to reveal the astonishing facts of the unconscious mind, that certain impulses or past events were suppressed and the symptoms of hysteria (e.g. neurosis) appear as substitutes for these impulses.

What can I learn from Freud’s experience?  First, it seems clear that personal motives must be present to activate and energize the curiosity syndrome.  I believe that it is not far fetched to suggest that the Freud’s encounter with anti-Semitism at the university triggered a primitive instinct for survival and well-being. It was this instinct in Freud that led to the curiosity syndrome described above.  Freud is not alone in this.  This instinct operates within us all, and leads to the same sense of curiosity.  Next Freud demonstrated all the other qualities human beings possess: he followed the reaching out by his curiosity with apparent dispassionate reason, accumulated knowledge, used his imagination to rearrange what he had uncovered, and above all, he avoided metaphysical or spiritual answers in the process of his reflecting.

The practical application:  How can I be instructed by this example?  First, and especially in dealing with power relations, I must let my instincts lead the way.  I must trust my instincts for survival and well-being.  If I feel a sense of menace it stands a very good chance of being based in something real: 

What I think is happening is probably happening. 

Next, allow my curiosity an intentional focus to reach out, envelope and pull the thing loose from the landscape.  Envelope and separate the threatening thing from the background clutter.  Pull it in for reflection, bouncing and shaping it off what I already know; if I do not yet know enough the reflecting itself will increase my knowledge, and hence the power of my reflection will increase in a dialectical manner.

So pick an issue.  There is no issue which troubles you that is mundane or trivial.  As we shall see, all that troubles you is in some degree personally triggered by your instinct for survival and well-being.  So pick an issue that is personally irksome.  Be it the spread of HIV, the burden of taxation, capital punishment, abortion, famine in Horn of Africa, the decriminalization of narcotics, or perhaps climate change.  These are not trite issues.  It is entirely realistic for you to feel a sense of personal menace stemming from any of these issues.  They are not irrelevant.  They occupy your thoughts and define you in dialectical relationship with the world.  Each of them is threatening in its own way, though not in the same degree for everyone.

Consider climate change.  It may well be that you live in a wealthy, developed country, and are a member of an elite class.  This seems to put you beyond the threat of any immediate impact of climate change – or does it?  When reflecting on what you know about climate change you feel a vague sense of uncertainty, and perhaps a little feeling of unease.  No matter the cause of climate change you come to know that the change will produce world wide shifts in population, mass migration, desertification, and a global short fall in both food and fresh water.  Your unease is a correct sense of this changing situation as a threat.  You come to be conscious that wholesale climate change is a threat to the political security of your nation and almost certainly a threat to your economic station in the social system. This further piques your interest, your curiosity.  Where to look?

You must first define the thing on which you would focus.  Like Freud, you must reach out to search through and grasp what others have uncovered.  If the situation you perceive as a genuine threat then someone has already done some work on the subject. This reaching out requires study and contemplation.  This is not especially difficult, but it is time consuming.  Absorbing what others have uncovered increases your knowledge base and therefore increases your powers of reflection.  With increased reflection the knowledge base will develop a greater reflective ability, and so on. This is changing who you are. 

But suppose that no one has done any previous work on your subject?  If your subject is real this is highly unlikely.  It is more probable that you may not know where to look.  Everything real makes an appearance, though the appearing itself may not be in the form you expect.  As in the case of Freud’s “discovery” of psychoanalysis, the thing may only wait to be uncovered by imaginatively rearranging the position of the pieces uncovered by others.  A new uncovering or revealing might be accomplished by you.

Knowledge and its impact on your ability to reflect will personally change your position in the landscape; (again, I say ‘in the landscape’ rather than ‘on the landscape’ to remind you that we are all integrated into the landscape and not apart from it.)  As you change your integration with the terrain it will change who you are.  Most often these shifts are subtle.  It is like moving down a highway with road signs leading off in a multitude of directions. You will see things from different angles, see different opportunities, be allowed different directions to travel to more distant landscapes.  No matter the direction you choose to travel it will most likely lead to further study, but eventually you will experience the expansion of consciousness.  You will completely adjust to the nature of the threat and this will lead directly to an answer to your question:  ‘What can I do?’ an answer to this is facilitated by the change in who you are.

This is a time consuming process.  Raising consciousness is not a quick, one stop treatment.  As a student you have both the time and resources at your fingertips.  It is far more difficult to achieve the same consciousness once separated from these resources.  Even so, this consciousness raising will progress whether you are a stock broker, or are career military, or a timber worker.  Unlike the student it will be a more demanding process as you are not normally engaged in the process of uncovering.  But it can be done.

Conclusion:  Raising consciousness is not a one shot deal.  Because the landscape is nearly infinite, and so is your position in it, raising consciousness is an ingoing process with no end in sight; consciousness has no boundary because knowledge has no boundary, and neither do you.  Everyone will find themselves starting in a different place in this process, but ultimately raising consciousness will impact all aspect of our human capabilities from physical survival of our species to the loftiest ethical considerations governing our daily lives.

I am also convinced that raising consciousness is not just a process available to everyone, but that raising consciousness is a human duty that obliges everyone.  It obliges because the ongoing process of expanding consciousness is the single greatest defining characteristic of our humanness.  This assertion rests on the certain assumption that curiosity is a derivative of our survival and well-being instincts, which is to say that raising consciousness is the most fundamental ingredient necessary for the survival of our species.  This does not imply that everyone will participate, or be able to, but only that my humanness, and yours, will suffer concomitant of a lack of participation.

It is fair to conclude that raising consciousness develops in dialectical relationship with human survival.  Curiosity, the immediate derivative of well-being awareness, makes the accumulation of experience inevitable.  However, experience is not knowledge.  The greatest antagonist to the conversion of experience into knowledge, and therefore the expansion of consciousness, is a decadent or calcified system of ideas (ideology) that stands as an obstacle to genuine knowledge.  In the main, ideologies that hinge on metaphysical interpretations of reality such as astrology or witchcraft, or ideologies that serve as a flunky for metaphysical constructs such as the ‘national destiny’ or ‘racial elitism’ are immediately suspect as detrimental to human survival.  Expanded consciousness can overcome these handicaps.

A new, expanded political consciousness is linked to what for you would be a new theoretical framework by which to observe political events worldwide. This new consciousness is a giant step forward, a truly powerful tool.  In regarding the raising of individual consciousness you will uncover the one common denominator in answering the question of who you are.  This will also serve in answering the question of how you got to where you are. That is, your consciousness is your individual history.

Finally, this paper does not delve directly into the issue of what to do with political consciousness.  Nor does it approach the subject of raising the political consciousness of those around you – a vital project for anyone politically conscious.  Both of these topics must wait for another paper.  For my current project it is enough to realize that the steps necessary to achieve political consciousness rest on what is innately human:  (1) Pay attention to your base survival awareness. What you think is happening is probably happening.  (2) This awareness will lead to what I refer to as a curiosity syndrome.  (3) Following that lead of curiosity you must ground of all your thinking in the real world; spiritual or metaphysical explanation will ultimately lead in the direction of wasted time and dead ends.  (4) Glean the knowledge of power relations uncovered by others. Reach out and pull these uncovered relations into your consciousness for reflection.  (5) Allow the reflection to be imaginative.  Imagine how these power relations might be reshuffled and arranged for a different agenda.  (6) Finally, you must possess the recognition that there is no final consciousness, only the ongoing process that is the unlimited raising of your consciousness.


[1] By ‘curiosity syndrome’ I mean a group of related or coincidental things or actions that can be characterized as a ‘probing’ to satisfy a uniquely human need.

[2] When speaking of ‘Being’ I mean ‘me’ as a fact, that is, a facticity separate from the deterministic factors of time and place, separate from those elements in which I find myself and define me as who I am.  Being is the ‘I’ as a raw fact.

[3] Space and time prevent me from going into the subject of time in any detail.  However, our understanding of time may well be related to our abstract grasp of our own death, but it beyond the scope of this paper to explore this dimension.  Other philosophers, such as Martin Heidegger, have rather interesting and lengthy discussions of the subject.

[4] Again, time and space prevents a detailed discussion, but ‘Will’ may be a manifestation of desire, if I may follow Arthur Schopenhauer’s suggestion, and thereby give will a possible origin in human biological drives.  However, for the purposes of this paper it is only important to note that will and intention are a basic part of the human makeup.

[5] We do not know if Thales predicted a total or partial eclipse.  Predicting a total eclipse would have been far more technically impressive.

[6] As Nietzsche so keenly observed, curiosity led to the death of God.

[7] As a pre-Socratic, little is known of the education of Thales.  It is known, however, that he was from a patrician, Phoenician family.  These families paid great attention to the education of their children, and Thales no doubt had the best tutors available.  We know that he did receive his mathematical education from Egyptian priests whose interest in astronomy is well known.  It is from them that he might have learned of solar eclipses, and some sense of how to predict them.

[8] While many philosophers will disagree with me, I tend to house metaphysical systems under the same roof as superstition.  The reader is cautioned not to confuse abstract explanations with metaphysics.

[9] For a highly readable elucidation of Freud’s life and work the biography by Ernst Jones is highly recommended.

[10] Freud first published a joint paper on the subject with Josef Breuer in 1893.

[11] For example, Freud studied with the Frenchman Charcot and witnessed the effects of hypnoticis as a relief for maladies then called ‘hysteria.’  Later, through an association with Josef Breuer, Freud learned that through verbal expression the revealing of some connection between symptoms and past events was possible.  Through the verbalizing of the connection the subject could be relieved of the symptoms.  It was at this point that Freud made the common connection that some forgotten event or impulse was suppressed by certain outside factors; this suppression caused the symptoms to appear as a substitute for the act or a twisted version of the original event.

[12] To his credit Freud always gave acknowledgement to others (especially to Josef Breuer) for their significant contributions to his findings.

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