by Revan Filiaexdeus
A version of this paper was originally syndicated on the Hampton Institute, a working class think tank.
For the first time in human history, human collective existence has come to from unconsciousness to consciousness; our awareness of each other and of our Selves has bubbled from the great deep to the very top, waves of it crashing over the islands that we call our individual selves.
Perhaps the most profound thoughts on consciousness and the realization of our own existence come from Carl Jung, a longtime student of Freud who took the ideas of the famed founder of psychoanalysis and brought them to their necessary and correct conclusion. Many today are familiar, if not in title and verbiage than in content and ideology, with the astounding works of Jung.
Consciousness defined is our existence. It is everything that we experience from our very first recollections to our very last. It is the profound state of being called "US", "WE" and "I". Consciousness is the sum of our experiences and perceptions, yet is greater still than this: a man placed in a room that deprives him of his physical senses is still said to exist. The stilling of the mind in this situation brings about the cosmic "drop in the water", complete dissolution of sense of self in the totality of existence, and it is this precise state of being that all human beings recall before their individual and human existence: continual, experienceless "nothingness". It is the nirvana of Buddhism, the Ultimate Reality (Brahman) of Hinduism, and the Ein Sof of Abrahamic mysticism.
From Jung's The Archetypes and Collective Unconscious: "My thesis then, is as follows: in addition to our immediate consciousness, which is of a thoroughly personal nature and which we believe to be the only empirical psyche (even if we tack on the personal unconscious as an appendix), there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals. This collective unconscious does not develop individually but is inherited. It consists of pre-existent forms, the archetypes, which can only become conscious secondarily and which give definite form to certain psychic contents."
Freud greatly elaborated on the ego, our individual conception of self, but spoke in little detail on deeper non-ego consciousness. Jung rejected the egocentric division of human consciousness that Freud triumphed. While Freud alluded to the deeper origins of human consciousness, he simply grasped at little-understood straws and regarded it as a pragmatically insignificant portion of the understanding of human existence.
In short, the Jungian model of consciousness divides our human existence into three experiences, each of which are not separate from the whole but are only perspective-based divisions; that is, consciousness has no "real" divisions, but can be understood from several perspectives by grouping experiences together that have common themes, and these are what we call the "parts" of consciousness. These parts are the ego, the conscious Self, and the collective unconscious. They are our conception of individual self, the actuality and totality of our existence, and the as-yet-to-be-realized portions of existence, respectively.
A chariot is neither its wheels nor its horses nor its cart, yet all of these can be said to make up the chariot, and further still, the chariot itself is an idea perceived through the interworking of all of these parts. Consciousness is precisely this.
Many humans are familiar with the effects of regression and its effects on memory; that is, if someone is to place themselves back in the mindset and feelings, the proverbial "shoes", of a younger version of themselves, they seem to be able to experience their previous perspective and recall earlier memories with much more ease than was possible from the current perspective. All people regress whether we do it consciously or unconsciously; it is the state of mind before sleeping, it is the daydreaming back into a previous version of our selves, it is the eternal remembrance of a perhaps perfect time, an archetypal legend common to all human experience.
The archetype of the "golden age" speaks much on human consciousness, and is preserved in various mythologies, religions, and histories of civilizations. It seems that all people have this very deep rooted and primordial collective memory of a time of existence in which everything was perfect. Some cataclysmic event then occurs to break the seemingly endless perfection of our state of being, to bring us the "flawed" existence we know today, and is the collective explanation for the presence of human evil and it's dichotomy with good.
This golden age archetype is not merely some primordial legend; it is an objective fact of human existence. From our origins in the primordial state of being, we are born with a perfect and unrestrained sense of being. It is innate and common to all human beings. This state of consciousness changes and evolves continually throughout our existence perception of linear time, and the most noticeable change in consciousness takes place at a very young age.
As young children, we carry with us the memory of the womb. It is a perfected existence wherein personal consciousness arises out of the depths of human collective unconsciousness. Not even the supposed trauma of birth breaks our perfected state of existence out of the womb; it is an event with much internal celebration, the proverbial leaving of the Platonic cave to experience that which makes the shadow and not merely the shadow itself.
Many philosophers and theologians, indeed human thinkers in general, have pointed towards the archetypal "existential crisis": the moment at which individual human beings seem to "wake up", and realize that they live in the world that they do.
I propose, definitively, that the existential crisis is a common occurrence and a necessary prerequisite to the formation of the ego as a compensation mechanism to deal with the trauma of living in an existence where there are events outside of our control and the existence of pain. This event in our lives is mirrored extensively throughout our existence; further events labeled "existential crisis" are mirrors of this initial paradigm switch.
Before our Gestalt switch in youth, our consciousness is united and the ego has not yet formed. The personal consciousness of a human being is connected intimately in a pristine state of awareness with the collective unconsciousness. The crisis of the realization of life in a painful existence triggers the formation of the ego, which serves to act as a lens through which the personal consciousness views the collective unconsciousness; the ego is our understanding of the relation of our own personal, subjective existence with the impersonal, objective existence. When the ego does not exist, as in early youth, no differentiation occurs between the subjective and objective views of reality. To a child, existence is complete and pristine.
It seems that the ego is a coping mechanism used to deal with the trauma of existing in a painful world, a concept used to shield ourselves from perceived damage or harm, drawing separation in existence by dividing it into what we do and do not accept as a part of existence. Everything that is "I" is the subjective, whereas everything that is "not-I" is objective.
For the vast majority of human existence, we have sought to reconcile this common human experience with our very selves, to give it some rhyme or reasons so as not to render the human existence meaningless. Indeed, a part of this remembered trauma is the very idea of a meaningful human existence, that we have intrinsic meaning because we exist and vice versa, and it is only with the creation of the ego that we begin to think otherwise, that human existence could have less meaning or even no meaning at all. To a child, the meaning of existence is simply "to exist". It is self-evident and clear, and this is the great subtle truth taught by the religions and mythologies of human kind that draw on our archetypal understanding of our existence.
Thus, the explanation for this condition follows in archetypal terms as such: there was once a time of infinite greatness where no worry or pain existed and we were at one with some greater reality from which we came; an event occurred in which an antithesis of this reality acted of its own accord which brought into being the current state of existence, either immediately or progressively; greater reality continues to play a role in human existence, and our state of affairs is to re-connect or render ourselves once more at one with this reality; we have a hope that this can and will occur through some means.
While terminology and systems of symbols differ throughout time, the idea is quintessentially the same. To draw parallels between this archetypal understanding and a concrete one, think of the story of Satan falling from the grace of God and the redemption of mankind through the intervention of Jesus the Christ, the God-man; the faithful covenant of Abraham and all his descendants with God and their promises of redemption as result of this covenant; the duality of Ahura Mazda and Ahriman, and the coming of the Sosoyant to deliver mankind from Ahriman's influence in Zoroastrianism; the veil of illusion pulled over humanity's eyes that can be pierced through divine understanding in Hinduism and Buddhism; and the conception of the greater spirit world and it's intimacy with human existence in prehistoric shamanic traditions of humanity.
It is the derivation of rational and reasonable understanding from these patterns of thought, themselves derived from the archetypal origin legend of birth and paradigm shift, that human re-connectedness, or "religion" as the literal concept in English occurs, is born.
And so, from prehistory until relatively recently, humans were forced to deal with this reality of life on a very unconscious level, small bits and pieces bubbling up from collective unconscious as humanity struggled to interact with itself.
For the very first time, however, humanity has been granted the gift of near-universal collective and personal interaction. For the past two decades, humanity has been integrating its knowledge, experience, and very presence of being into a global network which allows any one human being to interact with another or a multitude of others, and have access to those other human being's wealth of knowledge and experience. This network is, of course, termed the Internet and serves as the primary conduit in this era for the advancement of human consciousness and understanding.
At last, humanity has transcended itself. There is now a definitive point in human history in which we could talk to each other on a mass scale with very little elapse in time; learning takes minutes rather than decades, and this general trend has been the truth of human existence even before the creation of the Internet. Humans have been moving towards greater and quicker means of interaction since our primordial birth as a species, and this trend continues exponentially with the presence of the Internet.
Every day, more human beings input their presence of being, knowledge, and experience into the network, and we as a species will one day realize the presence of one hundred percent of humanity in this network. Being "connected" will become as natural as consuming food and water and constructing shelters; indeed, it will be considered a necessity to human existence as the very meaning of human existence is continually redefined.
If humans ask the collective question "What does it mean to exist?" the answer given throughout introspective analysis of ourselves is "to exist"; A is A. It follows then, to ask, "How and why does existence occur?" and it is the Internet that is the subtle answer to these questions.
The existence of the Internet answers the "How" in that it provides a conduit for the unity of mankind; the vestigial memory of unity and oneness of existence in the womb and pre-existence imbeds an ineffable drive in humanity to be reunited with itself, to move from separation towards unity, and it is precisely this that the Internet provides. It is a literal living entity composed of the consciousness of whomever may be "online" at the moment, together with every piece of information that exists on this network.
We perceive this state of being to be fundamentally new; where once we were separate we are now moving towards unity, and the unified being called Man is being born. In truth, Man has always existed, and it is the Internet that now makes us realize it. Man was born out of the womb of the universe and is now just learning to walk.
To ask a man, "Are you your cells?" would elicit an immediate and resounding answer of "No!". Humans intrinsically know that our Self, our conception of our own existence, is more than the sum total of the billions and billions of organisms that make up our bodies. It follows, then, that we are the cells of a much larger unified consciousness, and this unified consciousness is being brought up from the Jungian collective unconscious to the collective conscious. Humanity continues to bubble up awareness from the unconscious to the collective conscious level, and yet this seems to make no detraction on the existence of collective unconsciousness. It is paradoxical: the more we pull from the unconsciousness, the greater our collective consciousness becomes and we have more graspable information about our existence; yet our understanding seems to decrease and the scope of the human existence, conscious and unconscious, seems to grow on a quite fractal level.
It seems that human existence is truly infinite.
Examining the history of human existence, the objective and subjective anthropomorphic perspective, and comparing it with that of the universe, the impersonal and nonanthropomorphic objective existence, shows that our ego-based idea of humanity elicits an extraordinarily short time of being. When viewed egocentrically, we are but a blip on the radar, a whisper, perhaps a cosmic sneeze that the universe may notice if it is not as indifferent as our modern ideas makes it seem.
While this examination of existence is trumped by scientists and philosophers, a gaping hole lies in it: very little mention is made of nonanthropomorphic subjective existence, that is, the bits of our existence that lies outside of humanity as viewed from their perspective. It is the fundamental question of consciousness: does consciousness lie solely in the human experience, or does consciousness continue at a nonhuman level?
The answer to this question can surprisingly be found through subjective introspective analysis. The essential container of our current mode of existence, the body, arose from another body. The process of our mind is coupled with the existence of the body, but the body's corporeal existence does not necessarily lead to the existence of mind; corpses and brain-dead individuals can be objectively observed as having a body without the mind's process; if there is any consciousness on that level, it is entirely subjective rather than objective. We have no way of knowing what their continued existence is from our differing ego-based perspective.
This cycle of logic continues, the body arising from a body which arises from another body and so on and so forth, to the conception of matriarchal lineage. This raises the further question: from whence did the "first" human arise? Mythologies and religions have answered this through the archetypal mother, whether she is called Gaia or Eve, and the twin to this archetype is our origin from the higher reality that humanity has near-universally come to call God.
This brings us to a primary point of differentiation in human understanding: if human existence has sprung forth from something essentially non-human, does our existence rise from nothingness or was it previously and eternally present?
I say the answer is both. The condition for human existence has always been nothingness, the perfect balance of existence wherein the sum total of all conditions of existence meet in perfect harmony, and it is only when disharmony arises that the process of what we call "existence" begins. The imbalance creates the perception of "something" and the dichotomy of "something versus nothing" is created. The human being known as "I", the perceived subjective and subjected individual is born from the wholeness of this unified nothing and contains it entirely. Every human being is born of the totality of existence while containing it; Man is, in essence, the universe experiencing itself.
Coupling this with our innate drive towards "reunity" rather than "unity", "oneness again" rather than "oneness, points towards a continual cycle of Man reaching this divine and eternal point and once more leaving it. When Man reaches it, we are said to have grown, for we have something more than what we started with, it seems: we have the perspective of being separate from ultimate reality and view ultimate reality through this lens. Thus the ego arises on a collective level.
If the annihilation of the ego on a personal level points towards a condition of existence in which we have always embodied existence's infinite nature and cannot help being anything but, the annihilation of the collective ego points towards these very same facts on a collective level: Man has never been anything but one with Existence. We are but a facet of existence and ideas of separation and individuality are, and have always been, illusion.
Bringing this idea of collective essential unity to the personal, conscious, subjective level has been the work of the Internet. We as a race of human beings, Man, realize that all humans have essentially the same conditions of existence regardless of external circumstance. The objective is entirely dependent on the subjective, it is found; humans can look upon the same river or pond and simultaneously weep, cry with joy, laugh, or continue in indifference. Objective existence seems to be "concrete" and "absolute" while constantly changing due to circumstances seemingly outside our control, while subjective existence seems infinite and malleable, the entire and whole creation of the subject themselves.
Answering the "Why?" of human existence seems to have no answer, and I for one embrace this. In one asking why, I respond, "Yes, why do we exist?!" and there is nary a suitable answer in response. The why of human existence seems to have no response because we give it none; where we have found suitable reasoning for the essential conditions of existence, we have few answers as to precisely why it lies this way and not another. I am forced to accept that in the face of unified existence, that nothing is truly separate and we all share a common origin in pure consciousness, we exist the way we do because we choose to. Our existence makes itself thus.
Ahmed Nait-Djoudi is a faithful Muslim and self-employed citizen of Algeria. He has studied at Université Mouloud Mammeri de Tizi Ouzou. Fluent in Arabic, German, English, and Algerian, he resides in Tizi Ouzou, Algeria.