I began about thirty years ago to ask a question that most people never ask about the great classics of western and eastern literature: Philosophy, science, religion and the arts and even the great generals, and statesmen, and inventors, and people of all walks of life, and I asked if any of these great men who we all regard as famous and eminent and respected men of western and eastern thought, I asked if any of them have described clearly the experience of pure consciousness?
That research question became a seed that began to blossom and to flower over the years, and much to my surprise, I found that the experience of pure consciousness is described by many of the greatest men and women of the east and west. Pure consciousness, the three in one structure of pure consciousness, the sequential emergence of the many from the one, infinity collapsing to its point, CC, GC, UC, the whole mapping of Higher states of consciousness that Maharishi has brought out has cast a totally new light on the entire history of civilization east and west. Instead of seeing eastern and western civilizations as two contrary and opposite and irreconcilable divisons in the human sphere, what I have been finding is that east and west are completely meaningless distinctions, because the great minds of the West as well as the East have clearly described the same states of consciousness.
I first became aware of this probably reading Aristotle, when I found that when you properly translate his basic themes in book 12 of the Metaphysics, that he was not just describing a theoretical, hypothetical, conjectural God; when he talks about God he uses exactly the terms that we understand to describe pure consciousness. It's one, its simple, its eternal, its unbounded. So with our knowledge, with Maharishi's knowledge and the map that he's given us of the whole territory of higher states of consciousness, all of us have a better position, we're in a better position to understand the great classics than even the most erudite and respected scholars of the West, because they simply lack that clear paradigm and they lack the experience.
So as I began to read Aristotle, I found these very precise descriptions of pure consciousness, but there was also a question, does he also talk about experience, does he say he's experienced it? I came across a remarkable passage, in fact 3 or 4 passages, in which he says basically we can be in the state God is in eternally, in our best moments. The truth about history of Western philosophy is that many many of the great minds of the West as well as the East describe pure consciousness in precisely the terms that Maharishi uses, and they say or imply they had the experience. (3:58)
Now, in order to check myself, I thought I better set out criteria for what counts as a description of pure consciousness. So I made up a list of the properties of pure consciousness that Maharishi has identified over the years. These are descriptive terms and phrases that Maharishi has used over countless years to describe pure consciousness. And you all recognize them, they're very familiar, you don't need to repeat them really, it's one, simple, unchanging, it's silent, it is a state of rest, it's unmanifest, it's quiet, settled, still, same, same over time, it's evenness, undifferentiated, and so on. And then starting on the top of the second column, we get the properties that identify it as something not just in the mind, but something that is eternally at the basis of things. It's eternal, unbounded, unlimited, all-pervading, infinite, vast, indivisible, continuous, unconditioned, primordial, cosmic, universal, invincible, indestructible, immortal, uncreated, and so on.
So I set this out as a list of criteria that could be used to identify descriptions of pure consciousness. So I had two criteria: Do they use a subset of that list to describe pure consciousness, and do they say explicitly or imply they had the experience. What I found over the last 30 years of research, and it was a mind-blowing voyage of discovery, that was really so outside the realm of Western understanding of things. I found over time, about 325 of the most famous people in the East and West have described this in some degree of clarity and purity. Plato, Aristotle, Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, Whitehead,I could go on and on for 325 more. (6:09)
The point is that Maharishi is not to be understood as an Eastern thinker, as an Eastern representative, but as someone who has uncovered for us the deeper meaning of our own intellectual, philosophical heritage and made it available in a very simple and easy form throughout the world. Maharishi's analysis of consciousness is universal, it describes the experience of people in all cultures. It describes the ancient Egyptians, the ancient Mesopotamians' experience, who all described pure consciousness, and they all say or imply that they had the experience. It describes the earliest Greeks, the preSocratics, the later Roman philosophers, the Christians, the Islamic sufis, Judaic tradition, the renaissance was a resurgence of interest in this very topic of transcending and experience of pure consciousness, and seventeenth century science grew out of it. Wherever you find a great man or woman in history, the greater the person, the more likely they had described pure consciousness or some of the higher states of consciousness.
And so, one way to look at this, is this is an analysis of greatness. Where does greatness come from, where does greatness spring from? It comes from that refinement of the nervous system, that refinement of consciousness that comes through transcending and that brings out the experience of the eternal, infinite unbounded wholeness of things. It's gained through a very simple practice, and I'll call it the practice of transcending to make it general enough, because Descartes and Plato and dozens of people have talked about a technique, and they have described it in such a way that yes, you would recognize it as a technique that probably was very effective at giving the experience, not as precisely the same as our Transcendental Meditation technique. But a very clearly recognizable as a technique. (8:32)
Greece is regarded as the birthplace of Western civilization. The Veda is regarded as the birthplace of Eastern, or of civilization if you will. But Greece was the birthplace of Western civilization. I think that everybody in the West agrees to that. Sublime beauty poured out of Greece in the form of its sculpture, its temple architecture, its vase painting, its drama, its philosophy, even democracy and the Olympic games came out of Greece. I think you all know this so it's not a big deal. But, what's interesting is that Greece, this magnificent creativity, what many scholars have called the Greece, hasn't been explained. How did it happen? What caused it? My question is, what can explain this glory of Greece? That creativity was an explosion of creativity in the ancient world. Most scholars think it just came out of nowhere. It came out, as we will see, of the experience of transcending. (9:50)
Athena, the goddess of wisdom. The Greeks built this magnificent temple on the Acropolis to honor Athena, the virgin goddes of wisdom. And Athena, as Plato describes wisdom, can be understood as life established in eternal self-knowledge, immortality, and wholeness, health, wholeness and immortality. The Greek gods, as the philosophers understood them, were personifications of the qualities of consciousness, of pure consciousness, of unbounded pure consciousness. Plato defines wisdom, in the following, when returning in to her self, the soul, the self passes into the other world, the region of purity and eternity and immortality and unchangeability, and being in communion with the unchanging, is unchanging, and this state of the soul is called wisdom. (11:08)
Clearly he is talking about a state that is unchangeable, immortal, eternal. Where is such a state experienced? Not through the senses, never through the senses do we experience anything unchangeable and immortal. Everything that we know through the senses, from galaxies to protons decay. There is nothing stable in the relative. Where do you find something eternal and unchanging? How do you get to it? Only in transcending and going beyond the finest level of thinking, the most subtle level of thought, to that unchanging silence at the basis of all thought. And when you transcend and go completely beyond thinking, and all mental activity, everybody who has had that experience describes it in the same way, using that same set of terms, or a subset of that same master list of terms. When you get down in program very very deep, and get beyond thinking and activity, and all thought ceases and becomes quiet, what remains, is simple, unchanging, unbounded, eternal, and that's exactly what Plato was talking about. And all of Plato's dialogues, from the middle dialogues, from the Republic, the Symposium, Carmides, Republic, Phaedo, Phaedrus on describe that eternal unchanging state of Being. (12:49)
I said that Plato described transcending also, especially in the Carmides, this dialogue that so few people read or even know about, he describes transcending, and he uses exactly the Vedic terms to describe it, and his main phrases for describing transcending, "Go within," He talks about the return of the Self upon the Self. The Vedic expression from the Rig Veda is nivartadhvam, "return,"go back, come home; Plato talks about collecting the self into itself alone, and gathering the self into itself by itself, and remembering who we ultimately are, awakening the knowledge asleep within us, withdrawing from the senses and coming back to the self. And the Carmides has these amazing passages where he talks about a state of hearing that hears itself, a state of seeing that sees itself, he says it sees itself and it sees things as well, but it also sees itself. And he talks about a knowing that knows itself, and knows other things as well. A knowing that knows itself, what could that be? Consciousnes that is conscious of itself. (14:00)
And he gives to this young man Carmides, that the dialogue is named for, he gives him a technique, and he says, Carmides has been having headaches, and Socrates says, "I'm going to give you a technique that will cure your headache, I'm going to give you an herb, but before you take the herb I want to give something to cure the mind because you can't cure the body without first curing the mind, so I'm going to give you a technique to cure the mind and bring wholeness and health to the mind, and once you've brought wholeness and health to the mind, then the body will come along and it will cure itself. So he tells him he is going to give him a fair word, and he's to repeat it every day until Socrates says he has had enough. A fair word to repeat every day, and it's going to bring wholeness to the body and mind and cure all ills and bring immortality and wisdom. (15:00)
Now to Aristotle. Aristotle uses this word nous, and nous is the Greek word usually translated as mind. Nous is mind. Noein is thought, noesis is thinking. Now, the usual translations of Aristotle, if you read Aristotle, you'll see it was translated by people who never understood, who never got beyond the intellect and the thinking process to know that silence of Being. But Aristotle was talking about a state, he says that again and again, it's simple, it's unchanging, it's eternal. And it knows itself, and this knower and the known are identical. Aristotle says, speaking of God or this internal Self, he says it is that which is conscious of itself, it's consciousness is a consciousness of consciousness. And he talks about the divine consciousness and its object are not distinct but identical and the consciousness is one with what it is conscious of, so it is self-knowing consciousness.
And Aristotle says, perfect consciousness apprehends itself and is conscious of its object in such a way that the consciousness and its object come to be one. And consciousness becomes its own object, consciousness knowing itself. And he says, when the mind is freed from its present condition it appears as just what it is and nothing more, and this alone is immortal and eternal. It is our only deathless and eternal part without which nothing is conscious. It is the deathless and eternal part of the self separate from its lower functions. It is never moved but remains at rest. Now, there is a term that you can take note of, at rest, it is consciousness at rest. He calls it bliss, and he says it surpasses all other activities in blessedness. He calls it supreme happiness, the most complete form of human happiness, and when the mind is in that state, he says, it is not affected by impressions, and enjoys such a life as we enjoy in our best moments.
So you see a glimpse there that Aristotle and Plato were talking about a state that is eternal and simple and unchanging and conscious of itself, and blissful, and at rest. That is what the Greeks were really about. And these were not minor works. This is Aristotle's most important work. He called it "The First Science," that was his name for it. But because in the course of history it got translated as the book after the physics, it came to be called the metaphysics. And metaphysics today has this horrible connotation in the universities as pure speculative thinking and conjecture and intellectual constructs and world-views, and so that is how Plato and Aristotle are understood in universities as giving intellectual theories and constructs. (18:20)
What I want to say next is, the Greeks had a technique which is unmistakably a technique of turning within, that's the way Plato describes it. The ancient Greeks were describing the experience of eternal pure consciousness that is experienced in transcending.
So, what was the secret of ancient Greece? Well, there was a secret. And, it's very simple. The Greeks had learned how to transcend. And they practiced it. And the way the techniques of transcending came into Greece, scholars say that the mysteries came into Greece in the early sixth century BCE, from the East. They don't specify where in the East, but somewhere in the East. And the mysteries of Eleusis which had been around for hundreds of years, thousands of years maybe, Eleusis is a little town 11 miles south of Athens, with a big cave, and the cave is a big wide-mouthed cave and there is a ledge in the cave that has been worn smooth by people sitting on it a long time. The mysteries of Eleusis were the main way I would suggest, I would propose, that the techniques of transcending were passed on in Greece. And there were initiation processions from Athens to Eleusis in September of every year that involved about 25,000 people, or about half the population of Athens. And new people were taken to Eleusis to be initiated into the mystery of Eleusis. (20:05)
About eight of the most significant Roman emperors have been initiated. Pericles was an initiate, and the three great dramatists Eschules, Sophocles and Euripedes all had been initiated. Sophocles was a mystery priest. The mysteries were the way that the practice of transcending came to be widespread in Greece. During the governorship of Pericles, the great governor-general of Athens, whose name is associated with the glory of the golden age of Greece, the Periclean Age, Pericles built the Parthenon and protected Greece through supreme strategy agaisnt all sorts of invasions from the Persians. During his reign he had a new temple constructed at Eleusis, it was 50 meters by 50 meters, a huge temple, the size of a football field practically, half a football field, at least but wider.
And I asked myself again and again, "What was this huge temple used for?" I found one scholar, very well-known scholar and very highly respected, who said that after initiation, the initiates would sit in silence on their sacred sheepskins. Where did they sit? Partly in the caves, part in this huge temple, it was built on the side of a large rock mountain, so that it was completely silent, it was like being in a cave. The caves at Eleusis were very significant. And Aristotle's school in Macedonia where he instructed Alexander was built next to a cave, and King Minos gave his laws to Crete from a meditation cave, and King Xalmoxis of Thrace gave the fair words that Plato learned and Socrates learned from a cave that he had built under his palace. Caves were very significant in the early history of Greece. They were valued for their silence. They were a place to transcend in ease. And we know you can meditate without complete silence, and that noise is no barrier, but the Greeks knew that it helped, it helps to have a good silent cave. (22:32)
I haven't said much about Socrates, here's a passage from Plato's Symposium. Now, Socrates, there burst upon the initiate into the mysteries that wondrous vision of the very soul of beauty that he has toiled so long for. It is an everlasting loveliness that neither comes nor goes, subsisting by itself in an eternal oneness. Eternal oneness is exactly what almost all the Greeks from the earliest presocratics right through Proclus in 585 AD were talking about, eternal oneness. It's not on the level of sight that the oneness is known, it's by going beyond sight, beyond thinking, beyond intellect, beyond ego, beyond everything, all activity, until you transcend everything. I think the key to this whole thing, transcend, that's what the Greeks did, and that's how the Golden Age was created. How did the Greeks rise to such height of this brilliant fifth century B.C.E.? Through a practice of transcending.
So, thank you. (23:47)