Bane & glory

Consciousness is both the bane and glory of human beings.

Popular Buddhism tells us that to be born a human being is a great privelege, by which is meant that the having of consciusness is good because it enables the person to attain nirvana. Similarly, the Western notion that having a soul enables the is good because it enables the person to attain heaven. At the same time, the secular point of view presents the same glory of consciousness: the ability to reason, decide, create, to pursue knowledge, science and technology.

What underminds the glory of consciousness is the bane. Nirvana missed for the endless turning of the wheel, heaven lost eternally, the vanity of knowledge and the horrors of modern science and technology and the cultural premises behind them. Consciousness has been a tool justifying differentiation and supperioririty over the universe of myriad creatures, an extrapolation of every foible of the mind. The level of consciousness in human beings, ranging from the earliest childhood to the presumed elite of enlightenment has been taken to be complete. Self-sufficient and inevitable, what we see, to drastically paraphrase Hegel, is what we get, as “consciousness.”

The glories, if rhey are ever manifested, are reserved to the few in this world. We risk the sinister social division of elites and masses even in this lofty pursuit, the recreation of our cultural and material environment in this realm of mind and consciousness. If the glories are postponed for another work, another realm, it is because humankind cannot bear too much sorrow (as T.S. Eliot says). Who in this world has the time or space to pursue the perfection of consciousness, the glory of this elite exercise of will?