A Closer Look at ‘the Beyond’: Transcending, a Technology of Consciousness
Admittedly, the last place I expected to gain a new insight into the “beyond” was at a fashion exhibit. Yet, when I toured the Charles James: Beyond Fashioni exhibit at the Met in New York City, I was struck with another example of how satisfying it is to explore the “beyond” and dive into the inner world of something. In the exhibit, innovative technology provided a rival exhibit to the traditional display where fashion seemed almost secondary to the process of exploration.
Computerized displays were used to delve deeper into the design process where gowns and other garments were digitally deconstructed to reveal their “architectural underpinnings.” We were led beyond the outer facade of fashion into sequentially more abstract layers of design where principles of fashion and architecture magically seemed interchangeable.
It occurred to me that this simple dynamic of traveling a path from the outer to the inner—from the surface of a thing to its source, and back—may help us carve out deeper, instinctual roadmaps that are necessary to help us define and pursue our highest interests and ambitions that lead us to fulfillment.
As technology becomes more adept at reaching farther out into the cosmos and further into an object, this ever-broadening expanse of exploration continues to display the natural course of evolution—there is no end to it. Our exposure to these almost inconceivable strides in technology may help to explain our intensifying drive to explore the inner world of mind and consciousness. And while the debate rages on about theories of consciousness, we need the most efficient way to orient ourselves in the outer world today. What more effective way than through anchoring ourselves to our own inner world?
For this reason, exploring our own consciousness and answering the larger questions about human existence and its origins is more vital than ever. Here is where an effective meditation practice can succeed where other ‘journeys’ or theories might only tantalize. It is not likely that fulfillment of a lasting nature will ever come from theories alone.
Recently, I read a talk from 1967 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a master in the field of human consciousness who revived the ancient technique of transcending, and founded the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique to bring this effective practice into the mainstream of life. He addresses the naturalness of transcending in meditation and its value for coming to know the inner essence of our individuality, the ‘I’ of human awareness that goes beyond superficial experience:
The manner in which Transcendental Meditation takes the mind from the gross to the subtle is very simple and is based upon the innate tendency of all human minds to seek happiness. The very nature of the mind is to go to a field of greater happiness. The happiness referred to is not pleasure, nor sensual gratification, nor excitement, but a tranquil and confident state of knowing—of knowing that ‘I am’, of knowing that ‘I’ exists and that it is permanent and unchanging.
By systematically allowing the activity of the thinking mind to settle down to the more abstract, unbounded—and more compelling—levels of awareness, we tap into the silent source of the thinking process itself and come to appreciate the direct experience of “I am.” Maharishi points out that the inward “path” to this experience is simple:
… the realization of the Self is only the realization of one’s own Being, which is at no distance from oneself and is always available. The path to ‘I’ has no distance; it is a pathless path.”
This simple but profound revelation into consciousness finds relevance in a comprehensive, scholarly theory of consciousness by Maharishi that includes a practical procedure to fathom it experientially. Maharishi details the fundamental structuring dynamics of consciousness in his theory, entitled in Sanskrit, Apaurusheya Bashya, which translates as Uncreated Commentary. It is an unusual but telling name.
Unlike most, this commentary is qualified as not manmade, but rather, emerging from the inherent qualities of consciousness itself, which are observable by the awareness that has become thoroughly refined. Through the most effective probe of investigating—transcending—consciousness reveals its own nature to itself. This is how consciousness becomes its own commentary, tells its own story. Nobody invents the inner workings of nature—how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly. It’s about having the right method of observation so that the dynamics of transformation of one thing into another become apparent. Then it is just a matter of description. Why should consciousness be any different?
Interestingly, in the book The Future of the Mind, by physicist Michiu Kaku, he makes a point that “some philosophers doubt that a theory of consciousness is even possible” because an “object can never understand itself” and therefore, we lack the “mental firepower” to solve this perplexing problem. In truth, it may be that the last thing one needs is mental firepower to understand or explore consciousness. And the only instrument capable of exploring consciousness is, in fact, consciousness itself, but in its most refined or settled state—the silent source of mental firepower.
Instead of thinking of consciousness as an “object” of inquiry—like an ordinary object that can’t know itself—it may be more useful to shift from theory exclusively into practice as well. However, the instrument for probing into consciousness must be commensurate to the task. And, if the probe is right, the gate will open. The technique of transcending is like a high-precision tool for exploration of consciousness or, as Maharishi referred to it, a technology of consciousness.
Consciousness is scaled; if the mind can be active, it can be progressively less active until all activity subsides and we go beyond the finest activity of the thinking mind. The light doesn’t go out here, this is where it turns on! This is where consciousness knows itself on its own level.
In one experience of transcending by a TM technique meditator, we get a sense of how consciousness becomes familiar with its own nature and how the experience becomes more refined over time and with practice:
Transcending for me is like taking a bullet train to the transcendent—I am traveling so fast that I don’t see the landscape speeding by, but only know that I’ve been there and back by how rested and refreshed I feel afterward. One day, I took my transcending train as usual, but to continue my analogy, instead of going the speed of light, I found I was only going 10 miles an hour. My mind was still settling down to the inner silent transcendent, pure Being, but the process was so slow that it allowed me to clearly perceive subtle levels of consciousness. For an artist this was beyond anything I could have imagined, had ever seen, or thought to see. This was ‘awake’ perception into and within the silence of the transcendent.
In another experience of transcending during Transcendental Meditation, the meditator describes a feeling of being “at home” in the transcendent while cognizant of more superficial levels of the mind:
The silence and stillness is thick, like honey. There is an element of bliss and of being at home, completely fulfilled, in my transcendental abode. My awareness and physiology are filled with deep silence, but at the same time I am experiencing gentle outward perceptions on the surface levels.
It may be that science must become more magnanimous in its approach. It may require re-calibration of its approach to keep pace with its ever-expanding surge of investigation, if it is going to scale existence from the tangible to the unfathomable. Going beyond the exclusive path of objective scientific inquiry and introducing subjective inquiry is a foundation for a new paradigm of scientific investigation into human consciousness—where consciousness is both object and subject—the observer and the object of observation.
As Maharishi described, through the technique or technology of transcending, the scientist can also become the technologist by becoming a penetrating ‘eye’ of consciousness within the fabric of consciousness itself, which otherwise is beyond the reach of a physical instrument. Without this comprehensive approach, the mysteries of the brain may remain elusive to the majority for a long time to come.
An OpEd piece in the NY times entitled, The Trouble With Brain Science, by Gary Marcus, editor of the forthcoming book “The Future of the Brain: Essays by the World’s Leading Brain Scientists, underscores the point—he questions if brain science is even on the right track: “In spite of the many remarkable advances in neuroscience, you might get the sinking feeling that we are not always going about brain science in the best possible way.”
The “future of the brain” is with us today as well as the technology to experience it, understand it and extend new theories about it—it is a matter of looking in the right direction and having the right instrument to explore: Transcend.
- Transcendental Meditation, Questions and Answers, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 1967. Pg. 17
- Transcendental Meditation, Questions and Answers, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 1967. Pg. 13
- Celebrating Perfection in Education, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 1997. Pg. 11
- The Future of the Mind, Michiu Kaku, 2014. Pg 41
- Art and the Transcendent Through the Eyes of an Artist, Mary May Peterson, June 30
- Invincible America Assembly, Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness of Course Participants, Vol 1. 2006-2009. Pg 6
About the Author
Rona S. Abramson is an international director for the TM Technique for women and girls, responsible for implementing the TM technique in a wide range of applications including schools and women’s empowerment organizations in Africa, the Middle East and North America. She serves on the Board of Directors and Advisory Board for the Women’s Initiative of the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness Based Education and World Peace.