On Consciousness

Harold W. Percival

Reprinted from The Word, Series II, Vol. 13, No. 2 (Summer 1998), Copyright © The Word Foundation, Inc., thewordfoundation.org.

Consciousness is not a “part of speech.” No one can know it. It is the ultimate Reality. To “realize it” is to be it, and that is beyond the possibility of all beings, as beings. The most that can be done by a human is to be conscious of it.

Being conscious of it will at once make that one conscious of every kind of unit and thing in and beyond the Universe, and at the same time he will be conscious of the relation of each thing to every other thing. Because Consciousness is present in and is the same in every unit and thing everywhere and throughout time and space, when one is conscious of Consciousness he therefore must be and is conscious of every thing in which Consciousness is. This statement can easily be said and more easily read, but it will not be easily comprehended. It will take much reading about the units and about Consciousness before it is understood. But this assertion will be verified when one is conscious of Consciousness.

A human being can be conscious of Consciousness. When he knows Consciousness, he will be far beyond the human.

Being conscious of Consciousness makes one conscious of everything as it is, separately, altogether, and at once; and by being so conscious he can learn to know anything. He does this by thinking, and thinking ends in the knowledge of that of which he thinks. No one can do this for another; each must do it for himself. The point in this is that being conscious of Consciousness makes one conscious of each and every thing; but, to know any single thing, one must take that thing as a subject and think on that until he knows it. Before he knows that thing, he is merely conscious of it.

Every unit of nature is conscious, but it is not conscious that it is conscious. It is conscious of or as its function, but of nothing else. It is not conscious of any other unit or of what any other unit does. It is conscious of or as the function it performs, and of nothing else.

The human being is conscious, conscious of his acts, of other things, and of his acts in relation to other things. Does he know any of the people or the things he sees? No! He does not know. He is only conscious of them as they appear to be; he is not conscious of them as they really are. Does he know himself? No! He does not know himself. He does not know who or what he is. He is merely conscious of an identity or of a self which he calls “I” or “self.” But he does not know that I or that self.

Well then, what does a human being really know? A human being only knows the one unchangeable, indisputable fact, that he is conscious. He knows nothing else, really, in all this world. People and things change, from what they appear to be, and appear to be someone, or something else; and he knows not what anyone or anything actually is. The only thing that he knows is: that he is conscious. Is being conscious the only thing that one can know? No indeed. There is no limit to what one may know except the limit which he himself sets.

What must one do to know more than that he is conscious? To know more, he must think. He can progress in knowledge in no other way than by thinking.

How can one think, so that he will know more than that he is conscious? He must, by thinking, first realize that he is conscious is the only thing he knows. That should be the point on and from which he thinks. As soon as he knows that, he knows that he will know that he is conscious that he is conscious.

This is not a play with words. When one arrives at knowledge—and he can arrive by no other way than thinking—when he knows that the only knowledge that he has is that he is conscious and is conscious that he is conscious, then he is surely and safely on the road on which he can think further into knowledge. And, even beyond. He may so think that he can become conscious of Consciousness.

As soon as you, by thinking, know that you know no more than that you are conscious that you are conscious, continue to think of it until it becomes a reality for you. When it has become a reality, then, as compared with it, things of the senses become illusions. You can prove this: the reality that you are conscious that you are conscious remains the same reality, whether your eyes are open or closed. But close your eyes, and the objects of today or yesterday are as dreams; they exist only as memories, or they fade away. Their appearance of reality depended upon your being conscious of them and of your thinking into them, which keeps up their appearance of reality.

Being conscious of them also depended on your sight, which makes the contact between you and them. When sight is cut off, by the closing of your eyes, they fade, so far as you are concerned, because memories and dreams fade. But you, who are conscious, remain; and you know that you are conscious that you are conscious. That is your reality.

Who, or what, is this you? Who, or what, is it that knows that it is conscious that it is conscious? Ah!—you do not know the who or the what. Why is it that you do not know? Because that is as far as you have gone in thinking on the road to knowledge. That is all you really know.

Why have you not gone further? Because when you reach that point, you must begin to come into the knowledge of yourself as the eternal self; or you must turn back through the senses into the sensing of nature. And you turn back by again thinking yourself into nature.

When the human reaches this point he invariably turns back. Why? Because he will not let go of the senses and their objects. He wants to take the senses with him when he tries to think his way into knowledge of the eternal self. But there is no place for the senses if he thinks of knowledge, so he does not go on.

Could he go on if he let go of the senses? Certainly, but only on condition that as he ceases to think about them, he still persists in thinking, else he goes to sleep.

How can he cease to think about the senses, and how should he think about the eternal self? He ceases to think about the senses when he thinks about the eternal self only. The senses have no hold on him except while he is conscious of them, and he remains conscious of them by thinking about their objects. As soon as he is thinking of the eternal self, and of the eternal self only, the senses and their objects drop off. When the senses are switched off and he still thinks, he is then conscious of and as the eternal self. And he continues to become conscious in higher and higher degrees in being conscious and in the knowledge of what he himself is as the eternal self.

To know that you know that you are conscious of being conscious is the one clear spot of knowledge in the wilderness of ignorance. From this knowledge you may think your way into the knowledge of your eternal self and from this knowledge you may, without letting go of nature, think of becoming conscious of Consciousness.

What shall you do to become conscious of Consciousness? Do not try to conceive and create a thought about it. That cannot be done, because a thought is conceived by the bonding of a desire to an impression of an object of nature, which comes into the body through the senses. A thought cannot be conceived without an impression from nature. Consciousness is present in and through every part of nature, but it has no parts, makes no impressions, and no impressions can be had or taken from it. But the presence of Consciousness is here and there and everywhere. It is with you. If Consciousness were not in and with you and in and through you, you could not think; you could not be conscious of anything.

Therefore, if Consciousness is with you, you do not have to think of it as being anywhere else. You can see and hear and taste and smell and feel and desire and think and be and know, because of the presence, and only because of the presence, of Consciousness. By thinking, all these of which you are conscious—focus them into being conscious of Consciousness. When you do that you will be conscious of Consciousness.