The great mystery of the universe is with us every instant. It is apparent during our waking hours and present in each moment of our lives. Awareness – consciousness, the instrument of our experience, perception, and cognition–often escapes our attention. When it does, the very nature of its instrumentality tends to render it transparent, and we cannot clearly see it because we are using it to see; we cannot simply think about it because we are using it to think.
We have invented hundreds of metaphors for what we imagine as some ultimate reality, upon which we bestow attributes of knowledge and will. We sense the universe is filled with mystery and we have always endeavored to name it, to describe it, and to understand our place within it.
And all the while, the ultimate mystery hovers just behind our eyes, signals our every heartbeat, and illuminates each thought, feeling, and perception. The way the energetic material cosmos moves toward life and how life turns toward consciousness –these are the hallmarks of the deepest and most impenetrable enigma of all creation.
And we are it. Our minds hold the most elegant meaning, as well as the most elusive riddle, of the entire universe. And even though the very agent of our profound comprehension seems, at times, to be utterly incomprehensible, there are ways we can come to know it.
We can learn about it in the ways we learn about all other things: slowly, methodically, we can become aware of how– and even why–these minds of ours happen and how they operate. We can observe, as naturalists, the ebb and flow of thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. We can measure with instruments, the subtle electromagnetic potentials generated when we think, feel, and perceive. And with our hearts, we can fully experience the nature of this vast arc of infinite cosmos and participate in its most excellent expression: the compassionate concern for all of life.
Image: “The Great Mystery” by Tullio DeSantis, altered ink drawing, 2011