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Reflexive self-consciousness is a concept, related to that of enlightenment, formulated by Eugene Halliday during the 1940s/1950s in England.

Eugene Halliday, made a lifelong study of art, religion, philosophy, psychology and science. From his understanding he formulated a coherent set of ideas. In his seminal work “Reflexive Self-Consciousness”, he sets out the nature of consciousness and its relation to the world of phenomena, being, and mankind. From this he explains how consciousness itself can become 'reflexive'. By this he means that consciousness becomes completely self-transparent and continuously aware of its own presence and nature.

He says that when observing a thing or situation we can promote this reflexive state by turning our own consciousness back onto itself. "It is the self, which is consciousness itself which is observing this thing, this self I am, I return to the self." By placing our nature as observer at the heart of his work, Halliday sets out a method by which to liberate ourselves from object-identification, which locks us into a cycle of conditioned reflexes, pleasure pursuit and pain avoidance.

Halliday examines the meaning of the related terms sentience, consciousness, feeling, sensation, awareness. All are related, and to some degree interchangeable; all refer to “that in and by which we know what we know, and that we know”. He sees consciousness as a fundamental quality of being and not, as some materialists would suggest a product of complexity in matter derived from evolution. Halliday states that if we do not posit sentience or consciousness as a property of that source which is present “from the very beginning of creation or evolution, we cannot find a point later at which we may logically introduce it”.

This assertion may be challenged by those looking for proof. Halliday explains, that if we ask ourselves what this statement means, we can only say “we know what we mean. Consciousness is its own evidence” (p i). He then goes on to say that we cannot indicate what we mean by one of these consciousness-related words “without appealing to that in us, which corresponds with their significance, that is, to that in us which knows that it knows”.

He sees a complex structure of cells, such as the brain, as “a vehicle for the expression of the complex processes of consciousness” and not as the origin of that consciousness. No matter how complex the arrangement, consciousness cannot arise from the biochemical interactions of a large number of non-sentient particles.

Halliday posits that the ultimate source and origin of our being is sentient and conscious. He sees this origin as an infinite field of sentient power. Halliday compares the activity of this infinite field of sentient power, the source of all beings, to that of the sea. Its internal movements, its waves, create vortices within it, which give rise to all the observable phenomena of the world. Atoms, molecules, cells, plants, animals, mankind, human beings, all are formed within this infinite sentient field, and all are sentient. There is no non-sentient level of being. Thus agreeing with the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead when he said “there are no dead gaps in Nature”. This infinite field of sentient power, which is the ultimate source of the universe and all within it, is the Godhead of the theologians, the Absolute of the philosophers.

Halliday says that the true nature of the self is consciousness itself. As beings with physical bodies, we are conditioned by the limitations of our sense organs, by the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain and by emotional charges in the records of our experiences, so that we often behave in a reactive manner as if we were no more than animals, with no free choice. If we learn to remember the nature of our true self, and our source in consciousness, we can free ourselves from this enslavement and become human, capable of free choice and action.

Before evolution, Eugene Halliday posits an 'involution', whereby the motions of this absolute sentient power creates the universe and all the beings in it. Consciousness tends to fall into identification with beings, down to the grossest physical level of the mineral world. Through the process of evolution, sentience evolves through mineral, plant, animal and human to rediscover its true nature as Consciousness itself, at one with the infinite field of consciousness. This return of consciousness to its source, is the “Reflexive Self-Consciousness” of the title of the book.

References

"Reflexive Self-Consciousness", Published by the Melchisedec Press, 1989, ISBN 1-872240-01-1

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