Talk presented by Rich Hayes
Mar. 6th, 2016
at Unitarian Universalist Church
Pittsfield, MA

READING: "Every person is an incarnation of eternity , a manifestation in the finite, of that infinite which, Emerson tells us, lies stretched in smiling repose".
-Science of Mind pg 388

The caterpillar looked at Alice,  “
Who are YOU?” For Alice this was not an encouraging  opening for a conversation.
“I -- I hardly know, sir, just at present –
at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

So, who are you?
Are you the 75 trillion cells making up that body that you’re currently using? Are you your genetic code-your DNA? How about the atoms constructing all of it?

Are you your:
Feelings? Fears??
Circumstances? Events?
Nationality? Ethnicity?
Education? Degree?
Career title?
Assets? Debts?

Are you your name?

Any and all of these things could certainly be said to be a part of what you experience as yourself or the things that make up the storyline your life has been.

Who is this “I”? What is this sense of “I-ness”-that has been with you since your earliest memories?

Your name got associated with it early on (but that really wasn’t your choice, was it?).

Who would you be if the name, titles, accomplishments, failures-the joys and sorrows, the acquisitions and losses-the memories of events-if these were gone, who would you be then?

Would you, minus all these other things, still be “I”?
Would the sense of “I am”, this mysterious “I-ness” still be there?

People with total amnesia do experience a sense of “I”.
So do people with dementia.

In Hinduism there is a saying: Atman is Brahman-

Atman loosely translated, means “soul” or “individual soul.” Atman refers to the essence of each individual living thing – its soul or primary living energy.

Each living thing – people, animals, plants – have an atman that forms each thing’s eternal essence.

Brahman is “world soul” or “cosmic soul.” It is the eternal essence of the universe and the ultimate divine reality. It is the life source of all that has been, is and will be throughout the entire cosmos. It is not an individual being – it is more like the primal ground or reality of all being and existence.
So, the phrase “atman is Brahman” is saying, quite simply, that the individual soul is the world soul.

Practically all religions, theologies, spiritual practices speak to, what I often call, “variations on a theme”- which is the idea that there is a spirit or soul or an energy or Life essence, and that there is a First Cause from which this has come or arisen or is an expression thereof.

Let’s add one more word to this list that tries to describe this idea: Consciousness.

Consciousness is awareness, at least to our way of experiencing it. Each of us sitting here this morning knows we’re here, right?
This consciousness puts together the “pieces” if you will that translates into you seeing this room and hearing my voice.

Once upon a time we humans thought we had exclusivity on consciousness. Today we know this isn’t so.

Not only are animals conscious and aware and having experiences, we have found this is true of plants as well. And this goes on and on- all the way down to single cell organisms.

(It may even translate out into what we see as inanimate matter.)

These experiences may not be complex thought or perception as we have, but they are aware in a way that they “need” to be aware- in order to “do what they need to do”.

Native Americans and aboriginal people viewed all things as having spirit or soul.

The Europeans considered this superstition and removed spirit and either put it in some “other” realm (heaven) or discounted it all together.

Interestingly here we are in the 21
st Century and our science is discovering (and confirming) what these people seemed to intuitively know all those years ago!

The word Consciousness may be our latest attempt to describe this “something”.

Princeton University in cooperation with other institutions began
“The Global Consciousness Project” back in the late 1990’s and this research continues today.

A number of researchers are suggesting that Consciousness may operate as a “field”-like electromagnetism or gravity, and that it is non-local.

What does that mean?
Simply put, it says that consciousness is not located in any one particular place or point but rather all places.

Meaning that it is not produced by something like the brain, but rather operates through it much in the way a radio can process a signal to produce a song but did not create the song*.
Thus “you” are a localized experience of consciousness.

Does this mean you are not you-the person you have believed yourself to be?
No...and yes.
Certainly you are sitting here in the body you currently feel and you have had the experiences of your life, some of which you recall accurately(some not). But there is more to you than that. Much more. Let me tell you a story...

One day a farmer found an egg out under a tree. It had apparently fallen from a nest. He brought it back and put it in with the other eggs one of his hens was sitting on

Sure enough, some weeks later, from the egg emerged a fine, healthy egret. And as is in the gentle nature of chickens, they didn't balk at the stranger in their midst and raised the majestic bird as one of their own. So it was that the eagle grew up with its brother and sister chicks. It learned to do all the things chickens do: it clucked and cackled, scratching in the dirt for grits and worms, flapping its wings furiously, flying just a few feet in the air before crashing down to earth in a pile of dust and feathers. It believed resolutely and absolutely it was a chicken.
One day, late in its life, the eagle-who-thought-he-was-a-chicken happened to look up at the sky. High overhead, soaring majestically and effortlessly on the thermals with scarcely a single beat of its powerful golden wings, was an eagle! "What's that?!", cried the old eagle in awe. "It's magnificent! So much power and grace! It's beautiful!" "That's an eagle", replied a nearby chicken, "That's the King of the Birds. It's a bird of the air... not for the likes of us. We're only chickens, we're birds of the earth". With that, they all cast their eyes downwards once more and continued digging in the dirt. And so it was that the eagle lived and died a chicken... because that's all it believed itself to be.

So, I ask again, Who are you?
And while I’m at it, Who am I?

*(Note: Science has not been able to explain how consciousness can arise from matter and even though it can identify areas of the brain that are engaged with memory and thought it does not know ho/why this occurs)