Conceived during the years following the Second World War, Halliday’s book sets out the solution to a problem even more relevant for us today: How can we deal with the rapidly increasing pace and complexity of life, fear of terrorism and the threatening state of world affairs, climate breakdown and the confusions of difficult personal relationships—without succumbing to the wear and tear of stress, to depression and illness?
In Reflexive Self-Consciousness Halliday provides a way to assimilate the shocks of our life experiences, so that we might live a more balanced life. The way to achieve this balance is through reconnecting with the centre of our own being, our consciousness. Through this self-development, we can rediscover our proper place in relation to the universe. Halliday sets out not only the nature of this consciousness, but also its relation to the world of phenomena, to the nature of being, and in particular, to mankind. He begins by examining the meaning of the related terms sentience, consciousness, feeling, sensation, and awareness. He writes that all are related, they are to some degree interchangeable, and they all refer to, ‘That in and by which we know what we know, and that we know.’
If we ask ourselves what this statement means, we can only say that, ‘We know what we mean. Consciousness is its own evidence’, and thus 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’.
If we do not posit sentience as a property which is present, ‘from the very beginning of creation, or evolution’ it is not possible to ‘find a point later at which we may logically introduce it’. The placing together of a large number of non-sentient particles, however complex their arrangement, cannot itself give rise to consciousness. Halliday does not accept the view that consciousness is a by-product of increasing complexity in matter, merely a consequence arising from the processes of evolution. On the contrary, he sees a complex structure of cells such as the brain, as ‘a vehicle for the expression of the complex processes of an [already existing] sentience’. He posits that the ultimate source and origin of our being resides in an absolute field of sentience. Halliday goes on to state that the true nature of the self is ‘consciousness itself’. But, as beings with physical bodies, we are tyrannised by the limitations of our sense organs; by the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain, 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. However, 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, that is, capable of free choice and action.
Before Evolution, Eugene Halliday posits an Involution, in which he likens the activity of the absolute field of sentience to that of the sea. For its internal movements, he uses the metaphor of the sea’s waves, which create vortices within it, which in turn give rise to all the observable phenomena of the world. Atoms, molecules, cells, plants, animals, mankind, human beings, are all formed within this absolute sentient field, and thus all are sentient: there is no non-sentient level of being.
This sentience, which resides in the place of each being, falls into identification with that being, right down to the grossest physical level of the mineral world. Through the process of Evolution, sentience has evolved through mineral, plant, animal, and human, to rediscover its true nature by becoming increasingly aware of its ‘Reflexive Self-Consciousness’—which is the title of this book.
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Reflexive Self-Consciousness, by Eugene Halliday (2019)