Consciousness an Innate Human Ability
The need to gain self-awareness is a human desire that transcends cultural, national and racial differences. People are capable of not only to realizing self-consciousness, but also altering and modifying their modes of consciousness. In her article “Homo Religiosus”, Karen Armstrong discusses the need and ability that people possess towards attaining self-awareness, thus creating the concept of religion. Therefore, religion became and continues to provide a platform through which people can experience the self intently and intensely. However, with the constraints and pressures of contemporary society, the innate ability to experience self-awareness through religion continues to diminish, but people have resorted to alternatives that allow for the experience of ekstatsis (“standing outside oneself”), therefore engaging in a profound moment of consciousness. Engaging or altering the state of consciousness remains an integral process, a state of mind that allows for the enhancement of life’s moments.
People have the innate ability to change their consciousness, nonetheless everyday reality is a factor that hinders the changing or shaping of consciousness. The pressures and demands of everyday living in contemporary society are numerous and subjective to each individual with the common outcome of a diminishing ability to engage the self-conscious. In highlighting the differences in modern society, Armstrong states “Before the modern period, most men and women were naturally inclined to religion and they were prepared to work at it. Today many of us are no longer willing to make this effort, so the old myths seem arbitrary, remote, and incredible (Armstrong 7)”. The constraints of modern society have resulted in people prioritizing the need to make a living over the need to engage their consciousness as a means that can enrich their lives. However, the diminishing practice of engaging the consciousness through religion does not translate into the absence of a need to realize self-awareness. Conversely, the pressures of everyday realities increase the need to engage and or alter their consciousness. Armstrong argues the fallibility of humans by stating “As meaning seeking creatures, men and women fall very easily into despair. They have created religions and works of art to help them find value in their lives, despite all the dispiriting evidence to the contrary” (Armstrong 5). The pressures that people experience in everyday living heightens the need to find value in life, an experience that alleviates the pressure or makes it worth living. Therefore, people are likely to engage in activities that allows for the shaping of self-conscious.
In the absence of religion people seek to engage ekstatsis through a mode of self-expression that allows the individual to experience a profound moment that transcends their daily life routines. The need to engage self-consciousness is not only an innate desire, but one that is also intensified by the pressures of everyday living. In underlining the need to engage the self-awareness, Armstrong states “Human beings are so constituted that periodically they seek out ekstasis, a “stepping outside” the norm” (Armstrong 7). Stepping outside the norm is a form of not only engaging the conscious, but also shaping the conscious subjectively as a means to experience life at a profound level. The need to add meaning in life or to momentarily experience relief is a driving factor that drives people to ekstasis¸ state that can be achieved absent the need or practice of religion. In highlighting the diminishing application of religion to achieve ekstasis, Armstrong states “Today people who no longer find it in a religious setting resort to other outlets: music, dance, art, sex, drugs, or sport” (Armstrong 7). In contemporary society, people have substituted religion with a mixture of preferences that allow for an intense experience of self. The need to ease everyday pressures and life’s demands influences people to engage in pleasurable experiences that provide a more subjectively fulfilling experience compared to religion.
Altering of the conscious serves an integral purpose in people’s lives as it provides a greater sense of purpose and a greater sense of living. Therefore, self-awareness can allow people to achieve a state that allows for the overcoming of daily hardships or life’s despairs. Armstrong describes the purpose of self-conscious and states “We make a point of seeking out these experiences that touch us deeply within and lift us momentarily beyond ourselves. At such times, we feel that we inhabit out humanity more fully than usual and experience an enhancement of being” (Armstrong 7). Therefore, experiences that allow for the individual to experience consciousness can be applied to realize purpose in life. However, to engage in a mode of consciousness that is fulfilling and serves the purpose of uplifting the individual to a better self, a set of unique requirements has to be fulfilled. Armstrong argues on consciousness that “It could not be accessed by rational, discursive thought but required a carefully cultivated state of mind and the abnegation of selfishness” (Armstrong 18). Therefore, a self-consciousness that allows the person to experience a better self is one that is considerate of others despite its irrational and subjective characteristics that allows each individual to have a unique experience.
Consciousness is an innate human ability that allows people to realize a state of better self against the back drop of a high pressure contemporary society. While the innate ability to experience consciousness through religion continues to diminish people now seek a state of ekstatsis through platforms such as music, art, sex, drugs, sports, and dance. The ability to shape and alter the conscious provides people with momentary relief or creates a system through which the pressures of daily living become manageable. Therefore, consciousness becomes a state of mind that can enable a person better themselves.