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The Awareness Principle and Western ‘Psychology’

 

The Awareness Principle is an important basic principle of psychology, yet one that is ignored in contemporary Western understandings of ‘consciousness’, as well as in ‘counselling’ and ‘psychotherapy' as they have developed in the West. That is because Western psychology has not yet even recognised, as Eastern philosophy has long done, a most basic axiom of the principle itself, namely that awareness as such is quite distinct from its psychological contents, that as ‘pure consciousness’ it transcends everything we are conscious or aware of. In contrast to the principles of different forms of Western psychology, psychotherapy and psychological counselling, including so-called ‘cognitive’ therapies, The Awareness Principle does not focus on specific contents of consciousness (thoughts, emotions, life event etc.) but rests on a Fundamental Distinction between all such contents – all elements of our experience - and the larger space or ‘field’ of awareness in which they arise. Recognising this Fundamental Distinction allows us to make a Fundamental Choice – between focussing on, identifying with and thus binding ourselves to the contents of our consciousness - or identifying with the pure awareness of them, an awareness that is innately free of thought, emotional charge or any element of our experience.

The Awareness Principle recognises the transcendental character of awareness. It also recognises its ‘immanent’ character – that awareness is also present within each and everything we are aware of. Awareness transcends everything we are aware of – for it is the ultimate source of all that is. Precisely because it is the source of everything however, everything we are aware of is also an awareness in its own right. Every sensation, feeling or thought, every physical or mental symptom is itself an awareness of something beyond itself – for example a situation or something going on in another person.

A bodily sensation such as hotness or sweating is not just something we are aware of. It is also our way of sensing something beyond it – for example the heat of the Sun or something we are anxious about. Similarly any feeling is not just something we are aware of. Instead it is a ‘pre-reflective’ or ‘unformulated’ awareness of something or someone beyond itself (a relationship, situation or life question for example) just as a thought may be a reflective and formulated awareness of something beyond it. Even a bodily symptom or mental state such as anxiety or depression for example, is not just something we are aware of. Nor is it a life ‘problem’ in itself. Instead the symptom is itself a bodily awareness of a life problem.