Reflexive self-consciousness is a concept, related to that of enlightenment, formulated by Eugene Halliday during the 1940s-1950s in England. He set out his concept in his book, Reflexive Self-Consciousness, which, having been circulated in softback format for many years, was published in hardback in 1989 by Melchisedec Press, ISBN 1-872240-01-1.
The concept is of value from a psychological as well as a spiritual point of view. How can we deal with the rapidly increasing pace and complexity of life, fear of terrorism and the threatening state of world affairs, impending ecological destruction and the confusions of personal relationships - without succumbing to the wear and tear of stress, to depression and illness?
In his book, Eugene Halliday sets out a solution, a way by which we can develop the ability to respond adequately to the demands life makes of us, the ability to assimilate the shocks and blows of experience, so we can live a whole and balanced life. The way to this balance is through an understanding of the centre of our own being, our consciousness, and through this, finding our place in relation to the universe.
Meaning of reflexive self-consciousness
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 one 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.
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.
Origin of being
Halliday posits that the ultimate source and origin of our being is sentience or 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.
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.
- Reflexive Self-Consciousness, Published by the Melchisedec Press, 1989, ISBN 1-872240-01-1