The Evolution of Consciousness in Our Society

I would say that during the time I first started to experiment with psychedelics in 1961, the society that I had grown up in and that I trained myself in, the high priests of that society had become the scientists and the intellectuals. What was valid was what you knew you knew. If you understand what I’m saying – what you intellectually knew you knew –  and science set up the criteria for what you know you know. It’s public, it has to be reproducible and measurable, so that all the techniques of introspection, which had been part of earlier science, were rejected. Things like behaviorism, where you measure things from outside – you treat the human being as an object and measured them from outside in, not from the inner experience.

That defined what reality was, and anything you couldn’t measure by scientific criteria was treated as irrelevant.

It was treated as something that our tools didn’t have anything to say about, so it must be an error, or irrelevant, or unmeasurable. This made it so that the issues of inner awareness of the soul, or any of these things were not usable for science – and so science had nothing to say about it.

What happened to me was that I met a part of my being that I, as a psychologist, as a professor of human motivation and clinical pathology and so on, knew nothing about. I knew nothing about this experience from my intellectual point of view. All of my studies hadn’t prepared me to understand what this thing was. The person that wrestled with this most closely in the psychological domain was Carl Jung. He really attempted to bridge the gap between the mystical part of ourselves and the psychological. Then Maslow, and there were a number of people after that. There were a number of philosophers that were doing this, going back all the way to Heraclites and so on. Socrates played with it.

Now, when I broke though, what I saw was that the reality that I thought was my real reality was only relatively real. It wasn’t absolutely real.

What happened to my mind was a shift in consciousness that was very parallel to what Einstein did to Newtonian physics. Newtonian physics treated a certain realm of reality as absolutely real, whereas Einstein said it all depends on where you’re standing. What is real under certain conditions isn’t real under other conditions, or all conditions.  

The reason I bring all that up is because over the years since that early sixties experience, culture has changed. The world view has changed. Relative reality is a much more acceptable place of consciousness than it was before. The intellectual doesn’t quite have the domain and overriding power that it once had. People are aware of the limits of technology and science much more than they were 20 years ago. It’s very far out. I mean, it’s very hard to perceive this, because everybody says, “Oh, you’re kidding, nothing really changed,” and I mean, I can do that trip too, but something indeed happened, because there are more spaces to play with in the culture than there were before.

 

-Ram Dass

 

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