The universality of consciousness

When we see another being, how do we see it?

Do we see it mostly as an object in the world?

Or as consciousness operating through and as that form?


My guess is that it depends on how we viscerally experience ourselves.

If we viscerally take ourselves to fundamentally be this human self, we’ll tend to see others primarily as a form and an object in the world.

And if we viscerally find ourselves as the consciousness we more fundamentally are, we tend to recognize others as that too. We see them primarily as consciousness.


If we “have” consciousness, it means that to ourselves we ARE consciousness.

And if we are consciousness, then the world to us happens within and as the consciousness we are.

To us, the world happens within and as what we are. It happens within and as the oneness we are. It happens within and as the consciousness we are.

It’s inevitable from a logical view. And it’s inevitable in our own direct noticing when we explore our own first-person experience.


And that’s likely how it is for any conscious being.

Just like me, they are likely consciousness to themselves, and their world happens within and as the consciousness they are. (Whether they consciously notice it or not.)


When I explore what I am, I find certain characteristics.

I find I am fundamentally capacity for any and all experience. I am what can form itself into and as any experience – what a thought may call sight, sound, taste, smell, sensations, and mental representations, or emotions and states, or this human self, others, and the wider world.

As mentioned above, I find that the world to me happens within and as what I am.

I find that the consciousness I am is one, and the world to me happens within and as the oneness I am.

I find that the world, to me, is similar to a dream. Just like a night dream, it happens within and as the consciousness I am.

And I assume it’s like that for any other consciousness as well, based on reports and what makes the most sense.


This consciousness I am is expressed through and as a self in the world.

In my case, it’s expressed through and as this particular human self.

The world and all beings to me happen within and as what I am. And at the same time, there is a special connection with this particular human self. The consciousness I am receives sensory information from this human self, and other people take the consciousness I am to be this human self.

I assume it’s like this for all other conscious beings.

To themselves, they are most fundamentally consciousness, whether they notice or not. And this consciousness has a special connection to that particular self in the world. The consciousness they are operates through and as that particular self.

And that self has unique characteristics. It has a unique body with a unique sensory and nervous system. It has a certain size and lifespan. It operates in a certain environment. It may look like a beetle, a butterfly, a swallow, an eel, a rat, a human being, or any other type of conscious being.

In the world, the way we appear is unique and different. And to ourselves, our fundamental nature may be the same.


If we take ourselves and others as primarily an object, we literally objectify ourselves and others. We perceive and live as if we are all primarily objects.

If we viscerally find ourselves primarily as consciousness, we tend to perceive others as that as well.

How can I take that in more deeply? How can I allow it to work on me?

If the other is primarily consciousness (whether they notice or not), how would I treat him or her?

How would I treat non-human species?

Image: Created by me and Midjourney

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Objectifying ourselves, others, and anything

I thought I would briefly revisit this topic.

As many points out, we live in a culture where we tend to objectify ourselves and others. We may emphasize ourselves as a desired object to get something we want. Most or all of us do it sometimes, in some situations, and to varying degrees.

We can go a step further and find other ways we objectify ourselves. We may dress up nicely in order to give a certain impression. Present and cultivate a certain image. And so on.

None of this is inherently wrong or bad. It’s understandable, relatively universal, and ultimately comes from innocence.

If we live from it without noticing what’s going on, it can create stress. And if we notice and explore it, it can help us hold it all more lightly and it can release a lot of the stress inherent in it.


There is a more fundamental way we objectify ourselves.

Whenever we take ourselves to most fundamentally be an object within our field experience, we objectify ourselves.

We assume that one of the most fundamental characteristic of what we are is an object. And when we do, we tend to do that with others and anything. We assume that we, they, and everything else most fundamentally are objects in the world.

It’s not completely wrong. In a conventional sense, we are human beings and objects in the world.

But if we look more closely, we may find something else.

When I look in my own first-person experience, I find I more fundamentally am capacity for my experience. I am capacity for my experience of this human self and the wider world and anything else. I am what it all happens within and as.

This is not an object. (Although I can mentally make it into one, which is a fantasy and doesn’t make it into an object.)

Are others, to themselves, the same? I cannot know for certain, but it seems that way judging from the reports of others. It’s what mystics from all traditions describe, and it’s what people who do a range of different inquiries report, whether it’s the Big Mind proess, Headless experiments, or Living Inquiries. I assume this is the same for all conscious beings, no matter the species.

It’s very likely inherent in consciousness independent of what type of being that consciousness happens within or through. It’s difficult to imagine it’s not.

When I notice what I am to myself, it helps remind me that others – to themselves – likely are the same as I am. It helps me add another dimension to seeing myself and others as objects. Yes, as beings in the world we are objects, and more fundamentally we are not. We are capacity for our own world.

It helps me hold objectification a bit more lightly, and it helps me de-objectify myself and others.


Why is this important?

It isn’t inherently important, but whether we are caught up in unconscious objectification or not does have some practical consequences.

If we assume we most fundamentally are this human self, an object in the world, it tends to create stress. We perceive and live as if we ultimately are this separate self. We tend to operate from a fundamental sense of I and Other.

And if we notice what we more fundamentally are, it releases a lot of this stress. It helps us to notice and live from oneness, and another name for that is love. It can be a messy process, and we’ll only do it imperfectly, but it still tends to be profoundly transformative.

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Objectifying ourselves and others

What does it mean to objectify someone, whether it’s ourselves or others? Can we objectify more than people or living beings? What are some of the remedies? And what’s the ultimate remedy?


When we talk about objectification, we typically mean objectifying another person. We see this another person primarily as an object, and the implication is that we see the other as an object to use one way or another. We overlook their own experience of themselves, their thoughts and feelings, and that they are far more than their body or our ideas about them.

This can happen in an obvious way, whenever we judge or want to use someone mainly due to their body and what we see. We reduce the person to their body.

If we look more closely, we may find that we do this in other ways as well. We reduce someone to an idea and assume that idea is correct and all they are. We reduce the person to an object in our mind.


When we make another into an object in our mind, and forget that they are like us with their own thoughts, feelings, needs, and wants, it allows us to treat them in ways we otherwise couldn’t.

It allows us to judge others based on their body, appearance, gender, ethnicity, age, and even species. And it allows us to treat them in ways we ourselves would not want to be treated.


Objectification goes beyond objectifying others.

The reality is that if we do this with others, it’s because we already do this with ourselves. Even without noticing, we may assume we are this body, and that our ideas about ourselves are mostly accurate and the more-or-less whole picture.

And if we do this with ourselves and others, we also do it with situations, life, and all of existence. We assume what we see is more or less all there is, that our ideas about something are accurate, and that our ideas are more or less the full picture. None of that is necessarily true.


Objectification is inevitable, to a certain extent. We literally see others as an object, and we tend to assume that our ideas about someone are more-or-less accurate and more-or-less the whole picture. It’s all we have to go by, and we don’t have information about more.

It’s also inevitable that we do this, to some extent, with ourselves and situations. We assume what we see is more-or-less the whole picture, that our ideas are mostly accurate, and that our ideas about something or someone are more-or-less the full picture.


We need mental representations – of others, ourselves, situations, and life – to orient and function in the world. To a certain extent, we need to objectify in order to function.

At the same time, what we see is just a small part of what’s there. Our ideas about someone or a situation may be more or less accurate in a conventional sense, and sometimes they are way off. And all of us, and any situation, is much more than and different from any ideas we have about it.


What’s the remedy?

The first step is to be aware that this is happening. If we relate to another person, we can remind ourselves that the other person is like us. They have their own thoughts, feelings, needs, and wants. They are far more than their body, our ideas about them may not be accurate, and they are far more than any ideas we have about them.

Most of us have experienced being objectified by others. Someone may have seen us as mostly our body, or they may have believed their ideas about us – even if these were not very accurate or the whole picture. When I relate to someone, they may experience me doing this. We all experience ourselves as more than and different from how others see us.

We can also examine this more systematically, through identifying and investigating our ideas about others, ourselves, and the world. Here, we may get to recognize our ideas more clearly, see that they are ideas, and recognize their limits. (Inquiry.)


The essence of objectification is to take anyone or anything – ourselves, others, situations, life – as an object.

As soon as we take our ideas about someone or something as true, we objectify. We make what the ideas refer to into an object in our mind, and we solidify that object in our mind. We tell us it’s mostly or completely how it appears to us.

If this is the essence of objectification, then the essential remedy is to identify and investigate these ideas and also look at why we hold them as true. Does it make us feel safer? Does it help us deal with unmet and unloved fear?


There is another essential remedy, and that is to explore what we are in our own experience.

In my own first person experience, what am I? Am I this human self?

When I look, I find that I see some hands typing here, lower arms, a blur I call my nose, thighs, knees, and feet. I find ideas and mental images telling me this is a body, and it’s my body. I find ideas and mental images telling me I have a name, am a particular gender, age, and so on.

I see that my thoughts are required to tell me I am this. I also see that this is what others tell me I am, and I dutifully do my best to tell myself the same. Without these ideas and mental images, I wouldn’t have the story that I am this body and this human self, and there wouldn’t even be a differentiation with the wider world – with the table, laptop, room, the sounds of the magpies, and so on.

Here, I find that this human self is not what I most fundamentally am in my own direct experience.

In my first person experience, I am capacity for the world, and what my field of experience happens within and as.

Anything happening within my field of experience – sight, sounds, taste, smell, sensations, mental representations – is not my most fundamental identity. It’s all happening within and as what I am.

It’s all living its own life and coming and going on its own.

When I notice this, it’s a reminder that others are this way as well. To themselves, and whether they notice or not, they are capacity for the world and what their experiences happen within and as.

In our own first person experience, none of us are most fundamentally an object.


As a kid, I read colonial-era stories mentioning that non-Europeans sometimes were hesitant to allow themselves to be photographed. They thought it would steal their soul, or something along those lines.

Of course, it was presented as if these people were naive and superstitious.

But it can also be seen in another context. Perhaps they knew, intuitively or explicitly, that photographs tend to reduce us to our body in the eyes of the viewer. Photos depict us as objects, and when we see photos we tend to objectify the ones we see. In this sense, photos do metaphorically steal our souls.

This objectification is not inherently wrong. It’s just something to be aware of, and it’s a fertile ground for exploration. If we explore it more closely, it can even lead us to notice what we are in our own first-person experience.

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Feminists brought one form of objectification to our attention: When women are objectified, they become a thing in the mind’s of men. In this case, a thing that can get us what we want.

Any thought or image is a cartoon, a simplification. That’s its nature, and it can be very helpful in orienting and navigating in the world. There is no problem here. It’s not even a real objectification if the image is recognized as an image and not something “out there” and inherent in the world.

It’s first when I take the thought or image as true  – a true representation, or as the thing itself – that this objectification happens. That’s when I find I objectify whatever the thought is about, whether it is another person, myself, the world, or reality/God.

And this objectification has two layers to it. I first take my image of boundaries as true. There is really something there with an inside and outside, a thing, an object. And I take my image of its characteristics as true. It’s really a human being, a woman, 30s, attractive etc. So in this way, taking my images as true creates my world. It makes my images – my interpretations and stories – appear very real and true.

I create objects in my own mind, and take them as true.

Some examples:

I believe I need her, and she becomes an object for me, something to fix me. She becomes a cartoon character in my mind, with only a limited set of characteristics, and I (temporarily) believe she is this cartoon character. There is a sense of separation and struggle. And this quite simple thought rests on several layers of underlying thoughts: There is an “I” here, who is a man, not complete in himself, who can be completed by this woman. And there is a woman there who is just right to complete this man, I. All of those are images taken as true, creating objects that appear true, and from there creating certain experiences, feelings, choices, actions, and a certain life.

I believe I am smart, or I am, or just I. And I become an object for myself.

I believe God is good, and God becomes an object for me. Limited, small.

In each case, the belief makes what’s objectified neatly wrapped up and manageable. There is less receptivity to whatever doesn’t fit the image. My perception is limited, and my options for how to relate to what’s objectified is limited.

And when I investigate these images I hold as true, I find a shift. I may find compassion for the other person and myself. A sense of connection. Receptivity. Curiosity. Freedom to be more authentic.

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