Why do humans exist?
An excerpt from The Enlightenment of the Human Heart
shai tubali: Human beings are here in order to become conscious of creation. They are meant to be reflectors of creation. They can become aware of the entire universe. So as long as we are alive, we reveal creation. We are the indivisible reality’s senses. The primary sense is the sense of awareness, but we are also the conscious eyes of the indivisible reality, we are the conscious hands, we are the conscious mouth, ears, and nose. Through us, through this function of awareness, the indivisible reality becomes conscious of its universe and illuminates it. Jesus proclaimed, “You are the light of the world.”1 We are perhaps revising this statement or reusing it in a different context. You are the light of the world, which means that through the consciousness that you are, the world becomes illuminated, becomes conscious, becomes known.
tamar brosh: And you can feel it in meditation, when you go into deep states of emptiness and then you re-emerge, cognition re-emerges; this cognition is the same as the light that shines in outer space. It is like creation that comes into being within one’s consciousness and it always feels like a glorious condition that is blissfully acknowledged. Just as it is blissful to acknowledge the emptiness, it is also blissful to acknowledge the fullness, the other side.
s.t.: Yes, take this light of consciousness that you are revealing in meditation, direct it at the world, and a miracle happens. In mystical enlightenment, we have sanctified and glorified resting within oneself, which means consciousness resting within itself, being conscious only of itself. This is restfulness. And the only other state that we have proposed in mystical enlightenment is complete entrapment in the world of the senses, attachment to what we see, what we smell, what we feel. That’s it; it’s an either/or situation. There is nothing in the middle. But here we are saying that the middle is actually sacred.
t.b.: The only middle I’m aware of is when teachers who have reached enlightenment and still live in human form are solely focused on service. That is all they do. They don’t really have the ordinary human experience and they don’t care all that much about the world since they have transcended it, but they feel that they still have a duty to help others.
s.t.: To get out as well.
t.b.: Yes, a duty to help others to find their way out of this world of forgetfulness. So they become engrossed in service, but they don’t really deploy their consciousness to be aware of creation.
s.t.: Yes, exactly. I’m reminded of Jiddhu Krishnamurti, who was an extraordinary being. His description of something he witnessed left an indelible impression on me. He was once walking behind a group of monks in India. They were climbing up a hill with their heads bent downward, while repeating something in Sanskrit, in a state they obviously considered to be mindful. Krishnamurti observed that they were walking in the midst of nature’s great beauty and never once looked around. Despite being immersed in a glorious vision filled with colors and sounds—a vision that they themselves were a part of—they were completely oblivious to the beauty of the sky, the light that illuminated the grass, the trees, the birds, and the water. Had they looked, they would have noticed that this vision is the most transparent manifestation of the very divine being that they were striving to merge with.2 Krishnamurti pointed out how this kind of spirituality is actually limiting, because it is not truly “mindfulness.” Spirituality can sometimes narrow our attention and lead us to reject or ignore or belittle a tremendous thing that is part of the sacredness, reducing it to nothing. And there are such magnificent details in creation!
Here, perhaps we might return to the tree of knowledge in Genesis 2. You brought it up in one of our talks. We determined to revise this story, interpreting it as God’s scheme to seduce Adam and Eve, so that their expulsion would be inevitable. He wanted them to be expelled. Now, we can add another layer to this myth and say that the tree of knowledge had a hugely positive role in that God required consciousness. Put simply, God needed a conscious extension and therefore he needed Adam and Eve to eat the apple, become this conscious extension, and be sent to the world. Of course, there would be a great deal of physical suffering and hardships as a punishment. However, there would be consciousness as well.
t.b.: But now we understand: It is not really punishment. God needed to create the ultimate opposite, the densest form possible, of its limitless self. So when you think of Adam and Eve in the garden, in a way they are not yet created. They are one with the creator’s consciousness, so, in that sense, they are not even alive. Only when they became the hybrid do they begin to exist independently.
s.t.: Exactly. And humans have felt shame about their existence since the beginning of history, as if something went wrong, as if the separation is wrong. Their sense of separateness is a problem that needs to be corrected. Sometimes they are jealous of nature, because nature is unified; it doesn’t have consciousness to set it apart, as humans do. However, we only condemn this phenomenon of consciousness, which is all that we are, because we don’t understand how necessary it is. It is a precious gift. It is essential for creation to have something that is observing it from the outside, because without that, creation cannot be conscious. So we pay the price, the so-called “price of separation”—we don’t even have to feel this separation and soon we will understand why—in order to function as a completely non-separate entity, you see? We are just the conscious extension of creation. There are trees, there are rivers, there are mountains, and there is consciousness. These are just layers of existence that are all part of one universe.
To understand the role of consciousness, try to imagine the same universe without humans. We often think of humans as a sort of an interruption, an invasive species, because we are destructive. Of course, we have destructive capacities as a result of the creative properties of consciousness. Consciousness can study the laws of the universe; it can mimic them and create destructive machines. That is all clear, but condemnation takes us nowhere. Try to imagine a universe: hundreds of billions of galaxies, the stars and the moon, the sun, the trees, animals, lakes, rivers, billions of beetles and other insects, and so on. All of that—and no humans. What do you have?
t.b.: It is a problematic question, because you are asking me to use my human capacities to imagine a universe without me and that is almost impossible. When I imagine it, it is like night has fallen. It is dark.
s.t.: Why? There would be the sun, the moon…
t.b.: No, I know there would be the sun and the moon. I am not saying it would actually be dark; rather, it would be as if it didn’t exist.
s.t.: Exactly. It would not be known. And when something is not known, that does not mean that it doesn’t exist. Let’s say that right now I am not aware of the sun outside. That doesn’t mean that the sun does not exist. It just means that it is not known.
t.b.: That is why I said, “as if it didn’t exist.”
s.t.: Yes, it has nothing that reflects on its existence, nothing that acknowledges its existence.
t.b.: Which makes me wonder, if I return for a moment to our discussion of the human as a hybrid, do you think it would be accurate to say that consciousness is the element that cancels the gap between the limited and the unlimited? Because you are saying that consciousness is a layer of this creation, that it is a part of this creation…
s.t.: Both, yes—because it is a hybrid, right?
t.b.: So it is both the divine property, the limitless part in us…
s.t.: That is its origin, its deepest nature, yes.
t.b.: Yes, but because of its purpose to be conscious of that, it is also almost a material property, or a universal property. Thus, if we perceive ourselves as consciousness, not just in the sense of a pure spirit that needs to be reminded of itself, but also as consciousness whose role it is to “be aware of,” wouldn’t that deeply heal the human heart?
t.b.: Because then being human is not a mistake or a fall, but probably the most amazing experience. Even if we exist just for a very limited time, that lifespan can still be a glorious experience.
s.t.: Definitely, but the question is whether this is really a non-spiritual function of consciousness.
t.b.: That is what I am saying. I feel that my brain is losing its ability to hold these words in their old polarized positions: spiritual/not spiritual, material/not material. These words are starting to lose their meaning.
s.t.: Yes, this is just a question of different levels of density. Everything has a function, there was no fall or mistake, and the role consciousness plays is a completely spiritual one. It is a mystical role. It is a part of being who we are. It is helpful to remember this thought experiment involving imagining a universe that is exactly the same, except without a layer of consciousness—no one to write books about it, no one to wonder about its meaning, no one to raise their heads to the moon and say, “what a beautiful moon,” no one to name it, no one to objectify it. Here, we understand that the moon would exist in such a universe, but not only would there be no consciousness of it; there would also be no appreciation of it.
t.b.: But don’t you think that many humans live like that, even though they do possess this property? This may be a part of the problem, in terms of meaning—that most of us live as if we were half asleep.
s.t.: Yes, because the meaning and purpose of life are dormant—although not completely, since we fulfill this function of consciousness all the time. It is not very accurate to say that we are mostly half asleep. Don’t you raise your head sometimes and look at a tree and become a witness to the beauty of the tree?
s.t.: Right, in that moment you are fulfilling the meaning of human life. That is what I am trying to say.
t.b.: I know and I understand. I just think that if we are not aware that we are fulfilling the meaning of life, then doing so lacks the potency or the potential to fill our lives with tremendous joy, with a tremendous sense of meaning.
s.t.: Yes, the sense that we have a role in the universe. It is almost like knowing that you have a meaningful role to play in a society, that you are actually needed. But I think that our tragedy as humans is that we don’t feel that we are needed in the universe. That’s it. And when you don’t feel existentially that you are needed, you begin to develop psychological disturbances, because the psyche relies on existential confidence.
t.b.: So this means that as long as we don’t feel or know that we have a role in the grander scheme of things, as long as we are ignorant of our universal or existential role, then we can also project this feeling onto our human lives, because many humans experience alienation, as if they don’t belong to their environment, their family, their society, or their culture. What you’re saying is that this feeling starts as something much more primal—the sense that there is no meaning to our lives and we don’t serve any purpose.
s.t.: It is a collective alienation, a collective strangeness. Albert Camus captured this sense of alienation in a silent universe well: Consciousness is floating in space without being able to grasp why it is there, why it is separate, and so on.3 Philosophers such as Avi Sagi have claimed that this sense of alienation was a consequence of the Copernican revolution, when we suddenly understood that we are just an object in the world, an object among many objects, and that nothing revolves around us, and that we have been reduced to insignificance.4 Nonetheless, this sense of alienation is a confused state.
t.b.: Of course, because from the point of view adopted in this book, the infinitude of galaxies and possible life forms in this entire universe is actually the demonstration of the glory of the divine creation; it is the opposite of insignificance, especially if we are here to become aware of all that.
s.t.: Yes, yes. So we understand that a moon that is not appreciated is lacking something. Consciousness is not just “being aware of”; it is being able to appreciate, it is being able to recognize beauty, it is being able to recognize intelligence, it is being able to recognize abundance, it is being able to recognize diversity, it is being able to reflect the entire complexity of life—that is what it is meant to do. There is a documentary called My Octopus Teacher (dirs. Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed, 2020). In this documentary, the nature-documentarist Craig Foster becomes completely infatuated with one particular female octopus. In fact, he becomes so infatuated with this octopus, which only lives for about a year, that he spends a significant amount of time every day, over the course of a year, diving down to observe every aspect of her life. What touches me the most about the film is how it demonstrates that when we allow the passion of consciousness to flood through us, the consciousness develops curiosity and the ability to focus on things that other humans might neglect to see. But then there is this total devotion to a certain element of creation, which is magnified through consciousness; it becomes appreciated, acknowledged, loved, admired. And that is the first property of consciousness: being able to appreciate.
1. Matthew 5:14-16. <https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%205:14-16&version=NIV>.
2. Allan Anderson (1991), A Wholly Different Way of Living. London: Victor Gollancz, 102-103.
3. Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus, 12-13.
4. Avi Sagi (2002), Albert Camus and the Philosophy of the Absurd, trans. Batya Stein. Amsterdam: Rodopi, pp. 12.