On Human Morality & The Rights of

Nonhuman Animals


If one endeavors to put into practice that form of meditation in which awareness is exclusively focused on the inhalation and exhalation of the breath, it will soon be noticed that the object of one's awareness has taken on a character distinctly metaphorical in kind.  The lungs and diaphragm have no capacity for awareness inherent to themselves; rather, that awareness is located in the mind, which itself is functionally dependent on the brain:  the brain operates not only to regulate the apparatus of breathing but is also used to obtain a state of self-consciousness with regard the performance of this apparatus.  Such self-consciousness is metaphoric in that it acts as a kind of "substitute" for the act of breathing; indeed, this substitution is so convincing to the mind that it may seem, when its self-conscious awareness of the breathing process ceases, as if the process itself can no longer be said with certainty to be in effect.  This belief is, of course, fallacious, and once the fallacious nature of this belief has been understood, meditation on the act of breathing quickly becomes a matter of the mind's yielding to a state of awareness with regard its own self-awareness.  Thus the meditating mind ceases to engage in its metaphoric activities, and so exists in a state of unimpeded actualization – a state as pure in character and, in its own way, as self-referential in definition as is the activity of the lungs and diaphragm when the mind's attention is not focused on their functioning.  So it is that "awareness of self-awareness" is revealed to be the central, or primary, activity of the conscious mind, the foundation upon which all its further activities rest.

Sustaining active knowledge of this state of awareness is difficult; the difficulty derives from the conscious mind's habitual use of metaphorical reconstruction as a means of apprehending reality.  Rather than residing in a state of "awareness with regard its own self-awareness," for instance, the mind may revert to a state of "awareness with regard its own capacity for self-awareness," which is to say, it again reverts to a metaphorical construct.  Such metaphorical constructs are discovered to be, as described above, fantasies; it soon follows that fantasy is revealed to consume much of the conscious mind's energy.  The fantasies of the mind are many and constant; they may include (when the mind wanders in an unfocused manner) those daydreams in which one envisions oneself in various incredible circumstances; also those simpler imaginings in which the self recounts for its own benefit and safeguarding who and what it is from a more or less factual perspective.  With regard to the practice of meditation, these various fantasies and imaginings are destructive – or, at the very least, counter-productive – in that they prevent one from obtaining the state of complete mental relaxation which is necessary to achieve in unimpeded manner "awareness of self-awareness."  In character, the fantasies and imaginings indulged in by the mind are fundamentally a matter of consciousness registering the parameters of its own functionality.  This self-observational technique is inherently anxious in nature, the source of the anxiety arising from the conscious mind's own functional limitations:  consciousness is not certain that that which it does not actively register exists; but also, is not aware of this uncertainty except with regard to that which it is in the process of registering.

This does not mean, however, that the self-observational aspect of consciousness necessarily, automatically, or conclusively causes distortion with regard to the subject of observation (whether that subject be the mind itself, the physical body, or some aspect of the external world), though the anxiety which characterizes the self-observational aspect of consciousness may sometimes lead us to fear otherwise.  Insofar as the mind operates in such a way that "awareness of self-awareness" exists undistracted in its operation, the anxiety (or "self-consciousness," as it is termed in everyday parlance) is reduced.  Indeed, the achievement of this state as applied to our observation of the tangible, everyday world and its various features is the whole point of the modern-day use of the scientific method.  Unfortunately, the scientific method, for all its virtues in achieving a uniform truth with regard a given (or hypothetical) fact as observed under a variety of circumstances, tends to negate the value of individual perception in an attempt to overcome those anxieties which are inherent to it.  Hence, it tends to negate the value of individuality itself.