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A Meditation On Collective Consciousness

In a wide-ranging conversation about consciousness yesterday, my friend made a provocative comment that raises a compelling question. He said, “Consciousness is an inter-subjective field,” adding, “consciousness is not individual.”

If consciousness is not individual however, then wouldn’t it be more accurate to say, “Consciousness is an intra-subjective field?”

As the prefixes are defined, “Although they look similar, the prefix intra- means "within" (as in happening within a single thing), while the prefix inter- means "between" (as in happening between two separate things).”

That may appear to be quibbling, but having watched “Zone of Interest” in the last few days, I’m left with more questions than insights about collective consciousness.

If you watch that film about the Nazi commandant of Auschwitz and his family living, to all appearances, an idyllic life on the other side of the wall where the screams and shots and smells of industrialized mass murder are taking place, don’t approach it in an iota of entertainment mode.

“Zone of Interest” is one of the few movies that loom larger in one’s mind and conscience in subsequent days. It will haunt your dreams if you don’t bring forth your reactions and feelings with a friend after seeing it.

As Jonathan Glazer said in accepting the Oscar for best international film (comments that have been very controversial, but wouldn’t be controversial at all in a half-way sane world): “All our choices were made to reflect and confront us in the present – not to say, ‘Look what they did then’; rather, ‘Look what we do now.’”

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On one hand, the real and cinematic commandant is undeniably an individual. He makes an exceedingly macabre joke with his wife on a phone call after a lavish party in a palace in Berlin, fantasizing about the “technical difficulties of gassing everyone in the room with such a high ceiling.”

At the core level however, the perfect Nazi is a complete instrument of evil, devoid of any human feeling. He’s the epitome of German efficiency applied to the extermination and incineration of millions of Jews and others in the camp adjacent to his spacious and spotless house.

To my mind and heart, he is the definition of collective consciousness. So is collective consciousness synonymous with collective darkness, as I’ve come to feel?

On a sublimely beautiful peak spring day in northern California, I take an hour and half meditation at streamside. The parkland is in full bloom. The great valley oaks, which are the last to come in, are resplendent in the most delicate drapery of greenery.

Full of fellow feeling after watching many cyclists and walkers go by across and above the creek, I was immediately confronted by a palpable ugliness and inertness on the way out. It was so strong that I thought it must be me, an over-sensitive reaction or projection. It was neither.

Lately I’ve been feeling there is no choice but to completely leave the river of collective consciousness, and stand alone on the bank of the blackwater.

As my friend pointed out however, there may be another, positive meaning to collective consciousness, closer to what I call shared insight and intelligence. If so, it’s clearly more of an ideal than an actuality at present.

Can enough undivided individuals awaken awareness within themselves at the core, intra-subjective field of human consciousness? Is it true that “we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet?”

I’m skeptical, but there’s no choice except to retain faith in human beings and humanity. Otherwise, one joins the walking dead, which is a fate far worse than death.

Martin LeFevre

Link: Bach – Prelude in C Major:


lefevremartin77 at gmail

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