Now Consciousness: Exploring the World Beyond Thought
by Albert Blackburn
Review by Jerry Katz (I will be speaking about Now Consciousness at the Science and Nonduality Conference, Friday, October 21, 2011.)
Albert Blackburn was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1910 and died in 1987. He had a career in aviation as a pilot and owner of a flight school. He trained World War II pilots. Blackburn’s real interest, however, was exploring consciousness.
Blackburn was a member of the Theosophical Society from 1934 to 1944 and immersed himself in the study of auras, spiritual evolution, reincarnation, karma, kundalini. However, a conversation with Jiddhu Krishnamurti led to the falling apart of Blackburn’s psychological world and his entrance into the world of nonduality or Now-Consciousness. The conversation is recounted early in the book, the turning point being Krishnamurti’s questioning of whether Blackburn’s beliefs were true.
The rest of the book develops the teaching of Now-Consciousness, about which Blackburn writes, “[Now-Consciousness] is a nondualistic state in which the idea of the I and not-I does not exist.” He says it is the process of the mind coming to know itself.
The book consists of five essays written between 1944 and 1982. Each essay addresses Now-Consciousness from its own angle: from initiation into Now-Consciousness, from the psychology of Now-Consciousness, from a practical approach involving attention to thoughts, and through bold confessions.
Besides Now-Consciousness, here are the other major themes, each treated in different ways throughout the book:
Intelligence. Also known as awareness, consciousness, the Tao, or truth. Blackburn says, “Because intelligence is real, it can only be found through the negative approach. In discovering what is not, truth is perceived.”
Not-knowing. He writes, “Be in the moment of questioning, so awake, so aware that you realize you don’t know.”
Time. “This idea of time gives rise to the false ideas of postponement, spiritual growth, progress, a Savior, Gurus, the Path, and reincarnation as the ultimate postponement. These are given as excuses for our own inadequacy, in not being able to follow one thing directly to the end.”
The I-process. The I is the ego, the world we’ve created about ourselves that causes us suffering. It’s that way we are that we know isn’t our true self. Blackburn identifies several steps in this process of generating and sustaining the false self and shows how we cut ourselves off from intelligence or truth.
The Cycle of Perception. In watching the I-process we find that there is a magic moment before associating a perception with habits, memories, and conditioning. The ability to access this magic moment is now-consciousness and it unfolds in stages that Blackburn calls the Cycle of Perception.
Blackburn says, “The first thing is to become aware of what the mind is occupied with, its patterned thoughts, habits, and reactions. … Slowly you come into the cycle of perception or Now-Consciousness. And the oftener this state is experienced, the more you realize it is true life.”
Blackburn fits right into the current world of nonduality. He stood alone and encouraged others to do so. Although he acknowledges his teacher Jiddhu Krishnamurti, Blackburn claimed that his teachings were his own. As his own authority in these teachings, he was straightforward and eschewed the guru role and even the teacher role. He went where he was invited and held dialogues. He didn’t give talks, as such. These travels took him and his wife through the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
Blackburn is also the author of Worlds Beyond Thought: Conversations on Now-Consciousness, which is also available as a series audio cassette tapes. Though his books and audios are not widely distributed or known in the Internet era of the last 15 years, they are still in print and distributed by his wife Gabriele through IdylWildBooks.com.
The Table of Contents is spare, however the topic and themes of each section and chapter are stated clearly. There is no index which would have been very useful in a book such as this where each main theme is scattered throughout the book. A proper index would gather and make sense of all those appearances.
I highly recommend this book for anyone exploring nondual spirituality or nondual psychotherapy. It is clear, simple, and straightforward enough to enhance your understanding of how we get lost in our beliefs, memories, thoughts, our words, and conditionings. He points to the “magic moment” when, instead of getting lost in imaginings of how we think things are, we turn instead to Now-Consciousness and get directly to the point and through to the end of whatever we are considering. That is, we learn to deal directly and fully with stressful situations and move on.