Proposition: Awareness never occurs by itself. It is always an awareness of something.
Yes, this sounds a bit crazy. but the problem is, we can't really get away from the fact of awareness.
Wherever we point to some instance of awareness, we are always pointing to in instance of an object of awareness. Awareness always has content. The content may vary, but it is always tied to awareness.
An awareness of everyday things has the content of the everyday things. Awareness of a story has the content of a story. Awareness of an hallucination has the content of the hallucination. Even extreme states of awareness have content.
A meditative state for instance, is not a state of "pure awareness" it is a state of awareness without "representations" imposed on the contents of awareness. The focus of a meditation, whether it is directed as a prayer, a vase, or the breath has the goal of focusing on an object without representation and without the intrusion of other thoughts. Meditation is aimed at achieving a state of awareness that is non-representational. There is still content in those states of awareness. Achieving a unified awareness of a single thing, idea, or experience as in a meditation doesn't "empty the mind". It "clears the mind" leaving an awareness unified on a single focus.
The dullest moments of awareness manifest awareness of contents. the haziest recollections are always recollections of something. awaking stupified from the dead of sleep, your awareness is not empty but full of contents that are fuzzy and incoherent.
And the inverse is also true. There are no contents, no things which are not accompanied by awareness. Objects and awareness always appear to go hand in hand.
All of the things we may talk about, consider, believe, or encounter are experiences because of our awareness of them. If we had no awareness of them, however dim, we would have no experience of them and they would NOT EXIST. As an over-simplification, you have no shadow until you see it. Until you are aware of your own shadow, it does not exist.
Is there anything that exists that is outside of experience? Is there anything the exists apart from awareness? Is there something I can point to and say, that is outside of awareness?
No. There is nothing outside of awareness. If I try to name some object, I am obviously showing I am aware of it. I am aware of material and fictional contents of all kinds. I am aware of unicorns, and the twinge in my knee, and the time on my computer screen, 2:01 am. I am aware of the number 2.
Are there things I am unaware of? No.
This is a basic principle. It is a key to how existence itself works. Awareness is always awareness of something. Experience is always an experience of something. There is never awareness by itself, there is never experience by itself.
You are aware of something. You are aware of your mind, you are aware of the floor, you are aware of breathing, you are aware of being aware, you are aware of the number 2, you are aware of these words, you are aware of unicorns. You are aware of "you" of yourself.
always always always, awareness is awareness of something. and that object of awareness exists.
When we say we are aware of something, we automatically acknowledge it's existence. Not only do we acknowledge it's existence, the only way we can tell if something exists is if we are aware of it. And the corollary is also true that everything we are aware of exists.
this relationship between the awareness of an object and the existence of an object forms an identity. But importantly, awareness is a fundamental fact about the universe. The universe (as the totality of existence) has a fundamental feature which we call awareness. And awareness is what correlates to the existence of objects in that universe. (and by definition, the universe itself)
Is there some variation between an object and our awareness of the object?
Ordinarily we say there is. But the ordinary way of speaking about things conflates concepts together. When we see an object, it is exactly the same as the object in sight.
If I look at the water bottle on my desk, I see it's contents and label, and cap. I see that it is plastic. If I put the water bottle behind me, does the water bottle cease to exist?
Of course not. But my awareness of the water bottle changes. My awareness of the water bottle appears to transition from something seen, to something I believe to be behind me.
In fact, the experience of seeing the water bottle and the experience of thinking about the water bottle behind me are not the same experience at all. We associate these two experiences together, but they are not the same. We know they are not the same because the contents of the experiences, the water bottle that I saw and the one that I believe is behind are not even the same kind of experience. One is a sight, and the other is a belief.
If we are very explicit, there is the awareness of the bottle when it is in front of me. There is the awareness of the bottle as I believe it to be behind my back. And there is the memory of the water bottle being in front of me. These experiences are not the same, and their contents are not the same. But we associate them together.
If someone were to replace the water bottle behind me with a different size of water bottle what would happen? I would be confused, because I expect my memory of the water bottle to correspond to my experience when I look at it directly again. I have an expectation of the water bottle staying the same whether I see it or not.
It is a fun trick to replace one object for another when a person isn't looking. This is the charm in illusionist tricks. And the confusion that follows can be quite amusing. But why is there confusion?
Because the association between the contents, or the expectation of the the association between contents of experience or awareness, is broken. Very clearly the contents of experience vary, and we associate the contents of experience or awareness to each other. What happens in the state of confusion is that some new awareness is not matching up with the awareness we expected. We say that our expectation was mistaken, or perhaps we say we are being tricked. Either way, what happens is we have a new object of awareness to we deal with that was unexpected. It isn't that the objects which we are aware of cease to exist, it is that our associations among objects of awareness was flawed.
This brings us to an important point about the awareness of objects and the objects themselves. Wherever we are aware of an object we can affect it. In it's simplest form, what we see is affected by closing our eyes. What we touch is affected by touching. What we think about is affected by our thought process Where there is an ability to affect contents of experience, we see a correspondence in our awareness of those things.
Take as examples, the number 2, clouds, stars, paintings by Gustav Klimt, the sexuality expressed by Klimt, the feeling of excitement at a concert, internal combustion, the force of gravity, even change itself. You are aware of the things I just listed. Not in the same way that I am, but nonetheless, this list of things are contents of your awareness.
There is nothing we can name, where we can somehow magically extract awareness from the thing itself. Any sort of object, or action, or event, or idea, or error is intimately tied to awareness. All the stuff that exists, co - exists as an awareness of the object. Wherever you have an instance of awareness, you will find the content of that awareness. And wherever there is some object or property or action there is an associated awareness of it. Objects do not exist absent an awareness of them. And the awareness of the object, and the object itself are always in accord with each other.
This does not mean that what you believe about an object and the object are the same things. Your belief and the object are actually two different objects of awareness, two different experiences that are associated together.
Let's consider clouds. We can see clouds, and paintings and photos of clouds, and we have memories of clouds. But each of these experiences is in fact different. Clouds themselves are always changing. But we associate them all together under the umbrella idea we call clouds. Each of those experiences, the photos of clouds from an airplane, the sight of clouds at sunset, the drawings of clouds we make, or the memories we have of clouds are all specific experiences, specific objects of awareness in their own right. And our awareness of them is different from our awareness of the idea of clouds. The memory of a cloud is different from seeing a cloud, just as a photo of a cloud is different from a painting of a cloud. Yet we associate them all together.
Each specific experience is exactly like the object experienced. The photo of the cloud is exactly like the experience of the photo of the cloud. The sunset clouds are exactly as we see them. Our awareness of an object and the object are identical. Our ideas about clouds is exactly the same as our awareness of our ideas about clouds. Awareness of a thing is exactly the same as the thing itself.
If we are watching clouds and we see them change we say, look at the cloud change. The cloud before and the "same" cloud after are not identical. We associate the two states of the cloud together to refer to it as the 'same' cloud. From a brain perspective, the neural signals we receive in the first instance are not identical to the neural signals from our retinas in the second instance. We associate these different sights of a a cloud together as if they were the same, but we also recognize the cloud is different before and after.
And the difference of an object before and after is a difference not only of the clouds, but of awareness. Our awareness of the clouds is different. As our awareness of an object changes, the object changes. It is not the same object, anymore than it is the same awareness. We assert the cloud is the same, but that is an assertion and not a fact. We assume that the cloud is the same because we associate our experience, our awareness of clouds before and after as if it were a changing cloud. But the changing cloud is an abstraction from separate experiences.
Illusionist tricks are good examples where this certainty is misled. Into a hat go some flowers and out comes a rabbit. From a playing card results a flash of light where a dove appears. These sleights-of-hand, while they are deceptions, play on this association making. But they point out the deeper condition that variations in awareness always correspond to variations in objects. We don't say the flowers and the bunny are the same thing, because the difference in the experiences is too dramatic compared to what we have learned about the consistency of experience.
When we watch a movie we are seeing many different pictures and associating them together as if they were a moving image. The way a movie is shot, the images may have been taken days or weeks or months apart and only edited together to give the appearance of motion. This association making is important but here we are concerned with the actual awareness of things.
And in case after case, what we see is that as awareness varies, the contents, the objects of awareness vary. And as an object varies, the awareness of the object varies.
This fact can be expressed with a function. Whenever there is an object there is awareness of the object. And wherever there is awareness there is awareness of an object and it is the same as the object. Awareness of objects and objects themselves form an identity.
We can describe this relationship with a symbolic function..
AW:x = x
Awareness of an object is the same as the object. And whenever we see an object vary we see the awareness of the object vary. Whenever one side of the equation varies, the other side varies.