Beauty, Practice, and Enlightenment: Justin Kagan and Consciousness Studies at Goddard

IMG_9247I started thinking about the traditional relationship between beauty and practice and this unintentional detour gave way to the path I’m on now. By the end of this thesis, I intend to produce a theory to contribute to the immense body of knowledge that is Consciousness Studies, a theory that identifies the aesthetics of our consciousness and how different forms of practice, often informed by world traditions, develop consciousness differently.

My study began with some very big questions: What is enlightenment? How do we achieve it? How do we teach it?

My thesis is focusing on the relationship between consciousness, practice, and aesthetics. Specifically, I’m engaging the idea that there is something we can do to develop our consciousness and that the aesthetics of this practice have an affect on our experience. I am pulling from various world traditions to help elucidate this idea, identifying the aesthetics of their practices to provide commentary on how we approach our own ongoing development. For example, Zen meditation and New Age meditation  look and feel different. I am seeking to show how differences in aesthetics of practice like this change the context of our development and therefore affects the aesthetic of our developed consciousness. In short, the context of our practice determines the entire look and feel of the consciousness we develop from it.

Initially, the low residency model is what drew me to Goddard. I think a related question worth answering is what kept me at Goddard. The first residency was the coldest winter Vermont had seen in a some time and although I was prepared with all my gear, it was still a very foreign experience for this Florida grown boy. On top of the weather, I was working through my own issues of physical injury from a very recent car accident and the emotional questioning that comes with any significant investment of time and money. Anyone who has been to a residency at Goddard knows the ineffable magic of the space created there. Every single encounter is filled with the opportunity to discuss something interesting. Goddard students aren’t just studying the knowledge in their field; we’re creating it! So a meal at residency isn’t just sitting down to eat with friends — it’s an open discussion of interwoven scholarship giving rise to new views on old subjects and application of traditional knowledge to new views.

The most important thing I learned about myself at Goddard is that I have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Goddard gave me the opportunity to explore my own interests and find their intersection in the academic world. I was able to study religion, culture, art, aesthetics, consciousness, philosophy, alchemy, meditation, pottery, yoga, and so much more. This has shown me how much I want to continue on this path, but also how much I want to share with others. I am working towards a college teaching position where I can help others find their paths and passions.

In a sense I feel I have answered some of my initial questions, at least as they pertain to my own experience: Enlightenment is awareness and knowing — knowing who I am and being aware of my place in this world. We each achieve it on our own path and in our own right. To be taught enlightenment is to learn how learn openly and consciously.

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This entry was posted in Consciousness Studies/Transpersonal Psychology, Philosophy & Neurophilosophy, Spirituality & Religion, Yoga and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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