from: Michael James, Happiness and the Art of Being
The one essential quality of consciousness is that it is always self-conscious – it always knows its own existence or being – and that consciousness of its own existence is what we experience as ‘I am’.
However, in addition to knowing its own existence, our consciousness sometimes seems to know other things also. When our consciousness thus appears to know things other than itself, we call it our ‘mind’.
What exactly is this ‘mind’, this consciousness that knows otherness and duality? Is it the true form of our consciousness, or merely a false superimposition upon our real self consciousness ‘I am’? Is it real, or is it merely a false appearance?
Whenever our mind rises, it rises in conjunction with a body, with which it identifies itself, feeling ‘I am this body’. Without identifying itself with a body, our mind cannot rise. Once it has risen, identifying itself with a particular body, through the five senses of that body it perceives the world.
Thus our mind’s identification with a body is fundamental to its ability to know the world. But how does this identification with a body arise? Our mind is a form of consciousness, whereas this body is a physical form composed of inconscient matter. By identifying itself with this body, our mind is confusing two different things as one. It is confusing consciousness, which is not physical matter, with the physical form of this body, which is not consciousness. Therefore our mind is a confused and spurious form of consciousness, a phantom which is neither our real consciousness ‘I am’, nor the physical form of this body, but which mixes these two different things together, feeling ‘I am this body’.
Though our mind usurps the properties of both our consciousness ‘I am’ and this physical body, it is in fact neither of these two things.