“Each atom is to the yogi a living thing, leading its own independent life. These atoms combine into groups for some end and the group manifests a group intelligence, as long as it remains a group; these groups again combining in turn, and forming bodies of a more complex nature, which serves as a vehicle for for higher forms of consciousness. When death comes to the physical body the cells separate and scatter and that which we call decay sets in. The force which has held the cells together is withdrawn, and it becomes free to go its own way and form new combinations. Some go into the body of the plants in the vivinity, and eventually find themselves again in the body of an animal; others remain in the organism of the plant; others remain in the ground for a time, but the life of the atom means incessant and constsnt change. As a leading writer has said: ‘Deat is but an aspect of life, and the destruction of one material form is but a prelude to the building up of another.’” ~William Walker Atkinson
I’ve discussed this before, but it’s worth repeating for this post. When we say that a life form is living, we know what we mean, yet we cannot locate the life in that being. Life exists in it at the cellular level for sure and probably at the atomic level. I’ve also discussed that we are a hierarchy of life, at least on the physical level. We are not a single living entity but a conglomeration of billions of living beings. And that is true of all complex beings.
Start of Life
On the physical level, we know that single-celled lifeforms came first. At least that is the prevailing theory of science. That theory doesn’t explain how and why non-living atoms came together to form those living beings, but we will accept the theory at this point.
The next level of complexity in life came when some of these single cells began to cling together and form a multi-celled being. That most primitive form of multi-celled life
is the sponge still found today in the oceans (and bearing little resemblance to Spongebob Squarepants). In a sponge, there are no specialized cells of any kind. Each cell is the same, like bricks in a brick wall. And yet the spange is able to function as a true multi-celled animal in many ways. It serves as a good example, though, for the point that even in the most complex of beings, each cell is an independent lifeform.
Each of those cells thinks independently, yet they are also engaging in group thinking an multiple levels, as Atkinson notes in the quote. Group thinking has been given a negative connotation today. That is because many see it as the same thing as herd mentality and crowd mentality, but each of those things is slightly different and the first two have more positive aspects than negative ones.
One of the best examples to illustrate positive group thinking is to watch a large flock of birds in flight. The leader of the flock can make a turn and all the others follow with collisions being very rare. In essence, their tiny bird minds are linked together while in flight so the thoughts of one are the thoughts of all. You might call it flock consciousness.
While crowd mentality can certainly be a negative thing, the type of group thinking, or group consciousness, Atkinson is talking about is a positive thing. But whether positive or negative, it is a reality. Individual cells of living beings are conscious on the most basic level. When they group together for a specific purpose, they have a group mentality that is generally useful. We would not live long, for example, if each of our blood cells decided on its own what it was going to do. The fact that all red blood cells carry food and oxygen to all cells in the body makes living possible. The fact that all white cells fight disease, among other things, helps us stay alive and healthy. So even though the cells remain separate, they still engage in a primitive group thinking that allows them to function as if they made up an organ of the body.
Group Thinking in Man
In other cases, different cells form organs like the heart, liver, and longs in more complex beings. Each organ has a group mentality that allows it to perform its function. And all the organs and other parts of a complex lifeform like a human engage in group thinking as a total being so when we want to walk forward, we don’t have one leg trying to go forward and the other going in reverse. While it might be argued that the brain is controlling all of this, there is growing evidence that the mind, especially the subconscious mind that handles such thing as walking and breathing, is not completely in the brain but is spread out and may function separate from the body entirely. In other words, the complete consciousness of a person is not just the brain-mind, but also the group thinking of every cell in the body.
Group Thinking of Spirit and Soul
Is group thinking limited to the physical world? Probably not. In fact, most spiritual and mystery schools have taught for ages that a form of group thinking does function in the spiritual realms. The primary goal of spiritual development is to unite the soul with God or the Universal Consciousness. Forst, of course, we have to awaken the soul. Then we can start developing group thinking on the spiritual level as well as the physical. Then one day we may again be a single Consciousness of All mad up of many individual bits of consciousness.