I remember, decades ago, when, as a child with a severe speech impediment I carefully observed the face of my listener as I struggled to communicate. I witnessed, often, the listener’s embarrassment as she or he was presented with an unrequested predicament: here is a person who appears, in some way, to be suffering. Is there anything I should do to alleviate his suffering?
Thus, the struggling, stuttered act of speech quickly took precedence over any verbal content conveyed; metacommunication quickly trumped communication. I saw that the listener, quite appropriately, was much more concerned with the how than the what of communication. Soon, I too was more concerned with my listener’s predicament than with what I was struggling to say.
Over thousands of such interactions I became very familiar with the witnesser, the eye, that oversaw the totality of this situation. This eye, a sort of ontological analogue to my physical eye, watched it all. Like a professional umpire, it did not attach itself to any outcome. It was not concerned with the details of victory or defeat. It even observed my feelings of embarrassment or humiliation, the extremity of my struggle, without judgment. It just acknowledged what was. Thus, this eye observed the other as well as the personal I, integrating it all into a single record. This eye that saw both the other and me must in some sense be other than the other, and other than me.

This is where this game became even more interesting. For, somehow, not only was I observing myself and others and all that occurred to me, I also saw that I saw myself, I was aware of this witnessing eye and registered its perspective and observations just as it registered its observations of me and others. I witnessed the witnesser in its witnessing and therefore there must be this third party, which turns the simple line, of experience and observation of experience, into a triangle, with the third point having the capacity to observe the other two.
As the years passed and with little conscious intent I slowly began to identify and describe the qualities of each locus of this triangle. The first is the earthborn me, subject to all of the ordinary travail and buffeting of daily life. This me is at times powerless and left to cope with events over which it has little or no control. It may have some influence over the rudder but has no control over the wind. Things happen to this me, and this me strives to create a kind of map of understanding which might provide some guidance in a journey in which each step extends further into the unknown. It lives in the vital world.

The second is the observer, the recording device, the machine learning, the pure witness. Its eye is always open, even to dreams and nightmares and astral journeys. It is there, beside the daily I, watching, knowing, validating through its very awareness but never deigning to suggest that what it sees is worthy of this or that. It knows but it does not value or judge; it establishes its worth through the simple act of seeing. We seek to polish and clarify this eye through meditation, philosophical study, prayer. Somehow this eye knows that if it is worth seeing, it is worth seeing clearly.
The third eye is the one that most evades description; it exists, perhaps only through inference; for who sees and knows the witness and the daily I if not an eye with the transcendent capacity to see all? This is the most abstract I, the eye that exists as a sign in a mathematical equation. It is because it must be. Somehow, it sees not only the I, but also the seer. It must be for what is to be to be.

This triangular structure of consciousness is why most descriptions of intelligence come in threes; id, ego, superego; child, parent, adult. The triangle provides awareness with the possibility of reflective consciousness; it bends the two-dimensional line away from itself and thus, by virtue of its distance, establishes the ontological detachment required for observation. But, since the sins of Eden, we have known that this detachment comes at a cost. The capacity for observation of both I and seer creates the distance necessary for choice, for freedom. This remove, which we almost pejoratively describe as detachment, in which both the I and the witness are evaluated, or at least acknowledged, is the basis of human responsibility. As such, it can be shirked but, ultimately, it cannot be denied.

One can wonder if the awareness of the triangular structure of consciousness implies a fourth dimension, from which the three aspects of the triangle are witnessed, and the resultant rectangle then requires an octagon, then the octagon a hexagon, creating an infinite regress of perspectives from which that which is, is seen.
Personally, I think the triangle is enough. All further linear shapes are simple elaborations of the triangle. Once one is not one, one can see that one is not one. The I is observed and the witnesser is acknowledged. Together, they form the tripartite chorus of existence.