Put on Your Thinking Caps…..It’s Time to Make up Your Own Mind
What is Consciousness?
-What are the levels of Consciousness? Seven, four, three?
-Does psychology of consciousness differ in its ideas and approach to the subject?
-How does awareness connect to this idea of consciousness (if indeed at all?)
-Is a certain level of complexity needed for such a thing to even occur in the first place?
-Will computers have the ability in the future to reach a conscious state?
Can consciousness be scientifically reduced to chemical and mechanical processes? If so, where do morality, love, unhappiness, and joy fit?
-Is there such a thing at all?
Consciousness is notoriously difficult to explain. On one hand, there are facts about conscious experience - the way a trumpet sound, the way wasabi tastes - which we know subjectively, from the inside. On the other hand, such facts are not readily accommodated in the objective world described by science. How, after all, could the readiness of trumpets or the hot/spicy taste of the wasabi be predicted in advance? How can we know that one will react in a “morally” right way in the millions of different situations we find ourselves in everyday, or exhibit any type of emotion towards something/anything at all?
Scientist, Physics, Sociologist, Psychologist and thinkers the world over have gone to great lengths to decipher this puzzle of our existence, and so far it seems they have come up with ideas like the following:
Substance Dualism: A field that exists in its own parallel “realm” of existence outside reality (so it can’t be seen)
Identity Theory: Simply stated, this theory forwards that mental states are physical events that we can see in brain scans… in essence we can measure and track our consciousness.
Functionalism: This is the idea that consciousness and all its states (defined as things like belief, desire, pain, love, hunger etc) are simply…. functions the brain performs..
Emergent Dualism: Think of this idea of consciousness as a … sensation…of sorts that “grows” out of complicated brain states.
Cognitivism: This idea of consciousness would say that it is so (your conscious state), because the sensation of your most significant thoughts are being highlighted.
Higher Order Theory: The nuts and bolts of this one would say that consciousness is just higher order thoughts. Thoughts about other thoughts
Behaviourism: Literally this is…. the way we behave. When we behave (do) things in a certain way… we appear conscious.
Property Dualism: This theory would have it be that consciousness is a physical property of matter (like electromagnetism), but just not one that we know about.
Pan Psychism: In this school of consciousness all matter has a psychic part. Consciousness is just the psychic part of our brain.
Epiphenomenalism: Besides being hard to pronounce, this idea of our consciousness states that it is actually an accidental side-effect of the complex physical processes in the brain.
Buddhism: Buddhists have their own idea of the conscious state of our being. They believe that consciousness is a continuous stream of over-recurring phenomena, and that they are “pinched” like eddies (think wind, currents, a breeze) into isolated minds within our being.
Quantum Consciousness: Using ideas of quantum entanglement and superposition….(!!!), in other words? It basically states that our classical ideas of physics cannot explain it, but these aforementioned ideas (among other things) can.
Confused yet? Don’t know what to think?
Relax… your not alone.
One of the best (or subsequently most frustrating and annoying) things about the state of being a human is that we do (for whatever the reasons may be)…think.
Not just in the sense of…
Me tired… sleep.
Me cold…. Want warm (although in actuality we do that thousands of times a day in a very rudimentary way). More than just in a reactionary way to things, we actually really … THINK
We ponder the beginnings of our existence, all that has come to pass, the ending of it and beyond.
And therein (at least in my thoughts about this consciousness thing) lies part of the problem (and also all of the solution)
For you see our thoughts (our conscious state) take us to great heights of discoveries and propels our technologies forward. It creates the books we read, the movies we watch, the memories we share and cherish. It gives us a greater appreciation of food, of the beauty around us…of sex. Our consciousness (whatever we perceive it to be) gives us everything that we are….
It also brings about war, hatred, oppression and an obsession with things that seem to deter our species from really reaching its full potential. Our consciousness acts as a mask. While giving us purpose and meaning, it is also something we use to hide the fact we don’t really know much about much at all. It harbours our scared, our insecure and our fearful. Our consciousness lets us down in the sense that it is something we really often don’t give much thought to and often forget we ALL have (and exhibit). Subsequently because of that we end up on a destructive path, not only of ourselves but of others as well.
More often than not we forget our conscious state and we go back to just the rudimentary state…that being…. thinking
So again I ask you… what is consciousness?
Not the easiest of things to answer. Like many of the great riddles of our existence, there can be (depending on your own ideas of such things) a long or short answer… or perhaps no answer at all. As the definitions I have laid out before here showcase, even all the thinkers, scientists, philosophers and the like in the world can’t agree.
So how can we?
Perhaps instead of worrying so much about where this consciousness came from and why we have it in the first place, we could see where it is (and is not) taking us and how our misunderstanding (or lack of acknowledging its existence) hurts us.
Understanding we have such a thing (even at a rudimentary level) would help us when we look at things like pain/hurt/deceit and other fracturing emotions. After all consciousness is what (apparently) makes us aware these things (and so much more)… so what if were to understood that the pain is in all of us, that feeling of hurt, deceit, not being accepted, is something that is a conscious thought/idea within EVERY living person (no matter what you may think of them or what they may have done).. How would this greater understanding of the TOTAL consciousness change us as a species?
Or maybe it REALLY boils down to this:
Consciousness - pure, ever-present, expansive awareness - is not a thing, not an object, not an experience, not a phenomenon capable of being observed. Rather, it is the infinite context in which all things, all phenomena, or all experiences arise, stay a bit, and pass away.
In truth, there is only one consciousness, one awareness, and it is the same in all beings, in all places and times. It is the infinite clearing, the vast emptiness, the unmoving space within which all people, places, and things come and go. But the emptiness itself never comes or goes, or even changes or moves at all. It is beyond time, beyond change, beyond spatio-temporal phenomena altogether, and it is what we truly are.
Aware of time, you are timeless.
Aware of space, you are spaceless.
Aware of forms, you are formless.
And when you discover the truth of this the immediately, undeniably verifiable fact of this, (and that is probably something few… if any of us… will ever be able to do), you will know what this world really is, and you will know exactly what you are doing here.
But for the rest of us, those ( I would say all) of us who are still trying to find our way, remembering the collective consciousness (of us all), not just the ones that tell you about yours…. Is probably the healthiest place (for us all) to begin.