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What is consciousness?

Posted: Sat Oct 25, 2014 6:23 pm
by runstrails
Karmarider's post prompted this. I would say an inquiry into consciousness is one of the most fundamental explorations in spirituality. So whether you've conducted your own spiritual/scientific inquiry, received wisdom from celestial beings or your knowledge is from deep faith, come join the fun!

I'll go first: (note--I use consciousness and awareness interchangeably).

1. Is consciousness limited to the brain? Why or why not?
This is the toughest question of all, I think! Obviously there is NDE and OBE evidence to suggest that consciousness is not limited to the brain. But there is also evidence to suggest that OBEs and NDEs may in fact be brain-based states. However, I believe that consciousness is not brain based. But its very hard for me to explain it. All our perception is brain-based so all our knowledge of the brain is also ultimately brain-based which makes it kind of an endless feedback loop-but awareness needs to be beyond the brain to be aware of this loop. Also, like Ramana, I have a deep belief that when the body dies, awareness does not die with it.
But I am also comfortable with a brain-based consciousness. Because ultimately, if reality is non-dual (and it is) then whether you are limited to the body or not, you are still that one self-aware reality.

2. Does consciousness evolve?
No. What you truly are does not evolve. Human understanding and sense perception may evolve--but not awareness.


3. What is the nature of the phenomenal world?
It's definitely not the physical, newtonian reality that we see. No one really knows the substrate of existence.


4. Is awareness related to sentience or is everything aware (including inanimate objects)?
I would say that only sentient beings are aware.


5. Can the phenomenal world exist without awareness?
No. Phenomenal reality appears to be dependent of our awareness of it. Sense objects, senses and awareness form a continuum. Ultimately, you can have awareness without sense objects (like in deep sleep), but you cannot have sense objects without awareness.


These are questions that have confounded the best of scientists and philosophers. But we can take them on here----no one can accuse this forum of being lightweight :wink:.

Obviously there are no right answers---only diverse opinions, all of which are welcome here.


Oh and feel free to add your own questions too!

Re: What is consciousness?

Posted: Sat Oct 25, 2014 8:45 pm
by Rob X
runstrails wrote:These are questions that have confounded the best of scientists and philosophers. But we can take them on here----no one can accuse this forum of being lightweight :wink:.
Yeah… let's show those pesky philosophers RT. :D

1. Is consciousness limited to the brain? Why or why not?

I would agree with William James that consciousness depends on the brain for the way it manifests in human organisms - but is not dependent on the brain for its existence.

3. What is the nature of the phenomenal world? 5. Can the phenomenal world exist without awareness?

Although I don't subscribe to the materialist conception of reality I'm also wary of the idealist outlook (all is mind or consciousness.) In fact I'm convinced that this question is of the sort that human cognition is ill equipped to deal with. When we say that we are consciousness I suspect that we arrive at this by looking to that which is the most undeniable in our experience and we stop at consciousness since that is - from our human perspective - at the top of the food chain (so to speak.) But I'm not confident about the validity of this conclusion. Conscious perception, as with all types of phenomena, is the product of a source beyond our understanding.

This source may well be what (many) teachers are referring to when they use the designation 'consciousness'. But to call it that - for me - is needlessly confusing. Admittedly there isn't a satisfactory designation but I would prefer (the more neutral) Being or Reality or Source.

What the nature of this mysterious Source actually is, nobody knows. To take a side with either Consciousness or energy/matter (or any other metaphysical formula) seems to me to presume more than we can truthfully know.

4. Is awareness related to sentience or is everything aware (including inanimate objects)?

Here is an interesting take on this from philosopher (and friend of ET) Peter Russell:

The underlying assumption of the current metaparadigm is that matter is insentient. The alternative is that the faculty of consciousness is a fundamental quality of nature. Consciousness does not arise from some particular arrangement of nerve cells or processes going on between them, or from any other physical features; it is always present. If the faculty of consciousness is always present, then the relationship between consciousness and nervous systems needs to be rethought. Rather than creating consciousness, nervous systems may be amplifiers of consciousness, increasing the richness and quality of experience.

Re: What is consciousness?

Posted: Sat Oct 25, 2014 9:38 pm
by Enlightened2B
Excellent post by Rob. I very much agree with him. There's the extreme materialistic perspective and then there's the solipsistic idealistic perspective. Both are extreme and quite limited to say the least as I see it.

1. Is consciousness limited to the brain? Why or why not?
I don't think so. But, I think our understanding of consciousness is very black/white as seen by some of the discussions on this board (which I've been included in). When we talk about consciousness, we only imagine humans or certain animals with this form of consciousness and therefore, always assume a brain is related. However, I think the consciousness that we experience as humans, is merely one potentially evolved version of the same source energy that runs through everything in existence. The reason I believe consciousness is not limited to the brain is in the evidence of NDE's. There is plentiful to consider in that research, that it is more than likely that consciousness is beyond the brain.I really don't even question this anymore. Granted, I'm still open to being wrong.

2. Does consciousness evolve?
Again, it depends what we mean by consciousness. Evolution seems to be happening with the physical forms themselves, but I wouldn't be shocked to find out that evolution perhaps, is not what it seems to be.


3. What is the nature of the phenomenal world?
Energy. The same energy that livens this body in the form of consciousness is the same source energy that livens this computer I am typing on.


4. Is awareness related to sentience or is everything aware (including inanimate objects)?
Again, depends what we mean by 'aware'. A computer itself is created by man. Therefore, a computer does not have life in the same way a sentient being does. However, when you go down the microscopic level of a computer, particles are at the core. Particles are aware in a very different way that us humans are aware. But, it is still that very same awareness that this body experiences, just being experienced differently (humans experience it through a brain with a different type of experience). That's what the Double Slit experiment is all about. It's been completely misinterpreted into the idea of 'an human mind creates reality' which is simply not true and completely silly. Instead, it's when particles interact with each other that an observer comes into the picutre. Therefore, an observer can just as easily be another particle.....which means that everything in existence, including particles themselves, is conscious on a level that we simply cannot comprehend from our limited human minds and nor will I attempt to try. :)

Here's the quote from Natalie Sudman which has gone along with the change in my outlook as well:

Although we arbitrarily assign consciousness to only a few things in our current definition of what is real in this physical universe, it becomes clear in the expanded consciousness perspective that all form has consciousness. And all of consciousness cooperates to co-create and maintain what we think of as our physical world reality.”


5. Can the phenomenal world exist without awareness?
Again, depends what we mean by Awareness. There is no objective reality outside of the perception of it. But, that is not just human perception. It is all perception. The perception of a human, dog, tree, rock, all matter, non matter co-create this seemingly objective universe all from unique conscious perspectives. If we suppose that the world only exists within the mind of a human observer, the question becomes insane because we know the universe existed well before human/sentient life. Therefore, if the universe existed prior to sentient life, then the universe itself has to be conscious from the most micro levels of particles to planets, galaxies, universe and infinitely beyond into non physical realities.

Re: What is consciousness?

Posted: Sat Oct 25, 2014 9:48 pm
by Phil2
runstrails wrote:

4. Is awareness related to sentience or is everything aware (including inanimate objects)?
I would say that only sentient beings are aware.

But RT, how many awarenesses do you think there are ? Do you think there is one separate awareness in each so-called 'sentient form' (ie. in each human and animal) ? Which of course is what most people believe ... but then this number of awarenesses is very difficult to establish, because what is meant exactly by 'sentient being', is an amiba a sentient being ? or a virus ?

Or do you think there is only ONE awareness, and that this formless awareness is quite independant of all forms ? That this awareness is the space in which all forms are manifested ...

??

Re: What is consciousness?

Posted: Sat Oct 25, 2014 10:30 pm
by Clouded
About the brain, I read somewhere that the human eye is equipped to see at the quantum level but it is the brain that decides what information is kept or rejected, and so it filters out all information that is deemed unnecessary for our survival, or else we'd be bombarded with information and probably go crazy trying to make sense out of everything. There are a lot of things that we do that we take for granted, like grabbing something on a table before us and it seems like it took no effort, but "phantom" calculations were made in your mind to successfully complete this action but you just weren't consciously aware of them. So you have this incredible brain that can do all of these complex things that you cannot witness fully from the raw beginning to the end, so it makes me think that awareness is linked to the brain because it is the brain that decides what we are limited to sense. Or would you people consider subconscious thinking a part of awareness? I don't know if my brain is separate from what I really am because it sure does a lot of things behind my back and it affects how I experience this life, it's stronger than I can ever be. I didn't read any NDE articles but I do know that you don't need eyes to see; you can see things in your mind's eye, so maybe they were only imagining what they saw and were able to completely access their memory and recollected things that they weren't consciously aware of before their NDE but was stored into their subconscious. I'd be more surprised if a person born blind was able to see how the world usually looks like during an NDE.

Re: What is consciousness?

Posted: Sun Oct 26, 2014 1:10 am
by runstrails
Good stuff, everyone!
Phil2 wrote:Or do you think there is only ONE awareness, and that this formless awareness is quite independent of all forms ?
Yes, only one awareness ultimately---but perceiving through many forms.

Re: What is consciousness?

Posted: Sun Oct 26, 2014 1:26 am
by smiileyjen101
Clouded said: I'd be more surprised if a person born blind was able to see how the world usually looks like during an NDE.
Ask and you shall receive Clouded :D Vicki Umipeg's recounting absolutely changed her life blind from birth with her optic nerve completely destroyed.
"This was," she said, "the only time I could ever relate to seeing and to what light was, because I experienced it."
Further description of her experience here http://www.near-death.com/experiences/evidence03.html

Re: What is consciousness?

Posted: Sun Oct 26, 2014 1:41 am
by smiileyjen101
1. Is consciousness limited to the brain? Why or why not?
I tend to think of consciousness as creation energy. Creation energy created the brain, so umm short answer, no.

2. Does consciousness evolve?
With or without humans and their wonderful brains, yep. Which actually puts me outside of most of the generally accepted philosophies :shock:


3. What is the nature of the phenomenal world?
What phenomenal world? :lol: Apologies that's adding a separation for me that doesn't exist.


4. Is awareness related to sentience or is everything aware (including inanimate objects)?
If 'consciousness' is creation energy then everything is consciousness therefore to whatever degree or aspect of creation energy everything experiences those aspects of awareness. Including inanimate objects - how else could the human brain evolve to even ask the question?


5. Can the phenomenal world exist without awareness?
Depends if you think awareness is personal. What you think you create, so any answer is right.
Oh and feel free to add your own questions too!
How come, if science understands that the energy that was before the 'big bang' is all that is, in different 'forms' and if the physical evidence supports this, and it is accepted that energy never dies it just changes form - how come they don't understand the implications of that permeates everything?

(apologies - my confusion is such that I can't even adequately form the question)

Re: What is consciousness?

Posted: Sun Oct 26, 2014 2:02 am
by rachMiel
1. Is consciousness limited to the brain? Why or why not?
No. The brain, body, and nervous system all play key roles.

2. Does consciousness evolve?
I don't know.

3. What is the nature of the phenomenal world?
It's mind's interpretation of the stuff (matter, energy, waves, whatever) that's actually there.

4. Is awareness related to sentience or is everything aware (including inanimate objects)?
I don't know.

5. Can the phenomenal world exist without awareness?
No. Form is a product of mind.

Re: What is consciousness?

Posted: Sun Oct 26, 2014 4:06 am
by karmarider
1. Is consciousness limited to the brain? Why or why not?

No, it cannot be. The physical world is not physical. It's a subjective world of perceptions arising consciousness. And so the physical brain is perception arising in consciousness.

2. Does consciousness evolve?
No. Consciousness is truth and truth is unchangeable.

3. What is the nature of the phenomenal world?

There is only the arising of perceptions in consciousness. There is no phenomenal world.


4. Is awareness related to sentience or is everything aware (including inanimate objects)?

Everything is perception arising in consciousness. Consciousness is all there is.


5. Can the phenomenal world exist without awareness?

No.

Re: What is consciousness?

Posted: Sun Oct 26, 2014 4:10 am
by karmarider
smiileyjen101 wrote:How come, if science understands that the energy that was before the 'big bang' is all that is, in different 'forms' and if the physical evidence supports this, and it is accepted that energy never dies it just changes form - how come they don't understand the implications of that permeates everything?

(apologies - my confusion is such that I can't even adequately form the question)
Science makes the assumption of an objective phenomenal world. Quantum physics is challenging this assumption but that I don't think the challenge has gained much ground in mainstream science.

Re: What is consciousness?

Posted: Sun Oct 26, 2014 2:25 pm
by Onceler
My sense is that consciousness and awareness are parrallel processes, awareness being everything and consciousness being a brain based subset of awareness. Consciousness is an incredibly condensed sub program of awareness designed specifically for the human operating system. These two processes are smoothly integrated in the human perception and we can move between them, not always knowing which we are in. Awareness can evolve through consciousness. Non-sentient matter is awareness, but does not have consciousness.

Okay, far too dualistic, simplistic, heuristic.....it's all I've got.

Re: What is consciousness?

Posted: Sun Oct 26, 2014 3:08 pm
by Phil2
karmarider wrote: Science makes the assumption of an objective phenomenal world.
Right KR, this is the fundamental 'mis-take' of science ... this is why science will never be able to 'explain' consciousness or even locate it ... neuro-scientists even called this "the hard problem of consciousness".

Consciousness is primary to the phenomenal world.

To use a metaphor, let us consider what happens in our dreams. In the dream the dreamer fully identifies with his 'dream body', and thinks that other people or objects he meets in his dream are outside him, 'objective' ... however when the dreamer wakes up he realizes that all those forms were not separate from him, that he did himself produce/create all the forms appearing in his dream.

Now imagine that the dreamer dreams he is a scientist and wants to locate his own consciousness in his dream, do you think that the dreamer will find his consciousness in his dream by explaining the contents and workings of his 'dream brain' ? Of course not, because the 'real' dreamer is unmanifested in his dream (the real dreamer sleeps and is unseen in the dream). All the forms of the dream are produced by some power which cannot be found in the dream, because this power itself is formless.

Re: What is consciousness?

Posted: Sun Oct 26, 2014 4:17 pm
by rachMiel
Onceler wrote:Okay, far too dualistic,
HEY. We'll none that here! Tsk tsk tsk ...

Re: What is consciousness?

Posted: Sun Oct 26, 2014 4:40 pm
by runstrails
y rachMiel » Sun Oct 26, 2014 6:17 am

Onceler wrote:Okay, far too dualistic,


HEY. We'll none that here! Tsk tsk tsk ...
:D
No judgements at all on this thread. Including self-imposed ones. Your opinion is important to us, Onceler.