Consciousness is?

Consciousness is?

In another forum, a discussion was underway around the origins of consciousness. As molecular interactions affected consciousness, it must be a molecular effect, and so forth. I chimed in.

The trick with a question like “if consciousness is a molecular phenomenon” is that we’re asking a fundamental question about who we are. Any number of things, such as the free will vs determinism debate spin off of that. In spite of our considerable advances through science, we have still not been able to answer the fundamental question. This, I think, is largely because we’re not framing it correctly.

Science naturally makes the assumption that because it’s been able to explain much of our natural world, it should be able to explain our part in it. What I’ve discovered in my own research is that current scientific method cannot explain consciousness simply because it’s not an effect of physical phenomenon.

Certainly, because it interfaces with our physiology, changes in molecular interactions, mood, restfulness and so forth change how it is experienced and how we experience ourselves. So the study of the effect of molecular and other interactions on consciousness is certainly valid. But it’s a mistake to assume too much.

Consciousness can be understood but not through typical scientific method. Because it is meta-physical, in the strictest sense of the word, it can only be explored through itself. One can perform systematic, repeatable experiments, but they rely on subjectivity. Objective subjectivity thus requires large numbers of subjective explorations and a framework to place experiences in.

This kind of research has been done in the distant past. Reading such literature has extra challenges due to differences in language, culture, and time. It is also often couched in religious beliefs. But if you can filter that out, what you find is a remarkably similar framework across a number of cultures and ages.

It is however a bit of a rabbit hole. For example, there many not be a single “right” answer to questions like the free will vs determinism debate. In a study of consciousness, the answer may be relative. In other words – it depends. Consciousness is found to have different states, each of which brings with it a different understanding of the world. The obvious ones are waking, dreaming and sleeping but there are also others, plus subsets of the first 3. These different states will lead a person to conclude one or the other as ‘correct’.

For example, do you experience free will or determinism in your dreams? Does this change your response to them? Or do you even remember your dreams? Curiously enough, at a certain point, both free will and determinism are seen to be the same thing, so both become true. (laughs)

D**** also raises another challenge of such a study – illusion. People carry dreams in their waking state as well. These are sometimes structured as beliefs. That can have a considerable impact on their perception of reality. To study consciousness, you are studying the container but the container effects the contents, just as the contents affect the container, as much physiological research has demonstrated. How do you remove the variables? You don’t. Your model has to allow for them.

Another trick is that using mind to contemplate what is beyond it can lead you into paradoxes and looping logic. Very tricky to use mind without being trapped by its own preconceptions. This is because concepts of mind change how consciousness is experienced, just as molecular interactions do. In some ways, more so. We call them beliefs.

As for teenagers and pre-teens, it’s useful to consider that they’re in a different state of consciousness so perceive the world quite differently. Thus they reject your parental state and respond in ways we may find incomprehensible. Yet it makes perfect sense to them. Throw in the hormonal effects and you have the generational divide. (laughs)

Last Updated on December 11, 2013 by Davidya

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  1. Frank

    I thought consciousness research proved that free will is a fact. At least in the context of the brainphysiology it is dependant on. Consciousness is pure energy which vibes at different frequencies, which can be seen as objects at a dense frequency.

    Greetings Frank

    nice blog by the way 😉

  2. Davidya

    Hi Frank. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The trick is, consciousness is not dependent on brain physiology. It is affected by it, but not dependent on it. The analogy that comes to mind is a radio. A broadcast is not affected by the condition of the radio but the radio will determine how it is experienced locally.

    Of course, my analogy supports your concept of consciousness as pure energy. (laughs) I would suggest consciousness is more than that. We may experience consciousness as the mover of energy through intention.

    This gets a little tricky as what is true depends on from where you are speaking. In this context, I would observe that consciousness is the container of the energy, not the energy itself. But it’s also true that consciousness is the energy as it is everything it contains. (laughs)

    I also don’t explain physicality quite like that. Our experiences arise in vibration and everything has a unique vibrational signature. But we experience it as physical not because the vibration has lowered but because of the resolution at which we’re experiencing it.

    If vibrations kept rising all the way to source, source would be unimaginably agitated whereas its actually only lively. As you step up layers of resolution it gets finer and calmer. In that sense, the physical is the most agitated. But that’s not a useful way to think of it it either.

    I do talk about how what is becomes here and there on the blog.

  3. Eric

    I’m not sure I can speak to the issue as you frame it ’cause I just don’t see it the same way.

    First off, the difference between consciousness and awareness, if there is one, is not clear in my mind. But more fundamental to my view these days is the rejection of the idea that one has awareness as if there can be a subject and object in this context. If I am not an awareness that needs to posses an awareness in order to be aware, well that seems absurd to me. The same holds true for life. Must I be something that is not life in order to “have” life? I think not, therefore I must be life. And life just is. I hope this is making sense.

    “Consciousness is found to have different states.” This I can understand, but isn’t there an underlying, unchanging awareness that by dint of it’s unchanging nature can perceive the changes? An awareness absolute, if you will, relative to the changes from which we can observe them? And,again, do we posses this awareness or are we this awareness?

    From the point of view of consciousness/awareness being forms of energy with rates of vibration this would be a relevant concept only within space-time and it has been my experience that awareness transcends space-time, making it a limited construct. But we gotta make do with what we got, right?

    Free will and determinism. Wow, there’s a pantload. Let me just say what this morning’s meditation boiled down to; the only thing I need to do is to stop needing to do anything. Not sure if anyone else will see the connection, but my twisted mind does.

    Once again, Davidya, thanks for a wonderfully stimulating post.

  4. Davidya

    Hi Eric
    Being true to what you see is an admirable trait. It reflects thoughtful consideration rather than following the masses. The post on stages of faith touches on that in a different language.

    Consciousness and awareness are terms that some use interchangeably and some make distinctions with. I tend to use awareness in the broader sense of it, consciousness in the specific, as in personal state of consciousness and absolute awareness.

    I think I get what you mean. Awareness is not something we posses. We simply are that. But there is layers to the experience of that. Values of awareness. Layers of awareness aware of itself, and so forth. That does not however reflect what is, just our progression of experience of it.

    Yes, an underlying absolute awareness. And we are that. It is simply a matter of degree/value/ state that we can reflect or experience of that.

    The best way I’ve heard it described is that fundamentally within silence/source, there is a quality of alertness and a quality of liveliness. The liveliness stirs the alertness to become aware. Awareness thus becomes aware of itself. In that recognition, love flows. And thence a desire to know itself more fully. And that leads to all experiences.

    Yes, awareness moving through space-time is experienced as energy. But we have to be careful not to build a concept that that’s what awareness is. Spacetime is the tiniest part of what is.

    I discuss free will vs determinism and how that evolves elsewhere here.

    Your perception this morning is good. The key word there is need. Doing will still be done but when need falls away, it tells us the person is falling away, the imaginary doer.

  5. Davidya

    The group discussion on this post focused on secondary details. A little about Kant. How studying consciousness with consciousness is valid as consciousness does not qualify things – its the mind that you have to watch. Doubt as a tool in scientific study vs what happens when you make a choice. Can consciousness be “proved” as it’s non-physical. And still some suggestion that it might be a molecular effect. (it’s deeply embedded)

  6. Hi Davidya,

    Science in the last five hundred years has done a remarkable job of breaking assumptions. We just have to to look at the heroic works of Da Vinci, Kepler, Copernicus and the lot. However, science itself is not completely above dogma. Einstein turned upside-down all the ideas about space and time, and Planck introduced the naughtiness of quantum mechanics. Even today, science assumes an objective reality and fixed ideas about time and consciousness. Of course this dogma is cracking with research into consciousness and quantum and molecular science. Science uses mathematics; Godel proved that no mathematical system can be complete.

    The point is that everything we know is based on assumptions. What is it that we can really know? Is there free will? Is Consciousness energy and are individuals are transponders? There isn’t much we can know for sure. We know that there is awareness. We know all our experience is always in the Now. It turns out that’s all that we need, and when assumptions fall away, we open up to experiences the mind cannot imagine.

  7. Davidya

    Yes, Kaushik, most knowledge and truth is relative. It’s one of the challenging – an interesting – parts of the journey. When our state of consciousness changes, much of what we had once held true can be found to have no bottom… And it can be surprising what we discover we’ve assumed.

    A friend of mind pointed me to exercises developed by Douglas Harding. He makes the observation that we have no head. There’s just an empty space above our chest. We can see anothers head but not their mind. We can see our mind but not our head. Such exercises may seem silly but they can be a useful way to step out of our own dogmas. For my friend, it helped bump her out of the me.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

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