TED Conversations

Farrukh Yakubov

Student, Purdue University


This conversation is closed.

Where do you think consciousness comes from?

Science can give answers to many things, but consciousness seems to be an unsolved mystery. Why do you think people have consciousness? Where does it come from? Do you think it can be created artificially? How?
You may answer based on anything you know, it does not have to be a proven fact. Thank you.

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    Jul 8 2011: You're going to get answers on both sides of the spectrum here. Ask a neuroscientist and he'll most likely tell you its a function of your brain. Ask a theologist and he'll say it's our little piece of God.

    I have a question for you. Of what use is consciousness if the only being we can be sure is actually conscious is ourselves? see: Plato's Allegory of the Cave.

    Going further. How do we even know that we are actually conscious? (Ever had a dream that seemed so real you couldn't tell the difference?) People used to believe the earth was flat until proven otherwise. So as nice as it is to believe we are all conscious beings, it's equally possible that we may not be. For all we know, this could all be a part of the vivid dream a potato in another dimension is having.
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      Jul 8 2011: It is true that being conscious does not allow us to know wether someone else is actually conscious or not. But, If we didn't have consciousness, we wouldn't even know ourselves. As long as we know ourselves we can say that we are conscious. It does not have to be in reality as we call it. The thing with reality is no matter what it is we only feel and know it in our brain. Therefore, there is no difference between reality and a dream while they are in our brain. In other words, we know the reality only in a way our brain allows us to know; there might be things that are beyond conscious capacity of ourselves. Moreover, you a right about this all could be something's dream that exist somewhere. Entire life could be a dream, even dream within a dream. We can't tell the difference because there is no difference for us, we can't go beyond what our brain tells us.
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        Jul 8 2011: Hi Farrukh,
        To be honest, I was actually playing the devils advocate a little. I think there is proof enough for consciousness based on a combination of a need to survive and free-will. If we didn't have something to save, there would be no need for the preservation of self instinct.
      • Jul 11 2011: I like your explanations. You seem to be very brilliant! I agree when you said our entire life could be a dream, even dream within a dream. Our world is in our minds. Our mind is the world or universe. Consciousness comes from the mind through our physical and mind senses. But I think you wanted an answer more than that like, Who gave us consciousness, like a God that created it, is not what you're looking for as one would ask then who created God? It's a chicken and egg analogy.

        Could consciousness come from desire in our mind? I agree with you that consciousness is a kind of energy, a kind of cosmic energy in the universe or outside of our universe or physical world. Where is the source of this energy? I'm extremely interested to know too. :)
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          Jul 11 2011: I believe that we know very little about capabilities of our mind. Everything I know about consciousness is just what my own consciousness lets me to know, so I would really like to find answers to these questions too. For now we are logically trapped in a 'universal puzzle'. But one day we will learn to use our minds to reveal the pages of undiscovered chapter of science, and find the answers that we were looking for a long time.
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        Jul 12 2011: Farrukh,
        You say..."we know the reality only in a way our brain allows us to know". You also state..."we can't go beyond what our brain tells us". Does the brain program us as individuals? Or do we program the brain? My perception is that we program the brain. So the brain doesn't really "allow" us, but rather, it is the "hard drive" of our computer:>) We program it! It is said that we use only about 10% of our brain capacity. What do you think happens when we open the mind to the possibility of channeling more information/energy through the brain? I don't feel "trapped".:>)
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          Jul 12 2011: I think that even we learn to take 100% advantage of our brain, and find answers to all unanswered questions, there will be new questions emerging that we struggle to find answers.
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          Jul 14 2011: I think we start with the data already on our hard drives-DNA- that was passed down from our parents,and update it as we go- much the same as previous custodians of this data base have done since the beginning of this form of existance.
        • Jul 15 2011: If the brain is indeed a quantum processor, then it is the environment that programs or shapes our brain. Our survival instinct picks up and then adapts the brain to the environment that is is subjected to. We are evolutionary survival beings after all and have adapted all the way through the ice ages to be here today.

          The little gift of consciousness that we have only allows us to change a small portion of mainly mammalian brain. It allows us to exercise but a small portion of our largely uncontrollable brain. The rest is unconscious on a level that we are only beginning to understand. Within the unconscious (or what i like to call our animal/reptilian brain) we get the different impulses from our environment.

          Being social animals we also herd at a very deep and unconscious level. I have been studying this pattern and it is global and fractal like in nature. Even when we manage to grasp and learn to understand this phenomenon, it is still out of our control.

          We somehow believe that we are logical beings yet emotion usually wins out over ration for the most of us so how much conscious control do we actually exert over ourselves?

          I have studied and understand a little bit about the mind yet i am nowhere near being able to figure out what consciousness actually is for? It takes a lot of conscious effort to try and reprogram the unconscious, especially as we get older. Sure enough we may figure it out, but it may be a long long way away.
        • Jul 16 2011: Stavros, these are my thoughts let me know what you think.

          Agree that our subconscious is an underlying influence in everything - but it isn't absolute. The conscious mind reasons and puts new info into the Subconscious. Sub sends direct requests and sometimes our conscious mind has to intervene with discipline - it has to weigh up oher priorities in our subconscious - e.g. a person on a diet is told to eat a burger - they can stop, and say 'hey, I am on a diet' and then 2 different subconscious drivers are in conflict and this + outside information will be weighed up and we have change/adaption.

          Conscious mind is also a conduit for new info. One silly example is things like changing a password on your computer - my job forces me to do this every 8 weeks - for the first week after changing it, my subconscious automatically types in my old password, because it is still firm in my subconscious. Then I have to delete it and (consciously) put in the new one. Then by the second week the new password has replaced the old one in my subconscious.

          I feel the conscious mind allows us to make optimal decisions, and form new habits (good or bad - the subcon doesn't discriminate, once it's in, it's in) - However the conscious mind does discriminate, and sometimes if we have a bad habit in our subconscious, our conscious mind will notice, and it will look for other info in our subconscious related to that bad thing, and sometimes some info in our subconscious will be in conflict with other info, and we now have a decision point - We will think about it, and we will look for outside info to help make the decision (e.g research google).

          I feel what I'm saying is that the subconscious is a store full of ingredients, and the conscious mind is the chef who will put all the ingredients together and try to make something nice. Some chefs are better than others, so of course some people will eat a McDonalds 5 nights per week and others will eat like Gordon Ramsay all day.
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          Jul 18 2011: The idea that we only use 10% of our brain capacity is a "myth." We use it all.

          Do we "live up to its potential?"

          Probably not. But there are no untapped or latent bits that, if we brought them "online," would give us a cognitive boost.

          The myth is attributable to an erroneous - quantified - reference to William James' work and was cited (I think) in the introduction to Dale Carnegie's book "How to Win Friends and Influence People."
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          Jul 18 2011: I think we only use 10% of our hearts. ;)
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          Jul 19 2011: QUOTE: "I think we only use 10% of our hearts. ;)"

          True enough ... but then 10% of an infinite quantity is ... carry the one ... um ... a lot.
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          Jul 19 2011: Hi Thomas,

          The 10% of our hearts line is from the movie Wedding Crashers. ...if you haven't seen it, I reccomend giving it a shot. Good entertainment.
        • Jul 21 2011: I hate to sound disrespectful, but I feel strongly about the misconception that we only "use" 10% of our brains... Do an MRI, and you will see that this is untrue. There is definitely unused parts, but it's definitely not as large a number as most people think...

          I think it stems from the fact that we can only recall a small amount of what we know, or that our capability for intelligence (organization of data, recall of data, speed of recall) is much higher than our actual intelligence...

          No offense again, I just get ridiculously, pointlessly over-upset about the "we only use 2 of our brain cells!" idea.
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          Jul 21 2011: QUOTE: The 10% of our hearts line is from the movie Wedding Crashers. ...if you haven't seen it, I reccomend giving it a shot. Good entertainment.

          I did see the movie and enjoyed it but don't recall the line ... it sounds like a line Vince Vaughn's character would use.

          [And you've gotten three thumbs up for it ... not bad!]
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        Jul 12 2011: Thanks Lindsay:>)

        I agree Farrukh that there may always be unanswered questions as long as we are on this earth school. If we had all the answers, we wouldn't need to participate in the human exploration. We don't need to "struggle" when we are open to possibilities and willing to say/think/feel... "I don't know for sure". I believe that as we expand our exploration, the capacity of the brain expands with a higher energy vibration, to facilitate more information.
      • Jul 14 2011: The difference between reality and dreaming is clear. Reality is continuous, whereas dreams are not. Today will continue from where yesterday left off. Granted we can only distinguish reality from dream in hindsight, but still the distinction is clear.
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        Jul 14 2011: Shawki,
        I agree that we start with some data/programming in the brain when we come to this earth school... maybe from past lives or universal information. Then we update it, or maybe reprogram some things based on information we get from the life experience...parents, society, various individuals, groups, study, research, etc. Thanks for clarifying my incomplete statement:>)

        I believe that by living mindfully, we can consciously reprogram the brain, and/or we can repeat the same patterns of the old programming. Just as there are various levels of programming with computers, there are various levels of data and programming with the brain. What do you think?
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          Jul 15 2011: Thanks Colleen
          I totally agree.
          Our scientist believe that the gene portion of our DNA-That we got from our parents,who got it from their parents, who got it....contain the blueprint for building every tissue in the body, these genes also describe how to operate and maintain the whole organism,control it's development and stably operates the activities of the brain.
          We, however get to put our body through its paces, much the same as an R&D engineer puts an improved computer or airplane through its paces.
          Consciousness then, is not a thing , but the process of monitoring or experiencing the interaction between our body and the universe as we put it through various configurations relative to other bodies.
      • Jul 16 2011: Farrukh: continue with your research...I am somewhat "jealous" pertaining to your intellect...
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        Jul 17 2011: Shawki,
        I've heard about the DNA theory, and agree that we recieve data/information from that source. I also agree that we "update" the data as we live our lives. I also think there is more on another level. How do we explain, for example, the fact that children born of the same parents are often very different?
        They would obviously have the same DNA and similar life experiences as children? I believed that children born of the the same parents would be similar...until I had 2 children who are very different! Then I started evaluating myself and 7 brothers and sisters! There are obviously similarities, and many differences. Do you think/feel that the differences are reflected in us as individuals with different choices as to how we "put our body through its paces"? I agree that consciousness is partly the process of monitoring/experiencing.

        I agree with you that the environment, survival instinct and adaptation contribute to information that is in the brain. If these were the only factors shaping or programming the brain, wouldn't we all be thinking the same way?

        I also agree that we are "social animals" and can, at times be "herded", as when we accept the "mob mentality" for example. I do not agree that the brain is "largely uncontrolable"...mine isn't anyway!!! LOL !!! I think, as individuals, we are the ONLY entity that has control of our brain. We can make choices to open the mind to information, and we have the choice as to how we will use the information
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          Jul 17 2011: ditto all acoss the board on this post Colleen

          ..I think what we see first see in infants is that true self", before the brain strats to build other guidance and information from interaction with others..parents, family, child minders and just the content of environment around them..including the "mood" of people around them.

          Lucky those who get to emanante and unflod from this "true self"..who never lose contact with that self and who listen to it and takes its guidance all their lives And I agree with your sense that we add to that "true self" over the course of or lives..for better or for worse.

          ..I love this quote of Antonio t. de Nicolas, which underacores and beautifully expand that we always have the freedom to shape our own thoughts and create our own lives

          ."A person's life consists not so much in what happens to him or her but of the means he or she uses to gather that life, and the particular inner faculties to which those memories, images and facts are surrendered so that they not only make their lives through those acts, but make them knowingly."St. John of the Cross Alchemist of the Soul P.16 "
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        Jul 20 2011: You're right when you say that the outside reality is only as real as we are. So the only solution is to think in terms of the individual.

        I know that I exist, regardless of what mental or cognitive activities I do. I am not defined by my relations to external objects, but by my awareness of myself through various activities and states. So I am the only reality. Because in dreams my relations are with a different set of objects than during waking. How are we to judge which of the two states is real? Therefore, relations to "worlds" is not real.

        Now, beyond myself, I can check with you to see if you have similar notions about what is reality. The commonality of experience suggests that the reality of me is the same as the reality of you. That does not mean that we both are simultaneously real, because for me, you are part of the world that is not real. I am part of the world that is not real for you. But each of us is an independent reality. That very fact gives us both commonality. It eliminates the possibility of more than one reality or "consciousness" because if there are two ultimate realities then the process of comparison of our experiences would be impossible.
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      Jul 9 2011: Great points, Corey. I appreciate your sharp comment " Ask a neuroscientist and he'll most likely tell you its a function of your brain. Ask a theologist and he'll say it's our little piece of God."

      Unfortunately many researchers are possessed by brains while looking for some philosophical answers regarding our existence.... Fancy tools! but This kind of mentality goes back to the era of René Descartes. No butcher, surgeon or researcher discovered any image or thought in brains.

      I do understand that Consciousness is impossible without its Observer, which is a playful mind itself, who observes its own spectacles.

      Thank you for vivid thinking! A rare treat.
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        Jul 10 2011: Hi Simone,

        Thank you for the kudos. I'm definitely not saying one answer is better than another but, I think there is a definite distinction between individual and social consciousness. I also think that our brains are far from a perfect recording device so, we can never really be sure about anything we believe to be real. (including consciousness.)

        At best, we can make an educated guess. I liken it to looking at a tree through a dirty window. We can make out the general shape and say, "that's a tree." But, we can't really see the leaves in detail.

        Consciousness could just be a small part of a bigger picture and in my opinion it probably is.

        Anyway, thanks again :)
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          Jul 14 2011: Hi Corey. "a bigger picture" I believe, is our subconscious minds.

          And you've said "I think there is a definite distinction between individual and social consciousness."

          I have been thinking about this for years, especially when people barely understand each other but say that they believe in some "universal consciousness".... I trust that there is no way that any universal consciousness can ever exist. It can be only imagined in one's mind as a hope.
          My explanation? Nature does not allow any minds to exchange their images, sensations or thoughts Directly. "Things in themselves" as great I.Kant said.
          Even telepathy is not really an open door into someone's mind, but just a special massage.

          Consciousness is a unique "production" of one's mind, it is a privately owned domain, where each mind brews its own identity.
          I have my theory that perceptions play a tremendous role in our existence. As an artist I've discovered (for myself) that our perceptions are governed by the same classical artist rules as those we follow while painting in traditional style.
          Each mind must constantly Compare (sensations, images, sounds...), create a Composition from whatever it randomly selects. It has to Focus on something that seems more noticeable, and Frame its Composition for its observations, separating it from the rest "of the world". Corey, as you have already noticed - our minds have difficulties in "recording", "reprinting" anything perfectly. How true. It happens because any mental process
          is based on constant change - change is the only universal law that we can prove within our minds (and do not need any labs). Instability, imperfectness, imbalance and uniqueness - are characteristics of this mighty change responsible for our existence.

          I see our minds as primordial art, sound recording and animation studios.
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          Jul 14 2011: Corey and Simone,
          I agree that several levels of consciousness are all parts of the big picture.

          You believe that consciousness is a "production" of one's mind...the brain? I agree that we may "brew" our own identity, based on information we get from many levels of consciousness, so I don't agree that it is all simply a production of the mind/brain.

          I agree with your theory that perceptions play a role in our life experience, and LOVE your comparison to art. I also had the wonderful experience as a performing artist to create my "scene" with sensations, images, sound, light, actions and reactions...all the different "colors" of life:>)
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      Jul 14 2011: QUOTE: "For all we know, this could all be a part of the vivid dream a potato in another dimension is having."

      In which case, the potato might profit from asking (and answering) the question.

      These kinds of discussions can become a bit self referential - we talk "about" something; and then we talk about "talking about" something, and so on. [I am doing it now.]

      When we talk about consciousness (and where it comes from) more often than not, we are actually talking about "the idea of consciousness."

      And when we are talking about the idea (of anything) - well, anything goes because we can say anything we want about an idea.
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        Jul 15 2011: It definitely makes for good conversation but, the same could be said for quantum physics or religious dogmas. When you can't prove something, all you have to go on are theories. What you have to decide on is which theory works for you.
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          Jul 15 2011: QUOTE: "It definitely makes for good conversation but, the same could be said for quantum physics or religious dogmas."

          Yes, it is a good topic for conversation. One question we might ask is: "Is consciousness a "hard topic" like physics or a "soft topic" like religious dogma and philosophy?

          Not that being dogmatic is a soft topic - it can be studied and the appropriate neurophysiological processes mapped, measured and described. But what we are dogmatic about ... well, that's another story.

          I think we humans are prone to making assumptions. One of them is: If we know a word that describes something, we assume we know what the something is.

          We have a word "consciousness" - it is fair to think we assume we know what that word means - we "invented it" after all.

          I don't think we do.

          Conversations about things we actually know are, usually, very short.

          Conversations about things we think we know, are endless.

          I think knowing what consciousness is would be a good first step in streamlining any conversations we might want to have "about" it.

          There are some lovely simple tales that illustrate my point quite well - a well know one is about a group of people who had read about mangoes and they were discussing what they might taste like. The debate went around and around ... until a fruit seller overheard them and offered them a mango to taste. The discussion ended.

          How many of us can say, "I know what consciousness is?"

          I have found that those of us who (we might assume) could say such a thing (and I have met a few) are extremely unlikely to make such a comment. Those of us who (we might assume) could not make such an assertion are much more likely to talk about it with comments ranging from, "It does not exist," to "It is the foundation of all that there is," and so on.

          Know consciousness.

          Know thyself.
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        Jul 16 2011: QUOTE: "One question we might ask is: "Is consciousness a "hard topic" like physics or a "soft topic" like religious dogma and philosophy?"

        Can you please clarify? I want to make sure I understand you correctly.

        Also, the Mango parable is great!
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          Jul 16 2011: QUOTE: "... is: "Is consciousness a "hard topic" like physics or a "soft topic" like religious dogma and philosophy?"

          Can you please clarify?"

          Sure. Is consciousness "real" ... that is, would it exist, could it exist, does it exist, independently of the mind of human beings (or some such entity?)

          Or is consciousness a pure abstraction with which we can only play "word games?"

          Examples of hard topics might include: chemistry, physics (to a point), marketing, carpentry, emotions, etc.

          Examples of soft topics might include: God (but not religion), Truth (but not truth), philosophy, some theoretical physics (but not for lack of trying to become "hard") and so on.

          Of course, you can see the problem with the question (and the topic) - unless one has tasted the mango, one cannot know what it tastes like; and even if one has tasted the mango (if it were possible,) one cannot tell anyone else what it tastes like. That is the nature of experience.

          Let us assume there is consciousness and that it is real and independent (not, for example, an emergent property of the human brain.)

          Let us assume that human beings can experience it (not simply think about it) ... what would someone who had had such an experience say to someone who hadn't?

          What would someone who had not had such an experience talk about?

          It's an interesting dilemma, isn't it?

          If consciousness exists, and it is possible for a human being to experience it, then, if one wishes to talk about it authoritatively, one would want to pursue such an experience (by what ever means necessary;) and if consciousness does not exist - except as a hypothetical - there is not much point talking about it.

          Unless, of course, we like talking about hypotheticals.

          And apparently we do because we do it a lot.
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        Jul 18 2011: Thank you for the clarification. I agree. There comes a point when the discussion becomes silly and like you said, it's fun to talk about.
    • Jul 17 2011: I havnt actually read the whole conversation but I do want to add this. If beng dead can be defined as not being concious (which it is...when you are dead, you have no conciousness) then we are "dead" for most of our sleep (sleep cycle 1, 2, 3, etc) and even when we are unconcious, we can be thought of as being dead. However, when dreaming lucidly, we are concious of our existence.

      "When you're in bed, you're dead."
      Tuesdays with Morrie

      As for the question in particular, I believe in a more holistic view of conciousness in that it is rooted from a field of sorts as many have described here. However, this is not a scientific view, only philospohical and pseudoscientific at that for I have not done any scientific studies nor do I know enough of nueroscience to actually make a conclusive theory about this question.

      However, I do know of the Global Conciousness Project and how it is allowing for the study of conciousness at a grander scale to help elucidate the effects of our conciousness. This study measures the deviations of random number generator machines used for the lottery and such when large "conciousness events" occur like the Presidential election (2008) and the terrorist attacks of September 11th. This scientific study spanning more than 30 years is using Scientific and Statistical analysis to actually map how our global conciousness behaves. It is very interesting and if we want to actually talk about this topic in a scientific light we should refer to this project as a reference frame.
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        Jul 17 2011: QUOTE: "As for the question in particular, I believe in a more holistic view of conciousness...However, this is not a scientific view, only philospohical and pseudoscientific at that for I have not done any scientific studies nor do I know enough of nueroscience to actually make a conclusive theory about this question.

        Hi Raj,

        Well the guys who know a LOT about neuroscience - V. S. Ramachandran, Gerald Edelman, Edward de Bono et al - can't provide a more definitive (scientific) answer than the one you have.

        Personally, I think we often confuse "awareness" for "consciousness." They are NOT the same thing.
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          Jul 18 2011: Thomas,
          WOW...did Webster's get it wrong?
          Definition of consciousness: "The quality or state of being aware esp. of something within oneself".
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          Jul 18 2011: I love the way you think, Thomas. Unlike the rest of the deeply intuitive living world around us, we learn to communicate through our man-made language. None of our human words/terms can make sense on their own, unless we are explained and agreed upon what they "mean". Otherwise, we would not need any Webster, or even any grammar.... just like other living forms. I'd like to make some workable sense of "consciousness" for the obvious reason that we commonly use this word in different ways. Consciousness is presumably a state of Human mind, where we so desperately want to put things that we experience in our own man-made order. It's possible that our brains are growing into a such large development just because of lots of extra thinking activities. No other living creature even nearly needs this type of mental activity - it uses its instant intuition, and therefore it needs neither a compass, nor an Internet.

          What strange playhouses our minds are!

          As I understand, we are not born with a "consciousness" state of mind. We are born with blessed Awareness - super sensitivity and fantastic alertness. These abilities are getting suppressed as we age by our "consciousness", developed based on our human conventional thinking.

          The universe of subconsciousness is magnificent and ultimately intuitive. I'd call it Awareness. Well, my Out-of-body experience has proved it 100%.
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        Jul 18 2011: QUOTE: "... WOW...did Webster's get it wrong?
        Definition of consciousness: "The quality or state of being aware esp. of something within oneself".

        Hi Colleen,

        Did Webster's get it wrong?

        It depends on whether we are getting "technical" or "colloquial."

        My guess is that with Webster's ... they got it right as far as the "common parlance" is concerned.

        But we are not "common" ... are we?

        Our bodies are, at this moment regulating our heart rate, metabolism, temperature, and so on.

        Do you think "consciousness" has anything to do with that?

        Are we "aware" of it happening?

        Assuming consciousness is playing some role in the maintenance of homeostasis (and it is a debatable point) - do you think - if consciousness took a little break - we could take over using our awareness?
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          Jul 18 2011: Yes...consciousness has something to do with that, and yes, I am aware of it happening.Consciousness and awareness are intertwined according to me and Webster's:>)

          Perhaps that is not true for you, but it is for many of us. To make a broad statement like that is not accurate for some of us:>)
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        Jul 18 2011: QUOTE: "Consciousness and awareness are intertwined according to me and Webster's:>)

        Perhaps that is not true for you, but it is for many of us. To make a broad statement like that is not accurate for some of us:>)

        Well, colloquially, it is true for me too but now we are getting into two different topics: semantics and "authority" for lack a of a better word. (Can someone think of a better word than "authority" for the concept I am conveying?)

        Certainly, there is a relationship between consciousness and awareness but that does not mean the words mean the same thing. Especially when we are engaging in a discussion about where "consciousness comes from." That's the semantics bit.

        Computers can be "aware" of certain things - what you are looking at, for example - there's a TED talk on that - does that mean the computer is "conscious?"

        The "authority" bit rests on the question I have asked a couple of times: "Does anyone know what consciousness is?"

        If some of us "know" what consciousness is, we would have a distinct advantage over those of us who do not. Such people would be "authorities."

        Of course, for those of us who do not know what consciousness is these "authorities" would be unrecognizable.

        I haven't read all the posts ... so maybe someone has said, "Yes, I know what consciousness is."

        But, if no one has, then "anything goes" consciousness MIGHT be the same as awareness; it MIGHT not exist at all; it MIGHT be an illusion resulting from a complex biological process that accidentally resulted in a differential feedback mechanism in the brain; it MIGHT be the Mind of God, and so on.

        Do you know what consciousness is?
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          Jul 18 2011: Thomas,
          You really like to complicate things and talk in circles huh?

          Your statement is "we often confuse "awareness" for "consciousness". They are NOT the same thing".

          The only point I'm making is that I, and many others DO NOT confuse awareness for consciousness. Consciousness is part of awareness and awareness is part of consciousness, in my humble opinion. Perhaps it might help if you read all the posts.
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        Jul 18 2011: Hi Colleen,

        You say, "many others DO NOT confuse awareness for consciousness."

        Yes, perhaps I could have been more clear and said: "Some of us confuse "awareness" for "consciousness, some of the time..."

        In terms of making a distinction between "awareness" and "consciousness, "I'm not sure where this falls: "Consciousness and awareness are intertwined according to me and Webster's"

        Do I like to "complicate things and talk in circles?"

        Not really. I prefer simplicity.

        Circles I kind of like as T.S. Elliot put it: "And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."

        So ... Do you know what consciousness is?
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          Jul 18 2011: Thomas,
          I know what my own experience of consciousness is, which I have expressed.
          As you insightfully say in another comment "know thyself".
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        Jul 18 2011: QUOTE: "I know what my own experience of consciousness is, which I have expressed.
        As you insightfully say in another comment "know thyself"."

        Where did the experience come from?

        Do you think that anyone who has not experienced what you have experienced could understand "where it came from?"
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          Jul 18 2011: Thomas,
          I experienced several levels of consciousness after a near fatal head/brain injury, craniotomy, and NDE/OBE 21 years ago. That was my frist big "lesson" in consciousness/awareness. I have lived my life as an exploration, being an observer, while fully participating in every moment, so the experience was the catalyst for more exploration into religious beliefs, philosophy, psychology, shamanism, science, and many various aspects of life and death.

          I do not believe we need to experience trauma to understand. I believe that in living a mindful, consciously aware life, we can learn, grow, and expand our understanding of anything:>)
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          Jul 18 2011: To quote myself: "At a certain point. It becomes silly."
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        Jul 19 2011: Hi Colleen,

        Yes, I gathered from some of your other posts (in other threads, I think) that you have suffered a serious injury.

        I find language somewhat limiting ... even though we all try to use it well.

        I didn't mean what triggered your experience; I meant, "Where" did you experience consciousness?"

        Where was the consciousness when you experienced it?

        Where were "you?"

        And, regardless of the triggering mechanism - trauma, meditation, mindfulness, revelation, ergot, peyote - do you think someone else who has not had your experience could understand what you are talking about when, for example, you use the word "consciousness?"
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          Jul 20 2011: Dear Thomas,
          First of all, I did not "suffer" anything. To suffer, means to endure, put up with distress, loss, etc. My perception of the experience is that I learned many things I probably would not have learned in any other way, so it was/is an opportunity. Suffering, is holding onto the pain of the challenge, which I do not choose to do. I agree...language is limiting.

          To ask "where did you experience consciousness", is like asking, where do you experience energy? I've said several times on this thread that I experience consciousness as energy. It is everywhere. Can you tell me where electric energy is? It is in lightening...at the generating plant...it runs through electrical lines...into homes, business, recreation areas, etc., does it not? It is 110 volts, 220 volts, and probably many "forms" in between. Electric energy is everywhere and yet you cannot specifically say "where" it is can you? That is how I percieve the energy that is consciousness. It comes into our homes (the body), into a breaker box (the brain) and then is seperated, and it also remains part of the source. When I experience consciousness, it is everywhere...in and around everything that is, and yet I cannot pinpoint it because it is everything and nothing. I am part of the whole...part of the energy of the generating station if you will, and yet I am also a tiny little shining night light, and it is all interconnected.

          I don't honestly know what another person can understand. That part is up to him/her.
          We can only share information and each individual will accept it...or not:>)
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          Jul 20 2011: Some of my experience of consciousness:
          When the body was being loaded into the ambulance, I'm told that I kept saying..."I don't have time for this...I have company coming for dinner, and I have to go home and cook...I don't have time.."
          According to the medical records, I was unconscious, but responding on some level. I don't remember any of this, but apparently, the brain was still connecting with something it knew to be true on a human level...the fact that I was having company for dinner, and didn't want to take time for this other "activity".

          The next conscious state I am aware of is observing the body from another place. I was in ICU after the surgery, and the body (according to the medical records) was hovering between life and death, kept alive with life support systems.
          At that point, apparently there was a small amount of energy running through the body and keeping it barely alive. The rest of "me", or the energy that is my consciousness, was in an expanded state, which was a higher vibration than the body can hold. At that point, the consciousness was aware of a much bigger picture, and there was a sense of all knowing...an expanded sense of something like intuition, or ESP.

          When the energy/consciousness came back into the body, the body stabalized (according to medical records). At that point, I was aware of being in the body, and was aware of what was going on around me to a lesser extent, and I could not communicate. Except...I'm told that I was smiling and giving my visitors a thumbs up:>)

          I experienced another level of consciousness 10 days later, when I was labeled "conscious" according to the medical model, and could communicate on some level. I was in a child like state emotionally and physically at that point.

          After that, there were continually changing levels of consciousness/awareness as the energy began again to function within the body/mind/heart:>)
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        Jul 20 2011: Hi Colleen,

        I was using "suffer" as an intransitive verb, in which case it means: "to be affected by or subject to [something.]"

        QUOTE: To ask "where did you experience consciousness", is like asking, where do you experience energy?

        I can tell you where I experience energy. And, I am sure you can tell us where you experience it too ... if you put you mind to it.

        Where do you experience the taste of an apple? In the apple? On your tongue?

        QUOTE: When I experience consciousness, it is everywhere...in and around everything that is, and yet I cannot pinpoint it because it is everything and nothing. I am part of the whole...part of the energy of the generating station if you will, and yet I am also a tiny little shining night light, and it is all interconnected.

        So, to answer the question, "Where do you think consciousness comes from, might you answer: "Consciousness is an emergent property of consciousness-as-energy (or energy-as-consciousness) interacting with and between a sentient organism and all of creation?"

        Or would you say, "Consciousness just "is" - it doesn't come from anywhere - and we simply experience it as a result of our existence within an infinite field of conscious energy?"

        Or ... something else?

        (As you may have guessed, I am trying to help our good friend Farrukh Yakubov with his original question: Where do you think consciousness comes from?)

        QUOTE: I don't honestly know what another person can understand.

        Probably anything you or I can understand - and through the same process (not circumstance.)

        And I agree with you that "that part is up to him/her."
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          Jul 20 2011: Thomas,
          If you can tell us where and how you experience energy, why don't you do that, rather than asking the same questions over and over again? Please don't tell me what I "might answer". I've answered your questions in a way that I am willing and capable of doing, and you continue to ask the same questions and try to put words in my mouth.

          I experience an apple in much the same way I experience consciousness...with awareness of all that it is...with all my senses...appreciation for the whole apple...the growth...the gift it gives me on so many levels...the beauty...deliciousness...nurturing qualities...the wonder of how it is produced...etc. etc. How do YOU experience an apple?
          How do you experience consciousness? Energy? Awareness?

          No, I did not guess that you are trying to "help our good friend Farrukh". He did a great job with his question, and in my perception does not need help getting answers. It's good to know what you are trying to do though, because it was previously unclear to me.

          You have answered your own question regarding "what another person can understand"..."probably anything you or I can understand" - and through some of the same processes or circumstances. What information a person is willing and able to assimilate is his/her choice. There have been quite a few interesting, informative perceptions put forth on this thread, so again, I don't percieve Farrukh as being in need of help moderating this discussion. He asked a question and is looking for different perspectives, and, quite frankly, I find your comments repetitive, so it would be wonderful if you would present some of your own opinions/perceptions regarding the topic, which I'm sure you are capable of doing:>)
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        Jul 20 2011: QUOTE: "Some of my experience of consciousness..."

        Thank you for sharing that.

        It sounds like a beautifully transforming experience.
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          Jul 20 2011: You are welcome Thomas:>) It was indeed a beautiful experience, and continues to be such.

          I would not say that it was "transforming"...perhaps we are facing another difference in word usage/interpretation? Transform, to me and Webster's, means to change in composition or structure; to change the outward form or appearance; change in character or condition; to cause to undergo genetic transformation...etc." I am still the same "character" with the same physical composition, structure and outward form, appearance and genetics.

          The experience caused me to be more aware of the energy of consciousness on many more levels. It opened channels/programs in the heart, mind and body, that I was previously not aware of on a human conscious level, and connected other channels/programs that I was aware of, but not realizing the interconnections.
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        Jul 20 2011: Hi Colleen,

        I haven't answered the question where I experience energy because no one asked and, even if they had, it is not particularly relevant to the topic. I do not equate "energy" with "consciousness."

        You raise some interesting points.

        Why do I ask the same question over and over?

        Because I have not received an adequate answer.

        With topics like this one, it is often assumed that "opinion" is good enough. The assumption is that the topic is essentially "unknowable" so we might as well just throw around some ideas. Ideas are great. Opinions are fine. But perhaps it is possible to actually know consciousness. Not know about it. Not know what we can do with it. Know consciousness.

        And if one knew consciousness, one might be able to provide Farrukh a definitive answer, or a definitive method of finding an answer for himself (rather than a collection of anecdotes and opinions - which are fine too.)

        You provided an experiential basis in your response so I pursued it.

        This discussion is not actually about you, you know?

        It's about seeing if we can come up with an answer to where consciousness comes from.

        Have you considered that I - or someone else responding - might actually know?

        Have you considered that a "direct answer" might not be possible; and the only way Farrukh will find a meaningful response will be self-discovery?

        I have.

        I have also considered that someone might be able to provide him with an answer that I am unaware of.

        Hence my questions. And I will probably continue to ask them.

        This is not a "social interaction" this is an exploration.

        Make sense?

        EDIT: How do YOU experience an apple?

        I eat it.

        But that wasn't my question. My question was, "Where do you experience it?"

        [There's no need to answer.]

        EDIT: "Please don't tell me what I 'might answer' ... and ... put words in my mouth."

        Colleen, if you read the post again and I think you will see they were questions.
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          Jul 20 2011: Dear Thomas,
          If you "have not recieved an adequate answer", then I understand why you keep asking:>)
          I'm wondering if any answer will be "adequate" in your perception.

          I "know consciousness" as it impacts me, and can only explain my perception with the information that is in my own heart and mind.

          I know this discussion is not about me Thomas, and it is only my thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions and perceptions that I can share about the topic. You ask me questions about my experiences, then tell me the discussion is not actually about me?

          I already told you about my perception that many people "know", and have expressed themselves very well on this thread. Are you listening? Hearing? I also expressed my belief that each and every one may have different perceptions/beliefs about the topic. Of course this is an exploration, and it makes a lot of sense to me in the many ways I have expressed:>)

          I already answered your question regarding the apple to the best of my ability.

          I read your post several times, while "listening" and being aware on several different levels, which is how I read and reply to all comments:>)
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        Jul 20 2011: QUOTE: "The experience caused me to be more aware of the energy of consciousness on many more levels. It opened channels/programs in the heart, mind and body, that I was previously not aware of on a human conscious level, and connected other channels/programs that I was aware of, but not realizing the interconnections."

        Sounds lovely.
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        Jul 20 2011: Hi Colleen,

        Yes, there are answers that would satisfy my very particular questions. On July 8, Ed Shulte provided a very succinct response that I find adequate.

        I have not confirmed with him whether his answer is "a guess" based on applied logic or whether he "knows" his answer to be true but, as it stands, it is probably the best answer so far. It's not much use to Farruhk ... unless he can arrive at the same answer by independent means but it is a good answer.

        And I agree with you there are many other wonderful responses in the thread. Most of the ones I have read would fall under the category of conjecture (and there's nothing wrong with that - the question is, "Where do YOU THINK consciousness comes from?")

        I do not equate our experiences or our cognition with the self but, if you would like to have questions about your experiences and about your ideas be "about you," we can do that. In that capacity let me make a recommendation: If you have answered my question, about the apple, to the best of your ability; and if you have "listened" to my post on several different levels before you replied, then I recommend that you subtract some of the filters you apply to your "listening." They are distorting what you hear. Let me rephrase that, they are distorting what I say.

        For instance, you did not answer MY question about the apple at all. You answered YOUR question about the apple. It was an excellent answer but not to my question.

        This is tangential to the discussion but perhaps useful. Perhaps not.
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          Jul 20 2011: Thomas,
          I am glad you found something "adequate" in this discussion.
          You say..."It's not much use to Farruhk...unless he can arrive at the same answer by independent means...".
          That does not seem consistent with one of your previous statements, which I agree with..."In the end, I come to the same conclusion we are all the same. We just describe our "sameness" differently". In my perception, we don't have to have the same answer, if/when we can find common ground, even if the wording is not the same.

          I percieve several of the comments on this thread to express similar answers to the question, and I also feel that we are all much the same, and describe our experiences of "sameness" differently.

          You have questioned my experiences, and I respected your questioning with honest replies. Interesting statement Thomas..."...if you would like to have questions about your experiences and about your ideas be "about you", we can do that". LOL!
          Who else do you think/feel statements about MY experiences and ideas might be about?
          If you don't honestly want to hear about my experiences...don't ask:>)

          Re: Who did, or did not answer the question about the apple.
          You say in previous statements..." We can describe our own experience and if another person's account matches our own (even remotely) assume we may have a shared foundation". "I had to learn to listen to the message "behind" the "words".
          I agree with these insightful comments Thomas.

          I have considered your recommendations, and percieve them as not very useful. You are the only one who can do anything about the distortions in what you say:>) I have no desire to go round in circles with words that contradict.
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        Jul 21 2011: Hi Colleen,

        I suspect on some level you are doing this intentionally but allow me to point out the application of a filter that is distorting what I am saying, what you are hearing, and, as a result, how you reply.

        You open with the line, "I am glad you found something "adequate" in this discussion."

        Colleen, you know that is not what I said. The subtlety is evident and the statement must serve some purpose - it could be an "idle" mistake - but you have said you are very careful in your replies, so I think not.

        QUOTE: "You are the only one who can do anything about the distortions in what you say:>)"

        I agree but, as you can see, I must also take responsibility for the distortions that others, including yourself, hear. That is, if it is important to me that "others" hear and understand me. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it is not.

        QUOTE: "I have no desire to go round in circles with words that contradict."

        Then stop doing it. The words that "contradict" are, I suggest, the editorial comments, appended by your inner narrative to my own.

        You have skillfully extracted excerpts from my posts and constructed them so as to support your own conclusion [very well done, I might add.]

        I share you opinion: "I have no desire to go round in circles with words that contradict." So I will not address them further. For one thing, it would not advance the topic of the thread.
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          Jul 21 2011: Thomas,
          I repeated EXACTLY what you wrote...word for word....of your own construct:>)
          I have made no conclusions, but rather reflected back to you, your own words. Thank you for saying it is well done:>)

          The only way it may advance the topic of this thread is to demonstrate how consciously aware we are of the words we use and how we communicate...or not:>) My mind and heart are always open to commonalities. It feels like you do not percieve very many of other people's ideas (mine included) to be "adequate".
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        Jul 21 2011: QUOTE: "I repeated EXACTLY what you wrote...word for word....of your own construct:>)"

        Well you did use my words but you did not repeat them "EXACTLY" the way I used them. (You know this ... so why you did it might be useful to contemplate just a bit.)

        QUOTE: It feels like you do not percieve very many of other people's ideas (mine included) to be "adequate"."

        Thank you for using the qualifier "it feels like." That has not been my intention (and, again, I suspect you actually know this on one of your levels of consciousness.)

        Allow me to clarify: What I said was I had not received adequate replies to "my question." That was not meant to imply there are no adequate replies to Farruhk's question. Or that there were no adequate replies at all.

        I actually like many of your replies. You are speaking sincerely from personal experience. That's as good as it gets.
    • Jul 21 2011: I'm actually both thiest and neurology (not a neurologist :P). I propose the idea that God made the brain. I'm actually averse to the general idea that "science is the devil." So, God made the brain, and the brain makes consciousness. Take away the brain, no consciousness... Like a veggie.

      I've already replied, but I figured i'd troll. I don't think it's anything mystical, or anything to hypothesize about. It's brain capacity. Whether you're a theist or not, that's what it scientifically is. And plants are green because of chlorophyll... (dear god, I hope I'm right about that plant thing :S)
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      Jul 8 2011: Hi Jim,
      I am with you in believing science can explain to us the function and mechanisms of the brain. For example, the study of brain activity in sleep:
      It shows that the brain still functions to maintain other critical activities in the body.

      HOWEVER, have you considered your experience during deep sleep? In that state, your senses and your mind are not active. Which means you are not indulging in activities that contribute to, or are part of, your identity. In fact, after a really deep sleep, your space-time awareness is absent for significant duration. You might have difficulty walking, like you never walked before. You might not remember who you are, etc. for short duration. That is a continuation of the deep sleep situation. In other words, you feel "groggy", meaning that your definition of yourself is hazy to nearly-absent. After that, "YOU" somehow "return" to an awareness of yourself. And all this while the brain still shows activity.

      This shows there is a complete disconnect of "YOU" from the physical body. This "YOU" is not the senses, not the mind, not the personality. It's something totally non-physical. That "YOU" is what I call "naked consciousness". It is not a product of space and time and biology.

      If there were no demonstration that such a disconnection can happen, then I would completely agree that we are entirely a product of our brains and neural activity.
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          Jul 11 2011: Where does the sense of "I" come from? You can locate functions in various organs, but you can't locate "I". "I" exist as long as "I" am alive, meaning "my" body is alive.

          A brain-dead person is not pronounced clinically dead. This implies that the center of consciousness is not a single organ, but the entire body. It's an energy that activates the organs. The definition of death is still unclear. What is clear is that after death, the physical parts are all here, but "something else" is missing. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death#Problems_of_definition

          You are still not considering the deeply subjective reflection and experience that consciousness means.You are still talking about the "utilitarian" mode of consciousness, which is used for physiological functions. It is the "social identity-building" mode. The "absolute" conscousness is linked to life and death, not to identity.

          If you say it's all a system of electrochemical processes, then I ask the origin of the processes. You would have to agree that there is a separation between the grey matter and the electrical signals running through it. That electrical energy is a mode of the "absolute" consciousness. The DNA is matter, but the "information" it contains is a mode of consciousness.

          Perhaps "consciousness" is another of those unfortunate semantic-confused words.
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          Jul 11 2011: Moreover, have you considered the one flaw of empirical study of consciousness, that it needs objectivity. Objectivity means a total separation of the observer from the observed. Such objectivity is experiencing stress even in non-biological studies like quantum physics and cosmology (like you said in another discussion, "Model Dependent Realism"). Even more so such objectivity will be compromised in studying consciousness, because you are a mode of consciousness. Just like you cannot see your own back, but need external mirrors. Here the problem is, all of us are back-to-back, if you know what I mean. We are all facing the same way, and we are all like "electrons in an electrical field" If you ask an electron what an electrical field is, it wouldn't know, because it is simultaneously generating an electrical field and being acted upon by other electrical fields. It can never get out of an electrical field to study it.

          To that extent, all of our fundamental knowledge is flawed, because we use "knowledge" to discover "knowledge". However, "we" being the "highest knowledge" in our field know better about some things, and not so better about others. As such, because we cannot get out of ourselves, our knowledge of consciousness will always be partial when objectively studied. However, when "experienced" subjectively, it still leads to insights, not knowledge. But those "in-sights" are the highest we can get to.
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          Jul 12 2011: I agree Abhiram, that there is a "seperation between the grey matter and the electrical signals running through it. The DNA is matter, but the information it contains is a mode of consciousness". During my NDE/OBE, I experienced my "self" as a mass of energy:>)
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          Jul 12 2011: Abhiram, you say there is a separation of the grey matter and the electrical signals running through it. Please explain what you mean with "separation" in this context.
          I living organism is a very complex structure and nothing is separated from each other in this organism.
          Everything contains information. Even a stone. But information is not consciousness. I think consciousness is simply a term made up by man to express what makes a human a human.
          It's nothing really tangible you could point your finger at.

          Hi Colleen: good to see you again !!
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          Jul 12 2011: Hi Harald...good to see you:>)
          My perception is that it is seperate materialistically...connected with energy:>)
          I'm sure Abhiram will have a better explanation:>)
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          Jul 12 2011: Hi Colleen, thanks for fortifying my viewpoint!

          Hi Harald, I think the word "consciousness" is semantics-confused. What I meant by "separation" is the fact that energy exists by itself, without shape or form. When this energy interacts with matter, then we see some effects. A stone contains energy, but the stone matter modifies the energy differently than the brain matter. The brain can exist by itself as matter, but when electrochemical energy is introduced into it, it shapes the energy to output "consciousness". There is electrochemical energy in the stomach cells too, but those cells shape the energy differently. It results in a different "consciousness". Life happens when special matter soaks in special energy.

          I'm not sure, but maybe this is what happened: when Colleen had the NDE/OBE, "She" was still shaped by the brain and the body. So the blob of energy was conditioned by the specific matter. Blob of energy+Specific matter=Colleen. After certain death, that blob just mixes with the "free energy". We still don't know much about dark matter & energy. Physicists know a little about dark matter, but zilch about dark energy, which they say makes up more than 75% of the observable universe. This reminds me of a hymn from the Rig Veda:

          "One quarter of It is the visible universe, three quarters of It are eternal and unchanging."

          Maybe dark energy is this "absolute consciousness-energy". Dark energy does none of the things that "normal" energy does. We don't even know why it exists. YET!
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          Jul 13 2011: Dear Abhiram,
          I agree with your comment..."Blob of energy + specific matter =Colleen":>)

          The "blob" of material that was on the bed in ICU, was still "shaped by the brain and body", while the "free energy" that powers the material body/brain was seperate. My energy, and the energy of other beings was interconnected, and yet seperate. Like an electrical generating station, with electric lines coming from it and going in different directions. Or like an electric line coming into a house...into the breaker box and then seperated to different breakers. Like one drop of water in the ocean. Do you understand? Yes...I think/feel that you do:>)
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          Jul 13 2011: Abrihiram wrote "Where does the sense of "I" come from?"

          The sense of "I" is a conceptualization based on limited information. Buddhists describe it as an illusion. Awareness of "I" limits our effectiveness because it requires our brain to multitask whatever we are doing. We function most effectively when we are able to join with our activity in a natural flow without thinking about what we are doing.

          Developing consciousness transcends the sense of "I"
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          Jul 13 2011: I agree Bob, that the illusion of "I', limits our effectiveness. As you say, we function most effectively when we are able to join with our activity in a natural flow, and also, when we are able to join with other people in a natural flow:>)
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          Jul 14 2011: Hi Bob,

          The sense of "I" that I was referring to is the experience we have when not connected to anything. When you are not thinking even, all thoughts are stopped, then what happens? No mental activity, but only "i". Without association with name, job, family, country, etc.

          Like you said the Buddhists describe it as an illusion. However there are 2 ways of looking at it: 1) Because I am a superposition of various layers, and the layers are not "really real", hence "I" am not really real.
          2) Even though I am a superposition of various layers, "I" see that fact. Hence, through and through these layers, "I" am still here. But "I" can keep changing layers. So the layers are not "really real", but "I" am really real.

          It's the difference between saying that individuality is not real in the face of universality versus, individuality is itself universal. So there are no real individuals, but only different reflections of a universal. So the universal is the individual, in the sense that there is no other.

          Colleen, I perfectly understand what you mean :)
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          Jul 14 2011: Dear Abhiram,
          I LOVE it when things look "perfect":>)

          At first, I percieved the "I" Bob refered to as the "I" that is the layer recognized by the human conscious mind. The reason I percieved this, is because he speaks of the "I" requiring the brain to multitask. His reference to joining in a "natural flow without thinking", however, suggests to me that he is aware of other levels/layers:>)
          Bob...yes, no, maybe?
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          Jul 15 2011: That's a wonderful description Colleen..you were a very keen observer in your etheric state. Accounts like yours, and the clarity of your meory and interpreation are extremely valuable.

          Your wonderfully lucid "journal" of your obe/nde reminds me of Jill Bolte Taylor's.

          Because I am an advocate for peope with brain injury and cognitive disbaility I am always looking for "accounts from inside" or from "the other side" . It's important hat doctors and family members undersrand there may very well be much more awareness and presence than medicine gives credit for.
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          Jul 15 2011: Abhiram

          I love the insight and wisdom with which you speak of consciousness and try to elicit in others their own recollection of encounters with consciousness.

          The "I" awareness, awareness of "I" as separate from brain,even separate from thought seems to be timeless and universal.. that encounter with the inner observer, the inner voice is an encounter, I think, with one aspect of "consciousness" that most people have had but perhaps don't recognize as that. For many, for most perhaps, the enounter with "I" may just be written off as a brain generated thought process..part of pondering. Most who may have exprienced encounters with either their own internal "cosciousness" or a larger extrenal consciousness may not be willing to call it that or perhaps didn't expereience it that way.

          What happens to us and what we name it are two different things.

          .My own life long experience with "consciousness" ( athough I never use that word because it is too encumbered with too may inconsistent meanings to use clearly) is that aside from the clear and unique "I" there is a larger field of energy and information that sometimes just pops through but with which we can also intentionally engage and query. My sense has always been that there is something much vaster than my own brain, my own "I" at work in my work..especially in my work on behalf of others..as a life long activist and advocate.

          Artists, writers and musicisans will most often call it "inspration"

          Lynne McTaggerts work on "The Field" comes closest to descrbing what my own life experience has been. That the part of me that is consciousness, the inner I, is also the part of me that engages or is ocasionnaly engaged by the larger "consciousness"

          Long ago I deceided not to spend too much time and energy trying to understand what is happneing..in a hundred lifetimes I could not approach a perfect understanding of it. So I accept that I simply "know" it. That iy works unfailingly and constantly.
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          Jul 15 2011: Bob

          ,I think the "I" abhiram is referring to is not the same as "ego" (false self) which resides in the brain..I could be mistaken but as he was describing it I assumed he meant "the inner observer", the "core self", the "true self"
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          Jul 15 2011: Well put, Lindsay!

          I like your second paragraph.

          You're right - I wasn't referring to the "ego" which is "personality", but the "inner observer".
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        Jul 9 2011: Abhiram, I agree with Jim. We constantly shift around from one state of consciousness to another. It all depends on which parts of the brain are active at a given moment. When you sleep, it's like having your PC in hibernation mode. Only vital functions are carried out. Since switching from one mode to another is something that happens like pressing a button, you might feel kind of groggy when somebody wakes you up in the middle of deep sleep.
        At the end, as I said in another post, it all has to do with electrochemical processes. I think that theoretically we should be able to build machines with what we call consciousness. We might not be there yet technically, but it's just a question of time.
        • Jul 9 2011: It seems if they give a robot a bad memory and install some incorrect data, we might be closer to reproducing consciousness. HaHa
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          Jul 12 2011: Hey Harald...nice to see you back:>)
          In my perception, Abhiram is saying something similar to you and Jim, AND expanding on the concept:>)

          I agree that we constantly shift around from one state of consciousness to another...depends on which parts of the brain are active...like having your PC in hibernation mode...and at the end...there is more:>)
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          Jul 11 2011: Jim, when I talked about brain death, I was suggesting that in the state of brain death, the person cannot EXPRESS himself. That does not in itself conclude that the person is not "conscious" in another way.

          Utilitarian consciousness is seated in the brain because it is surrounded by all the sense organs. Other modes of consciousness may be situated in other parts but not expressible, except in death, where their expression stops, then you notice. Identity is linked to the utllitarian consciousness, because that is where the mind functions. Nobody ever identifies himself by his liver or kidney.

          OK, the term "absolute consciousness" is creating confusion. I mean by it the energy that makes things work. That same energy captured in the brain leads to mind and personality. That same energy in the heart makes it pump, and so on.

          "Now that is something I can agree with wholeheartedly!"
          HURRAY! :-)
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          Jul 15 2011: Jim and Abhiram,
          I agree with you Abhiram, and this is what I experienced with the NDE/OBE. Although I was not brain dead, the brain was certainly compromised, and unconscious according to the medical model. I could not communicate or express myself on a human level, and I was much more aware on another level of consciousness. I believe that to be the "absolute consciousness", or the energy that "makes things work...that same energy captured in the brain leads to mind and personality...in the heart makes it pump, and so on". There are many levels of energy and consciousness.

          I agree that "identity is linked to the utilitarian consciousness", or what I call the human consciousness. My utilitarian or human consciousness was disabled by the damage to the brain, and the "absolute consciousness" was very active in another state, which is why I could look at the damaged body without emotional attachment.
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          Jul 15 2011: An important distinction Colleen and one that most others experiencing OBE/NDE report..that consciousness is non corporeal..hundreds and thousands of accounts of being aware, non corporeal and separate from the body while the brain is shut down, being able to "travel" and make observations of events and conversations that were subsequently confirmed all suggest very clearly that consciousness itself is non corporaeal..it is not something we manufcature or build over our lives..some aspect of consciousness is a non-corporeal "I".

          I tink it is so great that you share your experence and can speak about it with such clarity.
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          Jul 11 2011: " This is probably prone to particular biases depending on the worldviews of the subjects"

          This is precisely what I was getting at when I talked about electrons in electric field.

          Anyways, thanks again for another book referral. I had read Fritjof Capra's "The Tao of Physics". Isn't it also interesting that Jung the psychologist was interested in Buddhist theories? He says somewhere, "Our unconscious self is the source of our conscious self."
      • Jul 12 2011: Abhiram, I don't know where you got all this stuff about deep sleep and absolute consciousness but its extremely similar to Shankaracharya's ( An Indian Philosopher) theory. I am a student of Indian Philosophy and have been reading a bit about their perception of consciousness and I thought that it would be interesting to share it.

        Shankaracharya differentiates between two kinds of consciousnesses-1) Consciousness of Objects and 2) Pure consciousness.

        Let me explain-
        Consciousness of objects is when there is a subject-object duality.This occurs as long as the subject can differentiate between itself and the object. Any linguistic statement is an example of this kind of consciousness as any linguistic statement requires a subject-object duality. This is the consciousness that creates awareness and has the 'I' ( as I is the subject and the object of awareness is the object).

        Pure consciousness, on the other hand, is an extremely interesting idea. It is a consciousness which is untainted by any kind of awareness. When you experience pure consciousness you cannot be aware of anything, not even your own presence because that itself creates a duality and any duality will create subject-object kind of consciousness. Here, there is no'I' and there is no 'IT'. This is an experience of existence alone. I am sure most of us have had some such experience. Whenever we are deeply involves in some activity the awareness of multiplicity of the world, the awareness of subject-object difference vanishes and we experience nothing but existence. deep sleep is also an example of this. In deep sleep we are not aware of anything yet we cannot say that we are not conscious.

        What is the need or significance of this?
        Shankaracharyas main point, according to me, is that consciousness is not an object of knowledge and cannot be. It is neither the object nor the subject. All forms of knowledge we have require subject-object differentiation but consciousness cannot be either.
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          Jul 12 2011: Hi Shankar, I have read to some extent about Advaita. There are also very similar ideas in Spinoza, Hegel, Eckhart, Upanishads, Rig Veda, and C. G. Jung. These are the sources I refer to, to equal extent.

          The Mandukya Upanishad refers to the states of consciousness.
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          Jul 15 2011: Shankar..a wonderfully clear summary..thank you
    • Jul 9 2011: 100% agree with your take on this Jim. I really enjoyed the way that you simply explained such a dense topic. Could you tell me a little more about the book "The Believing Brain?" Does it deeper explain this view?
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      Jul 14 2011: QUOTE: "I highly recommend Michael Shermer's current book The Believing Brain."

      I have it on order. My son will bring it with him when he next comes to China.

      You might enjoy the little book, "Second Nature - Brain Science and Human Knowledge" by Gerald M. Edelman.

      Here's a short quote:

      "The scientific description is not the experience. Of course, the description of consciousness helps us to understand our experience in a way that physics alone could not do. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize the priority of experience in giving rise to the descriptions that illuminate the bases of the experience itself."
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    Jul 9 2011: It is not at all crucial for a living form to have some brains, or perhaps, even some physical body. I believe that our physical bodies are not exactly ourselves. We are just given our temporary chance to "sail" and play with these "physical" vessels, for a while. "Physical" sensations manifest our relationship with unique "constellations" of myriads of living formations which we identify as "bacteria", "microbes", "viruses" and "cells" that create "tissues", "muscles", "bones" etc,. A mind has this power to interconnect, control and put these different living formations into one breathing, walking, eating, growing or aging composition, that we experience as a "body".

    I remember that as a very young child I was scared to death of my body and my sensations of it. Later, when I was about 20, I had this "out-of-body" experience during a risky medical test. I suddenly left my body, and saw it, as well as its surroundings, without using my physical eyes. I was bodiless, and felt that I could express my thoughts without saying a word, and "move" instantly.... My experience was ultimately bold and clear: I am Not a physical body, and when I escape my body my awareness becomes overwhelming.

    There are neither physical bodies nor any brains that can form themselves into living compositions on their own, without their masters, minds. When a mind gets disconnected from a body, a body falls a part turning into other forms.

    My temporary Consciousness that is based on "bodily" sensations, in my opinion, does not manifest any great intelligence, but its playful, shallow stage. It is hiding everything else beyond the curtains.
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      Jul 10 2011: This is interesting...
    • Jul 11 2011: Can you tell us more...of where our consciousness come from? :)
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        Jul 12 2011: Hello Carole,
        I'll do my best to tell you more, but a little later.
        It is fantastic !! to hear from someone like you.
        Talk to you soon,
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      Jul 12 2011: this sounds more like how i feel about all of it. and thats without a OBE. its like the brain is there to focus it and use it, maybe even shield it. when the brain is not there to do this, it becomes once again a free spirit.
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        Jul 12 2011: I'm glad to hear from you, Tim. I believe that the most tremendous discoveries are still awaiting for us. But these can only be made by independently thinking and learning individuals, Outside thick walls of conventional academia.

        There is no school that is able to give us any fundamental knowledge about our existence.
        I'm still learning from my very early childhood, trying to understand the most striking impressions and reactions. Our games-loving society desperately needs intuitive learners, just for the sake of survival.

        Best Wishes,
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      Jul 12 2011: Tim,
      You said something very simply, that I agree with...when the brain is not there to focus it, and use it...it becomes once again a free spirit. Based on my NDE/OBE, I percieve consciousness to be an energy that moves through the body/brain.

      I experienced something similar to what you describe Simone...
      The body is a vehicle that carries me through this life experience. When I left the body, the energy that is "me" was totally seperate from the body, and as Tim says...a "free spirit". When I saw the damaged body on the bed in ICU, it was like looking at my ford ranger being taken into the garage for repairs after a serious accident. When the energy that is "me" was totally free from the body, the awareness and consciousness on so many levels was unbelievable:>)
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      Jul 12 2011: Simone, I do believe you are on the right track here, that consciousness is really just based on bodily sensations. But I feel we are stemming away from this understanding and trying to define consciousness in philosophical terms when we can really just apply our basic understanding of anatomy.

      The way I kind of think of it is like this, when we are born our senses (touch, smell, sight, hearing, taste) are being triggered, though our brain at that point has no real perception on what is happening. We quickly begin to make associations with these senses, for example we see an object in front of us at which our hands touch, we now have connected our sight and touch to perceive and understand the object before us. Over time, these associations become normal and our brain/body develop a consciousness or perception of our world, hidden somewhere amongst the network of neurons in our brain/body. This leads to a profound understanding of the world that leads us to ask why about things that aren't tangible.

      There doesn't need to be this spiritual sense in us that defines our consciousness. Our consciousness is a collection of memories and perceptions hidden in the brain/body that are interconnected with our senses.
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    Jul 25 2011: As I quickly scan through this conversation, I see a lot of different opinions.
    (I gave my first idea somewhere down the replies)

    From a materialistic and scientific spectrum, I do want to put one thing forward:
    We might not know exactly how consciousness emerges from our neuronal activity (though we have a few good hypothesis), we can already say what it is not.

    1) Consciousness is not external to our brain (no living brain, no consciousness measurable)
    2) Consciousness did not arise sudden (it evolved)
    3) Consciousness is not either/or (there are multiple levels, gradations of consciousness)

    these restrictions do apply for any plausible theory of consciousness, and I would suggest not to claim a single cell has a consciousness, as that would stretch the idea of consciousness too much.
    Keep it at animal level: vertebrates for example. Makes thinking about it a lot easier.
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      Jul 25 2011: In my worldview what you are describing is not consciousness. You are describing awareness which, for the purpose of this comment, might be construed as consciousness operating within and through organisms of varying degrees of complexity.

      I do not think materialistic science can come to grips with consciousness. I do think materialistic scientists can.

      Consciousness exists (regardless of how we explain it) on those grounds alone we could come up with any number of plausible theories: some would fit nicely into the world of empirical science, for example, neurophilosophy; some would not, for example, consciousness as a preexistent state or field.

      If we want to study electricity, we would not focus our attentions solely on electrical appliances.

      If we want to study consciousness, we should not only study the structures that render it functional (that would be "brains.")

      It makes sense to also study consciousness in its "raw" form.

      This, I understand, is a problem for materialists. Not surprisingly, as they see consciousness as an emergent property.

      I suggest it makes more sense to know what consciousness is, and not be able to explain it, than to not know what it is, and have a pretty good explanation for what it might be.

      As far as I know, the only thing that can know consciousness is consciousness.

      So, assuming consciousness (really does) exist, and assuming we are conscious, then it stands to reason that, in addition to studying brains and how they work, a scientist who really wanted to know what consciousness is, would have to turn his or her consciousness on itself.

      Which sounds an awful lot like that old saw: Know thyself.
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        Jul 25 2011: I once heard the metaphor of the waiving hand...

        When you wave: what is the waving of the hand? Is it there when it does not move? Is the waving material?

        As the wave emerges from the moving hand,
        So does consciousness emerge from a working (human) brain.

        As such I do not see the difficulty of emergence...
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          Jul 25 2011: Hi Christopher,

          I don't see a difficulty with emergence either. I actually like the idea and agree that "awareness" is emergent.

          I do see a difficulty with assuming, or asserting, we HAVE to define "consciousness" in materialistic terms and thereby ignoring any form of exploration that would not conform to that paradigm.

          It seems unnecessarily limiting. Comforting perhaps. But limiting.

          The "wave" is a construct. That the hand moves is not.
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          Jul 27 2011: It has been said that there is no form without function, which follows form.

          One problem is that everything that we 'know' about the universe is based on the acuity of our comparably feeble senses, the demonstratable limits of our brains ability to compute the data collected and perhaps most importantly the social paradigms providing the checks and balances wherein we develope our theories; to quote another TEDster '... Primitive superstition are peer reviewed.'

          I find it curious that consequent to our evolving concepts of self, we as a species have (once again) taken ourselvels out of the loop (circle of life... call it what you will) and given overwhelming and perhaps undeserved credability to the idea that what we have evolved to percieve of the nature of the universe is the only reality or truth there is.

          And so we ask questions like "If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?"

          Is it truly so difficult to accept that there might be conciousness outside of what we can define as such and that it too is listening?
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        Jul 26 2011: It is not that I have to define it in materialistic terms,
        I think it is sufficient. (I like to use Occam's razor)

        If (and only if) someone who thinks otherwise has proof of that (self-imposed) restriction as insufficient, then I will start to consider other options.

        So to me it seems that adding immaterial components (as part of the explanation) as unnecessarily redundant. Comforting perhaps, but redundant.

        In what sense is a wave a construct?
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          Jul 26 2011: I just drafted a world-shatteringly brilliant reply (no, really!) and it vanished before I could post it.

          Oh well.

          I'll send a, no doubt, diluted version of it later when I attempt to reconstruct it from a somewhat deficient memory.

          One cannot force the muse.
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          Jul 27 2011: QUOTE: "In what sense is a wave a construct?"

          Do you need me to explain or are you just checking to see if I can?


          I'm waiting to see if I can access my previous, seriously brilliant but lost reply ... still waiting. ... waiting ...

          ... Nope.

          No time.

          Gotta go. Bye for now.
        • Jul 30 2011: a construct is a joke
          a wave is not
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          Jul 30 2011: Redundance is relevant;

          "I said 'The plural of anecdote is data' some time in the 1969-70 academic year while teaching a graduate seminar at Stanford. The occasion was a student's dismissal of a simple factual statement--by another student or me--as a mere anecdote. The quotation was my rejoinder."

          The original quote by Raymond Wolfinger.
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        Jul 27 2011: Please explain, I don't understand what you mean by it.
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          Jul 27 2011: Oh fudge. I was hoping I wouldn't have to do this.

          As the hand moves through spacetime, its position is registered, noted, and held, in short-term memory, as an object of awareness. Each subsequent point is noted and its relationship to all others is inferred creating a sense of continuity and cohesion. We then apply a descriptor to the phenomenon - "wave."

          As yet, it has no meaning.

          When we assign meaning, the wave "becomes" ... something. Say a greeting.

          The perception and the meaning are both constructs. (And the movement of the hand is not.)
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        Jul 27 2011: Let me see if I understand this:

        Does your explanation imply that:
        - alll perception is construct? (I tend to agree, and for me that means that our consciousness is a construct as well)

        -As the waving hand is not a construct, Instructing your hand to move as such, is that a construct that gets executed?

        As we cannot ever exit our construct of reality, don't we need to assume that we can at least approach reality quite good (like a map can be so detailed, that you can rely on it with few chances of getting lost or falling in an uncharted pit)?

        Anyway, thanks for taking the effort!
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          Jul 27 2011: QUOTE: "Does your explanation imply that: - alll perception is construct?"


          QUOTE: "As the waving hand is not a construct ..."

          The waving of the hand - movement itself - is a construct. That the hand moves is not.

          QUOTE: "Instructing your hand to move as such, is that a construct that gets executed?"

          Yes. But we've entered another oder of complexity - remember, we are discussing a metaphor - your metaphor - when we add "reality" to metaphor, things get a bit convoluted.

          The interesting thing about the metaphor, and my explanation, is they can be used "on both sides of the argument."

          "That the hand moves" could represent either "consciousness" or, say, "energy." (It could also represent "God.")

          "Perceiving and defining the wave" could be either "awareness" (as content of consciousness) or "consciousness" as emergent from energy - after 13.75 billion years of messing around with a bunch of trials and errors, culminating with brains that have complex neural feedback loops. (Or it could mean God's creation.)
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        Jul 27 2011: Thank you for clearing that out... (I think I get your point now)

        Given the current information, I don't see either interpretation favored, so I'll keep to the non-divine interpretation.
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          Jul 27 2011: QUOTE: Thank you for clearing that out... (I think I get your point now)

          You're welcome.

          QUOTE: Given the current information, I don't see either interpretation favored, so I'll keep to the non-divine interpretation.

          Essentially the interpretations are describing the same things (that the hand moves; and the wave) so it doesn't really matter which one we pick.

          What does matter is if we know what the "thing" being described is or not. To stick with the metaphor: Do we know what it means "that the hand moves?" For example, do we know what triggered the expansion; do we know consciousness; and so on.

          If we don't know what the "thing" is, I suggest it makes sense to simply keep an open mind and not get to attached to our own favoured interpretations - even as we try to perfect them.

          It's not that there is anything wrong with the interpretations per se, it's just that reality has a tendency to be very uncompromising. It will not adjust itself in order to conform to a faulty description.

          If we insist our interpretation is accurate (when it isn't), we will probably miss anything that doesn't fit within our model.

          Is it possible to describe a thing (anything) before we know it? ... I don't think so.

          Is it possible to "know the thing?" In this case, consciousness.

          Some say it is. What do you think?

          It's a rhetorical question but your answer might have an impact on what you will allow yourself to consider.

          And just to be clear, I am not promoting one interpretation or another. I am promoting knowing ... even if it might not be possible.
        • Jul 27 2011: Christophe,

          "Consciousness is not a suitable subject for scienti¢c
          investigation because the very notion is ill-de¢ned. We do
          not have anything like a scienti¢cally acceptable
          de¢nition of consciousness and it is not easy to see how
          we could get one, since consciousness is unobservable "

          could you comment on this?
        • Jul 27 2011: Here is a quick reply to Thomas and Chris,
          I'm back from my vacation and once again here to haunt you Chris...
          It's amusing to see how the two of you can ramble on about trying to define the nature of thinking without ever using the actual word. What you Thomas might be getting at is the activity of thinking itself.
          The hand you observe is your "percept" of the hand. This corresponds with your "concept" of the hand. The movement of the hand is also your perception of movement which in turn your thinking provides the concept that is the corresponding part of your percept. What you then call the "wave" is also a concept you have in your own thought processes. A wave can be interpreted in a hundred ways. A queen waves one way... a child another... the working man's wave.. the solders wave.. are all variations of the concept wave... but your thinking deciphers the one wave from the other. Thinking must be recognized in this process otherwise you are just spinning your wheels.
          To "know" the "thing in itself" has been the stone in the shoe of philosophy for years. But to keep things simple, we can refer to the truths of mathematics (Chris will like this) or perhaps geometry. This will keep our "perceptions" and our "concepts" as pure and simple as possible... if you know what I mean...
          Now take a triangle.. a triangle is the same for you Thomas and Chris as it is for everyone on the planet. The concept triangle we can hold in our "minds eye" .. when we do this.. our thought triangle becomes a percept. also the object of our thinking. All ideas are just the same although more complicated in their picture form or in their pure abstraction.
          This is the whole mystery of the activity of thought. Thoughts themselves are in fact objects of perception that can be observed, ..."moved around" .. like the waving motion of the hand... all in your "minds eye" !!
          You both have to get closer to the true nature of thinking to ever get closer to an understanding of consciousness.
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          Jul 27 2011: Hi Daniel,

          Thanks for your comment.

          QUOTE: It's amusing to see how the two of you can ramble on about trying to define the nature of thinking without ever using the actual word. What you Thomas might be getting at is the activity of thinking itself.

          We are, I hope, enjoying our exchanges here on TED so It's good to hear you find this one amusing. However, I assure you I am not rambling on trying to define the nature of thinking. We could have that conversation if you like, I find it fascinating and much easier than defining consciousness (something I suspect cannot be done which is not to say consciousness cannot be "known" ... and I do not mean known in the cognitive sense.)

          QUOTE: "Thinking must be recognized in this process otherwise you are just spinning your wheels."

          How is it you think thinking has not been recognized? Because the word was not used? Thinking is implicit in the explanation (short-term memory, inference, etc.) but this discussion is not about thinking. It is about consciousness.

          QUOTE: You both have to get closer to the true nature of thinking to ever get closer to an understanding of consciousness.

          I suggest you are mistaken (actually I know you are.) There is a possibility you believe "consciousness" to be a pure abstraction and, as such, it cannot be known, it can only be thought about in ever more refined terms (as we get closer to the true nature of thinking, and so on).

          If consciousness cannot be known (as I define the term) we would be in agreement.

          If consciousness can be known (as I define the term) we would not be in agreement.

          "Knowing" and "knowing about" are not the same thing.

          As this is a discussion about consciousness and not about thought (unless you equate the two - in which case, we could have that discussion too) let me ask you my favourite question (in this thread):

          Do you know what consciousness is?
        • Jul 28 2011: Thomas,
          What I see in your discussion is an attempt to nail the idea we have of consciousness to the floor... a typical scientific approach to any phenomena.... nail it down... weigh it ... measure it.. use all of the physical sciences at our disposal to "define it" This is perhaps the biggest pitfall that the scientific method is in danger of. Don't get me wrong. The scientific method is not the "wrong" approach, but still, the most giving and rewarding "answers" are lying in what you can not see, measure, weigh, etc.
          You ask me to tell you what consciousness "is".. well Thomas, if you look again at what Farrukh asked for in his introduction is the question "Where does consciousness come from?" I have yet to address that question.
          You may just as well asked me ...what is a cat?... What really is the phenomenon "cat"...??
          As all phenomenon, to be understood, as far as our perceptions and thinking allow, we are limited...granted... however, to say that we cannot "know" the phenomenon consciousness falls under the exact same limitation of not being able to "know" the phenomena of "cat" fully 100% The nature of the limitations of our perceptions is to different degrees limiting. This being said, I will return to the plain and simple... mathematics or geometry. These are things that are withing the reach of our physical perceptions that can lead us to what we so desperately want to call "truth" ... the full, naked, and undivided truth.. basically, because we can all agree on our perceptions... as the color of a cat might easily be disputed.
          To "know" consciousness is possible only by studying its thousandfold presentations of itself in the world around us. Where do we see the phenomena "consciousness" in nature? Where do we see its expression in mankind? In the animal kingdom? The plant?
          Your attempted "definition" falls finally on your own limitations. Perhaps limited by the ever predominant world view that the scientific community has indoctrinated us all with.
        • Jul 28 2011: Thomas,
          I continue.
          The consciousness that we "experience".. "within us" does not necessarily arise as you and Chris would quickly assume as an "emerging property" This is the assumption of the materialists. They have no other path to follow... as any reference to a supernatural or divine element in the human being is already crossed off from their list of possibilities. It's material and material only. This also amuses me. That the materialists own thinking refuses to recognize the most spiritual faculty of their own thinking !! Thinking is a spiritual faculty. There! I've said it ! I've now stepped over the line of what is "allowed" within the self imposed boundaries of what science chooses to impose upon itself. Prove it ! you say. How dare I make the quantum jump from what is "scientifically proven" to the so called "mystical"
          As much as you may react to this statement, I just the same choose to let you know where I am coming from... The spiritual world is as real as the world of consciousness. and in many ways may even bring us closer to a "nailed down" "concrete" definition of "what" consciousness "IS".... as totally abstract as it all still may sound ... :-)
          Furthermore, I know by choosing the word "spirit" that every person out there on TED reading this will now react... perhaps I'll get a comment.. perhaps a "thumbs up" ... fortunately there is no longer a thumbs down ! I have no personal image to uphold or maintain. If someone can "prove" me wrong.. with or without mr. oscam ... so, please feel free... I always try to be open to what everyone means to say... and I expect the same from others... although Chris and I have bumped heads before.. we are still able to meet on TED with open minds... right Chris?
          My comments can be very wordy sometimes.. I apologize for that. There are plenty of shorter comments to read along this discussion.. so please do if anyone should find theese comments too wordy.. ..
          Thanks for now! Be back later..
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          Jul 28 2011: QUOTE: "What I see in your discussion is an attempt to nail the idea we have of consciousness to the floor... a typical scientific approach to any phenomena.... nail it down... weigh it ... measure it.. use all of the physical sciences at our disposal to "define it"

          Hi Daniel,

          You see all that in my posts? Interesting.

          It's not there (read them again with that at as an assumption and see if it makes a difference.)

          I would like to point out a habit I have noticed in your posts (to me:) You presume to know my unspoken intention and you respond to things you think I have said or you think I will say.

          For example you assume I am talking about thinking when I am not; and you assume I asked you to tell me what consciousness is, when I did not.

          I find this style of communication frustrating because I essentially become a third party to a conversation you are having between yourself and an imagined me in your own head.

          Your responses are quite clever but they are not responses to things I have said. As another example, I did not say we could not "know" consciousness - nor have I offered or attempted to offer a definition of consciousness. (... Are you beginning to see what I mean by "an imagined me?")

          Let me be plain: Your assumptions about what I assume are (so far) inaccurate.

          I do not think such assumptions contribute to an effective dialogue.

          No doubt, we will have real differences that will provide us with challenging exchanges - we do not need the unnecessarily added challenge of imagined disagreements.

          I will attempt to say exactly what I mean, no more, no less; would you attempt to hear what I say; no more, no less?

        • Jul 29 2011: Thomas,
          ...Nothing personal Thomas, ... but it confuses me when your comments contradict themselves. In the one comment you say ..quote.."Do you know what consciousness is?"
          and in the next comment you say .. quote..19 hours ago "You assume that I am asking you to tell me about thinking when I am not and you assume that I am asking you to tell me about consciousness when I am not.." ... so you can understand that this is confusing...
          As for you talking about thinking... as I once said earlier... it was exactly what you were talking about whether you were aware of it or not. That was my observation. And an accurate one.

          This whole conversation is getting rather pedantic .... I think we should just let it go at that.
        • Jul 31 2011: Thomas,
          Have you ever been out driving in your car and come up behind someone who has their blinker on and doesn't know it themselves....? Everyone around them sees that their blinking.. but the person inside the car never seems to finally make the turn....

          .... or ... maybe you have an old LP with a scratch in it..... that just keeps repeating itself... repeating its.... repeating its.... repeating its....
      • Jul 28 2011: Ok Thomas, but excuse me once again.... what does it say in the last sentence in your previous comment...? ..21 hours ago ... it reads like this..."Do you know what consciousness is?" ...?? ... I'm sorry if I understood you to be asking me the question Do you know what consciousness is?.... just because your last sentence asks .. your favorite question... "Do you know what consciousness is?".... That doesn't really mean that you've asked me the question.....?... I guess....???
        ... and when you further say ..quote.."I am promoting "knowing" "even if it might not be possible"...
        If this means that we still have a chance of knowing what consciousness really is then you should try to express it more clearly than saying that it "might not be possible"... otherwise people might think that what your really saying is that "it might not be possible..."
        And as for me saying that you were talking about thinking.. well ... that is exactly what you were doing .. in case you didn't know that yourself....
        Deal Thomas !!
        You too must say what you mean ... and mean what you say !
        I do think that we have some points to agree on and I agree that imagined disagreements are of no use.. so.. lets go further in the discussion.
        It's late here for me and I will soon be off to bed. I'll try to catch up on the conversation tomorrow.
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          Jul 28 2011: Hi Daniel,

          The question "Do you know what consciousness is?" means, "Do you know what consciousness is?"

          It does not mean, "Will you tell me what consciousness is?" or "Can you tell me what consciousness is?" or anything other than, "Do you know what consciousness is?"

          So, if you choose to answer it, sample answers might be, "Yes," "No" ... or perhaps, "I'm not sure."

          QUOTE: "... further say ..quote.."I am promoting "knowing" "even if it might not be possible"... what your really saying is that "it might not be possible..."

          I am NOT "really saying .. that "it might not be possible..."

          What I am "really saying" is that we should strive to know (whatever) even if we do not know if knowing is possible or not.

          "I am promoting 'knowing" would suggest, that I think it is, at least, possible to know. Using the conjunction "if" would hold open the possibility that it might or might not be possible. One would not "know" until one "knows" ... or until it was proven that knowing was not possible.

          Also, the comment was addressed to a specific individual, Christophe, who has a very particular world view (as do we all) so it was crafted to conform to my understanding of his worldview.

          QUOTE: "And as for me saying that you were talking about thinking.. well ... that is exactly what you were doing .. in case you didn't know that yourself...."

          You see, I find this frustrating, you seem to feel you are more of an authority on what I am writing about (or intending to write) than I am.

          I was NOT writing about thinking. I was writing about a particular metaphor and how it relates to the discussion we are having about consciousness (and where it might come from.)

          Thinking while implicit in my explanation is incidental to the point.

          The fact that thinking is involved in the process does not mean I was writing "about" thinking any more than writing about making a cake means I am writing about "mixing."

          QUOTE: "You too must say what you mean ... and mean what you say !"

          I do.
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          Jul 29 2011: Hi Daniel,

          I am not surprised you are confused by some of my posts. You "read" things that are "not there" and then you assign them meanings that the author did not intend.

          I would be confused too!

          I have scanned one or two of your comments to others, and you do this with them as well.

          If I might make a suggestion: Read carefully and ask yourself, "What does the AUTHOR mean by this?"

          I suspect what is happening is you are reading quickly and, if you are asking yourself anything at all, it might be, "What does this mean to ME?"

          It might even be more reflexive than that: you read something, it triggers a thought, perhaps because it reminds you of an idea you hold dear or of something you have read; and then you respond to your thought (not to what the author intended to say.)

          Let me give you a simple example of what I mean by reading "carefully."

          You quote me as saying, "'You assume that I am asking you to tell me about thinking when I am not and you assume that I am asking you to tell me about consciousness when I am not..'"

          That is not what I wrote. And I do not mean, that is not what I meant. It is quite literally not what I wrote.

          Many of us believe our thinking to be excellent (now I AM talking about thinking) ... and you, no doubt, believe your thinking is excellent too.

          It makes sense: thinking is immediate, it's personal, it's "in our own heads" - what we think would obviously make more sense to us than what someone else thinks. Especially when we consider that what someone else thinks must be transmitted by the written or spoken word, by body gestures, or by some other art.

          It seems to me you believe your thinking to be particularly good - so good, in fact, that your understanding and interpretation of a comment should take presidence over the person's who actually wrote the comment.

          At least twice, I have told you your understanding of my comments is not accurate and, at least, three times you have told me I am wrong.

          Thus the need of pedantry
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      Jul 25 2011: Christophe, my friend:>)
      You write:
      1)"Consciousness is not external to our brain (no living brain, no consciousness measurable)"
      2)"Consciousness did not arise sudden (it evolved)"
      3)"Consciousness is not either/or (there are multiple levels, graduations of consciousness)"

      I absolutely agree with 3.

      1 & 2...If, in your opinion, consciousness is not external to the brain...no living brain...no consciousness..." and it "did not arise sudden (it evolved)", where does it evolve from?
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        Jul 25 2011: (below are hypothesis, I'm not sure about it, but it is ow I think it works)

        As a brain starts to evolve (in the womb untill 21 years, or even later), and as the structure gets more complex and programmed (cutting of dendrites, processing sensory input,...), the activity will gradually become more and more what we call consciousness.

        Also, lesion studies show partial or complete loss of consciousness... meaning that it truly rests on the proper functionality of the brain
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          Jul 25 2011: Christophe,
          In your previous comment, your statement I agree with is: "Consciousness is not either/or (there are multiple levels, graduations of consciousness)".
          Which "level" are you refering to in your comment above when you say the brain "starts to evolve in the womb untill 21 years, or even later"?

          I agree with Thomas, that you are refering to awareness, rather than consciousness. Awareness can be part of consciousness, and it is not all of it. You are limiting yourself to one dimension.
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        Jul 26 2011: If I limit myself to awareness, then you ought to give a qualitative difference that shows the difference between awareness and consciousness. Can you help me out here?
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consciousness Wiki sees it as a synonym

        by "Levels" I was indicating that there are different states of being more or less conscious, and that they are sometimes seen in people with brain damage or severe mental disorders. It may also refer to the different patterns of brain activity that indicate different levels of consciousness.

        First conscious memories start to appear around age 2; and more and more cognitive abilities develop from birth on. On average, there is still a difference between the brain of a 16 year old and a 21 year old (see for example moral development studies, certain illusions and nuanced thinking). I was referring to a continuum here. If no developmental problems appear, you could consider it the 'normal level' but I would not use level from that approach.
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          Jul 26 2011: Hi Christophe,
          I also percieved awareness/consciousness to be synonyms, based on definitions I was aware of. A discussion with Thomas, in this thread, caused me to re-evaluate my thinking on the topic. Sometimes, when we get new information, the old definitions don't work as well any more. Many scientific disciplines are revealing the fact that consciousness is beyond the programming of the brain, so what might have been consciousness/awareness as we previously could describe it, may be changing. Consciousness, according to many scientific theories, which are evolving these days, is not simply the information programmed in the brain from the time we are in the womb to age 21.

          The different levels or states of consciousness are not only seen in people who are brain damaged or have severe mental disorders, but is also seen in different patterns of brain activity with "normally" functioning brains. It has been scientifically proven that some who meditate for example, have changed the brain activity that is considered "normal".

          You are right...cognitive abilities develop from birth on and there is a difference between the brain of a 16yr. old and a 21yr old. I am aware of moral development studies, illusions and nuanced thinking. You are still limiting yourself in believing that consciousness is simply what happens in the brain from the time we are born to the time we die. I am not a scientist, but am certainly very aware of a lot of research that is being done. I also had an experience that expanded my consciousness/awareness, and I don't really care if you believe that or not...I'm simply providing information:>)
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        Jul 26 2011: Thanks for elaborating

        I had my own portion of weird, profound and ecstatic experiences.
        And have some limited meditation practice, so I do understand the different states from both knowledge and experience (the fun thing with consciousness experiments is that you can do them quite easily to verify or explore the possibilities)

        I did not claim that everything is pre-programmed. All the information that enters through your senses, the changes caused by hormones and substances, trying to learn something,... it all adds to it.
        If you see all that as programming as well, then it is all a running program (that gets changed constantly, but heavily influenced and interacting by/with our genes as well).

        I do understand the concept of consciousness and awareness in eastern traditions means something different, so that's why I did ask for some demarcation...

        Your arguments don't give a clear cut example of activity external to the brain... (except from sensory input, which is also materialistic).

        Of course I limit the idea of "my" consciousness (or any individual human's) as limited between birth and death...
        But if you want to talk pan-galactic, and see yourself one with the universe, then that concept of consciousness is not limited to one body. Though I would suggest to use other terms for that...
        Same goes for society-emergence, or AI-emergent consciousness...

        Maybe we can use this?

        H-consciousness: 1 individual
        C-Consciousness: the cosmos
        S-Consciousness: a society
        AI-consciousness: artificial consciousness
        A-consciousness: Animal consciousness
        &c &c
        (and maybe abridge to AC, HC, AIC,...)
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          Jul 27 2011: Dear Christophe,
          I agree that it is fun to do consciousness experiments to explore and verify the possibilities:>)

          I did not say that you claimed that everything is pre-programmed. I agree that everything we experience contributes to the information that is stored in the brain. Yes, I percieve all our experiences to be part of the programming, and I also agree that there is a "running program" that may constantly change...or not. I believe that in order to change the information running through the brain, we can be more or less aware, and change some of the information by making choices. We can change patterns of information in ourselves that are no longer usefull, when we get new information, for example.

          I agree that there may be some differences in perception of consciousness in some eastern traditions, and I believe this is the piece that many in western cultures are searching for. I believe the awareness of expanded consciousness is more advanced. While we, in western culture have been working on expanding technology, those in eastern cultures have retained their sense of expanded consciousness AND opened their hearts and minds to the expansion of technology as well.

          If you want to call all activity that runs through the brain "materialistic", so be it. My examples have indeed given a "clear cut example of activity external to the brain", and you will not accept my perception if you limit yourself to a certain belief/label:>) I do percieve you to be bending a bit however! :>)

          You say Christophe..."of course I limit the idea of "my" consciousness (or any individual human's) as limited between birth and death..." My consciousness is more expanded than your description of what "any individual human's" consciousness may be, and so are lots of other people in our world. If you want to limit yours to merely the information you recieve from birth to death...so be it:>)
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        Jul 27 2011: Thanks again for the further explanations (I'm learning).

        I think our agreement is sufficient (unless you wish to continue to even more depth),

        I only wish to comment on your last paragraph: It is not that I "chose" or "want" to limit my consciousness to what happens between my birth and death. I think it does not make sense to talk about another form of consciousness in the same way.
        I can't see any evidence of that expanded consciousness... And I don't see the use of stretching it to such limits (except maybe in fantasy or thought experiments).
        So Indeed, I wish to limit the meaning of consciousness to something that is known to exist.
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          Jul 27 2011: Dear Christophe,
          We are all learning:>)

          Yes, our agreement is sufficient for now, because you do not believe in the depth I would like to go with the discussion:>) I respect your choice to "limit the meaning of consciousness to something that is known to exist"...to you:>)

          One more question, which you can answer...or not:>)
          If it is not you who chooses to limit your consciousness to what happens between birth and death, then who is responsible for that limitation?
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        Jul 27 2011: "If it is not you who chooses to limit your consciousness to what happens between birth and death, then who is responsible for that limitation?"

        Hmm... what an odd question.
        I see it as a matter of definition. If someone else uses another definition, that is their right. Though a common definition (working definition) is often handy when one discusses a topic. So to me, this is a matter of linguistics
        I don't see anyone being responsible for it. Do you?
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          Jul 28 2011: Hi Christophe,
          I do not percieve it to be an "odd question" unless you also percieve your statement to be "odd".

          Your statement is: "It is not that I "choose" or "want" to limit my consciousness to what happens between birth and death. I think it does not make sense to talk about another form of consciousness in the same way".

          Farrukh, in his introduction/question does not limit the discussion to a particular form of consciousness, and in fact, clearly states:..."You may answer based on anything you know, it does not have to be a proven fact"

          If you choose to limit this discussion to only the form of consciousness you think you know, and can explain, that is a choice YOU make, is it not? If going beyond that, does not make sense to you, that's ok, and it is a choice YOU make. You are limiting yourself.
    • Jul 26 2011: It is not sound to posit that there can be no consciousness external to a brain. If the founders of electricity theory had used an idea like that, they would have been severelly handicapped in their researches. The analogue would be: "here we have an electric motor, and find out lots of things about it, but by Occam's razor, we will not bother about possible electric fields elsewhere" Not a fruitful assumptilon. I see no persuasive argument that consciousness cannot be a Field like electricity. By the way, as a "materialist", how do you explain light, electricity , magnetism and energy? They all, in combination with cycles and wave patterns, seem to be on a more fundamental level than any "material". How can anyone be a "materialist" after the discovery of radiation?
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        Jul 26 2011: I consider all elementary particles and energy packages as material. Or rather, the term materialism dates from an older time than those discoveries. As such elementary particle-ist might be better, but that would sound odd.

        There could be consciousness outside the brain iff there would be a similar computational system doing the job exists. I don't think that exists for the moment.
        • Jul 28 2011: That" consciousness must have a brain "is a lot like saying that electriciity must have a dynamo. If we can use an analogy from mathematics, electricity, and other non-material "Forces" in the world may well be "Axioms" i.e. un-provable assumptions which are so basic to the scheme that they must be assumed in order to have items to talk, and make theories, or proofs, about.. The fact is the we do not know what ANY Axioms "ARE"; they must be assumed (if you want any results. That is why they should be chosen carefully, on a level where they can be productive.
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          Jul 29 2011: I suggest that in human form, the energy of consciousness needs a carrier, which is the body/mind. In order to begin exploring this idea, people need to move beyond the perception that the energy of consciousness is produced in the brain, which science is beginning to do:>) Ancient cultures were aware of the extended field of energy/consciousness, and as you say Shawn, it is an assumption very basic to the scheme. Now we have technology, which can help provide evidence:>)
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        Jul 27 2011: I agree Shawn, with everything you write:>)
        My NDE/OBE tells me that consciousness is similar to an electrical field, and it may be more or different than that, but electrical energy is the only way I can describe it, because it feels like we don't have the appropriate language to describe it in any other way.

        You say the term "materialism" dates from an older time...". I think the concept of consciousness dates from a much older time! :>) I believe the "computational system" for consciousness outside the brain exists, we simply don't have a label for it yet. Christophe, it sounds like you need a label and explanation BEFORE you accept a theory? That doesn't sound very scientific:>)
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          Jul 27 2011: I do think that a description of a phenomenon is the least one needs to do in order to start relating it to others, and finding out whether it influences current or new theories.

          If something is not expressed in a speech act... one cannot talk about it, right?

          A theory without labels and explanation seems very odd to me. A theory is an explanation. a label is a way to talk about (a set of similar) phenomena...

          Can you perhaps tell me how you observe the "computational system" you believe to exist?
          where can I measure it? Can and does it affect us and how? are there clues?
          Sounds very interesting.
        • Aug 3 2011: Mathematics can be said to be a "Theory". Many people have had High School Geometry, a very sort of visulal Math. As we may remember, it all starts with assumptions about using "points" "lpnes" ,, "planess" , etc. which are axioms, i.e. supposed to be so obvious that they may remain "Unproven", and indeed, never could be. So the "Theory" is not just an expanation, or a labelling of some "fact", but rather a coherent system giviing a big picture, hopefully usefull, especially in predicting unexpected "things" which can be verified.. So to get back to Consciousness, a very serviceable picture , or theory, can be formed by useing Consciousness as an unproven axiomatic sort of affair, rather than trying to "explain" it by way of brain activity. So the brain then would BE the "computational system, all right, but it would not be that fundamental, and not be "essential", just as Lightning is not essential in the electrical universe. By the way, Colleen, if you read this:( I'm not too skilled in the mechancis of this website, and didn't get an answer from TED about how to use it;) I wanted to ask ypu : what is :NDE/OBE"?
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        Jul 28 2011: I agree Christophe, that if "something is not expressed in a speech act...one cannot talk about it".
        We have a basic term for what we are talking about..."consciousness". And you've said that the "form" of consciousness you are familier with is the only one you want to discuss...accepted:>)

        Christophe, I am not a scientist...simply a person who had a experience that I am willing to share. I may never be able to offer the proof you need to be able to participate in a discussion, especially if you believe that discussing other forms of consciousness is not appropriate for this discussion. That seems odd to me considering there is no limitation put on the question.

        Christophe, you are obviously a very intelligent person, and it seems a shame that you come into this discussion and say what you know and can prove is the ONLY answer to what consciousness is.

        No, unfortunately, I cannot explain in scientific terms how I observe the computational system.
        I don't know how to measure it,
        Yes, it affects us, and there are clues...even science is beginning to understand this, because of the technology we have today.
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          Jul 28 2011: Colleen,
          No need to be a scientist... try and explain in your own words...

          If there is another form of consciousness, I'm willing to debate, and want to learn about it.
          Or I could think about it hypothetically... I don't think it refers to reality though. Which does not mean I don't like fantasy (as a matter of fact, I love fantasy)

          Furthermore, one can approach consciousness from the experience point of view: how one experiences his consciousness, in all it's aspects.
          It does not exclude the more 'objective' understanding of consciousness though.

          So indeed: my preference is talking about consciousness that exists, rather than those forms of consciousness we wish to exist... But everybody can discuss this here as well, can't they. I probably won't participate in such discussions that much.

          (sidenote: It is not "what I know and prove", it is "how I think it is, given what I know about it... ")
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        Jul 28 2011: Christophe,
        I have been explaining in my own words, and you keep asking for proof, and telling me that you limit yourself to what you know and can prove. I cannot scientifically prove much of what I believe.

        Ok...you can think about it hypothetically...hypothetical does not necessarily mean fantasy, in my opinion...but it could:>)

        I agree...we can "approach consciousness from the experience...how one experiences...consciousness, in all its aspects".

        I respect your preference to talk about consciousness that exists, rather than those forms of consciousness we wish to exist. I'm not wishing...I'm "knowing", but that is indeed, my own perception, which just happens to be supported by millions of people:>)

        OK...you've brought up fantasy, and in another comment imagination. Where do you think fantasy and imagination come from? You are aware of images/hieroglyphics that have been found in several ancient cultures, depicting "flying machines"? If your theory regarding consciousness is correct...that it is only the information programmed in our brain from birth to death, then where did the fantasy/imagination for "flying machines" come from? It is scientifically proven that these images were indeed done by people living in ancient cultures. It is scientifically proven that they did not have "flying machines" at the time, and yet they were often drawing images of "flying machines". Where do those types of ideas come from? What motivates scientists to go beyond what they already know to explore into the unknown? Again, if we are only operating bases on information programmed into the brain from birth to death, how does our mind evolve?
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          Jul 28 2011: Interesting thoughts and remarks Colleen.

          concerning your experiences: I do think that what you say your experience was, is true. You experienced something, you can relate it, and others can or cannot relate or understand it.

          I don't deny peoples experiences. What I do deny is that an experience necessarily refers to an outer reality. That's why I ask for evidence (not proof!).
          I myself have had quite a bunch of experiences that I know -quite sure- don't refer to reality. We humans do experience a lot of illusions...

          So where do I think Imagination comes from?
          I think that we recombine our current knowledge and information. This enabled us to think about future scenario's and possible outcomes of acts we "plan" to do. This imagination helps us to do rewarding actions and avoid negative outcomes.
          Recombining of snippets of knowledge also enables us to think about things that are unlikely to be true, but maybe fun to think about them anyway (the thinking itself is rewarding)
          As such, fantasy arises (and can take flight with language, so we can pull others into our imagination)

          Concerning the "flying machines", I am extremely skeptical.
          1) How do you know the depictions are flying machines? Can they represent something else? Can it be coincidence?
          2) The idea of gods and their carriages across the sky don't need to rely on real observations in order to depict them.

          "What motivates scientists to go beyond what they already know to explore into the unknown? "
          I don't know about all scientists, but I think the unknown is exactly what science is always seeking: to find out what we don't know, and try and understand it. Seeking understanding, and finding good descriptions and reasons or stories about those phenomena.
          Science just does not deal with in-existing things...

          You can cross those two concepts: existing (or not) and knowing (or not)
          - We know existing things
          - We don't know existing things
          - We know in-existing things
          - We don't know in-existing things
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          Jul 28 2011: (damn, I crossed the character limit)

          To conclude: I try to point out the 3rd statement (we know some things don't exist).
          You appeal to the 2nd (We don't know if something exists).

          A scientist seeks for the 2nd and the 4th, and accepts the 1st and the 3rd.
          [edit] And wants to put everything into 1st and 3rd (if possible)
          the most thrilling, to me, is to find as much of the 1st. The 3rd is fun. (It's the fantasy!)
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        Jul 29 2011: Dear Christophe,
        You are right...you asked for "evidence", not "proof". Sorry for my mistake in the use of terms.

        I believe that some of what we call "imagination" comes from a collective, or universal consciousness, which is unlimited and unending. Information flows through us with energy consciousness. Both energy and consciousness need a carrier in human life form, and that is the body/mind. Some information is stored in the brain, and is, as you say, programmed from our birth to death, while other information is available to us if we open our minds and hearts to the possibilities. I agree with you that we "recombine" knowledge and information.

        Of course the depictions of "flying machines" in ancient cultures could be coincidence, or something else. I'm only going by what I've read regarding the scientific studies of the topic. If you think/feel they might be images of "gods in their carriages" that's fine. I did not bring "god" into this discussion, and I'd prefer to keep it on a scientific level, if you don't mind:>)

        I totally agree with you regarding science, which is why I'm puzzled by the fact that you want to keep the discussion of consciousness limited to what you already know:>)
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          Jul 29 2011: Thanks for sharing your idea of consciousness.

          I don't think it is like that, because if there was conscious energy out there, we should be able to measure it (like some kind of background radiation), and see recurring patterns in it (that could point to the idea that it contains information).

          The idea of people depicting gods is not unscientific. It is an observable event.

          You keep repeating that I want to keep the discussion limited to what I already know... I'm not quite sure I meant that. I do want to keep the discussion in the realm of the possible though... that is a limitation, but maybe not a bad one.
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        Jul 29 2011: Christophe,
        I understand you do not agree with me that there is conscious energy "out there", and that's ok.

        Yes..."depicting gods...is an observable event", and I do not choose to bring god into what I percieve to be a scientific discussion.

        I percieve you to reinforce the idea that you do not want to go beyond the concept that consciousness is produced by the brain, and I respect your choice. If you are "not quite sure" what you meant, how am I supposed to interpret what you meant? The reason I stay in the discussion with you, is because in my perception, you have said in several ways, that it doesn't make sense to discuss consciousness outside the brain, and yet, you often suggest something different. Perhaps you are exploring something that is new for you?

        Keeping the discussion in the realm of what is possible, is different for all of us, don't you think?
        Whose "possible" do you want to discuss?
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        Aug 3 2011: Shawn,
        This is as close as I can get to your comment in which you ask:
        "What is NDE/OBE?"
        Near Death Experience/Out of Body Experience

        It is a common occurence, recorded throughout history, often following a trauma, now being scientifically researched, in which the energy/spirit/consciousness leaves the body.

        I sustained a near fatal head/brain injury 21 years ago because of a horse back riding accident, had a craniotomy, and the body hovered between life and death for a couple days, kept alive with life support systems. In that time, the energy that is "me" left the body to visit another realm:>)
        • Aug 3 2011: I wondering what is the meaning of this conversation? Why we need to define consciousness? To know the truth? why or for what?
          what are we looking for?
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        Aug 4 2011: Hello Yuri,
        The "meaning" of this conversation is whatever you want it to be! We don't "need" to define consciousness, but it's fun to explore the possibilities isn't it? I also believe that the more knowledge we have about any topic, the better we can use it for ourselves and the whole. Do you have an idea of what consciousness is and/or where it comes from? Join the discussion:>)

        P.S. I just read your profile, realize you commented once earlier in this discussion, and I bet that you have a lot more to offer, considering your interests include research on cognitive science and consciousness knowlege. I also read all your posts and agree:>)
    • Jul 29 2011: Hi Christophe,not sure how far this is true but there was an evidence that someone was born without a brain but had consciousness and was alive. How is this possible, I don't know but it proved that the mind and the brain are two distinctively separate entities, with the brain belonging to material / matter and the mind/consciousness belonging to immaterial, knowledge gathered from reading materials available. I compared it to the brain as the light bulb and the mind/consciousness as the energy ever existing to be tapped to make electricity. Just my own thinking & opinion. :)
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        Jul 29 2011: I think refer to the case of the person with the very small brain due to a big amount of encephalitic fluid that pressed the brain inhibiting its development.
        here is a link to the other case: http://www.unexplainedstuff.com/Mysteries-of-the-Mind/Living-without-a-Brain.html (note that the claims are contested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Lorber)
        And here a third case: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,290610,00.html

        There is, as a matter of fact, brain present in this cases.

        Current explanations rely on neural plasticity: the small brain can coordinate a lot of the functions.
        But indeed, those cases are intriguing indeed. It is, however, no proof of an immaterial part of our consciousness...

        I don't know any documented cases of someone living without a brain... but maybe you can find the case you refer to?
        • Jul 29 2011: What about then those that died i.e body & organs including brain medically confirmed by doctors as dead or those in coma, but their consciousness are still active and very much "alive" or present but out of the body. Consciousness in this case is like a life continuum and it makes life never dies, so to speak. I am not 100% certain but I am quite convinced with it within my limited consciousness. Nevertheless, need to explore further for validity.
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        Jul 29 2011: Dead is dead. no consciousness can be reported... Never happened.

        So we have re-animated people and people who had a coma (but came out of it).
        They often do report things they experienced during their death or coma.
        We can't really pinpoint the accuracy of their time-experience, and ass such, the re-activation of the brain can give a surge in activity that seems to have happened way before it actually happened (I compare it with dreams: sometimes they seem very long, while only minutes or seconds passed by)

        Relying on the inner clock of such people is, as such, extremely unreliable.

        There has been, up to now, no reported case of a consciousness when no brain activity was present. But once again, maybe you do have some information on reported cases?
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          Jul 29 2011: I suggest, based on my NDE/OBE, that there is no time or space limitation with the energy/consciousness. Because we do not experience "time" in that state of being, does not necessarily mean we are "unreliable". Because we offer information that you are unfamilier with Christophe, does not warrant calling us, or the information we provide "unreliable".
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        Jul 29 2011: Concerning NDE and OBE: I think that is nothing more than brain activity giving you those experiences... I see no reason to assume that the experience makes more reference to reality than an LSD or mushroom trip.

        The phenomenon of NDE and OBE is interesting though.
        I'll stick to the skeptical (and naturalistic) approach and explanation...

        Unfamiliar information does not make it unreliable.
        NDE and OBE experiences, like hallucinations, are just not reliable as a measurement of what reality is like...

        As for your energy claim: be sure to put some energy detectors in your room while having such experiences. I bet they will not spike. (If they do, I'll try to help you win the Randy million)
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          Jul 29 2011: I agree Christophe, that the experience of "LSD or mushroom trip" may create hallucinations...that is scientifically proven information I believe. I assume you are aware of the scientific research being done regarding NDE/OBEs. You can stick to YOUR reality, and I'll stick to MY reality:>)

          I do not have the experiences on a daily bases Christophe. I sustained a near fatal head/brain injury 21 years ago, and I do not care to repeat that experience again...thanks for the suggestion though. I'm not interested in "winning" anything Christophe. I'm simply offering some information.
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        Jul 29 2011: :-) Thank you Colleen for the conversation.
        (If such an injury is what it takes to have such experiences, I would not suggest anybody to attempt it)

        Just some more nit-picking:
        It's not "my reality" or "your reality", I would call it "my view of reality" or "your view of reality" or worldview. (I don't think we live in different realities)
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          Jul 29 2011: My pleasure Christophe:>)
          I would not suggest a near fatal injury as a way to explore an expanded awareness/consciousness/energy either! There are less challenging ways! LOL:>)

          I agree that we share some of the same reality in human form:>)
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        Aug 4 2011: I don't know about anyone being born without a brain ... although there are well-known cases of people being born with half a brain.

        [That was not a joke ... even though it sounded pretty funny just writing it.]

        And then there is the case of "Mike the Headless Chicken."


        [Probably not suitable for vegans or vegetarians.]
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          Aug 4 2011: JEEEEZ Thomas...it's interesting, but it's early in the morning here...what a way to start the day!!!

          On the same note...similer note 'cause I'm not a chicken...
          My head/brain injury was to the right temporal lobe, which was so damaged, that most of it was removed, and of course, the extensive swelling caused damage to the rest of the brain as well. OH...and there was a severed artery, which caused bleeding in the brain. So, it was expected that I would lose certain functions...most "normal" functions! Remember that it was 20 years ago, and I don't think the theory that other parts of the brain pick up different functions was fully accepted in the medical model yet. I'm glad it's accepted now because I wouldn't know if I'm "normal" or not if the medical model was not in tune with what I knew!!! LOL

          Even though they told me and my family that I would never function "normally" again, somehow, I knew that I would. They call it a miracle...I call it expanded awareness. Even when I was not functioning well, I knew in the back of my mind (such as it is) that I learned certain functions before, and I believed I could learn them again...which I did...just like Mike the chicken:>)
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          Aug 4 2011: Fellow Tedsters, for those who wish to delve into the "science" of consciousness I suggest we look into the Quantum Mind Theory, according to wikipedia:

          The quantum mind or quantum consciousness hypothesis proposes that classical mechanics cannot explain consciousness, while quantum mechanical phenomena, such as quantum entanglement and superposition, may play an important part in the brain's function, and could form the basis of an explanation of consciousness. There are several quite distinct quantum mind theories ...


          And from the NDE research standpoint:



          In the meantime, let's simply enjoy this great adventure of consciousness. :>)
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    Jul 17 2011: Consciousness is omnipotent, omniscience, omnipresence, and omnibenevolence. It is the underlying field from where everything arises. It is beyond time and space, it is everywhere, it is nowhere, it is the nothingness that allows matter to be and it is the quietness that allows sound to be heard. Some people call it being, God, spirit, Ein Sof, mana, and the list goes on. Call it what you want because the word doesn’t matter is just a sign, something you should not get attached to.
    I agree science can give answers for many things, but science relies on the physical realm, it believes that complex things can always be reduced to the action of their parts. Its goal is to uncover an equation that governs the fundamental particles of matter, and life. Consciousness to them is just brain chemistry.
    Then how do we know consciousness exists? We are here and we are conscious, no one can deny that.
    Where did consciousness come from? Consciousness is omnibenevolence, it is unlimited; it is infinite. It is like the ocean from which waves arise and fade back to, forever changing, but always the same. Think of the formless element water, it falls to the ground as a piece of ice in a hail storm, it then changes to a liquid drop and rolls down a gutter to add to a growing wave of water which ends up in the vast body of water which covers most of our earth, only then to be heated and evaporated as a fine gas by the sun, where it accumulates and is dropped from the sky again. The water may look to be very different in the forms it has taken, but it is has never changed; it is still the element h20.
    It is impossible to understand consciousness, as to understand it with your mind would be to limit it to human influence and perception. To know consciousness is to experience the stillness within yourself, to hear the gaps of nothingness between words, to feel the intelligence of your body sending thousands of messages every second to support your life. Who is controlling your life?
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      Jul 17 2011: QUOTE: "Consciousness is omnipotent, omniscience, omnipresence, and omnibenevolence. It is the underlying field from where everything arises."

      How do you know?
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        Jul 17 2011: How do i know? I don’t know.
        All the information is just my idea, gathered from other people’s ideas, which seem to be true to me to some extent, and feel right at a deeper level for me.

        How do you know it is not?

        How does anyone know anything to be the truth?
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          Jul 17 2011: QUOTE: "How do you know it is not?"

          My question was not meant to imply your statement is not true - or that I think or know it to be untrue.

          QUOTE: "How does anyone know anything to be the truth?"

          An excellent question.
  • Jul 16 2011: It is quite possible that "consciousness" is a basic "Field" phenomenon in the natural world, akin to electricity , Magnetism , and Gravity.. Fields share certain characteristics: they do not have borders, only concentrations of strength (as in a battery, or lighning bolt) they are basic elements out of which "material" stuff is made, like atoms, moleculels, electric motors, etc. If this is so, then a lot of mysteries about consciousness would be solved automaticallly. For instance, an electric motor does not become a useful thing because of its structure actuallly; it is merely a vehicle for electric power to be embodied. Ir ia possible tlhat "life" or consciousness or whatever one should call it, would be merely an instance of an available organic body to be energized and made operational analogous to the way the motor works: the body is a vehicle, not the "life". Another point is that electricity is neither created nor destroyed, merely changing its "concentration" temporarily. The extent is "infinite". Alll this is quite consistent not only with modern Science, but also the essential part of Hindu Philosophy about how the Universe is contructed: it's basic elements are energy, waves, and cycles. It's a lot like a dance (the Dance of Shiva) It does not need to have a "purpose", and perhaps not even a Designer (We do that , as we go along. So do all living ltlhings , of course.) This theory makes most religions more or less irrelevant, but I don't see that as an objection; on e can choose to be Spiritual, or not..
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      Jul 16 2011: I think I posted, in this thread, a few days ago these quotes, and others, all from Elmer R. Gates (1859 - 1923.)

      "Mind always requires an organism for its manifestation; science knows of no instance of mental phenomena occurring without being manifested by a living body."

      "One does not need to know what Consciousness is in order to know that it is, any more than Faraday needed to know what electricity is in order to find out what it will do."

      "Consciousness must be understood, not by calling it ‘spirit,’ ‘soul,’ or other name, but by explaining its activities as any other natural phenomenon; namely, by scientific experiment collecting fact after fact."

      "Consciousness is as much a cosmic force as gravity or motion or heat."
      • Jul 23 2011: Thoomas, thanks for the reference. This is a lot like the situation in the early 19th century, where a lot of people independently came to similar conclusions., without even knowing about the others.
    • Comment deleted

      • Jul 25 2011: We should not quickly assume some fundamental difference between the "physical world" and consciousness. Remember , the physical world is made up of light, energy , cycles, waves, electricity , and other such "non-physcial components"; it would be fair to say that atoms, molecules, etc. are no longer considered to be "Fundamental" , they way they so recently were.
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    Jul 13 2011: Consciousness doesn't come from anywhere. Can you see consciousness? NO Does consciousness exist? Yes. So that automatically throws science out of the picture. Because science deals with what you can see objectively(or feel, taste, hear or smell). So then how do we look at something without the lens of the scientific paradigm? We shift the paradigm. We say hey consciousness exists therefore we have to look through that. We have to say consciousness is the ground of awareness and the more awareness the better. So therefore consciousness is good. Where does it come from? where does anything come from? It comes from the depths of your own being.
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      Jul 13 2011: I very much appreciate your take on Consciousness, Rohan! I am very interested in the root causes of things, so I do spend time pondering over where our Consciousness originates from; but I agree that all is one, one is all, and therefore consciousness is innate to existence itself.
      • Jul 14 2011: Hi Sanyu, me too. I'm interested to know the source of pure consciousness that is innate in us. It is compared to an ocean and we are droplets of water that are part of the one ocean. When these droplets of water merge with the ocean, we become the ocean so to speak. But like the ocean where is the source of this ocean. Uuummm... :) Interesting subject.
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          Jul 14 2011: The droplets of water in the ocean are recycled...are they not? The water evaporates into the atmosphere...comes back down as precipitation...falls into the rivers and streams, which eventually run into the ocean...evaporates again into the atmosphere...

          Could it be that the energy of consciousness has a similar pattern? This is my belief, and science is beginning to recognize the energy connections...are they not?:>)
          Maybe, it is time to shift the paradigm, as Rohan insightfully suggests:>)
  • Jul 31 2011: Consciousness is a band of awareness that parellels the electromagnetic spectrum in it's architecture. It conforms to the same laws of the octave. It occurs as an internal reflection to an external field called the physical universe. It can be referenced within the spectrum of human experience and is the substance of impressions of which humans feed. It comes from the universe and yet is strengthened locally by humans who choose to align themselves with the laws which parallel is resonating quality. It is sure that humans can live entirely outside this realm. It is also true that no one is robbed of the opportunity to engage in it's fruits. To align with it is to experience being. It always was, is and comes from all and everything.
    • Jul 31 2011: Johnny Cude,

      That Johnny... was like a breath of fresh air !!

      Thanks !
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      Jul 31 2011: awesome!
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      Jul 31 2011: Well said Johnny Cude:>)
      I agree...breath of fresh air...awesome!!!

      Hi Daniel...it's johnny "cude"...not crude:>)
      Welcome back:>)
      • Jul 31 2011: Thanks Colleen !
        That was a really stupid mistake... :-( .. I corrected it..

        Nice to be back too... How are you? .. creating a cosmic consciousness among commenters !
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          Jul 31 2011: Hi Daniel,
          I percieved it to be an unintentional error:>)
          I'm good thanks, and yes, we're stiring the cosmic pot!!! LOL

          Nice to see you on Ted again^_^
      • Jul 31 2011: Hi Karhik,
        The personal attack was directed to myself and myself only :-) ssshhhhh... don't tell the TED censors though... they might cancel it out.....
    • Aug 1 2011: johnny cude

      O so on to it.

      Brilliant read, clear coherent and right on the money as far as answering the question goes.
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      Aug 1 2011: If we substituted the word "God," "Allah," or the "Force" for the word "consciousness," this statement could be construed as a religious or pop-culture-inspired sentiment.

      How does using the word "consciousness" make a difference?

      The statement might be true. It sounds great.

      Mr Cude, how do you know this statement is true?
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        Aug 1 2011: Hi Thomas,
        In my perception, we can substitute god, allah, the force, spirit, soul, energy, universal consciousness, collective consciousness, and probably many more words for the energy of consciousness. Energy is the word I prefer, because that is how I saw it with my NDE/OBE, and I believe that energy connects all that is. Using any word, of course, makes a difference to each individual and how s/he uses the information. In my humble opinion, if we use the energy of consciousness in a beneficial way...to know and evolve in ourselves, while opening our hearts and minds to others and contributing to the whole...it doesn't matter what we call it:>)
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          Aug 1 2011: QUOTE: "In my humble opinion...it doesn't matter what we call it:>)"

          I share your opinion. The question comes down to what "it" is for each of us who use the possibly interchangeable terms of God, Allah, energy, etc. (I say "possibly" because some would say "their" term is the ONLY right one.)

          For you, "it" refers to an experience you had in conjunction with a NDE/OBE.

          For some, "it" might be describing an experience of nirvana or samadhi.

          For some, "it" might be a visitation from God or the archangel Gabriel; or a transcendent experience achieved through ritual and peyote; and so on.

          For some, "it" might be the pure logic of a mathematical formula explaining "everything."

          Also for some "it" might be simple speculation - a good idea based on what seems plausible, possible; or a synthesis of "Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," "Be Here Now" and "The Dancing Wu Li Masters."
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        Aug 1 2011: No Thomas...the energy of consciousness is not something I simply refer to an experience I had in conjunction with a NDE/OBE. I have felt the energy of consciousness since I was a child, and continue to feel it in every moment of my life. Yes, I agree, "it" has many meanings for different people. Again, in my humble opinion, the important thing is how we use "it".
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          Aug 1 2011: Hi Colleen,

          I was referring to your comment: "Energy is the word I prefer, because that is how I saw it with my NDE/OBE, and I believe that energy connects all that is."

          I like to find out how each of us comes to understand "it" ... Is it through experience, revelation, through speculation and so on?

          For one thing it helps me to figure out if "there is a conversation to be had."

          If someone is speculating that, "consciousness is a band of awareness that parellels the electromagnetic spectrum..." to quote Mr. Cude, well, we have some room for discussion; if he "knows" that, "consciousness is a band of awareness that parellels the electromagnetic spectrum..." it would be interesting to find out how he knows.
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          Aug 1 2011: QUOTE: "Probably the answer is, he has felt it. And hence believes it is true."

          Hi Karthik,

          There is degree of probability you are correct. I suspect most answers that relate to what you call Spirituality would be based on a feeling. Logic, if it is used at all, is used to defend and explain the feeling.

          And, I suspect many of us would assume our feelings (and how we interpret them) are true and probably, in some ways, superior to, say, science, and how it interprets the "reality" of existence and superior, too, to "other" explanations.

          But perhaps, for Mr Cude, his answer is not "spiritual?"
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        Aug 1 2011: Karthik,
        I respect your skepticism:>) When I say open the heart and mind, I'm suggesting to simply open the channels, or circuits that allow more energy to flow through us. I'm not a scientist, so I have difficulty in explaining what I experience in scientific terms. The energy of consciousness is much like electrical energy to me. When we turn the switch or circuit breaker off, the energy ceases to flow. In my opinion, we often limit the flow of energy by not being open minded/hearted to ourselves or others. For me, opening the channels, is as simple as being kind, accepting, respectful and loving to ourselves and others. It is being aware of the bigger picture of humanity, while observing and being mindful of how our "self" is operating. ^_^
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        Aug 1 2011: Dear Karthik,
        I respect your choice to define consciousness as spirituality, just as I respect your choice to be skeptical in your previous comment:>)

        I am not mixing anything up. As you well know, I've stated many times that I perceive everything to be interconnected, so in my mind and heart, consciousness has many facets. If you feel that the way I explain things is a "problem", that is a choice you make. It may be helpful for you to review the question and introduction of this topic/thread.
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        Aug 2 2011: Karthik,
        It feels to me like we agree:>)
        You say..."Science can answer how an organism, or a processor can become self-aware...". That to me is the scientific part, and what I was trying to explain with my reference to energy consciousness and energy field. I also agree with you that feelings cannot be explained with logic. I said I have difficulty explaining scientific "stuff", and that is not necessarily a "problem" in my perception because others can do it very well:>) I am not trying to "convince" you of anything Karthik...simply participating in an interesting discussion...apology accepted:>)

        Sorry this response is far away from the comment I am responding to...couldn't get it any closer!
        I could have been more clear...

        Your statement Thomas:
        "For you, "it" refers to an experience you had in conjunction with a NDE/OBE".

        The NDE/OBE was not the only time I've experienced "it" (consciousness/awareness). I've experienced it on many levels throughout my life. The NDE/OBE provided quite a bit of information, which clarified (for me at least), what consciousness is, how it flows through us, and how we use it...or not! With the NDE/OBE I was aware of many more levels of consciousness, so it intensified my awareness of "it", and it was not the only time I have been aware of "it". That's the only point I was trying to clarify, and I was not very clear with my previous response:>)
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          Aug 2 2011: QUOTE: "...The NDE/OBE was not the only time I've experienced "it" (consciousness/awareness). I've experienced it on many levels throughout my life. ... I was not very clear with my previous response:>)"

          Hi Colleen,

          Thank you for the clarification. No worries.

          I did not mean to imply your experience was limited to your NDE/OBE.

          I was referencing the only information I had available to me at the time.

          The point, of course, is that each of us draws on our own experiences (whatever they are) to define "it." Although I do think some of us do not bother with a definition.
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        Aug 2 2011: I agree Thomas...each of us draws on our own experiences for definitions:>)

        Sorry to disappoint you, but I'm not here to convince anyone of anything...simply sharing information:>)

        I do not "constantly use "it"" in my replies, and in fact, I believe the recent comments between Thomas and I are the only times I've used "it", because that was a term Thomas used, and I was responding to his comment.

        It is good that you are not going to "argue any further" because you were arguing with yourself:>)
  • Jul 8 2011: Farrukh,

    I love contemplating consciousness. After spending a good deal of time learning about classical physics, modern physics, their relation, western and eastern ways of viewing reality, I came across a new way of seeing it.

    Did consciousness come from somewhere? Or is consciousness the ground of everything in existence? In another way--which came first? Consciousness or matter? We normally would think that there were a bunch of rocks floating around in space and SOMEHOW consciousness emerged. But consider just a few basic features of modern physics (the implications are hotly disputed, the science/experiments are widely confirmed):

    In quantum mechanics, we are unable to remove the experimenter from the experiment...as in.. when there is a conscious observer, what we call matter acts differently. This destroys "Objectivity," a huge pillar of western science. But the simple idea that mind interacts with matter is baffling.

    In relativity, space and time are relative to each observer. HUH? The seemingly immutable features of space and time can change? I don't know about you, but I cannot wrap my head around the idea that time or space can be warped. But, this is essentially saying that space and time are constructs of the mind.

    In fact, it seems everything is a construct of the mind (this can lead to ideas that lend themselves to the concept that there is just one consciousness and we are all gestaults of this but fail to realize it).

    So perhaps consciousness just is. What we are to figure out is then why? Why does time exist for us the way it does? Well, like most questions of this caliber, we arrive at The question: Why is there something rather than nothing?

    Clearly I don't have an answer for your question. I just hope I may have excited some thoughts or provided you or any reader with some new ideas to research.
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    Jul 8 2011: http://www.ted.com/conversations/3619/what_is_your_belief_regarding.html

    Although I concluded by saying I hope science can tell us, I think consciousness is in a dimension that is tangential to the sphere of science.

    It is like asking a fish to describe water: it can never give a complete description because it can never come out of water and study water "scientifically", meaning through empirical observations. Similarly, the cause and nature of consciousness is something not solvable by empirical observations, because we are points within the field of consciousness. It is "projected" onto other objects to obtain an "objective" "scientific" view. How can we, who are made of consciousness, separate it from ourselves to study it "objectively"? It is a subjective matter, to be experienced on an individual level.

    (I know this will make a lot of the "children of science" mad as hell).
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    Aug 7 2011: There is a well-know story in physics. Not too long ago, string theory was in a bit of a mess. There were at least five competing schools of thought and they were not compatible.

    Edward MItten came along and consolidated the theories into one which we now call "M Theory."

    Essentially, the five competing theories were looking at the same "thing" but from different perspectives so they were each describing facets of a single phenomenon. Witten just aligned them.

    I think a similar thing happens when we discuss "consciousness." Everyone looks at it from their own perspective, sees whatever they see, and describes that. Except, in some cases, people do not even describe what they see, they describe what they think MIGHT be there ... which is, in some cases, "nothing" ... and that adds a degree of complexity that is very difficult to integrate or align with.

    We love explanations.

    But we may have to accept that, for some things, there are no explanations.

    That does not mean we cannot gain a deep and rich understanding of, and appreciation for life and it's myriad manifestations.

    Nor do we have to stop looking for explanations. And we should NOT stop if we find an EXPLANATION we think is perfect.

    No explanation is perfect. (Think about it.)

    Regardless of where it comes from, our relationship with consciousness (or experience) is a personal one. There will NEVER be a genius who solves the consciousness "problem" for all of us anymore than there will be someone who comes along and falls in love, or drinks water for all of us. Some things we have to do alone. Or not do at all.

    In the article Lawrence provided a link for, Steven Pinker says, "I would argue that nothing gives life more purpose than the realization that every moment of consciousness is a precious and fragile gift."

    And for those who think consciousness does not exist, I would add: that nothing gives life more purpose than the realization that every moment of experience is a precious and fragile gift.
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    Aug 5 2011: Let’s imagine we are participating in an experiment: While we are being “scanned” by a machine that tells us what is happening “inside,” we are subjected to a particular stimulus – say, a special photograph.

    After looking at the photo for a few minutes, we get a read out and it says there is heightened activity in the insula, anterior cingulate, caudate nucleus, and putamen. There is a concomitant decrease in activation of the amygdala, posterior cingulate, and the frontal, parietal, and temporal cortices on the right side. In addition certain biochemical networks are activated resulting in an increase in endorphins, dopamine, and a cocktail of other “drugs.”

    This is a very good explanation of “something.”

    Do you know what it is?

    If you are a neuroscientist, you might recognize it as “love.” [And the “stimulus” mentioned in the first sentence is a picture of our beloved.]

    Based on the description, could you guess what love feels like?

    Now, tell me: What if you studied people who are "in love" for decades, and what if if you could recite this description forward, backwards, and in your sleep, if you could improve on it, add detail, correct mistakes, and, in effect, perfect “the description of love;” - what if you could explain love - would you know what love is?

    No, of course not!

    How do we “know” what love is?

    We experience it.

    Do we NEED the explanation to know what love is?

    No, we do not.

    Consciousness is a little like that.
    • Aug 5 2011: Good heavens Thomas! You are a breath away from agreeing with me that consciousness does not exist.

      If we suppose that experience is what it is like for an object to perceive then when we communicate our experience in words the general form will be "I perceive X" where 'I' is the object that perceives. In your story the "I perceive X" consists of "I perceive the emotion(s) of love" (roughly) and "I perceive the mechanisms of perception" (very roughly - because we don't actually perceive the detailed mechanism but rather model, visualise, or perhaps 'mathematise' it). There is no inconsistency or difficulty in this in principle, well, no more than there is between seeing the computer screen and the mechanism of visual perception.

      In saying "I perceive X", if we are able to deduce that X is real then we will say that X exists. If X is a thought (imagined language) we will say X does not exist - because it is imaginary. (This does not mean we don't perceive it!). Most importantly "I perceive X" does not lead to the notion "I have perceptions of X" - we are unable to say that perceptions exist at all and certainly not in the mind, brain, or anywhere else. Quite simply, there is no such thing as existent perceptions, no such thing as an existent mind, no such thing as existent consciousness - these concepts arise from a misunderstanding of perception.

      When we communicate through an exchange of words (a process that occurs in the real) we depend on there being a shared understanding of reference. We do not communicate experience directly. Our strongest and most detailed reference comes from visual experience such that we can often effectively communicate an experience through description. Our language for emotions, by contrast, is blunt because their perception is private rather than shared.
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        Aug 5 2011: Hi Lawrence,

        It is unlikely I would agree that consciousness does not exist - I might at some point because agreement and disagreement are cognitive functions; and, as we know, cognitive functions are somewhat unpredictable.

        However, for me, consciousness is (to use your framework) an "object."

        As you may have guessed, this is not my first discussion of consciousness. What I have noticed in such discussions is that, for many, the subject is "imaginary;" consciousness is perceived as something that "does not really exist" as in your worldview where consciousness is simply a word we use to describe an epiphenomenon or even less, a word we use to describe the description of an epiphenomenon. And, by the way, in many cases, I agree with you, it is.

        But just because that is true most of the time, does not mean consciousness does not exist. If it exists (and I say it does) we have to look for it where it is.

        We will not find water in a book about water; we have to look for water "where water is." (If we want to find it that is!)

        We will not find water in descriptions of water; and we will not find consciousness in descriptions of (or even, in the conventional sense, experiences of) consciousness.

        For others, when we discuss consciousness, there is a sense that it is real, a belief it is real, we could say and then, what is offered as "proof" is exactly what your are talking about which, as we know, is no proof at all.

        I have been thinking about responding to you within your framework but it is well thought out, quite dense, and requires more time than I have at the moment. Maybe on the weekend. (I have no intention of changing your mind by the way.)
        • Aug 5 2011: Thomas,
          Consciousness cannot be an object in the framework I propose. In "I perceive X" we may deduce X is an object (that it is real and exists) but this is a complex deduction. If we regard perception as mechanical it cannot make sense to say "I perceive consciousness", and it is probably wrong in any disciplined understanding of perception - because we usually think of consciousness as being consciousness OF something (even if we are not sure what). (Even consciousness of blueness is the perception of either a real or imaginary something that is blue.)
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        Aug 5 2011: If I were to simplify: Many people present the epiphenomenon you refer to as experience and call it consciousness. You, quite rightly, respond, "No, that is not consciousness."

        But to take the next step and say, "Because that which you call consciousness is not consciousness, we can assert consciousness does not exist, ignores the possibility that "they" simply might not know what consciousness is. Believing something to be true and knowing something to be true are not the same thing.

        And we can surmise that, as you say consciousness does not exist, you do not know what it is - if it exists at all (and I say it does.)
        • Aug 5 2011: Thomas,
          If consciousness does not exist then it has nothing to do with phenomena. Calling it an epiphenomenon is a contradiction.

          I discount the possibility that the assertion that consciousness does not exist arises from it being incorrectly (or differently) identified. Consciousness is identified as a conceptual error - the mistake of progressing from "I perceive X" to "I have perceptions of X". Furthermore, the problems and confusions that arise concerning it can be deduced from this error.

          When we interact in the world everything we do is in accord with the idea that we perceive it. But when we THINK about our perception we very properly distinguish the real world from our perception of the real world - it is clear to us that we have a limited perspective and that we make mistakes. So when we think about our perception, instead of saying "I perceive X" (where X is something real) as we would naturally do, we conceive that the real world is out there and that we have something about the world in ourselves. We now suppose, not that we perceive X but that we have perceptions of X. And in so doing we confound our notion of perception because we are no longer sure if we perceive X or whether we perceive our perceptions of X; we are not sure if perception is a mechanical process in the real or whether it refers to the presence of perceptions in the mind.
          Interpreting experience as "I perceive X" where 'I' is the object that perceives and perception is a process in the real means that we do not progress from "I perceive X" to "I have perceptions of X" and the distinction between the real and our perception of it is understood to be framed entirely in terms of "I perceive X" i.e. the real independent of our perception of the real is nevertheless framed in terms of our perception of the real.
          In this understanding consciousness (the notion of existent perceptions) is not misunderstood or incorrectly identified. It is positively diagnosed as non-existent.
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        Aug 5 2011: HI Lawrence,

        [I am spending more time on this than I thought]

        I understand this sentence will be problematic for you:

        "If it exists (and I say it does) we have to look for it where it is."

        "Looking for it where it is" maintains the pattern of "object that perceives" and perception (as experience) being misconstrued as consciousness.

        Language has its limitations.

        This might be a little closer to "the truth" - If consciousness exists (and I say it does) we have to look for it in a manner appropriate to the task. If we are going to leave the realm of philosophy, speculation, theory, and debate we must collapse the subject/object barrier. We will have to do this alone.
        • Aug 5 2011: Thomas,
          Regarding the location of consciousness, I have noted in another comment the fallacy of locating it at the visual viewpoint. Objects have location and it makes sense to enquire into their location. But consciousness is not an object (it is not real or existent) so it doesn't have a location. We can do things to stop the brain perceiving but this does not mean there is something called consciousness that is in the brain.

          'Experience' is a difficult concept. It does have clear links to consciousness. I use it as a floating term to indicate the subject at hand but I intend it to be as little theory-laden as possible. But once we do adopt a theory, once we leap, for example, to an understanding such as "people are objects that perceive" then we necessarily find ourselves reflecting back on what we mean by experience. If people are objects that perceive then experience comes to be regarded as a cumulation of "I perceive X" (so to speak). Consequently it would make no sense to say experience is an X in "I perceive X" i.e. we do not perceive it, and like consciousness we have no basis for saying it exists. Remember X exists if we perceive it and are able to deduce it is an object.
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        Aug 5 2011: Hi Lawrence,

        [Okay, I admit it - I'm ignoring some of the other things I could be doing now and focussing on this discussion.]

        I understand this sentence will also be problematic for you:

        "I say it does."

        Because "I" (in your worldview) is an object that perceives and as such anything it perceives, and describes based on that perception, is, to use my word, not yours, an "illusion" - not real.

        I agree.

        The challenge, of course, is that if we examine the world using ONLY your framework, it is not possible to understand the sentence, "I say it does" as anything other than meaningless babel.

        So, if we wish to explore the possibility that the sentence, "I say it does" can have real meaning, we will have to, momentarily, put your worldview aside and "imagine" what would have to be true in order for, "I say it does" to have meaning. It cannot be done from within (my understanding of) your worldview.
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          Aug 5 2011: Good point Thomas,
          We cannot explore something new and different if we stay in our own worldview, or our own method of understanding or explaining. In order to experience something differently, we need to suspend our own beliefs/perceptions and explore beyond what we already think we know.

          This is scientifically proven... I'm just having fun with myself and the use of my left hemisphere...LOL:>)
        • Aug 5 2011: Thomas,
          I see no problem in your "I say it does". You are an object that perceives. You perceive a thought. You write it. I am an object that perceives. I see the writing. We share the same language therefore I understand it to some degree.
          If people are objects that perceive then you are simply wrong to say that consciousness exists.
          If you were to divorce consciousness from the concept of perception altogether and claim it means something else, then you would be altering the word beyond recognition - it would cease to be the topic of our discussion.

          If you mean to say that assertions about private experience are correct and indisputable then I think you are wrong - because language concerns shared reference.

          One of the absurdities of traditional language is that people will say the real exists, that imaginary things don't exist but that the perceptions of imaginary things do exist. Some people use 'exist' in such an undisciplined manner that they would be hard pressed to assert that there is anything that doesn't exist.
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          Aug 6 2011: QUOTE: "Well then, I'm sorry for shouting at you Thomas. I hope you know I was joking:>)"

          Hi Colleen,

          I knew you were joking (I was playing along.)

          [Here's my "policy:" I will always assume you have good intentions. But if you (or anyone) say something I interpret as confrontational, hurtful, or aggressive, I will ask. You won't have to guess. My intention is to communicate with respect (and sometimes humour) even if I disagree with an idea we are discussing. I will not say anything to intentionally hurt you (or anyone.)]
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          Aug 6 2011: QUOTE: "Well then, I'm sorry for shouting at you Thomas. I hope you know I was joking. No I did NOT know you were dyslexic, and I apologize."

          Hi Colleen,

          There's no need for an apology. I knew you were joking and was joking right back atcha.

          See my earlier response (wherever it is ... this response hierarchy is a bit wonky.)
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        Aug 5 2011: QUOTE: "... I'm just having fun with myself and the use of my left hemisphere..."

        Is that the one that is ... um... missing?

        Well, they say the universe sprang from nothing, you know?
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          Aug 5 2011: NO...NO...NO Thomas! For goodness sake...pay attention!!!

          It is part of the RIGHT hemisphere that was....um...."adjusted":>)
          You see...that's what caused the balance. Although I was a right brain dominant person prior to the "adjustment", now I observe the left brain dominance some of the time, and it gives me pleasure...makes me smile...balance:>)

          I do not suggest this method as a "normal" way to balance the right and left hemispheres:>)

          I think/feel the universe sprang from consciousness...or...did consciousness spring from the universe...or...is it one and the same...universal consciousness?
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        Aug 5 2011: Ah, got it! I will do my best to keep it straight but I am dyslexic, you know?

        Yes, I agree, such "adjustments" should not be used in the normal course of events. Only in special cases.
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          Aug 6 2011: Well then, I'm sorry for shouting at you Thomas. I hope you know I was joking.

          No I did NOT know you were dyslexic, and I apologize.
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        Aug 5 2011: QUOTE: "Consciousness cannot be an object in the framework I propose."

        I know.
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        Aug 5 2011: Hi Lawrence,

        You say:

        QUOTE: "If consciousness does not exist then it has nothing to do with phenomena. Calling it an epiphenomenon is a contradiction."

        Okay, let's use another word or phrase for what happens in "the gap" ... how about "pseudophenomenon?" "Looping?" "Imagined consciousness?" "Interpretation of experience?"

        QUOTE: "I discount the possibility that the assertion that consciousness does not exist arises from it being incorrectly (or differently) identified."

        I know.

        I agree; what you are describing is not consciousness. It is a misconception arising from "I have perceptions of X" being (mis)interpreted as consciousness. This description, this misconception or "pseudophenomenon" is not consciousness.

        If you were describing "all that there is" (with regards to consciousness) I would have to agree with you, and accept that consciousness does not exists.

        But you are not.

        (It is obvious you think you are so it might be hard for you to accept that statement - how about we hold it as provisionally true?)

        You are correctly identifying a common misconception (that, "I have perceptions of X," can be, and is, often misinterpreted as "consciousness;") and then you are asserting that because this "imagined consciousness" is not "consciousness," then consciousness does not exists.

        Yes, what you are describing is not consciousness.

        But you are not describing "all there is."

        Consciousness is "something else."

        I do not mean my "idea" of consciousness is different than your "idea" of consciousness so "let's talk about our ideas," I mean consciousness is something other than that which you are describing.

        What you are describing (extremely well) is - in my worldview - what I sometimes call perception; sometimes, thought; or sometimes, content of awareness; and so on. And your description defines all of those brilliantly.

        None of those are consciousness. And no amount of interpretation will make them so.

        Consciousness is "something" else.
        • Aug 6 2011: Thomas
          You write of "the gap". What gap?

          You are saying that my description does not account for all there is with regards to consciousness. Do you mean I have accounted for nothing of consciousness?

          We appear to disagree about what 'consciousness' refers to, yet you say you are not claiming we have different ideas of consciousness, but rather that I have not described it. (The word 'idea' is problematic here because of its changed meaning.) You nevertheless do not attempt to clarify what consciousness is, so I guess you mean that consciousness is beyond description. It looks to me that you are making a transcendental claim and when asked to account for it will answer "I can't".

          I offer two points.

          When Berkeley observes that all perceptions are in the mind he means all experience without exception, thoughts, feelings, imaginations, sensations of the real, visceral sensations of self etc. This is a powerful unifying concept, and it accords entirely with the investigation of neuroscience into the mechanisms of perception. You appear to me to be trying to put consciousness out of reach of the concept of perception.

          Language depends upon shared reference. The acquisition of shared reference is a complex issue that concerns the development of vocabulary and concepts over historical time and it concerns our own personal learning from being a pre-lingual baby to becoming a speaker of a particular language. You appear to me to be trying to put consciousness out of reach also of shared reference. Your method of doing so seems to depend on a distinction between 'refer' and 'describe' i.e. I think you are claiming that we have the same reference when we use the word but that consciousness itself is indescribable and cannot be identified through other relationships. If I guess correctly then I would conclude that your supposed concept of consciousness is unteachable, it is unlearnable, and that you are indeed just a breath away from agreeing with me that it does not exist
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        Aug 6 2011: Hi Lawrence,

        The "gap" is a metaphor it could stand for: the temporal gap between an object that perceives (OtP), an object perceived, and when it "interprets" the perception; it could be the physical gap between the OtP and the object that is perceived; and it could be the "cognitive gap" (lacuna) we erroneously fill with the definition, "consciousness."

        QUOTE: "We appear to disagree about what 'consciousness' refers to ..."

        It would appear so: I say it exists; you say it does not.

        QUOTE: "... yet you say you are not claiming we have different ideas of consciousness, but rather that I have not described it.

        That is not what I am saying, although, having re-read the sentence, I can see it is a fair interpretation.

        What I am saying is we (obviously) have different ideas; and our ideas are relating to different things.

        Your ideas are about something that is not consciousness.

        My ideas are about something other than the thing you are describing.

        I am suggesting what you are describing - the interpretation of experience as consciousness - is not what I am referring to when I use the word "consciousness." For you, we might say consciousness is an "artifact" or whatever but it is certainly not “real.”

        I am suggesting there is "something" called consciousness and while it is (quite obviously) not contained anywhere within your paradigm it is as real as the OtP is real.

        From within your worldview, you cannot see it.

        QUOTE: I guess you mean that consciousness is beyond description. It looks to me that you are making a transcendental claim and when asked to account for it will answer "I can't."

        Not in the least. But, as you know, there is no description that could withstand the rigor of your most excellent model.

        QUOTE: "You appear to me to be trying to put consciousness out of reach also of shared reference."

        Again, not in the least, it's obvious we do not have "shared reference" ... I clearly have references that you do not share.

        And it is "teachable."
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        Aug 6 2011: Hi Lawrence,

        Here's a little afterthought:

        If you were to stray outside of your model and come to understand what I refer to when I use the word “consciousness,” your model will not collapse; it will still describe exactly what it is describing now.
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    Aug 4 2011: Hi Christopher Cop

    I understand that science has not really defined these words so we may very well be talking right past one another.

    As far as quantum-quakery is concerned, I refuse to be bulled by Richard Dawkins or anyone into rejecting a very fruitful field of exploration. http://tiny.cc/tizwv Your comment sounded to me like a typical left brain biased "believer" in scientism. Do you like that label? If not then you should consider not labeling others.

    The fact is we have searched the brain for the source of consciousness and come up with nothing. We have looked all over the body too. (using Newtonian mechanical cause-effect model physics is something we are very good at by now)

    Those physicists with the courage to endure the bitching-out of anal left-brain peers now look to the source of consciousness in those quantum fields. Consciousness has to be a property of matter itself at a very subtle level of "reality."
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    Jul 31 2011: consciousness - the unity of our five senses: taste, smell, hearing, sight, touch, through which we perceive the world and describe it. You'll say that animals have such feelings, too. Yes, but their brains do not have a descriptive quality, which is ours. We can describe the place with us through the events of the question. So consciousness - I think this is a descriptive process of our brain. It is taken by intuition (a combination of the five senses) and accumulated knowledge. In general, I believe that consciousness is our relationship with the cosmos, and the great minds of humanity have always paid attention to the cosmic processes.
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      Jul 31 2011: Ekaterina,
      I agree that consciousness includes our senses, which gives us information to determine how we perceive and describe the world, and I also agree that the consciousness is part of the descriptive process of the brain, including intuition and accumulated knowledge. How then, in your perception, does the consciousness connect us with the cosmos?

      My own perception, is that consciousness is similar to an energy field that flows through the body, embracing/including everything you describe above and more:>)
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        Jul 31 2011: You can draw an analogy "consciousness - is the mind". But mind - is already cosmic itself. The only creature on planet earth that has a mind - a man, all the rest have just instinct. The energy field around the body - this is not the only field,there is also a field of mental energy, there is a field of memory - a torsion field, this field is the noosphere. So many fields that are stronger than the other one. And only a person can read information from a torsion field. Also, many esoteric say that human hair - this antenna, the connection to the cosmos. And I agree with that.
  • Jul 30 2011: What agreat question ! I start from this perspective:

    In the beginning the was only let's say "The One". The one was conciousness itself, awareness of awareness. the I AM and the I AM being the Universe of Infinite Potential, the Field of all Possibilities. One might call this the singularity, or absolute perfection, all thing in perfect balance. What if that is all there ever was, is or will be? Then maybe we are just a single point of the universal conciousness manifest into this physical universe as bodys with minds and conciousness which we seem to have a dificult time searating or distinguishing the difference. It seems to me that we suffer in this physical life and universe from separation anxiety continuously being told of our uniqueness, when maybe the only thing that truly separates us is manifesting into this universe as a single point of view and not knowing that we are truly part of The One / The I AM.
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      Jul 31 2011: Well said C. Terry!
      I think we have a difficult time as humans because we don't remember that we are "one" or why we're here. Western cultures especially, have been distracted by materialistic life styles, which often prevents us from knowing our "self". I believe this is what people are searching for, and it's right there/here...in our consciousness:>)
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          Aug 3 2011: Hi Eric,
          1. Don't know for sure:>)
          2. I believe consciousness energy enters a body at the moment human life begins.
          3. I can share my experience for this one:>)
          I was unconscious in ICU after a near fatal head/brain injury and craniotomy. The body/brain was unconscious according to the medical model, and kept alive on life support systems.
          The only thing that was "switched off" for me, was my ability to communicate on a human level. That "feature", of my brain/computer was disabled because of the damage to the brain.
          On another level, I was MORE conscious of the big picture. I could see my body on the bed in ICU, and although it was not a pretty sight, I was detached from it emotionally. I could sense the thoughts and feelings of people in the room (an expanded sense of ESP/intuition), and I saw our world as a very small part of the whole. This life form is important while our consciousness energy is in the body, and there is more.
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          Aug 4 2011: 1. If consciousness is a property of matter then it has to be at the subatomic level. Therefore, rocks have potential consciousness because they are made out of atoms. However, the rock does not have a complex nervous system. It has no sensory systems at all that. So the potential for consciousness cannot be "activated." A rock is not alive, it cannot perceive, sense, think, experience or know. Therefore, it has no form of intelligence.

          2. Every cell of a foetus is made out of living cells that are making constant choices "yes to this, no to that". Therefore, consciousness is always within the foetus, and as the foetus develops the capacity to use its brain, its senses, its nervous system and body, the consciousness expands into the full potential available at any given moment. That full potential is defined by physics.

          3. When we go to sleep, we gradually shut down different parts of the brain like turning off groups of light switches in a large office building. But even when we are wide awake, we shut down parts of the brain. For example, when you are driving and suddenly realize you are almost home because you have been lost in thought while some other part of you drove the car (or washed the dishes etc).

          Parts of a person's brain have shut down in an unconscious person -- no two cases are identical. Our autonomic nervous system that keeps the heart and the respiration etc. is about as conscious as a fish or a plant. It can respond at a basic level (to light, for example) but it cannot perform an complex cognitive processes.
  • Jul 25 2011: This is a fascinating question. I have not yet had a chance to read other's comments yet, so I am not commenting on anything other than the question at hand.

    I am a physician and consider myself a scientist, but I have never seen anything in an experimental sense that explains consciousness, yet we all know, without question, that it exists. In my opinion, it is one of the most irrefutable proofs of a Creator. I believe consciousness is conferred by that Being and that everything does have consciousness at its own level. To one more evolved, e.g. a human, the consciousness of a less evolved being (e.g. a plant) is non-existent, but when that being looks at another of its own kind, it sees consciousness at its own level of comprehension. I believe the same exists for minerals and animals. I also believe that although we exist at the top of the evolutionary chain on the material plane, there are other planes that are not visible to our 5 senses and we are at the beginning of the evolutionary chain in those realms. We receive intimations of these realms in visions and dreams (though not all visions and dreams are of this nature) and I believe we innately know of their existence (though we work hard to ignore that feeling).

    I would venture further to say that it is the purpose of our existence to explore this very questions, answer it and evolve further into the realms we cannot see, hear, smell, taste or touch.

    I know this is very controversial, but I put it out there with the true intent of sharing, for anyone to consider.

    Thanks for reading this.
    • Jul 26 2011: "I have never seen anything in an experimental sense that explains consciousness, yet we all know, without question, that it exists."

      On the contrary, it is my view that saying mind and consciousness exist is a poor way to comprehend experience.

      Objects exist. This is what we primarily mean by the word 'exist'. And what we mean is that objects persist regardless of whether we are perceiving them or not. It is difficult to get from the assertion that objects exist to the assertion that consciousness exists.

      It is my view that we correctly state the relationship between experience and the real by positing that we are objects that perceive. In this understanding the self is an object, the process of perception occurs in the real, and the self's knowledge of objects (and therefore itself) is mediated and uncertain. In this understand I would say that I perceive an object whereas you would say you have consciousness of it or that you have perceptions of it in your mind. Your understanding produces unfathomable existences that have an unfathomable relationship to the real.

      So when Descartes says 'I perceive therefore I exist' I agree because I understand people to be objects that perceive (and objects exist) whereas you agree because you think perceptions exist. You take the statement, as Descartes did, to be unquestionably true, whereas I regard it as an interpretation of experience.
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    Jul 18 2011: I do not necessarily believe that consciousness is an illusion of our own minds, I believe that there is a default form of consciousness that we experience. This default consciousness is the one that we are experiencing at this very moment; however I believe that we can escape the default consciousness and create our own within our minds. Even when we create a new form of consciousness, it does not mean that the default consciousness has disappeared it just becomes dormant, until we lose track of our own consciousness and the default one to the extent that we believe our own consciousness is the real one. Then again who is to say what is and what isn't reality. In conclusion we all experience the same consciousness; however we can escape it.
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      Jul 18 2011: Good point Conner!
      I agree with what you wrote, and I explain it in a different way. We have several layers/levels of consciousness, and can use them, or be aware of different levels at different times. Very much like a computer, where we can have different programs running or turned off at different times. My perception is that an energy (server) runs through us, and provides the "power" to run our body/mind computer. I agree that we all experience the same consciousness/energy, and we can use it in various ways:>)
  • Jul 16 2011: Consciousness is the big picture. But it is made of tiny individual spots of individual color. Each spot is governed by it's own rules which it learned during your lifetime. These individual spots move about and sometimes their color spreads to other spots. If enough spots change, your consciousness, your behavior will change. Watch as someone gets angry and you can see the little spots changing color until the whole picture is mostly red.

    What happens if you erase some of the spots. Then the picture becomes simpler more childish and easier to influence. The funny thing is consciousness is not fixed. You may add more spots and your consciousness will expand. Change the input and your consciousness adapts.

    Consciousness is not one entity it a hive of ants working together. This is the reason it is an unsolved mystery. People have been looking for the seat of consciousness in the brain for too long. It is the interplay of different regions of the brain, the timing and clarity of signals that gives rise to consciousness. Even delaying the time for a signal from one part of the brain to reach another part can cause consciousness to be derailed.

    Don't look for consciousness in a group of cells. It is in the melody they sing.
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      Jul 16 2011: jaeyun..wise and compelling.

      .reminds me abit of the flower garland scool of buddhism..of the idea of infinite interpenetration

      .may I ask what informs your insight?

      your words, your thoughts resonate with my own sense of consciousness .my own experience ..that it is flowing, dynamic, constantly changing, that we ourselves are part of what changes consciosnessand of how consciousness emanates.
      • Jul 17 2011: I'm sorry but it is not insight. It is the logical extension of brain research. The reason why it is similar to the idea in the school of Buddhism, is because Buddhists were smart. They reflected on their own thought patterns, they meditated, they could see how consciousness arouse in their own brains. Meditation is just making those spots go quiet and when you wake up you can feel the spots waking up and activating. They merely lacked the scientific framework to express their knowledge. Have you seen the picture of brain pathways. The work on recording the signals from neurons from both monkeys and humans, the nearly real-time MRI data from patients. People with brain damage or even people with half a brain missing. Experiments involving a third arm. They all point to the same thing and it is this picture of consciousness. I might still be wrong of course but I live and learn.
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          Jul 17 2011: To say consciousness arises from the Brian, is to localize it, but it is beyond space, and is unlimited. So how can it arise from brain or mind? 

          Buddhists do not believe that conscious arises from mind it is beyond mind, the goal of meditation is to contact being, it is to transcend to where thought is created, from pure consciousness. 

          Unfortunately science is yet to prove consciousness being brain chemistry, it is just a hypothesis, a guess. Science can not explain it. Ask science where thoughts arise from?
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    Jul 10 2011: Farrukh, here is the excerpt from Dr. Pim van Lommel's research - ABOUT THE CONTINUITY OF OUR CONSCIOUSNESS

    1. Introduction 2. About Death 3. Scientific Research on Near Death Experience

    4. Some typical elements of NDE (4.5.) The Disappearance of Fear of Death. Nearly all people who have experienced an NDE lose their fear of death. This is due to the realization that there is a continuation of consciousness, even when you have been declared dead by bystanders or even by doctors. You are separated from the lifeless body, retaining the ability of perception...

    5. Neurophysiology In Cardiac Arrest 6. Neurophysiology In A Normal Functioning Brain

    7. Quantum Mechanics and the Brain. ... In people with an NDE the functional receiving capacity seems to be permanently enhanced. When you compare this with a TV set, you receive not only Channel 1, the transmission of your personal consciousness, but simultaneously Channels 2, 3 and 4 with aspects of consciousness of others.

    8. Role of DNA 9. Analogy of worldwide communication.

    10. Conclusion. ... There are still more questions than answers, but, based on the aforementioned theoretical aspects of the obviously experienced continuity of our consciousness, we finally should consider the possibility that death, like birth, may well be a mere passing from one state of consciousness to another... http://www.nderf.org/vonlommel_consciousness.htm

    What do you think about it?
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      Jul 10 2011: I think this it is logical for consciousness to keep existing. This is also very likely to be true.
      • Jul 11 2011: I think this is very likely to be true that the so called consciousness is permanent and is existing while everything in this universe or physical world is impermanent and evolving. Could it be a state of mind or another dimension or a kind of pure consciousness that can only be experienced by the mind that is totally pure and taintless?
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      Jul 17 2011: Joe,
      I agree with the information you provided above. With my own NDE/OBE and reading about the experiences of hundreds of other people, common threads include loss of fear of death, seperation from the body, and although sometimes unconscious according to the medical model, we experienced an expanded consciousness on other levels.

      When I talk about my experience, I also use the example of a radio being able to pick up one channel, or many channels. If we keep the radio on one channel all the time, the information we get will be similar all the time. If we turn our "radio" to different channels, the information will often be different as well. Opening up many different channels seems to be another common occurance with the NDE/OBE. Personally, I don't think we need to have a traumatic experience to attain this state of being. With mindfulness, we can open many of the channels that are available to us. We simply need to open the mind and heart to the possibilities. I agree that death, like birth, is a passing from one state of consciousness to another.

      I agree that there are many dimensions of consciousness. I do not agree that it is only experienced by the mind that is "totally pure and taintless". Consciousness, in my perception, is experienced by all humans, regardless of the condition of, or information in his/her brain/mind. The "state of mind" can contribute to the expansion and awareness of consciousness. In my perception, consciousness is part of an energy that flows through the body and mind.
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    Jul 8 2011: Individually we are all conscious. I am conscious and I can feel and think as the ONLY PERSON in the world, but so does all of you. We find meaning and relevance of this reality in our belief systems as David noted. But we may not fully understand it because as Abriham said, consciousness is in a dimension that is beyond the sphere of science. Or as Corey said, this could all be a part of the vivid dream a potato in another dimension is having. Or maybe we in a matrix-like situation (the movie) where we can wake up and maybe see our eternal existence, or not?

    What will be the implications if we can create AI one day like Chris Cop and Jim has noted as a possibility? Will our humanism in the future or maybe our humanism today hinges on this possibility therefore we value life as nothing more than a mixture of elements functioning in quantum science?

    As Jared said, I too don't have a clear scientific answer for this question and the ultimate question might as well be - Why is there something rather than nothing? Does what is most unknown today as dark matter and dark energy has anything to do with consciousness?

    In the meantime what I think that matters today is the power of our consciousness to transform our world and just let everybody enjoy life. Consciousness being both the power of our minds to understand and the power of our hearts to love, hope and trust. It's really our great adventure to bring happiness to ourselves and to others and we may or may not bring into eternity one day, but we can surely bring it upon ourselves today.
  • Jul 8 2011: It's about beliefs.
    If you are atheist, consciousness comes from matter (matter before).
    If you are not an atheist, consciousness "exists" without matter (consciousness before).

    Personally, after rejecting Religion as an ideology and as an institution (not as a guide to wisdom), Science gave me the intimate conviction that order even in tremendous complexity is organized...

    So, it's why I'm still very interested in how Science can explain Near Death Experience (NDE) if "she" is not ideologically afraid...
  • Jul 8 2011: PS.

    I would like to add something to my post. Please excuse my sloppy and roundabout writing.

    But in conclusion, I am led to believe that perhaps consciousness precedes matter. An interesting area of science into which to look is in the past century when Einstein said matter is just "mind stuff." The smaller and smaller we get, it seems that its just processes of the mind.
  • Jul 7 2011: Here are some of my favorite theories: (1) Consciousness is a mental construct created to give us a sense of identity, and when we die... it dies. Our consciousness represents the unique way our mind operates... even though we are cellularly overturned after so many years our consciousness helps us retain our sense of identity to continue functioning properly. (2) (A little far-fetched, I know...) Consciousness has always existed at the quantum level. It is everywhere, it exists in all matter. The human brain acts as a singular host for this consciousness. When we die, our consciousness dissolves back into the whole. (3) It is a part of an everlasting soul whose existence will transcend our physical bodies after death.
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    Aug 6 2011: As this conversation is ending soon, I would like to say thank you for everyone who has been part of it. Even if you did not comment, thank you for just reading the question itself.
    Thank you!
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      Aug 6 2011: Dear Farrukh,
      You brought forth a very interesting topic...thank you for that:>)
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      Aug 7 2011: Hi Farrukh,

      Would you be willing to share with us what you have learned as a result of your inquiry?
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    Aug 4 2011: Tangent Alert! Tangent Alert! Tangent Alert!

    I just remembered one of the things I liked about being at school.

    I didn't like the classes very much - they were, for the most part, boring.

    Most of the teachers were ... bland.

    The social dynamics were ... polarizing.

    But I loved talking with people who were learning things ... not teaching things; learning things.


    This concludes the tangent. Resume the normal conversation.
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    Aug 3 2011: Re: Christopher Cop's three points --
    1) Consciousness is not external to our brain (no living brain, no consciousness measurable)
    2) Consciousness did not arise sudden (it evolved)
    3) Consciousness is not either/or (there are multiple levels, gradations of consciousness)
    I strongly disagree with all 3. Re point #1: Plants have no brain and yet they are clearly conscious: http://tiny.cc/vuw02 Likewise, cells in the body make choices and know an enemy from a friend, so to speak.
    Re point #2: The interesting thing about consciousness is that it does NOT evolve. It does not change at all. What changes is the sophistication of the nervous system housing the consciousness. Consciousness works in a nervous system like electricity works on appliances, depending how they are built you get its distinct flavor. Electricity in the refrigerator makes things cold, electricity in a toaster makes things hot. But it is the SAME electricity doing it. Likewise with consciousness, the consciousness of a frog can only work from the degree of sophistication of a frog's nervous system. A human nervous system is far more refined. Re #3: It is due to the nervous system and not the consciousness that we see gradations and differences. The consciousness itself never changes. Consciousness permeates all living things, probably at the quantum level.
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      Aug 3 2011: Susan Sayler says, "Plants have no brain and yet they are clearly conscious..."

      Christophe Cop says, "no living brain, no consciousness measurable."

      Regular readers will probably notice a pattern here (any second now.)

      Do either of you KNOW what consciousness is?

      Do you know if the person you are talking to knows what consciousness is?

      Do you know if you are describing "different things" when you use the word "consciousness?"
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      Aug 3 2011: Hi Susan,

      You say,

      QUOTE: "...Plants have no brain and yet they are clearly conscious..."

      It sort of depends on how we use the word consciousness but putting that aside for a moment, I think you will like the story of the acacia tree.

      Giraffes eat acacia tree leaves. Some folks who had a lot of time on their hands noticed that they would eat "a lot of leaves" in a particular location and almost none in others. There were lots of possible explanations but they decided to "figure out why." (Don't ask me how but eventually they did.)

      It turns out that when the giraffe start eating the leaves of a particular tree, it "reacts;" it starts to produce a "pheromone" which is carried on the wind to other acacia trees. They react to the pheromone and start to produce something that makes their leaves taste bitter and the giraffe don't like them.

      Cool, huh?
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        Aug 4 2011: Very cool Thomas...that is proof!!!

        Here's another interesting thing I've noticed in the gardens over the years...
        Certain kinds of weeds will grow next to perrenials that look very similar. Is this a conscious effort to survive? Do they "know" that I may not recognize them because they are so much like the plants I want to keep and nurture?
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          Aug 4 2011: Well, it is proof of "something."

          The phenomenon could be explained (quite well) by evolution ... and, in theory, something similar could be happening in a parallel universe with no "sentient" beings in it to be aware of it on any level.

          It could also be explained by postulating a degree (either high or low) of consciousness.
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        Aug 4 2011: very very cool!!!!!
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        Aug 4 2011: HI Thomas,
        I agree, semantics is an issue. The word comes from the Greek: con=with scious=knowledge; and its earliest use was to imply self-referential consciousness: "to know that you know".
        From metaphysics, consciousness is the animating principle of life and this is the way I use the word (separate from perception, awareness, mind, attention, thinking) so "life" and "consciousness" are interchangeable. The reason I believe this is so is because in order for life to remain alive, every part of that life form has to be making conscious decisions. By conscious decisions it is choosing in the moment "this and not that". Furthermore, I believe this is the definition of evolution; the choosing of this and not that.
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          Aug 4 2011: In haste:

          A few weeks ago, I coined a word for this: "to know that you know:"

          It's: "gnovidya." From Proto-Indo-Euopean, "gno," from which we get "gnosis;" and the Sanskrit, "vidya" meaning knowledge, learning and science.

          So, gnovidya: knowing that you know or the state of knowing.
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          Aug 4 2011: Any shamanic practitioners anybody knows? I believe it is true what Thomas implies, we all mean something different and we mean a collection of 'thoughts' when we talk about ourselves.

          Edmund Husserl was in search his whole life to the essence of thought, in the end - he had more time than me to contemplate on it - he had to make a closing statement he will not KNOW the answer as he, as long as he lives, is within thought/consciousness.

          I enjoy the word 'gnovidya', it has a sparkle in 'consciousness' ;).

          Maybe we do need a word for our 'new understanding of our part/anchor in 'unity consciousness'.

          Where did you coin it Thomas, did it land?
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      Aug 4 2011: I think saying a plant has consciousness implies that consciousness is a very primitive and makes it almost equal to "whenever an organism responds to a changing environment, it is conscious".

      I think that limits the idea of consciousness somewhat, though it can be seen as the thing that eventually led to more and more responsiveness, which finally turns out to be what we can call consciousness...

      So I clearly see you use another definition of consciousness... as such you say that other things evolve, not the consciousness as such... I take the evolving part as part of what consciousness is.

      About the quantum level: suddenly I have the feeling you stepped into the quantum-quackery trap.
      Your claim about the permeation of consciousness, to me, seems like total bullocks. There is no evidence for it whatsoever...
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        Aug 4 2011: Christophe,
        YOUR theory that consciousness is ONLY produced by the brain from birth to death is the limiting one! Remember how you said consciousness has many different levels? And above, you say "I take the evolving part as part of what consciousness is"....YES!!!

        I agree that consciousness is "primitive"...original...primary...elemental...natural...belonging to or characteristic of an early stage of development...YES!!!

        And in my humble opinion...connects everything that is:>)
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    Aug 3 2011: My suspicion is that consciousness is a "universal" thing that all conscious things partake of. A metaphor might be electricity. A brain does not make consciousness anymore than a toaster or refrigerator makes electricity. It is not consciousness that determines the nature and quality of one's perception or intelligence, but rather the refinement of one's nervous system. Consciousness of always the same no matter what conscious thing is being considered (including plants and cells within the body). In this way, if you could somehow take my consciousness and insert it into a frog, I would no longer be able to think or feel like a human, I would only have the capacity that the frog's nervous system allowed. This is a Buddhist way of looking at it, but when you considered how devoted they have been to studying consciousnesses I think it is worthwhile to consider their conclusions.
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    Aug 1 2011: Farrukh Yakubov, the consciouness dont come from any where. Its already created with the very same human being. Philosophy, science, or any theories could said what they want to provide "explanations" but you said a word "mystery"
    Mystery means what cant be expressed with words. Came from ancient greek "misthos" without words or incapable to be talked."
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    Jul 31 2011: Very nice talks Wayne, thanks!
    I agree and have no doubt that animals have their evolution of the mind, and sometimes we certainly admire their organized actions and decisions. But I'm talking about the being at this moment of time.
    Why it occurred to him to intervene in natural processes through science, like genetics, nanotechnology, chemistry, etc. What is it?
    On this occasion, there are remarkable words of the Russian scientist Evdokiya Marchenko, "On the planet Earth for a long time man grows up and finally he became so reasonable that he was able to intervene in natural processes. Until that time the person just used the fruits of these lands, his mind itself didn't develop. Passed the stage of the description and transfer the experience for the body's development. As soon as the man crossed a certain border and began to structure natural process , it's time to talk about the mind itself. Before that the man just kept on the nature,for example, the bird - by plain, cold - by fridge, legs - by car, it was just acceleration. He also domesticated animals, getting them from food.,,"