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daniel hehir

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What is the nature of consciousness? Is consciousness merely a by-product of the physical brain?

Consciousness is perhaps the greatest mystery ever to be presented to mankind. My question is: What is the nature of consciousness? How can the materialistic world view of mankind explain the phenomenon of consciousness. By its nature, which is of a totally immaterial and invisible, with its inner activity of thinking, also a totally invisible activity, which the whole of the scientific world view rests upon..."Thinking". What is thinking if not a non-physical super-sensible invisible, immaterial reality. For the scientific world view to understand itself, it must examine the nature of thinking. And in doing so, the "religious" world view will be able to find something to hang onto.Science and religion can meet on this question. Because it is here where they both fall short. Science cannot explain consciousness out of the materialistic world view. Religion cannot explain evolutionary principles in nature without adapting the scientific world view. The two are locked in an unending battle. Can it be that thinking is,in fact, the "spiritual activity of man"

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    Mar 8 2011: Consciousness is an emergent phenomenon generated from the stream of information that flows between the brain and the external world. I specifically mention the brain because that is where the information accumulates and is networked into what we consider to be consciousness. I believe that this continuous stream of information is what constitutes conscious thought. Only when the stream is active do we engage in thought. When we sleep this stream is closed off by the brainstem and the senses, which tie the body to the external environment, are desensitize and we become unconscious. Along those same lines, various events that happen within the body and the brain do not reach the conscious stream. Things like digestion, involuntary movement, and what we call the subconscious consists of information that are automated by the nervous system yet never enter the stream of consciousness.

    Another way to think about it is that the senses tie the internal environment to the external despite a physical barrier. Though we have a physical body our senses allow information from outside the body to be continuous with the inside of the body without disruption. Perceptually we, as conscious beings, believe we are independent units separate from our environment, but we often forget that we are an accumulation of individual cells. Our consciousness is a result of the organization of these cells into a system where a grand stream of information and complex process of this information is possible.

    To me, consciousness is about information. Humans are conscious through what their senses can perceive. Cells are conscious of their chemical environments. And civilizations are conscious of social phenomena. Consciousness is not specific to the brain. It is simply an organized stream of information.
    • Mar 8 2011: Come on Jacky..." Our consciousness is a result of the accumulation of individual cells" This has no meaning. Cells cannot, even if put in the most advanced system, ask the questions "Who am " I " ?? "What am I doing here?" "What is the meaning of life?"...

      Consciousness is perhaps, with a stretch of the meaning of the words " information put in a system".... but still... who is the observer.... who is the witness .... who am " I ".....?

      As 'Cool'leen put it, there are many levels of consciousness.
      My breakdown of her words is the following,

      The "sleeping" consciousness or unconscious.
      The "dreaming" consciousness or sub-conscious mind.
      and finally
      The "awake"consciousness, or every day life consciousness.... (not including the woman at the traffic light waiting to turn left...)......pardon the joke Colleen....
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        Mar 8 2011: I think I understand what Jacky is trying to explain -- part of the problem, as identified in this discussion, is the semantics -- we are trying explain 'consciousness' with the limited tools that language provides. And there are many different 'types' of consciousness -- As Jean-Paul Sartre said: 'The consciousness that says 'I am' is not the consciousness that thinks.'

        Are you asking about consciousness as awareness? OR Self awareness?

        You might enjoy reading "Transcending the Speed of Light: Consciousness, Quantum Physics, and the Fifth Dimension " which argues that consciousness is a fifth dimension -- and I am inclined to agree, considering how woefully inadequate
        • Mar 8 2011: Hi Linda and welcome to the discussion. We are pretty caught up in semantics yes... but were working on it with a positive attitude trying to get to the bottom of what its all about. I don't have time to go so much into a conversation just now but will try to get back to you tomorrow. What, by the way is Sartre's differences in conscioussness and the thinking consciousness..? Sounds interesting... especially if you can put it in a nutshell for me... Don't have much time to read these days, too much going on otherwise. But I'd love to hear more so if your into it, put out some of the ideas presented... as well as your own. Have you been following this discussion for a long time or are you new here? Your last few words are missing in your comment... but there is surely a lot thats woefully inadequate ;-)
        • Mar 10 2011: One could say that there is only one type of consciousness, the only difference is just where it is active. Because we have an inner experience of consciousness we can say " I " about ourselves. A child, up to around the age of 2.5 to 3 years does not say " I " about him/herself. They use their own name when they talk about themselves.... as in "Daniel wants a chocolate" As the "incarnation process" takes place, as the "spirit" takes a deeper hold of the individual, the inner experience is then expressed as " I " The consciousness element is the same, the degree of "incarnation" .... (in our meat) to put it rather bluntly, the more we "gain access" to the physical body, the more express this individualized consciousness that we experience as "mine" Is it really just mine? Or is it only the experience of being mine. Could it be that all consciousness has one universal source of consciousness? I don't want to try to answer that question... But the consciousness of the animal is clearly more dampened than ours as to the respect of "thinking." Awareness, such as a fox or a rabbit, awareness in sounds or visual senses can be much more deeply incarnated. If you get my idea ..? The flock of birds analogy that I used earlier in this TED thread is a good example of a form of consciousness that is externalized from the physical individuality. Here the spirit/soul of the bird can "operate" the individual bird in unison as the flock so mysteriously moves as one.... or... it can operate in each individual with different movement patterns. Take the example of putting your ten fingers through ten holes in a cardboard box. You can move your fingers very systematically as a flock... or individually, but the consciousness that is steering the movement is just yours. The nervous system is internalized in us as human being and science tells us that the neurons firing in your brain are the origin of this finger movement. But consciousness is the real initiator.
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      Mar 8 2011: Jacky,
      I agree with most of what you've written: "consciousness is a stream of information...information accumilates in the brain and is networked". I do not agree that when we sleep, this stream is turned off.
      My experience tells me that there are several layers of consciousness, and when we are asleep, our brain can be conscious on other levels, like the dream state for example. I also experienced the thought/feeling process on another level when I was unconscious after a near fatal brain injury. The program that runs my human conscious thoughts was disabled, but I was aware of much more on another level. I agree that consciousness is about information, and if we are aware on many different levels, it may be an "organized stream of information". I call this "stream of information" energy.

      Daniel,
      Our bodies/brains are made up of cells, are they not? Jacky feels that the stream of information is made up of cells, I call this "stream of information" energy. Do you think we could be saying the same thing and using different terms?
      Sincerely,
      Cool'leen................makes me smile:>)
      • Mar 8 2011: Hi again Colleen!,

        Didn't you see my poem to you a little further down the list? Aren't you up pretty early this morning?

        Back to the discussion,
        Sleep can only be partly penetrated by out waking day consciousness. Deep sleep is pretty unaccesable for the most of us.
        Sure, we are made of up of cells. But so is the plant and the animal. Consciousness is something completely different for them. Where the animal is awake in a more of a dream state, we, the human being are mostly awake in our daytime conscousness. Take a sportscar driver. He /she must be extremely awake to drive at such speeds where things happen so fast. While a person that is more or less unaware of his/her surroundings is not so awake.This awakeness is a process, that for me, begins in the morning with my first cup of coffee, and around my second or third cup I start to feel awake. What knowledge that comes to me from the outer world is "logged" or "processed" (to use computer language) and put into my "system of information" where that logging takes place is another question. I don't by any means believe that this logging is done in the physical brain, although again I know this will create controversy. We can get back to this later, just where the "logging of information takes place. The materialists are all shaking their heads, they say I'm strange... but somethings lost and somethings gained, in living every day... J.M. clouds
        The cell in itself has no logging ability, nor does it know where to look for your memories. The cell level of our nature is providing the vehicle for the "energy" to manifest itself. This energy is also of different "levels" to use a physical word for a spiritual picture.
        I also wrote further down that it would be interesting to hear more details about your NDE. I wonder if you also saw your whole life in review. This is a usual phenomenon for people who have NDE. The next question is then how do we "see" all these pictures as if in a tablau stretched out before us?
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          Mar 8 2011: Hi again Daniel,
          Yes, I saw your clever poem:>)

          In my experience, sleep can be penetrated by our waking day experience, and deep sleep is very accessable to me:>) An example of penetrating the sleep state with awake experience, is that years ago, I was a professional actress, singer, dancer, performing in musical theater. I found the best way to remember lines and choreography, was to review the information just before sleep, with the intention of programing my brain to remember. I found that in the morning, it was programmed, as I intended. So, you see, I believe that we can penetrate the sub-conscious and various other levels of consciousness while sleeping.

          I like using computer language because I percieve the brain as very much like a computer. I believe that the cells do have "logging ability". How else is the information stored in the brain?

          Yes, I saw my lives in review. As humans, we usually don't have an energy vibration high enough to carry all of those memories. It would be like plugging a 220 appliance into a plug that only accepted a smaller voltage:>)
        • Mar 8 2011: I agree with Colleen. My experience of sleep is that it is often, maybe even usually, a richer experience than being awake. I often wake from a dream with the sense that the events in my dream happened over a much longer period of time than seven hours, or however long I slept. It would seem then, that I am having more experience per second while asleep, than while awake.

          edit: I also see no evidence that animals are in some sort of dream state, or that their consciousnesses are any less awake than ours. There is plenty of evidence that they are intellectually inferior, and it would seem obvious that there are qualitative differences between the consciousnesses of a human and say, a lizard. But I see no evidence of quantitative differences. My cat seems just as aware of me as I am of it.
      • Mar 8 2011: A stream of information is in no way made up of cells. It's made up of pictures, sounds, and all that our senses bring into our consciousness. Even feelings are sense impressions. Have you ever gotten a stomach ache from watching a violent film. Feelings are not merely cells. Cells are the living elements that carry the sense activity, or to say it in a more esoteric way, the soul activity. Our soul and spirit are seated in the living element. Cells are providing the basis for the soul and spirit activity to be incarnated on the physical plane of existence. This life element is, I think, what you are calling the energy body, which is also a body of light. This is the body of light that many that have had a NDE tell about when they re-awake in their physical body. They tell of a body of light that is all pervasive and is not only "their" body but "everythings" body of energy. An essoteric name for this is the "etheric body".... also the body where all your memories are stored. This is the tablau that we "see" without our physical eyes when we die or have a NDE.
        The ancient cultures of the world knew this. This is what the initiation rituals were all about. To give the initiate a "glimps" of this "other" level of existence. To observe this "energy" world without the physical body. ..... I hope this isn't getting to deep now.... I've got to go and make dinner so my physical body can go on living.... All my ingredience will come from the this living world, although material, and pretty much "dead", but at one time or another everything I eat (or at least should eat) has also taken part in this "energy" or "life" world. You can eat a truck load of minerals, you can even eat the truck,... but to sustain the energy body, we must take in something that has been living itself before. The point that I'm finally getting around to is that this energy body is a "concrete"(a terribly physical word) reality that has its own existence "apart" from the system of our cells!!
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          Mar 9 2011: If we believe that everything is interconnected, as I do, then nothing is "apart". In my perception, the energy flows through everything...including the cells, so they are very much part of the whole. You say that everything is connected, and you also say "the energy body...has its own existence "apart" from the system of our cells". That seems a little confusing to me.
      • Mar 8 2011: This is a response to a response further down.....up....??
        Amazing Colleen! Did you see more than the one life that the one your in now? ...as you wrote" lives" This is extremely interesting! Could you see every detail? Did you meet any other beings while you were out of your body? Have you heard of Raymond Moody and George Richie?
        What can you say about the "review" of your life? It was of course an immaterial picture(s) but can you tell more details. Could you see your own energy body as you spoke of earlier. Was the review picture of the same "substanse" (again, to use a very material word) as the body that you were yourself made of? Were the pictures in any way something that you had sympathy or antipathy towards? Like judging any of your actions in the pictures or were you completely neutral towards them?
        If you could just answer all these questions first.... then I have a few more.... hope you don't mind :-)
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          Mar 9 2011: Daniel,
          Yes, I'm familier with Raymond Moody's work....not familier with George Richie. I researched hundreds of recorded cases of NDE and guest lectured at the Univ. for years on the topic. You can google NDE research for more information. I also cared for a relative and two friends when they were dying, and volunteered for a couple years at a hospice care facility to learn more about the dying process and support others through it.

          First of all, I'll tell you that this experience is like going to a different country and witnessing a ritual in a different culture with different language. Then coming back and trying to explain it in terms that I know on a human level. We simply don't have the language to explain all of what I experienced.

          Yes, I had a review of several lives. I saw details, but not as we describe details as humans. I was a mass of energy, without form or human characteristics. The other beings present were also masses of energy. Although I recognized them on some level, the only one I was sure of, was the energy of my mother, who had died a year earlier. Again, there were no human characteristics.

          My life reviews were for the purpose of evaluating what I had learned. I was my own judge, and it was not about what I did that was good or bad, but rather, what I learned from the experiences.

          Communications were similar to what we may call ESP. There were no pictures or dialogue. There was a sense of "knowing". On some levels, we can think of this as intuition or gut feeling. That is why I keep saying there are many levels of consciousness. Several of us on this thread may be speaking of different levels, and it may be difficult to pin down the "nature of consciousness" if we are percieving it from different perspectives. My belief is that we are all capable of experiencing several layers of consciousness, and it depends on how open we are to that experience:>)

          I like questions...thanks for asking:>)
      • Mar 9 2011: Simply amazing story Colleen !! I too work at a Hospice !!! So here were are... "meeting" with our ideas ... a million miles apart... isn't that amazing !! (interconnected !!)
        I don't have much time to write just now but will try to get back tomorrow.
        This is a response to your comments further down the page, but there is no reply button down there... so I hope you find this comment. I just look for the blue words as to what time it was when the last comment was made but I see that the time frame is actually way off.
        I still have more questions to you, so don't go away.!
        I am together with a group of people who will be have a Saturday kafee with a lecture on NDE next weekend.
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          Mar 9 2011: Not so amazing...there's not much that surprises me any more...I'm here:>)
      • Mar 10 2011: Sleep, or dreaming sleep, is surely a deeper realm of consciousness. But can you choose yourself what you want to dream about? Generally, most people can't do this. We are merely a passenger on the train. We observe pictures that we try to piece together again when we awake... or? I don't think that anyone could write a TED comment while in a dream state... Although there are certain phenomenon of "sleep writing" or medium/trance writing, where people communicate things from "the other side" more or less unconscious themselves while doing so. This is absolutely a phenomenon worth looking at. I suppose there are studies to be found on this. Just how people can communicate things from the world of the spirit in a trance or as a medium is a very interesting trail that should be followed up. Here is one example for the scientific minded person to study,where consciousness could be examined by experimentation, just how objective things are or are not communicated from the "other side" Here in Norway there is even a TV program where the police sometimes use such people to solve crimes. They even have a contest to see just which one is better at this. Some are often wrong in their visions while others can be quite precise. It's quite surprising to hear such details of the information that they can see... They often have contact with the dead murder victim and they are told thing or shown things in relation to the crime. The police can then go to the site of the crime and find evidence ... like where a knife was thrown into the woods or the like. So the objectivity of the clairvoyant is alway under scrutiny. Sometime there right and sometimes there wrong. But they are more or less consciously penetrating into a dream world of feelings that the murder victim communicates "through" them. To be "awake" in my dream world may be the first step to being "awake" in the dream world (or feeling world) of others. So when Tim says that he cant see how spirit knowledge can help us...so
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          Mar 10 2011: In a comment above, Tim mentions "universal consciousness". The universal consciousness is an unending, unlimited source of energy information. When we are connected with that source, there are no time/space limitations, so anyone can communicate with anyone else...including the energy beings who are not on this earth school at this time.

          I've said this before, and I'll say it again. We often label this kind of communication gut feeling or intuition. Or we may call it ESP. Where do you think that gut feeling/intuition is coming from? Again, there are many levels in which we can communicate in this way, depending on how open we are to the possibilities:>)
      • Mar 10 2011: Hi again Colleen,
        I would like to ask if you can, from your NDE say anything about neural firing in the brain? Could you say that this energy being that you experienced yourself as is the actual producer of the activity going on in your physical brain that we call neural activity. This energy is often called electrical energy. But we know that it is something more. The electrical aspect is only one side of the coin. I wonder if you could elaborate more on this energy. When your energy body came back into the physical body, might you say that your brain was changed or transformed in any way... if so ...how?
        Are you more intuitive after this experience? Do you have ESP now? Did it come after your NDE?
        What colors am I wearing?.....lol ok, ok, what kind of car do I drive? Just kidding....
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          Mar 10 2011: No Daniel, sorry, but I cannot say much about "neural firing in the brain". Only that I know it exists. A scientist is better equipped to answer that question.

          Yes, in my experience, the energy contributes to the activity in the brain that we call neural activity.

          You know, my NDE happened at the time of a brain injury, so yes, the brain was changed. Part of it was damaged, and damaged brain tissue was removed at the time of the craniotomy. The NDE provided information that I was not previously aware of on a conscious level.

          Yes, I'm aware of more channels of consciousness opening because of the experience.

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