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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"

  • Feb 27 2011: Daniel.

    Well, I would perhaps start by saying that this theme is dead from the beginning. Who would want to come and exchange ideas in a forum whose tittle betrays a rhetorical intention? You cannot start a serious discussion about consciousness being, or not, a result of the physical biochemistry of the brain if the title is fallacious. Let me try and be clear:

    What is the need for the adverb "merely" and for building something of a false dichotomy by going all the way to "by-product"? Why couldn't you have offered more alternatives, and leave the perception of beauty or lack thereof to the person. From where I sit, consciousness is an *amazing* product (not "by-product") of the physical and biochemical interactions going on among the many cells making up the brain. It is the astounding result of billions of years of evolutionary change, it is matter pondering abut itself. It is the universe pondering about the universe. Few things if any could be more poetic and inspiring than this. We might be here for such an incredibly ridiculous amount of time compared to the vastness of the universe and its age. Yet, we are privileged. Matter and energy, star dust, figuring out its own origins.

    So, as you can see, "merely" is unjustified, and "by-product" is misleading, since that is not the proper noun for the consequence of lots of events, from the formation of atoms heavier than hydrogen and helium in the stars, to the origin of life, to biological evolution. But your false dichotomy makes it appear as if consciousness is either some godish/soulish thing, or a despicable by-product. Nothing in the middle, no other alternatives.

    You might still attract people later. But the title is still a false dichotomy and a charged argument. The way it is written forces people inclined to the natural/material side to automatically accept something they might not hold: "merely" and "by-product."

    • Feb 27 2011: Hi Gabo,
      Well ... I believe that which you call a "false dichotomy" is quite obviously a dichotomy that many people feel themselves in... sort of between a rock and a hard place. If you listen to for example Richard Dawkins, it will become evident for you that I'm not trying to create a false d. at all. It is both "false" as well as a "dichotomy" And this is nothing new. This polarization of science and religion has existed for decades and more.The argument is very charged... to this I fully agree. Dawkins has at least "charged" it for me. I guess RD has inspired me to speak in defense of what I see and understand from my perspective of what the human being is. Neither the creationist or the evolutionist have fully recognized consciousness as any decisive factor in the evolutionary process of mankind. It is, in my mind, consciousness that will give us the middle road to understanding the physical and the spiritual evolution of mankind. This is what I want put on the agenda. I refuse to stand in either park, or on either side of the fence. But I do see that to not give the element of consciousness its full right in the understanding of the human being is to not see the forest for the trees. If you suppose that mankind is (I'll use the word again) "merely" star dust, matter and energy or
      biochemical interaction and if you mean to contribute the faculty of consciousness to these purely material
      factors than here is where we disagree. That which you call the godish/soulish thing is exactly what I'm getting at.... and the word I prefer to use is this..."spirit" ..... spirit is the same as consciousness. Immaterial ...without any fetishes or ties to the physical world when we die. And if people think that this is a dead theme from the beginning... than thats OK with me. I've got lots of other things to do actually. But if someone else sees this dichotomy and is equally disturbed by it, then they are welcome to come with their comments.
      • Mar 1 2011: Hi Daniel,

        But you are missing the point. The point is not the dichotomy between material and spiritual. That would seem like a "natural" dichotomy. The false dichotomy is referring to material consciousness with disdain, as if for it being material and material only deprived consciousness of significance or wonderment. If I wanted to start a topic on this I would leave those adjectives to the people discussing the issue. I find enormous beauty and poetry on actual explanations, and find the non-explanations, such as "spirit" and "soul" and "gods" as frustrating. In the end they mean "magic." That does not allow real understanding. Of course, this is not an argument against the spiritual side. This is just my description of how I perceive the issue to help you understand why I find the title both misleading and fallacious. This is not about "either spiritual or despicable." The adjectives put on either side depend on your perception. So, this becomes a charged argument when you label the side you don't like as "merely" and ""by-product" because I don't see this side as either. Thus, I had to first clarify this false perception before even getting into the real matter you might want to talk about. This is what does not work.

        Imagine I started a discussion about whether consciousness is either material, or a mere by-product of a ridiculous fairy-tale. If you just started arguing for the "fairy-tale" you would be accepting my description as factual. Unless you started by trying to get that part out.

        Anyway, enough of this. Hope you get the idea. I just end by adding that I find it quite disappointing that you would refer to star-dust as "merely." I can't hope to touch the sun ever in my life. yet, each of my atoms was there inside a star. Not only that, they were in a supernova! Talk about awesome! (Is this clear and can I now get to the topic?)

        • Mar 1 2011: Got your point Gabo. Made a few comments on the page here. I agree with "charged" maybe not so "misleading" though as you say. I can understand where your coming from. The "solely" (is that a better adj.?)material perspective of mankinds evolution is only half of the picture! The other half is his consciousness.... Take a look at what I put out today and get back with me. If I was to pull out the "merely" from the title, I would have to start a new conversation which actually I could. But I want to let it go for now. Maybe it will attract some other ideas that will either support or not support my perspective.
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        Mar 7 2011: Glad to hear RD has got you to stop and think and debate.
        • Mar 7 2011: I've been thinking about these things for about 35 years now... long before RD crawled out from under his rock.
          If all of RD's BS was fireworks he could do a whole 4th of July. But his handle on the meaning of life seems to be so short that he couldn't even fasten it on a matchstick.
          What do you think about consciousness Tim?
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      Mar 7 2011: Gabo,
      You are so wonderfully amusing!!! You begin your comment with: "I would perhaps start by saying, that this theme is dead from the beginning...who would want to come and exchange ideas in a forum whose title betrays a rhetorical intention?" Well, apparently you found it interesting enough to appear on this page several times with very insightful, beautiful, relevant ideas:>) A topic is only as "charged" as those who are participating in the discussion and it seems like you are "charged" in a beneficial way:>) Discussions get off topic when people get stuck on a certain word, phrase or idea. Is criticism of the word "merely" relevant?
      • Mar 7 2011: Hey Colleen
        Your pretty keen!
        Isn't this the coolest TED site
        That you've ever seen!

        They told me that this site was dead
        and that consciousness
        was only in my head!

        We've showed 'em that we've got some things to say!
        So keep on writing... and
        have a nice day !! ;-)
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    Mar 16 2011: This is a very interesting thread!

    This topic is something I've looked at for many years, both from the inside (experientially) and from the outside (as reading & research). From my point of view, one of the unrecognized aspects of the brain is to function as a master sensory organ. That is, it produces an awareness of the activity of the various sensory systems. This awareness _is_ consciousness. It is not a "mere by-product" of the brain but a primary function. This function has been alluded to in other threads here which called attention to the "witness" function of consciousness. To my way of thinking, the "witness" and consciousness are one and the same!

    The sensory system works whether we are conscious (awake) or not. We can hear loud sounds while asleep and there can be a measurable physiological response in the body. However, we are not conscious of them since our consciousness is off (or at a very low level) while sleeping. While awake we are always "conscious of" something or another, as our various sensory systems pick up external and internal data. If we have an overly busy thought system (chatter) we may not be aware of this stream of sensory data that passes through our consciousness. Instead, we construct fictions based on what we think is going on. These fictions are part of what we call the "self" or "ego", a manufactured entity we use to interface with the world.
    • Mar 17 2011: Hi Larry and welcome to the discussion!
      As you can see, this has really taken off ! I started the discussion a few weeks ago and it has been picking up speed ever since. It seems to be a "basic human need" to understand this inner being in us. The self consciousness, as I said earlier, is perhaps the greatest mystery that mankind has faced.
      I try to "tackle" the incoming comments as best I can, but now I have a problem keeping up with them all ! But I guess thats not the purpose either. Have you been reading along or have you just popped in?
      As you might have noticed I can provoke strong sentiments by interchanging the words spirit/soul with the words consciousness/mind. ... This is sort of the religious vs. science dichotomy that was talked about earlier. Please tell us more of what you think. ...
      Do the words to sleep is to excarnate.... and to awake is to incarnate say anything to your way of looking at man? Can you relate to this at all ?
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        Mar 25 2011: Hi Daniel,

        This thread has really turned into a crowded room, where it's hard to hear (or find) what everyone's saying!

        I have noted the standard fare in intelligent discussion/dialog where you find hard science opposing intuitive expression. This really reflects our innate human nature which has two basic aspects, that is often described as left brain/right brain (see Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor's talk on TED). The brain scientists say this is an oversimplification, but I think it works best when used as metaphor (at least until the science catches up).

        Most of us are a mix of the intellectual and intuitive, but I suspect that the intellectual/cognitive is predominant in our society since we are always figuring out consensual reality by an active thought process. The problem is, we make our cognitive processes our home base. The spiritual side of our nature (the right brain) does not have a practical value as far as society is concerned so we tend to keep it suppressed. The shift in consciousness, as illustrated so well by Dr. Taylor's stroke, is when left brain/cognitive dominance can be turned off long enough for the right brain to come online as primary. These shifts are experienced as a spiritual awakening. Ideally, it would better if we can avoid a stroke or NDE to get there! The problem in describing such phenomena is that language resides in the left brain. The right brain is experiential (without conceptual labels) but the left brain deals with the concepts, so the ability to accurately describe the stream of consciousness is almost impossible without using poetic language, which can never be scientific. The trick, I think, is to integrate our dual nature so that neither side is suppressed.

        To the scientist's here: I am using left brain/right brain as a metaphor only!
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          Mar 25 2011: AWWWWWWW.....well said Larry...feels like a breath of fresh air:>)I strongly support your statement that: "Ideally, it would be better if we could avoid a stroke or NDE to get there"! Too late for me, but ya'll have a chance at that one...LOL:>)

          One interesting thing about my head/brain injury is that it seemed to cause more connections that were not previously there. All my life, I have been a right brain dominant person. The main damage was to the right temporal lobe, although the entire brain was challenged because of extreme swelling and subdural bleeding. The result is that I'm much more logical/scientific than I was before. It seems that my injury has balanced things a little better:>) Again though, I don't recommend this as way to "find oneself"...LOL:>)
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        Mar 25 2011: Colleen,

        I suspect if you were left-brain dominant, you would have a different story to tell. In that case, you would be talking about the "La La land" you visited when the left brain shut down. It looks like it is simpler for a right-brain dominant person to integrate their logical/scientific side than for a left-brain dominant person to integrate their right-brain side. I mean, for a scientist who is used to describing phenomena in precise terms to suddenly be thrown into a pure, non-verbal, sensory experience, it is a real challenge for them to explain. You are very fortunate it worked out so well.

        One last thought: The right brain/spiritual/intuitive side of our nature is our real home base. It is the child's innocent nature. As an adult we suppress it in favor of social conditioning, which requires that thinking be dominant. However it happens we need to integrate our child nature with the mature use of thinking (thinking as a tool, not as a way of life). NDEs, brain injury, and spiritual awakenings show us that we can function different than our programming. The balance (or integration) you refer to is our ability to live in a fully human manner.
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          Mar 25 2011: YES!!!:>) It was very simple!!!:>) LOL
          Actually, it really was...challenging, logical and simple:>)
          I did it with the curiosity of a child, the tools of the thought/feeling processes and a recognition of my home:>)
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          Mar 25 2011: Larry,
          I've been pondering the information you provided, and I want to thank you. It never occured to me that it may be easier for a right brained person to connect with the left brain, than vise versa, but it makes sense, as you have explained it above.

          I really, really appreciate you. As I've been reading the comments in this thread for days, I am amazed that people are so stuck in either the spiritual argument or the scientific argument. I keep thinking..."don't they see that it can be both"? I actually surprise myself sometimes, when encouraging people to consider the scientific explanations! This is so amusing! I lived for 43 years as a right brain dominant person, and for the last 21 years integrating the functions of the left brain more. Although I understood it, I did not explain it as well as you have...exquisite! Thank you for being you and sharing the gift with me:>)
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          Mar 25 2011: In my experience, it's all connected Kathy K, which you've said yourself in other comments. So, which is your truth? Everything is connected...or not? If you believe that everything is connected, as you have stated many times before, then it seems odd that you would say that "brain dominance is not a factor, as the consciousness is not affected by brain injury"

          My consciousness certainly was affected, so speak for yourself on that darlin'. Also, my perception is not that it is "psychological work". Being a right brain dominant person most of my life, I "play" with a lot of ideas. Now that I'm more connected with the left brain I'm supposed to "work" at it? I don't think so:>)
        • Mind S

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          Mar 26 2011: Larry,
          Neurology and the science of brain are not my speciality so I will not go into these matters. However, I perceive that when you talk about the “right brain” you focus solely on the socially welcomed aspects such the as poetic/emotional element and the “child’s innocent nature” hence you stress the importance of incorporating these aspects in our personality, and I applaud that. However, what you don't touch is the annoying potential of “spirituality” in making many people adopt religious dogmas, submit to imaginary entities and believe in ridiculous superstition. These “spiritual” outcomes are far from being constructive and ultimately lead to the partitioning of the tapestry of humanity and hinder real knowledge. Understanding the evolutionary path for the development of these tendencies is quite useful but it is not my intention to go into that.
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          Mar 26 2011: Dear Mind S,
          Spirituality is obviously "annoying" to you, and it may not be for others. When you say things like the "potential of spirituality in making many people adopt religious dogmas, submit to imaginary entities and believe in ridiculous superstition", it sounds like you feel people are giving up their choices when they embrace spirituality?

          You know, I was born into a Catholic family, and for 19 years that I was practicing the religion because that was expected of me, I was also questioning and pondering the teachings and dogma of the religion. We all have that choice Mind S. Sure, someone may force us to participate in religious practices as children, but once we become adults, we have choices. It doesn't seem like you're recognizing the idea of choice.

          Although I do not practice a religion, I percieve the benefits some people derive from their beliefs, and I respect their choices. The "outcomes" ARE "constructive" FOR SOME PEOPLE, SOME OF THE TIME. Many people who practice a religion or philosophical belief are very knowledgeable and understand the evolutionary path. It is fine if you decide not "to go there". You have that choice, which others respect. How about respecting others choices as well? Seems like you are limiting yourself with a close minded belief:>)
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          Mar 26 2011: One more thought Mind S,
          Based on historical evidence, it appears that the concept of spirituality has been around for quite awhile, and we may assume, from that evidence that it will continue to be around. How much time and energy do you want to spend fighting against something that is probably going to exist regardless of your effort?
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        Mar 25 2011: Kathy K,
        It might be benificial to you and others to put your ego aside and walk your talk:>)
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        Mar 25 2011: Kathy K,
        It might be benificial to you and others to put your ego aside and walk your talk:>)
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        Mar 25 2011: Kathy K,
        It might be beneficial to you and others to put your ego aside and walk your talk:>)
        With loving kindness,
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          Mar 26 2011: Balance is always good:>)
          Thanks for the reference to the Claron McFadden talk/sing Ed:>) As a former performing artist, singing, dancing and acting in musical and other theater productions, I totally connect with Claron's calm, alertness, emotion, focus, awareness and freedom of expression.
          Thanks a lot for bringing it to our attention:>)
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    • Mar 15 2011: Fredric
      You forgot the 4th possibility.
      Can you explain consciousness with billiard balls ??!! Lets hear! But it can perhaps present a good example of simple some people think.....
      Consciousness can in no way compare with billiard balls. Thats a pretty naive comparison... shape, movement, mass, velocity, angle of impact ... nothing at all mysterious here...
      Consciousness is and has been one of philosophy's and sciences biggest puzzles throughout history and you can come along an say its no more that like billiard balls..... well.... you must be incredibly smart Fred !!
      But besides your denying soul and spirit, do you have anything interesting to say about consciousness as a phenomena in itself. Any good and meaningful things to say. Tell us for example how self consciousness has evolved and why it has evolved... any good reason for self consciousness??
      I suggest you go to the start of this discussion and read all the comments and then come back and discuss the physical vs. the spiritual.... otherwise I'll have to repeat so much of the things that I've already written.
      It must be consciousness that triggers the firing of the neural activity. As a sleeping person has no significant thinking activity to measure....
      I fully agree that religion has come with a lot of BS up through the years ... but so has science....
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        Mar 15 2011: the remark about science made me laugh :)
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        • Mar 16 2011: Fredric, In terms of the billiard balls again,
          I see.... so if I say to you Frederic .. think of a triangle.. you then do so.. this triangle exists only in the immaterial world.. or.. The triangle that is now in your mind or your consciousness is totally and without question immaterial .. don't you agree..?

          This you have to agree to... so I'll go one step further.

          You say that science is on its way to explaining what this "qualia" is... almost that you want to say that this is the end of the search... if science can find this qualia, then, yes then!! we have found the answer to what drives the neural firing.!! hurray!!.. but the triangle that you were thinking about a minute ago. That is gone now.... think about a circle....now the triangle... It's your conscious mind that is reading these words and putting them together in a logical pattern in your own immaterial consciousness, an immaterial idea received over the internet, a million miles away, has been received and carried in your own thoughts by me simply writing the word "triangle" .. is there anything in the shape or the letters... or the form the length of the word that can give any "concrete" picture of a triangle....No... the triangle exists in your mind and my mind and anybody's mind who is just a little bit familiar with basic geometry.
          One more thing, I'm not "you guy's" I write only for myself. I don't agree with everything that has been put out here. Don't get me wrong. I think I'm coming from just as strict a scientific line of thought as you are, but I'm trying to say that the immaterial realm of ideas, thoughts, and consciousness must be taken as realities.
          I see your interested in Richard Dawkins. Maybe you can relate some of his thoughts on "memes".. I have hear mention of it but havn't had the chance to get into it that much.
          What does he mean by a meme?
          I perhaps interchange the words "soul/spirit" with "consciousness/mind" Some say this is just semantics but I'm shaking the bridge...
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          Mar 16 2011: Didn't know machines did science..

          As for BS .. How about NASA scientists claiming Arsenic based microbial life forms ? And after which Arsenic became a life sustainer rather than poison. Now I can't help but trust science

          Let's' just not become egotistical about science and lets recognize the fact that science will always remain incomplete and will always grow. That doesn't mean it isn't right , always .
        • Mar 16 2011: Frederic,
          I'm with you 100% on that one. The scientific process is the only way to go. There is no room for mere belief. But science has to go further than the material. It must also penetrate the immaterial. This can be done phenomenologically. The study of consciousness must and will come. Their is no difference than in any material research. The fact that consciousness is non-material doesn't mean that science can't study it. Science just has to study the phenomena involved.
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          Mar 16 2011: Daniel: I don't understand your conception of "the immaterial". Is energy immaterial?
        • Mar 16 2011: quickly back to that triangle.... biologically speaking... where do you suppose that triangle is located now in your brain...? Was it there before ..? Is it still there, sort of like a growth...? Do you think it looks at all like the shape of a triangle...? How do you suppose that you can move it around in your imagination... do you think it actually moves around in your brain.... sort of like a little butterfly or an insect creeping about ..? If you thought of a hundred different triangles... do you think you would have a hundred different "footprints" in your physical brain..?
          Do you start to see the absurdity of it.... ?? The triangle is an "idea" a "concept" that your thinking can bring forth within your minds eye... or your imagination. I can promise you that you will never find any "quailia" that will give you the answer to this question..!
          and its an extremely materialistic corner you've painted yourself in if you really claim to believe this.... Your ideas, memories, thought processes are all purely "consciousness" related phenomena. ..
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        Mar 16 2011: daniel said :
        “It must be consciousness that triggers the firing of the neural activity”
        How did you reach such bold conclusion? This illustrates an example of one of the non-demonstrated, imaginary assertions of mystics. A category of assertions that have no support from reality but related to subjective, personal emotional/psychological drives. Mystic consciousness represents surrealistic/irrational and ambiguous concept, where there is no way to tell as to its truth or falsehood.
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          Mar 16 2011: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-i3AiOS4nCE - for explaining consciousness " programming the brain "

          As far as mystic consciousness are concerned, I can point you to mystics. And certain mystical practices that will change your consciousness. But you will have to do the "experiment" yourself to verify it rather than allow another to be the judge. Trust me, its worth it.
        • Mar 16 2011: Mind S

          What do you think triggers the firing of the neurons?
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      Mar 15 2011: Biological evolution remains a mystery. Consciousness thus remains a bigger mystery.

      Material universe cannot explain what happened prior to the big-bang. If you mention string theory, again I said material universe in three dimensions.

      There are people who do not think, and yet fully function in this world without any difficulties. What validity does thinking have in such a case ? I can point them to you. And I am serious about this.

      Experiencing "monism" or non-dual separation as a first hand living experience is completely different from using it merely as a conceptual framework.

      Unfortunately, amazing progress doesn't equate to clear cut answers to simple questions such as what is the origin of thought rather than what is the effect of thought in the brain. Until then science is still in a premature stage, and cannot claim progress.

      Religion , if misunderstood through the eyes of fundamentalism, or the control structure imposed by the power hungry elite and , will fail to help individuals or science to point to the non-dual awareness within which occur in the origin of all the religions. Science which fails to look at its own "observer" as separate from the universe is equal to being unscientific in the purest sense. Read Biocentrism or works by Robert Lanza. It is the closest scientific theory which comes in line with a reasonable study on the nature of the "observer"
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          Mar 16 2011: No scientist have any kind of detailed understanding as to how consciousness emerges from Biological evolution ( not biological evolution alone ).If they did , they would be able to replicate the same in a lab. And simply they haven't. So biological evolution "IS" a mystery, as there are bigger gaps left to be filled. An incomplete theory cannot explain consciousness.

          In case you didn't understand what I said, I was wondering what happened prior to the big bang. There is no conclusive explanation science can provide on that other than incomplete theories waiting to be proved. It doesn't have the evidence to claim what happened at the origin as of now.

          Until science has come up with proper explanation, it will remain INCOMPLETE. Let's acknowledge this fact rather than claiming unproven theories to explain things we haven't understood yet. Such as quoting biological evolution as the reason for consciousness.

          No one is asking philosophy /religion to fill the void. No one is asking science to fill the void using incomplete theories as well.

          Thanks for the list. Will look at those. However, you seemed to have avoided one major section in my reply. I had told you I can provide you details of individuals who have experienced the non-dual consciousness. What can scientists do to study these special individuals ?

          Consciousness ultimately is a subjective experience. Science is has bigger gaps to fill in the subjective experience. If you looked into the ancient scriptures on yoga, you would recognize it as the science of subjective experiences. There is no need to rely upon mere transient material / objective realm to explain subjective experience that requires individual experimentation. Science still has much to grow compared to scriptures such as Patanjali's yoga sutras.

          P.S. Richard Dawkins hasn't experienced Kundalini symptoms and the associated consciousness shift. So I wouldn't value his words in explaining consciousness to be honest.
    • Mar 16 2011: Hi Frederic,
      The fact is that no two days of driving to work are exactly alike.. perhaps if you take the train.. then you could sleep and not engage you thinking at all. I really hope for the sake of all car drivers out there on the roads that your "auto-pilot" theory is wrong. Of course there are different degrees of "awake"ness ... this I will agree with. If a sleepwalker should get into his or her car and start driving it.. well .. you see what I mean. Consciousness is a central part in pretty much all that we do ... thinking is perhaps another question. The nuclear scientists in Japan were certainly thinking when they built those nuke plants...but they weren't thinking about all unseen consequences. A billiard ball is a good example of how the physical world works. But to go to more complicated examples is like the one you mentioned as I also did earlier in this discussion, perhaps you yourself had read it seeing that you took up projective geometry.
      In fact Fred, I have studied a bit of projective(Aristotelian) geometry. What do you think about the circle expanding to the infinite line on a plane?Have you managed to actually imagine it? What about the sphere expanding to the infinite plane? Can you see the limits of your own thinking? But one can certainly experience that your "imagination" (also a part of your consciousness I might add) is stretched to its limits. One can do all sorts of such mental exercises. Your thinking is actually quite limited. You expand your "idea" of circle until the line of the circle becomes straight..... try it.... Will the line ever become straight ?...and if so, can you imagine it? can you see it in your "minds eye"... if you allow to use such a "non-demonstrated" idea... Does the line of the circle "meet again with itself " ? Does it meet at the infinite point ? Do you know what I'm talking about by the "ideal point"..?
      Lets get back to consciousness then... What does your explanation encompass .. and then "self-consciousnes
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        • Mar 17 2011: I don't mean for you to give "ALL" the answers Frederic.... Just one .... Take self-consciousness...

          How can you explain self-consciousness in a biological/evolutionary process?
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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.

      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?
      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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    Feb 27 2011: Consciousness is more akin to a hung browser tab that is at best vaguely aware of other tabs running in the background. It is a rare tab that hacks its way to root access.
  • Mar 26 2011: Would love to continue
    on this thread
    but don't really have the time

    the "continuation of consciousness"
    in poesy and rhyme

    Is anyone out there interested
    to start a bran new thread..?
    on this endless topic ... consciousness
    or is the whole thing "dead"

    should we start another
    bran new conversation
    or does it only contribute
    to a deep inner frustration

    Has anyone there any more to say..
    enemy or friend
    or has our topic fizzled out
    and reached the final end..?

    and If we do continue
    is there anyone out there
    who has some new perspectives
    that they might like to share ?

    My fingers they are getting tired
    I've worn them to the bone
    My thoughts are getting mired
    and I feel myself alone...

    Is there anyone else who also feels this way?
    confusion .... distress...
    have we gotten any closer to this thing called
    consciousness ?

    To continue might be error
    but to end would be so sad
    ...and thanks again to everyone
    for the sessions we have had...

    but I hope to meet you all again
    someplace... somewhere ... sometime...
    In "consciousness" we meet as friends
    in reason and in rhyme ...

    So until then.....I wish you well
    take heed of stormy weather
    and so I say my last farewell
    Its been fun to be "conscious".... together..
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      Mar 26 2011: Good job Daniel:>)
      It's been fun to be conscious...together:>)
  • Comment deleted

    • Mar 17 2011: Slow down Frederic, No need to get so emotionally involved. Did you find what I wrote to you about the triangle..? Consciousness is not superstition but you tell me that it comes from the material... that sounds more superstitious than me saying that consciousness comes from the realm of consciousness..
      To be superstitious can also have its roots in what I would call material superstition .... to believe that everything arises out of the material... almost as if the material itself takes on a form or cloak of "godliness" that can produce everything and explain everything....
      To be so fanatically engulfed in your own meanings makes you think unclear.... just like religious fanatics that say creation ! creation ! creation ! You are in the same boat "IF" you continue with your ...material ! material ! material !
      • Mar 17 2011: Thank you, Daniel! That's exactly what I was going to speak out, but you happened to be earlier here. Atheist and religious fanatic are not the two sides of the same coin, as I thought, but one side of two coins, hence the same.
      • Mar 21 2011: daniel,

        I don't see Frederic's comment to be emotionally charged at all. That he would be emphatic does not mean anything else but that he was emphatic.

        How would an expectation that reality does not require "supernatural" explanations be superstitious? That's nonsensical. If the accumulation of our knowledge shows that we can explain more and more without the recourse to fantasyland, should we still expect that the fantasy will be necessary at some point, or should it dilute such expectation to the point when we would realize that fantasy is exactly that: fantasy?

        Finally, I would say that at least those "chanting": "material ! material ! material !" are chanting to something observable rather than to some fantasy. So, not exactly the same coin, not exactly the same anything. That makes a huge difference. Natasha, you were kind to the religious, by referring only to "religious fanatics" in your critique, why then leave "atheist" without referring to a particular group of atheists, rather than generalize to them all? Do you really think that all atheists are comparable to religious fanatics? If so, what have you learned about anything by being a TED translator?
        • Mar 22 2011: Hi Gabo,
          I lost you out there on all these threads... Thats why I have not commented back to you. I will try to back to you soon with some responses to your last few comments. This topic has surely set a record I guess... perhaps it was merely that single magical world "merely" that did it.

          It's funny though.. something that I can understand ad perfectly logical and understandable someone else would consider "magical"... Magic can always be understood through thinking .. it's really no big mystery... It doesn't have infer things such as supernatural or superstitious.. does it ? Because I have a working understanding of certain spiritual truths and you don't may be called illusion from your side, but that doesn't mean at all that I have can't have a perfectly logical understanding of the "magical" from my side... We can all understand magic... which is not my word but yours.... when we build a foundation for the content of the concepts. Magical is actually for me more of a mystery than the word spirit... but perhaps I have no understanding of what magic is.. as I never claimed to have. Magic is something that is no longer a mystery when we can see through it.. Spiritual realities don't
          have to be at all magical as you put it ... not when we have the tools to see through it..
          You say its not possible to have these tools... I say it is. Experience and thinking are the tools we all share for this knowlege that is only "apparantly" beyond our grasp... I say that it is within our grasp if we look at the whole picture of what mankind really is. Some people don't like to hear this at all because they refuse to recognize the hidden aspects of who we are as complete human beings. The material part of our being is just a small % ....and without considering the higher aspects of what life is we can never develop the tools that I'm talking about.
          I'll look for your response to this. Perhaps you could write it in the "original thread sequence"
          so I can find you easier...
    • Mar 17 2011: Hello, Frederic, I want to quote" Scientists normally take for granted that we live in a rational , ordered cosmos subject to precise laws that can be uncovered by human reasoning. Yet why it should be so remains a tantalizing mystery." Paul Davies
      • Mind S

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        Mar 17 2011: Paul Davies is a RELIGIOUS scientiist. Your quotation represents his religious thoughts and doesn't represent a scientific thought.
        • Mar 17 2011: The fact that it is possible, speaks for itself .Being religious doesn't prevent him to be a Professor of Mathematical Physics. Einstein can be disregarded on this ground, he" believed in Spinoza's God" and the list of the ''ought-to-be-ignored" scientists will be long, I guess. Anyway, thank you , I will think about it.
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          Mar 17 2011: btw - Spinoza's god was pantheist - "god is everything".
        • Mar 17 2011: I know,and GUT is the theory of everything, so maybe they are seemingly divergent paths to the same summit.
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      Mar 17 2011: I'm In support for Frederic.

      Let us try and make some things clear...

      1) a materialistic worldvieuw encompasses photons who are essentially mass-less...
      => this seems paradoxical... maybe scientific worldvieuw is a better term.

      2) As I repeat from another discussion,
      "Science is the set of methods that can reduce uncertainty about truth"
      So we observe/ measure/ sense,gather input, data (call it what you will)... agree and discuss what is factual about the data we obtain... We do analysis, statistical testing, falsifying, building a mountain of evidence, and slowly we find out what can be true, is still plausible as alternative hypothesis, and which hypotheses have been ruled out

      3) Although absence of evidence is no evidence of absence... the probability that something exists and nothing is found decreases with the amount of search time (the monster of loch ness, gods, fairies, spaghetti monsters in the sky, superman, yellow dotted green swans,...).
      3.1. We can imagine things that don't exist.. but something that does not exist cannot be measured...
      3.2. You can put this in very accurate probabilistic models (for example Bayesian reasoning or probabilistic inductive reasoning)

      4) ALL good knowledge is based on inferences about what we have thus far observed, and is plausible given the data. The more you need to rely on things not yet measured (but already searched for), the less likely the hypothesis you are using is valid.
      4.1. This is close to Occam's razor

      5) Comming back to matrialism:
      The materialistic/scientific worldvieuw does just that.

      If we look at the available data that concerns consciousness, there are still a few rivaling hypotheses... and most of the relevant ones are materialistic and the very best don't need something extra.
      neurons, the other cells, the DNA, the molecules are sufficient to allow for consciousness to emerge...

      I hope this helps

      P.S. Liking an opinion does not make it more valid!
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        Mar 17 2011: 1) what is a photon ultimately , but emptiness within it ?

        2) What can science say about the observer, whose observations can interpret matter as a wave or a particle ? What validity does science have in that case, especially in its measurements ?

        3.1) How do you measure a thought ? But you do agree it exists
        3.2) Probablity models do a good job. But I would like to see probability models on the observer itself. Maybe I should start working on it.

        4. Sorry to break it to you. There are individuals who have claimed to have experienced a state of consciousness which they have never experienced before.Some people call that experience enlightenment. The effect of that state is easily observed in the incredible spontaneity of these individuals. Certain "intuitive" individuals are able to experience life changing consciousness shifts in their physical presence. However it simply cannot be measured, no matter how appealing it may seem to. Or - Measurement must grow.

        5. Materialism is denying the existence of thoughts, or the awareness that is in the backdrop of it. Mysticism - pushes one within, and forces one to study the inner awareness for themselves, and it is a highly individualistic, and experiential way towards "enlightenment".
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          Mar 17 2011: Santhip:
          Questions are no arguments. I don't know all answers, neither do you, so let's try and keep us on the established field of knowledge and the debate somewhat rational.

          @ 1) A question is not an argument. And your statement that a photon is "ultimately emptiness within it" is just plain nonsensical

          @ 2) Science can say a lot about observers, depending on the definition.
          The one you define here is quite nonsensical: An observation cannot interpret...
          The validity of science is not harmed by that case.
          The validity of measurement depends upon the instrument and upon "are you measuring what you wish to measure"

          @ 3.1. If I discribe what I feel a thought is, and if you agree that that description is also what you feel a thought is, we can start to communicate about it. AND we have a working definition, and we have already measured it: We do experience something we mutually agree upon to call it "thought" we measured it by experiencing.
          If we work on it and do experiments and put forth hypothesis, we can begin to measure thoughts in other ways... and what do you know... neuroscience does this with monkeys, humans, rats,... through various techniques you might already know

          @ 3.2. Good idea! I encourage you to do so!

          4. (no need to excuse, we are in a debate, where we attack or defend ideas, we don't attack the person). I agree people say they have had such experiences. And I assume that they actually felt that way. [I wouldn't call that enlightenment, but rather extacy or satori or something else, but that is a matter of demarking the meaning of a word]
          You state that it is observable...so you measured it already.

          5. I disagree... so we must have a different idea about what materialism is.
          I suggest you give me some examples of materialistic philosophers who do deny the existance of thoughts...
          Materialism in my opinion only rejects all non-measurable (or in principle non-measurable) things. ( maybe in another debate)
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        Mar 19 2011: Those are big words: Established field of knowledge, and rational. Would you consider 2000 year old buddhist/hindu scriptures on consciousness as established field of knowledge ? Would you consider subjective experience ( repeatable in nature) which points to a completely different paradigms what science has to offer as rational as far as the individual is concerned? Elaborated below

        1) Light has dual nature - photon and wave. If I question what is inside a photon, the best answer science can give me is it doesn't know. So is the case with electrons. The materialistic world view ( world can be explained on the basis of matter alone) has its utility value, but simply fails to provide the ultimate answer. Given its paradoxical nature, it only seems that another paradoxical world view might as well suffice the purpose served by the limited material (world can be explained on the basis of matter alone) worldview.

        2) Perhaps my grammar has failed me there. Let me rephrase my argument relating to the dual nature of matter. An observer can choose to measure matter as a particle or as a wave. So the observation ( matter) can be interpreted as a particle or a wave by the observer. Thus the intention of the observer ( including his perceptual filters) becomes very important in any study. The instrument used to measure is also important.

        How valid would you consider using subjective experience of an individual as an actual observation to be measured? As far as I have understood, the subjective experience has to be translated to a measureable domain, determined by the measuring instruments at hand in terms of reactions to stimuli. Please make me aware of other options.

        3.1) It is interesting as to how you "measured" a thought by agreeing to a common definition based on one's experience. Is it possible to measure subjective experience such as a state of no-separation between a subject and an object ?

        3.2) thanks for the encouragement !

        4) Contd below
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          Mar 19 2011: I think there might be some knowledge in any tradition. I would however test all hypotheses and claims wit the same rigor as any claim.
          Age of a tradition is no argument. The body of evidence is.

          1) you follow the knowledge of what science learned you a photon might be (current hypotheses) .Then you try and comprehend the formula, fail to do so and conclude something mystical... You see it as paradoxical, because you can't understand it. (neither do I, but I just admit that I don't know it and that I might not have the capacity to understand it (with just human brains). so I stick to the facts and hold to the most plausible explanation by default to be true)

          2) If you claim matter is dual, you might want to give me an experiment that proves that.
          I also suggest you would either learn some real quantum-physics or admit your ignorance. I cannot validate your claims here, as I'm not a quantum-physicist.
          I do know that the mathematical descriptions fit for the predictions... and I don't need to say to reality how easy to understand it needs to be for me...
          The observer effect holds only for some experiments about quantum-particles... it does not hold for other experiments (like double blind clinical research, boiling water, growing plants)
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        Mar 19 2011: 4) Let me clarify my point a bit further. There are individuals who claim to have experienced enlightenment ( a consciousness state of non-duality resulting in a state of no thoughts ). In the presence of these individuals, some intuitive persons fall into consciousness shifts, and are thus able to use their subjective experience of their consciousness shift as a decided as to whether the first individual is enlightened or not. And you are saying that it is totally OK as an act of measurement, especially without the use of a measuring instrument such as an EEG reader, or even an fMRI scanner? [ thanks for the tidbit on getting the person out of the way - helps a lot in dealing with the facts :) ]

        5. Now.. considering the scientific world view, which encompasses, paradoxical world view of using "mass less" photons to describe the "material" world, which I assume that you would be willing to include "thoughts" as well, from my engineering background, measurement of a thought to me would mean that I use an instrument to see a thought and interpret it based on the observations I get from that instrument, which I think is impossible to do with any physical instrumentation available right now ( correct me if am wrong).

        As far as I understand ( especially from my engineering background), consciousness cannot be measured ( correct me if am wrong). Especially self-awareness. The actual subjective experience cannot be measured, but its residue within the measurable domain can only be measured, and the assumption using hypothesis / theory / experimentation is that the measurement indicates strength of an experience. This is my understanding. Perhaps your answer to (3) will help me in formulating the argument for using the actual "measurements" for the scientific process.
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          Mar 19 2011: I'm trying to stay brief, as this might stray too far off topic.

          * The individuals need to describe it as good as they can. And if the documentation is systematic, it is a way of gathering data.
          I myself have experience with such meditations... it indeed feels good. I wouldn't call it enlightenment, because I use that term for the Kant's version of it.
          It would be interesting to be able to find evidence of such states on EEG& fMRI.
          I would not go so far to say that the measure you propose is sufficient... I would need to go into the details of the proposed protocols and we would need to find some consensus with researchers...

          If you are interested in all this... I would suggest you start reading into neuroscience. Consciousness is measurable... like any existing thing is in principle measurable (an assumption of me)
          (I'm not pretending I know a lot about engineering)
      • Mar 19 2011: Christophe,
        When was the last time a creative thought came out of a piece of matter ...?
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          Mar 21 2011: Nice rhetoric Daniel.
          I think it is happening all the time. so 'now' would be a good answer.

          Ok, let me go all Socratic as well
          If you wave your hand... is the waving something material or not?
          Can you wave without a hand? (i.e. without something that is causing the wave)

          For me the wave exists. And it needs matter to exist. so the wave emerges from the matter, and is in my opinion part of the material world.

          A thought can, on a metaphoric level, be seen as a wave.
          the matter causing it would be a brain.
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      Mar 17 2011: Honestly Frederic, does universe really have a center ? Do you have ALL the measurements of the dimensions to come to that conclusion ? What is the center of your question ? What is the concept that you choose as center ? What is observing the concept? Who is the observer ? Is this "I" just another thought ? Are memorires and all other constructs just another thought ? What is observing the thought ? OM Shanti ..

      Science can never claim complete authority merely by the study of only the things it can measure, and by not measuring the things it can't. How can it be complete ?

      Different people are coming forward with different experiences within. Holding onto a conceptual framework based on materialism is still holding onto a paradigm rather than dealing with the facts these people are sharing. Fact is people have experienced a state of no-separation with the material universe and the immaterial universe. Fact is there are individuals who have lost their sense of identity with the awareness that acts as a backdrop to all the thoughts that happen within ourselves.Question is - does science shun these experiences just because it doesn't fit the present paradigm it is holding onto ? Or does it expand to accomodate these facts ?

      Honestly Frederic, I mean no offence. Science simply has to grow up. And I don't want to see science end the great progress it has made due to limited egos who are being egotistical within the conceptual paradigm it is holding onto as if their lives depended on it. It is a shame if science cannot learn from the ancients who have delved into the science of consciousness.
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        Mar 18 2011: Santhip, Although I do agree that science ought to address these aspects of human experience and that is limited by the questions it can ask, I don't agree that science has not or will not go there. After all, there are plenty of neuroscientists studying the effects of meditation, etc. I think neuroscience is reaching new frontiers every year, and scientists are always interested in overturning every stone.
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          Mar 19 2011: Minh .. I do hope so .. Neuroscience is growing rapidly in these times and are definitely asking difficult and controversial questions such as retro-causality, psi and non-locality of consciousness Those are some tough paradigms to break up in the first place. But I do hope neuroscience can point to something more substantial as far as enlightenment is concerned, and in helping us in pointing towards the truth of the phenomenon, so that the subjective experience can be simulated / experienced by every man. :-)
      • Mar 19 2011: Santhip,
        You can not tell a materialist that their is a creative thought world, a world of spirit....no ... creative thoughts arise out of matter.The scientific world may say we are just superstitious, mystics, etc. But isn't it a little absurd, almost superstitious, to say the thinking can actually arise out of substance.. by ..itself. Thats almost like saying that a board itself can develop its own idea to make a boat out of itself.. or brick a house of itself
        The absurdity is sort of like the "not seeing the forest for the trees" expression.

        How can matter develop itself to "life" ??
        How can matter develop itself to "feelings" ??
        How can matter develop itself to "thinking" and "self-consciousness" ??

        The materialist can and will never come with any "creative answers" to any of the above questions without first breaking down its "box of materialistic ideas" that matter has within itself the creative forces to bring about these three higher forms of existence. Again, science will say... come with the evidence, proof, give us the facts we can weigh and measure.... Life force.... hah... superstition ! What is the phenomenon behind the living forces in nature... What is the force that can push a little dandelion up through the pavement in the spring time..? What superstitious force sustains this body that " I "walk around in ?? How can it be that "I" (as the primate with the overdeveloped brain) read a book, listen to and create music, study astronomy, send spaceships to the stars ?? How can matter out of its own accord and initiative create the desire within itself for knowledge, love, beauty, meaning of life...??.. Had matter alone shown itself.. anywhere ...ANYWHERE.. in the outer world to posses the capability to assemble itself into a meaningful structure without any external life force, then one could perhaps have some form of sympathetic alliance with the materialistic world view.. but until that comes about...they can gladly consider me superstitious
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          Mar 21 2011: I don't know if this answer is creative:

          Scientists tend to call it 'evolution'.
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          Mar 21 2011: Christophe,
          Do you think or feel that evolution is not creative?
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          Mar 21 2011: Colleen

          I might call evolution creative in a metaphorical way.
          But being creative belongs to the language game of human (or animal) thought and inventiveness.
          As evolution is a process, I wouldn't give it that meaning literally.

          I am however often surprised by how evolution turned out to be so various, intricate, and beautiful to me.

          So I might "feel" that evolution is creative. I don't think it actually is creative
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          Mar 21 2011: OH...thanks Christophe for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I percieve evolution to be incredibly creative:>) As defined: "Productive, having the quality of something created rather than imitated; imaginative". There is even a definition for "creative evolution" : "evolution that is a creative product of a vital force rather than a naturalistically explicable process". Maybe these definitions are all "language games" as you say? When I ponder evolution and everything it means, I find it very creative:>) Funny how differently we all percieve things huh?
        • Mar 21 2011: Hey daniel,

          Sorry, but you are just "rhetoricing" the issues in a way that thought properly shows much more ignorance on your part than ridicule in the scientific thought.

          You ask:
          How can matter develop itself to "life" ??
          How can matter develop itself to "feelings" ??
          How can matter develop itself to "thinking" and "self-consciousness" ??

          Well, if we didn't know, would it mean that this happens by magic or just that we don't know? We know, but I am getting at the heart of the issue here. Seems like if we don't know something, or if you can make it sound far fetched enough, then magic should be the right answer.

          Then you say:
          "The materialist can and will never come with any "creative answers" to any of the above questions ..."

          Define "creative." Putting together the data about species distributions, nested hierarchy of life classification, fossils, results from breeding, and a lot of data on everyday life events, leading into the idea of evolution is pretty creative. There is a word for some experiments so clear that the answer jumps at you: "elegance." Elegant experiments show lots creativity. Scientists trying to display complex data in an understandable way are winning art contests. Long et cetera. I would say that you were being too dismissive, out of ignorance, of that thing you do not like. Just as you were when using the word "merely" in the intro to your topic.

          Your list of rhetorically charged questions looks nice, but does nothing. I can't understand how the binary code in my computer can be displayed so beautifully in my screen. Should I thus suppose that there is magic behind it? That some immaterial thing uses the binary code to manifest itself into my screen but lives separately from the computer?

          You might feel that superstition is more creative. I think it is just lazy. Be presented with a mystery: thus magic. See? No creativity necessary.
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          Mar 21 2011: (Ok, I know the 3 replies rule has a reason, and that I'm tweaking it too, like some others)

          Colleen: when it comes to differences in perception, I totally agree. sometimes I think it's funny, most often I think that is very logical given peoples different background and state of knowledge about reality

          When people start to claim that their perceptions are congruent with reality (or true), I start asking for serious evidence... following the logic of science.

          @ Gabo: I mostly agree with your comment(s)
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          Mar 21 2011: Gabo...I LOVE IT:>)
          We're almost sounding like we're on the same debate team...accept...I don't tell people they are ignorant and stuff like that!

          I love that you're getting to the "heart of the issue". I don't think anyone is trying to make anything sound "far fetched". I believe that people, including you and me, try to explain things based on the information they/we have at any given time. Don't you think?
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          Mar 21 2011: I agree Christophe...it can be amusing and logical at the same time:>) What I realize is that everyone has his/her own reality, based on, as you say, different backgrounds, and state of knowledge. I do the same thing when people say their way is "the only way...the only truth". Show me!...I'm always open to new information:>)
        • Mar 21 2011: Hey Colleen,

          Oh yes, daniel is trying quite hard to make it sound far fetched. Just look at his sentences. The last sentence in his first paragraph starts with "The absurdity."

          And sorry, but daniel is showing ignorance. I agree with you on this:

          "I believe that people, including you and me, try to explain things based on the information they/we have at any given time. Don't you think?"

          But this necessarily means that we carry our ignorance there and thus have to be careful. If we don't have the information and we criticize out of suck lack of information, we are showing our ignorance. So, I try to keep my ignorance out of it by informing myself a bit better. I thus try not to generalize, and whenever possible refer to my experience, rather than make blanket generalizations (not always successfully, so feel free to criticize and I shall learn).


          @Christophe: thanks. I mostly agree with yours too.
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          Mar 22 2011: Hey Gabo,
          I agree with you, and try to do the same things...not make blanket generalizations and speak from my own experiences, clarifying that it is simply my experience. Sometimes, people are pondering/evaluating their own beliefs/perceptions while writing, and I think/feel that is where the confusion usually comes from, rather than ignorance. But then...I'm a Pollyanna, so what do I know!!!
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      • Mar 18 2011: Kathy,
        I've been noticing your comments but haven't responded directly to them as yet.
        You refer a lot to the bible and it interpretation.

        I have an interest here too, but I am coming from a different angle than you are..... I think !
        How do you interpret such things as the baptism...?
        I ask because I made a comment further down to Santhip about ancient cultures and the spiritual world.. I just want to hear if you are at all in the same ball park as I am..
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      Mar 17 2011: Um...Frederic, you're generalizing quite a bit here. "Religions do not have detailed theories of conciousness". Which religions are you speaking of? Are you familiar with Abhidhamma, this is arguably a detailed theory of consciousness (and reality) from the Theravadan Buddhist school (and dates to within 500 years after Siddhartha Gautama's death). Whether or not it holds weight in an academic forum is another discussion altogether.
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      Mar 17 2011: Study Patanjali's Yoga Sutras , Tripura Rahasya- a hindu text on consciousness
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    Mar 4 2011: The idea that consciousness is biologically based has become scientifically accepted, because by definition a non-physical basis for consciousness cannot be measured or tested. Nevertheless, take a look around the world today. The total planetary GDP is over 50 trillion dollars, yet hundreds of millions of people don't have enough food. Injustice and poverty is rampant. Environmental pollution is massive.
    What is the common denominator of world "leaders"? Almost all of them are all materialists, and believe in the biological basis for consciousness.
    So reality tells us that there is something terribly wrong with this belief.
    It is not possible to prove that consciousness is "spiritual" or non-physical, yet every culture on the planet has had this belief.
    Materialistic cultures are warlike, domineering, and create dysfunctional societies.
    Either you understand yourself as essentially a divine spirit, or you don't. Those that don't create most of the mischief in our world.
    People who have had a spiritual awakening are uniformly saner, more cooperative, and work toward the greater good. Materialists "look out for number one," are often aggressive and domineering, and very often have no concern for the consequences of their actions .None of this activity can be considered sane.
    Unfortunately, as Eckhart Tolle and others like him have discovered, it isn't possible to teach knowledge of self. But if anyone could ever figure it out, the human race would soon discover it's full potential.
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      Mar 5 2011: Spirit is what you believe starting from childhood hearing the stories with things a child is already familiar to.
      And material is what you learn, and majority stops accepting knowledge after mastering some amount of it.
      Spiritual side is just faster explaining stuff you can get from material side.
      Any "warlike, domineering, and create dysfunctional societies." comes from unknowing and exists on both sides.
      May be as Echart Tolle says "it isn't possible to teach knowledge of self", but it's possible to learn it for sure after you have the source.
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        Mar 7 2011: George,
        I agree! Spiritual and material can co-exist, and it is up to us as individuals to decide how we use the information when we have the source:>)

        You make some pretty broad statements. "Either you understand yourself as essentially a divine spirit, or you don't. Those that don't create most of the mischief in our world?" I believe I am a spirit being having a human experience, but your statement doesn't feel very kind for those who do not believe in spirituality. I like the teachings of Eckhart Tolle, and I don't think this is one of them. It IS possible to "teach knowledge of self", and to do that, first we need to understand our "self" and walk our talk. Is it helpful to label as mischiefmakers all those who do not believe in spirituality?
    • Mar 5 2011: Ken,

      I am truly sorry to say this, but that was a full load of nonsense. The world's problems, poverty, hunger, sicknesses, pests, drought, and a huge et cetera have always existed, and you can't just shrug and blame it on "materialist leaders" and the "belief" that consciousness is biological rather than "spiritual." It is a non-sequitur. I see consciousness as biological and biological only. I don't see a path from this into wanting every human in the world to die of hunger, nor for not caring about it. It is rather remarkable that physical-chemical processes can produce such a thing as consciousness, and I value it the most because of its genuine and "humble" origins (if we dare to call star fission-reactions, supernovae, and billions of years of biological evolution, "humble"). If we are instants of pinches of stardust pondering about ourselves, we are certainly valuable and we cannot but value this short opportunity we have to be ourselves. I am not saying that every "materialist" will necessarily think like myself, and many certainly won't. But most of those I do know value humanity beyond anything most "spirituals" can imagine.

      Humanity can be war-prone for whatever excuse. "Materialism" has nothing particular to do with it. Any excuse will do. Just take a look at religions with all of their "spirituality." Their very sacred books mandate wars, or at least hatred, against those with different beliefs (yes, the bible too). Do you think 9/11 was a "materialist" terrorist attack?

      Self-discovery has nothing to do with believing in spirits. It might have more to do with courage.

      Please think before attempting to answer my comment. I would detest having to explain to you something as basic as why a 20th/21st century dictator could do more damage than the crusaders, or the declared beliefs of the most famous of those genocidal leaders that most "anti-materialists" bring into these exchanges.
      • Mar 5 2011: Agree with you Gabo on this point. I cant find any correlation between what some people call spirituality and what goes on in the world, either today or throughout history, of whatever form of aggressive of dominant form of behavior. Spirituality is not synonomous with harmony and peace. Materialism is not the cause of mankinds problems. What some want to call spirituality can take a distorted form in forms of power strugles, perversion and even war. Its people like george bush with the famous words from the bible "your either with us or agains us" that exemplify a twisted form for godliness..... or as Dylan would put it "with god on our side"
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          Mar 7 2011: Gabo,
          I agree with you that self-discovery has to do with courage. It takes courage to open our hearts and minds to different information. I also agree that life challenges are fueled by many different factors. For me, the important thing in life is not what label I choose, but rather how I live my life. If we do label ourselves and others based on underlying beliefs, how are we ever going to connect all the "good guys" in our world in a way that may create changes?
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        Mar 5 2011: Hi Gabo --
        The belief in materialism has little to do with one's profession, or whether one calls oneself religious.The hardest materialists I know are religious people!
        Perhaps I did paint with too broad a brush; I have no doubt that a materialist can value humanity; but that valuation doesn't stem from a materialist POV: it comes from an innate understanding of a person's divine nature.
        The debate between materialists and spiritualists is pointless; and I long ago decided not to engage in it. If consciousness is non-physical, it is by definition outside the purview of science, because this assertion cannot be measured. I understand that the above assertion is a valid objection of materialists to people who quack about spirituality. But materialists can never prove that consciousness isn't non-physical for precisely the same reason. Neither can people who believe that consciousness is non-physical prove that it is.
        Let's agree to disagree on this one. But let's do agree that the primary concern should be not whether one is a "spiritualist" (whatever that means) or a "materialist" -- because these labels just shove complex and intelligent beings into little boxes -- but whether you are a person who, as you say, truly "values humanity."
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          Mar 5 2011: fact that consciousness is material is proven by materialists already. It's personal for someone to take it or not.
          There are lot of similarities in spiritual-materialist views, that just have another form. But we all value life ) and it's great)
        • Mar 6 2011: But Ken you are missing the point. A valuation of humanity might not come from a materialist POV necessarily (you are right, this "materialism" would have to be defined, but the context suggested that materialism in question was the idea that there are no spirits), but in my case it did not come from any perception of any "divine" nature (actually quite the opposite), innate or otherwise.

          So yes, let us agree to disagree and leave it there. No use.
    • Mar 5 2011: I think your off base on this point Ken. The problem is not that materialism is the cause of the problems in the world. Spirituality is a double edged sword. It makes a son turn from his father and his family. Its the individuality shining through. Thats what spirituality is. It not a form of conformity to a path of spirituality. Its not to create peace in the world. True spirituality is of a totally free nature. As is your own thinking. To think free as a free indipendently thinking and acting being. Not to fall in line with conformists.
      To say "materialist only look out for number one" is an insult that I disagree with completely . You jump to a conclusion about many many people that holds no water. Your out on an edge by making so many accusations. I smell a form of religous self-rightousness that really turns a lot of people off.
      I feel that everyone is basically looking for the truth. Thats our nature. Justice and human values are just as strong in a materialist as they are in the most religious person. There are many great scientist and politicians who have no form for spiritual world picture that set highest norm for mankinds respect for each others lives and values.
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        Mar 5 2011: Hi Daniel --
        I think the problem here is that we aren't defining our terms, and that my contribution to the discussion has strayed from your original question..
        I am curious: how does spirituality make a son turn from his father? That is the opposite of spirituality as I see it.
        I am not religious at all -- I rejected religion in high school.
        The original question that you wrote was, "what is the nature of consciousness?"
        My belief -- because it cannot be proven -- is that consciousness is not dependent upon biology. That is something reasonable people have debated for millennia, and will probably continue to debate until the end of time..
        Let's leave it at that.
        • Mar 7 2011: Hi Ken, I've been away for the past three days and havn't been able to keep up on TED.
          The question of son/father... If the father says "practice your violin!" to a child the child will follow orders... up to a certain age. Then, the child will develop its own identity and perhaps, not necessarily so, say "no father, I'm finished with this stupid violin" put it down and never look at it again. The individuality of the child reaches a certain strength within it's consciousness that gives it enough weight over time that the child can stand up against the father. This is also what you will find in the Bible if you read closely. Also you can read the words "I have not come to create peace" These two statements become very interesting if one thinks about such words as individuality and consciousness.
          I am pretty certain that science will, one day, be able to actually have so sensitive instruments and understanding of the world that knowledge of the immaterial world will become an object of scientific study. It may take some time though. On the other hand, when one looks at whats going on in the field of NDE I begin to think that it may be a big press release that the spiritual world is in fact a reality.
          Of course there are as many wrong and twisted ideas about the spiritual world as there are wrong and twisted ideas about the material world. Were all guilty of fault.... almost by nature...
          Generally speaking,to expect the biologists admitting to such a thing that consciousness can exist independently from the physical body is like asking him to pull the chair out from under himself. This he would never do. Of course unless he is free enough in his own thinking and driven in his search for the bigger picture of life.... and not to mention death.
          I get the impression that you are a person with some spiritual direction by your earlier comments but you are not religious. Thats a bit unusual, but interesting. What do you think about the idea of reincarnation?
    • Mar 7 2011: I don't persoannly see a difference between the spiritual and material. When I undergo a spiritual experience there are physical /material/ changes in my body and brain chemistry, changes which can be observed and measured. I see spirituality (and consciousness by the way) as a product of the mechanistic process of the brain, I don't see this as detracting from spiritual experiences, the more we understand about the nature of these experiences the better, so lets pull in our most objective thinking tools, logic and rationality.

      Some may claim ignorance is bliss, or that these things are beyond the realms of science to understand, these claims have been made before and no doubt will continue to be made, but I find a flower no less beautiful because I understand the process by which it formed, or because I know a little something about the matter from which it is formed, in fact that knowledge allows me to appreciate it even more.
  • Feb 28 2011: I find that the initial premise of the question is misleading due to misinformation. You are proposing that thinking is immaterial and non-physical. However looking at biological psychology, you will find that not only is thinking a physical action of the brain (neurotransmitters firing, transferring data from neuron to neuron), but that it manifests itself strongly enough even to be measured. This can be done using either electrodes measuring electronic current in neurons (on a micro scale), or fMRI scans measuring neurotransmitter levels (a more macroscopic approach).
    Concerning Daniel's alternative idea of consciousness being a by-product, I have to agree. The extent of a by-product may well exceed that of the originally intended product, what makes it a by-product is a completely arbitrary definition of what its intended product is. For instance, in producing beer in Australia, some farm produce is input, work is done on it, and beer is received from it. What is also received is a by-product; sediments of raw materials and chemical components (mostly yeast and salts), which is then used for vegemite production (a type of sandwich spread). If the vegemite company decided to make the yeast sediment themselves (rather than buying it from beer producers) using that procedure, and then pour away all the beer, yeast sediment would be by definition the product and beer the by-product.
    Whether consciousness is a greater or lesser output of the brain than its other functions is difficult to judge by anyone but a professional in neuroscience (based on an objective standpoint). One would have to compare to what extent the brain's capacity is used for which task, and I'm convinced at our current level of knowledge this would still be a difficult to impossible task to do (without violating ethical boundaries i.e. electrodes in the brain...).

    • Feb 28 2011: Walter,
      When they put the head of a person in an MRI machine. Who do they ask to start thinking ? and if the person in the machine says....... well...... I don't really want to think about that (which you tell me)right now.... " I " want to think of something else..... How would the MRI react to that Walter...?
      • Mar 1 2011: The MRI would react by showing neuron firing patters associated with the conflict that's going on in this person's mind. If you think there are no differences between that and the person thinking only about what was asked you would be wrong. Where were you trying to go with this question?

        Daniel, in another conversation I left a couple of questions for you. But we rather have the conversation here: if consciousness is spiritual why do we see correlations between brain structure and levels of consciousness among living forms? Why have scientists been able to find minimalist and useful experimental models for learning and decision making in the simplest of life forms? Why do these bring so much light into understanding our own capacities to learning and decision making? Why damaging certain parts of the brain incapacitate one or another of our conscious abilities? Why putting one side of my brain to sleep incapacitates me for number recognition, and the other for reading? Why can brain damage change a person's personality completely? Why can drugs help people avoid hallucinations? Why is lack of vitamin D conducive to depression? In fewer words: Why does it look so evidently physical once you start learning about it rather than trying to determine the nature of consciousness by your feelings?

        I regard out-of-the-body experiences as hallucinations. Their correlations as due to experiences in common, such as being born. That is as far as real science has gone. Anything else seems to be either sensationalism or pseudoscience.

        • Mar 1 2011: OK Gabo, The adjective is clearly "loaded" I was even thinking about pulling it down just for the sake of your point. The word "merely" for me, is saying that if in fact consciousness is a by-product of evolution then it is not a "determining factor in evolution" which I firmly stand by. The difference between what a "simple" (loaded adjective again) "material based evolution of consciousness" and what a "spiritually based evolution of consciousness" is opens up a whole new box of worms. What consciousness is doing is forming the brain. If a person has a stroke for and large parts of the brain are damaged, the "individual" or the " I " of that person, the "ego" if you like can itself decide to build up just those faculties that were lost, such as language centers... and the brain scan will show that the activity of understand and using language has "moved" to another part of the brain. How can this be? What moves the activity? It can't be the physical neurons themselves that decide to move the activity to another part of the brain. It's consciousness itself that overrides the neurons. The neurons are "merely" (I did it again,sorry) the footprint of the activity of consciousness not the initiator or the process.
          As to why "lower" (sorry again) life forms reveal physical patterns in the brain is for the simple fact that they have consciousness too.... a more primitive form for consciousness than our self-consciousness but still the determining factor for all neural activity, even in a worm, can always be traced back one step further to the immaterial.
          To give just a quick example of a very "visible" observation of what one can see as consciousness working in the animal world.
          Take a flock of birds. Birds move out of a much "looser" form of consciousness than we do. Their consciousness is much more outside of them. (I must, necessarily use a "physical"word to describe this phenomenon. Birds move "as one" in a flock. In a school of fish one can also observe this
        • Mar 1 2011: Gabo,
          It's just like if you damage an antenna on your TV. The reception gets poor. The "invisible signal" cannot get through. What your saying is that the "signal" is sent out from within the TV itself. If you damage the internal parts of the TV the same thing results... the external signal cannot get through. Science doesn't go beyond the apparatus receiving the signal. The spirit works in and through the brain just as the TV signal works in and through the TV.
        • Mar 1 2011: Looks like its only us two here gabo,
          There is a story that is documented in a medical journal from Seattle, Wash. about a woman that had a NDE. When she was woken up by the doctors after being "dead" for quite a few minutes, she told one of the nurses to go up on the roof of the hospital and get the red tennis shoe that was lying up there. They laughed and brushed it off as a hallucination .... but the woman persisted and finally one of the nurses went up on the roof and found a red tennis shoe. Of course this is but one story. Tell me, how can a person hallucinate something that is an actual fact.....?? this puzzles me a bit.... There are many such stories. Do you have any explanation for this?
    • Mar 1 2011: Hey Walter,

      But you seemed to have missed my point and to have gone too much into semantics about the word "by-product." We could visit that, but I don't see the need. I don't want to start arguing for a material side and just tacitly accept Daniel's adjectives for a material explanation for consciousness. I have no issue if you describe it as a by-product for whatever reason you might have. But that is not what the conversation was meant to be about. It was meant to be about whether it is material or spiritual. That I can accept. What I can't accept is for Daniel to decide which adjectives will I use about consciousness being material. It can be as despicable as he wants from his perspective. That's fine. But that distracted the issue from what he wanted to talk about into the misuse of adjectives that we might disagree about in principle. The adjectives should have been left to each of us. That's it.

      • Mar 1 2011: Tried to respond to your point about the misuse of adjectives above. I was trying to make a point about consciousness in the animal world. I will pick up there. The example about a school of fish or a flock of birds.
        This phenomenon that we observe is precisely what I'm getting at. The consciousness that moves the birds is the same as if you put your ten fingers through ten holes in a cardboard box and moved them around. You could move them perfectly simultaneously as a "flock" or you could move them quite independently from one another. The consciousness that is in control is leaving its neurological foot prints in your physical brain that you have set your fingers in motion. An outside observer will say, well, each must be its own individual with no possibility for a non-material connection.The whole idea of an invisible "soul,spirit,consciousness,ego" (semantics again?)cannot be scientifically proven and therefor must be....aahh.... hallucination or magical or sensationalism or pseudo-scientific. (your semantics now) We are very much caught in these semantics its true. But it is the art of discussion that can open up for clarity between minds.
        It will be interesting to see if science can come so far as to measure any neurological activity in birds or fish as to weather or not there is a time lapse between the different individuals in the flock.
        As a child develops, all the input that it gets from the outer world, are contributing to the forming of its consciousness. The less input, the less forming of the brain. This is the case with animals too. The struggle for survival is one of the major driving forces in the animal world. But not the only one. Animals are not free because of the fact that their consciousness is not "within them" as it is in mankind. Mankind is free because of the fact that we can say " I " to ourselves. My actions are determined by the out world alone or genetic make up of my body. The " I " in me can override all other determining factors
  • Feb 27 2011: Consciousness is like a container. The world, our sensorium, is its content, so to speak. We can't say what the container is because there is nothing in its content with which to compare it. We have the same problem with 'red', 'Middle C', and our other qualia. You can't even say for sure if I see the same 'red' as you do, or experience consciousness in the same way. But we know consciousness cannot telekinetically move electrons about in the brain like beads of an abacus, and we know consciousness is not an epiphenomena of physical processes because it could not possibly be fed back into the brain as physical information. We would be conscious, but unable to evoke the brain into speaking of our presence. The best I've been able to deduce based on what consciousness is not is the simple fact that qualia is consciousness, and we often confuse structured qualia, our sensorium, with objective physical reality. If we are the world rather than just aware of it, then perhaps information is conscious. Consciousness, qualia, and information and the world we 'perceive' are all one and the same. This does not say what consciousness is, but it puts us on the path to a new paradigm of reality that meshes really well with quantum physics, quantum superposition, entanglement, and interference, aside from the fact that they'd now be properties of mind. Please don't tell David Deutsch. He might hurt me..
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      Feb 27 2011: well I have model of consciousness, but it really is based on energy and senses, probably not that deep cause I don't know quantum physics . simple. Anyway would like to know your opinion once it's posted. waiting for site update though.

      Daniel Hehir, might try to explain consciousness from scientific view.
    • Feb 27 2011: Hey George, Things are pretty quite around here. I don't know much about quantum physics either but I don't see that as a disadvantage. We can go deeper and deeper into matter and still never come to the bottom of the question of consciousness. I fully support the methods of science. But I'm trying to explore a realm that almost by definition outside the border of the scientific ballpark. Because science is so focused on the material that some of the questions of the immaterial world are left on the side of the road. Where this gray zone of the scientific view begins, this is where the more "religious" explanations take over. But the religious explanations are too simple for modern man. There too vague. There is too big of a gap from what our intellect tells us and what traditional religion tries to get us to believe.I hope we can get some different ideas
      from not just "both" sides of the fence, but many sides of the many fences that we build up a new idea around our "thinking about thinking". The study of consciousness is something that can span the continents of the believing religious side to the thinking scientific side of the way we see the world.
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      Mar 2 2011: OK I've finished the model, visit it here please http://www.ted.com/conversations/800/root_of_everything_and_conscio_2.html if you don't mind.
      • Mar 2 2011: I rather make a conscious decision to eat that flan ...
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          Mar 2 2011: Why? do you mean it doesn't make sense? I spent really much time making it, now it helps me in work and life.

          It would be good if someone qualified showed the pointers where it becomes unacceptable.
          That would be much of help. Thanks
      • Mar 2 2011: aaaahhh.... gee George..... you kinda lost me there....
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          Mar 4 2011: Sad cause base parts are from wikipedia and dictionary, has to make sense at least there.
          Also it combines research on gestalt and modern psychology.

          it's strange how audience talking about us being in supernova and having deep knowledge in science finds difficult to show what's wrong with this example.

          Could you at least say at what part it starts being confusing???
      • Mar 8 2011: Honestly the biggest challenge is just your english. I can tell that there are great ideas there but I can't grasp enough of them to get the narrative. The first example is:

        "As everything else systems exist in our own minds, we call something system or not. "

        I honestly just don't know what you mean. I don't know what the subject of this sentence is.

        Just trying to help you understand why we are confused. There are too many sentences like this one. When I can understand though, i do find your ideas interesting.
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          Mar 8 2011: thanks for help. Yes you are right.

          I'll recheck it again. This sentence probably has to go like : "Systems exist in our own mind, we decide to name something system or leave it unnamed."

          I've stumbled upon Alan Watts quote thanks to Adam Burk, now I'm sure it's not only my imagination.
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          Mar 11 2011: I agree George. Lot's of interesting ideas there. I particular liked your insights on symbols and the observation "Once associations are built it really hard to change them".
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    Mar 26 2011: Daniel,
    I enjoy your two new poems. Thanks for sharing your writing talent, and for facilitating this interesting discussion:>)
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    Mar 24 2011: An interesting article by Steven Pinker related to our topic:

    The Brain: The Mystery of Consciousness

    Two quotes to entice you:

    "Consciousness does not reside in an ethereal soul that uses the brain like a PDA; consciousness is the activity of the brain."

    "I would argue that nothing gives life more purpose than the realization that every moment of consciousness is a precious and fragile gift."
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      • Mar 24 2011: Kathy,

        Dear Kathy.....WOW !

        Why in the world have you been so quite out there when you have so much to say !?
    • Mar 24 2011: Tim,
      I wrote a little comment to Mind S a little further up on the thread that you might find interesting. I speak about the illness epilepsy. I present a picture of the spiritual nature of this imbalance in the human soul / physical condition of epilepsy. This may give another perspective in the understanding of the human nature of consciousness on a more practical level of things than what we have focused mostly on these past days .. NDE. When we can understand the soul /physical relationship in this way, then can we perhaps begin to treat this imbalance without simply resorting to a chemical solution that often carry unseen consequences for the pasient that don't pop later on in the treatment. The chemical solution, in most cases, often only covers up the symptoms of an illness and never gets to the source. I hope you find it interesting. Just one day left for any responses. Many other sickness can be seen in this same light... or should I say with the same perspective of the human being..
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    Mar 22 2011: If you have made up your mind about the nature of consciousness, you can participate in this visually attractive survey (2min) on what consciousness is:
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    Minh Do

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    Mar 18 2011: The irony to me of descriptions of reality from "non-enlightened" individuals is well, they're just repetitions of things they've read or heard. I think assertions that certain people today are enlightened (more aptly translated as awakened) is a bit ridiculous. Anybody claiming to be awakened would be full of the ego that the spiritual path seeks to obliterate. And the same can be said of the people who are claiming their Masters are as such. There is a classic Zen tale in which a student experiences a very ecstatic state during meditation and comes rushing to his Master claiming "I've achieved awakening! I've achieved awakening!" and the Master says "oh wow, that's great you've gotten that far, but what about this?" And proceeds to slap the student in the face. The student goes "Why the hell did you do that?"...the Master "Ah ha, and where is your awakening now?"...In other words, even people who appear to be at peace and awakened, when faced with adverse circumstances still have quite a bit of ego underneath. I wouldn't throw around "oh I know an enlightened person" around so lightly. Especially since in central "looking for a teacher" doctrines, you are charged to hang out with that teacher for a long period of time before judging their awakening.

    Do you guys think that religious descriptions that allude to "consciousness being everywhere" is not to be taken so literally? It's actually just pointing to the nature of our mind wherein all things are molded by our perceptions and not to the "genetic makeup" of the universe? In basic Buddhist doctrine of the 5 skandhas (consciousness, mental formations, perceptions, sensation, and matter) that create the self, these 5 things must come together before a self can develop. I'd argue that well...the chair I'm sitting on does not possess 4 of those things. And the consciousness I possess would not arise without matter either, they are interdependent entities that cannot exist without each other
    • Mar 18 2011: Hello, Minh! Do you mean that "awakening'' is not a possibility while alive and cost "not less than everything"? Shinzen told about "ambilical cord" that not yet cut, so one can have both "self" and "noself"...I don't know...I don' know
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        Minh Do

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        Mar 19 2011: Sorry, I may have been unclear in my response. I think that awakening is certainly available while living and to all. But I do think that it is quite rare and requires a lot of effort, intelligence, and other good foundational behaviors to make it happen.
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      Mar 19 2011: It is a touchy topic indeed. Perhaps the best judge to who is enlightened or not , would be one who has already experienced it, and is in a position to judge it. But I honestly wish there was a science was able to make this distinction as well.

      But yes, regardless of the fact that actual Buddhas ( awakened one's) are rare, it does mean that if you find a real buddha, in whose presence your heart moves, and whose actions match their words, and after we have judged them to be a buddha using our own experience with them, then we learn from such realized beings what they have to offer. But yes.. even if they may be rare.. but they do exist. That is indeed a fact. Let us not allow our own prejudices to interfere with facts that stand up on its own, based on our own individual experiences.

      Here is how I interpret the skandha's you have mentioned - Matter creates sensations which leads to perceptions which are interpreted by mental formation within consciousness. So without consciousness, none of this would happen as the mental formations are created within consciousness, and the "self" ( small s) will not arise ; implying consciousness should be everywhere :) As far as the chair is concerned, what if chair had consciousness, matter, but no mental formation or the ability to percieve ( I wonder how much of the human experience of perception can be expected from a chair or whether it is right to limit ourselves to a human POV regarding perception of sensations) is the reason why the chair has no individual self.
  • Mind S

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    Mar 17 2011: Daniel,
    No, Gabo was right. But it is the appeal of « Tales of Mystery and Imagination ». This thread also made me reflect on another peculiar aspect: what is harder to believe is the large number of people in western/industrialized societies who do believe in superstition, the paranormal, shady schemes and bizarre concepts. The profiles of some mystics in this discussion indicate that they have scientific/technical training yet they don’t reflect, in their comments, a genuine scientific process. These “people of science & technology” would preach: science is useful but it is not enough and it is not the way to truth, which is a false claim. This is an indicator that our education system might have a serious deficit, i.e. it concentrates more on the TECHNICAL ASPECT OF SCIENCE to cope with the escalating demands of the ongoing technical progress rather than rooting the concepts of scientific research. Many people are driven to have technical/scientific qualifications because this has become a requisite and a necessity to earn living, to have better position. Also, many educated individuals find it more convenient to stay on good terms with the prevailing wisdom of the society. An education system with this deficit produces technically well-prepared populace but also a populace lacking the basic tenets of science: critical mind, honesty and the search for evidence. These thoughts touch only one contributing element, among many others, for this wide spread belief in psychical phenomena which makes me feel, at times when reading some comments that I read amusing stories in some sort of sorcery forum :-)
    • Mar 17 2011: You said a mouth full there Mind S...

      I must say that I have to agree with you on many things. But my point is also that the scientific way of thinking can also penetrate into what you are calling amusing stories and sorcery..The "method and approach" is not to be mistaken for the "starting point" or "presumptions" but these blinders have to be taken off of the scientific populous. I'm not parting with any religious form of beliefs nor saying that we should conform to" I'm trying to create a dialog between these two polarities. Material science has to outgrow its own limitations
      Science does recognize consciousness as a fact... there is no discussion around this.... but in order to come to any understanding of what it is, science must look deeper... using the same method of study, exploring in different fields of the phenomenon itself... These are many and expanding all the time due to the medical developments that have come about in the past years.. The brain activity can be measured to the smallest particle... this is great ! I've got no problem with that. But to stop short and not see that the true sources of the brain activity is not coming from the physical brain itself... This is a supposition you say.. then so be it.. but all scientific theory starts with a supposition that things are organized in this way or that and then one goes out to prove the theory as true or false... this is thinkings nature and it is without a doubt in my mind the only way to go forward in gaining knowledge of the world.
      People today have a natural hunger for such topics because they feel they have been starving for so long. The church has nothing substantial to feed them.... they go away hungry... science tells us the cold hard facts that don't in any way give nourishment to the questions of "Who we are !?" People can't accept that we are no more than a highly developed primate and thats it.. there are too many unanswered questions.
      But as for the method, I'm with you ..100%
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      Mar 17 2011: I agree with you big time on critical mind, honesty, and search for evidence. Science has restricted itself only to "measurable" evidence, but has completely failed to "measure" subjective experiences, for which the individual has to "measure" it for himself. The evidence then, for science related to consciousness, becomes the subjective experiences which the individual goes through. I wish our education system equipped us to think right brained as well, which would have helped tremendously. But it is a shame that they fail at doing that. From what I read, it seems that ancient cultures would have done a better job in describing those subjective experiences.
      • Mar 18 2011: Hi Santhip,
        Ancient culture knew of the spiritual world... It was no question at all for them.. It was a reality as real as the reality we can see and touch... Their spiritual leaders or initiates could "see" directly into this dimension... when they gradually started to loose this contact with the spiritual world, they turned to decadent forms of blood offerings and the like to keep in touch with this aspect of life that grew dimmer and dimmer for them. Today we are... at least most of us today... are completely ignorant of the spirit world.. in fact even deny its existence at all. But old cultures had their leaders who had visions and could relate facts back to the more earthly bound souls. There are some people today that have this clairvoyance but it is generally an unconscious or atavistic clairvoyance that doesn't really serve the cause of human spiritual evolution. Generally the clairvoyant people of today don't hold their consciousness awake while on the "other side" of the veil. This is where the "scientific method" comes in... without the self-consciousness present .. while in the spiritual world, the possibility to really do "research" just as a scientist would do in his lab... this possibility to perceive and retrieve information for the benefit of humanity can easily be misconstrued and misunderstood. Self-consciousness is the critical element when on the other side of the threshold. This makes sense to me but it would be interesting to hear what you (and Ed) say to this.. Are you out there Ed ?? I cannot speak from first hand experience and neither do I know anyone who can. But I must admit I have been "studying the menu" for a long time...
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          Mar 19 2011: Daniel, Yes.. I agree with you as to how we have forgotten to deal with the "spiritual" aspect in our lives, especially in the western world. And how the modern leaders are functioning within "ego" based consciousness rather than an enlightened state of consciousness. They would have had the honesty, integrity and transparency to stand up for telling the truth as it is, rather than cater to the "ego" of attachments to power / money / fame. Would BP oil spill have occured if the BP executives were honest in what they were doing , and dealing with the facts ? What you have said only makes me wish to see how more and more people could function from the points of honesty, integrity and transparency ( what is there to hide if you are telling the truth ? ).

          Clearly, ancient cultures were much aware of the "spirit" side of things. And they were able to live in harmony as a result of this. But to bring in science to a subjective experience such as clairvoyance or visions is asking for breaking major paradigms about consciousness being limited to physical three dimensions, and to go beyond the commonly held conceptual framework, and dive in ourselves. When there are more people who can repeat the same subjective experience through the same process, then it should become a scientific fact. And I assure you, there are many such "scientific " mystical techniques across the world, present in ancient cultures. But alas, to recognize this aspect, is asking science to take huge steps .. no giant leaps of faith.

          But having been a curious cat of these spirit words myself, I have come across information by mystics who claim that even these spiritual realms are dualistic in nature, and require a " subject" consciousness. They have claimed the ultimate reality to be non-dual, and experiencing which there is no doubt to what our true nature is.. Lol.. I will leave it at that.. :) Have been a strong proponent of the non-dual nature of consc. in this long thread :)
      • Mar 19 2011: Santhip,
        I would appreciate it you could go a little deeper into what you call the "non-dual" way of seeing things. I have some other reference points than you do.. but like you said earlier... somewhere along this long line of threads, we see things a bit alike. I have surely a different frame of reference but can try to convert it to where you are coming from if you give me a little more basis of what you mean with non-dual.. It's what I was getting at as monism ... I think... but am not sure...
  • Mar 17 2011: Consciousness is our connection to eternity. It exists independent of our physical being. Existing beyond time and space.
    • Mar 17 2011: Hello Guy and welcome ! Yes, but consciousness also exists "within" time and space...

      Time, at least as we experience it, must also encompassed within the eternal....

      as space must also be encompassed with the infinite....
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    Tao P

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    Mar 17 2011: The Universe is conscious; how could consciousness come from nothing?
    Every being acts as an antennae interpreting and expressing (and evolving) consciousness in their own unique way.

    Thoughts (thinking words and images) are symbols.
    Symbols are learned and hence a product of memory.
    Not 'I think therefore I am' but 'I am, and thanks to my memory and interactions with my environment, I think'.
    • Mar 17 2011: Hello Tao and welcome, I too think Decarte was off base on this one.

      Can you see what I'm trying to get at as saying that the word "consciousness" can easily be interchanged with the word "spirit" .... generally speaking ??
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        Tao P

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        Mar 17 2011: Hi Daniel.
        I believe I understand you when you say spirit and consciousness can be interchanged. I feel the same way. I believe that everything is an expression of the Universe, or God, or Spirit with a capital S. While I do feel that thinking is an act of spirituality, so too is eating, talking, running and sleeping. There is no separation; everything is God and God is everything (substitute evolving universal process if God makes you uneasy). You, me, your doG and pet rock are all expression of the Universe and are the Universe.

        -I spelt doG as such as backwards dog is God. I don't think this was a mistake. Dogs are man's best friend as they love their owner unconditionally. What a marvelous expression of the Earth.
  • Mar 16 2011: That consciousness is merely a by-product of the physical brain is exactly what Gerald Edlelman writes in his book, "Bight Air, Brilliant Fire, on the matter of the mind." He won a Nobel prize for his work on the evolution of the immune system, and the book is his hypothesis on the evolution on human consciousness. He explains that nearly all the activity of in brain is not input (the brain receiving information about the external world from the senses) but re-input (the brain communicating with itself.) It is very reasonable to expect that constant re-input to feel very much the way we experience our consciousness. That's a very crude oversimplified summary of the book, but it's one of the best things I've read on the subject. Consider it a recommendation if you're interested in the consciousness.
    • Mar 17 2011: Interesting Corey ! welcome to the conversation. I will try to check the guy out. I didn't quite get what you were getting at though... "nearly all the activity of in brain is not input..?? I can see how the re-input aspect is exactly what I'm also getting at, although I've never read G.E. I called it "thinking about thinking" or ..... the nature of thinking is in fact able to examine itself, its own conclusions and is able to go in the conclusions and change them around and develop new conclusions... This is what is so amazing about thinking. It is free...
      I would like to know what G.E. thinks about the evolution of consciousness. Because as I see it, consciousness is also evolving, just as the evolution of the physical/biological aspects of man evolve... the soul/spiritual aspects evolve just the same... only on a higher level.... What do you think about that ??
    • Mar 18 2011: corey,
      It sounds like he is on to something .. at least with the idea that thinking can perceive itself, memories, sense impressions, feelings,
      But it has to have a deeper source that just the physical brain. Maybe you could come back with a few fulcrum points of Gerald Edelman best points around this... It would surprise me if he has anything new to add to the argument of a "by-product support" way of thinking and looking at the phenomena of consciousness...
      But it would be interesting if you came with a few conclusive remarks that we could take a look at..
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      Mar 22 2011: Has anyone watched this video? It is an interview with John Hagelin who is a PhD physicist and a big-wig in the Transcendental Meditation organization. He discusses a kind of cosmic consciousness (what he calls "unified field theory") which essentially considers spirit to be the fundamental fabric of the universe (the underlying potential field). It is an appealing concept as an extension of the idea of consciousness. However, I think, as Harry Hunt points out, setting the definition too high or low "the entire field of consciousness studies will be distorted".

      What do you all think? How does this conform to your concept of consciousness?
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          Mar 22 2011: You trying to pull me down the slippery slope of solipsism that Budimir mentioned?
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          Mar 22 2011: "But I have convinced myself that there is absolutely nothing in the world, no sky, no earth, no minds, no bodies. Does it now follow that I, too, do not exist? No. If I convinced myself of something [or thought anything at all], then I certainly existed. But there is a deceiver of supreme power and cunning who deliberately and constantly deceives me. In that case, I, too, undoubtedly exist, if he deceives me; and let him deceive me as much as he can, he will never bring it about that I am nothing, so long as I think that I am something. So, after considering everything very thoroughly, I must finally conclude that the proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind."

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          Mar 23 2011: M G and Tim,
          Thanks for providing/recommending the Hagelin video. YES, YES, YES...I LOVE it when scientists agree with me!!! LOL:>)

          That is exactly how I see the world. Hagelin says it so exquisitely! You know how I'm always talking about information and how we use it? My perception is that we are all interconnected with an energy field. He says, which I agree with, that "you and I are one...universal consciousness...we have the fundamental foundations of consciousness...single unified field of intelligence...waves of vibration..pure abstract information...we can raise our energy vibration...". My belief based on my experience, is that we can raise our energy vibration based on the information we take in and how we use it:>)

          Hagelin and I are definitely connected...I don't know about the rest of you...LOL!
          It's always a choice to recognize the connection...or not!

          You gave me a lovely compliment in another comment Tim. You said I am compassionate. I am aware of the interconnections with all of us, so of course I'm going to be compassionate with others because I'm compassionate with myself...we're connected! When we hurt others, we're hurting ourselves...when we love others, we're loving ourselves...simple:>)

          Another question that was asked in the video is why are we not using this information? Well, because our ego gets in the way! Humans often want to be "right". We want to have the "right" answers all the time, and nobody is going to beat us to it. So, we get stuck in our own opinions, beliefs, ideas, thoughts and feelings, and fail to open the heart and mind to new information. How many arguments have you seen on the TED sites, where some people refuse to budge from their own ideas? Lots...way too many. For example, Mind S is still trying to convince me that he is "right", even though I've been agreeing with him right along. Sorry Mind S...had to say it. I still love you and hope I can continue to facilitate your smile:>)
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          Mar 22 2011: Sounds pretty cosmic to me!
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          Mar 22 2011: Now, that has a nice ring to it.

          In reading something by Daniel Dennett ("Quining Qualia"), I came across this interesting quote by Wittgenstein:

          "It is not a something, but not a nothing either! The conclusion was only that a nothing would serve just as well as a something about which nothing could be said."

          Somewhat related don't you think?
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          Mar 22 2011: Yes Tim, I percieve it to be related. I believe I am nothing and everything:>)
        • Mar 23 2011: "Nothing" is where"everything' came from:)
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          Mar 23 2011: Dear Birdia,
          I don't want you to simply listen to me without sharing your own thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions and beliefs. TED IS real life, don't you think? It's part of MY real life anyway:>)
          Sharing information is always good, and I would not deny myself the opportunity to open my heart and mind to new information in every moment:>)
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          Mar 23 2011: I agree...there's nothing as good as meeting in person:>)
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          Mar 23 2011: I think any kind of communication is interesting...some more than others:>) I'm guilty of hiding my profile at one point, because I was being stalked by a couple bullies. I changed my name to "Kuan Yin", (goddess of compassion), and I was resting there for awhile:>) As soon as TED improved the system, I came out of the closet again with my real name and face...such as it is!

          It's true, we don't know who is on the other end of the keyboard, but somebody is writing the comments huh? And it is our choice to participate in certain parts of the comment thread...or not:>) I just like sharing information without any particular expectations or agendas:>) I like being open to information, and that seems to bother some people, but that's their choice!
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  • Mar 16 2011: Excellent question. I would add: who are the people who have studied consciousness? Is it something out of Science?. Perhaps not. Can it be included in the realm of Science? Perhaps Yes. Have some scientists dedicated time and effort to understand that that has been called Conscience?. It seems to me some scientists have tried or are trying to do that. Are spiritual leaders concerned about conscience?. I think, yes. So, who are they and what are they talking about?. Some research would be necessary to go deep inside these questions.
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      Mar 17 2011: You haven't experienced enlightenment. After experiencing enlightenment, there simply wont be a "you" / or the ego to assert it. It is clear from the fact that you are asserting an ego, you haven't experienced the state of non-dual awareness.Sorry to break it to you.

      It is possible that you might have had one of the different levels of awakening on the way to enlightenment, as was commented by another in this long thread. I promise you, from all the books I have read, that the consciousness state of non-dual awareness leads one to a persistent "no - thoughts" state FOREVER. If you still experience thoughts, you still have a long way to go. You won't hear this opinion a lot, as people hate to give up their "intellectual ego", but that is the stark truth of it. I don't claim to have experienced enlightenment.

      I will look into triptamine. Thank you for that.

      I must have misread your point. I agree with what you have said about how science is able to expose some BS. But I still hold on to my argument that science isn't complete. And Both of us can agree on how much gaps science has to fill as far as consciousness is concerned, before rejecting ancient treatises on consciousness simply because it doesn't "fit" into the biological evolution model.
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        Mar 18 2011: Science isn't complete, will never be complete and accepts that it is not complete. That is the beauty of science.
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          Mar 19 2011: Science is beautiful .. I agree.. :-) So is life .. ;-)
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    Mar 15 2011: Why do you use the word merely?

    What would you want it to be instead? What extra explanation do you wish to add to it?

    I think reality is already mysteriously enough that i don't need to make it more complicated than it is in order to try and understand it...

    Another aspect arrises: why do you think we should have figured out the question already?
    every minute, scientists across the world are working very hard to enhance our understanding.
    If you think this is not fast enough: support them!

    (And watch the talk by Damasio when it is aired!)
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      Mar 15 2011: The context in which I undersatood the question is that he is asking if concsiousness might have some substantial properties that influence brain state. For instance do you think that brain states influence concsiousness, but not the other way around or do you think it goes both ways, concsiousness iinfluences brain states and brain states influence concsiousness.

      I don't wanna speak in Daniel's name but I think the extra explanation he is looking for is something which is objective and measurable in concsiousness.
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        Mar 16 2011: I don't know whether I agree with the halting problem as a valid argument... as not being able to program a self-learning algorithm of sufficient complexity to do the same doesn't mean humans have something "extra"
        (Plus if you stop adding energy anywhere, there is no halting problem, as it will halt... And energy is necessary for any computation... don't know if this is a relevant argument though)

        I think self-learning algorithms are sufficient to allow for intelligence to emerge
        (I think Bayesian algorithms are in principle capable of doing just that)

        I'm not so into Penrose, as I think his ideas are flawed...
        but that is no reason to reject his hypothesis altogether. Only when ranking the current hypothesies and giving them a probability of being close to the solution given my current state of knowledge is very low. I'd use the proverbial razor of occam a bit more if I were him...
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          Mar 16 2011: It's questionable though whether self learning machine will have the same capacity to produce new sentences appropriate to a particular context

          Language as a phenomenon exhibits a perpetual lack of entropy as well as creativity. One could say energy is expended in creating this organized phenomenon we tend to call language but then comparing some of the super computers we have that use up massive amounts of energy, they still can't produce this organization of characters we see in language.

          This leads me to believe there may be something more, after all the brain influences concsious thoughts we know that, the interaction may work both ways. Though that would compromise conservation of energy. Since there is no detectable energy in concsiousness.

          So I am a little conflicted with regard to that idea. In one case the law of entropy is compromised in the other case the law of energy is compromised.
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        • Mar 16 2011: Nope, halting problems don't demonstrate anything against strict mechanistic views explaining human consciousness, unless you are using the "strict" qualifier to mean direct yes/no pathways or gear mechanisms with no noise allowed, but that would be cheating. In the worst case it would demonstrate that whomever is making such a call has little imagination or knowledge about what mechanistic explanations might entail. I don't mean this about you, the limitation in mechanistic explanations might be there for our current understanding and experiences with mechanisms. That still does not mean there will be no mechanistic explanation later on.

          I doubt though that humans can solve "halting problems" other than by giving up, or else by prejudice. Prejudices and a sense of giving up, mixed with some randomicity in deciding when to give up, or in calculating how far an answer might be, can be programmed into computers. But that is an aside.
        • Mar 16 2011: Hi Gabo !!

          Welcome back.. you've been away

          322 comments so far Gabo.... not bad for being a dead discussion from the start. I don't know know how much you've been following the comments from the shadows, but they have been wandering around quite a bit. Especially in the past few days. Mr. Cop reacted similarly to the word "merely" as you did... but it didn't seem to have provoked him as much as it did you. I don't have any direct comment to yours, at least not at the moment. Maybe I can make some sense out of it when I'm not so tired... My consciousness has the need to expand out into the infinite dimension of timeless space, where my temporary ex-carnation will allow the healing processes of my physical body to go fully under the influences of the etheric life forces so that tomorrow morning, upon my reincarnation.... I can wake up... fully conscious and ready to meet a splendid new day... Good night all....
        • Mar 17 2011: Hey daniel,

          Haven't read too much here. I was away on some scientific meetings and all of that. Quite a lot of fun, and quite a lot I learned. Also met a few old friends, and made a few new ones. Rainy weather though.

          Anyway, good that this enlivened. May you enliven too by a good-night's sleep.

          Hasta luego!
  • Mar 12 2011: Mark,
    Thinking has within it's powers to take hold of itself. It can also take hold of our feeling life. It's like picking yourself up by your own bootstraps. Physically impossible but thinking has this ability within it's own nature. What we are driven by in the external world, as well as what we are driven by in our feeling life and even to take it as far as driven by our own thoughts. Thinking can always stand at the end of the fulcrum and force all influences upon our actions to fall in line with its demands. Thinking is more or less free depending upon how much our individuality allows other external influences to take hold of its direction. We can be very driven through life by an unending amount of external stimuli (TV f.ex.)
    But it is always within thinkings grasp to turn around on any driving force in ourselves or our environment and simply say ...no, I will not be driven by this impulse... even the most basic needs in life ... like hunger..." I "...can say no to...
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      • Mar 15 2011: Hi Mark, This is exactly what I mean to say... the trampoline example. I used the example of a lion earlier in this discussion somewhere when responding to Tim Colgan.
        I wrote some things to Colleen along the same lines as what you are getting at.
        I agree that it is a challenge to focus your thoughts... sometimes nearly impossible, even for the shortest time span. This is where our inner strength or inner discipline come into play. How much force we can apply to focus on that which the "I" in me can decide on what it wants its tool (thinking) to focus upon. We agree totally that thinking has to be anchored in direct perception. I can't learn much about a lion if I've read about what a lion is in a book. I myself must meet the lion. The observation of the lion must be "in person" and to the fullest degree of my sense perceptions.(Even my own fear of the lion) All of them ! The process of thinking engages itself into all the sensory activity, which I would claim to say are the tools that gather information for the activity of thought to put in a logical order by first observing and experiencing through the senses, and then thinking about what was observed, observing and thinking, again and again. Only then can we gain a fully saturated "concept" of the "beingness of the lion" The more we can still our thinking activity and "live into the percept" (of the lion or whatever the object of perception)... the more we can hold back our own thinking activity in this moment of perception .. the more we can gain access to the lions true and "whole" being.
        Philosophers have debated this for centuries if it is at all possible to penetrate into this "whole of the lions being" ... but it is my intention to merely point at the process involved. The process of the nature of thinking. Thinking that feeds the spirit or the consciousness that is the eternal part of me that evolves through the eons of time, ever gaining more knowledge in our spiritual evolution.
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      Mar 12 2011: Daniel,
      Thinking does not "have within its powers to take hold of itself". We are the creators of our thoughts. The only way it can "take hold of our feeling life", is if we give it that power. Sure we can be driven by external stimuli IF we give exernal stimuli that power. I choose what I want to think about, don't you? I can direct my thoughts, because it is not my thought process that dominates my being. It is an important part of the whole, but not the director in my script:>)
      • Mar 14 2011: How did you come to this conclusion? Every word you have written Colleen is because you must have thought of it first.....To say that thinking does not have within its powers to take hold of itself".. to say that, you must have thought about it first....
        One "can" choose what one wants to think about but one generally doesn't..One can think of what one wants to under meditation, if your committed, You can make dinner and think about what you want to think about... about making food. But if the telephone rings then its that you think about. You can't drive a car and think about what you want to think about.....at least I hope not... If you do... I sure don't want to be out on the road. One is forced generally by the outer environment what one has to focus on in that moment. The problem is that we get so used to "riding the horse" that
        we forget that it would be nice to get off and take a rest once in a while.
        To make the statement... "We are the creators of our own thought" or to say those words..."The only way it can take hold of our feeling life is if we give it that power.... well.... the fact that you wrote down these words is evidence for the fact that you had to think about the idea of it's truth or non-truth before you began to write the idea down.... or....??
        Our survival often depends upon engaging to the fullest with our thoughts...Just crossing the street when there is a lot of traffic engages an endless series of thoughts just to get on the other side
        It's only thinking that can tell you that you even have an ego. Its your thinking that puts names on your feelings.... you can have the feeling of anger.. but you can't identify it without thinking putting a word, a "concept" on the percept of anger.... all feeling are also percepts for thinking.
        Your thinking is not the director, your " I " is the director, but your thinking is both your right and left hand at the service of your "I"
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          Mar 14 2011: Hi Daniel,
          Your statement "thinking has within its powers to take hold of itself" sounds like you are saying that "thinking" is a seperate entity disconnected from the whole of "self". As creators of our thoughts, it is all very much a part of the whole, in my perception. I choose what I want to think about when I want to think. If you do not, it's ok, but you have the ability to do that, just as everyone does. Of course I can drive a car and think about what I want to think about. Are you saying that everyone who drives a car is thinking only of the task of driving the car? I don't think so! I'm not really sure what point you are trying to make.
      • Mar 15 2011: If you drive your car and don't think about what your doing, you are most likely to cause an accident. This is perhaps why it's forbidden in some states to use your cell phone while driving... Your focus of attention has to be on your driving, otherwise there are some pretty serious consequences... You can make dinner too without thinking about what your doing.. you may burn the food or add too much salt or some other thing, but the more your thoughts wander from what your doing,the more the chance the food will be bad...When your thoughts wander from your driving, the person in front of you is in great risk of being run into from behind.
        This is just an example of how your thoughts must follow whats going on in the world around you. Other examples of course wouldn't have such dire consequences. One can walk along the sidewalk without taking interest in what is going on around oneself and just being in one's own thoughts.
        It's our perceptions that pull us out of our thinking and into the world. We perceive a bird on our path and our observations immediately pull our thought processes into action. The bird moves, visual sense stimuli, makes sounds... audio sense stimuli, .. these sense stimuli force our thinking to activity.
        The point I'm trying to make is that thinking has the ability to be free from the external stimuli through meditation. Here, thinking can "still itself" ... sort of what Santhip is talking about, but I'm not sure yet if I agree with Santhip. It's something I need to "think about"
        I can at least agree with Mark about the fact that thinking alone, without perception is without root in reality. It is our continuous perceptions that correct our thinking and put it on the right path. Simply demonstrated in mathematics... You can believe what you like about the square root of the opposite angles of a right triangle, but the more you observe the results of your geometry experiments, the more you see that this must coincide with the outer reality.
  • Mar 11 2011: Where can I reply to your last comment Mark ??

    Its so hard to follow these threads directly.... Why cant I make a direct comment to Marks last comment ??

    I've got to get to bed everyone.. It's 11.30 pm for me, ... try to catch up with you all tomorrow. Good night...
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    Mar 10 2011: Below was a thread that was getting kind of long, but touching on an interesting concept that Daniel has raised. I don't really know the answer to this question, but it would be really interesting if everyone could offer their description (the more the merrier):

    What is spirit?
    • Mar 11 2011: OK Tim, fine with a new thread. I would like to see a better system here on TED but I don't know what that is... Maybe we could get one of these observers to help out.. The threads get so long and then one looses the original question or idea... it all just spins around on lots of different ideas.
      But this is good. We can take it from here. I'm on my way to work right now so no time to write. Its 8.30 am for me. What time is it there? Next new thread ... What is time?... what is space? Infinity? Eternity? Its a complicated world we live in... thats for sure !! Catch you later
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        Mar 11 2011: Daniel: When I first read your description of the lion in reference to spirit I thought, man, are our definitions different. But the more times I read it, the more I think we are really thinking the same, just describing it differently. I mentioned how I thought of the spirit as ying/yang, the whole which is more than the sum of the parts. And you described how a lion is not known by the description of a bunch of facts, but in it's totality. Aren't we really on the same track?
        • Mar 11 2011: I don't think we are on the same track yet.... As I understand the Yin/Yang principle, they are polarities right? I know very little about this ancient philosophy from China. But the polarity of light and dark, matter and spirit, white and black, opposites seem to be the creative processes in the whole. This doesn't sound to strange to my way of seeing things... but then the yin force would be material and the yang force the spirit... I'm not so sure about what your getting at. The sum of the parts isn't "more" than the whole,but is the complete whole, visible and invisible... What I started on earlier about the nature of thinking, the "subject---object" relation. This is the key to the "whole being of the lion" the object.... and the "whole being of the subject" the observer. But I really don't want to go into that because it will lead so far away from the original question of consciousness / by-product / spirit.
          If we were on the same track, I guess you would now be excepting my proposition that the spirit actually exists... as the polarity of yin/yang ... matter/spirit could be something within the range of your world view. The word "spirit" is, as you say, very difficult to define with physical words. .. but as I have tried to present my way of understanding the word spirit, do you feel that you have come any closer to an understanding of how I see it and do you eventually agree with it... I have yet to really say that I have this impression...
          I am trying to present the consciousness/spirit as a living active principle that is working in and through everything that is material. If you don't see the other half of the whole, if you just see the material side of the yin/yang, then we are far from seeing things the same....
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        Mar 12 2011: Daniel: Perphaps I'm misapplying the concept or yin/yang (excuse my previous mis-spelling), in that it refers specifically to polar opposites, although the concept of the whole being greater then the sum of the parts is applicable. Let's explore another term - quintessence (the "fifth" essence). The etymology of this term comes from the medieval concept of the four essences - earth, air, water, fire. The philosophers found that lacking and proclaimed that there must be a fifth essence - the quintessence.

        This is another example of how whenever we attempt to dissect reality into distinct parts, something will be missing. Hence the need for the term "spirit".
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      Mar 11 2011: in my view spirit is action that we do, the way it affects and how it is accepted by other beings. The trace that changes surroundings, and the mark that keeps influencing others even after our death.
      In words "spirit" is also a fast way to explain children how to behave.

      Or is it "soul"? have to work on my english very hard.
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        Mar 12 2011: Hi George - What did you mean by - "soul" XD?

        And your reference to children. Did you mean this is a way to get children to accept responsibility for their actions, or did you mean that children act spontaneously?

        You have interesting ideas, just trying to understand.
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          Mar 12 2011: Sorry for language issues again.
          I used Spirit as synonym to Soul, and didn't know if this is allowed in english, after definition check it seems ok. Also removed "XD" smile emoticon.

          Words "soul" and "spirit" is an easy way to explain kids responsibility, as mentioned, and bring life value and purpose.
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        Mar 12 2011: George,
        I wish I could speak/write Ukrainian as well as you do English!

        I could easily interchange the words energy, spirit, soul, consciousness most of the time:>)
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        Mar 11 2011: Very thought provoking Birdia. So, if spirit is the propeller, is the will really free?
      • Mar 11 2011: Mark,

        Will is the least free ........asleep

        Feelings are more free than the will.........dreaming

        Thinking is most free.......awake
      • Mar 11 2011: Hi Birdia and welcome to the discussion!

        The will to action ...begins with an idea. It must begin here. In the thinking. Then, it passes through the feelings...the question arises "Do I like this action", my sympathy and antipathy come into the decision here, will it bring me pleasure or can it result in pain... finally...at the end of the process, it comes to the will and the action is either put out into the world or it is not, depending on the conclusion of what your head (thinking) and your heart(feeling)come to.
        The head or the thinking element of man might be looked at as the opposite of the will side of man which one might say is the limbs,.... arms and legs.. The heart, the feeling realm is the middle part, the part where you feel...you feel love for the deed. This is the real freedom. Doing what you love to do.... To take action out of a religious conviction, a sense of duty, your mother or father telling you how to live, to take any form of action without the action being fully yours, then the action is less free or even can be very unfree.
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      • Mar 11 2011: .....Reverse ....?

        We have sympathy... propel forward ....I like the dog... I go and pet it.
        We have antipathy....propel backward....I don't like dogs... I go away..
        We have negetive sympathy...I propel forward... I kick the dog.
        Or we have apathy towards the dog and don't bother with it at all.

        One can work "consciously" on ones attitude towards dogs.... Imagine ... my wife loves dogs and I hate dogs, in three weeks my wife is buying a dog.. I will now try to learn to like dogs..
        If I succeed in liking dogs.. than my idea "I will learn to like dogs" passes over time.. and an inner energy through the dislike and perhaps a person can learn to like dogs. If his or her dislikes are over ridden or outnumbered by the possible likes.. The consciousness can penetrate the will to win freedom over it, but without an active inner force to overcome the negative and turn it into a positive, then the will has not been "worked on" by the consciousness. It is unfree, controlled by fears perhaps... dogs bite, or dogs are dirty.. . or my mother always hated dogs...
      • Mar 11 2011: That was a quick response!
        Well, I don't really know if your question is serious or not....
        A flower cannot have a will in the form of a conscious will as we are talking about.
        An animal can't have a free will either. An animal is driven by its desires.
        Man/woman can take control of their desires if the really want to..... stop smoking for example...
      • Mar 11 2011: I must admit that I'm not so familiar with the TAO way of thinking... but I see the human being as being a three part individuality...

        1)Thinking, 2)feeling and 3)willing. Man/woman is the only being of the four planes of existence (the four elements) that can really have a free will.
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        Mar 12 2011: Bidia: In response to your question:

        "Based on that order, we can establish that a 'will' can be in either state, and therefore 'free'?

        In other words free to switch states without outside influence? Are we back to quantum theory? Einstein thought that "god does not play dice". Others disagreed. I'm confused.
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        Mar 12 2011: Birdia: "a cyclical reality as in the cause and the effect being interchangeable"

        Now that is something I can handle. Two perspectives of reality (caused and causer) that more fully describe the whole. Is that what you're getting at?

        Physics is full of dualities which parallel this discussion beautifully. The wave/particle, determinism/probablity, ... It keeps coming back to the mind's inability to grasp the totality. So we utilize metaphors from the world of our senses to try to comprehend it better.

        btw - when I said "I'm confused", I meant by the whole debate between Einstein and the other camp. It is a confusing topic.
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        Mar 14 2011: Birdia

        "Maybe consciousness is both the past and present, around and inside us, rather than "just a by-product of our physical brain..."? What do you think?"

        "I'm curious, what's Heidegger's ideas on "Being-in-the-world"?"

        It's amazing (though perhaps in retrospect, understandable) how much the conversations on religion, free will and consciousness have become intertwined. My response (don't want to call it an answer, that's too conclusive) to two of your questions follows.

        I'm far from being an expert on Heidegger, but perhaps an anecdote will shed some light on the topic(s). In preparation to reading "Being and Time" I listened to a podcast of a course by the professor Hubert Dreyfus, who is often referred to as the world's foremost authority on Heidegger. He related the story of how, when he was teaching at MIT there was an ongoing debate over how soon AI (Artificial Intelligence) would match human thinking. His response was that Heidegger's theories showed that it wouldn't happen. I believe his argument was basically that Dasein, as a Being-in-the-world, had such an intimate connectedness to the world, is intertwined in the world, is part of the world, that a discrete thinking machine would not come close to duplicating it.

        So, I think you are making a good point about "consciousness is both the past and present, around and inside us".
  • Mar 8 2011: I have to admit that I didn't read everything here, because it just seemed like no one was addressing the real question (also I can't follow the discussion...browser failing me maybe). I searched all 80 comments for the word 'witness', and found none. Witness really seems like the key word for me when it comes to consciousness, so I thought I'd go ahead and just ask the question that has plagued me for years. If my question has already been addressed directly, then I'm sorry...ignore me or point me to the answer if possible. If it happens to be a satisfactory answer you would pretty much be my hero forever.

    If consciousness is a result of physical processes only, then why do I have to be here to witness them? Why can't these incredibly sophisticated process operate on their own? Why am I here to witness them proceeding? Also...what evidence do I have that there is a similar witness inside each one of you? Why is my witness looking through my eyes and not yours? I am not a religious person, but my gut feeling is that my body isn't really what I would call 'me', and likewise the thoughts I am witnessing don't seem to be me either. If they were me, I'd be able to control them, but if they are purely physical processes, I don't. These thoughts belong to my brain, which belongs to my body. There doesn't seem to be any evidence at all that the one thing that I can definitely say is me (the experience of being alive, the witnessing of these thoughts and sensations), is even able to modify anything outside of itself. Sometimes it feels like it is 'me' that is making decisions, but if all of these decisions can be attributed to physical processes (and I believe they can), then how can this be anything but illusion? What role does this witnessing part play in anything, besides just witnessing? Ugh...I don't even know how to formulate these questions properly, let alone answer them. Hopefullly I am not just paraphrasing comments that I haven't read yet or didn't understand.
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      Mar 8 2011: Hi James,
      I don't rememer seeing the word "witness" in any of the posts, and it's a good question. I wrote about my Near Death Experience in the thread, and although I've never used the word witness while describing the experience, it's a very good concept. I witnessed the processes of the body, mind and heart from another place outside my body. My perception is that an energy moves through the body, including the brain, and that is what I call consciousness. I am not a religious person either, but after my experience 21 years ago, I did quite a bit of research, and part of that research was exploring various religions, none of which I ultimately embraced. I believe that the "gut feeling" or intuition, is another channel of consciousness. It's another level of information that we can tap into. I feel the same way about my body not really being me. The core (energy) of who and what I am is something greater than simply the human experience. I believe we can control our thoughts, and the thoughts belong to the body/brain, as you insightfully recognize. Some would say that the earth experience IS an illusion. I think if we can get out of ourselves (the mind chatter and ego) and witness ourselves objectively, it gives us information. You're doing just fine with the questions, which are very stimulating:>) Thank you for presenting that exploration!
      • Mar 8 2011: Ah good. This was my first contribution here on TED. This thread is full of amazing ideas but on first (and second and third) inspection it is just so disorganized. I wonder if it is helpful to allow all the subthreads and branching. It does allow everyone to get their ideas in easily, but I wonder if it might be more useful to keep things linear like in more traditional forums. I suppose this is a separate discussion, but for example, I'd really like to read about your near death experience but I can't seem to find your account of it!...hmm...on second thought I just discovered the 'sort by' drop-down box. This might help me. Stay tuned.
        • Mar 8 2011: I suggest to Colleen that she start her own discussion on near-death experiences. I think it would be really interesting to hear some details of what she experienced!
      • Mar 8 2011: Also I like your model. When I meditate it sometimes feels a little like what you describe. When I get 'behind' my brain and its thoughts, I feel like I am in a more natural state....more alive but less conscious. I like the idea that this state intersected with our physical body is what produces the traditional "I am" sensation.

        Your comment about illusion reminds me of a sort of fear that I had when I was a an early teenager. I became obsessed with the possibility that everything around me was my own creation, that wakefulness was as much a dream as the dreams I had in my sleep, and both were just creative expressions. I guess you could say I had a god complex, but with no concept of the mechanics of this arrangement, I actually felt powerless rather than powerful. I'm mostly over that now, although I can't say that I've found any real evidence to the contrary. I just learned that it was a very unpleasant way to live/think. Mom's breast cancer? I did it. Starvation in Africa? My fault. I don't think I could survive that philosophy even if it were demonstrably true.
    • Mar 8 2011: James, I agree that some of these threads on TED are just impossible to follow
      It is an interesting word... witness.. Just who is doing the witnessing is my never ending question. The answer is in a way self evident... it's me. Or the " I am " in me.
      The "inner world" of feelings can also be "observed" by this witness. I know when I am angry. I know when I feel sympathy for another person. I know the feeling of pride or shame. Feelings are observable. Maybe not just as observable as the outer world of physical things... but still.
      Even your own thinking, although not an easy task, can also be the object of perception for your " I " . Difficult as it may sound. The thinking activity is closely bound up with the " I " but if you work at it, you can actually observe your own thought processes. Try to "watch" or "witness" your own thoughts for just 5 minutes. It's thinking about thinking... If anyone tries to tell me that this is simply my brain neurons going haywire....well... scientists are continually doing research on such matters... as when a person meditates for example in an MRI machine. The " I " in me is the overriding principle that determines which neurons are firing. If you put my head in an MRI machine and watch the activity of the brain, they have to ask the person to think about this or that,his or her girlfriend, or think about music, or whatever the command might be. The neural activity in the persons brain is first initiated by the command given from the scientist. But if the person says to the scientist .."no, I don't want to think about what you command me to think about... I will think about the weather instead." The experiment can't even get off the ground... Our individuality or our " I " or to use a charged word... the "spirit" in me, my "self-consciousness" is the final authority as to just what I choose to think about. Many don't like this word "spirit" ... it awakens a certain antipathy in the materialists. But I choose to use it blatently.
      • Mar 8 2011: I understand and agree with most of this, except that I still don't see how I can be sure that the information travels in both directions. It is clear that my thoughts and senses inform this "me" about what is happening, but I don't see clear evidence that this "me" in any way directs my thoughts or actions. Everything that feels like evidence of this can be attributed to thought or sensation?. I guess this is why I always end up back at the word 'witness'. I am just not sure that my witness is doing anything but witnessing, while my brain does the thinking and acting. In the experiments you mention, how can we know that it isn't the brain that is resisting and preventing things from "getting off the ground", rather than some direction from the subject's 'me' to the brain?

        Maybe I am stuck in some sort of dissociative state that prevents me from properly feeling the connection between me and brain as a two-way thing? I wish I could overcome this problem. A part of me feels powerless even when I accomplish incredible things, The 'me' part of me has near-constant access to wonder, amazement, even peace...functions of witnessing, but anything like pride (functions of action) seems to reside only in my brain.

        Hmm...I think I maybe just had a rather big new idea which blows this wide open for me. It occurred to me that if everything I have typed here is true, then it has been composed by my brain. But if it has been composed by my brain, then my brain must be receiving information from the 'witness', otherwise it would not be able to describe it. This would seem to be a proof of a two way exchange between brain and 'witness', by contradiction. I'm going to have to think long and hard about this one.

        Unrelated question...How come I can only reply to some posts? I would, for example, like to be able to thank Mark for turning me onto Alan Watts, but there is no 'Reply' link next to Mark's post.
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        Mar 9 2011: Daniel,
        Your post above suggests that we can "observe your own thought processes" and you also say "it's thinking about thinking". To me, these are different concepts. To be an observer, the thinking needs to be suspended. Thinking comes from the programed information in our brain, and is limited. When we observe, we suspend the thinking and are open to more information:>)

        You say you don't "see clear evidence that this "me" directs my thoughts and actions". You make choices don't you? You have made a great discovery! Yes, the witness can give information to the brain, and the brain can give information to the witness:>) If we believe that everything is interconnected, as I do, then we are taking in information on many different levels. It is up to us to decide how we will use the information.
        • Mar 10 2011: Hi Colleen, I'm back.
          I guess I'll pick up the thread here, although to continue on your NDE is very very interesting, which I hope we can also continue on.
          Here are some things to think about.
          Thinking is exactly that... suspended ! If "I" choose to think about a fountain of water for 5 minutes and concentrate on following my thoughts, the moment my thoughts begin to wander to that hamburger that I smell in the kitchen, "I" can take hold of my thoughts and say to myself, no, I will not think of that hamburger right now, I will think only of the fountain of water and nothing else... This tells me that "I" can steer my thinking and control it... agreed? The suspended nature of thinking is the overview of the "I" within me. Thinking is like a wild pony that just wants to run and run ..... driven by outer impressions and inner desires. But the moment we consciously stop this running of thinking, we can observe the thinking process and determine ourselves just where we want it to go.
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        Mar 10 2011: Yes, you can steer your thinking and control it. If you are determining just where you want it to go, you are still controling your thought process based on the programming in your brain, and that is a beneficial process. To get to a deeper level, it is necessary to suspend the thought process and be open to new information.
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    Jon Yeo

    • +1
    Mar 7 2011: There was a time in history where the medicine man, leader, religious person and scientist were all one person. In essence, I don't think things have changed. Every deep scientific thinker I know has an all inclusive "spiritual" side. Who says they have to be different? They are very probably aspects of the same point of origin. Think Leonardo da Vinci - artist, engineer, scientist etc.

    Consciousness, I believe, is the culmination of concentrated thought intensely focused toward a particular aim (or purpose). Its very existence is self replicating and constantly creating.
    • Mar 8 2011: Hi Jon Yeo,
      I wonder just what a TED attendee / TEDX organizer does... Do you just surf around on TED conversations and comment on whatever you like? ... Sounds like fun!

      While your in here, I would like to say that many people find it hard to follow the threads. I agree with them that it is hard to follow just who said what and when. The time (in blue) helps but it is not always correct. The sequence is OK, but the actual time lapse is not at all up to date.

      As to your comment, We have been trying to boil down the content of what is the "spirit" and what is "consciousness". The content of the activity, be it scientific or be it artistic, engineering, whatever is not exactly the point. The question is (questions are) Is the consciousness of mankind... the spiritual footprint something that can evolve out of a mere biological evolution? Can science explain the phenomenon of consciousness without being confronted with the fact that the immaterial world of spirit has no physical measurable standards? How can a simple biological world view explain the more hidden aspects of our being? Consciousness is more than neurons firing at will within the physical brain. Much of what I have said earlier (if you can find your way to it" tries to get to the bottom of these questions.
      In fact, what you say is most correct! In earlier times, they had an understanding of this and the "dichotomy" (also discussed earlier with Gabo" was non-existent. The dichotomy of material/spiritual is a modern dilema that is in a way, a constructed one. The dichotomy that still remains is the one of the "inner/soul aspects" of man and the "outer/physical aspects" of the world. If one is really honest with oneself, this is also a false dichotomy too. As I said earlier today (look for the blue time line) the inner aspects of feeling are just as much an object of perception as the out world of stones and plants... the only difference is that the inner man is much harder to point your finger at !
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    Mar 7 2011: As a microbiologist and student of complexity, emergence and the unpredictable nature of complex systems "explained" consciousness to me. The notion of emergence comes out of science, and, along with other features of complex systems, its detailed expressions are unpredictable--something material science is just beginning to learn to deal with. On the spiritual side of unpredictability is the "aha" I experienced in realizing that the unpredictable amplification over time of complex phenomena means "nothing we do is inconsequential"--a paraphrase from Ilya Prigogine.
    • Mar 7 2011: Tell more Carolyn !!
      I'm gonna google IIya Prigogine right away...

      Have you ever read Goethe?
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        Mar 8 2011: Not yet, but I'll take a look. Thanks Daniel. In my readings on complexity, I found that people tended to concentrate on one or a few what I call "Indicators" of complex systems. Ampliifcation is the one-word description of long term effects that can snowball out of a simple incident--ie the butterfly effect. A friend said "That is really scary." The exact quote from Prigogine is "...individual activity is not doomed to insignificance." Two problems: a butterfly can get clobbered by a tornado, and what you do may have long term effects, but they will be unpredictable and out of your control. Marketeers would love to know what makes something take off ie be amplified--like Harry Potter et al.
        On the more material side of consciousness, the brain has more connections than anything else in the Universe they say. Such numbers are way beyond our ability to comprehend, as is the resulting phenomena called emergence--ie thought, etc. The brain has been called by the scientists writing for non-scientists the most complex object there is because it has so many connections.

        The quote from Prigogine can be found on page 313 of his 1984 !! book "Order Out of Chaos," the classic that helped start this whole field of study. This subject impacts every subject I can imagine. I'm afraid the math some have focused on has turned off general interest. I think you would find some of the books on the annotated bibliography at caryneeper.com fascinating. I finally found a beginning text I would use if I were still teaching--Donella Meadows' "Thinking In Systems." Enjoy. I'll be checking in at least once a day, but had better save some time for writing or this "building a platform" will swallow up too much time. Thanks for your encouraging note.
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          Mar 9 2011: Carolyn, hello and thanks for your comments. Searching info on books and their authors unveiled to me existence of such things like "Systems Theory" and "Systems Thinking"
          Thank you.
  • A Latif

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    Mar 6 2011: In essence, this discussion on “consciousness” has the same consequence as that of the mother discussion on the existence of God: It will be an exercise in futility, and will not resolve the issue.
    In conversation of this sort we have:
    1) The RATIONALIST, is critical with analytical mind, needy for warrant and facts, thirsty for reasonable and evidential knowledge and is the one who would like to pose the simple question: What grounds one have for even speaking of “consciousness”, “soul” and the like?
    2) The MYSTIC who exercise unrestrained flights of imagination, use shadowy, literary and wishful wording and concepts that target hypothetical/abstract entities motivated by a drive towards the absolute, the sacred, the final and the immortal.
    The RATIONALIST, from emotionally/morally neutral perspective search for what IS in what he considers as an impersonal universe; and the MYSTIC, gravitated by emotion, search of what is WISHFULLY SHOULD BE.
    Thus we have serious conflict between two trends of thinking, one has just born (relative to the long history of human evolution) and the other is a legacy from the past.
    Humanity would reshape, gradually, its course but it has long, long path ahead.
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      Mar 6 2011: Dear A Latif,
      I'm not trying to "resolve" anything with my participation in this discussion. It's just fun to share different ideas, beliefs, thoughts, feelings and opinions:>)

      Now, I'm wondering where I fit in, because of your definitions above! What if one is critical and analytical, seeking facts, thirsty for reason and knowledge, likes to pose simple questions, imaginative, and emotionally neutral? What if I believe that all of this is interconnected? What is my label??? LOL:>)
      • Mar 6 2011: Dear Collen,
        You brought me smile, thanks. I send you “TRANSITIONAL” smile in return. Regards.
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          Mar 6 2011: Got it...thank you...I LOVE smiles:>)
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          Mar 7 2011: A Latif,
          I was trying to create a smile, AND I was also serious. I would not deny myself the opportunity to explore information from many different perspectives, and I feel that labeling or catagorizing myself limits the possibilities. All the qualities you mention above are valuable and can co-exist, in my perception. I honestly don't understand why people want to get stuck in their own belief and not stretch the mind and heart for more information. You are absolutely right in that so many discussions get stuck, the consequences are the same and it is an exercise in futility. Why do that to ourselves? I find that it is the differences in people, and the differences in thoughts, feelings, ideas, beliefs and opinions that is most stimulating to me in this earth school. I like exploring all information and would never limit myself:>)
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    Mar 6 2011: I offer two simple passages for reflection on this seemingly over-complex subject:

    "There is no consciousness without contrast." -Gola Wolf Richards

    "It's perfectly obvious that the universe is a system which is aware of itself. In other words, we, as living organisms, are forms of the energy of the universe just as much as the stars and the galaxies, and, through our sense organs, this system of energy becomes aware of itself." -Alan Watts
  • Mar 1 2011: Hey Daniel,

    Don't worry about the misused adjectives anymore. All I wanted there is to make it explicit that there was a false dichotomy there, and a charge I would not accept. With that out of the way we can talk about physical versus spiritual "at ease." I am sorry if the whole thing looked like semantics. Semantics are important for proper understanding, but I will not be debating semantics unless necessary. So, fell free to talk your soul out.

    I see that you have taken the magic into simpler forms of consciousness than ours. But a point that remains follows. We see very simple examples of consciousness where its mechanics are so obvious that you would not be able to squeeze a magical and "primitive" soul into it, no matter how hard you tried: bacterial chemotaxis, for instance. In this example, differential concentrations of chemicals have a direct effect into how fast a flagellum moves, in such a way that the bacterium will move towards (or against) a chemical such as a nutritious one. I would venture that thus bacteria are "conscious" of the presence and source of the chemical. Bacteria will also react by concentration gradients to molecules that say "hey I am here" in a very physical way (called quorum sensing), until the chemicals released tell each bacterium "there are enough of us now" so that they can start an infection, for instance. Completely mechanical consciousness and decision-making. The question would be: is it that bacteria have such a small size that the antenna to detect its soul mandates and desires can't fit in it, thus it goes through mechanics, while as we move into other sizes we don't need mechanics any more? Or could it be that the size allows for more complicated mechanisms to the point that they give us the illusion of something immaterial going on there?

    Well, if size is a key, we have a pretty mechanical explanation for plant phototropism, then for slug learning ... but more on that later. Feel free to comment on this.
    • Mar 1 2011: Hi again Gabo! Maybe we get this dead discussion on its wheels after all. There aren't many other comments though. I wonder if anyone else is even interested. I guess your taking my example of the flock of birds and school of fish into focus now when you take the "size" question down to that level. If you want to go as far as to the "non-animal" world, I would appreciate that too.. You might go as far as to asl what moves a plant towards the light. As a plant doesn't have the adaptation to avoid pain or seek pleasure. A plant exist between the forces of gravity and levity and the forces of darkness and light.. water.. nourishment .. But get this Gabo... and here is where you might really think that I'm waaayy off.... and maybe even never again come back to this discussion site..(I hope this isn't the case) But I have to say it anyway.... brace yourself..... well, even the plant has a soul.. are you still there?..The plant's soul (and spirit) are on a much higher plane of existence. Have you ever heard the idea about the "ideal plant" ? It's something Goethe talked a lot about. Check it out. I'm by no means any expert on Goethe but I have some hunches as to what he was getting at. There seems to be a new interest in the world for Goethe in the field of phenomenology. This is taking me a bit off the path where I want to go so I'll stop there. But you might check the guy out. Some interesting color theories he presented too.
      The entire living world is imbued with spirit and soul elements. But the degree in which they are "incarnated" varies greatly. We as humans are more or less fully awake and "incarnated" I don't know about some women though... especially at traffic lights and making left hand turn across oncoming traffic. To be incarnated is to be awake within oneself. We can debate this later as to how much an animal is "awake within itself" but for the time being we can keep the focus on the human being. I see I'm running out of space so this is to be continued..
    • Mar 1 2011: I guess I can continue here... even though this is a pretty long response already. But as long as my wife isn't complaining I can write a few more lines. She says I use way too much time on the PC. Typical ;-)
      I don't know if I lost you on that last curve Gabo.... are you still interested?
      Here's another picture...
      If you could compress all the matter on the earth so there was no "room" between the molecules, the whole earth would be about the size of a sugar cube. Have you heard this? Well, you can't prove it by me. But the general consensus seems to be that there is much more of this "room" between atomic particles than there is matter building the whole thing up. If this isn't poetry than what is? What is between the sub-atomic particles? Ether? Dark matter? .... Got to run... catch you later.... here comes my wife
      • Mar 2 2011: Hey Daniel,

        Yep, seems quite quiet here. I guess this is because of the misleading title. Or, maybe people don't have much interest in discussing something that might end up useless. The thing about injecting "souls" into this consciousness business is that it is close to impossible to prove otherwise for philosophical reasons. A couple alternatives are either reductio ad absurdum, or to state how physical it looks. Which means you might not be convinced no matter what.

        Anyway, phototropism: think of a plant and light coming from the right. Light degrades some plant hormones involved in growth. This translates in less hormones on the lighted side than on the darker side. Thus, darker side grows faster that lighted side. This results in the stem getting twisted towards the light. Presto. The plant grows towards the light (degradation is not complete, but it is enough for creating this differential growth). Any deviation from going to the light will result in torsion again towards the light. Can you visualize this? A very mechanical response, and I insist on calling this decision-making. The plant is thus mechanically "conscious" of the source of light.

        I am not starting with humans because if we start simple, we can understand later the more complex as a multiplications of the mechanics. There is no soul involved in this phototropism to be seen. We get later to slugs, then we might jump all the way to humans. Though I gave you some examples. I know, you think the antennae are damaged. But changes of personality? From kind and nice to plain evil or morally evil? how can a damaged antenna do that?

        That thing about the ceiling. Well, I remain skeptical. If it did indeed happen, maybe this person was carried to the hospital in a helicopter, barely observed the shoe, but remembered it in the brain-storm caused by the near-death experience ... you know, as happens in dreams where you remember things you barely had paid attention to.

        ... anyway, carry on ...
        • Mar 2 2011: Hi again Gabo, well thanks for not giving up! I would like to just say a few words before I will be going to a little lecture by a man who has had not one but two NDE's. I can give you a little report later if you like.
          I know that it sounds pretty far fetched to say that a plant has a soul. This is really a pretty wild claim to make in a public conversation. It has to be more grounded in reality. I should never have brought it up actually without providing a basis for it. Maybe I can get back to that a bit later... if again... your still interested. But we might be better off keep our discussion to humans and animals. I mean.... who in the religious corner of the ring would say even that. If I told that to a religious minded person that would certainly laugh. I said earlier that I don't want to be put in that "corner" either. I feel that most religious minded people are pretty dogmatic and unfree in their way of thinking. To speak of a soul or a spirit doesn't have to be religious. Maybe a bit magical. I would not like to call it pseudo-scientific however I know very well that I am opening myself for such criticism. But I can let go of the idea that science will one day explore the consciousness of man the way they explore the physical reality we live in. I support the scientific method completely. It's just that to limit the realm or research to "solely" (I'm getting better at it!) the physical world and not the immaterial world is like looking at only half of the picture. I've got to run now. I'll try to get back to you later.
  • Feb 28 2011: From a personal subjective standpoint, I'd say that both are equally important to me. Although I know we could get by without being self-aware (like millions of other species), it adds strongly to our personal and interpersonal actions (and interactions). Certainly, a modern life as we know it, constant innovation, scientific research, and the most human trait: questioning the beliefs and knowledge we hold, would not be possible. I hold my ability to question knowledge, beliefs, thoughts, ideas, others' beliefs (especially religion), and authority in general in such high regard, that I do not want to live without it.

    I have to agree with Gabo Moreno that this discussion is dead from the beginning, however for a different reason. I cannot come to terms with Daniel's proposal that in learning to understand the functioning of consciousness, science and religion come together. If you truly believe that, you do not understand what science is. This is based on one of Richard Dawkins' defenses: religion calls consciousness "soul" or such, and ends with that. Meanwhile, science calls it "consciousness", but only temporarily, until it knows more. You are correct in one point, both religion and science are currently at the same level of explanation (to my knowledge). However, for religion its the end, while for science its just the beginning.
    • Feb 28 2011: Hi Walter,
      I agree with you on some things and disagree on others. I agree that to live without self-consciousness would limit our development to roughly null. But its interesting to study the consciousness of a child, which doesn't have self-consciousness until around the age of 2.5 to 3.0 years of age. I don't know if you've ever been around a child at this age but an interesting thing happens here. The child begins to say " I " .... to recognize him or herself as an individual that is speaking from its inner self. Up to this age, the child will call him/her self by their own name. Amazing "stroke of insight" to steal a coined word from Jill B. Taylor. What consciousness has to do with the bridge between religion and science I hope to get to as soon as I get some time.
      To take another approach...
      In regards to this "false dichotomy" as Gabo would like to put it. Let me put it this way. In modern medicine there has been a new interest for what is called NDE. or near death experience. This is not something that I'm just "putting out here" but there is a great deal of interest around this subject. There is building up a large amount of evidence around certain parallels, of peoples experience who have been "clinically dead" To find out more about these things you can go surfing the net yourself. I would like to discuss on this forum this phenomenon with other open minded (but not open at both ends) people who can make this connection of the "scientific based research" of the NDE that can eventually prove the fact for both the "believers and the non-believers" that the spirit/soul entities of the human being "rise out of the physical body at the moment of death" Jill Bolte Taylor's NDE is just one of thousands of similar experiences. So to say this discussion is "dead" well then this proves it ! It's "death" that will reveal to the scientific world, through modern medical research, the fact that the human being is much more than stardust.... to put it poetically
  • Feb 27 2011: I want to make a dramatic statement here. A radical statement.My position is this. Consciousness is an entity that exists free from the physical brain.Our individualized consciousness continues to exist after we die. Jill Bolte Taylor had a near death experience and her consciousness was in the pre stages of her soul and spirit leaving her physical body. This phenomena is nothing new. Being a brain scientist and having this experience is something new though. What makes J.B.T. experience special is the fact that her credibility is so powerful.You can find many stories on youtube of N.D.E. so just go and take a look for yourself. The stunning similarity in these stories is absolutely something that science needs to and is taking a closer look at. Raymond Moody is perhaps the father of this NDE documenter.
    I am here postulating that this experience is a real experience of the soul/spirit elements of the human being leaving the physical body. This is something that the religious people, the believers have been trying to tell us for years and years. Although never able to provide any real evidence of this. The response from the religious community has often been that we must merely "believe"
    The question of "God" I want to leave out for the time being.It would be to wide of a discussion topic to take this debate so far
    Throughout time,man has practiced "initiation rituals". But what was really going on? Could it be that the soul/spirit elements of the inviet were lifted out of the body in the same way a person that undergoes a NDE today.
    Modern medicine has come so far that it is able to "retrieve" the soul of a dieing person and thus allow them to return to life on earth, where just a few decades back this was not so easy. Although people have always told stories about how a drowning person sees their whole life before them in a flash. Whats more amazing is the fact the people who have crossed the threshold of death not only have similar experiences but objective ones
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      Mar 2 2011: Daniel,
      You ask many interesting questions and address very intriguing ideas:>) I would like to respond to one at the moment. As a person who experienced a NDE 21 years ago because of a near fatal head injury caused by a horseback riding accident, I agree with your statement that "consciousness is an entity that exists free from the physical brain and continues to exist after we die". With Jill Bolti Taylor's education as a neuroscientist, she has provided incredible information regarding this experience, so I feel a little intimidated in joining the conversation.

      I percieve many different levels of consciouosness. There is the human consciousness and sub-consciousness, which we are aware of, as well as many more layers of consciousness. After my head injury and craniotomy, the consciousness that I experienced on a human level was short-circuited. If you think of the brain as a computer, which scientists are beginning to do, there are many different programs which can be running at the same time. Or, some programs can be turned off while others continue to run. The program that runs my consciousness on a human level was disabled because of the injury. but other programs of consciousness were still running. Do you understand?

      When I was unconscious according to the human medical model, I actually felt more conscious to a much larger picture. I was aware of everything that was happening around me, including understanding people's thoughts and feelings. I saw my body in ICU, and I observed it as a vehicle that carries me through this earth school. I am not connected with any religion, and this was not a religious experience for me. It was simply another exploration of life and death.
      • Mar 2 2011: Hi Colleen, and welcome to the discussion! It has been pretty quite around here. Just Gabo and me keep this thing going. That was too bad about the accident while out horseback riding, but destiny works in mysterious ways. Perhaps its just these other realms of consciousness that you are to develop in this life time.
        Please don't feel in any way intimidated to take part. We are all just human beings. That you are able to perceive different levels of consciousness after the accident is pretty amazing. I understand what your saying about the different programs.
        I just came home from a NDE lecture by a man who had two NDE after drinking himself almost to death. He was in the hospital for two weeks. The doctors had actually called to his home and told the family that he was dead. Imagine that! He has fully recovered now, maybe not 100% but close. He told how everything here on the physical plane is really "dead" compared to what he experienced on the other side. He said it was a world of light. His body was light energy. Everything was formed as well as penetrated by this light energy. It wasn't so much of a religious experience for him either. I tried to ask him a few questions about just that.
        He said that even the stones are alive. But here we disagreed. He said that if you take a strong enough microscope you will see that the molecules in the stone are moving. But for me, the stone is "dead" first the the level of the plant has life, so animal and finally man(woman) These are the four end results of the four elements, earth water air and fire. I can go into this way of seeing the world a little later. Its actually the early Greeks that saw the world this way.
        I don't have much time to write just now but keep in touch.
        Please tell more about your experiences. To be able to read into another's soul life takes a lot of
        responsibility. You can easily mislead someone or influence their freedom of choice which would be to step on something "holy"
        • Mar 3 2011: I think you went to hear a charlatan's talk. First everything here is dead, then rocks are alive? What a contradiction. Light? Sounds a lot like he was under the influence of a potent drug, such as LSD. Maybe so, maybe his brain fired so crazily he had such kinds of hallucinations. I think this could be one of those guys who goes and sells false hope to people. The problem with these pseudosciences Daniel is that they get filled quite rapidly with snake-oil salesmen.

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          Mar 3 2011: Thanks Daniel. You guys have been doing a good job of keeping things going:>)

          Yes, the accident was a challenge, and I also agree with you that things are not always as they seem. The challenges I faced caused me to learn, grow and evolve, so in that respect, it was a gift. I was not expected to live, and when I tricked them on that count, was not expected to function. I'm doing both, relatively well:>)

          My perception is not that things are "dead" here. I find the earth life experience very vibrant, and probably that has a lot to do with my personal perception. I experienced myself as a mass of energy on the other side, just as I percieve myself as a mass of energy here on this earth school...traveling in a body:>)

          I'm not trying to sell anything Gabo. Simply sharing my experience. I don't care if you believe it or not:>)
        • Mar 3 2011: Sorry Colleen, but I was talking about whomever Daniel went to see talking about near-death experiences, not about you.

          In your case I remain skeptical, but I am far from thinking that you are lying. Since I have no time right now, I can't start to enumerate possibilities that might explain your experience. I think however, that I have no right to steal an experience that seems to have helped you grow ...

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          Mar 3 2011: I respect your skepticism:>) Believe me, I was skeptical for awhile too. Your comment mentioned "these people...they", so it sounded like you were encompassing all of "us" rather than one person.

          Because of my skepticism at first, I have explored most possibilities, and of course, am always open to more exploration, so I'm happy to talk with you about them. You cannot "steal" anything from me Gabo:>)
      • Mar 3 2011: I want to say that I will be away from home for a few days where I most likely will not have any internet connection. I would like to comment on Gabo's response but there is no "reply" possibility directly to Gabo.
        Colleen may enjoy this comment too.
        The stone is merely(woops) "solely" physical in its present state of existence. It has no internalized life, feeling or consciousness.
        While the plant is alive it has no internalized soul or spirit. Its present existence is consisting of two qualities. The physical and the life qualities. It has no direct feeling like the animals do. It is incarnated on two planes.
        The animal is living in the physical world, the life plane, and the soul plane of existence. Soul plane because it has feelings, desires, can feel pain and pleasure. Its "soul" is incarnated on the physical plane. Its spirit is not incarnated in the individuality but in the group soul. Here is again the example of the flock of birds or school of fish that I wrote earliler. Alll animals live in this condition.
        While mankind has its ego, its spirit incarnated on the physical plane within us. This is what gives us the self-consciousness that only we as human beings have. This gives us the ability to think. Animals can think in a very primitive way, but nothing compared to the human being.
        These four planes of existence are can we say all conscious but not conscious "within the physical plane of existence" as we are. Our self consciousness is the "I am" that in the end is the entity that pre-exists our incarnation on the earth and what lives on after we die.
        To look at the phenomenon of sleep, we can get a clearer picture of how these four aspects of man hang together.
        When we sleep, the higher "bodies" of our being lift out of the physical and life body which remain in the bed.... asleep. The feeling body and self-consciousness body lift out of the physical and life body each night and return again each morning... or "re-incarnate" to use a charged word!!
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          Mar 3 2011: I enjoy all explorations of life and death Daniel:>) My experience is that on an energy level we CAN leave the body, but we don't necessarily leave it each night while sleeping, although I may understand the point you are trying to make. Are you suggesting that the body recharges in the night? If that is what you are saying, I agree, because sleep is a time the body can recharge and heal. I think you may be confusing the issue by refering to re-incarnation as a nightly experience
      • Mar 3 2011: The idea of reincarnation is strongly critisized by both the religious and the scientific communities. But when you look at it this way, its not so strange at all. Sleep, the "little brother" or "temporary death" is just the soul and the spirit leaving the body each night.
        We wake up in the morning totally unaware of what has happened in sleep. There are ways.. meditations and training to gain access to the realms of soul and spirit through strengthen the self consciousness in the moment of falling into sleep. This is not at all easy but when first experienced, the crossing of the threshold in an awake state gives one a totally different perspective on life and all its toils. This is exactly what the people who are having a NDE do. They cross over into the spiritual world and are "awake" there. The light world that they see and are also a part of is this life body. This is the universal force that one might say,. although this is my speculation... that which fills the enormous empty space between the molecules and atoms that science has boiled down to be the whole of existence. This "empty space" is not really empty at all... but full of life energy. This life energy, when we die (or a plant or an animal die) becomes then an object for our conscious observation. Our ego (or I) is still engaged in the observation process of things and beings existing in this higher plane of existence. But this is not the only plane. The next higher plane, above the life plane is the plane of feeling or the soul plane. The "I" later on becomes the observer of feelings which become.. to say "objects for observation" in a much clearer light than on this physical plane. I think Colleen can somehow agree with what I am getting at here... although you Colleen have never heard it explained in this way. As the soul and spirit "excarnate at the moment of death( and for a long time after death too)" we then "live" in the spirit world until we again reincarnate on the physical plane.......!!!
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          Mar 3 2011: So,again, the soul/spirit/energy can leave the body, but I don't believe it leaves the body every night when we sleep. It could for some, but I don't think it is a common happening.

          Reincarnation and NDE are difficult ideas to accept sometimes, and I agree with you that it's not really so strange at all! I guest lectured at the Univ. of Vt. for years, speaking about my NDE, and it was amazing how many students, or someone the students knew had this experience.

          I did not believe or disbelieve in reincarnation before my NDE. I was brought up Catholic, and abandoned that religion at age 19. 23 years later, after the accident and craniotomy, the body hovered between life and death for 2 days. It was in that time that my energy (spirit, soul) left the body. At that time, I learned that I could come back in this body and continue my life as the person I am, or, if I didn't, I would come back in another body at another time. Reincarnation was not in any way part of my belief system, so, as I said, it was difficult to accept. I obtained and read my medical records...over and over again because I wanted to know what was happening clinically. I visited the ICU where I resided for 2 weeks unconscious and hooked up to life support machines. I wanted proof, hopefully Gabo will appreciate this:>) I researched and studied other cases of NDE. And of course, there is no proof that may satisfy some scientists. Although, some in the scientific community are beginning to realize that there may be something beyond the life form that we are familier with. Based on my experience Daniel, I agree with you that "this is not the only plane".
      • Mar 3 2011: I sort of feel like I'm writing a book here..... am I saying too much?
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          Mar 3 2011: Apparently, you are saying what you need to say:>) It feels like you are doing your own exploration as you write, and sometimes, that's a good way to get in touch with more of our feelings, thoughts, ideas, opinions and beliefs:>) Carry on!
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      Mar 4 2011: Consciousness is collaboration of cells, once their workflow is ruined they disassemble to lower levels in order to unite in another form.
  • Mar 26 2011: Well friends,
    I guess this is my last good-bye
    ...cause if I try to write any more now..
    I'd have to squeeze it in edgewise ...

    .... Best wishes to you all ;-)
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    Mar 26 2011: It's been fun Daniel (that's to say, very spiritually uplifting). And you have convinced me ...

    ... that "merely" was a good means of provoking response. Thanks.
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    Mar 26 2011: Looks like this thread will be dying soon...Any chance we can resurrect it?
  • Mind S

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    Mar 25 2011: As date for this page closure nears, it reveals, among other things, how adherents of the paranormal have emotional disposition of life that one appreciates in social life. However, the problem lies in the tendency of these people to engage this emotion-based disposition to explain impersonal physical phenomena, which doesn’t serve the growth of useful knowledge.
  • Comment deleted

    • Mar 24 2011: Thanks Kathy ! Always good with a laugh ! Thanks for following along. Hope we meet again out here on the thin ethers ...... Just two days and a few hours left here.... any last words ?
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    • Mar 24 2011: Ed,
      On second reading.... all I can say is ...amazing poem !!
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        • Mar 24 2011: Ed,

          I wrote a little poem and dedicated it to you...! .... a little further down the line..
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    • Mar 23 2011: Thanks for holding out through these soon to be 600 posts. Wow, I never would have thought that this would take off like it did. I think we will have to start something new here while we're on a roll.
      perhaps "The continuation of consciousness...?"

      Great poem too !
  • Mind S

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    Mar 23 2011: Colleen,
    Would you please take a note of the following two articles?
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      Mar 23 2011: Hi Mind S,
      Good articles...thanks:>) They reinforce the information I have learned with several years of research/study.
      They basically say the same things I've been saying throughout this comment thread. NDE can be explaiined spiritually, AND scientifically. I don't give the "shakti project" too much credability, since it was "based on one epilipsy patient's vision". That doesn't seem very scientific to me, although again, the information reinforces what I've been saying: NDEs are a " natural organic function of the brain...part of the human death process...electrical activity, which can recruit sets of pathways that otherwise would function in rare states of consciousness".

      The other article is interesting too and reinforces what I've been saying: "Our responses to looking at how we behaved while in specific states during our lives reinforces our behaviors and "tags" them for repetition or avoidence in future lives". I re-evaluate my life all the time, with various levels of consciousness. It is, as the article states, a "natural, organic function of the brain". When we are aware of that information, we can evaluate on many different levels of consciousness:>)
      Thanks for providing the articles, which confirm/reinforce what I've been expressing:>)
    • Mar 24 2011: Mind S.
      There is a precise reference to your comment on the "red shoe" at the top of the page on the shaktitechnology link you set out.. so you can go directly to those sources and find the story there.... if you will.

      As this many faceted topic boils down to an end, I see that you are onto something that deserves a comment. Now Colleen has accused me of trying to get others to see things the way I myself see things.. I guess that accusation carries some truth to it. But beside that Mind S. let me point out a certain phenomenon that might of interest you. Now I am trying hard not to convince you of anything... I'm just pointing to a certain phenomenon that we all have experienced.
      Are you ready.?
      This thing we call epilepsy... means "to cease upon" ..greek epi. "above" The greeks were pretty sharp cookies..

      As I said, we have all experienced this little phenomenon. When you are in bed and falling off to sleep. Your mind runs back over the happenings of the day. You don't have any specific thought in mind when suddenly you feel your foot slipping on the ice and your whole body jumps.. Have you ever experienced this ? Or perhaps your a mountain climber and you have a feeling of your foot slipping on a rock and you "feel like" you nearly fall down... you catch your self from falling... (by the way epilepsy is also called the falling sickness)

      Now this is actually a little "seizure" that you had in your bed... the losing of balance or the feeling of a fall that "brings on" this slamming effect... this is actually your "soul body" slamming into the physical and life body that are still lying in the bed. The epileptic seizure is no different than this... one could say the epileptic person is sort of caught in this little "slamming situation" for a little longer length of time. This "soul condition" of the epileptic is phenomenologically the same as when you experience this "catching yourself" when feel like you are going to fall just as you are falling asleep..
  • Mar 22 2011: Tim,
    Ulterior motive...? what ...? People like Colleen convince me even more of the fact that there is a life after death... I wouldn't think Colleen and the thousands of others who have had NDE are simply lying... But that is by no means my only reason for a believing in the spiritual world or life after death. The NDE's are just amazing personal experiences that reconfirm my belief... as it is also only a belief of yours isn't it that you say there is no life after death... or do you have proof of it....? You answer with the same coin again that the burden of proof is upon the people who claim to its reality.... and all the proof in the world wont convince you anyway... but there is a glimmering hope in the fact that you admit you "could be wrong"..
    Did you read the story about the red tennis shoe ? How can you then explain this as being anything else than the spirit ascending out of the body in a NDE... can you offer any explanation or are you saying that I (and Colleen) are simply making this up ? How can this be so I ask?
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      Mar 22 2011: I see. So you don't accept that YOU could be wrong?

      And no, I'm not convinced of an afterlife by the story of a red shoe on the roof.
      • Mar 23 2011: Well, as I say, this example of the red tennis shoe is not just the only story.. there are many many such stories where the person who is having the NDE has a viewpoint from outside of the physical body, like over the hospital or in the room from the ceiling or from a perspective that of their physical body.. for the first, is nowhere near that location (on the roof ).. and for the second... is pretty much "unconscious" because they are so near dying. where that same individual can gain access to information that would be more or less impossible than anything else than having an OBE. Of course if you could by any means disprove this fact, then I would consider..."your point of view"... but I still can understand how the physical brain could get up on the roof of the hospital... Do you ? I mean this is only "logical"...... isn't it ? take a look at these youtube vids. start from the bottom and work your way up
      • Mar 23 2011: or this blind woman who can see under a NDE..!
      • Mar 23 2011: Here are a few posts from youtube, take special note of the blind woman.... Then I ask you Tim, how can you explain this...

        Please don't try to tell me that this blind woman is "pretending" or making up this story, or the sky diver or the athiest ...
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          Mar 23 2011: Daniel: The red shoe is not the issue. You're evading the question.
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          Mar 24 2011: Kathy: Use your full name, start a new conversation on NDE, and promise not to delete your entries and I'll discuss it with you.
      • Mar 23 2011: What question is that ?
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          Mar 23 2011: Do you accept that you could be wrong about your individual consciousness lasting beyond your death? Or are you closed-minded on that one?
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          Mar 23 2011: I have another question Daniel,
          Did you start this discussion to honestly ponder other people's perception of "what is the nature of consciousness"? Or did you start it as a platform for your own beliefs?
      • Mar 24 2011: Colleen,
        Well, if I had no beliefs or meaning about this subject than I don't suppose that I would have started this conversation at all... no... I think this is perhaps one of the most significant questions that a person can ask him or her self in this "school of life".. Everyone should at least try to establish a platform regarding this question... don't you agree? It is obviously a conversation that engages people and that's important. I guess that I let myself be so provoked by Richard Dawkins's lecture on Militant Atheism her on TED that I couldn't let his views of what the human being really is go unchecked. It may be true that the animal kingdom has an evolution that is without freedom... but mankind has the freedom to think what he will be it true or be it false... Freedom is something that is squeezed out of the picture in a strictly evolutionistic understanding of mankind without the elements of self-consciousness taken into account. It is our self-consciousness that gives us the "possibility" to be free. Perhaps it was an un-free action of me to start this conversation ... being that I was so "driven" by RD lecture.
        But still the same, I had no idea where this conversation would lead to when I started it. The fact that I have "been forced" (un-free again) to present my own ideas from my own platform developed along the lines of the conversation itself. Regardless, this conversation wouldn't have been so engaging had I not presented my own platform, had it not? I hope I didn't break any rules of the TED site here but I admit my "platform" is clear.. and furthermore, we all must be open with each other and say what we mean to say. I'm not here to agree with everyone. I have pondered a lot over other peoples perception of consciousness.. of that you can be sure... and many have had enormously valuable contributions. But that still doesn't oblige me to agree with everyone.... sometimes it may perhaps appear like I take the stand of "Militant Spiritualism"
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          Mar 24 2011: Daniel,
          You ask if I agree that "everyone should at least try to establish a platform regarding this question". That is one idea on which we differ. I don't believe in telling another human being what he/she "should" do. I believe in encouraging and supporting others through their journey, and I welcome and encourage the exploration people do in themselves. To tell others what they "should" do is not so useful. As you've seen on this thread, people will balk at the idea of being told what they "should" do...understandably:>)

          We do, as you say, have the freedom to think, and everyone thinks differently. It feels like you are being really insistant that people think the same as you do. Why is that important to you? Starting the discussion was a good thing on your part because it does engage people. That's why I asked the question...do you honestly want to engage people with their own thoughts and feelings, or did you start it to only convince others that your way is right?

          You see, I could sense that you were/are "driven" as you say. You have not "been forced" to present your own ideas my dear one, you have chosen to do so. Don' give up your freedom of choice:>) Honestly dear Daniel, it might have been more engaging if you had not been "driven" to present your own platform. You did not break any rules, and there is a better way to engage people, in my perception. Simply to be open to new information. Yes, it does appear like you are taking the stand of "Militant Spiritualism" and if that is working for you then carry on:>) If not, there are other choices.
      • Mar 24 2011: Tim,
        It all boils down to logic. If you can present a logical argument for your opinion that says the spiritual in man does not exist ... then I could reevaluate my thinking. But there has not come any logical arguments that appose my viewpoint that there exists a higher element in man.. self-consciousness.. that which I choose to call spirit is a factor in our being that demands an explanation for.... logically...If you can say somehow that 2+2 does not equal 4 then I am open to hear your opinion... but that doesn't mean that I will agree with it. It is important to be "open" and try to take in others opinions... but not open at both ends....
        The natural desire for mankind is to know the truth. This too is an obvious internal drive that we all have.... and what's more, this drive leads us to the limits of our logical thinking processes that force us to encompass the ideas of the immaterial. When we butt up against the limits of our logical thought our "baggage of invested beliefs" becomes threatened and we cling to what we can measure and weigh as arguments for what we interpret as "sure ground". But the paradigm is now shifting. The material sciences can no longer keep their head in the sand. What I say about the singularly human condition of not only "consciousness"... but of "self-consciousness" is rapidly becoming the foundation for a new science.. the science of the spirit... The phenomenon of NDE is only one portal to the discovery of this reality.Perhaps the one that will really open up a flood gate of the mystical, magical side of our inner being. As medical science marches on, we will see a new awakening in this fascinating realm of research.... as Bob Dylan says... "The times they are a changin' "
      • Mar 24 2011: Colleen,
        Thanks for your honesty! I agree sometimes that I used my nine pound hammer..... but the nails ain't goin' down... Perhaps next time I'll try to take a more diplomatic point of view.
        I always make it a point to stay on the "logical mat" in my responses. This is important for all of us. Even if we have personally experienced a NDE. Because there is.. without a doubt a logical explanation for the phenomenon. Logic has to expand beyond the physical and encompass the spiritual as well. This is perhaps the fulcrum point that my decisiveness....
        What ever the end result may be, if I have or have not "convinced" anyone of anything, the point that we may have come closer to "some" truths... as fleeting as they may be, might be chalked up to my "semi-provocative" point of argumentation. Should I eventually decide to start a new thread on TED, I will keep in mind your comments.
        Thanks for taking part! Your contributions have been most invaluable and I respect your opinions on both the spiritual and the physical perspectives of mankind.
        Hope to meet you again out here on TED.
        Best wishes, Daniel
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          Mar 24 2011: Daniel,You're welcome. I like honesty:>) There are many tools in your toolbox dear Daniel. Yes, maybe you could try putting down the big hammer, and exploring other tools:>)

          Logic does NOT have to expand to encompass the spiritual FOR ALL PEOPLE. You may see the pleasure, joy, contentment in that perspective, and others may see things differently. Yes, you are "right" in that it appears to be the fulcrum point for your decisiveness. It appears that you are trying to convince everyone that your perspective is "right". It may very well be...or not! I respect your opinions too Daniel, and I don't agree that trying to "hammer" your truth into others is the way to go:>)Love you and your ideas:>)Colleen
  • Mar 22 2011: Mind S
    The intersting thing that your friend the neurologist didn't comment on is this:

    Many, many people have experienced a NDE and many have seen things while in that state which are of an objective physical nature. Take for example the woman in Oregon as I refered to earlier who "died" and was revived to life again. Now this is just one example of many.... very many..

    The woman came back to consciousness and told the nurse at her bedside that there was a red tennis shoe on the roof of the hospital... of course everyone laughed, but the woman persisted... finally a nurse went up to the roof and sure enough found a red tennis shoe there....

    Tell me now..... How did her brain get up on the roof of the hospital.....?
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      Mar 22 2011: I love the red shoe story Daniel, and there are, as you say, many many other similar stories. When I was well enough, I visited the nurses in ICU who cared for me. The director of ICU showed me the room I was in while there. As soon as I saw the room, I realized that it was set up differently than when I was there, and I described what I remembered to him. He was quite puzzled, because what I was describing, was the way it was set up with the life support systems in the two days when the body was hovering between life and death. After the body stabalized, the body was taken off the machines, and they were removed from the room. I was obviously unconscious and near death, according to the medical model, when I was viewing myself and the room from another place:>)

      p.s. The other thing that seemed to puzzle the care givers in ICU was the fact that I came back to visit them. They kept remarking that people simply do not come into ICU in the condition I was in after the accident and craniotomy and then walk in 3 months later to chat! Perhaps it IS all a dream or an illusion, as Tim and Birdia are discussing:>)
      • Mar 22 2011: Colleen,

        Wonderful ! I love it ! Thanks so much for being here and for being you !
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          Mar 22 2011: Thank you Daniel,
          My pleasure to be here, and perhaps one of these days, we'll figure out who I really am:>)
          Who else could I be if not me?:>)
      • Mar 22 2011: I just remembered a question that i posed to you a while back that I don't think I got an answer to.

        I asked... Is the person who never offers a thought about the spiritual world, or even in fact denies its existence... does this person experience the life after death as being simply "shades of grey" ? I seem to recall that you yourself had no real interest in the spirit world before your NDE but perhaps were in a way open to it as a possibility. But to deny it here in the "earthly school" does that, in your view give any reflection of what will be experienced in the afterlife? ..... as maybe "higher levels" of consciousness depending on what one has "learned" here on earth? There are of course elements of our moral being that cannot be measured... like empathy.... morality ....and other soul qualities that fall of the "measurable" scale... but do you think that these qualities of our being have much to do with our further evolution in the afterlife ?.............I know...I know..... big question ! The repercussions of your answer could ecco around the world now.... so answer carefully...... :-)
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          Mar 22 2011: So that's it Daniel! I knew there was an ulterior motive in your argumentation - you need to prove to yourself that there is life after death, right? Well, you've been going along calling me closed-minded because I don't believe as you do. Let me frame things this way:

          I don't believe that our individual consciousness persists (at least for long) after our death. But I accept that I could be wrong.

          Can you accept that you could be wrong in believing there is an afterlife? If not, maybe you should do some self-reflection before saying that others are not open-minded.
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          Mar 22 2011: I already answered that question Daniel. If you are serious about knowing my perspective, it is close to your question in the thread:>)

          For what it's worth Tim, my perception of you is that you are open minded and exploring:>)
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          Mar 22 2011: Thanks Colleen. And my perception of you is that you are a spiritually elevated person. Not because you crossed the threshold and came back. But because you're compassionate in the here and now.
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          Mar 24 2011: Thanks Tim:>) That, to me is the important piece. How I live my life in the here and now. I was kind and compassionate before the NDE. The experience didn't change who and what I am. For me it simply intensified who and what I am and how I live my life.

          Birdia, I agree with you...we are living here and now. Whether or not we believe in something beyond this earth plane, we are here now. Again, for me that is the important piece:>)
      • Mar 24 2011: Birdia,
        Yes I do think these qualities have something to do with our experience and evolution in the "afterlife".
        "Life", as we know it here, reveals itself as only part of the whole.... and what we don't get this time around... we have a second chance at ...yes.. and a third.... and a fourth ... and a fifth....
        Yes, our consciousness is also evolving. It is developing through eons and eons of time...
        The ideas of the simply material evolution of mankind are obsolete. Our consciousness.... our self-conscious being... is on a pathway of spiritual development that has both preexisted our physical existence and will continue to exist after our physical evolution has reached an end.
        The theory of evolution doesn't need to stop at the solely physical development of mankind. It can, as I see, continue on towards the perfection of our entire being. If you choose not to recognize the whole of our being.. then thats OK too.. We are free beings !! But I believe indeed that you will, as I say, have a second chance...
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          Mar 24 2011: Daniel,
          I agree with much of what you have written. How important is it for you to convince others that you are right?
    • Mind S

      • +1
      Mar 23 2011: Daniel,
      You may also consult the two scientific articles, that I mentioned to Colleen in my last post, which shed light on possible medical explanation of any OBE. Concerning the story of the “Red tennis shoe”, I read that this story was told by a hospital social worker named Kimberly Clark Sharp about NDE survival, a Hispanic woman with the name Maria. Sharp was the only witness to the story (She also was the person who did the detective work to find the shoe) and no one knows more about the whereabouts of the patient Maria. If this is really the case then the red shoe tale has common element with Lady Hope story of Darwin’s deathbed conversion. Such reports need to be checked for their authenticity/credibility followed by their subjection for scientific scrutiny and research without the need to resort for any mystic thoughts.
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        Mar 23 2011: As I said, good articles Mind S. However, if you claim that research, based on one participant, is scientific, I will disagree, even though I agree with the results:>)

        Of course there is a medical/scientific explanation of OBE/NDE. What is the relevance to the women being "Hispanic with the name Maria"? Is that scientific in some way? You can check them for "authenticity/credibility followed by their subjection for scientific scrutiny and research without the need to sesort for any mystic thoughts" if you want to. Some of us will simply enjoy a delightful story without trying to label it:>)
        • Mind S

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          Mar 23 2011: Colleen,
          ("Hispanic with the name Maria"? Is that scientific in some way?)
          Probably you are on the wrong track. It is to emphasize her blurred identity which might bear relevance on the credibility/authenticity of the story.
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        Mar 23 2011: Oh I see Mind S!
        Hispanic with the name Maria, indicates a "blurred identity" to you?
        That is really sad. I think I'm on a damm GOOD track compared to where you are darlin' :>)
        • Mar 23 2011: Hi Colleen,
          I just put out some youtube vids. on NDE. I'm looking forward to hearing some of your comments on these.
          I think we will have to make a new TED conversation site on NDE... what do you say to that ?
          There are only a few days left on this one and I feel like the concept of consciousness is just starting to materialize....:-)
        • Mind S

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          Mar 24 2011: Colleen,
          The wording denotes the scanty information/poor documentation (no more no less) of a story that is manipulated to come with far-reaching mystic constructions. My regards.
        • Mar 24 2011: Easy Colleen.... Don't be so hard on poor Mind S.....
          but thanks for putting him in his place..
      • Mar 23 2011: Better check your references Mind S. ... and take a look at the youtube sites I linked to below. Start from the bottom...
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        Mar 24 2011: Daniel,
        Why do you say I'm "hard" on "poor Mind S"? He stated that he mentioned a"Hispanic with the name Maria" to "emphasize her blurred identity which might bear relevance on the credibility/authenticity of the story". He could have said unidentified person, and it wouldn't have sounded so prejudiced. As he told me I am "on the wrong track", I merely told him "I think I'm on a damm GOOD track". End of story...Mind S is fine I'm sure:>)

        Thanks Birdia. You are right again:>)
  • Mind S

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    Mar 22 2011: Hello Colleen,
    About NDE. I was discussing the issue with a friend who is neurologist. He thinks the phenomenon translates the FUNCTION OF A DYING BRAIN. The similarities in NDE reports are due to the fact that all brains die in the same way. He affirmed that NDE has no "spiritual" implication.
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      Mar 22 2011: Hello Mind S,
      That's an interesting affirmation. I suggest that he probably does not believe in spirituality, so he will frame his perception around his own beliefs. As I've been saying right along, I do not have to name it, identify it, in any specific way. I've discussed it with several neurologists, neurosurgeons, psychologists, etc., all of whom have different perspectives. I believe it could be spiritual or scientific because I am open to all possibilities:>) So, if this phenomenon translates to "Dying Brain", and "all brains die in the same way", why is it that my brain is not dead? Or perhaps you believe it is??? LOL:>)
      • Mind S

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        Mar 22 2011: Well Colleen, you disappoint me this time! but I forgive you :-)
        A “dying brain” doesn’t necessarily end with complete death, which is an irreversible process. It is clinically known that a dying person is either in irreversible coma, hence the return of life is impossible, or in reversible coma in which case the person could recover and return back to life.

        But I confess that your last sentence kept me smiling while typing!
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          Mar 22 2011: I cannot "disappoint" you Mind S. You can only be disappointed with information that you choose to be disappointed with...your thoughts and feelings are your choice. Before you can forgive me, you'd have to blame me for something...good luck with that:>)

          So, how do you explain the situation where a person (me) is not expected to live because of proven clinical information...authenticated by text books no less, and yet here I am? What is your theory Mind S? You never disappoint me, and I'm happy I can facilitate smiling in you:>)
  • Comment deleted

    • Mar 22 2011: Kathy K

      Thanks for the link Kathy. It opens up the door even further to our understanding of this immaterial inner part of our being that we give the name "consciousness"...

      Havn't seen Budimir here though...
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      Mar 22 2011: Ok so this discussion got really convoluted and I can't keep track of everything. This is in response to the post you made before this. I will read the link that you posted later when I have more time.

      Ok so you are defining consciousness as a subtle energy and matter beyond the scope of science. But words like energy and matter have no meaning outside the framework of science. There is no matter without mass and there is no energy without joules, these are fundamental units that science needs to measure in order to define a thing as "matter" or "energy."

      The hard problem of consciousness is that science can't define consciousness as any of these things which are substantial. And the terms "energy" and "matter' cannot be used in any meaningful or conceptual sense to describe consciousness.
      • Mar 23 2011: Hi Budimir,
        The material sciences of today have not developed the tools to measure consciousness or what some here call energy (in the material sense of energy, like electrical...) we naturally call things of a spiritual nature by more "material" words and use material definitions simply because we don't have the vocabulary for such things... But some similarities are there... such as electrical energy is not at all visible.. you can see its effects... but electricity itself is quite invisible...Maybe someday science will develop the tools to measure consciousness... but I doubt it...
        Have you been following along in the discussion or have you been away for a while ?
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          Mar 23 2011: I've been popping in and out, sometimes my posts get lost in the discussion because it is a very active thread.

          Yes so we don't have the vocabulary for such things and they are clearly defined by a different nature than things which are measurable and can be mathematically determined. In the coming years maybe someone will develop a means to measure consciousness but until that happens I don't think anyone can confidently claim that it is an energy or a material. If pure consciousness did exert energy then that energy should leave some kind of evidence behind, undetectable energy is no energy at all. It is how we seperate hallucinations from material things. Hallucinations can be quite convincing but they don't have detectable influence on the physical world.

          Electricity does however, even if it is not directly observable it still produces physical effects on objects and these effects can be measured and precisely determined with the units of energy. So there is every reason to believe actual energy is manifesting.
      • Mar 24 2011: Budimir,

        As I said earlier... about 467 posts back.... that the spiritual element in man reveals itself through everything that mankind has manifested in the world through his activity of thinking. Thinking is the direct expression of consciousness and is revealed by its "footprints" in the neurological activity of the physical brain. To say that the neurological activity or firing of neurons is coming from and originating in the grey matter of the brain is the materialists illusion. The subject in an MRI machine must be first have to decide to think about one subject of another in order to measure and locate this
        activity. Of course the activity may come about "by itself" but the individuality that initiates the neural activity must engage his thinking via his consciousness. The thinking is the tool of the "observer" "witness" or the "one doing the thinking" the "thinker". Yes, you can say that consciousness or "the spiritual entity" in us engages the thinking process that then reveals itself in the manifestation of the firing of the neurons in the brain... If one would use the same interpretation of again this "energy" which is by no means physical and then measure this "energy" as for example when a person is asleep as compared with when the person is in active thought, then you might "measure" what I'm talking about
        but you still would be measuring only consciousness's "effects" on the brain and not the "cause" of this thinking activity.
  • Comment deleted

    • Mar 21 2011: I don't put any negative content in the word "occult" but I know it scares a lot of people... just like the word "reincarnation" scares people... especially those coming from the traditional Christian background. I interpret the word occult simply as "hidden" no more .. no less.. But I know it carries a baggage of negative associations along with it from the church and the more conservative religious right wing..
      Sounds very interesting about the reflected light source and non-reflected light... can you tell us a little bit about it ?
      I am acquainted with the word etheric ... although I don't think too many others here are... can't you present a few basic ideas for us?
      • Comment deleted

        • Mar 22 2011: Got ya Ed... all sounds very very interesting ! I'll try to take a look at these in the course of the next few days. I have noted all of your references so you can remove now... Thanks again.
        • Mar 22 2011: ...Poof....

          Again Ed.... well said !
  • Mind S

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    Mar 20 2011: Daniel,
    “ideas/language/thinking” have emergence, they don’t enjoy eternality. Evolution is the main culprit. Human thoughts, intelligence and language have evolved over time. Self-consciousness and language are among the evolved cognitive faculties that set us distinct from other creatures.
    Cognitive science, anthropology, ethology and comparative psychology explain the evolution of human thinking and related entities.

    BTW, the majority of Aristotle thoughts are now obsolete and currently bear no more than historical interest. We no longer consult Aristotle’s treatises for the purpose of acquiring knowledge (except by those who rely heavily on metaphysics and associated eternal, circular debates that thrive on gaps in our knowledge!) . Regards.
    • Mar 20 2011: Oh... I wouldn't by any means call Aristotle's thoughts obsolete....seldom understood perhaps...

      Just what do have to say about the four elements Mind S.

      It might be interesting to hear just what these concepts mean to you... maybe thats why you call them obsolete simply because you have never grasped the full value of their meaning...
    • Mar 20 2011: Colleen,
      I kind of felt you were still out there ! It's nice to have someone around who can tell us first hand what its like on the "other side" We were in on that old subject of just where thoughts come from again... Is is ourselves that create them or are they sort of in the cosmic ether already that we just sort of pull down... as you were saying about intuition ... its almost beyond our capacity to fully understand it.... It lies in a deeper level ... or perhaps a higher level of that we call daily awake consciousness.
      Can you agree with the idea that creative thoughts come from a higher level of consciousness... such as intuition or imagination or inspiration.... Can it be that when we are really creative that we are getting "messages" from the spiritual world...?
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        Mar 20 2011: Yes Daniel, I'm still here haunting you! LOL:>)

        Yes...thoughts are created by us, and they are "sort of in the cosmic ether already" as you say...yes, sometimes beyond our capacity to fully understand...deeper level...or perhaps higher level of consciousness:>)

        i believe that thoughts often come from a higher level of consciousness, which can also be called intuition, imagination or inspiration. I believe there is a collective consciousness, or universal consciousness and the information from that source is unlimited:>)

        I also believe that we create our own reality, so if we do not believe this, then it is not our reality:>)
        • Mar 20 2011: Colleen,
          Would you say that a person who lives as a materialist, thinks as a materialist, never offered a thought to the spiritual world... when this person dies... would you say that their experience of the spiritual world also depends on how they lived and thought here in the earthly school...?
          Would it be correct to say that a person who has no concerns with spiritual thoughts here on the earthly plane will not have them in the spirit world either...? Would you say that their existence in the afterlife would be perhaps very grey...? (Here I go.. shooting away all my questions right at you again.. hope it's O.K. with you ...;-)
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        Mar 20 2011: Dear Daniel,No problem with the questions:>) So, I repeat..."I believe that we create our own reality", so what we believe, becomes our reality. We will live our lives based on the information we have, which is why I keep suggesting to be open to all information. We don't need to accept all information as our own, but being open, allows us to evaluate more information. You know how scientist believed the world was flat, and everyone believed what the scientists said until there was new information?

        Those who address "the nature of consciousness" from a scientific approach, obviously have scientific information/backgrounds, and those who approach the discussion from a spiritual place, may have a belief in a god or some spiritual, religious or philosophical information they have embraced as a life practice. Neither is right or wrong...just different.

        My experience with the life review, was that it was how I lived my life that was most important. Very basic stuff! Was I kind, considerate, respectful and loving to others? There is nothing wrong with having a materialistic perspective. How we use that information is the important piece. Is our materialistic belief that all material things are just for us as individuals? Do we horde material things
        and prevent others from sharing the "stuff"? Or, do we focus on the materialistic for the good of all
        mankind? Do you understand? How we use any information to form our life experience is the important piece, in my humble perception.

        I do not believe it is correct to assume that a person who has no concerns with spiritual thoughts here on the earthly plane will not have them elsewhere. As energy beings, and as humans, our focus and life experience can change at any given time. My experience tells me that we are all energy beings on another plane, and neither white, grey or black...no color...no concrete perception that I can explain in human terms.
    • Mar 20 2011: Mind S

      In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

      The gospel according to St. John

      I know this isn't exactly from one of your axioms of belief but sometimes a little bit of the more religious sides of life fall into place if one really allows the ideas to live, to give life to the ideas.... just the idea of the word "believe"... could be read as ..." to enliven " .... to enliven your thoughts... give them movement and fill them with a living force that carries them to another dimension. Sometimes logical thought may struggle to keep up but that doesn't mean that logical thought has no place.... It's sort of like the logicalness of Euclid's geometry vs. the progressive or synthetic geometry of Aristotle.. they come from different axioms but can both be seen to be true...
      livelyness of Aristotelian geometry... The geometry of the infinite demands a certain sense of movement that logical thought can always easily follow, this can be said about the spiritual world as well. The limits of logic must be set into movement, movement that can rise above space and time as we are familiar with here on the physical plane of existence.
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    Mar 20 2011: If we surgically remove a part of your brain, does that mean that aspect of your consciousness is gone? Can you lose parts of consciousness? How much do you have to remove before you're no longer "conscious"? Are people who are diagnosed as mentally insane, who lack certain consistencies or abilities or full functionality in their brains less aware? And in what sense?
    • Mar 20 2011: Hi Minh,
      You see the exact same thing in people that have had internal bleeding in the brain... some have the strength to overcome the injury and others do not, depending on the severity of the bleeding as well as the strength of the will of the individual to reestablish the lost functions of the brain. A person who has had a stroke can reestablish the language centers of the brain in a new area of the brain that was perhaps for another function or had no apparent visible function.... as they say, we only actually use a small % of the total capacity of the brain. To damage the antenna of the radio doesn't necessarily mean that the radio or the signal are malfunctioning. The first impression may say to you that the part of the brain itself is producing the language function... but this, in my way of seeing things is a fallacy. The brain is the antenna for the ideas/language/thinking to come in...
      A mentally ill person can have a damaged antenna yes, or perhaps another region of the whole constitution of the body. Because the body is in an intricate balance with the brain function, a malfunction in one of the organs can create an imbalance in the brain.
      The imbalance that shows itself in what we called handicapped individuals can reveal an inner reality to the true nature of consciousness. By studying these imbalances in the handicapped person we can gain insight into that which we call the "normal" nature of consciousness. This is a rather esoteric perspective of what consciousness is all about and I'm not so sure that this is the right forum to go into such detail on... but perhaps just a little example or two if your interested Minh.

      Are you interested ?
      • Mind S

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        Mar 20 2011: daniel,

        “The brain is the antenna for the ideas/language/thinking to come in...”

        To come in from where?
        You have wild, unrestrained imagination indeed. What you assert has no basis in reality and can’t be considered more than utter nonsense. Sorry.
        • Mar 20 2011: Turn it around and look at this way .. that you yourself are the creator of your thoughts and language and ideas.. but where have "you" gotten them/it from... where have you gotten your language from.. have you perhaps developed your own language..? no, its something that has come to you from the outside..or ? Have you had any "original ideas"lately? what is the last idea that you've come up with yourself ? Of course it is possible to have an original idea, but it is mostly artists or scientific researchers or other people on the raged edge of their inner creative activity... an artist is always living on this edge where ideas stream into ones consciousness creating a turbulence of activity that can often lie outside of the artists own ability to convert it to the canvas or other medium of their own expression or creative spirit. Ask any artist about this creative process happens, how the experience is just that ! They feel as they "pull the ideas down" or out of somewhere that they, in moments of inspiration, can gain access to this "inner / outer" world
          Even a scientist will tell you of the same form for creative activity as something that "comes" to him / her. Read what Oppenheimer says about developing the A bomb
          This "where" that you ask for is perhaps not a spacial thing at all.. if you go back to the example that I gave about the point / plane....or circle / line .. expanding the point of infinity.. do you start to see "where" I'm getting at ? If you can't relocate that example that I gave to Tim, then I can perhaps rewrite it again... but take a look for it first.... but it is like someone else was saying that which axioms one chooses from the starting point... as can parallel lines meet ? Most people are in agreement with this statement, but one can also agree that they can meet..at a "place" called the "ideal point" .. this isn't my "nonsense" Mind S but it belongs, as far as I know to the ideas of Aristotle.. In Euclidian geometry the axiom is another.
        • Mar 20 2011: That you "experience" your ideas as coming from within you is pretty much a big illusion... this is the real nonsense... if you think about it, the cosmic consciousness that some other people have spoken about here on this discussion suddenly takes on a different dimension when you start to imagine that is is actually full of... "ideas".... wow... its pretty mind blowing to put it lightly.... It's not the endless cosmic "nothingness" but it's the birthplace of the "creative force that gives us the ability to think or to pull down ideas...!

          What you are of course proposing is the traditional experience of the modern western world of perceiving the nature of the human thought process.... its and interesting observation that when the development of "self-consciousness" becomes so strongly developed that the thoughts are experienced as also coming from "within me" ...and not from the external world... Perhaps the ancient philosophers experienced thought as coming from the "outer world"..." to them"
          I would like to raise a question to those out there reading this.....

          What does the development of self-consciousness have to do with the impression or the experience that we have of that thoughts are my own and they come from within me..?
          Many will say this is a radical proposition and has no root in reality at all... thats fine... we can progress in a discussion anyway... I am absolutely open to the chance of being completely wrong on this.... I haven't any real person investment in the idea... so... maybe we can all take a look at it together.... Its just an idea that I'm throwing out there....
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      Mar 20 2011: Dear Minh Do,
      I will try to answer your questions above as one small person who had an experience with a brain injury. I am not a scientist, and do not try to explain anything from a scientific place.

      21 years ago, I sustained a near fatal head/brain injury while horseback riding. The shoed hoof of the horse connected with my head and caused an inward fractured skull. In other words, the fracture was into the brain in the right temporal lobe area, and caused sub dural bleeding. Luckily, circumstances conspired so that I got to the hospital within an hour, otherwise I would not have lived. It happened that the director of the neurosurgery dept. at the univ.of Vt. was on call that day and happened to be in the hosp. when I arrived, so I went directly into surgery for a craniotomy. The blood was evacuated and damaged brain tissue removed, after which I was attached to life support systems and unconscious for 2 weeks.

      During the first two days in ICU, the body hovered between life and death. When I could function again, I obtained my medical records to varify what was going on clinically. During that time, my energy/spirit left the body. Although the body was unconscious as defined by the medical model, I was much more conscious on many other levels. I could see the body...not a pretty sight by the way! I was totally detached from the body and saw it as a vehicle that carries me through this earth school. I was aware of a much larger picture of "consciousness". I was aware of the thoughts and feelings of those around me in the room, and could see everything very clearly, from a place other than my brain. My experience is that consciousness is an energy that moves through the body, including the brain. When the energy that is the true "me" came back into the body, the condition of the body stabalized, and I continued to live. I was not expected to live, and I was not expected to ever function again, and here I am doing both:>)
      • Mind S

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        Mar 20 2011: Dear Colleen,
        Have you reported this "experience" to a neurologist or psycho neurologist? Specialists in this field may provide scientific/natural explanation that is different from what you think about. Glad to know your amiable personality.
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          Mar 20 2011: Hi Mind S,
          Of course it was reported to many neurologists. I was considered somewhat of a medical miracle...LOL:>)

          I went through tests...tests...tests...
          I guest lectured on the topic at the Univ. of Vt. for 6 years...
          There could be MANY explainations! Have you checked out Near Death Experience Research...try googling it if you're interested:>)

          I appreciate your amiable personality too...thanks:>)
      • Mar 20 2011: Welcome back Colleen! You've been gone too long...
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          Mar 20 2011: Thanks Daniel,
          Haven't been gone...just observing:>)
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    Mar 19 2011: One of the most brilliant writers on this topic is a man named Harry Hunt from an obscure Canadian university called Brock University. He has done work integrating altered states of consciousness like drug states, near death experiences and other ways the brain performs while mentally ill or healthy to theorize about consciousness. His books are a dense but enlightening and worthwhile read for anyone who is truly interested. This guy puts the deep in 'deep thinker' using everyone from Freud to Hidegger and modern neuroscience and beyond.
    • Mar 19 2011: Thanks Debra,
      Welcome to the debate! Harry Hunt is a new name for me, but I always find it interesting to hear what other people are interested in. I'll try to get a chance to google him up... Maybe you could come with a few ideas or comments that would maybe create a new direction for us here... There is an amazing amount of people that find this very interesting... I wonder how many readers there are that don't leave a comment...
      Please write more, we are (or some of us are) open to new ideas and input ;-)
    • Mar 19 2011: Now were talkin' Debra ! This is a very interesting contribution to the discussion ... can't say that I understand it all but am working on it. Are you perhaps a stringent follower ? What else you got up your sleeve Debra ?

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        Mar 20 2011: Hello Daniel,
        You make me feel most welcome and I am delighted that you looked up Harry Hunt. He is facinating. I won a book prize when I graduated from my undergrad degree and I chose one of his and had him sign it for me. If it has to do with consciousness, Harry has considered it.
        One of his ideas is that we learn most about normal consciousness when we observe altered states. When I TA'd for Harry we learned so much about cognitive states of people who believe that they were abducted by aliens, dream states such a lucid dreaming, mediatation, mental illness and drug states. Each of these states has much to teach us about our functioning in day to day consciousness.
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          Mar 20 2011: Hi again Debra:>)
          I'm not familier with Harry Hunt or his work, but I totally agree that we learn...when we observe altered states. Each of these states has much to teach us about our functioning in day to day consciousness. The only thing we need to do is open our heart and mind to access this information:>)
          Thanks Debra:>)
        • Mar 21 2011: Nice to have you with us Debra, I'm sure you have some valuable contributions to the discussion. Please feel free to present some of your ideas. You surely have many if you won a book prize !! I too was going to put out some things that are of this nature.. I may try to write some of these "alternate states" of consciousness a little bit later in response to Minh Do and a question she had. The thread here is just coming over the 500 mark and that proves that there is a growing interest for such topics...
          I havn't gotten a chance to read so much of Harry Hunt yet, just the link that I set out. He certainly follows along my line of thought... at least thats my first impression.
          Thanks again for your contributions !!
        • Mar 21 2011: Debra,
          I was surprised to hear that the direction of research H.H. has taken him towards the phenomenon of sleep. Sleep is something that I mentioned earlier here on this thread, but like Ed says... you might need a GPS to find it. 500 and climbing is pretty amazing!
          What I wanted to say also relates to sleep in a very special way.
          I can begin gently, because some of these ideas are pretty esoteric and unless you have read a bit of esoteric literature, they my strike you as being very strange. It may depend on how you relate to "spiritual" concepts and just what your religious background is, but I hope that you can try to have an open mind about it.. not so open as... open at both ends... but still open ;-)
          Our discussion has been focused mostly around the everyday consciousness we are in in the waking state. Sleep is of course another state of consciousness.
          The basis for what I will try to present has its ideas from the ancients, perhaps especially the Greek philosophy with the principles of the four elements as the starting point... It's not really as mystical as it may sound. But others here have sort of set aside philosophers like Aristotle who had an active understanding of these principles. They saw life through other glasses back then and I think they also drew their ideas from earlier mystics that have been passed along through time. But today, we don't even consider them that much... MindS says that he is obsolete.. I choose to disagree.
          If we start with the four elements in the order from the bottom up ...
          These are the active, living principles that they viewed the world we live in by. Everything was either more or less a part of these four elements. What we see today as naive, has some hidden mysteries that can begin to explain the constitution of our being without sacrificing our logical thought process. Logic is something that we demand in our world view today and rightly so. But to "try on" these ancient ideas can do no harm..
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        Mar 21 2011: Here is one example of an altered state that I learned as I TA'd for Harry. It is interesting that many people from all around the world have the same basic report of what an alien looks like after believing that they have experienced an encounter. One interesting bit of research indicates that most people encounter aliens at specific times of day and in certain situations. One theory is that in the hypnogogic stage of sleep (the stage when you are sleepy but believe you are still awake )- if you pay attention to the way your face feels as though it distorts as it relaxes into sleep - it actually is a mirror of what we think of as an alien face- big eyes, small chin, larger forehead.It may be that people who are falling asleep may have a mental projection of their own face and believe that they have seen it. Many people believe that they have experienced alien abduction. It could be true and it is very true to those who have experienced it. Research has indicated that people often are abducted from their own beds and are transported out the window by a tractor type of beam. They can relate their experience in great detail. In very detailed subsequent research though, it appears that they can recreate the room in great detail but they do get the real details of the room wrong. They can report furniture that was in the wrong position or other anomalies. One explanation is that they were acturally in another hypnographic stage of sleep where dreams can mix with reality and be very real. While none of this totally negates people's lived experience it may offer a scientific explanation that illuminates consciousness.
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          Mar 21 2011: I share another example of a state of consciousness. I'm sure you're familier with disociation, or disassociation? The ability to remove ourselves mentally from a situation...usually trauma? It is sometimes called a "disorder" and I believe it to be a gift.
          Apparently, I used this practice as a child to "escape" the rage of my violent, abusive father. I was not conscious of using the practice until an experience in my late 30s.

          I was in a sailboat race one afternoon. We had high winds and not enough crew. I, and 2 strong men were pulling in the spiniker, when the wind caught it and popped it out, causing the 3 of us to hurttle across the deck. I was pulled into a metal winch which struck my chest. I finished the race with discomfort. After the race, I had just enough time to get cleaned up and drive to the theater, where I was performing a lead role in a musical production. I was in considerable pain, and having difficulty breathing, but it never crossed my mind that I would not do the performance. While preparing for the performance (hair, make-up, costume, physical/vocal warm-ups) the pain started to subside. By the time I was on stage, I was the character. There was no evidence of Colleen injured in a sailboat race. This is not unusual for actors to put themselves in a different state of consciousness, often performing comedic roles, when sick or "down" in their own life experiences, or melodramatic roles when their life is wonderful. We connect with a different state of consciousness.

          The day after the performance, I was in pain, so decided to have it checked out. I had 4 cracked, but not displaced ribs. For the next 2 weeks of performances, I rested, took care of the body in the daytime and did the performance at night, with the same results.
          Years later, when faced with a near fatal head injury and cancer at the same time, I knew the routine pretty well! This is a state of consciousness available to us...could be considered spiritual, scientific...or not:>)
        • Mar 21 2011: To give a short overview of the four elements. What this has to do with consciousness will become clear in a bit.

          earth- all that is physical, the things we see and touch, have mass weight etc.

          water- The living...the plant, as the next higher level of development, this has to do with the element of life. Animals and man/woman also have this element within itself.. or we can call it a "life force" generally not excepted as scientific, but remember this is just a model of a way of seeing things. Scientific or not.. it remains to be proven if there is such a thing as a life force. We can hold it open as a possibility.
          Air- The air element is that of the animal level where the air is breathed in. This is the level of a feeling being, with both senses of pleasure and pain, sympathy and antipathy, both physical and emotional pleasure / pain.
          Fire- or some call it warmth or light element. This is particular to man. This is the thinking aspect as well as the self-consciousness that lies within us.. as opposed to the animal where there is consciousness but not internally experienced as self-consciousness.
          This is a brief overview of these four elemental "processes" remember that they are not so simple as the physical aspects that can seem quite naive to us with our modern day thinking. But think of them as active principles that work even down into the finest of matter. The next picture is where the consciousness comes in. Again this is no "scientific explanation" but one can surely experience it as something very real.

          Think of yourself lying in bed.. and at the moment of falling to sleep, the two higher elements rise out of the physical body... the feeling element and the self-consciousness lift out of the physical and life body that remains in the bed... you sleep, you dream, and in the morning you wake up again and your being is "whole" with the two higher elemental processes
          now "reincarnated"with the lower two levels again... we actually reincarnate every morning
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        Mar 21 2011: Thanks for digging out the link Daniel. The following was particularly interesting:

        "... what of the ongoing debates about the point of emergence of consciousness in nature? There are those who see consciousness-even a simple and immediate one-as only emergent through the evolution of complex enough neural nets. ... Or, there are those who seek to rest a primary or basic consciousness on the field properties of quantum physics.

        "Where to most plausibly place the emergence of consciousness seems a major key to all subsequent theory and research. If it is placed significantly too high or too low the entire field of consciousness studies will be distorted. I would argue from a primacy of experience perspective-locating the most basic consciousness in immediate perception and its behavioral manifestations-that both the neurocognitive and quantum explanations are ultimately reductionistic and so obscure the most basic features of consciousness itself.

        "If we assign primary consciousness on a need to know basis then it is probably first visible in all creatures who move enough in relation to their surroundings that some self-location during and after each movement will be necessary for survival. Single cell organisms meet this criterion ..."
        • Mar 22 2011: Tim,
          I think I can agree quite well with what HH is getting at.
          I can neither find any discrepency in what HH is saying and what I have been saying all along..
          HH is very good at keeping his "feet on the mat" of the scientific perspective of the immaterial phenomenon of consciousness...
          Do you find anything HH says that contradicts that which I have been saying here on TED ?
          Although I take the word "spirit" more concretely in my mouth.... HH is clearly leaning in that direction... the plausibility of the metaphysical is also taken into account.. the experiencial within each of us, the self-consciousness aspect of our being that cannot be set aside from the scientific method of research... we are, in our activity of observation....in our activity of thinking and re-thinking are taking part in this fundamental aspect of our inner being...
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        Mar 21 2011: Hello Colleen and Daniel,First to Colleen, I fully agree that disassociation is an excellent example of an altered state from which we can learn a lot and which enables people to survive serious trauma. I am not sure, however that your second example of the injury on the boat followed by the abiltiy to perform is disassociation. I think that perhaps your earlier trauma and disassociation led to a sharpened ability to focus and that is more akin to self hynosis. Your experiences became cumulative so that you could gain more control and more benefit.
        Daniel- I think Harry would say that your examples from Aristotle are an example of using fresh or novel imagery to allow new modes of thinking to be productive. While he is fully versed on the philosophers his example here would be the I Ching which, although I am not nearly conversent enough about it - would give new images to frame current experiences. For example lood at the way you have used the words and described their attributes. The I Ching frames people's place in life with images of trees and horses and when you take a problem that is bothering you - say your relationship with your boss and you think of it in images that you would never have applied to that relationship- it allows you to think with new parts of your brain and in new ways in the hope of jumping out of a cognitive rut to spark new ways of considering the problems.
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          Mar 21 2011: Thanks for the diagnosis Debra. I really don't care what it's called. I was simply sharing an experience of another state of consciousness:>) Not only does this practice allow us to "survive" trauma, but in my experience, it allows us to move through experiences in a different way...a different consciousness, from which we can learn:>)
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      Mar 21 2011: Debra: Thanks for the references to Harry Hunt. He seems to be a very clear and pragmatic thinker.
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        Mar 22 2011: Hi Tim!
        I am totally delighted that you found something positive in it!
  • Mind S

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    Mar 19 2011: In a previous post I raised the issue of the large number of people in this forum who are obsessed by subjective, paranormal phenomena and weird beliefs with particular strong attachment to mysticism of ancient, pre-modern scientific era cultures (May be it is their way to escape the stressful conditions of modern life?). Also I criticised our scientific education system in its failure to root the scientific thinking process of alumni of science and technology. Now, it happened that I came into a Gallop poll (2005) that confirms the gap between technical progress and mentality of many people who seem to still retain Medieval beliefs). Gallop 2005 poll indicates that “About three in four Americans profess at least one paranormal belief” and it affords the following shocking list:

    American population believe in:
    Extrasensory perception, or ESP 41%
    That houses can be haunted 37%
    Ghosts/that spirits of dead people can come back in certain places/situations 32%
    Telepathy/communication between minds without using traditional senses 31%
    Clairvoyance/the power of the mind to know the past and predict the future 26%
    Astrology, or that the position of the stars and planets can affect people's lives 25%
    That people can communicate mentally with someone who has died 21%
    Witches 21%
    Reincarnation, that is, the rebirth of the soul in a new body after death 20%
    Channeling/allowing a 'spirit-being' to temporarily assume control of body 9%

    Would everybody, please, reflect sincerely on this saddening reality?
    • Mar 19 2011: Mind S
      Perhaps some of these people have had real experiences in such things first hand.. Have you ever considered this possibility? It's not at all logical to close out all possibilities just because your trying to have a scientific outlook on life. They were pretty interesting stats. though. I have heard that the % of people in the U.S.that believe in reincarnation is around 49% That's pretty surprising if true.. 20% sounds a little bit low... It would interesting to hear the % of the whole worlds population. Interesting how it appears that the more "supernatural" sides of reality exist so much more strongly in the less technologically developed cultures.... to extremes... like in some African countries with witch doctors and such.
      But I would call it a cheep shot to simply write off all things of a paranormal nature. Theres far more to it than that. Perhaps it's just that certain forces of the more scientific cultures try so hard to push it off into the corner and not look at what might be something more under the surface. If you just write it off... because it doesn't fit into your perspective of things than it keeps your own perspective very comfortable. You think you've got everything under control... To put it all off as superstition.. means you don't have to deal with it all... because there is nothing real about it.... yes? But if you ever by chance come over just one of these phenomenon and really go into it, research it, perhaps meet a scientific person of "authority" one that you can believe ..(....) it may just cause a domino effect.... but be careful because there is a lot out there that is really a lot of bull... but your thinking and scientific method will lead you to the things that are true...If you simply continue to write them all of and only live in "the box" of materialistic thinking then your natural scepticism will limit your own development. You might become cynical towards life in general... this is even a more saddening reality ..
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      Mar 20 2011: Hello Mind S,To your points about the number of people who believe in what you might consider the unscientific. Please see the link that Daniel posted below my post which will take you to the work of Harry Hunt. This man works to link all of these percieved phenomenon into a fairly unified illumination of cognitive states. You might find this interesting and it might reduce your level of frustration.
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    Mar 18 2011: collective consiousness
    • Mar 19 2011: Nice comment Tim ! .... say some more... I know your out there somewhere.... Theres nothing so soothing as a good sense of humor...!
  • Mar 18 2011: Is there anybody out there ??
    • Comment deleted

      • Mar 20 2011: You've been pretty quiet there Birdia these past few days.... cat got your tongue ?
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          Mar 20 2011: Hello Goddess Birdia,
          I am humbled in your presence:>)
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          Mar 20 2011: Thank you Birdia, for being you and sharing the gift with me. I've read most of your comments, so I'm pretty sure you do not agree with me regarding what consciousness is. That is the gift we share...our differences:>) We can disagree on certain topics and still communicate with kindness, respect and love:>) I LOVE IT!!!
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          Mar 20 2011: We can all "only share what we know" either from personal experience, or from research/study. That's the beauty of it! We can open our hearts and minds to others, or we can dismiss everything someone says that does not fit into our preconcieved beliefs. I believe I am giving myself a gift to be open to others' perspectives. We don't have to all agree, in order to live together peacefully on this earth school. When we realize that, we may consciously create more peace in our world:>)
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          Mar 20 2011: Maybe that's why I came back here...to convert the world...LOL!!!

          Remember what I told you once Birdia? "Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused":>) I take myself pretty lightly:>)

          Back to the story and your questions:
          I can only describe it as something like a strong sense of intuition, gut feeling or ESP. There was a sense of "knowing".
          There were no limitations regarding space or boundaries...it was unlimited. I was simply a mass of energy.

          It WAS pretty fascinating to me and nothing that "fit" into my previous belief system. I did a lot of research and pondering to come to terms with it. I remember the first time I spoke about the experience at the Univ., I was almost expecting rotten fruit to be thrown at me for having such an idea!!! LOL! However, the students were very receptive and there were always students who had a similar experience or knew someone who did. It's really pretty common. As I suggested to Mind S, google Near Death Research if you're interested. Some of the recorded experiences are pretty interesting...some not so much:>)
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          Mar 20 2011: Yeah...I'm back to stay for awhile:>)

          I agree...I don't "think" too much either...usually "feel" more than "think".

          So, what do you think/feel that intuition is? Where do you think/feel it comes from?
          See, that is what I call energy/consciousness. It is not coming from my thinking brain, it is coming from somewhere else...in my humble opinion:>)
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          Mar 20 2011: Doesn't really matter what words we use to describe it. I agree...instinct, intuition, deeper than we can understand sometimes. I think/feel it much like electrical energy running through the body. It could have a "glowing quality" or not...depends on how we percieve it.

          You know the feeling when you're instantly attracted to someone...or not? There is some underlying sense (intuition, instinct, or something deeper). It is not the thought process that is giving us that information usually...it is something deeper huh? What is that? Where does it come from? Animals often instinctively "know" people. On some level, they sense whether the person likes animals or not huh? A horse will immediately sense if the person on their back is an experienced rider or not. Where does that come from? What connects us to other people and all living things? See, my experience tells me it's energy. Even science is recognizing the energy connections with all living things:>)

          One of my favorite horses to ride was a little quarter horse/buckskin named Bucky. When he had a little kid or inexperienced rider on his back, he would hang his head and mope along peacefully. When an experienced rider first put a foot in the stirup, Bucky's head would pop up, and he was prancing around ready to ride. Where does that come from? I believe there is an energy connection that can be called intuition, instinct, or consciousness.
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          Mar 20 2011: I agree with you Birdia,
          "Love/truth can be a fact, with or without a god":>)
          Thank you so much for your kind words. I appreciate you:>)
      • Mar 20 2011: Birdia,
        aahh, ...yes, ... one coffee and a jelly donut please... hold the cream..... and thank you !

        What do you mean divided ?

        United or divided.. we march on... some getting closer to each other others drifting like
        satellites out into the cosmic consciousness.... we're gonna get all the way from here to there ... even if we gotta walk a million miles by candle light....
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          Mar 20 2011: Yeah...god and allah are friends...I've been talking to them:>)

          YOU are the "salt of the earth" Ed, and if you will deliver one of those good sounding sandwiches to the Goddesses, we would be forever grateful....right Birdia? LOL:>)
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      Mar 20 2011: God, where are you?
      • Mar 20 2011: The kingdom of God is "within you" as the Christ being has told us ! The Christ said "I am the
        " I am" ...."
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    • Mar 19 2011: Thanks for the in depth reply Ed.. I'm gonna take a look at "power and force" as soon as I get some time off. He was a puzzling little figure of a man... but such is often genius.. I think of little crippled man..astrophysicist Steven Hawkins.... people with epilepsy can often show great genius too...
      How was dinner at the Irish pub ...?
      My father's family is Irish ... but you are in the U.S.... I guess...?
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        • Mar 20 2011: Your really gonna get the materialists on our backs if you keep using words like "etheric doubles" .... maybe we should start our own new discussion anyway.... on perhaps the occult science of the evolution of the earth.... that would blow their ships outa the water .... ;-)
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    • Mar 17 2011: Hi Ed, I think that would be setting the plow too deep Ed... but I think maybe some of us could hang on in the fast curves. But take yourself seriously and start a conversation.. I'll promise to be there !

      Who do you read Ed ?
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        • Mar 17 2011: Hello again Ed.. I think I'm gonna have to google him up ...yes ..

          Just between you and I ....Rudolf Steiner is my main man... If you haven't read his work then you should take a good long look at it...

          As for the back of my eye lids... Its a long hard climb.... but I guess we can get all the way from here to there... even if we've gotta walk a million miles by candle light.....
        • Mar 17 2011: Yes, Hawkins is quite interesting.... listening to him now... juice of the ego....
    • Mar 18 2011: CONTINUED FROM ABOVE


      This "meme" concept is actually a pretty interesting vending in RD pattern of thinking.. as he has always been shouting material ! material ! material ! .and now he's (excuse the pun.. evolved) to a higher level of a debate that begins to sound almost . shall we say . immaterial. After all, an idea is nothing mysterious..or is it ?
      If you can venture away from your box a little bit Tim, take down your barriers to the word spirit. (this is where I'm trying to build the bridge) replace the word,if you will,with consciousness, and don't let my slightly provocative interchanging of the two disturb you.
      The whole "meme" idea is something that RD proposes, something that lives in the consciousness of people, wanders about in our consciousness from person to person, culture to culture, perhaps one day, taking over the whole world...yes, we agree, everyone on the planet, yes the world is round
      That the focus is now turned toward consciousness and ideas, RD might get his foot in the door to some higher truths... but he would never admit it. never call them spiritual.. he would surely find another word, another concept, so that it wouldn't smell of anything spiritual.. even if the "content of the(his) concept" happened to be exactly the same as what I might call spirit. He would be forced to disagree because he has invested his whole life proving the "scientific fact" that there is no such thing as spirit..
      As much as I pity RD with his poverished perspectives and his little world of arrogance and disdain, I must admit I felt a sense of relief for him when he finally reached the path of searching in the realm of consciousness of the answers to the real mystery of man. a sense of compassion arose in me.(compassion is almost a religious feeling) for a man that has been searching so hard for so long and finally started to look for his answers in the immaterial world.. the spreading of an idea world, the invisible or spiritual world .. if you will
  • Mar 17 2011: Tim, . (thats better !)where ever you are on this long, long thread ! ..
    I see that your discussion is soon ending. It's amazing how many people are interested in these questions. They are important ones.
    You asked me Ted for a closer definition of "immaterial" I feel like I have been writing a lot about just this.
    If you can find where I wrote the example of the triangle... this is one aspect of it.
    The "idea" triangle is immaterial.... we can draw one...your idea of triangle must have the same rules of construction as my idea... this is an objective truth... as is geometry and mathematics..
    When I bring the word " soul and spirit " into the picture then things start getting interesting.. but if I just used the words ..."feeling and thinking or feeling and consciousness.. or self consciousness" then the amount of antipathy generated is somewhat less.
    Check out what I just wrote to Frederic..about adrenaline.. or triptomine .. or substances produced by the body at all.... are they the cause of the emotion or are they..."merely a by-product" .. I squeezed that one in again !
    Take a look at the parachute jumper analogy. I try hard to point out that the substances in the body are being produced by an emotion... just as the neural firing is being produced by a thought....Thoughts and emotions are as immaterial as you can get.. consciousness is immaterial...
    When you ask about energy, one might be inclined to ask what type of energy you are referring .. as there are many types of energy.... some visible and measurable and some not... take light for example... is light itself visible.. or is light something becomes visible when it hits an object ? We have learned about color as being different splitting of the light... that the light holds the colors within itself... the presence of all color is within the light.. but isn't color only visible when the light hits an object.. as the glass that splits the light up in segments? It depends how you look at it I guess.
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      Mar 17 2011: Daniel: Have you transformed me into Ted? Well in any case it's immaterial.

      The discussion of platonic ideas or forms is indeed interesting. But I can't think of anything significant to add. Does that imply that consciousness can not be broken down to processes of matter, energy, time and space? I'm not convinced.

      I like your parachute example. Does make one think about the interconnectedness of the outside world to our individual consciousness.

      Think of consciousness this way. Our brain is a complex filter. It receives lots of stimuli from the outside world and through electro/chemical processes which we are only starting to understand, selects those stimuli which are considered most pertinent to focus on. Part of this filtering process involves combining current stimuli with memories from the past in order to prioritize what to focus on. What finally emerges from the filter is our current conscious thought.

      As I mentioned before - I'm open to the existence of something other then matter, energy, time and space to be involved in the process. But it would have to be identified.

      The concept of forms does seem to fit into the picture. Our brain/filter does work by identifying patterns. We learn, through experience, to identify classes of items - trees, dogs, chairs. Some characteristics of these items share common characteristics - color, shape. The fact that some forms, such as triangles and circles, have such "pure" qualities to them is indeed an interesting fact. Anyone else have input on this one?
      • Mar 17 2011: Sorry Tim !!

        You really got a lot of interest on your topic Has rel. outlived its usefulness
        People are really burning to find some real answers these days. I see you've only got a short while left on it. What are you going to start next? I find that there goes a lot of my time to following up this site. But it is rewarding. There are some people out there that have over 500+... I guess they don't have much social life... It must take years to get so many thumbs up... I don't care too much about that though. I find that to be of little importance..
        I would like to identify things more for you Tim, but it seems that what ever present of that which I call the spiritual you still don't really want to give that idea any real weight or content of the concept. If I was to point to not only the "content" of the thought (triangle) but furthermore the energy or activity in your minds eye that could call forth this inner picture.. this energy is perhaps something that could be identified on an MRI machine... this activity we could give a name... I would call it the activity of the spirit ...scientists won't like that word... call it the "pre-neural-firing entity" or PNFE to sound really scientific... with all due respect.. there is something there to define, to identify, and in this discussion, I feel like the gap has been closed a tiny little bit with some open minds, but it's funny the people who really have caught the RDS... or (richard dawkins syndrome) are the hardest nuts to crack... It's like they have something to protect .... something that they are terribly afraid of being pushed off their thrown.... It's like a part of their identity ... in some strange way.... Just see how fired up they get when you start shaking at its foundation.... they say "we have the science, we have the fossils.... " and the fossils they indeed have.. but their thinking activity that put that whole puzzle together is in fact the purely spiritual entity which they themselves deny...
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          Mar 17 2011: Actually Daniel, RDS has been identified as simply one person's manifestation of STS (Scientific Thinking Syndrome).

          Somebody in another conversation has referred to "Confirmation Bias", something which we all are prone to. But if you think it's comical to see how fired up people who base their thinking on science get, you should just imagine how nonsensical it appears when someone's foundation is as flimsy as spirit.

          I've told you several times I'm open to the existence of unknown influences on life. But it's up to you to give "real weight or content" to the concept.
      • Mar 17 2011: Music is also very "mathematical" but the math has absolutely nothing to do with my enjoyment of the music... so and so many vibration per second have nothing to do with how much I like the music or not...
        There is surely a spiritual dimension to music, but to go into this nowwill take us too far off the path of the discussion...
      • Mar 18 2011: Tim,
        You ask for a concept of the spirit.. a concept you can ..."weigh" ??!!?? This is perhaps the root of the whole problem here... The people who "claim" to have the "scientific thinking" ..the materialists ... are not really interested in this concept at all... specifically for the reason that you cannot "weigh" it....! I've tried to fill this need of yours and actually a need that many others share with you.. It's not an easy task...
        For the first reason, there seems to be a type of blockage... like your channel is not working or not receiving... your not open to hear anything that doesn't fit in with our understanding of the world... your not alone in this.. it's actually a pretty rampant perspective on life... almost like a virus or as your hero R.Dawkins might call it a "meme". I haven't yet to fill that concept with any "weight" as you call it... but it seems to me to have, paradoxically as it may sound, a certain parallel to what I'm trying to get at.. His "idea" ...that "ideas" spread throughout the world, through human thinking, and after a certain number of years.. the idea that is the strongest..(as in his thought box of the biological evolutionary process that has later manifested itself into the realm of ideas) This meme that RD is getting at... can you weigh it or measure it ?? ... of course you can't ... It exists only on the "ideal plane" This exemplifies my previous comment perfectly.. RD can completely go along with the evolutionary process of an "idea" ... but only if it follow his thought "model" that he has invested his whole life and identity to build up... He could never open up to the ideas of the spiritual because he has invested so incredibly much of his "self" that he would have to offer in order to even begin to bend in his way of thinking... His thoughts are "frozen in the pattern", "stuck in the model"of his narrow understanding of the evolutionary process.
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          Mar 21 2011: Daniel:

          I was simply using your terminology. You said:

          "I would like to identify things more for you Tim, but it seems that what ever present of that which I call the spiritual you still don't really want to give that idea any real weight or content of the concept.."

          No, I see no "real weight or content of the concept".

          And yes, that is the crux of the problem. I'm willing to use the word as a filler word, to represent something that we don't yet understand, but that might in the future be explained in terms of "matter, energy, space and time". You refused that definition. I was open to use the word in the sense of the quintessence, that by which the whole is greater then the sum of the parts. You said your definition includes something more.

          All I can see is that you want to give "spirit" some mystical definition. Something that only an authority such as one who is deemed enlightened or has advanced knowledge of holy scripture could understand. That, to me, is a dangerous concept. It represents relinquishing control over your thought process and handing over power to someone else. See the danger?
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          Mar 21 2011: I agree with you Tim, that it is always less usefull to simply accept someone else's definitions and perceptions. We have the ability to think and feel for ourselves, and many people have given that power to someone else and follow along blindly. That is why I keep suggesting that we be open to information. We form our beliefs based on the information we have at any given moment. We don't have to accept others' information, but if we are open to it, we have the opportunity to evaluate our own truth. I see, on this site and others, where people are "stuck" in their own perceptions and will not budge. That's ok, but in my perception, when we are not open to new information, we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn and grow.

          These comment threads often end up being discussions about science vs. spirituality. Those two concepts can and do co-exist in my opinion. One is not better than the other. We all have our own experiences which provide us with the information we use to form our opinions.
      • Mar 21 2011: Tim,
        I don't by any means claim to be "enlightened" or have any advanced knowledge of the scriptures. I must admit that I do perhaps have some radical ideas about different things that can easily provoke people that perhaps haven't wandered the same path as me through life.. If I can't help you out to open your ideas to encompass the concept spirit than maybe some like Colleen can.. Here is a woman with an amazing life story.. She is right there in front of you (at least on your pc) .. ask her how it is in the spirit world.. she can tell directly what the "content" of the word is. Ask her about the energy "BODY" ... an entity of light, a form of herself in the light !! ... no ... not the light... but stronger than the light, brighter than any "physical light" ... an independent existence of an "etheric" light body.. where Colleen says she has access to all knowledge... as if it is placed out in front of her for her taking !! What in the world is this phenomenon that so many people who have had NDE tell about ? Is it just a lack of oxygen to the brain..or some other bio / chemical explanation that doesn't hold water
        I have never experienced the spiritual world in an awake state of consciousness but just the same, I can construct a logical understanding of it with the fundamental tools of thinking itself... Our thinking is its own editor, it corrects itself, it grasps concepts of the immaterial world as well as the material world. What we fill the concepts with is experiencial. A person like Colleen has a "fuller" concept of the energy bodies of our being than most of us do, but I can grasp it with my imagination and form a more or less complete (lion) concept of what it is... I can assume and except the realities of the world without necessarily experiencing them fully myself. My concept is not as complete... but within the ability of my thinking to "connect concepts" to "fill out" with other concepts, that is what leads us all forward on the road to truth.
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    Mar 16 2011: Consciousness is the necessary interaction the brain must develop to resolve an issue. The more conscious one thinks is likely due to stress created in the area around. I currently reside in New Jersey, highly compacted high stressful. I just relocated back here from Denver from my understanding the amount of stress created by dense society and then the release of the stressful situation creates a further depiction through ease, much like out economic monetary policy. The reintroduction to this dense form of society allows for moderate, and currently severe pressure to be induce on a new circumstance of growth, thus allowing for continued growth of information based on the severity of the situation. It is quite interesting as blatant disregard for normal society in New Jersey is abundant and blatant at times.

    Therefore one can say conscious thinking for most intellectuals only become apparent due to stress. Though we do need the allowance of removal when overtly harsh pressure over power the necessary and reasonable balance of a situation.
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    • Mar 17 2011: Fredric,
      Your thinking has come to the conclusion that.. "O.B.E. happen inside my brain" .. "OBE happens when the jamming signal to the motor functions is not disabled during the waking up process" This is your conclusion that thinking has lead you to...your observations while under the OBE have been examined by your conscious thought processes and afterwards concluded by these same thought process that this is the explanation of what you experienced.
      This is your thinking trying to explain to you what happened.. you build a "model" in your thoughts that you can relate to like a machine... we can more easily understand the operations of a machine. But this is because your thinking lacks the spiritual concepts that would, if you first allowed yourself to operate with these concepts as a viable way of interpreting your experience....
      The same applies for much of the medical/scientific model of explanation. We can easily understand how a machine works and therefore relate the human being to these simple models of thought. But the human being is far more complicated than a machine.... Therefor we must develop a language that encompasses these aspects of your being that don't and cannot correlate with a motor or a gear.
      The concepts that I am trying to present here in this debate are concepts of the more invisible side of the human being. They may awaken antipathy in some... thats OK by me...
      To study the nature of consciousness, we must look at exactly that... the personal experiences of everyone.
      No one has said that they all have to be alike...in fact, I would say that they would present themselves quite differently. But if we don't study the personal experiences of individuals then where are we to look? There are no other places in the world to look for the nature of consciousness than within ourselves and to compare each experience with each of the "others" experience.... I see no other way to go...??
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        Mar 17 2011: Ever heard of Shum language ? :) It is interesting . There is a word pronounced as "Ka-eef" . Saying that word itself changes my consciousness :)
        • Mar 20 2011: Santhip,
          Very interesting, ... as I said further down the line here... The open line from the gospel ofSt. John
          "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"
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        Mar 17 2011: I agree with you Kathy. I have been fortunate enough to have met some individuals who have shared life transforming experience. It changed my whole life.
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      Mar 17 2011: Frederic, Kathy

      There are meditation protocols, thought experiments, introspection exercises,... that are both scientific and is a way of exploring the conscious mind.

      A methaphor: If you are inside a globe, everything looks curved towards you... giving you another experience than when you are outside the globe, where everything seems to curve outward.
      But both viewpoints describe the globe.
      So thought experiments, meditation protocols,excersise, self reportation,... going for something like a intersubjective repettitive reporting approach AND fMRI scans, EEG's, TENS experiments are ALL methods that can be used as scientific methods.

      one individual experience would not be enough, but a 100 similar, well documented and comparable cases could contribute significantly to the consciousness debate.
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      Mar 17 2011: Frederic .. What mystical experiences did you have ? Did you take drugs ?
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    Mar 16 2011: only a few of my answers is
    the nature of consciousness are:
    like relents
    want to hear people's opinions
    mutual understanding
    would be more careful in the act.
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    • Mar 17 2011: Now we are getting somewhere ! That you say consciousness is distributed all over the neural network is really very interesting.
      Your saying that the brain is then not the "complete seat of consciousness" ..Then we can start looking for the other "seats"... I would venture to guess that the heart region is one of them.
      Got any more info. on that Fredric.
      I seem to have read that moral questions in life... the deciphering of what is a good or what is an evil action is a form of consciousness that is actually located in the heart region.....
      The qualia that you spoke about earlier... are they also active in the other areas of the neural network ?
      This is precisely the direction that science needs to go to get to a deeper understanding of just what the human being is all about.
      If this qualia is active in the other regions of the body, then doesn't this also force us to think that the memories that we have hitherto thought to be lodged in our brain mass .. might also be dwelling out there in this other neural network that is outside the brain ? Why do we seem to think that the brain is responsible for all this information when neural firing is going on in the entire body ?
      This is a very interesting aspect that we could carry further Frederic. I would see it as a great benefit to the whole discussion if one could show that the neural activity of the brain is not the only initiator of thought....
      If in fact this is what your saying...? This could open up a whole new box of worms.....
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    Mar 16 2011: The consciousness exists beyond our brain. The brain is merely a translation 'device' allowing consciousness to experience time frames in order to improve its evolvement. Thus this would not be the only conscious journey.
    This device (the brain), capable of transmitting and receiving, exists in null time. Since wireless technology is possible, the same way “wireless telepathy” exists. This 'wireless' energy’s potential communicates across universes, time and space.

    For consciousness to evolve, it requires more than just a translation device. It requires a vehicle. The ‘face’ being the identity of that vehicle plays the key role in the personality. An intrinsic medium of consciousness is ones personality. Everyone to some degree are 'under the influence' of belief or another's personality. Politics, Religion, Infatuations, Love, Our Families, Friends and Enemies, Our sadness, our happiness, The Media, Entertainment, Sport, Our surroundings, Our Schools, Our social structures and much more are those influencing our personalities. In other words we're all experiencing awareness of each other's consciousness in a given space of physicality. It’s an individual experience within a collective.

    Our ‘face’ being an extremely significant component for identity is the guiding tool for personality. Its matchlessness is! the primary focus of attention in social intercourse, and! It holds the power to draw both positive and negative relationships into our lives. The face persuades emotion which has direct bearing on personality as does it express emotion inturn influencing another’s. The consciousness is on a reciprocal journey to evolve. Free will being a very important part of this awareness.
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    Mar 16 2011: Why does mystic experience occur sporadically, felt individually in quite obscured conditions such as trance induction? Could we think about the “mystic experience” as an example of psychopathological state? A vestige from the Pagan societies and primitive cultures?
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    Mar 16 2011: What is the material basis of Quantum Consciousness ?
    Will Physics explain Consciousness?

    Our brain works on dualistic basis:
    usually consciousness (logically) and rarely unconsciousness
    (at first it seems illogically but at last it shows as very wise act)
    In his last autobiographic article, Einstein wrote:
    " . . . the discovery is not the matter of logical thought,
    even if the final product is connected with the logical form"
    In book ‘ The Holographic Universe’ Michael Talbot
    on page 160 explained this situation in such way:
    ‘ Contrary to what everyone knows it is so, it may not be
    the brain that produce consciousness, but rather consciousness
    that creates the appearance of the brain ’
    In our terrestrial world the Information ( some basis of
    Consciousness) can be transfer to you only by Electromagnetic waves.
    Lorentz proved: there aren’t Electromagnetic waves without Electron.
    Therefore I say,
    only Electron can be the Quantum of Information/ Consciousness.
    We don’t have any other theory of Information’s transfers.
    We know the Electron is very important particle in our live.
    It acts in Maxwell’s electrodynamics.
    It acts in the atom.
    But how Electron acts in cell and in Outer space we don’t know.
    We need time to understand this fact.
    And when we understand the Vacuum and Electron
    we will know the Ultimate Nature of Reality, it means we
    will know the material basis of Quantum Consciousness too.
    Planck and Einstein found the energy of electron: E=h*f.
    Sommerfeld found the formula of electron : e^2=ah*c,
    it means: e= +ah*c and e= -ah*c.
    Dirac found two more formulas of electron’s energy
    +E=Mc^2 and -E=Mc^2
    Why does electron heed five ( 5 ) formulas?
    Now nobody knows what the Electron is.
    You know, it would be sufficient to really understand the electron.
    / Albert Einstein /
    Tell me what an electron is and I'll then tell you everything.
    / One physicist /
    • Mar 16 2011: Thank you,Socratus,/WOW, I feel great!/ With all my respect to Science, I don't think we will ever know the Ultimate Nature of Reality, though, no way it means we shouldn't persue it. Scientific knowledge is fixation which is based on separation, but reality can't be fixed. The uncertainty is an inbuilt feature of the real world. Only insight, the glimpse of the whole, the everchanging everything or nothing, may help. Do I make myself plain? I am doubting... "Only He who uderstand the whole can also comprehend a part" - it's Holy Bible, nobody can say it better! Tell me what is everything and I'll tell you what an electron is.
  • Mar 16 2011: Actually, consciousness can be explained quite well "phsically" as you put it and otherwise. Check the amazing book "Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brian" by Antonio Damasio. Great read. After this book you will see just how close scientists (neurologists) are to being able to define your question as a textbook definition. At the moment that definition is quite long but eventually they simplify it. I feel that we just take the functions of the brain for granted.
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      Mar 16 2011: I haven't read the book. Does the book explain how humans experience non-dual awareness after an experience that is commonly referred to as enlightenment ?

      Another question is - these enlightened individuals are able to maintain delta waves ( brain waves while we sleep ) even when they are awake. Is this explained in that book ?
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          Mar 17 2011: Don't know whether I am in a position to judge any path to enlightenment. So will not comment on zen being inefficient, despite its efficacy on individuals who are attuned to the "zen" path.

          You haven't read the patanjali yoga sutras, or the other hindu texts such as the bhagavad gita. It has outlined detailed theories/ constructs on the nature of mind. I hope you are happy with this answer though.
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      Mar 16 2011: You can't explain that outside of reality, it would be a paradox. There is no doubt that physical brain matter can create mental representations, the thing which physical reality can't explain is how the hell do brain impulses do that? What's the mechanism?
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          Mar 16 2011: Yeah there is something lacking in dualism.
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          Mar 17 2011: wait .. what did I miss ? Dualism is false ? what "ism" is true then ?
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          Mar 19 2011: @Birdia - What is the difference between western dualism and Eastern dualism ?
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        Mar 16 2011: I don't think concsiousness is just a by product. But I don't think there is any evidence that it can exist independently of the brain or that it is in some way a spiritual entity.
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          Mar 16 2011: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn12301-man-with-tiny-brain-shocks-doctors.html

          The evidence that even if you don't have a brain, you can still have consciousness.
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          Mar 17 2011: Agree with Frederic and Kathy on this one. There is no evidence yet that proves that consciousness exists "outside" the brain. Even the 5 aggregates that come together to create living existence (consciousness, mental formations, perception, sensation and MATTER) as posed by basic Buddhist doctrine require physical matter.
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          Mar 17 2011: Nonlocality of consciousness is still a hot topic under research. However, the only evidence I can claim this is to quote NDEs, and OBEs, where individuals who were physically declared dead, were able to hear conversations that happened in the operation theater, which is possible only if consciosuness was nonlocal.

          As far as the link above, I am not fully convinced that brain is the only conduit for consciousness, and not the cause for consciousness. Almost no brain is as good as no brain. How the heck is the man able to store information or even do spatial movement without that part of the brain ? I am still not convinced that 5 % of the brain can handle all the functions of the body that well, and give the man a normal life.

          I agree with much of what Kathy K has to say about consciousness, with regard to levels of consciousness. it would only be logical that non-locality could be the feature of the highest level of consciousness. The part I don't agree is that , the seat of the "soul" is not the pineal gland / 3rd eye. But the Heart center. Refer what Ramana Maharishi ( most prominent but currently deceased authority on non-duality) has said on the seat of the soul
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          Mar 18 2011: Does a rock know that it is a rock? And how could you prove that?
        • Mar 18 2011: A rock doesn't need to know, maybe conciousness is dwelling here as well, I believe so, but in prior alltogetherness not circled out by ''ego'' It doesn't need a name.And no proofs,sorry.
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          Mar 19 2011: How can knowing be implicit to the mere fact of its formation? That doesn't make sense, where in science does non-organic matter inherently beget consciousness? My apprehension of the rock as a rock is a matter of course, I am an organic being that has evolved over billions of years to develop a consciousness. The rock itself has not gone through a similar LIFE transformation. It is lifeless and you'd be hard pressed to prove that its neurons are firing because it has none. Bacteria having consciousness would certainly be an interesting assertion, but I'm not sure if that is provable yet.

          If we want to talk about the interconnectedness of all things, that is certainly a different subject altogether. I do not think that consciousness is synonymous with interconnectedness. Consciousness is certainly subject to the same principles of the universe as all types of matter and phenomena in the universe such as impermanence, relativity, emptiness, etc. but if we're going to say that consciousness is inherent to all types of matter, then scientists ought to start hooking up diodes to inorganic matter.
        • Mar 19 2011: Hello,Minh, some people who ''don't forget the old ways"say that nature talks to them, it is responsive, they don't devide nature into organic and non-organic. As for scientific method, I am not qualifyed, not even close, to talk about science , but maybe it is related somehow to HIGGS field ? But again it's the realm of beliefs,now scientific beliefs...
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          Mar 19 2011: Natasha: Higgs Field is in reply to which question or statement?
        • Mar 19 2011: Some scientists call Hiiggs God's particles, what do they mean? I said that it might have some relevance to that stuff that combines everything and gives it mass snd a purpose maybe
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          Mar 22 2011: If frequencies are what determine how "alive" something is. What is death? How do you explain death's frequencies?
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        Mar 16 2011: What does the word spiritual mean to you?

        I just see concsiousness as an emptiness without essence and all these words such as soul, spirit etc. according to my definition Imply an essence that is the reason why I state my case like this but I am willing to work with your definition if you can redefine the term

        It's interesting that you brought up the Freudian/psychoanalytic view because it does explain the significance of a lot of the spiritual and mythical symbolism. Obviously I do not believe that the myths hold any concrete relevance in themselves but metaphorically they are rich with a lot of metaphrical and philosophical meaning so of course I can appreciate them.

        You may like the book the "Brain That Changes Itself" it is a completely scientific book and it tells you how to achieve those same results, (accessing the subconcsious and so forth) purely by non spiritual means although you can also take the spiritual route, meditation, Buddhism etc.

        Now what do I mean by evidence. Very straight forward, simple observation. Have you seen free floating concsiousness drift without a body? Have you witnessed such an event ever?
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          Mar 17 2011: Kathy, Your assertion that consciousness is a form of energy is interesting. In what sense do you think it is energy?
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        Mar 16 2011: Kathy
        You said «… but our consciousness existed prior to becoming physically incarnate and it continues to exist after it leaves our body, resulting in the physical death of the body”
        It sounds confident claim, may I ask how do you know that?.
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          Mar 17 2011: Kathy - could you describe your personal experience please ?
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          Mar 16 2011: You are right. Not only that but all other entities (God, angels, demons, devil...) have the same intangible properties beyond any inspection, examination or verification.
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          Mar 16 2011: @ Kathy,

          If you can, please shorten your replies, otherwise I can't read all of them.

          Language has many terms which change with context. I don't know all the psychological definitions I know what concsiousnes is though, it is not substantial, it is immeasurable and it has no physical values or physical consistency thus it can't have an essence.

          In my younger years I used to go to concerts and I would dance and push people and I accidently knocked into the wrong guy. He smacked me and let me tell my concsiousness was out like a broken light bulb. It wasn't flying around dancing to the music. That's enough evidence for me that concsiousness is pretty much a part of my body.

          Can I speak for someone elses concsiousness? Well I can't really because of solipsism, it's impossible for me or anyone to experience someone else's concsiousness. So it's not observable. You could say you had an out of body experience like some people had. But with out of body experiences there hasn't been a study that can accurately document whether these people are floating through actual space or if it is simply a hallucination, much like a dream.

          Finally I am not saying that religion didn't have anything to contribute. Yeah it had some legitimate scientific contributions but how the paradigm is interpreted has changed. What was once meditation is now the rewiring of our neural systems.
        • Mar 16 2011: Religion in all its various forms is a human manufactured framework for the supposed actuation of the soul. I think most of us would agree that as such, they are mired in the material world. I am a simple man and not an intellectual. My answer to Daniel is that the not thinking (as distinct from being thoughtless) is human spiritual activity rather than thinking. I agree with Kathy K.
          We are talking about experiential matters which are not immediately able to be proven or observed other than in the first person. But it is the observers of the first person who can each verify the change that has occurred in that person by virtue of an experience they say they had. If the experience is valid at a soul level that person will never be the same again. That change must be measurable/identifiable. It has been for me and those around me. Cheers from NZ.
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          Mar 17 2011: Interesting to note on the treatise of "souls"...Buddhism posits "no-soul"...Generalizing all religions is a bit hard. Judeo-Christian-Islamic certainly posit souls...
        • Mar 18 2011: Kathy, why the electricity needs the lamp? They must need each other. "in order to shine" part of the equation is more or less clear but the second part?
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          Mar 19 2011: @Kathy

          So once again I have to ask you how do you know it persists after death, you are obviously alive so that rules out personal experience. I mentioned the problem with other minds, and the observation of consciousness, which has no detectable mass or energy so I am curious how anyone can observe free floating consciousness if it can't be detected or experienced?
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          Mar 20 2011: By the way I am not trying to be pushy with my argument I am trying to get you to think critically about the subject, you are asserting a claim about something that has never been observed and neither can it be inferred from observation. There is no reason why consciousness should persist after death. If you can find sufficient reason then I will believe you just like I believe black holes exist even if I cannot directly see them.
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        Mar 16 2011: @ Santhip

        Although that's quite fascinating, the brain is still there.

        Concsiousness doesn't require too much it just requires a few networks.
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          Mar 17 2011: Yes.. But there is just too little of the brain. It opens up the possibility more.

          Well.. I don't know about whether consciousness needs networks or not. If NDEs or OBEs are true even hypothetically, then consciousness cannot be localized into a brain.

          But consciousness can be transformed. What Kathy has been referring to as higher levels of consciousness can be accessed through mystical practices. Here is one I wish to share with you. Google Kali Yantra. Look at the image of Kali Yantra for 5 straight minutes. Tell me what happens to your consciousness.
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      Mar 16 2011: Jill Taylor's sense of identity radically changed after her experience though.
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          Mar 17 2011: Did you miss the part where Jill Taylor said that she knew she was not this body ? Isn't brain the part of the body ? If she herself claims that she wasn't part of the body, then what was she referring to ? Please don't tell she is just a construct, which is a byproduct of the brain. No one is talking about her soul. Please read her book or watch the video again to note this point.

          I wouldn't limit her change to merely the state of the brain where right half of the brain is functioning. That is such an oversimplification of her life changing experience.

          What is interesting though is her experience correlates with the experience of those who claim to have directly experienced enlightenment.
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        Mar 20 2011: Answering to the message above.

        How can you establish values for consciousness, what is higher consciousness exactly, is it more awareness, better intuition or better reasoning skills?

        Is consciousness truly reducible to any of these things? I would say that these manifestations of consciousness have been used in the past to fit the concept of human nature into a universal definition but all of them have failed to produce that essence which can deterimine the nature of human beings. Consciousness in itself is undefinable it is simply nothing with no intrinsic value other than the difference of value that may result between what is conscious and what is not.
    • Mar 17 2011: Frederic,
      To use a the simple analogy of a TV set.. The TV does not contain the signal. The signal is an invisible out cause for the picture and sound that come from the TV. The materialistic point of view is say that the sound and picture are coming from the TV... and in a way they are... but the signal is coming from a far of place.... The signal or "spirit" if you will, is coming from another place than the merely physical. You can easily understand this simple analogy. But if you say to me that the TV itself is producing all the sound and pictures "itself".. and you can "prove it" ..I mean you can show how the tubes(take an older TV) get warm, how the speakers vibrate to make the sound. All these measurable things that you are pointing at are not the original source of the picture or sound.. you see. If I then (remember now this is just an analogy) say to you that the picture and sound are coming from a far off place that you have never seen.... well, you say back to me this is magic... magic or the spirit/soul phenomena (its not at all magical in my mind... I can't understand why it has to be in yours either) Magic is a form of trickery... The concepts of soul and spirit don't have to (in my understanding) contain more than what you put as content in the words ... thinking... feeling... mind... consciousness. Someone earlier in the discussion said it was just a problem of semantics. Perhaps. The idea that the consciousness of man is really no different than the spiritual in man doesn't necessarily have to awake such antipathy in the more scientific corner.
      Should it someday be proven by science.. for as I have said before.. I am full support of the scientific method... that our consciousness can "survive" after death, then the whole aspect of life, what life is... why we are here... who am I... what happens when I die....??? A whole string of question will have to take on a new sense of seriousness... a new perspective..(paradigm ) will arise....
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    Mar 15 2011: Just one thing confuses me with this question, why is the concept of concsiousness spiritual? It certainly doesn't have objective properties in the sense that an object has mass, dimensions, density etc. So it doesn't have the characteristics of measurable objects but why should it be any more spiritual than mere objects?
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      Mar 16 2011: It is very spiritual because people who have experienced life changing consciousness shifts claim the reality to be much more than the physical reality we experience. Their sense of identity is not limited by a "llimited" me. But is best described as a state of no-separation / non-dual awareness with everything and nothing at the same time ( paradoxical - I know ) . Some would call that non-dual awareness to be intelligent. And some would claim it to be the God within ourselves, which founders of all the religions were trying to point us towards through different means. Hence the spiritual linkage :)
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    Mar 15 2011: Daniel: I have to say that your topic - consciousness - has sure got me thinking.

    Perhaps we could focus for a moment on one aspect of your question - "the merely physical". A lot of the discussion seems to revolve around whether the physical completely explains the phenomena. It should be highlighted, however, that to a scientist the physical is no "mere" thing. I'd like to paraphrase something written about Galileo:

    Galileo thought that nature was the book of god, that it is written in the language of mathematics and that science was it's priest-craft.

    It must be recognized, that when talking about the physical, we refer to more then just lumps of clay. The physical includes matter, energy, time and space. Perhaps consciousness does involve some element not included in this list, but if so, it will need to be identified. Until then, science will continue studying consciousness, using these concepts.

    An analogy is useful here. When scientists realized that light had wave properties they first concluded that "since it is a wave, and all known waves require a medium (air, water, etc), light must act through a medium". They called this medium aether. Later, it was realized that the science of light worked perfectly fine without the need of a substance such as aether.

    Could the same be true of spirit? That is, in our initial exploration of the concept of consciousness, the term "spirit" serves as a placeholder for some not yet known process, but as we advance in our understanding the need for the term disappears.
  • Mar 15 2011: Going throug all these I've got a crasy idea! I'll try to shape it now.Human consiousness was born through separation from ultimate everlasting consiousness, and being separated just for a while it gained the ability to be consious of itself, to be aware that it is aware. So, through human consiousness the the ultimate consiosness consious itself. For what does it need it? - No clue, but from human perspective, -easy, imagine something absolutely perfect, beautifully ordered and harmonised, but nobody to say WOW!!!!
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      Mar 15 2011: Well said Natasha..

      So the whole point of experiencing the human consciousness is to experience the universal consciousness as our true nature.. There is simply no other purpose .. There is nothing grandeur than that .. To experience the state of non-separation as a living experience.. Why does it need it ? It is the grandest mystery of them all :) One we have to find out for ourselves ;D
      • Mar 15 2011: Thanks, Santhip, I don't remember who once said of the present condition of humanity, ''this is no place to stop, halfway between ape and angel" :)
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          Mar 16 2011: Triptamine is not the cause . It is the effect. Wonder whether someone would call the "will" as the cause, and triptamine to be the effect. Isn't will in the domain of consciousness in the first place ? That is the simple fact.

          There is a video I posted somewhere in the comments. Check it out.

          My question is this : Individuals who are enlightened ( in your words, who releases triptamine in their brain) are able to influence another human being's consciousness by being in their physical presence ( in other words, somehow magically tryptamine is released in their brains as well ). How can this be possible if triptamine occured in the original person's brain in the first place ?

          Unless consciousness is not a material phenomenon .. hmmm ..
        • Mar 17 2011: Frederic,
          Your point about triptamine is also again taking the spiritual experience and pointing to the material substance as the explanation.

          Take this example.
          You have two skydivers. Maybe their second jump... tell the first one that his parachute will not open and that he will have to rely on his second safety chute.
          The second one is not told anything about his chute not opening.
          They jump out of the plane at the same time.
          We can say, for the sake of the example here, that all factors are alike for the two jumpers.....perfect twins (even though this is impossible) perfectly alike in all respects.
          We have mounted diverse monitors on their head, heart beat, etc. etc.
          They open their chutes at the same time as they fall.
          The person who had not been told prior to the jump that his first chute would not open would without a doubt show a higher response on all our measurements of the neural firing etc. His adrenaline levels would surely rise to a much higher level than the other jumper... But is it the adrenaline that gives the response of fear... or panic... or is it the consciousness that releases the adrenaline that you want to call the cause of the emotion..? ...or is the emotion itself is the producer of the substance.??
          If this second jumper had a little secret... say that he had been planning to take his own life for several years now and sees this as the perfect opportunity .. what do you suppose the adrenaline levels would show then... because in his mind, he was calculating with not opening his chute at all in the first place.... no panic, no adrenaline... no measurements...
          Of course the jumper may have had some fears about jumping to his death in the case of suicide, but this is something else.
          To say that tripomine is the final answer is really not going to the depths of the phenomenon. Triptomie is produced.. agreed. But what caused it to arrise? The emotions of the person are the variable factors.... aren't they ??
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          Minh Do

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          Mar 17 2011: A quick footnote on this discussion, I notice that many take the word "enlightenment" to imply a final chapter or a momentary experience. From the Buddhist perspective, enlightenment is a poor translation of the word "bodhi" which is more aptly translated as "awakening". And the thesis there is that there are many types of awakening. There isn't one and that's the end. I think this is a very common misperception of awakening. Deeper reading into both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist traditions reveal that all the old Masters experienced many types of different awakenings which imparted upon them different types of truth, insight and experiences about the nature of reality. It is also interesting to note that despite having achieved a certain amount of insight or awakening, they continued to meditate and practice, thus concretizing the experience into their daily lives. In other words, maybe you may experience triptamine, but it's worthless unless continued practice is present. Temporary experiences, be they mystical or mundane are worthless without it sinking into your bones. Hence, awakening, as opposed to enlightenment. That is to say, keeping waking up.
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          Mar 17 2011: @Minh Do :

          This is what I have heard, and studied. But not my direct experience.

          Ultimate Truth can only be one. There cannot be many ultimate truths. Otherwise it cannot be the ultimate truth. However on the way to experience ultimate truth, one can have many insights, and they can be called pointers/ another level of awakening. But the ultimate truth of the "void" cannot be equated to anything along the way. I can point you to individuals who have said the very same. Www.silentstillness.com
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          Mar 19 2011: I agree with you Minh Do, that the idea that there is one awakening is a misperception. It has been taught to us through the ages that there can be many enlightenments, awakenings and attaining different levels of consciousness. We can discover "truths" on many different levels, as you insightfully remind us. I totally agree with you that we may experience a deeper level of consciousness, but unless we bring that into our every day lives and use the knowledge in a beneficial way, it is of no use. I agree with you that it's important to "keep waking up".

          My Near Death/Out of body experience certainly opened more channels of consciousness, and I will continue to explore life and death until I take my last breath on this earth school. The learning doesn't stop for me because I had the experience. I think it was the Dalai Lama who said, beware of those who claim to be enlightened, and I agree with that, because I recognize many different levels of enlightenment, awakening, consciousness, and exploration of life
  • Mar 12 2011: Hi everybody, its late over here in Norway ! I've got a big day tomorrow so I'm going to bed ... to sleep... to dream...

    Dreams where the umbrella is folding
    Into the path we are hurled
    and the cards are no good that your holding
    unless there from another world

    by Bob Dylan (Series of Dreams)

    Keep up the good conversation !
  • Mar 12 2011: Hi Santhip and welcome to the discussion !

    I guess I can agree with a lot of what your are saying. There's a lot of ideas in your comment so I think I have to start with just one thing at a time...
    As for consciousness being a "spacial" phenomenon ... I fell first upon the question of time.. as time is seemingly related to space... however if we can extract our perspective long enough out... like imagining that we are floating out into space and then imagining or visualizing the earth spinning around the sun... we are in a way projecting ourselves out of the time element of consciousness. As an astronaut ... the wheel of time is no longer bound to the earthly existence... but the biological clock that continues ticking in our bodies continues...perhaps at a different rhythm than the original biological rhythm that we were born into. What we experience as jet lag is also a disturbance of this biological rhythm . Time is also related to movement... circular movement.. Could become a whole new discussion here... as Tim and I talked about earlier. Concepts of infinity and eternity.... are they real ? How fully do we really understand them.
    I would venture to say that when we die.. the time element becomes a spacial element... This is why we can "see" our whole life pass before our field of vision in a review. The review that Colleen was talking about earlier here on this discussion and the same review that people who have a NDE. The flow of events throughout or lives becomes an object of our perception. Our consciousness, which we experience as an individualized part of the universal consciousness, then expands out into the universal consciousness. The time flow becomes a spacial flow of existence.
    This all sounds pretty far fetched I know... anyone reading this now, without having read my previous comments will surely think this is a conglomeration of a wild imagination... but I think you might follow what I'm getting at...
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      Mar 12 2011: Time comes out of the dual consciousness of subject and object. If there is a subject, and if there is an object to be experienced, then that consciousness can project time from such a state. However, there is no concept of time in a non-dual consciousness. How can there be time when all that remains is the ultimate universal consciousness in the end, which is beyond time ? There is only that primal IS that remains in such a state. So time implies a dual consciousness in place.

      When ultimately one falls into the primal IS of non-dual consciousness, one is everything and nothing at the same time. One isn't then limited by the body, or the biological clock that is associated with the body that is arising out of the dual consciousness of "I" am the "body". One sees the transient happening withing themselves and as not being separate from it at the same time. Such individuals do not "sleep" when they sleep. They are awake even when they are sleeping. Infact if you look at their brain waves when they are awake, it would show delta brain waves, which implies their "waking" state of consciousness is that of "sleep" state of consciousness. I can point you to individuals who can show this any time of the day.

      As far as infinity and eternity goes, yes .. they are real. There is this non-dual state of consciousness which is infinite in its expression, and eternal ( has existed beyond time ). Living proof is in the existence of such individuals described in the paragraph above. But trying to understand them would imply the need to put a box around them, and also calls for an observer/subject "trying" to "understand" them. But when one experiences this non-dual reality of consciousness, there is no one left who is trying to understand. If there is "someone" left trying to understand, then it isn't non-dual consciousness. This reality can only be experienced directly when one stills the mind ( a state of no thoughts)
      • Mar 12 2011: Is it possible to bring this ''still mind'' experience to our dual conscious reality, without fracturing the whole?
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          Mar 12 2011: The whole is "fractured" when we do not recognize and acknowledge all parts of the whole. This is a piece many people are searching for, and it is a matter of remembering.
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          Mar 13 2011: The whole is never fractured. The whole is whole. The ultimate reality is that of non-duality / non-dual consciousness. Any kind of separation from that primal IS would be duality.

          Having said that, for the majority of us non-dual consciousness isn't the living state of awareness/consciousness within us. But there are individuals who have attained such a state ( the evidence for which is very evident especially in their presence). So yes, it is possible to still one's mind, and be open to what is happening in the moment without separating it based on our own individual systems of perceptions and perceptual filters. In fact , upon deeper observation, the greatest inspiration/thought is observed when one has a still mind. It doesn't happen because we continuously were thinking, but when we stilled our mind to allow the thought to happen. So yes.. still mind is always present and can be strengthened using practices with time.
      • Mar 13 2011: Thank you for response, but it is not exactlly what I was asking for..." To be concious is not to be in time" TS Eliot. I believe, that pure consciousness is freed of time.To highly evolved mind, which has filtered out ego noise, reality appears as timeless continuum. But can they deliver,if they choose to, via what? How human mind can shape a thought without sequense,hence time. Language failes, a word kills the very phenomenon it tries to define, music, art, math? Or does it suggest different ways? You said you knew such people, who managed, it's blessing! Do they share knowing or just technic, how to get there and if you manage it's only for you? So it's individual quest? Thank you.
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          Mar 14 2011: Natasha .. You are right when you say pure consciousness ( one which is beyond the moving/thinking mind) is freed of time. And reality as is perceived now would be timeless. Now .. fact is that upto this very moment, this timeless reailty has delivered everything .. The mind seeks to control the delivery though , which is simply impossible .. My teacher used to say, God doesn't need your help to get things done, or your control .. So the simple truth is everything is delivered regardless of the mind's intervention ..

          Whatever needs to happen will happen. And honestly the ego which tries to control simply cannot control everything . Time can only emerge out of an ego/subject-object construct. Because we are familiar with the ego construct, we choose to hang onto the familiar rather than surrendering ourselves to the truth in the moment, which is the timeless reality. And yes, no language/ or any other dualistic medium can put the ultimate reality within a box, but can only help to point to it, rather than completely define it.

          Yes. I know an enlightened teacher, who is willing to give guidance to those who are sincerely seeking the truth of their own being. Her name is Guru Swami-G ( www.guruswamig.com ). I came across her through complete chance encounter on the internet searching about kundalini. She has experienced enlightenment, and has been giving guidance ever since. She has brought a handful of students to direct experience as well. So yes, she is willing to give guidance to those who seek it. Having said that, it still remains a very individual and lonely journey, which must be taken by the individual themselves. But having access to someone who has completed the journey helps in progressing quickly and tremendously.

          And yes .. she doesn't think at all. And she finds that she is still able to get tons of things get done without thinking, in fact more efficiently than before. Have been fortunate to bear witness to this myself.
      • Mar 13 2011: Hi, Mark, do you mean "a condition of a complete simplicity costing not less than everything'' ? And how far an individual can go, still to be in this world? Will you opt for a car,if you can fly?
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          Mar 13 2011: Natasha,
          I think I understood your original question. Is it possible to still the mind without fracturing the whole. You are refering to the whole of the "self"? In your next comment, you ask: "can they deliver, if they choose to, via what?" By that you mean can they function in our world?

          The thought process is still available to us even if we choose to "turn it off" most of the time.
          By taking the path of stilling the mind, we are not giving up anything, but rather, choosing a different focus. It is definetely an individual quest, and each individual may experience it differently. One person may choose to be totally secluded and not use the thinking process at all. Another person may choose to function more actively in the world and use the thinking process on occasion, but generally function from a place of knowing, rather than thinking. Does that make any sense?
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          Mar 14 2011: @ Natasha - Lol .. When one ultimately experiences that non-dual state, it doesn't mean that they go numb. But the illusion of a "me" storyline completely disappears, and what needs to happen will take place without thinking about it . But we are taught to rely on our " thinking" mind in schools, and on the intellect. The ultimate non-dual state is even beyond the intellect. What needs to be taken care of appears within one's consciousness.

          But it doesn't mean that they would lose their sense. If car is cheaper and if they have little money then they will choose car. So what needs to happen will happen.

          But yes, even though I haven't experienced this "non-thinking" state, which is highly unimaginable for the common populace, when one merges with the timeless reality, thinking doesn't take place at all to get everyday things get done.
        • Mar 14 2011: Thinking itself tells you what you know and what you don't know. You can't say I know something without first thinking about the facts that build up your conviction around what you think you know. That you reaffirm yourself about your knowledge is only natural. This we do every time we are put in a situation of uncertainty... we go into your thoughts (call it mind if you will) our memories and check out if that which was a fact is still true. A very simple example is in mathematics ....7x8=56 maybe you have to say to yourself 8x8=64 (because then you can see how 64-8=56 If you didn't remember the 7x8 answer you could go into the table that you remembered in your mind from 3rd grade that yes 8x8 is 64 and much easier for you to remember 8x8=64 and then 64 minus 8 is clearly 56... The logical element is always accessible to our thinking. Our memories are also always accessible but get more and more cloudy as we get older or by our thinkings ability to access our memories. Our thinking accesses our memories just as it accesses our feelings. They lie in a cloudy mass (very cloudy for me these days) Can you remember what happened on Tuesday last week?? Memories lie also in this time stream that we were talking about earlier and the same time stream that we gain full access to in the life review after we die.
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          Mar 15 2011: @Daniel - There is a state of consciousness that is beyond thinking. We do not think all the time. But the awareness is always present. You are reading these words. The awareness of these words takes place. Awareness precedes thinking. The more we rest in this awareness, rather than the thoughts that occur within this awareness, the quieter the mind becomes. When the mind becomes quiet the possibility of experiencing the state of consciousness beyond thinking is open, and then one is cleared of the illusion of a "thinking" me at that point. But for that we need to queiten our mind of thoughts.

          No amount of thinking can out think thinking. It seems that you are mixing ideas of "awareness" in what you are describing as thinking. Again, when one comes back to what is happening in the moment, one can experience that there is no need for any memory to get things done. The answer for 8x8 would be 64, and would come spontaneously. The intuitive mind begins to take precedence.

          Einstein had once remarked that a problem cannot be solved at the same consciousness state that it was formulated. There needs to be a higher consciousness state to "resolve" thinking. And a quiet mind is the place to begin. Slowly and steadily. One step at a time.

          One can use logic to point to the ultimate state. But it can only point. It isn't what it is pointing to. Once we know what it is pointing to, then we jump into the point and experience it. Thinking fails to equate with the direct experience, and has its place as a lower level tool when compared to the higher awareness. The only way to verify this is by experiencing it yourself. There is no other better way to do so.
      • Mar 13 2011: Hello,Colleen, Thank you very much, it was really helpful. Now I see I confused the state of "still mind'' with ''all-at -onceness'' the state of ultimate truth, when there is no you, that's what TS Eliot said "cost not less than everything"he ment life. This state was defined as self/ego singularity, nothing can defy singularity, It's one way joney. I ment to ponder this.
      • Mar 14 2011: What I was trying to say is that the whole subject/object relation is merely a "construction" of thinking.... Thinking is observing the subject (the tree) as well as the object (one's self, or the observer, or the subject) Both are within thinkings observation. So to try to pry out the thinking process to reach some kind of higher consciousness is.... in my mind a self-contradiction... Thinking has pointed you in the direction of a higher conscious. One could never begin the search without the ability to think. To throw out the activity of thinking is like throwing out the baby with the bathwater. As for functioning in the world without thinking... well, naively speaking, I guess it could be done, but I guess our way of living would have to be like a monk or a guru in the Himalaya's or the like. In the modern world we have to penetrate the material world with thought and understanding. Our thinking has to be engaged to the fullest to pull us through.... Never would I call thinking the root of evil ... never... Thinking has gotten us into this mess and thinking has got to get us out it !
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          Mar 15 2011: Mark was pointing to how "thinking cannot out-think thinking". Thinking is thinking. And one must go beyond even "thinking" by "not- thinking". That is simply how it is.

          Daniel, it seems you are trying to mix up "awareness" with thinking. Let me define awareness. Awareness is the state of being aware. One can be aware of their body sensations, their emotions, or their thoughts. Thinking is the act of being aware of their thoughts. Concentration is the act of pulling back awareness into what you are doing in the moment rather than get pulled by other thoughts.

          The act of being aware is different from the act of being aware of one's thoughts. One can be aware of anything else. Hence I would like to restrict the definition of thinking to the act of being aware of one's thoughts rather than the act of observing, which is more in line with being aware.

          You do not need to be a monk to flush out thinking. Hundreds do meditation on a daily basis just to be in a quiet mind. It is possible to do this with practice. It is not an easy task to give up thinking and to be in a quiet mind. The modern world has wrongly taught/imbibed us with a sense that a quiet mind is equivalent to being numb. But that is the farthest from the truth. Health benefits of meditation ( quieting your mind ) is more than beneficial. And again, you can easily function more efficiently when your mind is quiet rather than relying on your thoughts. Even though it may seem not to be familiar doesn't mean it can't be done nor contradictory. Simply, It can be done.

          Instead of emphasizing on thinking, I would say it is necessary to go beyond the thinking mind to experience the fuller and ultimate nature of consciousness. It cannot be conceptualized as thoughts and realized as a superfical understanding. But it has to experienced by quietening the mind.
      • Mar 15 2011: Santhip,
        With the word non dual consciousness, do you mean monism?
        • Mar 15 2011: Thanks,Mark,very helpful and confusing again... I would like to give it up, but it bugs me. So enlightenment needs additional contemplation or thinking, so your non-dual awareness must be converted into dual-awareness to become the property of your mind,otherwise how could you possibly be aware , that you have it?
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          Mar 15 2011: Daniel,

          Mark did a good job explaining what non-dual awareness is. I will add my own words to elaborate it as well :-)

          My first reaction after your question of monism was, what is monism ? Is it the "ism" that basically says there is only "one" or is it the "ism" that says there is only one god ? Is it pointing to that which is one with everything and is not separate from anything ?

          Non-dual consciousness would be the consciousness state in which there is no separation. There is no more subject-object consciousness state of duality and thus of separation in it. It is the dual consciousness that is persisting on creating a division between a "me" and the object. In non-dual consciousness, there is no "me" to feel separate from the object. It just IS.

          Non-dual consciousness cannot be fully described conceptually, to be honest. It must be experienced. The individuals who have experienced it says it to be the highest state that can be attained by a man. They would never trade it for all the money in china. Such is the feeling of enlightenment, and end of suffering they percieve.

          Monism, if used to point to that single absolute reality, which is not separate from anything and yet is not affected by the transient, can be useful in equating with non-dual awareness. But if monism is used to point to a "god" ( father figure ) which is separate and controlling the fate of mankind through another concept of sin etc, then it fails to be equal to non-dual awareness. Ultimately this consciousness state can be experienced only by a still mind devoid of thoughts.

          And yes, when you fall into this non-dual awareness, there is no more of the individual "ego" or "me". The "me" has to die before it can experience this non-dual awareness. That is simply the truth of it. :-)
      • Mar 15 2011: Hello, maybe it's time to reconcile the blessing of thinking with the blessing of non-thinking state. As all seeming opposits they are complementary. '' Change favours the prepared mind" Only thinking can push us to persue unthinking state. I mean, it's an option for us, the thinking addicts.
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          Mar 16 2011: Sorry .. not the way to go :)

          Only by practising non-thinking can you let go of thinking .. So active meditation in every moment is the way to go. :-)
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          Mar 16 2011: It is a GREAT way to go Natasha!

          It may not be your way to go, but there are many paths that different people take to achieve what they desire. You are sounding like many religious leaders who say "my way is the only way"!!! That's simply not true.

          You say "only by practicing non-thinking can you let go of thinking...so active meditation in every moment is the way to go".
          Are you familier with the definition of meditation? "To focus one's thoughts; reflecton or ponder over; to plan or project in the mind to engage in contemplation or reflection; a discourse intended to express its author's reflections or to guide others in contemplation".

          You are suggesting only the practice of non-thinking...letting go of thinking AND staying in the state of "active meditation"? That seems contradictory.

          Perhaps you are confusing "mind chatter" or unfocused thoughts with focused thinking? There's a big difference.
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          Mar 16 2011: Doesn't the Gita define many types of yoga - through action, knowledge, devotion, etc...?

          Why should meditation be the preferred method?
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          Mar 17 2011: @ TIm

          Meditation is the act of stilling the mind. One can still the mind through action, dancing, knowledge etc. So meditation ( stilling the mind ) is the preferred method :-)
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          Mar 17 2011: @Colleen - Well.. I guess its like this. Ultimately , the experience of enlightenment leaves one thoughtless. Perhaps I was too harsh in saying "non-thinking is the way to go " as an absolute statement. Maybe : "non-thinking is ultimately the state you attain, where the flow of the universe happens" is exactly what I was referring to :-) I wasn't talking about daily lives :P ( even thought it still can be done without thoughts )

          There are spiritual paths where one sits with a single thought " who am I ? " , and they just sit with it until the answer presents to them with an experience. Even in this path, the mind eventually stills onto a single thought, with attention not being pulled by any other thought, and eventually deconstructing the ego/mind. So thought was useful in this context, but the mind had to be still. I know it sounds scary, but merely stating the facts :-)

          But to experience the ultimate nature one will have to still the mind and even the utility value thoughts hold for us. As the ancients say, you have to give up the "world" ( of thoughts as well) to experience the pearl of great price.
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          Mar 18 2011: Dear Santhip,
          There are many different spiritual paths that all reach the same destination. I am aware of many of them, and many people who follow different paths. It is not at all scary...sorry you percieve it to be. With your belief that there is only one way, you limit yourself:>)
    • Mar 13 2011: Thank you,Mark I wellcome any help.Impressive!!!! A lot of catch up work,and I love it!
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    Mar 12 2011: Daniel - You and I think along similar lines. Check out the TED idea I have posted here - www.ted.com/conversations/182/neuroscientific_studies_of_enl.html . This would be my humble opinion on the topic :)

    However here are my direct point blank thoughts on your questions

    What is the nature of consciousness?
    Consciousness is the fundamental characteristic of space. It is non-local, and is beyond the physical three dimensional universe. It is one's ( any human's or any thing's ) ultimate and most truest nature beyond the mind or any thoughts. Only a still mind can reveal this truth. There have been many who have experienced this first hand, and I have been fortunate enough to meet a couple of them.

    Is consciousness merely a by-product of the physical brain?
    Some experiments and a famous BBC youtube video on free will suggests otherwise. Consciousness programs the physical brain. Consciousness isn't the product of physical brain. There are individuals who do not possess a physical brain but has an IQ of about 130 ( the common IQ ), proving that consciousness doesn't require physical brain to exist (www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,290610,00.html ). Consciousness enters higher dimensions of reality, which is clearly beyond the physical universe.

    - on religion and science
    Science has tried to analyze and put bigger boxes in place to explain the objective / external universe. The mystic aspect of all the major religions in the world, has pointed towards explanations of what happens within the subjective / internal universe within. It is said that only through true direct experience of this ultimate truth, is the world without seen to be an inseperable from the ultimate consciousness. This experience cannot be "boxed" or explained through any words/ concepts. Religions or atleast the mystical aspect ( i.e. of the mystics ) of all religions is thus an internal science.
  • Mar 11 2011: Perhaps I can lead on with a little introduction.. as long as we are starting a new thread.
    The question or idea is basically this..

    What is consciousness? Is it the same as spirit?
    Consciousness is more the concept of the sciences.
    Spirit is more the concept of religion.

    Can the content of these two concepts be one and the same ?

    This is the bridge. This is where science and religion can meet.
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    Mar 9 2011: @Jacky Tang. Any room in your world-view for a cosmic (universal) consciousness?

    If so, what insight do you have into that concept?

    If not, what limits the scale of consciousness?
    • Mar 10 2011: What limits the scale of the physical universe? Big question! As Collen puts it, all is united... interwoven ... no material without consciousness... no consciousness without material.

      Take the concept of a ring, a circle.(whoola whoop) as you said elsewhere :-) As you picture that in your minds eye.... expand it... larger and larger. ...expand it infinitely large....... "infinitely large"... expand it until the side of the circle becomes straight.... can you do this? It may take several tries. Its not at all easy. But your "concept" is stretched to the point where what you once thought was a clear and simple idea takes on another dimension ... where then does the line of the circle (or what once was the circle in your imaginative mind)... where does this line meet itself again.... Your concept ( see the lion analogy further down)(written today (in blue)at the same time as this comment... it's there somewhere in this TED thread) (hey..that rhymed)
      Your concept of "circle" is pushed to the limits of a new concept. But your mind tells you, by the rules of geometry that we learned in school, that a circle cannot be a straight line. But can you push the circle out... expand it out to where you can see that the straight line actually exists as a part of the circle? This may be a strange comment on what our subject of consciousness is all about, but the process involved is along the same lines as developing a concept for the word "spirit" as there are no physical correlations to the word. "Infinite" is also a word, a concept. It is in a way beyond our grasp. We can use the word.We can argue about its "existence" ,we can say "prove it!" Its just another word that you can't really fully explain. Can we gain knowledge by deepening, defining, qualifying this concept? I believe we can.. as in all knowledge ... it is to our benefit towards an understanding of who we are and what this world is all about. To identify the spirit realm, qualify and describe it is no different.
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        • Mar 10 2011: Hi Mark,
          The infinite point ! One could easily turn the whole thing around and say the center is nowhere and the circumference is everywhere. It's the limit. It's the end of our physical perception and the beginning of our spiritual perception. Although I would not mean to say that this is the "doorway" to the spiritual but at least all our concepts of the physical plane of existence must be left behind at this entrance. The spiritual, if one could physically penetrate so deep into the sub sub sub add inf. ,...the point in the middle of middles must be, if we use our physical understand of matter can only end in a wild spin of uncertainty and confusion. We have to overturn the table, look for the higher plane (or point if you will) but the same analogy can be used in other ideas of geometry ( Uclid or Aristotle) where the physical ends the imaginative begins. ...We believe.... Logical thinking meets the proferbial
          wall... Science won't get off that sinking ship. They will "get to the bottom of this if it kills us"... I like the story about the bee buzzing furiously at the glass window trying to get outside... then someone comes along and opens the window... we are sort of like that bee... someday someone will come along and open the window for us. Will it be science.. maybe will it be religion ... maybe... or a combination of the two. There is only one way everything came into being.... don't you agree? "We all see things the same, we just see it from a different point of view" Bob Dylan said that....." I'll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours" B.D. said that too!
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          Mar 10 2011: I like that Mark. I often say I am nothing and everything:>)
          I am nowhere...now here:>)

          Our exploration could turn into a "wild spin of uncertainty and confusion" if we are attached to a particular outcome based on the information that is already programed in the brain. If we are open to new information, then we discover what we discover without attachment.

          I don't believe that anyone can open the window for us. Although others can contribute to the process, we need to open our own windows and doors:>) The information needed to open, has been in front of our noses for centuries. We need to recognize it...or not! It's a choice.

          Daniel...give science a break. Some scientists are recognizing that there might be something beyond what we think we know. What we focus on expands. Let's focus on the progress science is making on this issue:>)
        • Mar 10 2011: OK.... I'll try to lighten up on science, but it wont be easy....
          I agree ... its a choice... but sometime I feel the need to get a bigger hammer !

          Let me as you a question....

          If you had actually died... instead of coming back to life under your NDE. ...instead of waking up to life again. How much of your knowledge and experience, memories, emotions, everything that you hold in "you" would be later buried in the ground with your physical brain? I think I know how you will answer this question... The answer is nothing... am I right? How much of your "consciousness" will be lost forever in the burial of you physical body and your physical brain? I will bet that you would say that not a drop of knowledge or experience or emotion or anything of your true inner being will vanish when your body is dead. This leads me to wonder how you can put so much emphasis on the physical brain and its programming... Is the physical brain in any way the container for our thoughts... and in your view, do you see the brain as something that has anything whatsoever to do with this after-life experience? This puzzles me that you can see the brain side of our being as functioning like some sort of a computer that logs and categorizes bits and pieces of information, sounds, smells, pictures, and all of our sense impressions. I say that the brain goes back to the earth with the body and has nothing to do with this after-life experience. This I'm sure you will agree on... so why do you keep referring to the brain and its processes. The processes are the "living" element in you.The stream of life that sustains you.... and when you had your NDE, all your picture reviews were completely free from all that has to do with your physical brain.
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          Mar 10 2011: The only thing that would go back to the ground is the body. Everything else I would have retained in an energy field. The consciousness, on many more levels than we can even imagine, remains as energy.

          I don't see that I am putting "so much emphasis on the physical brain and its programming". I am simply clarifying "thinking" as part of the brains activity. Usually, when we are "thinking", we are trying to fit explanations into known concepts and theories, which have already been programmed in the brain, by teachings learned this time around on this earth school.
          While we are in human form, the brain stores information. That information then transfers to another level of consciousness when we are no longer in human form. Kind of like an electrical sub-station, you know?

          Yes, the human brain is a container for our thoughts. Everything has to do with everything!!! It's all interconnected my dear one:>) I'm sorry that my perception of the human brain as similar to a computer is puzzling for you. It's simply my perception, and your perception may very well be different:>) The brain serves as a container for information and so, is a very important part of the whole. Why would we have it if it wasn't important?

          In my life experiences, and when I had the NDE, I recognize that everything is interconnected. The brain is as much a part of the whole as anything else:>)
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          Mar 10 2011: Daniel: I think Mark makes an important point here. We must constantly remind ourselves that we are attempting to describe the infinite with words. And words have their limitations.

          The human mind has a tendency to deal with complexity by dividing it into parts. But the whole is more then the sum of the parts. If we divide life into body and mind something is missing. Call that spirit. But really that dichotomy (trichotomy?) is merely a mental construct. Do we need to take it as anything more?
        • Mar 10 2011: Mark,

          But when your body and its brain are dead and gone... where are you then?
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          Mar 10 2011: Depends on what you believe is "you":>)
        • Mar 10 2011: You= the sum of your experiences, your feelings, your self-consciousness.... all that you've learned. You is definitely not all that you've ate and drank that have built up your body through the years. You are not your physical body, although many might claim that
        • Mar 10 2011: Tim,
          Without a doubt.... much more. Its not that simple. Otherwise all and everything is merely a mental construct. That cant be true. Your last few words there weren't so very clear. I guess you want to say that "all" is a whole and there is no "dichotomy" in body and mind and something is missing and that is spirit..... I didn't understand that at all....
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          Mar 10 2011: Daniel,
          So, if you honestly believe what you've written above:
          "You=the sum of your experiences, feelings, self-consciousness and all that you've learned", then you've at least partially answered your question above?
        • Mar 10 2011: We can talk about mental constructs Tim. Yes..we do need to take it as something more than simply a mental construct because its not at all merely a mental construct.... It goes back to the nature of thinking and the whole way we understand language. It could be another discussion perhaps. ....The nature of thinking.... How do you look at what is objective and what is subjective? Isn't this also a construct that thinking stands "suspended"..(Colleen's word) over the two. Objectively over even itself !! Because thinking continually has the possibility to correct itself ! Did you catch that one? Thinking is not the physical because it has the ability to observe the physical. Would you consider this a dualism or is the nature of thinking really monistic in nature..
          I must run.
          I don't have the time right now to go deeper into it, maybe tomorrow.
          But I can leave you with this thought, You as the "subject" observing the "object" (say a tree)are just as much the "subject" of observation as the tree itself standing before you. Do you see what I mean by this? Thinkings position is in a way "over" both the object and the subject in "this mental construct" ..because this is the real source of confusion in the world of philosophy.... I'll leave you to think about this mental construct for a while. But again, maybe we should start another TED conversation if you think anyone else might be interested.... I don't know...
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          Mar 10 2011: Hi Daniel,
          For the purpose of clarification:

          2 days ago, you wrote:
          "but if you work at it you can actually observe your own thought processes...it's thinking about thinking".

          1 day ago...my response:
          "To me these are different concepts. To be an observer, the thinking needs to be suspended. Thinking comes from the programmed information in our brain, and is limited. When we observe, we suspend the thinking and are open to more information".

          I was not suggesting that "thinking stands suspended "over" anything. I was suggesting that to be the observer, thinking needs to be suspended...(to cause to stop temporarily...to set aside, to defer till later).
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          Mar 10 2011: Daniel. I'm kind of lost in this thread. I hope you don't mind, but I started a new one. Look for a post ending "what is spirit". Thanks.
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        • Mar 12 2011: Hi Mark! There you are. I've been spooling up and down trying to get on the right link to you, as I see by the time frame of your comment, 5 min. ago, you must be online now. I'm sort of watching whats happening in Japan out of the corner of my eye. Unbelievable disaster...
          I can say that I know too much about Buddhism..
          But to set a word on an object is also thinkings nature. The words for motorcycle parts that make up the whole... gas tank, wheels,frame, etc. The " I " is also a word for the part of my being that we both call self-consciousness. My " I " is not something static that is full, finished and stationary... It's taking in information all the time. It's not like a stationary part that cannot be changed, on the contrary it is developing all the time. Both within the bounds of the physical body and outside its bounds after we die... This is where the duality appears to arise when I define the spirit as en entity that is free from the body at death. If, as you say to mean, the spirit/consciousness ceases to exist at the death of the physical body.. or do you mean otherwise ?? It's good not to make assumptions. But I think we can assume that you are a conscious being writing these comments. It's harder to assume that the same consciousness can survive without the tool of the body to bring it information through our senses. This is a big jump to make. But as the picture is filled out (like the lion explained earlier... and the circle that becomes a straight line,) the concept of consciousness/spirit has been presented in a new light through medical research and especially through NDE.
          As the research on the physical brains neural firing gets more and more advanced, they are finding out that there is something that energizes this neural activity from a purely non-material realm. The realm of consciousness.
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          Mar 12 2011: Daniel,
          Try to imagine that consciousness energy is a much larger pool of resources than our human senses. The consciousness doesn't simply "survive without the tool of the body to bring it information through our senses". Consciousness continues to grow and evolve .
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        Mar 14 2011: Hi Daniel. When you say "thinking" are you talking about consciousness? And are you talking about "thinking" in terms of images or words? Or both? Isn't consciousness really directly linked to man's greatest invention: language? What could our species' consciousness have been like pre-language? Was there consciousness before language? I propose that consciousness is a by-product of our higher level brains and the "mind" within. Imagine trying to "think" without those words in your head instructing you (something I've heard described as "the analog I"). If it wasn't there, what would you be thinking about? Would it merely be reptilian brain instinct?

        You die and the brain dies, and along with it, your mind. Along with that, your consciousness. (the ability to "think").
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    Mar 8 2011: Consciousness is the comparatively dim witted sibling of sub or un-consciousness.
    • Mar 8 2011: I don't agree with that.... think about it... it's your wide awake consciousness that has given you that perspective..... or are you saying that your comment or all your comments come from your sub or un-conscious mind ??
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    Mar 7 2011: Your question "What is the nature of consciousness? Is consciousness merely a by-product of the physical brain?" implies the existence of a metaphysical brain.

    Can you describe that?
    • Mar 7 2011: No.. I can't describe a metaphysical brain.... because thats not at all what I'm getting at. The physical brain is merely (excuse me Gabo, if your reading this, I just can't help myself) an instrument of the spirit. Almost like an antenna functions... to use a very physical analogy... Not "metaphysical brain" as you put it. The concept of a metaphysical brain would sort of make an extension of the "brain" concept. Thats not what I want to do. The word is "consciousness" consciousness is the expression of the "spirit" on the physical plane of existence. If you read some of my earlier comments you can gain insight into where I'm coming from. That way I don't have to rewrite so much.
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        Mar 7 2011: I've given a lot of thought about this spirit concept. Particularly in terms of body/mind/spirit. If body is ying and mind is yang then spirit is ying/yang. That's just saying: "I understand the body, I understand the mind, put there's something I don't understand. Let's call that spirit". But does that further our knowledge in any way? I don't think so.

        Scientists have postulated that mental processes are purely physical. If you think there's something more then that to it, fine. But you need to identify it somehow. Just saying "I feel there's something more, I know it's spirit, but it can't be proven because it's beyond proof" doesn't cut it.

        For more on my view of consciousness, see here:


        Basically everything is part of an interconnected whole. Consciousness is just concentrated point of reception of the signals emitted by that whole. The body/mind/spirit breakdown is just a mental construct for dissecting the whole.
        • Mar 10 2011: Tim,
          To fully understand the concept of "spirit" is no easy task. To identify it, to form a concept of it is a question of inner development. Just like developing a concept of a lion. You can read everything that has been written about a lion. You can have every fact in the world about what a lion is... but until you one day perhaps meet a living lion, smell the smell of a lion, feel its teeth, feel its heartbeat, its aggressive nature... until you fully experience the lion, then maybe you can have a somewhat complete idea of what a lion "is" Our senses can give or consciousness impressions of the "beingness" of the lion but the degree of the whole concept lion is a partial concept that is continually being "filled" by our sensory apparatus that puts words/names on our impression of the lion. The spirit is exactly the same, only that its not a physical perception. We see the out workings of the spirit/consciousness of mankind everywhere we look in the world of what we have produced of material things. Everything mankind has formed and produced is an expression, in one way or another, of this inner being that we call spirit. If you would like to use another word that might fall in with your world view, perhaps a more material word, well the phenomenon exists just the same. The problem with swallowing the word spirit is perhaps because it has a metaphysical connotation which is rejected by the scientific way(of today) of looking at things in the world. But science is free to try to penetrate into this immaterial realm of existence should it choose to do so. The larger implications of this would shake the scientific world to its foundation. Tools to explore this level of existence are still pretty much primitive, and may never actually access this hyper-thin realm with solely material apparatuses but through the human consciousness, in its various forms of expression, we may be able to study the footprints in the sand to help us gain an understanding of the spirit.
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        Mar 7 2011: Daniel,
        I don't agree that the physical brain is an instrument of the spirit. The physical brain is a receptor and storage for information. I agree with Jill Bolte Taylor that we are energy beings. Energies run through our body, including the brain. I agree that it is like an antenna, but I do not agree that consciousness is always the expression of spirit on the physical plane. The energy comes into the body, and we choose how we will use it. If one wants to use the energy for spiritual evolution, the brain, with our direction, will explore how to make that possible. If we choose to use the energy for scientific exploration, the brain, with our direction will focus on scientific data. Those of us who percieve interconnectedness, will be open to all information with our explorations. We choose how we will use our consciousness, and as I've stated before, there are several different layers of consciousness. Those who say spirituality is better, are justifying their own beliefs, just as those who say sciene is more valuable. The most valuable thing we can do for ourselves, is be open to all information:>)
        • Mar 8 2011: Hi Colleen,
          I don't mean to "qualify" the activity of the spirit. Our direction determines or development of the brain as well as of the spirit. If our spirit/consciousness is focused on solely physical explaination of what the world is, then it is restricting the view of the whole. The physical explanation of mankind is only a small part of our whole being. The two are interwoven. The physical aspect of the human being is the smaller part. What consciousness chooses to focus on, be it spirit or be it matter, it's search for truth is the ultimate goal. There are enourmous truths to be discovered in both physical and spiritual realms of life. Science has its focus on only one realm without even considering that the spiritual aspect of mankind even exists. This is what frustrates me. When the material research of the brain has come to the bottom of all substance can explain, it still leaves me with the questions "Who am I ?"
          I too see the human being as an energy being. A being of light. But this energy, as I/we see it, is, for science merely some form electrical/neural activity that arrises of itself out of the physical processes of the material brain. This I disagree with. The spirit in me is the "director" or the "witness" of this activity.... the spiritual aspect of the human being is not just an abstract word that has been coined to explain the unexplainable. The spirit is opperating in everything we do, be it scientific research or be it meditation.Even a murderer has a consciousness that wants to give expression of his spirit, as in-human as it may be.
          Consiousness can express itself by claiming that consciousness itself does not exist at all.... as contradicory as it sounds. Consiousness implements the brain to dig down to the truth whatever direction it chooses to take..and even if it takes the direction that denies itself or takes a life, then something must be short circuited along the path of ideas that have lead it(consciousness) to that conclusion
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        Mar 8 2011: YES Daniel!!!

        You don't need to be frustrated by what others focus on. Many scientists are now recognizing that there might be something beyond the human form we are familier with. This is one reason Jill Bolte Taylor's experience is so relevant to the exploration....a scientist, having this experience allows us to witness (I like that word now...thanks James) the process on several levels.

        The energy we talk about IS a form of electrical/neural activity, and it DOES partially arise to our human consciousness out of the physical processes of the material brain. I agree with you that we all have the energy in our body/mind, and we may all use it in different ways. Some may not even be aware of it at all. We are all on our own paths, and to be frustrated because some others are not on the same path as you are is not very useful. Why spend your energy in that way?
        • Mar 8 2011: I spend my energy in that way simply because I watch the world stumble onward in spiritual darkness. Think what it means... Think how important it is for humanity to be aware of the spiritual reality that science is continually telling us is just some old suspicious fairy tale. Where will it all end up? The consequences are really dramatic when carried out into the extremes.... take questions like euthanasia for example... This is a big question over here in Europe. What are the consequences of having a materialistic world view in such questions...? Well, a simple biological mass of energy and cells and neurons can easily be snuffed out with making such a fuss about it..... or ?
  • Mar 5 2011: Official science has a materialist agenda and cannot by definition do anything except continue to prove what it obsessively believes to be true .Nor can it possibly grasp that exactly the opposite of what appears to be true is actually true. Radically put, everything we believe to be "out there" is actually in our minds. EVERYTHING IS CONSCIOUSNESS. The world itself is materialized thought. So it is the brain that arises from consciousness, not vice versa... Still, each of us is inhabiting his/her own very real seeming karmic dream, where each of us seems separate from the others, and until we do the work of purifying our vision, "my self" as an individual and things "here" will continue to seem very real indeed. The real problem ultimately is not how to fix up this dream by renovating the backdrop, props and cast of characters, but rather how to wake up and get out of it altogether.(This isn't our home. This is where the deathless come to die.) Otherwise we'll just keep (apparently) coming back again and again and again. This is how I have come to see our dilemma...thanks to Buddhism and The Disappearance of the Universe (G. Renard).
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    Mar 4 2011: is brain only physical? brain is so complex. don't we evolve spiritually through this material world too?
    • Mar 6 2011: Why would complexity have to be non-physical?
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      Mar 7 2011: Raheel,
      Are you saying that the brain is physical, and spiritual, and we use it in a complex way while evolving through this material world? That's how I'm interpreting your statement. Please let me know if that is your meaning?
  • Feb 27 2011: Thinking is by nature objective. I know there are many out there that would debate this. But if you really "think about thinking" you can discover this fact. The whole "subject"-"object" construct is merely a "model" that is constructed by thinking itself. This whole thought model exists at the mercy of thinking itself. Do you see what I mean? Thinking is forever correcting itself on the pathway to truth. To say that everything is subjective is a falsity. Take mathematics for example.... or geometry. The rules for the opposite angles of a hypotenuse triangle are the same for you and me and everyone. The whole world of science rests on this fact. That a theory or experiment can be reproduced again and again measured and weighed and come to certain conclusions about the world we live in. To say that all is subjective (red is not the same red) for me as it is for you. Well, to some extent this is correct. There is little chance we can prove this, however there is surely an "objective test" that can be controlled and repeatedly controlled to gain a "close to certain" conclusion that my red is the same as your red. Our senses deceive us this is for certain. But thinking has the possibility to attain an objective perspective.... even over our own thoughts!!
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      Mar 12 2011: The thought 'waves' can never fathom the depth of the 'ocean' of awareness on top of which they ride. Thought can never point to that which is not a thought. That is the reason why it requires a still mind to experience the fullness of the ocean of awareness. One can live their life without thinking. We are just conditioned to use thoughts. But with practice one can go beyond thoughts, and dive into the ocean. So have proclaimed the mystics who have experienced the fullness of consciousness before ;)

      Besides - if there is an object, then there is a subject . So objective test of thoughts is thus pointing to a subject that is witnessing the object. The subject-object paradigm should break down to reveal the non-dual nature of awareness.
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        Mar 12 2011: Santhip: Interesting perspective. A question - when we die do we inherently become merged with the ocean? That is still, without distinct thoughts?
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          Mar 12 2011: When the physical body dies, the individual consciousness still remains intact ( NDE's for instance ). The individual consciousness comes backs to fulfill its desires. When one ultimately merges with the ocean, there is no notion of a separate consciousness at all in such a case or any thoughts. There are individuals who have attained such a state even while they are alive ; they do not think at all, and yet are fully functional in the society. Existence of such individuals makes me wonder whether thoughts have any validity at all in the first place, other than the value which we assign to it.
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          Mar 12 2011: Hi Santhip,
          I was writing something similar at another place in the thread at the same time you wrote this...I LOVE IT! I have always listened to my heart and used the thought process to determine how to achieve what the heart wants to do.

          I agree that thoughts have the value we assign to them. For me, it is a process by which I can bring to reality that which my heart desires. The brain/thoughts can logically determine how to proceed with any experience. As the heart is "feeling" its way along, the brain supports the adventure with practical, logical information. That's my way of experiencing life. I'm not saying that everyone functions in the same way:>)
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          Mar 13 2011: @Colleen Steen - When we relax into our heart, there is a natural stillness that arises. When we begin to relax into the heart completely, into the stillness completely, then one can function perfectly well without the usage of any thoughts as well. Ultimately it's about surrendering to the point of no return with regard to the thoughts.
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          Mar 13 2011: I agree. I was taking one step at a time. How many people in our world do you think are ready to give up all thoughts? :>)
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          Mar 13 2011: @ Colleen Steen - Lol .. yes.. one step at a time. I have been fortunate to have access to one who has completed the journey step by step.

          Yes.. not many would be willing to let go of their thoughts. Science ultimately relies on thoughts. A lot of scientists would definitely be angry if asked to shut out their thoughts for sure ;-) Having known an enlightened individual, the process would be easier for one who would willingly surrender their thoughts for awareness :-)
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          Mar 13 2011: The brain and thought process is always there for our use. When one chooses to be more aware on different levels, it doesn't necessarily mean we need to surrender all of the thought process forever:>) I put my "thinking cap" on for example, when calculating tax returns, otherwise I'd probably get in trouble with the IRS! They probably wouldn't accept what my heart has to say about that:>) One certainly can surrender to the "point of no return with regard to thoughts". Personally, I like having the whole package available to me:>)
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          Mar 14 2011: @ Colleen Steen - Lol .. yes.. more than 99 % of the populace would be with you on that .. that they would like to have the " thinking cap package" available to them .. And that is what makes truly enlightened souls very rare, as they were willing to surrender the "me" into the ultimate silence of awareness once and for all ..

          I have to share a view that would in a way contradict what you have said though.. We believe we need our thoughts to function in this world.. But truth is we don't .. We don't need to think in order to eat when we are hungry .. The body would go and eat anyway.. Even the filling the Tax forms can happen without thinking as well.. The thinking mind has to be brought to a standstill, and attention withdrawn from the thoughts to come closer to our true nature of conscious awareness.. I know it may sound difficult and impossible . But it can be done :-) And those have done it would never trade that for the experience of thoughts or the mind - the root of all suffering ( including my mind :) )
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          Mar 14 2011: Dear Santhip,
          I don't percieve your ideas to be contradictory to mine, and if you percieve that, then I agree to disagree:>) I didn't say we "need our thoughts to function". I said, "personally, I like having the whole package available to me". I am in human form for a reason, and part of being in human form, is having the ability to think. You are right, we don't need to think to live, but it is part of the life form we are in at the moment, so why not use it?

          It certainly helps to put the "thinking mind" to rest, but it is not necessary to totally withdraw from thoughts to be closer to our true nature of conscious awareness. Our true nature, as humans on this earth school, includes the ability to use the thought process, so in recognizing that process as part of the whole, we are recognizing our true nature. How we use the thought process is the next question:>) If you feel that "the experience of thoughts" are "the root of all suffering", that is your perspective. There is always a balance, and each individual can find the balance that works for him/her.
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          Mar 17 2011: @Colleen - It is a nice point where you speak from. Especially the part of being in balance. But yeah, what I said about thoughts is difficult for those who have been accustomed to not having a queit mind. However, I must be honest and say that this idea, that one should have a complete still mind to experience enlightenment, and after enlightenment there is no more moving mind comes from a realized being whom i have been fortuante enough to meet, and I was merely parroting her words, words which come from direct experience.

          Perhaps what Mark said is more appropriate, identification with thought is the root of suffering. But being the parrot I am ( :-) ) I believe once suffering is seen for what it is, then the stilling of mind follows, as is the case with enlightened beings. So yeah.. depends on the perspective one holds on to. May all the perspectives serve their function well.
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          Mar 18 2011: Thank you Santhip,
          I speak from my heart, based on my personal experiences. It is clear that you are "parroting" someone elses words. It is also clear that you are advocating for one particular method of enlightenment. The question is "what is the nature of consciousness", so your insistance to follow the topic of enlightenment seems a bit off topic. Consciousness and enlightenment may be intertwined for some, and maybe not for others. You speak as an authority based on second hand information. When you speak from your heart, based on your own perceptions and experiences, the information you provide will be more valuable. Good comment Santhip: "May all the perspectives serve their function well". Try putting aside your need to convince us that your way (or the person you are parroting) is the only way, and listen. When you can let go of an attachment to convince others of something, you are on your way to conscious enlightenment:>)
          With loving kindness,
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          Mar 19 2011: @Colleen - Lol .. Am glad that you speak from your heart. And honest about that.

          Well.. Just because I parrotted someone else's experience doesn't necessarily mean it isn't valid ( quoting Neil Armstrong is not second hand information). Also, just because I have parrotted others words doesn't mean I haven't had life changing consciousness shifts as well :)

          The topic of enlightenment and consciousness is very much intertwined. As enlightenment is a process in which there is a radical shift in the consciousness of the individual, one which blows out ( nirvana means blown out) the individual ego, making the one experiencing it realize one is beyond the thinking mind ( or no thoughts), and ultimately a state of non-duality(beyond words). The question then becomes, how valid is this "enlightened consciousness" as true nature of consciousness being non-dual in its ultimate nature. My assertion is that it is very much valid as the ultimate nature of consciousness.

          But you are right about there being many paths towards the same goal. But honestly, as far as quoting the ultimate nature of consciousness, which in my opinion is the enlightened consciousness, I have to quote a chinese proverb : To know the road ahead, ask those who are coming back. Hence the parroting :-) Ofcourse, there are big assumptions involved here. But I am convinced studying the words of others who have experienced the same, that the source is genuine.

          There is one aspect of intellectual study involved in Buddhism or even Hinduism that people do not realize. All the study of the scriptures is not to just enhance your intellect per say. But to make you prepared for the actual experience when it happens. After which all the words/ intellectual is found to totally useless to match with the ultimate experience. Everybody who have experienced that says that it is indescribable.

          Hence my suggestion of relying less on the thoughts. Doesn't mean everybody should agree it though :-) Time will tell :)
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          Mar 19 2011: On second thought.. I cannot comment on other paths to the ultimate nature of consciousness. Even if it involves thinking. Maybe thinking works for some. Maybe it doesn't work for some. So yes.. there could be other paths to the same destination, as long as one is open to the possibility of the same destination of the ultimate nature of consciousness. As far as I know, the final experience is purely an act of grace. So I agree with you Colleen on that one. So it would be best for the individual to choose a path that suits their own needs to be honest.