Updated: Oct 9, 2018
A "Reductio ad Cosmum" Perspective
‘Thanks for stopping by,’ he said. ‘Did you forget anything on the way here?’
The woman looked around confused. Grabbed her purse. Reached for her phone. Examined herself for any obvious missing accessories. Felt her earlobes for her earrings. Then looked back at the man with unsure eyes.
‘What have you forgotten?’ He said.
She half-smiled. ‘What kind of game is he playing?’ She thought.
‘Who are you?’ He said.
‘What the hell?’ She thought.
He continued to stare into her eyes.
‘I’m Sally.’ She said.
‘No, no, no,’ he said. ‘Who are you really?’
‘It’s me.’ She said. ‘I’m me.’
‘What does that mean?’ He said. ‘Now. Tell me. No more tricks. Deep deep down, really, who are you?’
‘I don’t know.’ She said.
‘Then we know what’s been forgotten, don’t we?’ He said.
What is Consciousness?
Not many people will ask you who you are (in a non superficial sense) or what you believe consciousness is, but it is nonetheless something we find ourselves pondering on sleepless nights alone, staring at the mirror into the jewels we call our eyes at two in the morning, asking ourselves:
‘What do I think it is?’
‘Where do I think it resides?’
‘Do only humans have it?’
And so on and so forth.
Perhaps many never truly think about it, and it can feel like a ridiculous idea since nobody can give any kind of exact definition. (Well, there may be a few elitist professors that claim to have concrete answers and physics maybe getting closer and closer to connecting ‘spirituality’ and ‘matter’ as we speak.)
But here at Bipolar Philosophy, we just can’t help ourselves, can we? We have to ask and torture ourselves for a stab at finding the truth.
So let’s take this strange and mysterious amalgam of subjective experience, self-awareness, self-preservation, attention, and perception (et cetera, et cetera, et cetera) and see if we can’t mold it into something tangible (or accept that we never will).
Science does it’s best to reduce the possibilities of what is not in order to know what is. Yet, when it comes to consciousness, it is too elusive. It seems to be everything and nothing with no means of proving either, other than ‘we (think we) know it’s there’ and we have no real way of describing it, especially not a concrete definition we can fit in a box and be represented by a symbol as simple and fragile as a word or phrase.
Perhaps we should accept the improbable and not the impossible in this reductionist manner that ‘Consciousness’ is everything, which we shall say is the ‘cosmos’ in this article. But feel free to copy, paste, and ‘ctrl+f’ to replace that word with whatever you like (i.e. God, Brahman, the Tao). Nonetheless, it all boils down to ‘x=x’.
The First Religion and the Most Read Man
Long before any western civilization had any organized belief about God or the gods, Indians (not of the Americas, mind you) had come up with the idea (or were given the Vedas at the creation of this universe) that explained Brahman was all of us and merely playing each of us as a role in this great game we call life and existence.
As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII
Jaques to Duke Senior
‘All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts,
In its character of its so complete space-time completeness, the cosmos experiences itself through each and every aperture of which emerges from it and ultimately dissolves back into its eternal flow. If consciousness is anything we can define, it is this.
A tree from which we all grow and come from, yet apart of too. Not something ‘made’ or fabricated in a shop. Planned in a master architects office.
The Heavy Stuff and Apples
Our brains/minds are just one aperture that comes from and within the cosmos. That means we are a part of this universe, not foreign objects, aliens planted here looking around, going ‘Where the f*** are we?’ (Or well… We shouldn’t be.)
The human brain has emerged (and evolved) with a desire to penetrate the cosmos in a profound and compulsory and empirical way. Ironically (or not), by the cosmos itself. As if it created us to be an instrument capable of detecting and measuring and understanding itself. (Sound familiar?) So, let’s do that.
"You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself."
- Alan Watts
Whatever ‘consciousness’ is, its source or raison d’être must exist in the place that the experience-capable aperture grew from/within.
The environment which each aperture or ‘eye’ emerged from or into (such as the cosmos or ‘qua’ eternal flux)
The ‘eye’ itself, the interocepting and propriocepting experience-receiving aperture.
[Spellcheck is telling me I made those words up… As if I’m not being difficult enough to follow.]
My aperture is hurting now.
(That’s what she said?)
In simpler terms, the mind exist in the universe and the universe exist in the mind.
Or go back to our tree metaphor. The tree exists for the apples and the apples exist because of the tree. Now, have some apple pie with that coffee. You really do deserve it.
Sharing Origin and Destiny
We, as humans, are just one possibility, one type of fruit from which the cosmos expresses itself. There are an infinite number of ways of seeing the universe and an infinite number of levels of being. All of which are fleeting; an individual quantum particle flying the speed of light through space and passing through us at this very moment… and the cat sitting on the window sill across the street.
And all of us are a part of the same origin and destiny (assuming there is one) of which this cosmos makes up. We are all encompassed in the whole with characteristics to distinguish ourselves from each other. The part is inconceivable without the whole, the whole is nonexistent without the parts.
‘You’ and ‘I’ exist until we dissolve back into the flux of it all, but we are forever part of the whole.
So, whatever "consciousness" is, it is not "in your brain", much less so in any particular region or cell type of your brain. We should stop thinking like a human constructing a treehouse or the latest form of artificial intelligence. We are organic. We grow. Consciousness is in the very conditions of your experiential existence.
Or, in a word, it is in the cosmos.
For Part II of this series - a dip into the 4th dimension, click here.