The Phenomenon of Consciousness

Viale dei Bastioni di Michelangelo, Borgo, Roma, Vatican

Relief sculpture of battle scene in the Vatican Museum, Rome, Italy.

“In these confused and restless zones, in which present blends with future in a world of upheaval, we stand face-to-face with all the grandeur—the unprecedented grandeur—of the phenomenon of man. What has made us so different from our forbearers, so ambitious too, and so worried, is not merely that we have discovered and mastered other forces of nature, it is that we have become conscious of the movement which is carrying us along.”

– excerpt from “The Phenomenon of Man,” by Teilhard de Chardin

There are many different views of what exactly qualifies one as being “conscious” but I still think that most of the time, we end up confusing “being conscious” with “consciousness.” The functioning of the brain facilitates a kind of unified condition which results in what we often describe as “the mind,” which is a consequence of the functionality and architecture of the brain itself. When all of our brain regions and physiological processes function nominally, we are “conscious,” and can think, remember, walk, talk, act, and understand others. We are generally considered “conscious” when we are “awake,” and “unconscious” when we are asleep or sedated or otherwise mentally incapacitated. The term, “consciousness,” is much broader in scope and refers to a foundational, ubiquitous, and transcendent concept, which according to Teilhard de Chardin, encompasses and provides the foundation for all existence. It supports our existence, and our lives, and our subjective experiential awareness–the “what it’s like” experience of being.”

I have spent the past two years blogging here, mostly about the phenomenon of consciousness, supported by a number of years of research and study prior to beginning this adventure. As 2012 slowly recedes into our collective memories, as it often happens when the new year approaches, I generally become reflective and try to evaluate my progress and contemplate the journey itself. It has been an amazing journey, and I am looking very much forward to the months to come as I continue to investigate and contemplate the important questions which have driven me for so many years now.


Some time ago, I wrote about my experiences overseas in Europe, and posted an image of myself from those days. It’s hard to believe that the image was created more than thirty years ago, but a recent visit with my son at his apartment produced an image that makes the previous one even more striking. Setting the two images side-by-side is startling in one way, but it also provides a small window into the journey of the mind which currently labors here at The real work of investigating and writing about human consciousness began long ago for me, but the spirit which resides within me and sustains me to this day is visible in both images.

Last year, I had about the same number of postings, roughly one per week, give or take a posting here or there, and received less than 5,000 visits. In 2012, the same number of postings were offered, but I received over 20,000 visits! It also seems impossible that people in 141 different countries stopped by for a look. It has been an especially difficult year for me personally, but through it all, I have found solace and hope as I struggled to express the hills and valleys of my “inner evolution.”

I decided to finally change the gravatar image which I’ve had for two years, and replaced it with a more recent one. A few of the visitors mentioned that I seemed a bit stoic in the previous image, and in the interest of positivity, I decided to use one of me actually smiling, which I try to do occasionally when I can. I also decided to try a new theme, in preparation for the New Year, and with the hope for a fresh outlook as I move forward into the coming year. It’s probably mostly smoke and mirrors anyway, but I figured….what the heck!

heads at vatican

In a recent article by Robert Lanza in “American Scholar,” called “A New Theory of the Universe,” he expresses what is at the very heart of my work currently, and his thoughts will be included in a future posting in January. Here is what he wrote:

“We need a revolution in our understanding of science and of the world. Living in an age dominated by science, we have come more and more to believe in an objective, empirical reality and in the goal of reaching a complete understanding of that reality…These theories reflect some of the important work that is occurring in the fields of neuroscience and psychology, but they are theories of structure and function. They tell us nothing about how the performance of these functions is accompanied by a conscious experience; and yet the difficulty in understanding consciousness lies precisely here, in this gap in our understanding…”

In January, I hope to begin to broaden my investigations of consciousness, and to delve even deeper into the world of consciousness in a way that moves us forward in our understanding. I am certain that when we continuously press our energies to the work of discernment, in consideration of the broad range of thoughts and ideas in the world today, we cannot help but progress. I am greatly encouraged by the support and friendship I share here with my fellow bloggers, some of whom have now become cherished friends, and all of you who have accompanied me along the way.

With hope for peace and beauty and greater understanding in the years to come, everywhere in the world…….John H.

10 thoughts on “The Phenomenon of Consciousness

    1. Wolfgang Smith wrote, “It is noteworthy that Descartes came to (his) “res cogitans” at the outset of his meditations through the famous ‘cogito ergo sum.’ (I think, therefore, I am.) It appeared to him as the one and only immediate certainty, whereas the existence of a mechanical universe, external to the “res cogitans,” was to be arrived at later through a logical argument, in which the idea of God and His veracity plays the leading role.”

      We cannot escape our physical existence when pondering with our minds, but what is most often overlooked or simply not even considered, is that consciousness permeates all things. It is essentially spiritual in nature, and this “non-physical” or divine nature of humanity manifests as our experiential awareness. Unless you are willing to consider the transcendent nature of life, you are left with simply a mind and a body.

      Your spirit flows through your poetry, and even though we have never met in the temporal world, I sense a profound connection to your spirit when I read your words, or share thoughts with you. I am so glad to be someone you share your gifts with, and hope very much that the spirit which resides within you remains a living, breathing manifestation in this world, which so clearly needs more like it.

      Warm regards….John H.

      1. Your words remind me of a book that I have: Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Search for Sacred Art.
        In it, there is a comparison of the two artist’s works, Vincent van Gogh, painted in order to express Divinity in all things, whereas, Paul Gauguin, painted Deity as though it was not of this Earth; Divinity could only be found in “Heaven” – in other worlds than here.
        I define pure Consciousness as Divinity. And I believe that the “material world” is permeated the Holy Spirt [Divinity] (Naam, Shabd, Sophia, Shekinah, الروح القدس‎, etc.: The Un-manifest is Manifested in Creation.

        It is a blessing to know you and have the honour of your friendship, John.

        Peace be with you,

  1. Congratulations on a revolutionary, evolutionary year, and best of luck with your explorations in the new year!

    1. Hello again Mark!

      What a thoughtful and generous comment! I consider the opportunity to meet you and Kerri this year as one of the few happy highlights of the year, and hope we get another opportunity at some point.

      For those of you who might have missed it, here is a link to my review of Mark’s recent book, “The Grievers:”

      Best wishes to you and yours too, Mark………John H.

  2. Hello, John, I hope you have a happy new year, and I agree with you about people too often not differentiating between consciousness and being conscious. Also, I would love to know a little about the two photos you have of yourself in the middle of this post, because they are quite charming. That cardigan/black turtleneck combination you are wearing on the left is absolutely striking. Your demeanor is comparable to Carl Sagan, and I’m a great admirer of his. I’m looking forward to reading you more often so I can get the chance to admire your work more.


    1. Sean,

      Happy New Year to you as well! I’ve been keeping up with your recent postings and have been wondering about your process for constructing your poems. You challenge your readers often with both the structure and the content of your work, and your intentions are not always clear to me, but it is definitely interesting.

      You are being generous to compare me with Dr. Sagan in ANY way, but I think his demeanor was very compatible with mine in most ways. I admired him greatly and I’m fairly certain I own a copy of just about everything he published for the general audience. His novel, “Contact,” may just be my favorite science fiction work of all. We didn’t always agree on every subject, but it’s safe to say our emphasis in our respective areas had a great deal in common. He was far more accomplished and successful, but I think we could have been great friends, if we could have had the chance to meet.

      The photo on the left in the posting was taken in 1977 in what was then West Germany. I was in the US Army, stationed in Kaiserslautern, and had an apartment off base for about a year while serving there. I wrote a couple of blog posts about this time:

      It was during this period when I began in earnest to investigate the nature of human consciousness. About a year earlier, I was stationed on what was then the “East German border,” separating the “Federal Republic of Germany – West,” from the “German Democratic Republic – East,” and wrote about that experience also:

      I was in my mid-twenties back then and there was no internet or blogging or anything of the sort really. It was a hugely important period of my life.

      The photo on the right was taken at my son’s apartment during a recent visit, and it struck me that my son was just about the same age in his apartment as I was when the original photo was taken. In another previous post, there is an image of myself, my son, and my dad, all at age 20 and all in the military:

      There are many more experiences to describe and stories to tell for you and for me…. I’m looking forward to sharing more in the future…….John H.

  3. The greatest revolution consists in returning to the source of who we are: the Self.
    Self-Realization is the destination of this great journey in consciousness.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s