Consciousness Video Series: Episode Two: A Beginning

A Beginning

There are many different ways to approach a conversation about a complex subject, and I can attest to the fact that creating a video series is probably one of the most challenging, especially if you are not a seasoned film maker or videographer. I’ve already encountered what are likely the most common difficulties in becoming proficient using advanced video editing software, and the amount of time necessary to devote to the project has been greater than I expected, not to mention efforts to upload them to the website.

What has become even more apparent, is that the subject I have been studying all these years is seriously challenging, even for someone who has spent as much time as I have investigating and researching all the related subject areas. It’s one thing to satisfy my own curiosity and to explain the subject to myself, but now that I am deeply engaged in sharing what I have learned over decades, I can see just how difficult creating this content is going to be.

So, I decided to try something a little different for this episode, and break the presentation into several parts, and expressing more introductory material in a brief video, and then supplementing with a form of a graphic presentation to summarize the main points. So, the video below introduces the presentation, and the one that follows below that will contain the basic information of the theory I’ve constructed, as a separate offering.

The theory I’ve developed is decidedly not scientific, nor is it intended to be. There is a fair amount of scientific discussion in the blog posts on this site, and I am firmly in the camp of those who respect and, in some cases, revere our many brilliant scientific minds both from history and in the world today. I am an enthusiastic reader and student of neuroscience and will be contributing video content with that emphasis in the months to come. What should be understood by anyone who visits here regularly is that while I admire and read widely on the scientific side of all this, I also have a deep and abiding belief that science alone will very likely not be able to satisfy those of us whose subjective experience of the world includes experiences and characteristics which the science of today is ill-equipped to explain. This is not a criticism, but rather an acknowledgement of the necessity to develop a more holistic approach to this subject in particular.

As I suggested many times on this blog, as dedicated and considered as my years of research and contemplation have been, we are only truly at a point in our human evolution where we can say that we may have the raw material for a beginning in our efforts to understand and explain much of what transpires in our modern world.

These videos represent mostly an opening to the conversation about our subjective experience, and to giving some attention to the question posed in Episode One. Much of what I have concluded and understood along the way to this posting is explained at length in the nearly four hundred postings available here. In the coming months I will be looking to review the main ideas I’ve addressed over the years, and in between, as always, I will be continuing to review the objects which surround me in my writing space and will veer off on other topics as they come up.

6 thoughts on “Consciousness Video Series: Episode Two: A Beginning

  1. It is peculiar to me, John, that on the one hand you jump fully into the concept that an important aspect of consciousness is that it is entirely unrelated to and beyond physical aspect or physical correlates. You accept or intuit this. Yet, you seem to ‘foundation’ everything upon the evolution of physical forms, upon the qualities and nature of the human brain. I sense that in order for you to break through to where you seem to want to go, you must completely grasp or posit (for investigation) that spirit is prior to matter and does not depend upon it. Rather the material has to arise out of the spiritual. Thus consciousness must precede matter. I get the sense repeatedly in your thoughts that you cannot quite cross this threshold. Or choose not to.

    PS — love the Delaware bridge scenes… have been there; I grew up in northern NJ but would sometimes go birding in the southwest of NJ along the bay — fabulous species abound there. Nowadays, I reside in Quebec.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond thoughtfully to my post. It’s a big subject and I couldn’t squeeze everything into just one video.

      What I am suggesting is not that consciousness itself is “unrelated to and beyond physical correlates,” but that a “component” of consciousness—some feature of the whole of it—facilitates the interaction between the material and the spiritual. It seems unlikely to me that we would be able to describe such a feature utilizing our current understanding of physical laws. We can appreciate subjectively—within our own experience of existing—that we are spiritual beings having human experiences—and also recognize that our cognitive talents as humans provide us with the means to perceive the physical universe through the senses and to employ our knowledge of how the universe operates.

      One of the main challenges to inferring the existence of any sort of non-material source or aspect to consciousness is that we are currently unable to confirm it empirically using our modern science. We see lots of research into establishing a “Science of Consciousness,” and there are a number of ideas being posited by current investigators, which suggest that consciousness may be a fundamental force like gravity and electromagnetism, and that we simply haven’t yet figured out the mechanism or the principle under which it operates.

      What seems clear to me is that the exceptional capabilities provided by our human brain are available due to an extraordinarily complex physical system which includes the brain, our sensory organs, and our central nervous system, and since in order for consciousness to manifest in the physical realm requires these systems to be at least nominally functional, some folks assume that the brain is the source of consciousness.

      The clip of Carl Jung suggesting that the nature of the psyche is “at least in part,” beyond the “confinements of space and time,” is an affirmation of my own suggestion that such a component exists.

      P.S. — really enjoyed filming at the NJ park that day, and was especially delighted to see a whole flock of seagulls floating in the sky behind me when I spoke of the “human spirit,” during one of the sequences.

      1. I sort of follow you, I think.

        It is not in doubt to me that at least a component of consciousness, as you say, is immaterial. (As Jung implies… matter is that which has extension in space, and ‘psyche’ or some aspect of it, to him, does not.) Since at least an aspect of consciousness/mind/psyche is spiritual, i.e. immaterial, then it is not surprising that science, as you mention, is unable to formulate a satisfying investigation of it. Because science deliberately excludes, methodologically, any phenomena (or their aspects) which are immaterial, or cannot be measured, weighed, physically observed and so on. This happened during the 15th century when the current conception of what science is unfolded. It did so along purely materialistic lines. And this was not a mandatory decision as Thomas Nagel has pointed out. Basically, science is saying: we cannot study something unless it exists according to our guidelines — so we will either try to force it to do so or ignore it. Ok. But I and many are deeply interested in consciousness and spirit. Therefore we must use avenues besides science to do so. This is more or less how I see the matter. I do not think neuroscience will ever approach the issue.

      2. It seems clear to me, especially after many years of attending to both the sciences and to the metaphysical or philosophical treatments of the subject, that we cannot simply dismiss what is subjectively apparent because it doesn’t conform to the scientific method. And, of course, there is great value in the pursuit of neuroscience and physics and psychology, all of which can inform us in important ways about the physical processes that support consciousness. It’s not a matter of either/or. I am intrigued by both the astonishing progress of neuroscience and physics, as well as by the deeply meaningful and profoundly affective experiences possible as a result of investigating and contemplating the spiritual traditions of every culture and epoch of human history. Jung’s writings seem emblematic of this approach, since he was both an empiricist in the classic sense, as well as an open-minded investigator of psychic forces and experiences.

        In his autobiography, “Memories, Dreams, Reflections,” Jung recounts his own encounter with a near-death experience after a heart attack, within which he describes the events that took place as “…the most tremendous things I have ever experienced…It was not a product of imagination. The visions and experiences were utterly real; there was nothing subjective about them; they all had a quality of absolute objectivity.”

        Jung also wrote:

        “Reason sets the boundaries far too narrowly for us, and would have us accept only the known–and that too with limitations–and live in a known framework, just as if we were sure how far life actually extends. As a matter of fact, day after day we live far beyond the bounds of our consciousness; without our knowledge, the life of the unconscious is also going on within us.”

        I present my ideas as a report of my own understanding of the reality in which I personally exist, and in consideration of both the scientific and the metaphysical studies I’ve made over several decades. As a rule, I avoid making definitive statements, not because I am uncertain of my own ideas, but because it seems much more productive to express myself in terms which do not limit what is possible for others. It is my hope that by expressing myself in this way it will encourage others to examine their own experiences, and open doors to further investigation, in whatever way seems right to them.

  2. Deeply enjoyable videos. I too am inclined to wonder as Stolzyblog does whether spirit or mind does not come first. And hence may have some separate existence from the physical world with its laws.

    I can not add more to the conversation. I can only say that both what you say and Stolzyblog says resonates deeply within me.

    Bravo. Two wonderful videos which really bring to life your fascinating thoughts on a topic which, frankly, is the most important topic which exists.

    All best wishes

    1. Your comments and best wishes are most welcome! I have (thus far) enjoyed creating these episodes. In spite of my struggles with the 21st century technology, and the limitations of my talent splicing the bits together, I think they are at least interesting enough to warrant a look. It is truly a bit of a stretch to suppose that a wider audience might follow as I progress, but it is a labor of love in the main, and compelling to pursue, nonetheless.

      Part of the reason why the subject of human consciousness is so challenging, in my view, is because of a lack of broad agreement as to the meaning of the terminology used in this subject area. Some people consider “consciousness” to be a product of “the mind,” and others suppose that the word “consciousness” applies and suffices as a description of a person who is conscious–that is–awake and alert and aware. While all of these terms are part of the story, there are a fair number of investigators who see the subjectivity of our experience of existing as a “sentient being,” as simply the result of a highly complex physical system that will eventually be explained by science.

      In the broadest sense, the word “consciousness,” far from being a simple consequence of a sufficient aggregation of neurons and coordinated activity in the various regions of the brain, requires us to consider a whole host of physical and non-physical components working together, providing a platform for a much greater and more inclusive story. In my presentation in Episode 2, I suggest that “consciousness” was there all along, waiting for modern humans to achieve the requisite complexity in brain architecture to support a deeper level of awareness, in order for the spirit to become manifest in the temporal world. Again, the term “spirit,” immediately invokes the metaphysical, when, in fact, the term is the closest approximation we can use to describe the many non-material aspects to our existence.

      I recently acquired a special collector’s edition of Scientific American entitled “Secrets of the Mind: The Science of Consciousness and How Our Brain Constructs Reality.” Within the pages of this magazine are enough heartburn-inducing misuses of terms that surround the topic of “consciousness,” to last a lifetime. What we call “mind,” even in the broadest sense, is not the equivalent of “consciousness,” and even the word “sentience,” which refers to our capacity for sensation or feeling, is only ONE aspect of the broader term, “consciousness.” I’m starting to formulate an idea for a subsequent episode to attempt at least to clarify some of the fog these terms appear to create.

      In any event, I am glad that you found my efforts to be worthwhile and your kindness in responding is greatly appreciated.

      Kind regards….John H.

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