Consciousness in the World: Memory and the Extended Mind

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“To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson in “Nature.”

Every year, particularly for those living in regions which experience the full range of seasonal changes from Spring through Winter, Emerson reminds us to use an “attentive eye,” to see the beauty contained in every season. Each period of the year has its particular rewards: the renewal of all life in the Spring is an affirmation of life; the warmth and lush greenery of Summer is an experience of the fullness of life; the brilliant colors and easing of the summer heat provide both beauty and solace at its peak; and scenes of pristine snowfalls and brilliantly clear winter skies at night remind us that all life is finite in one sense, and limitless in another. Emerson also reminds us that beauty is not confined to the temporal world:

“Beauty is the form under which the intellect prefers to study the world. All privilege is that of beauty;for there are many beauties; as, of general nature, of the human face and form, of manners, of brain, or method, moral beauty, or beauty of the soul.” – from his essay, “Beauty,” (1860)

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It was in the Autumn of 1956 when I first began to establish moments of conscious experience in memory, and had the first recollections of acknowledging my existence as an individual person. I can recall only brief moments of awareness for the most part, but they are potent and remarkably clear to a degree I find surprising these many years later. The image above was an attempt to recreate one such moment, in which I found myself staring at length at a patch of autumn leaves on the lawn of my childhood home. While similar scenes are easily reproduced each year as the leaves begin to accumulate wherever there are trees in seasonal transition, as Emerson suggests, every moment is unique in its own way, and will never be repeated precisely.

At this tender age, even though I had acquired a fair talent for both language and the association of words with objects and people, I wasn’t able to fully comprehend the implications of my experiences, nor was I fully competent cognitively. My brain was clearly functional in every way that the age would permit, and my ability to learn and respond to typical social interactions was well established, but the level of awareness was still in the process of unfolding to fullness, in spite of all that I was capable of doing with my brain. We tend to think of memory as something that only accumulates in the immediate experience of our lives, but as an emerging adult and after years of deliberate and steady contemplation of the significance of my life experiences, so many of the notions of familiarity with the content of those experiences are remarkably varied in their character that it seems possible their origins could be the result of a much wider range of sources and levels of consciousness. The theory of a “collective unconscious” from C. G. Jung suggests a framework for a collection of forms or “archetypes,” elementary constructs that already exist within us, which are filled in by conscious experience, and which resonate in the psyche in ways that we are just beginning to understand.

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We know now that memory is not an isolated process that takes place in any localized region of the brain, but is rather a symphony of processes acting fluidly in harmonious cooperation to stimulate an astonishing array of neural pathways, which reassemble the components of our recollections. We also know that memory is not like a video recording of events reproduced in exacting detail, but rather more like reconstructing those elements as we perceived them when they occurred. In many cases, we remember more precisely how we felt at the time the memory was formed. The more significant the event or the greater importance our interpretation of the event holds, the more profound and detailed the memory may be. This fluid processing is directly linked to the structure of the brain, formed as the human embryo develops during a nearly miraculous process of cell migration governed by instructions from our inherited genome. As complex and intricately woven as these neural pathways end up, since memory is a combined form of energy and information, stored and recalled through electro-chemical impulses between neurons, the process necessarily depends on particular structural foundations in order to function properly and must, at least to some degree, reflect the nature of that structure.

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http://consc.net/papers/extended.html

With the publication of their essay, “The Extended Mind,” – – David Chalmers and Andy Clark began the conversation about just how far the process of mind may actually go. We tend to think of the mind as something inside our heads, or at least contained within or constructed by the brain, but as we investigate and contemplate these matters in the 21st century, we are beginning to see that our understanding generally may only be scratching the surface. There are clearly very specific and necessary neural substrates which support our ability to access consciousness, and if they become compromised by some sort of injury or illness, that access can be diminished accordingly. What is not so clear is the exact relationship between the source of consciousness and the temporal structures which support our access to it. Homo sapiens required hundreds of thousands of years to achieve a level of useful cognitive awareness before even the simplest demonstrations of possessing a mind could be made.

In this important essay, Clark and Chalmers make the case for categorizing some of our uses of modern technologies as not simply a means for producing gadgets for consumption, but as manifestations of our cognitive abilities–an actual “extension” of our human mind out into the world:

“Language appears to be a central means by which cognitive processes are extended into the world. Think of a group of people brainstorming around a table, or a philosopher who thinks best by writing, developing her ideas as she goes. It may be that language evolved, in part, to enable such extensions of our cognitive resources within actively coupled systems.”

“It is widely accepted that all sorts of processes beyond the borders of consciousness play a crucial role in cognitive processing: in the retrieval of memories, linguistic processes, and skill acquisition, for example. So the mere fact that external processes are external where consciousness is internal is no reason to deny that those processes are cognitive.”

Excerpts from “The Extended Mind” (with Dave Chalmers) ANALYSIS 58: 1: 1998 p.7-19

What I am proposing in my own work here, while advocating my own interpretations with enthusiasm, is not an especially radical departure from the mainstream views found elsewhere, but might be viewed by some as being a bit “outside-the-box,” in both its premise and development. My life experiences in my years on this planet encompass qualities and characteristics which suggest a range of possibilities which might explain the nature of the mind and consciousness in ways that mirror ideas like the extended mind. Many of the writings and ideas of history’s most notable philosophers and revolutionary thinkers and innovators have been met with great resistance initially, and only gained more widespread acceptance after much consideration and review by a more measured or deliberate approach.

Characterizing external processes and devices as extensions of the human mind, as controversial as this may seem to some, is an intriguing component of the search for a comprehensive understanding of the mind, and the arguments put forward by Clark and Chalmers are coherent and substantial in supporting their premise. It clearly requires a profoundly sophisticated cognitive structure to produce devices which qualify as extensions of those structures. The parallels between our own cognitive components and those which we have produced as cognitive creatures in the modern world are not so far fetched as some would suggest. There are arguably several potential fields of endeavor currently which may well produce what may appear as a genuine cognitive system, with some degree of similarity to our own. At the same time, we should not expect those devices to begin spontaneously producing other extensions of themselves, nor should we expect them to be on a par with the human mind by any comprehensive standard. My overriding sense is that no manufactured device could be expected to appreciate human experiences without actually having them. Not every human can fully appreciate the experience of another human in every case. As C. G. Jung wrote:

“The collective unconscious contains the whole spiritual heritage of mankind’s evolution, born anew in the brain structure of every individual. In their present form, religion, science, philosophy, and ethics are variants of archetypal ideas. It is the function of consciousness to not only assimilate the external world through the senses, but to translate into visible reality the world within us.” – from Jung’s “Symbols of Transformation.”

Consciousness in the World: Ancient Ideas Still Resonate Today

“The reflective understanding of reality has seemed to me helped by the incursion into the present moment of remembered situations from which one gains his bearings and his stance as a human being. Thus the re-collective understanding of one’s actual experience is intimately connected with the reflective understanding of reality…Above all else, then, I trust in the remembrance of what I have loved and respected; remembrance in which love and respect are clarified. And I trust in such remembrance to guide my reflections in the path of essential truth.”

— Henry Bugbee from “The Inward Morning,” July 1953

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Image from the burial chamber of Sennedjem, Egypt; Scene: Plowing farmer.

Part of my fascination with the study of human consciousness clearly stems from my intense interest in ancient human history, which was originally piqued by its introduction in my earliest educational experiences. As far back as I can remember, images of ancient peoples and civilizations always seemed to engage my mind whenever I encountered them. In particular, images from the first books of children’s stories of mythological creatures and ancient hunters, and early text books which contained stories and illustrations of ancient cultures in distant lands, all excited my imagination and prompted me to imagine myself participating in the lives of such cultures. The intensity of this interest has stayed with me my whole life, and in the unfolding of my education through the years, I accumulated dozens of books about a variety of ancient civilizations. Our complex modern-day existence and our deepest sense of our humanity has been built upon ancient beginnings, and even as our modern lives become entangled in advancing technological innovations of every sort, there are indications of our ancient beginnings which resonate in our modern consciousness.

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Agricultural scene from the tomb of Nakht, 18th Dynasty Thebes

One of the most important adaptations which resulted from a shift in the sophistication of human consciousness was the one which saw the transition of the many nomadic groups of early human hunter gatherers to the development of agriculture and small communities of individuals engaged in farming the ancient lands. According to most estimates, (Wikipedia) deliberate and organized “sowing and harvesting of plants,” appeared somewhere in the vicinity of 10,000 years ago, and arose independently in the various continents of the world, but was quickly adopted among many adjacent civilizations as the advantages of food production which would support “increased population densities,” necessary to support expansion of the various cultures of antiquity. In Egypt, as farming developed in the fertile Nile Valley, images like the one above began to appear in many of the illustrations of life in those times. Eventually, this shift to agriculture contributed significantly to the expansion of communities into cities, cities into regions, and larger and larger aggregations of humans into empires and great civilizations.

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Recently, I visited the location of a brand new farm in the early stages of being established locally by my son and several others, and as I photographed them on the modern bulldozer which was clearing the land in preparation for planting, I couldn’t help but reflect on how far we’ve come in some ways from those ancient “farmers,” and how much we owe to those intrepid innovators of antiquity for so much of our modern mindset. The ancient farmers had no such advantages as bulldozers or modern day tractors:

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The path of illumination and discovery, not to mention technological innovation over the centuries, could only have occurred with a commensurate expansion of human consciousness. We infer from the available evidence in the fossil record that while our ancient hominid predecessors may have possessed a remarkably similar brain architecture for hundreds of thousands of years, it seems apparent that they were not initially as fully and cognitively self-aware in a way that would allow them to utilize that awareness for much of that time. From an evolutionary perspective, any ability or pattern of behavior which enhanced the survivability of our species would favor those who employed them, and at some point, higher levels of cognitive functioning began to impart what scientists like to describe as “secondary” or “coincidental” advantages and capacities. Creative use of our development of cognitive skills for survival, also presented us with a capacity for art, music, and mythology. Awareness of our inner mental imagery, and the development of language to express that imagery as an enhanced survival strategy, also just happened to provide us with a way to construct elaborate creative solutions like farming, and led to contemplation about the mysterious workings of the world around us.

According to Carl Jung, in his writings on Gnosticism:

“The ancient mind rejected the material world and felt that everything originated outside of himself. The modern mind rejects the gods and is smugly satisfied with the false material nature of both himself and the world. The mind of today must acknowledge the origins of self in the unconscious and the duality of humanity as being both material and non-material.”

Deep within us lies a tremendous storehouse of knowledge–not knowledge in the sense of information, statistics, or formulas–but rather, knowledge of centuries old memories, ancient thoughts, and the progressive synthesis of understanding inherited from the dawn of humanity. The synthesis of old and new, much like the changes that occur in us genetically through periodic advantageous mutations, produces variations of our inner life that did not exist previously. While those changes may be incrementally small and subtle, after a time they result in profound differences in the depth and breadth of our inner lives. The signposts of these changes range from subtle cultural changes as are evident in the ebb and flow of conventional wisdom, to the unfolding of dramatic alterations that come to define a shift in the direction of our species. One need only contemplate the progression of humanity from ancient times to today to realize that it required not only imagination, intuition, and innovation, but also a fundamental alteration in the depth and breadth of our inner worlds to support those possibilities…

Body, Mind, Spirit

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“If we seek genuine psychological understanding of the human being of our own time, we must know his spiritual history absolutely. We cannot reduce him to mere biological data, since he is not by nature merely biological, but is a product also of spiritual presuppositions.” – -Carl Jung from a presentation at the C. G. Jung Institute Zurich, Küsnacht, 15 Nov 1953

“If we can reconcile ourselves to the mysterious truth that the spirit is the life of the body seen from within, and the body the outward manifestation of the life of the spirit–the two being really one–then we can understand why the striving to transcend the present level of consciousness through the acceptance of the unconscious must give the body its due, and why recognition of the body cannot tolerate a philosophy that denies it in the name of the spirit.” – C.G.Jung from “The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man, CW, vol.10

The persistent assertion by modern scientists regarding the development of consciousness and the human mind as “an accident of nature,” is an idea which not only opposes our natural inclinations as cognitive human creatures, but also one that is difficult to sustain in a definitive way given the equally persistent assertions to the contrary by researchers in a variety of disciplines. The tendency of modern science to view the development of our human mind as an accident seems to me to be more a result of the limitations of science to explain it, rather than being a conclusion that is justified by the evidence.

Considering that it took hundreds of millions of years and countless variations of living creatures for life on Earth to produce Homo-sapiens, one could be forgiving of the empiricists for being a bit skeptical, considering that it is only one variation–an anomaly so to speak–in the pantheon of life. Considering the nearly miraculous confluence of events which permitted life to evolve on Earth in the first place, any suggestion that it was not only BOUND to happen, but inescapably bound up in the fabric of life, does require a bit of a leap intellectually. Although there have been some exciting and compelling exceptions over the millennia, scientists are frequently reluctant to include their intuition, and tend to resist directing their imaginative inclinations outside the realm of science.

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No one disputes the essential nature of neurological functioning in achieving an awareness of experience. All one has to do is observe the devastating effect of trauma to the brain to establish how vital brain function is to awareness. It does not necessarily follow, however, that the subjective experience of consciousness is created SOLELY by the brain. Neurological functioning involves a multitude of interactions within the brain itself. It includes a process of fragmentation and re-integration of multiple components: neurons firing in specific sequences, synaptic transferal of electro-chemical impulses, sensory input, cross-referencing of iconic imagery and memories of previous experiences. It is a very complex process which still eludes our understanding, and any attempt to reduce it to biology alone must surely fall short of the mark. We may be DEPENDENT on our brains to enjoy our capacity as human beings to experience our existence, but it seems unlikely to me that our brains GENERATE that experience.

In an enormously compelling and technically superb rendering of how the brain supports and grants us access to the world of conscious experience, Nobel laureate Gerald Edelman, and his colleague, Giulio Tononi, explore at length the foundational elements and functional components of our complex thalamocortical system in “A Universe of Consciousness,” and their treatment of the subject is “highly plausible” according to the book review excerpt on the cover. The level of attention to detail in discussing the various aspects of conscious states is reasonably accessible for anyone with an intense interest in the subject, and they present the reader with an enormous body of information relevant to brain functioning. In a refreshing change from many treatments of the subject, the authors acknowledge the limitations of what we are so far able to discern about this complex organ:

“The ability of the nervous system to carry out perceptual categorization of different signals for sight, sound, and so forth, dividing them into coherent classes without a pre-arranged code is certainly special, and is still unmatched by computers. We do not presently understand fully how this categorization is done…but we believe it arises through the selection of certain distributed patterns of neural activity as the brain interacts with the body and the environment.”

When addressing this “distributed neural activity,” they cite the example of how we are able to read after “…a time in which we had consciously to learn about letters and words in a laborious way, but afterward these processes become effortless and automatic.” They then acknowledge “…How our brain performs these demanding tasks remains largely unknown to us.”

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“A Soul Brought to Heaven,” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

As someone who feels certain that a comprehensive theory of consciousness will eventually require us to include some sort of essential non-physical interaction, the anecdotal reports of visions, apparitions, and other psychic phenomena which humans periodically report, while mostly amusing to scientists and philosophers in our day, all suggest at least the possibility of an interaction with the ineffable or the mysterious. All of my research and study into the nature of our cognitive functioning continues to intrigue me beyond measure, but nothing I have encountered thus far has eliminated this possibility for me. On the contrary, much of it seems to ENHANCE the possibility! Much of the literature and astonishing progress in neuroscience points toward activity that is INFUSED with the spirit. Far from being dissuasive regarding a potentially “spiritual component” to human consciousness, examining the astonishing complexity of neuroscientific progress seems to me a fair indication of its PRESENCE!

It may well be that LIFE itself has, as a natural component of its nature, the infusion of nor-corporeal aspects for which there may only be a subjective awareness. That we are unable as yet to establish with certainty, a universal experience of a transcendent consciousness for all humanity is not sufficient cause to suppose that it does not exist. The quality and nature of our lives generally compare in many ways to that of all other living entities, and it is not difficult to detect subjectively, a profound connection to the natural world all around us, and to recognize that we are an essential member of the terrestrial community of life on Earth. Our higher cognitive capacities distinguish us in important ways, adding a significant element to our human nature which allows us to perceive and appreciate our interconnection with ALL life.

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We owe the scientific community a great debt for the many benefits we enjoy today as a result of the advancement of empirical knowledge and the elimination of superstition and fanaticism which were the cornerstones of our ancient worldview. Science has brought us a long way from the “Earth as center of the universe,” mindset of ancient times, and in modern times it has created “miraculous” technologies that have enhanced life on this planet a hundredfold, and we need to continue to pursue its advancement vigorously.

But even as solid and predictable as the the laws of physics seem to us today, not one of them eliminates the existence of the human spirit, just as the many avenues of pursuing the human spirit cannot alter or eliminate the laws of physics. It doesn’t take an Einstein to conclude that both can co-exist and that each may be dependent on the other in important ways. Our subjective sense of “being” relies on being able to use our senses, but our senses do not BRING US into being, nor do they determine the significance of our existence. They are our window to the world of experience, and it is that world of experience that connects us to our sense of being and to the spirit.

On Being A Conscious Human

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What is it about being human that separates us from all the other species on the planet? Why is it that our fellow creatures on Earth don’t enjoy the same level of cognitive talent as we do? What separates us from even those creatures with virtually the same parts and similar brain structures as ours? What makes us so special?

A recent comment posted in my “About” section posed several questions related to the unique nature of human consciousness—how it affects our basic nature, how it affects our ability to survive and thrive, as well as how it identifies us as the only known terrestrial species making use of our cognitive talents in exactly the way we do. Since these questions are central to the understanding of human consciousness, I decided to respond by posting my thoughts about these issues here this week. These are important questions to ask, and understanding how possessing such unique talents has enabled us to achieve so much more than any other species has been able to do, can not only broaden our appreciation of our own place in the world, but that of our fellow creatures as well.

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“If all the animals have some degree of consciousness, do they also share our sense of being special, our instinctive drive to survive, a sense of purpose? Why do WE feel these things?”

It’s difficult for us to imagine what it might be like to be any of the other animal species on our planet, not because we are so much different from any of them physically or because we are so much more advanced biologically or mentally, but because as remarkably similar as we are in so many ways, our unique combination of physical attributes in our brains, which gives us a discernible edge in the range of our capacities, particularly with grammatical language and symbolic thought, is what makes imagination possible in the first place. Without Broca’s area, which regulates our ability to speak, and Wernicke’s area which regulates language development and our ability to comprehend speech, as well as our unique version of the cerebral cortex, being able to express the results of our imagination would not be possible. There is a growing indication through neuroscientific research that Broca’s area is also involved in music, working memory, movement, and even calculation. Even Kanzi, the bonobo, who has learned to communicate in a variety of ways, is very limited by comparison, and although this amazing animal may not be on a par with humans functionally, it demonstrates just how significant a relatively small difference can be.

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While we also have some of the same instinctive drives that all animals have, discerning what might constitute a purpose to our existence, being aware of such a purpose, and contemplating, planning, and then acting to fulfill a deliberately chosen purpose, requires a capacity like the one provided by our “upgraded” human cognitive apparatus. We see a broad range in the degree of consciousness in all the species on Earth, but over the millennia, humans have expanded and built upon this capacity to a degree that simply is not evident in any other creature.

I believe that our love for animals and all living entities is a reflection of our sense of unity with all life in the universe, and recognizing that the very same “stream” of consciousness that manifests within US is also present in everything that lives, gives us good cause to suppose that all life forms are a manifestation of a much deeper, profound, and intangible energy at the heart of existence.

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“So then why do humans commit suicide if they are programmed to survive, like all other life? Are we the only species that commits suicide? Is our consciousness the missing factor in animals that allows us to commit suicide?”

Human beings have a unique capacity for contemplation, imagination, producing and expressing complex ideas, and as a result of the complexity of our cognitive apparatus, are prone to all sorts of mental illnesses, brain injuries, disease, and defects which can affect us in numerous ways. We are not born into this world as a completely “blank” slate. We are constructed out of the inherited genetic material of our species generally, and that of our familial inheritance specifically. Our genes, chromosomes, DNA, and all the aspects of our human biology, construct our bodies and our brains in the womb, and from the moment of conception through whatever growth and aging that we are able to accomplish, we can experience any number of successes or failures of that inheritance. This represents a formidable force in determining how well or how poorly we will fare in our lives, and depending on the environment in which it all takes place, a whole other set of problems and opportunities might hold sway as we live from day to day.

We are not “programmed” to survive in the sense that it is not a hard and fast or unbreakable instruction encoded in our genes. Survival is a natural inclination of all living entities, and evolution has demonstrated that the will to survive is an advantageous adaptation for living species which ensures the continuation of life. It is instinctive—we don’t have to learn to want to survive—but it is far from being a directive. Species with the ability to survive—characteristics and talents which promote survival—will generally prevail if they have the right stuff—if they can adapt to the changing environments—but our cognitive capacities as humans allows us to deliberately choose whether we want to survive or not.

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Most often, even this choice may not be a completely conscious choice. According to Thomas E. Joiner, a psychologist and author who wrote, “Why People Die by Suicide,” “Virtually everyone who dies by suicide has a mental disorder at the time of death.” Depression, mental illness, and any number of psychological difficulties can initiate such thoughts, but there are a number of contributing factors that rule out being “programmed” to either survive or give up on living. Most people DO want to survive, and the degree of consciousness that humans possess generally is adequate to acknowledge our instinctive drives when they come into play, and potent enough to overcome those instincts when there is sufficient motivation to do so.

In my view, human consciousness represents a temporal connection to a much more complex and intangible aspect to our existence. It seems likely to me that consciousness is ubiquitous in the universe and both permeates and transcends the temporal world. Our unique position as a consciously aware and cognitively talented species, far from being simply a temporal advantage, gives us a responsibility to discern our connection to all life, and to act to preserve it, protect it, and appreciate it while we have the opportunity.

The Nature of Consciousness

shaper of dreams.by ~Sea-of-Ice http://sea-of-ice.deviantart.com/gallery/

In response to one of my recent posts, my good friend and fellow blogger from The Heartbreak of Invention, (http://patricemj.wordpress.com/) posed several important questions regarding some of the issues surrounding the nature of human consciousness. While these issues are the subject of intense study over a number of neuroscientific disciplines, and cross over into topics like cognitive neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy, they are important questions that also address our very human nature, and how we function as sentient beings. As someone engaged in the study of these subjects for some time, it is my hope that in the process of attempting to respond, I might illuminate some of the path forward for those interested in these very questions.

In spite of all the attention being given to the subject of consciousness these days, there are still many different approaches to the subject, and no clearly defined limits as to what the term encompasses. Since the neuroscientific community prefers to emphasize the functioning of the brain and the neural substrates supporting our subjective awareness, which are clearly a vital component in our understanding generally, they are reluctant to stray too far from what is discernible through scientific methodology in explaining or addressing consciousness. Conversely, those who take a more holistic approach, while acknowledging the importance of neuroscientific studies and the modern methods of investigating our cognitive functions, tend to be more inclusive when it comes to a comprehensive understanding of how consciousness becomes manifest through the interaction with the physical constructs of the brain, and human cultures, environments, and other external and internal phenomena.

The fMRI process – http://bic.berkeley.edu/

A great deal has been written about the subject of consciousness over the last fifty years or so, with the advancement of technologies like PET imaging and fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) which has expanded exponentially, generating more attention in the scientific community, but philosophers, poets, and every variety of thinker throughout human history, have pondered the nature of our subjective experience of life. It seems to me, the time has come to bring together the many disparate approaches in order to progress in our journey of discovery.

What would consciousness be like if it could jump these humble tracks, these human contraptions? Can it jump?

What we sometimes fail to recognize when we engage in our sometimes narrow approaches to understanding the world, is that we have formidable limitations, as well as enormous potentials as cognitive creatures. We cannot eliminate the need to investigate consciousness through rigorous application of scientific principles, any more than we can eliminate the need to include the speculative and less well-defined sociocultural influences and forces that have forged our current capacities through the millennia. What we examine using our “human contraptions” is the product of millions of years of evolutionary trial and error, leading to the eventual awakening of self-awareness, formed over tens of thousands of years of numerous leaps and bounds, starts and stops, and periods of prodigious progress and fantastic failures. Consciousness may have existed all along in the fundamental nature of life, and our “humble tracks” which led us to devise these contraptions were merely steps along the way, but I believe there is no need to “jump,” if the tracks are simply part of the human process of discernment. In my view, we need to let go of the tracks in order to see our true nature.

Does it exist off the grid or does it only come to life for us in the channels we devise? Does it only pour into what we have designed for the purpose of holding it, capturing it?

It is tremendously difficult to imagine how we might define anything in ways other than those we have thus far been able to devise, and as sentient temporal beings, we are largely confined to the limits of our temporal senses and cognitive constructs in channeling our awareness into some sort of demonstrative entity. Where we excel as humans is in imagining, pondering, speculating, conjuring, dreaming, and contemplating, which generally provides us with the raw materials, which then become temporal objects and other channels of expression, including the digital revolution, artificial intelligence, and every variety of scientific endeavor. Since it is clear that consciousness is not easily defined in temporal terms, and that it exists as both a phenomenal manifestation evidenced in our cognitive talents, as well as a wonderfully mysterious, elusive, and highly subjective entity within us, it seems likely to me that it DOES exist off the grid simultaneously as it comes to life through the channels we devise. It is in our experience of consciousness temporally, where we recognize that it must exist in another realm or state that is off the grid, even though our apprehension of it requires that we devise some sort of channel for it. I do not believe we can actually “hold” it or “capture” it, at least not in the sense that you mean by those terms. I believe it exists both as an expression of our limited physical existence, as well as enjoying some form of limitless existence beyond the channels we devise.

http://phenomenologyftw.files.wordpress.com/

Can we only perceive consciousness, meaning can we only recognize it as it is born through our own valued and legitimate paradigms of understanding, our own theories of knowledge? Do our own molds and models alter and shape what comes through them?

As one who recognizes the significance of our psychological and various mental constructs in determining our reality, I cannot completely disassociate myself from my own understanding, and while we can all at least entertain opposing viewpoints to our own in some manner, our theories of what is knowable and what it is that we think we know well are clearly subject to the interpretation of our cognitive apparatus. Our perceptions of the world depend on our sensory and central nervous systems to function properly, and some degree of commonality is generally reassuring as a measure of what we perceive as real and accurate to the degree that such common perception is even possible. We cannot manipulate our molds and models through any other cognitive and sensory apparatus currently, but as we progress in our evolution, both temporally and psychologically, (not to mention spiritually) we will no doubt be able to expand on our current models to include a greater comprehension as it is revealed to us in the future. We have seen many previous efforts to mold and shape our understanding fall apart with the advent of new methods of discovery and discernment, and I do not believe that our molds and models shape what comes through them, so much as we shape our molds and models based on what comes through US. However, the search for a greater understanding can only progress if we remain open to what may be possible.

Thanks so much for the opportunity to respond to such important questions…….John H.