This is a continuation of the discussion in the FAQ on Mind/ Consciousness/ Science
the (most) of the relevant discussion is below.
Reply by Capt. Anand Kumar on Saturday
Science Vs Spiritualism is a topic that never seems to go away. As if the two are different.
Seth, to get a little more insight into your item 2, please visit our discussion Strong Free Will Theorem. Let spiritualists / believers in God come up a unified coherent definition of consciousness and then it can be examined. Meanwhile science continues its quest as is evident in The Emerging Physics of Consciousness.
What evidence the so called spiritualist / believers in God have given us to prove that memories / consciousness (as in psychology) or other ideas reside outside the brain.
I may be a foolish ignorant person. That does not give anyone a right to take me a for a ride.
ModeratorPermalink Reply by John E. Mead on March 24, 2014 at 10:01pm Delete
Good to see you Anand! (been a while)!
Very Good point! and excellent reference on the Strong Free Will Theorem. <g>.
ModeratorPermalink Reply by John E. Mead on March 24, 2014 at 10:53pm Delete
The book referenced (The Emerging Physics of Consciousness,Springer Press - one of the top Science Publishers) is now on my want list. Darn things always exceed current available balance in budget for the month... sigh.
Permalink Reply by Seth Edwards on Thursday Delete
Thank you for the links Captain, I'll be sure to check them out.
My only question: how could one come up with a coherent definition of consciousness, seeing as consciousness is what necessarily must underlie the act of intellectual thinking and words to begin with? Defining consciousness with intellectual words would roughly be similar to describing color to someone born blind, only infinitely harder. When it comes to consciousness in its most basic form, what is there to examine? What is there to describe? It seems logical to me that consciousness is beyond our intellect's grasp. But just because you can't explain something, doesn't mean you can't know it. It just means you have to figure it out on your own. And perhaps that's why there is no unified coherent definition of consciousness from the spiritualisticly minded people. Our words will fall short of reality, and therefore examining definitions and proofs is a waste of time in that direction. It's much more productive just clear your mind and breathe.
ModeratorPermalink Reply by John E. Mead on Friday Delete
Although the question is directed towards Anand, I'd like to throw in a word or few.
The (An) approach is to develop an emergent theory of how the brain develops (manifests) the state of I-ness or being-ness as an individual entity; An extension is working on "Oneness" of two conscious objects and how Quantum Mental States can be "shared" between subjects. The theory(s) is (are) surprisingly plausible.
Quantum Mechanics deals with the ability to analyze the combined/simultaneous states of the subjective and objective properties of matter which (matter) carries simultaneously. See our local discussion on Subjective States of matter in Quantum Mechanics. This references Peer-reviewed articles (example of why Sheldrakes 1. is wrong)
Many of these properties arise from Bell-like states (mathematical states) of matter. One has either Non-Local phenomena (bell-like example), non-Counterfactual Definiteness or both (our local discussions links are given).
Also see Wikipedia's entries Counterfactual Definiteness and Non-Locality.
The fact is that Consciousness has to emerge at this level first, then higher-order thoughts can be examined such as coherent ideas and words. This is really a hot topic in Science as Anand pointed out. It is an emergent theory by the "Nature" of the beast.
I will combine these into one discussion in the Science Group (probably). keeps them from getting "lost" in the discussions on the site. (sometime.. <g>).
Permalink Reply by David Allen on Saturday Delete
"consciousness is what necessarily must underlie the act of intellectual thinking and words to begin with?"
I would guess there were many small steps between that first rudimentary "thought" and the development of a language to even attempt to express it. This is why words fail us when we attempt to use them to describe a perspective that was developed long before language existed.
"It seems logical to me that consciousness is beyond our intellect's grasp"
I would think the intellect is sufficient (would almost have to be), it is the bindings language (and all other incomplete expressions) imposes on our intellect that restricts our emergence as truer representations of self.
When our thinking transformed from one dimensional to two dimensional it was through a "revolutionary" (evolutionary) concept, a rudimentary "thought" that had to work it's way up through the complexity we create to the point at which we become aware of it, that point is consciousness.
At least that is how I see it.
If our "mind/brain" (intellect) has limitations to it, we would not be able to even imagine that there is more. ("I think, therefor I am")
clearing the mind and breathing (sounds like meditation) strips away the complexity, allowing you to become aware of these rudimentary "thoughts" quicker. Every bit of incomplete expression (complexity) we create is an obstacle (that cast a long shadow or darkness) in our conscious understanding of what we are. So when we remove enough complexity we "illuminate" what was unseen in the shadows. When we become "enlightened" we think in a higher dimensional way that allows for more accurate expression.
To me, that is what is evolving.
The physical expression is merely along for the ride.
Permalink Reply by Capt. Anand Kumar on Saturday Delete
Consciousness deserves a separate discussion thread of its own.
There are several cultural memes floating around for ages which now perhaps have a genetic basis too. One of them being that "because science does not know about it what I am saying is right." Another one being that "it is possible to know but not understand it or vice versa," both implying the same meaning. These memes are not seriously questioned by ordinary people like us.
It would perhaps be helpful to learn about how memories are organized inside the brain. Neuroscience is not yet developed to the extent where it can answer any question about mind/brain/consciousness/knowledge/understanding etc., but it can give some pointers. I found the quest of an Artificial Intelligence software programmer narrated in On Intelligence quite fascinating. Ancient Indian text Chhandogya Upanishad categorizes different types of memories, their functions and relevance. Unfortunately no good translations are available.
As humans are evolving the capacity of their brain is expanding too. What we could not understand yesterday, like why an apple falls from the tree, is child's play today.
Permalink Reply by Seth Edwards 10 hours ago Delete
I see what you're saying with the memes, but I don't really think they apply here. Then again, I could also be simply deluding myself into believing they don't apply when in fact they do...
...because science does not know about it what I am saying is right...
The reason I believe I'm right about the limitations of language when put to the use of describing consciousness is not because science doesn't know what consciousness is yet. It's because consciousness is there before and after I use my mind to think with words or images or sounds or anything else. It's from rudimentary experimentation within myself, not b/c of what science may or may not know (of which I'm largely ignorant of anyway...).
...it is possible to know but not understand it or vice versa...
And I'm saying its possible to both know and understand it, just not communicate it to anyone else who doesn't also know and understand it, and that's only because it has to be bluntly experienced to be known. If everything around us is of consciousness, then nothing around us can be used to accurately describe consciousness. Only consciousness alone can describe consciousness, and consciousness is not made up of our words. It underlies our words.
ModeratorPermalink Reply by John E. Mead 1 hour ago Delete
the problem with language as a device to use is that Science looks at the consciousness of Bacteria, fruit flies and everything else. Those languages are primitive if they exist at all. The Math is thought itself and not words. Communicated between people as transference of ideas/concepts not words. It has little to do with words, just ideas from the very/most fundamental to higher ideas. That is the language of Science.
Reply by John E. Mead on Wednesday
Back to the FAQ
The above discussion illustrates two main points.
The first is that we rely on actual facts not just author popularity. To do so, we rely on many facts, but will favor the peer-reviewed over unfounded speculations. We also have the right to stray from this as/if needed.
The second is that we consider Science to be at a point in history to finally have the tools so desperately needed to help solve the 2nd half of the riddle "As Above, so Below. As Below, so Above". The pursuit of science to breech the boundary between Consciousness and the Manifest. This has traditionally been delegated to the Philosophers, Epistemologists, Ontologists, Metaphysicists and Metamathematicians. For the first time in recorded history we have the means to do this job in complete detail. We rely on the ancient authorities and the completely new explorations and discoveries. That is a key pursuit within our site. It is also the key challenge for this 21st Century.
ModeratorPermalink Reply by John E. Mead on Friday Delete
(Science) Back to the FAQ: The below illustrates the broad scope of our definitions in the FAQ, We use the definitions and words in the FAQ because they seem to convey the broader scope of the field.
From “What is Theosophy” in the FAQ
1. Divine/Human/Nature Triangle: The Theosophist explores the interactions, dependencies and invisible correlations between the Divine/Human/Nature. Understanding this reality is their primary pursuit.
This is exactly what we are doing here. We are trying to understand reality as a union of Nature with Human thought/consciousness by bridging the understanding of the Divine realms of Being-ness and Nature.
2. Primacy of the Mythic: Myths abound in and among cultures. These myths are stories rich with symbolisms and synchronicities pertaining to the Divine/Human/Nature. A Theosophist uses his creative (imaginal) abilities to connect and learn about these relationships and their meanings.
True Scientists are inherently inclined to imaginally examine Nature and create Myths (theories) of nature, built using Symbols, to connect and learn about the relationships and their higher meanings.
3. Access to the Divine: The Theosophist uses an active, creative mind as an instrument to explore the intuitive relationships between the Divine/Human/Nature. The active imagination gives the human mind direct access to the Divine, enabling Gnosis to occur and illuminating the human mind into experiences of higher mental states.
The Imaginal Nature within Man/Humans gives us direct insights to explore relationships between our own Divinities within Nature by using the Human mind as a bridge between them. This gives us a better, or alternative, access to the Divine. We are actually performing the connections to explore the second half of the Emerald table’s “As below, so Above.” This is performed by taking the external world and working down to its lowest nature to combine with the “Mind” and hence lead us to understand the Divine through approaching from the below.
Though it is widely believed that "consciousness" is indescribable in words, may I suggest a working definition which could be refined as we go along:
"Consciousness is sum total of all that can be known and is yet to be known".
This cover a most fundamental concept of an "individuality" or "me", "I" etc. which seems common to all forms of life, even in the most rudimentary life form.
"Awareness" seems covered also.
Not a bad starting point.
"Consciousness is that which is always the observer, and never the observed."
Consciousness itself seems to be a thing in itself, I don't see how we could add to or take away from it. It's always the same thing in all of us throughout our entire lives: the unobservable observer.
Not a bad Scientific definition. Science expects more from the Observer though. More/greater awareness by the Observer.
Consciousness does interact with Consciousness (another) though.
I think I like this best, so far.
During the stanzas project I met Prof. M M Agarwal, a very widely respected authority on ancient Indian Sanskrit texts. He told me " antiquity of a text is no guarantee of its authenticity. There were fiction writers in those days too."
from Sufi Order International
"To the eye of the seer every leaf of the tree is a page of the holy book that contains divine revelation, and he is inspired every moment of his life by constantly reading and understanding the holy script of nature."
Science, as Seer, would agree....
This is more a functional statement; Also what the Scientist does.