Trying to understand Consciousness is now one of Science’ greatest quests, and has been since the earliest days of philosophy, and beyond.
So much attention has been given to the subject over the centuries that thinkers and theorists would exhaust the contemporary concepts so thoroughly, that the subject would be left unaltered for generations.
Only after time had passed and the existing theories had been sufficiently mulled over and pulled apart would the next phase of thinking and theory arise.
This is metaphysical irony.
Consciousness got tired of the sound of its own voice and decided to shut up about itself for a while.
Reading about the subject, therefore, is a painful trek across more than two millennia of archaic, complex and often times contradictory explanations, extemporaneous ruminations, and incomplete definitions.
Ask Google “What is Consciousness?” and smoke will begin spewing from your device. (Not really) But so much content will appear on the screen that you’ll wish you’d have asked for directions to the beach instead.
What is it that makes consciousness so facinating? Why do we have such trouble conceptualizing it and yet seem so obsessed with it that we can’t just say, “Est quod Est,” and move on?
The simple answer is a concoction of two parts Ancestor Worship, one part fear, and a pinch of ego. Simmer on low heat for 2000 years and watch closely.
Most everyone who studies Philosophy loves Socrates, and Siddhārtha. Wise men without equal in their own age. The evidence for their wisdom is, well, self-evident. We all still know who they are!
The posthumous romanticizing of the gifted among us is consistent throughout human history and across cultures.
As humans we look to them for inspiration, wisdom and courage.
We admire warriors like Leonidas and Achilles. In times of conflict we assume their courage for they are our ancestors.
We Idolize Jesus, Abraham and Buddha for their piety and great faith. We call on their memory and read their words when, from out of the darkness, we’re attacked by doubt and fear.
The great thinkers are no less revered. Understanding the world we live in and our place and purpose in it have always been chief among humanities inquires.
We are loathe to abandon the teachings of The Ancients for fear the darkness left in their absence will engulf us in uncertainty and dread.
Confucius, Gauḍapāda, Aristotle, Averroës, are our teachers, and friends to our soul. Who could possibly replace them?
No one and everyone, I think. Our friends would say the same. They do say it, here and now. Not then, not in some distant past we romanticize and revere as if it were a thing.
When I realized that what the Buddha was saying about impermanence and what Jung glimpsed in The Collective Unconscious…
was the same thing that Emerson tried so beautifully to define as The Oversoul, and Aristotle understood as The First Cause;
and that all of them were saying the same thing as E=MC2— I had the first true glimpse of myself and my relationship to what we call “other things”
When I was still a child my friends referred to me as a free spirit. I was never very attached to things and preferred to do as I pleased. Children generally are freer and less attached to the material world than adults are.
In fact, the psychologists say that infants are totally narcissistic in the sense that they don’t distinguish between “self” and “other” at all.
For them there is no wall between themselves and the rest of the world around them. They will their hands and legs to move without realizing what they are doing, unaware that they have hands at all.
Slowly, over time the distinction is made as they identify with self and objectify others and the ego is born.
It is in this moment that the spirit is tethered and bound to the lie that is the material world. Knowledge of Oneness is buried under the foundation of the ego.
The Wall goes up, one brick at a time.