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Why it Matters
- Consciousness is a subject that can seem unclear or overly simplified. Here you’ll find the information you need to more explicitly define and explain consciousness, and use that knowledge for practical purposes.
- We break it down into clear building blocks of knowledge. In this way, you can feel confident in exploring the subject of consciousness from various perspectives.
- Once you’ve built a strong foundation (on this subject or any other), you’ll be efficient in evaluating new and related information, in connecting dots for more advanced understanding, and in applying the information practically and wisely.
- And, arguably, this is the most important subject you can consider! Consciousness is at the heart of our lives and when you understand it better, you can improve your own life, and that of the collective.
Confusing & Inconsistent Usage
The topic of consciousness is a popular one, but ripe for confusion.
A Particularly Unclear Subject
If asked to define consciousness, many people will struggle to find words. Whether or not they have an intuitive sense for its meaning, “consciousness” is a subject they find difficult to describe. Those who are more comfortable with the term may describe it from a variety of different perspectives.
Sometimes consciousness is presented as a fuzzy, “woo-woo” concept that is so “out there” as to be of no practical value. Other times, it’s used improperly narrowly, presuming a definition that is far too limiting when another word would be more suitable.
What’s Causing All the Confusion?
Here are some contributing factors to the confusion and inconsistency:
- The dictionary definition for “consciousness” is so lacking as to be almost useless: “the state of being awake and aware of one’s surroundings.”
- That definition is more appropriate when referring to the “conscious mind” which is not what discussions of consciousness are about.
- The “conscious mind” refers to a mind state distinguished from the unconscious mind state. (“Unconscious” means either comatose or the part of the mind that is inaccessible to the conscious mind but that affects behavior and emotions.) Mind states and consciousness are not referring to the same thing.
- With such a poor dictionary entry, everyone is thus required to define the word for themselves. And these various uses are typically different based on the angle or “lens” through which each source views the subject.
- As the lack of clarity has persisted over time, more and more people have come to use the word casually, making it ever more vague and nebulous. At times, it’s used as “filler” — something that sounds good and seems to add power or credibility to an assertion, but in fact, contributes to the haze of confusion.
What Consciousness is Not
While the following topics are related, to equate them with consciousness can lead to confusion:
- Brain activity or mental processes
- The conscious mind
- Transpersonal psychology (the psychology of spirituality and meaning)
- Parapsychology (the study of ESP, mind-matter interaction and consciousness survival after bodily death)
- “Paranormal” phenomena such as psi and telepathy
- Techniques such as hypnosis, meditation and lucid dreaming
- Conscience (an inner feeling of right or wrong)
Reflect On: Does consciousness reside in all things? Is a brain necessary to posses consciousness? Is consciousness dependent on a brain? … In my opinion, all living life forms possess consciousness, including plants, and I believe there is conclusive evidence for that…. Parapsychological studies, which have gone through rigorous testing and according to statistics professor, Dr Jessica Utts at UC Irvine, have tighter controls than any other area of science, hint that consciousness is not solely located within us. This is evident by the fact that humans have the ability to “perceive” remote locations regardless of geographical distance (remote viewing) and it’s also evident by the fact that human thoughts and intentions can alter physical material reality at a distant location, at both the quantum level and at the human level.– Arjun Walia
So What is Consciousness, Really?
Experts are quoted below. To summarize their reports:
- The belief that consciousness is something within the human brain (epiphenomenalism) is an outdated and scientifically disproven worldview, but it continues to be espoused by some, including some scientists.
- Consciousness is the “fabric of the universe.”
- It is a “primary principle of existence,” a “universal phenomenon.”
- It is the “eternal driving force for all that exists.”
Notably, these definitions are virtually identical to the definitions of aether (also called Quintessence, The Field, Space, The Void, Akasha, The Universe and Spirit).
Fabric of the Universe
Defining consciousness is a challenge. While some people describe it as awareness, others equate it with spirit. Even scientists disagree, with many believing consciousness results from brain activity while others describe it in an opposite sense, as a fabric of the universe that pervades all sentient (and perhaps non-sentient) beings.– Consciousness and Healing Initiative (CHI)
A Primary Principle of Existence
The findings of my research and contemporary consciousness research in general… are in radical conflict with the most fundamental assumptions of materialistic science concerning consciousness, human nature, and the nature of reality. They clearly indicate that consciousness is not a product of the brain, but a primary principle of existence, and that it plays a critical role in the creation of the phenomenal [experienced] world.– Stanislav Grof M.D., Ph.D.
The Eternal Driving Force for All That Exists
Consciousness, once thought to be only the product of brain chemistry, is now viewed as the eternal driving force for all that exists, that manifests itself through physical form in order to experience.– Edward F. Malkowski (ch. 2)
What, Then, is Individual Consciousness?
If consciousness is bigger than us, and we come from it, then what does it mean to refer to one’s own consciousness? What exactly is our individual consciousness and how does it relate to consciousness as a whole?
Scientifically, it may be described this way:
Everything is connected through a universal field of virtual particles, and we are all part of a single living system. What this new worldview suggests is that physical form as biological consciousness is a local expression of a universal phenomenon commonly referred to as “consciousness.”– Edward F. Malkowski (ch. 2)
When trying to envision our individual consciousness, one or more of these metaphors may be helpful:
- A wave expressing itself in the ocean, or
- An antenna tuning into radio frequencies, or
- A faucet that is tapped into the source
The different metaphors serve different purposes in helping us to envision how consciousness may actually work. Let’s consider, specifically, how the wave metaphor can be helpful.
- When it comes to our individual consciousness and the great field of consciousness, we tend to think that we’re discussing two separate things. And from that assumption, we ask ourselves how these “things” are “connected.”
- But that type of thinking is precisely the limiting viewpoint that David Bohm explained was hindering physicists from coming up with an explanation for conflicting theories in quantum physics.
- So let’s say we manage to expand our thinking from being a thing (person or mind) that has to have a physical link (such as a telephone line) to something else (a bigger mind). We might think, okay then, is it more like a wireless connection? But we’d still be off the mark (as explained through nonlocality and entanglement in quantum physics).
- The easiest way to get our indoctrinated brain to expand its thinking about this is to consider a wave in the ocean. The wave isn’t a separate thing connected to the ocean; it’s a part of it while also being an individual expression of it.In this way, we are each a part of consciousness while also personally expressing it in our unique, individual way.
Another angle is to consider how the body is a carrier of electromagnetic current:
Most folks think of antennas as long metal rods extruding from radios or as “rabbit ears” on top of a television set. In its broadest definition, an antenna is anything that can carry an electromagnetic (EM) current… Many parts of the physical body are sensitive to EM radiation… The body itself can be regarded as multifaceted antenna system that acts as a transceiver (transmitter/receiver) of informed energies, or vibes. We will explore the dimensions and posturing of the physical body and show how it works like a broadcast antenna. We’ll also see how the internal components of the body make shapes that aid in transceiving multiple forms of information. The physical body is sheathed in layers of energy bodies as well, such as the etheric and astral bodies, which themselves act as transceivers for frequencies that are beyond physical measurement at this time. We’ll show how these energies interact with the physical body. And lastly, we’ll discuss the advent of a quantum biological antenna system and the new avenues of discovers those ideas open for us to explore.– MaAnna Stephenson (2008)
Avoiding Potential Confusion
The lack of a widely-accepted definition has contributed to the word “consciousness” being used inconsistently and inappropriately, making it harder for people to understand what’s important and why. Here are some examples of how you might interpret or reframe teachings to reduce confusion and maximize learning. The purpose is to help others, to empower them with important teachings they can use to improve their life and that of the collective.
Substitute a More Precise Word
When you see the word consciousness used in a way that implies any of these, simply substitute the proper words to get a better understanding of the teaching’s intention:
- Mental processes or brain activity
- The conscious mind
- Parapsychology, psi, telepathy, and so on
When it’s Just Filler, Remove It
Sometimes the word seems to be used as “filler” and it would be more clear to simply remove it. In the quote below, the subject is about the power we gain by learning to choose our thoughts. That’s a wonderful teaching, but using the word consciousness as it’s used here seems to equate it to something else, thereby adding to the confusion about its meaning. We could just remove it and focus on the core teaching: the power to choose.
Example: Remove It
We all have the power to change our entire lives drastically, and immediately. It all starts with our thoughts. It may not instantly change our outward circumstances, but it most definitely can change our inner world which then affects absolutely every aspect of our lives. It is the inherent power of our consciousness, our ability to choose in each moment how we wish to perceive our lives.– OmTimes
Break Subjects Down & Explain Them
The following quote has a lot of interesting information to consider but it’s so packed with concepts, including consciousness, that it’s ripe for confusion. The focus of this particular research abstract is a weighty subject: not only how people come to their worldview but how a worldview can transform, and the effects of that transformation. To then add the statement, “Worldview is one aspect of consciousness,” just makes it seem more dense. If the author wishes to discuss how worldview is related to consciousness, then how about breaking this topic out and writing more specifically about the point; otherwise, it’s likely the reader will equate worldview with consciousness, which is incorrect.
Example: Break it Down & Explain More
Each person has his or her own personal story about the nature of reality. Genetic tendencies, religion, culture, and geographic region, together with all the experiences people have both internally and in relationship to their environments, give rise to their worldview, or their general way of viewing themselves and the world around them. Worldview is one aspect of consciousness. [Research found that] as a person’s worldview transforms, awareness can expand… leading to enhanced prosocial experiences and behaviours. Increased social consciousness can in turn stimulate further transformations in worldview…– Peer-Reviewed Research (2010)
Sources & Resources
- Consciousness and Healing Initiative (CHI) — What is Consciousness, Healing, and Biofield Science?
- Grof, Stanislav M.D., Ph.D. — The Cosmic Game: Explorations of the Frontiers of Human Consciousness — 1998 book
- Kreisberg, Glenn — Lost Knowledge of the Ancients: A Graham Hancock Reader — 2010 book
- Lipton, Bruce Ph.D., Uplift — The Science Behind Collective Awareness
- Stephenson, MaAnna — The Sage Age: Blending Science with Intuitive Wisdom — 2008 book
- Walia, Arjun (Collective Evolution) — Studies on Plants Suggest Consciousness Exists as a Separate Entity from the Brain