Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

The Conundrum of Consciousness

Originally posted on September 21, 2015

I am fortunate to have a few acquaintances who think deeply about conundrum of consciousness. The word is “qualia”—how it “feels”—how it’s “experienced”—addressed in part by the philosopher Thomas Nagel, in 1974: “What is it like to be a bat?”  … and the problem in my mind resolves somewhat when one hypothesizes that consciousness is not peripheral, but rather central. This is as radical a shift as when the earth was imagined not to be the center of the cosmos but peripheral to the sun, one of several planets circling that star. That is, the riddles of pre-Copernican astronomy were solved when the solar system was viewed as solar-centric rather than geocentric.

(We have since come to realize that that star, our Sun, and its planetary system in turn rotates around the center of the galaxy the way the planets revolve around the sun—only there are hundreds of billions of other stars just in our galaxy doing likewise. And beyond, we have come to realize that there are billions of other galaxies also in motion. It’s really beyond actual comprehension, even if we can get the illusion that we “understand” such numbers.)

Many problems arise when one holds as an assumption the notion that what we can perceive as central (i.e., matter, a materialistic universe in space time) is ultimate, with consciousness as an epiphenomenon. But this assumption poses many problems. IMHO (i.e., an acronym for “In my humble opinion”), space-time matter and energy are extensions of higher consciousness. Solves so many problems.

Note that I am not speaking here of human consciousness! We are ourselves extensions of (dare I call it “God”? It’s certainly not the Western tradition of the Biblical, anthropomorphic he-God apart from us. I’m referring instead to what we all are part of, that I call the “Becoming Everything.”) Higher consciousness is able to take physical form, not a problem.

Nor are we ever going to know what that higher consciousness is really like because puny-human brains  (what I’ve taken to calling human consciousness) relates to it as a finger relates to the whole body mind. We can joyously surrender and serve it and help it do it’s exploratory, emerging, developing, sustaining thing, but it’s all much  much too big for our puny-human- minds. Of course, this is mildly affronting because of a mistaken assumption: We have a right to know, and we have the mental equipment  (human mind) to know what at very best can be vaguely intuited, as I am doing now.

But we are also getting hints at mysteries of dark matter and dark energy, quarks and strings, black holes and trans-dimensional spaces, entanglement and other phenomena at the edge of our tools for probing "the edge" (dum da-dum, ominous or at least intimidating musical overtones).
Human arrogance is instinctive but we don’t have to believe everything we feel. (Nor should we think everything we feel, nor feel everything we think, nor feel everything we believe, nor believe everything we think, nor, considering the nature of illusion, think or believe everything we perceive, etc.) Kids age 7 who think they know really where babies come from pity with a shade of contempt their younger siblings who don’t know this yet. Human consciousness and relativity writ small.

I fear that few dare to think these thoughts, not only because they’re difficult to think about, but also vaguely forbidden, taboo. But hey, that’s what philosophy does.

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