What really is Consciousness? DR SANJAY TEOTIA analyses this complex phenomenon
The human mind often goes against itself when it is trying to explain the nature of consciousness. Is it something universal and primal as has been suggested by ancient eastern shamanic traditions? Or is it something that can be explained by both science and spirituality? When we try to explain the presence of consciousness in living beings and in inanimate structures by different methods, such as through an empirical analysis, or by involving the enigma of intelligence, then we often end up with some conflicting results.
Consciousness is a puzzling phenomenon. When I try to explain it, I find that for myself, my own consciousness is the only element of existence. I am personally aware of it through the flow of various subjective experiences, unique only to myself. At times, I try to explain it by comparing it with an external experience that happens to others, and not just to myself.
I then assume that other human minds, and to some extent, even non-human minds experience a similar structure in this eternal moment of now.
Strangely however, even the subjective experience is sometimes very hard to objectify. The totality of perceptions has to rely on memory, but memory, itself can be notoriously unreliable and misleading. How then should one try to comprehend the fundamental nature of consciousness?
Moreover, in the external world, it is our senses that are seemingly reporting to us about what is going on both within ourselves and outside of ourselves. It is really out there in our consciousness, combined with how we see the experience through our own ability to see, hear, and feel.
Look at the reality of this sentence which explains the term consciousness, “As he fell, he hit his head and lost consciousness.” Here, what we are trying to say is that the state of realizing or noticing that something exists ceases when we actually get knocked off and cease to recall an event or situation.
Freud divided human consciousness into three levels of awareness: the conscious, the preconscious and the unconscious. On a simplistic level, each of these levels corresponds and overlaps with Freud’s ideas of the id, ego and superego. Consciousness in each one of us wants to explore the unknown, to evolve and grow. Consciousness within us observes that the external world is gripped by a race for greed, glamour and respectability, often ignoring real joy and purity in our pursuit of these three components.
Glamour gives one an illusory sort of joy, but our soul needs more solid experiences. Eventually, we realize that worldly influences do not really touch us. Instead, we seek to be in touch with the higher vibrations of spirituality and we realize that we have to open ourselves to be receptive to these higher influences. The higher centers within us are constantly communicating something profound to us but in the early stages of our spiritual journey, we have closed ourselves to them.
The moment we open ourselves to these higher vibrations, we attract nobler aspects of life. And when we are in our lower state, we attract similar, lower aspects of life. This is the Law of Attraction.
As we grow in life, we learn about theories of consciousness from religion, philosophy, and from cognitive science. But despite all this inflow of knowledge, we are still at a loss to tackle even the most basic questions such as what is the adaptive value of consciousness, or when did it evolve?
Has consciousness helped us to evolve and helped us to learn and adapt to changing circumstances? Consciousness, as we know it, exists only in the brains of highly evolved organisms and hence exists only in a tiny fragment of the universe. As we try to be aware of the consciousness within us, we link it to becoming more aware of who we are. Taking true responsibility for our actions then becomes a lot easier. We become conscious of our behavior and make more conscious decisions on how we choose to treat ourselves and others. This helps our consciousness to grow further.
Dr Sanjay Teotia is a senior consultant eye surgeon at District Hospital, Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh. He is a prolific spiritual writer and his articles appear regularly in Navbharat Times and in Times of India, apart from YoursPositively