Definition Of Consciousness -
The following definition of consciousness is limited to that which has to do with a strong feeling of ‘I’ or ‘I am’; to the thoughts you are aware of as contrasted with those you are not aware of. It is also the recognition of that ‘I’ is actually an illusion of the mind trying to make sense of all incoming data.
For decades, neuroscientists, psychologists, and brain researchers have been trying, in vain, to define consciousness. They have dissected, described, examined it but they all still admit it is one of those ‘hard’ problems that can’t be fully explained.
So consciousness, in relation to answering the question 'Who Am I?, can be defined as follows your:
- Recognition of humankind’s dysfunction created by everyone's illusion of being separate from everyone and everything else;
- Connectedness to the universe as a whole;
- Thoughts' power of creation
- Awareness of your inner dimension
For self discovery, it is not the knowledge about the brain that matters but rather, how you use your thoughts
to attract the things you want
in your life.
The life changing question of 'who am I?' led me to think about the definition of consciousness. Before that I just took it that if a person is breathing and is responsive then they are conscious. But in trying to find out the authentic me, consciousness took on a completely different meaning.
Definition Of Consciousness - When?
A well established test, aptly called the Mirror Self Recognition Test claims to answer this question. It is quite a simple test. It involves sneakily placing an easily removable large enough red on toddler cheek. The child is then left to wander about in a room which has a large mirror in it.
Surprisingly, children less than 18 see themselves in the mirror but don’t make the connection that the image in the mirror is them. They make no attempt to remove the dot.
Those over 18 months, the moment they see themselves in the mirror, their hand goes to remove the dot. They recognize that the person they feel in their body is the same as the one they can see in the mirror. So it is between the ages of 18 and 24 months that we become self-aware.
The question how this happens still remains mysterious. Isn’t it strange to think that there was a time when you would have looked in the mirror and not recognized you to be ‘you.’ We all take the sense of self awareness almost for granted.
Maybe we shouldn’t, you know, maybe it is a really special. Makes you wonder, how unique is it? Does the definition of consciousness only apply to humans?
Definition of Consciousness –Uniqueness to Humans?
It makes you wonder whether animals are conscious. Do they have a sense of ‘I?’ Does a dog know it is an dog? How do I know it knows?
It was posing such questions that the Mirror Recognition Test was devised. It was first used on chimpanzees. And it is claimed that it is only chimpanzees, orangutans and humans that pass the test.
So consciousness distinguishes us, great apes, from other animals and gives us a unique relationship with the world. We can think about ourselves in relationship to the things that happened in the past, the present and even plan for the future.
Still, you can't help but wonder, how and where does it all happen? There is an obvious place to start looking..
Definition of Consciousness - The Where
It is in your brain with its 100 billion nerve endings (1 with 11 zeros after it). Learning about brain anatomy may be a valuable lesson but it still doesn’t tell us how consciousness is generated or even, what it is.
A human brain is an awe inspiring organ when in action. When out of action, it just looks like a lump of fat with wormy lines drawn on. It is hard to think that ‘it’ had a name, loves, personality, memories and aspirations. Everything was in there.
Of these 100 billion neurons in a human brain, how many are involved in creating consciousness? All of them? What part of the brain actually makes us conscious?
Definition of Consciousness - The How?
Humans have a very highly developed cortex. This is probably the part of the brain that allows us to be self aware. Consciousness, as far as neurologist can tell us, has a lot to do with the brain stem along with what is called reticular activating system.
This is a group of diffused nerve cells within the brain stem which project up to a relay station called the thalamus. This then sends projections out to all the areas of the cortex. It is that that appears to keep humans activated or consciousness.
Consciousness therefore appears to be all about constant activation of the cortex. However, looking inside the brain and learning a little bit about it is a valuable lesson but it still does not tell us how consciousness is generated or even what it is.
When a brain is dead, what exactly is missing that makes it bereft of consciousness. It is not as simple a question as you might at first think. And it gets to the heart of what consciousness is.
Definition Of Consciousness – Is It Stable??
When you think about it, how you experience your life is unique and personal to you. There is a whole world in your mind that you can explore: you can travel back in time to memories, make plans about the future and sometimes be completely in the present.
Jon Kabat-Zinn in his book
Coming to Our Senses explains it rather well;
"If you search for it, you will not find a permanent, enduring self, whether you look for it in the body or anyplace else. And the reason you will not be able to locate anywhere a permanent, isolated, self-existing self that is ‘you’ is that you is a mirage, a holographic emergence, a phantom, a product of habit-bound, emotionally turbulent, thinking mind."
Definition Of Consciousness & Life?
Stop for a minute and ask: ‘what am I aware of right now?’ How do you know you are aware of it?
Well, the sensations through your senses let you know that you are alive. Without them there is nothing, without them you are nothing. Or is it?...
Coma & Definition of Consciousness?
Well the heart is pumping, the person is breathing but when they are just lying there and not responding, you have to wonder if the “I” is still there.
Research on brains of people in a ‘vegetative state’ still responds to instructions. Their brains react in much the same way as if they were physically responding to the instruction.
Definition Of Consciousness – Separation Mind & Body
Perhaps the most famous thinker to tackle definition of consciousness as regards the soul’s relationship to the body was philosopher Rene Descartes, a French philosopher. He tried to explain how the soul can somehow exist within the body and yet remain separate from it.
The idea that they exist side by side remains central to Christian belief.
To Descartes everything in the world was divided into two types of stuff. There was the material world, physical stuff like the brain which you can explain with physical laws. And then there was the mental stuff, things like the mind and the defining characteristic for mind was thought.
To Descartes, the mind was separate from the brain. This is what gave rise to what we now call dualism. Descartes’ dualism no longer exerts as much power as it did in his day.
But that is not to say that it has gone away, it is just that today we talk about the separation of mind and body. This secular dualism between mind and body is popular perhaps because it somehow feels to be correct.
You don’t have to belief in god to have a strong sense of ‘I.’ Even atheists have a strong feeling of ‘I’ being different from their physical body. So does science have to say about these feelings…
Definition of Consciousness – New Findings
There is a scientist in Sweden,
Dr. Henrik Erhsson
has dedicated his career to tackling this ‘I’ feeling head on. He is gathering evidence that explains away the feeling of a separation between mind and body and proves the brain is all. He claims that by tricking the brain, you can make the mind do the impossible.
By wearing a special headset, you can have an illusion that your body is 3 feet behind where it actually is. So the mind and body feel to be in two different places at the same time.
Brain Is Always Looking For Home
He explains that this happens because the body is always trying to solve the question “Where Am I?” It does this by using all available sensory data and when you feel something that matches what is in the association cortex, that is what you believe.
So by changing the data the brain receives, you can manipulate to do the seemingly impossible.
Dr. Enrik Erhsson confirms that your sense of a separate ‘I’ is an illusion created by the brain trying to make sense of the data being processed by the brain. The mind is weighing all input and dealing with all the many options at once.
So, if the sense of 'I' is an illusion, what about the choices we make?...
Who Is In Charge Of Your Decisions
As humans we pride ourselves on the fact that we can make decisions of our free will. After all, the whole point of being conscious is to be in control what you do. To choose what we want to do and when we want to do it. But it is not that simple.
If you think are just a load of biology then you have a problem about free will because what is making those decision? Is it just the ebb and flow of neuron activity, the unconscious neurons mass of grey matter that you have no control over?
Prof. John-Dylan Haynes
of Centre for Computative Neuroscience, 6 seconds before you make a decision, the network of neurons have already made it for you.
This implies that your conscious decision is secondary to actual brain activity. To put it another way, decision is made by the conditioned responses of neuro-networks of your brain or your subconscious.
There seem to be a lot of brain activity going on that is shaping your decisions and your consciousness comes in at a later stage in the decision, if at all. Have you ever done something and immediately wondered 'Why on earth, did I do that?'
I know, it is rather frightening to think that we are almost held hostage by neuronal activities. Yet, it is not a hostage situation because your conscious mind is encoded in brain activity and is realized by and is an aspect of your brain activity.
Also your unconscious brain activity realizes certain aspects of you and is in harmony with your hopes and desires. This is how consciousness relates to self discovery of who you trully are.
Importance Of Appropriate Definition Of Consciousness
It is because the unconscious mind has a profound control on all aspects your of life:
- The choices you make
- How to live your life
- Where to place your energies
- How you appreciate your impact in and on the world
Knowing this definition of consciousness will help you cope with conflict that exists between the conscious, thinking mind and the unconscious mind which as we found out, runs the show. It will also help you understand what is really on offer to those who break free of their limitations. The following are recommendations of what will help you progress further.
If you are in the United States Use the following links:
Bruce Lipton explains the biology behind this conscious / unconscious conflict really well in
The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter, & Miracles
The Wisdom of Your Cells: How Your Beliefs Control Your Biology
If you are in the United Kingdom Use the following links:
The Journey - Consciousness the New Currency
The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles
CD & Audio Books
The Biology of Belief
The Wisdom of Your Cells - Box Set
The Wisdom of Your Cells: How Your Beliefs Control Your Biology(Audio Book
Free Law Of Attraction
Manifest a miracle – law of attraction
Return to Home Page from Definition Of Consciousness