Sunday, August 22, 2021

Sam Parnia - What is Consciousness?

 Consciousness is what we can know best and explain least. It is the inner subjective experience of what it feels like to see red or smell garlic or hear Beethoven. Consciousness has intrigued and baffled philosophers. To begin, we must define and describe consciousness. What to include in a complete definition and description of consciousness?


Peter Pan said...

What is unconsciousness?

jrbarch said...

The human being is 70% water: how does water laugh and cry and think and experience and move up hill when it wants to?

Water that experiences self-consciousness (self-awareness): I am, I exist. I am me – absolutely unique. I do not know why I exist, or what I should do. I am a good little social robot – nothing wrong with that. Soon, I will die. But there you have it – right now, I am. I have an opportunity. The whole point is - of what am I aware? What am I experiencing? I am missing something and try to fill that vacuum inside of me, with stuff. Jokes. Nonsense. Lila. Distractions. That is my dilemma...

Do you know - someone had to experience something first, have something revealed to them - a reality within them, within the consciousness that they are - before they could turn around to the outside world and sit down and write: 'The objective universe - oh, by the way - it's all illusory'! You are real, but everything in front of you, as far as the eye can see – it’s all temporary. The journey, the evolution of the earth itself in producing the human form: all those quarks, leptons and force carriers we are built from - experimented with, assembled, disassembled and reapplied - all of this happened so that consciousness could know the Self. Whether you know Mahamâyâ (the objective universe) or not is moot. But pay your taxes on time.

It doesn’t matter if consciousness is generated by the neurotransmitters, hidden as qubits in microtubials or an infinite quantum field: - it’s who you are, what you are aware of, that counts. That is the human essence: - awareness, consciousness. Self-consciousness is designed to expand and know the SELF. Can life actually be that simple? Socrates said so. Consciousness has always been our richness and our poverty.

It has always been said: what you are looking for is already inside of you.

But we spend our lives doing something else? Looking everywhere else.

Whether or not consciousness survives the brain is also moot (you are who you are in or, if possible, out of a body): the point is what you are aware of right now. Not one nanosecond in the past or one nanosecond in the future – we don’t live there. We are who we are now, know what we know now and have to figure out where we would like to be – now.

That’s what focus is all about.

jrbarch said...

For me, unconsciousness is thinking everything that is illusion is real and the one thing that is real an illusion ... :-)!

Ahmed Fares said...


It has always been said: what you are looking for is already inside of you.

Yes, this is because gnosis is guarded by its ineffability. As such, it cannot come from outside oneself.

Peter Pan said...

Am I unconscious when I'm asleep?

Or does it require a couple of left jabs from Sonny Liston?

jrbarch said...

There are many people who have experienced during sleep, or more commonly during that ‘first light’ moment or ‘dawn’ just before they wake up, being conscious in a very simple way, whilst the body is still in the sleep state. The mind is not active, and the ‘I’ with all of its problems is quiescent. In most people this ‘first light’ moment is usually brief.

I am not talking about a dream state, where the consciousness has no control over the mind.

Samadhi has been defined as beginning when the body is in the sleep state and the consciousness is awake. I know quite a few people who practice going inside, who have had some experience with that state. It is a very peaceful and lucid state of awareness – but not of the outside world. Everything that perceives the outside world is still asleep.

From The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Bailey, AA

18. A further stage of samadhi is achieved when, through one pointed thought, the outer activity is quieted. In this stage, the chitta is responsive only to subjective impressions.
19. The samadhi just described passes not beyond the bound of the phenomenal world; it passes not beyond the Gods, and those concerned with the concrete world.
20. Other yogins achieve samadhi and arrive at a discrimination of pure Spirit through belief, followed by energy, memory, meditation and right perception.
21. The attainment of this state (spiritual consciousness) is rapid for those whose will is intensely alive.

So, in sleep the outer activity is quieted .... the chitta (mind) is responsive only to consciousness itself. This is the beginning of Samadhi. At the end, in the higher Samadhi, the consciousness becomes aware of the Infinite within. The heart of the self bursts open, the ‘spark is seen dancing in the Flame’ and consciousness and Reality are seen for what they are – enveloped in creation – Mahamâyâ. This is why Kabir wrote his poetry and song and laughed a lot at what was around him. Same for Mira, Tulsidas, Rumi et al. Too much noise in this world for their voice to be heard!

36. By meditation upon Light and upon Radiance, knowledge of the Spirit can be reached and thus peace can be achieved.

Peace makes a human being happy; and happiness makes a human being – human.

Sometimes you will see a smile on the face of a very peaceful looking, happy, sleeping baby. I like to think that is probably very much the same sort of thing. It feels like it...


jrbarch said...

Sorry - screwed the Ref. link. In text:

Ahmed Fares said...


It is a very peaceful and lucid state of awareness – but not of the outside world. Everything that perceives the outside world is still asleep.

When Orientalists first encountered the terms Ahadiyyah and Wahidiyyah in Sufism, both of which have the meaning of unity, and having encountered similar terms in Hinduism, they called Ahadiyyah "Unity" and Wahidiyyah "Unicity", to differentiate the two terms.

After a while, they realized that that wasn't very helpful, so they dropped the word "Unicity", retained the word "Unity", but qualified it with an adjective.

Ahadiyyah is now referred to as "Exclusive Unity" and Wahidiyyah as "Inclusive Unity", the words "Exlusive" and "Inclusive" relating to the world. The mystic, while in the state of Ahadiyyah, does not perceive this world, i.e., a vision of unity that excludes this world.

This is, of course, what you've just so beautifully described.

Everything that perceives the outside world is still asleep.

Even more, Junayd's master said: The slave may reach a point that if his face were struck with a sword, he would not feel it.

Peter Pan said...

I think everyone has experienced the transition from sleep to wakefulness, followed by alertness. Similarly, it's near impossible to fall asleep when thoughts are racing through your mind, short of sleep deprivation.

Apart from lucid dreaming, your self-awareness vanishes during a dream. Your identity may get replaced with another identity, sometimes so vague that it is nothing more than an observer. A good book can sometimes do the same for me.

Peter Pan said...

This might be of interest to philosophers:
Light Accelerator - Agendas

jrbarch said...

Well, yes – good point!

For me, if you listen to the noise of this world, all you will see and hear is people’s agendas.

But they end in dust! All those battles fought – for nothing.

E.g. No one can quite believe Afghanistan sums to nothing. That a little virus can expose so much greed, incompetence and inhumanity - threaten to grind profit-making and empire baiting to a halt. Agendas on the outside, always fall apart!

For me, a human being’s true agenda is already there, inside of you. It came with your existence. It does not need to be created.

This is where knowledge of the self comes in ...

Peter Pan said...

Pollination is my agenda :)