Part One: The Self is Distinct From Body and Mind
Everyday, I am becoming more convinced that the only pursuit worth the effort is to know myself, and that all other efforts, aims, and goals are derivative of this one pursuit. You might say that the purpose of Individual and Aware life, at least in my mind, is to know yourself. This is distinct from the purpose of life in general, which is the continuance of that life via the delivery of its genetic qualities to future generations. The parallel development and purpose between the self and the biomass that houses it is at the core of my theory.
When considering the self, this concept of being that we all seem to grasp yet continues to elude our understanding, we might ask where the self resides? What is “the self”? The most simplistic answer might be that the self resides in the body, or that the body is the self. I believe that this is incorrect, that the body is a vehicle for the self, the machine that the self uses to engage and interact with its environment. The body does not seem to be infused with this idea of self. When I clip a hangnail from my fingers, I do not sense that my self is diminished, and I imagine that even if I were to lose a limb my “self” would remain intact. My vehicle might be extremely hampered, but I would be no less me. Our language indicates this line of thinking; there is a distinction between what we mean by “me” and “my body”, though sometimes we mistakenly extend our sense of self to our body and even beyond. People in a car accident often exclaim “He hit ME!” when in fact they mean “He hit my car.” If extending self to a person’s possessions, like a car, is incorrect, then I think it is also incorrect to consider the body the self.
Unfortunately, part of our social indoctrination includes considering possessions as an extension of our being. If you are not born with it and cannot take it with you after your life has ended, it cannot be you. We bury the husks left behind by the departed. There are cases where the body and autonomous systems continue to function even when consciousness has ceased, resulting in what is referred to as “brain death”. In those situations, the medical opinion is clear that the self, whatever it is, has vacated the premises. Since the body did not leave with them, then can the body be the self?
The next most likely answer is that the self resides in the mind, or that it is the mind. What I think is meant by “mind” in those instances is the mental processes the physical organ of the brain produces. The idea of “mind” extends also to those processes, experiences, and perceptions. I believe that the assumption that the mind is the self it also incorrect. The mind, like the body, is a machine… a tool used by the self. It is the controls the self uses to manipulate the body and the processor through which information about our environment and experiences is translated in a meaningful manner. The physical aspect of the self, the brain, is merely another organ of the body. If the brain is damaged, does the self diminish, or just the capacity to function? Again, there are medical examples of trauma to the brain resulting in amnesia so severe that a new personality, sometimes even with different skills, emerges to replace the identity that was lost. If the self where the mind, would this be possible?
One might argue that the processes supported by the brain, the mind, is the self, and therefore the self is simply an elaborate function of the mind and not distinct from it. As complex as our minds are, we have managed to duplicate its processes artificially. Computers have been built that, when we discuss processing power and functions, far exceed the capabilities of our minds. Yet, the awareness which this argument suggests is an extension of those processes is not present in those machines. Awareness, I believe, is integral to the self. While the processes of the mind (and in the future a computer) may support this awareness, this self, there appears to be a distinction between them.
The brain, the mind, and its processes are a vehicle which can support and house consciousness, or the self, but the presence of the vehicle does not necessarily mean the presence of a driver. Lower animals have brains which in some cases rival our own in regard to development, yet our consciousness, our sense of self, appears to far out-strip any other example in our biosphere. This self, or consciousness, may be a phenomenon occurring as a natural evolutionary trait… simply an elaborate survival mechanism. If that is the case, why is it not present in other animals given its obvious success? Why aren’t there examples of other primates creating civilizations, or cetaceans striving to communicate with us? I suggest that it is because when discussing consciousness as a survival mechanism, specialized senses, thick coats of fur, and sharp teeth are far more advantageous than an overly developed frontal lobe. Consciousness is distinct from, and not imperative to, the survival of a single organism or a species. I believe it might serve another purpose.
Part Two: Parallel Development of a Material and Non-Material Universe
If the self is not the mind and not the body, then what is it? What is its purpose? From where does it originate? I have been a proponent of the idea that immortality is a function of species, that the clear biological function of any organism is to pass on its genetic material to future generations. This idea suggests that all species are in fact one super-organism, and possibly that all life on a sphere is a massive hyper-organism. Immortality is not present in its individual components, and while the experiences of one component may be of use to the process of improving the viability of the species, ultimately it is only the biological imperative which is of any lasting importance. Life lives, with little concern for anything else. With this in mind, the only kind of immortality that an individual personality can hope to achieve is through their actions and their impact on the culture of their species. I have said that we should build monuments in time to our greatness to influence the future.
While I still support this idea, I am now uncertain if that is the real limit.
I find myself considering the possibility of a parallel development which is supported by the biological and material development of our universe. All matter comes from one source, as far as we have been able to discern. Our bodies, in different proportions and combinations, are made of the same stuff as stars. When I considered in the past the phenomenon of self, of Awareness and Consciousness, when looking at the diverse fauna of our planet, my initial conclusion was that this Awareness and Consciousness served no real purpose other than being a relatively unique evolutionary tool for seeing to the future viability of the species. We are the smartest monkeys, and all our development and enlightenment makes certain that our sperm and eggs continue to dominate our biosphere.
When I consider, though, the hyper-organism, all life on our planet, the purpose of Awareness and Consciousness, of self, becomes readily apparent. As richly diverse as life is on out planet, it cannot survive because it is locked to this one sphere. As Stephen Hawkings has pointed-out, the destruction of this world, given enough time, is a mathematical certainty. The only way in which life survives is if it thrives and expands to new environments, to leave this biosphere and inhabit or create a new one, life must have an organism which is Aware enough to recognize the imperative and Conscious enough to create the means to deal with the problem. A clear marker of the presence of Awareness is the understanding that the death of the body is inevitable and Consciousness is denoted by behaviors which indicate the organism acts in accordance to this awareness.
Look around at your fellow smart-monkeys and ask yourself how many of them act as if their inevitable demise is a reality, let alone the potential demise of their species. Life requires the evolution of Awareness and Consciousness in order to become truly viable on a universal scale.
I would propose that the human species has evolved to support and house the Awareness and Consciousness of the biology of our world. Just as the brain houses the Awareness and Consciousness that drives the body, the Aware and Conscious members of humanity might be the housing for the Awareness and Consciousness of our biosphere. Our interactions, properly organized, are leading to a Global Awareness, and eventually a Global Consciousness. Not a hive-mind, but rather a biosphere Awakening, with the survival of the life originating on this sphere being its priority. This imperative originates with the life on our planet itself, which is rooted in the formation of the planet, itself spawned by the formation of our local star and its system, to the organizing of matter an energy of our galaxy, to the on-going reorganization of the universe. Everything in our universe is simply a different energy-matter matrix, a particular expression of potentiality.
Stars exists for millions of years. They proceed from instability in molecular clouds which cause the material to coalesce into one body. The gravity of the mass eventually results in hydrogen fusion. Fusion continues through the elements until iron results, and the star begins to collapse and die. The whole process takes billions of years, and in the entire time of the star’s development its fate is already known. It is, as far as the development of new and ongoing energy/matter matrices, a dead-end. A super-nova may agitate the molecular structure of other clouds which begins the process anew, but this is not a matter of choice and the result is the same in future stars. Evolution does not occur.
Without the presence of life and the possibility of Awareness, energy and matter would continue the process of expansion, re-organization, and collapse infinitely and with no change or purpose. This is the state of a purely material universe, and if this were the totality of the universe then Awareness and Consciousness, or self, would be superficial or even counter-productive. If, however, there is a parallel process involved, then self becomes of tantamount importance. The explosion of the “Big Bang” leads to the expansion and re-organization of energy/matter matrices. Some conditions produce stars, and in turn some conditions produce planets which might sustain life, and then life develops under the proper conditions and in some of those biospheres it develops to the point of being able to support Awareness. This Awareness, in some cases, supports Consciousness. In Consciousness, we find a matrix that is the most rare of all the expression in the universe. It is a matrix that can be self-determining. Just as the imperative of biological life is to survive and thrive, it is possible that the imperative of Awareness and Consciousness is to break from of the material cycle of our universe, to create something which may be able to endure the “Big Crunch” and beyond.
If all material for our universe and every energy/matter matrix within it has a common source, then I would propose that it is the same for Awareness. This is not to suggest a “god” or creator deity, but simply a hidden universal Awareness that co-exists with the obvious universal body. Just as humanity is the Awareness and potential Consciousness of our biosphere, so might all Conscious biospheres be the Awareness and potential Consciousness of this universal self. Just as each organism is a component of the total material of the universe, then each Consciousness is a component of the universal totality. “God” would be an over-simplification. In our own biosphere, we see patterns and processes repeat; cellular function is akin to the function of the organism is akin to the function of the species is akin to the function of the biosphere. As below, so above.
Part Three: Cumulative Awareness Leads to the Rise of Consciousness of Greater Magnitudes
While a universal Awareness may be under development, it is far from Conscious. Lower animals display indications of awareness of a rudimentary sort, but not Consciousness anywhere near our degree of development. Again, I believe that the eventual universal consciousness will not be a hive-mind, but a collaborative interaction between all conscious beings with a singular priority.
When a material body dies, it is reintegrated into the mass to eventually be re-organized and expressed in another matrix. Using what has been established here as our model, it seems a rational possibility to me that our Awareness, distinct from our matter (neither body nor mind), would also re-integrate into the mass-Awareness. Undeveloped, that Awareness would simply disperse and be re-organized into a new form. Matter returns to the local communal pool of total matter that makes up the planet, just as the planet will eventually return to the total communal pool of material that makes up our star-system, and so on. Awareness might also spring from a communal pool which our species has become developed enough to house and express.
What that communal Awareness lacks is a communal Consciousness which allows for self-determination. It is the Conscious Self which has a lasting quality. This is apparent in our own history; those members of our species who demonstrated what seems to be a great Aware and Conscious Self have also often left a lasting mark on our society. Their works continue to inspire (move the spirit) others, which suggests that something of themselves lives in the material world. That something lacks consciousness, and yet also inspires greater Awareness and Consciousness in others. The immaterial is having an influence on the material.
If consciousness can be likened to a kind of energy, even in some instances measured by its absence at the point of death (a measurable drop in electrical charge, biochemical interaction, and even the weight of the body), and energy does cannot be destroyed, then we can establish that there is something permanent and lasting derivative of the human experience. Undeveloped, this “carrier wave” might simply disperse, but what might be the result if the Consciousness is trained, disciplined, and well developed? Might that Consciousness take on a quality that differs from its origin? Might those qualities lead to changes in the communal pool of Awareness and increase the likelihood of cumulative species, biosphere, galactic, and universal level of consciousness?
What communal Awareness lacks is a communal Consciousness which allows for self-determination. Our species is not yet developed enough to allow for a significant portion of the population to arise as Conscious and able to integrate our disparate parts into a unified whole, even if briefly. I do not believe that this potential even requires the Awakening of all, or even a majority of the species. Indeed, such an event might be disastrous. Our own brains are divided into different functions, with only a portion of its neurons dedicated to conscious thought. Our species may require that some of its member-cells remain Asleep, handling other tasks while its conscious cells deal with critical judgment.
The same potential model for survival via Consciousness would be necessary on a universal scale to escape the cycle of material integration/de-integration/re-integration. Again, I believe that this would be the imperative of a collection of Conscious beings, and that said Consciousness would have to be so successful in their development and viability that escaping that cycle would be the last barrier to cross before breaking into a truly new manner of existence.
The necessity of such beings in this model leads me to postulate that Consciousness via Awareness can be sustained and self-determined, avoiding dispersal upon re-integration with the communal Awareness, and in fact changing the nature of that Awareness to make the possibility of other Consciousnesses enduring re-integration possible. The proposed “soul” as an immortal aspect of the self is therefore not a fore-drawn conclusion, but rather a possibility. Within each of us resides a mote of a soul, the potential for a dynamic Awareness which may become a true Consciousness and achieve self-determination. Immortality may be possible, but it requires recognizing and developing that within the concept of self which is lasting; not body, mind, or even personality. I can not point to it directly, but like the evidence of black holes being their effect on the surrounding space, I am beginning to think that there is evidence present that suggests the mechanisms I am describing at work.