More than thirty years ago, after a traumatic personal experience, I began an exploration of the diverse areas of psychology, philosophy, and neuroscience, in an attempt to understand more completely the nature of the mind, as well as a review of the many cultural and spiritual traditions through the ages, in order to come to terms with my experience. Along the way, I became convinced that it was possible with the right approach, to not only determine how it is that we attain consciousness, but also to formulate ideas that might lead to a greater understanding of the true nature of our experiential awareness. While there is still much more to discover, I believe there are two essential components for coming to terms with what it truly means to possess human consciousness.
The first is that consciousness has progressed or evolved from the earliest epoch of our awakening as modern humans, even though, so far as we can tell, there has been no appreciable change in our brain physiology since that time. Whether or not we eventually discover some previously undetected difference in the future, what we have accomplished with our brains since modern humans first appeared, indicates at the very least, a steady increase in both the sophistication and the breadth of our capacities, which may point to an even greater potential as yet unrealized.
The second is an appreciation of the degree to which we can be said to share aspects of our present-day consciousness with that of our ancestors and our fellow inhabitants of planet earth. We are, compared to most other previous dominators of the planet, merely a fledgling species, having only tens of thousands of years over which to consider notable accomplishments based on our cognitive skills.
It is my belief that there must be a component to human consciousness, ascertainable by us, which is unrelated to any body of physical laws. Any theory of consciousness cannot be truly meaningful, in my view, unless there is some element within the underlying explanation, which points to our existence being more than just the result of a totally random cosmic evolution. While we may not presently have the capacity to grasp all the implications of cognitive existence, or even to fully comprehend the broad scope of the processes which make it possible, I find it unavoidable to conclude that whatever constitutes the full explanation, it must encompass much more than neuroscience, and cross over into realms which may not ultimately yield to empirical scrutiny.
The story of humanity is in every way an accumulation of knowledge and experience, and the resulting expansion of human consciousness. Even if the acquisition of consciousness was initiated by our acquisition of an adequately equipped brain architecture, the accumulation of knowledge and experience made available to us as a result of that acquisition, is entirely our own doing.
The bulk of my writing and the driving force behind it have always been about coming to terms with the sometimes inexplicable character of our subjective experience of life. All of the information and traditional explanations from years of schooling have left me with far more questions than answers. It has taken thirty years of searching and studying to even approach what might be described as a beginning to understanding. So much of what I have uncovered and concluded seems to point toward a universe far more expansive and mysterious than even modern physics has suggested.
Since, at least in the traditional sense, I am neither scientist nor scholar, all of my writing on the subject, while considered and deliberate, may not rank very highly in the pantheon of either science or philosophy. It nonetheless feels compelling to persist in gathering it and committing it to the page. It seems at times senseless to continue and at other times impossible to stop. There are very few individuals in the circle of those amongst whom I travel who have any interest or inclination for the subject, and it often feels like I am so lost and alone in my world of writing that I may never find an audience.
We are only now, in this epoch of humanity, beginning to come to understand the nature of human consciousness, defining our cognitive functions, developing a comprehensive picture of brain physiology, expanding the scope and depth of neuroscience, and figuring out how it all works. And in spite of all this progress, there are still huge gaps in our ability to explain how all of the neurological functions and synaptic activity and the electro-chemical balance of the brain and nervous system results in the richly diverse subjective experience of being alive. None of the science so far has been able to satisfactorily explain how any of these vitally important systems produce consciousness.
It is my theory, based on almost thirty years of independent study in all the related fields, that the “human spirit,” or whatever term you prefer, is the manifestation of the “divine”—the non-physical source of all life—and that there are capacities within us, as yet undetermined, which tap into this “non-physical” source and lead us to make connections to others, without being able to say precisely why, pointing to a profoundly spiritual component to life that we are only just beginning to discover. Even modern physics is beginning to allude to the necessity for dimensions outside of our familiar three-dimensional world. The fabric of space-time supporting all life and the physical universe increasingly appears to contain and rely upon elements and aspects beyond our current capacities of direct perception.
This blog will present samples of my efforts over the past twenty years to delve into the phenomenon of consciousness, from a variety of approaches, and includes both the definitive and speculative. I have made an effort to include a diverse spectrum of scientific and metaphysical thinking related to the subjective experience of consciousness, and how our greatly misunderstood spiritual nature relates to our cognitive and psychological temperaments. The term “spiritual” here does not imply any particular religious connotation, but rather addresses the aspects of sentient life which are non-corporeal in nature. The human spirit, (or whatever terminology you prefer,) is a highly subjective component in the equation, and as displeasing as it may be to the empirically minded among us, figures prominently in my ruminations. It is my belief that we will ultimately come to a point where we will be unable to avoid acknowledgement of metaphysical connections to existence in general, and to consciousness in particular.
The German poet and writer, Rainer Maria Rilke, (1875 – 1926) once advised a student of writing to seek an answer to the question; “Must I write?” If he could “meet this earnest question with a strong and simple, ‘I must,’ Rilke urged him to “build your life according to this necessity.” Within these pages, between the streaming thoughts that spew forth from within me, behind the flow of emotion and turmoil, contained in the subtle layers of meaning, and in the relentless questioning of every idea and image of conjured bliss and agony, lies the destination of each human spirit ever manifest in the phenomenal world.
I do not seek because I expect to find. I do not rise each morning and expect to live indefinitely. I do not continue to hope in the face of hopelessness because I expect a miracle. I do not live and love with any expectation of success or failure. I do not write for any other reason, other than the resounding “I must,” which issued forth from my inner world, when I sought out my own response to Rilke’s question. My journey is now underway.