The Question of Consciousness
Etymologically, the word consciousness derives from the words scire (to know) and cum or con (with). Consciousness is “to know with.” So if you, the persona, cognize (to know or be aware of), who are you cognizing with? Is there more to consciousness than the Freudian ego and unconscious?
Mathematical physicist Roger Penrose has written:
A scientific world-view which does not profoundly come to terms with the problem of conscious minds can have no serious pretensions of [sic] completeness…I would maintain that there is yet no physical, biological, or computational theory that comes very close to explaining our consciousness or intelligence.
Indeed, in the past (and even today?) some scientists had taken the absurd position that consciousness is an illusion. This, while providing a nonsensical reason to ignore the problem of consciousness, obviously fails to sate the curious inquirer’s queries regarding how we got here and what we are doing here as conscious beings. Materialistic philosophy as we know it—derived from the mechanistic worldview—had, more or less since the dawning of the Age of Reason in the 1700s, steadfastly maintained that what we call experience arises solely as a by-product of the brain’s internal workings. No brain, no consciousness. But is it really that simple? What about functions of consciousness that appear to transcend the cranial boundaries of our heads? The Age of Reason said that these forces had only ever existed in man’s imagination; only reason could show man the truth about the universe. “The trouble was,” according to Colin Wilson, “that man became a thinking pygmy, and the world of the rationalists was a daylight place in which boredom, triviality and ordinariness were ultimate truths.”
The Age of Reason glorified the rationalist, who, enamoured of his endless linear cogitations, was blinded to faculties of consciousness that actually transcended them: faculties that would have allowed him not to merely philosophize about deeper levels of reality, but actually access them. “This is the great tragedy of modern man,” wrote occultist, philosopher, and composer Dane Rudhyar. “His much acclaimed scientific spirit frees him of the compulsions of subrational and subconscious states of mind, only to bind him to an empty rationalism and a quantitative analytical intellect, both of which actually entomb him in a sarcophagus filled with only the mimicry of life. This sarcophagus is the ‘megalopolis’—the monstrous city.”
But something stirs in the bowels of the concrete jungle. An international online survey of paranormal experiences had met with an overwhelming response, according to Australian researchers in 2006. The survey, on phenomena that cannot be explained using the current “laws” of science, is by researchers at Monash University in Melbourne. A recent (for the time) Gallup poll revealed that 75% of Americans hold at least one paranormal belief, and a UK newspaper poll showed that 60% of Britons accept the existence of the paranormal, say the researchers. According to the researchers, the survey is not about beliefs or whether parapsychological phenomena exist, rather it is about what people have experienced and the impact it has had on their lives.
Some 2,000 people had made contact via the internet within six weeks of the survey beginning. A whopping 96% of respondents claim to have had at least one brush with the paranormal. The exercise seeks to gauge the frequency, effect, and age of onset of unexplained phenomena such as premonitions, out-of-body and near-death episodes, telepathy, and apparitions. Results as of 2006 showed that 70% of respondents believe an unexplained event changed their lives, mostly in a positive way. Some 70% also claim to have seen, heard, or been touched by an animal or person that wasn’t there, 80% report having had a premonition, and almost 50% recalled a previous life. In May 2000, the New York Times Sunday Magazine published results of a poll conducted by Blum & Weprin Associates; a huge 81% said they believed in life after death.
Virtually all of these beliefs hint at (and require in order to be true) the existence of other realms—other realms in which consciousness can operate. A 2005 poll taken by the Scottish paranormal society showed that more people are likely to believe in ghosts and the paranormal than have faith in any organized religion. A Gallup survey taken in 2005 showed that about three in four Americans profess at least one paranormal belief. This is a massive amount of “paranormal” experience and belief—all of it depending on the existence of other levels of reality, without which such experience can only be labeled as delusion and fantasy. While the fanatical skeptic would find such convenience irresistible, convenience and expedience are not our goals here.
Did you know that the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has now been amended so that genuinely psychic people are no longer considered “disordered”?