Our anxious past

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This topic contains 22 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  PopeBeanie 3 years, 10 months ago.

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    “As for bacterial consciousness, that’s a bit too far back for me to connect with.”

    Its not that really far back…yes my model suggest countless levels that go back to the original quantum particles that we are evolved from but…

    Perhaps connect this way…let me ask you the same question I asked Simon Paynton…

    At what stage does a sperm and egg become a conscious human? A sperm certainly has intent and is aware of it surroundings. It is easier to think of a sperm as having some low level of consciousness that multiplies, or rises to other levels, as it joins the egg and develops into a multi-cellular organism.

    Our development in nine months from a single cell to a conscious being is just a sped up version of our single-celled common ancestor needing a few billion years to evolve into a multi-cellular organism i.e. humanity. Some may have attained a multiplicity of ever increasing levels of consciousness that became us. Some evolved into organelles, that are now essential to our bodies.
    I am also wondering if you think it is too simple to state “intuitions or autonomic functions” are levels of consciousness?


    Simon Paynton

    @mike – “You have brought a lower level to a higher level of awareness.

    – I feel this idea is confused, because you haven’t said what defines one level as being different from another.  “Lower” or “higher” in what way?

    meditation might answer this question also…look up “loving kindness meditation”

    – I think this is definitely the key, and “loving kindness meditation” is one direct way to achieve it.  However, it’s also about looking at the mechanics of the ways in which we think in dysfunctional, destructive, distracting, illusory ways.  In one way, these are because of the ego and the things it does.  Even a well-adjusted person with a happy life, but with an untrained ego, could suffer from these, basically because happiness and survival are two distinct things.

    These problems all stem from the tendency of the ego towards blind, reflexive, subconscious self-protection.  This is the way that the ego will fold in on itself, left to its own natural devices.  But this plays out in a multitude of ways.  I think what they have in common is that the person is like a machine, caught up in self-protection, and somewhat cut off from the here and now.



    Simon Paynton

    meditation might answer this question also…look up “loving kindness meditation”

    – it’s not just the content of what people think about, it’s the pattern of thinking that is probably more important, especially as the two go together.  A peaceful mind equals a peaceful person.



    “- I feel this idea is confused, because you haven’t said what defines one level as being different from another. “Lower” or “higher” in what way?”

    Ok, good point; please allow me to clarify.

    Think of a pond in your backyard. As you step in the level will go up, but will change to a lower level when you remove your wet foot. As well, the level is constantly rising and lowering based upon evaporation and condensation. In the same way your level of consciousness is always changing.

    Freud’s three levels are far too simplistic a model to describe the ever changing landscape of our conscious states. As you read this you might be concentrating on what you are reading at a very high level of awareness. A fly walks across the screen and you register its presence at a lower level, and swipe it away willfully; you blink autonomically but then decide, at a higher level, to close your tired eyes briefly and yawn. You scratch an itch on your nose that suddenly intrudes on your higher level. Your inner voice says, “I have no clue what this guy is talking about”. Disdain makes you a little angry, but its way down and barely recognizable as a conscious directive. Your heart beats all the while, and you become aware of it speeding up a little.

    In this example I have just listed half a dozen states of awareness, that drift to unawareness: levels of consciousness that, at times, are unconscious. Free will btw reside at some levels and not at others. Some states were intuitive and others intentional; some calculated, some chance; some considered, some casual; some deliberate, some spontaneous; some impulsive, some cautious. Each state resides along the continuum of consciousness levels.

    And maybe I should use the term states of conscious awareness instead… but I think it is too mainstream for what I am proposing.


    Simon Paynton

    the level is constantly rising and lowering“, “your level of consciousness is always changing., “Each state resides along the continuum of consciousness levels.

    – you still haven’t said what it is that is changing: what property or aspect of consciousness goes up or down a continuum.  Do you mean, more or less consciously aware, seen, known, identified, thought about.

    I think that Freud’s 3-part model of consciousness is valid as a broad scheme of the three different structures of our internal world of conscious information processing – the ego, id and super-ego.  He doesn’t think in terms of hierarchies or changing levels, except to talk about the conscious or unconscious minds, which are two distinct realms rather than an up or down, except that one is in conscious awareness and the other in unconscious awareness: one in the light and the other in the dark.



    “– you still haven’t said what it is that is changing: what property or aspect of consciousness goes up or down a continuum. Do you mean, more or less consciously aware, seen, known, identified, thought about.”

    In the above example, I have just listed half a dozen states of (changing) awareness = consciousness.
    Yes, I mean, more or less consciously aware, seen, known, identified, thought about…yes, all the above and the autonomic functions.

    These changes represent “higher functioning and lower functioning” states of awareness “along” a continuum, (implying an overlapping multiplicity of conscious states), not “up or down” a continuum (implying and elevator stopping at different floors).

    Try this…Take another breath. By saying, “I have control” and taking that breath, you have just identified two states of perceived consciousness. The first state (normal breathing) was autonomic (you didn’t have to concentrate to make it happen); however, it was still part of your conscious awareness. With a small change of awareness from a lower level (not thinking about it, but never-the-less aware of it with a slight change of cognitive perception) to one higher level (a slightly more aware state). The second state rises from the first autonomic state into a more aware state (suggesting a level, just slightly higher than the preceding state).

    Your perception and interpretation of the events described in the above (reading and getting frustrated) analogy is what is changing. These states of consciousness, or levels of conscious awareness drift closer and farther = higher and lower, toward a perception of greater or lessor control.

    This term “unconscious” might be tripping you up. It sounds like conscious awareness and unconscious awareness is, as you say, one in the light and the other in the dark. But “normal” states of your cognition = consciousness is not on a “light switch” that can be turned on and off, in a functioning brain…they are on a “dimmer switch”. Both states are, as you also say, “aware” only at differing levels of awareness. The light is sometimes dim and sometimes bright, and sometime “bright” and “dim” reside side by side: competing with each other.

    We are drifting in and out of conscious awareness all the time; (think about lucid dreams as an example of a lower level awareness, of an unconscious state). Meditation allows one to perceive the continuum and comprehend what you see as light and dark, as really being two of the same phenomena; connecting and overlapping autonomic functions (dark) with cognitive executive functions (light).

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 11 months ago by  mike.

    Simon Paynton

    I think it’s interesting to consider the links between meditation and regulating attention, mind and emotions.

    People talk about the “monkey mind” versus a peaceful mind, and also, emotional reactivity versus, again, peacefulness.  Since the mind and emotions can both be classed as senses – information detectors – I would class these, the “monkey mind” and “emotional reactivity” as two versions of the same thing: inflamed senses.  This is defined as a state of activity over and above what is necessary.

    In “one-point” concentration meditation like mindfulness, the attention is regulated and focused.  This has the obvious effect of quietening the mind, since conscious awareness is a part of the mind.  Less obviously, it must also quieten the emotions, since attention is the result of emotional salience, and if the attention is trained, this must also train the emotions.

    Meditation trains the ego as well, possibly because the mind is part of the ego, and it responds humbly to being forcibly stopped and examined on a regular basis.  It may well be that this inflamed information-seeking of the mind and emotions is linked to the anxiety that we feel when the ego is not well trained: when it is all about blind separation and self-protection, which, paradoxically, can make us feel more anxious.



    My model suggest countless levels that go back to the original quantum particles that we are evolved from…and comes directly from states of awareness I recognize in myself, and these states are observable in other organisms. Can you deny that our white blood cell are not aware of the bacteria they engulf? How about the heart knowing when to pump blood faster or the liver releasing enzymes in response to disease, or a bacteria competing for space on our tongue. Ask yourself “when does a sperm and egg become a conscious human? It is easier to think of a sperm as having some level of consciousness that multiples or rises to other levels as the fetus develops in nine months. Similarly our single celled common ancestor needed a few billion years to become a multiplicity of exponentially increasing levels of consciousness.

    I think of consciousness as multifaceted  (e.g. having awareness of emotions, senses, inner thoughts, thoughts about other beings and how one might or might not communicate or fit in with the others), on broad spectra (e.g. just how perceptive and accurate are the senses in each individual case, how much empathy does one have for others and how discriminating is it within one’s species vs how aware of and caring about other species),  and perhaps the most sophisticated spectrum of all, how well can one put themselves in the shoes (so to speak) of others, within or outside of various species.

    So when it comes down to attributing consciousness to bacteria or sperm or quantum particles, I can see how one might like to assume they’re also on the spectrum but at a low level, but really, we’re talking so many magnitudes in difference of sophistication, what kind philosophical or scientific insights can inform us when we’re now so many millions of years evolved and levels of magnitude more sophisticated than those molecular level beginnings?

    Deepak Chopra has a real knack for reworking scientific discoveries into awe-inspiring metaphysical woo that some people will consume like strawberry milkshakes at the fair, but then they remove themselves so far from real science they no longer even care where “quantum” discoveries came from or why they matter in science.

    Meanwhile, you can take the sperm and egg vs consciousness topic to a pretty high level, remembering the millions of years of evolution that are built into these male and female germ cells. Over some months, they combine and then build human beings, capable of consciousness. When does consciousness start is a big question! I’m sure the answer has to take into account the logarithmic growth of connections made during fetal development, between neurons, senses, sophisticated physiological and neural modules that first saw form and function in ancient sea creatures, and in fact (for instance) it seems that neuronal synapses as we know them first started before brains or nerve fibers ever evolved, like as early as when synapses were merely singular chemically operated sensory organelles that could detect light or a small part of the organism’s chemical environment.

    Sorry I got lost in the detail there, but the truly relevant, modern day question about sperm + egg vs their viable human baby product comes up, namely in the abortion debate. Many of the religious, bible thumping community swear that fertilization is the magic moment that makes the product worthy of state protection in spite of the mother’s will, while I personally err on the side of letting the woman decide, at least up the point where it’s safe to assume there’s not enough brain function or consciousness to cause fetal distress, and even then, anesthesia should be an acceptable remedy. I’m not sure I want the feds to decide where all the lines should be drawn. Currently states draw their lines defining when end-of-life decisions can be made. Why not also for beginning-of-life decisions?

    Anyway, I had a lot more to say, but will save it for your more recent discussion on consciousness.

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