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2. Three Consciousness(es)
Consciousness researchers, therefore, are required to be clear on what consciousness they are working on! Are they working on system-bound consciousness, self-consciousness or consciousness-as-such? Neurocentric consciousness, consciousness which is confined to the brain, is an example of system-bound consciousness. Self-consciousness relates to 'self of all self-organizing systems where self could work independent of the system and also through consciousness bound to the system. Consciousness-as-such is unconditional and non-dual consciousness which is non-negotiable and seems impenetrable!
Over the years consciousness researchers have concentrated on neurocentric consciousness. When consciousness works in concurrence with the organization of 10u neurons in the brain, one experiences it as brain-bound, brain-trapped, brain-confined consciousness. It seems difficult for a researcher who is basically neurocentric to address the following questions. What when the brain was not there? (Neurons came into biological existence about 700 million years ago!). What is it in brainless animals? What is it in plants? What is it in a unicellular organism! These queries lead them to void of silence, stillness, emptiness and nothingness. They are uncomfortable with the problems of namre consciousness. "Consciousness is evaluated clinically as the ability of the individual to respond appropriately to environmental stimuli" (Erik Kandel ). Appropriate responsivity to an environmental stimulus (often called response potential) is the hallmark of the presence of consciousness. Eigenresponse corresponding to eigenstimulus makes the basis of awareness test. This also indicates presence of a kind of intelligence and choice in the responding system. Not just any response but the response with some kind of intelligence and choice is the signature of consciousness. Should consciousness objectively mean an intelligent response to a stimulus, then why not namre having any 'brain'/ intelligence?
A self-organizing system responds intelligibly to an appropriate stimulus. However, till now we, as scientists, have ignored v self and given emphasis on the organizational aspect of the system. The self is recognizable as rudimentary and 'individualized' unit of consciousness in any self-organizing system. There are two views on genesis of self-consciousness. In the context of the brain, surfacing of "self could be recognized as the first successful outcome of the attempt of consciousness to free itself from the confines of the brain, from the entanglement of neural network, from the bounds of the informational field created by the neural conglomerate within the brain. John C. Eccles probably realized this from the results of his life long experimental work and probably this reason made him and Karl Popper put the title for their celebrated book, 'The Self and its Brain' , as if the brain belongs to 'self. The emergence of self as self-consciousness in our brain has followed the course of history of material evolution, evolution of life-form and its multimde of variants, and evolution of the brain as an organ. In this sense, self-consciousness could be considered as an emergent element churned out of the intimate relationship between the system/brain and consciousness.Another view, mostly held closed to their chest by the accomplished mystics is that the 'self as system/brain-independent entity could be an individualized but indivisible and a stable 'spark' of non;dual, unconditional consciousness-as-such.
Consciousness is evaluated clinically as the ability of the individual to respond appropriately to environmental stimuli.
"I am a wave in an Eternal ocean,
A drop I am in Infinite sea,
I am an 'atom' of an Immortal block,
A lasting spark of Ananda is Me."
- The Millennium Bridge , p 162
According to this view, the self has not emerged from the neurons in the brain. Self has unfolded within the system from unconditional consciousness. Following the course of evolution the 'self has only learnt how to use the system/brain! The 'self could be described, according to this view, as an individualized and informed but indivisible and a stable spark of unconditional consciousness. It is (i) informed that it is a spark of unconditional consciousness, (ii) informed that it is to behave in a specific way within the constraints of the given system/brain or brain-like structure, (iii) informed that although it can behave as bound or independent of the system/brain, it is actually the bridge between system/brain-bound and system/brain-independent consciousness.
The 'self therefore, could work with its three powerful information ammunitions.Accordingly, it could work in three modes: self in system/brain-bound mode (sthula sarira i.e., gross body),
self as system/brain mode (sukshma sarira i.e., subtle body) and self as the nature of unconditional Consciousness (karana sarira i.e., causal body).The evidence for existence of system/brain-independent self-consciousness comes paradoxically from (i) neurophenomenology and (ii) neuro-behaviorism. In course of near-death experience, out-of-body experience and autoscopy, the self as an individualized unit of consciousness could free itself from the activities within the brain. The behavioral expressions of a highly evolved self-consciousness which is independent of brain are seen as expressed in (i) love (ii) altruism and (iii) disinterested search for truth.Consciousness-as-such is disembodied not merely from the brain but also from the universe and nature. In other words, it is independent of system-bound consciousness and is also independent of 'self of self-organizing systems like brain and the others in nature.
The behavioral expressions of a highly evolved self-consciousness which is independent of brain are seen as expressed in (i) love (ii) altruism and (iii) disinterested search for truth.
System-bound Self- Consciousness-
Brain-bound/ Self of any Unconditional &
1. Example neurocentric self-organizing non-dual
consciousness system consciousness
2. Addresses World T, Me, Mine Brahman / God
4. Responsible for
JL_Vedantic version Jivatman
Both system-bound consciousness and self-consciousness
6. Anthropomorphic Khsara- Akhasara-
_version in B-Gita Purusha Purusha
Table 1: A synopsis of system-bound consciousness, self-consciousness andconsciousness-as-such.
Consciousness-as-such as ontological consciousness forms the ground, independent of any fore-ground or background. It is responsible for both system-bound consciousness and self-consciousness. System-bound consciousness as epistemic consciousness is responsible for sensory and phenomenal experience by the system. Self-consciousness bridges the ontological and epistemic consciousness and is responsible for phenomenology.These three consciousness(s) also relate to three fundamental questions found in Prasna-Upanishad and Brihad-aranayak Upanishad. What is this world? Who am I? What is Brahman? System-bound consciousness encompasses the world, self-consciousness, 'me', 'mine' and 'i' and consciousness-as-such, the Brahman (Figure la & b). These three consciousness(es), in anthropomorphic sense, are probably three purushas of Bhagavad Gita; system-bound consciousness, the khsara pursha, self-consciousness, the akhsara purusha and consciousness-as-such, Purushottama. (Table 1).