As a part of Becoming Corpus, which is in development for its performance this September, I was asked to research the idea of 'consciousness.' What does it mean to be conscious or unconscious? How does the subconscious relate to the conscious state of mind?
My research produced no tangible, singular answers, but a multitude of opposing ideas and concepts. Read about what I found and tell me what you ponder on the idea of "consciousness."
According to the Macmillan Dictionary of Psychology, Consciousness is, "the having of perceptions, thoughts, and feelings; awareness. The term is impossible to define except in terms that are unintelligible without a grasp of what consciousness means. Many fall into the trap of equating consciousness with self-consciousness—to be conscious it is only necessary to be aware of the external world. Consciousness is a fascinating but elusive phenomenon: it is impossible to specify what it is, what it does, or why it has evolved. Nothing worth reading has been written on it." That is a pretty cynical (and slightly witty) definition to start my search.
My foray into "conscious" philosophy became a large search for understandings of how the mind works. There are two basic understandings of the mind's role in the human being: Monism and Dualism. Monism explains that the mind and body function as one whole unit. Scientifically speaking, the mind is made of matter and so are our nerves and the synapses that fire to create ideas. Dualism is of the belief that the body and the mind are two separate entities. Yes of course, the mind is contained within the body, but the two seem to exist in different worlds. The mind exists within a world of imagination and ideas whilst the body lives in will and action.
In the past, Dualism was an accepted understanding of the phenomena that is the mind. However, in the past century scientists have increasingly become more and more interested in the mind and Monism has been more widely explored. So, who do I turn to other than Father Freud? According to the man, consciousness is 'simply,' "everything inside our awareness." That definition did not lead to much insight...However, it was mostly deceptive. In including the idea of "inside" our awareness, Freud touches on the highly personal and individual states of consciousness. Some people may be aware of a haircut or a new pair of shoes, while to others, that goes unnoticed. Ergo, they are unconscious of what change has occurred. What causes some people to notice and others to be unaware? That's still a mystery.
Dualism is not to be denied its merit. Beliefs permeate far back particularly in theological philosophy. In the Hindu philosophy, consciousness does not come from the mind, but from the immaterial soul. The piece of the soul houses itself within the mind and manifests into thought. So, essentially, the soul is the medium through which we experience the conscious mind. In the same way, the soul sparks the impulse for the body to move, for us to interact and for our motivation. The Buddhist belief focuses more on history of the mind. The "ego" and "self" are convenient terms we apply to our state of consciousness in this life. However, our conscious minds have been existing throughout eternity and will continue to exist as one being. We have happened to take many forms in the past and will continue to do so.
These are the fruits of my labor. The list goes on and on, but these ideas seemed the most distinct and interesting. Tell me what you think about thinking! These ancient doctrines and theories are just as important as your personal beliefs! We'd love to hear.