Is Consciousness a Taught Sense of Personal Awareness
Unlike some animal species, we, as a human species, recognize ourselves when we stand in front of a mirror. But what if our parents didn’t stand next to us when we, as young children, stood in front of that same mirror and didn’t told us that the reflection we saw, is our physical ‘self’? Would we, like a cat, a dog or a bird, see our reflection as an adversary and thus try to attack it? Could it be, in this line of thought, that consciousness is a learned form of awareness and not something we are born with per se?
A hemispherectomy is a surgical procedure in which half of a person’s brain is removed. It is usually only done on very, very young patients because their brains are still plastic enough that the remaining half will take over the functions of the half that was removed. And it’s usually done because a young child or a baby is having severe seizures, and removing the part where the seizures occur is the only solution.
But if you can live with half a brain, what would happen if I took two empty skulls and take one half of your brain and plop it into one body and the other half in another body, which person would be you? I mean, you are you. You are conscious. You are aware of what is happening to you from the perspective of yourself.
Think of it this way. If you just stare at something and kind of feel what it feels like to be you, it feels a little bit like you are a thing inside a body looking out through the eyeballs. And nobody else on Earth will ever see the world from that position.
This awareness of your own experiences, the awareness that you are having, your own thoughts makes up what we call consciousness. But if I took your brain and split it into two and put it into two different people, would both of them be new people who were conscious? Or, are you the same person but experiencing everything from two different perspectives?
This topic of what is consciousness and, can we point out its location is indeed a complex one to discuss. And by means of this complexity, our thoughts seems to act in a similar manner, jumping from one Euclidean corner to another in order to find a plausible answer. So, to reduce the many routes your mind is about to take while seeking a plausible answer, let’s imagine the world as a huge library. As far as you can see…trillions and trillions of books are standing on, so it seems, an almost equal amount of shelves. Some have hundreds of pages, some are dusty, some have colorful covers while others seem to look dark or dull.
As you walk past all those different books, maybe run your fingers along the backs, every now and then one of them draws your attention. It might be its shape, the texture, the bright colors or, it has fallen off its shelve. Regardless the reason for why that particular book is drawing your attention, you carefully inspect the cover and read the summery on the back side.
As soon as you feel a personal connection with what is publicly presented, you begin to read the first pages…absorbing the text written. Slowly these words are becoming images reflecting a mixture of emotions and thoughts which are both yours and the author’s. Then, within seconds, your mind has connected with the vast universe of the author.
Our conscious experiences of the world around us, and of ourselves within it, are kinds of controlled hallucinations that happen with, through and because of our living bodies. Therefore, can we consider this moment, this connection with the vast universe of the author, as an awakening of the creation of our consciousness in order to recognize ourselves (the friendly reflection in the mirror). Is this the very beginning, starting point, of the universe existence…and thus time? If so, we are not inside the universe but, the universe is inside us by means of us creating our own consciousness with the speed of 299,792,458 meters per second what in turn is providing its existence in real time.
Have we made the universe aware of itself?
Somehow, within each of our brains, the combined activity of many billions of neurons, each one a tiny biological machine, is generating a conscious experience. And not just any conscious experience — your conscious experience right here and right now. How does this happen? Answering this question is so important because consciousness for each of us is all there is. Without it there is no world, there is no self, there is nothing at all.
It is not possible for something to exist as a philosophical zombie. A thing that reacts and responds and acts just like a normal human but yet doesn’t actually feel anything. It does not know that it is having its own thoughts jumping from one Euclidean corner to another. It just automatically responds like a robot in the appropriate way.
We, our thoughts and behaviours, are, on many levels, different than those from the animal kingdom. Some say by means of the modern technologies we use on a daily basis, others claim that this is created through organized religions. Either way, over time we have learned that we can be aware of our place on the planet and even in our solar system. However when it comes down to our place in the universe, it all becomes a bit more difficult to visualize this. Or, should I say, it becomes a foggy concept?
Recognizing ones reflection without a mentor
Some animals, like monkey’s, do indeed seem to learn, after throwing sticks and stones at it and splashing their hands in the water, very quickly that their reflection is a non-threatening image. But do they recognize that image as being themselves through which they form an awareness of ‘self’ (consciousness)? Perhaps with some ape families, yes…what is a plausible explanation for why some of their and our behaviours are so similar.
Staying with the reflection in the water when animals drink, cat’s and dog’s for instance, they drink in such a manner, it is disturbing the smooth water surface meaning, there is no image to be seen. Some dogs, when they look at a smooth water surface, even bark at the water surface and bite in the image while some cats are hitting the reflection with their paws. Even though it’s difficult to determine at what point recognition of one’s self becomes a real thing this behaviour shows that these animals are not recognizing the reflection as it being themselves but, as an opponent of the same species. And so, we can consider the option that they do not possess an awareness of ‘self’ in the way we humans do.
Visual and inner recognition
So, at what point does the recognition of one’s self becomes a real thing? That is truly a tough one due to the fact it can be viewed from at least two angles. Visual and inner recognition.
When thinking in the direction of ‘visual recognition’ on a personal level, one can say that, dolphins for instance, recognize the shape(s), sounds (language) and the vibrations their own species have and produce. But if this is creating an awareness of ‘self’? Perhaps it does in their own particular way what most of us simply do not yet understand.
When thinking of a personal ‘inner recognition’ one can consider self-reflection as an important moment of getting closer to an awareness of ‘self’. But it is thought that it is a rare thing that people will understand their own (inner) self 100%. It seems that the mind has a mind of its own and will only reveal all secrets of our inner universe after we, so to speak, transcend into the matrix of Mother Nature.
Is it possible for us to get close to a 100% awareness of ‘self’ during our physical time on this globe? Perhaps we can but in a form we have not thought of or, are simply rejecting this being real in its existence. Maybe we are reaching this level, recognizing both ‘self’ and its origin, briefly in the moment we connect on a more spiritual level with both humans and animals. Try to imagine a little bird landing in your garden…you look at the bird and the bird looks at you, suddenly you are connected. Within seconds you, somehow, become aware of your deepest, inner emotions and thoughts…better said, you sense and become them.
With that being said the question is rising…what is this sense and where is it coming from? Are we remembering the teachings from our parents while we stood in front of that mirror, waving at ourselves or, is this an awareness of ‘self’. A spontaneous effect due to a spiritual (telepathic) connection?
I think, with my humble knowledge in this complex topic, that self-recognition becomes a real thing in the moment we start to understand the connection between us and the behaviours (and languages) of the objects which are surrounding us.
What would be the difference between a person somewhere in the world who has never experienced themselves in a reflection, against someone who has?
‘Thought expression’ might be an option in the difference? I mean, if we have never have seen our own reflection, it might be possible that we view the world from the inside out. Meaning, we or look through the eyes of a predator or, that of a prey. As soon as we understand/learn that our reflection is our physical ‘self’, a non-threatening image, we might see the world from the outside in (That’s me?…Who am I?). In this line of thought it almost sounds logical that, viewing the world from the outside in, after recognizing ourselves in any reflection, is creating ‘a’ consciousness.
Would the one without the experience, know themselves less? Personally, I would say no… it might even be that they have a deeper/stronger connection with both their inner-selves and their surroundings by means of them, who, both animal and human, have not viewed their reflection as you and I have done so many times, are not that distracted with external opinions/judgments and thus have accepted themselves from the inside out.
Is this acceptance equal to consciousness? I honestly don’t know. But what I can say is, consciousness is the sense of personal awareness we carry around and it seems that forming ‘a’ consciousness is creating ones unique identity.