If you think about it rationally, there is no reason why consciousness should reside within the brain and cannot be outside of it. Surely, numerous neuroscientists would instantly prove me wrong here, but they have two main problems. 1: like myself, they look upon this question from a limited perspective, that is, from within the limitations of their own thoughts, projections and perceptions and 2: they search for consciousness within the human brain, assuming they’ll encounter it. Of course they will. Yet that won’t exclude its presence outside of it. And that’s not their expertise.
Now, we say that if we sleep, and I mean dreamless sleep, we are unconscious. But is it possible that we think exactly the opposite while we’re asleep? That during sleep, we perceive the waking state as the unconscious state? That we simply forget about everything we lived during daytime? Or worse: that we do remember it, but from our different state of mind, perceive it as nothing? Just like being asleep appears as ceasing to exist when we’re awake? Could there be a different world where our body lies inside a bed while we are awake here? If there was, how would we know?
A dense network with a filter
Consider the scientific status quo on how the brain looks. It’s an enormously dense network of cells with micro-telephone cables, including numerous interconnected regions where basic functions support more complex ones. The system is kept active by constant influx of oxygen and other building blocks, and outflow of waste materials. And where is consciousness? According to neuroscientists, it exists as a result of the continuous interchange of electric signals of the brain. The theory seems somehow similar as magnetism emerging from an electromagnetic coil with electricity going through. But one of the mayor neurscientific theories is that a filter is responsible for our higher awareness. That’s the mechanism which selects a fraction of the signals reaching us through our senses. By that, it turns our perception, our consciousness, into something we can grasp.
This premise fails to acknowledge that by defining consciousness as the filter that makes the world understandable, you say that the way humans are perceiving the world during their wakeful state is the one and only ‘conscious’ way. Some bypass that problem by calling it ‘higher consciousness’. While I acknowledge the presence of such a filter, I challenge the view of calling it ‘conscious’ or ‘aware’ by asking: how would the world look without it? Isn’t it likely that our consciousness is just ‘a state of consciousness’?
Neurologists say it is hard, perhaps impossible to find a structure in nature as intricate as the human brain. That it has gone through aeons of evolution. They are right. The way they are right, however, falls entirely within the timescale and the spatial scale in which that very brain perceives. We have evolved a style of perceiving that has made our own style of perceiving look like the ultimate style of perceiving by confining itself to a selection of it all. And we need this limited consciousness to keep ourselves organized and by that protect it from going extinct. Smart fellas we are.
I’d posit that this filter forges our egos, but not so much the fact that we’re conscious. The signals in our brains, the clouds of electricity that run from one part to the other and back, may not be structured in the same way outside of our heads, but they are just as present everywhere else.
What else could be conscious?
A tree that stands with its roots in the ground, branching into the sky, constantly exchanges signals, transferring charged matter from above to below and back. Its roots as well as its branches touch those of other plants. As much as the cells in our brains and bodies, these plants and other organisms need to constantly exchange with each other to survive. Is it truly unlikely that out from this continuous buzz rises some kind of awareness?
A galaxy, constantly revolving, has bricks and pieces bumping against each other. Each of the stars continuously radiates all kinds of wavelengths in the direction of its fellow stars. Could it not be that out of that motion spins a thought now and then, so big and so slow that we will never even notice it?
Is it not likely that each species has its own filter, is its own filter of reality? Ants constantly gather substances from around the nest, transporting them to the core. They process them there, then bring them back outside. Meanwhile, the inside of the nests is a cacophony of smell and touch, all eventually leading back to that one queen. We know the chemicals are there, we know the pathways of the ants, but we don’t know how it is to live inside. Could that queen be communicating with other queens via the ants in her nest? In the same way as words stand between human communicators?
Or how about cities? Is it not possible that Amsterdam, existing for over 700 years, has learned? Could it be that all beings inside it compose something bigger? Something that chitchats with Paris and London? How can we be certain that it does not, when we send airplanes, cars, boats and electricity up and down every day? Could we say the same for businesses and other organizations, which, in their way create a filter by bringing the same people together day in, day out?
How complex should structure be in order to give birth to awareness?
I personally find the presence of consciousness in every bit of matter and energy more than likely. I’m fascinated by the idea of ‘dreamers’. That we are all just dreaming our way into reality. That there are dreamers dreaming the sun and the moon, others dreaming wasps, chairs, the cosmos and the atoms. That none of these dreamers are truly isolated or alone, but rather clouds of consciousness, reaching into one another. Sometimes aware of their connection, other times not. That consciousness is not just us, but a sea of dreamers, stretching out in all directions and dimensions. In that view, those who dream our fates would be our gods, and we would be the gods of those whose fates we dream.