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Consciousness takes us beyond avoidable force, waste, and risk

What Is Consciousness?

There are many competing definitions of consciousness and we are not going to try to resolve them here.

However, we write about consciousness on this site -- especially when discussing conscious evolution -- and have often found it necessary to explain what we mean. On this page we share our working definition and articulation of consciousness. It is an "emergent (evolved) consciousness", often distinguished from forms of consciousness that may pre-exist the physical universe, such as the Eastern concept of non-dual awareness, the Western idea of God, and other such transcendent forms of consciousness. In our working articulation, we focus on broadly recognized dimensions of consciousness that can be found in human beings, individually and/or collectively, noting that some of those dimensions -- as well as many other forms of consciousness that we may or may not know of -- may well exist in other species, physical entities, spirits, exceptional people, etc.

In any case, for our purposes in promoting the conscious evolution of social systems, the definition below is what we are talking about.


Consciousness is the capacity to be aware. In this context, it includes all the interior dimensions and capacities of life that can -- among other things -- help us deal successfully with our changing world by sensing, understanding and creatively, collaboratively relating to the entities, interactions, and conditions in and around us.

The varieties, dimensions, manifestations, and elements of consciousness to which we refer when we use the term "consciousness" on this site include the following:

  • hearing, seeing, tasting, touching, smelling, pleasure, pain
  • attention, presence, perceptiveness, experience, memory
  • intuition, responsiveness, sensing the grain and flow of things
  • self/reflexive awareness, self-sense/identity, proprioception/body-sense, authenticity
  • interest, openness, curiosity, passion, purpose, intention, desire, will, engagement, courage, commitment
  • attitude, bias, perspective, worldview/paradigm, assumption, belief
  • feeling, emotion (all emotions), reaction, sentiment, bliss, joy, misery, suffering, hope, etc.
  • care, compassion, empathy, mutuality, resonance, appreciation, loving-kindness, friendship
  • intelligence, learning, reflection, analysis, synthesis, pattern-seeking, information processing, understanding
  • knowledge, information, ideas, understandings, models, designs
  • concepts, language, names, articulation, metaphors
  • certainty,arrogance, uncertainty, doubt, confusion, humility, agreement, dissent
  • ethics, morality, integrity, principles
  • choice, values, decision-making, judgment, evaluation
  • imagination, aesthetic sensibility, vision, story, ingenuity, inspiration
  • wisdom, spirit, enlightenment, transcendence, a sense of the sacred, awe, wonder
  • humor, amusement, enjoyment, playfulness
  • mystery, ambiguity, nuance, sense of paradox
  • forethought, anticipation, worry, plans, strategy, tactics, guidance, predictions, scenarios (future-sensing)
  • management, direction, governance, leadership (bridging between decision, will, and plans with real action in the world, supporting the ability to act)

Most of the elements and varieties of consciousness that we are concerned with here emerged out of and/or were powerfully shaped by evolutionary interactions within challenging environments because they enhanced survival potential. Then, as these capacities flourished and developed within environments that both nurtured and further challenged them, they played an increasing role in how evolution, itself, unfolded. The most obvious example of this is the emergence of complex, evolving civilizations woven from the evolving threads of human consciousness, that now exercise unprecedented control over aspects of their social and natural environments (a control that is proving to be quite relative, but is impressive, nonetheless).

One of the remarkable characteristics of evolution is that capacities of consciousness are now often exercised in ways unrelated to survival. Consider, for example, how the play of young mammals to prepare them for life challenges has evolved into the videogame and sports industries of modern civilization. Sometimes, too, consciousness has evolved to give us greater capacity to degrade as well as enhance our survival potential. Consider the intellectual capacities that are invested in creating weapons capable of global demolition.

So our challenge is not only to enhance consciousness, but to enhance it in ways that bring it to a higher level of survival-enhancing skill. We want our consciousness to meet, in profoundly creative ways, the unprecedented challenges we have bequeathed to ourselves, thanks to the less-developed forms of consciousness that have brought us to this point.

This is the primary mission of those of us involved in co-intelligence work, as we explore how to consciously evolve increasingly conscious social systems.

See also

Conscious Evolution

Consciousness takes us beyond avoidable force, waste, and risk


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