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,
- interest, openness, curiosity, passion, purpose, intention,
desire, will, engagement, courage, commitment
- attitude, bias, perspective, worldview/paradigm, assumption,
- feeling, emotion (all emotions), reaction, sentiment, bliss,
joy, misery, suffering, hope, etc.
- care, compassion, empathy, mutuality, resonance, appreciation,
- 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,
- ethics, morality, integrity, principles
- choice, values, decision-making, judgment, evaluation
- imagination, aesthetic sensibility, vision, story, ingenuity,
- 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
takes us beyond avoidable force, waste, and risk
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