Consciousness/Awareness, the brain, and memories


Q. ‘Why wasn’t my consciousness generated by another brain? Why am I linked with this brain?’

I heard that everybody experiences consciousness, but then why am I my consciousness and not another person’s consciousness? It’s hard to explain.

Paul Bush. Yes, it’s hard to explain. Basically it’s because the most important part of consciousness, which is awareness*, is the same for everybody. There is only one awareness, and in fact nothing else. All the other aspects of consciousness, the contents, are projections of awareness as it identifies with small parts of reality such as bodies and minds. Such misidentification creates a perspective. From each perspective the part of reality not identified with is seen as the external world. The observer with a particular perspective and the world observed as a consequence of that perspective are both inferences created at the moment of identification.

So there is only one awareness that is continually pulled into the illusion of being this or that observer. The ongoing personal identity that we think of as ourselves maintains coherence through the construction of the concepts of time and space; memory and an apparent (though not total) physical separation from the rest of reality. Awareness has no personal identity, it is exactly the same for you and everyone else, because it is singular awareness that creates each experience depending on the perspective of the entity that it is identifying with.

*(AM Awareness and Consciousness are generally taken as equivalent in Advaita Vedanta – no distinction being made)

HC It’s kind of hard to imagine that out of all the infinite possible “selfs” there could have been, I was one of them.

And the reason I’m not experiencing two lives at once is because all phenomenon is unique. But the question of “how is my ‘self’ tied to physical matter?” Just can’t be completely answered. It’s just the way it is.  This is why I believe that we are somewhat metaphysical or kind of spiritual. Do you believe in any kind of metaphysical link?

PS Many atheists, such as I, have a belief of a metaphysical link.

PB I guess I didn’t explain it clearly enough. I figured that might happen, cos it’s difficult to understand: There are not infinite selves, there is only one, the same for everyone. The details of what is experienced is determined by the perspective of the experiencer. This appears to be constant (at least for one lifetime) because of the continuity of memory. That’s why you don’t experience two lives at once, because the dynamics of each moment of experience entail the recall of previous moments – while awareness is identified with any one perspective the continuous function of memory gives continuity to the experience of that perspective. When awareness identifies with a different perspective there is a different set of memories giving the appearance of a different entity. You think you are the experiences, which are always different, but actually you are the awareness, which is always the same.

Your self isn’t tied to physical matter. Matter is a projection of awareness, determined by the perspective identified with. All the dependencies and connections that we are unconscious of appear as matter. Once we fully understand something, all it’s origins and consequences, we see that nothing is separate from anything else, “things”, matter, don’t exist, it’s just ignorance.

PB (to PS) I’m not sure what you mean by “metaphysical link”. For sure the physical is just a term we use for shared experience, a common lack of understanding of how everything fits together, a consequence of our misidentification with individual bodies and minds.

AM Awareness is meta-physical, the sole reality or Oneness, or ‘Self’, which is indefinable and unsublatable. Everything else – phenomena or appearances – are sublatable.


About amartingarcia

General surgeon (retired). Studied Western philosophy at U of Toronto. Afterwards interest turned to advaita vedanta and non-duality for past 20 yrs, plus a long interlude in Sufism coinciding with that period. Now contributing in ’Advaita Vision’ with regular posts and discussions.
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8 Responses to Consciousness/Awareness, the brain, and memories

  1. Hariod Brawn says:

    Respectfully: When I draw the curtains at night, does the moon cease to exist, not just as a thought-form in my individuated consciousness, but as any kind of phenomena at all?

    • Sorry for the delay in answering. The moon continues to exist – potentially – for any other observer. For Atman/Self there is neither moon nor any multiplicity of phenomena. Only noumenon: Itself.

      • Hariod Brawn says:

        To unwrap: The moon, as commonly apprehended, is purely a concept, a mental representation of sensory data. Without awareness, there is no concept, no representation, and hence no ‘moon’. ‘Noumenon’ is a vague term it seems, meaning differing (no)things to differing people at differing points in time (another concept!). Are you using the term in the sense of the unknowable? Are you positing an observer-created reality?

      • Agree with the first part of your comment (up to Noumenon). I mean by ‘noumenon’ that which is unknown by conceptual mind — the ‘thing-in-itself’ of Kant… Continue reading under ‘Consciousness/Awareness, the brain, and memories’ entry.

  2. Agree with the first part of your comment (up to ‘Noumenon’). By ‘noumenon’ I mean that which is unkowable by the conceptual mind – Kant’s thing-in-itself, which is reality itself (though not spelled out as such by him), and is unsublatable by anything other than itself, that is, phenomena. Only consciousness is conscious of itself (is self-reflective or self-‘knowable’); there is ultimately no other subject or reality. 2) I am not supporting observer-created reality, which is an intermediate theory of Creation (drishti-srishti-vada), reminiscent of the subjective idealism of Berkeley – esse est percipi).

    ‘Rama, can gold exist without a form? Can peppers be without their hot taste? Similarly, an objective form is unavoidable for Consciousness as long as ignorance continues. Until you are able to realize Consciousness, Consciousness continues to be associated with ignorance. So Consciousness appears as objects under ignorance. Therefore, it is quite possible sometimes for objects to reappear even after they were destroyed’. From Yoga Vasishta, part 6.

    In my blog there are several entries under ‘Creation’.

    • Hariod Brawn says:

      You appear to be saying that (what we think of as) the moon, is indeed a reality – a thing-in-itself – it is simply that we do not know it as itself, but instead only as an image of itself. In other words, you posit a representationalist theory of mind – yes?

      The thing-in-itself and apparent consciousness of it mutually sublate one another in ignorance – yes? The non-duality you posit allows for a multiplicity of appearances, yet all are apprehended within a seamless, non-local, non-subjective awareness – yes?

      The quote: yes, hallucination of perception.

  3. My answer to the first question is a qualified (and provisional) Yes, and I believe it is consistent with the new physics (nobody knows what a ‘physical objct’ is). I said qualified because, to cut it short, the moon is not *a* reality, but (seamless) reality itself; there is no multiplicity as such… when one is not thinking, just contemplating – ‘All this is Brahman’ (one of the mahavakyas, great sayings). All this is (non-dual) doctrine, mere concepts (mithya) – the real is to be realized = ‘seen’, experienced; not as subject-object dichotomy. All objects of experience – outer and inner – are illusory as ‘objects’, but ‘they’ are the one ineffableTruth= noumenon= thing-in-itself. Ill-sounding, but there is only one thing-in-itself (‘One without a second’) Thus, the awakened one does not see the/a world.

    Your second question: ‘Apparent consciousness’, if in ignorance, that is, thinking itself separate, does not see or know what thing-in-itself is or means (I don’t know what else to say about it, not quite understanding your question). Answer to third question: Yes, but not as multiplicity, as previously stated: one reality only.

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