Think Your Conscious Brain Directs Your Actions? Think Again

75,288 40 Loading

Think your deliberate, guiding, conscious thoughts are in charge of your actions?

Think again.

In a provocative new paper in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, a team led by Dr. Ezequiel Morsella at San Francisco State University came to a startling conclusion: consciousness is no more than a passive machine running one simple algorithm — to serve up what’s already been decided, and take credit for the decision.

conscious-decision-making-dethroned-2Rather than a sage conductor, it’s just a tiny part of what happens in the brain that makes us “aware.” All the real work goes on under the hood — in our unconscious minds.

The Passive Frame Theory, as Morsella calls it, is based on decades of experimental data observing how people perceive and generate motor responses to odors. It’s not about perception (“I smell a skunk”), but about response (running from a skunk). The key to cracking what consciousness does in the brain is to work backwards from an observable physical action, explains Morsella in his paper.

If this isn’t your idea of “consciousness,” you’re not alone.

Traditionally, theorists tried to tackle the enigmatic beast by looking at higher levels of human consciousness, for example, self-consciousness — the knowledge that you exist — or theory of mind — that you and others have differing beliefs, intents, desires and perspectives. While fascinating on a philosophical level, this approach is far too complex to explain on a fundamental level what consciousness is for.

Instead, Morsella believes that studying basic consciousness ­— the awareness of a color, an urge, a sharp pain — is what will lead to a breakthrough.

“If a creature has an experience of any kind — something it is like to be that creature ­ — then it has this form of consciousness,” Morsella said in an email to Singularity Hub. It doesn’t have to be high-level, and “ it’s unlikely to be unique to humans.”

The Passive Frame Theory goes like this: nearly all the decisions and thoughts that need to be made throughout the day are performed by many parts of the unconscious brain, well below our level of awareness.

conscious-decision-making-dethroned-8When the time comes to physically act on a decision, various unconscious processes deliver their opinions to a central “hub,” like voters congregating at town hall. The hub listens in on the conversation, but doesn’t participate; all it does is provide a venue for differing opinions to integrate and decide on a final outcome. Once the unconscious makes a final decision on how to physically act (or react), the hub — consciousness — executes that work and then congratulates itself for figuring out a tough problem.

In a way, the unconscious mind is like a group of talented ghostwriters working on a movie script for a celebrated screenwriter. If all goes smoothly, they bypass the screenwriter and deliver the final product straight to the next level. If, on the other hand, conflict arises — say the ghostwriters differ in their ideas on how the story should unfold — their argument may reach the ears of that famous screenwriter, who becomes aware of the problem, but nevertheless sits and waits for the writers to figure it all out. Once that happens, the screenwriter hands off the script, and gets all the credit.

Similar to the screenwriter, consciousness doesn’t debate or solve conflict in our heads; consciousness needs to be “on” in order to relay the final outcome — so it is essential — but it doesn’t participate in the nitty-gritty of decision-making.

Why did consciousness emerge in this way? Morsella thinks the answer is evolution.

Like all animals, humans try to conserve mental energy and automate our biological processes. Most of the time we run on instincts, reflexes and minute-to-minute immediate thoughts. Take breathing as an example — it’s completely automated, to the point that consciously trying to maintain a steady rhythm is surprisingly hard. In this case, conscious thought just bogs the process down.

Unlike most animals, however, humans gradually evolved into complex social beings capable of cultivating our intelligence for language and other higher faculties. Faced with increasingly difficult decisions on how to act, we suddenly needed a middleman to slow our unconscious mind down.

conscious-decision-making-dethroned-4 Say you find yourself underwater; your instinct is to breathe, but better judgment — delivered by an unconscious cry of alarm (“don’t breathe!”) — tells you that you would drown. Your unconscious mind orders your consciousness to activate the muscles that will allow you to hold your breath and keep you alive. Consciousness triggers an adaptive motion.

The power of our unconscious mind doesn’t stop at basic bodily functions. In the paper, Morsella cites language — a high-level, complex and perhaps distinctively human faculty — as another product of the unconscious mind.

When you speak, you’re only consciously aware of a few words at a time, and that is only so you can direct the muscles around your mouth and tongue to form those words. What you’re saying is prescribed under the hood; your conscious mind is simply following a script.

Morsella acknowledges that his theory is unconventional and difficult to accept.

"The number one reason it's taken so long to reach this conclusion is because people confuse what consciousness is for with what they think they use it for," Morsella said in a press release accompanying his paper.

But none of this theory takes away our treasured qualities as sentient human beings — our imagination, our language, our sense of self and others — it just points to the unconscious mind as the main player on our brainy fields.

In fact, Morsella hopes his theory could lead to new ideas about intrusive thoughts or obsessions that often occur in mental disorders. “The passivity of consciousness explains why we are aware of urges and thoughts that are maladaptive," Morsella said to Singularity Hub, because it doesn’t know that it shouldn’t be thinking about these thoughts.

“The system is less all-knowing and purposeful than we thought.”

Image Credit:

Shelly Fan

Shelly Xuelai Fan is a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, where she studies ways to make old brains young again. In addition to research, she's also an avid science writer with an insatiable obsession with biotech, AI and all things neuro. She spends her spare time kayaking, bike camping and getting lost in the woods.

Discussion — 40 Responses

  • Siege August 2, 2015 on 10:23 am


    Well, if all this is correct, does it mean that building an AI is easier than we think?

    And more importantly, if our goal is to become the Humanai, the merge of human and AI, doesn’t this means that we only need to worry about building an effective brain computer interface that allow us to add all the processing power and memory storage hardware to our brains, with our consciousness remaining as the self aware part of this human AI merge?

    • rtryon Siege August 2, 2015 on 11:21 am

      I don’t think scratching the surface to routine levels of self conscious deliberation is more than a modest discovery of how The Inventor level of Creation had to spend a few billion in our terms of time to perfect the rudimentary levels to be ultimately used in ways that transcend capture of data and cogitation leading to safe planning and execution.

      Thinking ahead to future implications, for example, of a world needing to adjust to how to use our Earthly visit’s time most wisely? Its beyond individualism or collectivism considerations of the nature of each species of plant and animal. Try asking how you should relate to such questions? Then wonder why perpetuity on Earth with robotic body, and A/I assisted minor league human mind wondering is it now destined to eternity in this Heaven? Or is it more like a permanent being stuck in the development cauldron to wonder why you were afraid to see what the Creating force had in mind so long ago?

      • Quantium rtryon August 3, 2015 on 3:58 am

        Maybe the wisest use for the small amount of time our “visit” to earth has, is to seek to extend it. A lot of work is being done on ending death by aging, such as the Google company Calico, and if all else fails there is cryonics.

    • Jon Rider Siege August 4, 2015 on 11:44 pm

      In the future human and AI will merge. This seems to be the next logical step in our evolution. But where does it end?
      Some would say that technology goes against nature but how can this be so?

      Humans are the pinnacle of sentient evolution on this planet, therefore everything we create as humans must also be
      part of nature and evolution. Technology does not separate from nature as some would have us believe, it is just the next step in the evolutionary ladder.

      Maybe one day humans and all flesh and blood creatures will become obsolete as self repairing, longer lasting, more efficient AI machines take our place and become evolutions preferred physical vessels as carriers of consciousness.

      We are facilitating such events, even as we realize the dangers of taking such a route and yet we continually push towards it as if it is our preordained path?

      The flesh is weak, seeds will grow and only the strongest will survive and evolve.

      • Claus Appel Jon Rider September 16, 2015 on 6:08 am

        Evolution has no “ladder” and no “pinnacles”. Evolution is not directed toward any purpose.

  • Andrew Atkin August 2, 2015 on 3:02 pm

    No doubt, the consciousness is like a supervisor watching over its subordinates that are doing all the work, making sure no-one is stepping out of line (at the most?).

    But from an evolutionary perspective, we have to ask why the consciousness itself is not automated. Why do we have to experience the executive function of the brain? Shouldn’t we just be nothing more than totally unconscious biological robots?

    Nothing evolves into existence unless it was once needed for survival, and for the executive function of the brain to experience itself is not a necessity – at all.

    Also, the author was getting close to the truth on mental sickness. But mental sickness is not rooted in thoughts, but emotional feeds originating from the unconscious. The thinking (neurotic thinking) is just a reaction to those feelings, and an attempt to rationalize them.

    Eg. Someone who grew up with violent parents may feel unsafe as an adult, as they have repressed memories associated with those feelings feeding into their consciousness. But if the feeling is detached from its source (an effect of repression) then the feeling may be rationalized as the threat of an intruder getting into the house. In turn they start going around the house checking the locks all the time to try an appease their feeling of being unsafe. We call that compulsion “acting out”.

    To say, cognitive therapy works by hyper-activating the neocortex to create back-pressure that drives back old feelings rooted in old trauma. If you like: Filling up the consciousness with thoughts to avoid any feelings getting in there…because feelings are where the “dragons” are. This is why intellectuals (er, certain types of intellectuals) are often interpreted as being “unfeeling people”. It’s because, in fact, they are!

    • Free Radical Andrew Atkin August 4, 2015 on 9:28 pm

      “Nothing evolves into existence unless it was once needed for survival, and for the executive function of the brain to experience itself is not a necessity”

      You went on to ask: “But from an evolutionary perspective, we have to ask why the consciousness itself is not automated.”

      And you gave yourself the answer to your own question. If it was automated, what would the program be? I think it would be that the sub-consciousness is the default programming. The conscious is the programmer. Consciousness should not be automated for the simple reason that individuality is the mechanism for evolution. We couldn’t evolve if we couldn’t be exposed to new ideas or free will. Complicity is actually a retrograde action in the brain; it doesn’t teach us to attempt something new, something that may advance us. We can’t do anything without practice (it seems). Nature has made us walk before we can run. There doesn’t seem to be a way around that. Time is built in, but we don’t understand it. Nutrients in the soil are taken up slowly (for best results). Nature is really one huge petri dish doing an experiment and we’re part of it. It has been experimenting for billions of years and from all the mechanisms, the ones we have today have proven the test of time. Much more durable results than any scientific lab and more expansive in what it encompasses (all the living organisms, one living off the other, etc).

      Dr. Ezequiel Morsella could be wrong. No matter how many Ph.D’s one has, one can still be wrong. We simply do not know and there is no evidence yet. However there are other plausible hypotheses. We could be just as likely to be inside an egg and getting ready to hatch as any other hypothesis.

      Sometimes we are prejudiced towards people with degrees and extensive education, but they could be wrong as much as someone else. We’ve got to make sure we don’t take on their scenarios as a given, and keep our minds open. Our brains will not fall out!

  • Grant Herigstad August 2, 2015 on 3:40 pm

    If this is true, what does it say about our sense of justice? Does the consciousness “deserve” to be punished for the actions of its host?

    • Andrew Atkin Grant Herigstad August 2, 2015 on 3:43 pm

      If you take it to the philosophical zenith, you’re forced to accept that ‘punishment’ is nothing more than a system by which colonies of homo sapiens regulate themselves.

      • Scribblerlarry Andrew Atkin August 3, 2015 on 4:52 am

        Perhaps, if punishment actually worked to regulate the behaviour of homo sapiens, you might be right. If, on the other hand, you leave such lovely theories behind and just sit up and look around you, you’ll see that this is another of those fallacies we indulge in. It is one that we have no evidence of it ever working, that we can see doesn’t work in the present, and that we have no reason to think might work at any time. What part of our sub-conscious is responsible for this idiocy?

        • Quantium Scribblerlarry August 3, 2015 on 8:35 am

          Maybe it is the fear of getting caught rather than the actual punishment?

          Fines do make most drivers keep within speed limits, for example. Taxes on investment movement do slow the markets down.

          However punishment dealt out to dogs for excessive barking doesn’t seem to work. I know a horse owner who actually believed that if she didn’t feed her horses on the days they break out of the field they would stop breaking out. (And she had done a university course on horse management.)

          The relevance seems to be the subconscious’ ability to react according to knowledge or past experience. Most people have acquaintances who have received speeding fines at one or two instances in their lives. I would doubt whether dogs or horses have this much consciousness.

          • Andrew Atkin Quantium August 3, 2015 on 2:17 pm

            Yes. “Punishment” is a function of deterrence – not rehabilitation.

            • pspierce Andrew Atkin August 8, 2015 on 5:17 am

              I would say incarceration is now largely eliminating from “polite” society violent elements. I’m not opposed to this, if a person shows themselves to be a threat to others, they should be removed from society. However, this is also why I’m opposed to the Drug War. Does anyone speak of rehabilitation anymore?

              • Quantium pspierce August 9, 2015 on 2:43 am

                The drug war is counterproductive — except for the fees and salaries earned by those involved. Alcohol prohibition did not work in terms achieving the apparently intended result (people not drinking alcohol). The reduction in tobacco use may be more successful, as taxation and regulation are being used instead of prisons.

                I do agree that violent people need keeping away from the rest. However the drug war is probably creating more violent people who may not have resorted to violence without it.

  • Eugene Yuta Bann August 2, 2015 on 4:27 pm

    Fantastic article and paper. I do often find it fascinating that the majority of articles discussing consciousness seldom mention anything about emotion. I totally agree with your statement that studying basic consciousness is what will lead to a breakthrough, specifically, emotion (which determines “urges”). It’s my belief that once we consider the individual emotion spectrum and emotion memory of humans at a sufficiently granular level (which we are currently very far from doing), we will be well on the way to creating Artificial Human-Like Consciousness. Just my two cents.

  • shill August 2, 2015 on 4:48 pm

    This is another problem for the criminal justice system. In neuroscience, we’ve known for many years that the criminal justice system is incompatible with neuroscience. Unfortunately, the vast majority of judges and lawyers do not have a background in neuroscience, only in case law, which their decisions are made.

    Criminal law is based on the assumption that free will, voluntary intent and mens rea are true. They criminal justice system has no validity if these concepts are false. Criminal justice is an inhumane practice. Medical science and technology are better equipped to manage human behavior. People are not culpable for their behavior and they are not sinners. We can medically treat people with adverse behaviors.

    • Quantium shill August 3, 2015 on 3:56 am

      The administration of all law is a money making business that makes more money the more long winded and inefficient it is. That ought to be changed if the electorate really want justice. I don’t mean “summary justice”, I mean justice that isn’t coloured by money.

      These concepts are discussed in this novel:

  • DSM August 2, 2015 on 6:04 pm

    Perhaps this is the default state for humans but it could also be true that we can be trained to be more conscious.

    Definitely a worthy area for further inquiry.

  • Mark Petrovich August 2, 2015 on 9:35 pm

    What we determine as a consciousness, in fact, is just a tip of iceberg what we call subconsciousness which is immersed in the metaphysical ocean of fifth dimension. Our four-dimensional physical world is a true reality for the inner observer. But for the external observer it is just holographic projection of universal, spaceless, timeless and supradimensional matrix. So, to comprehend true nature of consciousness we have to overcome materialistic paradigm of modern science.

  • Karen McAferty Morris August 3, 2015 on 8:27 am

    The technical description of the work reported here is so lacking that it is impossible to tell if the conclusions are new or warranted. This is not informative scientific journalism. The claims of evidence are so vague that the it leaves the impression that the conclusions are opinion at best.

    • shnfy Karen McAferty Morris August 3, 2015 on 7:06 pm

      Welcome to the cult of the Singularity. There appears to an editorial bias here at the hub to favor the hypothesis (I’m being generous) that humans, our minds and the universe are all easily reducible to some yet to be discovered equation. Go figure… Of course there is no mention of Freud let alone centuries of ‘philosophy of mind’ here because nothing existed before computers and neuro-science, just a bunch of handy words like ‘subconscious’ which appeared magically a few decades ago. Taking Morsella’s editorial quotes at face value- he has confused consciousness with anima/animus.

  • jfbramfeld August 3, 2015 on 8:39 am

    What a load. This guy is going to study “consciousness” because “self-consciousness” is too complex. I have an idea; let’s study what actually exists, even if it seems complex. We don’t actually know how complex something is until we study it. In fact, the point of science is to reduce seemingly complex things to a simpler understanding. Put this in the “Here today, never heard from again” column.

  • Ivar Ivarson August 3, 2015 on 4:30 pm

    Four out of five voices in my head tell me I should accept this theory.

  • Robert Joyce August 4, 2015 on 10:22 am

    “When you speak, you’re only consciously aware of a few words at a time, and that is only so you can direct the muscles around your mouth and tongue to form those words.”

    Sorry, not buying it. When I’m speaking, I’m thinking big picture. I’m directing where my conversation is going. I’m raising questions, forming arguments, strategizing. I am conscious of that process, while my mouth and my words are miles behind.

    This is an example of bad science.

  • Susan Nash August 4, 2015 on 10:49 am

    I don’t think using primitively linked functions like smell and color is a good test for consciousness. Those are almost as automated as breathing. I may have trained subconscious tendencies to react in certain ways to certain stimulus – ie fight, flight, or submit, but I can still decide something other than that natural response if I am aware of my bias.

    We have a lot more ability to train our brain to meet our needs than we are aware. People stay addicted to things like drugs because they have ideas about addiction which they believe. Those ideas may tell them they have to behave a certain way and so they will confirm those beliefs through observations.

    You can do similar things by making results from simplistic studies a belief to live by. Until you have an experience otherwise you are stuck.

  • Jon Rider August 4, 2015 on 1:24 pm

    How much does our? unconscious mind play in the decisions that we make? and who or what controls our unconscious minds? because I firmly believe there is an external influence at work.

    Like when my mind constantly conjures up a dream that culminates in a startling/shock twist at the end, with the sole purpose of signalling me to wake up and go to the loo. These dreams are specifically orchestrated in order to make me exit out of slumber.

    This mechanism is without a doubt separate to my personal consciousness the “I” and I have witnessed it many times in action as a third party looking on as it was trying to trick and manipulate me into a state of physical awareness, a realization of needing to wake up and use the loo. How much does this part of the unconscious mind also play in the decisions i or we make in our everyday waking life.

    Does the universal consciousness that spawned evolution and nature try to control and pigeonhole us into a box from birth? giving each and everyone of us a specific role in life. Not everyone dreams of being a doctor, a dentist, a musician, a politician, a farmer, a teacher etc….. who really controls our dreams?

    Are we just an extension of the universal consciousness? experiencing all experiences, in a series of mistakes and successes, trials and errors in order to evolve on the most logical path for our mass consciousness and species in the ordered and chaotic, ying and yang of the physical realm.

    What is our destiny? and how much do we really have control of our lives and our destiny?.

  • zenoofelia August 4, 2015 on 5:21 pm

    Like Epimenides from Crete saying “You can’t believe anything said by a guy from Crete.”

    Like most folks who write about consciousness these days, Morsella doesn’t seem to acknowledge the reflexive nature of his assertions–i.e., that his assertions must also be assertions about how he makes his assertions. “[C]onsciousness doesn’t debate or solve conflict in our heads; . . . it doesn’t participate in the nitty-gritty of decision-making.”

    Oh really? So how did Morsella come to that conclusion then? What was it that led Morsella to conclude that his consciousness doesn’t actually make conclusions? He somehow unconsciously drew these conclusions? If so, why should I trust some theory that his unconscious forces somehow spat out because some random evolutionary outcome made them work that way?

    All of this stuff that tells me that what we think is rational, conscious decision-making by an autonomous freely choosing self, is in reality that not, is subject to the same problem–the only theory that is worth paying attention to is a theory rationally determined and proposed by an autonomous freely choosing self, so as soon as some “thinker” tries to tell me that consciousness is anything but that, I know his theory is not worthy paying any attention to because it contradicts itself. (It won’t help his or her case to argue that ALL thinking and ALL theories are equally unfounded or equally determined by physical forces or equally a result of evolutionary pressures.)

    If consciousness is not a truth-generating thing, then no person’s observations about consciousness are worth a nickle. That should be perfectly obvious. And if consciousness is a truth-generating thing, how could it be that? What this all comes down to is this–either we are accidental products of haphazard physical forces, in which case all mental activity is suspect, as it is merely an adaptive mechanism but may or may not bear any connection to actual reality, or we are generators of truths about reality because we were designed and created as such. Unfortunately, try as you might, you will not find a middle ground. And try as you might to avoid it, ultimately you have to take your pick. And if you pick the first, you are stipulating that your assertions are not reliable, as they are ultimately based on nothing but random physical forces, and the truths they create are as reliable as the output of raindrops landing on a computer keyboard. They may create a pattern, but as a reference to actual truths about actual reality they are worthless and groundless and self-contradictory.

    So, if you think your consciousness generates truths, and you are able to think logically, you have to conclude that the truth-telling capability came from something other than random, indeterminate physical forces, as that which has not, gives not.

  • Çathî Tombaugh August 5, 2015 on 12:29 am

    This author held my mind hostage for a few minutes. Made me think his thoughts. His twisted logic caused me to to lose reason. He put the wrong adverbs in front of too many nouns. I just couldn’t deal with it. It gave me a headache. Tried to say he wanted to become passive. Activate this. My brain sends and receives, and I make choices. Random exists.

  • Charles Kim August 5, 2015 on 7:25 pm

    Passive Frame Theory sounds Freudian and overly reductive (as in wishful thinking) … imho, whose to say ego or higher states don’t circle back to impact the id like some kind of out of control circular reference pattern?

  • pspierce August 8, 2015 on 5:19 am

    How does this differ from Daniel Kahneman’s theories that won him the Noble Prize in 2003? He seems to have said much the same thing decades ago with the only difference I can see being that of a matter of degree to which the unconscious directs things.

    • shill pspierce August 8, 2015 on 2:11 pm

      Similar to Kahneman, social psychology, think Sapolsky, biology and Galileo.

      We need to start talking differently about human behavior. Similar to our other bodily organs, our brains develop, since conception, through complex interactions of genes and the environment. The brain causes all thought (including intent), feeling and behavior. There are circuits or networks of neurons in our brains that make this happen. These circuits send messages down our spinal cord causing our muscles to move (behavior) or through feedback loops in our brain (thought). How are brains do this complicated, but without a doubt it’s a strictly biological process (no magic). Our brain tell us virtually nothing about what it’s doing. We may have 2% conscious awareness, but consciousness isn’t the cause of any of it.

      Our brain is inseparable from its internal and external environment. It constantly picks up sensory cues and tells the body what to do in its environment. If you are unlucky enough to have a brain that is unable to inhibit certain behaviors then you may exhibit behaviors others believe are morally bad (legally criminal]. This glitch could happen in your brain because of childhood trauma, a brain disorder or substance use disorder or for biological reasons we don’t have the tools to detect it, yet. Thus, “punishment” doesn’t work. You can’t rehabilitate or medically treat a brain that’s intertwined with a coercive environment. You also can’t blame people for their behavior any more than you can blame them for the way they look. The answer is to focus forward. Focus on the brain not the behavior and medically treat the brain when it is disturbing to or inhibits someone from functioning in society.

      We tend to desire to hurt people who behaved in ways that inspire anger or fear. As usual, the desire for revenge is part of our evolutionary history. We share 98% of our genes with chimpanzees, which are likely the most vengeful creatures on earth. We are animals. We have to use scientific methodology and technology – not our animal instincts and common sense – to know the truth others and ourselves.

      • jfbramfeld shill August 8, 2015 on 10:35 pm

        Typical determinist argument, plus typical genetic argument. If you want to study humans, you won’t learn much from chimps, even if they do share 98% of our DNA. That is only a superficially appealing statistic, especially when you consider that a banana shares about 50% of it DNA with us.

        The real world is full of examples of things seemingly identical, much closer than primates and humans, which have radically different properties. Uranium 235 and Uranium 238 for example. They are chemically identical and in the nuclear sense diverge less than 2%, yet one can trigger a nuclear explosion and one is useful for turning glass green. People would purport to srudy people rarely have credible scientific background, and fortunately, are rarely heard from twice.

  • Jim from Venice August 9, 2015 on 12:49 am

    There seems to be quite a bit of bias to the idea that the conscious “hub” of the brain does not make our decisions. Could it be that the conscious brain is committed to being “in charge,” as Morsella implies? Yet, introspection – paying attention to what is going on inside our heads – might reveal that there is truth in the passive model of cognition.

  • Mahender Goriganti August 11, 2015 on 4:10 am

    It is not rocket science or new invention. Hindu sages figured this out and penned it in the form of Vedas and Upanishads 10, 000 years back and condensed it into two words: Atman= Self ; Brahman=consciousness. Atman (physical self) is easy to perceive through senses (eyes, ears, nose, skin, touch etc) You know your existence separate of the sarrounding and the nature. Brahman (consciousness) is understanding role of oneself in relation its surroundings (nature/Universe also misnamed as God in modern world). Any other so called high tech hyperbole explanations are yet to be proven to be better than that.

  • Mahender Goriganti August 11, 2015 on 4:39 am

    PS: Cognition (recognition of self as an entity different from surroundings) is not consciousness. Consciousness does not come out of vacuum just like that from nowhere but is dependent the existence of self and cognition.In short : Atman (self) = Brahman (consciousness / once’s relationship with nature / God) is the essence of this universe witch has no beginning or end just like (zero 0 ) was not created out of nothing but an existential force (God). With all the modern science we have not even scratched a blade of grass in this universe.

  • Artist3d August 17, 2015 on 8:39 pm

    Clearly the hierarchy of perception begins with an act of interest in comprehending your sense impressions which inevitably stimulate thoughts that then proceed in a stream of consciousness. In most cases it is enough to be conscious in order to function in a routine day-to-day fashion.

    However without self-awareness, just being conscious is a potentially dangerous, wild horse ride through life, filled with relentless changes and stresses re-enforcing the belief that the transient nature of consciousness is the real you. Likewise, consciousness appears to hold the content of thoughts, feelings and perceptions while awareness seems to be the transparent, neutral medium of oneself that observes it. I have found by associating my sense of self with the neutrality of awareness, I can guide and absorb the content and variability of consciousness from a liberated state of mind.

    The concepts of an unconscious or subconscious mind remain just that, concepts. On the other hand, an unaware mind is something to be concerned about! I would suggest that the ‘presence’ felt by some people in the Oculus Rift is a revelation that what you are aware of is in fact, a familiar projection of your mind’s imagination, just like in ‘real life’; and I think the promise of virtual reality’s immersive states are a mind expanding, fresh appreciation of awareness as the fulcrum of all perception.

  • Transfinity August 24, 2015 on 10:28 am

    Have to agree with the insights contained within the Vedic texts of ten millenia past, as well as of the Taoists, the Sufi way and indigenous wisdom traditions around the world. We are “conscious” as particles of perception existing in a matrix of distributed consciousness coalesced within a unifying field of presence. All particles of existence, scaling from sub-atomic particles to the vast entities known as galaxies, partake in this awareness by the mere fact of their existence in this ambient field of self-aware intelligence. The profound limitations of our symbolically rendered systems of knowledge bind us to restrictive conceptual frameworks and our chronically flawed, undisciplined habits of mind (lazy thinking, automatic attributions, irrationality, lack of critical thinking capacity, etc), seem to suspend most of us, most of the time, muddling through the sociocultural murk within which we function–(traditional/customary beliefs & superstitions, mundane/routinized insights, philosophical, religious, mechanistic science, other derivatives of materialism). The Universal Organizing and Animating Principle (I prefer the term, “Great Mystery”) is state of being so extraordinary it beggars the relatively feeble capability of the most far-seeing human insight to quantify or imagine. Hence, the afore-mentioned perpetual sociocultural feedback loop within which most of us are consigned to struggle for insight without relief for liberating insight. No surprise, then, that so many, having sensed or reached the limits of their civilization-circumscribed learning, turn to various branches of ontology, physical perception-altering substances, addictions of choice, virtual reality simulation technologies and/or rituals/exercises designed to stimulate spiritual ecstasy in their quest to see/know/understand the Ineffable. My money’s on the traditions of mindfulness and bio-psycho-spiritual self-transcendence exercises as the most dependable ways free of materialism, the root and principal medium of human technology.

  • Transfinity August 24, 2015 on 10:59 am

    One insight that blew me away when I first encountered it is encapsulated in much of the discussion about virtual reality on this and other VR-exploring web sites. It’s a genuine reality phase change to internalize the understanding that the brain is capable of constructing only an approximated version of material reality, as it depends for information chiefly on the data provided it by the five material senses, themselves demonstrably capable only of approximating objective reality. Given that the physical senses are tools about which the brain spends a typical lifespan learning, and the use of which it masters only gradually through trial and error like all cognitive processes, and that this method requires tireless application of effort to refining their manipulation from the crude methodologies of childhood to the relatively sophisticated techniques of mature development, the advantages of VR-supported development are compelling. On the other hand, I hold with those wisdom traditions that suppose we have taken bodies for a reason–they are exquisite sensory units and, I would argue, useful biosensory mediums privileging us to experience feelings/emotions (arguably substantiated by physical experiences) and a great deal of our cognitive processes (consider perception-awareness-conception spirals). So, as with any method, medicine or process, I’ll be looking for a way VR might augment, not replace, the experience of life in physical reality. I’m not breaking new ground, I know; just enjoying a “gee whiz” moment at the gateway to infinity.

  • Robin Ødegård December 25, 2015 on 12:49 am

    Homing in on the Buddhist doctrine of “no self”? 🙂
    According to Buddhism most of our discontent comes from misidentifying ourselves with our idea/concept of ourselves. And with this illusion as our basis for our actions (karma) we set ourselves up a vicious cycle of frustration (Wheel of Samsara)

  • IdPnSD October 19, 2016 on 9:02 am

    Consciousness is an adjective, it cannot exist on its own, just like light or energy. They all require a noun, for consciousness it is soul. How soul works is very well described in both Bible and Vedas. To clearly explain the soul theory we also need to consider yogic power, reincarnation, destiny etc. These are described in the Vedas as well as in Bible. Humans all over the world have experienced such phenomena over millions of years.

    “ consciousness is no more than a passive machine running one simple algorithm — to serve up what’s already been decided, and take credit for the decision.”- In one sense he is correct. Our destiny is already written in the memory of the universe. Our soul picks one item at a time, moment by moment, and then commands our brain to execute. Brain is a dumb object, it has five input sense organs, and five output action organs, the soul commands them to perform their appropriate responsibilities related to the command.

    Destiny is precisely predictable, and has been predicted by many high level yogis all over the world for many ordinary and famous people. They are very well documented in literature and on the internet. Some examples are collected in the book Along the same line consciousness cannot be clearly explained or understood without yogic power and reincarnation.