Monday, July 9, 2012

Tardis People!

Each being contains in itself the whole intelligible world.  PLOTINUS
Image Credit:
Alright.  I'm completely stuck on this notion of each human  being as a "universe" - perhaps several!  Like Doctor Who's Tardis - SOOO much bigger on the inside!!  (and I would argue, in so many more dimensions!)

Walt Whitman, in his famous poem Song of Myself -  described all kinds of things occurring around him, as if they were a part of him and contained within him - and so far as we understand consciousness - they are!!

If we could roll out some kind of map or representation of all that is contained within the consciousness of a single individual - it would display much of the physical world (albeit with individual emphases and distortions) and an infinite amount of thought, feeling, imagination and individual perspective.  It would be HUGE in every dimension possible, and anything but finite or static.

If we were to map out the combined consciousness of every living being on this planet - we would have mapped out as many universes, and more.  Within those combined maps, would be countless iterations of the scientifically "known" universe.  

This line of thinking leaves me with more questions than answers... but I find it absolutely fascinating.  How many iterations of "spiritual" understandings would correlate strongly and suggest a shared reality?  What would our combined representation of what we tend to think of as "spiritual" look like?  Would they map completely onto accepted understandings of the physical world, in some way - or not?

I guess when we are open to exploring one another's understandings - whether or not they differ from our own, we are informally engaged in exactly that kind of research.

And what about "shared realities"?  I'm one of those people who feels most satisfied, after really deep sharing with friends (I guess that is the main reason I blog) ...  For me, gaining understanding of another, and feeling understood, is more satisfying that a good meal!  I suspect that when we share our internal worlds with others, we create something larger again - Our combined understanding is larger than the sum of any individual consciousness (if that sentence makes sense...)  We add to one another's internal worlds, and enlarge our own when we share our "selves".  We grow in sharing - in knowing, and in being known.

Incidentally, Peter Rollins has been blogging about something along these lines, here and here.  His emphasis is on the way that he believes love "enlarges" the other...  I think it does - and this is even more food for thought!

Is human consciousness limited and imperfect?  Of course!!  Is it also infinite and limitless?  Absolutely!!


  1. Human consciousness, in my opinion, which is pretty much based on research, isn't infinite and limitless. It is well known, in Psychology and the physics of perception, that we filter out information.

    Further, not everybody has the same level of mindfulness, awareness or "awakened consciousness". Think a bit, and you'll become aware that there are a lot of "Bogans" out there, as well as ego centrics and Narcissists.

    I agree that sharing with other people is very fulfilling. It also enhances our own understanding, if we allow it.

    The sum of human combined consciousness, would also be finite. No, It wouldn't be static, we are constantly increasing our knowledge, but this is through writing and recording, mostly, not in individual brains so much. Infinite amounts of thought? I dont think so. Most people think very little about anything more than the mundane. Sex, would be a major topic, as would food. Evidence of this is the Googleplex-bytes of data on the web devoted to pornography. The web was initially for the exchange of computerised military information, then scientific information, but porn took hold early, and would guess it is still the biggest single subject on the net. Not mind expanding and consciousness raising topics, debates or papers.

    I have not seen evidence for dimensions other than the basics we all know. There isn't evidence yet that there are multi-verses, alternate universes etc. Though the Tardis is great sci-fi fun, nothing has ben acheived like it yet, an as our brain, with its gooey grey neurons and Glial cells is all the mind we get, I doubt it operates out of the context of the standard universe.

  2. Awww!! Stuey, you really ARE a "soggy wet blanket"!! :P But I still think you're missing what I'm trying to say... If you re-read what I wrote, I don't think there is really any suggestion there, that we don't have a limited number of brain cells, or that there are not limits to what we can perceive or conceive - there are! However more and more, we are finding ways to break through those limits (yes, through recording and sharing information, through the use of technology... but still driven by the human need to "discover more"!) And even *within* limits, there is infinite space for discovery. I think that is the important bit.

    I love the illustration of Koch's snowflake in this regard. This well-known fractal begins with an equilateral triangle, and never exceeds the area limit of the smallest circle you could draw to contain the original triangle (actually, somewhat less - if you see the shape, you'll know what I mean). Yet the perimeter can grow infinitely within that limit. To construct the snowflake, you divide each side of the triangle into thirds, and put a new, (one third smaller) equilateral triangle on the middle third. Each iteration simply takes out the middle third of each side of the new shape, and adds a new (one third smaller) triangle in the middle third. If you are constructing it by hand, you will reach a point where your pencil is not small enough to continue - however theoretically, the iterations have no end. See a demonstration here

    There are other 3d shapes that can be constructed according to the same principle - they have finite volume, but infinite area and perimeter. Now our consciousness is not a fractal (that I am aware of!) and these shapes have many less dimensions than our human "selves" - but what the fractals do illustrate, is that it is possible to have infinity within limits - and I think that is an apt description of our internal worlds.

  3. The Soggy Wet Blanket Returns!

    Fractals, are only unlimited, if they keep iterating. So while it possible to draw a representation of a fractal, on a blank piece of paper, the area/perimeter isn't unlimited unless you continue to draw for eternity.

    Besides, like you say, you don't think Consciousness is like a fractal, and I agree.

    A lot of people, still have a Descartesian view of consciousness, where the mind is separate from the body. I argue, that this isnt the case, and where injury and illness, and chemicals like hallucinogenics, affect the brain physics and or chemistry, it shows time after time, that consciousness is dependent upon the brain.

    As we build up our knowledge of the world about us, through science, we add layer upon layer of knowledge, that started with thinkers like Aristotle, and Pythagorus. This is the foundation of our collective conscioussness. It is growing, but is it unlimited, or even potentially infinite?

    It would be possible to count, at least estimate to a fair degree of accuracy, what our total sum of knowledge is, in terms of words, or pages. Infinite? Entropy, is a cold dead universe, whose time, many predict, will come.

  4. Hey, Stu

    I do think you're begging the question, Mr Soggy!!

    This isn't a discussion about whether consciousness and the brain are even separate (although we have had that one before!) Yet conceptualisation (using "mere" brain physiology) is pretty much infinite! Come on now, doesn't that boggle you - just a little bit??

  5. mmm.. ok.
    Yes and no. Yes I agree with you in a way, that it is great in the way in which humans are able to conceptualize, and you are right, it may be limitless...

    But not all concepts are equally valid, true or factual. Some concepts, that people hold, are based on, for example, paranoia, hallucination or delusion. Others are based on illusion. Even more, are based on outright lies, or wishful thinking.

    Stu the soggy old grumpy skeptic.


Feel free to leave comments - I love discussion, & diverse opinions! So comment, add your own thoughts, disagree - you are welcome.

Its okay to comment anonymously if you are shy, but I'd much rather know who you are, & always appreciate it when people "own" their own opinions. Look forward to chatting with you :)