Tuesday 3 July 2018

Why is higher consciousness 'higher'?

It is implicit in the ideas of Owen Barfield, and indeed in many others with an interest in consciousness, that to be aware is a higher state than to be un-conscious. Because to be a psychologically-mature adult is to be conscious of many things that in a child are unconscious. But why is it better to be conscious?

A first answer refers to agency - or 'free will'. Thus the adult may have agency, may control thinking, only because the adult is aware of what he thinks. He satnds outside of, observes, his thinking. By contrast, a young child is largely immersed-in his world, and (in his thinking) more-passively swept-along by it - there is little scope for agency. He thinks - but does not know that he thinks.

But even if agency requires consciousness - self-awareness; why is consciousness better than unconsciousness, why is agency better than being immersed-in and swept along?

It depends what is meant by 'better' - what is being asserted is that consciousness is indeed higher than unconsciousness - as an adult is higher than a child, and a human than a cow; but a young child may be (usually is) a morally-better person than an adult; and a cow may be a nicer creature than many humans.

What then does higher mean? The answer must refer to God's wishes and plans for people: divine destiny. My assertion is that God has various interlinked hopes and plans - some are moral, and some have to do with consciousness.

We can only talk in generalisations, and for some individuals divine destiny may be Not-growing up, and Not becoming conscious (for example, they may die as a child, or may have a mental handicap - and this experience may be a part of their soul's eternal destiny; intended from before mortal life for their benefit, to learn from it something vital). But on the whole, many humans are meant to go through adolescence into adulthood, to move from being unconscious to being conscious; and ultimately to become conscious in the divine way (to become Sons of God).

And divine consciousness is assumed to be most-fully self-aware, because fully agent: fully free.

So, as God is higher than mortal Man; divine consciousness than human consciousness; so higher consciousness is such because it is closer to the divine consciousness. Consciousness can be seen as a ladder from least to most, from (presumably, one average) the (supposedly) 'unalive' mineral world, plants, non-human animals, children, adolescents, sexually-mature adults - and more and more conscious adults.

The degree of consciousness constrains (that is it both makes-possible and also limits) the degree of agency, or freedom; and (I assume) God wants us each, enentually to become god-like in our agency; by choice, and apparently by incremental stages, throughout eternity; but also (usually, but not invariably) partially to experience divine consciousness, briefly at least, during our mortal lives here on earth. (This is theosis - the intention of becoming more god-like, during mortal life.)

In the end, whether we regard consciousness as higher than unconsciousness, freedom higher than passivity; whether we indeed regard thinking as primary, and ultimately more important than behavioural actions, depends on whether we choose to ally and align with God's hopes and plans - or not. Salvation, or not.

First salvation - at align with God's purposes; then theosis - to become more divine in our being and thinking.

As usual for Christians; we find that everything eventually depends on faith, trust, love - the first 'commandment' (to love God) is first for this reason: everything is built-upon it.

(Note: If we do not love God - then none of these distinctions matter. Perhaps only current happiness matters; and if current happiness is enhanced by the destruction of consciousness, or by destroying the capacity to think, to be agent and free in thought - or by being evil, according to God's distinctions ... well so be it.)

1 comment:

Chiu ChunLing said...

I would refer all questions of 'better' and 'worse' to matters of individual preference and actual possibility.

God has not designed for all things to develop consciousness to even the human level, let alone the divine level possible in Heaven. Therefore it seems most likely that those spiritual beings that have been chosen to become humans (or any other species capable of conscious mortal life in preparation for an even more conscious eternal status) should have been distinguished by a greater desire for consciousness.

The grand problem for us is that we can have desires that contradict one another as well as desires that contradict themselves. The essentially wicked desires are generally for present satisfactions which will inevitably be at a disproportionate cost to future ones. Since all action towards a desire in the short term is predicated on the near future becoming the present, it should be logically impossible not to be aware that the more distant future must also succeed the near future and eventually become the present in turn. But all wicked behavior seems predicated on the assumption that this will not be the case, that the near future will become the present without the distant future ever drawing any nearer.

While not the whole of consciousness, awareness of the relationship between the present, near future, and distant future would seem to be one of the crucial dimensions of what we understand as the feedback loop (sometimes termed OODA, for observe, orient, decide, act) which is the essential functional sign of consciousness. That is, we cannot directly experience the qualia of another person's mental activity to judge whether they are conscious, we must observe the presence of an autonomously directed cycle of adaptation to their environment.

Where there is a lack of adaptive activity or it is clear there is no autonomy to its direction, we cannot infer consciousness. I have no difficulty asserting for myself that, when I fail to consider the future, I seem to be really less conscious in my own experience. So it seems that this dimension of consciousness is generally, though probably not solely, determinative of total degree of consciousness.

Even if not, the wicked desires to limit consciousness in other dimensions probably also results in contradictions with the fundamental desire to enjoy full consciousness.