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It is difficult to define exactly what consciousness is. A simple way is to describe it as: “a quality of awareness”. That is still a bit vague. It is important to distinguish between awareness and consciousness:
- Awareness – perception of a situation or fact.
Awareness is bound by the senses.
- Consciousness – the state of awareness of ones surroundings.
Consciousness is unbound.
We normally refer to being conscious as our normal waking state. In this state our conscious brain areas are functioning – mainly the DMN but also the executive functions get a look-in every so often. We are actively communicating with others, talking, thinking, problem solving, etc. Human beings have a good degree of self-awareness in this “normal” state.
We don’t tend to think of rocks and plants and insects as having consciousness and we don’t believe that they have any self-awareness.
We may consider some animals to have a degree of consciousness, but again we don’t believe that they are self-aware. It has been shown that animals including dogs, elephants, dolphins and magpies do have some limited self-awareness, but we don’t believe they spend their spare moments talking to their other animal friends about the purpose of life in the universe. Only (some) humans do that.
We may consider some people who are slow and dull and lethargic to have less consciousness than those who are active and bright and knowledgeable. But consciousness is more than just being energetic or active. Some people seem to have an inner spark that burns brighter than others, as if there is more energy or consciousness flowing through them.
The great spiritual masters are considered to have superior consciousness – does this mean that a larger amount of consciousness is flowing through them, or are they just better able to connect with something that is already there and are using their mental faculties more effectively?