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First Consciousness or Reality?

When answering the above question, please provide definitions for reality and consciousness because I’m not even sure I fully understand what they are. Thank you.

These are my understandings and should not be taken to constitute knowledge which is considered consensus science or philosophy. These are conjectures offered to inspire a deeper understanding into the nature of consciousness and reality.

Reality = Conscious experience in which relative qualities of realism are present. These qualities typically include persistence in memory, coherence, non-contradiction in causality, and shared pervasiveness, however we know that in a dream, even the most surreal conditions can be taken for reality. From this we can conclude that while on one level we believe that reality is based on qualities of realism, consciousness can be spoofed into assigning realistic qualities to any experience.

Logically we might think that the experience of waking up is what creates the difference between reality and dreaming, and that our waking life is simply a dream which we have not yet awakened from. There is another possibility, which is that our personal consciousness is part of a larger hierarchy or holarchy of conscious experiences, such that our sense of waking as being conscious of that which is finally and authentically real may be a sense which is as real as anything can ever be.

Consciousness = All that is not present in complete unconsciousness. We can use a lot of different terms to specify limits on this or that aspect of conscious experience. We can talk about awareness, perception, feeling, sensing, etc, or attention and being awake, being alive. In my view the point is not to make the subject more complicated but to distill it to its essence. We know what unconsciousness is. We know what general anesthesia is.

We can look at a term like ‘local anesthetic’ and see an intuitive connection between numbing of sensation and the annihilation of consciousness in general anesthesia. Between and opposing these poles, we can triangulate a term like ‘aesthesia’ or ‘aesthetic phenomena’ to refer to all that exists which is contingent upon the presence of direct presence of sensory perception and participation. Sense can be understood as the content of all experience, including thoughts and ideas, but not limited in any way to human beings, biology, or physical substances.

The point of a term like ‘aesthetic’ is to make a distinction between experiential phenomena which are indisputably concrete and anesthetic phenomena such as physical forms and logical functions (physics or information processing), which are, as far as we can ever know, hypothetical and abstract. We cannot know physics except by an indirect experience through our body and we cannot know information except by an indirect experience through our intellectual contemplation. Both of these are dependent upon conscious powers of perceptual participation and comparison.

To answer the OP question then, we must first completely sever any connection between consciousness, reality and the particular context of human beings so that consciousness as sense-perception/motive participation can be fairly considered alongside the other possibilities of physical mass-energy/space-time/force-field and information-theoretic form-functions/data-processes. If we fail to detach consciousness or qualia from the human experience then we are not comparing apples to apples. It would be like mistaking all forms of matter for parts of our physical body.

Next, we should see that there is no reality which cannot be dreamed. Lucid dreamers report that their dreams can be examined in excruciating detail and can contain experiences which are indistinguishable from waking reality. We should also leave the possibility open that even though our final reality could be a dream, it still could be different from any other dream. This difference could be an authentic sense that waking life is not any dream, but the only dream which is shared by all conscious experiences. It is the dream which counts more than all others because of its shared access, and because of the significance which is accumulated in a universe of experience which is felt so intensely for so many, for so long a time. I consider significance to be a concrete metaphysical feature – an aesthetic saturation which underlies both the privately impressive power of symbolic and archetypal phenomena and the publicly expressed power of energy, mass, matter and gravity.

Significance manifests tangibly as an arrest of motive effects, a slowing or marking of time and intensification of attention. The physical universe is a view of significance – the persistence of all experience as viewed from an anthropocentric scope of sensitivity/insensitivity. It is collection of many layers of limits of our human awareness which we see as the gaps between ourselves and our mind, brain, body, and universe of bodies. If our awareness were to expand to a transpersonal scope, we would appreciate directly that consciousness is not only a human phenomenon, but the only possible phenomenon which can make any and all other phenomena possible.

Without physics or information, we can still conceive of a universe of raw feelings, colors, sounds, etc. There could still be a dream in which things like matter or narrative activities could be present. Without consciousness/qualia, we can fool ourselves into thinking that a universe of Reality could ‘exist’ but when examined more carefully, our notion of ‘existence’ unravels into a purely abstract, faith-based concept which seems likely to me to be derived from our subjective sense of separation within consciousness rather than an objective sense of objectivity.

When we ask why something which we imagine has no experience, like a stone, it becomes a problem to rationally expect that any sort of experience should develop at all. A universe which is a physical machine cannot include immaterial feelings and thoughts without support from physics. A universe which is immaterial ‘simulation data’ also cannot include real aesthetic qualities other than the literal qualities which constitute each separate switch or branch in the data-processing substrate (be it material or otherwise). If we include conscious experiences as ‘emergent properties’ of either physics or information, we have become guilty of chasing our tail. Since the purpose of reducing our model of nature to a single phenomenon is to rationally explain every phenomenon with that single phenomenon, resorting to emergence amounts to inventing an unacknowledged second substance which has no rational connection to the first.

The solution to this in my view is to begin with the single phenomenon of sense (pan-aesthesia or pansensitivity) as the Absolute. From there, we get principles such as symmetry and reason with which to identify relations between physics and information as a Hegelian dialectic which reflects, rather than produces the original thesis of sense. Sense is the thesis, physics and information are the dual-aspect or double antithesis (antithesis of each other and of sense), significance is the synthesis, and entropy or insensitivity is the antithesis of the synthesis (the shadow of the thesis within the thesis). Because this quadruplicity is absolute, if we call it panpsychism we must be careful not to confuse it with what I call promiscuous panpsychism in which every thing, such as stones or signs have consciousness. Under pansensitivity, every “thing” is an appearance of consciousness within itself. We are not a body which has become conscious, we are a conscious experience which has foregrounded itself by back-grounding other conscious experiences as bodies.

In my view, a stone is what we see through the sense perspective of a human body in an anthropocentric timescale. In its native geological-astrophysical timescale, the events associated with the formation of minerals and planets are as dynamic and creative as biology or psychology. We see a stone because our sense of the experience which stretches back billions of years is frozen, relative to the scale of our own human experience. To us, it is a stone. Without us, there is no stone, only an aesthetic dream which speeds along at sampling rates too extreme for us to sense personally. The mineral level of experience is both too fast on the molecular level and too slow on the interstellar level for us to relate to directly.

The relation between a medium-rate human experience and an extreme-rate inorganic experience is presented as a truncated and collapsed aesthetic: as classical physics; density, mass, gravity, persistence of linear duration and causality, etc. Our human experience is nested within a deeper biological-zoological body experience, which is nested within a deeper organic-chemical experience, which is nested within a deeper inorganic-astrophysical experience.

Each of these nested ‘gears’ is concurrent with our own, even down to the Big Bang, which is eternally present as both an event in time and as the diffraction of sense into physical and psychological phenomena from beyond time. In this way, the Absolute is itself in ‘superposition’ of being sense experience which is becoming more significant sense experience by its diffraction as the physics vs information duality. This duality can be seen on the quantum scale as entanglement and contextuality. I think that entanglement is the parent of space and physics, since non-locality is a contrast against locality. For space or distance to exist, there must be a parallel, simultaneous relation which juxtaposes a non-local experience of ‘here’ with multiple experiences of ‘there, and there’. For time or causality to exist, there must be a serial contextuality in which a de-contextualized or immutable time-traveller is defined against the context of its ongoing mutable experience.

The physics-information duality shows up in relativity also as energy is defined in terms of spatiotemporalized mass (E = mc²). Energy, as the capacity to perform work is, in my view, the event horizon of conscious participation as it makes its teleological impact on what has been perceived. Energy is the footprint of subjectivity upon the subjective perception of objectivity, as it expresses the motive power to cause significant effects (or effect increasing significance). Gravity is the shadow of E = mc²…the significance-masking effect which we can conceive of as both physical entropy and information entropy. Gravity is the collapse of former significance in a given frame of reference which results in an increase in mass and aesthetic ‘seriousness’ of what remains.

To sum up: Reality is what consciousness finds serious and significant. It is a relation between the local frame of perception (such as a human lifetime) and the larger frames of reference in which that frame is nested (the history of the human species, zoology, biology, chemistry, physics, and metaphysics). In this relation the relative insignificance of the local frame is presented as a heightened quality of significance of the distal frames. We are thus presented with a way to use our limited consciousness to partially transcend its own limitation, by recognizing its own incompleteness as a material fact. This is ironic as it is the unbounded, absolute power of consciousness to transcend itself which gives rise to the nearly-absolute boundedness of realism into ‘Reality’. In other words, reality seems real because consciousness needs to become partially unreal to itself to create realism. Realism is the local appearance of phenomena beyond local appearance: Non-local consciousness (pansensitivity) as localized, decontextualed, de-sensitized, mechanics.

Reality is the way that consciousness creates the possibility of greater and greater enchantment through the appearance of disenchantment.



  1. March 7, 2017 at 1:52 am

    Let’s say there is a “first” instance of “consciousness of reality” (which would also be the first instance of the “reality of consciousness”). Could consciousness have existed before there was reality? (If so, wouldn’t that consciousness have been some kind of “reality”? If not, would it have been “real” consciousness?) Could reality have existed before there was consciousness? That depends; does reality require consciousness in order to exist? If it does, then no. Otherwise, yes.

    • March 9, 2017 at 12:31 pm

      Think of the example of being born. Coming out of the womb could be a first ‘consciousness of reality’, yes? I don’t see that there would be a connection to a first instance of ‘reality of consciousness’ though. Consciousness did exist before birth, and that was a kind of ‘reality’ in a sense, but not in the sense that is being referenced in the title (First Consciousness or Reality).

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