Subjective Reality and the Structure of Consciousness

I have lined up a whole lot of little black letters talking about the structure of consciousness, and I imagine that a broad cross-section of both of my faithful readers wonder why on earth I’m wasting so much time on it. The simple answer is that the structure of consciousness is the structure of our experience.

appalachiantrailObviously, if “subjective reality” or even the belief community model is anything like the truth, the structure of consciousness is the structure of the universe itself. Researching these matters shows us that, even if our consciousness is extremely malleable, it is not infinitely so. There are patterns of thought, ways of thinking, structures of experience that are common to everyone and impossible to ignore. If one wishes to control, or least influence, one’s own experience, these structures are the rules of the game.

Alternatively, if the more popular “materialist” theory of reality is correct, it is just as important to become comfortable in one’s own little bedroom. After all, even if there is a “material” reality out there, we never experience it directly. Everything we experience is filtered through our senses and our brain’s interpretations. The brain doesn’t just sit there and take in facts. Everything we experience — from the colors of fall foliage to a spoon held in the hand, from a sunrise to a child’s laugh — is selected and interpreted by the brain from a sea of raw data, long before our conscious minds get hold of it. This is why we experience the world as a collection of colored objects in motion, as opposed to a mad blur of color and sensation.

Take a simple example: the debate between proponents of evolution and proponents of creationism. There is a huge amount of evidence for evolution, evidence from the material world that is simply irrefutable by logical means. Taken on the merits of the evidence alone, there simply is no better explanation for the facts. There is more evidence for evolution than there is for the theory of plate tectonics, for goodness sake, or for the theory of quarks (scientists have seen evolution in action — but no one has ever seen a quark). So why is there any controversy or doubt about the matter? Because the theory of evolution is simply impossible — in the realm of the mind.

In the realm of the mind, concepts do not arise from other concepts through a process of natural selection. Concepts are either immutable, immortal types — like the concept “one” — or they are composed of other concepts — like the concept “rabbit”, which is composed of dozens of related concepts having to do with furriness, cuteness, long ears, speed, fertility, Easter, and so forth. The theory of evolution is so counter to the basic patterns of human thought that there may always be those who simply cannot accept it. But to understand this about ourselves — to understand how humans can be so smart and so dumb at the same time — we have to study the nature of consciousness.

And quite apart from all that, it’s fun to think about.

I’m constructing a rough chart of the island. Perhaps your island is shaped somewhat like mine. Together, we will locate the temple.

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