What is Consciousness

There were six learned sages, 

To study much inclined, 

Who met to discuss Consciousness (About it each was blind).

 Each hoped by observation To satisfy his mind. 

The first sage thought of Consciousness, Awake or in a dream, 

As an experiential flow With rivulets that seem To be so fundamental that “Consciousness is a stream.” 

The second sage knew of Consciousness From his patients’ anguish; Their problems stemmed from urges They tried hard to vanquish. So, this great sage proclaimed that “Consciousness is a wish.”

The third followed Consciousness Back to its primal lair. He studied myths and legends That led him to declare “A Collective Consciousness Is something we all share.”

 The fourth said the term Consciousness Is faulty in the West. In the East it is luminous, And that word says it best; Hence “Consciousness illuminates, And also manifests.”

 For the fifth sage, Consciousness Is entering a gate By hypnosis, taking drugs, Or pausing to meditate. He concluded that “Consciousness Is something like a state.” 

The sixth sage said “Consciousness Is easy to explain. Sight, smell, taste, and hunger, Touch, sound and pain, Are perceived, then Consciousness Emerges from the brain.”

Oft’ in academic wars, The disputants, it seems, Rail on in sheer ignorance Of what each other might mean, And while some dissect Consciousness, It still remains unseen.

THIS SPIN ON JOHN GODFREY SAXE’S NINETEENTH-CENTURY POEM “The Blind Men and the Elephant” describes the varying answers to the question: “What is consciousness?” The varying answers represent a significant development; however, that is often overlooked in contemporary discourse. After William James, arguably the founder of modern psychology in the United States, made consciousness a cornerstone of his investigations, the field was taken over by the behaviorists. For many decades, the prevailing dogma was that a phenomenon such as “consciousness” could only be discussed in subjective terms, and could not be properly studied by science with objective experimental methods.

Rupert Spira

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