The hard question of consciousness asks us to consider where consciousness arises from.
I believe that this question is fundamentally flawed and should be restructured. Instead of asking where does consciousness come from, what we should be asking is, what arises from consciousness?
Many of my subscribers are familiar with the theory of panpsychism, which presupposes that consciousness is omnipresent. It is everywhere, even your chair under you or your screen that you are reading or watching this on is in a small way conscious. Does this seem far fetched to you? The only other explanation is that consciousness is nothing more than a biological and chemical reaction limited to somewhere in the brain or body.
So if we presume that consciousness is everywhere and all things are conscious, then we could extrapolate that consciousness is the cause of everything. That the simple act of observation or awareness collapses the wavefront of all the possibilities of particles in superposition into our everyday world.
Now the stage is set for some more questions. The Buddha Dharma talks a lot about the unity of subject, object, and action. This is one of the many ways of expressing non duality. Let’s explore this, we have three things. A subject, (you or me), and an apple (object) that we would like to enjoy (action). So now, what good is a subject (you or me) without an object (apple) to enjoy (action)? What good is an object (apple) without a subject (you or me) to enjoy (action) it? And finally what good is action like enjoyment without a subject ( you or me) to do it to an object (apple)? This system of codependent existence is very interesting to play with. to understand what I mean here is that it is simply not meaningful or logical for one of these things to exist without the others.
Co emergence or co arising are two terms that are often used when comparing our very dualistic experience to a non dual reality. A general understanding of this would be that both good and bad, light and dark, and up and down only exist dependent on each other. We are pointing at the unity of two extremes and saying that what we want or what we perceive is actually in the middle somewhere, but we do not naturally perceive this. We see or understand only the separation or the borders between, in fact our total understanding of the world is based on an ontological seperation of all things. We project the idea of separation on to all that we see. The Buddha Dharma shows us otherwise.
Are we starting to see how all of this is connected?
Now if we ask both questions 1. How does consciousness arise? and 2. What arises from consciousness? at the same time, we begin to close the gap in understanding the conditioned physical world of particles and form, and the unseen world of forces, waves, and our conscious energy. Understanding that some things are not mutually exclusive but rather inclusive or both and, makes our world of experience full and complete. There is a lot of freedom in this understanding.
I want to close with two thoughts. Firstly to quote Albert Einstein when he was speaking about the famous double slit experiment, detailed in the link above. “It seems as though we must use sometimes the one theory and sometimes the other, while at times we may use either” Einstein knew that a “both and” understanding is optimal for complete understanding of the very strange world of particels and waves.
And secondly that, consciousness is the universe’s way of seeing and understanding itself. What is an object, the universe, without a subject, our consciousness, to enjoy or perceive it?