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Conversational Tarot — Ace of Swords

February 26, 2015

A while back, I described a way to initiate thought-provoking conversations using the messages of the cards.  A great way to facilitate this process is to use my Pithy Tarot app, which provides a quick little meaning along with a card. 

Ace of Swords -- Tarot of the MastersToday I drew the Ace of Swords and this pithy meaning:

“Consciousness is a singular for which there is no plural.” — Erwin Schrödinger.  

(For an expansion on this, see the original blog post.)

The question that this pithy meaning suggested to me is this:
What is consciousness? Is consciousness defined by our thoughts, or is it something beyond the realm of our thoughts?

Here are some of my (ahem) thoughts about this:

First of all, people typically suffer the illusion that we think all our thoughts … that they come from our consciousness, that we are consciously creating them. But the truth is that our brains are constantly sending thoughts into our consciousness unbidden.  In the popular vernacular, our minds “wander” and we “daydream.” In fact, our brains are actually organic computers that are running all the time when we are awake (and when we are dreaming, too). But if our brains are computers, doesn’t that mean that we are basically robots?  I don’t think so. At least, I sure hope not. I believe that the trick is to realize the difference between the thoughts that come from our brain-computer and the awareness that comes from our eternal consciousness.

Of course, all this begs the question: “Is there a difference?” In other words, are our minds and consciousness merely the product of organic computers (i.e., our brains)? Although our brains may be incredibly complex, this could indicate that our thoughts and actions are deterministic.  I mean, if that’s all there is – just organic hardware, an operating system (sort of like our instincts and automatic mental functions), and software (what we’ve learned) – then our minds are indeed just like a computer and our actions are determined by that hardware and software, just as are those of a computer. In other words, in that case, we don’t have free will.  But what if we have a separate consciousness beyond (or “above”) all that, a consciousness which actually gives us free will—at least, to some extent?

Schrödinger’s quote above comes from the following lengthier one:

“Vedanta teaches that consciousness is singular, all happenings are played out in one universal consciousness, and there is no multiplicity of selves.”

What he meant is that it is an illusion that we are separate from one another.  Consider the analogy of a dream. When we dream, we think we are acting in a world populated by other people. There is an illusion that those other people have their own consciousness. In fact, it is an illusion that we (our dream-selves) have our own consciousness that is acting within that dream world. The reality is that there is a consciousness (our “real world” mind) above and beyond that of the population of the dream world.  Schrödinger says that the reality in which we live (or think we live) is like that. There is a higher consciousness that is “dreaming” our lives and those of everyone else–sort of like how Brahma is dreaming all of reality in Hindu cosmology.

You can see how this consideration of what our consciousness might be is a fascinating question—and even more so for the fact that most people never wonder about it. So I suggest that you think about the following questions, and discuss them with other people (or post your thoughts here on this blog post) —

  1. Do our thoughts define our consciousness, or should we consider that our thoughts travel a two-way street: from our brain-computers to our consciousness as well as the other way around?
  2. Is there a superseding consciousness of which all our “separate” consciousnesses are a part?
  3. If we don’t have a transcendent consciousness beyond our “organic computers” (brains), how can we have free will?

I guarantee this will spark a very interesting discussion.


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