Advanced meditators are able to be vividly conscious in deep sleep. Though it's probably impossible to describe, the closest might be "consciousness without content." It's subtle enough that most of us overlook it.
Even something as common as lucid dreaming took centuries to be taken seriously. The community at large insisted that it was a delusion. We are probably years away from being able to make sense of the claim that we can be profoundly conscious in deep sleep. Perhaps that can only happen when more of us are trained well enough to experience it for ourselves.
I'll be eager to see how society integrates these kinds of understandings into end-of-life issues, if I'm still around.
How can that be known except through self-reporting? At least with lucid dreaming, experiments have shown communication from the subject via eye signals. Has a similar thing being done with meditators?
I'm sure to some this sounds bogus or like a cop-out. But experiencing it (or similar states, as can happen with psychedelics) can impact our waking lives in meaningful ways, so I hope it's not brushed under the rug for much longer.
If meditators remember it then it probably has physical manifestation in whatever mechanisms brains use to remember stuff. Maybe some day it will be possible to observe this being stored in the brain.
Their lucid dreaming techniques is basically similar as how non-mediators train to do it and the training happens towards the end of the several year long isolated retreat. The only difference is the extensive amount of preparation. For example, when you learn to sleep in sitting posture (in a wooden box that supports the posture) sleep becomes naturally more light.
Even then, being able to keep lucid dream constantly is not necessarily easy and the ability do it can disappear quickly. The guy I talked with said that while he learned to wake into lucid dreaming in most nights, he never learned to fall asleep while conscious.
ps. It's interesting how many classical Buddhist 'psycic abilities' can be explained by yogis training in lucid dreaming states. Walking trough walls is classical ability described in Buddhist texts and that's one thing they trained during lucid dreaming.
I don't think I see your connection - walking through walls was seemingly possible because yogis dreamed they could do it?
Umm, what? It was a common belief in bronze-age Greek society; is referred to in the Torah/Old Testament (Pharao's dreams) and of course is a fundamental belief of a number of Australia's aboriginal cultures. I would be shocked if it were not fundamental in many many other cultures (east Asia, the Americas etc) as well. It's not like the experience is not widespread.
I'm sorry if this all sounds like mystical mumbo-jumbo. Language is admittedly a big barrier here.
Then there's this:
> The current most promising scientific theory of consciousness [...] is Integrated Information Theory (IIT). [...] IIT emphasizes the differentiated and integrated aspect of any subjective experience and postulates that the mechanism supporting conscious experience in the human brain’s neocortex must likewise incorporate these two attributes.
I don't see any reason why the presumed features of our subjective experience should be "reflected" in the physical working of our brains.
I assume the authors are aware of both definitions, but 'consciousness' sounds even more impressive than self-awareness, so...
If subjective experience has absolutely no physical correlates then wouldn't that make it strictly supernatural?
It's a coherent position, but it turns consciousness into an article of religious faith.
Never mind easy, I can't see the truth of your proposition at all. Why wouldn't my experience exist in this physical universe? Everything else does and we've never found evidence of a single thing that doesn't. That I experience a feeling of existing in no way at all implies it's not based in physics.
Right, consciousness seems to be in its own, unique realm in some way.
> That I experience a feeling of existing in no way at all implies it's not based in physics.
That must be some trippy physics. It's probably safest to be agnostic about it, but it just seems absurd to me to imply that a mathematical formula can produce feeling or experience. How can you describe the experience of qualia mathematically? I think this is the Materialist view gone a step too far. Still, can't rule out any possibility if we're searching for the truth.
Wouldn't we learn at some point to stop presuming complicated things to be non-physical?
Yes, I'm mocking some philosophers' views. But I haven't seen strong rebuttals.
To be precise I'm mocking the idea that existence of consciousness can depend on some non-physical condition.
I suppose computer analogies are cliché, but consider virtual memory: it gives the illusion of a huge contiguous memory space, when in reality the machine has nothing of the sort. Our brains are much more complex than computers and I suspect extrapolating between "abstraction levels" will be even more risky there.
I also don't see why "Integrated Information Theory" with its "formal calculus" is really required for the methodology of studying patterns of neural activity and trying to match them with self-reported states of consciousness.
The tendency of science is towards naturalism, to the point that anything else is considered nonsense, but who knows what's really happening?
Except for our entire body of scientific knowledge, and the long, long history of presumption of human uniqueness that were repeatedly refuted. In 50 years, the specialness of human consciousness will join vitalism in the history of quaint ideas.
The relationship between the subjective feeling of consciousness and the measured neural patterns doesn't seem to be of the same nature. When I see the color blue, does that "cause" anything in my brain?
Photons, other various kinds of radiation, do seem to exist outside of minds.
From the perspective of recall, unconsciousness is indistinguishable from a gap in memory.
There is no way for a person to determine whether they were truly unconscious or just conscious at a sub-memory level.
(This is why I personally doubt the existence of true unconsciousness. I think it’s entirely possible that consciousness is uninterruptible, at least during the lifetime of a conscious organism.)
DMT was not fun, also
I call this the "intelligent lifeform sensor" problem, after the implementation from Star Trek.
Consciousness is clearly an information theoretical phenomenon that occurs in matter. There should be some sort of general information-theoretical description that applies to matter (be it cephalopods, or rocks, or fungal networks, or exploding stars, or....)