The normal human being exists in his head! Yes, he lives inside his head. The arms, legs, torso, all other body parts are vital and necessary, but they are not the human being. No, the human being lives inside his head, more specifically, inside his brain, an extended solipsism.
He has a multitude of sensors feeding information into this brain. Sight being the most important and hearing second. He also has sensors for taste, touch, smell, temperature and balance–perhaps more. He receives inputs from these senses into his brain to create a conscious awareness of himself. He is also somewhat aware of where he is in space and time. The brain additionally experiences internally-generated states. These states are the emotions, feelings of pleasure, grief, sorry, shame, fear, embarrassment, etc. These emotions, like a pervading fog, sometimes encompass the entire brain and subdue and override all other inputs.
Of course, the body has nerves which sense pain. Serious threats, even minor bodily irritations are conveyed to the brain as pain and can command complete attention. The brain responds to all pains, yet itself is insensitive to pain.
The basic question, however, is…what is consciousness?
In my view, consciousness is the state the brain is in when it is receiving inputs from all its sensors (no pain), is fully cognizant of the sum of these inputs, is synchronizing and recording them in short-term memory, and comparing them with long-term memory. It is simultaneously contemplating future physical and mental actions and may be considering their consequences. In this state, within the confines of his hereditary and cultural biases, and coherent with his emotional state, he directs his thoughts and actions, creates his character and becomes who he is! IN THIS STATE, HE IS CONSCIOUS! He becomes himself!
Unfortunately, at the time when a child’s brain is becoming conscious–is developing and acquiring its impressions of reality–it may be deliberately, if ignorantly, infused with mythology. This mythology is presented as truth. It is called RELIGION. Religions, created entirely by man, fabricate elaborate fantasies to generate baseless hopes and instill fear. Theology or mythology, masquerading as truth, may grow and mature in the brain along with knowledge, and it will remain highly persuasive throughout the person’s life.
This embedded spirituality, embellished and authenticated by other people through external rites, rituals, dogma and music, may become a dominating factor in his existence. He may then devote much of his life to worshiping and emulating imaginary gods–or escaping devils! This does not insure he will lead a “bad” life, but it strongly influences all of his activities and thoughts. In extreme cases it may lead to acts of great human self-sacrifice or conversely in the horrendous killing of others.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
The problem is that the majority of the peoples of this world do not do much thinking and have most of their head filled with mythology!
[David C. Williams is a retired engineer. He is ninety-two years old and lives in Kentucky. He writes on philosophy, religion, and other thought-provoking subjects. In this article, he tackles consciousness and religion’s impact upon it.]