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I want to talk about 3 books that helped me expand my understanding of consciousness by answering some of my questions and posing many more in the way, and books that provide me with new better questions are my favourite.
What is Consciousness?
Consciousness at its simplest is "awareness or sentience of internal or external existence". from wiki
As we go deeper into the topic it takes different paths like philosophical, scientific, psychological, and many others.
The concept of consciousness has been one of the big questions of humanity.
And I can say that this is one of the most interesting questions for me, spending a lot of time puzzling through the maze of ideas and new information trying to understand what it means, how it manifests and what are its limits and finally what’s the potential of human consciousness, how consciousness will evolve in future?
I will try not to go too far in my personal discourse on how I see consciousness, I can say for sure this topic for me is one of the most slippery topics, and every time I study a new human attempt to understand it, it gets even more murky. So what I found so far that consciousness cannot be proven, found nor pinpointed is somewhat similar to the topic of our soul I guess. Yet we do have like and instinct that we assume our consciousness to be a stream that never interrupts and hopefully never ends and this is where it gets tricky, there are many occasions where we experience the blackouts of our consciousness and me studying these moments get me in to this weird place where you can't anymore feel that you are real, your cannot feel alive, conscious and reality around you feels unreal too. Yet most people live their lives never truly experiencing these fringe moments or at least not dwelling over them. And I totally get it, there is no comfort in breaking the illusion, because this is where it feels for real an illusion, and many times these ventures cost me my sanity or at least a great deal of discomfort. Yet what I can extract from that experience is that we humans have 2 streams, the reality which is not easy to process for its complexity all being weird and uncertain, and second is the constant stream which is based on beliefs, keeping us blind and sane at the same time. We have done well to ourselves, we put pretty much everything into the box of faith and go on with our illusions i mean lifes, whatever no difference.
If this topic is interesting for you too, then we could talk about it in more articles later.
And here we can begin with the ideas, concepts, or books that shed light on interesting aspects of the concept of consciousness.
Book 1 - Solaris
By Stanislav Lem
Here the old topic of a traveler flying light-years far away from himself to escape his demons lands just in the middle of himself again, suggesting that no matter how far we leave we will always remain in our own head, living and reliving our own demons barely observing the reality around us. Solaris to me is like purgatory where we face ourselves, and Solaris is just a mirror. Yet I have seen another deeper line in this story, the concept of evolution of consciousness, where the author tries to imagine the evolution of consciousness out of the human experience and beyond human capability to understand it or even to connect with it, a consciousness with the computing power of a planet, with cognitive ability beyond any human understanding.
The concept of a higher consciousness always interested me, along with the question of where our consciousness came from, what its purpose and functions are, what it is right now, and how it will evolve in the future. And evolution of human consciousness is the biggest question for me, where will we get, what is our potential?
This is why I give to Solaris my top place because it gives me food to think about the evolution of consciousness.
Book 2 - Siddhartha
By Herman Hesse
Since the dawn of time religions have bet on consciousness.
Focusing on how to evolve human consciousness and at the same time using it’s base mechanisms hacking it and creating an often fictitious structure of the world using the old instinct of belief.
“I believe that I exist” - this was the only steady ground I ever found in the shaky terra of consciousness, in fact at the moment I start thinking about it all starts to get so formless and fuzzy, there is no steady grip for a visual person like me, if I can’t picture it, I can’t understand it. Yet religions thrive in these groundless realms because it takes you by surprise, when you are most disoriented and lost, which is pretty most of our waking time I guess. This is why I always was curious about how religion helps humans to grow and thrive in this scary place called consciousness.
Siddhartha is not holy scripture, yet I can say that is most useful because is not, humans are most perceptive when they can see examples of how someone like them venture in to the depths of human consciousness and if they come out unscathed, hopefully not crazy, and somewhat collected a grain of knowledge, this is when our attention is highest.
I was glued to the lines curious to see what he will learn, yet I know that some answers are not a destination but a path, so in this case, Siddhartha gave me the most satisfactory answer to my main religious question.
Is it possible to use religion to understand consciousness?
I will not spoil you with my answer, you need to find it yourself in Siddhartha, because I bet your answer will be different.
Book 3 - The Gulag Archipelago
Warning: I do not recommend this book for light reading.
You might raise your brows thinking if there is any chance to find consciousness in books about human misery? Yes, some aspects of human consciousness are found only in these types of books.
I was wondering what is the limit of our consciousness, can we destroy it and leave a human being void of its consciousness? Can we find the growth in extreme conditions of survival? How much we can take away from a human being until his consciousness cannot be sustained? I wanted to find the origins of our consciousness, and here I found it without even looking.
I accidentally started reading this book which turned in an epic for me, looking for the origins of our consciousness. The author tells his story and the story of many people which went through the same ordeal, as a result he dug deep into the questions of human consciousness and whether consciousness comes as a result of certain conditions achieved thanks to other human evolution, or consciousness defines our species as a life form, so similar yet so distinct from our relatives on our shared home planet. In this book you will experience with the author together the path of stripping the human being from its shells that we built in time to protect our consciousness, here you can see if it survives the impact with reality without these protective layers, will it grow, will it thrive, will it become better, stronger, different? This book has only one goal, at least that seemed to me at the time I was reading it, to dig out our consciousness and look at it under the harsh but bright light of reality.
The book might seem for many overstretched and hard to connect to the reality portrayed in it, it feels surreal to you at times, yet I must press that this reality is no fiction, till today, it's a reality for more people than I would like it to be. Yet I challenge you to be brave and to jump into the raw extremes of brutality so you can at least glimpse for a moment the birth of our light.