Of existing and latest research findings and evidence regarding our Consciousness and Spirituality
Despite the level of technology we currently possess across diverse fields, there are still many aspects of life on Earth and the human condition, including the origin of our Consciousness, that are still being investigated and explored with no definite answer.
When I was looking for available information on the subjects of Consciousness and Spirituality, I realized that there is actually very little concrete or organized information on these vast topics. What I have done here is to piece together, as best as I can, the information I have gathered to form a framework that we can use to explore these areas.
Let's start with the subject of Consciousness.
A useful framework would be to relate Consciousness to these 3 states of mind - conscious, subconscious and superconscious - states of mind being something we can experience.
Even though some would argue whether the subconscious, much less the superconscious, are "actual" states of mind, we have to remind ourselves that these areas are still being explored, and we are simply using this framework to help us organize the current available information that I will be presenting to you. Let's look at each of these terms as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
"Definition of conscious (Entry 1 of 2) 1: having mental faculties not dulled by sleep, faintness, or stupor" and etc. "Definition of conscious (Entry 2 of 2) 2: CONSCIOUSNESS"
"Definition of consciousness 1a: the quality or state of being aware especially of something within oneself b: the state or fact of being conscious of an external object, state, or fact c: AWARENESS 2: the state of being characterized by sensation, emotion, volition, and thought : MIND 3: the totality of conscious states of an individual 4: the normal state of conscious life 5: the upper level of mental life of which the person is aware as contrasted with unconscious processes"
From Entry 2 definition of "conscious", and the 5 statements above defining "consciousness", it is reasonable to say that consciousness in the dictionary context refers solely to the conscious mind. Therefore, when we search for scientific studies pertaining to consciousness - how, why and perhaps even where it exists - these studies actually refer only to the conscious mind, and not including the subconscious mind or anything else beyond.
After doing some search of my own, the predominant field studying the conscious mind currently is neuroscience.
"As papers about consciousness are so often introduced, consciousness was until few decades ago considered a philosophical problem only, and the current interest in empirical consciousness research was unforeseen. This development was of course influenced by the technological advancements in neuroscience during those decades, but more important and fundamental was a new openness to interdisciplinary integration of research questions, methods and arguments. Cognitive scientists and neuroscientists agreed that the philosophical problems of why and how there is consciousness are also their problems. Philosophers agreed that empirical evidence may resolve or at least influence this debate. Scientists across disciplines generally agree that consciousness is subjective, characterized by a kind of privileged first-person access. Consciousness research has proven to be an actual and functioning discipline able to provide meaningful and reproducible results. Nevertheless, it has yet only scratched the surface in the attempt to solve some its bigger challenges, e.g., its many underlying questions of metaphysics (i.e., why does consciousness exist?) and questions of mechanisms (how does consciousness exist?)."
As highlighted in the above article, there are many ongoing neuroscience research on the study of consciousness, and a recent article titled "Consciousness explained or described" published by Neuroscience of Consciousness (Oxford Academic) in 2022 even argues whether the current three most popular theories of consciousness, namely global neuronal workspace theory (GNWT), integrated information theory (IIT), and higher-order thought theory (HOTT), are really proposed laws that describe, rather than explain consciousness.
Suffice to say, currently, there is no definite answer as to how, why, much less where our consciousness (conscious mind in this context) arises and there is much to be done in this field before any firm conclusion can be drawn.
"Definition of subconscious (Entry 1 of 2) 1: existing in the mind but not immediately available to consciousness Definition of subconscious (Entry 2 of 2) 2: the mental activities just below the threshold of consciousness"
When I googled the term "subconscious" or "subconscious mind", I was surprised that the first couple of pages were not information from more academic or scientific resources - this just goes to show how undefined and unclear this area is.
From the dictionary definition above, we can explain the subconscious to be part of human consciousness just below the threshold of the conscious mind. This part is also sometimes referred to as the unconscious.
The term "subconscious" was used by Sigmund Freud (Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis born in 1856) interchangeably with “unconscious” at the outset, but he eventually kept to the term "unconscious", leading to much confusion until now apparently. A short article I found titled "Unconscious or Subconscious" published by Harvard Health Publishing in 2010 discussing about these 2 terms is a good read if you are interested.
What we can conclude is that, the study of the conscious mind is still in early stages, and the description and definition of the subconscious / unconscious mind is even less clear. For the purpose of clarity in this article, I shall use the term subconscious (and not unconscious) from now on.
To sum up the above, human consciousness consists of the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. The conscious mind is the part of human consciousness that we are actively aware of, and the subconscious mind is the rest of human consciousness that we are not actively aware of in our day-to-day living.
"Definition of superconscious (Entry 1 of 2) 1: transcending human consciousness 2: of, relating to, or possessing the highest consciousness or a margin of consciousness above that within the ordinary range of attention Definition of superconscious (Entry 2 of 2) : the superconscious part of the mind or psychic activity"
Based on the above definition, the superconscious mind transcends human consciousness. In other words, the superconscious mind transcends beyond what we consciously and subconsciously experience as a human.
To distinguish between "Consciousness" that I have described as the 3 states of mind versus "consciousness" (that is the conscious mind only) in Merriam-Webster's definition, I have used capital letter C for the former term, and small letter c for the latter.
To organize and summarize what we have just discussed above:
We relate Consciousness to these 3 states of mind - conscious, subconscious and superconscious - and states of mind being something we can experience.
The human consciousness consists of the conscious and subconscious mind. The superconscious mind transcends human consciousness (of the conscious and subconscious mind).
Our conscious mind is in control in our waking state. We access our subconscious mind when we dream in our sleep, but we may or may not remember the contents of our dreams, and we are unable to direct the flow of our dreams. We can also access our subconscious and possibly our superconscious mind when we are in the meditative or hypnotic state.
The definition I can find that most succinctly defines this term is byGoogle Dictionary box: "the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things" When we access our superconscious mind, we become aware of spiritual existence that is beyond our present life body. I would describe Spirituality as the state of our whole being - not just our individual being/existence, but also our collective being; not just our physical realm on Earth, but also encompassing realms beyond; not just our states of mind and experiences, but also that which/whom create our states and experiences.
And if we are all collectively part of One, with ultimately no divide between Creator and Created, then we might even use the term "One Consciousness" to describe that state.
Just imagine the extent of what we do not know yet! There is much more to discover about our Consciousness and Spirituality, and now, let me present to you:
The Organizations and Individuals who are Studying, Researching and/or Facilitating different aspects of this field
University of Virginia Division of Perceptual Studies (UVA DOPS) UVA DOPS was founded in 1967 by Dr. Ian Stevenson. I cannot describe what they do better than what they have written on their website so here goes: “At the Division of Perceptual Studies, we believe that a revolution in intellectual history is taking shape, and we have a unique role to play in bringing it to fruition.
Current mainstream science and philosophy portray mind, personality and consciousness as nothing more than byproducts of brain activity encased within our skulls and vanishing at death. Through its research, DOPS strives to challenge this entrenched mainstream view by rigorously evaluating empirical evidence suggesting that consciousness survives death and that mind and brain are distinct and separable.
And we are not alone. Growing numbers of scientists and philosophers are becoming convinced that the prevailing physicalist picture is fundamentally flawed, and that science urgently needs to extend in directions that will allow it to accommodate genuine spiritual experiences without loss of scientific integrity." Ongoing research areas by DOPS:
Children Who Remember Previous Lives
Near-death Experiences especially veridical NDEs
Neuroimaging Studies of Psi
Altered States of Consciousness (Meditation, mindfulness and unusual experience; Deep Meditation; After Death Communication; Out of body experiences)
The most well-known author on the subject of Past Life Regression is perhaps Dr Brian Weiss, a graduate of Columbia University and Yale Medical School, who is Chairman Emeritus of Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami. As quoted from his website:
"As a traditional psychotherapist, Dr. Brian Weiss was astonished and skeptical when one of his patients began recalling past-life traumas that seemed to hold the key to her recurring nightmares and anxiety attacks. His skepticism was eroded, however, when she began to channel messages from 'the space between lives', which contained remarkable revelations about Dr. Weiss’s family and his dead son. Using past-life therapy, he was able to cure the patient and embark on a new, more meaningful phase of his own career."
Dr. Weiss is the author of many books, including the bestselling "Many Lives, Many Masters" and "Through Time into Healing". I think it is fair to say that his books are a must read and often the starting point for anyone interested in Past Life Regression Therapy. Dr. Michael Newton - Michael Newton Institute
Dr. Michael Newton is perhaps the most well-known practitioner and writer to focus on Between Lives Regression, and the process pioneered by him is named Life Between Lives®. As quoted from his website, "Life Between Lives® refers to the experience of being between incarnations (the inter-life), where you exist as a pure energy being."
His first book on the Afterlife titled "Journey of Souls" was published 1994 and was based on thousands of client cases that were used to build a working model of the afterlife. I personally feel that this book is akin to a textbook describing what the spiritual realm (afterlife) is like, and would strongly recommend this book to anyone interested to find out more.
Dr. Newton passed away in 2016, and Michael Newton Institute continues his work "to providing opportunities globally for people to experience their soul state and a reconnection to the wisdom of the After-life / Inter-life" (as quoted from his website).
Compared to earlier centuries, humankind in the 21st century is of course much more advanced in all aspects; but if we are to compare ourselves to humankind in the future, it would not be wrong to say that we are still possibly in the juvenile stage now.
One thing we know for sure, is that right now, there may be some things we know for sure, but there are a lot more we do not know at all. Hence, whatever that cannot or has not been proven with our level of technology up to now, is just that – something that has yet to be proven (true or not).
Therefore, it would be wise to keep an open mind to all that we do not know of, so that we do not see our world and our existence through narrow or tinted views, and miss what we have been offered to experience, learn and evolve in this time and space.
We will continue to review recent research and information on Consciousness and Spirituality, and update this page (the updates will be highlighted in our Blog) as we do so. Till then and always, remember to keep an open mind!