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I’ve been reading and thinking a lot lately about consciousness. You probably have an idea about what consciousness is. Maybe you think it’s awareness – something like that feeling that someone is looking at you. Or maybe the first notion you have is more like awakeness – being conscious rather than knocked unconscious. Along that same line of thinking, consciousness could mean being alive.

Some of us might define consciousness as our mind. Or, taken to the next step, it could be our active mind as opposed to our unconscious mind, you know, the one that drives your car to work or the grocery store without even noticing the usual landmarks along the way when suddenly you realize you’ve arrived!

Mostly we don’t think about consciousness because we’re too busy completing that report for the client or trying to win an argument with someone or simply making dinner. Life is life; we’re busy living it. We don’t have time to think about it while we’re at it. And that brings to mind one of my favorite quotations about consciousness. Carl Jung, he of the concept “collective unconscious,” wrote,

The reason why consciousness exists, and why there is an urge to widen and deepen it, is very simple: without consciousness things go less well. – Carl Jung, CW 8, par. 695

Jung was a pioneer in the field of psychology and helped to midwife it in the early twentieth century. Many of the terms associated with his work have eked their way into common usage today so successfully that we hardly know they are clinical in origin. We use words like extrovert, archetype and the aforementioned collective unconscious without so much as a nod to Jung. And, again, fine – we’re busy living life. Can’t be thinking too much about word origins or their deeper meaning.

Back to the quote, though – notice that it begins with “The reason why consciousness exists…” This is what has been occupying my thoughts recently. Why are we conscious? What is consciousness? Where does it come from? Is it in me…outside of me…is my consciousness the same thing as your consciousness…? So many questions! Depending on your definition of consciousness, the quote takes on different nuances. And depending on how much time you have on your hands, you can go very deep with this idea of identifying and defining consciousness. I find it a continually and curiously satisfying contemplation. With all that said, I invite you to reflect on consciousness this week.

For now, I have to prepare my dinner.


© 2024              


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