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LATEST CONVERSATIONS: Defining Consciousness Will Help Us Realize Reality

Zaya asked the brilliant panel at SAND Italy the ultimate question “What is your definition of consciousness?” and none could commit to an answer although they said profound things about it in their talks. One said “I’ll pass.”

I had been asking fellow attendees what they thought about defining consciousness, and was surprised to find that most people not only think there isn’t a definition but – many think we can’t, or shouldn’t define it. Too late for me! After years of being frustrated from seeing people unable to agree about this amazing subject, I did some work and came up with a definition, and I presented it. It was a little 20 minute talk and didn’t get much attention, But any attempt at a definition might be a move in the right direction. “Observerless Limitless Beingness” is what I called it, which is a structural definition of consciousness as everything. We have too long being trying to use consciousness as a process definition, with resulting confusion. That problem can be solved if we use the other mysterious words – awareness, mind, and intelligence for the process – for how consciousness (C) functions. That can give us a whole nomenclature! Awareness can be the property that allows C to reflect that it is a self, with other selves…mind gives C the ability to experience, express, and have mobility (creates time and space and bodies to move about)…and intelligence can be the property that allows C to reverse entropy in establishing order and acquiring knowledge in the universe, and even evolve life. I learned by presenting this to some colleagues even before SAND Italy that words are not enough, so I made a poster to show it visually, and will exhibit that at SAND 15 in California in October. My wish is that we…not me or you, but the human race…can define consciousness in a way that solves the mysteries of how humans fit in the universe, during our lifetimes. I think we can, and that we have done most of the work. All we have to do is put the pieces together, and not be afraid. Defining consciousness will open doors, not close them. We have nothing to lose, and the whole universe to gain.

Defining Consciousness Will Help Us Realize Reality

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San Francisco area medical doctor with experience and interest in science and nonduality studies. Presented a paper on a scientific definition of consciousness at SAND Italy 2015, and a poster for a Cosmologocal Model for Consciousness at SAND 15 10/15. I believe we have all the pieces of the puzzle to solve the mysteries of consciousness in our lifetime, let's put them together. – See more at:


4 Responses to “Defining Consciousness Will Help Us Realize Reality”

  1. June 07, 2015 at 4:46 pm, David said:

    Hi Joel
    I applaud you for raising some good points. However, I’d note that understanding doesn’t help realize but it can satisfy the mind enough for it to be willing to let go.

    One of the dynamics of the awakening process is that we recognize ourselves as consciousness. But because we are it, it is difficult to define. Like trying to understand what your head looks like without a mirror. We’re immersed in it. Also, within consciousness itself, it is experienced as limitless being. Thus there is no sense of it’s fundamental nature or origins. It appears as eternal and boundless.

    The key is, we don’t know it’s origins so don’t know it’s fundamental components. Thus it becomes awkward to define.

    But we know from science that there can be infinities within infinities. And it turns out consciousness (I use it interchangeably with awareness here) does have an origin. The Sanskrit word is Brahman, though thats often used for things like simple presence as well. And it’s true that everything is Brahman.

    The key is there is a stage of the development of nonduality where one transcends Atman/ consciousness into Brahman. The Vedas call this the Great Awakening and this process is the primary subject of the Brahma Sutras. (although this is not widely understood)

    In this process, you discover the origins of consciousness and thus it becomes much easier to define. Having the ultimate in abstraction make sense to others is another matter.

    I raise the point because your definition won’t hold up to this. Consciousness is limitless but only to itself. It actually has an “outside edge” so to speak. Also Being/existence is an effect of self-aware consciousness. It requires an observer. No observer, no beingness.

    Consciousness is the effect of 2 “qualities” of Brahman – a tendency to alertness and a tendency to liveliness. Liveliness stirs alertness into awareness and awareness flows. This is called Saguna Brahman in the Vedas, Brahman with qualities.

    The effect is the 3 aspects of consciousness – the development of observer, of the process of observation (flow), and the object of observation aka creation. Liveliness initiates all of it.

    Together you have infinite consciousness, aware of itself both globally (atman) and at every point within itself (as all forms and life). We might call that “Observed Limitless Beingness” I adjusted the first word because it is self-aware globally as well, even if we’re not aware of that yet.

    Of course, this is just a perspective. You’re welcome to take it as you wish.

    • June 13, 2015 at 6:10 am, Richard Thomas Murray said:

      “Each” is uniquely all of entire single united fresh open creative fractal hyperinfinity —

      slopping all these words in a line helps dramatize inherent slipperyness, especially that entire has no ability to limit its full instantaneous creative presence to any and all “points” within entire — so the time constrictions set up by limiting conventions of single forward only causality from instant to adjacent instant, from single point to adjacent point, the fundamental axioms of modern science since, say 1600, actually radically fail totally — not only do we see our empirical world of accelerating exponential expansion in all fields in the last 415 years, but an incredibly tiny and uniform starting region 13,850 million years ago that somehow must have carried the seeds for all this now, but also for the very bizarre unfoldments of the next thousands and millions and billions of years — while now backwards causality seems about to be “real”, along with “perpendicular to time” interactions among infinities of parallel lines of universe evolution — along with space and time discontinuities, incessant miracles — as A Course In Miracles nails it in 1975: There is no order of difficulty in miracles.

      And we now face: There is no such thing as evidence in a dream, and, what’s seems to be going on is so transient that none of it ever exists at all ever in the first place, not one whit — OOOOOOO this be liberation, already always so !

  2. September 08, 2015 at 3:29 pm, RoyDopson said:

    The definition of consciousness that I tend to use is: “The All coming back onto Itself to reaffirm its own existence.”

  3. September 27, 2015 at 12:13 pm, Olav Drageset said:

    I just stumbled across this interesting discussion.

    Here is my definition of consciousness which I just wrote on my homepage:

    The normal definition of “consciousness” is a wake and self-conscious state of mind. Here consciousness is defined as the the mental capacity of observation and free will,

    I have published several papers in physics journals on consciousness, mind, attention, negative energy etc. You can download for free at A proposed new cosmic model based on physics contains both matter, mind and consciousness. It is really not so difficult if you just use existing physical theories and introspection.

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