Consciousness and Transcendence – Religious Media Weblog


By Loomis Mayer, creator of Consciousness and Transcendence: Artwork, Faith, and Human Existence

Have you ever ever questioned why you might be you and never another person? Or maybe you’ve questioned, as many thinkers have, how it’s that the billions of nerve cells in our brains, and their trillions of connections, trigger our ideas, emotions, and actions? Do these questions have something to do with our appreciation of magnificence and the humanities, or with spiritual expertise?

Though I lack formal {qualifications} in neuroscience, spiritual research, and even philosophy (I’m retired from a profession in publishing), my a long time of studying, pondering, and experiencing has led me to put in writing a brief ebook (a couple of hundred pages) entitled Consciousness and Transcendence: Artwork, Faith, and Human Existence, revealed by iff Books and out there as a paperback or e-book by Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your native bookstore. This text attracts from the themes of that ebook.

Current years have seen renewed curiosity, and a proliferation of literature, on the obvious mysteries of consciousness. Along with the thoughts/physique drawback described above, there’s this additional query: Is subjective aware consciousness even essential to allow us to do the issues we do, or would possibly the nerves in our brains have the ability to accomplish even our most refined choices and actions with out such consciousness? And if that’s the case, then why did we (apparently) evolve into beings which have aware consciousness?

And yet one more age-old query: Do we actually have free will?

Neuroscientists, philosophers, and writers from different disciplines (pc science, experimental psychology, linguistics) have been debating these points. A few of these names are roughly acquainted to normal readers: Thomas Nagel, John Searle, Daniel Dennett, Douglas Hofstadter, Steven Pinker, and David Chalmers. There are numerous others as properly. Many (although under no circumstances all) of those writers argue that consciousness presents no insoluble mysteries; the mind causes consciousness, and that’s all we have to know.

A smaller variety of writers take a unique tack, reviving such notions as panpsychism and philosophical idealism. Panpsychism posits that every one issues, whether or not animate or inanimate, have some stage and kind of consciousness. Idealism (each in its early-nineteenth-century German model and in its present revival) insists that consciousness, which is all that we immediately expertise, takes priority over the objects in consciousness—the world “on the market.” The 2 notions, panpsychism and idealism, have this in widespread: Consciousness is a basic side of nature, previous the evolution of brains.

I disagree with all of those notions. I consider, based mostly on proof and purpose and instinct, that consciousness does, in reality, come up from the neural processes of our brains, however I consider additionally that there’s an “explanatory hole,” a profound and sure insoluble thriller as to how the mind creates aware expertise. For some writers, my view qualifies me as a “mysterian.” So be it!

How do the mysteries of consciousness relate to our expertise of magnificence and the humanities, and to non secular expertise? Some writers—Denis Dutton (The Artwork Intuition) and Daniel Levitan (This Is Your Mind on Music)—keep that music and the humanities usually arose immediately from Darwinian evolution. This is able to imply that these of our ancestors who had these arts have been higher capable of survive and/or reproduce than those that didn’t. Though I totally embrace evolution idea, I discover the arguments of Dutton and Levitan unconvincing. There’s a very important factor that lies between evolution and our expertise of magnificence and the humanities, particularly, the character of human consciousness.

Different species have consciousness, however their consciousness seems to be considerably (although definitely not solely) restricted to what they immediately expertise perceptually. To a considerably larger diploma, we people expertise not solely the contents of notion (sight, listening to, odor, and so on.) but additionally that which transcends such perceptions. We’ve got creativeness and instinct. We will think about that which is unseen and unheard, that which lies past our perceptual subject. We will think about that which would possibly exist—and even that which may by no means exist besides in our creativeness. In the end, our creativeness and instinct leads us to notions of infinity and eternity, and to non secular expertise—the expertise of some form of transcendent actuality.

As to my very own beliefs, once I communicate of transcendence, I don’t imply to counsel something supernatural. I’m, nonetheless, talking of one thing that isn’t reducible to uncooked nature as recognized by science. I’m talking of what varied writers have known as the numinous. Theologian Rudolf Otto, by the use of making an attempt to elucidate this idea, makes use of such phrases as “ineffable,” “wholly different,” “mysterium fascinans,” and “mysterium tremendum”—in different phrases, profound and emotionally compelling thriller.

Otto, in addition to later writers (Mircea Eliade, Karen Armstrong) see the numinous as an important attribute of the holy, or sacred. Equally, with regard to the humanities, the nice artwork critic Sir Herbert Learn noticed the numinous as the important thing to our expertise of artwork.

Every of us is on this planet and part of the world, and also you and I share that world, however I’m not you, and I’m not the world. However does this imply that we should resign ourselves to separateness? As thinker Martin Buber taught us, “All actual residing is assembly.” A gathering between I and Thou. And  there might be no such assembly if I and Thou are one. In true assembly, in true relation, we encounter the numinous. We expertise being, versus uncooked existence.

Because the existentialist thinker Jean-Paul Sartre instructed, we exist, however we lengthy to be. Existence is mere contingence, mere facticity, devoid of inherent that means. However to be is to transcend contingence and be irreplaceable and important (to have essence), to stay on this planet not as yet one more pointless extra (“de trop”) however within the shared world of true relation with our fellow people, with nature, and with the humanities.


Loomis Mayer is retired from a profession in nonfiction ebook publishing. He has had a number of reveals of his portrait drawings and work. He and his spouse, Cary Andrews, stay close to New York Metropolis. He’s the creator of Consciousness and Transcendence: Artwork, Faith, and Human Existence.


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