When I was living in the Netherlands a group of friends discovered a common interest in studying consciousness. Perhaps this was so because we were already fascinated by learning from examples and pattern recognition.
We started in 2000 as a group of seven people: Alexander, Bob, David, Dick, Ela, Marina and Pavel. Andrzej, Carmen, Piotr and Sergey joined later on. Many new members arrived to the group over the period of ten years. People were coming and leaving depending on their interests or the changes in carrier and place of living.
In each meeting we focused on studying a question or a task which we prepared for in advance. We shared our views in response to the questions such as
- “What is consciousness?”
- “What is Self?”
- “What are the attributes of thoughts?”
- “What are your personal truths?”
- “What is free will?”
and so on. We shared personal stories and observations, performed experiments, discussed scientific articles (e.g. the classical paper on consciousness What is it like to be a bat?” by Thomas Nagel or the The Matrix as Metaphysics” by David J. Chalmers) and discussed (excepts of) books, investigated non-traditional subjects such as near-death experience, studied other philosophies etc. We studied some works of influential philosophers or mathematicians, such as Daniel Dennet, John Searle, Sir Riger Penrose or Douglas Hofstadter. We also looked at other philosophical texts, e.g. by Jiddu Krishnamurti. Sometimes we did simple experiments such as observing how others describe objects or read a text. And sometimes we did more demanding experiments such as paying attention to our involvement and consciousness levels on daily basis.
If you are interested in studying texts on consciousness, there is a big online library here.
Note also that there may be a lot of confusion about consciousness. Some people see consciousness as e.g. a field of infinite potential that we all emerge from. For our purposes, however, we will mostly focus on individual consciousness. This is your consciousness. And this is mine consciousness.
Synergy in a group
It was one of the most amazing experiences in my life concerning the stimulating yet respectful atmosphere we created as a consciousness group. I loved it. I really loved it simply because I experienced a synergistic approach first hand. I was inspired and transformed because of the presence and contribution of others.
As a group of individuals we were able to investigate ideas and create new concepts. We were able to create synergy in a group over and over again. We all contributed individually and parts were recognizable as ours yet, as a group, we were creating something novel. I was amazed by this process, when you experience how the sum of parts becomes so much greater than the whole you would imagine.
What supported this process was our openness and courage to be ourselves in the presence of others and respect we had for each other. Our goal was to share our views and experiences so that we could learn from each other and become enriched as a whole. We encouraged conflicting views, but there was no need to judge nor convince one another about taking a particular stand. Nobody was there to hold the ultimate truth, but to explore own ideas and participate in learning.
I must also say that it was challenging at times simply when we individually held extreme views. For instance, one meeting we found ourselves split into two camps. Some of us thought that consciousness could be simulated in a computer, while some of us thought it was impossible. Often in such cases, we would disagree on the meaning or definitions of particular words (e.g. what does simulation mean?) Of course, sometimes we got emotional about our views or disagreed such that discussion was going nowhere. Yet, we were able to stop and solve the issues in an assertive way.
Overall, we maintained the practice of respecting our differences and being open to learning. We took extra care that all of us felt well and appreciated. I loved the experience of cohesion and synergy.
Future blog posts will present a few interesting findings from these times. These are the discoveries of the Consciousness Group.
The image above shows a wonderful quilt by Inge Duin. See www.ingeduin.nl.
Other posts on Consciousness:
- Elements of human consciousness
- Become conscious
- When are decisions consciously made?
- Consciousness by numbers in space and time
- Consciousness at the Door
- Three is the experience of Consciousness