The word consciousness is commonly defined as "an alert cognitive state in which one is aware of oneself and one's situation." We use the word when referring to someone's concussion, self-esteem, or mindfulness. It is a term that permeates the physical, emotional and spiritual bodies. In fact, these images are three of the images that come up on the very first page of Google Image search results when prompted with "consciousness" as the search word. These images represent the physical, psycho-social, and spiritual components of consciousness.
C. Robert Cloninger draws distinctions between consciousness, awareness, and, cognition in his book, "Feeling Good: The Science of Well-Being,"
"Awareness is a synonym for consciousness... Furthermore, the words aware and conscious both refer to our sense of recognition of something in relation to our self. However, the word conscious emphasizes feelings associated with inner recognition. A third word, cognizant, emphasizes outer recognition on the level of reason and intellectual knowledge rather than on the level of intuitive feelings... Intuition is defined as immediate apprehension, or direct perception and recognition, independent of any reasoning process. In other words, intuition is an inner sense or senses that act like an in-built mirror of our self and the world in which we live."
Studying consciousness involves the integration of neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, physics, genetics, physiology, and chemistry, and undoubtedly other fields as well. The subject of consciousness is often charted as the territory of religion, and in a society hypersensitive to political correctness and freedom of religion (thank goodness!), we become lax in moral and spiritual development. This is partially due to fear of offending others or confrontation of our beliefs (which just goes to show the determination with which we believe things), and partially due to the laziness that arises when presented with a seemingly overwhelming and challenging task; such as health, enlightenment, or changing beliefs and behaviors. We get knee-deep into relativistic fallacy and shy away from taking a strong stance in what we believe, and have no way to encourage people towards growth. Now, I'm not supporting religious dictatorships, but merely suggesting that we begin to raise these questions in homes, schools, and public forums.
What does it mean to have consciousness?
How do we "raise consciousness"?
How do we measure levels of consciousness?
And why should we care?
Well that's just what I plan on finding out. Stay tuned...