Embedding Consciousness Back Into The World

Jeff CarreiraBlog Posts, New Paradigm Thinking16 Comments

It seems to me that one of the great philosophical projects of our age is the effort to re-embed human consciousness into nature. This would be the antidote to some negative ramifications of another great philosophical project – the effort to extract human consciousness out of nature. Through that earlier magnificent project we objectified the world and grew to understand it in ways we never had before. Through that same process of objectification we also inadvertently removed ourselves from the world and took up a position looking back at it – albeit with ever more clarity and precision.

In short we created an objective world or at least an objective perspective on the world, with enormous benefit for humankind. Early in human history consciousness was embedded in nature. We were one of the elements of nature being blown around like leaves in the wind. There were hosts of gods, demons and spirits that were acting on us and making us act in certain ways as a direct result of their influence. Everything that happened in the world including our own actions was the result of supernatural forces at play.

The awakening of humanity– seen most vividly  during the time of the Renaissance and later the Enlightenment – was in part an awakening to human agency. Human beings began to see themselves as independent agents acting in a wider world. We separated ourselves from nature and adopted a position of being outside of the world looking out at it…objectively. In so doing we sat ourselves free of a much more superstitious understanding of reality and loosened ourselves from the whim of outside forces that we must appeal to for everything. We became masters of our own destiny – the living conscious agents of the universe.

As we objectified the world we also pushed reality further and further away. We created a universe of empty space that was filled with objects. And these objects began to be seen as  reality and so reality became something that we were looking at and not something that we were a part of.

One of the ways that we managed this objectification of the world is through the creative use of speech acts. We labeled everything. We defined things and gave them names. We named the natural world. This is a rock. This is dirt. That is the sun. We named ourselves. This is John. This is Mary. We named activities. This is running. This is crying. And we built things and then named them too. This is a house. This is a hammer. This is road. We also named things that were more complex and subtle. This is a feeling. This is a moral value. This is right. This is wrong.

We named and named and named. We pointed at everything and named it. We combined names. This is tea and this is a house and this is a teahouse. We used names to describe other names. This is anger. This is a man. And this is an angry man. Each name identified something that could then be seen as separate from all other things. We created hard edges in the world. We created distinctions and we believed in our distinctions and we became one of the things in the universe that existed separate from all other things.

Perhaps the next great philosophical project needs to be the effort to re-embed ourselves into the universe –not by going back to our earlier embedded form – but by recognizing that our names and our naming of things is also all part of the universe. It is one of the ways that the universe grows. It grows in distinction and in understanding. The American Pragmatists were among the earlier pioneers exploring the possibility of re-embedding consciousness back into the universe. All of our growth of understanding about the universe, they believed,  is not something that exists outside of the universe – it is all intimately part of the universe. Our thoughts are not ours separated from the universe; our thoughts are happening in the universe, they are the universe’s thoughts that just happen to emerge through us. It is ultimately not us who are making distinctions and naming things. It is the universe that is learning and seeing more about itself through us.

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JeffreyCatherineChristopher TaylorJeff CarreiraThe Perils of Objectivity « Sparkling Insights Recent comment authors
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[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeff Carreira, susan olshuff. susan olshuff said: RT @jcarreira1213: Embedding Consciousness Back Into The Universe http://wp.me/pqOOl-si […]

Joanna
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Joanna

Are we not the universe, the universe is us, we contain it, so in order to be free we have to have no boundaries, no limitations, to completely let go….?
Thanks Jeff. :-)

Blake Anderson
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Blake Anderson

Great post Jeff! I like your description of the historical rise of thought, consciounness and culture. What I find hard is envisioning what it must have been to be like to have been merged with nature. Having the understanding we have now, we seem to interpret our level of consciousness as being the only way to represent reality. But as you say, even if we look back a childhood, our perspective has grown to consider things more objective. Thus it is hard to envision anything else – we are very conditioned it seems. Now you talked about the rise of… Read more »

Liesbeth
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Liesbeth

It almost always happens that when I first read your blog I just get a vague idea of what you want to say. Then, like today, I read something else and suddenly both –your blog ánd what I am reading now- get very interesting. Funny today was that this was the subject of the article. In my newspaper, Kant is used as reference, to say ‘that common sense is an important chain between theory and practice’. One only learns through acting autonomously in (social) reality. What Kant’s is pointing to is ‘judgment’. Heinrich von Kleist is mentioned, who writes about… Read more »

Don Briddell
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Jeff,
Thanks for pointing out that putting ourselves back in the picture is bottom line of our times. We are beginning to see this as more than nice, its essential. Charmed to learn the Pragmatists were attempting this 150 years ago. Missed that realization. I always assumed they were suggesting the opposite.

Don

Jeff Carreira
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Jeff Carreira

I think that the Pragmatists insistance that our ideas cannot be seperated from their actions was also a way of insisting that human beings and human activity cannot be seperated from reality.

Anna Kelly
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I have a question about the nature of God. Was God or the gods “acting on us and making us act in certain ways as a direct result of their influence.”? Or did we just think so because we were superstitious and had no other reasonable explanation? You go on to say that “everything that happened in the world including our own actions was the result of supernatural forces at play.” Is this true or did we just think it so? This then begs the question “is anything ever true or false?”

Jeff Carreira
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Jeff Carreira

This slippery slope into relativism is a real concern. The position of the Pragmatists was not that “there is no real world.” They believed that there was definitely a real world…and we act as if we can know what is true or false – at the same time we can never know for sure what we think is true now may turn out not to be true in the future. Even our ideas about what is true of God may change over time. This isn’t necessarily negative even for a believer because it means that we can always potentially see… Read more »

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Anna Kelly
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The slippery slope of relativism is that it can take away the notion of the Absolute, or God, right? And the paradox of the Absolute is that it also evolves and changes, awakening through us….right?

Liesbeth
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Liesbeth

I would like to write a bit about my findings on synchronicity because this is where thought and universe are connect. It is interesting that the writer of the introduction to Jung mentions Ken Wilber’s holographic paradigm. Jung writes that causality is only relative. The eastern mind looks for the whole of events and accepts the whole as it is. If we see a lot of people together we say: where do they come from, why are they here. Eastern mind says ‘what is the meaning’. Coming together at the same moment has a meaning, also when we would call… Read more »

Christopher Taylor
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Great post! Really enjoy the exploration of “naming” as a foundational component of bifurcated consciousness wherein you can see how we quite naturally and evolutionarily draw the pragmatic distinction between self and other. The drawing of this distinction is the most direct and extreme of all the examples that contributes to our feeling of alienation from experience and the natural world. To mitigate this, I prefer to call it the distinction between organism and object (object of perception). The pragmatists were, in my opinion, the wisest of all the western philosophers. They measured the veracity of a claim by the… Read more »

Jeff Carreira
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Jeff Carreira

Dear Christopher, THank you for this fantastic comment. I agree with your word and spirit. I will think more about the organims/object distinction to understand your point more fully. Please keep track of my upcoming posts as I intend to continue with this theme and would love to have your thoughts contributed in the running discussion in the comments. Thanks, Jeff

Catherine
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Catherine

Hello to all from Germany where I am working like a… dog! Thanks Jeff for the wonderful blog. I also appreciated very much all the comments which pointed out the pre-trans fallacy and the danger there is to fall into relativism. This inspires me to a small comment : if there is a direction to evolution it is towards more reality not less. I mean our sense of what is real is growing and includes more and more perspective, and at the same time more and more precision, more specificity. It is as if the flow was two fold :… Read more »

Catherine
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Catherine

Sorry: I meant precision It is for me that increasing sensitivity to the small which will prevent us to go back to an animistvision of the world. Clarity sounds essential here. As we evolve the contours of reality arebecoming sharper and sharper and at the same time the space between the contours is becoming bigger and bigger. Maybe after all we are becoming quantum beings?

Jeffrey
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Jeffrey

The Observer is a part of the Observed. And the thinker and the thought are the same. I would rather put nature back into us.