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In the Stream of Consciousness
Understanding Our Mental Evolution
We know the meaning of “consciousness” so long as no one asks us to define it.
The term consciousness is generally used to refer to an individual's awareness of his or her own thoughts, including sensations, feelings, and memories.
High-Level Overview of Today’s Letter
Quote: William James - American Psychologist
Navigating Consciousness: The Intersection of Consciousness, Philosophy, and Self-Awareness
We usually take this awareness for granted, except when we are having difficulties - such as trying to do something when we are tired.
But if you focus your thoughts on your consciousness, you soon become aware that your conscious experiences are constantly changing.
While reading this letter, for example, you may be reminded of past experiences or present discomfort, and interrupt your concentration; plans for the future may spontaneously spring to mind thinking about your conscious experiences, makes you realize just how much your thoughts are changing, and yet they seem to come together, merging and carrying on smoothly as a whole.
American psychologist, William James, compared these everyday experiences of consciousness to a stream that continuously flows, despite the odd interruption and change of direction.
“A ‘river’ or a ‘stream’ are the metaphors by which it is most naturally described. In talking of it hereafter, let us call it the stream of thought, of consciousness…”
James’s famous description of the “stream…of consciousness” is one that almost everyone can identify with because we all experience it.
Yet, at the same time, he points out that it’s hard to actually define:
“When I say every thought is part of a personal consciousness, ‘personal consciousness’ is one of the terms in question…to give an accurate account of it is the most difficult of philosophical tasks.”
This “most difficult of philosophic tasks” has a long history
The Ever-Changing Stream of Consciousness and Its Impact on Us
The river of consciousness flows, carving out our individuality, personal perspectives, and unique experiences.
Like a current that's constantly moving, it dances to the rhythm of our lives - sometimes fast and vigorous, other times slow and placid.
But it's always there, providing us with the narrative of our existence, a canvas for the painting of our life.
The idea that consciousness is an ever-evolving phenomenon is crucial.
We are not static beings, and neither are our thoughts.
The dynamism of consciousness suggests an inherent flexibility in our being, a resilience that allows us to adapt, learn, and grow from our experiences.
Our consciousness is an ongoing story, continuously edited and revised.
This knowledge becomes especially powerful when we harness it for self-improvement.
Understanding the stream of consciousness enables us to recognize patterns, identify disruptive elements, and take deliberate actions.
It becomes an empowering journey of self-discovery, one where we gain mastery over our thoughts and, by extension, our lives.
The Greeks pondered over the essence of consciousness centuries ago, and we continue to do so today.
During the ancient Greek era, there were discussions about the mind and its functions, although they did not use the term "consciousness" or any of its equivalents at that time.
There were debates about whether something separate from the body existed at all.
In the fourth century BCE, Plato made a distinction between the soul and body.
Implying that the soul is the seat of consciousness while the body is merely a vessel.
However, Aristotle, who was Plato's student, had a different stance on this matter.
He argued that even if there is a distinction between the soul and the body.
The two cannot be separated, as the soul is dependent on the body for its existence and functioning.
Despite their differences, both Plato and Aristotle were instrumental in shaping the philosophical landscape of their time and beyond, and their ideas continue to influence modern thought on the nature of consciousness and the mind-body connection.
But back to this “stream of consciousness” thought tunnel, pun not intended 😅
Consciousness seems to be a stream of thoughts.
These thoughts are entirely separate from each other…
But each thought follows one after another.
…and yet, somehow, they combine to give us a sense of unified consciousness.
This is because thoughts enter our awareness at the same time from a “pulse” within the stream of consciousness.
These pulses jolt us from one conclusion (or “resting place”) to another…but continue to stream onward.
Therefore, our consciousness is constantly evolving.
While our understanding of consciousness has evolved, the sense of awe and curiosity it sparks remains.
And as we delve deeper into the mysteries of our mind, we realize that we're not just spectators in the theatre of consciousness; we're active participants influencing the plot.
As you navigate the waves and calm pools of your consciousness, remember that every thought and every sensation is a stepping stone in your unique yet collective river of consciousness.
The conscious and unconscious mind is a landscape waiting to be explored, a mystery to unravel.
As William James sagely pointed out, "The beauty of consciousness lies not in its definition but in its experience.”
Let's not just try to define it.
Let's live it.
And learn from it.
After all, the exploration of our inner universe is as exciting as the journey across the cosmos.
The stream of consciousness is not something to conquer or control but a phenomenon to be understood, appreciated and used as a guidepost for our personal evolution. Because in the end, that river, that stream... it's not just thought.
Big Love, Nadeem
p.s. for all my readers - I’ll share the transition from The Philo Letter to The Creators Blueprint next week.
I’m making a big shift in the way I write for you all!
Rather than shorter form ~1000 word articles, I’m going to be aiming for 2,500 - 3000 word write-ups that will be much more intimate and robust.
Whenever you're ready, there are 2 ways I can help you:
→ Build 1 Thing Community -If you're looking for traction in your personal brand or business, I'd recommend joining the Build 1 Thing community. It’s free to get in and loaded with resources.
→ Somatic Breathwork - Using the breath, you will engage your innate ability to heal and sweep out any defenses, blockages, restrictions, or pains that hold you back from who you are and how you want to show up in this world.
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