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Is it possible that our innate sense of self, our egocentric outlook on the world, could be wrong? After all, our brains are never REALLY connected; so we cannot know for sure that our consciousness is REALLY separated by anything else than space and time. What I mean is; Is it possible that there could be only a single universal consciousness of which we are all a part? Could this REALLY be how it is? Or are there any philosophical arguments against this view? I haven't been myself since I first had this thought and I'm dying for an answer. On the one hand it feels exhilarating, on the other hand it kinda kills one's self image. What do you people think?

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    Sometimes it's useful to examine the question one has posed. Your question raises many others. For example, what do these words mean to you: connected, separated, possible, part, really, myself, self-image, consciousness? – Robert Harvey Mar 15 '18 at 15:25
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    Hi, welcome to Philosophy SE. Please visit our Help Center to see what questions we answer and how to ask. That there is "a single universal consciousness of which we are all a part" is a common thread in Buddhist and Hinduist traditions, see Nondualism. In the West some philosophies can also be read in this way (neo-Platonism, absolute idealism). However, "what do you think" questions that invite personal opinions are off-topic on this SE. – Conifold Mar 18 '18 at 20:48
  • What happens to a flame after it goes out? – Tanath Mar 21 '18 at 23:01
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If it is true, so what? You cannot do anything with it anyway.

Is it possible that our innate sense of self, our egocentric outlook on the world, could be wrong?

Yes, it could be. But at present, we have no indication that it is not right.

After all, our brains are never REALLY connected;

I will assume you mean physically connected.

so we cannot know for sure that our consciousness is REALLY separated by anything else than space and time.

This amounts to a an empty statement. You are saying: our brains are separated by space and time and then: we do not know if our consciousness is connected by something other than space and time. True and true but they do not lead us anywhere.

What I mean is; Is it possible that there could be only a single universal consciousness of which we are all a part?

It is possible, yes, but we have no indication of this at the moment.

Or are there any philosophical arguments against this view?

Well from a philosophical point of view it is — for instance — possible that nothing exists beyond your brain in a vat and everything that comes into it is just a simulation; that no physical reality exists and all you see and hear is just artificial stimuli. That is a possibility in just the same way as you proposal of connection/collective consciousness is.

But... so what?

You can also — possibly — fly by your own doing, by tapping into a hitherto unknown source of force that can propel you through the air and maybe even space. That is a possibility, you cannot prove that it is not so.

But I do not foresee you in the near future climbing up on the nearest table and throwing yourself off of it in the hope that you will be able to tap into that unknown source of force before you land on the floor. Even if it could be true, you place no faith in it being so, now do you?

Hence, as long as you cannot point to anything that speaks for your proposition of a shared consciousness actually being true, it is a pointless exercise because for all practical intents and purposes it is not true.

What happens to consciousness after death?

It — most likely — returns to the state it was in before birth. Where do you think your consciousness was before you were born?

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It doesn't follow, if there is only a single universal consciousness of which we are all a part, that you are an eternal part, or even a part that persists for some limited time after death. The single universal consciousness could continue minus your consciousness which has been terminated by death.

The question whether when you are alive you are a part of a single universal consciousness is separate from the question whether when you are not alive you remain a part of that consciousness. The consciousness can plainly do without you, as it did before your consciousness began. Why not after your death as well ?

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    "... your consciousness which has been terminated by death". This is not provable. It's your life that is terminated by your death. – Shadetheartist Mar 13 '18 at 23:39
  • You have quoted out of context. I was talking about what could be the case. The point was that if his consciousness has been terminated by death then the single universal comsciousness could continue. It would simply be minus his existence. I was talking hypothetically. I would not be so crude as to make a blank, unargued claim that his or anyone else's consciousness will be terminated by death. My philosophical standards are higher than that. My own views about death and its aftermath make no appearance here. – Geoffrey Thomas Mar 14 '18 at 9:24
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This is one of those ideas that sticks to you when once you run into it. I can't shake it either. But for me, it evolved over time. It's easy to think dramatically about the consequences of a collective consciousness.

  • Is hurting others is the same as hurting yourself
  • When we die, do we merge with being itself and sense all life?

It's impossible to know. Any questions about the outcome of this way of thinking are purely speculative. Only a liar or a fool can answer your question confidently. That said, i have pondered this concept for a while and do have some interesting questions that might make you think.

You define the idea as a "single universal (un)consciousness" but i think that's wrong, you cannot attribute quantity (single) to consciousness. It is like the idea of time and space, it's just a thing that is, you cannot question it because you experience it. But the question might you might ask is why?

If you try to comprehend why you exist, why you able to think, why anything "is" rather than the more sensible default of "isn't", you might feel the same sense of awe i do. It's a total mind fuck, the human mind is not capable of understanding such transcendent concepts.

It's impossible to fully understand the existence of consciousness. But in knowing that i cannot understand it i feel secure because in some ways the things that we have no hope of understanding are the most true. They lie outside the human ability to inevitably corrupt and re-purpose things we understand.

Ultimately my musings have lead me to the weird belief that consciousness is a universal and omnipresent force that is focused by locales of kinetic complexity at all scales. And by these rules we are the a greatly focused consciousness at our scale because of the unparalleled complexity of the brain. Also consider that this would mean

  • A pebble rolling down a hill is aware to some degree
  • Cities think
  • Computers are already conscious (oops)
  • Our encompassing universe is conscious and we are conscious of it while inhabiting it. Much like the cells of our bodies, and the particles of a cell and the atoms of the particle.

This is a more reasonable to me than the alternative idea of drawing a line in the sand saying "this object is not conscious, this simple organism might be, and i certainly am" does not make sense to me. There are no lines in the sand with anything natural, except for maybe a beach.

  • +1 Although I disagree that computers ever will be conscious. You might also look at near and shared death experiences. – Frank Hubeny Mar 14 '18 at 0:30
  • I don't mean conscious as in 'behaves indistinguishable from humans'. I mean that it is experiencing the universe. Perhaps in a similar way to a single celled organism. – Shadetheartist Mar 14 '18 at 0:59
  • Or merely acts in a way that it appears to be experiencing the universe. How would you tell the difference? – Robert Harvey Mar 15 '18 at 15:26
  • That's a good question. But it doesn't apply only to computers. It applies to everything that's not you. Is your friend conscious or is he/she just a soul-less zombie? Is that computer conscious or just acting like a human, who are generally believed to be conscious? The only thing you really know for sure is 'i think, therefore i am'. – Shadetheartist Mar 15 '18 at 16:07
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Is it possible that our innate sense of self, our egocentric outlook on the world, could be wrong?

As SonOfThought replied, of course.

Is it possible that there could be only a single universal consciousness of which we are all a part?

In the realm of philosophy, we'd have to consider it a possibility. So the answer, again, is of course.

However, I'd quibble with the word "only." Another possibility might be that you and another individual have two separate, unique consciousnesses. But these individual consciousnesses can also be thought of as merging to form a bigger, super-consciousness.

Are you familiar with the concept of cultural evolution?

Evolution is normally thought of as an organic process that leads to the creation of new species. But people can use language, the media and computers to store and analyze their thoughts and memories. Generations of humans have continued to build on what previous generations learned, leading to what some call cultural evolution - sort of a global sharing of ideas.

To put it another way, imagine if you could travel back in time 50,000 years and tell a "cave man" that killing another human is immoral. Who's he going to listen to - one time traveler or his clan members and every other cave man on the planet?

It took literally hundreds and thousands of years for the concept of murder to take root and become globally accepted as a moral tenet. Even today, individuals have different opinions regarding murder, the death penalty, war, etc. However, the global consciousness clearly has a different view of killing than previous generations did.

Of course, one might ask if the "global consciousness," or shared learning, I'm referring to is really consciousness...is it the same type of consciousness you're referring to?

It would be very helpful if we knew of an intelligent race from a distant galaxy. Would they also manifest cultural evolution? Would they have a sort of "global consciousness" that could be compared to ours? And could intelligent races from different worlds somehow pool their thoughts and memories to create an even bigger consciousness?

EDIT

P.S. On the subject of connection, let's assume that things like mental telepathy, clairvoyance, etc. are all fiction.

Obviously, there's no PHYSICAL connection between people's brains. But so what?

Think about a computer paired with a wireless device. There's no physical connection there, yet information can clearly be transmitted between different devices.

Do people not transmit information and ideas through their words and actions? Every time a person smiles, they're conveying information.

Again, a lot depends on how you define "consciousness," but I have no problem envisioning the human race as 7.6 billion two-legged neurons connected together via their senses as well as shared languages. One might even envision animals and possibly plants as part of this consciousness.

Has domestic dog behavior not evolved over time? Is it not closely tied to human behavior? Do dogs sense how humans are feeling or what they're thinking?

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If the following answers are strictly related to one particular religion only, you may ignore this. If you can find anything sensible/true, you may search other websites and test them.

Is it possible that our innate sense of self, our egocentric outlook on the world, could be wrong?

Of course. Scientific analysis is enough for understanding this. It can be realized only by self realization. Actually all of us cannot maintain our ego throughout our life as it is now. When people have certain experiences they may understand it. You might have read about some people's anecdotes when they visited some places or when they met some great men. Some of them have said that they felt like melting their ego when they visited such places or great persons.

After all, our brains are never REALLY connected; so we cannot know for sure that our consciousness is REALLY separated by anything else than space and time.

Before asking about connections, you could ask this question to yourself: "For the growth and development of brains do the things needed for it have any connection?" If not possible, again my humble reply is about self realization. Or you may google and find what great Non-dualists who realized the truth have said about it.

What I mean is; Is it possible that there could be only a single universal consciousness of which we are all a part?

If I take your words in literary sense I would say that it is not possible because if you say so you mean you need to wait for something to happen/become. Since you need not wait for a possibility, I am compelled to say so. Also, since consciousness is eternal, unchanging, present at all times, immutable, undivided, and infinite we need not use the word--'parts'. But if you consider the essence of that question only, again I say, "Of course"; but up to a certain extent only. This is because, if I said so it would be a denial of the words of great men who used the term 'non-dual' after realizing it.

Could this REALLY be how it is?

Yes.

Or are there any philosophical arguments against this view?

I don't know if there is. If you wish to argue against this you may take your own idea as you mentioned about brains. But when you realize yourself you realize that the creator and creation are one. So you will 'get' the proof from within you.

See:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaitanya_(consciousness)

I haven't been myself since I first had this thought and I'm dying for an answer. On the one hand it feels exhilarating, on the other hand it kinda kills one's self image. What do you people think?

You are right. It will kill the self image that you misunderstood that it is strictly related to your body as in a delusion. But you need not fear of some great loss. Please listen to Sri Ramana Maharshi's parable of salt doll.

What happens to consciousness after death?

When you realize yourself you will understand that there is no birth and death to the self. Please read the first link about consciousness and then read the Bhagavad Gita 2.20.

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I see a mayor problem with your question(s). It appears that you do not realize that there are at least two types/levels of "consciousness" (three if you believe in a "supreme" being). They are:

1 - Individual
2 - Group
3 - Transcendent/universal

So, obviously, there are three answers to your main question.

1 - The individual's consciousness ceases to exist, when the individual dies.
2 - The group's consciousness ceases to exist, when all the group's members die (or are no longer a group).
3 - The transcendent consciousness never ceases to exist, as it does not depend on any individual or group.

This makes it clear that for an individual's consciousness to continue to exist, after death, is to somehow become part of the transcendent (supreme being's) consciousness!

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