An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Can you have Perception without the Sensation of Seeing?

consciousness.jpgAre you able to see something, without knowing that you can see? If “Perception” was the ability to see an object, and sensation was the knowledge that you can see (sensation of seeing, if you will), then can you have the Perception without the Sensation?

Taking it further, if Perception sans Sensation is possible, then why is Sensation so important?

A psychologist, Nicholas Humphrey, shares in his latest book “Soul Dust” from the experiments his Supervisor, Lawrence Weiskrantz has done, where the human subjects were able to identify objects by shape and color, in a field in which they were technically blind. These experiments were preceded by experiments by Humphrey on monkeys where although the visual cortex of the animal was removed, yet, it was “teased” into thinking that it could see by using a part of brain that we all have but don’t use and don’t know much about either. When the monkey was angry or upset, she wasn’t able to access this faculty. Probably suggesting that “conscious” awareness was an important condition to be able to access a part of brain that was responsible for Perception, sensation or not, for seeing objects even if eyes were absent!

“Everything suggests, that consciousness in all its glory has been designed, preferred through natural selection and amplified by evolution.”

By this he means that consciousness as a quality that can be accessed by humans is a need that was fulfilled via evolution. If consciousness provides us the ability to be aware and experience the subtler aspects of existence – such as beauty, sense of wonder and even the meaning of things – and if it is – following the natural selection theory – existing because it provides a certain advantage – then, pray, what is it? His answer is interesting:

…this magical show in our own heads which enchants the world is what makes life worth living: “For a phenomenally conscious creature, simply being there is a cause for celebration.” Consciousness infuses us with the belief that we are more than mere flesh, that we matter, that we might have a life after death, that we have a “soul”.

Consciousness, which is the foundation currency of Spirituality, has no relationship to Religion or Religiosity. In fact, Humphrey argues that Religion is parasitic on Spirituality and probably a roadblock, if anything!

Having said that, here is something that we are still amiss in this discussion: Why sensation? If perception of reality – even physical – is not contingent on sensation – from the five senses – then, is consciousness enough? This body, complete with the faculties of brain which confers a person the ability to perceive without sensation is after all an extension of the very instruments of sensation that is not needed mandatorily. So, Consciousness, as we access it needs the instrumentation and vehicle of the brain to be accessed. Evolutionary process, then isn’t about “creating” consciousness, but providing a way for the beings to access it.

What is intriguing and very interesting is – if one is dependent on the senses and enjoying the sensation-level existence, the very presence of Conscious-accessing instrumentation escapes notice! If the “magic of living as a celebration” if the gift of consciousness, then living a life of sensation-based existence obviates such bliss.

From the Gita to Upanishads to Buddha, Nanak and all the recent Enlightened Beings – each of the Spiritual source has been suggesting EXACTLY that! Science in its philosophical avatar, at least is able to get to those questions – but will it let one to access Consciousness as a matter of choice? And what all will it entail?

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