On Consciousness

May 28, 2021

Is an amoeba conscious?
           To answer the question, we have to discuss first what does it  mean to be conscious.
           The universe is one gigantic web of subsystems , which are interrelated. They're integrated in multiple ways and each is a subsystem of something bigger than itself. For instance, a human being is composed of  the blood subsystem, the nervous subsystem, the muscle subsystem, etcetera. At the same time a human being  is a  subsystem of a family, which is a subsystem of  community, and the community a subsystem  of a nation. A nation is a subsystem  of humanity, which  is a subsystem of the planet , sharing it with other subsystems, the flora, fauna and the  air and water subsystems.
           All these subsystems relate to each other within a huge Ecco system. No subsystem is in a vacuum. In a vacuum it will die because it needs to interrelate with other subsystems in order to survive; It does not have all the ingredients necessary to survive all by itself. A human being in a solitary cell would probably not survive if he does not get food and he doesn't get some relationship even with the warden. An amoeba is part of a larger system, whatever that's called and has to relate to the larger system in order to survive. To have a productive  interdependence  a subsystem , in this case an amoeba has to be  conscious.
           Now the question is who is this entity that is conscious, who is this entity that is feeling? Does an amoeba know who she is? Do I know who I am ?
           I suggest  that we don't know who we are in a vacuum. We know who we are by how we relate to others. We see ourself through a reflection of others. I see different parts of me, as I relate to different people. So there is no  one me. There are multiples of me because of multiple relations that I have.  It's reflected in my own head when I think. I have a whole war between my ears, different voices arguing what I should do. So who am I?.
           There is an  absolute me, which is above all those different me’s. It is  called  the observer who's observing how I think,  who is independent of any interaction., who is  part of something absolute that unifies us all, absolute in values, free of any temporary interaction or situation. The “observer” emerges  when we  stop thinking, when we stop acting. When we are in total peace and realize we are part of something that is absolute, we are nothing and in the nothing we're part of everything. That happens in meditation. The Gurus say that when in meditation we find nothing ,we find God, because nothing is everything.
           How conscious we are depends on how far we "feel".  Do we feel only ourself and we  don't feel our spouse, our family? That applies to an amoeba, I believe.  Or we are only conscious of  our immediate family and nothing else which I think applies to a significant part of society..  we don't care about the community, we don't care about the nation.  Or we're a flower child and worry about peace in the world, or we're  environmentalists, so our consciousness  goes beyond humanity. We are conscious of  air, water, vegetation, the animal world.  If we are  spiritual we are conscious  of the  absolute  we are part of, which is God.
Answer: yes amoeba is conscious.  With limited consciousness but still conscious or it would not survive.

Written by
Dr. Ichak Adizes