Sunday, September 21, 2014

An Introduction to Metaphysics, Consciousness and the 7th Sense

As part my research into my latest book, Exploring the Conscious Self, I came to an understanding of the connections between Metaphysics, Consciousness and what we may refer to as the 7th Sense.  While the 7th sense may have only recently been introduced in literature, I think it’s a topic that begs greater understanding.  We can come to this understanding better, I think, through the philosophies outlined in Metaphysics and Consciousness.

For those who may be new to the topics of Metaphysics and Consciousness, let alone how it’s all connected through the 7th sense and beyond, I wanted to provide you with some information.  I’m going to use a couple of different articles to explain the basis from which the concepts shared here operate and I may stray a bit from the purely academic purview but I have a specific reason for that or mission, if you will.  

My mission is to help with understanding.  Understanding is a key component of our evolution.  To understand a thing transfers the fleeting and obscuring perspective of mere “belief” to that of knowledge, in this author’s opinion.  So, I will go on sharing some bits and pieces of wonderful articles and sources for your perusal.  Rather than list each citation in a bibliography at the end of the article, I’m going to include the source with a link after each quoted entry so you can immediately go to those sources and review them for yourselves.  I found these sources more than informative and wanted only to share them for their wonderful perspectives.  Within each source cited and included, there are numerous other sources for the truly curious to explore and I hope that you do explore.  Learning is an amazing capability humanity holds and the more we learn the more we can expand from a limited little “c” consciousness and move into a more awake and aware Big “C” Consciousness.  

Each article is titled as the authors so titled them and sub-headings were included along with some commentary of my own.  I hope you enjoy this piece and that it brings you even more food for thought on consciousness and its exploration through philosophy and metaphysics.

Peter van Inwagen provides an indepth look into Metaphysics for The Standaford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  He points out in the very first paragraph that these words we toss about in conversation are not so easily defined or understood.  Often times the word “Metaphysics” is confused with the fringe aspects of esotericism or the New Age Movement alone.  Yes we have some souls that do end up being poster-children for the less than perfect part of the drive-through spirituality aspects of the New Age.  But they don’t represent the whole of the New Age movement.  Just to be clear.  Metaphysics has been around for a while and Philosophers have contemplated the concepts for a long time.  Set aside any preconceived notions you might have of Metaphysics or your understanding of Consciousness and explore from the perspectives of those who have studied much in their respective fields.  I’m grateful their work exists and that more join the ranks daily to help us define this framework from which we live our lives.  Through definition and exploration, we increase our knowledge and understanding.  In my view, it is of vital importance that we move away from states of pure belief alone and seek to transfer belief or faith into something more concrete, knowledge.  With knowledge we are armed with what we need to create for ourselves a better sense of well-being along with a sense of intent and purpose for existing here right now.  So, on with Mr. van Iwagen’s introduction to his article on Metaphysics:

It is not easy to say what metaphysics is. Ancient and Medieval philosophers might have said that metaphysics was, like chemistry or astrology, to be defined by its subject matter: metaphysics was the “science” that studied “being as such” or “the first causes of things” or “things that do not change.” It is no longer possible to define metaphysics that way, and for two reasons. First, a philosopher who denied the existence of those things that had once been seen as constituting the subject-matter of metaphysics—first causes or unchanging things—would now be considered to be making thereby a metaphysical assertion. Secondly, there are many philosophical problems that are now considered to be metaphysical problems (or at least partly metaphysical problems) that are in no way related to first causes or unchanging things; the problem of free will, for example, or the problem of the mental and the physical.
van Inwagen, Peter, "Metaphysics", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .

In his article on Metaphysics, Edward Craig connects my favorite subjects, Metaphysics and Consciousness and begins to outline some of the inherent challenges in understanding them.  But it is this understanding we must begin to engage in if we have a desire to escape the mundane drudgery of existence and realize there is a greater and more valuable purpose to our existence.  Life is multifaceted and I have come to find that no one discipline or approach is enough to bring the fullness of understanding necessary for my vision and mission.  So, on with Edward Craig’s article from the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Metaphysics is a broad area of philosophy marked out by two types of inquiry. The first aims to be the most general investigation possible into the nature of reality: are there principles applying to everything that is real, to all that is? – if we abstract from the particular nature of existing things that which distinguishes them from each other, what can we know about them merely in virtue of the fact that they exist? The second type of inquiry seeks to uncover what is ultimately real, frequently offering answers in sharp contrast to our everyday experience of the world. Understood in terms of these two questions, metaphysics is very closely related to ontology, which is usually taken to involve both ‘what is existence (being)?’ and ‘what (fundamentally distinct) types of thing exist?’ (see Ontology).
CRAIG, EDWARD (1998). Metaphysics. In E. Craig (Ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from

While the prior excerpts on Metaphysics are short, if you visit the links provided and review, they look deeply into the topics, present the facts, the challenges and the multi-faceted subdivisions in the philosophies related to the topic and even enter the arena of Consciousness which is all part of the equation for understanding.  Below, I bring to you an article on Consciousness from Robert Van Gulick, for the Standford Encyclopedia on Philosophy.  I’ve included several excerpts from his article as they point to a specific aspect of my own focus on Metaphysics and Connected Consciousness.  The author of this work points out many facts and various challenges in pinpointing precisely what Consciousness is.  The fact that we can label only certain aspects in specific ways and not the whole of it does not bar us from gaining understanding.  Sometimes grasping the edges of a framework is enough to move forward in transcending belief and moving into knowledge.  Have a look at Robert’s article beyond just the limited segments of it that I’ve included.  It’s worth a read if you’d like to better understand what it is we’re dealing with when we contemplate Consciousness.

Perhaps no aspect of mind is more familiar or more puzzling than consciousness and our conscious experience of self and world. The problem of consciousness is arguably the central issue in current theorizing about the mind. Despite the lack of any agreed upon theory of consciousness, there is a widespread, if less than universal, consensus that an adequate account of mind requires a clear understanding of it and its place in nature. We need to understand both what consciousness is and how it relates to other, nonconscious, aspects of reality.

The early twentieth century saw the eclipse of consciousness from scientific psychology, especially in the United States with the rise of behaviorism (Watson 1924, Skinner 1953) though movements such as Gestalt psychology kept it a matter of ongoing scientific concern in Europe (Köhler 1929, Köffka 1935). In the 1960s, the grip of behaviorism weakened with the rise of cognitive psychology and its emphasis on information processing and the modeling of internal mental processes (Neisser 1965, Gardiner 1985). However, despite the renewed emphasis on explaining cognitive capacities such as memory, perception and language comprehension, consciousness remained a largely neglected topic for several further decades.
In the 1980s and 90s there was a major resurgence of scientific and philosophical research into the nature and basis of consciousness (Baars 1988, Dennett 1991, Penrose 1989, 1994, Crick 1994, Lycan 1987, 1996, Chalmers 1996). Once consciousness was back under discussion, there was a rapid proliferation of research with a flood of books and articles, as well as the introduction of specialty journals (The Journal of Consciousness Studies, Consciousness and Cognition, Psyche), professional societies (Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness—ASSC) and annual conferences devoted exclusively to its investigation (Toward a Science of Consciousness, ASSC).

Problems of Consciousness

The task of understanding consciousness is an equally diverse project. Not only do many different aspects of mind count as conscious in some sense, each is also open to various respects in which it might be explained or modeled. Understanding consciousness involves a multiplicity not only of explananda but also of questions that they pose and the sorts of answers they require. At the risk of oversimplifying, the relevant questions can be gathered under three crude rubrics as the What, How, and Why questions:

·       The Descriptive Question: What is consciousness? What are its principal features? And by what means can they be best discovered, described and modeled?
·       The Explanatory Question: How does consciousness of the relevant sort come to exist? Is it a primitive aspect of reality, and if not how does (or could) consciousness in the relevant respect arise from or be caused by nonconscious entities or processes?
·       The Functional Question: Why does consciousness of the relevant sort exist? Does it have a function, and if so what it is it? Does it act causally and if so with sorts of effects? Does it make a difference to the operation of systems in which it is present, and if so why and how?

The three questions focus respectively on describing the features of consciousness, explaining its underlying basis or cause, and explicating its role or value. The divisions among the three are of course somewhat artificial, and in practice the answers one gives to each will depend in part on what one says about the others. One can not, for example, adequately answer the what question and describe the main features of consciousness without addressing the why issue of its functional role within systems whose operations it affects. Nor could one explain how the relevant sort of consciousness might arise from nonconscious processes unless one had a clear account of just what features had to be caused or realized to count as producing it. Those caveats notwithstanding, the three-way division of questions provides a useful structure for articulating the overall explanatory project and for assessing the adequacy of particular theories or models of consciousness.

Causal status of consciousness

Perhaps the most basic issue posed by any version of the Why question is whether or not consciousness of the relevant sort has any causal impact at all. If it has no effects and makes no causal difference whatsoever, then it would seem unable to play any significant role in the systems or organisms in which it is present, thus undercutting at the outset most inquiries about its possible value. Nor can the threat of epiphenomenal irrelevance be simply dismissed as an obvious non-option, since at least some forms of consciousness have been seriously alleged in the recent literature to lack causal status. (See the entry on epiphenomenalism.) 

Such worries have been raised especially with regard to qualia and qualitative consciousness (Huxley 1874, Jackson 1982, Chalmers 1996), but challenges have also been leveled against the causal status of other sorts including meta-mental consciousness (Velmans 1991).
Both metaphysical and empirical arguments have been given in support of such claims. Among the former are those that appeal to intuitions about the conceivability and logical possibility of zombies, i.e., of beings whose behavior, functional organization, and physical structure down to the molecular level are identical to those of normal human agents but who lack any qualia or qualitative consciousness. Some (Kirk 1970, Chalmers 1996) assert such beings are possible in worlds that share all our physical laws, but others deny it (Dennett 1991, Levine 2001). If they are possible in such worlds, then it would seem to follow that even in our world, qualia do not affect the course of physical events including those that constitute our human behaviors. If those events unfold in the same way whether or not qualia are present, then qualia appear to be inert or epiphenomenal at least with respect to events in the physical world. However, such arguments and the zombie intuitions on which they rely are controversial and their soundness remains in dispute (Searle 1992, Yablo 1998, Balog 1999).

Arguments of a far more empirical sort have challenged the causal status of meta-mental consciousness, at least in so far as its presence can be measured by the ability to report on one's mental state. Scientific evidence is claimed to show that consciousness of that sort is neither necessary for any type of mental ability nor does it occur early enough to act as a cause of the acts or processes typically thought to be its effects (Velmans 1991). According to those who make such arguments, the sorts of mental abilities that are typically thought to require consciousness can all be realized unconsciously in the absence of the supposedly required self-awareness.

Theories of consciousness

In response to the What, How and Why questions many theories of consciousness have been proposed in recent years. However, not all theories of consciousness are theories of the same thing. They vary not only in the specific sorts of consciousness they take as their object, but also in their theoretical aims.

Perhaps the largest division is between general metaphysical theories that aim to locate consciousness in the overall ontological scheme of reality and more specific theories that offer detailed accounts of its nature, features and role. The line between the two sorts of theories blurs a bit, especially in so far as many specific theories carry at least some implicit commitments on the more general metaphysical issues. Nonetheless, it is useful to keep the division in mind when surveying the range of current theoretical offerings.

Metaphysical theories of consciousness

General metaphysical theories offer answers to the conscious version of the mind-body problem, “What is the ontological status of consciousness relative to the world of physical reality?” The available responses largely parallel the standard mind-body options including the main versions of dualism and physicalism.

Specific Theories of Consciousness

Although there are many general metaphysical/ontological theories of consciousness, the list of specific detailed theories about its nature is even longer and more diverse. No brief survey could be close to comprehensive, but six main types of theories may help to indicate the basic range of options: higher-order theories, representational theories, interpretative narrative theories, cognitive theories, neural theories, quantum theories and nonphysical theories. The categories are not mutually exclusive; for example, many cognitive theories also propose a neural substrate for the relevant cognitive processes. Nonetheless grouping them in the seven classes provides a basic overview.

Van Gulick, Robert, "Consciousness", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .

Rocco Genarro also provides an interesting exploration into Consciousness within his article titled “Consciousness” published online with the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  This author underscores the challenges quite common in defining consciousness within his article.  Please do not stop at the limited segments quoted for purposes of information below.  Take a moment if you will and review the more detailed discussion provided by the author.

Explaining the nature of consciousness is one of the most important and perplexing areas of philosophy, but the concept is notoriously ambiguous. The abstract noun “consciousness” is not frequently used by itself in the contemporary literature, but is originally derived from the Latin con (with) and scire (to know). Perhaps the most commonly used contemporary notion of a conscious mental state is captured by Thomas Nagel’s famous “what it is like” sense (Nagel 1974). When I am in a conscious mental state, there is something it is like for me to be in that state from the subjective or first-person point of view. But how are we to understand this? For instance, how is the conscious mental state related to the body? Can consciousness be explained in terms of brain activity? What makes a mental state be a conscious mental state? The problem of consciousness is arguably the most central issue in current philosophy of mind and is also importantly related to major traditional topics in metaphysics, such as the possibility of immortality and the belief in free will. This article focuses on Western theories and conceptions of consciousness, especially as found in contemporary analytic philosophy of mind.

Quantum Approaches

Finally, there are those who look deep beneath the neural level to the field of quantum mechanics, basically the study of sub-atomic particles, to find the key to unlocking the mysteries of consciousness. The bizarre world of quantum physics is quite different from the deterministic world of classical physics, and a major area of research in its own right. Such authors place the locus of consciousness at a very fundamental physical level. This somewhat radical, though exciting, option is explored most notably by physicist Roger Penrose (1989, 1994) and anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff (1998). The basic idea is that consciousness arises through quantum effects which occur in subcellular neural structures known as microtubules, which are structural proteins in cell walls. There are also other quantum approaches which aim to explain the coherence of consciousness (Marshall and Zohar 1990) or use the “holistic” nature of quantum mechanics to explain consciousness (Silberstein 1998, 2001). It is difficult to assess these somewhat exotic approaches at present. Given the puzzling and often very counterintuitive nature of quantum physics, it is unclear whether such approaches will prove genuinely scientifically valuable methods in explaining consciousness. One concern is simply that these authors are trying to explain one puzzling phenomenon (consciousness) in terms of another mysterious natural phenomenon (quantum effects). Thus, the thinking seems to go, perhaps the two are essentially related somehow and other physicalistic accounts are looking in the wrong place, such as at the neuro-chemical level. Although many attempts to explain consciousness often rely of conjecture or speculation, quantum approaches may indeed lead the field along these lines. Of course, this doesn’t mean that some such theory isn’t correct. One exciting aspect of this approach is the resulting interdisciplinary interest it has generated among physicists and other scientists in the problem of consciousness.
Genarro, Rocco J “Consciousness”, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (USA)

It seems to me upon review of my two favorite topics that the theories are seemingly endless and often remain theories with only bits and pieces found to be empirical and the rest relegated to the land of the forever hypothesized or a simple “Yes,” “No” and “Maybe” approach in terms of understanding.  But this doesn’t prevent us from understanding.  More and more disciplines are joining the discussion to ask the questions and seek to ask and answer them from different perspectives.  But what if we are all defining a thing from the outset with a limited starting point?  What if it is language itself that prevents our full and complete understanding?  What if Consciousness is as Freud intimated concerning the ego as that part of consciousness that meets physical reality?  What if it is a matter of a limited language with which we are trying to define Consciousness to begin with?  What if Consciousness is not a thing to describe but is what we are and the varied and many striations of it exist in the realms of the unconscious aspects of our existence and the multiple dimensions beyond our limited 3rd dimensional points of focus?  What if the “feeling” part of our inner-most connected nature knows exactly what consciousness is?  Maybe we cannot fully comprehend consciousness with the mind and the words it create alone.  Perhaps, the understanding comes through another sense.  The 7th sense.  What if that observer aspect of our consciousness as pointed out so well by Echard Tolle in his work, The Power of Now, is an expanded portion of our Consciousness that remains ever and always connected to Source and that Source is what promotes the motion of our being and our impetus for existing and living or feeling our way through life?  That “feeling our way through life” is the 7th sense.

We might as well begin to ask other questions from a deeper level than the superficial of why do I feel (emotion) and why do I feel (intuition)?  There seems to be a deeper and more intangible aspect to consider and many have considered as you can conclude yourself by researching the many academic and non-academic papers out there on these topics.  Our Consciousness is expanding into a new and decidedly different experience of life on Earth through the introduction of practices such as meditation and mindfulness.  Why are these things having the impact that they are?  Why are they making us “feel” different and often more connected and whole than just the superficial egoic or little “c” consciousness of existence?  There is a purpose and there is a reason…call it a hunch but what about that “hunch?”  What about that inner knowing that puts it into motion rising to the surface for further exploration?  What if we are trying to think our way through a matter that can only be felt and I am not talking about emotion.  I am talking about an all-together different sense…maybe it’s the 7th sense.  Just some food for thought. 

 Rev. J.L. Harter, PhD, M.Msc., B.Msc., Author, Blogger, and Spiritual Counselor, Editor of the JMCC.  See Bio section for more information.

  © 2014 Rev. J.L. Harter, PhD (photo created by silkweaver)