At times I’ve told friends that I believe, in the deepest sense, we’re all one and the same ‘thing’, though I don’t know for sure what this ‘thing’ is. All conceptions we have of “selves” is an illusion. Sure, I’m Jason and I’m a human male, and you’re Jimmy Joe, a blog reader, but deeper down there’s some universal ‘thing’ connecting us. In the past, I didn’t have a name for it, but now I’ve come to use the word ‘consciousness’, and believe we’re all manifestations of it. Let me explain this.
If you’re willing, give me a few minutes of your time and I’ll use a medical case from neuroscience to explain this to you. Let’s consider the story of a young girl named Jody. She suffered from epileptic seizures as a little girl, so neurosurgeons completely removed half of her brain. Half of her skull is completely empty. Even still, she functions like any other little girl. It hasn’t impaired her at all.
You might be surprised to learn that a person can function with half a brain. It’s pretty fascinating. Let’s use this and devise a stranger scenario.
As you all know, I’m a bit of a mad scientist. Well, not really, but I like considering strange thought experiments! I’ll let my scientific curiosity get the best of me and imagine kidnapping one of you for research. I’m going to put you under anesthetic for a special surgery. While you’re asleep, I’ll divide your brain into two halves and transfer them both to different bodies made specifically for your brain.
Now we come to the big question: when “you” awaken from this surgery, which one of these new people will you be? Both? Neither? Only one of them? From what I know of neuroscience, I’d have two duplicate copies of you. Both of these “new” people would open their eyes, look at me, and tell me they’re “you”, but how could that possibly be true?
Surely you can’t be both of them. If you think this over, it seems impossible to imagine controlling both bodies, experiencing life from two bodies simultaneously. You’d be able to send one of your bodies to buy groceries while you use the other to do laundry. That can’t be right. It seems more plausible that you’d wake up as one of the people and that another “new” person was created out of thin air. A new “soul” if you will. We have two separate people.
Now we can go even further. If we’re able to take your brain and turn you into two people, surely we can go the other way. We could take the two hemispheres and properly connect them again in a single body. We’ve fused two “souls” and made them a single person. Two people become one and the same person.
You may be thinking that this couldn’t be done with two very dissimilar people, like one half of a car-mechanic’s brain with half of an elegant ballerina’s brain. It’d be a bit more difficult, sure, but not impossible. The brain halves would have to undergo some adjustment and learn the situation, but it could be done with enough technical skill.
We’re all made of the same stuff and are all aspects of the same ‘thing’. If it helps you, you can think of this “pool” of consciousness which can bend itself into separate pockets temporarily before bouncing back to a single ‘thing’. I sometimes think of it like soap bubbles on the surface of pool of water.
At other times, I wonder if matter has some sort of “proto-consciousness”, and based on what patterns matter takes, patterns of consciousness emerge. Is matter fundamental and does consciousness emerge from it, or does consciousness manifest matter? I don’t know, but I think there’s a deep relation between the two. There is some relation that connects matter and consciousness, and we’re all connected and the same ‘thing’ within that medium.
“What you are basically, deep deep down, far far in, is simply the fabric and structure of existence itself, only there’s a conspiracy that you mustn’t let on about that, because everybody is.”
– Alan Watts