Metaconsciousness


(Caution: This might be hard to digest!)

I'm now going to try and put into words an experience that I have never attempt to tame with my fingers on the keyboard... and maybe for good reason. Some things are best left undescribed, for the best, often only way to experience them is through individual experience rather than a narrative in wordplay. Besides, due to the innate limitation, not the least of which is the English language, we sometimes have no words to describe what we feel. Even when we are able to express it, language acts as a barrier, since there are no words to accurately describe qualitative experiences or feelings.

Putting the rambling aside, I am attempting to describe a metaconscious experience. This is best enjoyed with a neutral and open mind, or in a moment of singularity - such as the flow state, an orgasm, sleep / lucid dream, meditation, or substance (ab)use. Consciousness as you may know is (impossible to describe in words as it is) the internal awareness of action or thought. Please forgive the extremel crude definition. I am sure philosophers have done a better job in the past, and our own minds can provide the best definition through an internal relative understanding which no philosopher has been able to put into words.

In a gist, consciousness is the everyday experience of being that separates us from all other living species, including other mammals. I personally differ on this, and believe that consciousness has evolved, from rudimentary forms in simpler living organisms such as plants, through to birds, reptiles, mammals and apes. I would argue that an adult ape has similar experience of self as does a toddler human. It's also fascinating how we can trace back in memory to the earliest point when we felt conscious and have a strong recollection of it. (Tangent question - does conscious experience have different magnitude? In other words, do we feel strongly aware / conscious in high arousal situations?). For example, the earliest I remember feeling aware of my surroundings and remember having asked myself to remember this significant event was when my parents moved houses, when I was 3.5 years old.

On another tangent, I recently inferred (and correct me if I am wrong) that an experience of emotion is the true proof of conscious awareness. Our feelings of joy, sorrow, jealousy, hatred, love, disgust are what separate us from most other living forms. And the ability to accurately place our own mental state as that being elated or dejected is in fact a conscious experience itself.

So after all this rambling, let's try and explore metaconsciousness. The best metaphor I can think of is the movie Inception. Just like in the movie, one could be dreaming inside a dream, metaconsciousness is a similar (along the same parallel) experience. Another great example is a picture inside a picture inside a picture. These are truly fascinating phenomena and challenge the extent of our imagination.

Put in simple words, metaconsciousness is the conscious experience of consciousness. I feel it all the time but I wonder if others share my experience and excitement in trying to describe it. As an example, I am breathing. This is the act. I focus my attention on my breathing. This is consciousness. I realise that I am focussing my attention to breathing - this is metaconscious! In this simple act, we have almost surpassed ourselves (and by this I mean our everyday conscious selves). Isn't it great to see how easy it is to reach beyond ourselves and almost experience part of the divine? Of course, there is further qualia to be felt in this metaconscious experience. I leave it to your discretion to catch yourself catching yourself doing something and how it makes you feel.

But before I leave you to introspect, let me leave you with a final cherry on the cake. Imagine breathing (conscious) and then realising that you are doing so (metaconscious). But then, can you realise that you (X) are in fact part of this big set up where A is trying to catch B doing C. Kind of makes you look at things from the top, from above yourself. And then you catch X in the act of feeling supreme, but you have actually gone beyond X too!

So how many levels of consciousness do we have? Or is this all just a game our neurons play with us... and consciousness is just a byproduct of deterministic neuronal activity? What is real?