Phenomenon of Consciousness (13)

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It appears from this jumble of the imaginary, hypothetical and concrete that the mind is the soul; that it is energy, force and matter and at the same time not matter; that the soul is the disembodied spirit; that the spirit is the disembodied soul while residing in the body and after leaving the body; that all of these are life, or living substance, considered independently of corporeal existence; that they are all intelligence apart from and in conjunction with physical embodiment; that they are the vital essence; that they are also the brain or thinking part of man: the seat of sensation, life and cognition and the cognitions themselves; that they are knowledge and the seat of knowledge; and that part of man which is immortal.

From these definitions the words defined appear to have no definite meaning and to be expressions denoting the ignorance of one groping in the dark and trying to define what is imagined but not understood —a futile attempt with verbal contradictions to ascribe an immortal personality to an evanescent physiological phenomenon.

In defining that which does not exist, it is necessary to create the thing by definition. To define anything as “that part of man which is immortal” is to define it from imagination, because, if any part of man is immortal, it is not possible for us to know it, or to know any of its powers, properties or attributes. All of these definitions are attempts to define the phenomenon of consciousness and to make of it something more than what it is, the cerebral act and power of cognition.

That the phenomenon of consciousness exists in all animals having organs of cognition that is, organs of special sense, such as hearing, sight, smell, taste, touch, there cannot be any question. Otherwise these organs could be of no use and could never have developed. But the evidence that they are used is the same as the evidence of the use of such organs by human beings.

Can there be any doubt that the eyes of a dog enable him to see, that his ears enable him to hear, that his nerves of taste and smell are used in the same manner as those of a human being? Is there any doubt that a dog would howl with pain, if his foot or tongue were to come in contact with boiling water? If not, then there can be no doubt that the dog has cognitions of external relations which are of the same nature as those experienced by human beings.

Do not dogs, elephants and other animals prove by their actions that they have memory? If so, they must have cognitions of previous cognitions. Many acts of animals, such as the opening of a door by lifting a latch, show conclusively that their power of deduction or reason is of the same order and nature as that of human beings. Furthermore, the general anatomical structure of the organs and the functions of the organs in all vertebrates from apes to alligators and fishes, including the brain and entire nervous system, is the same as that of man, differing from man only in the minor details of adaptation to environment.

The belief that animals, even the higher vertebrates, have no consciousness of existence has been especially promulgated by the idealists, that is, egotists, the idealist being one who believes that he is the only person and the only thing which exists, and that he himself exists only in his “mind.” What his mind is steadfastly refraining from disclosing!

***Excerpt from Charles John Reed: The Law of Vital Infusion and the Phenomenon of Consciousness