I believe (although I’ve never seen it for myself) that inside my skull is a brain containing billions of neurons connected to each other in trillions of ways, with signals zooming about, setting off other signals, and generally creating massively complicated loops, coalitions, sustained patterns, and multiple parallel organised streams of information that combined together control the behaviour of this – my body. And that’s it. So how come I feel as though there is a conscious “me” as well? The oh-so-tempting idea that I am something else – a soul, a spirit, a mystical entity – is rubbish, although I once believed in it. This question nags at me so much that I have devoted most of my life to it – through research, writing, and thirty years of daily meditation. But I still don’t understand. And the more I look, the less substantial my own self seems to be. What is consciousness? And who is conscious? I really don’t know.
Dr Sue Blackmore is a freelance writer, lecturer and broadcaster, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Plymouth. Her latest book is Ten Zen Questions.
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