The Nature and Potential of Consciousness

There is a broad consensus within the current scientific community that the nature of consciousness is one of humanity’s greatest unsolved mysteries. Although scientists have explored the mind and brain for over a century, fundamental questions remain unanswered. What are the origins of the human mind? What are the necessary causes and conditions for the emergence of consciousness in the evolution of living organisms in general and in a human embryo in particular? How do the body and mind interact? What are the potentials of consciousness? What becomes of our minds when we die?

The scientific community has failed to discover the answers to these questions because, on the whole, they have confused an unquestioned assumption with empirical fact, namely, that all states of consciousness and mental activities arise from the brain. Although there is bountiful empirical evidence to the contrary, it has been largely ignored, and although the contemplative traditions of the world have made profound discoveries into the nature and potentials of consciousness, they have been ignored as well. The time has come to integrate the sophisticated first-person methods of contemplative inquiry with the third-person methods of modern science to bring about the first true revolution in the mind sciences.

Genuine Well-Being and Its Causes

Over the past 150 years, since the rise of the industrial revolution, to a large extent humanity has adopted the worldview of materialism, the values of hedonism, and the way of life of consumerism. The impact on the global environment has been catastrophic. In contrast to hedonic pleasure, which arises in response to some kind of pleasurable stimulus, genuine well-being arises from within. While hedonic, or mundane, pleasure never satisfies, but always leave us longing for more, the cultivation of genuine well-being gives rise to an ever-growing sense of contentment, joy, and meaning. It is inwardly developed through the cultivation of environmental and social ethics, rooted in nonviolence and benevolence, the cultivation of exceptional mental health and balance, and finally through the wisdom of knowing ourselves and reality at large. It is only with a global shift of priorities away from mundane pleasures to genuine well-being that we can restore balance in the ecosphere and take the next step in the spiritual evolution of humanity.