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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Biconsciousness: Could There Be a Part of Your Mind Living Outside of Earth?

We have some ideas about the self that may not be warranted. One idea about the self is that your self is whatever corresponds to the perceptions of your body. But near-death experiences challenge that assumption. In a near-death experience a person may report having perceptions as an entity outside of his physical body.

Another idea about the self is that your self consists only of whatever you are experiencing now on planet Earth, and whatever your earthly mind can remember, think about and see at this moment. This idea may seem axiomatic, and it is probably true. But it's just possible that this idea is wrong. It is possible that your current self could consist of much, much more than what you are experiencing now in your earthly body, and what your earthly mind can remember, perceive and think about.

In this post I will consider an extremely unusual possibility. The idea is a concept I will call biconsciousness. I do not think this possibility is likely to be true, but it is an interesting scenario to ponder. Pondering this possibility will be a mind-stretching exercise that may make your head hurt.

Let us consider a man who dies and then finds his soul preserved. After undergoing some near-death experience, the man may find himself in some post-mortal realm. For referential convenience, I will mainly call this post-mortal realm “heaven,” although perhaps it is very different from conventional ideas about heaven. After enjoying many years of heavenly bliss, the man may be encouraged to return to Earth for an additional life. The man may do that multiple times. We can imagine a person who died, went to some post-mortal realm for 200 years, then chose to return to Earth to be reincarnated, then died again to go back to the post-mortal realm.

The diagram below illustrates the idea. 

The scenario above is fairly easy to understand. First, you live on Earth as a regular human, then you die, then you live for maybe 200 years in heaven, then you are born again on Earth, then you die, then you live for maybe 200 years in heaven, then you are born again on Earth, then you die, and then you live for maybe 200 years in heaven.

But let us imagine a radical possibility. Suppose when you went to reincarnate on Earth again, it wasn't your entire self involved in that. Perhaps you might have a strange kind of mental state we can call biconsciousness, in which your self splits up. So half of your self might go to live on Earth, while the other half stays in heaven.

The following diagram illustrates this radical idea.

The weird possibility of biconsciousness

We can describe this strange scenario like this. During your first earthly life, only half of your total self may have gone to live on Earth, while the other half was living in heaven. Then after you died you lived in heaven for 200 years. Then you reincarnated again, but with only half of your total self living on Earth, while the other half kept living in heaven. Then after you died you lived in heaven for 200 years. Then you reincarnated again, but with only half of your total self living on Earth, while the other half kept living in heaven.

This possibility is very hard to grasp. It is very easy to imagine that there might be some being like yourself living in heaven while you live on Earth, some being who is a separate self. But it is very hard to imagine that these two might be parts of the same self. We tend to assume that a self is a single stream of thoughts, perceptions, ideas, and feelings located in one place. But we don't know really know how consciousness and self-hood and souls work. It could conceivably be that a self can be split up so that two simultaneous existences can be experienced by the same self.

It could be that what you experience on Earth is a mere fragment of the total existence that your total self is currently having. If you had some expanded consciousness in heaven, you might be able to experience simultaneously your heavenly existence and your earthly existence. Whatever sadness you felt here on Earth during any moment might be overshadowed by the happiness your total self was feeling in heaven. Being bad at multitasking and at thinking about more than one thing at a time, we cannot imagine such a reality. But it could be some greatly more intelligent version of yourself in some heavenly realm would have no problem at all experiencing two simultaneous lives, a heavenly life and an earthly life.

Under this scenario we can refer to the heavenly part of your consciousness as Major You and the earthly part of your consciousness as Minor You. How might consciousness be for this heavenly Major You? There's a thought experiment we can do to get a crude idea of such a thing.

Let us imagine a future technology in which fancy electronic glasses provide a real-time video feed of your experience, which appears as a window in the right corner of the fancy electronic glasses worn by your spouse. So your spouse is getting a real-time feed of your experience in a little corner of the visual field, and you are getting a real-time feed of your spouse's experience in a little corner of your visual field. Besides being a good way for spouses to keep each other from straying, this would almost be a method of living two lifetimes at once. You might be stuck doing some boring job, but might enjoy seeing the video feed of something more interesting that your spouse was doing, seeing that in the right corner of your fancy electronic glasses.

Conceivably it could be a little like that for Major You living in some heavenly realm. That aspect of your consciousness might have a kind of real-time feed of everything you were seeing, feeling, thinking about and experiencing here on Earth. For this Major You it might be kind of like having two blended streams of experience, one of a heavenly life and one of an earthly life.

Under this biconsciousness scenario, accounting for life after death would be particularly easy. We would not even need to imagine that some kind of special soul transit occurs, in which a soul travels from Earth to a heavenly realm. It would simply be that your life would continue after your earthly death, because only Minor You has perished, while Major You continues to live.

Could this concept of biconsciousness be useful in some sense? I can think of one use for such a concept. Consider the hypothesis of reincarnation, an idea many would prefer to avoid. The problem is that there actually seems to be some evidence that reincarnation may well actually occur for some people. The strongest evidence are cases gathered by people such as Ian Stevenson, in which young children claim they are reincarnations of people who lived before. Surprisingly, there is often corroboration. For example, a child may claim to have been a particular person who experienced particular events. An investigation may show that just such a person lived and experienced such events. The child may be able to recognize the names of relatives of the person who died, who the child claims to have been in a previous life.

But there's a problem with the idea of reincarnation. If someone were to be reincarnated, it would seem that there could be no real continuity of identity. A person's identity seems to be tied up with his memories, outlooks and feelings. If that person is then reborn as a baby, there seems to be break in continuity, so much that it's like you can't really say the reincarnated baby is the same person who lived before.

The hypothesis of biconsciousness may offer a potential solution to this problem. Let us imagine that after you die, you find yourself living for 200 years in a heavenly realm, and then decide to reincarnate on Earth. Imagine if your self is split up into parts, one staying in the heavenly realm, and another being reborn on Earth as a baby. In that case (the biconsciousness scenario we have discussed), there would be a continuity of identity and self-hood. Your memories, feelings, and outlook would be preserved in the Major You living on in the heavenly realm.

There's another potential use for the hypothesis of biconsciousness. Consider the theological problem of evil, as to why an omnipotent God might allow various types of earthly suffering. It could be that every time such suffering occurs, we are merely seeing suffering in a fraction of a self, with the other fraction of the self enjoying heavenly bliss because of biconsciousness. It might therefore be that the current net happiness of every person is always positive rather than negative. The sorrows of the earthly Minor You may be always greatly outweighed by the happiness and pleasure of Major You existing in some blissful heavenly realm.

Although the hypothesis of biconsciousness may be somewhat useful for these reasons, it still seems like a rather unlikely possibility. We have nothing that directly suggests that biconsciousness ever occurs. Until then we should not embrace biconsciousness as a likelihood. It is, however, an interesting possibility to ponder. 

Perhaps such a possibility may be relevant to the concept of guardian angels. Many a person thinks that each of us has a guardian angel. But perhaps rather than being a separate being,  a guardian angel may be simply the heavenly Major You that might co-exist with the Minor You existing here on Earth. So your guardian angel might be a higher aspect of yourself.  Of course, such a notion involves heaping a speculation upon a speculation, and is merely something remotely possible.  

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