three discontinuities and a goat

Consciousness and Self are not the same thing. But they are often talked about, thought about and written about as if they were.

I don't know about you, but I'm not aware of a separation between "my" consciousness and "my" Self. I speculate that for most people, Self and consciousness are so tightly bound together that we thoughtlessly (instinctively) accept them as one and the same thing.

But there are good arguments that what we think of and refer to as "the self" does not exist, that selfhood is an illusion. (Of course, if it's an illusion, it's a real illusion!)

Does consciousness exist, or is it an epiphenomenon of a material universe, as some would argue? Well I don't know. But if consciousness is an epiphenomenon (can you hear the silent "mere") that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. If consciousness is an illusion, it's a real illusion: There really is such a thing as the illusion of consciousness!

Does consciousness continue after death? Does Self continue after death? I don't know the answer to either question, but I point out that they are two different questions. Continuity of consciousness after death and continuity of Self after death are not synonymous. The continuities are discontinuous!

"Selfhood" and "personhood" comprise another pair of concepts in which one is often confused with the other. I've met two or three relatively self-less persons in my time, but I've never met a person-less Self. I suspect that nothing exists that is not a person or part of a person.

Another discontinuity concerns the concepts of "life-after-death" vs reincarnation. Let's put to one side the issue of whether those things are "true" or "real". For now I just want to point out that if reincarnation is false, that doesn't mean that life-after-death is also false. [If reincarnation is true, does that imply logically that life-after-death is also true? It's not as simple a question as it would appear.]

Irrespective of their ontological status, neither is a prerequisite for the other: they're not mutually dependent. [Or are they?] According to the belief systems where these concepts live, consciousness can continue after death with or without reincarnation, and people can be reincarnated without continuity of consciousness (from one incarnation to the next). Which if true would explain why most people have no memories of past lives.

As to establishing whether reincarnation is "true" or not, one place to start is to make some assumptions then do the maths: At any given moment, is the number of people who have died more or less than the number of people alive at that moment? Because if there aren't enough bodies for the souls of the dead, the problem is ghosts. And if there aren't enough souls for the bodies of the living, the problem is zombies.

Q: Why does any of this matter? A: Why does anything matter?

Let's leave it there. It's been a slow week.

PS There's no goat.

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Antares said...

Who ate the goat? That's what I'd like to know.

masterymistery said...

Antares, I've been wondering about that myself... Don't they feed you at the River? Tell you what, for your next visit I'm making goat stew, according to this recipe: http://youtu.be/mjvDlzmZ9As
Thanks for stopping by,
Cheers, MM

mgeorge said...

Reincarnation is as good as anything else to get someone to submit to stuff he would otherwise reject.

I have a vague recollection that this subject was incarnated here some time ago. No worries, that's just a crack.

masterymistery said...

mgeorge, it's hard to let go of the belief that the universe is at ones bidding, and that things work the way we want them to or feel they should.

Despite evidence to the contrary, I myself foolishly cling to the idea that once one adopts the right perspective, it's clear that everything is at it should be.

Re the crack: yes, they are showing! Struggling these days to come up with new and interesting things to say. I guess I'll just have to post a few more paintings until the other muse takes me.

Thanks for your comments.

Antares said...

Goat stew? That's worth a stopover in Sydney! :-)

masterymistery said...

Antares, it would be wonderful to host you in Syd for a short (or long) visit. There's a pot of stew set permanently bubbling on low heat just for your arrival. What's your flight number? Cheers, S