Who are WE?
I can’t think of a simple answer that is any better than Judi’s. [A mystery expressed in infinitely diverse and changing forms.]
I could write for a long time about us being patterns of embodied cognition at many different levels, embodying many systems that are not even theoretically predictable, and yet for all that, we each seem to have both a remarkable consistency of being and a remarkable capacity for creativity.
We are expressions of individual combinations of genetics, culture, experience, and choice mixed with a degree of randomness.
And while I can put quite useful sets of boundary heuristics around many of the component systems that make us up, reason is far too slow a process to ever have any hope of understanding the details of what it is to be human in anything other than the broadest of brush stroke outline – a sketch of something.
So yeah – we are a mystery, we are habitual, we are stubborn, we are creative, we follow rules, we break rules, we make rules, we ignore rules, we love, we hate, we laugh, we cry. Along with everything else alive, we seem to be expressions of life, via a process of evolution that is vastly more complex than most are taught.
To me the term “collective consciousness” is a misnomer, and just like the earth seems to be flat, with the sun going around it, there certainly does seem to be a “collective consciousness”.
For me, understanding what is actually happening involves quite a few different disciplines.
Jordan Peterson has the best developed explanatory framework I have encountered in another, and unsurprisingly there are some significant differences between us. And as far as he goes, I am guessing we are aligned about 90% – far higher than anyone else I have ever encountered. He has about 200 hours of youtube videos of his lectures and interviews online – I have watched about 40 hours of them over the last couple of months. He used to teach at Harvard, and now teaches at University of Toronto.
For me, the explanatory frameworks go much deeper that Jordan goes, and he goes far further than most.
For me, it goes to the base of the concept of logic itself, to the fundamental notions of information and computation, into the depths of quantum mechanics and the many realms of quantum uncertainty, and builds back up through a process of evolution that includes both competitive and cooperative elements in a multitiered system that has some twenty levels of information processing systems in a human being like us, and consciousness is just the top layer of that system.
The entire system exists in the boundary between order and chaos – like the yin-yang symbolism in a sense, but only in the sense of analogy, in my understanding it is something fundamentally different.
The problem with a fully ordered world is, that while it may be unpredictable, it does not actually deliver anything like real choice or real moral responsibility. In a fully ordered universe, where strict laws and logic apply at every level, everything was ordained from the first instant of being, and all we have in terms of choice is some form of Dennett’s hidden lottery. Under that scenario we are all essentially automata – or to put it another way, Karma rules with an iron fist and we have no personal choice or influence – any impression of such is simply illusion.
Some people like to believe such things. Ayn Rand and many in the Objectivist school is one Western example of such, there are many others.
One of the attractions of such a way of thinking is that it ultimately absolves us of personal responsibility, as whatever we do, we never had any other choice.
That whole approach seems to me to be fundamentally flawed in several different ways.
The evidence from experiments into the quantum nature of the substructure of this reality we seem to find ourselves in, and be a part of, seems to point to fundamental uncertainties in several different ways.
In some aspects these systems seem to allow the existence of structures and associations that are predictable to very high levels, hence our ability to develop jet aircraft of modern digital computers, and there are limits to the predictability, and the engineers and scientists involved in the development of new technologies are only too keenly aware. They know they are approaching boundary conditions where reliability degrades to the point that computers don’t work. Even having populations of machines voting on outcomes only takes you so far, before it too fails the test of reliability.
And the upshot of all of this is that it seems clear (beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt in my mind, though I know of no possible way of communicating my understanding to another in any time shorter than my lifetime), that we are all the result of a process of evolution that has a very simple start, but rapidly becomes very complex, and has the ability to recursively fold back on itself both within and between layers of complexity. It seems that all life we see on this planet is the result of that process. It seems that in our species, there is an extra set of dimensions to that process that are not present in any other species I am yet aware of.
Part of that process is the idea of embodied cognition, which can exist at multiple levels.
This is where Jordan’s ideas of the evolutionary embodiment of layers of archetypes is such a powerful tool.
So in this sense, yes – we all share much of which we are not conscious, and for many the simplest useful heuristic to use when thinking about such things is some sort of mix of collective consciousness and collective unconsciousness, though in my understanding both such things are actually embodied in each of us as individuals, but below the level of consciousness, with levels of communication that are below the level of consciousness.
And I need to get out the door as I am playing in a 27 hole golf teams tournament today.