Consciousness is the quality or state of awareness, or, of being aware of an external object or something within oneself. It has been defined as: sentience, awareness, subjectivity, the ability to experience or to perceive, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind. Despite the difficulty in definition, many philosophers believe that there is a broadly shared underlying intuition about what consciousness is. As Max Velmans and Susan Schneider wrote in The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness: “Anything that we are aware of at a given moment forms part of our consciousness, making conscious experience at once the most familiar and most mysterious aspect of our lives.”
Consciousness is the having of perceptions, thoughts, and feelings; awareness. The term is impossible to define except in terms that are unintelligible without a grasp of what consciousness means. Many fall into the trap of equating consciousness with self consciousness—to be conscious it is only necessary to be aware of the external world. Consciousness is a fascinating but elusive phenomenon: it is impossible to specify what it is, what it does, or why it has evolved. Nothing worth reading has been written on it.
Philosophers have used the term ‘consciousness’ for four main topics: knowledge in general, intentionality, introspection (and the knowledge it specifically generates) and phenomenal experience… Something within one’s mind is ‘introspectively conscious’ just in case one introspects it (or is poised to do so). Introspection is often thought to deliver one’s primary knowledge of one’s mental life. An experience or other mental entity is ‘phenomenally conscious’ just in case there is ‘something it is like’ for one to have it.
The clearest examples are: perceptual experience, such as tastings and seeings; bodily sensational experiences, such as those of pains, tickles and itches; imaginative experiences, such as those of one’s own actions or perceptions; and streams of thought, as in the experience of thinking ‘in words’ or ‘in images’. Introspection and phenomenality seem independent, or dissociable, although this is controversial.
The pyramid of consciousness has defined Mayan thought since the dawn of its civilization around 2000 BCE. Shamans and priests defined consciousness as an awareness of being aware, commonly referred to as a branch of metacognition. Because consciousness incorporates stimuli from the environment as well as internally, the Mayans believed it to be the most basic form of existence.
Most theories map consciousness in a series of levels, some stages of which are more continuous or complex than others. Movement between stages is often bidirectional depending on internal and external conditions, with each mental ascension precipitating a change in reactivity. In the most basic sense, this alteration might lead to a reduced responsiveness as seen in anesthesiology; more abstract facets of tiered consciousness describe characteristics of profoundness, insight, perception, or understanding.
Who you really are is consciousness and consciousness is only aware of itself when it is conscious of itself. There are four levels of consciousness and they range from subconscious to conscious to superconscious to supraconscious. You operate within these four levels of consciousness at all times but you are not aware of all these levels of consciousness until you move up the hierarchy of consciousness through understanding and awareness.
Also, many philosophers define the word “consciousness” to be the relationship between the mind and the world.
Writing on spiritual or religious topics, it frequently connotes the relationship between the mind and God, or the relationship between the mind and deeper truths that are thought to be more fundamental than the physical world. Krishna consciousness, for example, is a term used to mean an intimate linkage between the mind of a worshipper and the god Krishna.
The mystical psychiatrist Richard Maurice Bucke distinguished between three types of consciousness: Simple Consciousness, awareness of the body, possessed by many animals; Self Consciousness, awareness of being aware, possessed only by humans; and Cosmic Consciousness, awareness of the life and order of the universe, possessed only by humans who are enlightened. Many more examples could be given. The most thorough account of the spiritual approach may be Ken Wilber’s book “The Spectrum of Consciousness”, a comparison of western and eastern ways of thinking about the mind. Wilber described consciousness as a spectrum with ordinary awareness at one end, and more profound types of awareness at higher levels.
There are some brain states in which consciousness seems to be abolished, including dreamless sleep, coma, and death. There are also a variety of circumstances that can change the relationship between the mind and the world in less drastic ways, producing what are known as altered states of consciousness. Some altered states occur naturally; others can be produced by drugs or brain damage. Altered states can be accompanied by changes in thinking, disturbances in the sense of time, feelings of loss of control, changes in emotional expression, alternations in body image and changes in meaning or significance.