- a particular instance of personally encountering or undergoing something.
- the process of personally observing, encountering, or undergoing something.
- the observing, encountering, or undergoing of things generally as they occur in the course of time.
- knowledge or practical wisdom gained from what one has observed, encountered, or undergone (as opposed to what one has read about, been taught, or has heard from someone else.)
- 5. Philosophy: the totality of the cognitions given by perception; all that is perceived, understood, and remembered.
(Courtesy of Dictionary.com)
Author’s observation: an experience is a concept, not a thing. It is a set of thoughts, sensations, emotions, and beliefs that is individual to (from the point of view of) each person who has observed, encountered, or undergone (something).
Approaching the end of our lifetime as the identity we have come to know and love, and having no memory or premonition of any other, we tend to dwell on the question, “What will happen to ‘me’ when the body wears out and ceases to function?” Also, we wonder where we were before we took residence in this body.
I experience an “I” in the physical form that I find myself at birth. The limitations and strengths of the body are the first things to be dealt with, and if others do not feed me, I will die. The culture, resources, and institutions of the society in which I mature have all been built up by others as part of their experience. Physical monuments, books, legends, and skills learned and passed on, are now shapers and teachers of the “I” that experiences life in this physical interface.
Is consciousness a property of life, as primitive in the bacterium as its physical form, hardly aware of anything beyond its own needs, but creative and imaginative in the human form, where it reaches out to the depths of life beneath it, and to the known universe beyond?
If so, where does conscious awareness go when the body is no longer functional? Back to where it came from before we were born? Does it have an existence of its own? Does it break off in pieces (fractals) to inhabit new bodies as they are formed and separated (shed or peeled off) from the “mother?” And does it rejoin the universal fractal after the body no longer functions as its sensory interface? Where and what is “home?”
Is there any continuity that any of us can be personally aware of? Can consciousness survive the absence of a physical interface? Is physical form the only form that can support conscious awareness and experience? It is the only one we know of, though we imagine others. And life in this form is often difficult.
Truth: I am conscious while I am awake and aware of this body’s sensations and this brain’s impressions. I am not conscious of the sensations or impressions of any other body, although I can imagine them, and [a trained technician] can sometimes measure them with instruments that make electronic images of their waveforms.
When I am asleep, I am not unconscious, since I can still react to discomfort and external stimuli, and my brain is sorting thoughts and building habits, as well as replacing cells and keeping the body systems functioning in equilibrium. These are things that I can’t do consciously (intentionally). They are electro-chemical in nature and marvelous to observe.
But when I am unconscious, I am not aware of anything (and the electro-chemical processes will still go on.) If the body dies in an unconscious state, I will be unaware that death has occurred—or of anything else, since my conscious awareness is unsupported by a functioning physical interface. What am I and where am I then? Do the effects–all that “I” have experienced, enjoyed, suffered, appreciated, loved, hated, feared, wondered, built, achieved, destroyed, learned, and created—including offspring—go away and become someone else’s experience, because “I” as the experiencer, no longer have a means of experiencing anything? I cannot actually experience my own death!
IN OTHER WORDS, WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE ME? Life goes on for those I leave behind, and they will remember me for a while. But DO I THEN EVEN EXIST AS “I”? I only know that none of us can conceive of not existing—nor of a beginning or end of time, the universe, infinity, eternity, or the nature of God. It’s not so much that human beings are limited in their ability to comprehend the non-material or spiritual realm: the brain is unable to think (reason) without limits. That’s why it’s just as hard to imagine having an immortal soul as it is to imagine NOT having one–or just as impossible to prove that there is a God as it is to prove that there is NO God. Finding limits or placing them is the foundation of analytical, rational, deductive, logical reasoning. Anything outside the limits of reason is a matter of conjecture or faith. This would include such things as Near Death Experiences, Out of Body Experiences, visions, ghosts, prophetic dreams, extrasensory perception, alien abduction, channeling, laying- on of hands, and intuitive suggestions. (Yet there are documented claims of these.)
We can never know, by exercising the intellect, the answers to the questions I have posed here. Why do I care? Can I do anything about it? Should I believe a book or tradition because my parents did, or out of fear of execution or Hell if I don’t? There is only relative truth in the realm of experience, and there is no such thing as Absolute Truth: anything that has an opposite is relative, so “Absolute Truth” has no meaning and cannot be defined. It is that which is.
“I think; therefore I am” (at this moment.) What I believe about the next moment is a matter of choice. Perhaps I will survive the chasm of death by taking a leap of faith, by loosening my grip on this world and turning with expectation to whatever awaits me. It can’t be worse than clinging to physical life, however painful, out of fear of the unknown. Perhaps what awaits me is only a long… dreamless… sleep, as I dissolve into the dark matter of the universe, waiting to become.