I went to a great Zocalo event tonight. Neuro-scientist Antonio Damasio gave a talk about his new book, Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain. Some of his thinking was a bit beyond me, neuroscience is not my expertise, but I figured going in that it would be a stretch, but the brain is fascinating to me and I thought that it be worth the brain stretch. He talked a lot about consciousness, where it comes from, how it develops and what the implications are. He talked about consciousness as being an instrument of both survival and well-being. My favourite idea, well one of the many favourite ideas, was that we live consciously, poised between our lived past and our anticipated future. He spoke about having memories of the future---we have memories of the future we hope to have! I am sure that I am not doing justice to his theories but they were challenging and inspiring. As his talk drew to a close he read the stanza from the poem quoted above by Fernando Pessoa, from his work, The Book of Disquiet. He expressed his love and respect for the work of Pessoa but then went on to say that where he differs in temrs of understanding the self and consciousness is that he believes unlike an orchestra, which has a score, a conductor etc. our mind is being "made is we go," and "there is no conductor either, because in and of itself, we made him up to." I wished that there would have been the opportunity to dig into that thought a bit, it seemed that he was essentially saying that we create our own conductors (read gods), that they are an invention of the mind. I dont think I disagree. For some time now I have been giving much thought to the idea that our conceptions of God might be some sense of collective consciousness, or deep consciousness, or something like that.
There was a lot to this lecture, so many threads to think about and pick up on. He referenced some interesting-sounding books, Jerry Edelman-The Mind is Wider that the Sky and Julian James' The Origins of Consciousness, and talked about Spinoza quite extensively. You can actually watch or hear the lecture for yourself on the Zocalo site and I would recommend you do.