Systems-bound and Systems-independent Consciousness Complex Inter-phase in between: From Narrative to Science


AK Mukhopadhyay, 2016

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Consciousness is at the core of behavior of live-systems. Since consciousness is described to be both inside and outside systems, a model of the inter-phase required for communication between systems-bound consciousness and systems-independent consciousness has been created identifying its constituents, their operations and interactive processes. The paper also shows the way by which mind, ‘life’, self and consciousness could be brought within the umbrella of systems science. The time frame for transformation of the narrative to science has also been discussed.




Consciousness is at the core of behavior and psychology. However, the idea and concept of consciousness is so variable across the cultures that it is difficult to bring consciousness within the purview of science. For the East, consciousness is homogenous, universal and present both within and outside the systems. In the context of systems-independent consciousness, there is use of terms like cosmic consciousness, nature-consciousness, universal consciousness, trans-universal consciousness, non-dual consciousness etc. For the western science, consciousness is heterogeneous, granular and confined to the live-systems like biological cell (c.f., cellular cognition) and all multicellular organisms including us. Consciousness not confined to any systems is difficult to study in science. Two systems, which can be studied in the context of consciousness, are biological cell and systems brain. Systems biology is said to consist of metabolome, proteome, genome and epigenome. In the live systems, biochemistry, biophysics and bioinformatics have been brought within the ambit of systems science but not the psychology and consciousness. One of the objectives of this paper is to bring consciousness and psychology within the purview of systems science in systematic connection with systems bioinformatics. Having accepted both eastern and western view on consciousness it becomes imperative to describe the inter-phase, which is juxtaposed between systems-bound and systems-independent consciousness. This is second objective of this conceptual theoretical paper. In this paper we are on the way to construct a model, which would accomplish both the stated objectives.

Consciousness bound to the Systems

Even the behavioral response of any unicellular systems reflects closely the response of consciousness. Cell’s response is ideology-neutral, solution-centric and holistic. It has intelligence, it works on options and involving all sub cellular parts in the decision-making process in a holistic manner chooses the best. The aim of response is to find out a solution for the problem it is in. The behavior from a brain-confined consciousness is more complex. In the context of the human being, consciousness has been “concentrated” within and around the organ brain. The brain is not merely a form of matter! It is a live-matter! The brain consists of hundred billion neurons and almost similar number of glial cells. Neurons and glial cells individually are conscious live systems and therefore, constitute the subsystems of the brain. The brain is more like a bucket of bugs (BOB) than a signal circuitry of a computer.


According to the most revered eastern spiritual text (Upanishad), however, the primal essence (read consciousness), which drives 1011 neurons and almost similar number of glial cells within the brain, is also the driver of 1011 stars in a galaxy and 1011 galaxies of the universe. Consciousness within the systems operates from three positions; as systems-bound ground consciousness, as ‘self’, the chief executive officer (CEO) for the systems, and as consciousness distributed over its sub-systems as informational molecules at the level of the classical physics, or as “be-able” sub-atomic quantum particles at the level of the quantum physics. Quantum potential, said to be an information reservoir [1], which is everywhere, undiminished with distance and guides particles what trajectory to follow might also be representative of distributed consciousness at microscopic physical level both within and outside the confined systems. Consciousness as ground should not be considered merely a metaphor since such a start will make the science of/ for consciousness a pseudoscience. Consciousness acts as the ground without any background. It is not an inert ground but a participating ground. On its foreground there are operators and operations. Some are non-observable; others are observable at the macroscopic physical sensory plane.

Different descriptions of systems-bound consciousness of the brain

In the context of systems-bound consciousness of the brain we describe it as contents of consciousness, states of consciousness, levels of consciousness, developmental lines of consciousness and planes of consciousness [2]. Examples of contents of consciousness are memory, thoughts etc., which bring granularity in consciousness. There are three basic states of consciousness such as wakefulness, dream sleep and dreamless sleep, which every animal go through. There are various pathological states of the consciousness such as coma, vegetative state, minimally conscious state etc. There are psychedelically altered states of consciousness induced by LSD and marijuana etc. The levels of being-consciousness could be described as brainstem being, limbic being and cortical being etc. Three developmental lines of consciousness follow cognitive, psychomotor and affective aspects of consciousness. Besides, there are various planes of consciousness; subconscious, conscious and super-conscious, which could be ‘higher’ or spiritual.


Inside the brain there is specific segregation of neurons as various nuclei are disposed vertically and horizontally. P. D. MacLean [3] described the triune character of the brain where consciousness has behaviorally surfaced in the reptilian brain as brain stem consciousness, in paleo-mammalian brain as limbic system consciousness and in neo-mammalian brain as cortical consciousness. We can ask what is next in evolution after cortical consciousness?

The Inter-phasing systems

Consciousness within the systems like unicellular organism or within a brain is separated from and connected with systems-independent consciousness by an interface, which is layered. The two communicate through a complex inter-phasing system, which is sandwiched in between. The phase-transition from systems-independent consciousness to systems-confined consciousness and vice-versa occur through this inter-phasing system.


The interface between brain-bound consciousness and the systems-independent consciousness has been named “supracortical consciousness [4]. This was done on the basis of three enduring queries by the author. When almost all of the dendrites of cerebral cortex gather information from infracortical location of neuraxis why the apical dendrites of the pyramidal neurons in the cerebral cortex are seen to go upwards? The dendrites look up to receive what? What are the functions of numerous non-synaptic spines on such apical dendrites? What is the function of dentritic matting at the top of the cerebral cortex? Does it serve as antennae for the brain to receive information/signal from the supracortical domain? The question how the brain-confined consciousness and the brain-independent consciousness execute their phase transition in either way leads us for investigating this inter-phasing system, which works beyond the measurable realm of physical science.

On construction of this Inter-phase

There are efforts in science to construct this inter-phase but it is being done excluding mind and life. Most of the recently developed theories on consciousness take direct vertical leap from matter to information and next from information to consciousness. as if nothing exists in between information and consciousness Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory (IIT) [5], Tegmark’s perceptronium, where consciousness is a state of matter and Chalmer’s non-reductive information in hard problem [6] do not consider any operation of mind, or ‘life’ in the intervening terrain, although Tegmark invokes ‘self’-like properties in his conceptual leap from computronium to Perceptronium. Perceptronium has distinct information processing abilities. Penrose and Hameroff’s Orchestrated Reduction (OR) reduces consciousness directly into space and time, into space-time geometry, into frequency of vibration of microtubular proteins [7]. Space per unit Time, i.e., frequency or vibration is observable in the sensory domain. The theory thus misses the terrain between sensation and consciousness. Thus, the effort of inter-phasing in all such theories remains incomplete, often lop-sided and without any path-breaking prediction!

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