The concept of consciousness is a somewhat abstract and difficult to wrap our minds around, however, a new theory introduces a very interesting explanation based on the concept of multiple personality disorder. Is the secret to consciousness wrapped up in the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?
Multiple Personality Disorder, or Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) as it is called today, is a psychological condition in which a person’s identity is actually ‘split’ into multiple different personality states, each distinct and unique. This includes differences in everything from vocal patterns and body language to the way that each personality state responds to outside emotional stimuli. The most common example in our society is that of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, where one personality was the kind and caring doctor, while the other was violent and aggressive. While this was certainly an extreme example, and most people with this disorder are not violent in their daily lives, it clearly paints the picture of just how different these personality states can be in a single individual.
Philosopher Bernardo Kastrup took this same concept in a paper recently published in the ‘Journal of Consciousness Studies’, however rather than just applying DID to a single individual, he applied this concept as an explanation for the concept of cosmic consciousness and how we all fit into the universe. He suggested that rather than each of us being our own separate consciousness without a tie to one another, that all living organisms are actually part of a single cosmic consciousness. Much like those who live with DID, this consciousness is separated into different personalities, which are the individual personality traits that we each possess.
The paper refers to a specific study focusing on a group of patients that were living with DID. Researchers analyzed their brain activity, specifically paying attention to the way that it would change when the personality state they were expressing would shift. They found that these separate personality traits had such a profound impact on the human mind that when they were experiencing a personality state in which they identified as a blind person, their brain would stop responding as though they had the ability of sight. Kastrup noted that “dissociation has an identifiable extrinsic appearance. In other words, there is something rather particular that dissociative processes look like.”
Kastrup’s theory is a new spin on a previously explored theory called ‘cosmopsychism’, which explains that there is a single unit of consciousness that spans the entire cosmic universe. Understanding the consciousness that exists within our own brains, early scientists believed they could extend this knowledge outside of our minds to other organisms that surrounded us. Cosmopsychism states that the Universe itself is conscious, and from this initial consciousness, humans, animals and other organisms then experience the consciousness of the Universe itself as opposed to their own individual consciousness.
However, Kastrup’s theory takes this a step further, stating that while we are all experiencing a piece of this initial consciousness, there is a dissociation that occurs which explains our unique personality traits and mannerisms. Think of the universe as a single person living with DID, and we are all different personalities that they experience. While all the personalities exist together within the same body, they are incredibly distinct from one another.
Could it be true that we really are part of something greater than ourselves?