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  • Writer's pictureUday Wagh

Does the self come from memory or consciousness?

I have been dabbling with the idea of consciousness and what defines it, primarily from a personal objective to understand death and if there is anything post death. Which I think is one of the great unsolved mysteries of mankind.

We are sentient beings, have a unique self which we are conscious about. We react to stimuli using our primary senses. I spent months trying to find meaning when one question triggered a chain of thought that let me to come to a hypothesis which I believe (hate that word) can grow to being a fact. The statement was "You will go the same place you remember coming from", this is of course an answer to the question "what is there after death?"

So this triggers a thought, what was there before I was born. I don't remember it! I don't remember anything when I was a baby. And that's the point! A baby is conscious, it is a young human body which is not fully developed yet, but is conscious. Killing a baby is a crime. The baby however, is just taking in stimulus, trying to learn its way into the world. As the baby grows, it learns language, communication, what to eat and what not to eat and so on. The 'Me' comes a lot later which is formed due to a lot of complex factors including environment, religion, parents, country of birth, etc. All these factors contribute to how you as a person turn out to be. How you define 'YOU'.

So we have a state of no memory with consciousness, and we have a state of memory with consciousness. Adult healthy humans belong to the latter category. The question now is, when I ask myself, the baby was not 'Uday' or anything that I define Uday with. All the definition of Uday comes from memory and learning which was being fed in the brain for the last 28 years (as of writing this article).

Holding that thought there, imagine Uday faces an accident and loses his memory. Even though the body will be the same, do you think my experience of 'self' will be the same without the memory? We can't think of how that feels because we have this memory etched. Is Uday still Uday?

Now let's strip off all memory of a person, technically they should go back to being a child, trying to eat mud and figure out what the world is. That person can grow up to be a completely different human being! In fact given the right circumstances we can possibly make that person an exact opposite of the person they were before!

So then who is this self? This awareness? Is it really consciousness or is it an effect of memory? Will I feel the same sense of self if my memory was taken away. Does a baby feel sense of self? I don't remember feeling anything or remembering anything as a baby.

This is super important because if it is so, then memory can be stored somewhere else. And can be transferred to a conscious being to revive a person, say 'Uday'. Even though the body is different and there is consciousness, in this thought experiment, the new person should wake up as 'Uday' although in a different body. Like what we see in the movies when a 'soul' get's exchanged.

Hinduism and many religions define soul as an entity without identity, which I think is a good way to describe consciousness, as when we are born we are born without any personality and external factors mould us into whatever we are today.

These are some thoughts I had on the subject and thought to put them down, not structured, not based on any research, just pure thought experiments and logical reasoning. On a closing note, let me ask you a question, Who are you?

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