The process of development of life on Earth
One of the most interesting and fascinating aspects of this world is the development of organic life. The study of this process, which falls within the scope of what are generically called natural sciences, presents two aspects: on the one hand we can directly observe all organisms living today, their manifestations and their interactions, and we can carry out experiments on them; on the other hand we can only make deductions – as far as possible reasonable and verifiable – on events that happened in the past (which obviously are no longer directly observable) based on our current knowledge and on the traces, which have come down to our days, which document what happened in the past and allow us to reconstruct the history of life on Earth. In any case, it is an imaginative reconstruction made possible by our mental faculties on the basis of a process of study and reconstruction of fossil findings and geological dynamics, integrated by the direct knowledge of the organic world as it is currently observable. It must therefore be recognized that this imaginative reconstruction, however accurate and reasonable, is reliable only to a certain extent, given that it is based on partial data, subject to various interpretative hypotheses: if for some periods we can be quite certain of the validity of our reconstructions, for other periods the documentation we have got is very lacking, and future discoveries could modify some of the current interpretations.
That said, the evolution process of living organisms over the geological eras to which I will refer is the one currently most accredited by the scientific community: based on this reconstruction, up to about 1.8 billion years ago, living organisms were single prokaryotes cells, mainly spread in the aquatic environment, but partly also on emerged lands. Starting about 3 billion years ago, the ability of chlorophyll photosynthesis made its appearance in a group of bacteria, the cyanobacteria, and thus began the process of releasing molecular oxygen into the water, and subsequently into the atmosphere, as an output product of photosynthesis which uses carbon dioxide and water as input substances. Subsequently, unicellular eukaryotic organisms – in which the genetic material is contained within a nucleus – much larger and more complex than prokaryotes, also appeared and spread. Eukaryotes are believed to have originated from symbiotic aggregations of different prokaryotes, which would explain their size and complexity, always within a cellular structure with a single genetic kit. The first traces of multicellular organisms date back to about one billion years ago. A particularly interesting aspect of organic life, already present in the first organisms, is represented by autotrophy and heterotrophy: are called autotrophic those organisms that are able to synthesize their own organic molecules starting from inorganic substances present in the environment and from external energy sources, such as the sun or chemical energy, released by inorganic processes, while those organisms which – not being autotrophic – must necessarily feed on organic compounds produced by other organisms, either autotrophic or heterotrophic, are said to be heterotrophic. For example, and broadly speaking, plants are autotrophic and animals are heterotrophic.
Since the purpose of this post is to understand how consciousness is associated with life, we first observe that it is not difficult to imagine a world of living organisms without consciousness, if we think that consciousness still depends on the presence of a sufficiently developed nervous system. As I have pointed out other times, the function of consciousness requires the presence of a conscious subject, which in the case of humans has been identified as the Ego associated with each individual organism. But for over a billion years the phenomenon of life on our planet has been played by an extraordinary amount of single-celled organisms that we imagine as devoid of consciousness. On the other hand, we could certainly conceive a world in which the evolution of life is limited only to plant kingdom, with plants of all kinds – similar or different from those currently living on Earth – but without animals: although every tree and every other plant are individual organisms, we do not attribute a consciousness to them precisely because they are lacking a nervous system similar to that of higher animals, to which instead some form of consciousness is always attributed. If we humans have any qualms about killing an animal to feed on its flesh, it is because we attribute to it a consciousness more or less similar to ours, but usually we don't believe that uprooting a plant to eat it is an act that causes a suffering in a conscious subject. This is because plants lack a nervous system, so in order to recognize some form of consciousness in them it should first be assumed that consciousness does not necessarily have to be associated with the presence of a nervous system with a brain like the one that evolved in animals.
Obviously, we must once again recognize how our ability to understand such a complex phenomenon as life is limited by our mental faculties, which are essentially based on the sensory and intellectual resources available to humans, and on the tools we have devised and built to acquire data and information about the world we live in: in other words, we know what we are given to know in that particular time of human evolution in which we have the fate to live. We can also intuit and imagine something more and else than what we know, but intuition and imagination alone – when they are not at odds with what is reasonably true – do not automatically translate into knowledge, since they do not offer the human being an effective ability to control what happens in this world. Therefore, in reconstructing the evolution of life on Earth, we can only verify that things went a certain way, even if they could have taken a different path: many species had periods of intense development and then became extinct, others have stabilized a long time ago and managed to reproduce up to the present day, despite environmental catastrophes that from time to time drastically modified Earth's environment. The evolution of this ensemble picture – which can be seen as a movie made up of many frames that follow one another over time – shows, from its very beginning, the formation of many internal environments enclosed within a barrier of protection and separation, but also of interchange, with respect to the external environment. The main feature of these protected systems is that inside them there is a higher level of information than that of the external environment: if we were to express ourselves with the current terms elaborated by informatics, we could say that each of these protected systems – at the beginning microscopic in size – behaves like a computer that can perform certain tasks based on the programmatic instructions it contains.
The phenomenon of life therefore has two aspects: on the one hand it manifests through the fragmentation into a large number of individual systems, each with its own programmatic instructions, and on the other it determines – precisely through the programs with which each individual organism is endowed – the interactions of the organisms with the environment and with each other. I have already dealt with some aspects of these interactions in the page on the Universe and Nature, to which I refer (in particular to the paragraph Nature in our world). Each of the protected computerized systems, which we still consider in the phase of unicellular organisms, needs – in order to function correctly – suitable environmental conditions and energy, which some organisms (autotrophic) take directly from primary sources such as the sun or the Earth (thermochemical sources), while others (heterotrophic) get from the assimilation and chemical decomposition within them of organic material produced by other organisms. Each of these operation modes requires that adequate programs be active within the organism: in the absence of nutrition for a more or less long period, some organisms permanently stop functioning (and therefore living), while others (bacteria which turn into spores) can modify their structure by entering a state of quiescence that can last for several years, waiting to resume functioning under suitable conditions. To the cognitive abilities available to our mind, the interpretation of this overall picture of the functioning of single-celled organisms – which for over two billion years represented every aspect of life on our planet – constitutes an enormous challenge, also because in such a long time many events may have occurred of which no traces remain.
The development of an operational control center
We have no certain knowledge about the stage in which the first forms of consciousness developed in multicellular organisms. We cannot obtain direct information from currently living animals, which are unable to communicate verbally with us humans: we can only observe and interpret their behaviors and their expressive manifestations, comparing them with those of us humans, and in the light of our inner experiences deduce that, at least in some animals, a form of consciousness is certainly present. Comparative anatomy leads us to associate consciousness with the development of the nervous system, and in particular of certain areas of the brain, and consequently we are inclined to believe almost surely that a dolphin, a chimpanzee or a dog could have a form of consciousness, even if not identical to the human one. On the other hand, even in humans consciousness develops at different levels, being linked to the processing capacity of the intellectual and creative faculties of the mind. In many respects, consciousness remains a mysterious phenomenon: what we can say is that it is not necessarily associated with the evolution of multicellular organisms, given that – as we have noticed – we do not attribute it to evolved organisms such as trees, which also have originated from the same eukaryotic protocells from which animals evolved. One might think that – since plants are anchored to the ground – mobility was the decisive factor that led to the development of an information and control center in sufficiently evolved animals.
In the absence of certain and reliable knowledge from a scientific point of view, the hypotheses that can be advanced seem to satisfy mostly the needs of a psychic nature that emerge in our consciousness: therefore it seems to me important to highlight the critical points of the hypotheses proposed to explain the appearance of consciousness on the basis of our knowledge relating to the evolution of life. As always, when it comes to seeking explanations we must start with facts, which in the case of consciousness are represented by our inner experiences, and by the way in which we deduce that other humans have experiences more or less similar to ours, and that less evolved forms of consciousness are also present in other animal species. That consciousness is not necessarily associated with the presence of an operational control center such as the brain is confirmed by the fact that the functioning of our brain is largely unconscious. That complex multicellular organisms can live and thrive even without a brain is demonstrated by the evolution of plants. That consciousness is not necessary to carry out complex activities that require movement, interpretation of environmental signals and choices made – with more or less success – to obtain certain results, we can guess by observing insects such as ants or arachnids such as spiders, relatively small organisms equipped with a nervous system that does not have sufficient elements to suggest a conscious processing of stimuli and environmental signals, unless one wants to separate consciousness from the presence and functioning of a sufficiently evolved brain: in this case even plants could be endowed with some form of consciousness.
An operational control center aimed at evaluating the signals coming from the environment and the choice of certain behaviors, with the goal of the development and survival of an organism, or the reproduction and defense of the species, may very well exist – as in fact exists – in a living organism, without a form of consciousness having to be present, and above all without having to develop a subject endowed with self-awareness like that present in humans. The enormous variety of life forms present on our planet, and their behaviors, show how the complexity of information processing in living organisms does not necessarily require the presence of a conscious subject within each of them. Furthermore, the diversity of conscious experiences determined by individual destinies – as they are experienced by the Ego of every single human being – does not show a coherence of objectives and behavioral choices, neither with regard to the survival or well-being of the individual organism, nor to the success of the group of which the individual belongs. These dynamics are certainly present in many humans, but they may also be lacking of effectiveness, and one often gets the impression that conscious activity overlaps, sometimes in a conflicting way, with that of operational control centers which have much more concrete biological purposes. It can be concluded that the primary purpose of consciousness is to make a conscious subject experience some psychic dynamics, which in the case of us humans are those of the human psyche.
In order for consciousness to function, the presence of a conscious subject is needed: that is, a subject able to experience and elaborate sensory information, emotional reactions, behavioral intentions, mood variations, and any other kind of experience that the mental activity determined by the functioning of the nervous system leads to consciousness. The conscious subject, as we experience and know it in this world, is linked to the individuality of the single organism: from the point of view of the conscious Ego of us humans, this is therefore an extremely fragmented, and difficult to interpret, experience, because – due to its fragmentation – it is determined by the biological fate of the organism, which can be very different from one individual to another. What we can guess, based on our knowledge, is that at a certain point in life evolution, rudimentary forms of consciousness appeared in some animal species: we do not know why this happened, but it actually did. From that period on, the picture of the evolution of life, which up to that moment had its own elegant and aseptic computerized functional complexity – so to speak – acquired a new protagonist, because the conscious subject began to directly experience the effects determined by the fragmentation of the system into a plurality of individual organisms. This rudimentary primitive conscious subject probably limited itself to recording some inner events and making some decisions, but – at the same time – it began to experience the singularity of its own destiny: it was not life as a whole that became conscious in a single organism, but only those partial aspects of life in which the conscious subject was involved, without being aware – due to the still rudimentary state of its consciousness – of the existence of conscious subjects in other organisms too.
Over time, the conscious subject also underwent a process of evolution, transforming itself from a control center of some biological functions into a sensor and evaluator of a series of experiences that constituted the mental, or psychic, counterpart of the events in which that organism was involved. Since consciousness, as we humans know it, is a phenomenon intrinsically linked to the human condition and to our ability, not only to perceive and feel, but also to communicate, express and even think through a language, I am unable to correctly evaluate the level of consciousness present in other animal organisms. By observing the behavior and expression of animals belonging to different species, we can intuit and imagine the presence of more or less evolved forms of consciousness, which however are not able to be translated into a shared language. On the other hand, even observing the behavior and expressions of children in the second year of life, we can have the impression that forms of consciousness are present in them, while we know that those manifestations are completely unconscious, since the first glimmers of consciousness usually show themselves in the third year of age. The presence of a sufficiently developed conscious subject, associated with a living organism, means that the events in its life, determined by fate and the resources available to that organism in dealing with environmental conditions, are transformed into experiences – evaluated as positive or negative – endured, processed, enjoyed or suffered and, in a word, lived, by that conscious subject. The natural picture of life which, as we have already observed, could very well exist in the absence of consciousness – as in fact it did for three billion years – is enriched with a new element, whose origin remains a mystery, which rapidly evolved within a particular species, and brought about enormous changes in a negligible period of time when compared with the length of geological eras.
The different levels of conscious experience
Since we can only hypothesize, but not know with certainty, the levels of consciousness present in the animal kingdom, let's consider some of the conscious experiences in which the Ego of us humans can be involved in the course of life, to better understand what the function of consciousness consists of, and how it can evolve. We will also realize how certain levels of consciousness can be attributed to other animals as well, while other levels only manifest themselves in humans. Furthermore, consciousness development is not the same for all humans, each of whom can reach, in the course of their life, a certain level, without being able to proceed further. It is important to keep in mind that, in this interpretative framework, the function of consciousness is to put the conscious Ego in contact with certain psychic elements, so that it may experience them: in the early stages of this process, the conscious Ego is the sensitive element which experiences, without being able to evaluate, and consequently to foresee, even if it can at least partially direct its own behavior on the basis of rudimentary forms of instinctive desire. The Ego of the small (but already conscious) child experiences, even intensely, emotional forms that involve it, pleasant and attractive or unpleasant and to be avoided: in this the psyche's primordial polarity, of which the child is obviously not conscious, is already present. Each child then, interacting with that particular environment that fate has reserved for them – which also includes the adults who are raising them – experiences the reactions of the environment to the behavior of her/his organism: to be more exact, the child's Ego experiences its own psychic reactions to the environmental events that involve it, including those triggered by certain behaviors.
Already in this first phase we observe the complexity of the elements involved, which cannot be naively reduced to simple biological needs: consciousness does not have the function of protecting the child's organism to help it survive, nay, the behaviors resulting from decisions made by children on the basis of conscious stimuli – which drive them to explore the environment and perform certain actions – can also endanger their life, as it is well known to those who have to take care of children, protecting them and transmitting information and conditioning programs that inhibit behaviors potentially harmful to themselves or others. For the protection of the child's organism in case of danger, instinctive and unconscious reactions are often more effective than conscious functioning. Consciousness has the function of making the child experience the psychic dynamics determined by sensory perception and interaction with the environment and with other people, especially those with whom she/he has an intense and continuous relationship over time. The psychic dynamics to which people with whom the child interacts are subject – especially those adult figures of reference such as parents – also influence by induction the psychic dynamics experienced by the child, who obviously identifies himself completely with them, especially if her/his consciousness is sensitive in receiving these impressions. The child's consciousness may also have to experience the psychic effects both of an unfavorable and even hostile environment, which puts at risk the survival and growth of his organism, and of the interactions with more or less threatening, abusive and violent adults. This last condition is the most unfavorable for the development of the conscious Ego: in fact, if the child's Ego can feel protected against environmental difficulties and the consequent psychic reactions by adult figures of reference – if these are benevolent towards it – it can find itself completely defenseless in the face of hostile and aggressive figures.
To these conditions, which occur in all their variants even in today's world, we can certainly add the physical and cerebral resources available to the organism with which the conscious Ego is associated as it grows up, and probably some other non-physical factors – which we can intuit or imagine without being able to know it adequately and reliably – which contribute to the formation of what we call character or personality, and to its evolution over time. As we can see, the picture that determines the destiny of a human being is complex, and in the first part of life the conscious Ego is usually completely ensnared by the psychic dynamics produced by the various elements that contribute to forming the singularity of its individual experience, to the point of making its very existence coincide with the psychic attunements with which it identifies. The programs with which the human psyche promotes itself and its work, manifesting itself in its positive polarity as protection, help and support of the conscious Ego against the dangers and cruelty of a Nature completely insensitive to individual destiny, are illusory expedients with which the psyche tries to mask its intrinsic bipolarity. If the human psyche were actually different from Nature, it would lead humans to collaborate in concord and harmony to overcome the difficulties and discomforts that the conscious Ego has to endure due to the functioning of its organism, and which anyway manifest themselves in the form of mental experiences. But human history continually shows us that all sorts of suffering, oppression, violence and torture have been (and still are in our day) inflicted by humans on other humans, at the instigation of the bipolar dynamics with which human psyche manages to enslave the conscious Ego.
As the conscious Ego proceeds along the path of life that destiny has reserved for it, it acquires an endowment of cultural programs, information, knowledge, and above all psychic experiences, which profoundly shape its very essence: it is very important to avoid to generalize and standardize the way in which the conscious Ego experiences its own life, especially in this age in which models of behavior, interaction and reaction are continuously elaborated and proposed by the media propaganda. The psychic experiences that life reserves for the conscious Ego can be very different from one person to another, and each of us should never forget that what our consciousness directly experiences, however important it may be for us, represents nothing but a very restricted range of the attunements that human psyche can transmit. This phase of acquiring experiences, which lasts for a few decades – unless life ends prematurely – is important, even if not decisive, for the conscious Ego's evolution: in fact, even if usually the Ego continues to fully identify itself with the psychic dynamics that involve it, the process that leads it to be the sensitive subject of the conscious experience – more or less gifted with resources such as intelligence and will – can induce it to evaluate the different aspects of life and to ask itself questions, to which it tries to find answers, regarding the value and meaning of the same. This process is stimulated in particular by the negative and painful aspects of the psyche, which the Ego can directly experience, when certain events affect its organism, or indirectly, when it empathically identifies with the sufferings that affect the conscious Ego of other people known to it, or with those caused by the many misfortunes that have marked the past of humanity, and still affect wide sections of the human population today.
In complex societies such as the one we live in, every human being – by the mere fact of coming into this world – is sifted through a collective process, the goals of which we are not given to know, in the same way that Nature determines the destiny of every individual organism that fall under its dominion, decreeing in any case the dissolution of each of them at the end of their life. But if the picture offered by Nature can be interpreted as a whole, and in the absence of any individual consciousness, as a fascinating computing and creative system, in the case of humans the presence of a conscious Ego, capable of sustaining a development and evolution process associated with the life of its organism, introduces a completely new element into that natural framework. In a first phase, the conscious Ego trusts the interpretative programs elaborated and transmitted by the human psyche, without even questioning their origin, given its complete identification with its psychic experiences. For a person who is raised in a society like ours, the psyche presents two aspects: on the one hand it manifests itself in the form of culturally transmitted programs, which concern one or another aspect of life and its purposes, on the other it manifests itself as an internal elaboration, reasoned, intuited and in any case perceived, the effects of which involve the conscious Ego more or less intensely. As long as the Ego identifies itself with one or the other aspect of this process – which almost always lasts for the entire duration of life – it cannot help but give its own temporary contribution to the evolution of the psychic process, deferring to the purposes of the same, which remain occult for it. It is only when the conscious Ego questions itself about its own essence, asking «Who, or what, really am I?», that it begins to differentiate itself from the psychic dynamics that involve it.
The importance and value of this question lie not in the possibility to find an answer, which in linguistic terms – with all the limitations that these show – could be simply expressed by the two words «I exist», but in the recognition of the affinity of the conscious Ego with an entity that is beyond the domain of the human psyche, an entity to which we humans can give – for communicative convenience – the name of Spirit, always remembering all the limits of our language. The fact of feeling the spirit's call is not in itself sufficient to free the conscious Ego from its human condition: as long as it lives this life, the Ego continues to experience different aspects of the psyche, but with an increasingly attenuated degree of involvement, and, above all, without identifying with them. In this new mental dimension of serene detachment, the conscious Ego, while recognizing the power of the human psyche – in front of which, of course, it finds itself in the ridiculous condition of a small thinking and feeling organism, temporarily inserted in the context of a process whose importance and whose aims go far beyond its ability to understand – it anyhow develops the awareness of its own autonomy towards that same process from which it originated, and the particular destiny that its organism has to meet. However, this deeper form of freeing self-consciousness cannot be translated into a judgment on the human psyche, since this judgment would still be expressed in psychic terms: the human psyche, in its essence, remains unfathomable to the Ego, as well as Nature, to which the psyche itself is more intimately linked than is usually believed, for the sole fact that human existence is also based on the organic life of our body. The bipolar character of psychic energy can in any case be recognized by the conscious Ego in its experimental evidence, since the very way in which the Ego directly experiences the different aspects of the psyche depends on it.
The psyche's bipolar character
It can be said, in a simplified but effective way, that the human psyche manifests itself through the experiences that each conscious Ego makes of it, and that this experiences are mainly characterized by the tension between a negative and a positive pole, due to which the human behavior is oriented and determined. The quantity of human organisms living at the same time, the different resources available to each organism, and the complexity of human interactions, make this picture very diversified and dynamic, but in principle the energy that makes it work originates from the tension between a pole of suffering and pain to be avoided and a pole of pleasure and happiness to be pursued. It can be observed that this polarity is already present in the animal world, even if we can only guess how it is consciously experienced. However, we can note that in the natural system what is experienced as positive by one organism sometimes involves a negative experience for another: trivial examples are offered by the predator and its prey, or by competitions between males to mate with females. Natural bipolar tension therefore does not produce homogeneous collective experiences, but individual experiences that can be in conflict with each other. Obviously, dynamics of this kind continuously recur – in different and more or less elaborate forms – also in the interactions between humans, both at an individual level and at the level of social groups and nations.
Mankind's history is full of wars and conflicts, and competition – both in the economical and political field – is still today considered as the engine of human progress. The fact that the psyche's positive polarity – what we can consider oriented, so to speak, towards good and goodness – tries to interpret the history of mankind as a process of transition from a past (or a present) marked by a prevalence of evil to a more or less bright future, in which good will finally triumph once and forever, does not eliminate the psyche's bipolar character, but rather emphasizes it, because good does not show itself as the natural and normal condition of humanity, but as the antagonist of evil: similarly, the existence of evil does not imply the non-existence of good. The psyche's bipolarity is affirmed with particular clarity in the expression «fighting the evil», through which good, in confronting evil, declares that it has to resort to the same methods used by evil in order not to succumb to it: were it not so, good could easily shirk evil by a virtue of its own. Another feature of the human psyche's positive pole is that of denouncing the cruelty, insensitivity and unconsciousness of Nature as the origin and cause of evil, precisely because in nature there is the rule that what is positive for an organism can be negative for another: in the natural system, however, sensitivity and consciousness are not as developed as in the human world, where evil can very efficiently exploit humans' intelligence and will to trigger conflicts and determine forms of domination, violence and extermination, in the face of which even Nature's cruelty can appear as naive and amateurish.
What can be hoped for and reasonably expected from the future evolution of human societies – and of mankind as a whole – is a reduction in the tension between the two poles of the psyche. The problems of life will continue to be present, in one form or another, for ever more numerous human masses, and consequently it may happen that the very solution of a problem gives rise to a new problem, even more difficult to face: we can already now observe how the increase in world population, also due to medical progress and diffusion, entails food and organizational needs on a large scale, which begin to threaten the biological and environmental balance of our planet, even without taking into account the natural disasters that occasionally may occur. In any case, it seems that a process of greater openness and collaboration between human nations is underway in our age with respect to the past – also made possible by the means of instant communication and information at our disposal – even if from time to time the impulse to take advantage of the weaknesses or problems of others, through forms of aggression and domination, regains strength. Furthermore, a part of the psychic tension that in the past was directed against an enemy external to a certain social group, can now manifest itself with an increase in internal conflict between the members or groups of the same society. Therefore, a certain degree of tension reduction between the two poles of the human psyche can be considered as a reasonable and not unfounded hope for the future of mankind, while the annulment of its bipolarity would require a radical change in the very nature of the psyche, which we consider completely utopian.
In experiencing the psyche's bipolarity and the resulting tension, the conscious Ego is in any case obliged – by the very fact of living – to make choices, which the evolution of its own consciousness is inclined to direct towards the positive pole, the one that is commonly considered as the Good, thus predisposing many people to virtuous behavior. This ethical trend, which was already well understood 25 centuries ago, has not, however, been able to eliminate evil from human life, since the negative pole also exercises its power of attraction on a lot of people, as recent history and many current facts show. In every age, many thinkers have committed in understanding the origin and purpose of the psyche's bipolarity, devising all kinds of answers (suggested by the psyche itself): there are those who think that human life consists of a sort of process of washing dirty clothes that become gradually cleaner, those who believe it serves to atone for an unspecified fault or disobedience committed (no one knows by whom) against a higher power, and those who consider the current life of a human organism as part of a cycle of lives by which an entity of a spiritual nature changes from an undifferentiated and confused condition to a state of bright consciousness and higher evolution. As we can see, our intellectual resources do not give us any certain and reliable knowledge on what will happen once our own life will be ended (or even on what may have happened before it began), however the same psychic dynamics through which life is experienced by every human, push us to question about its meaning and to orient ourselves between the psyche's poles.
At the same time, as the organism's life goes on and its natural end becomes less remote, the conscious Ego begins to wonder what will be of its existence once this human experience has ended: usually the answers to this question come from the psyche itself, and they are the more convincing for the Ego the more it identifies with its own psychic tunings. This is, however, an instance that concerns life itself, and that can be removed by continuing to live as if this life would never end, and in any case by delaying death as long as possible: our culture tends to promote and spread this attitude, a program which should at least lead us to doubt its actual value and foundation. The fact remains that this tendency to prolong life – more pronounced in the elderly than in the young, given that the latter are more prone to risk and challenge – can't avoid neither the natural decline of the organism's faculties, nor the suffering to which humans are often subject in the period preceding death, so much so that some of them come to prefer death than to go on living in the conditions in which they find themselves, and to ask that they be allowed to serenely die. Current medical advances have contributed to prolonging the duration of life, but are not able to ensure a satisfactory quality of the same after 85÷90 years. Therefore, for those who do not intend to remove the question of the fate of the conscious Ego after death – thus refusing to adapt to the dominant cultural instances in our present society – an adequate preparation for death also requires some prediction regarding the possible transition from the unidirectional time that characterizes human life to a different dimension, in which time may not have the same requirements we have become accustomed to. We will see in the next post what the different orientations of the conscious Ego can be, but now I would like to conclude this page with a consideration on the meaning and limit of a temporary existence.
An existence limited in time – such as that experienced by the conscious Ego in the course of human life, with all the transformations that it implies – would be a bizarre nonsense, again from the point of view of the conscious Ego, if death marked the Ego's annulment, as if it never existed. As we have seen, the more or less significant imprint left by a person in the history of mankind (a history that certainly continues after the death of each of us) and the memories that remain of that person in those who still live – which, in the case of personalities of particular importance, are transmitted from generation to generation – are very interesting facts, but from the point of view of the conscious Ego, the definitive annihilation following death would be equivalent to non-existence. Obviously, since there is no longer a conscious Ego, there would not even be any self-perception of this state of non-existence, and so the problem does not arise, but the same can also be said for those who have never existed: therefore the annihilation of the conscious Ego at the end of this life is in all respects equivalent to its non-existence, and the acquiescent acceptance of this condition by many humans is a further proof of the ease with which people adapt and submit to the role of human automata imposed by the psyche in our days. Much more understandable, reasonable and mature is the position of the conscious Ego that recognizes that it does not know what kind of experiences it will face once it crosses the threshold of death, as well as, in the period in which its consciousness was awakened in the first perceptions of this life, it knew nothing of this world and of the experiences that destiny would reserve for it: in this consists in fact the very mystery of conscious existence, a continuous perception of the tunings of an infinite Mind that becomes conscious when it is experienced by some form of consciousness.