A new Approach to the Consciousness-Mind-Body Problem

Modern theories of consciousness, or the ‘Mind-Body Problem’ are rather depressing, as I’ve written about this here.

This is a new and totally original theory on consciousness which, when understood, could completely change our research into this area of philosophy.

Anyone who thinks beyond what we may call the superficial level has probably at one time or another been intrigued by the notion of ‘I’. Why is it that I can have thoughts and experiences that only I know? Where did this ‘I’ come from? Where will it go, if anywhere, after death?

The philosophical underpinnings behind these ideas is the philosophy of mind. The background to the various theories of philosophy of mind are too involved to be discussed here in detail but I assume that the reader is familiar with at least some of these ideas in modern philosophy regarding theories of consciousness.

This article supports the idea of dualism. That is, that the mind and body are governed by different laws. The body by laws that can be examined scientifically, and the mind by laws which cannot.

Most modern philosophers are of the view that the mind is not separate from the body and that our intuitive feeling that the mind is something apart from the brain is misleading. Some of these explanations dismiss the subjective quality of consciousness altogether whist others seem to describe the mind only in terms of thought processes, as if thoughts are the noises made when the cogs of the brain go round. This view is based on a false premise. The premise is that the mind can be studied in an objective, scientific way. In fact, this is a circular argument. If we assume that the mind can be studied scientifically then it logically follows that it must follow the rules that we use when we make scientific experiments. And these rules include that what we study is objective and exists in the physical (three or four dimensional) realm, or at least can be explained in the physical realm.

An introduction to dimensions

There are the three spatial dimensions: length, width and height and the time dimension. We can begin from a theoretical point which is has no dimensions but is the building block of dimensions. The point is one Planck length long.

[Figure 1 (a)]

A theoretical one-dimensional line is made up of a series of points, and when lines are laid together in the second dimension they form a two-dimensional plane. Similarly, a series of planes stacked together form a three-dimensional object in the same ways as a stack of papers forms a solid block. It is also apparent that one coordinate suffices to define any point on a line, two coordinate any point on flat plane and three coordinate any point within a three dimensional object.

[Figure 1 (b)]

[Figure 1 (c)]

We can also see that in the same way as we stack two dimensional surfaces together to form a block, we can ‘stack’ three dimensional objects together in time. In fact, this is a representation of what is called the ‘time-space continuum’. This is the concept the universe as existing in four dimensions and being curved in on itself. The universe is made up of three dimensional snapshots, each one Planck time long.

Obviously to define any point in time and space we need four coordinates: the three spacial coordinates and the time coordinate. For instance, we may arrange to meet someone in a room on the 12th floor of such-and-such a building on the corner of X and Y streets, but we also need to give a time.

In our four dimensional space-time continuum, human beings are only aware of half the time dimension, that is we can see back in time but not forward. It is my view that this is not because of the way the universe is constructed, but is simply a limitation of the human condition. One could conceive of intelligences that did not have this limitation.

So that gives us some background into the construction of the physical universe but in order to understand consciousness we have to look at dimensions beyond the four that we are familiar with and we have to understand some aspects of patterns.


[Figure 2]

An example of a pattern is that on a Turkish carpet (Figure 1). The pattern fits the carpet and these patterns are designed so that they either cover the length and width of the carpet or they repeat, sometimes in slightly different ways, through the carpet. The pattern is two dimensional and is made from coloured threads. Imagine an ant that starts at one end of the carpet and walks its length. As it walks it will see the colours of its surroundings change. Because the ant is caught up in the two-dimensions of the carpet it is unable to see the overall pattern. It is aware of colour changes, and could possibly explore the changes in colour as it moves through the carpet. It could theoretically be possible for the ant to build up a graph of place and colour. But the ant would not see the pattern in the way that a human observer would. It is comparable to seeing a list of numbers and the same information in a graph.

In order to see the totality of the pattern we must stand aside from the carpet. In other words, we must step into the third dimension.

[Figure 3 (a)]

[Figure 3 (b)]

In exactly the same way, if we look at three dimensional patterns, such as a book, we can only appreciate the pattern by moving around it. A book from one angle would not be recognisable as the same item when see from a different angle. Movement is a relationship between the spacial dimensions and the time dimension. In other words, without moving into the next dimension (time) we cannot appreciate a three-dimensional pattern.

So it is apparent that in order to appreciate a pattern we have move into the next dimension.

In exactly the same way as we get two-dimensional and three-dimensional patterns, we can see that there are four-dimensional patterns. We call these cycles or events. These cycles may be very small units of time such as the vibration of atoms, to massively long cycles such as the movement of the sun around the galactic centre. As well as these natural cycles there are patterns of life: our daily and weekly routines for example. There are patterns everywhere from the process we use to move an arm or a leg, to the body clock cycles and so on. When we look at the patterns of our day-to-day activity they are similar but not identical. Each day is slightly different in the same way as each book is slightly different. There is a saying that history repeats itself. These repetitions of history are patterns in space and time.

However, the astute reader may notice an apparent anomaly. I stated earlier that patterns can only become apparent by viewing them from the next dimension. So how is it that we are able to perceive patterns in time and space? Surely we would have to be in the fifth dimension in order to appreciate a four dimensional pattern? And this is exactly where the entity that we call the mind exists.

It’s worth considering that if we were existing just in our three dimensions and someone introduced the concept of a fourth dimension — time, the overwhelming initial reaction would be confusion because time is so different from the three spatial dimensions. In fact, I remember as a child going through a similar reaction when introduced to the idea of the ‘future’.

So we can say that the mind, consciousness or thoughts, exist in the fifth and possibly other dimensions even beyond that.

Plato’s shadow in the cave

In his work ‘Republic’ Plato describes a conversation between Socrates and his brother Glaucon.

Imagine this: People live under the earth in a cave-like dwelling. Stretching a long way up toward the daylight is its entrance, toward which the entire cave is gathered. The people have been in this dwelling since childhood, shackled by the legs and neck..Thus they stay in the same place so that there is only one thing for them to look that: whatever they encounter in front of their faces. But because they are shackled, they are unable to turn their heads around.

A fire is behind them, and there is a wall between the fire and the prisoners

Some light, of course, is allowed them, namely from a fire that casts its glow toward them from behind them, being above and at some distance. Between the fire and those who are shackled [That is, behind their backs] there runs a walkway at a certain height. Imagine that a low wall has been built the length of the walkway, like the low curtain that puppeteers put up, over which they show their puppets.

So now imagine that all along this low wall people are carrying all sorts of things that reach up higher than the wall: statues and other carvings made of stone or wood and many other artefacts that people have made. As you would expect, some are talking to each other [as they walk along] and some are silent.

In the discussion Socrates goes on to describe the condition of these people in the cave. Because they only see shadows they believe that the shadows have a reality of their own, that they are beings with consciousness and if they hear sounds they assume that it is made by the shadows.

His allegory, of course, is that our world is of this type.

The people in the cave are three dimensional beings who can only conceive of a two dimension world. It should be apparent that in this paper I am postulating that we are in fact five dimensional beings in a four dimensional world.

Traveling through dimensions

If we imagine a line of one dimension and a one-dimensional insect that can crawl along the line, it can go forward to one end or backward to the other. To get anywhere along the line it has to traverse the intervening space. If we were to imagine this line on a two-dimensional sheet of paper, we could lift the insect into the second dimension and place it anywhere along the line without traversing the intervening space. From the standpoint of another insect on the line it would have disappeared and then reappeared elsewhere.

Similarly, we can draw a line in two dimensions on a sheet of paper. If we want to get from one part of the paper to another, we would have to draw a line over the intervening space. However, if we lift the pencil up we can place it down anywhere on the paper without travelling through the intervening space. We have moved the pencil up into the third dimension.

[Figure 4]

So we can see that if we move a three-dimensional object into the fourth dimension, we can lift it up, as were, out of the three dimensions and place it back again in a different place. And of course we do this all the time as we travel in time. We disappear from one place and reappear somewhere else later on.

When we retrieve memories or imagine a scenario we are, in one sense, traveling through time. Except, of course in a literal sense we are not. Our memories can be wrong and projections into the future are usually very different from the reality.

So returning to our analogies with the two-dimensional surface being constructed from one-dimensional lines, the three-dimensional shape being constructed from two-dimensional surfaces and the four-dimensional space-time being constructed from multiple three-dimensional snapshots, it follows that our five-dimensional consciousness is constructed from multiple four-dimensional patterns, each different but real to the individual who experiences it.

What we call consciousness is the ability to construct four-dimensional patterns which exist in an alternative dimension. Some of these patterns are based on reality, memories and images, and others are fictitious. Not only may our memories be wrong because they don’t conform to similar memories held by others, but we can also create fictitious worlds in our mind that have little relationship to the real world. In fact, we do this every night in our dreams.

One question, then, is what is the relationship between these inner constructs and the external reality?

Taking the metaphor of dimensions to the next stage, we can see that just as our space-time continuum is constructed from multiple three-dimensional worlds each separated by Planck time, our five dimensional universe is made up from four-dimensional patterns existing in different consciousnesses. We are, in that sense, our own universe.

We saw that each dimension cannot exist without the next dimension: length needs width and height and a three-dimensional object cannot exist unless it exists for a length of time. So we can see that our four-dimensional patterns cannot exist without the fifth dimension. In other words, the physical universe requires consciousness to exist. Of course, this is not necessarily human consciousness as there may be consciousnesses that exist beyond our comprehension.

There is another facet of consciousness that needs to be examined, and that is that intelligence lowers entropy. The tendency of the universe is towards disorder. We manufacture cars which are highly complex (ordered) but when left to the forces of the world they return to something resembling their origins. The metal rusts, the glass breaks and returns to dust, the plastics degrade, etc. Consciousness, and not just human consciousness is the only thing in the universe that can reverse this trend towards increasing entropy. We build cars and cities, a bird builds a nest that returns back to dust and so on. It is impossible to understand consciousness without considering this aspect of the mind.


Entropy was originally defined as relating to heat through what is called the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Entropy is also related to the degree of order. The natural tendency of the universe is towards disorder. Colloquially we say that you can’t unscramble an egg. The scrambled egg is more disordered than the egg when it has a separate yoke and white, and that is more disordered than when it was in the shell. Like many processes once it has become more disordered, it is very difficult to return to the ordered state again.

When something becomes more disordered we say that we have raised its entropy. Zero entropy would be complete order, infinite entropy would be complete chaos.

When Steve Jobs came up with the idea of the iPhone, where did this concept come from? And even after having come up with the idea, there were many iterations of improvements. Where does the ability to discern quality come form? To decide that A is better than B?

Going back to our metaphor of dimensions, we know that the shortest distance between two points in two dimensions is a straight line and the shortest distance between two points in three dimensions (for instance a sphere) is a great circle. This is an attribute of dimensions and the way the lower dimensions are constructed to form higher dimensions. We can extend this and show that that shortest distance between two points in four dimensions involves both the three spatial dimensions and the time dimension, and that results in movement or, its corollary, force. So we can see that the force of gravity is the result of the shortest distance between two points in four dimensions.

We have seen that the ability to discern patterns (to understand complexity) is a factor of consciousness and therefore of the fifth dimension, so we can say that entropy is the increasing of complexity. It is the shortest distance between two points in five dimensions.

Because the universe get more complex it requires more intelligence to understand it. Imagine I write the letter ‘A’ on the sand on a beach. An English reader would recognise it as a letter, a non-English reader may not. Similarly, if I wrote the Greek letter µ it may be recognisable to one person and not another. The complexity of the symbols requires intelligence to understand them. The more complex the system, the more intelligence it requires to understand it. So when we say that the universe is increasing in disorder, this is not quite correct. It is increasing in complexity and therefore requires more intelligence in order to understand it.


We know that in order to understand the pattern on the Turkish carpet, we have to distance ourselves in the third dimension to see it. In fact, with some obvious limitations, the more we distance ourselves the more we can comprehend the whole of the pattern. There may be patterns within patterns that can only be seen with sufficient distance.

In the same way as three dimensional patterns can sometimes only become apparent with sufficient distance and four dimensional patterns (events) can only become apparent with sufficient distance in time. When we are caught up in the event we don’t usually see the pattern for what it is as it seems unique whilst it is being enacted.

If you look closely at a printed image it is made up of pixels. The density of the pixels may vary but in order to see the image that the pixels are creating we have to see the image from further away. We have to step back to see the big picture.

Five dimensions gives us complexity and its corollary, intelligence. So as we gain intelligence we gain the ability to perceive patterns. As illustrated previously, whereas a series of marks on a beach may be dismissed as random markings by one person, it may be seen as letters by someone else. Who is to say that the apparently random layout of sand on a beach would not be shown to be extremely ordered if we had sufficient understanding?

So we can see that the flow of the universe (presumably because it is expanding) is towards increasing complexity and that consciousness goes against that natural flow because it creates order out of complexity.

This explains why the effort needed to increase order often feels like going uphill. It is moving against the natural flow of the universe in five dimensions in the same way as moving uphill goes against the natural flow in four dimensions.

Patterns, metaphor and ritual

We can see that there are patterns in space-time. We call these cycles or routines. Many religious ideas are based on metaphor, symbols and rituals. Metaphors are patterns in space time. If we say that the sea is a metaphor for emotions, in the sense that we can appear calm or rough, or calm on the surface and turbulent underneath and so on, we are drawing a relationship with patterns in space-time. It’s said that human beings create patterns where none exists, but we could also say that the universe is constructed on metaphor and patterns.

Just as a guitar string resonates with the same string on an adjacent guitar, four-dimensional patterns resonate with similar patterns in other consciousnesses. This explains the religious concept of ritual. These are practices that are enacted, sometimes with a degree of precision, and are designed to resonate with other patterns that exist in other consciousnesses. Religious people may argue that these consciousness are not human but exist in intelligences that are more advanced than we are.

Consciousness and quantum mechanics

Scientists refer to the behaviour of particles at the quantum level as being random, and can only be predicted by statistical techniques but it could be hypothesised that the so called ‘random’ nature of particles at the quantum level is actually a result of forces beyond the four dimensions of which we are aware. In this case there is a relationship between the mind and the behaviour of particles at the quantum level, even if we do not know exactly what that relation is.

The theory postulated here fits with the work done by Penrose and Hameroff on their theory Orchestrated Objective Reduction which speculates quantum effects are involved in the behaviour of the mind.

The nature of reality

Summarising the concept of a five dimensional reality, we can say that in exactly the same way as a three-dimensional object needs to exist for a length of time, our four-dimensional space-time continuum must have a five-dimensional presence, and that presence is within a consciousness of some type. It would probably be true to say that we don’t hold one complete and integrated four-dimensional pattern in our minds, but many different ones which are relevant to a particular situation. Together these form a consensus in our mind of what we consider to be our reality.

We can also say, then, that what we call reality is simply a consensus of relationships between different four-dimensional patterns that we hold together. This is true of human beings, but is also true of animals. Each animal has a unique perspective, a different four-dimensional pattern. It would therefore be easy to speculate that consciousness in one form or another extends to all living things, each with patterns that enable its survival. The more complex the organism is, the more complex the patterns they make internally and the more they have the capacity to understand complex patterns.

We do not know, and it would be pure conjecture to speculate, on what other consciousnesses exist in our universe but we can assume that they exist, and there may be realities in other intelligences that exist beyond our notion of realty.

Thoughts and consciousness

We have not distinguished between thoughts, that internal monologue that flows through the mind, with consciousness or as we might say awareness.

People who do meditation can become aware of their own inner process. This has also been called mindfulness.

We can be aware of our own thoughts but awareness is not just meta-thoughts. It has a different quality to then thoughts. We can be aware of any of our senses as well as thoughts, or we can be unaware, sleepwalking as it were.

It fact its worth asking the question: what is the difference between being aware and being asleep? Two people could comment on their inner thought processes but one may be aware and the other not. What is this quality of awareness?

We could speculate that awareness is from the sixth dimension. It has this quality of being outside (or beyond) our thought processes. We could also speculate that awareness is something else completely, almost like a building block (a quantum) that is the building block of the universe.

I feel there is plenty of opportunity to research this.

Quantum theory and the concept of randomness

There is an argument that science, or the scientific method, can resolve all questions. There is an inherent fault here which I mentioned earlier, and that is that science assumes that there are three spatial and one time dimension and that the time dimension flows one way. It is impossible for science to investigate something that does not fit into these parameters.

There is another problem with this point of view, and that is that we know that the universe is not deterministic. Heisenberg’s uncertainty theory shows that we cannot make predictions about the behaviour of small particles. Technically, the more we can predict the direction the less we can predict the speed of a particle.

This means that inherently there are problems that are outside of science. For instance, when we toss a coin the effects on the outcome are determined very subtle movements — the movements of the muscles and by air molecules. All these are controlled by quantum effects. We call the results random because we are unable to perceive a pattern but it would be reasonable to assume that quantum effects extend into dimensions beyond the four we are familiar with.

The mind as a separate entity from the brain

The concept of the mind being from a different dimension of course begs the question: what is the relationship between the mind and the brain?

The brain is analogous to an analogue clock. The movement of the hands in three dimensions translates the movement of time. The activity in the brain translates the activity in the fifth dimension. Which begs the question: can the fifth dimension be perceived in other ways, and is it possible for there to be mental activity that is separate from the brain?

Certainly, many religious and spiritual people could take comfort from these ideas as it raises the possibility of the mind continuing after death (and presumably, existing before birth), and of intelligence that exists separate from our mind.

This is outside the scope of this article.


So we can see that the mind exists in at least one dimension beyond the four dimensions of space and time.

We can understand that just as the fourth dimension is time, the fifth dimension has a quality of complexity.

Just as there is a flow of time, there is a flow of order towards increasing complexity.

The mind has the ability to move against that natural flow of the universe.

Reality can only exist as an amalgamation of different four-dimensional patterns that each person calls their consciousness.

By Philip Braham on .




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