The Hard Problem of Consciousness — Afterthoughts 1

Image by Beyond Timelines from Pixabay

This is the latest in a series of articles. In the previous one I offered a spiritual solution to the so-called Hard Problem of Consciousness. This was based on two almost identical understandings of what it means to be human, one by the author Raynor C. Johnson, and another by the Theosophical Society. Both say that a human being is a hierarchy of several bodies. If required, please consult the previous article for the details.

In the articles which follow this one I’ll consider whether there is actually any evidence which might lead us to believe that this scenario is correct. Before I start that, it’s worth considering how this hierarchical system works.

According to the significant religions and spiritual traditions, the multi-levelled universe is ultimately nothing but consciousness in its various manifestations, a philosophy known as idealism. How therefore should we understand the existence of all these different bodies/levels of reality? I think a useful analogy is that of making a sauce with flour. The liquid at the beginning represents the original primal consciousness. This is completely fluid. Then, as flour is added, the mixture becomes progressively thicker. At some point, if enough flour is added, the sauce becomes completely solid, what we call physical reality, the body. However, no matter how much flour is used, and no matter how thick the sauce becomes, there have only ever been two ingredients, the original liquid (consciousness) and the thickening agent (flour).

This analogy, however, only takes us so far. If we have these distinct levels of reality, represented by the hierarchy of bodies, this suggests that a significant amount of flour has been added each time, in order to create the next denser level. On the other hand, there seems no reason why we could not add just a small amount of flour; that is actually what we might expect as one level becomes more dense in order to create another.

The question therefore arises whether there are any further intermediate levels. Raynor Johnson does refer to these several times: the mental body which contains “the many lower levels of mind”, the astral body which “is itself composed of many substrata or interpenetrating levels”. He also describes the etheric double as being “interposed between the astral and physical bodies. It is not a functional body or vehicle, but it may best be regarded as a bridge between the physical and astral bodies”. From our vantage point within the physical body, it is hard to contemplate what all this looks like in reality.

Another possibility might be ghosts. (I’ve never seen one, but I know someone who has.) They would seem to be interdimensional — not actually physical, but somehow dense enough to be visible to humans. This suggests a level between the physical body and the astral. I’ve always assumed that a ghost would be some form of the astral body, but could it be what Johnson calls the etheric double?

As I said, in the next article or articles, I’ll consider whether there is actually any evidence to suggest that this scenario of hierarchical bodies is correct.


I hope you have enjoyed this article. I have written in the past about other topics, including spirituality, metaphysics, psychology, science, Christianity, politics, and astrology. All these articles are on Medium, but the simplest way to see a guide to them is to visit my website (click here and here).


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Graham Pemberton

Graham Pemberton


I am a singer/songwriter interested in spirituality, politics, psychology, science, and their interrelationships.