Sometimes we say life is hard, and it would be much better if we were born as a cat, dog or some other animal that does not have problems and worries in its simple life. Still, if we really had that opportunity, very few of us would actually accept it. We admire our minds and appreciate our self-awareness greatly.
But what is self-awareness in the first place?
It is the capacity of an individual to recognize oneself as a separate entity, distinct from the environment and other individuals. While consciousness means to be aware of the environment, self-awareness purports the individual’s ability to fully comprehend their permanent self and the environment.
It is worth noting that some sources make a distinction between the terms self-awareness and self-consciousness, where the latter is defined as the capacity of the individual to see oneself not only as a separate being, as seen from a first-person view, but to understand that other beings are also aware of them. However, self-awareness and self-consciousness are used as synonyms in this article.
While consciousness means to be aware of the environment, self-awareness purports the individual’s ability to fully comprehend their permanent self and the environment.
Number of Living Beings
Think about this: What is the chance of existing as a self-conscious being, among countless other living entities? Can you get an even slightest idea of how many other beings exist in the universe (or maybe multiverse), and how enormous that number is, even compared to 7.2 billion humans currently living on earth?
Animals, plants, bacteria, viruses… they are all conscious to some degree, meaning, aware of their surroundings. And considering the vastness of space of the cosmos, the number of living creatures with some level of consciousness is truly incomprehensible.
Let us see what would be that number for this planet only. According to some estimates, the total number of prokaryotes (e.g., bacteria) on earth is 5 x 1030 (five billion billion trillion), which is 5 followed by 30 zeros. This is just a rough estimate. As the biomass of all other species is by several orders of magnitude smaller, we could assume that this number covers the vast majority of biomass on earth, including oceans.
The number of living creatures with some level of consciousness is truly incomprehensible.
Now, we have to multiply this number with a number of inhabited worlds all over the cosmos. But the problem is that we do not even have a rough approximation of that. Officially, we even do not know if there exists extraterrestrial life at all. But let us make some estimation, nevertheless.
There are 1 billion trillion stars in the observable universe (1 x 1021). If every 1000th star had inhabited planets in its orbit (although I suspect that life is not so rare), there would have been 1 x 1018 inhabited worlds out there! And multiply that with 5 x 1030, you will get 5 x 1048 living things. That is five with 48 zeros! Incomprehensible indeed.
Do not forget that these are very, very rough approximations. What if there are non-biological conscious entities? What if our universe is much bigger than this observable part? Or if there are many other universes out there? What if there are other physical dimensions, additional layers of reality itself, with their own endemic conscious beings? To my mind, all these speculations are plausible and might be very real, so the actual mass of conscious entities might be unfathomably gargantuan.
And what would be the chance of you, born here on Earth, living as a self-conscious human being, pondering over your existence and purpose of life, and not be born as any of so many other creatures that are not self-aware?
Number of Non-Living Entities
According to many philosophers and even scientists, not only the living (self-replicating, evolving) entities have a certain level of consciousness. Actually, all the other non-living entities, such as elementary particles, molecules, microscopic and macroscopic structures, minerals, space objects, planets, stars, galaxies, and so on, are conscious, too. The whole existence is conscious. There exists an unimaginable number of entities out there.
Just to note that there are approximately 1086 (hundred trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion) elementary particles in the visible universe, mostly neutrinos. As every particle is responsive to the environment to some extent, all particles could be viewed as conscious beings, more or less. All other structures built out from the elementary particles are even more responsive or conscious. However, their total number is by several orders of magnitude lesser than that of the elementary particles, so we do not need to calculate their quantities separately.
However, it seems that the vast majority of conscious entities, in fact, are not self-conscious, i.e., they are not aware of their existence, not self-reflective as we are. Although this assumption is questionable, we may posit that we are among those rare beings that are self-aware. For example, as far as we know, there are very few species other than humans existing here on earth that are self-conscious: dolphins, some apes, some dogs, ravens, and perhaps a few more kinds of living beings. All other critters are partially conscious, but only of the surroundings, not of themselves.
It seems that the vast majority of conscious entities, in fact, are not self-conscious, i.e., they are not aware of their existence, not self-reflective as we are.
This does not mean those beings are less worthy. They are merely less conscious, at least from our perspective.
Can you imagine how lucky we are to live in this universe as self-aware beings, among so many other entities that are not self-aware? Maybe we cannot call it “luck” at all, maybe this is biased, preposterous, and anthropomorphized thinking, but we might also presume that self-awareness is a higher “level” of conscious life. The fact that we are able to ponder our existence is definitely essential to all of us.
If we live one life only (no reincarnation or any similar re-birthing process), our chance of being born as a human is truly minuscule.
One could argue that the answer lies in reincarnation. According to this way of thinking, each of us simply must be born as a human being because of our unique karma, related to our soul solely.
Still, this is not the solution. Let us assume that all the beings that are self-aware reincarnate regularly, due to the laws of karma. But even if each soul is incarnated, say, hundreds or thousands of times until reaching the final liberation, there is still an overwhelming number of other beings with their own reincarnation “strings.” There must be some explanation other than this concept of all entities as completely independent beings.
What are all those “others” that are not self-aware? Do they have souls or permanent selves, as we presumably do? Or are they tiny parts of much bigger, complex, and invisible organisms, that are self-conscious, something like us, consisting of trillions of small entities – cells, bacteria, and other things?
What are all those “others” that are not self-aware? Are they tiny parts of much bigger, complex, and invisible organisms, that are self-conscious?
Viable Solutions to the Puzzle
One answer to this mystery could just be – a coincidence. An unimaginably improbable case of a pure chance… But this explanation seems too weak and far-fetched.
Another solution is even weirder: the solipsism. Such a point of view says that there is only one being – I, or you, who is reading this now. Everything and everyone else is only a shadow, parts of a grand spectacle of life, experienced by you alone. Of course, all my feelings and senses, all insights into the depths of souls behind the others’ eyes, are telling me that this is simply not true.
Finally, my impressions related to these questions are:
1. We are multidimensional beings. Each of us humans has numerous incarnations (other existences) of our souls (cores of individuality), throughout space and time. This is the self-conscious part of our existence. That soul is represented on the highest level of reality as so-called Higher Self.
2. Our souls have extensions (incarnations) on all levels of existence, meaning from the highest to the lowest.
Therefore, we are present not only on the highest level as the Higher Self but also on the medium level as humans and other self-aware beings, as well as on various lower levels of consciousness, where entities are not self-aware and just partially conscious of their environment.
Each of us has existences in an enormous number of these entities, starting from elementary particles, up through atoms, molecules, various inorganic structures, microorganisms, plants, and animals. We are all “incarnated” in these entities. But on the lower levels, only tiny parts of our beings are dedicated to such existences (extensions), without much “engagement” of the souls.
Nevertheless, all these levels of consciousness are represented in each human life, starting from an embryo, through all stages of the childhood, and having its peak in adulthood.
3. All our incarnations are scattered throughout space and time. Our Higher Selves collect all the memories and experiences from them. Although this massive number of existences may seem overwhelming or impossible, the Higher Self, in a way, experiences them simultaneously, since it is outside of the flow of time of this dimension.So, are we self-conscious beings, among the vast ocean of other entities, only by chance? No, we are multi-dimensional beings, existing on all levels of consciousness.
I do not presume this is the only and the definitive answer. However, I feel that this approach at least partially explains the profound mystery of our apparently improbable existence as conscious beings.
And there is a purpose to that: We learn precious life lessons in all those incarnations.
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