This is one of the “big questions”. A lot of people have thought about it. Current thinking on the question is dominated by science. We are told by science that matter is primary, and consciousness secondary. Specifically, we are asked to believe that consciousness is a product of the brain (which is made of matter!), and located only in the brain. You will not be surprised to hear that I take a different view. For me, the key connecting link between matter and consciousness is energy. My reasoning is as follows.
Matter is not made of tiny solid things. It is made of energy. And energy is not a thing.
I have found it helpful to define energy as “that which consist simply in its own movement and order”. If you like, energy is “moving order”. It is only because it sometimes moves very quickly indeed, at the sub-atomic level, that it appears solid to us. As we shall, matter is a matter of perception!
The “movement” component of energy comes in many forms, such as cycles, rhythms and frequencies. Absolutely everything is in a state of movement, even those things that appear static to us. Things appear static to us only because they are far away – a star, for example – or because the movement is extremely slow, as in the case of a flower opening.
The “order” component of energy is why things make sense to us. In fact, we can usefully define order as “that which makes sense to us, now or at some time in the future”. If things were not ordered, we would not be able to make sense of them, now or at any time in the future. The fact that human knowledge is very extensive and constantly growing tells that many things make sense to us now, and many more things will make sense in the future. We know a lot! But we know a lot only because things are inherently “knowable”, and they are knowable because they are made of energy, which is “moving order”. Does this all make sense?
Let’s now look at consciousness.
Consciousness has been defined in many ways. For me, it is simply awareness. It comes in two forms – outer perception and inner perception. We perceive things outside us, in the world around us, such as matter. For this, we use our five senses, hearing and seeing etc. But we also perceive things inside us, such as our thoughts, our feelings, and the workings of our mind in general. For this, we use another kind of perception, for which there is no widely accepted term. In my opinion, consciousness is one and the same as perception.
Now here is the important key. Perception is possible only if there is something to be perceived. If there was nothing to be perceived – no world of matter out there, and no thoughts and feeling in here – we would not, and could not, be conscious. We are conscious only because the world enables consciousness, and it does this by being ordered, which makes it perceptible and knowable.
I am starting to think there are the makings of a book here!