In Self Organizing Universe Jantsch writes that If consciousness is defined as the degree of autonomy a system has with its environment even the simplest autopoietic systems have a form of consciousness.
Christian de Quincy Dean of Consciousness Studies at John F. Kennedy University states in interview with Dean Radin at the Institute of Noetic Sciences that consciousness is probably not “energy” as we commonly understand the word although it co-exists with energy. Consciousness according to de Quincy is not a result of complexity but is part of every living organism at every stage of its development.
Dr Rupert Sheldrake, biologist/plant physicist/author states the same idea when he posits that consciousness extends outward to include all of nature and that some kind of mental activity or consciousness is present in all physical systems at all levels of organization from electrons to galaxies.
In a Trialogue with Rupert Sheldrake and Terrence McKenna, Ralph Abraham, (the latter best known for his work on dynamical systems/chaos theory) speculates that all Nature is conscious. His notion that the origin of the unconscious is a relatively new phenomenon that arose as human began to populate the planet makes a great deal of sense. It seems to me that the shadow side of humanity/evil may be a human construction. Perhaps humans developed the unconscious so that they would not have to deal with living through instinct, or deal with suffering their “animal” (soul) selves? Certainly, humans regularly project their shadow elements onto hapless creatures in the wild in order to kill, identify with, or admire them.
Charles Russell a well known black bear and grizzly bear naturalist and author believes that co-existing peacefully with wild grizzly and black bears of is possible when trust, love, intelligent behavior, continual self assessment, and respect are present on the part of the naturalist. Furthermore, he believes that all animals when approached in this manner will expand human consciousness.
Rupert Sheldrake also suggests that consciousness includes both the field of the body as well as the mind. This field of awareness and subjectivity or consciousness could also be expressed as the soul of an individual, animal or human (personal communication 2011). In this way of thinking the soul is both within and around all species that inhabit this planet. This is not a new idea but it has been suppressed by our materialistic/technocratic culture with devastating results. To the Greeks the “Anima mundi” was the Soul of Nature or the World Soul. Anima, of course, is the Latin word for soul; Animal is derived from the word animate, and to animate is to breathe life into an organism.
Animals are experts at developing awareness for survival purposes. Humans have to make a more deliberate conscious choice to enter the field of the “other” especially if that field is not human. As I have already mentioned it has been my experience that we communicate with non human beings most effectively through our bodies, and that this bridge is created unconsciously from body to body when we enter each other’s archetypal/ morphogenetic form producing fields.
When I began my study with bears I already assumed that fields existed on an archetypal and biological level. Thus I was in the position to make an intention to enter the field of the bears in a participatory way to learn from them. I wanted to learn about bears from their point of view, as well as mine and this intention/attention probably helped me to keep an open mind.
Although the subject of consciousness in humans, let alone in animals, is hotly debated and beyond the scope of this essay to discuss in depth, it is important to recognize that there is an enormous amount of research being done in this area and what consciousness is remains an open question to scientists and philosophers alike.