Anesthetic consciousness: “If everything is consciousness, what happens during anesthesia?”

I recently listened to a voicemail from a friend who called asking, “if everything is consciousness, what happens during anesthesia?”

It’s a great question and the short answer is: I don’t know. And “if everything is consciousness” is only one perception of reality. After deferring to referring him to a few folks who may provide a decent answer, and without researching the question, I also offered:

Wild you ask that. We’re studying Yogachara, a consciousness-only, school of Buddhism. From wikipedia: ‘According to Dan Lusthaus, this tradition developed “an elaborate psychological therapeutic system that mapped out the problems in cognition along with the antidotes to correct them, and an earnest epistemological endeavor that led to some of the most sophisticated work on perception and logic ever engaged in by Buddhists or Indians.”‘

. . . I’ve never been under. My off the cuff thought is it would maybe be similar to how it is during drug-induced/hypnagogic/liminal/sleep/ dream-like states. [Combinations of these.] Then there’s the whole field of Buddhist psychology in the Abhidhamma with detailed extensive teachings on consciousness. I feel neuroscience is just starting to catch up with it.

And then a follow up reply:

Metaphorically, when we are “asleep” we could be likened more to dead than alive. As opposed to “awake”. At least that’s one perspective — as long as those aspiring to realize awakening don’t berate themselves for not being fully awake yet. This is perhaps described as a process and a journey.

. . . It seems to me we perhaps have a mini death and resurrection every night before sleeping and then awakening. Even more subtle is our constant day-to-day, moment-to-moment “death” of losing mindfulness and “rebirth” of regaining mindfulness.

Published by josh dippold

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