Kant once said:

Human reason, in one sphere of its cognition, is called upon to consider questions, which it cannot decline, as they are presented by its own nature, but which it cannot answer, as they transcend every faculty of the mind.

What are you? What is the thing that’s looking through your eyes and hearing though your ears? What is the one thinking your thoughts and controlling your body?

Science tells us we are the Body or the Brain. Religion tells us we are a Soul and our friends tell us is doesn’t really matter.

But no matter where we go or what we read, we always find ourselves with nowhere to go and no conclusion to disperse the doubt.

How could it be the case that after decades of scientific research, dozens of different religions and countless philosophers try to find an answer, we are still ignorant of the most important question of all: “What Am I?”

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What Am I?

I’m The Body

The first and most obvious answer we usually come up with is: “I’m the body.” Since we are able to control it at will and to perceive only what our body is perceiving, it is a pretty good guess. But is that so?

Our bodies are composed by 37.2 trillion cells, which are working very hard day and night to keep us alive. Our heart beats 42 million times a day and our digestive system is constantly processing food so it can be absorbed and processed by us. But where are we in all of this messy process? What part do we really play?

I can’t make my heart stop at will and I’m not conscious nor aware of the process that cells partake to turn food into energy and carry their job. It looks like the body acts by itself almost without any participation of our part.

Fair enough, I could claim that I am the one deciding when to move a hand or close my eyes, but that just compromises less than 1% of everything my body is currently doing. Therefore, it’s not entirely true to say that we are the ones 100% in control of the body.

Furthermore, if we claim that what we are is the body, losing some part of it would entail losing some part of ourselves, right? But we don’t feel that when our hair fall, or when we trim our nails, don’t we?

To take this analogy further, consider the possibility of losing a finger or a limb? I know it’s sounding a bit tragic but bear with me. We don’t say that a person is less themselves if they had the bad fortune of losing some part of their body. Their essence – so to speak – is still intact, even though their body is not.

So, although we might have some control on the body, most of its functions are automatic. Also, losing some part of it doesn’t affect our essence significantly. If we are not the body then, what are we?

I’m A Brain

We might not be our hands or feet, but we might probably be in our brains.

Our perceptive organs like eyes, ears and skin capture information and send it directly to the brain. The brain then processes that information and transforms it into our current experience, which we happen to be conscious of.

It is logical to conclude that, since this process occurs in the brain, we must be somewhere there, at the receiving end of the spectrum. To put it in another way, there’s:

Stimuli –> Perceptive Organ –> Electro-Chemical Signal –> Brain –> Experience –> Me

There’s stimuli or external reality. Our perceptive organs catch that and sends electro-chemical signals to the brain. Then the brain transform that information into experience, which we then become aware of.

There’s an apple here, my eye captures the light which travels as an electro-chemical signal. My brain receives that and creates the experience, which is received by me.

This is very well documented, we know where it happens and how – but where is this conscious entity I call me, the one aware of experience, residing? It’s not like there’s a master neuron or neurons in my brain to which all experience goes to. If we open my skull and dig though my brain, we are not going to find me, we are just going to find blood and lots of brains.

We might think that science has an answer for this but to make matters worse, even with neuroscience’s continuous advancements, scientists still are no closer to understanding how the brain can produce a conscious entity – which is known as “The Hard Problem of Consciousness.”

If we are not the body, If we are not the brain, what are we then?

I’m My Mind

Some people call this Soul but what I’m referring here is this invisible non-material object who is having thoughts and controlling the brain and body.

We think it’s not the brain or the body which is conscious of experience, it is the mind!– the body and brain are just physical objects that the mind uses – that we use – to interact with the physical world.

But where is the mind residing, where are we residing if we are not in here?

Although the mind or soul cannot be perceived directly, we can perceive the thoughts that we generate. Therefore, we infer that there’s some hidden or unknown source – which is us – doing the controlling and the thinking.

We are an immaterial object somewhere in here, hidden and – weirdly enough – unperceivable.

Although we experience ourselves as the thinkers and perceivers, what we call mind or soul, after a thorough investigation, cannot be found.

We perceive and experience sight, sound, sensations and thought, but we cannot possibly be them, since we are the ones doing the perceiving. Just as a light cannot illuminate itself, we cannot perceive ourselves since we are the ones doing the perceiving.

Sound a bit strange, doesn’t it?

If we revealed that we are not the body.
If we revealed, we are not the brain.
And if we revealed that the mind or soul cannot be found… What could we possibly be?

What The F*** Am I???

It seems that the we don’t have many options left: we can either wait until science comes up with a reasonable answer, or we can adhere to a religion or belief system.

But if we are brutally honest, none of them will suffice. In our experience, we don’t know what we truly are, no matter how advanced scientific discoveries become or how sophisticated our belief systems are.

Perhaps we are destined to a life of ignorance. Science can be very helpful to understand how reality works but it could easily fall short at grasping some of the existential questions that bother us. Our perceptions can be very useful to navigate in this world but might never shows what we really are.

But perhaps, there’s another way to discover the answer that’s not being acknowledged in our culture.

Perhaps there’s a way to know what we are independent of perception, thought, mind and body. And perhaps, just perhaps, that answer could set us free.

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