We took a glimpse at random into the mental life of an adult

consciousness, and found it very complicated, constantly changing. We

found it packed with shifting material, which, on the surface, seemed to

bear very little relation. We found reason, feeling, and will all

interacting. We found nothing to indicate that a consciousness as simple

as mere awareness might exist. We believe there might be such in the

newborn ba
e, perhaps even in the baby a month old; but can we prove it?

Let us look within again and see if there are not times of mere, bare

consciousness in our own experience that give us the proof we need.

I have slept deeply all night. It is my usual waking time. Something

from within or from without forces an impression upon my mind, and I

stir, and slowly open my eyes. As yet I have really not seen anything.

With my eyes open my mind still sleeps--but in a few seconds comes a

possessing sense of well-being. Obeying some stimulus, not recognized by

the senses as yet, I begin to stretch and yawn, then close my eyes and

settle down into my pillows as for another nap. I am not aware that I

am I, that I am awake, that I have yawned and stretched. I have a

pleasant, half-dreamy feeling, but could not give it a name. For those

few seconds this is all my world--a pleasant drowsiness, a being

possessed by comfort. My consciousness is mere awareness--a pleasant

awareness of uncomplicated existence. In another moment or two it is a

consciousness of a day's work or pleasure ahead, the necessity of

rising, dressing, planning the day, the alert reaction of pleasure or

displeasure to what it is to bring, the effort to recall the dreams of

sleep--the complicated consciousness of the mature man or woman. But I

started the day with a mental condition close to pure sensation, a vague

feeling of something different than what was just before.

Or this bare consciousness may come in the moment of acute shock, when

the sense of suffering, quite disconnected from its cause, pervades my

entire being; or at the second when I am first "coming back" after a

faint, or at the first stepping out from an anesthetic. In these

experiences most of us can recall a very simple mental content, and can

prove to our own satisfaction that there is such a thing as mere

awareness, a consciousness probably close akin to that of the lower

levels of animal life, or to that of the newborn babe when he first

opens his eyes to life.

Consciousness, then, in its elements, is the simplest mental reaction

to what the senses bring.

How shall we determine when consciousness exists? What are its tests?

The response of the mind to stimuli, made evident by the body's

reaction, gives the proof of consciousness in man or lower animal.

But what do we mean by a stimulus?

Light stimulates me to close my eyes when first entering its glare from

a dark room, or to open them when it plays upon my eyelids as I sleep

and the morning sun reaches me. It is a stimulus from without.

The fear-thought, which makes my body tremble, my pupils grow wide, and

whitens my cheeks, is a stimulus from within.

An unexpected shot in the woods near-by, which changes the whole trend

of my thinking and startles me into investigating its cause, is a

stimulus from without causing a change within.

A stimulus, then, is anything within or without the body that arouses

awareness; and this is usually evidenced by some physical change,

however slight--perhaps only by dilated pupils or an expression of

relief. When we see the reaction of the body to the stimulus we know

there is consciousness. On the other hand, we cannot say that

consciousness is always absent when the usual response does not occur;

for there may be injury to organs accounting for the lack of visible

reaction, while the mind itself may respond. But with due care, in even

such cases, some external symptoms of response can usually be found if

consciousness exists.

We have already realized how complex, intricate, and changing is fully

developed consciousness.