AWARE: Glimpses of Consciousness

Science and spirituality join forces in the meditative documentary, Aware: Glimpses of Consciousness.

Writers-directors Eric Black and Frauke Sandig point out the fallacy of human exceptionalism. The more we learn about the natural world, the less it seems human traits are unique.

Aware: Glimpses of Consciousness probes the nature of self-awareness through the philosophies of six different explorers in the field. A neuroscientist, a molecular biologist — who is also a Buddhist monk, a researcher behavioral pharmacologist from Johns Hopkins, and a biologist from the University of Sydney present the hard science research in studying consciousness. A Mayan faith healer and a philosopher discuss the subject from more of an arts and humanities perspective.

The documentary suggests that humans are not distinct from our environment, that the separation we feel from the universe, and each other is an illusion.

Philosopher Alan Watts discussed this in his 1972 “The Book On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.” The illusion of separation is so powerful that it feeds the narcissistic human presumption of our primacy on Earth and in the universe.

In Aware, biologist Monica Gagliano, professor at the University of Sydney, argues that her experiments with plants have shown them capable of rudimentary communication abilities, as well as basic responses to stimuli.

If plants have a form of consciousness, the big question: how is consciousness defined? Is it enough to be self-aware at any level?

For example, bees communicate with the hive through rhythmic movements, but is a bee self-aware? Gagliano says that the mechanistic view of the universe is fading in the light of new subjective discoveries. Perhaps, but if there are no objective, predictable, repeatable reference standards, how would we know?


In another segment, philosopher Richard Boothby, seeking meaning in his life that was shattered by personal tragedy, states that the most significant spiritual experience he’s ever had was from a psilocybin mushroom trip. He believes firmly that he saw a deity.

Neuroscientist Christof Koch expresses doubt about whether any objective definition or evidence of consciousness can be developed because it is an inherently subjective expression of human existence.

A Mayan faith healer who believes that Western science is beginning to merge with the learnings of indigenous peoples.

The filmmakers explain Aware: Glimpses of Consciousness best: “It invites audiences to review their long-held beliefs and assumptions and initiate their own consciousness journey, ultimately bringing awareness to awareness.”

The film surfaces existential mysteries at the core of the human experience in an entertaining and enlightening fashion. It asks questions instead of trying to answer them.

While ultimately offering actual answers to such age-old queries as “What happens when we die?” and “How is it that we are aware that we are aware?” and that Big Kahuna of metaphysics, “What is the meaning of life?” the investigation brings together individuals from both disciplines to provide colorful perspective.