If life is the dream poets talks about, if material reality is as unsubstantial as idealism or the philosophy of Shopenhauer pronounced – or even as quantic physics allows us to think – then man is first and foremost consciousness.
To define consciousness is probably beyond our capabilities. Philosophy, has always grappled with the concept. I defer to the greatest philosohical authorities on the matter, such as Hegel and Bergson. In different ways, they both considered conciousness to be the essence of intelligent life – if not of life itself. Saint Augustine, Locke, Husserl have offered other enriching perspectives.
This much we can say, though, about humanity’s consciouness: perception (you can also call it attention, or perhaps even intention) is its act or activity in a given moment; such a process works a bit like a cone: behind and beyond attention (the apex of the cone), we have memory and a whole other level, which is normally called subconscious or spiritual. The result of perception and the invisible workings at the subconscious level is the formation of a (in most cases) coherent reality that causes the world to present itself to us.
From a metaphysical perspective, would there be a universe if no consciousness existed? Could it survive not being aprehended by a conscious, self-aware entity? Another way of putting it, would be: Where would such a world exist? …in what dimension? …in what frequency? What would be its common denominator, its point of assemblage?
Now, we do know that consciousness exists, not only within an individual, but also at a collective level. This has been firmly established by psychology, namely through the work of Carl Jung, who made the concept of archetypes known and familiar to us all.
There is yet another instance of collective ideas, though, that are symbolizations of order or, in plainer language, the mentalities that constitute the continuity in cultures.
The study of order is above all the study of the cultural forms, the collective ideas and archetypes that develop throughout history. It his therefore a intersection between history, psychology, philosophy, political science and comparative religion.
Order is one of the instances in which we can find the workings of consciousness and study its development in collective forms.