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The Soul Of An Octopus: How One Of Earth’s Most Alien Creatures Illuminates The Wonders Of Consciousness

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The Soul Of An Octopus: How One Of Earth’s Most Alien Creatures Illuminates The Wonders Of Consciousness:

Posted on June 13, 2017

by Maria Popova: “While stroking an octopus, it is easy to fall into reverie.

To share such a moment of deep tranquility with another being, especially one as different from us as the octopus, is a humbling privilege… an uplink to universal consciousness.”

“Despite centuries of investigation by everyone from natural historians, psychologists, and psychiatrists, to ethicists, neuroscientists, and philosophers, there is still no universal definition of emotion or consciousness,” Laurel Braitman wrote in her terrific exploration of the mental lives of animals. Virginia Woolf defined consciousness as “a wave in the mind,” but even if we’re able to ride the wave, we hardly know the ocean out of which it arises.

During my annual visit to NPR’s Science Friday to discuss my choices for the year’s best science books, my co-guest — science writer extraordinaire Deborah Blum — mentioned a fascinating book that had slipped my readerly tentacles, one that addresses this abiding question of consciousness with unparalleled rigor and grace: The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness (public library) by naturalist, writer, and documentary filmmaker Sy Montgomery.

Montgomery begins with a seemingly simple premise. The octopus is a creature magnificently dissimilar to us — it can change shape and color, tastes with its skin, has its mouth in its armpit, and is capable of squeezing its entire body through a hole the size of an apple. And since we humans experience reality in profoundly different ways from one another, based on our individual consciousnesses, then the octopus must be inhabiting an altogether different version of what we call reality.

The constellation of complexities comprising this difference, Montgomery reveals over the course of this miraculously insightful and enchanting book, expands our understanding of consciousness and sheds light on the very notion of what we call a “soul.”

She writes:

More than half a billion years ago, the lineage that would lead to octopuses and the one leading to humans separated. Was it possible, I wondered, to reach another mind on the other side of that divide? Octopuses represent the great mystery of the Other.

Among the pitfalls of the human condition is our tendency to see otherness as a source of dread rather than an invitation to friendly curiosity. The octopus, as the ultimate Other, has a long history of epitomizing this inclination and sparking our primal fear of the unknown. Montgomery cites one particularly emblematic depiction from Victor Hugo’s novel Toilers of the Sea:

The spectre lies upon you; the tiger can only devour you; the devil-fish, horrible, sucks your life-blood away… The muscles swell, the fibers of the body are contorted, the skin cracks under the loathsome oppression, the blood spurts out and mingles horribly with the lymph of the monster, which clings to the victim with innumerable hideous mouths…

Setting out to “defend the octopus against centuries of character assassination,” Montgomery notes that octopuses have highly individual personalities and can exhibit marked curiosity — faculties we tend to think of as singularly human. Even their motives for friendliness and unfriendliness, far from the baseless brutality of depictions like Hugo’s, parallel our own:

In one study, Seattle Aquarium biologist Roland Anderson exposed eight giant Pacific octopuses to two unfamiliar humans, dressed identically in blue aquarium uniforms. One person consistently fed a particular octopus, and another always touched it with a bristly stick. Within a week, at first sight of the people — looking up at them through the water, without even touching or tasting them — most of the octopuses moved toward the feeder and away from the irritator. Sometimes the octopus would aim its water-shooting funnel, the siphon near the side of the head with which an octopus jets through the sea, at the person who had touched it with the bristly stick.

Surely, a skeptic might argue that this is more instinct than “consciousness.” But Montgomery goes on to outline a number of strikingly specific and context considered behaviors indicating that octopuses are animated by complex conscious experiences — things we tend to term “thoughts” and “feelings” in the human realm — that upend our delusions of exceptionalism. Lest we forget, we have a long history of bolstering those delusions by putting other species down, much like petty egotists try to make themselves feel big by making other people feel small — even Jane Goodall contended with dismissal and ridicule when she first suggested that chimpanzees have consciousness.

Read More: http://www.awaken.com/2017/06/the-soul-of-an-octopus-how-one-of-earths-most-alien-creatures-illuminates-the-wonders-of-consciousness/

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I always have said that humans suffer from a superiority complex! I blame the system for separating us from nature... but also our pair of physical eyes. They are responsible for creating this false impression of solidity and separation, therefore stopping us from seeing things as they really are. That means, everything is of the same nature and in constant communication!

Why wouldn't animals have consciousness? After all, they're made of the same matter which composes us. The same consciousess flows through and all around them.

CM, I never took the time to say that I appreciate your many contributions in this sub section, so now i'm doing it!  You're really triggering me to post with the things you've been posting in the last few days. Lol.

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23 minutes ago, Zireael said:

I always have said that humans suffer from a superiority complex! I blame the system for separating us from nature... but also our pair of physical eyes. They are responsible for creating this false impression of solidity and separation, therefore stopping us from seeing things as they really are. That means, everything is of the same nature and in constant communication!

Why wouldn't animals have consciousness? After all, they're made of the same matter which composes us. The same consciousess flows through and all around them.

CM, I never took the time to say that I appreciate your many contributions in this sub section, so now i'm doing it!  You're really triggering me to post with the things you've been posting in the last few days. Lol.

Thank you for your comments and I'm so happy that I was able to help trigger the quest for true knowledge within you! It was worth all the riches in the entire universe to have just even one enter into the fold or truth. Welcome.

Back in the 80's/90's, I had a beautiful little German Shorthaired Pointer Dog who's name was Lady. We had her for about 12 years from about 1980 til 1992 when she became very ill and I had to have her put down. I and my daughter Jessica who was 13 or 14 at the time went together to take her to the vet. We already knew what the outcome would be so we hugged and kissed our little Lady all the way there as the ride seemed to last forever.

Afterward, we cried all the way home. We took her home to bury her beneath our little pear tree out in our back yard. When arriving home, I opened the box and to my surprise, she was facing face up with her eyes wide open looking up towards me. I was stunned to realize at that very moment that she was just an empty shell and that she herself was gone to another place.

Well, that experience has always left a mark on me and it was at that very moment when I realized our little pets whom we loved so dearly are waiting for us when we ourselves will follow them into eternity by making that very same journey. They will be there to once again, welcome us home and to once again become a family!

I am not ashamed to let you know that I am crying as I write my personal thoughts to you and anyone else who reads this.

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There is something special about Octopus.
I'm appalled by the thought of people eating them.
I don't have that same reaction with squid which are creepy.

1 hour ago, Cryptic Mole said:

I am not ashamed to let you know that I am crying as I write my personal thoughts to you and anyone else who reads this.

:hug:

That made me tear up too.
You're a good man CM.

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1 hour ago, Cryptic Mole said:

Thank you for your comments and I'm so happy that I was able to help trigger the quest for true knowledge within you! It was worth all the riches in the entire universe to have just even one enter into the fold or truth. Welcome.

Back in the 80's/90's, I had a beautiful little German Shorthaired Pointer Dog who's name was Lady. We had her for about 12 years from about 1980 til 1992 when she became very ill and I had to have her put down. I and my daughter Jessica who was 13 or 14 at the time went together to take her to the vet. We already knew what the outcome would be so we hugged and kissed our little Lady all the way there as the ride seemed to last forever.

Afterward, we cried all the way home. We took her home to bury her beneath our little pear tree out in our back yard. When arriving home, I opened the box and to my surprise, she was facing face up with her eyes wide open looking up towards me. I was stunned to realize at that very moment that she was just an empty shell and that she herself was gone to another place.

Well, that experience has always left a mark on me and it was at that very moment when I realized our little pets whom we loved so dearly are waiting for us when we ourselves will follow them into eternity by making that very same journey. They will be there to once again, welcome us home and to once again become a family!

I am not ashamed to let you know that I am crying as I write my personal thoughts to you and anyone else who reads this.

And there really are no reasons to be ashamed of being human! I'm sure you hold a great share of good memories of moments spent with her which brings you a smile through your tears. 

Scientific studies have demonstrated that dogs and humans can communicate solely by eye contact. They can perceive our emotions and intentions, just as you could exactly guess what was on Lady's mind when she was giving you one of those looks. They say it's only possible between dogs and humans, but I say it is the case with all forms of life! It's one of those inborn natural abilities!

I too, am the owner of an old friend, she will be 13 years old in a few months, and starting to get sick. She has infections in her ears and an enormous but thankfully benign cyst is growing on her belly. But dogs are wonderful beings, always filled with pride and joy. I cherish every moment spent with her.

Be good, CM.

Edited by Zireael
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8 minutes ago, Zireael said:

And there really are no reasons to be ashamed of being human! I'm sure you hold a great share of good memories of moments spent with her which brings you a smile through your tears. 

Scientific studies have demonstrated that dogs and humans can communicate solely by eye contact. They can perceive our emotions and intentions, just as you could exactly guess what was on Lady's mind when she was giving you one of those looks. They say it's only possible between dogs and humans, but I say it is the case with all forms of life! It's one of those inborn natural abilities!

I too, am the owner of an old friend, she will be 13 years old in a few months, and starting to get sick. She has infections in her ears and an enormous but thankfully benign cyst is growing on her belly. But dogs are wonderful beings, always filled with pride and joy. I cherish every moment spent with her.

Be good, CM.

If you can view your dog as a 2-year-old child then you will know just how to communicate with them. They do not fully understand words, but the tone of your voice instead. Hand gestures are important as well along with holding, hugging and kissing. Of course, never forget the favored belly rub!

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11 minutes ago, Zireael said:

Scientific studies have demonstrated that dogs and humans can communicate solely by eye contact. They can perceive our emotions and intentions, just as you could exactly guess what was on Lady's mind when she was giving you one of those looks. They say it's only possible between dogs and humans, but I say it is the case with all forms of life! It's one of those inborn natural abilities!

:iagree:

All life forms can communicate with each other.
Some are more closely connected so it's a bit easier I believe.
I had pet chickens and after spending some time with them we could 'talk'.
The opossum however, don't always 'get it' when I give them 'the look'. :dry: lol
 

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13 hours ago, Lucy Barnable said:

:iagree:

All life forms can communicate with each other.
Some are more closely connected so it's a bit easier I believe.
I had pet chickens and after spending some time with them we could 'talk'.
The opossum however, don't always 'get it' when I give them 'the look'. :dry: lol
 

Looks like we have a few Dr. Dolittle's here. :gsbrnint:

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14 hours ago, Lucy Barnable said:

:iagree:

All life forms can communicate with each other.
Some are more closely connected so it's a bit easier I believe.
I had pet chickens and after spending some time with them we could 'talk'.
The opossum however, don't always 'get it' when I give them 'the look'. :dry: lol
 

Paying attention and really listening is the key.

Other good communicators I find are ferrets.  And they're very explicit at it!  They all have a strong and unique personality. This is another species where you can tell if they're hungry or if they only want to cuddle simply by the way they look at you. The bond you create with those little creatures really is amazing!

@Cryptic Mole Ha ha! The famous belly rub, that's her favorite!  I also like to give her a nice ear massage, they say it releases endorphins in dogs. When I do that she almost falls asleep. And yes, you are right about voice tones, she loves her threats so much, that any pronounced word rhyming with ''cookie'' instantly gets her all excited... I don't know why :gsbrnint: Though some studies have shown the most intelligent dogs can retain a vocabulary of approximately 150 words. 

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