What is the relationship between our primitive awareness of existence and the physical brain?
David Chalmers calls this "The Hard Problem". It's also the Interesting Problem for anyone who wonders who we really are, or whether consciousness in any form survives physical death.
Religious dogma affirms that the soul has a separate existence. Scientific dogma affirms that consciousness is an illusion that arises from nerves firing.
In the 17th Century, Rene' Descartes was both scientist and Christian philosopher. Elisabeth von der Pfalz was 24-year-old daughter of a Bohemian prince when she wrote to Descartes, challenging his dualism with clear-eyed questions. There followed a seven-year correspondence between the two, in which Descartes faced up to the fact that the question he had taken on deserved the name of Hard Problem.
Elisabeth of Bohemia, 1636
(Image by Gerard van Honthorst - Alexander Palace) Permission Details DMCA
J'ose croire que la joie inte'rieure a quelque secrète force pour se rendre la fortune plus favorable. -- Descartes
("I dare to believe that inner joy carries a secret force that attracts good fortune.")