Intelligence, if not consciousness, is present at all levels of existence from the subatomic to the macroscopic. It manifests itself in a great variety of ways depending upon the level at which it is functioning. Each hierarchal level represents a subsystem and each subsystem is a part of a larger system. Awareness could possibly be experienced at all levels, but is likely confined to the subsystem within which it functions, at least below our own level. Each individual, intelligent subsystem could be aware of its existence to a certain extent, but probably doesn't experience a sense of self as much as a sense of common or shared existence as part of a greater whole.
There is probably a threshold between hierarchies. Birth and death probably represent thresholds for us. The threshold phenomenon (not necessarily referring to consciousness) is seen at all levels of existence and would include such things as photons leaving electrons, electrons leaving atoms, matter changing into energy, atoms leaving molecules, molecules leaving protein structures, protein structures leaving the cell, cells dying within organs, birth and death of human and other animal organisms, planet escaping from a solar system, birth or death of a sun, birth or death of a galaxy, etc.
The hierarchal properties of intelligence have been expressed in terms of General Systems theory. According to Systems theory, mind or consciousness is characteristic of all living organisms, but is not limited to individual organisms since it extends to social and ecological systems as well. Societies and cultures are seen to have a collective mind or consciousness, as well as a collective unconsciousness. Individuals help shape both, and in turn are influenced by them. Planetary and cosmic levels of consciousness are also perceived to be present.12
Systems theory also extends the concept of consciousness toward the microcosm, and would endow all matter to the subatomic level with this property.13
Gregory Bateson has proposed that mind is a necessary and inevitable consequence of a certain complexity which begins long before organisms develop a brain or higher nervous system. It is an essential property of living systems. Both life and mind are seen as manifestations of the same set of systemic properties. Mind and matter no longer are seen as separate fundamental entities, but rather represent different aspects of the same universal process.14...At low levels of complexity mentation is observed as behavior, and at higher levels it takes on the more characteristic qualities of mind. Social and ecological systems represent larger manifestations of mind, of which individual minds are only subsystems. The environment is seen as not only alive but also mindful.15
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