THE THEORY OF A UNIVERSAL CONSCIOUSNESS
There is an intelligent entity within nature which is mystical because it cannot be fully comprehended by the conceptual mind. It seems that everything which comes into being is the result of this natural intelligence which does not set out to create or do anything, but everything is done which implies that god or nature is too intelligent for the need to think.
We can observe this natural intelligence when a tiny egg which, when taken out of a lake and kept for even ten years and then emersed in salt water, becomes a brine-shrimp. Or when sperm struggles to be the first to impregnate an ovum which results in the birth of an animal or a child. A sperm doesn’t ‘know’ the consequences of its actions, it acts or reacts according to the mystical laws of nature.
The implication is that the entity which causes life and matter to come into being is an intelligence devoid of thought and that this mystical intelligence causes self-organising systems to exist and evolve. If a self-organising system exists then some form of intelligence must also exist. Natural events take place without divine or human involvement which suggests that gods or minds are not behind the workings of the natural world. Yet, there seems to be some form of natural intelligence coordinating events. For instance, living cells within any form of life function according to this same natural intelligence.
The environment is not just a multitude of living organisms, it contains a natural process and this process causes life to come into existence or causes life to act or react according to natural forces within their environment. There are many forms of life which do not have ‘brains’ and so they do not have to think, but, in order to survive, they need to make intelligent use of internal and external ‘information’.
When the human species came into existence they eventually acquired the ability to communicate with each other through language and although this was an important step towards human development, this ability was actually an invented form of intelligence which commenced with sounds and then words. Each isolated group of people invented their own language and when different groups met there were conflicts and divisions because they had difficulty understanding each other.
In this, the twenty-first century, even with all the information available, we still misunderstand people who have different customs and beliefs.
We seem not to realise that languages, customs and beliefs are all inventions of the human mind.
Human knowledge and intelligence can be compared and measured, but, there is no comparison or measure for natural intelligence. We accumulate more and more knowledge and each experience strengthens our knowledge. The problem is, false knowledge, and particularly false beliefs, make it difficult to live and think intelligently.
The human brain is a natural organ which has the potential to cause intelligence, but, brains and other organs are merely vehicles for this implied mystical intelligence. We should not confuse human intelligence with natural intelligence and we should also realise that thoughts would never have come into being without the primary entity of this mystical entity.
A Mystical Form of Consciousness?
In 1993 I was intrigued when I read Professor Paul Davies Book, "The Mind of God". So I wrote to him about my concepts of a mystical and natural intelligence and he replied: "I read your reflective on my book with great interest. Your position seems very close to my own, in fact, so I have a lot of sympathy for your ideas".
Then more recently, Professor Davies claimed that consciousness will soon be part of physics. If this theory of a Universal Consciousness is correct, it would confirm that a spiritual or mystical intelligence is devoid of thought because it existed long before brains or minds came into being.
This natural intelligence or mystical consciousness is a timeless universal entity, therefore, it is identical in all things, however, it is completely different to what is know as human consciousness: Actually, there is no difference, however, we need to realise that our natural consciousness is primary and we need it so as to think, but all thought is secondary and of less importance which means the real dimension of the mind is impossible to convey by using ordinary words or thoughts. The most significant things that separate people are their different thoughts and beliefs. This does not imply that we should all think alike, but it means we would have the opportunity to become intelligent only if we accepted actual facts and eliminated all beliefs.
We don’t need religion or faith, we need to be more intelligent. We spend billions of dollars looking for intelligent life on other planets instead of realising that different forms of intelligence already exist once words or thoughts are deemed to be secondary to the primary entity of our natural consciousness.
The Destructive Nature of Beliefs.
Truth must always be questioned and open for review. There is no common element to truth because as soon as we accept something as being true, the next moment in time, it may no longer be true. The understanding of time is very important because time can only be grasped by the intuitive mind and, also, because the conceptual mind functions in the line of time, so we need to discuss the nature of time later.
To continue with beliefs, if someone begins to question a particular belief and decides to change to another then the new belief usually becomes ultimate because they think they became more intelligent or more spiritual whilst becoming more conditioned or more fanatical.
This is evident when, for example, someone is born into the Christian faith and later if they accept the Buddhist doctrine of reincarnation then the new belief usually becomes ultimate. Reincarnation or eternal life can become an ultimate belief, but in reality it is wishful thinking by the egotistical temporal mind. What is eternal, or at least timeless is our natural mystical conscious- ness, however, this does not imply that our individual mind or consciousness continues after death.
One can either exist in the past or sense each moment, or at least some moments, as being new and meaningful. If we question our past concepts then we may be inspired by our own conclusions, the ultimate of which is to learn how to eliminate destructive thoughts and emotions and to find out why we believe certain things and events which are not based on truth.
Our parents, preachers and teachers endeavoured to condition us to their own point of view, but, if we realise beliefs are only relative to what we accept from others, but, if we look at facts and have no point of view regarding any particular belief, then no one would be able to influence us.
An intelligent mind would not rely on false concepts or burden itself with false conclusions. But no mind can think intelligently if it’s unable to perceive its own self-made prison. If the mind is locked into any particular belief or invented thought system then it cannot possibly be free to experience a different dimension, and so, there is no escape at all unless the mind attained an altered state of consciousness.
An Altered State of Consciousness.
It is now generally recognised that even our ordinary consciousness is separate to thought, but, no matter how wonderful or beautiful thoughts may seem, they are insignificant compared to this implied mystical and silent consciousness which, as mentioned, is primary, however, enlightenment is secondary, but thoughts are always last, therefore, we need to determine which is the most significant.
The answer is evident once we realise that thoughts would never have come into existence without the primary entity of a natural intelligence, therefore, thoughts are, in comparison, insignificant. After all, we were not born brain- dead and we are not brain-dead during deep sleep, therefore, consciousness can exist without thought, but thought cannot exist without this natural entity.
We also need to know that we were all born with the same identical consciousness.
What separates us is our different thoughts and what separates us further is our different beliefs.
We commenced life with very limited knowledge and what we accumulate over time determines our mode of thinking which, in turn, determines how we live.
Only a mind which is free from all conditioned thoughts, beliefs and illusions can attain an altered state of consciousness. Once thoughts commence then the mind is transferred from a timeless dimension into the dimension of time.
The Nature of Time.
We cannot talk about time without including space. What we experience in Space-Time is an illusion as is evident when we experience stars that are not there. That is, because it takes time to interpret an experience then the conceptual mind cannot comprehend the timeless dimension of ‘now’. The moment time became a concept is the moment the mind became a slave to time because all knowledge is relative to a past dimension.
The greatest paradoxical problem occurs when the human observer examines matter because the outcome is never certain. We need to realise the activity within matter functions in present moment dimensions, whereas, what the mind observes is in the line of time.
The conceptual mind always functions from a past dimension because it relies on what (knowledge) it learnt in the past. The mind interprets what it experienced a moment ago, but, in reality, that moment no longer exists, therefore, in this context, time does not exist.
We generally don’t realise that a present moment is not relative to time. And a present moment is certainly not relative to thought. If the mind functions in the line of time, then, this present moment, which the conceptual mind cannot grasp, is timeless.
Between one thought and another there is a silent moment where time and thought do not exist: What exists before thought commences is the silent timeless consciousness.
When natural consciousness is transformed into conscious thoughts, reality (what is) ends. However, this mystical timeless consciousness does not act alone because it requires some other entity before it can manifest itself, and that which exists in all life and in all matter is energy.
Things do not consist of bundles of matter, but consist of bundles of energy.
Nothing can function without energy, but energy on its own is nothing and does nothing because energy is inactive until something causes it to materialise or causes it to become active.
As Bertrand Russell said: "It is energy not matter that is fundamental in physics".
However, energy on its own cannot be the fundamental entity of the universe without some other mysterious entity causing energy to act or react.
According to the quantum theory, when we turn a light on, we don’t see energy, we see the effects of energy. And we don’t generally realise that the light is ‘pulsing’ ‘on and off’ at the speed of light because energy does not function continuously in matter.
We can only convey an approximate interpretation of this mystical dimension because it must have existed long before life began and it will undoubtedly continue to exist if all life ended which confirms that this ‘entity’ is eternal or at least timeless.
When our life ends it’s absurd to think that our mind or our memory becomes eternal because if the brain/mind is matter then thought or memory is of the same category.
The unity of all things and events is now one of the most important revelations of modern physics. Everything in the universe, whether known or unknown, is somehow interconnected. Human life is a pulsing scrap of matter linked to a cosmic evolutionary intelligence. However, human intelligence seems to be evolving in the direction of more mechanistic materialism.
The ‘spiritual mind’ is devoid of thought because the direct experience of ‘now’ transcends thought and can never be taught or conveyed. This means there is a space between cause and effect or a space between thoughts, therefore, the real dimension of the mind is the timeless silent moment between one thought and another.
The Silent Mind.
When the mind is quiet only then can we sense something that is beyond words or thoughts and only then can we ‘sense’ the extraordinary dimension of our natural intelligence; an intelligence that is poised to experience ‘what is’ or act or react according to natural instincts. Yet, these actions or reactions are only secondary to the primary entity of our silent consciousness. It is then that we devalue what we know and awaken to our natural intelligence which exists before thoughts commence.
There is a silent moment between one thought and another where only this mystical or spiritual entity exists and so it is difficult to comprehend that this natural intelligence exists when the mind is silent.
A wise Mystic was asked about the Ultimate Truth, but, at first, he did not answer. When asked again, he replied: "I am teaching it to you, just listen to the silence".
The silence or space between thoughts is the natural dimension of the mind.
When conceptual thoughts commence the silence ends and we are left with words or thoughts about words or thoughts, some of which cause the mind to be calm, but most cause the mind to be agitated.
Buddhists and others advise that we need to meditate to quieten the mind. But the mind automatically becomes relatively quiet when it is emptied of conditioned thoughts and beliefs including what Buddhists believe.
Wisdom is not the invention of wise thoughts. Wisdom is the cessation of thought. The ending of preconceived concepts is the beginning of wisdom.
It is difficult to comprehend that we overvalue what we know and believe, so, we place more importance on thoughts than on our natural intelligence.
Thought is unlimited and deemed to be real, but most of what the mind thinks of is limited and unreal. Therefore, we need to examine whether or not there is another dimension to the human mind.
Spontaneous Forms of Knowing.
We need to ‘sense’ the environment, or whatever, from moment to moment and to sense ‘what is’ and not interpret what thought thinks ‘what is’ is.
What are we failing to see? We seem to close the mind to that which is real. Yet, we accept concepts and beliefs that are only real to conditioned minds.
We also need to understand why we overvalue structured and normative forms of knowledge. If not, we will lose touch with the more intuitive and spontaneous forms of knowing. It is not only our physiological well-being that we haven’t properly understood, but also, the understanding of ourselves within our environment.
It is only each individual mind which can provide the answer to intuitive enlightenment. If we believe others, or if we follow the path of others, then we must be on the wrong path. The path to enlightenment is via our senses and feelings and natural intelligence not via our conditioned concepts.
Thoughts and experiences are very much conditioned by our conceptual frameworks. We fail to see things as they are and only see them according to how we think they are. In contrast, to grasp the world intuitively is to cease imposing on our views and concepts.
We are all separate observers and we believe we are separate from each other.
However, it’s only our mechanical thoughts and conditioned beliefs which separate us from each other and from the environment and from that which is real.
We experience the world as being flat and solid, yet we accept that this is not so.
Science can be compared to many philosophical mysticism’s, but the comparisons are difficult to make because one is derived from scientific facts and the other is derived from mystical concepts. The latter is mainly based on insight and cannot actually be communicated verbally.
Einstein and many Mystics endeavoured to teach us that the material world is an illusion because by endeavouring to grasp the real dimension is like grasping the idea of things and missing the essence of them. Therefore, all verbal descriptions of reality are inaccurate or incomplete.
Quantum physics allows us to sense an invisible intelligence that underlies the visible world. But even the quantum theory cannot be explained or conveyed by ordinary language. Language is an important medium to describe the importance of logic and reason, but language dominates our thinking and does not allow us to understand this other very important natural dimension of the mind.
As Albert Einstein said: " A human being is a part of a whole, called by us as a universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest ..... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty."
In other words, we need to free ourselves from the concept that we are superior to, or more intelligent than, other forms of life. We think of ourselves as if we are separate from most other individuals, and in particular, as if we are separate form other forms of life or other forms of matter. However, we shouldn’t live in isolation from our environment because we are part of it.
Whatever we can touch or even see.
Everything on land and in the sea.
Even ever blade of grass and every tree.
All these things are part of you and me.
Present Moment Experiences.
The mind needs to free itself from past concepts and past experiences because there is an enormous difference between thinking about something and actually experiencing it. As long as the mind is thinking then that prevents one from having new experiences. To recognise something means we already know it. The new can never be known. Once something is known then it is no longer new.
If we observe a tree then we should be part of the environment and there would be no separation. But if we think the tree is beautiful, or green, or whatever, then that knowledge was derived from a past perspective, therefore, we are not experiencing the tree or ‘what is’.
If we take photographs of that tree we may not see any significant difference for years, but change occurred even whilst we were thinking it was a tree. The conceptual mind cannot function in present moment dimensions because it takes time for the cognitive mind to interpret an experience.
Thoughts or memories may seem real, but, in the true sense, they are never real. We continue to experience our image of the real or what we imagine the real to be. Thought continually creates experiences which cause the mind to think they are real. Each event that the mind experiences is made up of separate time-frame images.
Another analogy is a movie-film: It is the blank space between each image on the film that is identical or universal. The projector-fan eliminates the blank spaces and we experience the blending of images. To watch a movie, we usually think the images are present realities, yet, they are illusions.
So as with the mind, we believe that our experiences are present moment realities. Like the film, the mystical dimension of the mind is the ‘blank’ space between thoughts. The blank space is the dimension of our natural consciousness and, as mentioned, without this universal consciousness thoughts would never eventuate.
"To Go With the Flow"
To go with the flow means we should eliminate all unnecessary thoughts from the mind, otherwise, we become attached to the stagnant magnet of the past.
The stagnant waters which remain are belief systems, thought systems, false concepts and false emotions.
The mind doesn’t see the necessity to change so it retains all the unnecessary past. If new information is not compatible with what is known then the new is rejected.
At present, most of us are not capable of eliminating the stagnant water because we are so comfortable with it: It is our security and we are afraid that the ‘self’ would end if our thoughts ended or we may think that something terrible would happen to us if our comfortable old ‘self’ ended. Yet, when past conditioned thoughts end, enlightenment may begin.
Enlightened is not derived from one’s interpreted experiences. What is paramount is the sense of wonder; the awe; the mystical experiences which
are real but can never be interpreted because if they are of the (past) conceptual mind then they are not relative to ‘what is’. When conditioned thoughts end, the mystique of enlightenment can transform the mind, but to rely on thoughts, then, there is nothing real to find.
The paradoxical problem is, no matter how many times we are confronted with truth or reality if what is put before us is not compatible with what we already know then we will reject it because it doesn’t fit our image of what we think is true or real. But, no image of anything, including God, can possibly be real. The word; the thought; the concept; the interpretation is never actually real.
Each individual mind needs to experience the mystical or spiritual dimension, but it is impossible to experience that dimension by relying on what Jesus or Mohammed or Budda interpreted as the ultimate reality because that dimension is a sense or a feeling which is beyond words or thoughts.
The Tranquil Mind
We need to understand how the mind functions so as to bring about a fundamental change. However, we must first understand the whole process of thought and its limitations. If the mind ceases to function from a past dimension, even momentarily, then it may experience a tranquillity that is not the product of thought and only in that state can there be an intelligence which can sense a present moment dimension: The dimension which is devoid of past preconceived concepts.
The intuitive mind or the meditative mind (not the mind which meditates) does not interpret experiences except when it endeavours to explain the unexplainable. Therein lies the problem because the conceptual mind cannot convey that which is beyond mechanical thoughts.
We think that more knowledge will make us more intelligent, yet, we still overvalue what we know and believe, not realising we are getting further and further away from reality. But in the reality of living thoughts and knowledge are very important, however, we will never become intelligent unless we learn how to make intelligent use of factual knowledge.
What is important is to experience the natural environment as if we were part of it. To experience everything as being new, as if we have never experienced it before. The environment would be a natural creation, but we would not see creativity nor beauty we would just sense what is and in that there is beauty because of our naturalness. The conceptual mind cannot see beauty as it is, it can only interpret what it thinks it is: Then, that which the mind thinks is real, causes the beauty and the real to be lost.
A mystical experience may occur at any time, but, unfortunately, it usually only occurs when death is accepted, but, it can happen at any time during one’s life. If it did happen then our conceptual mind for a timeless moment would be devoid of thought and time and we would experience the extra- ordinary sense beyond the insignificant self.
Once that feeling became a thought then that would be the end of the mystical experience. The end of a mystical experience is the beginning of thoughts, concepts and interpretations. Interpretations of experiences become thoughts which are imprisoned in the depths of the past:
They may seem significant, but, in reality, they become memories instead of being a sensual wonder about the mysterious unknown.
Again, this mystical dimension is devoid of conceptual thought, it can be sensed but can never be known. And the more we know the less we will understand this important dimension because knowledge of it may cause us to think we are spiritual beings, whereas, the only ‘spiritual dimension’ is our mystical and natural consciousness which continually exists even before a single thought commences.
False Spiritual Dimensions.
If the brain/mind is matter then all thoughts (even so called spiritual thoughts) are materialistic.
We are naturally intelligent, what makes us unintelligent is the misuse of knowledge. If we place more importance on knowledge than on living then it means we don’t know how to live. That is, if we overvalue material things, or our country, or our political system, or our religion, more than more important things such life and other human beings then it means we will continue to perpetuate conflicts and all the consequences of conflicts derived from conditioned or selfish thoughts and desires.
We have ignored the need to enrich our thoughts with various patterns of perception, but our present conceptual mind does not allow us to sense that we are interconnected human beings so that we are as one with others so as to become compassionate without having to think.
Action Without Thought.
We usually think and then act, but occasionally, we spontaneously act without thinking. We may jump into the water to save a child from drowning, even if we couldn’t swim. We may act selflessly, during a war, to save a mate and do so without thinking.
However, if individuals became intelligent then we would have an intelligent society and there wouldn’t be any wars, but that’s another subject. Suffice to say, wars will cease when the demand to change society ceases because individuals need to change with different thought systems and eliminate all belief systems before society will change.
Our selfish thoughts do not allow us to sense that we are interconnected beings and so we despise or kill those who seem more selfish than ourselves, but, as long as we are doing something to be selfless we will remain selfish.
A business person is torn between making as much money as possible and being ethical. A balance is difficult to achieve if one is in a competitive business environment. An ethical person is spontaneously ethical without endeavouring to be ethical and although many people endeavour to be ethical or unselfish, most people do not realise that the mind is capable of extraordinary selfless actions without consciously setting out to act.
Instead of living as nature intended it, we tend to live according to how thought demands it. We are conditioned to be dependant on thoughts and emotions. Yet, if love is a thought, or a desire, or an emotion, then, it cannot possibly be love.
Love exists with wordless reason and is part of the same silent evolutionary forces of nature.
Occasionally, the false self is not acting and the true self feels related to everyone else.
Loved ones and enemies too.
Each grain of sand, each drop of dew.
Every place and face is part of you.
A False Concept or a New Theory?
Scientists may discover the secrets of the universe and if consciousness is to be part of physics, as Professor Davies claimed, then we may also discover the secrets of the mind. Even if consciousness is not part of physics it certainly is the natural and primary entity of the brain/mind.
There is also a theory that life (living cells) originally came from outer-space and another theory that life originated here on earth: Whatever their origin they must have been conscious which supports the theory that all life has a natural and universal consciousness which, as implied, becomes ‘contaminated’ when thought commences.
If we don’t understand new concepts or new theories we simply shut them out because the mind tends to reject that which cannot be experienced without thought.
If we accept new facts, but retain our beliefs then the new information becomes distorted. We do not seem to realise that learning new facts is always different to clinging to old beliefs.
Religious people perpetuate conditioned thoughts by believing that there is only one true God, yet, most do not realise that if a spiritual dimension did exist - it could never be ‘known’. Therefore, every religion devised by the human mind encourages the worship of an invented god which means that theologians would need to reinterpret a God which is beyond words or thoughts.
Universal Consciousness: An Historical and Scientific Perspective
"All things are implicated with one another, and the bond is holy; and there is hardly anything unconnected with any other things. For things have been coordinated, and they combine to make up the same universe. For there is one universe made up of all things, and one god who pervades all things, and one substance, and one law, and one reason."
Marcus Aurelius - The Meditations (7.9)
This observation, written by Emperor Marcus Aureluis about AD 170, could easily have been ascribed to physicist David Bohm in the last decade. The concept of a Universe that is indivisible and interactive by its very nature has persisted from the earliest writings of religion, philosophy, physics and psychology right up to today's New York Times' bestseller list. Through the centuries, interdisciplinary investigations have probed the intriguing questions and questionable answers within this age-old holistic view. In each era, the theories and theorists have been different, but together they represent some of the most important thinking of both Eastern and Western tradition. Although the language, the focus or the discipline may vary, the conclusion has been the same: the Universe is whole, ordered and conscious.
This concept has been explored throughout history in nearly every art and discipline, occasionally spawning entire schools of thought and practice. Within religion and philosophy, often difficult to separate, the concept is usually termed "pantheism" or "panentheism". The more recent discipline of psychology coined the term "panpsychism". Interconnectedness is also integral to the study and development of physics, especially the current holographic paradigm. Review of the literature in these four diverse fields shows that the concept of a consciousness which interconnects the universe has been proposed in many times and civilizations and is supported by current scientific theory.
Two of the religious precepts that embrace universal consciousness are pantheism and panentheism. Pantheism is the belief that the universe and nature are divine. It equates God with the forces and laws of the universe. Most of the Eastern disciplines have one of the many forms of pantheism at their core. Panentheism is related to pantheism, but takes the process one step further. Panentheists believe that God is present in the sensible universe, but also extends beyond it. This is a common belief in many of the Western religions, including Judaism and Christianity. Both classic pantheism and panentheism have been practiced, voiced and celebrated within the religions and philosophies of society from its earliest foundations.
Pantheism has flowered in every era, like a perennial rooted in the common ground of all transcendental or idealist religions. Every religion has had its pantheists and people in every religion have seen God in nature. Pantheism has many varieties and divisions, each expressed in the practices or writings of a particular group. Some are world-affirming, believing that the material world is identical with God, therefore good. Some are world-denying, believing that the phenomenal world is a mere illusion. There are further subdivisions of monism and dualism, as well as other distinguishing characteristics of various pantheistic practices. Rather than dwell on the differences between these varieties, it is important to capture the essence of their underlying theme of unity.
Eastern mysticism incorporates many forms of pantheism within its diverse practices. These traditions are both philosophical and religious, and many influence the social and cultural life of followers as well. This is especially true of Hinduism. Based upon the Vedas, a collection of four ancient scriptures written between 1500 and 500 BC, Hinduism has been the guiding influence in India for the last twenty-five centuries. The fundamental idea is that the multitude of things and events around us are but different manifestations of the same ultimate reality. Fritjof Capra notes that "This reality, called Brahman, is the unifying concept which gives Hinduism its essentially monistic character in spite of the worship of numerous gods and goddesses " (87). The various aspects of Brahman have been taught through the popular mythical tales or epics and identified with the names of the gods and goddesses that are worshipped by Hindus, but all these gods are just reflections of the same divine reality-the infinite, omnipresent, and incomprehensible Braman. Capra observes that "The basic recurring theme in Hindu mythology is the creation of the world by the self-sacrifice of God-'sacrifice' in the original sense of 'making sacred'-whereby God becomes the world which, in the end, becomes again God" (87).
About the middle of the sixth century BC, Siddartha Gautama, the historic Buddha, began to teach a different sort of discipline in India. Unlike the mythological and ritualistic Hinduism, Buddhism was definitely psychological. It was concerned with the human condition and human frustrations. After the Buddha's death, the Mahayana school of Buddhism spread across Asia to Tibet, China and Japan, as well as being absorbed into the Hindu practice in India. Mahayana Buddhism views phenomenal existence as a dream state from which one must awaken, as the Buddha did, to see the impermanence of 'things' and the futility of holding on to them. Through right thought and actions, one will reach the state of nirvana, where "false notions of a separate self have forever disappeared and the oneness of all life has become a constant sensation" (Capra 96). Buddha is not worshipped as a Diety, nor is the physical world thought to be a manifestation of the Divine. Rather, the whole of the universe is perceived to be an inseparable 'void' or 'suchness', including the individual. This is a clear example of materialistic, monistic, world-denying pantheism.
About the same time as the Buddha began his teaching in India, both Confucianism and Taoism were developing in China. While Confucianism concerned itself primarily with social etiquette and ethics, Taoism focused on the observation of nature and the discovery of its Way, or Tao. Taoism did not require extensive social or ethical rules, because "human happiness, according to the Taoists, is achieved when one follows the natural order, acting spontaneously and trusting one's intuitive knowledge" (Capra 102). Lao Tzu, the originator of Taoism, taught that there is an ultimate reality which underlies and unifies the multiple things and events that we observe. This is called the Tao, or the Way, and "is the cosmic process in which all things are involved; the world is seen as a continuous flow and change" (104). This discipline is truly the essence of materialistic pantheism, as it transcends the concepts of duality and evolution. The observable universe is just a momentary manifestation that encompasses all possibilities and is in constant flow, each aspect containing its opposite and its complement.
Although these Eastern spiritual traditions differ in details and the particular flavor of pantheism, their world view is essentially the same. Its most important characteristic "is the awareness of the unity and mutual interrelation of all things and events, the experience of all phenomena in the world as manifestations of a basic oneness" (Capra 130). This ultimate, indivisible reality which manifests itself in all things and of which all things are parts is also observed in the Western religious traditions. Again, the particular terminology and variety of pantheism may differ, but the concept of an underlying, unifying presence is a basic tenet of Judeo-Christian faith.
Judeo-Christian theology is not so much pantheistic as panentheistic - it believes that God is present in the world as well as extending beyond it. Especially in later Judaism, God was thought to be present everywhere in the world. The form of this presence is often called Shechinah, "dwelling," and is depicted as light or glory. The Talmud and the Old Testament are liberally sprinkled with references to God's omnipresence. The book of Jeremiah asks, "Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord."[ 23:24]. Christianity has fewer direct references to pantheism, but does imply that the Holy Spirit is within all things.
Many other spiritual practices include some variety of pantheism or panentheism. Ibn al-'Arabi, one of the most uncompromising panentheistic Sufi disciples, believed that God had a transcendental as well as an immanent aspect. He was manifested in--but also extended beyond-the material universe. Both Sufism and Islamic theology strongly reiterate the presence of God in all things throughout their holy texts. Earth-based spiritual practices, such as Native American, Aboriginal and Wiccan, share many of the same concepts and celebrate the unifying spirit within the entire universe. One needs only to casually observe most religions to find the precepts of unity and integrality boldly displayed within the basic tenets.
In the sixth century BC, about the same time as the blossoming of Eastern mysticism, another revolution in thought was taking root in the Ionic coast of Asia Minor, near what is now Turkey. The prosperous port city of Miletus became the birthplace of what we call Greek philosophy. Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes all began to explore the form and meaning of the universe in a new way, combining mythology and rational thought to understand the very nature of the world. Each sought an explanation for the basic 'stuff' of the universe, the underlying substance. Although they differed in their conclusions, all three were basically materialistic pantheists. Thales believed that all things were full of divinities. Anaximander held that the primary substance was divine. Anaximenes taught that the primary substance was prior to the gods. Like their counterparts in the East, these founders of Western thought felt that everything in the universe is interconnected and purposeful. Fifty years and kilometers away, Heraclitus of Ephesus continued this philosophical probe into the fabric of nature and man, with some similar, but more holistic, conclusions. He thought it "wise to agree that all things are one" (Harrison screen 18). Although he was often called Heraclitus the Obscure, his unfailing belief in the unity and order of the universe was abundantly clear. These four presocratic philosophers set a new direction for thought, inquiry and civilization. All of what we now know as Western philosophy, science and abstract thought can be traced to the influence of these Ionian materialistic pantheists.
The school of Stoic philosophy, founded about the third century BC by Zeno of Cittium in Cyprus, influenced science, ethics and logic for centuries. To the Stoics, the universe was a divine being. It did not merely have a soul and purpose, it was consciousness. Diogenes Laertius writes of this stoic view, "Mind penetrates into every part of the world, just as the soul pervades us. . . The whole world is a living thing endowed with soul and with reason" (7:127). Man's role was to accept the will of this divine consciousness, whatever the purpose he was assigned to fulfill. Stoicism became synonymous with patience and suffering without complaint. Others of this school who contributed writings on the divine and interconnected nature of the universe include Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who ruled from AD 161 to 180, and his fellow Romans, Seneca and Epictetus.
Benedict (Baruch) Spinoza, born in Amsterdam in 1632, was greatly influenced by both Jewish mysticism and stoic philosophy. He is often called the father of modern pantheism. In his chief work, The Ethics, he uses mathematics and geometry-like proofs to support his world view, an approach consistent with his logical and ordered concept of pantheism. Although Spinoza did not leave a large body of written works behind, his influence on young students in his discussion groups and popularity with the later romantics, like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, ensured his mark on modern thinking.
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was also strongly influenced by stoicism. He considered himself to be a revolutionary thinker, because he focused his method of criticism on analysis of the sensible world. He set the stage for the rise of the German philosophers during the nineteenth century. One of his most controversial concepts, published in Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens (1755), was the precept of physical influx. Kant theorized that the body and soul (or intellect) are separate, but interpenetrated, with mutual causality. He appears to be the first to support what is now called the mind/body connection. Andrew Carpenter observes that Kant's goal is to "bring into view the cosmic universal plan in conformity [with] which the universe is structured and has developed" (screen 5). Kant influenced economic, social and transcendental philosophy through G.W.F. Hegel's grandiose idealistic pantheism, in which all existence and all history are part of God's cosmic self-development.
Although the philosophers mentioned above all contributed significantly to the understanding of pantheism or cosmic consciousness, in nearly every era and region there were other philosophers who also professed support of this concept. Whether it was termed idealism, pantheism, materialism or stoicism, belief in the interconnectedness of the universe, as well as its purposeful development, has persisted through the critical thinking of our time.
The science of psychology was formally begun at the University of Leipzig in 1879, when the University funded a laboratory for Wilhelm Wundt and offered credit for his courses. From the beginning, psychology was concerned with the questions and problems of consciousness. Wundt investigated introspection as a means of measuring, exploring and understanding consciousness. Later, Freud delved further into the realms of the unconscious. About a decade into the twentieth century, Watson and the behaviorists took a firm hold on the young science and placed all systematic investigation into consciousness, human or otherwise, on a very cold, back burner. In the 1960's, a strange mixture of events started the consciousness pot boiling again, bringing new methods and directions to the research. Investigation into hallucinogens and altered states, the discovery of REM sleep and the development of the computer all brought the spotlight of psychological study back to the wonder of cognition. Both in the early years of consciousness studies and the post-1970 revival, the concept of universal consciousness found its way into a variety of theories of mind. Even though the major theories differ as to whether they embrace monism or dualism, idealism or phenomenalism, supporters of panpsychism have developed in nearly every camp.
The major theorists and writers within the field of psychology who endorse panpsychism today resemble the scientist-philosophers of the Renaissance. They combine such diverse disciplines as analytic philosophy, quantum theory, neurobiology, cognitive science and the psychology of perception to probe the mysteries of consciousness from a daringly original perspective. Investigators like Michael Lockwood, author of Mind, Brain and The Quantum, attempt to explain the interactive nature of the universe and the human experience through synthesis of the information from each of these approaches. Investigations into the science of consciousness have spawned interdisciplinary cooperation unlike any known in the past. The 'Theory of Mind' has morphed into a 'Theory of Everything', bringing the innovative thinkers and researchers from the physical, social and theoretical sciences together in conferences, laboratories and workshops around the world. Carl Jung, a vocal protagonist of universal interconnectedness through his concepts of the collective unconscious and archetypes, predicted this synthesis. In Aion (1951), he prophetically states that "sooner or later nuclear physics and the psychology of the unconscious will draw closer together as both of them, independently of one another and from opposite directions, push forward into transcendental territory, the one with the concept of the atom, the other with that of the archetype" (9: Part II: 412).
The most prominent current supporters of panpsychism include Piet Hut, Roger Shepard, G.H. Rosenberg and W. Seager. Each of these researchers takes a different approach to the concept of universal consciousness, rather like the different types of pantheism. Some are world-denying, others are articulately world-affirming, suggesting that a shared consciousness forms and changes our phenomenal world. Their defenses of panpsychism have redefined the supposed 'hard problem' of how to reconcile the 'qualia' of experience with the physicality of the brain, placing the real debate on which is the underlying causative factor.
Once Albert Einstein stretched Newtonian mechanics to the breaking point with publication of his theory of special relativity in 1903, the stage was set for a new type of physics. Later that year, Einstein opened the door to the quantum era with publication of his conflicting particle-wave light theories. His new model of the very fabric of material existence inspired a host of physical theorists and researchers around the world. Einstein was greatly influenced by Spinoza's pantheism and was deeply religious about the divine wonder of the universe. This passage, from his 1949 work, The World as I See It, gives us an insight into his holistic concept of the space-time continuum.
"A human being is a part of a whole, called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest--a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty" (Harris screen 7).
Einstein worked until his death to find the 'missing link' in quantum theory that would disprove Neils Bohr's concept of random occurrence. He emphatically stated many times that "God does not play dice", reiterating his firm belief in an underlying plan or consciousness within the quantum possibilities.
Many of the top researchers into the quantum nature of our world have discovered the inextricable link between physics and consciousness, using various philosophical or religious concepts to explain the interactive quality of the 'quantum soup'. To systematically explore this link, the Physics/Consciousness Research Group (PCRG) was co-founded by theoretical physicist Jack Sarfatti and consciousness researcher Michael Murphy at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, in 1974. The PCRG nurtured the creation of books like Space-Time and Beyond by Fred Alan Wolf, The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra, The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav, Cosmic Trigger by Robert Anton Wilson, and The Roots of Consciousness by Jeffrey Mishlove. All these works explore the interconnectedness of the universe and the underlying consciousness that gives it order. In Taking the Quantum Leap, physicist Fred Alan Wolf observes:
"Quantum mechanics, perhaps more clearly than any religion, points to the unity of the world. It also points to something beyond the physical world. It matters little which interpretation you choose--all of these interpretations point to the mystery of the physical world from a nonphysical perspective. We might say that God's will is exercised in the world of the qwiff, the quantum wave function" (249).
Modern physics, in its search to understand and explain the nature of subatomic activity, proves that even on the macroscopic level material objects are not distinct entities, but inseparably linked to their environment. Their properties can only be evaluated by their interaction with the rest of the world. Physicist Fritjof Capra observes that "the basic unity of the cosmos manifests itself, therefore, not only in the world of the very small but also in the world of the very large; a fact which is increasingly acknowledged in modern astrophysics and cosmology" (209).
With the acceptance of the 'big bang' theory in current cosmology, it is hard to conceive of the universe as anything but a whole. If, as is theorized, it was all one coherent plasma that the big bang scattered, then each individual aspect of that universe is still within the whole. In the words of astronomer Fred Hoyle,
"Present-day developments in cosmology are coming to suggest rather insistently that everyday conditions could not persist but for the distant parts of the Universe, that all our ideas of space and geometry would become entirely invalid if the distant parts of the Universe were taken away. Our everyday experience even down to the smallest details seems to be so closely integrated to the grand-scale features of the Universe that it is well-nigh impossible to contemplate the two being separated" (Capra 211).
In the last few decades, attempts to reconcile research into cosmology, quantum mechanics and information processing have led to some amazing new paradigms. One of these was developed by physicist David Bohm. He was fascinated by the interconnectedness of matter, energy and quantum events. The emerging science of holography gave him a new model for understanding the interconnectedness he documented in his experiments. Bohm's Wholeness and the Implicate Order, published in 1980, did more than just link the various facets of science together, it transfigured them into a new way of looking at reality. Michael Talbot explains this concept in The Holographic Universe by writing,
"One of Bohm's most startling assertions is that the tangible reality of our everyday lives is really a kind of illusion, like a holographic image. Underlying it is a deeper order of existence, a vast and more primary level of reality that gives birth to all the objects and appearances of our physical world in much the same way that a piece of holographic film gives birth to a hologram. Bohm calls this deeper level of reality the implicate (which means enfolded) order, and he refers to our own level of existence as the explicate, or unfolded, order" (46)
Bohm's holographic paradigm explains many of the difficulties in resolving discrepancies between the physical sciences. He sees our insistence on dividing physical, social, behavioral and ethical sciences as the cause of these discrepancies. In effect, trying to find the link between physics and consciousness is impossible with our current thinking, because we are still treating matter and consciousness as separate things. If, as Bohm theorizes, they are really different observed aspects of a non-local, holographic whole, they are as inseparable as Einstein's space-time continuum. Like Einstein's model, Bohm's may spawn a whole new school of exploration and discovery, making our current quantum mechanics research look like medieval alchemy.
The Holographic paradigm brings new meaning to the term whole, one hinted at by the world's religions, the schools of mysticism, various philosophies and a broad range of sciences. From this holistic perspective, the universe is a living, conscious entity, and every aspect of it is inseparable. This concept can be observed in miniature on earth. We are beginning to understand, through the effects of pollution and resource mismanagement, that we are not separate from our environment. The physical health and survival of the living plants and animals on earth are interdependent with the use and conservation of the materials that share our common biosystem. A burning forest or oil well on the other side of the planet affects everything from weather to the chemical content of our food-and our bodies. If we can accept this microcosmic example of interconnectedness, it should be a small step to picture it on a macrocosmic scale. Many authors and artists have already taken this 'quantum leap' and left us a legacy of images to guide our journey into wholeness. Poet William Blake, in Auguries of Innocence, invites us
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour (621).
Aurelius, Marcus. The Meditations. Trans. Moses Hadas. New York: Bantam Books. 1960.
The Bible. [Denotes King James version.]
Blake, William. The Viking Book of Poetry of the English-Speaking World. Ed. Richard Aldington. New York: The Viking Press. 1958.
Capra, Fritjof. The Tao of Physics. Boston: Shambhala. 1991.
Carpenter, Andrew. "Kant's Philosophical Cosmology." 23 Nov. 1997. Online. Internet. 3 Dec. 1997. Available: http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~phlos-ad/emory.html
Harris, Kevin. "Collected Quotes from Albert Einstein." 17 Sep. 1996. Online. Internet. 3 Dec. 1997. Available: http://rescomp.stanford.edu/~cheshire/EinsteinQuotes.html
Harrison, Paul. "Heraclitus: Greek materialist." 10 Mar. 1997. Online. Internet. 3 Dec. 1997. Available: http://members.aol.com/heraklit1/heraklit.htm
Jung, Carl. The Collected Works of C.G Jung. Trans. and Eds. G. Adler, R.F. Hull. Princeton: Princeton UP. 1969.
Laertius, Diogenes. Lives of Eminent Philosophers. Trans. R. D. Hicks. Cambridge: Loeb Classical Library/Harvard UP. 1925.
Talbot, Michael. The Holographic Universe. New York: Harper Perennial/HarperCollins. 1992.
Wolf, Fred Alan. Taking the Quantum Leap. New York: Harper Perennial/Harper & Row. 1991.
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