In the previous article we looked at a broad and poetic view of panpsychism and idealism. In this article we will discuss some of the mainstream questions and concepts of consciousness in science today.
A Review of Mainstream Ideas and Questions of Consciousness
Saint Augustine called consciousness “the light beyond the light of the intellect”. Today consciousness is defined as “the state or quality of awareness, or of being aware of an external object or something within oneself. It has been defined as sentience, awareness, subjectivity, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind.”1
“For many decades, consciousness as a research topic was avoided by the majority of mainstream scientists, because of a general feeling that a phenomenon defined in subjective terms could not properly be studied using objective experimental methods.”2
Despite the fact that consciousness cannot be fully explained with scientific terms, experimentation and understanding, it does exist. Science has tried to avoid it because without the spiritual viewpoint consciousness cannot be fully understood.
Many, if not most, mainstream scientists feel that science and spirituality have nothing to do with one another and should stay as separate schools of belief.
This is a sad, small-minded way to view the universe and reality. With fragmented belief systems come fragmented minds. From fragmented minds come fragmented societies. From fragmented societies come violence, war, elitism, injustice and suffering.
In the true nature of reality science always comes full circle to spirituality and spirituality always comes full circle to science.
They are equally valid concepts and equally necessary. They need to be put together in a harmonious way, as a collaborative effort among all types of thinkers. Discard the dogmas and unify the truths.
Questions of consciousness
The Zombie Question
The ‘zombie question’ concerns solipsism.
Solipsism is “the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist” and other people who appear to be conscious may perhaps be only ‘zombies’.
We are of the opinion that this idea is truly ridiculous. If one is able to honestly believe that they are the only person containing consciousness they must then honestly consider they are a true narcissist.
This is not to say that human-looking forms without consciousness cannot be created. This is a strange universe and strange things are possible. Yet these ideas more appropriately fall under the topic of artificial intelligence discussed briefly below.
At the Francis Crick Memorial Conference, July 7, 2012 at the University of Cambridge a group of eminent scientists signed the ‘Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness’. It said:
“We decided to reach a consensus and make a statement directed to the public that is not scientific. It’s obvious to everyone in this room that animals have consciousness, but it is not obvious to the rest of the world. It is not obvious to the rest of the Western world or the Far East. It is not obvious to the society.
Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals […], including all mammals and birds, and other creatures, […] have the necessary neural substrates of consciousness and the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors.”3
It is interesting and unfortunate to note how many modern humans believe animals do not contain consciousness.
In Cosmic Core we advocate the idea that everything has consciousness. So, of course, all animals do, from the most minute to the largest.
In subsequent articles we will discuss animal consciousness in great detail.
Artifact Consciousness (Artificial Intelligence)
Artificial intelligence or A.I. is both an ancient theme of mythology and a hot modern topic. Stories about A.I. have been showing up in unprecedented numbers in the past couple years, as of 2018, and do not show signs of going away.
The emerging technology of nanorobotics and nanites seem to point to the reality of AI. These extremely tiny robots can both act as individuals and act in synch with all other nanites that make up their total form.
There is much that can be said about A.I. However, we will leave that for another person and another time.
Two Traditional Theories of Consciousness: Dualism & Monism
There are two broad, traditional and competing theories of consciousness: dualism and monism.
Rocco J. Gennaro at the University of Southern Indiana states, “Most specific theories of consciousness tend to be reductionist in some sense.”4
Gennaro explains that dualism holds the conscious mind or a conscious mental state is non-physical in some sense.
The problem arises of explaining how a non-physical substance or mental state can causally interact with the physical body.
Non-physical must literally be outside the realm of physics, that is, not in space at all and undetectable in principle by the instruments of physics.
In other words, dualism holds that there is a non-physical mind (or spirit) and physical matter. These are two (Dual) types of substance and they are separate from one another. They arise from separate sources and it is not known how they interface with one another, yet it is obvious they do.
Substance dualism holds that the mind is formed of a distinct type of substance not governed by the laws of physics (it is undetectable).
Property dualism holds that the laws of physics are universally valid but cannot be used to explain the mind.
The main difference between substance dualism and property dualism is that substance dualism claims the mind or soul is separate from the physical body and will live on after death. Property dualism claims that the mind, though different from the body, is dependent upon the body and will end upon death.
Three Main Types of Monism
Materialism states the mind is the brain or is caused by neural activity. It holds that the mind consists of matter organized in a particular way. It cannot truly explain just how or why some brain states are conscious. There is an important ‘explanatory gap’ between mind and matter. Materialists believe all is physical matter. The non-physical does not exist. There is no spirit or soul and when we die, we are totally extinguished, body, mind and all. The brain is ‘meat’ and consciousness (thoughts, emotions and dreams) is a result of chemical interactions in the neural synapses. Obviously this theory in totally reductionist.
Gary B. Meisner writes, “I think if we’re honest, most people will recognize that there is another aspect to the human experience that goes beyond the facts found solely in scientific, naturalistic explanations of our physical existence. For me, and for many others throughout history, the golden ratio [and its associated symbology of infinity within finitude] has been a light in the darkness that draws us to a different perspective and a deeper understanding of all that we find around us – and within us.”
Neutral monism holds that both mind and matter are aspects of a distinct essence that is itself identical to neither of them. Those who hold this belief think that mind and matter are part of the same thing – a thing that is unlike either. A third thing we do not know or understand.
The concept of idealism is as old as humanity. One of its main modern proponents was 18th century empiricist George Berkeley. He agreed with the substance dualist that minds are non-physical, but denies the existence of mind-independent physical substances altogether.
Idealism holds that only thought or experience truly exists, and matter is merely an illusion.
This is the belief that “All is Mind” and consciousness creates physical reality.
Naturally this faces a number of scientific objections. It is highly shunned in scientific circles and highly touted in spiritual circles. No surprise there. We live in a fragmented culture.
Idealism – The Universe was created by Mind for minds
Mark Booth, in The Secret History of the World, writes, “The connection between mind and matter…is a living, dynamic connection. Everything in this universe is alive and conscious to some degree, responding sensitively and intelligently to our deepest, subtlest needs. In this mind-before-matter universe, not only did matter emerge from the mind of God, but it was created in order to provide the conditions in which the human mind would be possible.
“At the heart of this wisdom is the belief that the deepest springs of our mental life are also the deepest springs of the physical world, because in the universe of the secret societies all chemistry is psycho-chemistry, and the ways in which the physical content of the universe responds to the human psyche are described by deeper and more powerful laws than the laws of material science…
Our lives as a whole, from birth to death, cannot have meaning without a mind that existed beforehand to give it meaning.
The same is true of the universe.
So when we hear scientists talk about the universe as ‘meaningful’, ‘wonderful’ or ‘mysterious’, we should bear in mind that they may be using these words with a certain amount of intellectual dishonesty. An atheistic universe can only be meaningful, wonderful or mysterious in a secondary and rather disappointing sense – in the same sense that a stage conjuror is said to be ‘magic’. And, really, when it comes to considering the great questions of life and death, all the equations of science are little more than difficult and long-winded ways of saying ‘We don’t know’…
“For idealists imagination is a faculty for grasping a higher reality. Imagination is the great creative force in the universe. Human creativity, whether magical or non-magical, is the result of a particular channeling of the powers of the imagination. Imagination not only informs desire, it also has the power to transform our very material natures…
“It is only in this obscure suburb of history, where nothing miraculous ever seems to happen and no great geniuses live, this age when the standards of education of the educated classes is in steep decline – it is only in this time and place that people have held matter-before-mind beliefs.
If people believed in a mind-before-matter philosophy a few generations ago, it was not because they’d weighed up the arguments on both sides and plumped for idealism. It was because they experienced the world in an idealistic way…
“By and large the people who have most changed history have not been the great generals or politicians, but the artists and thinkers. An individual sitting alone in a room and giving birth to an idea can do more to change the course of history than a general who commands thousands on the field of battle or a political leader who commands the loyalty of millions. This is the romance and excitement of philosophy. In a mind-before-matter universe there is more than romance and excitement in all thinking – there is magic too. It is not just what I do or say but what I think that affects my fellow humans and the whole course of history.”5
John Michell, in The Dimensions of Paradise states, “Idealism is currently out of fashion; the tenor of modern philosophy is against it. Common criticisms of idealism are either that, though harmless, it is unreal and impractical or that it is a cause of dangerous fanaticism. The second objection has a good deal of force; the idealism of unstable characters can turn to monomania with unpleasant consequences. But it is not idealism proper that is thereby discredited, merely its perversions. And the first assertion, that idealism is impractical, is no more self-evident than the opposite opinion, here affirmed, that it is in fact the only practical means of restoring balance to the world.”
Dr. Christof Koch, neuroscientist and chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, states, “Intuitively I felt that either humans and animals alike had souls, or none did. Then I encountered Buddhism, with its emphasis on the universal nature of the conscious mind. You find this idea in philosophy, too, espoused by Plato and Spinoza and Schopenhauer, that psyche — consciousness — is everywhere. I find that to be the most satisfying explanation for the universe, for three reasons: biological, metaphysical and computational.”6
Dr. Koch says he avoids killing insects if he can: “They’re fellow travelers of the road, book-ended by eternity on both sides.”7
In a different article Dr. Koch told a story of when he began to study consciousness, “A senior colleague took me out to lunch and said, yes, he had the utmost respect for Francis [Crick], but Francis was a Nobel laureate and a half-god and he could do whatever he wanted, whereas I didn’t have tenure yet, so I should be incredibly careful. Stick to more mainstream science! These fringey things – why not leave them until retirement, when you’re coming close to death, and you can worry about the soul and stuff like that?”8
Consciousness & Microtubles
We briefly discuss microtubles in Cosmic Core in two other articles. We will go into the topic in a bit more detail here as they relate to consciousness.
Stuart Hameroff is an anesthesiologist from the University of Arizona who theorized consciousness had something to do with microtubules.
Microtubules are the scaffolding of the cell. They maintain its structure and shape. This is not all they do, however.
Microtubules are composed of 13 tubulin that exhibit 8:5 phyllotaxis. This means they are structured by the Fibonacci sequence.
Microtubules are composed of microscopic hexagonal lattices of fine filaments of protein called tubulins. These tubulins form tiny hollow cylinders of indefinite length.
There are 13 strands of tubules wrapped around the hollow core in a spiral.
Also note that clathrins are located at the tips of microtubules. Clathrins are truncated icosahedra (pictured below).
Therefore, microtubles contain many golden ratios.
All microtubules in a cell radiate outward from the center of the cell membrane. They act as tracks in transporting various products along cells, particularly nerve cells.
They are vital for pulling apart chromosomes during cell division. They constantly remake themselves, assembling and disassembling.
They appear to be excellent conductors of pulses – pulses in one end traveled through pockets of protein and arrive unchanged at the other end.
Hameroff discovered a great degree of coherence among neighboring tubules. A vibration in one would tend to resonate in unison through its neighbors.
On August 10, 1993 Mari Jibu, Karl Pribram, Kunio Yasue, Stuart Hameroff & Scott Hagen published a paper entitled “Quantum optical coherence in cytoskeletal microtubules: implications for brain function”.9
The following information is a result of what they discovered. It is discussed in Lynn McTaggart’s fascinating and well-researched book, The Field.
A Collective Theory about the Nature of Consciousness
Microtubules and the membranes of dendrites represent the Internet of the body.
Every neuron of the brain could log on at the same time and speak to every other neuron simultaneously via the quantum processes within.
Microtubules help to marshal discordant energy and create global coherence of the waves in the body – a process called ‘superradiance’ – then allow these coherent signals to pulse throughout the rest of the body.
Once coherence is achieved, the photons can travel along the light pipes as if they were transparent, a phenomenon called ‘self-induced transparency’.
Photons can penetrate the core of the microtubule and communicate with other photons throughout the body, causing collective cooperation of subatomic particles in microtubules throughout the brain.
Hameroff observed that electrons glide easily along these light pipes without getting entangled in their environment – that is, settling into any set single state.
This means they can remain in a quantum state – a condition of all possible states – enabling the brain to choose among them.
At every moment, our brains are making quantum choices, taking potential states and making them actual ones.
Microtubules are hollow and empty except for some water. Ordinary water, from a tap or in a river, is disordered, with molecules that move randomly. Some of the water molecules in brain cells are coherent – this coherence extends as far as 3 nanometers or more outside the cell’s cytoskeleton.
It is overwhelmingly likely that the water inside the microtubules is also ordered.
This offered indirect evidence that some sort of quantum process, creating quantum coherence, was occurring inside.
They’d also shown that this focusing of waves would produce beams 15 nanometers in diameter – precisely the size of the microtubules inner core.
All of this led to a heretical thought – Consciousness was a global phenomenon that occurred everywhere in the body, and not simply in our brain.
Consciousness, at its most basic, was coherent light.
In this article we have discussed some of the common themes of consciousness in the scientific and philosophic community.
In Cosmic Core we stress the importance of familiarizing yourself with all sides and then making an informed decision or opinion.
Due to the vast amount of scientific and spiritual information presented in the full library of articles in Cosmic Core, we advocate the concept of idealism, that is, that consciousness is the source of reality and consciousness forms reality.
In the next two articles we will look at how consciousness forms reality from a metaphysical viewpoint. We will discuss Consciousness Units, which are the metaphysical counterpart to Aether units.
We extensively discuss Aether units in articles 98-110.
Remember, Aether units are not a ‘thing’. They are a toroidal flow process resulting from fluctuations of consciousness. These fluctuations create oscillating waves – waves that oscillate back and forth from time/space to space/time. The oscillations form interference patterns. The interference patterns result in geometric standing waves. All matter, from the photon up to galactic clusters coalesce upon these geometric flow fields that have as their source and cause – movements of consciousness.
- Gennaro, Rocco J, http://www.iep.utm.edu/consciou/
- Booth, Mark, The Secret History of the World, The Overlook Press, 2010
- Keim, Brandon, A Neuroscientist’s Radical Theory of how Networks Become Conscious, Wired, 14 November 2013, https://www.wired.com/2013/11/christof-koch-panpsychism-consciousness/
- Burkeman, Oliver, Why can’t the world’s gretest minds solve the mystery of consciousness? The Guardian, 21 January 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jan/21/-sp-why-cant-worlds-greatest-minds-solve-mystery-consciousness