ConsciousnessI had started a short piece on Surrender, perhaps the most important quality to really live a life of service. However, I really couldn't present my thoughts on Surrender without a discussion of what I view as the greatest miracle ever, consciousness. When I was a graduate student at M.I.T. in the seventies, we were working on Artficial Intelligence, making computers more intelligent. What troubled me most then was that while we could program a comnputer to do most any behavior, there was no way to program a computer to actually understand (or feel) anything. Programming is really just a series of instructions that the computer follows very rapidly, but there was no instruction which had anything to do with understanding or feeling (nor could there be any as the instructions were all related to behavior while understanding and feeling is not behavior). As I consider it, there is no way that any combination of automatons (things or devices which are exactly and completely predictable) could ever be anything more than an automaton. Every part of the combination would have known behavior and be completely predictable; there would be no part which could be conscious or aware of anything, just predictable actions and responses. However, most people don't bother with considering this; we all know that consciousness exists but seldom consider where it would come from or go to (at birth and death, presumably). In order for consciousness to exist (as we know that it does, 'I think, therefore consciousness (or awareness) exists'), it must already exist and can not be created. What this means is that the building blocks of our world must already be conscious at some level. While this sounds patently absurd, the truth is that at the lowest level, sub atomic particles, our world is not firm and predictable as we expect. Instead everything at that level is a little fuzzy, not precisely here nor there, but a little bit of both. Light has a remarkable property of changing things instantaneously so that what was once fuzzy is now clear. However, that is only a property of light as careful measurements made without using light (like very sensitive pressure) shows a fuzziness where things are 'soft' at the edges. It is light that causes (or is the result of) choices by sub atomic particles.
StructureIt appears that there is a structure where each living cell is a sort of super consciosness which communicates directly with the components which make it up (trillions of atoms and sub atomic particles like electrons) and asks them to do what it wishes. Of course there are also structures or mechanisims which allow choices to be implemented but the overall direction (which mechanisms are activated) is somewhat unpredictable and that is where choices are made by consciousness. In a similar fashion, our bodies are composed of trillions of living cells. While the cells are structured with mechanisms which allow us to do things like walk, type, sing, etc., there is also an element of unpredictability as to just what we will do. Conscoiusness works through that intrinsic unpredictability and 'asks' the cells to carry out our wishes through what appears to be instantaneous and direct communication. While instantaneous and direct communication appears unnatural to us in our macro world (or world of large objects composed of countless sub components), that is a natural effect of sub atomic particles. For example, the Pauli Exclusion Principle is based on the fact that no one has ever been able to observe two electrons at the exact same 'energy state' (there are five ways that an electron can be at a different energy state, including spin direction, spin orientation, etc.). But how could this be? How could every electron in the universe 'know' to avoid an energy state occupied by another electron. It makes no sense, but that is the way it is. There are similar spooky results in quantum mechanics which practically require instantaneous and direct communication between sub atomic particles. While a lot of people are inclined to view the world and their bodies through exclusively mechanistic means (sort of Rube Goldberg causality), they overlook the remarkable results which go beyond anything simple causality would provide for. For me, the placebo effect (and its reverse, the nocebo effect) is perhaps the best proof of the power (and miracle) of consciousness. How could our expectation that we will get better (based on a doctor giving us a pill which really has no effect) cause such dramatic effects for such an incredible array of problems. Before people knew how to adjust their calcium retention, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, white blood cell counts, etc., how could they change those measured results just by expecting them to change. Indeed, the placebo effect demonstrates that consciousness communicates directly with other consciousness and can change things based just on our expectations or wishes. It also indicates that there is really no separation for consciousness. While it may appear that we each have our own individual consciousness, the reality is that consciousness is fuzzy in its boundaries and that there are unseen connections, quite similar to the nature of sub atomic particles. Another important aspect of consciousness is that it is the basis for the power of prayer (or visualization if you are more comfortable with that). Just as you ask your body to fulfil your wishes and it does so (both through conscious motions as well as more subtle internal changes) through the response of the cells in your body to your requests (and their requests to the various sub atomic particles which make up their bodies), you can also make requests of consciousness outside your body. While consciousness is somewhat localized, having the most impact within the boundaries of our bodies, it also influences consciousness around us. There is the mechanistic communication of words, tone of voice, and body language, but this is supplemented by the more direct and less measurable communication of consciousness.1
The Unsatisfying Problems of Pre-DeterminismThe power of prayer (or visualization if you prefer) is quite clear to me, but is hardly something which can be proven to a skeptic. The problem (or blessing depending on your perspective) is that consciousness acts through what seems to be coincidences. Einstein once expressed his concern with quantum mechanics as 'God doesn't play dice' which was in line with his belief in the natural laws and that everything which happens is determined by the initial conditions and the natural laws so that since the creation of the universe everything was pre-determined in accordance with natural laws. Of course this is not very satisfying as it leaves no place for consciousness, free will, morality, or beauty. Fortunately, it is also fundamentally wrong as God does play dice. Since the years when Einstein argued that quantum mechanics made no sense (which is still absolutely true) it has been shown to be absolutely correct with all the strangeness that it implies. It also means that the natural laws do not determine everything as sub atomic particles are intrinsically unpredictable so that all combinations of sub atomic particles are also unpredictable. While the natural laws are always true with no exceptions, there is also a bit of wiggle room and it is through that wiggle room that consciousness acts. Not only does God play dice, the die are loaded so that the outcome is always as God wishes (though you will never catch God cheating as that would be a violation of the natural laws). A wise person will always rely on both the natural laws (the mechanistic nature of the world we live in) as well as the power of consciousness through prayer and visualization. Science is ideal for predicting the mechanistic nature of the world, but incredibly poor at measuring the impact of consciousness. Meditation is most useful in that regard. While consciousness acts through coincidences, one of the things I have observed is that in many cases the elements which allow the coincident happened even before my wish or request. While this may at first seem the indicate that it was truly just coincidence and not the power of consciousness, I do not believe this is the case. There is no particular reason why conscoiusness is constrained to only work through time one way. Indeed physicists have not been able to find any particular reason why time only flows one way for the natural laws (all observable phenomena work both ways) and certainly not for consciousness. I wonder if the nature of sub atomic particles is not a part of the solution to this apparent dilemma. Sub atomic particles don't really exist in one place but instead they exist in a realm of infinite possibilities (making their nature fuzzy without any discrete boundaries). If a single electron is sent toward a grate to force it to choose a path, the electron will routinely pass through all the openings, a fraction of the electron going through each opening (this is a standard experiment in physics which has been regularly reproduced). Electrons only appear to be in a single place at a single time when a photon (light) is emitted or received. At that time the electron changes instantaneously through a 'collapse' of the probability distribution with all the other possibilities simply disappearing at that instant. There are numerous other measurements which can be made without using light which observe sub atomic particles as a fuzzy sort of cloud of possibilities. However, as sub atomic particles exist as all possibilities between interactions with light, there will certainly be billions of such particles which are aware of our thoughts, prayers and, later, our appreciation of good outcomes just as electrons must be aware of the energy states of every other electron. There is no particular reason that they can not use that knowledge of the future (we can't really experience all possible future outcomes like they do) to choose which choice they want to make (a collapse of the probability distribution) in their 'present' to have the outcome which brings the most happiness and well being in the 'future'.2 Indeed, one of the numerous reasons why we should always try to appreciate the many blessings which we have is because it is appreciation which helps to bring those blessings about. Another interesting aspect of consciousness is that if all consciousness is directly and immediately aware of other consciousness, then the divisions between consciousness become illusory. Just as the waves of the ocean appear separate and discrete, closer inspection reveals that it is really impossible to separate one wave from another. There are numerous lesser waves that pass through and around each wave and the contents of each wave regularly changes such that within a few seconds most of a wave is now a part of a different wave. The reality is that there is only the ocean and waves are simply perturbations of the ocean and can not ever be said to be separate and distinct from each other. In the same way, there is only the universal consciousness and any divisions we try to make are illusory. However, just as you must act as if there are separate waves if you want to surf the waves, similarly in discussions and in making decisions it is necessary to act as if there are separate consciousnesses, that you and I are disctinct from each other, else there would be nothing to say and no basis for a decision. Of course, this is only for the convenience of addressing more mundance issues and does not change the underlying reality that the divisions do not really exist and that there is only pervasive and ever present consciousness. It is this universal consciousness which I think of as God. You and I are simply different aspects of this same underlying consciousness, never really separate from each other or from universal consciousness, and everyone is worthy of love, respect, compassion, and acceptance. __________________________________
1 There are numerous otherwise inexplicable examples of this sort of telepathy, but one of my favorites is easily repeatable experiment where people do much better on the New York Times cross word puzzles after a puzzle is published than before they are published even if they are not permitted any contact with people outside the test group from the time of publication. Of course if consciousness communicates directly with other consciousness, there is no way to restrict the test group from telepathic contact with those who are outside and working on the puzzle. An interesting variation of this experiment is to conduct test groups in NYC as well as in distant parts of the world where those puzzles are not so popular like Australia.
2 For consciousness which exists in all possible states, the meaning of past, present and future must get quite blurred.
This page was last updated on August 11, 2010