Deepok Chopra surprises me with his very lucid review of the hard problem of consciousness:
From abstract of full paper:
Issues related to consciousness in general and human mental processes in particular remain the most difficult problem in science. Progress has been made through the development of quantum theory, which, unlike classical physics, assigns a fundamental role to the act of observation. To arrive at the most critical aspects of consciousness, such as its characteristics and whether it plays an active role in the universe requires us to follow hopeful developments in the intersection of quantum theory, biology, neuroscience and the philosophy of mind. Developments in quantum theory aiming to unify all physical processes have opened the door to a profoundly new vision of the cosmos, where observer, observed, and the act of observation are interlocked. This hints at a science of wholeness, going beyond the purely physical emphasis of current science. Studying the universe as a mechanical conglomerate of parts will not solve the problem of consciousness, because in the quantum view, the parts cease to be measureable distinct entities. The interconnectedness of everything is particularly evident in the non-local interactions of the quantum universe. As such, the very large and the very small are also interconnected.
Consciousness and matter are not fundamentally distinct but rather are two complementary aspects of one reality, embracing the micro and macro worlds. This approach of starting from wholeness reveals a practical blueprint for addressing consciousness in more scientific terms.
What if the world embodied its highest potential? What would it look like? As the structures of modern society crumble, this video contemplates a set of unexamined assumptions that form the very basis of our civilization. In this beautifully shot 25-minute film, it asks us to reflect on the state of the world and ourselves–and to listen more closely to what is being asked of us at this time of unprecedented global transformation.
Via Karma Tube.
Once every so often I discover a new voice and kindred spirit who shares my own perspective yet articulates it in new and refreshing ways. Yesterday Kartott (I don’t know her real name) became known to me by following me on twitter. I followed her back and started reading her new blog. It’s great stuff and features a lot of her artwork.
From her first entry:
What are we? How have we come to be here on this planet? Are we living a life as fully conscious beings? I suspect not. What are visions, dreams, things seen that ought not to be seen? Do we conjure such things as ghosts, aliens, fairies out of deep genetic memory? Or are they glimpses of a broader reality?
Of late, I have been exploring a number of alternate realties: ufos, ghosts, psychedelic phenomena. All seem to be pointing to some undercurrent of reality that we can barely tip our toe into. We mostly deny it, put it down to “imagination” or simple fantasy. We even deny our own directly experienced phenomena, shutting the door to a wider world. This seems driven by a larger culture intent on squashing all things mysterious, unknown or unknowable. We believe that because such experiences are beyond measure and simple human reasoning, they must therefore not real. Yet they all seem to point to a more fully realized consciousness, a kind of multi-dimensional existence. Our everyday brain seems divorced from this, almost as if there is a wall in place between our everyday functioning mind and our visioning, dreaming consciousness.
An interesting aspect to this (from my admittedly scant observation): people who traverse this consciousness divide seem to possess a high degree of creativity. A large proportion are artists, writers, musicians, or are generally creative in other aspects of their lives. Many express interest in spiritual or deep intuitive connections. Some meditate. Apart from the creative process itself (or perhaps as a part of it), I wonder if this points to a necessary admission of imagination as a fundamental key to the door in the wall.
Reality Sandwich is the latest brainchild of Daniel Pinchbeck. Other contributors in that issue include Stanislov Grof, Erik Davis, Doughlas Rushkoff and Charles Eisenstein. So I am in great company. Some recent articles there include:
Shift Scenario: Averting Mass Extinction by Jim Fournier.
I am impressed with the level of insight, scholarship, and deep hope this article presents. Jim manages to address every aspect of our current crisis – environmental, climatic, financial, social, political, and technological in way that not only makes sense, but in way that shed new light on what’s going on and why there is a lot of reasons to be hopeful about where we are heading.
The Next Buddha Will Be Collective by Michael Bauwens.
Michael makes a compelling case of a new type of collective spirituality evolving out of our globally connected peer-to-peer culture. This is a fascinating and hopeful perspective that makes a lot of sense when current spiritual systems are examined for their own socio-political roots. What will this new type of spirituality be. Charles Eisenstein, author of the new book Ascent of Humanity has some good ideas in:
Stanlislov Grof has good article on the Current Global Crisis and The Future of Humanity.
Psychosynthesis: Speaking With Molly Brown
How to move toward wholeness, integrating or synthesizing all the parts of the personality to work harmoniously together – incorporating wisdom from Buddhism, yoga, and other Eastern philosophies; Western spiritual traditions, philosophy, and psychology; and the emerging field of ecopsychology.
And this article is most ineresting:
George Dvorsky just sent me this link of a talk given by neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor, describing from the inside her experience of a stroke. It moved me to tears. and captures so well what it’s like for those of us who’ve seen the world this way:
What is history? Is it the stuff we read about in books, written by the biased perspective of the winners? Or is there another more genuine history that we are heir too? There is history within us that is our birthright and our salvation. This is the visceral and intuitive history we feel in our bones, and experience within ourselves, and which we can discover and awaken through myth, legend and lore. Behind every mask, lies a deeper truth that can never be re-written or erased, awaiting our discovery. The DaVinci code is merely the re-telling of an old tale of alignment to archetypal truths available to anyone willing to make the journey within. Sometimes all it takes is noticing the subtle psychic and vibratory landmarks of experience when we visit a sacred site. Notice how myths take on new life and meaning as we advance spiritually, transcending outside imposed historical interpretations. The Mists of Avalon is a perfect example of Grail Legend retold at a truer and more heart-chakra level. A uniting of opposites, a sacred union of feminine and masculine.
Do we store within ourselves this more true historical and personally relevant information? I believe so. Are we born with certain archetypes already in place, at the cellular or DNA level? Or are they so embodied within the socio-psychic landscape of the human communities that we are heir to, that only the most intuitive and insightful can gleam their otherwise subtle, yet profound influence?
This is where the creative spirit has the most opportunity to flourish. Rather than live within the linear timeline imposed on us by other mythmakers more powerful than ourselves, we have the opportunity to “step out of time”, and tap into the mythic landscape ourselves.
Across cultures and time periods there are certain archetypes, which appear over and over again, uniquely interpreted through the culture in which they arise. My personal favorite is Elvish lore, eloquently expounded on by J.R.R. Tolkien. Elves kind of represent a tangible connection or “bridge” to the divine. They are physical beings, yet they are also immortal. They work within the physical world, yet are also beings of light, not having to work magick because they are magick. And lest we think that we are just human beings, remember that these archetypes are universal. That means they are a part of us, a reflection of our higher s-elves, outside of time and space. In other words, the mythic landscape is our doorway into our united self. By tapping in and embodying these archetypes, especially the ones we resonate with the most, we can transform and heal ourselves from all of the illusionary samsara of this world we somehow mistakenly believed to be a part of us. There is an old saying, “you are in this world, but not of it”. So it is through myth, that we can transcend our suffering and embody our true self.
Before we make-wrong our own physical history, lets look at our own existence and how we came about. Here we are today, living within all historical currents there ever were. Our very conception represents the most sensitive coalescing of of events there ever could be. We are the product of one sperm out of hundreds of millions, and one ovum out of hundreds of thousands. A woman is born with already existing ovum. Lunar and menstrual cycles, diet, mood, and action then contributed to when and what ovum is released during a menstrual cycle. The slightest variation in any of these variables results in an entirely different ovum than ours. With the father, this is even more so. With so many hundreds of millions of sperm, what are the chances of the single one that unites to conceive us? A man’s sperm production is an on-going process that fluctuates constantly, every second. Such sperm production is even more sensitive to environment, arousal from a passerby potential mate, sleep, and diet, even the slightest exertion of walking a few feet.
In other words everything had to happen precisely the way it did up to our conception for us to have ever been born. To make our history wrong then would be to make our very existence wrong. Instead, gratitude for all that has come before us puts us in alignment with what and who we truly our. This can be both a discovery of beauty, delight and gratitude at our cultural heritage as well as one of somber humility and atonement for wrongs committed by our ancestors.
So no time to waste, gratitude is the first step. You’ll feel a whole lot better once you recognize this simple fact around your own conception. You are here, and there is a reason you are here, and you are meant to be here. You can’t change the past, but you are here now in the present, and that in itself is beautiful. So rather than be a prisoner to your past and most especially to everyone else’s (!), embody now in your present your most highest self. In this way you transcend so-called “history” and begin to embody the truest history there ever was, the mythic landscape of your soul.
Teetering on the edge… identity, self, being here now… so precious, so fragile… the slightest breeze, and your GONE. The protections, the self, those around you, who you thought you are, were, gone… to be replaced by ANYTHING. Are “you” now a chipmunk, a rock, that “weirdness” you were afraid of in other people? Now you become all of that. All that you held sacred, gone too, nothing there, total loss.
How often have you experienced something like this? A profound death, a deep, overwhelming explosion into your psyche, your emotions ill equipped to handle the overload and rapid changing flux of ontological warpage? A whiteout void into total oblivion and/or timeless eternity….
Coalescing out of the timeless whiteness, a sacred breath, a touch of grace perhaps, an emergence of something altogether new, different, alive, glorious, with memories, a past, present and future once again. How weird is that? Archetypes abound, a wizard or an elf perhaps? A feeling of empowerment. For you have gone to the netherworld and returned a hero! A celebration is in order, a round of drinks for your comrades in arms, a fellowship indeed. Ground control to major tom, your home, welcome back!
But that thought lingers in your mind, “back to what?” Is this my life, have I returned or is this my first time here with memories implanted or inherited? Does it matter? Can I do anything about it anyway? Is the solution to kick warp drive back into high gear again? I don’t know. What I have learned is that all the warp drive in the world won’t change this basic buckaroo banzai fact, “wherever you go, there you are”. You can try, so many have tried, to escape the tyranny of the self. Yet, there is this something, Hindu’s call it karma, that keeps bring you back here. And somehow, the more you avoid the here and now, the more you are missing the one thing, the body-being, present moment at the crossroads of spirit and matter, your bodyship that is in fact the very wellspring of the liberation you seek.
Ok, so you hope you took on a better birth than the one before, but you also suspect this time you might have taken on a stray passenger, an alien, or sub-daemon now working its way into the engine room of your root metaprograms. Are you going to be alright with this? Do you have a choice? If we are a collection of programs, and our free-will magickal skills are not all there cracked up to be, what choices do we really have? This is the dilemma, the existential angst, the harrowing horror that you glimpsed on the way out and the way back in. But wait!
The Buddhist say that all of this, all of the programs, metaprograms, crazy out of your mind stuff, the chaos under the hood, it’s all an illusion. What is a seeker supposed to do? Desperate times call for desperate measures. My god, why have you forsaken me? LOVE!
Feel. What you can always do, what you always have a choice to do each and every moment is feel. Feeling is healing. Feel ALL of it, surrender to it. It is in that feeling, that being there for yourself, that healing, true unconditional love truly begins. I can’t say it’s going to be easy. I can’t say what kind of rebirth you are now in, or what it portends, there is no way to know. This is the same for everyone. Too little time to envy those who “seem” to have it altogether, who seem to have everything. Envy gets you nowhere. Perhaps they are none of those things. You are what you are, right here, right now, in this moment, a body inhabiting the physical plane. . Surrender to this moment, the experience of being in a body. You don’t deserve to exist in darkness anymore, but your body knows… Light is right here with you, right now, NO MATTER WHAT ELSE happens, despite the injustice of your situation. Love like there is no tommorow. Love, and you will be set free.
A few years ago I wrote an article on Future Hi, which was also set to appear in the first print edition of Daniel Pinchbecks’s Evolver, called Super-Free Will: Metaprogramming & The Quantum Self. It turns out there are correlations between free quantum particle behavior and human level conceptions of free will after all.
Using axioms which implement an idealized EPR-style quantum spin measurement experiment (and assuming relativity), the authors set out to prove that:
If the choice of directions in which to perform spin 1 experiments is not a function of the information accessible to the experimenters, then the responses of the particles are equally not functions of the information accessible to them.
They call this the Free Will theorem since we in practice assume experimenters are free to set up the experiment the way they wish. So, the authors are not proving free will exists, they are proving that if free will exists at the human level, then the outcome exhibited by elementary particles will also be free.
The proof seems fairly straightforward once one accepts the earlier Kochen-Specker theorem (it can’t be said that the spin values for each direction already exist prior to measurement).
Following the presentation of the proof, the authors show (by discussing a way to modify Bohm’s theory) that QM is logically consistent if one assumes the assumption of particles expressing free will in a relativistic framework. Next, they relax some of the idealized assumptions to establish the robustness of the result in a more real world context.
The next section discusses how this result furthers the process (earlier marked by the K-S theorem and Bell’s Theorem) of making hidden variable theories unworkable. They also argue it is an obstacle for GRW-type collapse models.
The authors argue that it is incorrect to interpret EPR-style experiments as meaning there is faster-than-light communication between particles; the particles are entangled as a collective system, but one will not confirm the predicted correlation until the future measurement of the other member of the pair. This is congruent with the perspective of Smerlak and Rovelli’s recent paper which interprets EPR from the perspective of relational quantum mechanics (RQM).
In terms of interpreting quantum mechanics: the authors argue quantum states (between measurements) are merely predictors (with probabilities) of what will happen if various measurements are performed. It is a mistake to ascribe concrete reality to the quantum states. This again is consistent with RQM’s perspective that it is the measurement events which are concretely real. The authors also state briefly that they don’t believe a conscious human mind is needed for collapse, but they don’t discuss in detail what they think is necessary. They think a future physics will explain what sort of “texture” surrounding a system will cause collapse.
The authors offer some philosophical remarks on free will. First, they remind the reader that they don’t claim to prove free will. They say “determinism, like solipsism, is logically possible.” They themselves do subscribe, however, to what a philosopher would call a naïve folk conception of libertarian free will. They don’t see how science could be taken seriously if its practitioners weren’t free to investigate nature by choosing what experiments to perform.
In any case, the linking of free will at the human level to free or spontaneous outcomes at the level of elementary quantum systems is an important result. It is also an especially appealing idea to a panexperientialist like me. While I appreciate the substantial problems which afflict the folk conception of free will, the results of this paper fit with my view that the conscious experience, intentionality, and (at least limited) free agency of human beings are all sourced from fundamental and ubiquitous properties of the natural world.
I also want to comment on a section toward the end entitled “Free versus Random?” It is extremely common to interpret QM as meaning the universe contains a fundamental indeterminism, but it is unusual to say it implies the existence of a fundamental freedom. Here’s a point the authors make in favor of the latter:
Although we find ourselves unable to give an operational definition of either “free” or “random,” we have managed to distinguish between them in our context, because free behavior can be twinned, while random behavior cannot (a remark that might also interest some philosophers of free will).”
“Twinned” here refers to the entanglement of two particles. The measurement of the first of the twinned pair enables us to predict the outcome of the measurement of the second, so they aren’t individually random events. But I’m not sure this is a good argument: are we conflating the idea of a particle’s randomness with its independence? I’ll have to give this more thought.
I’m very interested in arguments which support my contention that the worldview implied by QM is richer and much more interesting than just classical physics plus an overlay of randomness. It isn’t just that the measurement outcome is random vs. determined. The quantum measurement event has intrinsically more to it than a classical billiard-ball notion of a causal event. It is an interaction between two systems where one system’s propensity toward an outcome is actualized by the second (measuring) system. I believe this actualization event or process carries with it the raw material of agency (as well as experience).
In this Tricycle web exclusive, scholar B. Allan Wallace responds to George Johnson’s New York Times review of the Dalai Lama’s new book The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality.
I especially like Wallace’s call for a more complete approach to consciousness studies that includes both first person introspective methods combined with third person methodologies, something I’ve advocated from the very beginning here, here, here and here. I’ve been meaning to pick up his book, The Taboo of Subjectivity: Towards a New Science of Consciousness , for a while…now might be a good time to check it out…
Allan takes a more “integral” route in defense of the tetrameshing nature of consciousness:
Scientists have established that specific neural processes are necessary for producing specific conscious mental processes in humans and some other animals. In this way, correlations have been identified between brain and mind processes. Brain processes are detected with the third-person methods of biology, but mental processes are directly observed only by means of the first-person perspectives of individuals introspectively monitoring their own states of consciousness. This evidence proves that certain neural processes are necessary for producing specific mental events in humans, but not that they are sufficient causes of consciousness, nor does this indicate that consciousness itself is a physical phenomenon. Moreover, while many scientists believe that mental phenomena are emergent properties of brain, no one has ever objectively measured any mental event emerging from the brain, so that, too, remains an untested hypothesis that can be taken for the time being only on faith.