Consciousness in the Cosmos: Part I – The Third Concept of Consciousness
1.The first concept: consciousness is local (the turbine theory)
1.1The challenge to the turbine theory
2.The second concept: consciousness is nonlocal (the cloud theory)
2.1The challenge to the cloud theory
3.The third concept: consciousness is cosmic (the hologram theory)
Is consciousness generated in and confined to the brain? Or does it extend in some way beyond the brain—and could it even be a fundamental feature of the cosmos? Until a few years ago nobody other than deeply spiritual or religious people would have subscribed to a concept of consciousness other than what I call the “turbine theory”: the theory that the brain generates consciousness, and the consciousness it generates is confined to the brain. Today there is more and more evidence that consciousness is not confined to the brain but is “nonlocal,” embracing minds and events beyond the brain and the body. And there is an insight dawning among avant-garde scientists, thinkers and spiritual people that consciousness may be not only nonlocal, but cosmic.
We are approaching a critical tipping point of human existence on this planet. Our future is at stake: the destiny of the biosphere’s grand experiment with a species capable of consciousness. Such a species not only experiences the world, it also experiences itself in the world. And it can make a fateful mistake: it can conceive of itself as separate from the world.
This mistake puts the entire experiment with a conscious species at risk. It puts at risk not only the species that embodies the experiment, but the whole web of life in which the experiment takes place.
Separateness: the fateful mistake
A conscious species can make a fateful mistake: the mistake of separateness. This is the mistake called “duality.” But it can also rectify that mistake and recover its fundamental unity. Herein lies the crux of the problem, and also the crux of its solution.
Humankind has lost the instinctive, intuitive oneness in which other species are embedded. It cannot go back to its instinctive, intuitive oneness because a higher level of consciousness, once evolved, cannot be put on hold: it colors everything that is experienced. The modern consciousness questions the validity of instinct and intuition; it trusts only observation and commonsense. Hence the way forward is not a return to the previous, intuitive state of oneness, but a conscious recovery of that oneness. This recovery can make use of observation and reasoning, even if the relevant kind of reasoning goes beyond the one accepted as good commonsense. This is the path that follows the method of science.
Overcoming the mistake through science
When we look at the condition of humanity in the biosphere through the lens of science, we perceive the web of life as a vast, organically interconnected and coherent system. On a closer look we see that this system has become partially incoherent. It harbors an incoherent element that disturbs and damages its intrinsic coherence: this element is the human species—a species that, some thirty or fifty thousand years ago, evolved a higher form of consciousness. The species itself—homo sapiens—is much older than this, with its origins reaching back five million years or more. But the kind of consciousness that could make the mistake of separateness came about only with the emergence of homo sapiens sapiens. It is made possible by a consciousness that distinguishes the experiencer from the experienced, and creates a radical separation between them.
In the modern world this flawed conception is underscored by the belief that only the human being is a truly conscious being; other species have either a much lesser consciousness, or no consciousness at all. Acting on this belief gives rise to behavior that damages the integrity of the web of life: it “suboptimizes” this delicately balanced and strongly interconnected system, favoring one of its elements—the human—at the expense of the others. If behavior prompted by the mistaken belief of human separateness from the rest of the world is not corrected, it will irreversibly damage and ultimate destroy the balances that ensure the persistence of higher forms of life on the planet.
Science tells us that the healthy organism is coherent, with all its parts collaborating in the task of maintaining it in the dynamic, physically improbable living state. The healthy organism is not only coherent in itself, it is also coherently related to nature. The embracing system of life on the planet is more than coherent: it is “supercoherent.” Supercoherence is the coherence of in-themselves coherent systems.
The mistaken perception of duality introduces a factor of incoherence into this supercoherent system. The species that introduces such incoherence is a kind of cancer in the web of life: it is a threat to the system of life, and thus also to itself.
Overcoming the mistake through lived experience
The realization of the objective and urgent requirement to recover our coherence with all life on the planet is one of the paths that permits us to recover our oneness. There is also another path: the path through spontaneous, lived experience.
Sapiens sapiens did not lose the ability to experience its coherence with the system of life on the planet; it did not divest itself of the perception of its oneness with the world. Ever more people develop the sensitivity that enables them to experience this oneness. They feel that they are part of a larger whole: that they belong to nature and the cosmos as one of its intrinsic, organic elements. This is the hallmark of the spiritual and religious experience, and it is a real experience regardless of what religious or spiritual tradition expresses it.
The spiritual experience of oneness conduces to the same insight as reasoning through science. Both convey the insight of fundamental interconnection between ourselves, other people, other forms of life, the biosphere and, ultimately, the universe.
Science and spirituality, far from being mutually exclusive and conflicting elements, are complementary partners in the search for the path that can enable humanity to recover its oneness with the world. Science demonstrates the urgent and objective need for it; and spirituality testifies to its inherent value and supreme desirability.
We can reason to our oneness in the world, and we can experience our oneness with the world. The time has come to do both, for they are complementary and mutually reinforcing. The international Oneness Days encourage us to take up this challenge: to live up to our destiny as a conscious species, creating a flourishing world that is worthy of the intellectual, moral, and emotional potentials present in the heart and in the mind of every human being.
Foreword to the French edition of Cleve Backster, Primary Perception: Biocommunication with plants, living foods, and human cells
Clive Backster is the pioneering experimenter whom we can credit with demonstrating that plants respond to simuli in a complex and demonstrable manner. In Backster’s term, they have “primary perception.” The reality of primary perception has been contested in mainstream science on the ground that such perception is not possible, since plants do not have a nervous system. This objection presupposes that living organisms respond to external stimuli exclusively through their nervous system. If they do not possess a nervous system, they do not and cannot respond to stimuli.
Ervin Laszlo discusses his book The Self-Actualizing Cosmos – The Akasha Revolution in Science and Human Consciousness. Science evolves through alternating phases of ‘normal’ science and radical shifts that create scientific revolutions. We saw this at the turn of the 20th century, when science shifted from a Newtonian worldview to Einstein’s relativity paradigm, and again with the shift to the quantum paradigm. Now, as we recognize the non-local interconnection of all things in space and time, we find our scientific worldview shifting once again.
Information in the Universe
The insight now emerging in the physical sciences, especially but not exclusively in quantum physics, highlights the role of interaction and interconnection in the diverse spheres of observation and experiment. This is not a material universe where bits of matter enter into interaction, exchange kinetic or chemical energy and thereby shape the behavior of basically material entities. In the final count there is no such thing as “matter” in the universe, nor indeed is there such a thing as energy, taken as a fundamental category of physical existence. This is a universe where the quantum vacuum (better seen as a “sub-quantum plenum” for it underlies the level of quanta and is a virtual-energy filled substrate rather than empty space) is the cosmic matrix in which the particles and systems that constitute the furnishings of the world arise. The quantum vacuum/plenum is an integration of what we used to think of as energy and information. It is a field of informed energy.
We are at a critical juncture in our history. We have been there before, but not as a species, and not as a crucial element in the history of life on the planet. This is a time when it behooves us to take a moment to reflect on where we are, how we got here, and where we would be – and should be – going. Tobias and Morrison have undertaken such a reflection, and it is a precious resource for all of us. It prompts us to follow their lead.
You know how it is. There is so much noise, so much going on, you can't even hear yourself think!
If only everyone would stop rushing around for a moment so you can just collect your thoughts. All you need is a moment. It happens to everyone, and more so in the contemporary urban and industrial environments in which more and more of humanity lives. How often do you find yourself thinking, "I've just got to get away from it all... away from this mad rush of things, to slow down and just reconnect with myself, reconnect with life"? This need to find places and situations where you can be calm and clear is a fundamental need of all life. In fact, it is a requirement not only of life, but of everything that exists and transforms in relation to its environment -- in other words, of everything!
Evidence for the Presence of Consciousness in the Cosmos
In the first of this three-part series on consciousness in the cosmos, I suggested that there is a newer and more adequate concept of consciousness than the standard “turbine theory” (which claims that consciousness is generated by the brain) and even than the more advanced “cloud” theory (where our individual consciousness is said to be linked to a cloud-computing information system in nature that “saves” and integrates its principal elements). The more adequate concept maintains that our individual consciousness is part of the consciousness that pervades the cosmos. This concept (anticipated by the great spiritual traditions) is that our individual consciousness is an intrinsic part of the consciousness that resides in—and perhaps is—the deeper reality of the cosmos. The question I take up here is whether there is concrete evidence for a cosmic consciousness in the world—in the universe science tells us is the real world.
In light of the current, revolutionary advances in the natural sciences and in the study of consciousness, the concepts of matter, life, and mind have under-gone major changes. This paper outlines some basic aspects of these changes, taking in turn the emerging concept of matter, of life, and of human mind and consciousness.
The Psycho-Physics of Love and Hope: Ervin Laszlo’s Radical Take on Deep Entanglement
by Terry Patten
Last Sunday, I was joined by the internationally-renowned scientist, philosopher and visionary, Ervin Laszlo for a public conversation we titled“The Self-Actualizing Cosmos: The Akasha Revolution in Science and Human Consciousness.”
The conversation ranged quite widely, and some of what he had to say even startled me.
First of all, I wish to thank you all for the 20 years we spent together; I’m deeply grateful to those who have been with us from the beginning. We did start something off. Let us now examine the role our initiative has, along with the role it should have, why it has been established and why it must continue existing.