Tag Archives: conscious universe

How the Universe Solved the “Hard Problem”

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By Deepak Chopra, MD

For some inexplicable reason the most common element in every possible experience–consciousness–has kept itself a secret. How the human brain produces consciousness–if it does–is an age-old question, currently traveling under the name of “the hard problem.” Philosopher David Chalmers, who coined the term, says, “There is nothing that we know more intimately than conscious experience, but there is nothing that is harder to explain.” This is especially frustrating because we all depend upon consciousness for everything. If we were unconscious, the world would literally disappear in a puff of smoke. This obvious fact implies something that isn’t so obvious: Maybe consciousness and the world appeared at the same time.

A cosmos devoid of consciousness isn’t conceivable, and yet the reason for this exists completely out of sight. Think of sunlight. Obviously the sun can’t shine unless stars exist. There are few secrets left to discover about how stars form, what they are made of, and how light is produced in the incredibly hot cauldron at the core of a star. The secret lies elsewhere. As sunlight travels 93 million miles to Earth, it penetrates the atmosphere and lands somewhere on the planet. In this case, the only somewhere we’re interested in is our eye. Photons, the packets of energy that carry light, stimulate the retina at the back of the eye, starting a chain of events that leads to the part of the brain known as the visual cortex.

The difference between being blind and being able to see lies in the mechanics of how the brain processes sunlight—that much is clear. Yet the step in the process that matters the most, converting sunlight into vision, is totally mysterious. No matter what you see in the world—an apple, cloud, mountain, or tree—sunlight bouncing off the object makes it visible, but how? No one knows. The secret of sight is totally immersed in consciousness itself. Without being conscious of light, photons are invisible. Yet it is mistaken to say that light becomes bright in the brain through some physical process, because the brain has no brightness, either. It is as dark as outer space. Because there is no light in the brain, there are no pictures or images, either. When you imagine the face of a loved one, nowhere in the brain does that face exist like a photograph. Continue reading

Where Is the Tipping Point for Consciousness?

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By Deepak Chopra, MD

A funny thing happened on the way to cosmic mind. There was a vision of it that captivated some of the greatest thinkers in the last century, but then the vision faded. In the current atmosphere of science, the notion of a conscious universe has been marginalized–you won’t see it mentioned in Nova programs.  Mindless materialism reigns among the stars and subatomic particles. We are back to a tightly enforced prejudice that is depressing considering that the most hallowed names among quantum pioneers, including Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, and Schrödinger, took the possibility of cosmic mind seriously, and all but Einstein ultimately embraced it.

Why did we slip backward, and where do we go from here? A sizable cadre of younger physicists are asking these questions, but as science circles back to questions that were already answered a century ago, the whole focus may be wrong-headed. Facing a wall of resistance from mainstream science, perhaps we need to look elsewhere. If consciousness is going to reach a tipping point, it seems obvious that science isn’t going to generate it.

Only people will, out in the world living everyday lives.  Populism makes intellectuals quite nervous–often with good reason–but it wasn’t intellectuals who gave us democracy, spirituality, art, and music. The human condition is influenced far more by a rising tide of collective change. Democracy needed to reach a turning point in order to become a given notion accepted by the majority of the human race. How can this happen with consciousness?

One thing is certain–at the present moment, a conscious universe represents a bridge too far. What needs to be accepted is consciousness itself, after which we can travel where the concept takes us. So, to ask the most basic question, what is consciousness? The simplest definition is awareness, although in many wisdom traditions to be conscious requires self-awareness. But let’s stick with the simplest definition. If consciousness is awareness, our everyday actions fall into one of three categories: Continue reading

Does Enlightenment Pass the “So What” Test?

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In the last two posts I’ve argued that there should be a new norm in how we view the mind, presenting the possibility that enlightenment is our natural state. Higher consciousness has become an exotic state reserved for saints, sages, and swamis, haloed in religious terminology. But behind the aura of holiness stands a shift in consciousness. There are many definitions of enlightenment, of course. We need a modern one that is based on freedom from boundaries, obstacles, inner resistance, mental conflict, old conditioning, and memories of past limitations. These are distortions of consciousness, and when they are removed, enlightenment can be realized as our natural state.

I urge you to read the earlier posts (“Why Don’t We Know We’re Enlightened Already?” and “Is Enlightenment the New Normal?”)  so that this apparently far-fetched proposal begins to feel convincing. What we need to ask now is whether enlightenment would actually matter in a person’s life. This is the “So what?” test that new technology must pass every day.  Without a practical application, higher consciousness is unlikely to overturn how science and daily life are conducted. In fact, enlightenment itself has been long associated with renunciation of the world, which makes it seem like the last thing modern people want.

Let’s say that enlightenment is a new technology, in effect, although unlike the next iPhone, it’s a technology whose domain is “in here.” Beyond the notice of most people, the groundwork is being laid for this novel technology right now. The most exciting aspect of advances in physics and biology has been the up rise of interest in consciousness. From the debate over whether the mind influences the body, which stirred up contention in medicine thirty years ago, tremendous progress has been made. Many books and a host of annual conferences are now devoted to exploring consciousness, which was banned from serious science for decades, despite the fact that quantum physics opened the door almost a hundred years ago. Continue reading

Synchronicity, Evolution, and Your Genes (Part 2)

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Everyone has had a meaningful coincidence happen to them–the classic example is thinking of someone’s name and the next minute that person telephones, or seeing an unusual word in your mind’s eye and then running across that word the next time you open a book.  It’s spooky that the outside world can be synchronized with our inner world, yet the bigger question is about reality itself. Synchronicity, the common term for meaningful coincidences, doesn’t tend to change anyone’s life–but it could.

Instead of passing off such experiences as incidental, what if synchronicity is telling us something crucial about reality, linking the inner and outer worlds because in the long run, they are completely unified? If inner=outer, a tremendous shift in the Western materialistic worldview would follow. Let’s see how far the trail of clues takes us. Continue reading

Deepak Chopra: Thinking Outside the (Skull) Box (Part 9)

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By Deepak Chopra, M.D., Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D., P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Neil Theise, MD

The title of this series of posts is both a declaration (the mind is not contained exclusively within the brain) and an invitation – to think creatively about the nature of your mind. You no longer have to imprison your mind inside your skull, or anywhere else in the body, in fact. There are other ways to imagine and experience it. We’ve provided many clues that mind extends outside the body, which implies that your own mind, as you experience it, may exist without boundaries. As we demonstrated, contemplative practitioners in many traditions point to experiences of mind that extend beyond the body, to encompass the universe as a whole.

Your brain doesn’t determine your mind. Brain and mind are recreating each other with every act of perception. Moreover, with training, you can learn to experience your mind in parts of your body beyond the enclosure inside your skull, perhaps experiencing it even as filling your body. We’ve been offering factual evidence to avoid the trap of metaphysics or unfounded speculation, since science so deeply distrusts metaphysics. Has the evidence made you curious about what your mind really is? There’s a huge difference between two pictures of reality. One picture describes a clockwork brain that evolved mechanistically from a random universe. The other describes a conscious universe where one expression is the human mind.

If you accept the second story – as we do – it leads to a mind-blowing conclusion: the universe is thinking, feeling, and acting through you. You exist so that the universe has a new outlet for knowing itself. (Surely this makes you curious!) As was said by the Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Khan,

The Sufi says this whole universe was made in order that God might know Himself. The seed wished to realize what it is, what is in it, and therefore became the tree.

If you and I are embedded in a conscious universe, a leap toward freedom can be made. Unfortunately, most people use their brains in a habitual way. Day in and day out, the brain repeats the same patterns of habitual ideas (someone once estimated that 90% of the thoughts we have today are repetitions of the thoughts we had yesterday). Habitual ideas are imprinted in you by prevailing cultural assumptions, including those that derive from science and its purely materialist view of the world. If you are a materialist, the universe couldn’t possibly be thinking (not that this notion bothers the universe – it has time to wait until a better belief system comes along).

We do not seek to convince you of anything in these posts but to stir up the urge to seek your own answers. For example, do you accept that your mind works like a computer, which would make the brain a kind of biological hardware (what one expert in artificial intelligence dubbed “a computer made of meat”)? The brain-as-computer idea can be exploded by asking, has a computer ever been curious? Has a computer ever been in love? Has it ever had urges or given into temptation? These aspects of mind are innate in human beings and are not computational.

Now that you are thinking outside the (skull) box, what if we can expand your sense of self beyond your skin? When you say “my body,” you probably mean this body made of approximately 4 trillion human cells, each of which contains your genes. But is that really your body? On close inspection, your body is lined, over the surface of the skin and throughout the digestive tract by 100 times as many cells, if not more, that aren’t “yours” at all, in that they do not contain your ancestral genes. They are microbial cells, part of what scientists now refer to as the microbiome – your second genome, so to speak. These include both bacteria and other single- celled creatures known as archaea. You are, in essence, composed of colonies of human and non-human cells living in harmonious balance.

Outnumbering “your” cells by a hundred to, these micro-organisms aren’t just passive riders or conveyers of disease. Quite the contrary- these trillions of bacteria convey your health. For example, if we grow mice in an “abiotic” environment in which there are no bacteria (or if we have a boy who has to be raised in a bubble because he has a rare disorder, Severe Combined Immunodeficiency syndrome, and cannot control infections), the digestive tract can’t function properly. The microscopic, finger-like projections, or microvilli, that line the intestinal wall don’t form. Without them, you don’t have enough gut surface area to accomplish the digestion and absorption of nutrition. By adding back in the helpful bacteria that normally line the intestines, the microvilli arise.

(To be cont.)

* * *

Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 75 books translated into over 35 languages with over twenty New York Times bestsellers. Chopra serves as Founder of The Chopra Foundation.

Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Director of the Center of Excellence at Chapman University, co-author with Deepak Chopra of the forthcoming book, Who Made God and Other Cosmic Riddles. (Harmony)

P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, FRCP, Professor of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina and a leading physician scientist in the area of mental health, cognitive neuroscience and mind-body medicine.

Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), co-author with Deepak Chopra of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being. (Harmony)

Neil Theise, MD, Professor, Pathology and Medicine, (Division of Digestive Diseases) and Director of the Liver and Stem Cell Research Laboratory, Beth Israel Medical Center – Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York. www.neiltheise.com

Deepak Chopra: From Quanta to Qualia — The Mystery of Reality (Part 4)

A breakthrough has occurred in explaining our universe that hasn’t yet become mainstream. This is the concept of a living cosmos that did not need to evolve to produce life on Earth. Rather, all the elements characteristic of life were already present. They didn’t become apparent until human beings developed self-aware minds. Humans have assumed that the constituents of life did not exist until some time in the history of our planet, which arbitrarily gave birth to life.

An agreed upon theory of a living universe hasn’t been formulated yet. That’s what we’ve started to do in this series of posts. However, as you explore the scientific literature in which speculative thinkers muse on the links that bind reality at every level, common patterns emerge. One that links different aspects of the cosmos to everyday life is what we term a trinity: Quarks, Quanta, and Qualia. It maps out a progression from the physical to the mental.

The quantum revealed that the appearance of a solid, stable physical universe was not fundamental; at the finest level, creation is based upon invisible packets of energy, and a revolutionary theory, quantum mechanics, made it possible to better understand three out of the four fundamental forces in Nature with astonishing precision (the fourth being gravity, which is still elusive).

Quanta formed the bridge between what used to be thought of as completely different and opposite aspects of the universe, namely matter and energy. Subatomic particles exist at the transition between the vacuum state, and invisible domain of infinite potential, and visible creation. Quanta are themselves energy and matter. Quarks eventually emerged from quantum field theory (the successor to the original quantum theory) as the building blocks of the nucleus of the atom, what constitute matter itself. Even though quarks are quanta, for our purposes we can consider them as being more “solid”, while still acting as messengers of the fundamental forces.

To date, quanta and quarks define the outlines of how the universe emerged, although there are other theories, such as General Relativity, needed to complete the picture. For a scientist working in the scheme of “physicalism,” which holds that all phenomena can be explained through the interactions of matter and energy, the future consists of refining and unifying the findings of quantum physics.

The Three-in-One State

Matter and energy aren’t enough to explain the universe. We propose that a third element must be added – Qualia – before anything approaching a unified description of reality will ever be possible. Efforts to devise the so-called Theory of Everything will come up woefully short if the third part of the trinity, consciousness, is left out. While the old quantum theory opened the door to consciousness, it is now time to make better sense of the unified whole, and consciousness does that.

Physicalists take consciousness as a given. They have no explanation for the emergence of mind; the transformation of atoms and molecules into mental events – feelings, sensations, wishes, dreams, scientific theories – goes unexplained. Mental events can be unified as Qualia, a term for all subjective perception. It is undeniable that we know the universe through subjective experience. Science itself is a subjective experience, despite the attempt to isolate and reduce objective facts and expel subjectivity.

It’s time to realize that subjectivity is the elephant in the room. It must be taken into account. Setting aside any other argument, the most basic reason for Qualia science is that, in the words of the late physicist John Wheeler, we live in a participatory universe. What does our participation consist of? Three things: observer, observed, and the process of observation. Quantum theory has wrestled with the latter two for a century, ever since it became invalid to treat waves and particles as fixed things “out there,” apart from the observer effect. The observer changes what he observes. That’s been undeniable in quantum mechanics for many decades. But the observer effect is often brushed aside as a minor glitch or as a factor that can be worked around.

We propose a three-in-one model that unites observer, observed, and process of observation. Their unity exists naturally, in our own experience. Hard as it is for physicalists to accept, there is no sunset, cloud, mountain, electron, or galaxy independent of a unified state that must include an observer and the process of observation. The total inadmissibility of this idea is a mark of how necessary it is. Science doesn’t describe reality (even Stephen Hawking has attested to this), it describes phenomena that fit various theories. It’s the map, not the territory.

The territory is reality, which is one and only, an undivided wholeness. What humans experience constitutes reality, since by definition whatever we can’t experience is inconceivable. We aren’t referring only to the five senses. As Peter Wilberg, one of the most astute and gifted qualia theorists, has explained, we don’t see because we have eyes. Eyes are physical organs that evolved to serve the mind’s desire to see. Mind comes first. It reaches out to experience reality through qualia, which embrace the five senses along with sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts in the mind.

As alien as it sounds to put mind first, one’s sense of strangeness reflects our habitual view of things. As long as materialism dominates, physicalists will always agree that the eye precedes sight, the brain the mind, and so on. It’s in the nature of new theories, when they are truly revolutionary, to overturn the existing paradigm. In his groundbreaking writing on perception, cognitive scientist Donald D. Hoffman has offered a model of perception that places the individual mind, which he calls a “conscious agent,” at the center of the reality. That is, he begins with experience as the measure of what exists. Wilberg takes perception even further, asserting that when we feel that something around us reflects a certain mood (the optimism of dawn, the cheerfulness of spring, the gloom of a dark, low-hanging clouds), it isn’t possible to claim that the mood belongs only to the observer or that it is separate from the thing being observed. The founders of quantum theory intuitively felt the same way, as attested by Schrödinger, Bohr, Heisenberg, and Pauli. Later on, Eugene Wigner and John von Neumann went even further – they claimed that consciousness was necessary to resolve the fundamental quantum measurement problem (i.e., the problem of how to account for the way that an observer effects what he observes.)

When qualia are fully understood, reality is three-in-one. The progression of quarks-quanta-qualia reflects the history of science. Discoveries unfolded in a line from the more inert and physical to the more subjective. But this should be reversed to qualia-quanta-quarks, which recognizes the undeniable fusion of observer-observed-process of observation. This reversal maps the natural way in which the universe becomes aware.

For anyone who can loosen their loyalties to the current scientific paradigm, the three-in-one model of nature isn’t opposed to current science; it’s more expanded and inclusive. Therefore, we consider it the natural next step. For example, in Nature it is self-evident that there is creation and destruction. The new cannot come about unless the old gives way. But creation and destruction are not isolated opposites randomly crashing into each other. They are connected. Through their connection, an emerging new thing takes into account information from the old thing. You can see this as you read a sentence. As one word passes out of sight and a new one appears, there is a stream of connection, known as meaning. The first word looks to the second word, and the second looks back at the first. “The-black-bear-is-climbing-a-tree. “ “The” tells you that a noun is coming. “Black tells you that the noun hasn’t arrived yet, but since “the” is still in mind, you await the noun, which arrives with “bear” and completes the phrase.

The point isn’t that one word has to follow another in a linear sentence. The point is that the appearance of new words, following on the disappearance of old words, builds a self-organized structure. From this simple example we see how the human brain is organized as an evolving organ. It operates as a feedback loop that integrates past, present, and future experiences. They form a dynamic process that keeps consuming itself and expanding into new life. This process occurs physically in the brain structures studied by neuroscientists. But without a mind to organize everything, the brain has no reason or ability to evolve. The passage of time is irrelevant; the same blue-green algae that emerged at the beginning of life have remained unchanged for billions of years.

Yet even one-celled organisms respond to the world by breathing, eating, dividing, heading for the light, and so on. Those responses were the first links in the feedback loop that eventually gave rise to the physical brain. Every experience is qualia, including the experience of blue-green algae. Thus we have a common link that can unify all phenomena that the mind can conceive of. Qualia medicine could one day explain spontaneous remission of cancer, for example. Cancer is marked by numerous changes at the genetic level, including complex changes in the “junk DNA” (formally known as “non-coding DNA”) that comprises over 96% of the human genome. Genes respond to the environment around them, which includes all the incoming information that passes from the bloodstream through the cell membrane. That information is controlled by the brain, and the brain is the processing center for all thoughts, feelings, sensations, and images – qualia. The feedback loop closes in a dynamic, ever-changing circle that includes qualia at every level. Medical science has taken thirty years to accept the validity of the mind-body connection. Once it takes the next step into qualia, the difference between disease and wellness can be understood with the inclusion of personal experience. Present mind-body phenomena like the placebo effect, or the increased risk of illness caused by depression, will expand. Instead of being peripheral to “real” medicine (i.e., drugs and surgery), the mind-body connection will be central to prevention and wellness.

We’ve presented here only a sketch of the possibilities. A living universe must be considered as a strong possibility. It already is among far-seeing scientists. The library of books about a self-organizing cosmos is growing. Consciousness is no longer a taboo subject at scientific conferences. What’s lacking is a unifying model for the countless things that remain unexplained by physicalism. It may sound incredible that the entire universe is the product of mind, whether we are speaking metaphorically as Einstein did (“I want to know the mind of God’ everything else is just details”) or literally, as qualia theory does. But science proceeds by accepting the simplest hypothesis that fits what needs to be explained. As a three-in-one state, reality can be explained far more simply, we claim, than using random chance and bouncing particles to explain the emergence of the mind’s richness, creativity, and intelligence.

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photo by: Patrick Hoesly

Deepak Chopra: From Quanta to Qualia — The Mystery of Reality (Part 3)

The universe is evolving – on that almost all physicists agree – but in what direction? As we saw in two earlier posts, the world “out there” is neither static in time nor constant in time. Quantum theory undermined every quality of the physical universe that classical physics studies, replacing them with an ever-shifting reality based on invisible probability waves and quantum fields.

True reality consists of infinite possibilities that are realized only as we observe them. Consciousness allows us to do so. Quantum physics has opened the door to consciousness, now it needs to look beyond its boundaries to integrate the central role of consciousness. In doing so, it will have to go beyond its own boundaries and posit a reality that it itself was hinting at from the very early days of development of quantum mechanics: The participatory nature of reality. To take it further, a hint about the next breakthrough comes in a quote from the British physicist David Bohm: “In some sense man is a microcosm of the universe; therefore what man is, is a clue to the universe.” Humans have always looked to Nature as a mirror of ourselves. If we really are a microcosm, then the macrocosm – the universe at large – must be seen in terms of what makes us most human: consciousness. It is the same consciousness, which quantum mechanics, tells us, operates through the acts of observation in quantum measurements.

The simplest and most elegant explanation for why human beings can think, feel, and experience the world is that the universe consists of consciousness at the most fundamental level. Any other explanation that leaves consciousness out, leads to strange views of the universe, views which ultimately lead to contradictions and a host of new problems. This is the line we’d like to explore next.

Beyond looking outward at the vastness of quantum fields, the next and natural place to examine consciousness is personal and intimately close: individual awareness. For all of us, the world and everything that happens in it is experienced subjectively.  In quantum theory each quantum is a tiny chunk of energy. In subjective experience, each tiny chunk of unitary experience is a qualia (the Latin word from which we get the word “quality” – we will use the same term for singular and plural).  Our five senses are designed to turn the raw data of physics into a living reality, which they do via sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell.

These are the qualia that create the world “in here.”  The lush redness of a rose is a qualia, as is its luxurious scent.  The smoothness of silk, the roughness of beach sand are also qualia. The reason that qualia are so important isn’t just because we need the five senses. The only reality we can possibly know is the qualia interpreted for us by our brains. There is no way to know that reality exists outside qualia.  Qualia are units of perception, and reality is a perceptual collage. If it is anything else, we will never know it. The inner world also contains thoughts, feelings, images, and sensations. They are qualia as well. There is no difference, as far as the visual cortex is concerned, between seeing a red rose and imagining it. The qualia of red is present in both.

At first this may seem too obvious to matter.  The rose is red, and I see it as red. A camera does the same thing, mechanically transferring a specific wavelength of light on to a chemically reactive film or digitized screen.  This implies that perception is a given, a passive process. That is far from the case. Perception is a conscious act. Far from being passive, perception creates reality. In words of Sir John Eccles, a famous British neurologist who declared, “I want you to realize that there exists no color in the natural world, and no sound – nothing of this kind; no textures, no patterns, no beauty, no scent.”

The only reason that a rose is red is that you have a human nervous system that registers a frequency of electromagnetic radiation or light as a certain experience that we call red. Perception is tied to acts of observation and for us humans, we take it for granted what it is. But would it be the same for other species? It is likely that perception is species specific. However, we have no way of knowing how a bumblebee, porpoise, or dog experiences the world, even in as basic a thing as color. This reversal, making perception the whole key to reality, is where we believe physics – and all science – needs to progress. At first qualia seem counter-intuitive. We are used to making the world “out there” a fixed, reliable point of reference. But science, through the most advanced science that exists, quantum theory, has informed us that this is not the case for over a century, and spiritual teaching for thousands of years before that. It hasn’t been more than a century since quantum theory proved that no object, however big of small, from subatomic particles to vast galaxies, has any fixed properties. All the properties that create reality, quantum theory, again, tells us are contextual, they depend on the acts of observation. As such, quantum theory has opened the door to a noetic, a mind-based universe. Reality, we would infer, is mind-made.

Qualia are the building blocks of creation. Qualia are rooted in consciousness. Consciousness is the material of creation. Rocks aren’t hard; water isn’t wet; light isn’t bright. These are all qualia created in your consciousness, using the brain as a processing facility.   Although it appears to be a huge leap from traditional quantum theory, it is the next natural step in the evolving science. We must remember, the greatest quantum pioneers knew that consciousness leading us to a participatory view of the cosmos, had to be explained. It cannot simply be set aside as a given, not as long as observers play a key role in transforming invisible fields and waves into visible particles that can be measured.  We aren’t saying that quantum physics must be discarded, not at all. We are only recommended that we move on to exactly where quantum theory points and where Heisenberg, Bohr, Pauli, Born, Schrödinger, Bohm, Wigner, and all the great founders of quantum theory, struggled to move in their understanding of quantum phenomena .

What we are discarding is materialism, the view that matter and energy as understood by pre-quantum physics, are the building blocks of nature. Materialism leaves consciousness out, and thus it totally falsifies the most important fact about reality: we only experience it.  When a scientist performs an experiment to gain objective data, that too is an experience. The whole activity we call science is experiential. The fact that data can be extracted is productive. If you measured the body heat of Romeo and Juliet, that would be productive, too, yet the actual reality of romantic love doesn’t appear as data.

Qualia theory gets at reality through experience, and qualia science can be built up around consciousness, because the same principles that govern the world “out there” also apply to the world “in here.” This must be true, because reality is reality, an undivided wholeness which physics itself implicitly assumes. The universality of the laws of physics that any good physicist takes for granted, points to a universality of reality. And since that reality is an experience in consciousness, we are led by reason to the view of the universality of conscious moments of experience. There aren’t two realities, one for the outer world and one for the inner world. Such dualism was long ago discarded. We can observe, for example, the brain activity when a Romeo is in love with his Juliet. This is more sophisticated data than measuring their body temperature.  Even so, without a bridge that connects data to experience, reality is incomplete. Qualia science is the bridge.  It restores you, the perceiver, to a creative role – you are the conscious agent who shapes reality as you experience it.

Time is your responsibility. Space requires your existence. This sounds radical because we are used to the materialistic bias that puts “out there” separate from and ahead of “in here.”  But that bias is just a metaphysical assumption, a particular, and we claim false, way of looking at undivided wholeness. Yet all experience is made of qualia, and that includes time and space. They do not exist independently of the mind that perceives them.

Having made these declarations, we can now offer the ten basic axioms of Qualia Science. The language is technical in places. In the final post of this series we’ll bring qualia back into everyday life.

Axioms of Qualia Science

1. Science is currently based on measuring all that we observe to describe a “physical” with greater and greater granularity. The physical universe described by current scientific methods exists exclusively as one that our nervous system allows us to perceive it in the form of qualia – defined as all sensations, images, feeling and thoughts experienced in a conscious mind. The mind can be considered the place where electrochemical signals to the brain are interpreted as qualia. A new interpretation of the universe can be based on all being rooted in consciousness. We can attempt to understand this universe “qualia science”.

2. Quantum theory presents us with a radically different view of the universe: Quantum phenomena are not phenomena until registered by an act of observation. Far from being completely detached from the world of phenomena, observers participate in the phenomena they observe. The quantum world is a world of events, not “hard” physical entities, and the role of consciousness in it is fundamental. Moreover, if we look deep enough, we find that the principles that govern the quantum world are just as applicable to how consciousness operates. (In brief, these principles that unite the inner and outer world include the most basic discoveries of the quantum era that began over a century ago: quantization or individualization; coherence, superposition and entanglement; complementarity; contextuality; primacy of process; non-locality; and sufficient reason (i.e., whatever happens must be for a reason), which can all be expanded to consciousness.) We view these principles as applying at all levels of reality, and as such, manifest in the mental processes of everyday life. Therefore, these underlying principles will provide the necessary links between current quantum science and qualia science.

3. All experience, whether of the body or the outside world and universe, consists of qualia. Our world only exists because we perceive it and create it. Thus, all interactions with are experiential and subjective. What we call “objective” in science is that which we can measure within patterns of qualia dictated by mathematical  laws. Quantum Mechanics is a mathematical model for measuring Qualia Mechanics. It’s the map, not the territory.

4. Consciousness is fundamental and indivisible. As such, consciousness can only interact with itself. In life as in science, all experiences and measurements involve consciousness interacting with itself. All reality, all that we experience, is rooted solely in consciousness. Even our nervous system is a product of consciousness that interprets consciousness to create our perceptual “reality”. The nervous system, as qualia, creates qualia as consciousness interacts with itself.

5. Qualia science explores the boundary between our perceptual universe and the actual (pure consciousness), with the goal of crossing over that boundary. The perceptual world is that which our nervous system (or that of other species) experiences. The actual world is pure consciousness encompassing a field of all possibilities. Each possibility emerges as qualia. However, the field of pure consciousness exists prior to qualia.

6. True (actual) reality is the field of all possibilities within consciousness, while “species-specific reality” (e.g., that of humans) is the continuous and dynamic flow of consciousness from the universal field of all possibilities differentiating into matter, energy, worlds, and beings. Qualia science entails capturing what really exists, as opposed to the numbers that are used to measure it in small, frozen slices based on cause and effect. True reality is acausal and non-local. Causality arises as qualia interpret qualia within specific nervous systems.

7. As consciousness interacts with itself, resulting qualia self-organize, (i.e., evolve). Self-organization is based on continuous feedback loops. Every qualia that manifests from existing qualia (e.g., a painting created by Van Gogh) in turn serves to regulate the qualia from which it manifested. In other words, as consciousness flows from the field of all possibilities, qualia emerge in layers of manifestation that make up a self-regulating program based on multifold feedback loops. This program can be a feeling, a human, the planet Earth, or the universe. All are qualia.

8. Birth is the beginning of a particular qualia program (e.g., a particular human being). An individual qualia entity emerges into the world with a potential in qualia that unfolds as life. From birth, our reality is created via the resonance of shared qualia with others in our species and related species. As such, the perceived universe is, in essence, an agreement about qualia (the universe) among qualia (humans). Death is the termination of a particular qualia program. The qualia return to a state of potential forms within consciousness, where they reshuffle and recycle as new living entities.

9. The process of consciousness interacting with itself is most obvious in humans as self-awareness imparting the sense of freewill, choice, and meaning. Self-awareness is the starting point for the next leap in our creative evolution as a species. Qualia science is also made possible by the gift of self-awareness.

10. Qualia science will result in the emergence of new, dynamic, and self-organizing networks of qualia that will reshape the universe as we know it. Of course, quantum mechanics and classical science will always be necessary for new technologies, to measure qualia and to interpret the mathematical laws governing the manifestation of qualia as we perceive them. But qualia science will take us in a new direction that breaks down the barriers between the true reality of a non-local field of all possibilities and the perceptual reality produced by our nervous system. The result will be a more connected and enlightened “human universe”.

The last two words are the most important – “human universe”. It is as alive, intelligent, and conscious as we are. After centuries of looking out into the cold void of space and feeling isolated (if not terrified) to be an accidental creation, humanity can look outward and see the universe as our home and rooted in ourselves. In the last post we will give this exciting new breakthrough a human face.

(To be cont.)

By Deepak Chopra, MD, FACP, Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Chapman University, and Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

 

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Deepak Chopra: God Will Be Back Tomorrow (Really)

Can a secular age return to an age of faith? No.

Despite the hopes of people who still follow traditional religions, the modern age is too entrenched in its values to ever regain faith as it was once known. The issue isn’t church attendance, which has been declining in every developed country for decades. Nor is it fundamentalism, which is like a family squabble among believers. The core issue that has led to the decline of religion has to do with reality itself.

In the modern age, reality has been defined by science, and wherever science goes, so will God. Many people assume that God has no chance of returning, that science has permanently vanquished the reality defined by religion. But the story is more complicated than that. Let me look at the picture in the broadest terms. What would it take to make the universe a living thing? What would it take to make it human once again, a secure home for us instead of a cold, meaningless place? What would it take to give God a future?

As disconnected as these questions may seem, the deeper one looks, all three issues – a living universe, a human universe, and a universe that holds a place for God – start to merge.  If they actually do merge, our view of reality will radically shift. There have been great physicists who were deeply religious, such as Sir Isaac Newton, or who had a religious feeling when confronting the universe, such as Albert Einstein, but God isn’t the right place to start with these huge issues. No matter who or what created the universe, it’s here now, and we have to relate to it.

How?  One of the oldest ideas, which can be found in every culture, holds that Nature is a mirror.  We relate to it by seeing ourselves, but not passively. Messages are constantly going back and forth about birth and death about constant change and the bond between our life and Nature itself.  To the ancients, a natural disaster – fire, flood, earthquake – showed that the gods were angry. If the gods were appeased, the harvest was good and the sun shone. It was unquestioned that the universe meant something, and usually it meant that a loving deity had created a special place for his children.

It’s astonishing how quickly a timeless worldview was utterly destroyed by science. Now we relate to a completely mechanistic universe devoid of purpose, one that operates through random chance perfectly meshed with evolution operating through random genetic mutations. The mirror has shattered. We no longer see ourselves in it, because there’s nothing meaningful to see, no purpose, no Creator. Even more absurd is the notion that Nature is sending us messages – from the collision of quarks to the collision of galaxies, nothing is happening “out there” to reflect human existence.

More than any other science, quantum physics delivered Nature to its present state as random and meaningless.  The reliable world of the five senses was undercut by the quantum world, where nothing known to the five senses holds true. It seems totally impossible that the gap between the two worlds could ever be closed. Yet it can’t remain open, either. Human life is meaningful, not random. It is filled with purpose, intelligence, creativity, and values like love and compassion.  No one has explained how matter and energy acquired purpose, meaning, and all the rest. Electrons and hydrogen atoms floating in the bleakness of outer space bear no resemblance to the electrons and hydrogen atoms in your brain. Their random activity somehow turned into the most orderly, intelligent, creative activity in the known universe. How?

Let’s say we want to take this question personally. Reality is an interesting topic, but it becomes a fascinating topic when it’s your personal reality. If you knew where your own intelligence came from, why you are alive, where you are going, and what the next leap in your evolution will be, everything would change for you. In their pursuit of a Theory of Everything, the holy grail of modern physics, scientists have bypassed a Theory of Me, an explanation for why each of us matters.  That, in a nutshell, is what’s at stake. How do we fill in the gap created by the quantum revolution, so that the world we experience personally matches the data collected by science?

Science is considering this issue on several fronts. Neuroscience is delving into the brain processes associated with subjective feelings like love, compassion and faith. The prospect that the brain has a quantum foundation is being taken seriously. For a long time the “observer effect” has been part of quantum mechanics. This is the effect that occurs simply by having an observer make measurements. Although by no means a consensus, some physicists hold that particles comes into existence only when observed, that without an observer they exist only as probability waves. Finally, cosmologists must answer the riddle of why the early universe was so fine tuned. The various constants like gravity, the speed of light, and the values of the strong and weak force are precisely meshed, and even the slightest change would have caused the early universe either to implode or to fly apart in in such a way that matter could never have formed.  One school of thought holds that human beings may be the end product of the universe. The events that led to our emergence are too fine-tuned to be random.

I’ve barely sketched in a wholesale shift that has the effect of making a human universe possible, one in which evolution is working toward a goal – namely, us. But all of these trends ultimately may depend on a single hypothesis: the conscious universe. A quick search of Amazon reveals a clutch of books devoted to the living universe, the holographic universe, and so on. In their different ways, these books attempt to answer the Big Question: How did mind enter the cosmos? It is all but impossible to derive mind from the random bombardment of atoms. It is far easier to place the seeds of consciousness inside the precreated state, the void from which time, space, matter, and energy emerged. The precreated state is inconceivable, because we can only describe reality as we know it, which means using thought processes that depend on time, space, matter, and energy.

Once you are forced to look at the precreated state (a perfectly respectable inquiry – string theory does it, for example) all possibilities are open; the playing field is level.  Something organized the universe from the precreated state. Something outside time gave rise to time; something outside space gave rise to space.  Perhaps that something is a kind of proto-consciousness, or an infinite consciousness, or the very framework for mind itself. Terminology gets blurry; indeed, being able to think about the precreated state is extremely questionable. I am not sneaking a Biblical God – or the ancient gods – back into the picture. If science fully confronts where intelligence, creativity, and the operation of mind came from, what will shift is the story of reality. As reality goes, so goes God. The two are inevitably linked, since God is a verbal tag for the source of creation. Verbal tags are clung to for emotional reasons, which isn’t science

But relating to reality is science, and so is true knowledge.  It is undoubtedly true that we are conscious beings, and just as true that everything we know comes via experience. Reality is experienced in consciousness.  The world’s wisdom traditions agree that there is a source beyond the world of the five senses that gave rise to intelligence, creativity, love, and so on. By staring into the precreated state of the universe, science has arrived at the juncture where the source of creation must be confronted. No one can predict where this investigation will wind up. But something like God has a future, and there’s a good chance that this something will be God.

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, is the author of more than 65 books including numerous New York Times bestsellers.  His latest novel, God: A Story of Revelation(HarperOne)  

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