We are the Conscious Part of the Universe
Now that I have got out some of my thoughts about the nature of truth I thought that I would respond directly to some of Chuck R’s earlier comment. (This is how this diversion got started after all.) Chuck in his comment takes a stab at what he believes many people on this blog – and possibly even me – might believe about the nature of reality. He has admitted to spending over 35 years as a seeking mystic and so he outlines an evolutionary spiritual perspective that is somewhat common – and many aspects of what he says are metaphors that I have used in talking to people myself. Let’s start with this paragraph.
It seems to me that you are postulating some sort of mind-body duality which bears a family resemblance to Descartes’ formulation. In this there is some sort of mental-spiritual-cognitive-whatever continuum, probably infinite in extent, which intersects somehow with the physical “reality”. A crude model of this would be that our brain is some sort of cosmic radio, “tuning in” on the cosmic wavelength. Our “real” nature is somehow embedded in this wavelength. Your deep cosmic “thoughts” are not arising within your brain, they are originating Someplace Else, perhaps in the Central Creative Mind Of God, broadcasting throughout the universe.
I for one am trying to avoid mind-body dualities, without denying spirit – which is difficult I admit. I have at times used the metaphor as the brain as cosmic radio, but not because I think it is a scientifically accurate statement, because I think it helps to loosen up our perception from our normal sense of a source of consciousness that originates in ourselves. I think metaphors like that are helpful, not because they are a more accurate representation of the truth, but because they help us to get an alternative look at the world.
Chuck goes on…
No continuum of mind, no cosmic radio, no direction, no soul, no reincarnation or rebirth, no heavens or hells or in-between *Bardo* states. All that was an illusion based on a misinterpretation of a little-understood phenomena of the brain.
This I would have to object to on the grounds that I don’t believe Chuck can know what doesn’t exist. How do you know that there is no continuum of mind, no cosmic radio, no direction, no soul, no reincarnation etc… What is the little-understood phenomena of the brain that would explain all these things away. My point here is that I believe in indeterminacy – we just don’t know “scientifically” how things are ultimately. Science itself is based on this very fact. We never know for certain – but we choose to believe based on our experience.
I believe that human beings and human consciousness has emerged through the process of evolution right up out of the matter in the universe. There is evidence that supports this, and more importantly it makes sense to me. Matter developed and evolved, became more complex and more separate and also found ways to interact more harmoniously to form compounds, and eventually life, organisms, and consciousness. We are the conscious being that calls itself human. We have a consciousness that is not ours, but grew out of the universe itself and now mistakes itself to be a conscious object that exists in a universe rather than the conscious part of the universe.
I don’t believe that consciousness was produced at some time in the evolutionary process. I believe that consciousness was there from the beginning and, that in some way that would be impossible for me to understand “scientifically,” it has always guided the process of evolution. Why do I believe that? It makes sense to me. I can’t understand how consciousness could have just popped into existence at some point and so I believe that is was there from the beginning. Spiritual experiences that I have had support that belief – at least I my opinion – and since they were my experiences, mine is the opinion that matters most about them. I have experienced a depth of pure consciousness which I realized was not tied to this body, but somehow existed prior to the body and like the wind in sail, animates the body. I have no proof but my own experience, and in the end I would be very surprised if how I see things now is the final word on how they are. What I do know is that the idea that consciousness is something that exists outside of me that I participate in is more satisfactory to me than the idea that somehow my brain is an individual generator of consciousness and that we each have our own unique consciousness generator. This is where I am coming from and recently I have discovered the American Pragmatists were barking up a similar tree. The philosophy of John Dewey is brilliant in the way that he points out that consciousness is in the end an activity – a way of being in the world, not a power of the mind. I am not a big fan of baseless New Age Ideologies, but I do like to bend and stretch the limits of common sense in this dramatically uncommon universe of ours.