In my previous posting, I was concerned with “truth claims”. The truth one person believes in, alone or in consensus with a number of others, has to apply to all – by force if necessary.
I don’t have a scientific formation beyond school physics, chemistry and biology, but I often find myself confronted with a person who affirms a truth which for one reason or another I cannot accept. Evidence I might have in my possession might seem to refute what I perceive as lies or falsehood in good faith. What is truth? That is the question Pontius Pilate asked when deciding that the question of Christ at the Praetorium was going to cause him a lot of trouble. It is also the question asked by the tendency of Greek and Roman philosophy called scepticism.
Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge. It studies the ground on which we justify faith and belief as rational. We are taught at seminary that truth is the conformity of our minds to objective reality. The big problem with the Platonic and Artistotelian paradigm of reality, a World of Ideas, is that the underpinning is quite fragile in the light of modern quantum physics and the idea of parallel universes, of parallel realities, and reality itself being nothing more than an infinity of possibilities. I have begun to read Robert Lanza’s Biocentrism, which introduces concepts that escape our sensual experience.
In such a perspective, a schizophrenic who hears voices is not mad or needing to be locked up, but is a person who lives in a parallel reality – just as real as that of those of us who perceive something else with our senses or functions of the brain. We are all used to trusting in our five senses to perceive reality. Quantum physics does away with such a view. The idea that consciousness precedes matter gives us God, but takes away the permanence of things that seem very real to us like the computer keyboard I am typing this on. My fingers seem to be hitting solid things, little plastic squares with letters printed on them. The new concepts leave me seriously confused, but the alternative is Newtonian materialism in which God have no place and life has no meaning.
It all flies in the face of common sense, and I still talk in the same terms, because that is what I am used to as a human being who sees, hears, touches, tastes and smells. Those who are to some degree austistic learn that we are supposed to communicate with other people by means other than language, and something which lies outside our experience. Already, different people experience life in different ways. The schizophrenic and the person who is smashed out on LSD have yet other experiences. Those of us who like to go to the cinema experience yet something else. The imagination alone can take us anywhere.
There are many things that science knows about, but which are outside our sensory experience. For example, we cannot see ultraviolet light. What we can sense depends on the quantum computers that are our brains. I remember writing The Brain of God a while ago because I noticed a similarity between an image taken through a very powerful telescope of things in space and a microscope image of brain neurones. As consciousness interfaces with human brains, could it be that systems of stars and galaxies are also interfaces of consciousness?
We just don’t seem to be able to escape the subjectivity of reality, and the possibility of a multiplicity of truths. Colour blind people don’t see the same colours as those who can pass the usual tests, and they have to accept the fact that their experience of colour is different. When considering the issue of autism, I ask myself what is “normal”. Surely everyone is on one kind of spectrum or another, since there are other identified mental and personality conditions that cause troubles in social relationships. We try to put things in little boxes, but something always comes along to prove to be the exception to the rule. Rules with exceptions are not science!
Science alone filters out many aspects of human experience of reality. Most of us would believe in the existence of love, yet it is has no physical reality and cannot be proven by physics, chemistry or biology – or even by mathematical calculation. We wander into the realm of philosophy and theology. Partial truths can only be different to different perceivers. What is real? How can a colour-blind person accept the reality of red and green or know what they are? How can any of us know what ultra-violet is? Going further, there is a reality that is totally beyond our experience. To some people, this may be threatening or frightening, but I am stimulated by the idea.
Our instinct of seeking meaning to life is quite fundamental, like the life preservation instinct itself. Quantum theory (which I find puzzling) proposes an idea of infinite random possibility. Over the past few days, I have been pondering the first words of St John’s Gospel – Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ Λόγος. Does this Logos represent consciousness? We could go on forever looking for the etymological meaning of the Greek word, which is translated in many ways. The Encyclopaedia Britannica gives this: “the divine reason implicit in the cosmos, ordering it and giving it form and meaning“. In Christian theology, the Logos is identified with the Son of the Father in the Trinity, and the principle by which God created everything. I find here a theological expression of the biocentric universe: there was consciousness before matter or even subatomic particles. Perhaps Heraclitus came closest to a definition by analogy of man’s reasoning power. Most philosophers positioned the Logos between God and creation. Logos gives order and meaning to all those subatomic particles (if they are particles and not pure energy and emanations of the Logos).
Another idea comes our way, that nothing exists without our observation of it and participation in it. Our consciousness could well be a part of that Logos. The Logos became man (in Christ) so that man could become the Logos, participate in the essence and energy of God. We participate in one universal consciousness. The world in which we seek meaning appears to be solid, but is only a “hologram” maintained by consciousness and energy. In this notion, the illusion of matter is pure energy. Nothing can be experienced without consciousness. Consciousness is the experience of self. As Descartes said famously: cogito ego sum – I think, therefore I am.
The oriental religions like Hinduism train their adepts to see beyond the illusion by seeking self-consciousness and awareness. We are an expression of consciousness and wholeness, the whole universe is in us and us in it.
The great message of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the folly of attempting to create life from (what we perceive to be) matter. Life is consciousness. There is talk about artificial intelligence, which makes my mind boggle. Could robots and computers become a replacement for mankind? Perhaps consciousness might one day interface with man-made devices as it does with the human brain through incarnation. How would this happen? Would it happen any more than the attempt to bring a dead body back to life using electricity? Again we return to the idea of the illusion of matter and that everything is consciousness and energy.
Multiverses? I return to my mention of the theory of knowledge we call epistemology. Two persons each affirm a statement that contradicts the other. Aristotle gives us the principle of non-contradiction. They cannot both be true, though both can be false because the truth lies elsewhere. There are suggestions that there are parallel universes and that they are not always separate. One piece of information may be true in one universe but not in another. We think of the schizophrenic who hears voices that most of us do not hear. We conclude a diseased brain that needs to be made “normal” by medical treatment, but is it so easy? Some talk of UFO’s that they have seen or even photographed (if the photos are not optical illusions – and everything is illusion). I have never knowingly seen any, but some people say they have and relate it very sincerely. They have not necessarily travelled light years from another planet, but perhaps come from another “frequency” or parallel universe in the same “place” as ours. People see ghosts, or even the Blessed Virgin Mary in places like Lourdes and Fatima, and believers take these events for granted. The apparition, which might look “solid” or otherwise, would have come from another universe by some means of communication with this one.
Something else makes me wonder. According to conventional criteria of observation, Earth is the only planet with life on it. Some believe that Mars once had life – and even intelligent life – on it, going by visible objects with geometrical shapes. Many geometrical objects occur outside human intervention like snowflakes and crystals. Some see ruins of ancient buildings, perhaps destroyed by a cataclysm like a nuclear war or comet impact. I would have to study the matter further to be better informed. My idea would be that much more radical: perhaps in another universe, Mars is the living planet and Earth is dead and barren. What about the other planets, solar systems? Perhaps, in each parallel universe, only one planet has life, whether it be Saturn or Mercury or Venus.
If we give credence to quantum theory, there is nothingness, a vacuum, containing endless possibilities determined by consciousness. These “bits” of consciousness can produce quanta which are manifested as particles – making atoms and molecules. As a child, I pondered the infinity of space, but space is only given existence by what is in it – celestial bodies. Beyond these bodies, there is nothing, so it all ends there. But what if I drive my little rocket further than the furthest body. I would keep going, because my rocket and myself give existence to the direction where I am going, if I am going at all (if there is no destination to my voyage). That idea may seem to be a little less painful than infinity. My present investigation into consciousness before matter may be a continuation of the mind of the little boy lying on his back on the back lawn, near my mother’s washing line, gazing at the sky and imagining everything and anything.
It is flattering that we all have the same creative consciousness as God, because we all participate in the same Logos. We are all given potentials at conception and birth to function as humans, use language and special gifts we have in music, art, science, etc. Materialists attribute all this to our DNA, but matter is a consequence of consciousness. Our computers work because electricity is processed in a special way through the electronic components. Without electricity, the computer would not work. Electricity itself is only a subatomic consequence of consciousness.
Quantum theory is giving us an idea to which we can relate, and the possibility to escape the materialistic paradigm. Robert Lanza and others offer the idea that consciousness creates reality and makes it knowable. Thoughts are not matter, though they can be expressed by interfacing with the brain and the rest of our bodies and sensory organs. I do believe that when this notion of consciousness overcomes materialism, belief in God will no longer be a problem, and religions won’t have to justify themselves by force and fear. Our notion of truth will be transcended, as will our idea of Church and Sacrament, everything.
We need to study what others are thinking, and we need to think for ourselves, out of the box and with the “bullshit detector” turned on and fully operational. A contemplative life of study and prayer can bring us maturity and awareness. It occurs to me that much of the “true church” stuff flying about on the internet is pure materialism and unconsciousness. We need a higher notion of truth and knowledge, one that transcends human language and convention. We remain bonded to our reality because we are incarnated in it, but that will not always be the case – there remains the fact of death. Materialism gives us nothingness, and consciousness brings us hope.
I’m not a scientist, and many of my ideas are second-hand, but they seem to make sense and confirm our innermost instincts that transcend reason. Perhaps this is where our new meaning will be found…