By Deepak Chopra MD, Menas Kafatos, PhD., Subhash Kak, PhD.,
Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD., and Neil Theise, MD
A radically new view of reality is gaining ground, and its basic idea is thrilling: We live in a conscious universe. In the first two posts of this series we explained why this seemingly outlandish proposition is actually necessary. There are two great unanswered questions in science: What is the universe made of? What is the biological basis of consciousness? Both are answered by adopting the view that the universe is conscious.
What is the universe made of? Consciousness itself, unfolding its infinite creativity and intelligence through every level of matter and energy. This creativity makes it possible for us to design new machines and search the far corners of outer reality. However, our search is merely a prelude to the understanding of the mystery of consciousness.
What is the biological basis of consciousness? There isn’t one. This was always the wrong question to ask, because the mind isn’t produced by jiggling around enough molecules in the brain and zapping them with electricity. The mind came first; it’s the fundamental building block of the cosmos. Biological beings develop nervous systems that can manifest qualities of consciousness (like our metaphor of the radio transforming radio waves into music), but consciousness is everywhere. (The wonder, to extend the metaphor, is that it is as though the radio itself is actually also made of the same radio waves to which it is tuned!)
We ended the last post by conceding that the notion of a conscious universe will send shock waves through all the sciences. Cosmologists can already see billions of light years into space and trace the beginning of the universe back to within trillionths of a second after the Big Bang. Neuroscientists are on the verge of mapping every connection in the human brain. Geneticists make exciting new discoveries about DNA every day. Of course it sends shock waves when someone says, “You’re looking in the wrong place.”
But it’s in the nature of stable systems to become unstable, collapsing inward because a tiny issue won’t go away. Strange as it seems, consciousness was a tiny issue not long ago. Science chugged along using “naïve realism,” the view that reality is what we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. There was no mystery to solve, and if the mind was a mystery, it didn’t impinge on the business of science, which comes down to laboratory experiments, precise measurements, and mathematics. But all along it was absurd to ask a question like, “Are you in love? Let me measure your brain cells and find out how heavy love is.” Or how wide, or at what frequency our neurons vibrate.
Dealing in externals cannot explain where thoughts come from. The domain of consciousness includes not just love but all subjective experience. To say that the brain falls in love is the same as saying that a brain cell falls in love, or a clump of brain cells, which can’t be right. Experience must be accepted first for what it is, a mirror to reality. The five senses deliver the raw data of perception, which isn’t nearly enough to create reality – that task can only be performed in consciousness.
Putting consciousness first is a “top down” approach, meaning that it posits some general truths before anyone starts examining bits and pieces.
1. Consciousness pervades creation. It never evolved from simpler beginnings. Some magical act of molecules bumping together didn’t produce it.
2. The properties of consciousness are universal. They include intelligence, creativity, self-organization, and infinite dynamism. These are not properties of the atom or any subatomic particle. They existed before matter emerged from the quantum vacuum state.
3. Invisible connections maintain the structure of the cosmos and everything else down to the microscopic level and beyond, where matter loses all visible properties in the quantum state. Technically, these invisible connections go by names already familiar in physics: complementarity, nonlocality, recursion, and resonance. There are more to be discovered, but in layman’s terms, a Vedic axiom expresses the whole truth: “As is the great, so is the small. As is the microcosm, so is the macrocosm. As is the atom, so is the universe.”
4. The universe doesn’t contain consciousness, since “contain” implies a closed space. Consciousness is unbounded; it is one.
5. The human brain gives physical expression to the mind. As different as a thought and a neuron are, they run on parallel tracks. They are complementary; therefore, it isn’t necessary to argue which came first. This isn’t a chicken-or-the-egg problem. Mind and brain occupy their own levels of reality simultaneously. They form a feedback loop that passes from the mental to the physical domain while never losing sight of either one.
6. Neuroscience benefits us by understanding the physical apparatus of the brain (and fixing it when there are malfunctions), but the entire area of reality that includes the self, mind, truth, beauty, idealism, compassion, and all other human traits – including the negative ones – is nonphysical.
7. A human being is a whole held together by consciousness. We give the world color, shape, and sensation. These things do not exist outside us, they are created through conscious experience. Other species with different nervous systems are also conscious agents, creating their own reality.
8. As radical as it may seem, there is no independently existing time or space outside the mind. The so-called passage of time is actually fabricated from memory, expectations, preconceived ideas, and other events in consciousness. Time and space do what we ask of them. They arise from relationships between subjective selves.
9. Each person has an individual mind, but this is just an accepted social convention. In reality there is only one universal mind which appears to splinter into many minds yet keeps its integrity intact. To say “This is my mind” is like saying “This is my red.” Countless red objects exist, yet they are aspects of the same color.
10. Consciousness is not to be mistaken for subjectivity. In the larger reality, objectivity and subjectivity aren’t opposites. They are complementary perspectives on consciousness. It is mistaken to think that the Big Bang, Higgs boson, and the shining stars in the night sky “prove” that an objective universe exists. Consciousness is capable of being precise and orderly; it has the capacity to organize physical creation along the precise mathematical lines that science has discovered. This is self-evident, since mathematics itself is an activity within consciousness – like all of science.
Without a doubt you can gather thousands of scientists who would vehemently disagree with any or all of these statements. They would stake their worldview on the wager that these axioms are wrong. But it’s their worldview that has become wobbly to begin with. It’s been more than a century since quantum physics dismantled naïve reality, exposing that we do not live in a universe where the five senses are reliable guides.
This truth can be avoided in everyday life, and in their professional lives scientists can retreat to “instrumental realism,” the belief that as long as your experiments yield viable data, there’s no need to answer metaphysical questions about the cosmos – until now. Cosmology has reached a point of no return. There is no doubt, it’s generally conceded, that time and space had to come from somewhere beyond time and space. Beyond the quantum vacuum, reality teeters on the inconceivable. We propose that the inconceivable is exactly where science needs to go. Something gave rise to more than time and space, matter and energy. It gave rise to even more than the uncountable universes that may exist beyond our own.
The something that served as the cosmic womb created every aspect of mind. It created evolution. It knitted together the laws of nature and the constants that make creation such a mathematical marvel. There’s no need to stop there. If that something is unbounded consciousness – as we propose – it also manifested as creativity, love, truth, aspiration, spirituality, beauty and the very yearning for knowledge that became the process of science. As humans we experience all of these, yet we are no closer than before to extracting them from molecules in the brain. It’s time to accept the inconceivable nature of reality, because in that single step, we expand the possibilities of human awareness to infinity. The new science that is emerging will provide us a new integrated view of reality where we are the creators of our own unbounded potential.
Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 80 books with twenty-two New York Times bestsellers includingSuper Brain. He serves as the founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing. Join him at The Chopra Foundation Sages and Scientists Symposium 2014. www.choprafoundation.org
Menas C. Kafatos is the Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor of Computational Physics at Chapman University. He is a quantum physicist, cosmologist, climate change researcher and works extensively on consciousness and the above fields. His doctoral thesis advisor was noted M.I.T. professor Philip Morrison who studied under J. Robert Oppenheimer. Kafatos’ studies involved quantum physicists Hans Bethe, Victor Weisskopf and cosmologist Thomas Gold. He is co-author with Deepak Chopra of the forthcoming book, Who Made God and Other Cosmic Riddles. (Harmony)
Subhash Kak, PhD, is Regents Professor at Oklahoma State University, Stillwater. He is the author of twenty books on quantum theory, neural networks, and history and philosophy of science.
Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, and Vice-Chair or Neurology 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 is a diagnostic liver pathologist, adult stem cell researcher, and complexity theorist in New York City, where he is Professor of Pathology and of Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel of Icahn School of Medicine. His writings, talks and interviews on complexity theory, consciousness studies, mind-body medicine, and science-spirituality dialogue can be found at neiltheise.wordpress.com and neiltheise.com.