Deepak Chopra and Intent

Deepak Chopra and Intent

‘Collision course’ in the science of consciousness: Grand theories to clash at Tucson conference

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 by Deepak Chopra, MD and Stuart Hameroff, Anesthesiology, Psychology, Center for Consciousness Studies The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona


The nature of consciousness, the reality it conveys, and our place in the universe remains unknown. Since ancient times, two types of views have approached these problems. In Western science and philosophy, consciousness is strictly a by-product of brain activity, the reality it perceives is not to be trusted (‘Plato’s cave’, Descartes’ ‘brain-in-a-vat’, Dennett’s ‘multiple drafts’). On the other hand, in Eastern philosophy, consciousness is primary, the fundamental basis for reality.


William James popularized consciousness at the turn of the 20th century, but behaviorist psychologists then focused on quantifying brain function. Because consciousness is unmeasurable, it became a ‘dirty word’ in academic circles. Meanwhile in physics, the ‘conscious observer’ was invoked to account for quantum state reduction, or ‘collapse of the wave function.’ This was a pragmatic solution to the ‘measurement problem’, but one which put consciousness outside science.


Around the early 1990s, great scientists Francis Crick, Sir Roger Penrose and others seriously addressed consciousness. As the topic became more acceptable, the first interdisciplinary conference ‘Toward a Science of Consciousness’ was held in 1994 in Tucson, Arizona, where then-unknown philosopher David Chalmers set the tone. He talked about how problems like memory, learning, attention and behavior were relatively easy compared to the really ‘hard problem’ of how and why we have conscious experience. We could have been non-conscious, robot-like ‘zombies’ with no inner life. How and why do we have feelings and awareness? This  was the ‘hard problem’.


After two decades, the two pictures painted by Crick and Penrose (each of them harkening, respectively, and very roughly, to ancient West and East views of consciousness) provide scientific backbones for the two major approaches to consciousness and the ‘hard problem’ today.


In his 1994 book “The Astonishing Hypothesis”, Francis Crick considered consciousness to be identical to the brain’s neuronal electrochemical activities, suggesting our conscious minds were ‘nothing but a pack of neurons’. Crick teamed with neuroscientist Christof Koch to base the ‘neural correlate of consciousness’ (‘NCC’) on computation performed by neuronal (axonal) ‘firings’ and synaptic transmissions. For a time, Crick and Koch also espoused neuronal synchrony, for example the famous 40 Hz oscillations discovered by Wolf Singer, as the NCC, but later recanted, apparently because such synchrony, like electro-encephalography (EEG), occurs mainly through dendritic/somatic activities, not axonal firings.


Koch now teams with psychiatrist and neuroscientist Giulio Tononi in applying principles of integrated information, computation and complexity to the brain’s neuronal and network-level electrochemical activities. In their view, consciousness depends on a system’s ability to integrate complex information, to compute particular states from among possible states according to algorithms.  Deriving a measure of complex integration from EEG signals termed ‘phi’, they correlate consciousness with critically complex levels of ‘phi’.


Regarding the ‘hard problem’, Koch, Tononi and their physicist colleague Max Tegmark have embraced a form of panpsychism in which consciousness is a property of matter.  Simple particles are conscious in a simple way, whereas such particles, when integrated in complex computation, become fully conscious (the ‘combination problem’ in panpsychism philosophy). Tegmark has termed conscious matter ‘perceptronium’, and his alliance with Koch and Tononi is Crick’s legacy and a major force in the present-day science of consciousness. Their view of neurons as fundamental units whose complex synaptic interactions account for consciousness, also supports widely-publicized, and well-funded ‘connectome’ and ‘brain mapping’ projects hoping to capture brain function in neuronal network architecture.


Koch, Tononi and Tegmark will present their case at the upcoming 20 year anniversary ‘Tucson conference’, Toward a Science of Consciousness’ April 21-26, 2014 ( Also speaking there will be brain mapping experts Henry Markram and Karl Deisseroth, and computationalists John Searle, Sue Blackmore and Daniel Dennett (whose ‘multiple drafts’ model claims competition among neural events for global influence and  creates an illusory “Cartesian Theater” of consciousness in the brain). Taken together, they represent the general assertion that consciousness relates to complex computation among brain neurons. What else could it be?


In his 1989 book “The Emperor’s New Mind”, Sir Roger Penrose took a quite different approach. He questioned whether consciousness was indeed computation, as is commonly assumed. Penrose explained that computers lack understanding, and some additional non-algorithmic, ‘non-computable’ factor was required. That factor, he suggested, involved ‘collapse of the wave function’—an event in which quantum superpositions terminate by a particular type of state reduction due to an objective threshold in the fine scale structure of the universe (‘objective reduction’, ‘OR’). That last step is a big one, but as Penrose later said (quoting Sherlock Holmes) “when you eliminate the impossible, whatever’s left must be correct, no matter how seemingly improbable”.


Penrose accounted for quantum superposition, e.g. particles in two locations simultaneously, as separation in underlying spacetime geometry. If a separation were to continue, each possibility would form its own universe—the ‘multiple worlds hypothesis’. But Penrose reasoned spacetime separations were unstable, and would reduce, or collapse to particular states at time t by an objective threshold (objective reduction, OR) given by a form of the uncertainty principle, t = h/EG (h is the Planck-Dirac constant). Each such OR event selects classical reality, and is accompanied by conscious experience. In one audacious proposal, Penrose addressed consciousness and the measurement problem by reconciling quantum mechanics with general relativity.


The OR conscious connection to spacetime geometry struck many as consistent with Eastern philosophy, or spiritual approaches, in that conscious events (or their ‘proto-conscious’ precursors) are ubiquitous (though Sir Roger himself has never drawn that comparison). OR events are also consistent with discrete ‘moments’ in Buddhist practices, and ‘occasions of experience’ suggested by early 20th century philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. Rather than a property of matter, OR views consciousness as a sequence of discrete events, like (conscious) frames in a movie, rearrangements in the fine scale structure of reality.


Penrose OR occurring in random environments (i.e. decoherence) would be accompanied merely by non-cognitive, proto-conscious experience without meaning or understanding. Like the panpsychist combination problem for particles, full, rich OR conscious events would require combination, integration or ‘orchestration’ of superpositions prior to OR. How could this occur in the brain?


Penrose teamed with anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff to develop the ‘Orch OR’ theory based on microtubules, lattice polymers inside brain neurons, a deeper level, finer scale processing than is generally considered. Orch OR suggests microtubule quantum superpositions are ‘orchestrated’ (‘Orch’) by memory, synaptic inputs and natural resonances to enable functional quantum computation until time t = h/EG, resulting in Orch OR events accompanied by meaningful conscious experience. Microtubule states selected in Orch OR events (e.g. in pyramidal neuron dendrites and soma) can modulate synapses and trigger axonal firings to control behavior. Orch OR has explanatory power.


But from its inception in the mid 1990s, Orch OR has been viewed skeptically, as the brain was considered too ‘warm, wet and noisy’ to avoid thermal decoherence. In 2000, physicist Max Tegmark developed a formula for microtubule quantum states, and calculated a decoherence time of 10-13 secs at brain temperature, far too brief for physiological effects such as EEG (e.g. ~10-2 secs). However (with apologies to Shakespeare’s Hamlet) ‘something was rotten in Tegmark’s formula’. For example his superposition separation distance was 7 orders of magnitude greater than that proposed in Orch OR. When corrected, microtubule decoherence time was recalculated as 10-4 secs (far longer, but still too brief for EEG).


The Tegmark article and its rebuttal pitted theory versus theory. However beginning in 2006, evidence for warm quantum coherence has been demonstrated in photosynthesis, bird navigation, olfaction, and….microtubules. Nanoneurobiologist Anirban Bandyopadhyay has found quantum resonance (gigahertz, megahertz and kilohertz) in single brain microtubules, and microtubule bundles inside active neurons, with microtubule quantum coherence as long as 10-4 secs (10 kilohertz). Microtubule quantum vibrations appear to resonate over different scales, and can interfere, e.g. ~10 megahertz, to generate slower ‘beat frequencies’ seen as EEG rhythms. Microtubule coherence for 10-7 secs is thus sufficient for Orch OR, and 10-4 secs coherence has already been demonstrated. Recent studies show anesthetics act in microtubules to selectively erase consciousness, rather than membrane proteins as is commonly assumed.


Orch OR appears to be on firm ground, and will be well represented at the Tucson conference. Sir Roger Penrose will give the keynote address, and Hameroff and Bandyopadhyay will speak in a session with Tegmark following Koch and Tononi. Deepak Chopra will defend Eastern spiritual approaches in a session with John Searle, and Sam Parnia will discuss near death and out-of-body studies with Sue Blackmore. In the conference opener, Chalmers and Dennett square off on the ‘hard problem’.


Neuronal computationalists have held the scientific high ground for decades, but the quantum underdogs are catching up rapidly. The two views will clash in erstwhile ‘Wild West’ Tucson, a modern day science-of-consciousness ‘shootout at the OK corral’.



Chalmers DJ (1996) The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory, New York: Oxford University Press.

Emerson D, Weiser B, Psonis J, Liao Z, Taratula O, Fiamengo A, Wang X, Sugasawa K, Smith A, Eckenhoff R, Dmochowski I (2013) Direct modulation of microtubule stability contributes to anthracene general anesthesia, Journal of the American Chemical Society 135 (14): 5398.

Hagan S, Hameroff S, Tuszynski J (2001) Quantum computation in brain microtubules? Decoherence and biological feasibility Physical Reviews E 65:061901.

Hameroff S, Penrose R (2014) Consciousness in the universe: A review of the ‘Orch OR’ theory. Physics of Life Reviews 11(1):39-78

Koch C (2012) Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist, MIT Press

Penrose R (1989) The emperor’s new mind – A search for the missing science of consciousness. Oxford Press

Sahu S, Ghosh S, Ghosh B, Aswani K, Hirata K, Fujita D, Bandyopadhyay A (2013a) Atomic water channel controlling remarkable properties of a single brain microtubule: Correlating single protein to its supramolecular assembly, Biosensors and Bioelectronics, 47:141–148.

Hidden Truths: Going Beyond Common-Sense Reality (Part 3)

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By Deepak Chopra, MD, Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D., and Subhash Kak, Ph.D.

We all live in the common-sense world, trusting in our five senses as if they transmit all reality to us. Yet the quantum revolution, as we’ve detailed in the last two posts, long ago undermined such a world view. We’ve argued that “real” reality consists of a conscious universe. This is the reality we are all participating in, even though science has only recently begun to take consciousness seriously as a legitimate field of inquiry. The changes precipitated by the emerging science of consciousness have just begun to be seriously contemplated.

Our last task is to build a bridge from the conscious universe to everyday life, because if we don’t, people will continue to live as if common-sense reality was still reliable and correct and complete. It would be an enormous help if such a bridge already exists, and we believe it does. The only difficulty is that it’s invisible.

This can be shown through simple observation: The five senses cannot perceive the quantum world, and yet perception depends upon quantum activity in the brain; there is no other domain where matter and mind credibly meet. The quantum world is hidden from us the way the operation of the brain is hidden. If you think the word “elephant” and see an image of the animal in your mind’s eye, you aren’t aware of the millions of neurons firing in your brain in order to produce them. Yet those firings — not to mention the invisible cellular operations that keep every part of your body alive — are the foundation of the brain’s abilities.

Just as the image of an elephant is the visible end point of veiled processes, the material world is founded on a veiled reality. Moreover, to produce a single mental image, the whole brain must participate. Specific areas, mainly the visual cortex, produce mental pictures, but they are coordinated with everything else the brain does, such as sustaining the cerebral cortex, which recognizes what an image is, and maintaining a healthy body. This points to a profound link between the brain and the cosmos, at both the smallest and the largest scales- veiled non-locality and cosmic censorship.

The work of the late Polish-American mathematician Alfred Korzybski (1879-1950) is relevant here, because Korzybski worked out the layered processing that goes into the everyday processing of reality. Billions of bits of data bombard our sense organs, of which only a fraction enter the nervous system. Of that fraction, more is filtered out by the brain, which uses built-in models of reality to filter out what doesn’t fit. When people say, “You’re not hearing me” or, “You only see what you want to see,” they are expressing a truth that Korzybski tried to quantify mathematically.

Sometimes the things a person sees are simply outside the range of human experience, like our inability to see ultraviolet light. But a great deal more depends on expectations, memories, biases, fears, and simple close-mindedness. If you go to a party, and someone tells you that you are about to meet a Nobel Prize winner, you will see a different person than if you had been told he is a reformed Mafia hit man. When all the filtering and processing is complete, there is no doubt that the brain doesn’t actually experience reality but only a confirmation of its model of reality.

Two interesting points follow:

1. All models are equal as viewed from the level of the brain.
2. Reality transcends any model we can possibly make of it.

The first point undermines the notion that science is superior to other models of reality because it gathers facts, while idealism, religion, and spirituality deal in beliefs. In practice, science filters out and discards a huge portion of human experience — almost everything one would classify as subjective. Its model of external reality, the cornerstone of Newtonian physics, is as selective, as the model which shapes a religious or metaphysical reality. As far as the brain is concerned, neural filtering is taking place in all models, whether they are scientific, spiritual, artistic, or psychotic. The brain is a processor of inputs, not a mirror to reality. This is what quantum theory as advanced by John von Neumann holds. Classical science does of course offer huge successes in our interactions with the objects around us and is built on methods that are repeatable. But still, these methods do not give us the full reality, only filtered representations of reality.

As such, the second point is even more telling. If our brains are constantly filtering every experience, there is no way anyone can claim to know what is “really” real. You can’t step outside your brain to fathom what lies beyond it. Just as there is a horizon for the farthest objects that emit light in the cosmos, and a farthest horizon for how far back in time astronomy can probe, there is a farthest horizon for thinking. The brain operates in time and space, having linear thoughts that are the endpoint of a selective filtering process. So whatever is outside time and space is inconceivable – unfiltered reality would probably blow the brain’s circuits, or simply be blanked out.

Korzybski held that even mathematics was a model, subject to the limitations of all models that the brain constructs. Not everyone would agree — holding on to mathematics as a universal truth gives advanced physics its toehold on the quantum world. But we are not using these ideas as bludgeons to bash science with. Korzybski simply pointed out, using the language of mathematics, that whatever reality is, it transcends the brain. In that single word — transcendence — there’s a level playing field between materialism and idealism. Reality transcends, or goes beyond, what the brain discerns. When all is said and done, we are caught in the paradoxical trap of believing what we see (as ordinary people) and not believing it (as theoreticians) at the same time. It was this paradox that gave rise to two competing monisms in the first place.

Maya and the “Why” of Creation

In our view, a consciousness-based universe doesn’t represent the victory of idealism over materialism. On the face of it, no previous version of idealism, whether from Plato, the Christian Neo-Platonists, or Spinoza, can survive the challenge of science and its genius at delving into “reality as given.” That idealism subsumed “reality as given” to a higher principle proved fatal in the modern world, where the advantages of science and technology are unarguable. But materialism isn’t salvaged by idealism’s failures.

Deposing physical objects from their privileged position could have been accomplished before World War I if the implications of quantum theory had been followed up. It has taken more than a century, in tribute to the privileged position that common-sense reality, based on the five senses, still occupies.

We propose that consciousness-based reality overcomes the flaws of both traditional monisms. The key question comes down to meaning. The quantum and classical worlds aren’t separated merely by a physical gap. On one side the behavior of the quantum is meaningless, random, and unpredictable. A subatomic particle has no purpose or goal. On the other side, in the classical world, it goes without saying that each of us lives our life with purpose and meaning in mind, in what appears to be a linear time. To accept this as self-evident is crucial to getting out of bed every morning. Can randomness produce meaning, and if so, how?

To lead a meaningless existence is intolerable, so it’s ironic that quantum physics bases the cosmos on meaningless operations, and doubly ironic when you consider that physics itself is a meaningful activity. The resolution of this impasse was again suggested by John Archibald Wheeler, who coined the phrase “participatory universe.” He held that physicists were mistaken to see themselves as separate from the phenomena they observed, like children with their noses pressed against a bakery shop window. The observer mingles with what he observes, and the process of observation is always altering the observed object.

By definition reality is complete; therefore, whatever purpose and meaning we find in it using our limited human capacities must be a fragment of a pre-existing state, which we term the state of infinite possibilities. This state is hidden from us, just as the existence of every possible subatomic particle is hidden. The concept of a field as used in quantum physics contains this veiled relationship between the whole and its parts. There is no reason to exclude the field of consciousness from exhibiting the same relationship to its parts (hence Schrödinger’s insight that there can be only one consciousness, not many).

Cosmic censorship applies in like manner. We search for meaning because the object of our search, even though pre-existent, cannot be perceived directly. The search for meaning is at once a necessary human endeavor and a chimera. Here the ancient Indian principle of Maya proves critical. Although usually translated as “illusion,” the Sanskrit word maya, which is also the name of a goddess, is better understood as “appearance” or “distraction.” The world “out there” appears to be self-sustained, but in fact we are being distracted from the truth. The activity of the world “out there” is no more self-sustained than iron filings dancing on a piece of paper, made to move by an invisible force, a magnet hidden under the paper. In the case of Maya, the concealed mover is consciousness. Without consciousness, nothing is experienced, either “in here” or “out there.”

Maya distracts us by enticing our perceptions outward, to play in the infinite variety of Nature. We forget the hidden mover – consciousness – seduced by the five senses and “reality as given.” Maya is eternal, but accepting it as the ultimate reality depends on a kind of self-forgetting. Once we ask, “Who am I?” it becomes evident that “reality as given” doesn’t suffice. Maya cannot explain itself, while consciousness can, through self-awareness; the experience of the self by itself. The prejudice that science holds against all subjectivity is the result of Maya-based thinking. Having placed its trust in “reality as given,” science overlooks the self-evident fact that nothing can be experienced without consciousness. It is a more viable candidate for “prime mover” than the physical universe.

If enlightenment consists of seeing beyond Maya, it too isn’t mysticism but a recognition that self-awareness can know itself. The mind isn’t only the thoughts and sensations constantly streaming through it. There is a silent, invisible foundation to thought and sensations. Until that background is accounted for, individual consciousness mistakes itself, and in so doing it cannot help but mistake what it observes. This is expressed in a Vedic metaphor about the wave and the ocean: A wave looks like an individual as it rises from the sea, but once it sinks back down, it knows that it is ocean and nothing but ocean. The point for everyday life is this: You are an expression of wholeness, of consciousness itself, fulfilling the Vedic teaching, Aham Brahmasmi, “I am the universe.”

Cosmic consciousness, then, isn’t just real — it’s totally necessary. It rescues physics (and science in general) from a dead end — the total inability to create mind out of matter — and gives it a fresh avenue of investigation. The Higgs boson has gotten physics a bit closer to a unified field theory — only a bit — but we are still far away from a full theory of quantum gravity. In some versions of superstring theory, the so-called M-theories, it is deduced that a vast number of parallel universes exist, all forming what is called the multiverse.

But the multiverse cannot be an explanation of why this particular universe of ours is what it is. Having a vast number of universes emerging from empty space still does not explain where meaning comes from or why we exist. It doesn’t even account for the rise and evolution of life in this corner of our universe that we call our home planet. We exist as creatures with a foot in two worlds that are actually one, divided by appearances. Maya gives us the joy of existence “out there” while self-awareness gives us the freedom to transcend time and space.

In conclusion, quantum theory has reached the point where the source of all matter and energy is a vacuum, a nothingness that contains all the possibilities of everything that has ever existed or could exist. The quantum vacuum is not empty, it is as full as it can be. These possibilities then emerge as probabilities before “collapsing” into localized quanta, manifesting as the particles in our four dimensional space and time reality, that are the building blocks of atoms and molecules.

Where do they exist? Where is the exquisite mathematics that we have at our disposal to be found, in some sort of “real space”? That makes no sense. Every model ends where it began, in purely mental space. The probability of an event, whether a quantum event or the event of winning the Powerball lottery, only exists if there is a mind to investigate the problem. Countless acts of observation give substance and reality to what would otherwise be ghosts of existence. Did the Big Bang happen if there was no one there to witness it? No. But the witness must be conceived of as consciousness itself.

Such a conception is made less bizarre once you realize that consciousness operates the same way in us as it did at the birth of the cosmos. Babies are born with the potential to walk, speak, read, and do mathematics. It’s possible to locate which areas of the brain will eventually produce these abilities, but until then, they exist as pure potentials. If you are wedded to materialism, there must be a molecule (DNA) that functions as the source of speaking, walking, reading, and doing mathematics. But such an assumption falls apart very quickly, since: 1) It’s impossible to credit that DNA knows math, which would in essence give it a brain, and 2) Can we really believe that Shakespeare, and all other producers of words, got his inspiration from a collocation of amino acids, enzymes, and proteins?

It is more elegant and far easier to accept as a working hypothesis that sentience exists as a potential at the source of creation, and the strongest evidence has already been put on the table: Everything to be observed in the universe implies consciousness. Some theorists try to rescue materialism by saying that information is encoded into all matter, but “information” is a mental concept, and without the concept, there’s no information in anything, since information by definition must ultimately contain meaning (even if it is a sequence of 0s and 1s as in computer language), and only minds grasp meaning. Does a tree falling in the forest make no sound if no one is around to hear it? Obviously not. The crash vibrates air molecules, but sound needs hearing in order for these vibrations to be transformed into perception.

We’ve proposed that consciousness creates reality and makes it knowable — if there’s another viable candidate, it must pass the acid test: Transform itself into thoughts, feelings, images, and sensations. Science isn’t remotely close to turning the sugar in a sugar bowl into a Mozart concerto or Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Your brain converts blood sugar into words and music, not by some trick of the molecules in the brain, since they are in no way special or privileged. Rather, your consciousness is using the brain as a processing device, moving the molecules where they are needed in order to create the sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell of the world.

In everyday life, we get to experience the miracle of transformation that causes a three-dimensional world, completed by the fourth dimension of time, to manifest before our eyes. The great advantage of experience is that it isn’t theoretical. Reality is never wrong, and all of us are embedded in reality, no matter what model we apply to explain it. Reality is waiting for us to creep closer to understanding its mysteries. In the meantime, it won’t falter or come to an end. Reality will remain our home, our source, and the ground state of our being far beyond the lifetime of the foreseeable universe.

Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 75 books with twenty-two New York Times bestsellers includingSuper Brain. Join the to eradicate obesity and malnutrition. For more interesting articles visitThe Universe Within.

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, Ph.D., Regents Professor of Computer Science, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater.

Hidden Truths: Going Beyond Common-Sense Reality (Part 2)

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By Deepak Chopra, MD, Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., and Subhash Kak, Ph.D.

Although everyone as a practical matter accepts “reality as given” – the world presented by the five senses – that common-sense version of the world was radically undermined over a century ago with the advent of relativity and quantum theory. Equally dramatically, results from neuroscience show that mind creates representations of reality as in the phantom limb phenomenon. The trail from this ongoing revolution leads to current theories about a conscious universe, one that displays all the attributes of mind. In other words, mind precedes matter. The first post in this series introduced this concept, which if true would revolutionize everyday life. Reality itself, as explored by cutting-edge theories in physics, cosmology, and neuroscience, is giving us hints that we should look at the world through fresh eyes.

Some of the most intriguing thinking about the universe can be gathered under two rubrics: veiled non-locality and cosmic censorship. Veiled non-locality describes how the universe — and the human brain — disguises its wholeness in order to produce specific (i.e., local) events. This filtering process allows for specific observations and thoughts in a classical world of everyday experience, while keeping quantum and general relativistic processes out of sight. Cosmic censorship, on the other hand, describes the inability of distant observers to directly observe the center of a black hole, or “naked singularity.” The center of the black hole is presumed to be the same as the quantum vacuum, which exhibits no behavior of matter or energy. This gives us a zero point – invisible, intangible, unlocatable in spacetime – that is the origin of the visible cosmos.

Between them, these two hypotheses remove a substantial amount of prejudice and unsupported belief. There is no longer a need to defend crude materialism in terms of subatomic “building blocks” as the basis for reality. Reductionism is the foundation of any “bottom up” model, and the base of the pyramid, like it or not, isn’t solid things or even stuff. At bottom the universe is emergent from the quantum vacuum, a “nothing” that contains the potential not just for our universe but for multiple, perhaps even infinite universes. Decades ago the noted physicist John Archibald wheeler of Princeton declared that all of physics is based on the quantum vacuum, and time has borne him out.
At the same time, an opening has been made for a “top down” interpretation of the universe based on a single holistic foundation, from which individual events spring. But what should the foundational principle be? If the materialistic monism is to survive, everything must be derived from the quantum vacuum. Cosmic censorship and veiled non-locality provide a prop for materialism, because it can be taken as axiomatic that some aspects of reality will never be observable; this removes the onus for finding data that support the emergence of consciousness. In brief, the materialistic position becomes “We have found all the data that can be found, and from our findings the conjecture that mind arose from matter is as reliable as it can be. The rest is hidden, not from any flaw in our position but due to the nature of things.”

The idealist monism can claim stronger support, however. Its great obstacle, as we mentioned, is to describe how mind creates matter. At its basis, any creative agency must be overarching and separate from its creation (otherwise, one is left with the self-contradiction of asking who made the creator). Cosmic censorship can be interpreted as an invisible creative agency that organizes reality but permits human observers only a glimpse of it, just enough to fit the limited mechanics of the human brain. With veiled non-locality, one can point to something beyond spacetime, and this something gives rise to everything local in the cosmos – from the Bing Bang to neutrinos, from a single hydrogen atom to DNA – without revealing itself. The theological dictum that God’s ways are not justified to man now has its scientific correlate. The whole doesn’t have to justify itself to the parts.

If both styles of monism are supported by these new hypotheses, we are obliged to settle on which is right. This age-old contest is no longer the same. The balance has discernibly shifted in favor of idealism, but since that’s an outmoded term, let’s call it consciousness-based reality. More than a century after Planck, Heisenberg, and Schrödinger had their insights, physicists have begun to take consciousness seriously again. If a demand for parsimony matters, it is simpler and more elegant to derive matter form mind than vice versa.

In the next post we’ll build a bridge from scientific thinking to everyday life. If, as we believe, reality has been hinting at a conscious universe, the same hints should be detectable at the human level. The cosmic mind should have impacts on the brain, as indeed it does.

(To be cont.)

Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 75 books with twenty-two New York Times bestsellers including Super Brain. Join the to eradicate obesity and malnutrition. For more interesting articles visit The Universe Within

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, Ph.D., Regents Professor of Computer Science, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater

Hidden Truths: Going Beyond Common-Sense Reality (Part 1)

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By Deepak Chopra, MD, Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., and Subhash Kak, Ph.D.

Despite their many divergences, science and philosophy are both led forward by reality. This is inevitable if facts, concepts, axioms, and other mental models are to be reliable. There are two ongoing projects, thousands of years old by now, that sprang from a different response to reality and where it leads. Roughly speaking, they are materialism and idealism. Materialism is fact-based, data driven, and wedded to the notion that “reality as given” is essentially trustworthy. Idealism cannot accept “reality as given” but looks to a hidden intelligence or level of Nature (if not God or the gods) that invisibly originates the physical universe.

To anyone who isn’t a professional scientist or philosopher, this divergence is mystifying, as if reality was a Chinese menu offering Platonism, Christianity, and Buddhism in column A and Aristotelianism, Einstein, and the Higgs boson in column B. As a practical matter, however, the ordinary person, including ordinary scientists, lead common-sense lives that depend implicitly on trusting the five senses and accepting “reality as given.” A quantum physicist drives his Honda Civic to work, not the ambiguous cloud of subatomic particles that he knows, professionally speaking, to be the substrate of every physical object, including automobiles.

Yet reality cannot be approached as Solomon’s choice. It isn’t tenable to divide it between materialism and idealism, each getting half. (For the moment, we’ll set aside the obvious disparity by which materialism got the whole baby while idealism was left with a teething ring and hints of a soul.) Understanding the nature of reality is too important to be left to specialists; the ordinary person deserves to know that certain first principles are true, applicable to reality itself, not a model of reality that exists to satisfy one stream of intellectual curiosity or the other.

The problem for the “matter first” position is that no one has credibly described the point at which unconscious particles acquire consciousness. That they somehow did is simply an unproven assumption. The problem for the “mind first” position is exactly the reverse: how to describe the mechanism by which consciousness morphs into physicality. These matching dilemmas would be of purely academic interest to ordinary people except for their practical implications, if any. If reality is leading us to see it in a different, more comprehensive way, there can’t help but be practical outcomes. But that’s a secondary issue, which we will address in our conclusion.

In the early quantum era, a number of seminal thinkers suspected that the link between materialism and idealism could only be found by exploring the role of consciousness. A handful of notable quotes summarizes their suspicions:

Erwin Schrödinger: “To divide or multiply consciousness is something meaningless.”
“There is obviously only one alternative, namely the unification of minds or consciousness…. [I]n truth there is only one mind.”
Max Planck: “I regard consciousness as fundamental. We cannot get behind consciousness. ”
Werner Heisenberg: “The atoms or elementary particles themselves are not real; they form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than one of things or facts.”

It has taken a long time for these intimations to be recognized as profound insights. The lag time was due to various things – consciousness wasn’t considered a valid scientific subject; quantum theory had other fish to fry (for example, reconciling quantum mechanics with relativity); and in general the excitement of the quantum era was being generated by a complex set of new facts. Consciousness could be conveniently relegated to metaphysics and ignored. The triumph of one monism, the “matter first” worldview, seemed inevitable.

Yet at bottom the common-sense world of solid tangible objects fixed in space and time had been fatally undermined by quantum theory. This changed the status of facts per se. A fact could be accepted as a certainty in the classical Newtonian model, deriving from Aristotelian mechanics. Quantum facts were entirely different, taking into account the uncertainty principle and Schrödinger’s equation. It was valid to describe quantum behavior as a field of possibilities governed by mathematical probabilities. Thus a fact became a mental calculation first and foremost, with experimentalists struggling at great expenditure of time and money to gather fleeting evidence that a set of mathematical predictions was supported by data.

With startling speed, skipping over myriad complexities, we arrive at the present situation, where despite the astonishing accuracy of quantum mechanics (touted as the most accurate scientific theory ever developed), there is more doubt than ever about the nature of reality. By definition reality is more complex than any model can portray, and once a model runs into phenomena it cannot explain, we are compelled to follow wherever reality leads next.

It’s been well said that theories are right about what they include and wrong about what they exclude. We take that as axiomatic. To follow reality’s next hints, it is necessary for materialism and idealism to both abandon their prejudices, the chief of which is to protect the ground they’ve already won. Science has no reason to abandon its demand for data. The upholders of idealism (found in a loose aggregation of religion and spirituality, with a sprinkling of outlying philosophers, perhaps) have no reason for abandoning the inner world of subjective experience, with its remarkable capacity for insight, intuition, art, etc.
Since science dominates the current view of reality, we are more or less forced, as a provisional measure, to accept its demand for data, even though facts as such have been seriously undermined. There are some new hypotheses that bridge the gap between the quantum and classical worlds, making it possible to glimpse an underlying connection. Such a connection would justify seeing reality as a unity, after which we can decide which unity, the materialistic or the idealistic, is more credible. If reality’s hidden dimension is actually open to us, everyday life will be radically transformed, as we’ll discuss in the next post.
(To be cont.)

Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 75 books with twenty-two New York Times bestsellers including Super Brain. Join the to eradicate obesity and malnutrition. For more interesting articles visit The Universe Within

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, Ph.D., Regents Professor of Computer Science, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater

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