G. - 'Consciousness, not matter, is the ground of all existence, declares University of Oregon physicist Goswami, echoing the mystic sages of his native India. He holds that the universe is self-aware, and that consciousness creates the physical world.' - The Self-Aware Universe' If you were to call this more psycho-babble, I could not argue with you. I haven't read the book, just found the description on Amazon"
M. - I have engaged a lot with his thoughts, maybe it was a documentary, maybe I read his book, maybe I even own his book (I'd have to check). Certainly he is one of the people who uses consciousness in a way that I find slipshod. My overall recollection of this guy is that I found that the deeper you went into it, the more he was just using science to justify his religion. Many people do that, from the people who think that the Big Bang theory confirms Genesis (it doesn't) to those who cite quantum experiments they dont understand to justify the idea that the mind creates reality. (It can do, but not in the way they mean). This guy actually understands the science, but uses its inherent ambiguities to justify what I believe to be unjustifiable in a way that I believe to be unsupportable. Having said that, he is certainly worth investigating. It is through reading people like this that I have come to realize that most problems in this area are caused by words meaning 20 different things based on what the writer intends at any moment. And this is precisely the problem.
If I say that all evil in the world is caused by people lacking consciousness, and if I then say that consciousness is waking up from being unconscious to conscious, and if I then say that we live in a field of consciousness (with the same meaning as an electromagnetic field) - all these are far different uses of the word consciousness. So different in fact, that the same word used in these different contexts means completely different thing.
The cheap conjuring trick is to use this to on the one hand allow the one word to have contradictory meanings, and in the same sentence, to use the same spelling of the word to allow all these contradictory concepts to be equated.
Thus, we live in a field of something which, when we lack it, causes evil, and we can become more or less asleep due to this something.
Of course the fact that awareness of the outcome of a physical experiment appears to define that outcome gives the word consciousness an entirely new trick - it can do everything from telekinesis to clairvoyance.
Using the same word for different things does not give one thing many powers and abilities. It just makes for meaningless conversations.
If I say that I watch the X-files on my consciousness-set and I drive my consciousness to work each morning, that doesnt suddenly mean that my TV is good or that my car operates on quantum principles.
It simply means that I am misusing the English language.
When people do that, intentionally or not (there is another abused word), they deceive and mislead.
Because intellectual dishonesty holds no attraction for me, I try and clarify the meaning of words so we can have honest conversations.
"G. - Michael, I feel in your questions a mix of sincere inquiry and cynicism. I am not a scientist but hold the opinion that science is good at what it can do, which is measure that which is measurable. "
I have heard this written a lot in new age books also. Its basically a smear on the science that they fear because it lights up the intellectual dishonesty at their cores.
I have an allergic response to that stock-answer at this point.
It is true that science is good at what it does and is poor at what it frankly, chooses not to do. Science cannot describe the quality of an emotion - what it feels like to have an emotion, although the sloppy sciences like to have a go at it with likert scales and whatnot to give it a veneer of respectability.
The difference between science and new age is that it is honest about what it cannot do. Much of the new age claims to be able to explain quantum experiments on subatomic particles, for example, based on their religious beliefs.
The general trick seems to be attaching to slippery concepts like consciousness and on poorly understood and hard to grasp concepts such as quantum mechanics, then marrying the two into a chimera in which they can string lots of feel-good sentences together that actually mean nothing.
Its like "Jabberwocky". In places you might thing you sort of know what the author means, but in reality, you cant, because the words mean nothing when used in that way.
Yes - science can only go so far. It does not go into poetry and metaphor and madness. And in so doing, it will never be able to discuss concepts as subjective as what it feels like to have an orgasm with someone you are intensely infatuated with.
The new age's use of the word "consciousness" is like that...
"When I had sex with her, it was like a quantum explosion in which the singularity of the lotus in my mind simultaneosly holographed me across all that was, all that is, and all that will be"
Evocative, perhaps. But not meaningful in the sense that the words couldn't be randomly swapped around and have the meaning affected. It is a word salad, nothing more. It has an effect on our pattern-seeking function, but the sentence cannot be meaningfully analyzed.
Brief note in whales - they have probably the largest brain of any creature on the planet, and they exhibit rather complex behavior - from learning tricks at seaworld (dolphins can even recognize many words and search for mines) to homosexuality, ganging up on predators, and even altruistically helping out other species.
I cannot really comprehend a manner in which these mammals could do these things WITHOUT thinking. There is evidence of their thought, and the altruism leads me to believe that this is at a rather high level.
But yeah; if you can prove to me that whales are as unthinking as machines and rocks, then I would take back my comment that they are conscious.
Of course we would probably need to define our words more precisely were we to go any deeper - there are conscious thoughts - thoughts of which we are aware - and there are unconscious thoughts - thoughts of which we are not aware ("the thinker of the thoughts", quite often) - there is an entire spectrum of neural activity from registering a photon to discerning an edge or a line, to dreaming a dream to conversing as we are now.
Thats why we would need to have words have hard meanings before we go further. And thats what science largely does and why it is so successful - it draws distinctions between different concepts rather than blur them together.
"M. - The idea that a rock is conscious flies in the face of the meaning of the word. To say that a rock has consciousness is to say that consciousness is the property of being like a rock.
G. - I do not 'say that consciousness is the property of being like a rock.' But if I have pre-determined that a rock cannot have consciousness, I would never even attempt to talk with a rock, a flower, a tree. Other non-new agers and I have talked with rocks, flowers and trees. I do not say with certainty that my conversations with 'unconscious' objects were anything but in my head."
M. - If I wasnt clear enough, let me attempt to be more so. Attributing consciousness to rocks means that rocks have the property of being conscious, and any definition of consciousness that includes a rock's ability to have consciousness, is not a meaning of consciousness that I recognize.
This is not a failure of my imagination, it is a failure of me to share your definitions of words in favor of more precise meanings.
Going back to having conversations with rocks - you say that you could not talk to a rock if you didn't view it as having consciousness.
I talk to rocks, and trees, and the television set all the time, even though their level of consciousness is zero. I don't find that a contradiction. As you say, the conversations are pretty much in my head - leastways, the "rock's" contribution. But that doesn't make the conversation less meaningful.
And here we come to a USEFUL facet of magic... The fact that one can in fact have meaningful conversations with rocks - even though the rock's part is played by my subconscious and I know that. I don't BELIEVE that the rock has consciousness, and I would never ARGUE that the rock has consciousness, but the empirical fact is that I can use the rock as a focus to have a conversation with parts of myself that might otherwise be difficult to communicate with.
In short - its OK to PRETEND in fairies for a carefully circumscribed time and place - but when you start BELIEVING them to be real - there is a problem. Its a variant of the saying that its OK to talk to God in your head, but when it talks back, you have a problem. Now while I wouldnt share quite that sentiment (note that I just said that!!!), I do believe that there comes a point where playing with the voices in your head becomes full-blown psychosis. That point is where you stop being able to discriminate between imagination and reality.
The occult literature is replete with warnings of the direst sort about "mixing the planes" and "failing to banish", and the eastern mystics warn of getting seduced by visions and "siddhis" because it will cause you to lose your way and go mad.
I do not believe that these are idle warnings.
When one is in the business of working with the active imagination, one must be VERY careful in how one does it, because if one is not, what's in one's head spills into daily life and you find yourself talking to the water cooler at work while your boss is trying to talk to you. The butterfly nets are not far away.
Michael F At this point I think its fair to give you a heads-up about why I think the way I do and why these things matter to me.
I think that we are at a time in history where we are at the cusp of a radical change in the way that society organizes itself. I say this based on the fact that we now have instantaneous and essentially free communication with everyone on the globe; we now are at the limits of our resources; our technology allows us to do many things; we know our own genome, the creation of the universe, and many other things that 50 years ago were unimaginable. And that these things have made a change in our cultural software inevitable. Religion aka monotheism worked well until now, but its memes (tribalism, resource exploitation) are not suitable any longer.
In short, we need something new instead of monotheism.
It is critical to develop such a system. Such a system will develop without our conscious involvement, but I think it would be best if we put some thought into it.
Such a new "religion" cannot/should not be based on fairytales and wishful thinking, because those are lies by another name and will cause untold grief. Just look at what adherence to the lies of Christianity has caused. People always question lies, which leads to a crackdown on questioning, and so on. No. We need a system that is based on a truth that is real and accessible to everyone.
In some ways, science is such a foundation. However, limiting it to science would also be a mistake, because there are many religious practices/truths that are (once purged of garbage) very useful indeed.
In short, I believe what we need to do is to critically examine all religions to extract the useful, while eliminating the lies and that which is counter-useful.
It is a difficult project. As a metaphor, I will use the placebo. If you believe that the placebo is really medicine, you will never understand how the placebo effect works. But if you can only see the placebo as ineffectual sugar, you will never see the placebo affect in action.
Neither approach works - not the "believe-everything" approach, and not the "believe nothing" approach.
So I have been engaging in a critical appraisal of all magico-religious techniques over the years based on a critical mindset, tossing out the patent nonsense and keeping the obviously useful.
Believing a rock is conscious is nonsense, and using a rock as a tool to have a conversation with your subconscious as it plays the role of a rock is useful.
But this really is a year-long conversation, because the level of nuance involved is incredible. If I can have a conversation with a rock does that not mean that it is essentially the same as a conscious rock? (if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck).
And here is where the occult knowledge about the DANGERS involved becomes critical. It's OK to believe a rock is conscious within the context of the ritual frame. But if you then do not close the ritual properly but go about your daily life thinking that the freeways are conscious and the postbox is conscious and Republicans are conscious - well, you are then functionally in the funny farm. One must remember to avoid mixing the planes.
Again, its like kids playing with boxes - to have the most fun, you must "believe" they are boats. But you must also be able to come back to reality enough to know that they are not really boats and that you cannot cross rivers on them.
So that is the reason that I insist on having correct definitions of things and analyzing how things work instead of simply taking them for granted.
It's because I am developing a "religion" of the future with the same kind of thoughtful approach as the medieval scholastics gave to Christianity. They had long and involved debates about the nitty gritty of what "ousia" was and was not. And as a result, they created a religion that lasted another thousand years.
It is because the new ager's prefer to go with "wishy-washy" feelgood stuff that mixes all the world religions concepts together with quantum this and vibration that that it cannot be a replacement for monotheism. It is simply not thought out enough, it is not rigorous enough, and it is rife with internal self-contradictions, which are papered over with the sleight-of-hand that I described regarding the many meanings of the word "consciousness"
I'm trying to develop something far better than that.
Think of it as if I'm trying to get the underlying skeleton rigorous and correct - and once I have done that, then people can add flesh onto the skeleton using whatever colorful fibs and lies that they like. Once the skeleton is right, you can pretty much paint any picture on it and the picture will not only look good, but will work.
New age is not an improvement on religion, it is a substitute for religion. A fairytale world that never was.
But that does not mean that there are no truths IN it - just that they are often buried under so much twaddle that its inaccessible.
So that's where I'm coming from. I'm understanding the truth behind and underneath it all. But to do that , words must have meanings, and truth must be open to questioning and honest debate. The kind of debate that the monotheisms never allowed, thus corrupting them and leading to their inevitable uselessness.
Lets get it right this time.
And for that to happen, ALL sacred cows are open to debate.
Not only the supposed romantic liason between the creator of the unimaginably immense universe and a middle eastern vergin, (sic), but also the consciousness of rocks and the powers of crystals.
If you can say to me that it's likely that your talking to the rock is you talking to another part of your own mind - then we have something to talk about. Knowing this, we can then develop a ritual for improving our ability to "talk to the rock". And yes, within the magic circle, we should believe the rock is conscious.
But if outside the magic circle you insist that the rock is truly conscious in the regular meaning of that word - then there is a divide between us that makes realistic communication very difficult indeed.
Please note: I am not calling for everyone to treat rocks as simply rocks.
I am asking for people to treat rocks as sacred while, at the same time, knowing that they are simply rocks.
It is this two-beliefs-at-once that seems to be the stumbling block for most people.
Either the rock is conscious or it is not. I know the rock is not conscious, but I am prepared to believe it is conscious and treat it as such for specific reasons within specific frames. (magic circles).
And this is a legitimate way of dealing with things in terms of creating a new religion. I'm not asking for people to become gibbering idiots and believe everything I say - I'm asking then at times to suspend disbelief for specific purposes, after which they return to consensus reality through appropriate banishing.
And this isnt something new - this is the methodology honed over tens of thousands of years by the worlds religions. How to live in both realms without becoming insane.
Elias Yako Serras I find myself checking back in on this dialogue every so often, and find it to be very interesting indeed. I haven't read every comment so I may not be entirely up to speed here.
As I explore and refine my own understanding of this Existence thing that I seem to be a part of, I have at times found myself vacillating between these perspectives:
A rock is just a rock. When I experience it as an intelligent entity with which I seem to intelligibly and reciprocally communicate -- my perception of this exchange is founded and grounded in localized “consciousness” (palm forehead), and my psyche has an unnerving and beautiful tendency to project all over everything. It is not without meaning and purpose (at least the meaning and purpose that I ascribe to it)… but that I ultimately shouldn’t believe that this seemingly external validation is Truly (with a capital T) external because it likely will not stand up to the scientific method (at least with our current tools and methods), with which I have some experience and in which I admittedly have a pretty large reservoir of ‘faith’ (ha, words)
That a rock, plant, cabinet, smart phone (intelligent phone?), fire, ecosystem -- is constantly communicating, and imparting information that I have the capacity and sensitivity to hear, see, sense, interpret and understand… and so when I hear the rock speak to me in the form of something like words, I needn’t write it off as a projecting tendency of a localized subconscious. Rather, I can trust that there is a reciprocal, phenomenological exchange taking place. And perhaps I can fairly easily extend my notions of collective consciousness (in which I have less doubt due to a multitude of experiences), to the more-than-human world.
This second perspective is one that David Abrams writes about far more eloquently than I can, so I’ll park here a rather long quoted passage that I find very relevant to this discussion. It comes from a beautiful book about magic, shamanism, deep ecology, animistic traditions, consciousness, and so much more. I don’t get online much these days, but I’ll surely keep checking back to this conversation when I can!
“The most sophisticated definition of “magic” that now circulates through the American counterculture is “the ability or power to alter one’s consciousness at will.” No mention is made of any reason for altering one’s consciousness. Yet in tribal cultures that which we call “magic” takes its meaning from the fact that humans, in an indigenous and oral context, experience their own consciousness as simply one form of awareness among many others. The traditional magician cultivates an ability to shift out of his or her common state of consciousness precisely in order to make contact with the other organic forms of sensitivity and awareness with which human existence is entwined. Only by temporarily shedding the accepted perceptual logic of his culture can the sorcerer hope to enter into relation with other species on their own terms; only by altering the common organization of his senses will he be able to enter into a rapport with the multiple nonhuman sensibilities that animate the local landscape. It is this, we might say, that defines a shaman: the ability to readily slip out of the perceptual boundaries that demarcate his or her particular culture—boundaries reinforced by social customs, taboos, and most importantly, the common speech or language—in order to make contact with, and learn from, the other powers in the land. His magic is precisely this heightened receptivity to the meaningful solicitations—songs, cries, gestures—of the larger, more-than-human field.
Magic, then, in its perhaps most primordial sense, is the experience of existing in a world made up of multiple intelligences, the intuition that every form one perceives—from the swallow swooping overhead to the fly on a blade of grass, and indeed the blade of grass itself—is an experiencing form, and entity with its own predilections and sensations, albeit sensations that are very different from our own.
To be sure, the shaman’s ecological function, his or her role as intermediary between human society and the land is not always obvious at first blush, even to a sensitive observer. We see the sorcerer being called upon to cure and ailing tribesman of his sleeplessness, or perhaps simply to locate some missing goods; we witness him entering into trance and sending his awareness into other dimensions in search of insight and aid. Yet we should nor be so ready to interpret these dimensions as “supernatural,” nor to view them as realms entirely “internal” to the personal psyche of the practitioner. For it is likely that the “inner world” of our Western psychological experience, like the supernatural heaven of Christian belief, originates in the loss of our ancestral reciprocity with the animate earth. When the animate powers that surround us are suddenly construed as having less significance than ourselves, when the generative earth is abruptly defined as a determinate object devoid of its own sensations and feelings, then the sense of a wild and multiplicitous otherness (in relation to which human existence has always oriented itself) must migrate, either into a supersensory heaven beyond the natural world, or else into the human skull itself—the only allowable refuge in the world, for what is ineffable and unfathomable.
But in genuinely oral, indigenous cultures, the sensuous world itself remains the dwelling place of the gods, of the numinous powers that can either sustain or extinguish human life. It is not by sending his awareness out beyond the natural world that the shaman makes contact with the purveyors of life and health, nor by journeying into his personal psyche; rather, it is by propelling his awareness laterally, outward into the depths of a landscape at once both sensuous and psychological, the living dream that we share with the soaring hawk, the spider, and the stone silently sprouting lichens on its coarse surface.”
~David Abram from The Spell of the Sensuous (1996)