https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhRhtFFhNzQ&list=PLOGi5-fAu8bHIuDroDz5U-jifBmFLp5zA&hd=1 Is consciousness a fundamental component of our universe? Is consciouness, of a sort, everywhere througout the universe? Panpsychism is an ancient point of view and becoming widely accepted as a possible way of integrating recent disoveries in physics and neuroscience into a coherent understanding of how our consciousness(es) arises.
We are witnessing the dawn of the real investigation of the possibility that nature may harness quantum mechanics to use in biological systems. Though Erwin Schrödinger alluded to the possibility it in his book “What is life” published in 1944 the experimental investigation is only beginning now. Considered way out until recently the possibility that quantum effects may occur at room temperature in biological systems is now accepted as a real possibility;
Consciousness, it is suggested has a quantum mechanical basis.http://www.quantumconsciousness.org/penrose-hameroff/quantumcomputation.html
From the last conference:
A wide ranging discussion chaired by Deepak Chopra: What is consciousness? Where are memories stored?
Listen carefully to this fascinating discussion showing how science and spirituality are interacting.
Where is the non physical portion of the universe?
Ceaselessly he blazed the trail:
Light as a feather over hill and dale
Alone always ahead of the crowd!
Travelling light! Nothing faster allowed.
He went where he needed. New ground,
Always new ground. No sound!
No eating no sleeping, searching to find,
Thoughts? No! profounds of mind!*
No explanations! Intuition he needs.
No one to talk to, onwards he leads!
Hypotheses, models and explanation ;
Abstractions, predictions and replication.
Logic and mathematics a new realm define.
Negative space the Mirror never need refine,
Unimagined, unseen, inverted but whole,
No longer a part. He found his soul.
All in their dreams can reach this door
But nobody had ever passed through before.
No Grants to write or papers to publish.
Now to distinguish the truth from the rubbish.
+ A general view of what some researcher’s inner lives are like, but also might apply to explorers, sportsmen and women, indeed anyone who reaches their limit and goes beyond. The writer Samuel Beckett described it in perhaps a more general context. A researcher who came to mind was Paul Dirac whose mathematical logic forced him to predict the existence of antimatter before it was found experimentally. ‘His’ equation is at the top of the poem.
Heraclitus said this to some young men who came to see him in his remote hermitage. He had acquired a reputation for being irascible and distant, really because nobody understood his ideas which were far ahead of their time. A theory of constant change: A form of monism based on energy, and he often used as an example the energy of fire. Of necessity he spoke in elliptic fashion using allegory, for example “You cannot step into the same river twice, for all is constant change!” In a sense it was not until Spinoza that there was another philosopher expressing these ideas!
He only ever wrote his ideas down once, on a scroll deposited in the library in Ephesus which is now lost. So we know of his doctrines from quotations and references in the writings of others.
These young men were charmed by him however as he patiently explained his philosophy the long day through; and they remembered that day for the rest of their lives. What they experienced was far from the ideas they had of him when they approached his abode. The only way people could rationalize Heraclitus’ independent thinking was that he had some kind of miraculous contact with the gods that were the basis of the Greek religion of the time. His greeting was aimed at putting these fears to rest and welcoming them as fellow-enquirers and equals. People rarely visited him so fearsome was his reputation! He had a child-like quality about him and had often played with the children in the town square. He had great sympathy with the freshness of spirit of the children and their openness to new ideas.
In a real sense the approach used by Heraclitus is the same as that used by modern physics to explain how our universe works. The link between matter and energy and the development of the concept of spacetime having been postulated by Einstein at the beginning of the last century. The developments in our understanding continue to the present day. Most recently with the confirmation of the existence of the Higgs boson. Modern science uses the same openness and patient enquiry based oh the evidence to hand that Heraclitus used.
As we go about our everyday lives absorbed by work, family and our own bodily needs we are not aware of the Universe surrounding us and of which we are a part.
We live in a very atypical part of the Universe, less than 0.03% of which is composed of the heavy elements which make up our bodies and which we know so well. It would seem very unlikely that we could readily develop a true understanding of the Universe in its entirety by studying our immediate surroundings.
Yet in the past by intuition and enormous mental effort some gifted individuals have come to an understanding which approaches that which we are beginning to discover. The Buddha and Spinoza are two examples and unsurprisingly they were not well-understood by their contemporaries, or indeed even nowadays.
One current theoretical approach to this is the following:
Spinoza would have been fascinated by advances in astronomy, he made his living as a lens grinder after all.
Life and work of Spinoza in French.
The life and work of Spinoza in English.
At the centre of Spinoza’s ideas:
The infinite substance and each of its infinitely many distinct attributes (of which only thought and extension are available to us) are eternal expressions of the immutable essence of god…..
In the natural world (god’s body), the attribute of extension, modified by varying degrees of motion and rest, produces the face of the universe, which includes all the physical events which are the modes of extension. (This is almost exactly the same as Descartes account of the natural world).
There is a famous thought experiment proposed by Schrodinger which investigates the effect observation has on a system. He proposed that a system, in this case the cat in a box, can exist in two states simultaneously as long as it is not observed. The cat can be both alive and dead at the same time, but if the box is opened and the cat observed the quantum superposition of the two states collapses and the cat is observed as either alive or dead.
Two recently published experiments shed light (!) on this and confirm that quantum effects at very small scales can influence macroscopic objects ( perhaps a kitten rather than a cat).
The ability to bridge the gap between the very small scales where quantum effects determine events and the scales we are used to dealing with in everyday life has major implications, for example computing, materials science, artificial intelligence and developing an understanding of biological systems.
Richard Feynman at his best talking about himself in an honest and direct way. His schooling and the influence his father had on him, always trying to understand why things are as they are, rather than remembering by rote. After college and a PhD at Princeton supervised by John Wheeler, Feynman was one of the most gifted mathematicians alive. The wartime call to work at Los Alamos and work on the atom bomb came. This was at the time it was possible that the Nazis could develop it first and use it against the Allies. Feynman is painfully honest that he did not reappraise the situation once the war was won in Europe. There was no possibility the Japanese would develop the atom bomb but he was caught up in the project for its own sake and did not consider how it would be used. After the war he had the offer of a Fellowship at the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton but he turned it down, going to Cornell instead where he taught physics from 1945 to 1950. He says he thinks he was depressed during this time, thinking of the destruction caused in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and perhaps fearing that nuclear weapons would be used again in another war. He turned down another offer from Princeton to go to Caltech where the was no pressure to produce results. That pressure was taken by the staff who had hired him. He describes how the observation of the rotation of a plate thrown into the air during lunch led to the development of the mathematics that led to his sharing the Nobel Prize for developing the theory of quantum electrodynamics. It felt to him as if he was playing a game so he was able to relax and be creative. An independent thinker and a breath of fresh air who continued to be creative in a wide range of fields, until his death. he was among the earliest advocates of the importance of nanotechnology.
It is notoriously difficult to explain how the world we live in is a product of processes rather than objects. Since before the time of the Buddha and Heraclitus there have been individuals who have been sensitive to the concept and have tried to explain it. For example recently these ideas have been explored by James Whitehead and David Bohm among others.
DEPENDENT ORIGINATION , CONDITIONED CO-PRODUCTION
This core teaching the Buddha is difficult to fully understand at first glance, the full profundity of the doctrine takes time to unfold in the mind. The difficulty is that the teaching is describing processes which are invisible not objects. Though it does incorporate cause and effect, of necessity, it is much more subtle and fully comprehensive.
For example take the surf around a desert island:
this being, that becomes…………………follow the surf. It is there as a result of the island having formed.
From the arising of this, that arises………follow the surf, the island is a process continually arising that creates surf; the surf itself is a process that continues
From the cessation of this, that ceases……..the island is overwhelmed by the rise in sea level, there is no surf now.
This not being, that does not become………….the island never formed, or has yet to form. there has never been surf.
The Buddha often used this fourfold structure to hang teachings on, it’s easier to follow and remember if there is a structure, especially as the teachings were never written down at the time.
For example: the Four Noble Truths leading to the elimination of suffering mirror the above:
Modern ideas about our universe are developing rapidly, and normally data are presented to show the emergence of it from the Big Bang plotted against time. This figure is credited to Steven Hawking. It shows an origin of the universe followed by a complex process evolving over time.
In the context of the above diagram the graph plotted below is of the quantum fluctuations including the situation prior to the emergence of a universe. The y axis shows ENERGY LEVEL or TEMPERATURE which is a reflection of the energy level, there is no scale but it goes from infinitely large to infinitely small. At the high region there is a situation with a combination of high energy and high organization. This is beyond our comprehension at present, some have called it the Generator Of Diversity or GOD.
On the x axis is plotted the ENTROPY or degree of organization; highly organized to start with but with increasing disorder with time . An example is dropping an egg on the floor and smashing it, decreasing the organization. This increasing entropy prevents the evolutionary process of a universe being reversible, one cannot put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. Also indicated on this axis is the PROPORTION OF MATTER to ENERGY present running from there initially being 100% energy at the left hand side, to there being 100% matter on the right hand side of the diagram.
Definition of Universe:
A (nearly) self-contained entity emerging out of quantum fluctuations through which energy flows continually creating structure which evolves, so creating a process which humans experience as time. The example Heraclitus used was a river, the energy producing its transient structure being the potential energy of the water lifted to the watershed through evaporation from the surface of the sea. Note also that a river is also a product of an evolutionary process over a long period of time.
A diagram of the steady state from which universes emerge and evolve. The big bang is not a unique event but a stage in the evolution of a universe. The energy flux driving the events shown in the diagram exists throughout whether at high or low absolute energy levels continually creating all energy and all matter. The origin of this flux is unknown, perhaps the equivalent of Vishnu.
The open triangle 1 4 5 8 represents the path of the evolution of a representative universe.
1 Big bang, the dimensions of the universe emerge. For arguments sake let it be our universe with the creation of 3 dimensions of space and also time. There is a set of infinite possibilities that can arise during this process of individualization of a potential universe at this stage, the choice of dimensions and the setting of the constants, the initial mass/energy ratio and its configuration are influential. How many potential dimensions are possible is unclear. Perhaps axis is a better term to use. As well as the space and time we recognise and related axes one can imagine one might consider including spiritual axes:
2 Evolution of universe as diagram above. Emergence of forces and matter from the original energetic state
3 Life may or may not evolve. (See 6).
4 Let us assume that this universe continues to expand and becomes colder and colder. Matter and energy may be lost (or gained) through evaporation of black holes or quantum effects at temperatures approaching absolute zero. The universe may stay like this for a very long time but will eventually evaporate..
5 The universe may exchange mass or energy with other universes and lose entropy relatively rapidly.
6 Niches exist where life can emerge.with a combination of low entropy and relatively low temperatures. Complex self-replicating structures can arise with a flow through of energy being used to sustain an evolutionary process, in a way being miniature universes . These are virtually self-contained , but linked systems driven by the energy of chemical reactions (archaebacteria), of the sun (plants) or energy generated by the metabolism of food (animals) can evolve. In some situations this can lead to form, sensation, perception, mental formation and consciousness (the 5 Buddhist skandhas). Consciousness, as defined here, is the awareness of one’s presence in the universe, of other conscious entities and of a kind of spiritual dimension one is part of. The spiritual dimension will be discussed in a subsequent post but to paraphrase, the arising of a Buddha in a universe (which is a rare event) is Awareness becoming aware of Itself.
7 Living intelligence may give rise to machine intelligence which has a wider range of conditions over which it can function.
8 In some cases a universe will rapidly collapse, the material in it reverting to the primordial state so completing the cycle. The energy from the collapsing process being used to eliminate the entropy and regain the ordered high energy state but with loss of information. It should be noted that self awareness allows living creatures to influence their environment and the direction of its evolution consciously.
G B Clements May2013