20
Oct

B Alan Wallace, PhD on his book, “Hidden Dimensions: The Unification of Physics and Consciousness”.


I challenge the reader to engage in a deep
form of skepticism, challenging our fundamental notions of what matter is, what physicality
or the whole category of the physical is, and together with this challenge many of our
deepest assumptions within the scientific community and elsewhere about the nature and
origins and potentials of consciousness and the role of consciousness in the universe. Mainstream views that dominate academia, really
quite worldwide, insist that everything in the universe really consists of space, time,
mass, energy and the emergent properties that arise from mass and energy – the functions,
the emergent properties, the characteristics of mass and energy. Hence, the term physicalism or scientific
materialism. The assumption underlying this view is that
what is absolutely out there independent of our human concepts, independent of our measurements,
really is precisely this: space, time, mass, and energy. What people often fail to recognize, however,
is that the very category of the physical, of the mental [material?], is a category that
we humans have constructed. And we’ve not only constructed but we’ve reconstructed
over the last 400 years and in fact much longer. But over the last 400 years of science, we
have created, we have devised, based upon our modes of observation, of measurement,
of experimentation exactly what the parameters of the physical are. What is matter. What is not matter. These are human definitions and these human
definitions have evolved as science has evolved. The physical, matter, is precisely what the
physical sciences are good at measuring. But the category, once again, is a physical
[Alan seems to have meant “mental”] construct. So the notion that everything in the universe
must fit into a construct that we human beings have devised, and then insisting moreover
that everything in the entire universe must fit into a construct as we have devised it
now, that is the 2009 version, strikes me as really being a form of idolatry. Just as
the ancient Jews had the golden calf – something they created and then worshiped – likewise
we’ve created the golden calf of the physical, the matter, virtually worshiping it as a source
of all of reality, the source of all goodness, the source of all happiness. But as a construct. It’s a type of idolatry. And frankly, I think it’s absurd to believe
that everything in the universe fits into some construct that we’ve created based upon
the types of measurements we human beings have been engaging in for the last 400 years. It is rather pretentious. So I’m suggesting that, in this book, that
we look beyond this single category of the physical since after all space itself is not
composed of mass-energy, time is not composed of mass-energy and perhaps very importantly,
mathematical equations, the laws of nature, they too do not consist of space, time, mass,
or energy. And yet who can deny that these mathematical
principles, these mathematical laws of nature, do exist but they are not physical. So I proceed in the book, then I challenge
the reader to reassess also the nature of consciousness. Thus far, mainstream science overwhelmingly
has assumed that consciousness simply emerges, in some as yet inexplicable way, from complex
configurations of chemical compounds engaging or interacting with electricity. But no one’s proposed exactly how this occurs. No one has proposed, with any degree of confidence
or any empirical confirmation, when in the evolution of life on this planet consciousness
first arose and what were the conditions for its arising. Nor do we know, in the development of a human
fetus inside the mother’s womb, when consciousness first emerges or what are the necessary and
sufficient causes for doing so. We simply assume that somehow consciousness
must simply emerge from matter. And why? Because we’re very good at observing matter. We’re very good at observing, investigating,
running experiments on configurations of mass and energy. But the whole of science over the last 400
years has never devised any sophisticated means for directly observing states of consciousness,
the mind, mental processes. Especially over the last century, the overwhelming
majority of scientific inquiry, into nature the mind, has always been indirect, focusing
on what scientists are good at looking at: the physical, the objective, the quantifiable. So certainly scientists – cognitive psychologists,
neuroscientists – will interrogate others about their subjective experience. But as one cognitive psychologist recently
commented, we do not take other people’s reports of their subjective experience as facts. We simply take them as reports, as data. This same cognitive psychologist claimed all
of our subjective experience consists of hallucinations. So we are to rely then more upon the metaphysical
principles of materialism then we are upon our own immediate experience, as if our own
immediate experience doesn’t count and we should rely rather on the scientist’s observations,
as if they have some special access and upon their metaphysical assumptions that everything
must boil down to matter and the emergent properties of matter. This mindset of dismissing or marginalizing
first-person experience and insisting that metaphysical principles, the appeal to authority
of a certain community, is exactly the mindset of medieval scholasticism. It is exactly the mindset that the planners
of the Scientific Revolution revolted against. It is said that scholastics, scholastic philosophers
in particular, refused to look through Galileo’s telescope or comparable telescopes because
they were sure before they looked that if they saw anything that refuted their own metaphysical
assumptions based on the Bible or based upon Aristotle and other Greek thinkers, if they
saw anything that refuted what they believed to be true, they were sure that what they
were seeing must be a hallucination and therefore didn’t need to be given any credence it, could
be dismissed, marginalized. That’s exactly the attitude of many cognitive
scientists today. If you witness anything as you observe your
own mind that violates the principles of scientific materialism, you must be observing a hallucination. Your direct observations of your own mind
don’t count. And in fact cognitive psychologists, cognitive
neurophysiologists have devised no means of observing any mental state whatsoever. They leave it in the hands of amateurs but
then say the amateurs reports are not factual, they’re simply what the amateur said. So we are now in a situation with respect
to consciousness, and in fact to the mind, comparable to what medieval natural philosophers
were in in the early 17th century. A massive and very powerful Church, but some
people such as Galileo who were true empiricists and insisted that what we perceive with our
senses as we look into the night sky – observe the Sun, Moon, planets and stars – if we see
something directly, especially using sophisticated means of observation, that overcomes the assumptions
or refutes the assumptions of medieval scholasticism, those assumptions have to go and we will rely
primarily upon experience. This is the view of Buddhist contemplatives
and other contemplatives around the world. We’ll rely primarily upon immediate experience
of the nature, of the mind of states of consciousness, and we will probe the space of the mind as
astronomers have probed physical space, the space of the universe . And so Buddhist contemplatives and others
have found multiple dimensions, have found a dimension of consciousness that lies beneath
our ordinary psyche, the conscious and subconscious minds called the substrate consciousness,
which is blissful, luminous, non-conceptual, and does not arise from matter, does not arise
from neuronal activity in the brain, does not arise from matter of any kind. It’s not material. It does not arise from material. It is conditioned by matter but does not arise
from matter; a deeper dimension of consciousness. Those who have accessed this substrate consciousness,
this subtle continuum of mental consciousness, have used this as a platform rather like launching
a Hubble telescope beyond the atmosphere of our planet to be able to probe into deep space
beyond the distortions of the atmosphere, of contamination in the atmosphere, light
pollution and so forth, enabling them to probe much more deeply into the space of the universe. Likewise, those who have launched their minds
into orbit, into the substrate consciousness, have used this as a platform for probing even
more deeply into the nature of reality as a whole and not only the reality of their
own individual mental continuum. They’ve discovered a whole dimension of reality
called the form realm, which is more subtle than our constructs of matter and of mind
at a coarse level, a deeper dimension of reality out of which this dualistic reality of mind
and matter, subject and object, emerges; a form realm. We find a comparable notion, a hypothesis,
from the writings the collaborative writings of Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli, one of the
greatest psychologists, one of the great physicists of the 20th century who proposed an Unus mundus,
a unitary reality that transcends, that underlies, this coarse physical reality of mind and matter
on this coarse level. Buddhism goes beyond this to propose that
all phenomena are empty of any inherent nature or identity of their own. All phenomena arise relative to the means
by which the phenomena themselves are apprehended. So perceptual phenomena, so sounds and colors,
smells and tastes, all arise and exist only relative to the sense perceptions of them. They do not exist independently out in the
objective world or inside the brain. They exist only relatively in this interface
between sensory perception and sensory objects. This is a truth widely known in modern neuroscience,
modern physics. But the Middle Way view in Buddhism – this
perfection of wisdom tradition in Buddhism – goes beyond this and suggests that all such
things that we imagined to exist independently of perceptions such as particles and fields,
waves, space and time, these too are human constructs. We have defined them. And these constructs of particles, waves,
matter, the physical and so forth, these too exist only relative to the mind that conceives
them. They do not exist independently in some absolutely
objective universe. All these phenomena arise in a mode of dependently
related events, a process of dependent origination, nothing having its own absolute or inherent
nature. This view also finds its reflection or a parallel
in modern quantum mechanics, in the writings of John Wheeler, Anton Zeilinger and many
others, physicists who have probed so deeply into the nature of the physical world that
they found that in fact, we know nothing about the physical world as it exists independently
of our systems of measurement, as it exists independently of our conceptual frameworks. All that we know of the universe is what the
universe reveals to us in response to our questions and our systems of measurement. In other words, the very concept of matter
is something that emerges from information, and information is what we glean from our
systems of measurement and there is no information without someone who is informed, without the
observer, without consciousness. So now consciousness turns out to play a central
role in the universe that we know of. When you take the principles of quantum mechanics
and apply this to the universe at large, you come up with a field or discipline called
quantum cosmology which suggests that if you do not introduce the observer-participant
into this scientific understanding of the universe, in fact the entire universe is frozen,
the problem of frozen time, the universe does not evolve. There is no change. There is no evolution of the universe. unless you introduce an observer-participant
who separates the objective world from the subjective observer. The objective world there out there, the physical. The subjective observer over here. Without that invasion into the fabric of reality,
that intrusion into the fabric of reality, without the participant, the observer superimposing
the sense of now relative to which then there is past and there is future, there is no time. It sounds like mysticism, but in fact this
is a direct inference from the equations of quantum cosmology. This view, there’s a strong parallel [here]
with a view that is regarded by many as the pinnacle of Buddhist thought called the Great
Perfection or Dzogchen, in which beyond all these dualistic appearances there is posited
a primordial dimension of reality that consists of, is pervaded by primordial consciousness
that is non-dual, from an absolute space of phenomena, beyond relative space time, which
is indivisible from a primordial energy, an energy of consciousness itself, out of which
all other forms of energy are derivative. A unitary reality, a reality of perfect symmetry,
which consists of undifferentiated energy/space/consciousness. And only with dualistic grasping do we freeze
this universe such that we find ourselves inhabiting a world of this and that, of congealed
crystallized objects, congealed crystallized subjects. Remarkably similar to the view of quantum
cosmology, the very notion that time itself is relative, that there is no absolute time,
there is no absolute past. Even the past rises relative to the types
of questions we ask and the systems of measurement we devise in the present. The past only exists relative to the present. The future exists only relative to the present. The present exists only relative to the past
and the future. None of these are absolute. Space is not absolute. Mind is not absolute. Can this be realized? The primary way of bringing this to immediate
experience is through the practice of meditation, dissolving one’s ordinary psyche, dissolving
this like a snowflake melting into liquid water, dissolving the psyche into the substrate
consciousness. Using this as a platform for investigating
into the very nature of the mind. Using practices called vipassana or contemplative insight,
probing into the very nature of the mind to realize the absence of inherent nature of
one’s own mind and then perceiving from this, the absence of inherent nature of all phenomena,
the emptiness of even the dualism of subject and object, and from that insight into the
emptiness of all phenomena, then resting in profound inactivity [stillness] until even
the substrate consciousness dissolves, melts, into primordial consciousness, pristine awareness,
and one gains a non-dual realization that in fact one’s own identity, the essential
nature of one’s own mind, has never been anything other than primordial consciousness, indivisible
from the absolute space of phenomena, indivisible from the energy of primordial consciousness. One finally has come to know who one is and
one is non-dual, from the ultimate ground of the entire universe, and one is awakened,
and this is what it means to become a Buddha

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