Practical spirituality.

‘Spirituality’ gets a bad press amongst materialists who associate it with religion and belief in God.

For me, spirituality is nothing to do with religion. I don’t even like the word spirituality.

I prefer consciousness. We’re all conscious, so we know we’re dealing with something real. But simply to say that consciousness is no less real for us than our physical body, is to sell ourselves short.

Consciousness is most definitely more real than physical things.

How can the immaterial phenomenon of consciousness be more real than physical things made from atoms?

In a nutshell: No consciousness, no us. And no us means no anything else. (More on that in a moment.)

Be clear what I mean by consciousness. (And remember it’s the real you I’m talking about, not some weird abstract notion.)

To say ‘you are conscious’ can sound like ‘you are fat’, or ‘you are ill’, by suggesting that being conscious is hardly more than a condition that a physical body happens to be in.

That in turn gives the false impression that your physical body and brain creates everything that your consciousness is and does, understands, knows, hopes for, dreams of, aspires to and so on.

I’m not having that. As consciousness, we’re not just some misty thing conjured up by an otherwise stupidly mindless collection of atoms. I say f*** that, and you should too.

We are consciousness. If we didn’t exist, nor would anything else because as consciousness, being aware of ourselves and the things around us is all that brings them into existence for us.

No. I’m not having that either. It’s not what really happens. Nowhere even close. Consciousness doesn’t just bring things into existence for us (the way a camera brings a picture of things into existence); consciousness brings everything alive for us! It brings us alive for ourselves and each other.

No us would mean no life, along with all of the countless incredible experiences that populate it!

Consciousness is all that creates life. It is life, period.

(Yeah, I know I keep on overstretching this, but I’m only doing what an attorney does before being reprimanded for going too far before the jury is instructed to disregard that as evidence – after it’s too late.)

True, we can’t know what it would be like not to be consciousness; to have no mental existence; no sentient awareness. We can only try to imagine oblivion – absolute nothingness. Except that like infinity, the idea of pure nothingness is beyond our comprehension.

I don’t think we can ever know oblivion. I think we’re permanent. When our physical body shuts down for good, we wake up to what we really are. There’s something else you can disregard because I can’t prove. (It’s all in Diary of my life after death.)

All I can do is try to spell out why consciousness is more real that physical things in a laborious but hopefully clear way.

We think of ourselves as a physical body. But in order to ‘think’ of ourselves at all requires some part of us to have self awareness. A part of us has to know that we’re thinking.

(This process of being aware that we’re aware is probably not unique to human consciousness, though it may well be rare amongst other species.)

But I don’t see how atoms alone could do it. To be self aware, atoms would need the ability to recognize themselves as atoms. To do that they’d need to stand apart from themselves – the way we stand apart from the things we’re aware of – and look back at themselves in the knowing, aware way that we look at things that are not us.

That would amount to atoms being conscious.

See that? I’m saying you can’t be ‘the same as’ something, and simultaneously not be the same as something. (Double definitely not when one of those things is everything that consciousness is.)

I did warn you this would be laborious. Did I warn your body or your brain? What would be the point of that?

They’re just atoms, reducing to nucleons (protons and neutrons) surrounded by an electron cloud. Nucleons in turn reduce to their component quarks and gluons, which, in even smaller terms, are quantum particles. (If you want to postulate smaller still, try superstrings.)

Nothing made from atoms has ever given any indication that it can think, experience emotions, have memories, dreams, aspirations or moral opinions.

Everything we know from our personal experience of consciousness tell us that it lives in dimensions beyond those of physical things made from atoms and their component parts.

So, members of the jury, our consciously aware self is self evidently something other – something a great deal more – than our physical self made of atoms.

The only logical and realistic conclusion we can draw is that, as human beings, we’re two separate and utterly different phenomena rolled into one.

That’s not good enough. Even though you might agree that consciousness is obviously more real than physically real things, you still believe we’re just as physical as we are conscious.

You want that to be true, because it’s what your whole life is about.

We’re all stuck with the fact that we’re not coming from an enlightened, top down position. (Not as our human selves anyhow.) So far as we’re concerned, we evolve from the bottom up, and that has us convinced that physical things came first and are ‘more real’ than consciousness.

You still believe that, regardless of whether or not you believe in God, or whether of not your intellect wants to think that consciousness is more real than physical things.

You can’t help but believe that. The conviction is an inescapable function of your survival instinct. Through the laws of physics it drives the interaction of your body’s atoms, and starting from the lowest levels of your psyche, those same laws of physics work their way up through the structure of your emotions to become the certainty that physical things are more real.

Any anyhow, physically real things are considered more real than consciousness because physically real things are discernible by our senses, while consciousness isn’t.

Big deal. Our senses themselves are physical. They’re part of the scam. It’s all atoms together.

But again, the only way we know the atoms of our physical senses are detecting other physical things made from atoms, is because we’re conscious of that happening…because we’re something so much more than atoms.

My case rests, but not for long.