What things mean.

We attribute meanings to the things in our life based on what motivates us. And we’re motivated by what we think we are. I’ll clarify those concepts later on, but first I want to make it clear that our ability to think about what we are doesn’t require us to have free will in the truest sense. Just as well, because none of us actually has it. Our ‘free’ will is a manufactured product of our circumstances. You don’t choose to be what and who you are, or even what you do. Those things are all decided for you.

From the day you’re born, you’re trapped inside a body designed by genes over many millions of years for one purpose only: to ensure those genes get copied and reproduced.  All the major decisions about what you are physically have already been made by that process.

What about who you are? The non-physical stuff? Your thoughts, memories, ideas, opinions, fears, hopes, dreams, aspirations and so on?  Obviously those all arise from your conviction that you’re a physical body in a physical world. They’re also a result of what your body and brain, were designed for, the way they were designed, and the materials used.  All of those factors have a near total influence on the subconscious parts of your mind, and thus the way you think and feel – about everything.

In other words, all of your thoughts, memories, ideas, opinions, fears, hopes, dreams, aspirations and so on, are the result of genes and their blind, mindless efforts to get themselves copied and reproduced.  Mindless, that is, until you came along believing you were the body, brain and mind that genes built, for themselves. (And it took you a couple of million years to even figure out what genes are and how they work.)

Because your thoughts, memories, ideas, fears, hopes, dreams, aspirations and the rest are all concocted in a brain built by many millions of years of genetic replication and reproduction, you’re now stuck in a designer reality, built by genes for genes. But you think of it as your human reality. Human society, like all other organism societies, is a product of the conviction that being in a physical body is the way things are meant to be, and so far as insentient bits of protein called genes are concerned, it is.

Just don’t run off with the idea that how you want things to be, is somehow separate from the way genes want it to be.

And then there’s God.  Ideas about God are side-effects of the instinct to survive as genes, for genes, in a material world. Believing that your beliefs are inviolate is itself a defense mechanism to protect your survival as genes.  Naturally you won’t think so, but remember what designed and built the brain and mind that your thoughts and beliefs are coming from, and why. You’re made from physical components, shaped by laws of physics into a gene-survival suit…and you’re kidding yourself there’s an all-knowing, all-powerful ‘something’ behind it all? Even more delusional, you imagine you know what this ‘something’ is?

Not only are ideas about God indivisible from the survival instinct – for real reasons just outlined – they’re fashioned from materially real imagery. Human minds in physical bodies are incapable of comprehending a reality not built on physically real phenomena, or conscious interaction with it. In other words, your ideas about God are fashioned from your painfully limited understanding of yourself and your place in a physical reality.

What about the environment?  We know of just two fundamental phenomena in our cosmic environment: physical things, and consciousness. The only consciousness we know of is our own. Physical stuff is just that, whereas consciousness is immaterial. It has no physicality. Yes, consciousness is assumed to be made by atoms in a brain, but it’s not made from brain atoms. There is no atomic structure of consciousness. There are no molecules in an idea.

And yet ideas are all and everything that we are – along with thoughts, memories, assumptions, fears, hopes, dreams, aspirations, delusions, pretensions, etc, etc. Put all those together and we appear. Take ‘em all away, and we cease to be, leaving only the shell that genes built.

Now forget genes and bodies and brains. They’re not what we are, they’re only what we imagine we are. Our bodies are merely part of the physical environment we were born into. We mistake ourselves for them only because they enable us to exist as consciousness in their physical environment. Immaterial though we are as consciousness, our thoughts, memories, ideas, fears, hopes, dreams, aspirations, etc. are able to translate physicality into so much more than atoms and molecules…by giving physical things meaning.

As consciousness, we’re a separate environment made from our own and each others ideas, thoughts, memories, fears, hopes, dreams and aspirations. Our real environment became exclusively one of immaterial mind stuff when we became conscious of being conscious.

The physical sensations we ‘feel’, along with ‘our’ emotions, are generated by chemical interaction in a non-conscious genetic body, nervous system and brain. As consciousness, we only identify with those chemical interactions in terms of the ideas – the meanings – they help us conjure up about ourselves.

‘Sensations’, ‘feelings’ and ‘emotions’ are illusions we perceive as real only because our immaterial conscious self is so closely interfaced with a material body, nervous system and brain. The nature of this interface translates physical sensations into consciousness for us, otherwise we’d be unaware of them.

As the environment of ideas within a material environment, our reality is fast becoming less about what the physical environment makes us, and more about what our ideas make it.  We pervade these biological vehicles as an immaterial phenomenon; we really are the ghost in a biological machine. Though as aspects of the environment of consciousness, rather than think of ourselves as indeterminate parts of an amorphous cloud of vapor, say, we each have a distinct existence as a core self made from a unique set of ideas.

Our personal core self is constantly reshaped by outside influences that affect us consciously and subconsciously. We evolve as a result of the ideas – and meanings – we’re constantly interacting with. And while our conscious selves evolve, the genetic bodies we’re in evolve too.

But it’s meaningless to say that we’re how genes – or even the physical universe – became conscious; no two phenomena are so different from each other as physical matter and consciousness. We were never physical.

What does all of this mean?  Regardless of what we believe about our origins, as conscious minds caught up in genetic hardware, it’s for us alone to decide what it means to be conscious, in a physical human body, in society, in a material world. Finding meaning for ourselves isn’t something our genetic bodies are capable of; meaning is unique to us as consciousness; that should be obvious.

Ideas about God or an afterlife are consistent with this search for meaning. Perhaps they’re inevitable. But whatever we choose to believe, the hard fact is that while we’re here, as consciousness in a material world, this is the only world we, as human beings, can perceive or have ideas about.

We’re simply not designed to have ideas about any other kind of world than a material one; in a material body and brain, our mindset is anchored in our subconscious identification with our perceived material self. It’s also a delusion that we can imagine a world, a reality, in which our own conscious motivations are free from the instinct that motivates us to survive as physical beings.

As said, part of that same delusion is to imagine we can separate ideas about God from the instinct to survive in a material world. We demonstrate that by using the God concept as a tool or a weapon that works to our own advantage, allowing us to see the meaning in things that we choose to see. This is survival-oriented ‘meaning’, reflected in all our thoughts and actions; in what things are worth to us and why we value them.

We can’t be relied upon to decide impartially about meanings or values. Our entire understanding of value judgement evolved to favor things that mean the most to us, and – for all the reasons touched on above – nothing means more to us than our survival as genes.

Yet we need meaning in our life – in fact an endless series of small ongoing meanings that make an overall meaning. Meanings give our existence a purpose. The problem is that we’re immaterial consciousness existing in a physical world, the most immediate aspect of which is a physical body we claim as our own, and in doing that, lose our real selves.

In a physical body, we think – instinctively – of ourselves and our survival in physical terms and look for what physical things mean for our survival as physical beings. But in our true environment of consciousness, the things we value most in the physical world are not physical; they exist only as ideas, hopes, dreams, aspirations, awareness, understanding, etc.

Tread carefully here, because though our hopes, dreams, fears, aspirations and ideas are about what physical things mean to us, they’re not about what physical things mean to our physical selves; nothing has ‘meaning’ for the atoms and molecules of our physical selves. Our hopes, dreams, fears, aspirations and ideas are exclusively immaterial, and so can only ever be about what physical things mean to us as immaterial consciousness.

Be more of what you really are.  The value we place on physical things is part of the illusion we unwittingly create for ourselves. The real purpose of our conscious presence in this physical environment is to transform physical things into a dynamic collection of immaterial ideas that transcend the physical world. That goes for our ideas about our physical bodies too. Thus transformed, physical things cease to have value only as divisive life support for genes, and instead, in our immaterial minds, become only about the conscious meanings we choose to give them – meanings that can only have ‘meaning’ for consciousness.

Physical things then become a reflection of us and our purpose – to make the most of what we really are: something far more than mindless and uncaring physical matter that has no meaning for itself. The meanings we choose to give physical things are the meanings we choose to give ourselves and each other, rather than the lack of meaning placed on us by physical matter.

When we think of ourselves as physical beings first, we naturally downgrade what we really are – our real, conscious selves – and instead chase the objects and experiences that feed our illusions about ourselves as physical beings. We allow mindless, uncaring stuff to call the shots.  We all do it, imagining this will benefit our conscious selves too, but it has the opposite effect.

As conscious beings, only we can decide the value of things. But because the physical things of our environment affect the quality of our life and our fate as physical bodies, we allow them to decide the value we put on ourselves and each other, period.

While we base our values on physical things, we judge the value – the meaning – of ourselves and each other as conscious beings in terms of the relative value we place on physical stuff.

Do we really want the meaning of our existence to depend primarily, or only, on the value we put on physical things? How we use them, share them, distribute them, withhold them, covet them, beg, borrow or steal them?

 

 

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Get real.

I think, therefore I think I’m something special.

We imagine we’re somehow above everything, better than the rest of creation, ‘chosen’ in some inexplicable way, if not by God then by the universe that went to the trouble of building us from stardust.

Being special, we demand this, we want that, we deserve respect, love, success, and the rest.

Had we been around when Darwin’s ideas first appeared, we’d have been outraged by the notion that we could have evolved from apes.

Even now the fact that we’re fundamentally no different than other animals is artfully buried under our pretensions of civilized sophistication.

More than that, we think that by dressing up the same instincts, urges and bodily functions we share with other species, we become not just superior to them, but perceive ourselves as part of a different kind of reality where only we and our needs matter.

At best, the arrogance of this delusional elitist attitude becomes an instinctive urge to protect the things we depend on for our well-being – but only so we can plunder them more thoughtfully.

At worst our approach manifests as a godlike disregard for anything that isn’t useful to us. Even each other.

It took millions of years of evolution for us to become separate from our surroundings; to recognize that our senses were not the same as the physical environment that caused them.

Our senses now define us as individuals and give us our personal identity. But senses – along with the bodies and brains that go with them – were evolved by genes to ensure their own survival.

With our vain glimmering of awareness, we still imagine we are genes. With that comes the human delusion, built on the genetic survival instinct, that as the human manifestation of my genes, ‘I’ matter most.

It’s a conviction that naturally leads to the idea that we’re all separate units and simply co-exist in our own personal world of ‘me-ness’.

The closest we ever come to true unity is an illusion created by our own personal desires for ourselves as individuals.

Anything more profound that could transcend the ‘me-ness’ is practically metaphysical and incomprehensible to us, because our physical bodies and their demands trick us into believing physical sensations are the real raison d’etre for this whole charade.

As an entirely physical process, our genetic heritage actually contrives to keep us apart at the level that matters: the conscious one. That’s the one we need to work on.

Only minds are real.

Questions like why are you here, and do you have a purpose are too big to be thought of as real questions. But the mundane necessity of our survival as genetic organisms compels us to think otherwise. 

Science wrongly assumes how we got here can explain why, while millions of believers delude themselves that their religion can give a reason for our existence.

The real reason for our being here is the one phenomenon that makes both science and religion possible. A phenomenon we don’t understand: Consciousness. We haven’t the faintest notion of what consciousness is made from or how it works. But we know that it alone creates our reality.

How do we know that, and what is reality? 

Besides being here on your screen, these questions about why you’re here, what God is, and what reality is, are entirely in your mind and nowhere else (unless you decide to reproduce them in a physical medium).

Questions don’t exist in non-conscious physical things. Atoms don’t ask questions. An entire universe of atoms doesn’t ask questions. Only minds ask questions.

But what is your mind? Where is it?

Like questions, it has no existence in the physically real world of atoms, yet it’s the only place you exist, and consequently the only place ideas about God exist. Without minds, neither you nor God would exist. The meaning of numbers wouldn’t exist. Science wouldn’t exist. Reality wouldn’t exist in any form. Nothing would exist.

So as consciousness, only we can decide why we’re here and what our purpose is.

Don’t just accept things.

 

Rene-Magritte-Wallpaper-The-Human-Condition

Too often we don’t wonder ‘why?’ about things.

Especially the biggest, most important things.

We just accept them.

DON’T JUST ACCEPT THINGS.

That’s how ALL of our problems arise.Why?

Because nothing is what it seems.

Everything your senses tell you is real, is part of an illusion.

You’ve lived with this illusion all your life.

You believe it’s real, but it’s not.

It’s only a partial glimpse of how things really are.

Even that glimpse is so distorted as to be mostly meaningless.

This is not mystical bullshit.  

It’s how things really are.

I won’t kid you this is easy to understand.

But it is worth your while to try.

All that ‘we are – our personality, our awareness, knowledge, ideas, memories and anything else that you can possibly ‘think of’ – literally – exists ONLY in the form of our consciousness.

As consciousness, ‘we’ can only ever know about, or come into contact with, anything outside of our own consciousness (the things we call ‘physically real’, or other consciousnesses) as purely non-physical conscious experiences.

See that? It’s just the beginning.

Your perceptions of yourself and the world around you – everything from the most vivid physical sensation to the subtlest mental notion – exist in your consciousness only as non-physical ideas.

Being able to experience pain, anguish, joy, frustration and other emotions exclusively as non-physical ideas – yet think they’re physical feelings – is just one of the remarkable – and inexplicable – things about consciousness.

Consciousness alone brings the vibrant colors and nuances of our physical experience of the world and everything in it – our physical selves included – into existence for us. We make the physical world real for ourselves.

We create our own reality.

But why, if the things we think of a physical experiences are just non-physical ideas for us, do they feel so physically real?

It’s because, as consciousness, we’re so tightly interfaced with a body and brain, that our consciousness functions as if we are those physical components.

That’s another unique quality of consciousness.

There’s nothing else like it.

Our body is merely part of the physical world of atoms. That’s why it can interact with that world. By interfacing our physical body, we can have a conscious experience of that physical interaction.

(Think of a body as a ‘middle man’ between our consciousness and the rest of the physical world.)

Reality is unique for each of us.

Each one of us perceives reality in a different way because we’re all unique individuals, fashioned from a unique set of personal experiences of the physical world – not to mention our unique personal experiences of other consciousnesses.

I gather some of us see reality very differently from others. (That’s a post for another time.)

So what is physical reality really?

What exactly is it that our consciousness interfaces to convince us that physical things are real?

That depends on how you look at things.

On the smallest scales you can change things just by looking at them. But we’re coming to that.

Your experience of physically real things starts where the edges of your conscious self meet your physical body.

That body (complete with nervous system and brain) evolved over many millions of years to interpret the physically real world for your consciousness.

It’s impossible to grasp the subtleties of the interface between the conscious you and your physical self.

For instance, even on the relatively clunky scale of atoms, nerve signals travel instantaneously, making you think that every movement of your body is part of the conscious ‘you’.

If we go in a lot closer than atoms, the solid ‘things’ we ‘think’ of as physical realness, disappear entirely.

Still more surprising, at these highly magnified scales, there are no pre-formed structures ‘outside’ of us; no sounds; no colors; no textures.

‘Reality’ is just shapes that form in energy.

Both the physical realness outside of us, and our conscious perception of it, are made from countless vibrations of minuscule quantities of energy.

What we think of as ‘real’ things are simply patterns that form in the energy.

We ‘see’ and ‘hear’ and ‘feel’ them the way we do because evolution caused energy vibrations to become shaped into ‘real’ things.

Our body, nerves and brain are some of those ‘real’ things, made of energy vibrations, that our consciousness perceives.

Consciousness is energy too.

When the energy patterns that make our consciousness, interface the energy patterns that make our body, nervous system and brain, ‘we’ experience the physical world not as energy patterns, but as physically real things.

To create our visual picture of reality, energy shaped into light waves ‘bounce off’ physical objects and enter our eyes. That causes nerve impulses (made from more energy) to jump to our brain (which is also just energy).

When that happens, our conscious mind (still more energy, but of a much more refined conscious kind) becomes aware of ‘seeing’. (It’s a similar story for hearing, touch, smell, taste and the rest of our consciously perceived experiences of physical ‘reality’.)

By adjusting a sufficiently sophisticated microscope you’d be able to see the energy vibrations as molecules, then smaller atoms, then nucleons and electrons, and then quarks and gluons, and even smaller particles.

It’s when you get down to truly small quantum scales that you can change things just by looking at them.

This is where the illusion of realness is itself unreal.

Quantum particles don’t behave the way our consciousness has evolved to think ‘real’ things should behave.

Down at the quantum level of ‘reality’, our understanding of realness goes right out the window.

A single quantum particle (of the kind that atoms are made from) can be in many different places at the same time.

This is called being in a superposition of states; it gives the impression that quantum particles exist as part of a wave of particles.

But if you look at a single particle, you cause the wave to ‘collapse’, so you see only one particle in one place.

That suggests nothing is actually ‘real’ until someone conscious decides to look at it.

So consciousness decides what’s real.

Quantum particles – and quantum ‘unreality’ – are the underlying machinery of the entire physical universe.

What you’re conscious of right now is nothing but quantum ‘unrealness’, aka quantum uncertainty.

Yet somehow, your consciousness turns this quantum ‘unreality’ into what you think of as real things.

Remember, none of this is mystical bullshit.

Where does it leave our ‘reality’?

Although it implies that we create the reality we want for ourselves, things aren’t quite that straight forward.

The ‘reality’ you’re seeing now is in fact only one of many possible ‘realities’.

You see quantum vibrations as your particular ‘reality’ because of the level your consciousness has evolved to.

And the level of your conscious evolution depends on how your consciousness interacts with your physical brain.

In effect, you can only be as conscious as your physical brain allows you to be. And you can only see the reality that your brain allows you to see.

There’s another problem.

The reality we think we want, isn’t really what ‘we’ want.

Our consciousness can’t be free to see reality for what it really is – whatever that might be – while we’re influenced by physically real things.

The only reality we see is the one that physical things – our body in particular – want us to see.

Physical things have their own powerful agenda. We experience that agenda most profoundly through our interface with our own body.

Our body makes demands on us, without even knowing it does, and we assume that’s what we want.

Your body’s agenda is driven by the self-interest of physical evolution.

That is, by what the physical universe is made from, and the way it’s screwed together.

Likewise your brain is just a biomechanical engine, designed by millions of years of evolution only to keep its body out of trouble.

It doesn’t ‘know’ it’s doing that. It has no more conscious awareness than your electric toothbrush does. So it doesn’t even know the conscious ‘you’ exists.

And yet by interpreting quantum ‘unreality’ as physically real things, your mind brings that physical body into existence.

Why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you a robot?

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Robots 1a

Which one is you?

What if I told you that mindless physical objects are running your life? That they make you do things without you knowing it’s happening? That nothing you do is really your own idea? That it’s been this way for everybody since life on earth began? And you’re only thinking this can’t be true because mindless physical things are telling you to think that.

But if it is true, imagine the potential benefits of running your own life. Of making your own conscious choices. Of having ideas you know are yours. Of doing what your conscious self wants, rather than letting the mindless things around you run your life and tell you who you are. But I guess you can’t even imagine that, you’ve been living an illusion for so long. It’s why getting you to believe this is gonna be all uphill.

Let’s start with the difference between the real you, and stuff that’s not you. All ‘you’ are is contained in your consciousness. Your hopes, dreams and aspirations, your awareness of yourself and everything around you, and so on.

(What about all of the hidden stuff in your subconscious? Things you know but aren’t always aware of? And memories? All of that? They’re you too. There’s a lot more in your subconscious than you think, but never mind that for now.)

The thing is, none of the stuff in your conscious/subconscious is physically real, right? It exists only and entirely in the uniquely immaterial environment of your mind. That means ‘you’ exist only and entirely in your mind too. So when your consciousness leaves your physical body – as in death – everything that ‘you’ are leaves too. I guarantee it.

Where you go wrong is in thinking that ‘you’ are your physical body, even though the conscious ‘you’ and that physical body couldn’t be more different.

Fact is, all of your so called ‘physical feelings’ only exist as ideas in your mind, the same way your hopes, dreams and aspirations do. Sure they have a ‘physically real’ cause, but when you experience them, they have no more physical substance than your memories do: zip.

So where does your consciousness stop, and the non-conscious physical world begin? Where and how do they interface? Questions like these are the source of all our problems as human beings. So let’s go back to the notion of you as a robot that lets physical things tell you how you should think and behave. Physical persuader numero uno is your own body (complete with nervous system and brain).

Don’t be fooled by its warm familiarity. That collection of atoms is as mindless and uncaring as a suit of armor. (As is everything else made from atoms in this physical world.)  Mindless though it is, it has a will of its own, designed over millions of years of genetic evolution to enable it to survive and reproduce itself. But clever as it is, it’s still just a bio-robot, programmed by organic components. And like every other physical thing in this entire universe of atoms and molecules, it doesn’t give a damn about you or any of the unphysically real stuff in your fancy conscious awareness. It doesn’t even know that ‘you’ exist. (How could something that’s not conscious, know that consciousness exists?)

Side note: To overcome those problems is why some people try to isolate their conscious awareness from their physical body (and from the other physical things around them) through meditation and more extreme practices.

So why, if all of life’s problems are the result of allowing our decisions to be governed by mindless physical things, do we go along with all of this? It’s because we don’t know any better. We think helping genes replicate and reproduce themselves all that really matters. We think this is how things are supposed to be. And we got so used to doing it, we can’t see how back-to-front it is. It’s as if we’re all brainwashed with the crazy notion that our conscious selves are less important than our physical parts. That we only exist to look out for mindless atoms, accidentally shaped into a monkey suit by the equally mindless random activity of amino acids. We might even suspect that ‘we’ don’t really exist. Maybe we’re only imagining all of this and we’re nothing more than a deluded ghost stumbling around inside a mess of electrochemical circuitry.

Even if we see how things really are, we still gonna want to along with what physical things dictate – our own physical selves first and foremost -because while we’re human, it’s practically impossible not to think of yourself as physical. (Try it now.)

The conviction that we’re physical starts deep in the subconscious parts of our mind. That’s why we’re convinced that trying to ‘be physical’ is perfectly normal and natural for consciousness, and we actively wallow in the sensory aspects of the delusion.

It’s because we all behave like we’re physical robots practically all of the time, for all of our lives, that my home page starts with the question: What are human beings for? In science, if you don’t know what something is for, you try to figure out what it’s made from, how the stuff it’s made from works in other things, and what those other things are for, etc. Then you draw conclusions.

On the question of what we’re for they’re the wrong conclusions because we don’t know what we’re dealing with. We assume the obvious and imagine we’re just what our physical senses and physical brains tell us we are – human beings.

So what are human beings made from? Well, our physical parts are made from the same stuff as everything else in the universe: molecules, atoms, nucleons, quarks and even smaller stuff. On really small (quantum) scales, all of those things are made from particles that travel in waves.

On the smallest scale it’s all just energy, but that’s hard to imagine. Instead, think of everything in the universe as part of an endless ocean of incredibly fine particles. Different kinds of particles do different things, and over billions of years those differences wind up as stars and galaxies and planets. And people who, amongst other things, wonder where all of this came from.

And yet religions and philosophies aren’t based on curiosity about where physical stuff came from. We feel compelled to know where ‘we’ came from. And you know I don’t mean our physical selves; they’re just so much dust. I mean our consciousness. But we’re going the wrong way to find an answer if we go on confusing our real self – consciousness – with a bio-robot made of atoms.

You need to think big about this. The bio-robot is merely part of the mindless biological level of physical reality; the result of genes looking out for their own interests, as part of the universal machinery of evolution.

On the other hand, people who claim to know about these things say the robot exists only to help us figure out what our real conscious self is here for.

You could say we shouldn’t need to impute a ‘spiritual’ purpose to our conscious existence. We know only too well the difference between everything consciousness is capable of compared with mindless physical things. That should leave us in no doubt that ‘we’ should be calling the shots. Surely thinking takes priority over mindlessness? Are we running this railroad, or is it running us?

Thing is, the only way to be in charge of our lives, ourselves and our destiny, is by making a deliberate conscious effort to separate ourselves from the robot; to take hands-on control of what goes on in our mind, instead of just going along with whatever thoughts appear there. After all, it’s our consciousness that creates our reality, not physical things. (They only provide the contents. The food for thought.)

Taking control of your thoughts is easier said than done. It’s almost as if you have to step back from your own physical self. Is that possible? For most of us, maybe the only way is to imagine your conscious self as something separate. Well hey, imagination is a vital factor in all of the best ideas. You have to be able to see a thing, in your mind, before you can progress towards making it real. You know that.

But don’t be fooled – things worth having never come easy. That only happens in the realm of magic and make believe, whereas we’re talking about the most real thing there is: our own consciousness. I might even say the only real thing there is. Being in charge of your own consciousness means being in control of the most real thing there is.

Just keep remembering that a body is mindless atoms. It’s just something you put on to help you find your real self. But you don’t put consciousness on. You ARE it. Remember also that in the guise of human beings, this interface we make with the stuff we think of as physical reality is strictly temporary.

Let me repeat a few things: Our perception of ourselves, the world, and what ‘real’ means, depends entirely on our consciousness. Without it, the physical world simply wouldn’t exist for us.

Our consciousness makes physical things real for us only because, as consciousness, ‘we’ are a different kind of ‘real’ than physical things. Not an imaginary, second rate kind of real but a ‘more-than-physically-real’ kind. The only kind capable of bringing the atoms of these monkey suits to life. Monkey suits that we know for a fact would be dead without us.

Monkey suits are genetic organisms in their own right, just as other animals, plants and all so-called ‘living’ things are. They’re made from the same stuff that rocks and cars and buildings are. Stuff that we wouldn’t normally think of as living. In this sense ‘dead’ and ‘alive’ are totally subjective concepts. The only difference between ‘dead’ rock atoms and ‘living’ organism atoms is that some organism atoms are shaped into molecules that can make copies of themselves, and build bodies that reproduce them.

This is the great conjuring trick that succeeded in fooling everybody – that ‘dead’ atoms somehow come ‘alive’ because they’re in animated bodies. From that assumption we decided that anything with genes is ‘life’.

We may not know what we, as consciousness, are for, but we know pretty much where genes came from and how they work. We know that in their 3 billion year efforts to replicate, the organisms that genes evolved to reproduce themselves were shaped by their physical environment, aka the world.

Thinking we’re genetic organisms, we see all of that in terms of our need to survive in a hostile, competitive world. But survival isn’t a conscious decision we make. (Our immature, evolving consciousness wouldn’t last long that way.) Survival has to be instinctive, governed by what atoms are and how they interact. (If you could magnify those interactions you’d see they’re as mindlessly mechanical as clockwork.)

Being so closely interfaced with a genetic organism, this mindless physical survival activity motivates our consciousness to augment that self-preservation instinct. So, thinking we are the monkey suit, we look out for it as if our existence depends on it. (The fact that we appear to die when it dies is a great incentive.)

Thinking we’re physical skews our entire understanding of ‘real’. It’s how material things came to dominate our conscious existence, and it turns us against our real, conscious selves. It makes us want to be more like physical robots. It tricks us into believing our robot selves are worth more than our real selves.

True, quitting being a robot means growing up to the fact that, as consciousness, you’re not here to grab all you can, compete for recognition, personal fame or material wealth, or act as if you own the place. That stuff only stops you getting real.

Just imagine…

Once upon a time the world seemed a pretty clunky and obvious place. Then the discovery of atoms showed it was a lot more complex and interesting. Not long after, quantum mechanics revealed it to be not only infinitely more complex, but downright weird.

Discoveries like these about the world around us evolve from earlier discoveries. By making such discoveries, we evolve too because these (and other) discoveries are not just about the world around us, they’re also about our perception of that world. Our consciousness evolves by interacting with the physical world. At the same time our physical selves evolve because, as we change the physical world, we adapt physically to accommodate those changes.

But how real is the physical world? We often forget that real things are only real for us because we’re able to perceive them consciously. Interestingly, everything we perceive is exclusively in our consciousness. In that sense nothing for us is physically real and never was.It’s hard to get your head around that because you’re not used to thinking of things as they really are. You’re not used to seeing things as they really are either. In fact all of your senses have been fooling you all along.

Sure this sounds nutty. As I said, before we realized that physical things were made of invisible bits of stuff (that we later called atoms), we assumed all the ‘real’ things were solid. Now we know that atoms themselves are made of far smaller and stranger stuff called quanta. These unimaginably tiny pieces of physical reality behave in ways that suggest nothing is what we think it is. They suggest that nothing is truly solid, or definite, or fixed, or certain. You could say they suggest that nothing is real, which in turn suggests that it’s down to us to decide what’s real.

That idea isn’t the standard scientific conclusion. it’s mine, but to think we have anywhere near a complete understanding – of physical reality or ourselves – is just delusional. Go look up the word hubris.

Now I’ll remind you that science thinks it knows pretty much all about physical reality, but nobody understands what consciousness is, so nobody knows how physical components – in the shape of brain cells – can create consciousness. Science just assumes that’s what happens, based on what we know about how the physical world works.

If you believe we’re entirely physical and our consciousness is an emergent by-product of physical processes, then maybe you also believe that physical stuff and mental stuff are, at bottom, just different forms of the same material. Like ice and water and steam are. Everything else is made from atoms, so maybe you figure that atoms and their smaller quantum particles might possess consciousness generating properties that we haven’t discovered yet. Maybe there’s some mysterious factor enabling atoms to conjure up everything that we experience in what we think of as ‘our’ consciousness.

Maybe there is no mystery; maybe all it takes to make consciousness is a steady progression of ever more complex physiological processes all working together to transcend the boundary between insentience and sentience.

But remember: We’ve gotten used to thinking of everything from the ‘bottom up’. (Or we think we have.) If you begin millions of years ago with a little consciousness that grows into ours as our brain and nervous system grows, naturally you’re going to assume consciousness is made by that brain and nervous system. This natural assumption is where neuroscience is still at. (The opposite notion – that the phenomenon we call our consciousness is not manufactured by atoms – is pure ‘top down’ thinking.)

Be clear about what physically real things are and what they’re not. An atom is a tiny central nucleus with a positive electric charge surrounded by negatively electrically charged electrons. There’s nothing about atoms that suggests they’re conscious, or that a lot of them together could create consciousness. The same goes for the quantum particles that atoms are made from. The fact that they behave in ways that seem strange to us doesn’t mean they have magical or mystical properties, any more than everyday solid objects do, all of which are made from quantum particles.

Despite being the most complex object we know of, the human brain is still just a collection of these basic components of physical reality.

Words like ‘magical’ and ‘mystical’ have no place in science, but they are real concepts, and as concepts (which are entirely un-physical notions) magic and mysticism are things that only consciousness can appreciate; only conscious minds can pretend, imagine or handle un-physical – aka unreal – stuff. These ‘unreal’ concepts play a very real part in our mental vocabulary and our understanding of reality. (Take my word for that; it’s too complicated to explain here. Maybe you can appreciate it anyhow.)

You could say that consciousness itself, as an un-physical notion (like magic and mysticism) is something that only consciousness can appreciate. Consciousness is also the only place where imagination and pretense can exist.

Question: Can the stuff we imagine, or pretend can exist, be said to exist? If not, why not? The stuff of imagination and pretense seems to be just as real as our consciousness. And we know our consciousness is real because without it, nothing else would be real for us.

If the pretend stuff of our imagination does exist in a reality that’s no less real than our consciousness, then maybe our definition of imaginary is wrong. Maybe imaginary things are, in their own way, just as real as – if not more real than – the things we always thought as of real. (More real would depend on whether we think our conscious reality is more real than the physical reality we’re conscious of. On that score, realize that our consciousness is all that makes the physical world real for us, and how much less rich the physical world would be without our consciousness.)

A ‘potential’ for being real is another concept that only consciousness can get a handle on. But the potential that our imagined ideas have for becoming real is what’s unique about consciousness. It makes consciousness a medium of creation, transformation and possibility. It’s also reminiscent of the strange behavior of the quantum world, where the particles and forces that govern atoms appear to behave with uncertainty. Investigation of our conscious perception of uncertainty can surely help us understand more about the relationship between consciousness and materiality.

If something has the potential for existence, then it’s in a special kind of proto-reality where it might possibly become real (at some time in the future). So it’s not actually the same as what we understand as absolutely imaginary (in that it couldn’t possibly ever become real).

To make this still more complicated in the broader sense of what can be real, we have to include stuff that we don’t know about yet. Not yet knowing about things that might turn out to either exist for real, or be brought into existence for real, is an uncomfortable notion. If we don’t know about a thing yet, then by science’s rules, strictly speaking, it’s not real. On the other hand there are things that have a greater probability of becoming real than others. Some of those have little chance of ever becoming real, while others are pretty much a certainty.

So there have to be shades of possibility that science can live with. Stuff that’s not real yet, but at the same time acceptable because it would build on what we already know. (This point can get stretched to fantastic lengths because science is often speculative, aka purely theoretical.) That said, the study of consciousness – by which I mean human consciousness trying to understand the reality created by itself – is hobbled by what we already know about physical reality. This knowledge pushes us down preferential avenues of further investigation, all based entirely on the notion that brains make consciousness, and excludes the possibility of any other explanation. The problem with that is, you can’t build on what you don’t want to know, or what you refuse to consider – even though you don’t yet know what that might be.

While we’re asking questions about what consciousness might be and how it might work, it seems only reasonable that we should seriously consider that maybe consciousness isn’t actually produced by a physical brain. But no. That idea is so open ended and important that mainstream science refuses to go anywhere near it except when ridiculing it. Certainly we need the strict scientific method to counteract all of the fantastical nonsense that’s a by-product of being human. At the same time, though, we need to be sufficiently open minded not to throw consciousness out with the bathwater.

Why is this subject such a big deal? Why so scary? Why is it sacrilegious to look right at consciousness as an autonomous phenomenon that’s not made by a physical brain?

The problem is that many people seem not just unwilling but unable to think seriously about that notion. They write books explaining in thinly disguised outraged detail how and why consciousness doesn’t have an autonomous existence. Judging by the time and effort they expend on refuting the possibility, you might imagine their life depended on it, or maybe their life’s work, and the way of thinking that underpins it.

Our consciousness works as if, by activating atoms in our brain so they interact in certain patterns, those patterns then correspond with something more than anything atoms alone are capable of…as if we’re accessing another phenomenon altogether. (Which of course we are.)

Citing some other phenomenon is anathema to neuroscientists, yet everything about our conscious awareness tells us it’s our access to an altogether richer, deeper, more refined, more potent reality than that occupied by atoms. In fact we can say unequivocally that another level or quality of realness is involved in our waking conscious state, otherwise we’d be unable to transcend the boundary between what things made from atoms are and do, and what consciousness is and does.

Did evolution design our thoughts?

Science tells us that evolution designed our brain, and our brain makes our consciousness. So our consciousness must be designed by evolution too. (Our consciousness produces our thoughts, our perception of the world, of ourselves and anything else. So all of those must also be designed by evolution.)

You might wonder how evolution could ‘design’ the thoughts in a brain with 80 billion neurons, all of them linking up in 1000 trillion connections. And what about free will? Assuming we have it, how can free will be designed?

To put things in perspective, if our perceptions, our thinking and even our so-called ‘free’ will, are made by our brain, they must also be limited by the elements our brain is made from, and by what those elements are capable of.

Our brain, along with everything else in the material universe, is made from combinations of a mere hundred or so atomic elements; these are governed by a few elementary laws of physics. The structure and behavior of those elements and laws keep the universe’s evolution in relatively narrow channels. Relative to what? To an alternative kind of universe with more elements and laws? Different elements and laws? Scientists suggest the possible existence of many other universes – perhaps an infinite number – each with its own elements and laws. But the evolution of each of these universes would still depend on the limitations of its own unique set of elements and laws, as our universe is. So any consciousness and ‘free’ will would be bound by those elements and laws, as we are.

Even so, looking out from inside a brain with 80 billion cells and trillions of connections between them – the most complex thing we know of in our universe – you might think we still have plenty of scope for thought…until you realize that our consciousness has only the physically real things, made from those few elements and laws, to be conscious of. Those few elements and laws have effectively ‘purpose designed’ our understanding of reality as an experience limited to, and by, physically real things. In a nutshell, our cognitive scope is confined by the stuff that made us.

Our science and our ideas about everything are constrained by the understanding that ‘reality’ is the physical things that evolved in this universe. As part of that understanding, evolutionary science tells us our bodies, brains and consciousness all evolved ‘just’ to maintain the accurate replication and reproduction of genes. (In our limited human terms, to help us survive in a hostile world.) So all the ideas embodied in the words I’m using here – ‘existence’, ‘survival’, ‘hostility’, ‘the world’, our ‘self’, ‘realness’, and any other word you can think of – are confined by the narrow boundaries imposed by those few chemical elements and basic laws of physics. That’s why you can’t imagine a reality made of anything but physically real things.

But what if reality could be made of something other than physical elements and laws? A reasonable enough question, but to answer it we have to step outside the limitations imposed by physically real things. How can we do that?

We already did. As consciousness, we’ve always been outside of those limitations. But we’ve also always been deluded by physically real things into thinking that our conscious reality is somehow ‘the same as’ physical realness. 

Ask yourself: Can physical things think? Can they be conscious? Brains are just physical things, yet science says they ‘produce’ our consciousness. That must mean brains are conscious. If it doesn’t mean that, then brains and consciousness would be two separate things. Are they?

Hold it. We’re not supposed to ask questions like that – it could mean there’s another kind of reality besides our familiar version. A reality that’s not constrained by physical elements and laws. Such notions are sacrilegious in a reality built on physical things.

Although we are conscious, we don’t know what consciousness is, what it’s made of or how it works. Yet it’s the only thing that tells us the world of physically real things exists. It does that by transforming the mindless world of physically real things, into our even more real world of consciousness. (If you doubt that our conscious view of the world is more real than the physical world itself, you lack imagination.) What’s more, consciousness is the only thing that tells us we exist, consciously and physically.

The simple fact is, our understanding of this relationship between our consciously real world, and the world of physical realness, didn’t evolve anywhere near far enough yet to tell us what consciousness actually is. So the meaning of everything in these words is still based entirely on the evidence of the physical world, as are our thoughts, beliefs, behavior and science. And so too is the notion that physical brains produce consciousness. It’s not a scientific fact, it’s a supposition created not by what science knows about consciousness, but by what it knows about the physical world.

We can’t help thinking this way. Because all of our knowledge is a consequence of the limited way we’ve evolved to think of realness as physical things, we’re all reductionist. Most scientists believe that everything – consciousness included – reduces to (and so is somehow made by) atoms and the smaller particles that they’re made from. Yet consciousness refuses to be reduced; an apparently immaterial phenomenon, it has no observable or measurable physical parts or properties. And while some scientists might grudgingly accept that’s the case, they continue their campaign to convince us that our physical brain somehow extends itself to become our conscious experiences of the physical world.

Common sense and introspection might tell us our consciousness is something altogether different from physical stuff, but we’re stuck with the notion that reality is fundamentally physical. It’s instinctive; on levels of our mind below everyday awareness, we’re certain that we ‘are’ a physical body, and with good reason. As consciousness gradually emerged in proto brains, it had no choice but to take itself for just another part of the gene replicating and reproducing process. Millions of years later, we’re totally dedicated to staying alive as the bodies that genes evolved for themselves, and to reproducing those genes as if they were our own.

As consciousness, replicating and reproducing for genes is now our prime directive because we’re conditioned by the evolution of physical things to think that’s what we want. Seeing things some other way would conflict with what bodies and brains evolved to do: look out for the genes that built them. So far as we’re concerned, it wouldn’t make ‘sense’ to see things any other way – but only because it wouldn’t make physical sense. The evolution of physically real things is pulling all our strings.

Another take on evolution. The interesting thing about evolution is that it’s forever changing things. Note the word ‘forever’; it’s a concept we can’t conceive of. It might extend not only into what we think of as the ‘past’ and the ‘future’, but in other inconceivable directions as well. And even through unimaginable dimensions of time, space, and other realities beyond those. This way of looking at the concept of evolution – from outside of our limitations, as it were – pretty much makes anything possible. Perhaps it makes everything possible. Perhaps everything always was possible. Personally I’m convinced that Darwin hardly scratched the surface of what evolution is, and we haven’t even begun to appreciate what it is yet – again because we didn’t evolve far enough yet.

How conscious are we anyway? Apart from the other organisms on this planet that seem to have some consciousness, we have nothing to gauge ours against; we have no way of knowing how valid our understanding of reality is. We might all agree on what ‘real’ means, and share much the same experience of it, but that doesn’t mean human perception is the only way things can be perceived, or anywhere near the most conscious way. The universe we see is 13.7 billion years old and has countless billions of galaxies, each with billions of suns, many with planetary systems. And what about other universes that might exist alongside ours; that could have existed far longer than ours? (Forever leaves plenty of time for anything to have happened.)

The overwhelming odds are that conscious awareness has arisen elsewhere, and some of it could be as far ahead of ours, as ours is ahead of bacteria, with correspondingly more dimensions to its understanding of reality. So it may well have progressed far further than our current understanding of physical realness, and seen far deeper than ‘our’ laws of thermodynamics, entropy, gravity and so on that we assume physical matter has to obey so as not to violate the narrow channels of our limited thinking.

Which came first: consciousness or physical matter? Evolution, so far as science has managed to ascertain, is entirely physical in that it acts on physical things, like bodies and brains, which are just atoms. (A speculative notion that everything has consciousness is known as panpsychism. From there – and purely as a thought exercise – you could wonder if consciousness starts in the smallest component parts of atoms at the quantum scale. Or in the superstrings that String Theory suggests are resonances in fundamental energy that create everything in our physical reality.)

Most scientists firmly resist the notion that consciousness, in any shape or form, could exist independently of physical matter. There isn’t supposed to be anything, anywhere, other than physical matter. (Apart from the consciousness our brain is said to ‘make’.) Neuroscientists are working to try and reverse-engineer consciousness to discover if/how it corresponds with the machinery of the brain. The problem, though, involves figuring out how something immaterial with no physical parts, could be manufactured by something made only from physical parts.

To the knotty question of how or why physical components could even begin to design something exclusively non-physical, remind yourself that everything you are is what your consciousness is. No consciousness, no you; just anonymous atoms. So when you go, where do you go to? Although you think of yourself as physical, it’s when you realize what ‘thinking’ of yourself as physical actually means that things become difficult. The conscious you has no trouble thinking of itself as physical (even though it is a delusion). But can you also delude yourself that the physical you is capable of thinking of itself as conscious?

I’ll end this by saying space isn’t the final frontier – consciousness is. Space is just more of the same old thinking on physical phenomena. The spacetime we perceive is only a few of the physical dimensions that came out of the big bang. The thinking is that there need to be 10 or 11 to make sense of our current physics. Were we to confine our thinking to these physical dimensions and go on trying to wring consciousness from physical matter, we’d go in ever reducing circles and get nowhere. But that won’t happen. Our consciousness will evolve to encompass what now seem like heretical ideas. The dinosaurs that perpetuate old reductionist dogma will die off and be superseded by warm blooded new thinking on the idea of consciousness as a reality that’s more real than physical phenomena.

Is the world real? (pt 2)

So what is consciousness? Where does it come from?

Keep in mind that ‘we’ exist entirely in the non-physical environment of consciousness. Reality for us is the difference, and the resulting interaction, between the non-conscious physical world and our non-physical consciousness that perceives it. Our physical bodies (and brains) can’t ‘perceive’ anything consciously. As insentient atoms and molecules they’re nothing more than the raw materials of the stuff that consciousness thinks of as the physically real world.

Consciousness is a uniquely different phenomenon; the stuff of perception, knowingness, sentience. Whatever you choose to call it, it alone transforms the world of physically real things into another reality beyond the physical. Whether we as consciousness access another pre-existing reality or create that other reality (or both), that reality is unquestionably not the same reality occupied by the clunky atoms of a mindless physical world. Atoms can’t access our conscious reality, and we can’t access theirs.Which is why we can’t think of ourselves simply as physical organisms with added consciousness; all of our uniquely human – meaning uniquely conscious – qualities are made from whatever the stuff of consciousness is made from. Taking consciousness out of the equation would be taking the human being out.

As consciousness, we were never physical.

As consciousness, we can only ever know about, or come into contact with, anything outside of our own consciousness (other consciousnesses, or the things we call ‘physically real’) as purely non-physical conscious experiences. Consciousness is what we are, rather than merely something we have. Your perceptions of yourself and the world around you – everything from the most vivid physical sensation to the subtlest mental notion – only exist in your consciousness as non-physical ideas.

I know, it’s practically impossible to think of pain, anguish, joy or frustration simply as non-physical ideas, but this is what’s so remarkable about consciousness. In a physical body with a nervous system and brain, consciousness functions as if it is those physical components. Hardly surprising that we have so much trouble knowing what’s real.

If we only know about the world as a conscious experience, why does it feel so physically real?

Precisely because we are conscious of it. Strange as it sounds, our non-physical consciousness is what makes the physical world so real for us. Our consciousness is what brings all of the vibrant colors and nuances of our physical experience of the world and everything in it – ourselves included – into existence.

In a more mundane sense, physical things ‘feel’ real because we – non-physical consciousness – are closely integrated with a body made from physical matter. Our body is part of the physical world and interacts with it, and we have a conscious experience of that physical interaction. The body and brain act as a ‘middle man’ between our consciousness and the rest of the physical world.

What kind of a reality is really out there?

For a start, the apparent ‘realness’ of physical things is merely part of the illusion created by the precise way our consciousness experiences them. Our visual picture of reality, for instance, is part of a process where light waves bounce off ‘physical’ objects and enter our eyes, then cause nerve impulses to jump to our brain. Only then does our conscious mind become aware of ‘seeing’. (It’s a similar story for hearing, touch, smell, taste and the rest of our consciously perceived experiences of physical reality.)

In other words, what we ‘think’ of as physical reality isn’t discrete, solid, definite ‘things’. There are no pre-formed pictures of anything ‘out there’, no sounds, no colors, no textures. Our entire concept of reality – conscious and physical – is actually made from the countless vibrations of minuscule quantities of energy. What we ‘see’ and ‘hear’ and ‘feel’ and so on, we only perceive that way because a few billion years of physical evolution gradually shaped energy vibrations into structures that we now think of as our body, nerves, brain…and mind. As a result of that evolution, we experience other energy vibrations as ‘physical’ reality. On the quantum level of reality, everything is still made from those same energy vibrations.

Is the quantum level of physical reality the real version? 

From what we can deduce, all physical things are made from a series of ever smaller particles – molecules, atoms, nucleons, electrons and quarks – the smallest of which are too small to imagine. All of your physical parts, and all of the other physical things in the universe – except for consciousness – are made from countless numbers of these particles vibrating as energy.

Trouble is, down there at those seemingly irreducibly small (quantum) scales, physical reality behaves a lot differently from how any of us evolved to think it should, or could. At quantum level, a single fundamental particle can be in different places at the same time. These particles appear to travel in waves, but when you look at a single particle, that causes the wave to ‘collapse’, leaving a particle whose speed you can measure, or whose position you can measure; what you can’t measure are both at once, because measuring one changes the other. Then there’s ‘entanglement’ where quantum objects affect each other regardless of how far apart they are. Another notion suggests quantum effects create parallel universes. Quantum level weirdness is so weird it has to be described using words like probability and uncertainty, even though some of its effects are verifiable scientific fact. 

The quantum world isn’t ‘weird’; we are.   

 Our view of the quantum world as weird is a result of how our consciousness interfaces physical reality. The atoms of our physical senses and brains are made from quantum particles in the form of energy vibrations, so our conscious perceptions depend on quantum activity to tell us about the realness of the physical world both inside and outside ourselves. But as we don’t know where consciousness originates, what it is, or how it interacts with physical processes, it’s unlikely that science is anywhere close to understanding quantum level ‘weirdness’. (Quantum stuff is so excruciatingly complicated that our understanding of it only extends as far as telling us that it really is so complicated.) Even so, it’s simple compared with consciousness…

Note: The current scientific consensus is that physical brains make non-physical consciousness. If you accept that notion, you have to ask if there’s an as yet undiscovered inherent capacity for consciousness in every quantum particle, or every atom? Or does it take innumerable quanta/atoms to evolve complex physical processes before the boundary between the total absence of consciousness and the presence of consciousness is crossed? The latter seems more realistic to our human way of thinking, but if you read my other posts you’ll know that I don’t believe we can think about consciousness merely as a by-product of matter, just because we still aren’t smart enough to come up with the right explanation.

We decide what reality is.

The total extent of our scientific understanding of the physical world depends on our conscious awareness (our intellectual grasp of reality) to inform us about the essential nature and behavior of physically real things – atoms, molecules, their smaller quantum components. We construct mathematical proofs that the so-called real world really is the way we think it is, and we assume our view is correct because it appears to make sense of that world in great detail. But it’s an incomplete view, not least because we’re still evolving, and so too is our understanding of the deeper nature of physical reality that our mathematics is meant to represent.

Things are gradually getting more real.

For a growing consciousness, reality is an organic (ok, a consciously organic) and ever evolving concept. Our ability to perceive material reality in the way we do is unique, not only to our degree of consciousness, but also to our kind of consciousness. We have no conception of how a differently evolved – or a more highly evolved – consciousness might see reality. The cosmos is easily big enough and old enough to have produced far more capable intelligences than ours who are able to construct different mathematical proofs that to their way of perceiving reality are equally or more valid that ours.   

Theoretical physics suggests the possible existence of as yet unconfirmed dimensions of physical reality. There may be other kinds of consciousness for which entirely different dimensions of reality – physical and/or conscious – exist; dimensions that our consciousness is neither equipped to perceive nor to imagine.

Good vibrations.

I can understand materialist scientists like Dennett or Dawkins’ contempt for ‘delusional’ spiritual beliefs. I imagine they must feel the same way about those as I do about Creationist ‘thinking’. (Though I’m the author of a book and blog supporting the notion of life after death, I consider most spiritual belief, like religious belief, as confused wishful thinking.) You might think ideas about Creationism and Intelligent Design are harmless enough, but when their advocates insist they receive the same credence as scientifically based facts, they become a problem. On the other hand, in asserting that all things spiritual or religious are nonsense, people like Dennett and Dawkins demonstrate the same evangelical narrow mindedness as Creationists and other religious fundamentalists who try to convert ‘unbelievers’.

Religious or scientific, it’s not a question of intellect, but of a refusal to consider ideas that don’t fit your model of reality. For people like Dennett and Dawkins, their reality model is built from materialist, if not to say reductionist, facts. Of course I’m using a couple of famous names to make a point about materialist science in general: namely, that I can’t imagine materialist scientists devoting much of their thinking time to metaphysical notions except to ridicule them. So their rationality makes them appear dogmatic.

To rational materialists, science and reality are entirely of the physical world. They’d like science to explain the conscious world too, but the plain fact is that it can’t, as most scientists and philosophers who deal with the question of consciousness would probably accept – with the proviso that sooner or later we’re bound to have an understanding of how the brain creates consciousness. Any other view just wouldn’t make sense in terms of what science tells us about reality.

Surely they’re just being realistic? Well yes, so long as you think ‘realistic’ means being convinced that everything in reality – consciousness included – reduces to matter. Trouble is, most people on the planet don’t think that, judging by the many millions who believe in a God or Gods. The thing about notions of God, though, is that they evolve right along with us, as our history shows. But then so do scientific facts.

Now I’m going to talk about energy, a well understood scientific concept and a tried and proven consequence of the laws of physics. In one interpretation, energy is a measure of a physical system’s ability to do work. My understanding is that energy is also physical ‘things’ in the sense that energy and matter are interchangeable. 

But is consciousness energy too? ‘Spiritual’ people seem to think it is, but a more refined kind of energy then matter. Materialists and reductionists on the other hand think that both matter and consciousness boil down to the same as-yet undefined but fundamental stuff – a notion that would probably satisfy the spiritual in one interpretation. For scientists, the fundamental stuff would be the basis of matter, and essentially insentient, but somehow able to give rise to consciousness in a brain. For spiritual people, it would be the basis of consciousness from which everything else, conscious and material, emerges.

As the basis of physical matter, atoms and molecules vibrate. In fact the universe is in constant motion on every measurable level, and that means our bodies are too. At the level of atoms, the electrons that orbit the atomic nucleus aren’t stationary, but exist in a kind of cloud, meaning they could be anywhere within the bounds of that cloud. Even inside the atomic nucleus itself, electrical repulsion of the protons, and angular momentum of the protons and neutrons, means they’re never still either. Down at quantum level, protons and neutrons in the atom’s nucleus are made from quantum particles called quarks held together by more quantum particles called gluons. And sometimes the quantum particles are just particles, while other times they’re waves – it all depends on how you try to pin them down. (Hence their being governed by the Uncertainty principle.)And according to superstring theory, if you went down a few million times smaller that quantum particles, you’d find tiny vibrating strings. This theory says that the precise frequency at which each string vibrates creates a different quantum particle.

Given all of that, it’s not such a great leap to the notion that consciousness must also be composed of, or produced by, vibrations of energy – maybe to make thoughts, perceptions, anything.

In Diary of my life after death, Laurie, the diary’s writer, has her guide explain that everything in her current location (between Earthly lives) is conscious energy, while everything on the material levels is made from denser matter energy. (Energy shaped into physical stuff.) Her guide is, in fact, telling her that consciousness and matter resonate in many different frequencies. As with superstring theory, the lower frequencies ‘make’ all of the so-called materially real things, while the higher frequencies are non-physical experiences. Laurie is told that to be on Earth, her conscious vibrations make an interactive interface with the far lower vibrational frequencies of a physical body. In doing that, both kinds of vibrational frequencies interact to decide the ‘realness’ of everything she sees, hears, feels and experiences. This creates her view of ‘reality’ while she’s on Earth. She’s told that between physical lives there are many different layers and levels of consciousness; the one you come to depends on your own mental level – your personal sphere of conscious awareness. (Laurie’s ‘sphere of consciousness’ is also her personal view of reality, just like on Earth.)

NOTE: In the space between material lives we’re guided through a review of our life on Earth using the life books: screens of energy that allow us to either watch or interact with key scenes from our Earthly life. (I’ll enlarge on the life books in a separate post.)

Here’s another excerpt from Diary of my life after death outlining how vibrational frequencies work:

    In a flash we’re at the library, watching the screen of a teaching Book. I see a woman’s body and recognize her as an idealized version of me so I don’t mind her being naked. (As a matter of fact I look pretty good.) Superimposed on her is what looks like a living rainbow cloud.
“Energy fields,” Ed answers my thought. “In a human body the energy of your mental and physical selves resonates on different frequencies and in multiple dimensions. Put simply, the elements of your physical body are energy resonating at lower frequencies, while the energy of your consciousness resonates at higher frequencies.”
I watch the colors in the rainbow cloud flicker like an aurora borealis as they swirl and intermix inside of her.
“As evolving consciousness, you climb slowly through the frequency bands of your aura,” he says. “You become each of the levels of conscious energy in turn, experiencing a different ‘reality’ on each level. In the process your relationship with your body changes. You become less of a body and more of a mind. You come to represent a more complete and refined expression of Love.”
Ed tells me the physical feelings I experienced as a human being – the ones I based many of my major decisions on – were just side-effects of my body looking out for the genes that built it. In other words, I assigned a world of conscious
meaning to a stream of chemically induced sensations. My body had no mind of its own, yet millions of years of blind evolution had built a nervous system and brain able to commandeer my visiting consciousness. Without even knowing it was doing it, my body was controling me just to help it get its genes copied and reproduced.
“You lost your own conscious identity and assumed that of a genetic organism.”
“But those urges and sensations were what made me human!”
He reminds me that I became human only to learn that I’m infinitely more
than a collection of blind chemical interactions. My extra consciousness was all that made me different from other animals, but being more conscious was pointless if I chose to behave like other animals.
“What about all of the complexity my human mind brought to my relationships?” I ask. “Surely that made me different from other animals!”
“Did your ‘complex mind’ give your reproductive urges, or your subsequent behavior, more ‘meaning’ than for other animals? Did you have a different motive for reproducing than other animals? Did you act out your urges in a different way?”
We both know the answer, despite the excuses I might have come up with.
He says souls experience physicality only to realize it’s not what they are. We all start out perceiving reality as a physical experience, and on that misunderstanding we build history, social structures, values, morality, ideas and religious beliefs. But as our consciousness evolves, the material reality that once seemed so irresistibly real begins to change. Later we recognize that reality as fleeting patterns that form in matter-energy.
Those patterns only seem to have permanence to us as human beings because our consciousness perceives them via nerves and a brain made from the same matter-energy. In occupying a body, all of our perceptions become attuned to the lower, slower frequencies of the matter-energy world.
Ed says that by misinterpreting bodily sensations and biomechanical impulses as my
pains, joys, emotions, loves and fears, I develop habits, neuroses and psychoses, delusions, insecurities and fantasies. From this confusion of physical and mental experiences I fashion memories and compelling ongoing scenarios that shape my view of who and what I am. All of this registers as ‘patterns in my personal energy’ and becomes part of the baggage that I, as a conscious soul, take with me through a succession of lives; baggage that I offload as I gradually learn what’s Really going on.

The monkey suit.

My interest in life after death is nothing to do with religious belief. For me, accounts of the near-death experience and hypnotic between-life regression offer more convincing and relevant evidential support for conscious survival after physical death than religion does. In the context of a much broader reality, the notion of life after death joins up many loose ends and answers important questions about our existence. So why isn’t there a more enlightened attitude to the subject?

Granted, death isn’t everyone’s favorite topic for all kinds of reasons – fear of the unknown and loss of loved ones being just two – yet those who report these experiences give detailed descriptions of events after death that could offer comfort and reassurance in both those areas of concern.

The problem is that second hand reports of an afterlife where the miraculous is normal, can’t compete with the hard physical reality that our senses and brain have been telling us our survival depends on for a couple of million years of evolution. Not surprisingly, most of us are only interested in the physically real world; we’re programmed to be motivated by own personal interests and concerns, which necessarily center on thinking of ourselves as genetic organisms. We’re probably unaware of that fact on a conscious level, but there’s no denying that our thoughts and behavior are those of genetic organisms. Our entire understanding of reality, our deepest urges and instincts, are intrinsic functions of what genetic organisms evolved to do: survive long enough to reproduce their own personal genes. These most basic – and fundamentally mindless – functions have shaped us and our society, our beliefs and understanding of reality at the deepest levels.

A consequence of this basic imperative to survive and reproduce as genes are gods, religions and versions of an afterlife with their origins in the need to survive in this life, where an uncompromising physical reality dictates the terms of existence.

There’s ample evidence for that in the way our concept of God has changed as we’ve evolved – from worship of the forces of nature, the sun and a pantheon of planets, through a wrathful Old Testament God, to whatever deity reflects the way we think of ourselves now.

More evidence that religion is about physical survival is in the way religious faith demands our unquestioning acceptance of its version of God, and a specific set of rules and beliefs, over alternative ideas and dogmas. Limiting our ideas and the freedom to consider alternative explanations is central to the concept of religious belief, but only a fool would deny that ‘truth’ tailored to suit human ideas of God has stifled progress and open minded inquiry. Instead it breeds closed minds and intolerance. Religion’s original role was to protect the interests of rival tribes in their squabbles over resources. This same motive has been all too evident throughout human history, and still applies today. We can only refute the claim that man makes God in his own image by deluding ourselves that we don’t evolve. But then self-delusion is one of our most basic traits.

Of course, accounts of near-death experiences and hypnotic regression could simply be more self-delusion; It all depends on what we choose to believe. But given the physical foundations for our understanding of reality, a belief in the metaphysical should make no sense, and yet millions of us still hold those beliefs, along with notional promises of an afterlife, and instructions on how to attain it.

So is the idea of life after death all in our mind? An intriguing thought, especially when, for us, everything is in our mind, including our understanding of reality, and even our conscious selves. Without conscious awareness there can only be oblivion.

Is that all we have to look forward to when we die? Those who report the existence of another reality after physical death tell us that by leaving behind the restrictions imposed by a physical body, our consciousness is free to experience more of its essential self, allowing us entry to near boundless dimensions of heightened awareness. They say it’s precisely by being part of a material body that our consciousness is constrained, damped down by physical matter. It seems that while we’re in a human body with a nervous system and brain, circumstances simply don’t allow us to comprehend a reality that’s not dependent on three material dimensions plus a linear concept of time. (The ability to postulate the existence of more dimensions does nothing to erase our delusions, or the fact that the genetic parts of us were created by the origins and circumstances of this particular designer ‘reality’; while our consciousness is inhibited by it, we have little choice but think, feel and behave as reflections of it.)

There’s also the small matter of an instinctive conviction that we can only continue to exist by surviving and reproducing as genes. This conviction built our psyche; little wonder we can’t envisage a conscious, post death reality free of chemically induced urges, emotions and sensations. For many of us, these are the very things that make life worth living; why would we want to be free of them? (No less pointless a question than asking why we’d want to evolve from single celled organisms.) But perhaps for many of us it’s enough to exist merely to help genes replicate and reproduce themselves.

Here’s another clip from Diary of my life after death:

‘I know the notion of an afterlife – heaven, Valhalla, paradise, the happy hunting ground, whatever – is core to human culture. I also know that many folks on Earth think death is about gloom, misery, tombs and loss.

‘One of the tuition programs I looked at gave the impression that neuroscientists on Earth think notions of an afterlife are an evolutionary design feature to make us feel better about the inevitability of death while we’re alive. They say near-death experiences and out-of-body trips happen when a brain is starved of oxygen, or maybe when the part where emotions happen gets flooded with feelgood chemicals. They say the euphoria, visions and memory reruns during a near-death experience are all just a result of one kind of brain activity or another.

‘To atheists that must sound pretty plausible, and yet scientific plausibility wouldn’t recognize itself if it traveled back fifty years, or forward just a few.

‘From up here it’s obvious that scientists know as much about an afterlife as most other folks do: zip. They’d have you believe consciousness is made by a brain built from star debris dumped into space by old suns. (It did feel that way to me some days.)’