Last week I wrote a piece on Spirituality without Religion in which I tried to point out that the findings of science do not preclude a sense of the Sacred; in fact in many ways the more we discover the more we realize that there are realms (like consciousness) which we cannot seem to know or define scientifically.
The basis of science is a belief in “objectivity” or materialism.
As Deepak Chopra says so eloquently in the video snippet about his new book, The Future of God, “Science has made the universe more mysterious than ever. The unknown and the unknowable has expanded exponentially [due to science]. Science has increased the possibilities of God.”
Deepak adds that, “Unique truth comes to you from an invisible domain.”
Neuroscientists have attempted to “explain” consciousness in scientific terms and make their peace with philosophers, and we can see this in the effort of David Chalmers in his TED talk.
Chalmers joins Deepak Chopra in asserting that Consciousness is “Primary and All Pervasive” but cites examples like “pan psychism” and the work of Giulio Tononi, which attempt to equate consciousness with mathematical complexity. Chalmers said,
“Giulio Tononi has taken this kind of theory and developed it rigorously with a mathematical theory. He has a mathematical measure of information integration which he calls phi, measuring the amount of information integrated in a system. And he supposes that phi goes along with consciousness. So in a human brain, incredibly large amount of information integration, high degree of phi, a whole lot of consciousness. In a mouse, medium degree of information integration, still pretty significant, pretty serious amount of consciousness. But as you go down to worms, microbes, particles, the amount of phi falls off. The amount of information integration falls off, but it’s still non-zero. On Tononi’s theory, there’s still going to be a non-zero degree of consciousness. In effect, he’s proposing a fundamental law of consciousness: high phi, high consciousness.”
Complexity & Infinity Are Subjective
I became interested in Tononi’s work after meeting Tam Hunt at last years Science and Nonduality conference in San Jose. I think there is merit in sensing that the element of complexity is an aspect of consciousness, but let us not lose sight of the fact that the notion of “complexity” is a subjective concept, along with the notion of “Infinity.”
I had a bit of insight into this when I was on an acupuncture table with a friend; we were discussing the common idea that “there is only One Consciousness” which contains everything. I began to make some statements about how this might be possible and my friend said, “don’t forget, ‘Everything means Everything,’” and we both laughed with a deep recognition of the reality that this cannot be known conceptually.
What I feel is a flaw in any theory built on information complexity and what the Scientific “Method” cannot currently accommodate within its scope is that our ability to understand is limited by our Being. Based on our (presumed) five senses and the limits of our cranial capacity or intellectual understanding, our true concept of Infinity is “just one more,” or a bit “more complexity.”
We can see this with supercomputers which discover increasingly large prime numbers, figures that our brains cannot fathom but which calculations confirm are prime – divisible only by themselves and “1.” But we “know” that there are an infinite number of primes – how? Because no matter how powerful a supercomputer, there will always be “one more.”
And that is the implication of complexity – that more complex (the figure Phi of Tononi) can always be “greater.”
BUT THIS CONCEPT OF INFINITY AS JUST “MORE COMPLEX” IS PLAINLY WRONG
This is clearly just plain wrong, because we know there is always just one more of everything, so that the Infinite must be beyond even that. What might this even mean? The closest word we have for this is “dimension,” but truly this is incomprehensible mentally – it can only be experienced.
So if we recognize that Infinity is beyond counting or complexity, then it’s Beyond Mind; it exists in a Dimension beyond conception. One approach to sensing this is illustrated in the movie “Flatland.”
In a hypothetical world of just 2 dimensions (flat), the notion of height is completely unknown until it is experienced, because the mental effort to understand this third dimension in a flat area cannot succeed.
The Essence Of Consciousness
And this is the essence of Consciousness – we know that we know but we cannot ever grasp or know what it is that knows, because we are it. The notion of “Free Will” is another nonstarter when we look more deeply as we discussed in Spirituality without Religion. Within the reality of the Infinite – truly being “All and Everything” where “everything means “Everything” – the notion of a separate self makes no sense.
Identifying the self with the brain because of thought or creating an analogy of the Brain as the CEO of the corporation of “you” seems real, until neuroscientists like David Eagleman probe deeper and discover that there is no CEO with “free will.” It’s just “neurons upon neurons, one thing triggering another, with nothing else coming in.” But then is the Brain/CEO cut off from the rest of reality as a separate self? No indeed.
Eagleman: “It is true that the prefrontal cortex is responding to external stimuli.”
Exactly – the system is not closed. The brain is receiving “Impressions” from sensory data everywhere and we are just beginning to scratch the surface of this reality in the field of Epigenetics. “We” apparently don’t have a “border” at our skin. Just as the cellular membrane is constantly interacting with chemicals in other cells, and light and energy, so are we – as “individual cells” in a “corporation” or more realistically, within “Life.” The collection of cells we call “Tom Bunzel,” for example, is purely a construct of the human mind.
Eagleman: “There is still a gap in our understanding.”
That gap is enormous, particularly when we “assume” that it merely represents a scientific gap in terms of complexity. Quantum Physics supplies an interesting analogy – the quantum leap between electron orbits around a nucleus. There are no “gradations” in the orbits; there is a little more and then a little more (complexity, or information) that results in the electron circling in another orbit.
It is here, and then it is there.
We must accept a similar limitation in our understanding of consciousness. We are, for example, asleep, and then we are awake. Neurologically some of that may even be described in terms of neural activity at some point, but clearly, from our direct experience, we are in one state, and then we are in another.
And where is the “gap?” Seemingly the gap exists only within our own understanding, and the limitations that require us to reduce the reality to conform to our limitations of mind. The notion of complexity is precisely such a reduction of What Is. The Infinite is never “just one more.” It is of a different scale of Being and one that we can only approach with a sense of the Sacred.
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