I feel so blessed to have been able to now attend four sessions of the Science and Nonduality conference in San Jose.
Once again, Deepak Chopra spoke on opening night and made a powerful case for the fundamental reality of consciousness within any findings of science.
With respect to mathematics, he noted that there is a palpable omission in terms of noticing the obvious reality that mathematical precision is at the heart of nature, and that many in the field are content to simply “shut up and calculate.”
In fact, the scientific paradigm is hanging on by a thread since we have discovered that Dark Matter has no atoms and can’t comprehend how that is possible, and he noted that strange philosophical constructs like the “Cosmic Casino theory” have no empirical evidence and yet are still discussed as viable “truths.”
Deepak talked about “Math mythology” – the ability to somehow simply ignore consciousness – and brought up the famous conversation between Einstein and the philosopher Tagore in which it was asked, “is there a moon without observer?” – a conundrum that Einstein was unable to truly solve.
Deepak uses the acronym “SIFT” – referring to:
He inquires how these can be accounted for or “explained” in materialistic terms. It seems that they cannot. Science has no explanation for “qualia” – or the quality of experiences, like the taste of wine or the emotions triggered by a beautiful sunset.
In fact, Deepak suggested there is actually “no such ‘thing’ as mind” in a material sense and really, “there is no explanation for anything.”
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Everything is ultimately a concept. A dog does not know “dog” – perhaps the sound of his name but not the idea behind it.
Deepak and physicist Menas Kafatos also had sessions discussing their new book, which will be out in early 2017 – You Are the Universe: Discovering Your Cosmic Self and Why It Matters by Deepak Chopra and Menas C. Kafatos Ph.D.
The following morning I attended a fascinating conversation with Donald Hoffman, Julia Mossbridge, Edward Frenkel, Anthony Aguirre, Federico Faggin, facilitated by Deepak Chopra, dealing with how or if there can be a science of consciousness.
Aguirre, who is a renowned physicist, said that “there were no galaxies before us. Galaxy is a human contract.” His view is that everything is information and information is the opposite of entropy.
Mathematician Edward Frenkel suggested that any science of consciousness must address what it is not and let go of any “why explanations.” He admitted that this raises fears and uncertainty of not knowing, but that the ultimate experience of life is the only “answer.”
Frenkel believes that “description” (of phenomena) is a better role for science than proffering an explanation.
Mathematician Hoffman said that it is vital that we “talk with precision” and understand that any viable scientific notion of consciousness must be “species specific.” For example, we cannot even imagine “being a bat” and experiencing the world as sound.
For Foggini, “consciousness is comprehension and gives context to the information field and gives meaning to existence.” The problem for physics is that we can assume “no privileged position of judgment.”
It would be nice to have an “organization or hierarchy of consciousness,” but we learn through reflection into symbols we create, which means that we need to understand the symbolic versus semantic context within experience has meaning.
For Deepak, even DNA is a construct and symbol; he asked whether math is also species specific.
Psychologist Julia Mossbridge suggested that science is “designed to build useful stories about reality,” but that there can only be direct knowing through experience and verification.”
In the spirit of “Neti Neti” – not this not that, she suggested that being a scientist of consciousness involves “being a good plumber” to “get clear of the gunk – cleaning is the way” by getting rid of false notions of what is the illusive “self.”
Rupert Spira gave another enlightening and clear presentation that even mentioned the Presdiential election, wondering at the lack of civility during the debates, where both candidates were totally trapped by thoughts. He said, “shaking hands is a moment between two thoughts when we stand as one,” and lamented the way communication is taking place.
He quoted Rumi:
“I searched for God and found myself
I searched for myself and found God.”
He also lamented the current “religion of scientific materialism where we suffer inside and have conflicts outside.”
Regarding consciousness, he pointed to the ineffable knowledge that we all have of Being – and asked “is anything other than knowing ever known?”
He said that awareness is the “stretching of attention” and that “the body is object not the subject of awareness.” Using the analogy of consciousness being the screen on which all phenomena appear he said, “you cannot peel the image off the screen. The movie is modulation of the screen and no thought stands apart.”
In a dream, he added that reality is known only by the dreamed separate character who is fooled by division – and yet when the dreamer awakens he realizes that it was all within her.
As usual there was comic relief. J. P. Sears shared his highly enlightened perspective to end the evening activities. He announced his candidacy for president –
I was also very interested in the presentation by philosopher Ken Wilber, whom I have long admired and who appeared via video feed.
Wilber asserted that there are essentially two spiritualities possible – “scientific spirituality,” which he said is a very recent development, and “awakened spirituality” – or the realization of the oneness of consciousness, which has been known occasionally since ancient times.
With scientific spirituality or intelligence there are common patterns which have been studied since the early 20th century, and they parallel the stages of an individual growing up, and actually encompass up to 12 separate intelligences or lines of development.
Wilber said that the stages of scientific spirituality mirror the progression in grammar of letters, words, sentences, paragraphs, and pages, and you “can’t go from atoms to cells and skip molecules” – each stage frames a different worldview and must be experienced and then transcended.
He also pointed out that there are gender differences to be taken into account.
For men the emphasis is on economy and rules.
Women tend to focus on care and responsibility.
Some of the stages of Scientific Spirituality are:
- Egocentric primary narcissism – the toddler stage
- Family and Tribal – where care and identification are only afforded by the family or nation. This stage arrests development of 60 percent of humans
- Universal – care extended to all groups world centric treats all fairly
- Integrated or Cosmic – masculine and feminine expanding care to all sentient being
Awakening, or a “Jesus moment,” can be interpreted at each level, but in the lower levels this religious experience or awakened spirituality is used to justify war, conquest and an attitude of “us versus them.” Only when integrated into the higher levels of scientific spirituality does the direct experience of consciousness lead to true human evolution, which is necessary to save our species.
He said that it is worth noting that awakening to the advanced stages has been found within certain traditions like Sufism, Mystical Christianity, and Kabbalah and that the stages of direct experiences have been known esoterically for centuries and are remarkably similar among different religions and traditions.
He said that the stages of scientific spirituality are also apparent in human evolution:
“Archaic” primitive apes to human (infant)
“Magic” non-differentiated voodoo snake charmers (toddler)
“Mythic” deeply ethnocentric – fundamentalist and literal not metaphorical 10,000 yrs ago (age 5 to ten)
“Rational” means capable of third person perspective; “Buddha” was rational; said that he could not describe awakening rationally (adolescent)
“Pluralistic”- relativistic diversity (young adulthood)
“Integral Cosmo-centric” (adult)
This theory has been tested in forty cultures and the problem is that anyone can stop (stall out) at every level, stranding a spiritual awakening in a lower state of understanding from a rational perspective.
Wilber said that only about five percent of the current population has reached a state of integration of a spiritual awakening within a scientific context and of course that most political and social decisions are made by individuals in arrested, lower stages of development.
He emphasized that scientific spirituality is relatively recent but vital for the survival of mankind.
Finally, I am always interested in sponsors, especially at SAND, and I was intrigued by Apeiron, a company expanding nationally in the area of age regression and human potential whose “approach assists clients to achieve optimal health and limitless potential through optimizing all aspects of health: sleep, stress, nutrition, human movement, hormonal optimization, cognition and inner balance.”
I had a fascinating discussion with Daniel Stickler, Apeiron’s CEO about the “Singularity” – or the widely held belief that artificial intelligence will one day become “conscious” or sentient. When I expressed my belief in reaction to films like Ex Machina, that organic life is an intelligent energy that cannot be simulated or created artificially, Daniel asked me whether that might not be a deeply held “bias.”
I have to consider that once again more deeply because indeed it takes us to the “edge of the unknown.”
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