From time to time I hear mention of universal consciousness, the concept that the universe itself is alive and aware in some way, that we are all part of this larger being. I admit it's a compelling thought: that we are all connected. Would that it was true -- at least, in a positive way (since I can imagine negative aspects to this).
Unfortunately I see no evidence that we are thus connected, in that way at least. We are logically connected, of course, all being thinking beings and able to communicate in a variety of amazing ways. But whether one is thousands of miles away, or merely feet or even inches away, from another person, one cannot "read" what that person is thinking without external indications such as voice and facial expression and the like. As far as can be determined, our thoughts remain within our brains. No cerebral wifi.
Some of these things can be quite subtle and even subconscious, but nevertheless subject to explanation. Actual telepathy has never been shown to exist, and it has been tried. James Randi famously offered one million dollars to anyone who could prove psychic powers in a scientific test. No one has ever been able to claim it.
To me psychic ability ties into the idea of universal consciousness, but I suppose it wouldn't have to necessarily. As always, I'd acknowledge that we don't know everything, or even all that much in a universal sense, and that it's possible that some "force" or "energy" ties us all together. To quote Babylon 5, "we are the universe trying to figure itself out." But there are no indications that it's true, and many hints that it's not. Each of us is in some ways quite isolated from all the others. Many of us live thousands, or hundreds, or dozens of miles, or perhaps even less, from some horrific acts being committed, and yet are utterly unaware of them in a purely natural sense.
We don't get Obi-Wan's sense of a "great disturbance in the force". At least, such is my experience.
Does the idea of "universal consciousness" require such interactions?
I in no way claim that universal consciousness is a certainty. It is however an intriguing and exciting idea with some factors on its side and has been proposed by many very astute physicists. It is also expressed in ancient Vedic philosophy and is the basis for Transcendentalism and New Thought religions
In order for the concept to make sense you almost have to realize that individual self-hood as a bodily organism is nothing but an illusion. How could that be when each person has unique thoughts, emotions and memories? Those things are bodily attributes that die with the body. What we have in common is a deep conscious awareness of Self, which relates to volition or free will. In other words, when I make a consciously aware decision, that is not my personal decision but that of universal consciousness. Perhaps our bodies are nothing but robots, finely made for sure but lacking self-awareness. A robot might get along and survive for a while with its sensors, its own programming. Its knowledge base. But eventually, to stay alive and out of jail it needs conscious input.
As an analogy, think of a fleet of self-driving cars. Those cars have no true awareness, yet they can function alone for routine daily chores. But they need input from a conscious entity to perform properly for very long. Even though each car has unique memories and a unique body, it is not a self. Only when consciousness observes those unique traits does the illusion of selfhood arise.
Cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman has some penetrating ideas. What should be universally acknowledged is that our perception of reality is purely symbolic and artificial. Ultimate reality beyond can not be truly understood in terms of our space/time/matter model,