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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?

Omnedon 7 Jan 25
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I see no reason to believe this at all. That being said there is much that I do not understand. When someone can bring evidence I will be glad to look into it.

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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,

Interesting. I think I understand what you're saying about the body and the conscious mind. However, I do feel that if I make a "consciously aware decision", as you put it, it is in fact my personal decision. In that context, I don't see how a decision made in my own mind is in fact "that of universal consciousness"... Can you clarify?

I don't think are perception of reality is purely symbolic and artificial, though. There are aspects of reality that we don't presently understand, and there are other aspects that seem to be well-understood. Perhaps the issue here is that reality is all-encompassing on all scales. We can't apply the same principles and the same understanding at all levels.

@Omnedon It certainly does feel as though we make individual decisions, and we do—sort of. A robot can be set up to make decisions based on memory and programming, or the decision can just be based on a random number generator. That hardly seems like true free will however, because a robot has no self-awareness. A robot is not a self. Most of our own decisions are made subconsciously and are robotic, but sometimes the light of conscious awareness shines forth and we experience consciously. Through meditation I think the idea becomes clearer.

Most people seem to think that conscious awareness emerges from the body and is nothing but a bodily trait. However, there is no known mechanism whereby a piece of meat with nerves should be aware of its existence. The nature of self-awareness is a profound mystery.

[pocket.co]

Here’s a nifty little article you might enjoy. In the case of multiple personality disorder several personalities occupy a body at the same time. Each person thinks he is the one true owner of the body. No particular one is more real than the others. They are all nothing but illusions.

So far as our perception of reality being symbolic, Donald Hoffman explains that very convincingly IMO.

@WilliamFleming "Subconsicous" and "robotic" don't really equate, but I know what you mean. Research does seem to indicate that decisions are made before the conscious mind is aware of them, and the conscious mind has the illusion of having made them. But regardless of where in the mind the decisions are made -- they're made.

There certainly is a known mechanism (if that's the right word) whereby a "piece of meat with nerves" (meaning a person) can be self-aware. It's just that we don't understand much about how it works yet. But we know it does work, and we are learning. There seems to be no indication that self-awareness originates anywhere other than in the body (primarily in the brain). How is it an illusion that I feel myself to be the owner of my body?

All the evidence seems to say that the brain pretty much defines who we are, though the body and mind are interconnected and affect each other. I know of no evidence that there is something else beyond the body that defines us. This seems to be what you're suggesting, but perhaps I'm mistaken.

@Omnedon As I said before, universal consciousness is speculation. But so is the theory that conscious awareness is created by the brain. Neurological studies might correlate certain thoughts and actions with particular regions of the brain, but that is a long way from explaining deep conscious awareness of self.

There are some great articles on the subject. Here’s one:

[ecstadelic.net]

@WilliamFleming It's not speculation that conscious awareness comes from the brain. Explaining consciousness is a different matter of course; we can't entirely do that yet. We can't explain entirely how the brain works -- but there seems no doubt that it's the source of human thought and consciousness. Universal consciousness is speculation, though.

@Omnedon Yes, thoughts seem to come from the brain. Bodily sentience is not the same thing as deep conscious awareness. You can rig up a robot with sensors and program it to respond in various ways. The robot will have bodily sentience but will not have self-awareness. Thoughts are not conscious awareness.

@WilliamFleming I don't know what you mean by "bodily sentience". Robots don't have sentience or self-awareness. They have sensory inputs and processors and the ability to issue instructions to devices. Are you saying it's possible to think without being self-aware? I wonder if definitions are getting blurred here...

@Omnedon I thought sentience was just to have sensors and to be able to act on sensory information. Computers “think” but are not self-aware.

@WilliamFleming I don't believe that's what "sentience" means; but I hesitate to begin posting dictionary definitions. As I understand it, sentience involves feeling and emotion, not simply sensing the environment. Computers don't actually "think", although increasingly they are able to emulate thought on a very primitive scale. Artificial intelligence is developing quickly, and perhaps someday "computers" in some form will indeed be able to think.

In any case, I think we can agree to disagree on the basic idea of universal consciousness. I tend to view god in a similar way: I can't prove there isn't universal consciousness, but I know of no compelling evidence or reason to believe in it. I also can't prove that the mind does not originate with some unknown phenomenon beyond the physical body; but I know of no compelling evidence to suggest that.

To me this last is borne out by the observable fact that changes to the brain can have changes on the personality and other aspects of the mind. There is the famous case of Phineas Gage, who in an accident had a steel rod blown upwards through his head, and amazingly survived -- but had a different personality afterwards. There's also the fact that chemicals can alter the way the a person feels or acts, in good or bad ways -- antidepressants, for example, or heroine, or alcohol, or any such substance.

@Omnedon I have absolutely no quarrel with your last paragraph.

As far as being in disagreement, neither of us really know for sure anyway. It’s just that I lean toward consciousness as primary. It takes some twisty thinking or rationalization for that to make sense.

Edwin Schrodinger:

“Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.”

Here’s some stuff I have on file that might be of interest:

Universal Consciousness

[scientificamerican.com]

[jcer.com]

[m.huffpost.com]

[google.com]

[bigthink.com]

[ecstadelic.net]?

“Lest the idea of a unitary, group, or universal mind be dismissed as new-age woo-woo, we should note that some of the most distinguished scientists of the 20th century have endorsed this perspective. The renowned physicist David Bohm said, "Each person enfolds something of the spirit of the other in his consciousness. Deep down the consciousness of mankind is one. This is a virtual certainty... and if we don't see this it's because we are blinding ourselves to it." Anthropologist and psychologist Gregory Bateson: "The individual mind is immanent but not only in the body. It is immanent also in the pathways and messages outside the body; and there is a larger Mind of which the individual mind is only a sub-system..." Physicist Henry Margenau: "There is a physical reality that is in essence the same for all... [This] oneness of the all implies the universality of mind... If my conclusions are correct, each individual is part of God or part of the Universal Mind." Nobel physicist Erwin Schrodinger also believed that minds are united and one. He said, "To divide or multiply consciousness is something meaningless. There is obviously only one alternative, namely the unification of minds or consciousness... [I]n truth there is only one mind." [huffpost.com]

That’s about all I know on the subject.

@WilliamFleming What do you mean by "lean toward consciousness as primary"?

@Omnedon I think that conscious awareness might be a fundamental, established entity, and that space, time, matter, etc. are products of that consciousness. Science seems to be coming around to the idea that time exists only in our minds. I think I can see fairly clearly that conscious awareness creates time just as a mental prop.

Imagine that some apocalyptic event wiped out all sentient life for a trillion years, and that then consciously aware beings evolved anew. That trillion years would seem shorter in duration than the blink of an eye from the perspective of consciousness itself. Without conscious awareness the concept of time is meaningless.

@WilliamFleming Well, here again, I'm not sure science is actually saying that. Time does exist. Our perception of time is variable. The evolution of a star happens through time. The star need not be conscious or aware to change over time and go through its life.

@Omnedon in the book Reality is not What it Seems by Carlo Rovelli, according to Quantum Gravity Theory, time does not exist from a cosmic perspective. Time exists within our illusory sense world but it is made out of thought stuff.

Einstein wrote that space and time are modes of thought and are not real.

Time does exist; it's not made of "thought stuff". Time definitely passes. You experience it, I experience it, inanimate objects change as time passes. I suppose it's possible that Einstein wrote what you claim, but it would be counter to his well-known theories regarding space and time; I'm dubious that he actually claimed this, but I could be mistaken.

@Omnedon But what is “exist”? Sure we experience time, but we experience dreams also. Read Rovelli. He’s a top-notch physicist who writes for the layman. One of his chapters is entitled “Time Does not Exist”.

Einstein:

[einstein.stanford.edu]

Note what that Arabic physicist said in 900 AD.

@WilliamFleming Time is real. We experience dreams, but stars do not; however, we experience time, and stars evolve over time. That a physicist wrote a chapter called "Time Does Not Exist" doesn't mean that time does not actually exist.

The quotes from Einstein are interesting; thanks for the link. When he says, "Space and time are modes in which we think, not conditions in which we exist", it seems to go along with the idea expressed elsewhere on that page that space and time are not tangible "things" -- that spacetime is not an actual "fabric". However, that's not at all the same thing as saying that they do not exist or only exist in our minds. We may not really understand the underlying nature of spacetime, but if we question even the existence of spacetime, then we might as well just stop, because then we may not even exist. I don't know a lot of things, but I know I exist and I know I experience the passage of time and can move through space.

@Omnedon That’s great that you know you exist. 🙂

I’m not so sure about my own existence, especially as a unique person in a particular body. I lean toward thinking that that level of existence is an illusion, sort of like watching a computer screen. Your perception of moving through space and time is part of the illusion that your mind creates it’s a very useful illusory model for survival purposes but still only an illusion.

The only thing that I really know is that I experience conscious awareness.Conscious awareness is a profound and inexplicable mystery of the highest order. I can not say that I own consciousness exclusively as an individual self. Conscious awareness is primary, the same for all organisms in all times and places. More likely is that my bodily functions of thinking, remembering, etc. are observed by consciousness. My true “self” is an extension of universal consciousness.

Having said all that, I again stress that it is metaphysics and can not be proven in a scientific sense. The ideas have been proposed by many very intelligent people however, and are worth thinking about IMO.

[pocket.co]

This is a link to an interesting article.

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I’m looking for some studies to that affect but in the meantime here is an interesting article about a conscious universe citing such scientific heavyweights as John Archibald Wheeler, Christof Koch, Sir Roger Penrose and Bernard Haisch

[google.com.au]

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There are only two reasons, that I can see, for taking up a belief.
One is that there is ample evidence to support it. The other is that we have an emotional need to fill.
At the moment, regarding universal consciousness, I have neither.

skado Level 9 Jan 25, 2020
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