Consciousness and the Quantum:
Metaphor, Mechanism, Cosmology
By: Mark Bancroft, MA
An Introduction to the Study of Consciousness
Humankind has attempted to define consciousness for thousands of years. Proclaiming consciousness to be the great mystery humankind has ever encountered may initially seem an exaggeration; yet, when the nature of consciousness is explored, the statement appears to hold true. Today, the mysterious and elusive nature of consciousness, despite the fact that it is our most intimate reality, prevails. The ironic fact is that consciousness is experienced; it is experience; and at the same time seems insistent upon avoiding explanation. Consciousness is not an anomaly a hundred thousand light years away; it is here, right now, being experienced as these words are being both written and read.
Scientific explanations for consciousness primarily focus upon discovering the mechanism (cause) responsible for the phenomenon. The approach is to maintain the preferred third-person inquiry which has proven itself most successful in describing cause and effect relationships. Through this approach the ideal is to realize an objective definition which accounts for the presence of consciousness. In this context consciousness is examined as an object. Through advances in neuroscience and the contributions of cognitive science valuable knowledge has been obtained which likely describes the physical correlates of consciousness. However, consciousness as subjective experience remains unaccounted for; the mystery continues.
Experience is the problem, according to David Chalmers. "The really hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience. When we think and perceive, there is a whir of information processing, but there is also a subjective aspect [course reader, p.56]." He equates the "easy problems" of consciousness to explaining physiological and neurological activity comprising the physical correlates of consciousness. More importantly, Chalmers draws our attention to the confusion resulting in haphazard application of the word "consciousness". The word consciousness is used by some to denote awareness; and for many authors writing on the subject it becomes equated to cognitive abilities and functions [course reader]. Ultimately, Chalmers is asking that the word "consciousness" be used in reference to the philosophical distinction of consciousness versus non-consciousness. Adhering to the distinction is an effective way to divert confusion and misunderstanding. In this respect, consciousness is used to mean sentience; the locus of a point of view; that there is something it feels like to a sentient being. Non-consciousness means there is nothing it is like to be an insentient being [course handout]. Roger Walsh echoes the advice of Chalmers stating, "the term consciousness is used in many ways and that future progress may depend on clearer, more precise definition and usage of the term [course reader, p.39]."
Clarity on what is meant by the word "consciousness" is critical, it allows the discourse on consciousness to continue in a somewhat coordinated manner. Now, the exploration into the nature of consciousness focuses upon accounting for subjective experience; sentience. Central to the debate on consciousness is whether or not subjectivity can be accounted for by objective explanation. Neuroscience and cognitive science are approaching consciousness through a study of correlates. Consciousness is believed to arise from a functional system of sufficient complexity. This approach implies the separation of knower and known (subject and object). However, if subjectivity is inherent in consciousness this means that the subject is the knower- the object is the known [lecture notes]. Yet, despite this apparent truism, a definitive explanation of consciousness (subjective experience) continues being pursued through this approach. The explanatory gap between physical correlates and subjectivity remains insurmountable. (back to top)
Understanding Consciousness Through Quantum Metaphor
Instead of abandoning scientific methodology altogether, another group of explorers have turned to quantum physics to help explain consciousness. Some of these explorers continue the search for the mechanism responsible for consciousness; the mechanistic approach continued at another level. Other explores, focusing in on the quantum realm, believe quantum metaphors may be of service in explaining the nature of consciousness. A third group has entered into quantum land and emerged with new theories, cosmologies, designed to explain the nature of consciousness. Finally, some have simply deduced that quantum physicists are essentially mystics in disguise. The notion that science and mysticism have come together is not unpopular. Quite a few are now convinced that the mystic's robe and the scientist's lab coat clothe the same beliefs of reality- the temples of Western civilization are the laboratories of modern science.
The appeal to explain consciousness via quantum physics is derived largely in part by the paradoxical nature of the subatomic domain which opposes the dictates of reductionism. Newtonian science proved inadequate to account for quantum strangeness; nor could adequately account for the subjective experience of consciousness. Discoveries in quantum physics appeared more capable of offering potential explanations for consciousness and are currently being utilized to attempt to bridge the explanatory gap. John Battista proclaims, "Thus, the breakdown of the dualistic worldview during this century challenges science to reconceptualize the relationship between consciousness and reality [reader, p.119]." A brief exploration of four of quantum physic's major discoveries will demonstrate how and why many are turning to the quantum realm for answers to explain consciousness.
The emergence of quantum physics dates back to the 1890's to the German physicist Max Planck. Planck posited a theory which explained the inconsistencies surrounding black-body radiation. Light, at this time was well understood to function as a wave; therefore, the color of light being emitted from hot objects should directly correspond to the object's temperature. Such was not the case, for as the heat of an object increased the color (light emitted) did not proportionally change. Max Planck, in 1900, explained the phenomenon by postulating that light is emitted or absorbed in packets of definite size, which he called quanta. Thus, light, once considered a wave, was now beginning to be described as a particle (which later became known as a photon) with wave-like characteristics.
In 1987 the wave/particle duality of the photon was directly observed through the double-slit experiment. Thomas Young demonstrated that light behaves as a wave. The plotting of single photons sent through the double-slit experiment, one at a time, miraculously revealed an interference patterns which is indicative of wave behavior. "In the two-slit experiment, if the physicist looks for a particle (uses a particle detector) he will find a particle; if he looks for a wave (uses a screen), he will see a wave pattern before him [Zohar & Marshall, 1994, p.41]." Another experiment, by Albert Einstein, demonstrated the particle-like nature of light by explaining how light could collide with electrons resulting in the photoelectric effect. The double-slit experiment showed that the quantum has the ability to be either a particle or a wave (wavicle), depending upon the set up of the experiment. However, to fully account for the quantum, both wave and particle characteristics need to be recognized. Given this dual-nature of the quantum, the paradox arises, "how can something be both confined to a small space and spread out all over space [course handout]?"
The wave/particle duality provides a scientific grounding for metaphorically establishing complementarity as an essential characteristic of consciousness. Rather than approaching consciousness from an "either/or" perspective, the metaphor of complementarity (and/both) expands the scope of inquiry to include first-person and second-person perspectives. And, it is here that we witness the fortification of duality breaking down. Rather than a radical split between mind and matter (phenomenon and numenon), innovative researchers are creating models of consciousness which maintain the inseparability of the two.
The second paradox of quantum physics is the paradox of uncertainty and indeterminacy. Related to the wave/particle duality is the uncertainty principle developed by Werner Heisenberg. This principle maintains that it is impossible to measure (know) both the position and momentum of any quantum object at the same time [Gribben, 1995]. Mere observation of either the quantum's momentum or position disturbs the quantum particle. Therefore, measuring one condition causes an effect making the corresponding condition impossible to know. Amazingly, the impossibility of knowing both the momentum and position of a quantum object is not the result of unsophisticated measuring devices. The quantum object is intrinsically uncertain. "A quantum object does not have a precisely defined momentum and a precisely defined position. The electron itself does not "know" within certain limits where it is or where it is going [Gribben, 1995, p.17]."
Uncertainty is an intrinsic characteristic of quantum events. It is impossible to predict quantum events and; therefore, we cannot know the cause of a quantum event for quantum events are uncaused [course handout]. The mystery is howcan something happen without a cause? Without a cause quantum events may be completely random. This may also mean that quantum events inherently possess choice; or are "guided" by an unseen "order".
Applying the uncertainty principle as a metaphor for consciousness supports the notion that consciousness cannot be "pinned down" with precision- by its very nature it is impossible to grasp. The indeterminacy discovered at the quantum realm supports the intuition that consciousness inherently embodies choice- it is not random, nor deterministic. Through quantum physics, the models of consciousness which recognize freewill and the absence of boundaries as essential characteristics are taken more seriously. If the ultimate "stuff" of matter is indeterminate and 'a-causal', why should consciousness be thought of as deterministic and causal?
The third great paradox offered to us from quantum physics deals with nonlocality. Quantum investigators have offered up proof which maintains that in the quantum realm space between two particles in inconsequential; communication between two points (particles) can be instantaneous. The theory of relativity states that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. If two particles could communicate instantaneously it would imply that either the theory of relativity is incorrect, or the two particles are somehow interconnected. Einstein postulated that "hidden variables" could account for nonlocal interaction. Throughout history the very notion of nonlocality has been look down upon with distaste, "Isaac Newton once remarked that no philosopher in his right mind could imagine that such leap-frogging forces might exist in nature [Herbert, 1993, p.149]."
Despite the repugnance and apparent impossibility of nonlocality, Alain Aspect and John Clauser proved that nonlocality must actually exist in the real world [Herbert, 1993]. This meant that in order to have reality, it must be interconnected throughout, "If you want to believe in a real world out there, you cannot do without nonlocality; if you want to believe that no form of communication can take place faster than the speed of light, you cannot have a real world, independent of the observer [Gribben, 1995, p.159]." Essentially, the universe is interconnected, for that which comprises all physical matter is subject to quantum nonlocality.
This affirmation is remarkably similar to the teachings of many religions and the words of the mystic. It is here that talk of the quantum physicist and theologian describing the same reality finds its stronghold. This remains highly suspect. What is not understood is that quantum physics can never get at ultimate reality; in fact, it may have nothing to do with ultimate reality at all [lecture notes]. However, the metaphor of nonlocality does seem to help describe the nature of consciousness. This is demonstrated most clearly by Carl Jung, and will be discussed later in this paper. What is clear, is that nonlocality supports the claim of consciousness researchers who state that consciousness cannot be understood through reductionism.
The fourth key paradox offered by quantum physics is found in the Copenhagen Interpretation. Developed in 1930 by Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, and Max Born, the Copenhagen Interpretation maintains that the experimenter (observer) and his/her experiment are inseparable; there is no such thing is an independent observer not affecting the experiment. The theory maintains that reality exists in the form of probability waves. Physical objects only "appear" due to the collapse of their probability waves (Schrodinger wave function) by a conscious observer.
In its simplest form, it means that any quantum experiment must include everything about the experiment's setup, including the experimenter [Gribben, 1995]. The easiest way to understand this is to recall that the outcome of the experiment is dependent upon the experiment's setup. In the double-slit experiment; if a screen is used, waves will be detected; if a particle detector is used, particles will be detected. The experimenter choosesthe setup and consequently his/her consciousness participates in the quantum system by collapsing the wave function [lecture notes]. (back to top)
Applying the Quantum Metaphor Model
Metaphoric application used to explain consciousness affirms the pivotal role of subjectivity in consciousness research. Not only is the object being investigated subjective experience, anyresearch done is subjectively influenced by the experimenter who is a participant in the experiment. Andrew Weil gives a good description of the subjective nature associated with consciousness research. In researching the effects of psychoactive drugs he has discovered the powerful role of "set" (conscious and unconscious expectations of the subject), and "setting" (the physical, social, and cultural environment in which the drug is taken) upon research experiments. "The power of set and setting is vast; if you ignore these variables in trying to interpret responses to drugs, you do so at your own peril [course reader, p.251]." The necessity to acknowledge the subjective essence inherent in consciousness research serves to remind us that the dictates of traditional science are ineffective in this area.
Carl Jung developed a quantum metaphor of consciousness based on a-causal (synchronistic) manifestations of mind-matter relationships [course handout]. For Jung, consciousness demonstrated the indeterminate and participatory nature of the quantum domain through synchronistic events. The first sentence of Jung's book, Synchronicity, reads, "The discoveries of modern physics have, as we know, brought about a significant change in our scientific picture of the world, in that they have shattered the absolute validity of natural law and made it relative [1960, p.5]." Jung likened synchronistic events to, ""coincidences" which were connected so meaningfully that their "chance" concurrence would represent a degree of improbability that would have to be expressed by an astronomical figure [1960, p.21]." He affirms the insignificant effects of space and time surrounding such events, and points out their numinous quality as experienced by the individual. Fascinating stories are presented in the first chapter of the book depicting the occurrence of events which exhibit seemingly impossible causal relationships that defy the limitations imposed by space and time.
Jung sees synchronicity as a psychically conditioned relativity of space and time . He asserts space and time to have a "precarious" existence which becomes "fixed" concepts in the course of mental development; "In themselves, space and time consist of nothing" [1960, p.20]. Due to this, he maintains space and time to be essentially psychic; thus, a-causal events are nothing other than the psyche observing itself. In an experiment where a subject correctly guesses the order of 25 cards, Jung would have said this is a product of "pure imagination", which reveals the structure producing the event- the unconscious. Jung continues on by stating that the archetypes constitute the structure of the collective unconscious which represents a psyche that is identical in all individuals. The individual's psyche is experienced; the "collective psyche", according to Jung, cannot be directly perceived or represented. He termed the foundation of this "irrepresentable", collective psyche the "unus mundus", which is an indivisible continuum of "psychoid" events [course handout]. "Psychoid" is not meant to represent a psychic quality in the proper sense [Jung, 1959]; it means, "of the nature of both psyche and matter" [course handout]. As the realm of a-causal archetypes, the "unus mundus" lies below the quantum realm and the unconscious psyche [course handout].
Consciousness, as individual psyche, occasionally experiences synchronistic events which reveal interconnection. Uncertainty is also described as the nature of consciousness in that its deepest attributes ("unus mundus") are "irrepresentable" and impossible to know. Indeterminacy is exhibited in a-causal events which Jung considered volitional, not random mishaps. Finally, we see the participant-observer metaphor displayed in the relationship between a person's psyche and the "unus mundus". While it is incorrect to equate Jung's "unus mundus" with the describednature of the quantum realm, the depicted characteristics of each do share fundamental similarities.
Ronald Valle follows a more explicit approach in utilizing quantum metaphors to help explain consciousness. Valle believes that the area of psychology must undergo a fundamental transformation similar to the one undergone by quantum physics in which traditional assumptions were brought into question and found too restricting. He contends that the assumptions held in traditional psychology (objectivity, measurability, mutual agreement) are too limiting and fail to address essential characteristics of consciousness.
The wave/particle duality in quantum physics is used as a metaphor to help explain the nature of consciousness. Valle asserts that humans have both "particle-like" and "wave-like" characteristics. Traditional psychology has focused exclusively on the "particle" side which he equates to behavior, due primarily to the fact that behavior can be objectified, measured, and mutually agreeable upon. The "wave" side of consciousness associated with volition (freewill combined with direction) and volitional intentionally (consciousness "tending toward" an object/ engaged subjectivity) has gone virtually ignored in traditional psychology [course reader]. The "wave" aspect of consciousness is likened to the mind's stream of associations; and to the Eastern notion of thought-waves which are considered an inseparable part of the universe, as are matter and energy [course reader]. The volitional characteristic of "wave consciousness" demonstrates indeterminacy; opposed to randomness and determinism, human's exhibit the capacity to choose. Valle concludes, "human behavior can never be predicted with certaintybecause of its intrinsic "wave" nature [course reader, p.146]."
Due to the "wave" factor and the inescapable influence of others upon an individual, Valle proposes that any new psychology must address the individual in relational terms. It is impossible to account for a person's emotion, thought, or behavior without considering the interconnected nature of consciousness. Present throughout Valle's proposal for a new psychology are the quantum metaphors of complementarily (consciousness has both "wave" and "particle" characteristics); indeterminacy (volitional quality of consciousness); interrelatedness (person must be seen in relational terms); and, participant-observer(purely objective study is an impossibility).
Ronald Valle demonstrates how quantum metaphors can be used to help explain the nature of consciousness from a psychological standpoint. Common sense affirms his position that consciousness does possess volition and is more adequately addressed in relational terms; rather than traditional approaches portraying it as an isolated, analyzable object. Valle's work also draws upon quantum physics to demonstrate the limitations and relative nature of traditional assumptions that are still being utilized in the field of psychology.
Unfortunately, in Relativistic Quantum Psychology, the author draws heavily from the work of Fritjof Capra to support his position. As a result, questionable assumptions held by the author go unquestioned. Capra's assertions that, "Quantum theory thus reveals a basic oneness of the universe," and, "This means that the classical ideal of an objective description of nature is no longer valid…we can never speak about nature without, at the same time, speaking about ourselves [course reader, p.142]," are included to lend creditability to the development of a "new psychology". The distinction between the quantum realm and the experienced macrocosmic world goes unrecognized. The metaphors of quantum physics do appear to offer insight for psychology; but, using quantum physics to validate the need for a "new psychology" may prove unwarranted. (back to top)
Understanding Consciousness through Quantum Mechanism
Quantum physics and consciousness are also brought together in mechanistic fashion in an attempt to explain consciousness. The mechanistic approach to consciousness through quantum physics regards consciousness as an emergent phenomenon generated by quantum events; namely, quantum coherence which may result in macroscopic quantum states. Two such approaches focus specifically on quantum coherence as the cause which gives rise to consciousness. The first approach, by Stuart Hameroff, has turned to cytoskeletal microtubules as the potential site giving rise to consciousness. Hameroff points out that while the approach is reductionist in that it specifies a particular site for consciousness; it is also dualist for the quantum realm is considered to act through the specified site (in this case the microtubule) [course reader].
Hameroff believes that the difficult problems of consciousness faced by neuroscience may be solved by the inclusion of a quantum "ground level" for consciousness. The microtubule is considered by Hameroff to be the most likely location from which consciousness emerges. Regarding consciousness as a macroscopic quantum state helps to account for the similar paradoxical nature existing between consciousness and quantum physics: the sense of one self (nonlocality); freewill (indeterminacy); intuitive processing (quantum superposition); reversible ablation by general anesthesia (absence of coherence); and differences between pre-, sub-, and non-conscious processes and consciousness (collapse of wave function) [course reader].
To account for how brain-wide activities result in a singular perceptual entity (known as the "binding problem"), Hameroff is in agreement with Crick and Koch in that the coherent firing of widely-distributed neurons in the 40Hz range is likely to play a part in binding that results in a singular sense of self [course reader]. Hameroff believes that inclusion of nonlocal quantum coherence at the site of the microtubule within the brain's firing neurons explains the experience of "self"- consciousness. The effect of anesthesia on consciousness, Hameroff speculates, may be explained via interference within the microtubules which results in a loss of quantum coherence. He states, "general anesthesia is the absenceof consciousness [course reader, p.165]." He does not account for the subjective experience (consciousness) sometimes reported by individuals while they are in surgery. Clarity between non-conscious and unconscious may be needed to account for this phenomenon and the NDE experience.
According to Roger Penrose, emergent theories, such as Hameroffs, maintain consciousness appears only in brains, due to the brain's subtle and complex organization- this, he says, "is not a sufficient explanation" [Scott, 1996, p.127]. In Quantum Coherence of Microtubules, Hameroff takes the position that consciousness emerges at a "critical" amount of nonlocal quantum processing relating to neural structure; and contends that the microtubules are the most likely place for this to occur. This position helps determine a boundary that implies consciousness is reserved for evolved organisms. Without this; the "fabric" of consciousness could theoretically exist in single-cell organisms; perhaps within matter itself (panpsychism). Although he does not accept panpsychism at this time, seeing it as the, ""binding problem" taken to the extreme;" he has begun to lean in this direction [course reader] [course handout]. Interestingly, Hameroff has suggested that quantum reality may consist of a dual-aspect "funda-mentality" (physicality andmentality); a view eerily approaching panpsychism [course handout].
The second approach, by Dana Zohar, focuses upon the coherent alignment of electrons in proteins within the neuron's membrane, or of the electrons in the water of the neurons, as the emergent site of consciousness. "Bose-Einstein condensates" is the technical term for the coherent alignment of electrons. At this time, Bose-Einstein condensates are considered, "the most highly ordered and highly unified structure possible in nature" [Zohar & Marshall, 1994, p.74]. As a result, the wave functions overlap; the "parts" are able to "get inside" each other. Identity is shared, and they possess a high degree of agency (exhibit "choice making" behavior). Given these properties, Zohar theoretically postulates that Bose-Einstein condensates may function as the physical basis for unified consciousness and the experience of freewill [Zohar & Marshall, 1994].
While Zohar maintains that Bose-Einstein condensates are likely to function as the physical basis of consciousness, she does not state that they are the cause of consciousness. She believes that reality at the quantum level is neither physical nor mental; but rather, something altogether different which gives rise to each; "Both mind and matter are derived from the quantum realm" [course handout]. Both Zohar and Hameroff offer physical mechanisms based on quantum coherence that may be instrumental for bodily conscious experience. However, neither the microtubules or Bose-Einstein condensates explain consciousness. Donald Moss equates physiological properties of consciousness (neuron, microtubule, etc.) as the parts of an automobile engine. Consciousness is equated to a funeral procession. He points out that while the engine is a condition for the possibilityof the funeral procession, and instrumental to it; the experience, meaning, and direction of this "procession behavior" cannot be accounted for (explained) by studying the engine [course reader]. To understand the funeral procession one would need to describe the conscious experience (turn to phenomenology for help). (back to top)
Understanding Consciousness through Quantum Cosmology
Rather than abandoning quantum physics and embracing phenomenology, another approach explores the quantum as consciousness. The philosophy of monistic idealism presented by Amit Goswami, and Arthur Young's reflexive universe, offers two additional approaches to consciousness via the quantum domain. Goswami contends that "material realism cannot be saved," and that two questions must be answered, "1. Why does the macro universe look so real? and 2. Without realism how can we do science?" [Goswami, 1993, p.137].
Goswami proposes the resolution that material realism be incorporated within monistic idealism. Monistic idealism is the antithesis of material realism. It maintains that consciousness is the fundamental reality determining both mental phenomena and matter. Furthermore, there is considered to be a transcendental realm which is the source of both material and mental phenomena. Goswami asserts that the paradoxes of quantum physics, which seem to demand inclusion of a conscious observer, are evidence supporting the philosophy of monistic idealism. He states,
"the universe exists as formless potentia in myriad possible branches in the transcendent domain and becomes manifest only when observed by conscious beings[Goswami, 1993, p.141]."
Although Goswami presents the philosophy of monistic idealism in an appealing fashion; his reliance on quantum physics seems unmerited. Inferences drawn from quantum experiments take on the quality of being objective evidence validating Goswami's position, "…quantum mechanics sides with idealism in saying that it is impossible to calculate the trajectory of a quantum object because a trajectory does not exist, only possibilities and observed events exist [Goswami, 1993, p.115]!" The validity of this statement is definitely open to debate. Zohar's declaration that, "without the physics the theories remain a poetic model, or a metaphor," seems to apply here [Zohar & Marshall, 1994, p.74].
Unlike Goswami's model depicting consciousness as the fundamental reality, Arthur Young developed a cosmology demonstrating the possibility that quantum is consciousness; in particular the photon. Young regards the photon as being the essential reality. The unique characteristic of the photon needs to be understood in order to understand Young's cosmology. To begin with, the photon, or light quantum, is, "generally regarded as a discrete particle having zero mass, no electric charge, and an indefinitely long lifetime" [The American Heritage Dictionary]. It is beyond time, for the photon, having zero mass, travels at the speed of light; the speed at which time does not exist. Space is inconsequential for the photon; for regardless of the distance traveled it loses no energy. Since time is nonexistent for the photon distance is irrelevant. According to Young, the photon is pure action possessing complete freedom in all dimensions.
Process is the central idea in Young's cosmology. At the highest level, the photon exists as pure, unconstrained action (pure spirit). Next, it creates the dimension of time and nuclear particles (2nd level); followed by the creation of space and atoms (3rdlevel). At the fourth level the photon combines the previous three creations and creates the world of molecular matter. Then, the photon begins its ascent regaining degrees of freedom at each level. The ascent rises upward through matter, plants, animals, until it reaches the first level of pure spirit (consciousness) [de Quincey] [course handout].
Young sees the photon as the entry point for consciousness into the universe. The reason for this is that the photon's apparent uncertainty cannot be distinguished from the photon having freedom, choice, and/or freewill [de Quincey]. Young's conclusion that the photon possesses choice is achieved through rational thought, "If velocity is the derivative of position with respect to time, and acceleration is the derivative of velocity… what is the derivative of acceleration?", the third derivative is control [de Quincey, p.13]. Science clearly accepts first two derivatives. Yet, when it comes to acknowledging the logical third derivative, control, inquiry ceases. Why? Because this would undeniably mean that the photon (a unique subatomic "particle") is conscious! Thus, Arthur Young postulates a credible cosmology in which the quantum is consciousness. And, it is solidly established upon rational deduction.
David Bohm also incorporates quantum physics into his cosmology based on what he terms the implicate order. The implicate order is a reality which exists below the level of the quantum. In contrast to the implicate order (the fundamental reality) is the explicate orderof the quantum and macro worlds. Bohm contends that the non-static implicate order interpenetrates the quantum and macro worlds (explicate order) and functions as a causative agent. Whereas Goswami contends consciousness gives rise to matter; and Arthur Young states the photon is consciousness; Bohm's implicate order is similar to Jung's "unus mundus"-both consider mind and matter to arise from a deeper level; neither mind nor matter are reducible to the other. Also similar to Jung's deep reality is the impossibility of knowing the implicate order; thoughts are seen as static (fossilized) obstructions that block experience of the implicate order.
Mind and matter are enfolded (un-manifest) in the implicate order which is depicted as a unified field (nonlocality) best described as a holomovement. The explicate order arises through thinking; thus, thinking unfolds mind and matter from the implicate order which is experienced as physicality and the sense of "I". The "knower" is an integral part of the holomovement; therefore, consciousness must be included in any theory of the cosmos. According to Bohm, the only way of knowing the implicate order is through the moment to moment process of thinking; the experience of thinking versus holding a stagnant thought. The separated thinker (ego) constitutes an illusion which blocks consciousness from experiencing the implicate order. Once transcended via pure thinking the cosmos may be known.
The holomovement cosmology invites aspiration; ultimate reality can be known through the art of pure thinking. However, if human's do not morally develop (evolve) the holomovment appears arbitrary. More important is the structure of the holomovement cosmology. Mind and matter as expressed in the explicate order are considered irreducible; the philosophical mind/body problem remains unresolved. Even if consciousness is regarded as a form of energy, two elementary problems arise. If consciousness is regarded as being the same as physical energy this would explain how mind and matter interact; but, consciousness would then be reduced to physics.
Regarding consciousness as a different form of energy, the way in which consciousness and physical matter interact remains unexplained. The inclusion of a subtle energy compounds the problem by adding a third energy to the equation. Now the mind/body problem becomes: how does the subtle energy interact with consciousness, andhow does it interact with physical energy? If the subtle energy is regarded as being "subtle enough" to interact with consciousness it simply becomes an extension of consciousness. The mind/body problem is unnecessarily compounded by the inclusion of subtle energy [lecture notes]. (back to top)
Integration and the Evolutionary Model of Consciousness
The mystery prevails. The "hard" problems of consciousness remain unanswered. Subjective experience continues despite our apparent lack of ability to account for it. Exploration of consciousness through quantum mechanism, metaphor, and cosmology has offered intriguing explanations; yet, a conclusive account for consciousness has not emerged. So what can be said about the study of quantum consciousness?
Overall, quantum consciousness points to the strong possibility of a shift in the structure of consciousness itself. Quantum mechanics is explained as a strange, paradoxical subject that is stranger than one can think. Ken Wilber considers consciousness from an evolutionary perspective and maintains that the structure at a particular level of consciousness is eventually subject to transcendence. During a transitory period, old methods and customs fail to perform as they once did. Development into the new structure is described as, "the next higher stage always appears to be a completely "other world," an "invisible world" - it has literally no existence for the individual, even though the individual is in fact saturatedwith a reality that contains the "other" world. The individual's "this-worldly" existence simply cannot comprehend the "other-worldly" characteristics lying all around it [Wilber, 1995, p.267]." Wilber believes that individual autonomy (identification) is being collectively transcended. The new structure beginning to emerge is the introductory transpersonal level associated with clairvoyant cognition, parapsychological drives, and intuition [Wilber, 1980].
The characteristics of quantum physics resembling the changes associated with changes in the structure of consciousness do not equate to literal verification. However, applying Wilber's theory allegorically seems to offer a direction to follow in pursuing the route of quantum consciousness. What is clear is that innovative ideas have emerged in this area; in particular Arthur Young's cosmology. Also evident is the merit of mechanistic approaches with their offering of more precise knowledge pertaining to quantum/neuro correlates. And, quantum metaphor does seem a valuable lead for psychology to follow. Where does the study of quantum consciousness go from here?
The evolutionary model would likely advise us not to embrace Goswami's monistic idealism (overzealous embrace of the newly emerging level); nor would we be counseled to glom onto the microtubule or Bose-Einstein condensates for an explanation of consciousness (maintain the present structure). And, it is likely that literal application of the unknowable "unus mundus" would not be suggested (prior level regression).
Ultimately, the evolutionary model would advise the integration of quantum metaphor, mechanism, and cosmology resulting in a new foundation for the study of consciousness…the birth of "rational-intuitism". (back to top) (back to articles)
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Mark Bancroft, MA, CHT
Nevada City, CA
Article: Copyright (C) 1998. Mark Bancroft, MA, Nevada City, CA, 95959. All rights reserved.