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Introduction

In the West during the middle ages there was a unified view of the physical and spiritual domains. God was active in all of creation. This changed as experiments increasing came to guide human understanding of nature. The physical world seemed to be animated by simple understandable laws and not by the will of an all powerful being. Spirit and matter seemed to be different realities.

This split was not just conceptual. The objective guidance of experiments accelerated the development of science and led to enormous power to manipulate the physical world through technology. There was no comparable objective guide to the development of spirituality and values. As a result we have enormous power and limited wisdom to use that power. We may destroy ourselves and much of life on this planet unless we can develop our spirituality and values at a rate adequate to cope with the accelerating development of science and technology.

This paper aims to begin to repair the split in world views and to lay the groundwork for developing an objective spirituality. This requires a new conceptual framework and that makes it difficult to communicate. What is the nature of the physical world and what is the nature of our internal stream of consciousness? How are these connected? These questions are so fundamental that our world view is built around the answers we give. This is true even if we never ask such questions. There are implicit answers in how we think about ourselves and the larger world. Those implicit answers are part of the organizing principles of our thought. It can be difficult to suspend these principles to consider different possibilities. That is what the reader must do to understand this paper.

The conceptual framework described here is based on structure and essence. Science aims to understand the structure of physical entities. Essence exists in the stream of consciousness we experience. Science analyzes the blue sky as light of various frequencies. We see the blue sky and have a particular, definite and irreducible experience. That experience has an essential nature that cannot be explained by science or reduced to simpler structures. It just is. Structure and essence are not different realities but different ways of viewing what exists. The Totality Axiom connects these in a unified world view. That axiom is the center point of this paper. The first half develops the background for introducing the axiom. The second part develops its implications and in doing so lays the groundwork for an objective spirituality.

This development begins with an explanation of how and why mathematics has become purely structural. There is no essence or essential nature in mathematical objects. Concepts like numbers, points and lines are defined using the single primitive entity of the empty set in set theory. All branches of mathematics can be formulated in the language of set theory and derived from its axioms. Similarly physics has become totally abstract and mathematical. The digitization of media (sound recording, still images and movies) is a prime example of structure devoid of essence. A DVD contains a sequence of numbers that describes the structure of sounds and images and from which those sounds and images can be generated. The numbers on the DVD contain nothing of the experience of the movie but all of the structural information needed to recreate the experience.

The following section explores essence as the intrinsic nature inherent in immediate conscious experience. It briefly considers the scientifically understood correlations of brain structures with conscious experience. It emphasizes that conscious experience exists on a continuum of complexity and can be independent of language and memory. Human consciousness evolves as a fertilized egg grows to become an adult. Consciousness gradually fade in the tragedy of Alzheimer's disease. All of this suggests that consciousness can exist in many forms different from normal adult stream of consciousness.

The next section develops the Totality Axiom. That axiom states that the essence and totality of the existence of physical structure is immediate experience in some form and that physical structure is the only aspect of immediate experience that can be communicated. This is a strong form of panpsychism or the view that the physical universe is conscious. It also asserts the importance of structure as the aspect of experience we can communicate.

The section on the Totality Axiom describes a number of contemporary views of panpsychism that are similar to that advocated in this paper. The Totality Axiom is justified as the simplest possible assumption consistent with what we know to be true. This is the same justification used for the fundamental laws of physics. It is the best we can do in developing the fundamental assumptions not derivable from more basic ones.

The remainder of the paper focuses on the implications of the Totality Axiom. This begins with a section on the creative nature of mathematical truth implied by Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem. The next section applies this mathematics to the evolution of consciousness. This section shows that the unbounded evolution of consciousness requires ever expanding diversity. In this context the ethical implications of the Totality Axiom are discussed. This leads to a spirituality in which God is the expanding creative evolution of consciousness. God is a journey not a destination. Finally, the spiritual world view that emerges from this approach is connected to existing religious and spiritual traditions.


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