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Universal consciousness

Equating the existence of physical structure with conscious experience suggests the possibility of an objective spirituality in which consciousness and meaning are universal and omnipresent. The success of science required a recognition that the earth is not the center of the universe and man is not a special created creature but the product of the same natural process that created all of life. An objective spirituality requires an even greater and more problematic shift in attitude and consciousness albeit one with roots in many religious and spiritual traditions. An objective spirituality will have as ultimate value the creative process and the conscious experience that is its essence.

It is only immediate experience, our own and that of others, that has intrinsic value. We care about other things because of their ultimate impact on experience. The scope of that experience can range from oneself to one's family to a wider population to all of humanity to all sentient creatures and even more widely. Anything that has no effect on direct immediate experience is as devoid of ultimate meaning and value as the mathematical empty set.

We know immediate conscious experience exists. Is there reason to think anything else exists? Earth is rich with sentient beings with experience similar to our own. There is a material basis of existence out of which all life is constructed. We assume every physical structure is an immediate awareness of itself and that awareness is the essence and totality of the existence of the physical structure. Any other assumption requires some special essence or soul stuff to be imparted to the developing human fetus or growing child to instill direct awareness into her. It is simpler to assume that the awareness exists in inanimate matter and is shaped into a particular form through the development of the embryo and child. The awareness of inanimate matter is nothing like the complex tapestry of human consciousness. Just as the complexity of our consciousness corresponds to the complexity of a portion of our brain the awareness of an inanimate object corresponds to its physical structure. The development of a human embryo and the process of dying have no moment when immediate awareness begins or ends. Rather that awareness is transformed from an amorphous simplicity to an marvelous complexity and back to an amorphous simplicity.

My conscious experience is affected not just by the internal structure of my brain but by external events including light from distant galaxies. Where do my senses begin and the external world end? We can see the issue most clearly in how we experience time. Each moment is unique and specific yet each flows into the next with no boundary between them. We can understand how this happens structurally. Our brain state changes in an almost continuous way because the firing of neurons that give rise to that change are numerous and weakly coordinated. They are like an unruly crowd and nothing like a marching band than can turn a corner in lock step. Just as there are no clear boundaries between experiences in time there is no clear boundary between a sense organ and the external world it senses. By doing away with a bit of soul stuff unique to each person we destroy any absolute boundary between the individual and the wider world. There are only the vague and shifting boundaries like those in our experience of time.


Completed second draft of this book

PDF version of this book
next up previous contents
Next: Defining bessense Up: What is Previous: Unifying external and internal   Contents


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