Consciousness Is What Exactly?

by Scott Morrice on 10/17/2012

In my recent search for a meaningful answer (for me) to the question of—consciousness is what exactly???, I ran into an interesting post by Deepak Chopra called God Will Be Back Tomorrow (Really).

Now as I mentioned in my last post What Is Qualia Science, Chopra is of the view that consciousness is the foundation of our existence. That it is the “beginning”—the ground state—of it all. In his post Chopra talks about one of his favorite themes— the idea that science, as we know it today, has reduced our understanding of the universe to a purely mechanistic point of view.

Many believe that our lives, our world, our universe, can be explained, basically, by using science—mathematical principles, biology, physics. We are simply the product of random chance—Darwinian evolution and mutation. He observes, laments, that there is no room in that approach for “purpose”, for attaching meaning to our lives. And no room for the idea of consciousness being the most basic fabric underlying our existence. Purpose and meaning are irrelevant.

As he points out, this has not always been the case—this kind of thinking—the idea that we live in a very mechanistic universe. Our species used to explain everything that happened in the context of its relationship—to the universe. Storms meant that the universe (the gods) were angry. Bounty meant that the universe was happy with us. We were part of the equation—and an important part. And that provided important purpose and meaning to their lives.

Of course, against that it is easy to make the point that our early ancestors didn’t have the resources—the sciences—to explain what was happening to them and around them, and that this kind of thinking was merely their way of coming to terms with these events.

So, given, as Chopra argues, that life is indeed meaningful, that we do matter, that we do experience love and compassion—how do we reconcile these ideas with a purely mechanistic understanding of our existence—which is almost by definition a life without purpose?

Chopra suggests that the answer lies in how we understand consciousness—accepting the idea that it is the ground-state of our existence. And given that understanding, the next step for him is the concept that we actually live in a “conscious universe”. He says:

“I’ve barely sketched in a wholesale shift that has the effect of making a human universe possible, one in which evolution is working towards a goal-namely, us.”

I’ve come across this interesting and exciting line of thinking before, and I have written about it—in my Evolutionary Cosmology post. In that post I was writing about a fabulous book that I had just finished reading, Brian Swimme’s Universe Is A Green Dragon.

As I wrote in that post, Swimme is convinced that we (humanity) are undergoing a radical and fundamental shift in how we perceive our universe and our existence within it, and his belief that we are becoming more aware of the importance of our cosmic origins and development.

In his book, as I point out, he writes of his view that the universe is actually a developing being, and, most importantly, that we need to understand our humanity, our existence, in terms of being an actual, and very important, property of this developing universe. Like Chopra, Swimme believes that it is all about us—that we are nothing less than the manifestation of the universe’s need to see and experience itself.

Wow—-and you were looking for some purpose and meaning to your life!!!

I’ll keep you posted.

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