Want to listen to this as a podcast. Click here.
I believe the idea of consciousness as a fundamental quality of the universe has a great deal of weight. As I point out in my book Spiritual Science, it may be that the best way to understand the world is not through science or spirituality alone – but through an approach which combines them both.https://theconversation.com/spiritual-science-how-a-new-perspective-on-consciousness-could-help-us-understand-ourselves-116451
Where can one go to further understand the concept of consciousness? Science would be a primary source, particularly with all the advances in brain research (e.g. neuroscience). It would make sense that we begin a study here, since it would seem that consciousness would be a function of the brain. However, the following two quotes suggest the limitations of this belief at this point.
We have made a great deal of progress in understanding brain activity, and how it contributes to human behaviour. But what no one has so far managed to explain is how all of this results in feelings, emotions and experiences. How does the passing around of electrical and chemical signals between neurons result in a feeling of pain or an experience of red?https://theconversation.com/science-as-we-know-it-cant-explain-consciousness-but-a-revolution-is-coming-126143
For as far as we have come in understanding the brain and its functions, we have been unable to explain how we come to experience our emotions. This in part is due to these topics being considered the “warm and fuzzy” as compared to the “hard” science where we spend more time looking outside of our selves than within self. This is characterized by the following quote.
For much of the 20th century, there was a great taboo against querying the mysterious inner world of consciousness – it was not taken to be a fitting topic for “serious science”. Things have changed a lot, and there is now broad agreement that the problem of consciousness is a serious scientific issue. But many consciousness researchers underestimate the depth of the challenge, believing that we just need to continue examining the physical structures of the brain to work out how they produce consciousness. The problem of consciousness, however, is radically unlike any other scientific problem. One reason is that consciousness is unobservable. You can’t look inside someone’s head and see their feelings and experiences.https://theconversation.com/science-as-we-know-it-cant-explain-consciousness-but-a-revolution-is-coming-126143
I believe we are at another crossroads in science, where rather than writing off the unexplainable, we are recognizing the need to evolve our science to understand what makes us tick. After all, is this not the most important aspect of our life, to understand the meaning of life and beyond. I discovered many examples of how this is occurring in science today. I was recently watching a number of episodes from the World Science Festival on YouTube. One of them was on the topic of plant communication. Why plant communication? Because it has now been proven that it exists, but how can this be, particularly if plants do not have a brain. We have based so much of our science on the human being based on what we can see and observe, particularly the tangible brain, which was the source of our intelligence. But is it? Let’s get back to the topic of plant communication. I begin with a quote on this topic to help you understand what has been discovered.
Two studies published in 1983 demonstrated that willow trees, poplars and sugar maples can warn each other about insect attacks: Intact, undamaged trees near ones that are infested with hungry bugs begin pumping out bug-repelling chemicals to ward off attack. They somehow know what their neighbors are experiencing, and react to it. The mind-bending implication was that brainless trees could send, receive and interpret messages.https://www.wired.com/2013/12/secret-language-of-plants/
Okay, pretty amazing to consider that this is possible, and in particular since plants do not have a brain structure. So if they are communicating this information, what source within these plants and trees is making this determination to communicate and what to communicate, along with directing the sending of the instructions to the appropriate parts of the plant to carry out these commands.
Back to the World Science Festival on this topic. The session was titled, “Intelligence Without Brains“. The research to prove that plants communicate to their own AND other species, including insects, was shared, along with “planting” the question (excuse the pun here), that since these plants do not have brains, how could this be. I love the line in the session introductions that states, “Perhaps the real question is, are we smart enough to appreciate the vast range of intelligence that surrounds us?” This is the question I have been examining and of which consciousness ties in.
Hey, you want to further boggle your mind? Further into the session a researcher talked about examples of plant intelligence. As they state, “And plants—with no brain at all—exhibit behaviors that, by any definition, count as intelligent.” You can learn about a plant form that has demonstrated its ability to solve puzzles. Okay, freaky ehhh? The great news is that we are breaking new boundaries of science, even though this is mostly happening on the fringe, and not yet within mainstream science.
Upon watching a variety of other World Science Festival episodes on mathematics, the universe, life beyond Earth, etc., it was clear that science would need to evolve to begin tackling the types of questions and awareness we are realizing today. There are those scientists out on the fringe that are attempting to tackle mind-bending or mind-blowing topics. I like the term “mind-blowing”, since this was the outcome of the many experiences I encountered during my spiritual search. In effect, I had to blow up what was in my current mind, to even consider these new ideas. I had to think at another level. Better said, I had to process new information beyond thinking, or what I would now term using consciousness.
One of those scientists on the fringe is Brian Greene, author of his recent book, “Until The End of Time”. Even the title of the book is pointing science in a new direction. A part of his introduction to this book states, “Through a series of nested stories that explain distinct but interwoven layers of reality–from quantum mechanics to consciousness to black holes–Greene provides us with a clearer sense of how we came to be, a finer picture of where we are now, and a firmer understanding of where we are headed.” Way cool. I can’t wait to read this.
My favorite scientist out on the fringe is Michio Kaku, whom I referenced in a prior podcast on Consciousness. He is a theoretical physicist. He is on board with consciousness and is clearly blazing a new path. Interesting that a quote from him, on consciousness, includes a reference to plants. As stated in Cosmos Magazine, “Kaku outlines levels of consciousness that correspond to different degrees of complexity, from the simplest things like plants at Level 0 to we humans on Level III. The big difference with us is that we are self-aware. “Human consciousness is a specific form of consciousness that creates a model of the world and then simulates it in time,” he writes in the book.”
I challenge the rating scale since it states the difference due to self-awareness. How can we know whether humans are the only ones privy to self-awareness? My pets demonstrate self-awareness, and based on Tom Sawyers account of his Near-Death Experience, and specifically related to plants, I would bet that plants have a their own self-awareness, also since they are able to recognize a threat and respond by communicating this to other plants. Note: I share more detail on Tom Saywer’s NDE and this experience in my podcast series on Death.
Then there is Physicist Tom Campbell who “postulates that we live in a virtual reality and the goal of living in this virtual reality is to get rid of fear, ego and beliefs and evolve into the true nature of consciousness which is Love. Being the change we wish to see in the world starts with each one of us and Tom outlines ways that we can affect change in our world by stepping into our role as a co-creator of reality.” (Source). Check out his video here. Here is a physicist talking about the essence of my learnings during my spiritual search which began in my early thirties and has never stopped since then. He talks about ideas that I first heard from yogi’s, near-death experiencers, teachers, etc. F’ing fantastic!
If you choose to delve into these deep and mysterious topics such as consciousness, meaning of life, death and beyond, the good news is that you are not alone. You can share information today without being burned at the stake as some many famous scientists did when the mainstream perceived them as a threat to the traditional perceptions and beliefs. You will probably experience the strange looks and avoidance from others who have not yet ventured into this space, or who are steadfast in the dogma they have been taught. But there are now groups, individuals, and even scientists who are venturing into this strange territory. This is where we must consider the option of taking that fork in the road to what seems dark and scary, or what I would refer to as leaving the comfort of the known and secure, to the unknown. This helps us with our own ultimate journey of life here where we will all venture into the uncertainty of death and beyond. My conclusion, venturing on this path for much of my life, is similar to those I have met on this life altering journey, is that the unknown exists, and that it is our consciousness that ventures into this place.
My next post on this topic will venture into this life altering journey and some of the routes to get there.
Michael is an award winning author, speaker, facilitator and coach on the topics of Personal Growth, Self-Discovery and Enlightenment. Visit my website for more information (growhumanpotential.com).