Hungarian philosopher and author of 75 books, Ervin Laszlo, during June 2015 conference at Yale University on consciousness, also sponsored by the author
of this article summarized his presentation on consciousness.
“According to many proponents of mainstream of modern science (MMS), there cannot be a natural science of consciousness because consciousness does not
actually exist in nature or if it exists in the form of mind, it is a product of the physical brain. Although many quantum physicists don’t necessarily
follow this MMS, the prevalent MMS in biology and neuroscience is the dominant view across many fields, implying an outdated classical physics view of
reality. (For MMS proponents). It is a product or by-product of the workings of the brain; there is a natural science of brain and the nervous system,
for these are bona fide elements of the world, but there cannot be a natural science of a phenomenon of which the very existence is in question. In the
prevalent view (Of MMS) consciousness is something that happens when neurons fire in the brain. This is said to be confirmed by experience. There is no
consciousness in the absence of brain function.
However, there is increasing evidence that this is not true: some forms of experience seem to occur even when the brain is not functioning. Evidence on
this score comes from a variety of sources: from people who arrived at the portals of death and returned, from spiritual masters, and from ordinary
people who enter a meditative, prayerful, deeply loving or otherwise non-ordinary state of consciousness. It also comes from psychic mediums who claim
to “channel” the consciousness of people who have already died. Some strands of the evidence have been confirmed by physicists and psychiatrists,
consciousness researchers, and other serious and otherwise unbiased observers. If the evidence is cogent, there is a need to expand the prevalent
theory of consciousness. We need to account for the possibility that consciousness can exist independently of brain function”.
We humans have come a long way to learning and understanding nature within and without. Let me describe what I have understood about the Ultimate Reality,
based upon the work of German physicist Ulrich Mohrhoff’s mathematical quantum mechanics, American physicist Menas Kafatos who published the “Conscious
Universe” in 1991and the work of Physicist Amit Goswami, working independently and geographically poles apart all agree on the basic premise of the primacy
of consciousness. Several new book chapters and articles by Menas Kafatos, Deepak Chopra, Neil Theise, John Hagelin, and others make the same point through
a variety of arguments.
Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity proves that the mass and energy are convertible (E=MC2) and the space and time change depending upon the speed of
the frame of reference. In General Relativity, the behavior of masses entering the space-time region in a collapsed state has been studied. For example,
the density in a perfect non-rotating black hole goes to infinity, meaning space containing matter goes to zero, a singularity; the implication here is
that the space vanishes and becomes irrelevant or at least it changes from ordinary space to a form unknown to us. Of course we still don’t have a quantum
theory of gravity so the limits of collapsed space as implied by General Relativity are still outside of current knowledge of physics. Another example of
space becoming irrelevant is based upon an experiment conducted by a group of French physicists led by Alain Aspect in 1982 following the nonlocality
correlations of quantum mechanics. Two correlated photons (light) influence one another far away from each other instantaneously without exchanging any
signal. Though the experiment was conducted in our natural space-time domain, apparently their interaction was nonlocal, out of or beyond space-time
Another way to look at the relationship of space and the matter in quantum language is that the matter of forms needs space to contain it as in case of the
macro-world. However in the micro-world, certain quanta with integer or zero spin like photons are identical, massless, formless and undistinguishable;
there is no space to contain them. Though they are many but they are numerically identical, and show the attribute of oneness. There is a clear sense that
the actual number of ultimate constituents is one. Photons in a sense exist outside of space and time not only because we can put a vast number of them in
the same space but also because of the theory of Relativity, for them space-time is instantaneous or non-existent: They get “there” in no time and “there”
for them is everywhere the same.
Carina Nebula, Hubble telescope image
The reality we experience in the macro-world of matter and forms from the micro-world of massless and formless quanta like photons can be explained
employing top down causation implying supremacy of consciousness over matter, and the concept of manifestation. Manifestation implies almost instantaneous
perception through sense organs, usually eyes, mediated by brain, recognized and perceived by the nonlocal mind. Manifestation of space, and matter of
forms is the act of almost an instant appearance of image and almost an instant materialization demonstrating the power and purpose of light. I say almost,
because the response of all human material faculty cannot be instantaneous; there is a finite time of response.
Quantum mechanics provides us a junction or a link between the manifested world of matter and forms, and the ultimate reality of Pure being which manifests
the world or manifests itself as the world without losing its essential identity. The junction is constituted of formless numerically identical,
non-visualizable non-local quanta transcending space and time, and local partially visualizable molecules forming macrostructures including living forms
and objects of everyday life. The process of manifestation is a transition from numerical identity of unity to a distinctive multiplicity, a progressive
differentiation of the undifferentiated. Recently Kafatos and Kak (2015) have shown that a veiling of nonlocality and the prevention of seeing inside a
black hole create a classical world view. This is analogous to the maya principle of veiling of ultimate Reality found in Vedanta and Shaivism.
Why do we choose top down and not bottom up causation? Bottom up approach is basically materialistic and inadequate in finding roots, quality and value.
Top down causation has its deep roots in human mysticism associated in almost all human tradition, going back to over three millennia. It is the framework,
supported by quantum mechanics discovered more recently, and it adequately conforms to the reality of consciousness, providing deeper insights into the
nature of evolution. Katha Upanishad, similar to an axiom, states that Chetan that is consciousness is primary and Jada or Prakrity (nature) as secondary.
Corollary to that statement stated by Professor Hiriyanna is, “Everything that exists is either Life-force (Consciousness) or for Life-force”. The
statement, “Things that can be known are those compatible with the existence of the knowers”, similar to the previous statement, is one of the
interpretations of the Anthropic Principle stated by physicist Brandon Carter in the 1970s.
More than a millennium long philosophic tradition, known as Vedanta, affirms that there is an Ultimate self-conscious Reality relating to the world we live
in, in three different ways. This Reality is the world and the cosmos we live in, it is also the consciousness that contains and penetrates the cosmos in
its totality. This Ultimate Reality is, subjectively speaking, an infinite bliss, and objectively speaking, an infinite in any quality and value we can
imagine that expresses and experiences itself.
This follows the top-down framework of the Vedantic kind with quality, value and consciousness rooted in the very heart of Reality, as opposed to the
bottom-up framework of the materialist kind with no idealism or sentience attached to it. Note that the universe exists by itself, and nothing else, in the
material sense; it is self-aware and exists for Itself in the sense of consciousness. The universe is conscious and this is a conclusion that quantum
theory leads to according to Kafatos and Goswami. I also interpret that there is nonlocal, meaning beyond the realm of perceivable space and time, Quantum
connection between individual subjective consciousness and the all-pervading objective super-consciousness, the Ultimate Reality. Please note that
non-locality cannot be manifested; but it is implied as in the Aspect et al. experiments; it is beyond our gross body material existence, beyond the
perception and apprehension of space-time and matter-energy of nature. Non-locality encompasses all of the nature and beyond. However it is nowhere in the
It has also been conjectured that the nature within and without is fractal, meaning it is layered like an onion, and in which each part contains the whole
like in a hologram. The implication here is that, not only our mind, but Consciousness itself is layered and has discrete states rising towards greater
consciousness and wholeness. Sri Aurobindo had pioneered this subject and claimed that humanity is on the evolutionary path of transcendence towards the
Ultimate Reality. For example, one layer we are familiar with is our own body constituted of millions of living cells. In words of Erwin Schrodinger, the
discoverer of the mathematics (The wave equation) of quantum mechanics, “There is million fold democracy among these cells, functioning autonomously within
the body. There is only one consciousness and there is no super cell associated with it”. Schrodinger then raises the question, “How is it possible that we
as individuals having the mind of our own can communicate and understand each other?” He, without any reservation, had accepted that in reality there is
only one mind, one consciousness in totality expounded by Vedanta.
The primary state features a single conscious self, coexisting with the cosmos we live in. The subject in this state is wherever its objects are, and it is
non-dual meaning there is no space or disconnect of any kind between the seer and the seen. The state that we are familiar with, arises when there are
multitude of conscious selves becoming exclusive. Here conscious selves lose sight of its identity with other selves and with the single self of the
primary state. When an individual conscious self loses the awareness of its oneness with the ultimate reality of the primary state, it also loses the
awareness of infinite quality and the delight (Sat-Chit-Ananda) at the heart of its existence. In essence, evolution is a process in reverse, when the life
evolves first and then the individual mind which, nevertheless, is still part of the infinite sea of Consciousness. Transcendence is the process of
ascending from grosser states to subtler states as described by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Shree Krishnamurti. Humanity will ultimately arrive to the state
of Ultimate Reality through the process of evolution, as predicted by Shri Aurobindo.
Mathematics is the golden key to communicable truth of reality of the natural world-maybe even beyond our limited bandwidth. The key to non-communicable
truth is the mystic experience through yoga and meditation. There is a link between Shanti Sloka of Isavasya Upanishad and mathematics. The Sloka describes
the “Supreme Whole” (Ultimate Reality, Brahman) is such that it remains whole, even if the whole is taken away out of it or added to it. This is by
definition, the concept of mathematical infinity, developed in 19th century.
How is the Ultimate Reality described in the mystic tradition, specifically in the Upanishads? The Upanishads describe Brahman as Sat-chit-ananda—the true
Absolute Ultimate Reality, which not separately but simultaneously is Sat, or Truth, Chit or Consciousness or Light, and Ananda or Bliss. They describe it
as non-dual: That which is One-without-a second, That from which nothing is separate, That which is limitless, That which is brilliantly radiant, That
which is changeless, That which is not conditioned by time, space and causation, That which is self-existent, That which is devoid of attributes, and That
which is without a beginning or an end. It does not have any limits because it is beyond space, for limits of something or someone can only be cognized
within the contours of space. It is changeless because change can only be conceived within the parameters of time. It is without a beginning or an end
because the beginning or end can only be perceived within the confines of time and space. It is self-effulgent for It is Consciousness itself; its
effulgence is not dependent on anything, for It is beyond causation. Because nothing in the cosmos is separate from the Brahman, It has manifested this
universe from its own body, first engendering time and space and then entering into them, just as a spider creates its web from its own saliva.
In manifestation, Brahman manifests as a principle of Purusha and Prakriti, as enumerated in detail by the Sankhya philosophy. Purusha is the static
principle and Prakriti or Nature is the dynamic principle. Purusha is the witness and static or unchanging principle which supports and gives assent or
negates the workings of Prakriti, which carries its dynamic processes through three gunas: Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. Sattva psychologically manifests in
human beings as the force of truth, harmony, peace, right poise, equilibrium, intelligence, happiness etc. Rajas psychologically translates as the quality
of action, energy, domination, possession, creation, will to fight, will to resist, and will to conquer. Tamas signifies indolence, inertia,
unintelligence, sloth, and resistance towards change. All these gunas are present in each individual and are in flux—however the predominance of one or two
determines the general character of an individual in that whether he or she will be sattvic, rājasic or tamasic. When an individual is under the influence
of the modes of Prakriti or Nature, then his or her soul or Purusha is involved in the play; it is not free and it suffers or enjoys the play of the
Prakriti as the case may be. Therefore the first step towards liberation or moksha involves separating the Purusha from the modes of Prakriti, and letting
the witness and unchanging consciousness of Purusha, which is its natural characteristic, to emerge. The Purusha, then, instead of being involved in the
constant subjection to Prakriti, is able to watch the movement of her different modes and can give sanction to the continuance or cessation of the play.
Finding its union with the transcendental Brahman it can then find its complete liberation or moksha.
Thus in manifestation, the transcendental Brahman through Purusha and Prakriti reveals changeless or constant characteristics and changing or dynamic
characteristics respectively. However, it is due to the greater similarities that the Purusha has with transcendental Brahman that it is considered Divine
in the universe while Prakriti is not—the crucial difference being that Purusha is unchanging and constant whereas Prakriti or Nature is dynamic and
The Divine or God in most major traditions is characterized by Light. The Brahmasutras and Upanishads define Brahman as self-effulgent, the Light from
which all other lights are borrowed. One of the prayers in the Upanishads specifically speaks about taking one from falsehood to truth, from darkness to
light, and from death to immortality equating the characteristic of the Divine with truth and light. Diwali, the festival of light, in most Indian
traditions represent the triumph of good over evil or an attainment of nirvana in Buddhist and Jain traditions. Genesis explains that at the time of
creation God said, “Let there be light” and from light all the possibilities of the universe appeared. Light in the eyes of a scientist is a beam of
photons or packs of energy which our eyes cannot see. Light helps us to see and make the world visible and transparent. Light therefore, in every sense, is
seeing and at much higher level of mind is enlightening. Light is pure action with the purpose of enlightening and is attached to nothing. Light initiated
the creation of matter, energy, space and time of the macro-world in which we have evolved to the current state of humanity.
People who have had near-death experiences recount them as godly tête-à-tête with light. The Tibetan Book of the Dead contends that as soon as an
individual dies, it has an encounter with “Clear Light of Reality.” It is not able to hold that state because its karmic propensities bring it to lesser
and lesser states until it is reborn. Ramakrishna, describing his experiences in featureless or nirvikalpa samadhi, stated that he saw an ocean of light
having no beginning or end. Many mystics from different traditions have also experienced and recorded spiritual encounters as light. It is the life giving
light of solar deity that we find in ancient Egypt, Chinese, Aztec, and Inca mythology. Even in movies like The Abyss and The Ghost, they project higher
beings as self-effulgent.
Everything in Nature is changing and relative except the speed of Light. It is true that the velocity of light changes when it is approaching a black hole,
but not the speed. Light, constituted of photons, has zero mass. The speed of light is not affected by the gravitational force exerted by a black
hole--only the direction of motion as space-time is curved close to a black hole, is affected. From this we may say that the unchanging nature of the speed
of light is associated with Purusha, and the changing nature of light direction is associated with Prakriti. Philosophically speaking this intuition of
Einstein may be thought of a next great step in civilizational thought, perhaps heralding a new age leading from the modern preoccupation with the Science
and Technology of changeful Nature to a search for the unchanging Source of consciousness and Being.
What about other physical constants like the Alpha or fine structure constant? Nobel laureate physicist extraordinaire Richard Feynman called Alpha a
“magic number” and its value “one of the greatest mysteries of physics”. A dimensionless number which goes by the symbol alpha must remain constant for our
existence. If not, then stars, including sun, would not be able to sustain nuclear reactions that synthesize carbon and oxygen atoms and therefore the
carbon based life would not exist. A new research in astrophysics, reviewed in Economist magazine dated September 4, 2010, has discovered that the Alpha
may not be constant after all, but changing from place to place within the universe. Other physicists including Kafatos and Roy believe that all constants
of nature may be changing. If their results hold up to scrutiny, they will have profound implications-for they suggest that the universe stretches far
beyond what human telescopes can observe, and that the laws of physics, discovered by human beings, vary within it. Our material existence, if true in
matters of the size of the universe, has become even more insignificant. The new research, however, does not change our connectedness with light. The speed
of light remains unchanging at least in our part of the universe, and probably elsewhere.
Light holds a special place in relativity, in quantum physics and in the eternal monistic traditions of the East. It therefore remains the conduit to the
Divine and connects it with Nature. All living souls in Nature, bounded within the space time continuum, are also connected with the gale of the sun, as
described by Ananda Coomaraswami. The significance here is that we need to learn to live “Now”, not in the past and not in the future. That would help us
to transcend to higher states of mind. Recall “Now” is the common apex of both, past and future cones, in space-time continuum bounded within the confines
of the speed of light. “Now” literally is at the threshold to escape the domain of Nature. When our mind stays on “Now”, there are no thoughts of the past
pleasure and pain and no thoughts of the future expectations and anxiety; the arrow of time keeps moving forward, but the mind without thoughts goes
through the experience of action. The slope at the apex is the ratio of zero to zero which is one, or the speed of your choosing, or the speed of light.
The subtlest mind of a realized Rishi is in the state of “Now” experiencing the bright light, escaping the confinement bounded by the speed of light.
Apparently our existence at the apex “Now” may be a step away or in the ultimate state of Sat-chit-Ananda.
I suppose H. G. Wells was travelling in his Time-Machine by keeping his machine in the “Now” domain. Apparently “Now” also represents the middle path
preached by Buddha. When someone would ask Yogi Berra, “What is the time?” He would answer with a question, do you mean “Now”?
The goal of a transcending philosopher is to acquire the highest mental state of being, the spiritual self. The insight here is to becoming selfless,
egoless. This condition is quintessentially light like in quality, mass-less and approaching the attribute of changelessness. Here we need to focus on only
the mind disassociating from the somatic self. Thoughts are similar to sub-atomic particles; thoughts jump discretely from one to the next or from lower to
higher energy states similar to quantum jumps of sub-atomic particles. By identification with thoughts, our mental being also knows no rest and cannot know
itself as an unchanging reality. Intuitively therefore, only a thoughtless mind could be egoless, and selfless. The highest yogic state is when all desires
lodged in the heart have been dissolved. It is amazing and significant that Einstein was able to uncover the relative nature of Nature by associating light
with the realm of the Divine, which happens also to be the view of the world's great religious traditions.
The fact that we perceive, communicate, and understand each other is due to our connection to consciousness. If we believe that mind could help heal the
body, then consciousness is the cause. As explained earlier, Einstein’s insight of connecting unchanging nature of light with the traditional view of the
first glimpse of the Absolute is, I believe, one of the strongest proofs of the existence of the Absolute, the ultimate reality, the consciousness.