Is the Universe conscious? For a great many years, scientists, physicists, mystics, scholars and philosophers alike have attempted to answer this question and resolve the mystery of consciousness. What it is, what its origins are and what is necessary in order for it to manifest… whether or not a brain and central nervous system are required, or if it is indeed the fundamental, underlying principle that supersedes all things. Is consciousness simply a by-product of the collective sensations of a living organism, or could the truth be something much more nuanced and yet even more profound than formerly thought, something that reconciles all of these perspectives into one harmonious theory of sublime and consistent and unity?
In questioning the primacy of consciousness, a major contributing facet is the non-local aspect that the latest findings in Quantum Physics seem to suggest, but the question remains: do our brains produce it, or are they merely acting as a kind of receiver for a greater, universal consciousness, that exists everywhere, outside of us perpetually in disembodied, transcendent form? This is something I’ve probably written more about than any other subject (aside from religion).
First off, let me just say, there is no “universal consciousness”, not yet anyway… and for a very simple reason—there is still pain and suffering. We are the first expressions (on this planet) of the level of consciousness that understands morality and ethics, good and evil, etc. On the subject of whether or not the brain creates consciousness, the brain does indeed create consciousness, but a greater ‘Mind’ that we can never fully know, also initiated everything. That Mind is non-existent now, but It is embedded in Nature and is awakening currently, through us.
So where do I get my evidence for this greater Mind? Simple, everything that exists. Reality is filled to the brim with intelligence and purpose and order and creativity. Does this require some level of faith? No. Biopantheism is only Pandeistic in terms of our ineffable origins… and only in speculation. In other words, these things are self-evident by observing reality and the natural order of things and can be inferred by witnessing the growth patterns and evolutionary cycles of all the multitudinous systems of Life that surround and encompass us perpetually.
All things, from the tiniest, subatomic quark to the most massive, incomprehensibly gargantuan collapsing star, have a kind of “awareness” but it is not a cognitive, intellectual consciousness… only sentient, sapient, highly evolved organisms like ourselves possess that. Of course hard Atheists would argue that it all came about by chance. But that’s only because they are actually already committed to not believing in something.
In stark contrast to this, I am not committed to believing in anything; my ontology is strictly based on science, biology, observable evidence, logical extrapolation and a non-biased observation of the physical world, without any predetermined ideas to taint my view. I’m also fully aware that most Christians and Theists would no doubt use the same argument for the existence of their transcendent god: “something so beautiful and complex as the Universe must have been created by some kind of all-powerful, all-knowing intelligence…” etc.
Well, when it comes to this subject, they are correct on this one point alone. Keep in mind, this is not something that should weigh anyone down or elicit a fearful aversion in us. Likewise, our views should never be set in stone… knowledge is emergent and we should not attach ourselves to anything permanently, but instead maintain an open-ended level of confidence, in as much as we are able, utilizing the most current and up-to-date information that all of the objective evidence points to. Yet always be ready and willing to update and expand our view whenever new and compelling information comes to light.
With regards to our pre-Big-Bang origins and the nature of the Omnia in terms of teleological intent, it’s just speculation and theory. More importantly, it’s a philosophy… which should never be a burden, but instead serve as an elevating and enlightening comfort in relation to your own ability to make sense of the world. As stated, we ought to always leave room for growth and the experience of mystery, wonder and curiosity of the unknown.
Conversely, if your Pantheism is based on the idea that consciousness cannot be accounted for via brain activity (as a Panpsychist or a New Ager would attest), the idea that it is just a by-product or secondary effect may be a bit discouraging, but the reconciliation lies in the fact that consciousness is the actual teleological GOAL. Some might ask, if the ultimate goal is for the Omnia to become more organized and cohesive until It is once again singular and whole, why does it seem as if the Universe is becoming more chaotic and less cohesive as It expands? Shouldn’t we see physical matter doing the exact opposite?
In answer to this I would say that due to inflation, the Universe IS expanding and yet it is also becoming more organized on every level, as stars and planets create galaxies and Life forms emerge and evolve into various ecological systems, Earth being one of them. The ultimate goal in linear time is to coalesce and merge in a teleological sense, but Omnia also desires to experience duality and subjective perspectives as well. That’s why everything split apart, scattered and expanded in the first place.
Another point to consider is that the unification and cohesion I speak of is not necessarily a physical one (i.e. heavenly bodies and cosmic objects and such), but a cohesion in terms of consciousness, in thoughts and intentions, etc. That’s why I say consciousness is the ultimate goal. We’re talking about the organization of Life forms in terms of awareness and coherence in thought and moral perspective. Altruism, compassion, cooperation, unity, love and acceptance of all of Its constituent parts, etc. In a word, “symbiosis.” So, the physical state of the Universe is essentially the backdrop—a massive, incomprehensibly vast ‘environment’ through which conscious Life is able to evolve.
Science tells us that as the Universe expands, It becomes more chaotic and unstable in comparison to when It first began. One might think that the physical state would reflect the arising awareness and become more organized in a holistic sense… but as I’ve been describing, this is not necessarily the case. Instead what we see is that there are ‘pockets’ of awareness and consciousness, just as there are pockets of gas clouds that form into singular star clusters and galaxies… and eventually, pockets of Life and consciousness that emerge.
Look at the evolution of solar systems and planets, observe how everything is becoming more and more complex and organized. Look at the evolution of Life on this planet and then extrapolate. Is it so far-fetched to believe the same thing is happening everywhere, at all times, throughout the millions of other galaxies and solar systems in our Universe? Of course not. In fact, it’s a veritable certainty that this is EXACTLY what is occurring.
When it comes to the manifestation of specialized Life forms, what actually exists are various evolutionary ‘levels’ or ‘degrees’ of consciousness. Starting with awareness, which all living and even non-living things possess to some degree (i.e. the ability for an organism or object to respond to its environment). This includes all microorganisms, fungi, plants, trees and algae. Then you have sentience (i.e. the ability to think and feel, experience pleasure and pain, joy and sadness, etc), as evident in nearly all animals; fish, reptiles, birds, mammals and the like.
Next comes sapience, which means being able to process complex emotions and think in abstraction and cogitate (and in the higher Life forms, use logic and reason), as seen in most mammals and primates. And finally, cognitive, intellectual consciousness, as exhibited in all the great apes, hominids and cetaceans (this would be all of the aforementioned qualities combined with the added ability to deliberate, ruminate, contemplate existence, act morally, use imagination and dream).
This last level of awareness is a uniquely human trait, but would become the norm in every Life form if given enough time under the right circumstances and conditions. ALL living and non-living things have awareness, but as I just described, there are many different levels of awareness, e.g. a rock obviously cannot contemplate and reason, but it responds to its environment, just like every molecule in every cell of every piece of matter.
This is not sapience or sentience, but it IS a form of awareness nonetheless. It is not consciousness on an intellectual, cognitive or sensory/perceptual level, but its atoms ARE nevertheless fully aware, otherwise it would not remain solid, or break apart when chiseled, or become smooth when eroded by water or wind over long periods of time. Every object, both living and non-living alike, reacts and responds to everything else on some level.
Now, the real confusion comes when you conflate consciousness with awareness and vice-versa. The two can be used interchangeably, but certain definitions of each are also irreconcilable. Some people like to say that all things are ‘conscious.’ In this case, the consciousness they are referring to is what I would call ‘awareness.’ I choose to say that only the higher mammals, cetaceans, human beings and other primates are equipped with consciousness, in order to avoid confusion… yet all living things are obviously conscious, if they have sensory organs and can perceive the world around them, even if it’s only to a limited degree, so the distinction between something being conscious, and ‘consciousness’ itself, must also be noted and clearly understood.
I would not say a rock or a tree or a rose bush has ‘consciousness’ per say, but they are certainly ‘aware’ of their surroundings to one degree or another. All atoms are aware on a certain level, but “sentience” is defined by being able to think and feel. When you use the word “consciousness,” you are eluding to what is only possible with a brain and a central nervous system, i.e. all living organisms extant within the animal kingdom (although mollusks, worms and shellfish have an extremely rudimentary system, it still applies).
I say, we must be careful not to drift into ancient Animism and Panpsychism, which is tempting to consider and easy to assume, if we believe that we are essentially all the body of God… but in truth, it’s much more subtle and nuanced than this. We are the EVOLVING body, mind, will and emotions of the Omnia, so there are varying degrees of awareness and consciousness… not one continuous level of intelligence, but an immanent and emergent one, that is developing and growing at all times, everywhere and in every Life form.
Can you see the difference? Consciousness is primary, but not in the present reality in which we live. In the present reality consciousness is emergent and a body and brain are necessary and required as its prerequisites. It is primary, because it came before the Big Bang and it’s what initiated everything and it’s what we will all be a part of in the future. It IS primary, but only from the past and the future. It is primary because it’s what all of Life is moving towards, not because It ‘underlies’ all Life (although I could see how one might easily be led to think so, if you embraced this point of view).
In terms of evolution and the emergent development of intelligence, it goes like this:
1.) awareness – all things in existence
2.) sentience – all plants and animals
3.) sapience – primates and hominids
4.) consciousness – great apes, cetaceans, homo sapiens
(you could also add to this list: intuition, psychic abilities and eventually, omniscience)*
Each level adds a bit more and each level contains the previous kind of awareness as well. In this way it builds upon itself, just like the various sections of the human brain:
1.) reptile brain
2.) mammalian brain
3.) primate brain
4.) neo-cortex & frontal lobe
The problem is, “awareness” could also be used to describe strictly animal abilities and for some, “consciousness” is also the equivalent of “awareness.”
Some would say I’m assuming that the Universe/consciousness is ultimately “good”, i.e. who’s to say consciousness as a whole isn’t completely neutral, not caring about the good or bad, but just seeking the experiences, etc? Well, this is true from Its unconscious perspective in the current time period we live in, but from the past and the future, it’s a different story entirely. How do I know this? Because of evolution and because of the direction it’s moving.
The laws of physics have their own intelligence—not a conscious, cognitive intelligence, but a certain level of intelligence, nonetheless. Just as other, less-evolved animals operate and function primarily based on instinct, the Universe is following a latent desire to self-organize, coalesce and find cohesion and unity. Scientifically, it’s called “Dark Matter.” Metaphysically and poetically, I would say it is the unconscious ‘memory’ of the Omnia.
It is not that the Universe is incapable of being conscious, it is because It has not yet developed to the level of cohesion where It can be conscious in a cognizant way, because the Universe is not a cohesive entity right now, but a scattered, diversified, plethora of differentiated bits of Cosmic energy/matter, that is just now becoming self-aware and coherent on a moral and intellectual level, through sentient, sapient, conscious beings like us. It has this potential, because that’s what It was before the Big Bang and that’s what It will be once again in the future, when we collectively unite and achieve singularity once more.
We know that right now It is not conscious as a whole, because there is still pain and suffering, heartache and death, etc. There cannot be a conscious, coherent god that knows everything and is fully aware and all-powerful, otherwise it would be pure evil, due to the inordinate amounts of violence, chaos, cruelty, misery, pain, torture, death and suffering existent in human societies and throughout the animal kingdom.
People struggle with this, but it’s really not that complicated. There can be NO conscious, transcendent power or universal mind that is aware of everything, because that would make it an evil monster, due to its complacency and negligent apathy. You can have an all-good god, but it cannot be all-powerful. You can have an all-powerful god, but it can’t be all-knowing, otherwise it would be insanely evil. You can have an all-knowing god, but it can’t be all-powerful, because that would make it just another being in this Universe and not the master of it, so-to-speak. It’s the old Epicurean Paradox:
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
For those of you who may have a hard time accepting the scientific materialist paradigm in which consciousness is just a byproduct of the brain, I have good news for you, it is NOT just a byproduct—it is actually one of the goals, if not THE goal of evolution itself. It may not seem necessary for evolution in general, but it IS necessary for the evolution of the Omnia and it makes perfect sense if you understand where we came from and where we are headed.
And if you’re prepared for it, the same effect will happen on a larger, collective scale… once we unite in our thinking and focus our intentions. We CAN change reality, once we reach a critical mass. You see this all the time when revolutions occur in a social and political sense. It’s actually happening right now, with all the protests and riots and so much energy and attention being put into these elections.
And remember, I’m not assuming anything. This is an extrapolation based on the evidence that exists all around us in and throughout the natural world. You are free to believe whatever you wish about these things, but no scientist will ever be able to tell you ‘why’ the Big Bang occurred or why evolution and adaptation takes place. They can tell you how, but not why. I’m willing to examine and explore all possible options, but no satisfactory solution has ever been presented as of yet by anyone else.
The Universe, just like everything else, is operating as a cycle. And this is where understanding the Torus comes in. Everything actually is eternal, but nothing in this physical reality ever stays the same, everything transforms and changes shape, but the fundamental quantity of energy remains the same (the Law of Conservation). Everything is impermanent, but nothing ever truly dies.
The “Big Crunch” that scientists have theorized about and predicted will certainly occur and it will be the exact opposite of the Big Bang, but it will happen in terms of consciousness, not necessarily physically or in terms of environment. Essentially, what we believe as Biopans and Pandeists is that a ‘Source’ consciousness ‘created’ everything by shattering Itself into billions of pieces so that It could learn, experience Itself and grow. This is a bit of an oversimplification, with a good deal of personification added for clarity, but it’s the only way to express such profound and ineffable concepts… and in terms of explanations, the only thing that accounts for our origins.
The key to this understanding is that everything that exists, already existed in thought form, so it’s not so much the destruction of this infinite Mind as it is a transformation of Its thoughts into reality. The ‘destruction’ aspect that Pandeists speculate upon comes in when you consider Its memory and conscious intelligence, which does not exist presently, but is instead emerging… through sentient, sapient beings like us. And this is why there is no “God” right now in a Theistic sense, only the capacity and potential for divine awareness embedded and inherent within all things.