Self-Aware Universe - Synopsis of Goswami Theory on Consciousness, by Iona Miller, 1993
SUMMARY: Amit Goswami, Ph.D. has proposed a theory of consciousness, rather than atoms, as the fundamental reality of the material world. Based in the philosophy of monistic idealism, he claims to obtain a consistent paradox-free interpretation of the new physics. He suggests a quantum mechanical, as well as classical nature for mind, which accounts for nonlocal psychic phenomena.
KEYWORDS: Universe model, consciousness, monistic idealism, Amit Goswami, quantum mechanics, psychic phenomena.
In searching for the fundamental basis of physical reality and the nature of the mind, Goswami (1993) has defined consciousness as "the agency that affects quantum objects to make their behavior sensible." In choosing this criterion he hopes to show how mind can effect matter nonenergetically because they share the same essence.
By making the leap from a universe based on bits of matter, to one based in consciousness, he hopes to logically and coherently resolve some of the major paradoxes of physics. He suggests that instead of everything being made of atoms, everything is made of consciousness. If quantum objects are waves that spread in existence at more than one place, as QM has shown, then consciousness may be the agency that focuses the waves so we can observe them at one place.
Goswami labels this philosophy, "monistic as opposed to dualistic, and it is idealism because ideas (not to be confused with ideals) and the consciousness of them are considered to be the basic elements of reality; matter is considered to be secondary." Mental phenomena such as self-consciousness, free will, creativity, and ESP are explained anew in this reformulation of the mind-body in a fresh context.
As in both the mystical view and holographic universe (such as that described by Bohm), there is only the dynamic play of one great webwork of existence (Bohm's holomovement). This unified movement, a dance of creation and annihilation, has intentionality. However, Goswami does not propose that consciousness is mind; they are different concepts.
In monistic idealism, the consciousness of the subject in a subject-object experience is the same consciousness that is the ground of all being. Therefore, consciousness is unitive. The domain of potentia also exists in consciousness. Nothing is outside consciousness.
Buddha tells us that, "There is an Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed. If there were not this Unborn, this Unoriginated, this Uncreated, this Unformed, escape from the world of the born, the originated, the created, the formed would not be possible." But there is this essential ground, and it is possible to "escape" spacetime, according to Buddha.
If the brain-mind is itself an object in a nonlocal consciousness that encompasses all reality, then what we call objective empirical reality is within this consciousness. The one becomes many through self-reference, fragmentation into tangled hierarchies of self-iterating information.
The trick is to distinguish between consciousness and awareness. In processes of which we are aware classical models prevail. When we consciously see, consciousness collapses the quantum state of the brain-mind. Unconscious processing does not effect collapse of the quantum wave-function, pinning down quantum entities to one reality. Thus, unconscious processing permits the expression of nonlocal phenomena.
The situation in the brain-mind, with consciousness collapsing the wave function may only happen when awareness is present. There is a tangled hierarchy within the immanent self-reference of a system observing itself. An operation by a self-referential system is where the von Neumann chain stops.
THAT DARN CAT
Erwin Schrodinger reminded us that, "Observations are to be regarded as discrete, discontinuous events. Between there are gaps which we cannot fill in." He illustrated his famous metaphor of the uncertainty principle with the conundrum of Schrodinger's Cat. All physics students eventually get tired of hearing about this stupid cat, over and over, pondering whether it will be alive or dead. Goswami has tried to "put it to bed," with his "nine lives of..." version:
In the first life, the cat is treated statistically, as part of an ensemble. The cat is offended (because its singularity is denied in this ensemble interpretation) but not wounded.
In the second life, the cat is viewed as an example of the quantum/classical dichotomy by the divisive philosophers of macrorealism. The cat refuses to trade its life/death dichotomy for another dichotomy.
In the third life, the cat is confronted with irreversibility and randomness, but the cat says, Prove it.
In the fourth life, the cat confronts the hidden variables and what happens is still hidden.
In the fifth life, the neo-Copenhagenists try to do away with the cat using the philosophy of logical positivism. By most judgements, the cat escapes unscathed.
In the sixth life, the cat encounters many worlds. Who knows, it may have perished in some universe, but as far as we can tell, not in this one.
In the seventh life, the cat meets Bohr and his complementarity, but the question What constitutes a measurement? saves it.
In the eighth life, the cat meets consciousness (of a dualistic vintage)face-to-face, but Wigner's friend saves it.
Finally, in the ninth life, the cat finds salvation in the idealist interpretation.
Only three of these models are not flawed: the many-world theory, the theory of nonlocal hidden variables, and that of monistic idealism.
PHILOSOPHY OF CHOICE
The idealist resolution of the paradox of the cat's existence demands that the consciousness of the observing subject choose one facet from the multifaceted dead-and-alive coherent superposition of the cat and thus seal its fate. The subject is the chooser, and choice is fundamental to existence: "I choose, therefore I am."
Free choice means the possibility of jumping out of an old context into a new one at a higher level. The capacity for choice, even recognizing choice, makes us conscious of the experiences we choose. From the myriad alternative possibilities, we recognize the course of our becoming, and define our self. The primary question of self-consciousness is to choose or not to choose.
More accurate than the old notion of the unconscious is that our conscious self is unconscious of most things most of the time and of everything in dreamless sleep. Paradoxically, the unconscious is holistically, nonlocally conscious of all things all of the time. It never sleeps. OUR CONSCIOUS SELF IS UNCONSCIOUS OF OUR UNCONSCIOUS, AND THE UNCONSCIOUS IS ACTUALLY MORE CONSCIOUS than normal awareness.
Unconscious thoughts and feelings affect our conscious thoughts. During unconscious perception, an unconscious feeling can produce an unexplainable conscious feeling. According to Goswami, choice is a concomitant of conscious experience, but not of unconscious perception. Our subject-consciousness arises when there is a choice made. When we do not choose, we do not own up to our perceptions.
Before choice, the state of the brain-mind is an ambiguous state--like that of Schrodinger's cat. In quantum theory, the subject that chooses is a single, universal subject, not our personal ego "I." Thus, this universal choosing consciousness is also nonlocal.
Even if you introduce hidden variables to find a causal interpretation of QM, as David Bohm does, those hidden variables have to be nonlocal. In Bohm's theory, the light that projects the image of reality is not the light of creative consciousness, but causal hidden variables--which current research suggests may be deterministically chaotic, rather than probabilistic.
According to the idealist interpretation, violation to the EPR Paradox signifies nonlocal correlation between photons. Hidden variables are not needed as an explanation. Of course, to collapse the wave function of nonlocally correlated photons, consciousness must act nonlocally.
Therefore, simultaneously occurring events in our space-time world can be related meaningfully to a common cause that resides in a nonlocal realm outside space and time. This common cause is the act of nonlocal collapse by consciousness. Thus it is not a message transfer (from a sender through a channel to a receiver) but a communication in consciousness. This has important repercussions for information theory, based in causality.
Nonlocal consciousness might seem like a "hidden variable", but it doesn't constitute causal parameters. It is simply us! Nonlocal consciousness operates not with causal continuity, but with non-linear creative discontinuity from moment to moment, event to event.
This discontinuity, the quantum jump out of the system, is the essential component of creativity needed for consciousness to see itself, as in self-reference. It means we can exercise the freedom to be open to a new context.
VIRTUAL DOMAINS OR FORMLESS POTENTIAL
According to the idealist interpretation, coherent superpositions exist in a transcendent domain as formless archetypes of matter. Suppose that the parallel universes of the many-worlds theory are not material but archetypal in content--universes of the mind. Then, each observation makes a causal pathway in the fabric of possibilities in the transcendent domain of reality. Once the choice is made, all except one of the pathways are excluded from the world of manifestation.
Goswami proposes that, "the universe exists as formless potentia in myriad possible branches in the transcendent domain and becomes manifest only when observed by conscious beings." These self-referential observations plot the universe's causal history, rejecting the myriad parallel alternatives that never manifest.
The universe bifurcates in every event in the transcendent domain, becoming many branches, until in one of the branches there is a sentient being that can look with awareness and complete a quantum measurement, according to Goswami. The causal pathway leading to that sentient being collapses into space-time reality.
Meaning arises in the universe when sentient beings observe it, choosing causal pathways from among the myriad transcendent possibilities. This anthropocentric view is also reflected in cosmology as the Anthropic Principle, where the cosmos is created for our sake. Amazingly, this is apparently compatible with quantum physics.
THE QUANTUM BRAIN
The conviction has been growing among many physicists that the brain is an interactive system with a quantum mechanical macrostructure as an important complement to the classical neuronal assembly.
The classical and quantum components of the brain-mind interact within a basic idealist framework in which consciousness is primary. The classical/quantum distinction is purely functional. Its essence is one. Experienced mental states arise from the interaction of both classical and quantum states.
The quantum component of the brain-mind is regenerative and its states are multifaceted. It is the vehicle for conscious choice and for creativity. In contrast, because it has a long regeneration time, the classical component of brain-mind can form memory and thus can act as a reference point for experience.
The archetypal component of the thought is revealed by its inherent uncertainty: If we concentrate on the content of thought, we lose sight of the direction in which the thought is heading. If we concentrate on the direction of a thought, we lose sharpness in its content. Its features (instantaneous content) equate with the position of physical objects; association (movement of thought in awareness) is like momentum in objects.
Between manifestations thought exists as transcendent archetypes--as does the quantum object with its transcendent coherent superposition (wave) and manifest one-faceted (particle) aspects.
Research shows spatial coherence of brain waves during meditation proportional to the degree of pure awareness that the meditator reports. Studies of remote viewing, mutual hypnosis, and group meditation have shown coherence of brain waves of participants sharing consciousness states.
As in therapeutic rapport or co-consciousness, "two subjects interact for a period until they feel that a direct (nonlocal) connection has been established. The subjects then maintain their direct contact from within individual Faraday cages at a distance. When the brain of one of the subjects responds to an external stimulus with an evoked potential, the other subject's brain shows a transfer potential similar in form and strength to the evoked potential."
Before the supervention of consciousness, the brain-mind exists as formless potentia (like any other object) in the transcendent domain of consciousness. When nonlocal consciousness collapses the brain-mind's wave function, it does so by choice and recognition, not by any energetic process. Thus, "conservation of energy" is not violated in the mind/matter interface.
Goswami postulates the need for an EPR-correlated quantum network, stating "It has to be there." Perhaps this is Buckminster Fuller's vector equilibrium matrix, and Thomas Beardon's zero vector summation, which describe how matter "jitterbugs" into and out of existence in quantum "creationism."
According to this idealist interpretation, consciousness chooses the results of a single quantum measurement--that is, nonlocal unitive consciousness. The intervention of the nonlocal consciousness collapses the probability cloud of a quantum system.
In the manifest world, the selection process involved in the collapse appears to be random, while in the transcendent realm the selection process is seen as choice. Our consciousness chooses the outcome of the collapse of the quantum state of our brain-mind. Since this outcome is a conscious experience, we choose our conscious experiences--yet remain unconscious of the underlying process.
It is this unconsciousness that leads to the illusory separateness--the identity with the separate "I" of self-reference (rather than the "we" of unitive consciousness). The illusory separateness takes place in two stages, but the basic mechanism involved is called tangled hierarchy, which is a way of achieving self-reference. The self arises because of a veil of discontinuity, an infinite oscillation. Out of discontinuity comes the veil and self-reference. Mystics call it the Veil of Isis or The Abyss.
The self of our self-reference is due to a tangled hierarchy, but our consciousness is the consciousness of the Being that is beyond the subject-object split. There is no other source of consciousness in the universe. The self of self-reference and the consciousness of the original consciousness, together, make what we call self-consciousness.
EGO AND THE QUANTUM SELF
Before collapse, the subject is not differentiated from the archetypes of objects of experience--physical or mental. Collapse brings about the subject-object division, and that leads to the primary awareness of I-am-ness called the "quantum self." Awareness of the quantum self also brings about collapse.
In Goswami's conceptualization, "the brain-mind is a dual quantum system/ measuring apparatus," through which the universe becomes self-aware. The universe cuts itself in two--subject/object--terminating the von Neumann chain. We resolve the von Neumann chain by recognizing that consciousness collapses the wave function by acting self-referentially, not dualistically.
The old mechanistic concept was nonregenerative. Repeated measurement interaction leads to a fundamental change in the brain-mind's quantum system. Each previously experienced, learned response reinforces the probability of the same response over again. Learning (or prior experience) biases the brain-mind.
Before the response to a particular stimulus becomes conditioned, the probability pool from which consciousness chooses our response spans the mental states common to all people at all places at all time.
In conditioned behavior, the dual quantum system/measuring apparatus becomes virtually classical. In the limit of a new experience, the brain mind's response is creative. Experiences such as near-death can instantly release much repressed unconscious conditioning, as does therapeutic ego death. The psycho-social contexts of living are no longer absolute to the truly fluid identity.
When the creative potency of the quantum component is not engaged, the tangled hierarchy of the interacting components of the brain-mind, in effect, becomes a simple hierarchy of the learned, classical programs. The ego is an emergent property of our classical self. The quantum mode is equivalent to the "still point" within.
Thus, ego emerges out of the introspective interaction of our learned programs that result from our experience in the world, but there is a twist. The separate self has no free will apart from that of the quantum self, and ultimately, that of the unitive consciousness. Consciousness always leaves some room for unconditioned novelty, making possible what we know as free will.
This process can be viewed from a "top-down" epistemology or from a bottom-up theory that subject-object consciousness arises as "order within chaos."
How or why does consciousness split itself? The states of the brain-mind are considered to be quantum states, which are probability-weighted, multifaceted, possibility structures. Consciousness collapses the multifaceted structure (a coherent superposition) choosing one facet but only in the presence of brain-mind awareness, the mind-field in which objects of experience arise).
Which comes first: awareness or choice? This is a tangled hierarchy which gives rise to self-reference, and subject/object split. Secondary-awareness processes lead to intentionality--the tendency to identify with an object.
The "I" of reflective awareness also arises out of these secondary-awareness processes. Primary and secondary processes normally remain preconscious, obscuring the tangled hierarchy of the primary process. At this primary-process level there is no conditioning which means unrestricted freedom of choice.
Benjamin Libet has shown that even before a person experiences awareness of their actions (which is necessary to free will), there is an evoked potential that signals an objective observer that the person is going to will to raise his or her arm. Interestingly, as we all know, we retain our free will to say no to raising an arm, even after the evoked potential signals otherwise.
AH-HA! THE CREATIVE EXPERIENCE
In psychological terms, nature refers to unconscious instincts that drive us--libido; nurture refers to environmental conditioning, much of which is also unconscious. A third leg is creativity, which in this context is a drive from the collective unconscious.
Creativity is the creation of something new in an entirely new context. Newness of the context is the key. We have access to the vast archetypal content of the quantum states of mind (the pure mental states) that extend far beyond the local experiences within our lifetime. Creativity is fundamentally a nonlocal mode of cognition.
The creative act is the fruit of the encounter of the self's classical and quantum modalities, according to Goswami. There are stages in its development, but they are all tangled-hierarchical encounters of these two modalities; the hierarchy is a tangled one because the quantum modality remains preconscious in us.
The classical modality of the self, like the classical computer, deals with information, but the self's quantum modality deals with communication. Thus the first stage of the play of creativity is the tangled play of information (development of expertise) and communication (development of openness). It is tangled because you cannot tell when information ends and communication begins; there is a discontinuity in the "cosmic message."
Here the ego acts as the research assistant of the quantum modality--and it takes a strong ego (or fluid ego) to handle the destructuring of the old that makes room for the new.
In the second stage of creative illumination, the encounter is between the perspiration of the classical modality and the inspiration of the quantum modality. When the brain's quantum state develops as a pool of potentialities in response to a situation of creative confrontation, the pool includes not only conditioned states but also new, never-before-manifested states of possibility.
Since our personal pool is statistically weighted by our memories we can minimize the mind's conditioning by keeping an open mind to reduce the probability of (unconscious) conditioned responses, as in creativity. We can increase the odds of manifesting a low-probability creative idea by being persistent. Persistence increases the number of collapses of the mind's quantum state relative to the same question, increasing the chance to realize a new potential.
Creativity is enhanced if we confront ourselves with unlearned stimuli. Unlearned stimuli that seem ambiguous--as in a surrealistic painting--are especially useful for opening our minds to new contexts. Since conscious observation collapses the coherent superposition, there is a certain advantage in unconscious processing. Uncollapsed coherent superpositions can act upon others, creating many more possibilities for the eventual collapse.
The classical modality performs an equally essential function: It ensures the persistence of the will (the perspiration). Hence, the traditional importance in Magick of subordinating the personal will to True Will. The creative individual's ego has to be strong-willed to be persistent and has to be able to handle the anxiety associated with unknowing--the quantum jump into the new.
A creative experience is one of the few times when we directly experience the quantum modality with little or no time lag. It is this encounter with primary process experience that produces the elation, the ah-ha, the creative act of self-realization. It can lead directly to personal transformation of one's own context of living.
In outer creativity, quantum jumps enable us to view an external problem in a new context. In inner creativity, the quantum jump allows us to break from established patterns of behavior, which together make up what is known as character. Inner creativity means transpersonal experience, the uncertainty of being beyond the ego, which tends toward death-like stasis.
So, for inner creativity, one develops and practices awareness of one's conditioning, becoming aware of inner-growth potential. Transformation is an ongoing process, always defining an ever -more- compassionate context for our being. Recognition begins the shift of identity to the quantum-atman, comprehending a new self-identity.
Creative quandaries, like the Zen koan, intensify a double-bind which dissolves the ego and facilitates a third state of unbiased emptiness, wherein the probability pool of choice is extended to the creative dimension. The quantum wave of our mind expands and is ready to embrace new responses.
There is, however, no self-nature, no independent existence, in either subject or object: Only consciousness is reality, but how do we comprehend it? What is before collapse? The tangled hierarchy--the infinite chaotic oscillation of yes-no answers. The joy of meditative experiences is the original joy of consciousness in its pure form.
Goswami, Amit and Richard E. Reed, Maggie Goswami; THE SELF-AWARE UNIVERSE: HOW CONSCIOUSNESS CREATES THE MATERIAL WORLD; Jeremy Tarcher/Putnam Books, New York, 1993.
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