Consciousness – The Dawn of a New Religion?

SINCE DISCOVERING FOR myself the weirdness of quantum mechanics and the increasing difficulty physicists are having in explaining their evermore ‘weird’ theories of everything without descending into semi religious themes, I begin to wonder just how much longer it will be before one or other of them really does go nuts.

It would seem there is a strong move away from the conventional ‘mechanistic materialism’ behind the physics of the universe. Particle physicists cannot agree on what happens at the quantum level of particle behaviour. Are the quarks, muons, bosons and all the other quantum level particles there or aren’t they? If you observe them they behave as particles. If you don’t they behave as electromagnetic waves. Is ‘entanglement’ a far more common feature of these particles than previously thought? Do more ‘twinned’ particles exist that can communicate with each other across the universe instantaneously? Is it possible that information can be transmitted faster than the speed of light? Can what I know be exactly the same as what you – my telepathic twin – know without some electromagnetic speed limit getting in the way? Do dark matter and its counterpart dark energy exist? If so, what are they? Do they really compose some threequarters of the substance of the universe?

What started out for me as a mild curiosity about a theory that called itself ‘biocentrism’ that has been around for three or four years has morphed into a romp through a whole ‘new’ way of looking at consciousness that has adopted the name of non-dualism. This philosophy links its definition of consciousness to the theory of everything in a very different metaphysical way via Buddhist and/or Hindu meditational beliefs and practices, quoting the Mahayana/Vedanta and the great Yogis/Maharishis that have expounded on their beliefs over hundreds of years.

Far be it from someone as ignorant of eastern religions as me to pour scorn on the beliefs of highly educated men and women – some holding university chairs in complex scientific subjects such as particle physics, neuropsychology and advanced stem cell development – but their claims that the mathematicians and particle physicists have gone as far as they can go in slicing up (or down) matter into its smallest parts are way beyond the boundaries of my simple comprehension.

They posit the theory that the materialist scientists with their blind faith in quantum mechanical mathematics can go no further in their search for a theory of everything without recognising that the only true definitions will be found in acceptance of the existence of an all-pervading, infinite consciousness beyond mankind’s comprehension, a level of consciousness that can only be approached by resorting to extreme meditational exercises as practised by yoga adepts. The non-dualists believe (and it is very much a belief of the religious kind) that the origin of the universe (and, indeed, the infinite multiplicity of universes that follows from their belief) lies in a ‘fizz’ (in the actual words of a prominent microphysicist) of particles like that which produced the ‘Big Bang’ (if, indeed such an event ever occurred).

Personally, I am not prepared to delve into the mysteries of oriental religions, much as I respect their advanced humanity by comparison with the Abrahamic religions evolved in the Middle East. I am no atheist, nor am I a devout theist. However, I do believe that fanatical adhesion to any one religious belief is a recipe for human conflict, with words like ‘blasphemy’ being bandied around to denigrate others who cannot or will not accept a particular interpretation of dogma.

Like one school of oriental religious thought I do believe in the soul or spirit, the ultimate me (Atman?). I do believe that it is something like – not necessarily the same as – the energy that Einstein proved is indestructible with his general theory of relativity, with the beautiful simplicity of its defining expression, e=mc2. While I do not accept that I will be reincarnated as a being deserving of a new life reflecting my behaviour in this one, I do believe that there will always be a consciousness – a soul – that will essentially be a continuation of me. (Here my belief parts company with anything I was taught in Sunday school.) I may not have any recollection of what this life is all about. I don’t know whether I will come back as a poisonous microbe or a brain surgeon. Will I even come back to an awareness of self in this universe or some other parallel one with dimensions I cannot experience in this one? Who knows?

There is evidence – refuted by most neuroscientists and advanced psychology practitioners – that human beings can and do reincarnate with memories of their former existence. Rare cases have been investigated using modern research techniques and documented where children barely out of nappies and only just able to talk can recollect facts from a previous lifetime that cannot possibly be explained in any other way. It is said that such memories tend not to last beyond early childhood, which is probably why more cases have not been recorded. Certainly, this gels with Buddhist beliefs in reincarnation.

Whether or not reincarnation can be proven, belief in an afterlife seems to be fundamental to the mental well-being of most human beings no matter what their cultural background. It takes a peculiar form of bloody-mindedness to be an atheist, someone who believes that death is the end of all things – when your brain dies that’s it, there’s nothing else – nix, zilch. You will never see another sunrise; you will never smell another flower, taste another sweet; you will never perceive of beauty; you will never experience love.

“What dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil?”

It will be interesting to see what comes of this debate between the materialists and the dualists or non-dualists. As one protagonist of the latter said in a recent gathering of like-minded people (Rupert Spira in a U-Tube lecture on non-duality), we stand on the threshold of a major change in scientific knowledge, a change as profound as that in the mid 16th century, when Copernicus expounded his (then) heretical theory that the Earth was not the centre of the universe, that it circled round the Sun and not vice versa.

We know from history what changes that brought about in the world, slowly at first, then accelerating to where we are now, where technological and scientific development in all disciplines has reached exponential levels. What will that change be? Will it be something wholly revolutionary or are we on the verge of a return to a belief in a force (The Force?) that cannot be comprehended by ordinary man? Is this new acceptance of a Consciousness that is beyond comprehension, beyond even the most erudite scientists to define, because it is unknowable, going to become the new age religion, with its own ‘priesthood’ with all that portends?

Those of us who are not into philosophy will need some sort of moral guidance from those who are. I do not have the time or inclination to go back to school and learn a new religion and a new code of living. I am perfectly happy with my own interpretation of the teachings of Jesus Christ unfettered by the religious dogma imposed by any branch of Catholicism or Protestantism. I do not ‘know’ the bible backwards and have no ambition to do so. I know the bits I like and what I have taken away with me as I’ve progressed through life. I like the familiarity of some church services, the hymns I grew up with. I don’t like the changes that have been introduced in the general dumbing down of teaching to accommodate every relaxation in moral standards. Not being a religious fanatic I would not dream of imposing my beliefs on anyone else. They are my own distillation of my own experience and I’m comfortable with them.

Nevertheless, I would like to know where these guys are expecting to take us.