The most challenging questions we tend to ask about consciousness are
*What exactly is it?
*Where is it located?
*Is everything conscious?
*What happens to consciousness at corporeal death?
It’s one of the issues science cannot answer sufficiently, giving rise to people looking to the spiritual for these answers. So I have decided to make my own enquiries by looking at both fields of enquiry.
As I began my research, I came across a scientist called, Herms Romijn, of the Netherlands Institute for Brain Research, who claims the brain uses virtual photons which comprise of electric and magnetic fields and it is these which he thinks ‘encode’ the conscious experience. He suggests the brain is, “a chaotic self-organising process, the outcome of which is the pattern of electric and magnetic fields generated by the dendritic trees of neurons… and these patterns code for the qualia.” This term, qualia, refers to a term used in philosophy and certain models of psychology. These qualia are individual instances of subjective, conscious experience. For example, the touch of something, pain, taste and our perception of things, are examples of qualia. So his view is that virtual photons comprise of electric and magnetic fields which record the conscious experience, being, “causally necessary and sufficient for consciousness.”
As I was reading about these virtual photons, one article related a recent discovery regarding neurons in the brain. It brought to light the fact that there is a giant neuron wrapped around both hemispheres of the brain. The scientists believe this is linked to consciousness, as it may well coordinate signals from the different areas of the brain to create conscious thought. They have curiously nicknamed this large neuron, “a crown of thorns.” It is linked more specifically to the claustrum, a thin sheet of grey matter which connects with most areas of the brain (please research in your own time). This discovery is helping us understand human consciousness and how it forms. If this gigantic neuron is a cause of consciousness, the virtual photons of Romijn are like multisensory pictures being both subjective memory and part of consciousness itself.
These ideas led me to ask, is the humble photon, virtual or otherwise, the cause of consciousness? And if this is so, how are photons created? Well, I’m no scientist but my understanding is that electrons create photons, from bouncing around within an atom, when it is ‘excited’ by another atom. The electron moves to a higher point in the electron field and as it returns to its natural place, the photon is emitted. The photon is now in existence, being both wave and particle. Sound waves are also produced when energy transformation occurs, but sound waves have slightly different qualities, as temperature is a factor in their frequency, but for the time being, I’m concentrating only on light. So light has been produced by our electron doing its trampolining and this leads me to deduce that photons/virtual photons are created by interaction at an atomic level and exist as both wave and particle, which is potentially conscious.
The double split test infers that there is a relationship between the observer & observed and challenges our understanding about the nature of time. The now infamous double split test (I wont explain the whole experiment and kindly ask you to look it up) reveals the humble photon or electron shows itself as a wave when unobserved and as a particle when observed. If observed after passing through the split, it can change state to a wave from a particle. So it would appear to be conscious, due to it recognising whether it is observed or not. Plus, there is the possibility that if it is conscious, it can affect its past, present and future, as if time does not exist; everything occurs instantly.
Further to this, an experiment in 1997 displayed something called quantum entanglement, where a particle is split in two and an action on one half directly affects the other. In short subatomic particles, like photons and quarks, have a quality known as “spin”. They aren’t literally spinning, yet they behave as if they do and when you observe one part of the split photon/electron, it will suddenly be going clockwise or anticlockwise. Whatever way it is going, the twin will start spinning the other way, even if it were to be on the other side of the universe. The experiment performed had the split ‘halves’ 14 miles apart. So the communication between the two parts exists and appears to be faster than the speed of light, which may be an indicator of consciousness, and/or an unknown energy field.
So does this then mean that consciousness is timeless? Potentially, it indicates that we have consciousness and could exist in two states ourselves. To my mind, the comparison would be that the particle is the body and the wave would be the soul.
I began to compare the ideas of science with ancient, spiritual thought. The Vedas and Hinduism, consider everything to be interrelated; each being is an expression of Atman/Brahman. The Jewish idea of existence is that we are in God’s image and the writer of Genesis portrays the creation as needing light first. God says, “Let there be light,” so light was created. If we compare this to science, the first atoms ‘excite’ the electron and create light. What’s even more interesting is that atoms are made up of three parts, electron, proton & neutron. The Christian faith, a later development from Judaism, also suggests that God is made of three aspects, which is an interesting parallel. Aside from these comparisons, the Abramic faiths, Hinduism and Taoism indicate a conscious God/gods and these belief systems reveal the interconnectedness of nature. In Advaita Hinduism the idea of everything being connected is very much prevalent, as if everything is conscious. A Course in Miracles (ACIM) also indicates that everything is conscious. Given that nature displays the cycle of seasons, death, life and the cycle of things, it is not hard to see where the ideas come from. Yet is everything really conscious?
There have been experiments carried out which may indicate consciousness in other, what some would consider unusual, sources. The more notable have been Dr Vogel’s experiment with water, from which he believes that water is conscious & Masaru Emoto’s experiments regarding Thoughts & Intentions on rice and water. Both experiments required people, or a person, to talk and display particular emotions towards the object. In the first case regarding Vogel’s water crystals, the good intentions on the water crystals developed beautiful symmetrical crystals as opposed to unsymmetrical, yellowish crystals that had bad intentions displayed towards them. In the case of Emoto’s rice, bad intentions made the cooked rice mouldy and good intentions left the rice relatively unchanged. These experiments could indicate consciousness within molecules. I would encourage you to look at these experiments, as well as Paul Lenda’s interesting article about plants and consciousness, which mentions various scientists and the possibility of plants being conscious. Many people debunk and criticize these experiments, or treat them as if it were just hippyish nonsense, but I’d ask you to make up your own minds. If, like Romijn suggests, consciousness is made up of subjective emotions and feelings, then these experiments display similar properties in things that we may not consider as being sentient. Therefore, if all things are conscious and interrelated, or connected, is there the possibility of a greater consciousness at work?
The idea of there being a greater consciousness within the universe often has the representation of it being God. In the Abramic faiths, God is eternal, all powerful, the instigator of life and the offers the promise of eternal life. Hinduism has reincarnation as its own version of eternity, yet one can escape Samsara (the process of suffering life and death over and over again) by following certain ideas, so the soul can achieve, Nirvana. And most faiths do have the notion of an afterlife as well as a supreme consciousness. So, in the case of light, the photon is absorbed and the energy is transferred to the absorbing matter, it merely transforms its energy state. In regards to faith, we find that the majority of religions offer eternal life, our state changing upon corporeal death. Hence, when faith and science are compared to our electron or proton, both have similar properties, being possibly conscious and eternal.
So, what I have deduced so far? Consciousness is like a camera. When the picture is not observed it is as a negative, when observed it’s as a picture, with senses. It’s as if the electron takes a picture, every photon created is like the flash of a camera, and each picture is recorded along the trail of spacetime, as a memory. The location of the consciousness would appear to be within each atom and this may explain how a cell knows what to become. If you get cut, skin replaces skin, but how do the cells know that they need to be skin? Is this memory the reason as to how it knows what to be? I also think that, like light, potentially we have two forms, an invisible consciousness/soul and a physical body. The transformation of energy states indicates a timeless afterlife, eternity. It would also suggest that, like quantum entanglement, things are connected or linked at a microscopic, neigh quantum level.
My next train of thought led me to consider our relationship with the cosmos. Due to science explaining that we are the result of distant dead stars, the stardust being in our blood, organs and bones, we could well be the result of a conscious universe; each star a memory, a conscious snapshot of existence being recycled atomically. Steve Stewart-Williams says, “Conscious minds are part of the physical universe, as much as rocks and potato peelers. Our consciousness is not simply consciousness of the universe; our consciousness is a part of the universe, and thus the universe itself is partially conscious. When you contemplate the universe, part of the universe becomes conscious of itself.” In this example, the conscious universe has created you and I. If this is the case, the physical attributes are almost an afterthought, for no matter what we perceive as sentient, consciousness would indicate the sentience of stars, elements and atoms.
When the first atoms of the universe were created, an exchange of protons and electrons enabled the elements to come into being. Also, the first photon, was endlessly recycled into other elements. Like I mentioned earlier, that first light is potentially the first snapshot of existence, the first memory and first spark of consciousness. This would imply a universe that is conscious, just as much as we are, but is this a true reality?
Some of the oldest schools of faith have challenged the way we view reality. Buddha suggested that reality is an illusion and even apocalyptic writings of the Christian/Jewish faith allude to the “lifting of the veil;” the term, ‘apocalypse,’ itself coming from the Greek for ‘uncover.’ The advocates of Biocentrism believe we shape our reality from individual/shared consciousness, which ties in with this idea of, what some might call subjective reality. Yet, can we really shape our reality? Well, science has come up with some dazzling findings, as you shall see.
As previously mentioned, there is a relatively new school of thought called, Biocentrism, which suggests that it is consciousness that creates reality, indicating a conscious universe and an orderly intelligence that ‘holds things together’ and organizes the material reality. Furthermore, this school supports the idea of the consciousness, or soul, being eternal and migrating elsewhere at the point of a corporeal death. According to Biocentrism, we have microtubules in brain cells which are primary sites of quantum processing and when we die, the information is released from the body. The argument is that our experience of consciousness is the effect of quantum gravity in the microtubules; a theory known as Orch-OR (please see suggested reading link).
Also an experiment whereby a subject’s DNA sample was sealed in a container and placed in another room, whilst the subject was stimulated to evoke varying emotions, concluded that the DNA tightened when negative emotions were created and relaxed when positive emotions were created. More importantly, the subject and DNA sample were still linked in a strange, almost telepathic way. They concluded, “Human emotion produces effects which defy conventional laws of physics.” Another experiment performed had white blood cells placed in sealed chambers so electrical changes could be measured. Again, the subject was situated in a room away from the sample and watched video clips depicting different emotions. Both sample and subject exhibited the peaks and troughs at exactly the same time on the measuring equipment, with no time lag. As these were curious findings, they added another part to the experiment, distance. It was interesting to discover, that if separated by 50 miles, the same measured responses occurred, again with no delay, no lag, no transmission time. I would have liked to have known the maximum distance possible for this phenomena. Both of these experiments display similarities to quantum entanglement.
Then there was another experiment, where photons were observed in a vacuum. The photons’ location were naturally random. They then placed human DNA into the vacuum with the light. As they did this, the photons followed the geometry of the DNA, described as being, “surprising and counter-intuitive.” The scientists now believe that there may well be a field of energy they know nothing about.
So these three experiments could potentially reveal consciousness as existing at an atomic level, being present in light as well as DNA. The most interesting part, for me, is the communication over long distances, without delay or lag. Could this be another indication of the quantum entanglement we looked at earlier? These experiments may well be representative of how we shape and perceive reality, how emotions affect our reality, and of a communication method that transcends time.
Is there a conscious field of energy ‘out there’ which communicates faster than light?
When I’ve thought about it, most messages we create are conscious messages, needing time. It’s as if a message is sent back from the present moment. As soon as the message is created, it is already in the past, according to our perception of time. With radio, phones, emails, etc, all our received messages are sent back in time to our present moment and experience lag/delay. Unconscious messages, appear to be natural, like the way we naturally breathe, walk, physical movements. A simple gesture, like my finger tapping the keyboard as I write this, contains natural communication between my flesh, bone, nerves and an innumerable amount of activities within by brain. It occurs naturally, but it is an acquired skill, which I have been learning since birth. Yet, all these interactions, or communications involve time, whether conscious or unconscious. Compared to the examples given in the experiments mentioned earlier, we appear to need time to gain understanding, learn and ‘become.’
The requirement of communication needing time caused me to also consider the speed of thought. No one really knows its true velocity. Similar to a dream, thousands of filed pieces of multisensory information are processed in any second. A dream may seem to last a while, but in actuality, it is fleeting. Approximate calculations suggest a speed of 70 – 120 miles per second, that’s 156 – 270 miles per hour, just for neurons to send a message along the spinal cord to a muscle! We can generate and act on a thought in less than 150 microseconds! So that gives you an idea of how long a thought takes.
If there is this field of energy around and about, and it communicates naturally, similar to quantum entanglement, what is it? Is this an aspect of consciousness? It appears to be, due to what happens to photons, whether they are split or not. As Einstein said, it is “spooky action at a distance.” George Lucas, in his Star Wars movies, called it, the Force, and the quantum/atomic field contains midichlorians, which is an interesting idea. Ghandi also believed that there is a force in the universe, of whom some call it, God. Whether we ascribe a name to it, or not, I have come to the conclusion that there is indeed a power, a force, a consciousness other than mine, that exists at the smallest and largest levels.
My conclusion regarding consciousness is that it is what we traditionally would call the soul, or spirit.
I believe that, due to each particle being potentially conscious, collectively it forms a field around, or within, our body at an as yet undetected level, which may well be what we call, the soul or spirit. It contains our subjective emotions & memories and it’s information is constantly being uploaded and downloaded. So, in essence, we are a field of conscious particles. At the atomic level, each atom has parts that create our physical form and other parts that are conscious memories, which collectively construct our soul, or spirit.
It’s as if the memories are created by taking a multisensory snapshot of the moment, when particles are ‘excited.’ The humble electron, doing its trampoline act, is the flash of the camera which takes a picture and stores it as memory. The captured moment is timeless not needing time to communicate. When we recall the memory it’s seen and when we don’t, it’s not.
If this is truly the case, all of our hereditary atoms hold memories of our starlit origins, forged in the furnace of space. We share the memories, we are entangled with them biologically for we have been recycled at an atomic level. Our bodies will retire and die, will get recycled, and will transform into another state just as the photon and its energy is absorbed and transferred to the absorbing matter.
These ponderings caused to think the following. When you look up into the night sky, you are looking at a memory of what you once were, and in my conclusion, memory is part of consciousness. Therefore, the conscious universe you are looking at is inside and outside of your body. Clues are given to us and this is why the interior of an atom is mysteriously like a solar system, the map of the brain is like a map of the universe, the roots of a tree are like the dendrites in the brain, the flash of a camera is like an electron sparking a photon into life.
This conscious universe speaks to us in the silence of each moment, crossing 13.6 billion years in an instant, for we are entangled with it. Like an electron, the universe only has one moment, now, which is devoid of time. Just as a diamond has many facets and you can look through any of the facets and still see the same diamond, in the same way, each and everyone of us are windows through which the universe looks inwards and outwards. However, when it looks inwards, it is the same as looking outwards, it’s just that the perception has shifted. One cannot look at either the interior or exterior without being conscious of the other. If you look at the interior, you are conscious that there is an exterior. Likewise, if you look at the exterior, you’re conscious of an interior. Yet they are both one and the same; it’s a matter of perspective.
From the first flash of light in the universe, to the most recent photon that’s reached your eye, the universe has taken a picture, a ‘selfie,’ in which it sees the gorgeous complexity and simplicity of creation. We can see this picture when we observe it and when unobserved, it passes by like a wave on the ocean. It’s just a matter of perspective. Yet we need both perspectives to establish that it is conscious. Like the double split test infers, we are conscious, aware, timeless, and have two states, one which is observed and another that is unobservable. My conclusion is that every atom has consciousness and collectively it is the soul, mind and memory of existence of you, the universe and everything. It communicates at a level faster than light. So the next time when you look up at the night sky, some of your atoms are consciously waving to old relatives in the realm of spacetime.
I’ll leave you with these thoughts, so you can make your own opinion. I don’t think this article would be complete without a quote from Rumi who wrote,
“Whenever the Secrets of Perception are taught to anyone, His lips are sewn against speaking of the Consciousness.”
Suggested reading links: