Reconciling Consciousness and the Physical world:

Is consciousness a function of the brain (or of mind) or does it exist somehow outside of this and does it continue when we die? Whether we believe that matter plus energy gives rise to consciousness or alternatively that consciousness gives rise to matter or whether consciousness simply emerges from immense complexity; which view is more likely to be correct or can these theories be unified?

The dense but invisible physicality of the brain/mind does appear to be the medium through which our consciousness manifests itself and perhaps, depending upon our beliefs, also offers a conduit into a possible spiritual domain. As an agnostic, what I do not know with any certainty is whether any of it is 'real;' whether it all 'just' goes on in our heads or whether it exist somehow outside of this - the answer to which might perhaps be determined by whether or not the capacity to have this experience will prevail after my physical body has ceased to be - whether this consciousness is eternal - or whether I am the sole creator of this inhabitor 'soul' of this inner universe. On hearing this, a true 'adept' might suggest that I had not yet experienced enlightenment.

For much of our time we are truly wedded to the physical domain. We live in our physical world with our houses and our cars, our jobs, friends and our lovers and, whether we are happy or not, many of us do not really question what is going on around us - much. We may look at the global economy and the recent banking crises, the energy crisis, extreme weather and climate change, the war on terror, food mountains and famine etc and we might wonder how we got to be in this state. Politicians promise us the answers but nothing seems to be getting any better. There is a culture of fear; a fear of annihilation - and so we fight and steal to keep a sense of being on top of it.

Our bodies are electrochemical organisms that we have to keep feeding with energy, extracting nutrients from our food and generating cells and impulses which keep our bodies operating. We have these bodies that we identify in the mirror as ourselves and they give us the sense of who and what we are, rather than giving a sense that we are something more, merely inhabiting them. However, we do have a sense of our consciousness, a sentient being that is doing the observing; the sense of 'I', the 'me' who looks out from my body. I am more than my physical body. I am alive. Who am I? What am I? What is this phenomenon?

I suppose it has many names. Many would claim it is our higher self, our spirit, our soul, our ghost, our life force, our essence, pure energy, our consciousness, the source or God. It does not matter at this point what you wish to call it, just allow yourself the opportunity to accept that it is within you for your own personal experience. This 'place' is available to us from within if we meditate. A great sense of peace and calm can then descend upon the body which has experienced it. Once you tap into it, you become aware that it operates at a higher frequency and has a connection to all things in that domain. We are all one; an old hippy sentiment. C.G. Jung spoke of a collective unconscious. Mystics have spoken of the astral plane or nirvana. Others may call it heaven. Again, let us not label it. Even so, it is usually reserved as a place that we either go to when we die or does not exist and It is ridiculed as unscientific, unprovable psychobabble, yet it is just as 'real' as any dream (which is also intangible yet no one would deny dreams' existence - this is selective ignorance), except you are more present, awake, alive - and its impact can permeate your physical state and the way you live your life. Whether or not we can all meet there in some recognisable form, dead or alive, is not available to me, but if it all happens in my head, it can happen in other people's heads. What's not to like?

But we wonder how we can reconcile the possibility that we might be more than our bodies. It is usually considered as a dichotomy, like night and day, good and evil, male and female, awake or asleep, but it also offers the possibilities of a three-way rift between mind, body and spirit - life, purgatory and death - past, present & future.

Our brains are sophisticated computers that are interpreting the data - all manner of codes - coming in via our senses and creating the reality within our heads. Although science cannot prove this; it cannot be measured but cannot be denied that we experience it, matter does not give rise to thought; it is our consciousness which creates the physical world that we experience. Whilst we do often have a shared external reality of the physical world, this is only part of the picture.

We Are Pure Consciousness:
Over the years I would occasionally come across numerous 'coincidences' that my logical mind would write off as insignificant and it would only be after I had profound transformational experience, both during and following a single meditation exercise (and various subsequent ones) - at the ripe old age of 53 - where I allowed myself the possibility of letting go of my employment and, in letting go of my bodily pain, I finally 'pierced the membrane, the veil that had been pulled across my eyes, occluding my vision and my access to my inner self for so long. I was opened up to allowing the possibility of all things being possible. I started to realise that a lifetime of hundreds of ignored coincidences add up to a lot of avoiding the possibility that something other than I was aware of was possibly going on here. I wasn't about to jump to any conclusions about what was going on, I was just allowing myself to accept the possibility that these things might be linked in some kind of way and, to my utter amazement, things that I had 'known' for years (but was avoiding because I have had to stay safe and sane and keep my job, in what I had come to term, "egg and bacon land" [everyday physical reality]), started to flood back to me and, feeling I had reconnected with my inner being (which would be available to me whenever I wanted), I was met with such a sense of peace and calm, the likes of which I had not felt for maybe 30 years. Suddenly lots of things were beginning to make sense to me again where, it seems, the latter pieces of a jigsaw I had unknowingly been putting together, were falling into place. This was exciting.

Whilst, much earlier in life, I had come to believe that, at our essence, we are energy and that our bodies are stardust, I finally came to realise what some people have been saying for many years; that we truly are pure consciousness existing on a higher frequency and that our bodies - and our minds - are merely sophisticated computers, memory systems, interpreting and projecting the data coming into our main five senses for our consciousness to have the experience of being alive in this world. I didn't have to keep living out of harmony with myself. I was suddenly (re)opened up to all possibilities. The Matrix could (almost) be true.

I suppose this is what some people would call experience of God, but it was not God to my mind, but me and everything else. All the different subjects that I had been informally studying were now not so disconnected, but seemed to have some sort of central core to them; some, as had always been, had more obvious links than others, whilst others would require further exploration.

Call it synchronicity, coincidence, chance or fate - a matter I would have ridiculed prior to this singular event - or call it choice or whatever you will, but within a week of this experience I re-watched a number of my 'alternative' DVDs; Kymatica, Ancient Knowledge, Thrive, etc and one of (the much maligned) David Icke's 'talks' and - as I had been priming myself over many years of my own research - it was as if they just helped me to consolidate the experience I had just had.

Calling it 'joining the dots', Icke too had put lots of 'disparate' things together from different disciplines and, although the talk was somewhat preaching to the converted (there was not enough time to explain all the separate claims that he made) and some of it was really as far out of all reasonableness than one could imagine, he also spoke a lot of sense about what we can observe to be going wrong in this world (wars, the banking crises, the energy crisis, corporate control and Capitalism, the media, pharmaceuticals, globalisation, famine, climate change etc), the place we have allowed ourselves to arrive at - and helped me to reattach to what is really going on in this world and calmly accept a different perspective on life. So, what made the difference?

When I started to allow the possibility of all the incidental and insignificant coincidences to begin to have some connection with each other (again), I wasn't jumping to any conclusions about what this meant in the grand scheme of things, I was just allowing the possibility of them being linked in some kind of way. As soon as we come to a conclusion, we tend to determine whether it fits our regular scheme of things and accept or dismiss it accordingly; this is counter-productive if we are to maintain a truly open mind.

If we truly are consciousness and we inhabit this form for a short period - as all matter is already created - then what we experience physically is mere temporary illusion, born of this physical domain, which comes into being through our interpretation or perception of the data reaching our brains or, rather, our consciousness, which has been twisted and mangled through living in this physical dimension, bombarded by the 'truths' as indicated in the next paragraph.

Whilst many people are aware of the concept that 'history is written by the victors,' thereby leading us to believe that there are alternative versions, this does not mean that either version is authentic or accurate (whatever 'accurate' or 'reality' means). There are many 'truths' vying for our attention including: our memories, past experiences and biases, subjectivity, disinformation, misinformation, ignorance, white lies, blatant lies, half-truths, myths, folklore, wives tales, tradition, axioms, proverbs, conspiracy and counter-conspiracy, national security and need-to-knows, secrets, vested interests, propaganda, hype, marketing, the popular media, alternative press, positive discrimination, political correctness, so-called 'clinically proven' data, statistics, food content labels, science 'facts' - the list goes on. We are bombarded with so much 'reality'; it is difficult to determine what to believe. So we make our own version and live within the safety of the restrictions it imposes upon us - or rather, we impose upon ourselves.

The thing is, this all happens in this physical world and, as I've already said, this is not what we truly are and so, to some degree, it could be argued that it isn't important - any scientific discoveries could be merely projections into a holographic universe that our receptors - our brains - interpret. Science fiction becomes science fact becomes science faction. But we do inhabit these physical bodies and we do need to keep feeding them and there are things that our consciousness still requires to learn whilst we are housed within them - and so we must begin to wake up and to take action or else nothing will ever change.

Is the Earth Conscious?
I suspect that many people would initially say that it is not; it is just an inanimate object; a lump of rock. Perhaps we might need to rethink what we mean by consciousness but, regardless of this, the earth is by no means an inanimate object. It throws up mountains, volcanoes and deep fissures as tectonic plates separate and merge. These actions rotate and replenish nutrients and its surface sprouts trees and other plants whilst its oceans are in a permanent state of flux. Its climates, weather systems and atmosphere are never static, neither is its rotation on its own axis or its orbit around the Sun. The earth is definitely not inanimate.

Humans are made of the, quite different, qualities of skin and bones. Few people would argue that the things that grow out of their bodies; their hair, nails, teeth or even scabs and boils are not part of themselves. Yet it may be easy to dismiss that the plants that grow out of the earth are not actually part of the earth, but the nutrients are released through the erosion of its rocks, are converted into plant proteins which then decay and sink back into the earth. We easily think of all decaying matter, whether flora or fauna, as going 'back' to the earth - the compost may eventually become compressed back into rock, like the coal we so love to mine - so where does the earth, with its many layers and qualities actually begin and end?

Some people might argue that consciousness is an entity's ability to be aware of and to regulate itself. The earth certainly fulfils these criteria; it continually initiates and responds to events occurring from within its core to its surface and beyond into the atmosphere, each of which have a 'butterfly' effect elsewhere. It is perpetually striving for balance. It goes through its annual and seasonal cycles of decay, death and rebirth, which we might perceive as some passive consequence of its animation, rather than an active result of the earth's relationship with everything around it, upon it and within it. It has also undergone much longer cycles of change, including vast ice ages and periods of immense heat. The earth has also witnessed widespread and rapid decrease in the diversity and abundance of macroscopic life on earth, as evidenced by the geological and fossil records, which suggest no less than five mass extinctions of the flora and fauna of the planet over the last 500 million years.

[If you are interested, these extinction events occurred between the Cretaceous-Paleogene / Triassic-Jurassic / Permian-Triassic / the Late Devonian and the Ordovician-Silurian periods, roughly every 25-30 million years, with fluctuations in diversity every 62 million years].

Whilst it might be speculated that some of these extinctions were as a consequence of events initiating off-planet (asteroids for example), if our definition of the earth as a living planet is to broaden, then our understanding of the earth as only part of the, similarly living, but much larger, Solar system, itself only a small part of the Milky Way galaxy - only one of billions of other galaxies within an ever-expanding Universe - then it is not too far a leap to see where this concept might have a place. We are all in an unimaginably vast inter-connected 'cosmic dance'.

If this is so, perhaps we are less significant than the electrons orbiting a nucleus making up the atoms that give rise to a boil in the nostril of a 'God', who has sneezed in his parent's kitchen whilst revelling at his 21st birthday.

This concept easily explains the apparently unanswerable question: if the Universe is expanding, what is it expanding into? Pause to think about that one for a moment. The flaw in our understanding that leads to us possibly experiencing it as a paradox is that we assume that the Universe we can see is all that there is. How terribly arrogant of us. Our senses are very limited; humans need external apparatus to help us see and hear the things that are around us all the time but are beyond our capacity. The transistor radio is just one example. We might have microscopes, but we do not have the equipment to see what is beyond the sub-atomic world, neither do we have the technology to see the vastness of the macroscopic universe. We can only see 14 billion years away and then our equipment fails. This barely gets us to see beyond the vastness of space between atoms. If the so-called Big Bang was the start of this sneeze, we could merely be being thrust within our universal nose-matter into God's parent's kitchen - this is what we are expanding into - we cannot see the fridge; it is too far away as we hurtle, ever-so-slowly, towards the dog's bowl, in some time-frame so unimaginably huge that we can only conceptualise it in this somewhat comedic explanation.

So, the question about whether climate change is happening is a moot point; whether humans are helping to accelerate it and whether the species is in the last throws of its insignificant existence, as the next mass extinction looms ever closer, is not in doubt. Whether we can slow down the inevitable may be a valid quest and, it might be said, it would be irresponsible not to try but, ultimately, we are hitting that dog's bowl at some point.