A PROLEGOMENA TO ANY FUTURE SCIENCE OF CONSCIOUSNESS
The high point of my career in physics was in 1962 as a sophomore at Western Reserve University, later changed to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, where I had a full scholarship in physics. At that time I had a physics guru in the department named Joseph Weinberg who had been black-balled by Senator McCarthy, who suspected Weinberg of being Dr. X who leaked to the Russians, information from the Manhattan project which allowed them to build an atom bomb in 1949.
Joe was brilliant, and like me, was able to destroy the credibility of any actual physical experiment just by standing near it. We both shared a distain for experimental physics and the results. In fact, in both High school physics and freshman physics at WRU, my lab experiment results never were what they were supposed to be.
I had self-taught myself General Relativity, tensor calculus, and Riemannian Geometry, and in 1962 taught tensor calculus to incoming fellows who had summer felowships to study under Gerald Tauber, who was the department’s expert in cosmology and relativity. Joe was mostly a quantum physicist who used to regale me and other students with tales of directing battleship cannon fire using slide rules during WWII.
But I doubt he had ever been on a battleship, as he was a protégé of Robert Oppenheimer, and was a mathematician on the Manhattan project which Oppenheimer ran during that same period of time.
1962 was near the low point of General Relativity research as Einstein had just died 7 years before, and his last 20 years was spent mostly in seclusion at Princeton. His peers thought Einstein was lost in a dead end of creating a Unified Field Theory to bring electromagnetic theory into General Relativity. Little effort was being expended on Relativity or cosmology, as most everyone was exploring quantum mechanics because that is where the money and interest was: atom bombs, H-bombs, nuclear energy, particle theory, etc. Relativity research was mostly dying, and there was little interest in it in our physics department.
The big breakthroughs that resulted in string theories, brane theories, and Hawking’s research on black holes were still a decade or two away. Since not much was going on in this area, and the department was not much interested in Relativity, spacetime, cosmology, etc., I gradually lost interest and moved on to study economics, seduced the elegance of Keynesian economics, the bane of all conservatives who would soon embrace Friedman’s monetary theory and later the trickle down economics of Ronald Reagan that has effectively destroyed the vitality of America’s economy by shifting wealth to the top 1%, leaving not enough money in the economy to support the consumerism necessary to sustain a manufacturing economy. This, along with the horrible trade deals such as Bill Clinton’s NAFTA free trade legislation (and the upcoming Obama new trade legislation), has broken America’s economy.
However, I did learn one thing from both fields: there was really nothing there! There is no "truth" in these theories. That real truth is found by going within. This is a discussion for another time and place. Here I am stating a case for developing a science of the inner worlds we each share.
In both fields many, many very bright people spent an inordinate amount of time speculating, hypothesizing,and mathematizing these speculations. For them, it was all about imagination and speculation based on physical intuition, and then mathematical manipulation of field theory equations, such as imagining the shape and energy/matter density of the universe, and plugging in parameter values in field equation matrices. That is, there were few observables to check the rampant imaginings, allowing for all kinds of unchecked or uncheckable worlds.
(This leads once again naturally to the question of why mathematics used to explain the world, actually explain so well? Is it that the structure of the way we perceive also structures mathematical intuitions and logic?)
This was the result of the dominance of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity with its Einstein Field Equations and the necessity of making simplifying assumptions in order to come to exact or even approximate solutions. For almost 100 years physicists and mathematicians have been fighting over reconciling physical laws, such as Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory and equations, quantum mechanics and its laws, with the “truth” of General Relativity, then later attempts to subsume Relativity within a larger Unified Theory, such as string theory.
Really, there was very little there but imagination and mathematics, and once in a while a predictable outcome which then refocused interest in a new theory of the week that was heralded to be a coming breakthrough that would explain everything in the world. Hawking had even stated in the late 1970s that the search for the knowledge about everything could be had by the end of the century.
Could it be that imagination about the nature of the universe and time, in fact explained how we experienced space and time? That mathematics told us as much about the structure of ourselves as it told us about the world? Is it built not only into our DNA so-to-speak, but into how we perceive the world, and perhaps ourselves?
If you look into it deeply, what one sees is that physics has two languages: mathematics and physical intuitions expressed in terms of visual models such as Einstein thought experiments about the identity of gravity and acceleration, his so called-elevator thought experiment. It also has the precedent of established truths of physics that usually challenged the current models, such as the problem of extending laws of thermodynamics, well established for a century, to black holes, which created the famous tussle between Hawking and Susskind.
Physics is all intellectual speculation mixed with ways to express its speculations in terms of mathematics and in terms of expressed physical intuitions.
Against the results of such ruminations, each “solution” hopefully predicts something measurable by experiment or observation, such that the “real world” is compared against the theory. Sometimes as theory will lay fallow for 30 or 40 years because it did not generate any testable observations when originally formulated.
In other words, most of modern theoretical physics from early quantum mechanics and most of Relativity has consisted of attempts to simplify or make solvable complex equations, which when solved by making assumptions, creates models of space-time, or of quanta, continuous or discrete space and time, etc., which then can be tested against observations in experiments or astronomically. Even if observations failed to verify, even that could be explained away as insensitive instruments, or else a new variable could be thrown into the equations to explain what was observed.
Physics was very, very messy from the 1980s on really because of the lack of observables. It was all talk, equations, yelling at each other, and a great lack of observables. And when the observables began to come in hot and heavy through satellite data and Hubble among others, the storms that swept through physics went through the roof because there was so little there that was anticipated, and so much data results that were totally unexpected.
There are literally thousands and tens of thousands of physical theories that have come and gone, based on observations, simplifications of boundary values on tensors, simplifications on assumptions of the distribution of mass and energy throughout a galaxy or the entire universe, and quantum principles. Theories arise, have their day in the sun, then fade as observations provide no proof or no observables are predicted.
There is no rigorous science anywhere. The mathematician Hilbert had attempted to create such a rigorous mathematics in the 19th Century, called the Hilbert Program, which was to require all mathematics to be provable based on a set of axioms agreed upon in the beginning. Nothing would be regarded as “real mathematics” unless it had this logical basis.
Kurt Godel, one of Einstein’s closest friends proved there were always an infinite number of exceptions within any such “real” mathematical schema, of demonstrably true theorems that were not provable within any given set of assumptions. This destroyed the Hilbert Program, but also allowed mathematics the freedom to escape the bonds of rigid logic, and science could add any fanciful variable to make equations balance.
(I was very fortunate while at Case Western Reserve to have three graduate students in philosophy as roommates including Judson Webb who knew more about Godel's Theorem than anybody wanted to know. Judson's intellect was like a huge, inpenetrable mountain, infinitely dense, and usually plodding in his exposition of theory. But if you got him going, and had him speed up his pace, listening to him was like listening to Bach in the flesh. My hair actually stood on end, feeling the bliss of celestial music as his impeccable logical mind just rolled on and on. This was true mathematics, not the stuff peddled by the physicists.)
The assumptions, the simplifications of equations in order to reach solvable sets of equations, the ad hoc adding of variables to make the theory fit observations make the whole endeavor subject to derision.
In my opinion, the whole purpose of theoretic explorations in thought and mathematics is to predict something in nature that had not been seen before. Without that, theoretic physics is intellectual masturbation.
WITH REGARD TO SPIRITUALITY, DOES THIS MESS IN MATHEMATICS AND PHYSICS HELP US UNDERSTAND HOW WE COULD BETTER PURSUE INVESTIGATIONS OF THE NATURE OF CONSCIOUSNESS, OF OUR RELATION TO BOTH CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE WORLD?
I say yes!
To escape all the useless infighting found in a hundred years of physics, it is better to focus research first on the observables and leave the theorizing and building binding scaffolding until later. Comparing brain based theories of Consciousness to idealists’ theories of Consciousness opens the way to endless theory argumentation and speculation. We should first focus on exploring our inner worlds directly, through observation, meditation, self-inquiry, and self-experiments. Everything begins with the subject, the I, the me, the observational perspective, gradually ferreting out not-me from the me experience,and perhaps later experiencing new phenomena and bring them into the I-sense and watch it grown and expand.
Physics deals with space, time, and all the observables in space and time. It deals with the structures found in space, like curvature and whether space is continuous as it appears to us at the level of human observation, or is it discrete, packages of space and time, not unlike a particle.
Then it deals with objects from sub-atomic particles, which are now legion, to atoms, to molecules, to planets, stars, galaxies, black holes, and the distribution of such throughout spacetime and what these things mean.
So, spirituality has three things in common with external science in terms of observables: space, time, and observables.
Science uses two modes of language to state it case: mathematics and physical intuitive speculations expressed graphically or in ordinary language
Now science deals with external space and external objects that is shared by one and all, while spirituality mostly deals with one’s inner world of emotions, inner energies, internal feelings of our bodies, and our separation from other observers and then the observation of more exotic things, like God, grace, the I-sense, unity consciousness.
External science assumes there is one common external world (this world as opposed to the many alternative realities predicted by string and brane theories), while spirituality generally accepts that each of us is the sole observer of our own autonomous and localized viewpoint delimited by our skin, versus someone else’s experience within their own skin. Our subjective worlds are legion, yet we can look for similarities if not identities in our separate and individual worlds of experience and discourse.
Within this inner and separate universe of each of us, what matters is this: what is the nature and are the structures, if any, within our separte experiences of emptiness and time?
We can also then explore similarities of the observables within the container of inner or “imaginal” space, from emotions and moods, to memories, to visualizations, to thoughts, to energies variously called chi, Kundalini, Shakti, meridian, etc., out of body experiences, the experiences of physical pain in illness and injury, humor, depressive features, grief, joy, bliss, confusion, desires and impulses, and finally meditative states like Sahaj Samadhi, unity experiences, the causal body, Nirvana, and ultimately the Witness supposedly prior to Consciousness..
All of these have been experienced by some people and not others. The inner and outer world experienced by one person may be entirely different from another’s.
Science says there is only one common external world and they struggle to better understand that one world, while a spiritualist may say that while we all share identical sentience variously called beingness, the Witness, the subject, etc., (which unifies us in the small sense) the objects experienced, or the experiences themselves are entirely idiosyncratic to each specific individual, and perhaps to their location in the one common external universe..
That is, each of us lives within our own subjective universe, and look out into the common external universe, the rules of which are defined by Newtonian or Einsteinian mechanics universally.
However, we come to two problems when comparing an inner science to external science: 1. what is the language of inner science as opposed to mathematics and thought experiments about physical intuition; 2. how is it that our inner worlds differ so much between people?
We are not equally sensitive to inner phenomena. Some people are exquisitely sensitive and aware of emotions, others may almost totally lack emotional awareness (we call these Republicans). Some are aware of inner emptiness, the Void of Zen, others are not. Some are aware of an inner light or transparent clear light associated with the opening of the Third Eye. Some are exquisitely aware of the feeling of their bodies from within, and others, not so much at all.
Some of us are acutely aware of inner energies that vary from a slight tingling in the extremities, to violent shaking, to the various intensities and durations of ecstasies and bliss. Some feel the Kundalina “snake” rising in their spines. Some feel Chakras. Most people don’t feel either.
We have to realize there exists this variability of sensibilities and sensitivities regarding the experience and thus reality of various inner phenomena. We also have ro realize that various spiritual practices, from the endless variety of meditations, the various practices of self-observation and self-inquiry, practicing chanting, japa, etc., can lead to experiences most people don’t experience. There are explorers of the inner world, who by using various types of meditations and perceiving energy practices, open up inner worlds for exploration that are entirely real for them, but not within the observation space of others.
These may or may not be verified through testing or observation. So far, for example, there has been no major study using double blind methods and a large sample that proves the effectiveness of energy healing, such as Reike or Quantum Touch. What we have are a lot of ad hoc and separated incidents of healing or the failure to heal, that has not proven healing at any rate better than the placebo effect.
Therefore I propose the following:
The emphasis for spiritual exploration (of self and Consciousness) and discussion should be what has been or can be perceived or experienced by different observers using different self-investigation techniques from meditation, to self-inquiry, to auto brainwave investigation, flickering light frequencies, on the experience of emptiness and of time, and perhaps even drugs..
Then, we can begin, or it can begin in parallel, the investigation of what exists internally, such as recognizing the differing experiences of emotions, visualizations, thoughts, memories, healing energies, chi, Kundalini, and the experiences of the body from within and how that varies based on our meditation practices, beliefs, and health.
The language we should use is NOT mathematics in any form, but descriptive language as devoid as possible of theoretic baggage such as God, generics such as Shakti, Kali, or the Void. All these terms initially have too much theoretic or theistic baggage that would hinder understanding in the long run.
We might each describe how we experience the void within, and how our experience of emptinesschanges over time based on meditations practiced, observations, and guided inquiry. I suggest we use as a basis for starting our inquiry, accepting a text, or set of texts by Buddhists who have specialized in investigating emptiness and time such as in the text Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness (Link removed.
(I just removed the link to this text. Max looked at it and found mostly theory. I looked again. I remembered it wrong. It is actually a Buddhist polemic, and very little is devoted to actually experiencing emptiness directly. It is about the Buddhist theory of emptiness.)
There are many Buddhist texts that describe these multiple emptinesses based on observations of emotions, and also theories about perception itself, or the reality, or lack thereof, of the observables, such as continuous or discrete time. Zen spends an amazing amount of energy exploring the void and inner and outer observables.
Look at Amazon and find books about the experience of emptiness including those by me and Bernadette Roberts.
Let us concentrate first on how various inner explorers actually experience emptiness, and leave alone for now their theories about what those experiences mean in terms of the reality either of the emptiness, the observer, or of objects within the emptiness.
In this way we are following Einstein by focusing on the nature of spacetime itself as opposed to the objects in spacetime. There are other approaches, but my intuition is there is a lot to be found here by focusing on the experience of inner space and inner time, and then talk about conjectures about what these experiences mean when we generalize or in terms of “reality.” Let us stick to observables as much as possible and not get lost early into speculations of what they mean.
Also, psychologists have been investigating emotions and self for over 100 years from Freud and Jung, to the object relation theorists, which would be separate tact to take as a line of investigation in order to come up with a better understanding of the inner world, or our subjectivity, and then to find a better understanding of the relations between out inner experiential world and the outward observed world, and lastly, to the speculative worlds of theoretical physics and mathematics.
A third approach would be a similar experiential investigation of energy workers of their own experiences of energies, and begin to catalog them.
With this as a base, we can also more productively explore the various kinds of alleged awakening experiences and various meditative states, such as Sahaj Samadhi, various non-dual states of unity, the experience and meaning of Zen Kenshos, the experiences of embodied spirituality of Christ and Muzika, the experiences of No-self, the experiences or descriptions of any state prior to Consciousness, and any new understanding of the nature of Consciousness and its relation to awareness or to an ultimate Noumenal Witness.
What would really assist in understanding of Consciousness and ourselves, is not a lot more funding of research studying Consciousness as being an artifact of the brain, but studying in from the inside, and assuming for research purposes that the “one universe” outside, which science explores, is also an artifact of our Consciousness, and the structures of our inner space, time-sense, and rules of thinking, as well as externally applied mathematics and the science found in the one common universe, as well as the speculative universes of scientific imagination, are really the subjective structures comprising who we are. That is how the left brain operates as opposed to the right brain.
Maybe eventually we will discover the subjective rules of our inner world mirror the mathematics and logic of the external world. This would be one remarkable discovery if true. Self-realization and many new gates to knowing ourselves would probably also be opened.
I want to open the door to a re-exploration of the experience of Self and God, or the world and spacetime in ways not done in 500 years in spirituality so that we understand ourselves as the center of the universe as easily and readily as we understand ourselves to be tiny blobs of protoplasm floating around in an infinite physical universe. That infinite universe also floats around within the consciousness sphere of all sentient beings.