Panpsychism, could it really be true?

Have you ever wondered how or where consciousness arises? I have and “Pan what?” was my first question when a good friend mentioned to me in conversation that what I was actually describing to him had already been theorised hundreds of years ago. “Phew, I am not the first idiot to think this” was my second thought and then “wait a second it would have been cool to come up with something new” was the third though. After the discussion, I read up on the subject I could not have been more amazed, as the inherent beauty and wisdom slowly sank deeply into my being.

panpsychism

Panpsychism postulates that consciousness is everywhere and in everything and that this non-local or cosmic wide phenomenon is also without cause. Even stones and elementary particles have consciousness, not just people, bugs, or plants. Even for me, this sounds a little far-fetched until you delve into the subject a bit more. The earliest known references to panpsychism are likely attributed to early religions like Shintoism, Taoism, Paganism, and Shamanism. Even Aristotle is quoted as saying “that everything is full of gods.” Plato argued in his Sophist that all things participate in the form of being and that it must have a psychic aspect of mind and soul. “This world is indeed a living being endowed with a soul and intelligence … a single visible living entity containing all other living entities, which by their nature are all related.” Wow, that is a big idea and not so easy for an individual to wrap his mind around it. That is probably the problem, the idea of panpsychism takes us from the comfort of our strongly held idea of an individual or ego and even the religious idea of a soul or atman to the understanding that not only are all beings one being but that all things are united in a blissful unity or beingness.

This is illustrated in Robert Fludd’s depiction of the world soul. I thought it might illustrate the idea of Panpsychism in an interesting way.

Fotothek_df_tg_0006450_Theosophie_^_Philosophie_^_Judentum_^_Kabbala_^_Kunst_^_Technik

Panpsychism has some competition it is not the only theory about the origin of mind, the emergence theory has many followers as well. Emergence Theory postulates that consciousness has emerged from some as yet unknown evolutionary chemical process. Philosopher Professor Galen Strawson articulates the relationship between panpsychism and emergence quite acutely: “The issue of emergence of mind is important because it is the mutually exclusive counterpart to Panpsychism: either you are a Panpsychist, or you are an Emergentist. Either mind was present in things from the very beginning, or it appeared (emerged) at some point in the history of evolution. If, however, emergence is inexplicable or is less viable, then one is left with the panpsychist alternative. This line of reasoning … is the (panpsychist) ‘argument from Non-Emergence.”

Interestingly there is no proof anywhere of consciousness or mind emerging from any process but either is there any proof of panpsychism. Panpsychism is, however, in my opinion, far more elegant and takes mind or consciousness a few steps further than the emergence of mind as an evolutionary or materialistic process. Even with a rather superficial level of understanding of panpsychism, one might find some comfort in this theory that we are never alone and connected to everything in every way. However, this may also strike fear into the hearts of those who are so deeply attached to their own individuality or egos. Regardless if one finds comfort or fear lets discover some more of how Panpsychism, Quantum Physics, and Buddhism might be related.

When we analyze subatomic particles, one might say that there is no difference between the protons, quarks, and leptons in my body, and the protons, quarks, and leptons in the desk in front of me except that I am conscious and the desk is not. Or is it, but at a dramatically reduced level? David Bohm theoretical physicist and philosopher said “That which we experience as mind … will, in a natural way, ultimately reach the level of the wave function and of the ‘dance’ of the particles.  There is no unbridgeable gap or barrier between any of these levels. … … in some sense, a rudimentary consciousness is present even at the level of particle physics” So here we can surmise that there is no barrier between me and the desk.

To this day we do not understand where or how consciousness arises and the role the brain plays in its formation if it plays a role at all. It could be just a receiver or radio, receiving information on several channels of perception that we would call our senses. Panpsychism skips this need to discover the relationship between the brain and the rise of conscious awareness completely, its simplicity is simply profound. No matter how shocking or strange panpsychism sounds I am reminded at what Sherlock Holmes said, that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. Can science accept this deduction and if not how do we prove that which we have not been able to prove, other than keep trying even though the truth is already in front of us?

Buddhism teaches us that all beings have mind and or what we call Buddha nature, that is the ability to realize one’s full potential. Many teachers, when asked if plants have mind, would deny it and say that simply if it moves like an ant or something then it has mind. As we know plants only sort of move in their relationship to water and sunlight and the various degrees to which they require their nutrients. This could be a very basic version of attraction and aversion. This rather narrow view is on the outset not as encompassing as panpsychism. However, Buddhism requires us to break down any borders or boundaries between us and other things, this even applies to all concepts and ideas so why not to all phenomena as well. At an ultimate understanding of mind, where nothing has any true or independent existence in and of itself, all things would seem to have all the same qualities; conscious and otherwise. I would like to quote David Bohm once more here: “The notion of a separate organism is clearly an abstraction, as is also its boundary. Underlying all this is unbroken wholeness even though our civilization has developed in such a way as to strongly emphasize the separation into parts.” From the Undivided Universe: An Ontological Interpretation of Quantum Theory

This oneness without separation or boundary is exactly what we are talking about when Buddhists say that subject, object and action come together as one. This is known as the state of Mahamudra or complete and full awareness or consciousness. Once we have reduced this ontologically either in meditation, philosophically, or scientifically all that there is left points to just consciousness or mind and nothing else seems to matter, even matter itself. Imagine that, matter doesn’t matter. In this simple state of just being, connected with everything, and aware of all that there is, a state of great joy and bliss arises. Total freedom of mind, no more running from or reaching for, just complete happiness and wisdom resting in the suchness of everything. Here is where we can be really effective in this confused and angry world. Here is where we can really be the change that we wish to see in the world.

So is consciousness everywhere and in all things? I think so. Its simple beauty is both profound and inspiring, especially to the Buddhist ear. Modern science seems to agree more and more with this conclusion and I can only ask when or will modern society see the light as well? Perhaps Panpsychism is even the solution to the hard problem of consciousness. Which is to question how and why sentient organisms have qualia or phenomenal experiences.
Personally, I think the Buddha Dharma has already answered this question, but that’s a topic for another post. This for me is just another way in which we see that consciousness is the vehicle in which the universe is becoming aware of itself. Why else would it be so beautiful and blissful to experience it either in meditation or by scientific discovery? Let us take this and use it as a tool to better the world and our fellow beings in every imaginable way. Whatever your view is on this topic I would love to hear from you, please feel free to comment below.

Advertisements

Is Buddhism a Religion or a Scientifically measurable experience?

measure-quality

As part of the scientific process, we ask a question, formulate a hypothesis design the experiment and carry it out and measure the result as objectively as possible. It’s the same in meditation. In the sceince of mind, the laboratory of traditional Buddhist meditation we look within ourselves as objectively as we can and observe our mind and inner being while listening for the wisdom and answers that are already there deep within our personal inner universe. We then apply this new found wisdom found in our meditation and look for and measure results in our daily lives we are often surprised to see how wonderfully we have changed and developed during our life experience.

So let’s begin our meditation experiment:
A traditional well thought out Buddhist meditation can be comprised of two main parts. In the first part called shine (shyiné), shamatha, or calming and abiding we find ourselves learning to hold our attention using our body, speech, and mind, in fact, we can use our entire totality here and calmly stay on one point of beautiful focus. When distracted we calmly accept and return without any ado. After sufficient time, we can be flexible here, we relax our calm focus and allow our full being to either become one with the object of the focus or to dissolve the object of the focus from its state of energy and light into wide-open awareness. After a few moments of open suchness, called laktong (lhagthong), insight, or vipassana we gently return to our normal state of awareness and wish that all beings can find a state of equanimity free from attachment and aversion.

So thankfully much of the preparation for the experiment has already been done during the 1000’s of years of yogis meditating and teaching others in the many traditions passed down from teacher to student in the far east. This is an important clue here, as with science every student needs a qualified professor to question and keep one on track, meditation requires a good teacher, one who understands western life and can communicate and direct the student at all points in the process of inner development is indispensable.

Once we understand the process and have our clearly stated hypothesis such as “meditation is a healthy way to increase my quality of life”, we begin. And sit and sit and sit……..

 

mediteing.jpg

 

Are you still sitting?

 

 

What are the results? Well, they vary as much as individuals are individual, and while we should not try to grade or evaluate the meditation too much, but generally hindsight of a few weeks to many years shows some profound results. What are the more general results?:
1. Calm and relaxed behaviour.
2. Quiet acceptance of our situation.
3. Stress reduction
4. Space in mind to choose between tragedy or comedy within the challenges in life.
5. Ubiquitous love for all beings.
6. Compassion.

The open laktong, space, or suchness phase of the meditation is where I have many of my best ideas and inspirations. The calm breathing and focusing follows me throughout the day and helps me complete my tasks at hand with love and sometimes creativity as well.

As with any experiment, unexpected results may arise. It is best to chat with your trusted professor or Lama as to how or why the results have occurred. Allow yourself to incorporate their advice into your personal experience and grow. Just like Quantum Physics is not for everyone and you might be better suited for some sort of Biology or Chemical studies, meditation is not for everyone. A good teacher will know if you are in the right place and may recommend yoga or even just mundane like running if meditation is not for you.
There may be challenges and hindrances that arise and a good teacher can guide you through them. One common one is “I just cannot quieten my mind or the hamster never stops running in his wheel” This “condition” is commonly called “monkey brain” and everyone suffers from it especially in the beginning. When we begin to look inside we start to see just how distracted we are all the time it’s not more or less than normal we just notice it for the first time, and it will subside.
It is also worthwhile mentioning that some individuals who suffer from deep depression or any type of psychosis should likely not meditate or do so only under the supervision of their therapist.

Thank you, have an amazing meditative and joyful day

 

QP

Science, Jesus, and the Buddha why cant we just get along?

Bg0zxQBCEAA4Jyl

Science, Jesus and the Buddha why can’t we just get along. I love WordPress immensely and the real sense of community that one with a little work can find here. Unfortunately, some of us are not so community orientated and like to bash others a bit, so what I would like to explore a bit is why it seems that Christians seem to want to single out and demonise Buddhists. Strangely enough, Christians do not seem to bash Islam or Hinduism hardly at all. Personally, I think this is strange because generally, Christians are great people they develop amazing Christ-like compassion and love. So why would they spread false information, call us idol worshipers and often even worse?
So why can’t we get along and respect each other and move forward with the things we agree on? Certainly what we agree on is more important than what divides us. Can we learn something from science in this area?
It seems to me that science stays out of the mess likely because you cannot prove dogma and we the religious ones simply cannot get along without our dogma. I would want to stay out as well if I was a scientist. So this asks the question what is dogma? A quick google search says “a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.
“the Christian dogma of the Trinity”
synonyms: teaching, belief, tenet, principle, precept, maxim, article of faith, canon;”

Wikipedia goes a little further to say: “Dogma is an official system of principles or tenets of a church, such as Roman Catholicism,[1] or a philosophy such as Stoicism.

Dogma is transliterated in the 17th century from Latin (Latin dogma) meaning “philosophical tenet”, derived from the Greek ‘dogma’ (Greek δόγμα) meaning literally “that which one thinks is true” and ‘dokein’ (Greek dokeo) “to seem good.”[2][3]

Dogma refers to positions such as those of a philosopher or of a philosophical school, or in a pejorative sense referring to enforced decisions, such as those of aggressive political interests or authorities.[4][5] More generally it is applied to some strong belief that the ones adhering to it are not willing to rationally discuss. This attitude is named as a dogmatic one, or as dogmatism, and is often used to refer to matters related to religion, but is not limited to theistic attitudes alone. In Pyrrhonist philosophy “dogma” refers to assent to a proposition about a non-evident matter.”

Or paraphrased “a dogma is a strong belief, principle, or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true that the ones adhering to it are not willing to rationally discuss.” This is quite telling for me as many of the discussions I have had online with Christians were not rational, logical, or at the very least objective. Many also do not even engage in dialogue. Commonly what one gets is that the Bible says this or that and that the Bible is the unquestionable word of the Christian god no matter how it may contradict itself and all reason it is the source of absolute truth. Circular logic and non-sequiturs are commonplace as there is no thought process behind the seemingly blind belief or faith. And to be honest I have like any other human my own beliefs. But I understand that beliefs or faiths do not need to rational or logical as long as one recognizes it as such and keeps it to oneself and does not force them on others or use them to discredit others.

Unknown

How does science deal with dogma? Science’s job is to ask meaningful questions, formulate hypotheses, and test them to the best of our ability with objective clarity and non-bias. This is not an easy challenge to stay rational and it simply demands logic and objectivity, the very opposite of what this system of religious dogma gives us. While scientific dogma does exist in the hearts of men and their favourite theories the very basis of science requires that when a new discovery is made and found to contradict a previously recognized truth the new discovery is subject to peer review and when warranted it is accepted by the review and the general community as a whole accepts it. But this can take time as the minds of men can become hard to change, but it can and does happen. Just think how long it took us to understand that the earth was not flat since the ancient Greeks theorised in the 6th century BC.

This is completely different from what we see in the three Abrahamic faiths all originating in the Middle East. Proponents of these “ideas” seem perpetually stuck in the idea that their version of the “truth” is the only one and the others are going to hell if they do not subscribe, swallow, or accept it. Worse yet many wars have been fought and will continue to be fought on the basis of irrational dogma and people who are incapable of rationally discussing and analysing their strongly held beliefs within and out from their respective communities. This downward spiral continues as long as those sacred beliefs are held to be true. This holding on to beliefs in spite of knowing rationally that there is no evidence to support them not only creates divisions where no divisions need to be but it suppresses any other new ideas from coming forth and to be developed for our society. This intolerance blossoms into anger, jealousy, and finally hate. The results of which the world knows all to well today when a terrorist expecting 72 virgins on his death walks into a crowded area and blows himself up with all those around him. And why do we ask? Dogma. We see the same effects mirrored when a community of Palestinians is bulldozed to make way for Zionist condominiums and when Coptic Christians are beheaded by the fanatical ISIL in front of their place of worship in Egypt. No matter how you look at it, it’s a simple textbook case of my book is more correct than yours when all the while they are worshipping the same god.

advice

 

 

How does the Buddha Dharma and those who truly practice it deal with dogma and strongly held beliefs? Well for starters Buddhists do not proselytise, or witness to others, so to speak in a Sunday Term. Instead of commandments, we have advice. And the beliefs Buddhists do hold are not forced upon those who practice and there are no good or bad ideas just the impartial results that these good or bad deeds develop into, in our lives. The entire system of the eightfold path, four noble truths and all the sutras and tantras are designed to help us on the way and then once we have arrived they are to be discarded, every last one of them, everything is seen as impermanent. It would be like if you were climbing a mountain for example. Imagine that there is a river in the way between you and the top, you need a boat to cross the river to get to the other side but you do not carry the boat to the peak of the mountain, now do you? In fact, the Buddha himself was only a man and he taught that none of his teachings should be taken as the truth just because he is the Buddha, and further said that they should be tested for ourselves against our own experiences for truth. This sounds a lot like the scientific process to me. If there ever was a dogma in Buddhism it is that there is not supposed to be any dogma whatsoever. In fact, it is entirely possible to be a Christian and a Buddhist from the Buddhist perspective.

350412

So what is it that Christians see in Buddhism that seems to be so threatening that in spite of other more deserving opportunities for them to fight against like violence, crime, and war? Could it be that what they see in the Buddha Dharma is the very same message that Jesus brought to the church in his reformation of the old Pharisees and the Scribes into a religion of forgiveness, compassion, non-violence, wisdom, and love for all? Are they reacting the same way that the Pharisees and Scribes did? When we minus all the violent baggage of the old testament most of the new testament is quite acceptable, maybe there is room for perhaps a third testament, after all the teachings of the Buddha and Jesus were not so different in their purest essence when all the hellfire and brimstone are left aside. The recent rise of curiosity to the eastern religions as of late for me represents a very humanistic/religious revival of sorts. Yoga schools, Buddhist centres and mindfulness teachers are popping up left right and centre. One can, of course, thank the well-laid foundation of freedom that we have from our Christian forefathers for this wondrous gift, maybe they feel threatened by Buddhism. As they see the positive growth and lasting change in Buddhist friends and even perhaps in other lands. The growth of the Buddha Dharma in the west is sure to keep on getting stronger and stronger as the critically thinking, well educated, and spiritually minded keep searching for lasting joy and wisdom in an ever more violent world of dogma and discourse. It seems to me that if science can help us it could only happen through education supported by the non-dogmatic discovery of meaningful scientific truth for the benefit of all living beings.quote-i-realize-that-many-elements-of-the-buddhist-teaching-can-be-found-in-christianity-judaism-nhat-hanh-12-30-64

Thanks for reading, please share your thoughts

QP

 

Feature image shows the 16th Karmapa with Pope Paul VI and attendants in 1975

Adhyatma Vidya The Science of Mind

Adhyatma Vidya (skt.) is traditionally known as the knowledge of mind or true self or in a more modern sense the Science of Mind. The rich and fantastically elaborate culture of the ancient Indians were perhaps the first civilization to study, theorise, and test mind. And since the time of the historical Buddha, followers of the Buddha Dharma have been studying it ever since within the ever modern laboratory of meditation.

Remember that there are many religions in the world. They can not be put under one heading since not all of them presuppose faith in an immaterial and immortal soul. Some of them – for example, Buddhism – may appear to be quite close to the concepts of modern science.”
Francis H.C Crick

What is the laboratory of meditation? And what experiments are we doing when we meditate? Quite simply we are looking for the self or the observer. We are looking for that through which hears through our ears and sees through our eyes. We are looking for that part of us that has been with us since beginningless time that which has no colour, shape, or form, the part of us that never dies and was never born, but that part of us that we just seem to know or understand to be there.

“For a parallel to the lesson of atomic Theory regarding the limited applicability of such customary idealisations, we must, in fact, turn to the other branches of science, such as psychology, or even to that kind of epistemological problems with which already thinkers like Buddha and Lao Tsu have been confronted, when trying to harmonize our position as spectators and actors in the great drama of existence.
Niels Bohr

Many great treatises have been written about Buddhist Epistemology (theory of perception) and the processes that take place when we experience and interact with phenomena. It is understood that when we thoroughly examine all the relationships and dependencies (theory of dependent origination) we can find no thing that is truly independent or exists in and of itself. This could be a good way to explain the Buddhist idea of emptiness; empty of its own existence. In Sanskrit the word used is Shunyata. It is extremely important to note here that Emptiness or Shunyata is not “Nothing or nothingness” the root “Su” denotes a great swelling of possibilities. Wow, that sounds very exciting to me how about you? We live in a world of limitless possibilities and endless joy that arises from it. Space is rich and beautiful beyond our wildest imaginations.