A Quantum Theory of Consciousness

A Quantum Theory of Consciousness
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Some of you may have already heard of the so-called “quantum theory of consciousness.” I’ve encountered different versions of it over the years. It presents a method of integrating traditional religious views of the “soul,” the “afterlife,” and the possibility of “other realms of existence” with contemporary scientific theories of the relationships between consciousness and the body, between subjective perception and objective physical reality.

According to this theory, our consciousness or mind exists as a sphere or domain of living — or self-aware — energy-information beyond our perceived 3-dimensional reality and cosmos. Our body, which, of course, exists within the 3-dimensional universe, receives the energy-information transmissions of our removed consciousness in the way that a radio receives radio signals from a broadcast station. We experience these transmissions or signals as our thoughts, feelings, mental images, and other forms of mental activity. Even more importantly, we experience our mental activity as somehow occurring within our body, within some internal realm of experience, just as we seem to hear sound coming from within the radio as if the radio itself somehow contains all of the music and so forth that come out of it. However, just as the broadcasts that come out of the radio actually originate from a distant broadcast station, our thoughts and feelings which seem to appear from inside our “head” actually come from a transcendent realm where our actual mind is located.

This alternative view of the relationship between mind and body was proposed as early as the 19th century and perhaps most notably by French philosopher and Nobel Laureate Henri Bergson. What’s interesting about this theory is that it can accommodate both the most cutting-edge experimental observations of neuroscience and quantum physics as well as what are currently considered the most unbelievable aspects of religious teachings.

If our brain really is a radio receiving mental transmissions from and delivering perceptual information to a mind outside of space-time, when the brain is damaged we can expect to observe corresponding damage to mental function just as damaging a radio will interfere with its ability to tune and broadcast properly. However, killing the brain doesn’t necessarily kill the mind, just as smashing a radio doesn’t eliminate the radio broadcasts coming from the radio stations.

Mainstream scientists like to say that the brain creates consciousness and that consciousness cannot survive without the brain. But, under the quantum theory of consciousness, it’s just as plausible to argue that consciousness exists before the formation of the brain and therefore can exist after the death of the brain.

In fact, it’s possible to reverse the common understanding of the causal relationship between the outer universe and the human mind. We commonly believe that the universe — an incalculably vast and complex chain of physical events — created consciousness, our self-aware, thinking, feeling mind. But it might just as well be that a preexisting consciousness or mind causes the creation of the universe.

How would this be possible?

This is where things get “quantum.” In quantum physics for the past one hundred years, it’s been famously observed that, depending on the presence or absence of an observing human mind, subatomic entities like electrons and photons behave like pellet-like particles or waves. When we attempt to observe their behavior using measuring instruments, they appear as particles. But when such instruments are removed, they behave like waves, meaning they don’t seem to be located in any specific point in space at any given moment. Unobserved, they are theorized to exist in a “superposition,” the range of all locations that it will be possible for them to appear in when they are observed. Until they are observed, they do not exist in space or time. They are literally dependent on the presence of the mind to attain a position in 3-dimensional reality.

Similarly, then, without the presence of the human mind, the physical universe may exist in a kind of superposition — an infinite range of possible modes of occurrence. Which is to say, it doesn’t exist at all as a “physical” universe unless the human mind is present. From this quantum perspective, the human mind, our consciousness, creates and sustains what seems like a universe much vaster and older than, as well as independent of, ourselves.

Mainstream scientists are profoundly uncomfortable with such “mystical” viewpoints. They laugh at and even sometimes despise the idea of things like spirits, ghosts, psychic powers, reincarnation, heaven, hell, angels, demons, and other invisible, immaterial entities. This is because these are associated with the medieval European past when the suppression of reason led to atrocities like witch hunts, the Spanish Inquisition, and the demonization of mental illness. Their discomfort is understandable.

But there’s a peculiar, distinctly irrational and illogical strand of opinion in the modern culture of the professional scientific community. Science, by its own definition, is the investigation of one domain, namely, the observable material world. As a scientist, then, saying that you’re only going to investigate one domain of phenomena does not logically mean that no other such domain exists. It’s one thing to say I’m only going to explore the Atlantic Ocean. It’s something else entirely to go on and say that no other oceans exist. And it’s downright unscientific to say no other oceans can possibly exist and you’re crazy if you think they do. In a word, it’s bad science to say that no observations, except the kind of ones that I make, are possible.

By definition, science has limited itself to one realm of exploration. This means, like it or not, there’s no logical or “scientific” basis for it to make comments about other possible realms. All you can really say is: “I don’t know. Based on what I’ve observed, it seems difficult to explain, but the truth is, I haven’t investigated that.” I haven’t put in the same kind of effort with the same kind of resources and the same level of enthusiasm to investigate that. I personally just find it hard to accept.

It’s okay to be uncomfortable with the unfamiliar, but can’t we be honest about it?

That, by the way, is exactly how I felt when I first encountered the invention of the microwave oven. A device that heats food in seconds from the inside out. It was hard to believe.

New possibilities are always hard to believe — until we invent or discover them. Everything we take for granted now was considered impossible only a hundred years ago: Airplanes, submarines, space shuttles, and real-time audio-video communication between distant locations. There are things in our homes that were literally unimaginable back then: Cellphones and tablets linked to an “internet,” automobiles with GPS devices communicating with satellites in space, the microwave oven I just mentioned, TVs, and so forth.

You get the picture. Fundamental paradigmatic transformations are impossible to predict. But we can make the common-sense observation that nearly everything we take for granted as an absolute, unquestionable, unchangeable fact of existence becomes overturned every few decades. And just as the average citizen of the late 19th century was literally unable to dream of what would appear only a few decades away, like the nuclear bomb, DNA, digital programming, laser surgery, A.I., and, yes, quantum physics, the only thing we can say with total certainty is that our own future will likewise bring unimaginable changes and discoveries. If there is one thing that history teaches, it’s that today’s insane impossibilities become tomorrow’s every-day reality.

So what kind of crazy changes are coming down the pike toward us?

How about:

  • Proof that human beings possess nearly unlimited latent abilities in extra-sensory perception
  • The discovery that each human being possesses not one, but several bodies
  • The acceptance of psychic surgery as a medical practice
  • The replacement of the theory of genetic evolution by a theory of self-evolving consciousness
  • The discovery (or long-overdue revelation of) the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations
  • The acceptance of the survival of consciousness after death
  • Confirmation of the reality of reincarnation, ghosts, and other realms of post-mortal existence
  • The acceptance of the existence of other forms of intelligent consciousness not only in other animals and plants, but within “inanimate” matter as well
  • The measured observation of not only other planets, stars, and galaxies, but other entire universes
  • The discovery of subatomic universes
  • The direct exploration of all such worlds using instantaneous, non-fuel-based modes of translocation — perhaps involving the teleportation of consciousness
  • The confirmation that all such worlds and universes are a holographic projection of the mind, i.e. an “illusion”
  • The observation of not only other realms of non-material existence, but other forms of non-materially based intelligence — spirit guides, angels, demons, gods, fairies, call them what you will
  • The vanishing of the distinction between matter, energy, thought, feeling, and awareness
  • The invention of time travel — but, of course, it won’t be mechanical in nature

If you’re one of the herd, you’ll think I’m lost in fantasies. If you’re a true-believing futurist, you’ll find me humdrum and unimaginative. One way or the other, all of this assumes, of course, that a nuclear war, a viral epidemic, climate change or our A.I. descendants won’t wipe us out first. But I don’t think they will. Because we are, after all, the creators of reality.

To learn more about Son meditation please visit Hwansan Sunim: Son Meditation for the Modern World and for updates please visit International Son Buddhist Meditation Program. Questions can be sent to: ask.hwansan@gmail.com.

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