Saturday, May 20, 2006

Consciousness as a Multidimensional Organ (5.18.08)

While I do not believe in a specious "God of the gaps" to try to account for what we don't know, I do believe that we are immersed in a universe of irreducible mystery, and that this mystery includes several fundamental problems that will never be solved by science. These mysteries represent limits to our cognition, and while we can think about them rationally , we can never arrive at any satisfactory intellectual answer.

For example, science will never comprehend the mystery of existence--that is, why there is an ordered something instead of mere nothing. Science simply assumes this order, for without it, science would be impossible. This mystery is so hopelessly insoluble that we generally stop even asking about it after childhood. Science actually provides no sensible answers to this question at all. Only esoteric religious metaphysics even begins to touch the issue.

Another irreducible mystery is life itself. We all act as if we know what it is, but it would be much more accurate to say that we know what lifelessness is, and that life seems to be a bizarre and unexpected violation of this general rule.

Even more bizarre and problematic is the existence of consciousness. We have this astounding gift of inwardness, and yet, what is it for? Why would the universe evolve into a subjective horizon containing love, beauty, truth, justice, poetry, music....

We can know so much, and yet, we cannot know anything about these fundamental mysteries of existence, life and consciousness--at least not with reason alone. According to the Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace, "Despite centuries of modern philosophical and scientific research into the nature of the mind, at present there is no technology that can detect the presence or absence of any kind of consciousness, for scientists to even know what exactly is to be measured. Strictly speaking, at present there is no scientific evidence even for the existence of consciousness!" Another way of saying it is that, if consciousness did not exist, science would have no trouble explaining the fact.

That is, the only evidence we have of consciousness consists of direct, first person accounts of being conscious. And yet, not everyone is conscious in the same way or of the same things. Although we don’t know what consciousness is, we do know that there are degrees of it. Every psychologist navigates through the use of a developmental model of some kind, in which consciousness unfolds and develops through time. But why? Other animals don’t have degrees of consciousness within their own species, but the gulf between certain humans is as great as the gulf between a dog and Beethoven, or between Nagarjuna and the typical One Cosmos reader.

In my view consciousness is an organ, just like any other organ in the body--heart, lungs, kidneys, etc. But those are material organs that exist in three-dimensional space. Consciousness, however, is an immaterial organ that operates in multidimensional space and time. In short, it is the first hyper-dimensional organ of the cosmos.

What is an organ? Two things, mainly. First of all, it is a differentiated structure. In other words, it is not just a blob or an aggregation, but a definable form that has an identifiable structure. Yesterday, during my nuclear treadmill, I got a good look at my heart. Even with a material organ such as the heart, no one can draw a sharp line say "this is where the heart ends and the vascular system begins." And yet, the heart is an obvious structure with valves, chambers and arteries.

The second characteristic of an organ is that it performs a function through cooperative activity. The heart pumps blood. The lungs exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. The kidneys filter the blood.

By implication, organs have a third characteristic, that is, pathology. If an organ is defined by a function it is supposed to accomplish, then pathology means failure to accomplish that function.

Although no scientist has ever seen consciousness, it nevertheless has a structure and a function. Part of its structure is a reflection of the structure of our brains, but not all of it. For example, the brain has an obvious horizontal structure in the form of a left and right brain with very different functions that, in a healthy individual, will harmonize in a higher dimension.

Likewise, the brain has a clear vertical structure, in the sense that we have what might be called a reptilian brain, over which there is a mammalian brain, and on top of which is the neocortex: our "human brain."

But this three-dimensional physical structure does not exhaust the structure of consciousness, which is hyper-dimensional, meaning that it exists in a space of more than three (or four) dimensions.

This is a thorny problem, because our normal thinking--especially scientific thinking--takes place in three dimensions. We cannot think scientifically or rationally in higher dimensional space. Take, for example, causation. In the three dimensional world, causation is relatively easy to conceptualize: A causes B, B causes, C, C causes D, etc. D cannot cause A, nor can A and D occupy the same space at the same time.

So how does one "think" in higher dimensional space? As a matter of fact, we do it all the time. For example, dreaming is a form of hyper-dimensional thinking freed from the limitations of the outer, three-dimensional world. This is also how we might understand the cliché that "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world." The genuine poet uses language to express realities that transcend the lower-dimensional world.

Think of it this way: the mystery of the dream is that it is the brain’s attempt to represent in three dimensions a space that actually far exceeds three dimensions--like trying to represent a three-dimensional image on a two-dimensional plane. Imagine, for example, people living on a two dimensional plane--a sheet of typing paper. They know nothing at all about the three dimensional world.

Now imagine if you could pass your three-dimensional hand through the sheet of paper. What would it look like to the people in 2D? First they would see five separate points grow into circles, as the fingers touch the paper and move through it. But then the five circles would disappear and become one larger circle--the wrist. Let's say that these people in 2D are very careful scientific observers of empirical phenomena. No matter how much they study the data, they would have no idea that the disparate phenomena are all actually aspects of a higher dimensional object that they cannot see.

This is how dream consciousness operates. A dream might be thought of as analogous to that hand passing through the sheet of paper. In dreams, various elements are connected in a hyper-dense manner that violates all notions of linear logic. Time is abolished, in the sense that you can be in two different times in your life, or your adult self can be side by side with your child self. But if you don’t know how to read the dream, you will see merely a linear, if somewhat crazy, narrative. You won’t know how to unpack all of the different dimensions. As a matter of fact, human history is just such a "crazy dream," with many subterranean connections that will go undetected by the secular mind.

As I have labored to point out in the past, religious metaphysics, properly understood, represents objective knowledge of reality. But clearly, in order to understand reality objectively, we cannot limit ourselves to its illusory three or four dimensions. Rather, we must somehow learn to think in a hyper-dimensional manner analogous to the dream.

Authentic scripture must be understood in this manner. There is no language known to man that is more hyper-dimensional and dreamlike than scripture (some parts of scripture much more so than others--like dreams, scripture waxes and wanes in its dimensional carrying capacity).

And we might also understand, say, Jesus, in the same way. If we limit ourselves to a naive scientific view in trying to understand Jesus, we will simply generate fundamentalist banality or logical absurdity. But if we assume that Jesus is analogous to that multidimensional hand passing through four-dimensional history, now we’re getting somewhere. For where is the “body of Christ?”

I think I saw it pass this way just a moment ago.

25 Comments:

Blogger Nagarjuna said...

"For example, science will never comprehend the mystery of existence--that is, why there is an ordered something instead of mere nothing. Science simply assumes this order, for without it, science would be impossible."

If science assumes the intrinsic order of existence and then tries to describe it, doesn't religion assume the intrinsic order of the divine and then tries to desribe it? Are the two really so different in this respect? What's more, why must we assume that nothingness is the natural condition that requires no explanation and that ordered existence is a departure from it that must be explained, and that if it can't be explained scientifically, it must be explained by religion as we know it?

"Other animals don’t have degrees of consciousness within their own species"

How do you know this?

"but the gulf between certain humans is as great as the gulf between a dog and Beethoven, or between Nagarjuna and the typical One Cosmos reader."

Ruff! Ruff!

"The second characteristic of an organ is that it performs a function through cooperative activity."

Doesn't that, in a sense, make everything an "organ" in that it exists and functions only in relation to the system comprised of everything else?

"But if we assume that Jesus is analogous to that multidimensional hand passing through four-dimensional history, now we’re getting somewhere."

Is Jesus the only religious figure of which this can be said?

Bob, I knew there was a reason not to give up on you and your blog, and your post today has confirmed it, your swipe at me notwithstanding. :-) I'd love to see more posts from you addressing consciousness and spirituality.

5/20/2006 09:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Hoarhey said...

>>“As I have labored to point out in the past, religious metaphysics, properly understood, represents objective knowledge of reality. But clearly, in order to understand reality objectively, we cannot limit ourselves to its illusory three or four dimensions. Rather, we must somehow learn to think in a hyper-dimensional manner analogous to the dream.”<<

I would assume that this type of hyper-dimensional thinking, in order to perform as prescribed , would need to be proceeded by a relatively thorough understanding and culling of ones own mind parasites resulting in an objective, truthful and sober understanding of oneself being obtained. Otherwise a life will just spin out into a new age fantasy or other destructive manifestation.
It might explain why people become entrenched in stodgy fundamentalism. Deep down they intuit the hell they would bring on the world if their mind parasites gained control of the hyper-dimensional controls.

5/20/2006 10:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Hoarhey said...

JWM

He feeds off the attention and in his mind is getting his fifteen minutes.
Step over him as you would a homeless man sleeping on the street.
He's pulled this blog off topic long enough.

5/20/2006 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Nagarjuna said...

To Bob, JWM, Hoarhey, and the rest of the One Cosmos community:

I apologize for overstaying my welcome and posting comments after I've been asked not to. Wherever we are on our journey through life and in our quest to understand and cope with existence, may we all find the light of truth, live accordingly, and be happy.

Namaste,
Steve

5/20/2006 11:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Kahntheroad said...

Passive-aggressive persistence notwithstanding, I still don't think the substance of Nagarjuna's questions are entirely absurd in the context of someone new to this.

But that's just me. ;)

And Nagarjuna (and Digdug) whatever you say about your reception here, I'd bet the farm that it is far more hospitable than I would face if I, say, tried to defend the Iraq war on a the blog of a Deepak Chopra-type.

5/20/2006 11:48:00 AM  
Anonymous kahntheroad said...

Hoarhey,

"Deep down they intuit the hell they would bring on the world if their mind parasites gained control of the hyper-dimensional controls."

It is amazing to think how much our "other mind" is in control and manipulates our impulses in one direction or another. For example, in some ways my own life makes sense only in this context, in being an underachiever for so long and inexplicably blowing golden opportunities in other field or with other people in the past in the only way I can imagine accumulating the insights required for me to come to terms with my natural talents. Only now do I realize that I happen to have an excellent singing voice and broad range (however raw in application). I never applied this talent before, and embarked on this journey 2 years ago as another writer who would have to make due with an average voice. The funny thing is, I can now look back at several events from my youth - for example, I was the only student in my class to defiantly refuse to participate in the senior choir. Why? Back then it was absurd, but the impulse was too strong for me to even question it. Another was a date - and thus a potential relationship - that suddenly fell apart because I became overcome by an strange, overwhelming feeling that I couldn't explain, but shook me to my core. For years this night made no sense. Now, I look back and see precisely the moment this occurred - we had come across a singer-songwriter playing guitar. I hardly even listened to music back then, and wouldn't stumble across my first Dylan album for another 6 months.

Now that I've locked into my calling, it seems that every day another random memory will bubble up and I'll instantly recognize how it fits into the big picture.

5/20/2006 12:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Hoarhey said...

Kahn,

I made reference in my post above regarding the imperative of diving headlong into and effectively dealing with ones own mind parasites or the rest of spirituality is essentially a closed book. Along these lines, JWM just threw nagar back onto himself with the most spot on analysis the man has probably ever been given and he did it for free! Until nagar is willing to deal with first things first, he is going nowhere.
Kahn, you seem like a guy who is fairly spiritually advanced for your age and may have had just a few quirks of personality (mind parasites, character defects) to deal with as obstacles on your way to what you now know. But talk to a guy who has had to crawl up out of the mud the hard way. He’s been that obnoxious troll in a past life and realizes the futility of dealing with someone like that in their present condition.
When presented with the truth about himself, nagar folded like a house of cards. Instead of being grateful for the best gift of his life thus far, he picks up his marbles and goes home to remain omnipotent king of his small universe as digdug did when I exposed him awhile ago.(he still owes me $150 AND he still monitors the site, only quieter)
You may question the technique but rather than looking at this as a negative, it can also be seen as a door into another dimension and each individual will make their own choice whether or not to advance. But make no mistake, there is no out of order advancement.

And to keep things on topic, maybe Bob can post this as a header under the blog title.

MIND PARASTES BLOCK THE PEARLY GATES TO HYPER-DIMENSIONAL THINKING!!! GET OVER THYSELF.!!!

5/20/2006 12:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Hoarhey said...

Kahn,

It seems that intuition of the unconscious has a way of keeping us out of trouble. It also, at least in my life, has had a way of keeping me stuck due to my inability to understand its articulation of safe ways around the intuited roadblock. I’m getting better at understanding it. I guess by keeping a good attitude and just continuing to plug away, answers come in time.
(I’m one post behind you in my response, my I.P. seems to be bottlenecking things again so everything on this end is slooow)

5/20/2006 01:38:00 PM  
Anonymous jwm said...

Crashing the vertical gates. A note on the hammer of God.

Every skin cell on my body is twisting in a different direction. I am weightless, floating. Everything, everything is moving. Somehow in the midst of a symphony of motion I manage to tap out the pipe, stuff another wad of leaf into the bowl, fire it, draw deep to fill the chamber, exhale (so many things to remember!) Fire again, release the carburetor. Draw deep on the pungent, gaseous smoke. How long have I been holding this hit?
It is 1954 and I am in the kitchen of my grandmother's apartment. There's the sink and the counter. Sunlight on the table. It is so warm, so loving. On the shelf is a box with a logo I cannot read. It is singing colors. Orange and yellow waves in concentric rings bathe the room. It is so warm, so loving...
My eyes open. The vision and all memory of it vanish.
Did something happen? This place seems familiar. The room is folding up and folding up and folding up. Is a room supposed to do that- folding up, and folding up? I see my wife's face, angelic, floating in the center of this churning, folding voretx. I reach up from a great depth. "Not yet", I whisper. My eyes close. The vision resumes. It had never been interrupted. It is 1954 and I am in the kitchen of my grandmother's apartment. There's the sink and the counter. Sunlight on the table. It is so warm, so loving. It has always been so, and always will be so. I was here before time...
On the shelf is a box with a logo I cannot read. It is singing colors. Orange and yellow waves in concentric rings bathe the room in radiant love. The singing rings dissolve the room, dissolve me, dissolve time itself. I am disembodied awareness. I am pure observation. THE POLES! Twin poles of light- infinite in length and perfectly straight orbit one another. Revolving rotating twisting tumbling. Always changing yet always mainting the same everchanging relation. This is the engine of creation generating existence. This is Psycloptimogiven...

5/20/2006 01:47:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Good afty, Bob/heads -

Small thing, but . . .

I suspect that domestic animals may undergo some kind of elevation in consciousness, maybe even to the point of individuation, that is, a breaking away from a "group soul" consciousness. I think this might occur because of their approximation to our consciousness, our attentiveness.

I think something of the same principle applies in the spiritual master/student relationship. Just being in proximity to an elevated consciousness can quicken the student's consciousness, which is why certain strict protocols must be observed in the relationship.

Of course, the feline-Americans Fergus and Booger endorse this concept, they, naturally being the elevated consciousnesses and we humans being the beneficiaries thereof.

5/20/2006 03:13:00 PM  
Anonymous jwm said...

Will:
I have wondered about that myself. Every morning my wife and I get out of bed a little before we are ready, curl up on the couch in the den and let a cup of criminally strong coffee pull us into consciousness. The cat is part of the routine. It would be too easy just to jump up in my lap. She jumps up on the chair, then onto the television, from there she jumps to the desk and tiptoes across to the dresser, down to the arm of the couch and then curls up in my lap. What's funny is that if anything upsets the routine the cat gets all bent out of shape, and walks around complaining about it. Some time back she was sick. I had to give her a liquid antibiotic through a syringe. I'm sure you know just how much cats like to be fed medicine. But after a few days when she was getting better she suddenly got ridiculously affectionate. Now I know a cat can't understand cause and effect, especially over an extended period of time. Still sometimes you just have to wonder.

JWM

5/20/2006 03:34:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

JWM -

One of the most amazing (and poignant) cat-to-human communications can occur when it's time to say sayanara to the little guys. Even when terribly ill and infirm, they actually seem to find a way to say "good-bye".

I once commented in some compuserve forum re an experience of this nature that I had with my previous cat. I was thinking that perhaps my experience was unique, but I got a flood of answering posts from people who assured me that they had had the same experience with their cats. It was really quite amazing.

And may it be a long, long while until we exchange good-byes with the you-know-whos.

5/20/2006 07:10:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

We have reason to believe our cat, Mookie, reincarnated in the form of our son. They share a number of very specific habits and behaviors.

5/20/2006 07:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Sal said...

Was just re-reading DeBecker's "The Gift of Fear", which is about how intuition can help keep you safe, if you'll listen to it and not overthink yourself.

But what he points out re: animals and intuition, is that your dog cannot "tell" that someone is a wrong'un, as some people claim. But you can, and your dog, who's an expert about you, is reading your clues, that you may not even be aware of.

Interesting idea, Will.

5/20/2006 07:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Hoarhey said...

Hey,
I leave for a few hours and I have to check to make sure if I'm in the right place. What was I even talking about up there ^. I think I'm losin' it. :)

Sal,
Dogs may know our unconscious better than we do.
Since you're the alpha animal, it makes sense that a dogs attention would constantly be absorbing every signal eminated and reacting accordingly. Animals have pretty good "psychic" abilities to read subtlties that we don't pick up.
I once heard a story of a man who was mushing a dog team in the mountains in Alaska. He stopped the team, set the sled hook and walked off into the brush a short way. All of a sudden the team yanked loose and took off down the hill, The musher, thinking they had smelled something and were chasing it, went off cussing after them and finally caught up with them waiting at the bottom of the hill. No sooner had he gotten to them when an snow avalache buried the place they had just been.

5/20/2006 08:37:00 PM  
Anonymous jwm said...

Oh, God Will. You just made me think of ol' Big Kitty. He died a few months back. I always shared my dinner with him, but he just kept getting thinner as the cancer progressed. He didn't seem to be in any pain, which was good because I did not have it in me to take him and have him put down. Near the end he'd come and get me several times a day. There was just something in the way he'd look up at me. Like he knew something was wrong, and maybe I could do something. He'd look up as if to say, "Gosh, John- can't figure it out, but I'm hungry again. How 'bout somethin ta eat, huh?" All he could do was lap up the juice from a can. The last couple of nights he slept in the hall near my room. That's where I found him in the morning.

It's frightening, the hold they can put on you. It's funny. Losing a loved one is like a full body blow. Something inside almost goes mercifully blank, and it leaves you so stunned that you're more numb than anything else. There's no such psychic anasthesia with a pet. (I'll be back in a minute)

5/20/2006 08:41:00 PM  
Anonymous jwm said...

The Power of the Dog
Rudyard Kipling

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie --
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find -- it's your own affair --
But . . . you've given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit hat answered your every mood
Is gone -- wherever it goes -- for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept'em, the more do we grieve;

For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long --
So why in -- Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

5/20/2006 08:43:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Hee Hee, you said Organ!


But on a serious note, I experienced the death of my first real pet, Xena. She was a great big beautiful chihuahua that was 16 pounds! We rescued her and didn't realize until all most the end of her life that she had cushings disease along with an enlarged heart and heart murmer. My husband and I take walks and once in a while we look up at the sky and scream, "XENA!!!" She had an enlarged heart in more than one way! I miss her dearly but I am glad she is out of pain and watching over us.

5/20/2006 08:50:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Excellent, JWM, thanks.

Lisa, my first cat was named Ezekial (Bible), my second, Horace (Greek poet), my current third and fourth cats, Fergus (Celtic myth) and . . . Xena (Lucy Lawless)

5/20/2006 09:07:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

We have had Kletus(comic book serial killer) who was my husband's cat that I totallly demasculated by calling him Kleety Poo. What can I say, he was a sucker for a dame! He got hit by a car. His other cat Duke was given to him by the girl who introduced us because of her other cat named Daisy. My husband tried to rename him Don Rickles, but it never stuck. He is starting to go bald, though. Then came Xena the Warrior Princess. We have a formerly abused dog who we rescued on Halloween named Sabrina (named after the teenage wich). Finally, last but not least, Pinky Tuscadero or PT. Seemed like we had a TV thing going on, so we went with the flow. They are like children to me, but my husband puts his foot down on the dressing them in cute outfits. I let him think he's the boss once in a while, so I have abided by that rule. ;0)

5/20/2006 09:23:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Karma- looks like I have mispelled witch as well! That's what I get for not spell checking or proofreading!

5/20/2006 09:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Connecticut Yankee said...

Will, Lisa, JWM, and all the others who share their lives with Feline Americans: Benedict XVI (who should know something about vertical consciousness) is a cat guy: [Thanks to Sissy Willis, who posted these excerpts on her blog a year ago]

"Every time he met a cat, he would talk to it, sometimes for a long time," said Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Benedict XVI, reports the Daily Telegraph... :

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said the Pope's image as a German "panzerkardinal" was unfair. "He is human and he will convince you," he said. "He is both a man of science and of faith. He possesses a great sense of humanity, he loves nature and music."

The same churchman said that Cardinal Ratzinger was a cat lover. "Every time he met a cat, he would talk to it, sometimes for a long time. The cat would follow him. Once about 10 cats followed him into the Vatican, and one of the Swiss Guards intervened, saying 'Look, your eminence, the cats are invading the Holy See.'"

From the caretaker of the pope's house in Regensburg, Germany in the NYT:

The house -- built in the 1970's style on a quiet street with a walled garden -- has the feel of an oasis. A bronze sculpture of the Virgin Mary gazes over beds of roses and daffodils, while a statue of a cat stands next to a sliding-glass door. The pope, Mr. Hofbauer said, adores cats.

And from The Kansas City Star:

His most heartfelt talks may have been the ones he gave after celebrating Mass. "I went with him once," said Konrad Baumgartner, the head of the theology department at Regensburg University. "Afterwards, he went into the old cemetery behind the church.

"It was full of cats, and when he went out, they all ran to him. They knew him and loved him. He stood there, petting some and talking to them, for quite a long time. He visited the cats whenever he visited the church. His love for cats is quite famous.

[His housekeeper] pointed up a staircase to a wall full of painted plates, each depicting a different cat. The brothers collected the plates together, she said.

"When we were on vacation, a cat, a little kitten, would come by, and he'd be giddy, almost giggling with joy," she said. "Cats love him; they always go to him straight away. And he loves them back."

Maybe Bob knows whether a cat can be reincarnated as a Pope!

5/20/2006 10:54:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Yank, yes, have heard that about Pope B. Thanks for reminding me.

Anybody with that kind of kinship with cats must be on good terms with Mystery itself.

5/20/2006 11:27:00 PM  
Blogger 888 said...

Life is certainly mystery number one.

5/21/2006 03:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kahntheroad said : "And Nagarjuna (and Digdug) whatever you say about your reception here, I'd bet the farm that it is far more hospitable than I would face if I, say, tried to defend the Iraq war on a the blog of a Deepak Chopra-type."

The sad part, kahn, is that the reception individuals with differing views get here is EXACTLY the same reception they get "over there". You only assume it is better here because you are comfortable and accepted here, and that it is not so great over there because your ideas would be viciously challeneged there.

We have lost our ability to reason with one another, here in America and we are left with a deeply fragmented nation teetering on the brink of diseaster- how sad...

5/27/2006 06:56:00 AM  

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