Does our current orthodox scientific framework require expansion in order to accommodate consciousness? The present framework is based on the assumption that every event in the universe is mechanically predictable with no room for human choice – the Newtonian model of cause and effect. Cue the Big Bang, and all subsequent physical occurrences are governed by Newton’s laws of motion. What about personal choice and free will? Well, forget it! In the prevalent view of the physical universe, free will and desire are relegated to the realm of illusion – an epiphenomenon of the brain. Consciousness is not real – it is a by-product of the material world; our ‘illusions’ have been determined by the path of cause and effect – traced all the way back to First Cause (Big Bang). There is no room for choice; all is pre-determined. The material world is primary. However, a counter view is that this stuff called consciousness is primary, and is able to affect events in the material world.
Since time immemorial, the wisdom traditions handed down through the generations have alluded to the fact that consciousness is primary. In fact, some traditions would contend that all is consciousness, and that matter itself is an illusion. Most of us will be aware of the so-called Mind-Body effect – the psychosomatic phenomenon in which a state of mind can induce a specific physical outcome. For instance, an excessive state of fear can cause the body to break out in a sweat. In his book, It’s the Thought that Counts, Dr David Hamilton discusses his experience with developing drugs for the pharmaceutical industry. He noticed that patients receiving the control placebo pills reported the same level of improvement as people receiving the actual drug. Similar outcomes are reported by chemist and biotechnological executive Dr Leo Kim in his book Healing the Rift (a book that attempts to heal the rift between scientific and spiritual perspectives). He discusses the nature of hypnotherapy and its ability to heal through altered states of consciousness. In particular, he relates his own moving experience of practicing hypnosis on a patient possessed of serious medical conditions (excessive bleeding on body cut and probable heart-failure on exposure to anesthesia ) which would highly prejudice surgery for the removal of a baseball-sized tumor. With suitable mind suggestion exercises, the patient emerged from surgery with perfect heart condition and minimal blood loss.
In the more general field of psi-related phenomena, it would be impossible to omit the experimental work of the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) project. Over a period of 28 years, the project accumulated data to assess the ability for human consciousness to affect the outcome of electronically produced random events. According to PEAR, “In unattended calibrations all of these sophisticated machines produced strictly random data, yet the experimental results display increases in information content that can only be attributed to the consciousness of their human operators”. More recently, the work of Dr William Tiller (Emeritus Professor of Materials Science, Stanford University) has shown how human intention can be used to change the physical state of matter. For instance, if the experimenters hold the intention to change the pH of water by one unit, they can make this come about in the physical world (it should be borne in mind that the experimenters consisted of a group of well-trained meditators able to provide the required focus of intention).
The examples above strongly suggest that consciousness exists as reality (not illusion), and that our thoughts really do have the potential to change physical reality. As such, we need to find a way of incorporating consciousness into the existing scientific paradigm in much the same way that, in the earlier part of the twentieth century, the Newtonian view of nature had to be expanded to incorporate both Quantum Mechanics and Relativity. Indeed Quantum Mechanics itself strongly hints at some fundamental connection between consciousness and physical outcome.
How would we begin to incorporate consciousness into our scientific paradigm – a phenomenon that most scientists view as non-existent since it cannot be ‘seen’ by any of the methods of contemporary science? A good place to start would be with the insights provided by the mystics and the teachings of the theosophists, where substance (energy/matter) exists at various density/vibratory levels. For instance, the densest level of reality is exhibited by the physical word (other less dense regions would be the etheric, astral, mind and spirit realms). These realms interpenetrate and coexist simultaneously. The Hermetic axiom “As above, so below” is instructive; it would indicate that patterns of behaviour existing at one level are reflected at other levels (we see an example of this in the physical world with the phenomenon of fractals – as we optically zoom in or out of an image by orders of magnitude, we see patterns (laws) repeated). The insights gained from quantum mechanical non-locality and the experience of remote healers provide us with valuable clues as to how to model these subtle domains. Tiller has made a start in modelling non-physical reality with his R-Space theory.
The next step in evolution for the twenty first century is the expansion of consciousness for the purpose of enhancing the human condition in physical and spiritual terms. A science paradigm that reinforces this process will serve the further development of mankind well.