You know, maybe we don’t have a soul. Maybe there is no such thing as being spiritual. I mean, what has any of these two words provided us to our benefit except for the feelings of inclusion and self-satisfaction? Or maybe, just maybe, we’ve screwed up on what we’re really dealing with here. Perhaps we are finally being presented with an opportunity to pack a little mortar between the fragmented world of the real, the mystical, and the divine.
1. (Alternative Belief Systems) the belief in a universal soul; the attributing of souls to inanimate objects or phenomena
2. (Alternative Belief Systems) the doctrine proposing the existence of psychic phenomena
Psychism is a relatively recent word claiming a venerable pedigree, yet it’s interesting that if one inputs ‘psychism’ into either Wikipedia or the Etymology website search fields, one gets the webpages for the word psychic. Understandable, as it might be said that a psychic wields his or her trade through some mysterious, all-connecting realm that holds all of the data of the universe in a very exclusive library. What is spiritual might be said to tap into this same, alchemistic resource. Life was simple when one could rely upon the mysterious and the unknown – very romantic in many ways – to answer the unanswerable. However, things are on the change these days in the western world where quantum physics has generated a gathering of scientists, journalists, and esoterics avidly seeking a breakthrough séance with a world other than the one they’re (supposedly) in.
Psychism might be considered, up through the writing of this essay, as a branch of spirituality and, more recently, various new age disciplines; though philosophers down through history have seriously considered its possibilities. Roots are historical and universal to all early cultures. Psychism’s alter-ego is animism, or the belief that all phenomena possess a spiritual essence that gives them a “life” of sorts; a will or an agency. In the early stages of homo sapiens, humans were decidedly but one with nature. It was natural to assign all sorts of personalities to things, as well as mystical, religious qualities and attributes; whether it was a sweet potato, a river, or a jaguar. This belief was a social norm of most early groups throughout the world and was preeminent as both a administrative and spiritual guide in a tribe’s survival.
Keep in mind that early humans, while living this existence as part of and subject to the natural world, had always strived to view themselves as separate from the very world that had brought them into existence. This characteristic of humans was due to their consciousness; a reasoning mental state that gave them self-assessment. All creatures appeared to possess judgement of their surroundings, but humans seemed to have to additional quality of life; the ability to know who they are. We’ve gone so far with this indulgence that we frequently assume only humans have this quality.
If accompanied by the popular prefix pan, the word ‘psychism’ has a more robust expression and an environment in which to move about in:
“Panpsychism is the view that mentality is fundamental and ubiquitous in the natural world.”
“In the philosophy of mind, panpsychism is the view that mind or a mindlike aspect is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of reality.”1.
“It is also described as a theory that "the mind is a fundamental feature of the world which exists throughout the universe."2.
As a philosophy, panpsychism has flowed liberally through the history of human thought; considered and/or accepted by a range of prominent thinkers right up to this century. Scientism managed to do some damage to its reputation, yet, due to the recent, rising tide of knowledge in fields of science like physics and neuroscience, quite ironically, panpsychism is enjoying a strong comeback.
What is trying to be said here is the promotion of an idea in which, in our cosmos, all phenomena have a conscious nature; whether it be an irreducible particle, a single cell, a plant, an animal, a planet, a galaxy, and even the cosmos itself.
What researchers are debating, besides the many proposed characteristics of panpsychism that might be identified, relates to its structure, or its hierarchy. Basically this concern shapes up to the following:
If every irreducible particle of nature has a consciousness, then how do we get from a community of consciousnesses, that compose a macro entity like a human, to a single self-conscious state possessed by that macro entity? Why would not all those irreducible particles not be crying out their self-awareness, while the macro entities they form be but zombies? Instead it appears we be the opposite; the macro entity is conscious, and the micro particles composing that entity are not. This concern has gathered some attention in the philosophical and scientific worlds, and is referred to as the combination problem. Is the structure of panpsychism one of building from the ground up – micropsychism – or from the top down – cosmopsychism?
Let me get to a few points quickly… to temper and outline my argument.
First, I could note that consciousness is defined solely within human language and human experience. If a rock has a consciousness, we believe we know nothing of it; simply because we never stopped to ask ourselves if our definition of consciousness was correct. We look at a rock, it doesn’t quote Othello, nor blush, and we assume it’s not conscious. If we knew it was conscious, perhaps our definition of consciousness would have to change cogently.
Second, I would thus argue that our definition of consciousness is in serious error. We have consistently thought of a conscious state as a self-contained, mental entity within a self-contained, physical body. Since there is little; direct evidence that we are tapping into or sharing the consciousnesses of other phenomena, we conclude that what we perceive, through our sensory capacity, is but the sum total of what is.
Third, the idea of a conscious state in any creature, has been instinctively and consistently deprecated in all species that we consider lower on the evolutionary scale than ourselves; that being all of them. Why? For one reason only. We have the unique ability to denature the earth for our own purposes. We believe that to be quite special; meaning good.
Humans are the only animal that can take elements in their natural state and transform them into materials never before in existence, and in quantities that directly affect the course of the Earth’s evolution. While I have always argued that there is no such thing as unnatural or supernatural, I do have to admit that this transformational ability is quite a divergence from the documented course of earth evolution. One might argue that our ego is fed by our consciousness. A valid argument, however, I would respond with saying that the proof in always in the pudding. In other words, while our conscious nature gives us some rest from the perils of life, it is in the agency of human endeavor that secures a more lasting grace and peace of mind.
Fourth, our understanding of micro and macro phenomena is still quite rudimentary, and predicated on certain conclusions that has been greatly influenced by very subjective and archaic, institutionalized reasoning. Remember, we much admired Newtonian physics and proclaimed its universality. Why, because the laws promulgated worked when applied in our known world of technologies and sciences. As we are currently trending, classical physics may well be an embarrassing footnote in our not too distant future, as quantum physics is on the verge of rewriting all we know about the universe.
Fifth, who says these micro particles are not voicing their conscious opinions? Perhaps what a human views as one’s conscious state is little more than the sum total of a community consciousness. You have a tummy ache, brought on by the various gastrointestinal issues that descend to the micro cellular and particle levels, and your macro consciousness senses both physical pain and mental depression, anxiety, and a general lack of concentration. You’re not happy because the micro level of your digestive system is not happy. It’s not the other way around. Perhaps our macro selves are zombies.
Micropsychism asserts that all consciousness derives from the micro-level; ultimately all irreducible phenomena has a conscious character. Cosmopsychism asserts that all consciousnesses within the universe derive from a single consciousness borne by the totality of the universe. My own thinking asserts that all phenomena have conscious natures without exclusivity or hierarchy. One does not create the next, but rather coexists and contributes to the nature of all; much as the water molecules of an ocean constitute, coexist, and contribute to the nature of the ocean they reside in.
Consciousness is a fundamental, inseparable, non-emergent essence of the universe. Its ‘physical’ form is that of a consistent field of waves of varying characteristics; interlocked into a single form we call the cosmos. And this single consciousness manifests itself as the flesh and bone of the physical universe and all of the constituents within it; as we sense it. Think of your own mind. Your consciousness pervades your existence; giving it form and direction. There is not a moment in your life when you have no consciousness; even when you are asleep. You library of data created by your experiences, as well as genetic inheritance, seems infinitesimal; you can call data up at will, ruminate through it, compare and contrast with other data in your library, develop and evolve data based upon your review – something known as logic or reason – and from that all comes the physical activities of your existence. From the mind comes the will and the agency of life. From the immaterial comes the material.
What we perceive as material – the universe – is actually not, and what we believe to be immaterial and of the mind – consciousness – is actually the universe itself. Our error in understanding this reality has to do with our institutional definition of consciousness; applying it to the human condition of self-awareness and reason, as well as connecting consciousness to matters of the perceived soul and other spiritual conditions. With little to go on as these matters were philosophically discussed many centuries ago, we could only venture a few guesses; given our knowledge of the physics of things in those days of human evolution.
So, we have what appears to us as a space that surrounds us; that being a phenomenon that resides external to our bodies; an extremely large space. We’re in this space, we refer to as a universe or the cosmos, residing on what appears to be a solid sphere we’ll call a planet, that revolves about a star, we refer to as the sun, that exists with countless other stars in one galaxy of countless galaxies and other cosmological phenomena. Now, keep in mind a few more conditions as we proceed.
First, that human reality is largely dependent upon our senses. If we cannot see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, or feel it, in our minds it tends not to exist; at least that’s the way we have defined reality up until recent times. Recent times, that being the last two-hundred and fifty thousand years, has provided us with experiential-driven, communal beliefs in regard to the unseen nature of both our existence and that of the world about us. Immaterial faith has been the fundamental environment for these beliefs; supported by causal agents that allude to and promote the continuance of these communal beliefs. In addition, and more recently, humanity has developed empirical structures of knowledge, like mathematics, and the other sciences, that have permitted us the opportunity to verify or deny current impressions of ourselves and the world about us, as well as to propose the nature of phenomena previously ignored or unknown.
Second, that we define our reality as a universal reality. If we see the color white with our eyes, then white must be a universal quality throughout the universe. If we feel the density and hardness of a rock here on Earth, then similar rocks distributed throughout the universe must have a similar density and hardness. If we see an object, it must be material matter made of particles of varying natures.
Third, we believe that each human being has their own reality. Through comparative analysis, we have come to learn that most humans will behave in predictable manners; falling into a finite spherical range of expectations. As we do not know the conscious reality of creatures other than ourselves, we tend to attribute to them human dispositions since it appears, by our limited sensory range, that the behaviors of other creatures appear to mimic our own. Hence, we view our perceptions as our realities and then overlay these realities upon the entire cosmos; our egos (scientists excluded) assuming that our inherent abilities are sufficient for the detection and categorization of everything that exists in the nature of the universe. Where our egos fall short, faith supplies.
Fourth, that we assert our common language is sufficient to proceed in our analysis of the nature of the universe. Humanity is subject to and dependent upon its language for the interpretation of phenomena. Perhaps the most ignored aspect of our language has to do with how institutionalized vocabulary routinely overlays our objective awareness and explanations; providing us with misunderstood, subjective conclusions. What am I talking about? Well, let’s come back to our topic.
We are revisiting this subject of psychism because of the revolution in physics that has taken place over the past one-hundred years. Classical physics, pre 1900’s, had been accepted essentially as fact. It worked, and those in the scientific community lived in this empirical womb for the past few hundred years. These were the most formulative years of the early sciences and it seemed we were going down the correct and absolute road. However, what is rapidly approaching us from the horizon of human endeavor is a revelational knowledge of the substance and nature of the universe that will, in all likelihood, close the chapter on an evolutionary past that gave birth to many of the fundamental structures of human society: government, religion, and authority; to name three.
Few adults, today, have any practical understanding of quantum physics. And even if they do, their reliance for facts about the physical nature of things still reverberates with classical chimes and Newtonian meanderings. I might venture to presume that this is due to the impossible things scientists are asking us to believe about the world today. Let’s see:
It’s easy to see why humanity isn’t rushing to mainstream quantum physics into our everyday discourse. Quantum physics (mechanics) represents the most comprehensive reorganization of fundamental, human concepts; greater than the practical use of fire, development of weapons, architecture and roads, the wheel, agriculture, domestication of animals, the automobile, air flight, computers, and smartphones. All of these pale in front of the new possibilities that quantum physics offers. Therefore, it’s understanding that there will be a great many aspects of human society that will proverbially “drag their feet”. Scientists are revising the technical terminology that earned their wings in classical physics, but are now decidedly antiquated in this new quantum world. This is a front-loading endeavor quite necessary. However there are many words of this new physics whose origination came through disparate worlds of human endeavor. One of them being the word: consciousness, and one might ask the question, “What is the relationship between quantum mechanics and consciousness?”, and by extension, “What is the relationship between consciousness and spirituality?”.
What we have come to understand about particles is that their location in space is a matter of observation, and this requires a conscious state. We’ve taken this for granted. However, what we did not know was the reality that the same particle, unobserved, was occupying many locations at the same time. It required consciousness (observation) to ascertain a set location, otherwise the particle was essentially not there. This is as I noted earlier, and on a much larger scale. Your consciousness creates your agency or actions. This superposition, or the ability of a particle to be in a multitude of places at the same time, might well be what we refer to as ‘choice’.
As to the relationship of quantum physics to consciousness to spirituality, perhaps spirituality just isn’t what we think it to be. And what is that anyways, other than a faith-propelled concept still defined by rudimentary and vague terminology? Perhaps, what we feel as spiritual is more real than we know; an interconnectedness between all things due to the quantum field of waves consisting of a singular phenomena manifesting an infinitesimal number of conscious phenomena: excitations in the wave field.
What is most intriguing to me, is the application of this thinking into the ancient and sustaining subject of the theos, or of the idea of a divine god(s), responsible for the creation of the cosmos and all within it. Cosmopsychism seems to fall right in line with this thinking. It may not delight those reliant upon the doctrines of their perspective, divinity-based religion, but it does provide an argument that even the scientific community has to listen to for a change.
Consciousness – was born in the mind, bred through philosophy, and substantiated first in theology and later psychology and the neurosciences. Its nature is quite different than an empirical noun or adjective, for consciousness, up until recently, resided as an unscientific phantom; more a dominating spiritual force that guides humanity forward with sheer exclusivity of authority and power. Think about this. Consciousness holds dominion over reason, it’s the procurer and dispenser of human passions, and it’s the ferryman across the River Styx. What other quality of the human experience has a similar presence?
As of the writing of this essay, the matter of spirit, and its alter ego, soul, have been largely undefined. It’s as if, lacking any information about what is spirit/soul that has attained some universal, cross cultural status of fact, humanity has prodigally chosen to leave these words in a belletristic state of literary aestheticism. The problem with this is that any potentiality of benefit to the wide swath of humanity is prohibited to but a few, over-eccentric individuals whose homestead lies far into the nether realms of human experience. Is this really what we want? We really haven’t advanced our understanding of the spiritual in the last few thousand years. Is this really our good intent?
Now is certainly not the time to fence in the human mind, and I see nothing in the future that would suggest the constraint of human venture would be a good and wise thing. Having said this, I propose that our investigations into panpsychism be not filtered by any traditional content and dictum. The spiritual may well be our closest, sensory appreciation of the immaterial realm of universal consciousness.
Humanity has been incapable of avoiding the transcendental confrontation of our existence; powerless even. This should give us some indication that what is spiritual to us – our very soul – is more fundamental and universal than faith can ever propose, ever reach out to, and ever to touch. Many disciplines and theories have pervaded human experience that make an attempt at codifying the spiritual. Religions, of course, are primary in solidifying the spiritual; though, in my interpretation, rather practical to only the simplest of existence. Philosophy leans in on the spiritual nature as an abstraction. Psychology views the spiritual as a condition of the mind, and the classical sciences reject the spiritual as manifestations without empirical foundation.
Classical spirituality – whether its Gaia, Adviata Vedānta, the Buddha-nature, anima mundi, attending a mainline church, or baselining with the pneuma at you local gym – holds a powerful influence in personal happiness and human society. All this has been brought about one of the most powerful of human traits: faith. The thinking, unfortunately, is that any reciprocity between classical spirituality and scientific venture abridges and/or invalidates faith as a whole.
The last ten years of my life has been a journey; one that began with a strong participation in Christian disciplines – from evangelicalism to Catholicism. This journey began with an encounter that I can only apply one word to: intent. Assuming this intent to be the Abrahamic God, I started my journey there. Christianity in the western world is the fundamental ground upon which our society exists, and it just seemed logical; given the circumstances. However, at this point in my travels, the only center I have lies in my belief that there was intent that brought me here, and even more, it was for a reason. The reason is to pull back the curtains of this darkened room we call spirituality, and let in the light.
That’s the point of this website magazine: to present a storyline in which the old merges with the new, and becomes borne again; stronger and more beneficial to all of humanity and the cosmos. I’d like to believe that humanity is entering a new stage in its existence; one with a completely renewed sense of what is spiritual. It’s time to come face to face with our soul. What gives me hope is that after all the human agents of separable, self-professed authorities and conclusionary powers are vanquished by a better understanding of this what is cosmos, we will finally have the ability to do exactly what we have hoped for centuries to do: live in harmony with both ourselves and the cosmos that is intrinsically part of us. I know no greater spiritual goal.
...Then a young, Christian woman walks into his life and, through their friendship, changes everything. Unable to understand what God’s love truly is, and embattled by some new sense of being, Reese is finally overwhelmed in the middle of night by God’s own divine intervention. Transformed, he begins a spiritual journey of salvation, spiritual visions, miracles, missions and pilgrimages; leading him to a renewed marriage of love, and a revelational conclusion about the very soul of man.
The true story of discovering the meaning, value, and gift of love. Get the paperback or kindle version at: Amazon.com.