Martin LeFevre: Cosmology and Consciousness
Cosmology and Consciousness
Every week now it seems, astronomers are making a new mind-blowing discovery or observation. Black holes tearing apart stars that come too close; galaxies flickering on just after the "Dark Age" of the universe following the Big Bang; unseen "dark energy" propelling the universe's expansion. This, astronomer's say, is the "golden age of cosmology."
There is at least one unexplained effect that has a direct bearing on how a revolution in human consciousness may occur. Astrophysicist Brian Greene, the author of "The Elegant Universe," describes a phenomenon in which one distinct object is touched, and it instantaneously affects another distant object. This process is not only faster than the speed of light; it transcends space and time, as we understand it.
Scientists have given this phenomenon the misnomer "entanglement," which is an odd way of saying that it "makes things that appear to be distinct part of the same whole." If that principle applies to material objects in the known universe, how much more does it apply to the supposedly separate consciousnesses of individuals living in the same global society?
"We may naively think things are distinct," Greene says. That has a nice, New Age ring to it, but the implications are far more serious, and the reverberations far wider than simple naiveté. As humans, our overwhelming tendency is to separate, and see ourselves, and increasingly everything else, as separate. Therefore the phenomenon of "entanglement" really applies to us.
The question is not Œwhat is our place in the universe?' but what can cosmology tell us about consciousness? Human consciousness is, however anomalously, governed by the same processes that govern the universe. If we can discover its basic operating principles, and see the relationship between those fundamentals and cosmic evolution, we may find out how we got this way, and more importantly, where we're going.
Of course the sophisticated view is that this is it, that it's all meaningless chaos, at least where human life is concerned. That's facile, and puts all the interesting questions outside us. It means we can study the stars and be awed by the universe's continually surprising elegance, but humans themselves, and the world they've made, are an impenetrable chaos.
Greene says that in terms of cosmology, "explanations are getting simpler, more elegant" even as the phenomena being observed and discovered are getting stranger and stranger. Scientists aren't arriving at final answers, but they are understanding how one process relates to another. There are still huge and possibly unanswerable questions, like what started the Big Bang, and what was there before it occurred?
In terms of humankind, it has become fashionable to believe man was a mistake. But that too is too easy. Evolution may make mistakes, but it is self-correcting. Besides, it simply begs the question when one reflects on how powerful our species is. If one species can destroy all life on a planet, doesn't that make life itself a mistake?
Obviously that's absurd. So we're faced with the greatest riddle of all‹ourselves. My view is that thought-consciousness is a stage that may presage, when it reaches a crisis point, a dramatic shift to another kind of consciousness altogether.
A brain capable of cosmological knowledge is the same brain capable of transcending knowledge in light of cosmic awareness. The former makes us technological creatures; the latter makes us human beings.
The space in consciousness is being destroyed, just as we are destroying habitats on the earth. Is the "dark matter" that thought has been producing since the beginning of culture and time the driving force of radical change in human consciousness? I think so.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.