The "Orch OR" theory of consciousness was originally presented in Penrose's book "The Road to Reality" in the late 1990's. At the time the theory was too speculative to garner much scientific support. However recent discoveries have supported this view, and it is now back with scientific support and basic mainstream research. In 2014 the new results have stimulated much review of this theory, along with supporters (non-determinists) and critics (determinists). This newer research supports a theosophical view where consciousness pervades reality at a fundamental level.

Key Points and papers are below

In 2002 basic calculations showed that quantum effects could last at time-scales relevant to the biology of the microtubules in dendrites. Below is a brief abstract of this paper. It helps set the tone for how science is supporting this work by Penrose as early as 2002. This paper was published in Physical Reviews E (A journal put out by the American Physical Society). (below)

Quantum computation in brain microtubules: decoherence and biologic...

A current overview of the more recent Orch OR theory discussion is given in the (16-Jan-2014) EurekAlert which is readable by most armchair scientists (layman) and is given below:

Discovery of quantum vibrations in 'microtubules' corroborates theo...

Science News has the EurokAlert review also:

Discovery of quantum vibrations in 'microtubules' corroborates theo...

The Journal which sparked most of the debate is the Applied Physics Letters. The abstract for one of the key papers is given below:

Multi-level memory-switching properties of a single brain microtubule

The most recent paper (referred to in the EurekAlert) is more technical and is written by Hameroff (Anesthesiologist) and Penrose (Mathematical Physicist). The journal which published a whole issue on this is the Physics of Life Reviews. It contains several articles, pro and con, and even a review by Deepak Chopra. The journal (and papers) is below:

Consciousness in the universe: A review of the ‘Orch OR’ theory

(Note: I started a topic on Deepak's paper for most theosophists to comment on)

The key paper in the journal above is by Hameroff (Anesthesiologist) and Penrose (Mathematical Physicist). The complete pdf is included above.

Sorry for so much material. The subject is important though. Any true Theosophist interested in studying Religion, Science and Philosophy should be highly interested in the above. I suggest it be skimmed as a first reading.

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Wonderful information, Thank you John!

They are indeed getting close aren't they.


If our consciousness emerges from quantum states within our brains, what about the quantum states that exist outside our brains? Is there consciousness there too? If so, is it the same consciousness?

according to this theory of consciousness...  a slam-dunk YES

People may want to recall the Pondicherry Interpretation of QM I posted a while back (written by a Physicist in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram - published in mainstream Journals here). It double-downs on the way the mathematical constructs of QM contain both the subjective and objective states of matter and considers it all subjective states of matter. Its an interesting interpretation. In any case, the subjective and objective reality (both) are inherently included within the standard QM mathematics.

just fyi - you can download the actual paper by Hameroff and Penrose below:

ORCH OR Hameroff Penrose

of particular interest (readable to layman scientist) is section 5.7 p.68

"5.7 Testable predictions of Orch OR – current status"

yes - but that was THEN  thinking. We have a lot more tools now to look at the problem with than just mind looking at itself. It is naive to think that we cannot get to consciousness from the bottom up approach. That is what the Hermetic axiom was/is all about:

As BELOW so above and also As ABOVE so below.

both ways work. (and ARE working)

as an aside - what is really being discussed is how mind controls matter. We are first looking at the brain. How does mind control the brain? that is the question. Then we have a separate Mind from a separate body coupled through the objective/subjective aspects inherent in QM's formalism. That is not a trivial nor worthless pursuit (to most people).

Hi John, David and all,
I have read these papers and have had them for some time. The problem about mind/brain /reality states. If I may, just a couple of points. I would like to suggest that consciousness informs the physical brain...move the left arm.... the brain obliges by sending the correct signals to the required nerve plexus's and the arm does as requested. The arm on the other hand (excuse the pun!) can feel its surroundings through signals to and from various nerves from muscles and skin. Arm knows it must move because it is too near an open flame, and uses the same nerve tracts to initiate action but cannot do so without the co-operation of signals to and from the brian. This provides the bottom up parts of the interaction. These bottom up signals respond to prompts either within the body or in the surroundings.

Consciousness is awareness or knowledge about self and our subjective private responses to our internal and external states. Conscious promptings, in my view, are connected to thought and reasoning, based on experience or belief which, united with intention, is capable of orchestrating (probably through changes in the microtubules as Penrose and Hameroff suggest) logical responses to our surroundings according to what we believe.

These beliefs can come about through our own learning, through telepathic interaction, or entanglement as Dean Radin suggests, and allow us to respond appropriately according to what we intend or will. It seems to me that the work done by Penrose and Hameroff does point the way to some important directions, although Penrose does not go quite as far as Hemeroff in his conclusions (if I remember rightly).
Best wishes
Kathy (Stranks)

I seem to agree with much that you say. The reflex reactions may be processed locally (like in an Octopus?). The relay up and down may be too slow. The Arm may have some conscious level in it inherently. An independent level at some point.

Certainly the ORCH OR theory is not the final say. No one expects that, I think. However, it is a major step in the right direction. The way Mind interacts with matter seems to be the most valuable contribution of the theory. It is a refreshing way to look at the mind-body problem. I expect some changes, but the underlying mechanism seems very appropriate. It really does not address the deeper states of consciousness etc. Those are very hard problems. Physics may have to stop at the Mind-Body connection and the mental mechanisms consciousness uses to interact with the brain. Why the brain is involved and its greater utilities seems to need further work (memory and reality/self awareness).

I loved the way one may examine the consciousness levels regarding exploring the fossil records. That is way too cool. That could prove very interesting and a great way to track consciousness developing through time. The other item is the consciousness level of the rest of space and matter.


Hi John,

Of course the whole field interests me and I find the work by Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff quite amazing. I suppose if consciousness decides to take part in this world experience in human form, it needs a physical, biological body to do so.

In order to experience our sense of time and reality it has to (possibly) use the body, through the brain as a conduit, to form physical expression. It may also be that consciousness expends itself through physical expression, both in the body, in the auric field around it and extending in time and space. If (and this is probably down to the individual consciousness and body) we are here to learn, then manipulating matter through thought and will is really the only way we can.  

If consciousness orchestrates matter the control of it would come through its imagination, intention and emotion. If any of us remember an important event in our lives there may be physical components to it but the most enduring aspect is almost always an emotional one. I suspect that understanding consciousness, whatever that really is, and what it is capable of has to be our starting point. I know from experience that matter can be directly affected by thought, both intentionally and unintentionally and very often a-temporally.

Here the main component seems to be clarity of thought and emotional thrust, but these tools need careful handling, i.e. we need to be very clear about our thinking patterns and intentions. For example: eight or ten weeks ago, just playing around I tried to lift my body weight up on a pull bar in someones house. I was utterly disgusted about how little strength I had. Four weeks ago I broke my leg. The result was that I ended up on a walking frame, supporting more or less my whole body weight, on my arms and one leg. This is very typical of the kind of interaction we all have with thinking and reality all the time, we just don't usually see the connection.

Best wishes


Hello Kathy,

Welcome to

I've been kind of quite the last few days, mainly because I don't have the background to hold up my end of the conversation.

I completely agree with the gist of your post, that being that we need to understand "consciousness" (at least better) before we can even guess at how to look at anything (everything) else.

Their are a couple things in the post I would like to throw a curve ball at you with, and see what you think.

you mention experience a couple times, the way you use it (word it) makes it sound like "consciousness" decided to experience physical form so here we are.

I think the beginning of life is much more fundamental than that. Consider that "In order to experience our sense of time and reality", to my way of seeing, seems backwards. Experience does not work without "reality" . Without our physical "universe", experience cannot exist. "Consciousness" (being non-physical) can't experience, so experience could not have been part of "consciousness"'s "awareness" to be part of any decision.

I would even go so far as to say "consciousness" has no awareness (based on current understanding of awareness) or intellect. Again both those things are products of "physicality".

Without the "separation" of our physical universe, All is one.

So I agree that "consciousness" was/is fundamental in the creation of our universe, but it was an extremely primitive form of what we would now consider "consciousness". It would have been similar to the very first utterances of language. Completely lost within the complexity that evolves.

Which is just another way of saying "Here the main component seems to be clarity of thought and emotional thrust, but these tools need careful handling, i.e. we need to be very clear about our thinking patterns and intentions."

of course emotions, intentions, and even thinking (except at it's most basic level) are all beyond the ability of "consciousness".

Hi Dave,

Thank you for replying. It's excellent to get into a proper gritty conversation about such things because it does make us conscious of our thinking.

Sorry but I think consciousness is the only and absolute fundamental state. More then that I think its fundamental expansive drive is to experience all that is, that is all it is capable of creating, including awareness, emotion and curiosity, there is no separation because it produces all of it in different expressions. We add to consciousness through our own explorations, because of our link to its mass. This allows all of us, each cell, each animal and each human, the ability and focus to create new and exiting states continuously, we are consciousnessess expression.This allowed us to evolve consciousness according to our own views and create reality in line with our beliefs starting with the earliest life forms, which I think are unique in themselves. I do not think monkeys eventually became human or that we could evolve into monkeys, I think we all have our own unique identity. This can be evidenced by pre-cognitive events that we sometimes move ourselves towards. 


According to some work done by Hameroff, his suggestion that consciousness continues after death for time durations of 3 to 90 minutes. Because he is an anaesthetist he has access to equipment which would allow him to make some of this evidence based. Peter Fenwick, who has been in medicine all his career suggests there is 'something' that continues (in O. Corezza NDE's Exploring the Mind, Body Connection) 

In addition when we talk about being able to contact the dead, what are we contacting? I hate to admit it but I have worked in the field for many years and when I 'communicate' with other individuals, alive or dead, the thing I am focusing on is exclusively is the conscious, emotional profile of the individual entity I need information about. I think Consciousness is the conductor of the orchestra and nothing, nothing is beyond its ability except our limited view, which includes dreaming, altered states, out of body experiences as well as pre and post mortum states.  

I think I am consciousness and I think you are also consciousness and we can communicate across miles through time through that consciousness medium. 

I do go on and on and on...sorry.

Best wishes,

Kathy (Stranks)

Kathy -

Ineresting you mention Imagination. That was a key attribute Faivre used to define theosophy -  as a universal theosophical tool. His definition of Imagination is complex. He considers it a key function humans use to reconnect with the higher self. Almost as if we have an Imagination gland, not a physical gland we have found but an innate attribute, that searches through Images, relationships, experience (etc.) in the physical world, similar in action to IMAGE-ination, Mundis Imaginalis (Corbin), Active Consciousness (Jung), Nous, Intellectus, Intuition etc., which help it divine these higher planes to reconnect and bridge back to the subtle/non-physical states in actual consciousness.

That rather fits in well with one aspect of the points you made.


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