I haven't posted on here for a long time. I hope everyone is well and send my special regards to Captain Kumar who might remember me. I have been in India for most of the last six months.
Recently I have been looking at some of the work of several very brilliant and brave scientists who have come to recognize the severe limitations of Science as it is today, as a lens through which to understand the nature of existence and the human experience. All of these individuals have run into these limitations particularly in relationship to Science's refusal to deal with what is often referred to in Scientific circles as -- "the problem" of Consciousness. And they all recognize that this is because there are a small number of very conservative and very vocal scientists, who are, ironically, like the Catholic Church in the past -- clinging to a kind of orthodoxy based on a set of materialist foundations that hark back to the 19th century, that scientists in general feel they have to fall in line with, if they don't want to be labelled as heretics!!. So these brave individuals are desperately attempting to open Science to new thinking especially in relationship to our understanding of what Consciousness is. One such individual is Rupert Sheldrake who is actually going to be in dialogue with cultural visionary and spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen later this month at EnlightenNext in Islington. I think its going to be a fascinating exploration of a new ground of potential that lies before us, where Science and Spirituality are not at odds with each other, but rather are supporting each other toward a fuller and more whole understanding of the nature of Existence, of the Universe and of our human experience. If anyone has any thoughts to share on this subject, it would be much appreciated...Thank you
Welcome back Steve. Joe and I often talked about you and wondered when will you come back to the forum. We hope your experience in India was rich and rewarding.
Indeed, as one looks back one finds that Science was integrated into Philosophy in the ancient India. Nyaya Vaiseshika being one of the six philosophical thought systems. One also comes to recognize that it is due to progress made by "materialistic science" that has helped enormously in gradual expansion of human consciousness by presenting continually improving means of communication. The present roadblock is also a product of that which will of course, eventually lead us to the new ways of thinking.
Sites like Edge.Org or Enlightenext.Org are great resources to learn about those new ways of thinking. We need to do our bit too. Your post in that respect is very timely. Thank You Steve.
sometimes I see in the news new statements of science. It surprises me how often I think : this is not new, I have been reading about this in some very old books. So, if I would take this further and say : if we can think it, it must be possible. almost every scientist would disagree with me and tell me you are wrong. But.......am I ???
Hi Bret -
I want to point out that your Introduction to this thread is rather one-sided. Science actually does study consciousness and it is far from a forbidden topic in journals. The field of consciousness was propelled forward in the late 60's and 70's.
The following book received reviews from Physics Today and the AAAS which were far from scathing. Actually somewhat favorable.
"How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival"
also take a look at:
"In the 1980s and 90s there was a major resurgence of scientific and philosophical research into the nature and basis of consciousness (Baars 1988, Dennett 1991, Penrose 1989, 1994, Crick 1994, Lycan 1987, 1996, Chalmers 1996). Once consciousness was back under discussion, there was a rapid proliferation of research with a flood of books and articles, as well as the introduction of specialty journals (The Journal of Consciousness Studies, Consciousness and Cognition, Psyche), professional societies (Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness - ASSC) and annual conferences devoted exclusively to its investigation (Toward a Science of Consciousness, ASSC)."
So - I mainly want to point out that the thesis and tenor of this thread itself is rather biased.
One thing I agree with is that some highly vocal evangelical atheists, determined determinists, do exist. However, they are somewhat as wacky as the people and subjects they criticize. They are irrelevant in the "pursuit" of the field though. They cannot censor and have no authority to do so.
Thanks very much for the responses to the post. It’s very nice to hear from you Captain Kumar, and greetings to Joe also.
I have come across in my post as rather anti-Science, which in fact I'm not at all. Clearly Science is one of humanities greatest achievements. And I agree Captain Kumar how Science has given us breakthroughs in communication it would have been impossible to imagine in the past. But Science as it stands today also has some acute limitations, and I think this is important to recognize given the extent to which Science shapes the entire way we interpret our experience of the world in the West.
In response to J.E. Mead, yes, I do agree my introduction to the thread was rather one-sided, and of course you are right that consciousness has become a more acceptable topic for scientists over the last decades, to a degree. And I also have to be humble about the fact that Science is really not my field. But having said that I think I need to be clearer about the point I am trying to make.
My post was inspired really by reflections I have had after hearing about Rupert Sheldrake's new book "The Science Delusion – Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry”. In this book Sheldrake, a very serious scientist himself, asserts that there are a number of absolutely fundamental 'dogmas' that Science is still rooted in that are entirely materialistic in nature and still stem from the 19th century. And he brings 10 of them up for question in his book. He asserts that if any scientist steps outside these dogmas they are considered heretical or simply not taken seriously. I think there is a lot to be said for this perspective. He also says that in his opinion, most scientists, except for a few core and very vocal intransigents, don’t necessarily believe in these dogmas themselves in private, but in public they have to if they are going to be taken seriously by the scientific establishment and not ex-communicated.
What Sheldrake is pointing to here is the lack of genuine open enquiry there is in Science, outside of this old paradigm. For example Ken Wilber, the American philosopher who has done more than anyone I think to argue in the public sphere that consciousness is in fact the ground of everything and not a product of the brain, is simply not taken seriously my mainstream Science. It is the same with Deepak Chopra and of course Rupert Sheldrake himself. I would agree with Sheldrake that to a large extent Science has replaced Religion as the new orthodoxy in our culture. Hence the popularity of Mr. Dawkins, bless him!
Andrew Cohen is another person who is attempting to bring the fields of Science and Spirituality more together by making the point that evolution is not limited to the material world, but is a cosmic living process that is happening on many levels simultaneously, and has an exterior and an interior; the exterior being culture at this point and the interior being consciousness –and that the energy and intelligence that is driving this whole process is consciousness itself.
I personally think that until the Scientific establishment is willing to open up to a new thinking which allows it to see the limitations of its own materialist foundations, the real significance of Consciousness is likely to remain sidelined in Western culture, and it is going to be up to those few radical trail-blazers who continue to insist that there is a meaning and purpose to us being here which far transcends the established scientific paradigm, to herald us into a new and more enlightened age.
Do join me at the Sheldrake and Cohen event as they talk about these big questions on June 20th.
Thanks Steve. Indeed it is a pleasure to read your post.
The science of consciousness is an emerging field and like every emerging hypothesis there are only a few pioneers. It is progressing at its own pace. Those who complain about scientist not paying enough attention to consciousness are actually indicating that their own theories are not being taken seriously. Let them prove it first.
Apart from Sir Roger Penrose and Dr. Stuart Hameroff, there are several others, very serious scientists working on the Physics of consciousness. Names like Nancy Woolf or Chris King come to mind immediately. Some indications of preliminary research is described in The Emerging Physics of Consciousness.
It is too premature for anyone to argue at this stage whether consciousness exists outside of the Brain or not. Even if one considered brain only as a receiver to connect with the consciousness it would still be a part of it, without which it will be impossible to know what is consciousness.
Everyone, be it philosopher or a scientist has a right to push their theory. We, the common people have a right to wait and watch to see who proves it first.
Thank you again Captain Kumar for responding so promptly.
Yes, agreed there are some real pioneers working as you say on the physics of consciousness, which is excellent. But I would like to make the point that those who complain about Science not paying enough attention to consciousness are not only indicating that their theories are not being taken seriously, but are actually trying to make a point about the state of the Scientific establishment, for the reasons I wrote above.
There is a very simple point to be made here. Scientific experiment as it is traditionally practiced is based on a fundamental dualism between subject and object. This basic premise doesn't work when studying consciousness for the very simple reason that consciousness is not an object. Consciousness is the subject. Vedanta has been pointing this out for thousands of years. If you would say to any enlightened human being that consciousness is a product of the brain, they would laugh, because they know very well that such an idea is absurd. As Indian philosophy has always expoused from the Upanishads onwards, consciousness is the ground of everything, out of which the whole Universe emerged.
I do not agree that his thread is biased. If it were so, then I'd say that your posts are biased, too, John. It's just that everyone sees and writes from his/her position.
Sorry, I'm in the killing mood again.
Please be careful, dear friends!!!
but what if it is not the brain alone but a window that we can catch peak at the interconnectedness
of all and we try to put words to what is a picture show bombarding all our senses at a sub-conscious
Fantastic point Joe, nothing is static, and yes, what's really interesting is that we are really pivotal in how this mysterious process is actually developing...
By the way, on the subject of Rupert Sheldrake, here he is speaking himself at the Temenos Academy about his new book, The Science Delusion.
That is a wondeful video ...so many theosophic ideas, yet no one, including the brilliant speaker once mentions blavatsky or theosophy...makes u wonder if theosophy is also predestined to always remain a small voice and the secrets always secret..
The major issue with "modern" theosophists is that they are not "modern".
We keep having to overcome 120 year-old theosophy on this site. not easy. People actually believe there is only one theosophy, which is HPB-style. (balderdash).
we have to overcome 50 year-old Physics thinking. i.e. science=materialism and the clockwork universe. Evangelical Atheists have pushed that idea into a Multiverse (can't fit it into ours. Sheldrake is right on that).
The CSI group is rather famous for Realism and Materialism, at any cost. I believe Sheldrake is actually writing to people more in that circle of scientists.
QM is actually emergent, non-local, macroscopic and anything but clockwork. That has been known for over 50 years, easily. (unless you are in the Determined Determinists group).
I agree with Joe, self valediation is the key to an honest understanding of anything and its ok to take the middle ground-far better than pouting principles you hardly understand, and when questioned,refer to some theosophic literature as proof. Rupert Sheldrake appears to devoting his time to proving these principles that so many theosophists accept blindly..