"We must remember that man is not an island, totally isolated and disconnected from others. We are all part of a universal chain, or the universal consciousness . What happens to one happens to all."
"When thoughts are reduced, power of the mind and its subtlety increases, tunes with the Universe. Then you can see the realms beyond the common understanding. When the mind is pure and quiet it becomes one with the universal mind. That mind is like a mirror. The secrets of the Universe will be revealed there."
There is a fascinating convergence occurring between cutting-edge science and ancient systems of consciousness development. This installment seeks to explore what trail-blazing science has to say about these parallels.
Previous installments in this series have shared testimony suggesting that God/Divinity/Infinite Consciousness pervades (and is) the universe. This is the assertion of countless beings over the centuries, who have "awakened" - radically affecting how they lived their lives - and who have claimed that this capacity for expanded awareness is a human birthright.
It appears we are turning a corner. Science itself, the capstone of the dissecting, rational, reductionistic mind - which is based on the assumption that the world is made up of many separate parts - now appears to be pointing toward a blossoming, mysterious, new worldview. This vision sees the world through the lens of wholeness, oneness and consciousness.
At the frontiers of science, we are beginning to find that the universe itself is functioning as if it is a living system. For example, in physics, the theory of nonlocality tells us that all aspects of the universe are instantaneously connected, despite its enormous size. Also, consciousness appears to be present at every level of the universe, beginning at the atomic scale, where the behavior of electrons suggest that they seem to have a mind of their own, on up through the human scale.
A Dead Universe
First let's remember that we, in the West, have assumed and lived in one particular paradigm for only the past few hundred years. Newtonian physics, with its mechanistic perspective, was thought to be able to give a precise and reliable account of our universe. That has turned out to be far from the reality.
For at least 300 years science has maintained the view that we live in a universe is dead: that lacks feeling, consciousness, and vitality. This relatively recent invention is clearly expressed by Dr. Susan Blackmore, an author on human consciousness, who said: "We live in a pointless universe. We're here for no reason at all. There isn't a soul. There isn't a spirit. We're not going to live forever in some kind of heaven"there are no paranormal phenomena, although I can't be sure of that."
Science, in other words has tended to view the physical universe as "all there is." Therefore, in this view the workings of the entire universe have been explained through the workings of matter, and to suggest otherwise is to regress into superstition.
"Life" seems to have emerged only recently - as matter somehow managed to organize itself into ever-higher levels of complexityevolving from atoms to molecules to cells to organisms. Consciousness or a knowing capacity is seen as a biological phenomenon, located in the physical brain. Because human aliveness, thought, and feeling are assumed to have emerged from chemical reactions between non-living matter, when the physical body dies, that is seen as the end of the story.
In this "matter-only" worldview, it is only logical to conclude that the most intensely living beings (we humans) have the right to exploit that which is dead - or lesser entities - such as inert matter and the rest of nature - for our own purposes.
Yet, it is only in the last few hundred years that science has made a great separation between ourselves and the rest of Being: regarding the universe as mostly non-living matter with only a few islands of life such as ourselves.
This has left human beings with a thirst for meaning an (often unconscious) desire for connectedness with the cosmos.
Despite its "flatland" outlook, a dead universe perspective can nevertheless be seen as representing an important stage in humanity's long journey of awakening. For better or worse, in pulling back from nature and pulling apart from one another, we have also become much stronger and more differentiated as individuals.
What has recently emerged is a "living-universe-theory." In contrast, we were all taught to believe that creation occurred only oncebillions of years ago, when a massive explosion spewed out lifeless material debris into equally lifeless space. "Life" then somehow mysteriously emerged.
In striking contrast, the living-universe-theory views creation not as a one-time event, but as an ongoing process. The entire universe is maintained moment-by-moment by an unbroken flow-through of energy
As physicist Brian Swimme tells us, we and the rest of the universe, are a persisting pattern that, "emerges out of an all-nourishing abyss not only 14 billion years ago, but in every moment" i.e., the universe in its entirety winks in and out of existence, as of course, do we.
From this perspective, various flowing processes comprise one grand symphony, a oneness in which we are all players, a single creative expressiona uni-verse. From this vantage-point, we can consider the possibility that our universe itself is an expression of a living system of infinite intelligence.
It follows that if the universe is alive, we should expect to discover evidence of consciousness operating at every level of existence, as some level of sentience/knowing/ consciousness is basic to life. This does not mean, however, that we should expect to encounter human consciousness.
The eminent physicist Freeman Dyson wrote the following about consciousness at the quantum level: "Matter in quantum mechanics is not an inert substance but an active agent, constantly making choices between alternative possibilities. . . It appears that mind, as manifested by the capacity to make choices, is to some extent inherent in every electron."
This does not mean that an atom has the same consciousness as a human being, but rather that an atom has a reflective capacity appropriate to its form and function, which gives it the ability to make choices. In a similar vein, Max Planck, developer of quantum theory, said: "I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness."
Looking one step above the level of the atom, we find a rudimentary consciousness present at the level of primitive molecules. Researchers have found that molecules consisting of no more than a few simple proteins have the capacity for primary perception that is the signature of living systems. As one of the researchers who made this discovery stated, "We were surprised that such simple proteins can act as if they had a mind of their own."
Next, we step up from molecules to what biology often regards as the smallest "living" entitiessingle celled microbes that are found everywhere, from inside our intestines to the scum on the surface of a pond. Scientists studying bacteria, amoebas, and yeast have discovered that they are intensely social creatures that possess unique forms of language. These single cell creatures are not lonersinstead, they are connected as a community and use chemicals to communicate with one another.
Turning to a still higher level of complexity, scientists have found plants can communicate with one another using subtle odor molecules. Plants can send out chemical signals that repel insects; they can also attract insects that eat the pests that feed on their leaves. Not only can plants use chemical signals in their defense, they can also use them to warn other plants of danger, enabling their neighbors to jump-start their defenses. Again, we find a rudimentary knowing or a discerning sentience.
When we turn to the world of animals, we find elements of human-like consciousness that indicate we are less unique than we previously thought. For example, self-recognition is not restricted to humans. Great apes as well as elephants, dolphins, magpie birds, and pigeons have shown that they are able to recognize themselves in a mirror.
A capacity for empathy and feeling for another animal has been observed in primates, dolphins, whales, elephants, dogs, hippos, birds, and even some rodents. Elephants will remain by the body of a deceased member of their group for hours in an apparent gesture of respect or mourning, and this suggests the capacity for compassion. Tool making has been observed in crows, chimps, and bonobos (a species of great apes). Dolphins have also shown they can use tools; for example, they will sometimes use the spiny body of a dead scorpion fish to get a moray eel out of its hiding place. The ability to understand language has been observed in dolphins, bonobos, and parrots.
We humans embody a "quantum leap" in development - the capacity to see ourselves in the mirror of our own self-awareness. Our scientific name as a species is Homo sapiens sapiens. In other words, we are the species that is not only "sapient" or wise, but also "sapient-sapient": doubly-knowing , with a capacity for self-reflection or "knowing that we know." In contrast, the consciousness that we find at the physical foundations of the universe could be called "primary perception" or basic sentience - the capacity for knowing, but without the ability to reflect upon the knowing process itself.
In a similar vein, Max Planck, developer of quantum theory said: "I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness."
Although we humans have an advanced capacity for reflective consciousness, we need not be viewed as an utterly unique and separate form of life; instead, we have simply progressed further along a spectrum of reflective consciousness.
A Revolutionary Paradigm
Once every corner of a paradigm has been explored and new data accumulate that do not confirm the existing model, key questions are raised. This is precisely what is happening in science.
The Copernican Revolution shook the foundations of cosmology and unsettled people's everyday view of the universe. Due to its puzzling implications and quantum effects that cannot be readily explained using our everyday understanding of the world, quantum mechanics seems to have done something very similar in the 20th century and beyond.
One of these is the "complementarity effect"- a foundation of quantum physics. Erwin Shrodinger, known as a father of quantum theory, devised an equation and thought-experiment, which suggests that an electron is everywhere until an observer calls it into existence - a reality that defies logic.
In the Copenhagen Interpretation - until an observer is there, the universe exists as possibilities. The observer actually causes what are called 'possibility waves' to collapse into space-time events that we call physical matter.
In other words, an electron has no detectable reality until it is observed. Rather, it occupies a "superposition," meaning that it can be in more than one place at the same time. (This has been experimentally verified). When an observer looks at, or measures, an electron, only then it does it become limited as a distinct entity. Only under conscious observation does an electron jump from virtual reality into the visible universe; as soon as the observer stops looking, it falls back into what is called the zero-point the field again.
Schrodinger stated it this way: "What we observe as material bodies and forces are nothing but shapes and variations in the structure of space. Particles are just appearances"Subject and object are only one. The barrier between them cannot be said to have broken down"for this barrier does not exist"
Live in a Unified Universe?
A living entity is not a random collection of disconnected parts but a unified whole. Separating the parts of a living body disallows us from putting it together again - alive. How could our universe, which appears to be mostly empty space with widely separated islands of matter, possibly be unified? On the surface, our universe certainly does appear to be composed of separate componentsfrom atoms to people to planets.
One of the most astonishing discoveries to emerge from 20th century physics has been described as "non-locality." The basic idea is simple: In the past, scientists have assumed that instant communication cannot take place between two distant points; i.e., it takes time for a message to travel from one place to another, even at the speed of light. For example, it takes light about eight minutes to travel from the sun to the Earth; in other words, something could happen on the sun and it would take eight minutes before we would know about it on Earth.
Yet, a multitude of recent experiments show that, despite these vast distances which seem impossible to bridge - everything in the universe is deeply interconnected. Experiments have repeatedly demonstrated that, regardless of the distances that separate them, subatomic particles are able to communicate instantly with one another.
Quantum entanglement is so complex, subtle, and weird that Einstein, who could not disprove it, called it "spooky action at a distance." Quantum entanglement occurs when two particles have interacted and then are inextricably linked together despite their separation from one another. Although these entangled particles are not physically connected, and may be millions of light-years distant, they still are able to share information with each other instantaneously seemingly breaking one of the most hard-and-fast rules of physics: that no information can be transmitted faster than the speed of light.
The world-famous physicist David Bohm explained this phenomenon by portraying the universe as a gigantic hologram that is regenerated at each moment. In Bohm's view, the entire cosmos is a dynamic projection from a deeper common ground that is "holographic" in nature. He called this the implicate order. At every moment, every part of the universe contains information about the whole. The whole is in every part and every part is in the whole.
His theory is that nonlocality exists, because at a deeper level of reality, separation does not exist. Bohm said that, ultimately, we have to see the entire universe as "a single, undivided whole." Instead of separating the universe into living things and nonliving things, he viewed animate and inanimate matter as inseparably interwoven with the Life force that is present throughout the universe. In his book Wholeness and the Implicate Order he coined the term holomovement to indicate the reality of constant flux.
As stunning as it seems, nonlocality means that we each participate in the totality of the universe. In the words of the physicist Sir James Jeans, we may think that we are ""individuals carrying on separate existences in space and time, while in the deeper reality beyond space and time we may all be members of one body."
Scientists also know that throughout the universe there exists a sea of background energy at the foundations of the universe, called "zero point" field. To date, physics currently lacks a full theoretical model for understanding zero-point energy.
Scientists used to think that "empty space" was merely empty. They now have concluded that, even in a complete vacuum, there exist phenomenal amounts of energy. Bohm calculated that a single cubic inch of empty space contained the energy equivalent of millions of atomic bombs.
We cannot see zero-point energy because it is everywhere and through everything and, as a result, it does not stand out. Physicists now believe that space is full of activity in the form of invisible fluctuations in the quantum field. These "virtual fluctuations" account for matter and energy.
To repeat, the zero-point field appears to communicate information about paired subatomic particles without regard for time, distance, or the speed of light. Measuring the condition or state of a quantum particle like an electron can instantly change the state of another electron (such as its "spin") even if it is light-years away.
Most of our universe is hidden in plain sight. Though we can't see or touch it, most astronomers say the majority of the cosmos consists of dark matter and dark energy. But what is this mysterious, invisible stuff that surrounds us? And what's the difference between dark matter and dark energy? In short, dark matter slows down the expansion of the universe, while dark energy speeds it up.
Dark matter works like an attractive force a kind of cosmic glue that holds our universe together. This is because dark matter does interact with gravity, but it doesn't reflect, absorb, or emit light. Meanwhile, dark energy is a repulsive force a sort of anti-gravity that drives the universe's ever-accelerating expansion.
Dark energy is the far more dominant force of the two, accounting for some 70 percent of the universe's total mass and energy. Dark matter makes up approximately 27 percent. And the rest a mere 3-5 percent is all the regular matter we see and interact with every day. The discovery of dark energy is best explained by the zero-point field, though it's source and existence still remain a mystery; while not understood, the current hypothesis is that it is closely related to the zero-point energy of the vacuum.
A similar theme is developed by philosopher scientist Ervin Laszlo, who has written, "The primary reality is the quantum vacuum, the energy and information-filled plenum that underlies our universe, and all universes in the Metaverse."
Beyond this, there has been closely-held discussion that extraterrestrial craft use this form of propulsion, and with the aid of reverse-engineering of crashed drafts, our military is experimenting with this form of energy.
Empty space appears to be a dynamically constructed transparency requiring immense amounts of energy to create and sustain it. This underlying ocean of energy is the primary reality.
Bohm said that "matter as we know it is " rather like a tiny ripple on a vast sea." Sir James Jeans suggested that we think of the world that we see with our senses as the "outer surface of nature, like the surface of a deep flowing stream."
These recent insights reveal a striking correspondence with the views of mystics and especially eastern spiritual practitioners.
Despite their many differences, when we penetrate the depths of the world's major spiritual traditions, a stunning understanding about the Universe emerges, in accord with insights from the frontiers of science: that
we live within a living Universe that arises, moment by moment, as an undivided whole in an unutterably vast process of awesome precision and power.
For example, at the foundation of the Buddha's teachings is his description of the simultaneous arising of all things in the universe. Translated as "interdependent co-arising" the Buddha said this insight was at the heart of his awakening.
According to the Buddha, to discern the moment-to-moment, interdependent co-arising of all things in the universe is to awaken to a reality that is "subtle, sublime, hard to perceive," and not accessible through logic alone.
Because the co-arising of all things in the universe is a process that completely includes us, we cannot stand back to observe it; instead, to know this reality we must relax completely into our awareness and become transparent to more subtle levels of our own experience. When we consciously experience ourselves in this way, we find nothing permanent but rather, complete dynamism and flow, including the direct experience of ourselves.
The following quotes illustrate how this remarkable understanding is expressed across the world's major religions.
While for many, the word "God" tends to evoke the image of a remote, masculine, authority figure who is separate from this world, another view runs through Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which uses the word "God" to evoke the image of a powerful, boundless spiritual presence that infuses, sustains, and transcends the universe.
While anthropomorphized - as is generally the case in all monotheistic traditions - here is a Jewish psalm that describes an infusing spiritual presence throughout the universe.
"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."
~ Psalm 139:7-10
Christian: "God is creating the entire Universe, fully and totally, in this present now. Everything God created" God creates now all at once."
~ Meister Eckhart, Christian mystic
Islam: "You have a death and a return in every moment" Every moment the world is renewed but we, in seeing its continuity of appearance, are unaware of its being renewed."
~ Rumi, 13th century Sufi realized teacher and poet
Buddhist: "My solemn proclamation is that a new Universe is created every moment."
~ D.T. Suzuki, Zen teacher and scholar
Hindu: "The entire Universe contributes incessantly to your existence. Hence the entire Universe is your body."
~ Sri Nisargadatta, Hindu Guru
Taoist: "The Tao is the sustaining Life-force and the mother of all things; from it, all things rise and fall without cease."
~ Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Beneath the differences in language, a common vision is being described. The Universe is continuously emerging as a fresh creation at every moment. All point to this same extraordinary, constantly renewed wholeness.
The Path of Awareness
Walking the path of awareness involves putting everything into a larger framework, where a more expanded meaning can be found. One image for the spiritual path is that of a jigsaw puzzle. The separate pieces don't seem connected until later, when the puzzle is more complete. Each piece is complete in itself, but also a part of a bigger picture, of a whole entity.
When we ask a question that suggests a different level of truth, expansion has always been the way of the scientist. At one time the question was asked, "Are there forms of life that are smaller than the eye can see?" The answer was "No." We did not accept this answer and the microscope was invented. Another question followed: "Are there parts of nature that are smaller than what can be seen through a microscope?" Again, the answer was "No." We continued searching and in time discovered and developed an understanding of atomic and subatomic phenomena.
The challenge for a mind that is open and magnanimous is to expand to a level where questions that cannot be answered within the currently accepted understanding of truth can be answered at another level. This time one of the instruments that can reveal deeper truths is our own consciousness. Here we are literally exploring connections between the physical and "meta-physical" realities.
It may well be that we humans have separated ourselves as far from union with nature as far we will ever go. Now we have little choice: If we are to continue to evolve and realize our potentials as a species, we must become conscious of our partnership with nature and one another.
However, making the turn from separation to connection will not end our journey of learning.
As we discover the astonishing depths and subtlety of the Universe, we recognize we have as much to learn on our journey of return, as we have on our long journey of separation. This is humbling news.
Instead of the current era representing the pinnacle of human evolution, we appear to be approaching a mid-way point in the journey of awakening as we turn from separation toward community and cooperation. We still have far to go and much to learn to reach our initial maturity as a dynamically stable, species-civilization.
The reality is that how we feel about the surrounding universe has an enormous impact on our experience of life. If we think of the universe as dead at the foundations, then feelings of existential alienation, anxiety, dread, and fear are understandable. Why seek communion with the cold indifference of lifeless matter and empty space? We might as well sink into existential despair.
However, if we live in a living universe - feelings of subtle connection, curiosity, and gratitude are understandable. We can then perceive ourselves as participants in a cosmic garden of life that the universe has been patiently nurturing over billions of years. A living universe perspective invites us to shift from indifference, fear, and cynicism to curiosity, love, and awe.
If we see the universe as mostly barren and devoid of life and our time on Earth as primarily a struggle for material existence, then it makes sense that we humans would pull apart in conflict. However, if we see the universe as intensely alive, and our time on Earth as a journey of discovery into that aliveness, then it makes sense that we would pull together in cooperation in order to realize this magnificent potential.
If we are no more than biological entities and we are fundamentally separate from one another, then it makes sense to see ourselves as disconnected from the suffering of other living beings. However, if we are all swimming in the same ocean of subtle aliveness, then it makes sense that we would each have a direct experience of communion with, and concern for, the well-being of others. If we all share the same matrix of existence, then the rest of life is already touching me, co-creating the field within which I exist. Perhaps God is "aliveness."
Our view of the universe creates the context within which we understand and choose our future, so it is critically important that we have an accurate understanding of our cosmic home. Where a dead-universe perspective generates alienation, environmental destruction and despair, a living-universe perspective generates feelings of communion, stewardship, and promising visions of a higher pathway for humanity.
The perceptual paradigm of a living universe is an understanding of such immensity that it transforms the story of humanity and reveals the cosmic dimensions of our journey. Although the idea of a living universe has ancient roots in human experience, it is radically new as the frontiers of modern science cut away superstition and reveal the authentic mystery and subtlety of our cosmic home.
We are witnessing a fascinating conjunction between the pronouncements arising from self-directed, expanding inner consciousness and those emerging from the most recent cutting-edge science.
For many thousand years, pioneering individuals have been investing their lives in solitude and sustained meditation to investigate directly the nature of reality.
What these explorers of consciousness have discovered is not a grey, machine-like hum of a non-living Universe but, instead, an ocean of unbounded love, light, and creative intelligence whose nature is beyond the reach of words.
When our personal aliveness becomes transparent to the aliveness of the living Universe, awakening experiences of wonder and awe emerge naturally. Isolation has been outmoded in all areas, from ecology to the Internet. We need to remember our common source. Now, with the help of science, we can open into the cosmic dimensions of our being, so that we feel more at home, less self-absorbed, more empathy for others, and an increased desire to be of service to life. Awakening to our conscious connection with the living Universe naturally expands our scope of concern and compassionand brightens the prospect of working together to build a sustainable future.