Where did it all come from? How did it start. Why is there something? Why do we have a sense of self, a sense at all? Why do particles “feel” gravity, or each other? What is that feeling, that sensing? Why is there such an interaction? What is doing the sensing? Why is there separation to begin with, so different things has something other outside themselves to sense?
Here is my current view, as informed by not least Iain McGilchrist’s awe-inspiring book “The Matter With Things“
Consciousness came first, some kind of basic awareness. In order to explore the very concept of consciousness it split into self and other. The separation was a prerequisite of perspective, understanding and resonance, i.e., a partial reunification. (re-)Unity required diversity – one of the original coincidence of opposites. Instead of one potentially bored ur-consciousness there were now a multitude that could interact and see what happened.
Why start with consciousness rather than matter? Consciousness simply can’t emerge from matter, other than by adding consciousness through the magic trick of “emergence“. And then you could just as well have started with consciousness from nothing altogether.
Claiming emergence is just a not so clever sleight of hand, it’s basically fake news. There is no explanatory path demonstrating how quarks and electrons orbiting each other would somehow create a field of consciousness between them – unless there was already a conscious between-field. However, starting at the other end of the dualistic divide, just as non-existent but seemingly solid objects can interact on the screen of a computer game, matter can be willed into existence as a sort of playbook for consciousness. Matter is just rules of interaction. It doesn’t really have to exist, only the rules of what happens to it.
Consciousness is pure flow. It’s fluid and wispy by nature, hard to pin down or predict. By adding resistance within the flow, vortices appear, just as in water or air, i.e., semi-permanent patterns against which consciousnesses can explore what they are capable of.
3D-space and time are such vortices, huge ones; and particles, people, planets and stars are smaller, more or less complex, and more or less permanent, vortices; with their ontological base the one consciousness that is unbound by spacetime. The one at the bottom, split into several, which in turn created spacetime and matter to play on. A place to interact, investigate, and explore, a place for becoming.
You can call the unground becoming “God”, “Dao”, “Flow”, “Force” or whatever evokes a sense of ever-evolving ontological base of all existence, that which all we experience springs out from, like mushrooms from mycelium: individual parts, yet clearly integrated in the whole.
Our purpose. “All clear captain, 3D spacetime is up and running. What is our mission?!” We are all here, in space-time, for a reason. That reason, however, is unknown even to the the Dao, unknown to God, if you accept the terminology.
This Becoming is always in motion, in eternal creation without repetition; the road ahead thus inherently unknowable. We are the cells, the fruit, the fungi, the insects and animals of this cosmic Gaia, or simply the Cosmos: the One Beautiful, True and Good. And evil.
Yes, (fortunately) there is an opposing force, a resistance, something to exist against. Without division and diversity, without an other, there is just blandness. Without true otherness and free will to oppose, to be evil, there is no meaning:
The one divided and saw that it was good, since the division was evil (“other”). That leads us to the human condition:
Matter is congealed consciousness. A resistance in the very flow itself. This resistance can be like pebbles in a stream, creating interesting patterns in the waterflow. The brain is an unusually complex rock, that gives rise to the extremely intricate vortices we experience as our individual consciousness and awareness.
The brain has a left side that specializes in narrow beam focus on still details, objects (concrete) and words (abstract symbols), in order to use them.
The right side has a broad and vigilant one-to-one approach with reality, and experiences the world as a moving wholeness, with depth in time, space and emotions.
The right keeps track of the overall arc and context, while handing over tasks of calculation and manipulation of objects and symbols to the left.
The left mistakenly thinks it is in control and has the factual grasp and is in charge, rather than its hippie colleague on the right. Whatever the left comes up with in its virtual rendering of the world, its hall of mirrors of symbols and made-up objects (that actually aren’t separate things, but fully part of the whole), the right needs to re-integrate and make sense of.
Both approaches are needed, but the process has to begin and end grounded in the reality-sensing of the right. For the cooperation to work, however, the left needs its hubris, has to be free to think it knows best, that it is the master, the powerful manipulator of words and things, the one that makes anything happen.
The right is right though, whereas the left is out on left field.
The left brain hemisphere is like the “evil” Flint in the ancient Iroquois legend. The left lacks any sense of meaning, of life, of awe, of depth. It (or Flint) can only bounce its symbols around in the hall of mirrors of its own making, thingificating itself, cutting itself off from the world and its connection with the Cosmos, creating monsters and wreaking havoc in the process.
As long as Flint (the left) doesn’t get the upper hand, the right, “He Who Grasps The Sky With Both Hands”, can accomodate, and integrate Flint and Flint’s actions to a fuller relation with all. Something is created through the process of division and re-unification, through the interplay of good and evil and more true.
Through most of history there was a balance between awe and manipulation, between Flint and his brother, between the left and right brain hemispheres. But since the instrumentalism of the Renaissance took hold, the will to power and lust for manipulation have usurped our natural instincts of reverence and community. As flawed as religion and its false prophets are, religion grounded humanity in traditions of not-knowing, of the coincidence of opposites, of intuitive reason, rather than one-sided “scientific” knowledge of precise cause-and-effect relations between essentially lifeless symbols separated from the true existence.
The scientific revolution and its corollary of secularism and individualism have severed our natural connection with the Cosmos, the Dao, the mycelium from which the individuated consciousnesses are sprung as deeply interconnected mushrooms. When the connection and unity with the whole is lost, life is just a meaningless dance for the deaf and blind, without music or purpose; and death is something to be feared and avoided, rather than a point of new insights and reconnection with the whole.
I don’t believe in “God”. I loathe the perversions of most insitutionalized religions. There is no one to pray to but oneself, there is no literal truth to religious texts, there is no heaven or hell, except of our own making.
What there is is an eternal force, a consciousness, ever flowing, developing, becoming something new. We are all instances of it, from it, through it: temporary individuations, existing for the sake of exploring what becoming means.
When the body dies, the consciousness is re-integrated into something bigger, like a river to a lake, or a water drop to a mountainside, like food in the stomach, it’s reintegrated to simultaneous utter weirdness and total familiarity in ways unfathomable to the little eddies and turbulence my brain gives rise to in the Flow.
Maybe some psychedelic experiences can give a hint of what to expect, maybe meditation or prayers can for some, maybe love or the sublime awe before nature’s immense force can render a semblance of what’s to come.
The Force, the Cosmos, Nature, the Dao is not something separate from us. It’s the ground of all, that which we are sprung from. There is no way to grasp what it is or where it came from. Those concepts don’t even apply. Moreover it is becoming, meaning it doesn’t know itself, it is forever finding out.
That is the mission, the meaning: forever exploring the endless potential of resonating consciousnesses
When we humans lose track of the mutual becoming, in order to grow our power of taming and manipulating matter, our sense of meaning dissipates, social cohesion dissolves, opposition and violence increases – as if driven by an actual evil force, by Flint with his precious flint arrow, i.e., by the left brain’s hubris and will to usurp the role as master rather than emissary.
With the left in charge, nothing new can be discovered, since it thinks it already knows all. It can only see what it already knows. Any attempts to consider what’s outside its schizophrenic hall of mirrors are struck down with ridicule, force and contempt. That’s where society is heading ever faster, accelerated by dogmatic religions and militant atheists alike. Traditions and rituals that used to ground us in history and communion are seen as unscientific and useless – literally the left brain saying “if I can’t use it to manipulate matter it isn’t important” – not unlike some scientists, wholly enamored by the idea of reductionist methods and emergence eventually explaining consciousness and the Cosmos.
What can be done? Just hope to die and leave Earth before it gets too bad? Try to do something about it, be a lonely right-brainer in a world of aggressive lefts? A hippie among yuppies? Establish a Galt’s Gulch of right brain hemisphere peers? Is there any hope of progression left? The world is on the verge of lighting up in global war once again, mental illness is rampant, people are unhappy, prone to aggression or apathy. The world itself is buckling under reckless industrialization.
Science and western philosophy teaches materialism, strict logic and all the things living is not. Words simply can not capture the essence of experience. Actually, verbalizing kills the flow, immediately re-presenting the depth of life with a still and abstract symbol, with no resemblance of its origin. The good, the true, joy, love, and the living, they only manifest when going with the flow, when not looking at it directly or trying to fixate it in a description, or pin it down to try to use it, to replicate it.
I’m not saying science is wrong. I’m not saying industrialization is wrong. I’m not saying religion, prayers and belief in God is the solution. There is no God as such, there is only us, ultimately together as one, the good, beautiful and true Cosmos itself.
I’m saying the lack of understanding our ontological underpinnings is a problem. I’m saying the mistaken idea of taming matter in order to understand consciousness is leading us astray. I’m saying reductionism and focus on details, with a magic sprinkle of emergentism, will never lead to proper understanding of the whole, and thus never be able to restore meaning.
Meaning is to be found in awe of the Cosmos, yes in ourself, of Nature, of our fundamental interconnectedness, of our never-ending journey of Becoming, together as one, albeit temporarily divided.
How do we get there? One step at a time, one day at a time, one awe at a time, perhaps by noticing and embracing the coincidence of opposites in everything, and by humbly projecting the idea to others. Perhaps by visibly rejecting the idea of simple one-sided truths and facts, and aiming for spreading that idea to just one person.
Listening to and integrating somebody else’s view to something grander is the driving force of the Cosmos. If I can do it once, there might be a chance.
Then just one more
P.S. Love is more or less all we need. Awe of the sublime, appreciation of beauty, truth, humility before the unknowable. Love of self, of ourself, of Dao/Nature/Cosmos/(God).