Will Religion and Science Ever Merge?
Consciousness, Neighborly Love, Religion and the God Connection
By: J. Marlando
Consciousness in Overview
It was once thought that consciousness only belonged to human beings. This is true in the Descartes sense of observing that we not only think but we know that we think. Perhaps you will remember his declaration from school: Cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I am.
What exactly was he talking about when he made this philosophical observation way back in the 1600s? To Descartes it was only we humans who had this amazing capacity on earth to…think. This implication of his philosophy was that nothing “below” man (our species) could think and that dogs, roses, monkeys, donkeys, horses and trees were all mere mechanical, mindless objects.
As a quick aside when we speak of mind and when we speak of consciousness we are primarily talking about the same thing at least historically. Consciousness is a fairly new term and because of its more complex implication is generally used in place of mind since it has come to mean that we are (or have been) awakened to our own cognizance.
Descartes accomplish quite a lot with his theory: For one thing he is at the root of farmers beating and working their animals to death—after all, if animals did not have any feelings, what did it matter? His Cogito ergo sum also served to take God out of all living things and move “him” to some faraway place where “he” could not be known or experienced. (The Church had long before created God into an “object-of-being” existing above time someplace but, it seems, most of the common people of Descartes day had held on to their pantheism or, in other words, the belief that god is in everything. However, once Descartes view began to be spread by social memes and engineering, it came to be believed that God wasn’t anywhere except “out there” someplace sitting on a throne in “his” kingdom, called heaven.
Most recently there has been a lot of scientific evidence that is, at long last, returning consciousness to all living things if not God in some instances: As the writer Katherine Harmon put it in a recent Scientific American article: “This privileged state of subjective awareness in fact goes well beyond Homo Sapiens according to the new Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness (pdf), which was signed last month by a group of cognitive neuroscientists, computational neuroscientists, neuroanatomists, neuropharmacologists. Neurophysiologists who attended the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals at Cambridge University in the I.K."
One of the things this group decided on was that even the lowly Octopus has…consciousness. Mind!
As Harmon points out elephants cooperate to solve problems and chimpanzees teach their young to make tools. And so, when your pet pooch wags its tail at you, and gives you kisses because he is “happy to see you” he’s actually feeling…well, happy! And so, unlike the Descartes proposition, your pets and other animals are not merely machines—something that you already know intuitively but took science around 400 years to figure out.
We run, however, into yet a more modern brick wall: While these high profile people of science are now saying yes, everything has a degree of consciousness and so can even experience complex experiences such as joy, sorrow and…love. At the same time, however they saying these “feelings” are biologically based.
In other words, they are saying that our consciousness is merely an epiphenomenon of our body/brains (a working component of our physical brains) and has no spiritual meaning whatsoever. In short, a great many scientists are telling us that consciousness, call it mind, is not at all a “ghost” in the machine, as once thought by nearly everyone, but is instead a mere working part of the machine itself!
The best known proponents of this dead-world view are Daniel C. Dennett who advocates the “mechanisms of consciousness” and Richard Dawkins who dares to tell us that we are “survival machines” and nothing more who have been “programed to preserve the selfish molecules known to us as genes.”
This of course takes God, spirituality and even the “self” out of the equations by these “machinists of science” and others like them. To them, consciousness is a brain function, a process of the mechanical belonging to Newton’s clock-work universe—so, we are considered much akin to Descartes’ animals who were both non-feeling and non-thinking. The only difference, Descartes was that we humans have the capacity to think that we think, just as robots may well do futuristically.
Love, I offer, is a major human (and animal attribute) that rejects the mechanical views that we’ve just been talking about. Biologists and other scientists like Dennett and Dawkins claim that love too is a mere biological activity. As a result, it is safe to say that love (for them) also becomes an epiphenomenon of the brain; a meaningless genetic dictate like yawning or speaking Japanese or Yiddish from our earliest socialization.
First of all to love is to choose and Amit Goswami gives us a new view of the old Descartes observation. It is not, Goswami says, cogito ergo sum but opto ergo sum, I choose, therefore I am.
Choice indicates freedom-of-being. It apparently is free from genetic dictates since we can go against the grain of our thinking, and even our feelings. In terms of love, I can tell you that I love you and decide to treat you in unloving ways; I can be honest or devious depending a lot on how I’ve been nurtured and tented to by others. In other words, my so-called genes are not tyrants but rather elastic and flexible. Genetics did not lead Daniel C. Dennett to become the Daniel C. Dennett he is today. The totality of his experiences did, combined with the potential to accomplish all that he has accomplished.
As a quick aside, scientists and other dead-world enthusiast such as Dennett and Dawkins, by their own conclusions, are forced to accept the concept that potential too is a mere function of the brain, if indeed, they even acknowledge potential as a an actual phenomenon. The idea of potential after all, by its very nature, is that it is a collective phenomenon since it must draw from all knowledge, skills and abilities of the world as opposed to being limited by one’s own personal experiences as it would have to if it were truly a function of the physical brain.
Potential, however, in order to be potential must be omniscient and like (real) love, unlimited! One cannot have a little bit of potential any more than someone can love something or someone just a little. The sardonic metaphor here would be for a woman to say, “I’m a little bit pregnant.”
However, we can limit or deny potential or love by choice and this is actually the vital point at this juncture.
In regard to the above, Amit Goswami says: “”…Love is not a thing but an act of being. Love as a meditation practiced as continuously as possible is different from love as a set of prescribed behaviors or as a pleasure response. Love as a meditation all allows us to soften our ego-boundaries a little—to permit our neighbor’s consciousness into our awareness once in a while. With love—not externally imposed or derived forms of behavioral love—is what transforms our behavior and touches our neighbor.”
Earlier Goswami says, “…the maxim Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself is useless to most of us as a code of behavior because we do not truly love ourselves and, therefore, do not really know what love is in the first place.
As I have written before and said a numbers of times, we can only love others and the world to the degree that we love ourselves.
In regard to all this, I asked the physicist, Fred Allan Wolf what love is. He gave me a very simple but poignant answer. He said, “Love is the glue of the Universe.”
Most certainly in Nature it is, at least for most quantum physicists, an established fact that everything is in relationship to everything else; a gust of wind on the Sahara will eventually affect the entire world in terms of weather. To try and bring greater clarity to what I am attempting to say, I will quote David Bohm, one of the world’s most revered physicists. He tells us that, “Ultimately the entire universe has to be understood as a single undivided whole, in which analysis into separately and independently existent parts has no fundamental status.”
Another physicist, Jeremy W. Hayward, puts it this way: “I could say ‘love,’ genuine love is the insight and affection that knows things as they are that feels one with things, that truly cherishes another.”
To simplify all of this, what the core message is from all these scientists, is that we are in oneness with the universe and with all others. We are all the same and only our differences are apparent.
This is the key to loving ourselves, loving others and loving the world!
The basic function of Christianity is to promote God’s perfections and our imperfections, God’s virtues and our faults—but can a perfect god construct an imperfect creation? All organized religions, however, are paradoxical—all the Big-3, Judaism, Christianity and Judaism trace their origins back to Abraham, to the same source but cannot agree from that point forward. The mind of man enters with his yearnings to be the center and so Christianity has its Jesus, Judaism has its Moses and Islam has it Mohammed.
As another quick aside, I listened to Mitt Romney’s exception speech a week or so ago. He ended his speech as they all do—Obama, Bush, you name the president and at the end of their speech they say, “God bless America.” I have been saying for years that until the thought—call it a prayer if you like—changes to “God bless the world,” we remain lost. This positive change will never occur of course until it is realized that there is no center.
In any case, if Fred Allan Wolf is right and love is the glue of the universe, organized religion supports an unloving and non-cohesive world—an, us and them world, no less than governments do.
The greatest conflict in all this is that if there is a god, that God must be the Universal Love that is the cohesiveness that Wolf refers to and therefore the connectedness of all things. Nothing else makes common sense much less religious sense. To say anything like, God loves good Christians and rewards them but loathes evil Pagans and punishes them is, first of all, a rumor started by the Church of Rome as a scare tactic to convert Pagans to Christianity. That superstition has weaved itself even into modern times and remains real for all those who are convinced that their religion is THE religion.
But religion is not about the cohesion of people, it is about separation and has been since the most ancient temples were established thousands of years before the Big-3, of which I speak, were established. Way back then they worshipped warrior gods—today the difference is that the many have been changed into a single deity. Nevertheless, at root level the Big-3 religions believe in at least the same aspects of the God of Moses, a warring god. Incidentally, the Muslims call God, Allah, because that is the word that means “God” in the Arabic Bible.
And so, when organized religion places God out there someplace and us over here someplace, it centers itself between the two. The teaching is always that the way to God is though the temple doors—but since the temple (church/mosque) doors are fundamentally for members only the “us-and-them,” “me-and-it” separateness occurs—in Christianity even Baptists and Methodists, much less Catholics and Protestants have their exclusivity: “we love our brethren as long as they’re an “us,” is the general message of the good hearts and gentle people of institutionalized faith. Organized religion promotes judgment of others and separation from others while creating a holier-than-thouism for the obedient follower. When we take this to its full absurdity, we see that God’s personality is reconstructed into whatever the religion’s persona happens to be. To Catholics God becomes an extension of the church, the same with Mormons or any other group that labels themselves, “The truth and the Way.”
The truth and the way, however, have always been cluttered (and corrupted) with dogmas, doctrines and other ideological concepts. Indeed, until these “centers” called religions reconstruct those “centers” to encompass the entire Universe as unconditional love does, then the world will remain divided.
Once upon a time it was thought that consciousness was in our brains but that has become all but an obsolete theory. The renowned neuroscientist, Candace Pert, tell us this: “I can’t relate to the mind/body dichotomy anymore…is you consciousne4ss in your head? No, it’s in your whole body.”
I am convinced, from both thought (and experience), that we are that consciousness; that self-aware energy that we identify as an “I” or a “me.” Not our body-selves but, our spiritual or soul selves; our everlasting selves!
But there is something else—we are also connected to a universal consciousness, perhaps that which Jung called, “The collective unconscious.” That part of us that dreams the same symbolism as the most ancient minds dreamed and kings and paupers alike dreams; dreams that relate to the same totems and myths that are shared by all of us as universal images. Probably three of the easiest mythologies that we are most familiar with are Little Red Riding Hood Cinderella and the Savior King. There are others as common but perhaps less identifiable: The wise old lady, the elusive wood nymph, the evil lover and so on. The point here is that there is something—call it Consciousness, God or Universal Mind—that we are all connected to—indeed, it is as physicist Paul Davies tells us, “…the universe is a mind. Our own minds could then be viewed as localized ‘islands’ of consciousness in a sea of minds.
When we can stop believing that the relationship between God and man is likened to surfs that are separated from their kings, the gap between people and so nations will be narrowed as well. That is, once we can comprehend God as being Love instead of some tyrant in the sky, we will begin living in a more humane and loving reality. After all if we, and everything (and everybody) else, are love, the selfishness and hatefulness in our world is immediately reduced. Indeed, even war becomes absolute because the moment that we realize that everyone else is us—only indifferent circumstances—we become driven by empathy and not judgment. A person or world driven by empathy quickly becomes cooperative.
I am well aware that what I have just written can be interpreted as so much Pollyannaish dribble since the world we inhabit has not been at peace since the advent of so-called civilization—we have in fact gone from the spear to mass destructive weapons—that is a big leap in technology but not even a tiny hop for our humanism!
In regard to the above nearly every major world religion has taught us to simply do onto others as we would have done to ourselves—this is the teaching of Christianity, Judaism, Taoism, Hinduism and Buddhism—but outside of a few individuals, this one vital rule for humanity has never been practiced. And this is a directive that has been around almost as long as religion itself. Nevertheless, organized religion in most instances, have failed at their own instruction since in overview they have become closed societies open only for those who will abide.
Institutions after all, including religions can and do develop ego-self boundaries—the pomposity of their temples can be extreme statements of this.
And so the major reason why we cannot love our neighbors is because we see others as being outside our centers. The “I’m over here and everything else is over there, syndrome.” This simply is not the case but an illusion of the separate self in denial of the oneness that actually exists. Do not scoff as I am in very good company when I say this. Albert Einstein told us that a human being, “…experiences himself, his thought and feelings, as separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting is to our personal desires and to affections for a few persons nearest to us.”
The renowned and beloved molecular biologist Darryl Reanney said this bout the unity and oneness we have with all others, “This is not wishful thinking or mysticism, because mathematics has shown is that nature has this oneness. Beneath the confusion of detail are universal laws and those laws can be gathered together into one coherent theory of reality.”
The physicist Fritjof Capra tells us: “This view holds that our physical world is not a structure built out of independently existing unanalyzable entities, but rather a web of relationships between elements whose meaning arise wholly from their relationships to the whole.”
Bohm names the whole, “the implicate order.” And, I will repeat Fred Allen Wolf that offers that the “whole,” if you will, is held together with love.
What is most interesting to me is that from the scientists that I have mentioned in this text. along with with others unmentioned, is that I can clearly see or imagine that futuristically a new world religion and philosophy will arise out of, of all things, physics and so mathematics; it will have no dogmas, no doctrines, no totems or superstitions but will be based on the human possibility to love unconditionally and become in empathy with all other living things; to operate out of empathy and not egocentricities; to actually learn to love oneself ever as unconditionally as loving one’s neighbor and, in the doing, actually treat others as they would be treated.
And, when this occurs, I believe that at long last, our possibilities as a species will unfold more productive, happier, more secure, kinder and loving than perhaps, in our times, we have even thought possible.
Davies Paul * God & The New Physics * A Touchstone Book
Hayward Jeremy W. * Letters to Vanessa * Shambhala
Goswami, Amit * The Self-Aware Universe *Tarchery Putman
Jung Carl G. * Man and His Symbols
Reanney, Darryl * After Death: A New Future for Human Consciousness * Morrow