Is there anything about humanity and human consciousness that even the most advanced AI, powered by the best quantum computer, would not be able to develop? Let´s be aware that quantum science is the state-of-the-art right now – but sooner or later human scientists might make new discoveries that go far beyond it. Programming algorithms into AI through quantum computers to search for specific information might cause the observing AI to create exactly the result for which it was programmed to search – but not to observe anything beyond that. This is known to be one of the limitations of observation in the quantum cosmos.
But there are other downsides to AI in relation to the human brain. Even with the benefits for brain and neuro-functional health, we will have to be very skeptical, especially when it comes to psychiatric diseases: the outcome may be that a political leader defines as a “healthy state of mind” whatever supports his system, and declares it mandatory for everyone. Before connecting human brains to the AI algorithms, we might first want to learn how to naturally use the full potential of our entire brain, and its power for self-awareness and self-healing.
How far could we push the limits of our consciousness if we were to use both halves of our brain — naturally, and at same intensity? What does it mean that the less-used half of our brain is the center of intuition and creativity, and the perception of unity with our surroundings — that is, a holistic perception? What would a holistic cosmic consciousness actually be like? What does it mean that the cosmos itself might be aware (see article posted on translucidmind.com on May 8, 2020, Physics, “Is the universe conscious? It seems impossible until you do the maths” https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24632800-900-is-the-universe-conscious-it-seems-impossible-until-you-do-the-maths/)?
What does it mean to be an aware human being? What is fantasy, where do dreams come from, what are states of altered consciousness — ecstasy, epiphany? What do they have to do with what we call a spiritual realm and (quantum-) cosmic reality? Does the awareness of death lead to a specific transcendental, spiritual awareness that we would not have if we were unaware of death?
Let me give you a short summary of the cornerstones in my personal intellectual development that lead me to strongly assert that a cosmos of information and a newly-expanded consciousness remains to be revealed to humanity, simply by making ambidextrous use of the brain available through training both sides of the brain from the beginning of a person’s life.
During my German literature studies at Cologne university, I enjoyed reading German Idealism, Transcendentalism and early Romanticism. That included analyzing Goethe‘s novel, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, and Novalis’ Heinrich von Ofterdingen, and comparing them to the early 20th-century Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann, which deals with a very modern conflict: the dialectical opposition between transcendent idealism and technological materialism. What most interested me in all three novels were the female characters — Mignon, Sophie, and Madame Chauchat — as well as the sense of the erotic with which they were described.
At the same time, I read some of the classics of psychology and philosophy as part of a seminar on literature and psychology. While learning about the neuroscience of dreams and neurolinguistics, I dove into neuroscience in general. I had always been very interested in research into the brain and consciousness — not only because of my own ambidextrous nature, which I wanted to understand better, but also for philosophical reasons, philosophy having been one of my main interests ever since I had read Marcuse (One-Dimensional Man). I read such books as Descartes’ Error, works by the German neurophysiologist Wolf Singer, and David Bohm’s writings on the creative cosmos, along with exciting books about quantum theory, the quantum cosmos, the quantum brain, the self-aware universe etc. (see translucidmind.com, under “Books”).
There was so much to learn about the brain in general, and how it is connected to cosmological phenomena. This is how I first ran into articles about a neurotechnologically, genetically enhanced human future which, back then, seemed purely hypothetical — or a reality that was, at best, very far away. But it soon became noticeable how the paradigms of humanity began to change — first in science fiction movies and in the young Techno music scene, and then in such philosophers as Jean Beaudrillard (Simulacra and Simulation), Paul Virilio (Speed and Politics), and George Steiner (Real Presences). There had been great literature in the late 20th century analyzing the impact of new technologies on human society.
While I was reading these authors, I travelled for the first time to Mexico in 1994. Little did I known that I would find in this country an ancient culture still alive and expressively palpable — a culture that was accepting of death, and assumed the existence of a spiritual world that was widely unknown to us. A world of consciousness in dream states, and of a highly disciplined shamanism, of both psychedelic experiences and rational observation of the cosmos. A “world culture” (as French Nobel Prize Laureat Jean-Marie Le Clézio writes in his book The Mexican Dream) that has created an entire philosophy based on the exploration of the dreamlike, intuitive perception of the right hemisphere of the brain, and the rational observation of the left hemisphere; indeed, the Mesoamerican Toltec and Mayan culture is likely the only one to have achieved this. The only comparable conscious attempt to include the perception of the brain’s right hemisphere in human culture is, as far as I know, Left-Handed Tantrism, which aspires to be an important philosophy within Buddhism.
I lived between Mexico and Germany for four years while working on the first part of what would later become my novel, Corpus Callosum. At the time, the first part of the novel was entitled “The Magic Beach,” with reference to a “Magic Mountain” type situation in a small village on the Mexican shore, where civilization-weary Europeans and North Americans settle in what was formerly an indigenous, Zapotecan fishing village, bringing along with them all the things their civilized countries had attained by the turn of the millennium: Techno music, the Internet, cell phones, laptops, TVs, New-Age, consumption-, fashion-, and drug-addicts, real-estate sharks, and a frolicsome, hedonistic promiscuity.
Techno-raves instead of Woodstock. Speed, acid, ecstasy and cocaine instead of marijuana. A hippie aesthetic, infused with garish Techno-design, and a promise of paradise, extended by the possibility of genetically lengthening human life, collided with a pristinely idyllic beach in the homeland of the Mexican Dream of which Le Clézio had written. The heroine of my novel is named Anna, a young translator at the Mexican embassy in Berlin, and a painter and writer, who travels alone to Mexico, where she discovers this beach community.
When, on the morning of October 12, 1999, during my daily reading of the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, I came across an article by Thomas Steinfeld about French author Michel Houellebecq´s book Elementary particles (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 12.10.1999, Nr. 237, S. L1 Rezension: Belletristik, Thomas Steinfeld, “Man muss auf allen Fronten angreifen”), I immediately bought the book and read it through that very weekend. I was excited; it had been a long time since a contemporary author had sparked such interest in me — actually, the last one to do so had been Peter Handke, with his writings for the movie Wings of Desire, and in his book The Jukebox And Other Essays On Storytelling. Apart from Houellebecq’s extraordinary language, it was especially the character of Anabelle that made me want to read more of his work.
I bought all of his books that were available — and his poetry only in the original French, where his soft spot for the early German Romantics became even more obvious to me than it had been in the character of Anabelle in the novel. During the book signing that followed a lecture of his in Berlin in October 1999, I asked him about his interest in the German Romantic writer Novalis, and the influence of the early Romantics on his work. As a provocative writer mostly known for the novel Whatever, and as a connoisseur of swingers’ clubs, he seemed quite happy to hear this question. He immediately took interest. We talked for a while that evening, and stayed in touch.
My interview with him that was published in Die Zeit on September 21, 2000, was composed of excerpts from hours of conversation with him in his Paris apartment (I spent my nights alone back at my hotel, and we did not visit a swingers’ club). Back then, he was very engaged in learning about the science of extending life and the transhumanist dream of abolishing death, and this topic became the golden thread of those published parts of our conversation, which culminated in his provocative exclamation: “We have to abolish death” (“Man muss den Tod abschaffen Ein ZEIT-Gespräch mit Michel Houellebecq,” by Susanne Steines; 21 September 2000).
At our last dinner in Paris — we had agreed to no recording during our meals — we kept imagining a future world in which eternal life, or at least a very long one, would be possible, and he repeated how peaceful humans might become just by knowing that they had endless time to experience and learn and enjoy life, without death looming in wait. He asked me what I thought and I said that, to me, eternal life on earth with technologically enhanced brains and genetically engineered body parts seemed almost indistinguishable from what I imagined to be an eternal hell on planet earth. He placed his glass of red French wine that he had been savoring back on the table, looked at me and suddenly laughed. He made a couple of personal remarks to me, and then agreed that no matter how enticing certain promises of the transhumanist idea might be, it seemed more scary than promising.
Houellebecq wrote a masterpiece of Science Fiction concerning the topics of genetics-based life extension and artificial intelligence, entitled Possibility of an Island, published in 2005. Today, it reads like a prophecy. Houellebecq himself mentioned it recently in a short essay concerning the world after the current crisis (see translucidmind.com, The Arts, on May 8, 2020 “Je ne crois pas aux déclarations du genre « rien ne sera plus jamais comme avant “ – Michel Houellebecq
It is highly recommended to read the book Possibility of an Island today again.
In the following years, I added a second part to my novel, excerpts of which I had already submitted to German agencies and publishers in 2000 under the title “The Magic Beach,” and later under the title “Splinter” (“Splitter” in German), before I decided to write the second part. Combined, the two parts became Corpus Callosum. It is not an autobiographical novel, although it would not have been possible without certain crucial personal experiences. The first part, whose second section is still called “The Magic Beach,” could constitute a book in and of itself. The second part tells of Anna’s journey from southern Mexico straight to New York City, to Manhattan. There, she experiences the months leading up to and following 9/11.
Why Corpus Callosum? The literal meaning of this Latin term is “soft body,” and it refers to the bridge that connects the two hemispheres of our brain and enables communication between them. In the novel, Mexico represents a culture that has developed in accordance with both the left-hemispheric and right-hemispheric perception of the world. Manhattan, on the other hand, is the center of a culture dominated by left-hemispherical rationalization, control, and maximization of profit, amidst which any and all holistic perception seems to have disappeared.
How could a culture arise in ancient, pre-Hispanic Mexico, marked on the one hand by a science that emphasized mathematical precision in its observation of the cosmos (they had the number “zero!”), and, on the other hand, by a holistic (symbiotic) connection with the environment and the cosmos that is still a living reality today? Is this culture based on some experience of reality, or on fantasies triggered in the brain by the consumption of psychedelic plants? Even absent the influence of foreign substances on the body, this kind of holistic experience seems to have originally existed in all high cultures in the ancient world, as the mythology of great world cultures shows us. So this is not just some cultural variation, much less a specifically Mesoamerican one that can be ascribed to the influence of hallucinogenic plants.
A longing for nature is still familiar to most of us today. But all too often we can offer only vague explanations for why this is: fresh air, health benefits (especially mental), and freedom. Not to mention beauty. Almost no one would deny that to perceive nature as beautiful is distinctly human. Most of us already know from experience that staying in the great outdoors — to linger there, to hike, to run, to sit, to meditate — is something very different from sitting on the lookout terrace of a restaurant with a glass of champagne, or enjoying a fantastic view from a hotel room.
A vital immediacy of experience in nature has a completely different effect on us than a mediated, showcased, “framed,” or even virtually generated view of nature. This is especially clear in architecture. There is a kind of architecture that is in harmony with nature; we see this in the way we are drawn to historic villages, old country houses, or to simple, spare wooden architecture. Architecture can either blend into the landscape without attempting to reshape it, or it can spring from the desire to dominate it, reducing nature to mere décor, to a mere tableau — the landscape as seen from a gigantic concrete terrace, from a swimming pool, or through the towering glass windows of a living room.
The comfort of modern living is depicted with perfect views of sought-after vistas. Such narratives of everyday life are found in the photos of real estate brochures in Aix-en-Provence, France. The area’s star attraction is always the view of Sainte Victoire mountain, the symbol of the region that was often painted by Cézanne, who tirelessly roamed its entire surroundings. In these photos, the mountain looms beyond glass walls, a backdrop for luxurious furniture and comfortable living. The connection with the mountain and with nature that is directly felt by all the senses — the connection that the wandering and painting Cézanne felt there — is unlikely to arise.
What lies behind our longing for nature, our sense of being free in it, of being one with it? What does the early Romantic experience of being one with nature, or the European experience of cosmic transcendence, have in common with the cosmology and philosophy of Mesoamerican civilizations? And why do my texts always revolve around these two themes whenever I write of people’s irreplaceability, of the importance of a human presence, of the uniqueness of humanity?
The text you’re reading now is perhaps the most personal, and certainly the longest, of my blog entries thus far. I expect that it will be read with a sense of calm. As with so many others, the coronavirus crisis has given me a lot of time to think about current events, and about the experiences and creative endeavors that now lie behind me. For me, the key moment arrived a few days before the quarantine, during which I’ve lived (for 10 weeks!) in Seville, Spain, in a lockdown that very much resembles house arrest.
It was on February 26th that I read an article entitled “New Study Allows Brain and Artificial Neurons to Link Up Over the Web” (https://neurosciencenews.com/brain-artificial-neural-link-15793/). This was the moment I’ve spent decades trying to raise awareness about, through my literary and artistic work the technological possibility of manipulating people into addiction to complete, virtual thought-control, achieved by the so-called “optimization” of people through genetic engineering and neurotechnology. Again and again, my texts revolve around the juxtaposition of authentic, inner human experience, and mediated surrogates and virtual realities. The loss of human self-determination and the reproducibility of genetic engineering that spell the end of humanity —which Michel Houellebecq and I had discussed twenty years ago — had now, inevitably, arrived: with a sensational neurotechnological achievement that almost no one would have dared dream of or fantasize about. Even the author, on the Singularity website (see the article at: https://singularityhub.com/2020/03/10/scientists-linked-artificial-and-biological-neurons-in-a-network-and-amazingly-it-worked/) seemed completely surprised, if not astonished.
Why not simply sing the praises of science and technology, and look forward to our transhuman future, with its prolonged life expectancy and an infinite memory capacity provided by an AI connection to our brains (although it is far from certain that such a connection would truly usher in greater feats of intelligence; after all, nature has endowed the brain with an excellent ability to scan and discard unimportant information, and it may well be that an overflow of information could produce endless loops and confusions)? Why exactly is there a need for “human presence,” or for preserving the uniqueness of human thought and existence?
The need for human existence springs from those decisive, essential, unique qualities that makes the human human — something as real as the energy, the attraction, the immensity that we can only experience in free, wild nature, never in a human-designed amusement park. It is this seemingly mystical Being, hardly comprehensible in terms of energy, that constitutes this difference, which all of us can sense. Take a moment to really look at a human being; look them deep in the eyes; stand close, and be silent. Perceive the human presence. Yes, this text is indeed the most passionate, the most urgent, that I have published thus far.
What is it that draws us into nature, other than some health benefits, relief of mental tension, and a vague sense of freedom? In my essay entitled “Xibalbá,” in a book of the same title that deals with Mayan cultures in the Mexican rainforest I write about the attraction of sunsets and waterfalls, among other things. Let’s dwell on the waterfalls first, since, on the first weekend when I was finally allowed to drive into the Sevillian countryside after the 10-week country-wide house arrest, I drove to the Sierra de Sevilla, a low mountain range with some rivers and waterfalls.
There was nary a Sevillian who dared to venture into the streets on that first weekend after restrictions were relaxed. The fear was too deep, and most of the Sevillians had done nothing but sit around in front of a screen for far too long. The streets leading out of the city were apocalyptically empty, despite the finest spring weather. The small country-house hotel’s sole inhabitants were two young men, a couple, who kept their masks on while walking in the garden. These masks have an interesting effect: instead of greeting with a quick handshake or kiss on the cheek, people look deeply into each other’s eyes to establish contact. I had never felt such an intense, palpable connection with a hotel owner upon arrival as I did that day, although hardly any words were exchanged.
After a peaceful night filled with the sounds of nature, I was in the middle of drinking my coffee on the terrace and listening to a bird singing, happy as could be, when suddenly the rumbling of motorcycles resounded through the valley — more and more of them, a never-ending stream of howling motorbikes. I asked the hotel owner whether a motorcycle race had already been approved, in the middle of an official state of emergency. She said things were usually like this on Sundays, but that today it was a little wilder than usual, after a 10-week interruption. Motorcycle gangs from Seville, roaming the winding roads of the Sierra Norte nature reserve. OK. Her eyes were smiling, ironically, and through the masks, an amazing, wordless understanding had been established between us.
I packed my things and drove to one of the Sierra’s lesser-known waterfalls, along a narrow, winding road edged, at certain points, by a steep precipice. Not a village for miles around. I encountered hardly any cars — only the rare biker or two. At times it was ghostly, not to mention, of course, beautiful. It was like something out of a dream, a different reality.
When I reached the waterfalls after a drive that had seemed endlessly long, I was astonished to find that only 50 minutes had passed. And I couldn’t believe what I saw: the entire parking lot was full of parked motorcycles and bikers. A great many of the bikers, some of them in gangs, that I’d heard racing through the valley that morning were now here. The waterfall seemed strangely small compared with this throng of leather-bedecked visitors, who in the end only paused briefly before this natural spectacle. Some took a few photos of each other posing in front of the waterfall, or looked down at a young couple kissing on a stone, covered in wet moss — after which most of the bikers seemed momentarily a bit disoriented. After a few minutes, they made their way back to the parking lot, where they examined each other’s bikes; the engines were heard roaring wildly, showing off their deafening power even in idle, before finally driving off again.
Testosterone arousal, the sound of super-achievers, the thrill of adrenaline fueled by time pressure, the stress that flows directly into the sexual organs. This explains why motorsports are always associated with girls. Sex-drive is the English term for it — a rapid rubbing, friction. This also works while on drugs — sex while on speed or cocaine on the night of a Techno rave — the subject of a chapter in my novel Corpus Callosum — and bears comparison to romantic or tantric devotion. Tantric love passes through various levels of perception, before finally experiencing the supreme perception level — sahaj samadhi — in the total dissolution of the self. Tantric literature tells of female yoginis who guide their male adepts on this journey.
The question of the extent to which testosterone, adrenaline and sex-drive are related is one best left to neuro-biochemistry. But it goes something like this: speed is the engine of survival instinct: if you run fast, you win the survivor’s reward — a dose of serotonin from the brain, the result of a successful escape reflex, a mechanism historically attributable to hunting and being hunted. By running quickly, a person dials down the adrenaline that had spiked in the body during the moment of stress, now finding a joyful calm after running. The bike racer feels no such subsequent calm. He has to dispose of his post-race adrenaline kick in another way — hence the exaggerated sex drive. The biking magazines are full of curvy girls. Sex-drive is a part of it. Doesn’t sound particularly romantic.
Be that as it may, the fact that these Sevillian biker gangs had stopped in front of the romantic scenery of the waterfalls was about more than just a needed bathroom break. Something had drawn even the toughest bikers there — some vestige of an instinctive desire to experience nature. This despite the sex jokes about the two lovers, with their smirking tone of male dick-complicity, which stood in stark contrast to the enamored, soulful smiles with which the lovers looked at each other down by the water, a very different kind of complicity.
Speaking of the couple kissing in front of the waterfall — what exactly is erotic or romantic about a waterfall? Would this scene have been the same if the couple had kissed in front of a waterfall rushing down a big-screen at home? Of course not. One need only visit a “tropical” water amusement park in northern Germany to have understood this. What is it that attracts lovers to a waterfall, to the sea during sunset, or to a mountain? The longing for nature and the longing for romantic love seem to go hand in hand; both involve the longing to forge a connection with something beyond one’s own self, to experience this “other” directly, to merge with the other, to be dissolved in the other, to become one with one’s beloved, and with the cosmos. But can this really be the case?
What does the cosmos have to do with it? The moon is just the moon, and on it flies that American flag, if NASA is to be believed. To look at the moon and the stars alone, or with one’s lover, is something completely different from the urge to conquer planets and render them habitable. The nighttime stargazing of lovers has always been associated with longing — a longing most likely distinct from the desire to soon inhabit a space station on the dusty red sand of Mars (unless it’s Elon Musk and Grimes staring into the night sky together).
The lovers kissing at the waterfall have an entirely different reason for seeking out the wildly flowing water than, say, the desire of rafters for rapids, or of electric engineers for dams. This romantic longing has nothing to do with the urge to utilize a place or an element for some specific purpose. A campfire will always be romantic, even if nothing is roasted atop it. The appeal of an open fire does not lie primarily in its quality as a source of heat; after all, a closed oven or an artificial fireplace can generate more heat.
The romantic perception of the elements — water, fire, air, earth — and their natural phenomena have something to do with a sense of awe, with a devotion to some power that lies beyond our control — and it has this in common with love: the devotion to a mystically and mysteriously perceived power that lies outside our will, the urge to surrender to its pull; a loving humility, a sense of devotion. This is diametrically opposed to the urge to dominate nature, to exploit it, to mine its valuable resources, to turn it into adventure parks, etc. The latter urge is dictated by utilitarian thinking, and derives from the human survival instinct.
In these two fundamentally different ways in which human beings encounter nature, the Mesoamerican Toltecs saw two the two fundamentally different functions of the brain’s two hemispheres: the left side of the brain involves the will to self-assertion, survival, control, and all of logical, rational thinking that makes these things possible; they refer to this state of mind as “tonal,” as a kind of rational, utilitarian mode of thought. The right half of the brain, on the other hand, springs into action once survival is assured, when a person is at rest: during daydreaming, or a midday rest, or meditation, or at sunset, at twilight, or at night, during certain dream phases in which awareness of dreaming emerges. Here, consciousness enters a state of mind known as “nahual,” a holistic consciousness in which one’s own survival and ego fade to insignificance in light of all the possibilities of cosmic experience of the world. It is a spiritual philosophy and a discipline for mastering both states of awareness, for gaining, in the dreaming state, greater awareness of oneself and the world that makes our existence possible.
This division of labor between the two hemispheres of the brain has been confirmed by neuroscientists. In have written about this and quoted neuroscientists in my blog Transhuman or Translucid III: The Quantum Computer and the Quantum Brain: Algorithm Reality Computing, or Cosmic Consciousness Synching? (by Susanne Steines | Jan 17, 2020 | Blog, Highlight of the Week)
As one main characteristic of the perception of the right hemisphere when disconnected from the left hemisphere they all mention the holistic perception of the surroundings, the loving embrace for the other – nature and human, and the reduced importance of ego and matters of strategy of thought.
It was now late in the afternoon at the waterfalls. I left the bikers and the waterfall behind and drove back to my hotel in the countryside. There were four small, tile-roofed buildings there that were rented out as apartments. They seemed to be former stables: old walls, low windows with thin, old panes of glass in iron frames that let in almost no light because of the overhanging trees. Crooked wooden shutters, old, creaky, heavy wooden doors, and a tiny corner kitchen made of clay tiles. A wooden table and four wooden chairs. The room was dominated by a big, open fireplace made of bricks, which smelled of the last fire. Power cords ran along the foot of the walls from the front door to the bedroom; there were just three power sockets in total, and three light switches for bare light bulbs. The only lamp was a small one on the bedside table. Some would call a place like this basic; others, romantic. The shamans’ houses I was invited to visit in Mexico looked very similar.
To get a view of the setting sun, I had to move away from the house, which was under an alley of trees. A path of around 400 meters passed some horse stables and climbed a hill until at last a view opened into the valley behind me and, up on the right, another valley, situated somewhat higher. Along the curve of the hill ran a high-voltage power line — the old-fashioned kind, tree-high, with four thick black cables. When I looked back, I saw the valley where my hotel lay, filled with sparsely scattered farmhouses. I continued walking, leaving the power line and the view of the populated valley behind me.
The upper valley before me was uninhabited, unspoiled: gently sloping hills and flower-filled meadows, with red corn poppies, purple thistle-flowers, white margarites, yellow daffodils, and cork-trees that cast long shadows, among which some horses were grazing in the setting sun. A few hundred meters later, I stopped and looked. Up ahead, on the highest hill to the east, a single house stood under some trees — palm trees, jacarandas, and cypresses. The small, beautiful valley with the horses lay right at the feet of this house. At that moment, a shadow fell on the house, and the sun disappeared behind the mountains on the other side of the valley.
At this moment, my perception changed, instantaneously and almost without transition, into a strangely expanded consciousness. I’d experienced such spontaneous shifts in perception since my youth, sometimes with nothing more than a calm gaze through half-open eyes. At that time, I had entered an extreme, yet effortless, concentration. I now know that I owe this ability to being ambidextrous, and to my evenly symmetrical brain. This experience matches up exactly to the Mexican shamans’ descriptions of the shift from tonal consciousness to nahual consciousness. While the shamans in Mexico often taught people to transition to nahual consciousness using various techniques and disciplines, this came naturally to me, at any time.
The valley remained exactly the same; it looked the same; but it no longer seemed to have a material consistency, but rather a vibrating and translucently active reality in which such physical laws as time and gravity did not hold sway. A completely different, intensely present kind of attention was required, without which one could not maintain this mode of perception. In part, it was with this kind of attentiveness that I had simply written down entire chapters of my novel. As for my left-handed and ambidextrous artwork, I must admit that I only begin it when I am in such an attentive state. Everyday necessities (left brain, tonal) must have been taken care of before I can begin. Sometimes I don’t even go to the ceramics studio when I know that my brain won’t easily leave behind the left hemisphere’s utilitarian concern with everyday necessities.
This spiritual mirror-image of material reality, which we can enter, according to the shamanism, and in my own experience, as biological and conscious beings, and through our consciousness perceive a “separate reality” (see Carlos Castaneda’s book with this title under translucidmind.com, Books), could be a kind of truly existing spiritual “quantum shadow” of the material world, or rather, if we avoid the concept of quantum, the “shadow” of a highly conscious infinitude of vibrating strings? The Mexican Toltecs speak of a cosmos filled with innumerable, tiny, vibrating, and energy-laden, luminous threads (see Carlos Castaneda’s Book, The Fire From Within, view it under translucidmind.com Books) that have consciousness, and with which our own consciousness is linked by such threads — that is, the threads by which our consciousness is connected with cosmic consciousness.
Today, some mathematicians and philosophers of science assume that the explanation of consciousness will ultimately be found in the knowledge that the cosmos is consciousness, along with all of the forms by which it manifests itself. The most difficult question — the “hard problem” of explaining consciousness, which can only be explained through this assumption, “stems from the inherently subjective nature of felt experience,” as the article cited below, among others, explains:
“…as mathematicians work to hone and extend their tools for peering deep inside ourselves, they are confronting some eye-popping conclusions.
Not least, what they are uncovering seems to suggest that if we are to achieve a precise description of consciousness, we may have to ditch our intuitions and accept that all kinds of inanimate matter could be conscious – maybe even the universe as a whole. “This could be the beginning of a scientific revolution,” says Johannes Kleiner, a mathematician at the Munich Centre for Mathematical Philosophy in Germany.
Integrated information theory, or IIT, was conceived more than a decade ago by Giulio Tononi, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin. His basic idea was that a system’s consciousness arises from the way information moves between its subsystems.
One way to think of these subsystems is as islands, each with their own population of neurons. The islands are connected by traffic flows of information. For consciousness to appear, Tononi argued, this information flow must be complex enough to make the islands interdependent. Changing the flow of information from one island should affect the state and output of another. In principle, this lets you put a number on the degree of consciousness: you could quantify it by measuring how much an island’s output relies on information flowing from other islands. This gives a sense of how well a system integrates information, a value called “phi”.
If there is no dependence on a traffic flow between the islands, phi is zero and there is no consciousness. But if strangling or cutting off the connection makes a difference to the amount of information it integrates and outputs, then the phi of that group is above zero. The higher the phi, the more consciousness a system will display.
Mathematicians will now be able to create improved models of consciousness based on the premises of IIT – or, even better, competitor theories. “We would be glad to contribute to the further development of IIT, but we also hope to help improve and unite various existing models,” Kleiner says. “Eventually, we may come to propose new ones.”
One consequence of this stimulus might be a reckoning for the notion, raised by IIT’s application to grid-shaped circuits, that inanimate matter can be conscious. Such a claim is typically dismissed out of hand, because it appears to be tantamount to “panpsychism”, a philosophical viewpoint that suggests consciousness is a fundamental property of all matter. But what if there is something in it?
“Particles or other basic physical entities might have simple forms of consciousness that are fundamental, but complex human and animal consciousness would be constituted by or emergent from this,” says Hedda Hassel Mørch at Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences in Lillehammer.
The idea that electrons could have some form of consciousness might be hard to swallow, but panpsychists argue that it provides the only plausible approach to solving the hard problem. They reason that, rather than trying to account for consciousness in terms of non-conscious elements, we should instead ask how rudimentary forms of consciousness might come together to give rise to the complex experiences we have.
“I think that the core ideas underlying IIT are fully compatible with panpsychism,” says Kleiner. That might also fit in with indications from elsewhere that the relationship between our consciousness and the universe might not be as straightforward as we imagine. Take the quantum measurement problem. Quantum theory, our description of the basic interactions of matter, says that before we measure a quantum object, it can have many different values, encapsulated in a mathematical entity called the wave function. So what collapses the many possibilities into something definite and “real”? One viewpoint is that our consciousness does it, which would mean we live in what physicist John Wheeler called a “participatory universe”.
This is sensational — a revolution in our conception of consciousness, which I wrote about in the introductory text to the website translucidmind.com: “A revolution of human thought, perception, and reality is happening right now.”
Centuries after science dismantled the religious pantheism of old, mathematicians and philosophers of science have now arrived at a theory of a scientific, mathematically-based panpsychism. Spirit in all of nature; spirit in the entire cosmos; spirit in all that exists — and it is through this conscious spirit that all things are connected, possibly through an extreme, highly potentialized cosmic consciousness that encompassed all of the various forms of consciousness.
It could be that this existential connection to a cosmic consciousness, which exists interconnectingly and creatively in the universe, is what gives us an intimation of transcendence, a primeval experience of a holistic “panpsychic” perception of the world, and, finally, gives us the sense of possessing a soul, of being a soul, of having a consciousness that extends beyond biological, material death. One rudimentary vestige of this primeval cosmic connection in the consciousness of our technocratic, left-hemisphere-dominated “rational” age could be the vague attraction to nature — stopping at waterfalls, waiting for a sunset, or longing for romantic love. Tantrics have written that at the highest moment of complete devotion in love, two people can experience a blissful sense of union with the cosmos, and even, finally, a state of supreme consciousness, sahaj samadhi It will be interesting to learn what mathematicians and philosophers have yet to say about this state.
It could also be the case that the reality we perceive with our right hemisphere is the one that connects us with an underlying, all-encompassing system of interconnected “phi” (see the quotation above), and that it is the awareness of this connection that we search for in our romantically transcendent moments, and that allows us to perceive and to take cosmic consciousness to be true (German: wahrnehmen-to perceive). An awareness that reaches beyond the left-hemisphere’s survival strategies, an awareness beyond life-and-death struggles, an awareness of the serene unity in everything, an active, spiritual reality that runs almost parallel to our own material, utilitarian one.
Could it be that this ubiquitous and spontaneously reality-creating consciousness — which the Toltecs call “the active side of infinity” (see the book by Carlos Castaneda under this title on translucidmind.com, Books) — is what guides our evolution as human beings, the development of human consciousness, through the constant, free, and spontaneous development of the brain, through spontaneous genetic mutations, through spontaneously arising novo-genes, through epigenetics, etc., and through the constantly shifting horizons of our life experience? Should we not fully realize the potential of our right hemisphere before we even begin to work on connecting our brains to optimal survival-strategy algorithms, which are devised primarily by the left half of the brain? Not to mention genetically manipulating our bodies and brains — that is, to impose a specific genetic structure dictated by a fear of death?
A significantly expanded and more precise intelligence might be possible through the ambidextrous development of the brain. This would also explain why some ambidextrous people have been among the greatest geniuses of mankind, such as Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci. When Einstein’s brain was dissected and examined, it was found to have a corpus callosum that was much thicker than that of ordinary human brains, meaning that communication between the two hemispheres was much more active and intense (see the links to several articles posted today on translucidmind.com News, Neuroscience). In addition to other factors related to higher intelligence in brains, the ambidextrous brain is more prone to intuitive knowledge because it naturally makes use of its right hemisphere. At the same time, when ambidextrous thinkers turn on the left side of their brain to check their intuition against logic, analysis, and language, they can then, in almost telepathic — that is, telepsychic and panpsychic — fashion, backcheck against the “intuitions” of the right hemisphere, thus confirming or rejecting those analytical conclusions.
If we imagine that the human brain, with its right hemisphere — with its heart, its tiny brain inside the heart, its “gutt feelings”, its “intuitions” — really does have a direct connection to a truly existing, all-encompassing cosmic consciousness, then we must realize that this ambidextrous mode of perception is ultimately much more comprehensive and correct than AI algorithms. AI will always be a great memory-cache and fact-checker, external to the brain, in precisely programmed projects. But a direct interference with the processes of the human brain — unless strictly and exclusively targeted toward injured or impaired motor-sensory functions — could actually lead to serious limitations of the human brain, consciousness and the human existence, and, to repeat warnings from my previous blogs, to a range of possibilities for controlling and manipulating human beings.
In all likelihood, the human brain was designed to interact with a cosmic (panpsychic) consciousness, through a translucid mind. The mystery of the human soul and transcendent spiritual existence may well reside within this interaction. The human being is unique. Man should probably not aspire to be a homo deus; that would be almost pathetic. Just look at the cosmos, look at the universe — really look! We are but a tiny part of creation. Yet we might be able to realize our potential, as homo illuminatus, permeated by a cosmic flow of consciousness, by vibrating, energy-laden information — homo translucido, or, if you need a hint of God, homo divinus. The human presence is needed.
Copyright Susanne Steines, 5. June 2020, Translation by Mark R. Pettus, Ph.D. at Princeton University)