Do I Mind or Do I Matter…

Do you mind if the chair is shifted further across the living room? Does it matter if Maya moves out of home now? How does the method matter so long as it serves the purpose? Who minds the kitchen while Mary is away? A lot of thoughts ran through Gayatri’s mind. Does the apparent fact that they don’t mind settle the question in your mind? The recently concluded presidential election raises many questions in the minds of Americans. Does it matter if Britain exits EU? We can do nothing to change matters. A great deal of work was done in the matter. Can the matter be placed before the Appellate Court? Let us hope the Courts will pursue the truth, no matter where it leads. Anne’s adherence to Communist ideology is a matter of record. Incoming emails are scanned for viruses as a matter of course. It is not merely in the matter of sharing water that states tend to act in an irresponsible manner. To make matters worse, the free mid-day meals for school children were suddenly withdrawn. Anyone can train if he sets his mind to it. He was one of the greatest minds of his time. I tried to take my mind off the uncomfortable situation. Gifted with considerable management acumen, he had a deep contempt for the bureaucratic mind. Employees are expected to keep their minds on the job. His arms embraced her as if with a mind of their own. Does it really matter, or is it all in the mind? I am not sure if it is the effect of medicine, or mind over matter, but I feel much better. The mind is willing but the flesh is weak. If you do not like me, remember it is mind over matter. I don’t mind and you don’t matter. The dancers cavorted gracefully in risqué moves, crossing the barrier between their friendship and courtship, but neither demurred because neither minded.

As two words tossed around myriads of situations in our quotidian lives, matter and mind inform human thinking and discourse as few other words can, as may be construed from aforementioned queries and statements culled from sample interactions. Evidently, matter and mind are linguistically so open-ended that it can stretch almost infinitely to capture an astounding panorama of expressions against a dazzling cyclorama of emotions and wonderment in its semantic and syntactic reach, transcending routine communication and discourse to straddle the fields of religion, metaphysics, science and philosophy. It inspires awe and stokes curiosity forcing continual inquiry and search for truth, in the process of which the discerning mind is compelled to question widely held beliefs and discover the fallacies therein, often striking at the root of several deeply entrenched positions. At every stage, old theories keep fading out and new ones unravel like lifecast of unseen objects kindling the sparkle of such effusive joy as occurs to the toddler upon first sighting self in a mirror.

Familiar as a phrase commonly heard in discussions, mind over matter underlines the supremacy of thought over physical obstacles, of intellectual faculties overcoming threats and successfully tackling challenges. The powers of the mind to generally control and influence the body in the execution of various tasks constitute a generally recognized characteristic of life. The image of a scantily clad Buddhist monk, unaffectedly holding up against the harshness of snowy winter in a remote Himalayan mountain fastness, emerges as a ready example of resolve and mind power conquering physical weakness. This, however, need not be the case with millions of people stuck in the reality of thoughts running wild due to inability to control their minds. Here the mind and the external reality are deemed to be two different things. The physical reality can change without a person’s involvement, which can temporarily make him happy if the change is good, whereas a downturn in circumstances will send him plummeting in the doldrums. The situation can certainly be different for a person who has the capacity to rein in thoughts galloping away in his mind. Scientists long believed that the human brain, the seat of the mind, solidifies as an individual reaches adulthood with negligible plasticity thereafter. Recent research has developed the technology to map changes in human brain, depending on the demands imposed on it, to yield astonishing results. Mind over matter is now a scientifically established fact, as authoritatively set forth by J.M. Schwartz, Sharon Begley and several others. Subjects persistently mulled over and meditated on have the power to radically alter the brain. The grey matter of a musical maestro is significantly different from that of a beginner in music. A visually challenged person has his other senses rewired and enhanced. Buddhists monks who have spent long years in the meditation and practice of love and compassion are registered as the happiest people on earth, as, when hooked up to scanners, their brains showed colourful explosions while those of novitiates in the test group hardly displayed any changes.

From the foregoing, can we say that mind and matter are substantially different things, with one controlling the other, or, with both operating as two ontologically distinct substances at higher and lower planes, the one subtle or noumenal and the other material or phenomenal? It was considered as such for a long time based on theories fuelled by proponents of dualism led by Plato, Rene Descartes and few others. Descartes posited two major categories of things, res cogitans and res extensa, loosely translated as mental phenomena comprising non-physical substance, and physical phenomena known as matter, emphasizing the radical difference between mind and matter, variously denying that the mind is the same as the brain, and that the mind is wholly a product of the brain. From the Cartesian standpoint, neither is reducible to the other. The dualists fall into several camps depending on how they think mind and body are related; of these, the interactionists believe that mind and body causally affect each other, which is denied by occasionalists and parallelists, who affirm that mental and physical events are attributable to godly co-ordination. According to the parallelist, our mental and physical histories are co-ordinated so that mental events appear to cause physical events and vice versa by virtue of their temporal conjunction; it is also not caused by continuous godly intervention as the occasionalist holds, but by pre-designed harmony divinely built into creation that obviates any continuous need for godly intervention.

Epiphenomenalists propound that bodily events can have mental events as effects. Mental events are viewed as completely dependent on physical functions and, as such, have no independent existence or causal efficacy. The faster pounding of the heart as a result of fear is, according to epiphenomenalism, actually caused by the nervous system. Property dualists argue that mental states are irreducible attributes of brain states or non-physical properties of physical substances, of which consciousness is a widely recognized aspect. Dualists in general assert the distinctive nature of mind and matter by citing Leibniz’s Law of Identity, according to which two things are identical only if they simultaneously share exactly same qualities. Attributes of the mind such as privacy or intentionality contrast with those of matter such as temperature or electrical charge, and vice versa, apparently establishing the duality.

The arguments against duality are that it is inconsistent with scientific findings, conceptually incoherent because of inability to individuate an immaterial mind. There is the inconceivability of mind-body interaction and its likely reduction to solipsism, the epistemological belief that one’s self is the only verifiable and knowable existence.

How to navigate one’s way forward from such conflicting theories and assumptions? Are qualia or mental phenomena non-material, or are they entirely a function of matter? Do I subscribe to substance dualism or materialism, or is it that the absolute truth dwells elsewhere, as yet unknown? What about non-dualistic materialism or materialistic non-dualism, aligning approximately with epiphenomenalism or neutral monism, as postulated by Baruch Spinoza, setting forth mental and physical as two ways of organizing or defining the same elements which are themselves neutral, being neither physical nor mental, where both are commonly bound by the same kind of components known as cognita or sense data?

Delving deeper, a closer examination would reveal that qualia is not all that subjective. It does contain an objective element as seen from the way people relate to one another through commonality of emotions resonating in sympathy, empathy and shared interests. Despite uniqueness of individual mindscapes, there is ample universality in mental horizons where sentiments and perspectives converge in appreciation of joyful sunrises and enchanting moonlit nights.

Can it then be concluded that dualism is inconsistent with the facts of human evolution and foetal developmemt? Paul Churchland, among modern philosophers, would seem to think so, arguing that life evolved from entirely physical beings as a long introgression between innumerable species, denisovans, neanderthals and homo sapiens. The newly fertilized ova and the unicellular organism in the primordial waters did not have minds or conscience of its own. Into those absolutely material origins, there is no indication of any non-material additions, whereas evolution is explained sequentially from unicellular stage to later complexities by means of random mutations and natural selection in the case of species and through nutritional intake and interactive process in the case of animals and humans, pointing to the fact that living forms are purely physical creatures, and, thereby, giving the lie to the theory of duality. Most of the organized religions object to theory of evolution and insist that god, by timely infusion of the growing foetus with a soul, is integral to the process. Be that as it may, hardly any value is placed on such proclamations by contemporary scientists and philosophers.

The theory posited by David Hume and other philosophers is that there is nothing like mind as a thinking thing since all that is apprehended as self by introspection is a collection of ideas for which there is no repository such as mind. One only has a stream of impressions and ideas but nothing like a substantial self to constitute personal identity. If there is no substratum of thought, then substance dualism is false. That the mind is not a substance but is simply a unifying factor that is the logical preliminary to experience has been emphasized also by Immanuel Kant. It has been taken forward in the last century by philosophical behaviourists, notably Gilbert Ryle and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Gilbert Ryle stated that “when we describe people as exercising qualities of mind, we are not referring to occult episodes of which their overt acts and utterances are effects; we are referring to those overt acts and utterances themselves”. Thus, “when a person is described by one or other of the intelligence epithets such as ‘shrewd’ or ‘silly’, ‘prudent’ or ‘imprudent’, the description imputes to him not the knowledge, or ignorance, of this or that truth, but the ability, or inability, to do certain sorts of things”. So the cleverness of the clown is attributed to his ability to fall off the trapeze and land on the safety net in several bounces to make it appear comically accidental, or the student is deemed to be bright because of her ability to solve complex mathematical equations. Mental events reduce to bodily events or statements about the body as clarified by Ludwig Wittgenstein, “It is misleading then to talk of thinking as a ‘mental activity’. We may say that thinking is essentially the activity of operating with signs. This activity is performed by the hand, when we think by writing; by the mouth and larynx, when we think by speaking; and if we think by imagining signs or pictures, I can give you no agent that thinks. If then you say that in such cases the mind thinks, I would only draw your attention to the fact that you are using a metaphor”. Accordingly, the emphasis is on the external behavioural aspects, coupled with de-emphasis on inward experiential and inner procedural aspects, broadly offering behavioural-dispositional construal of thought.

Yet another dimension that has engaged our thinking is the non-existence of physical objects as they are naively conceived to be, similar to the independent existence of mind and matter equated as thoughts and objects. Is everything mental, if not material, and is everything material, if not mental? The scientific theory of reality may lead to the belief that only mental events can be known just as rationally it may also maintain that even mental events are a function of matter. If mind and matter are totally different, then the question is how can one affect the other? It is not possible to think about going to the concert hall with the body seamlessly following the thought process, or one’s thought that is at variance with a physical event affecting the action. As mind does affect matter, we do experience both mind and matter so they cannot be substantially separate, is the line of thinking accepted by most researchers. The traditional eastern and western schools of thought are mostly divided along the lines of either one or the other, with former embracing the mind and latter, the matter.

Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired”.
George Smith Patton

Thoughts, according to the materialist, are electrical energy and chemical actions occurring in the brain. Chemicals can change the way people think as evidenced by the effect of alcohol on normal people, or drugs in treating those suffering from depression or schizophrenia. Feelings of happiness, sorrow, elation and depression are all caused by actions of chemicals in the body. The argument cannot, however, be stretched beyond a point. Like for instance when one is looking at a monument with a scanner connected to the brain; the scientist can only see it recorded as chemical and electrical events therein but not the actual monument. Hence external images and events in the brain are different and not matching in just the same way as the play of lights and subsequent images seen on the television. If materialism is wrong, and if the choice is only between mind and matter, then the only remaining possibility is that everything is mind, a state sometimes described as idealism in philosophy. The word idealism here is not in the same sense as aspiration to attain perfection; it means dealing with ideas. Idealism claims there is no matter, only ideas, or mind, exist. However, the problem is that it conflicts with common experience of real things out there. When we see a chair, we assume and believe a chair is really there.

The clutter of theories surrounding substance dualism in philosophy, religion and theological discourses have largely trundled out only to obfuscate lines of thinking by couching it in irrational terms like non-material consciousness and, unable to progress any further, filling inexplicable spaces with god-of-the-gaps solutions. Whereas every new advance in science lends greater clarity to narrow the gap between mind and matter. Without seeking to divide mind and matter, the quantum theory in physics leads to more coherent understanding than the dualistic and reductionist approaches. There is no separation between substance and essence, observer and the observed, subject and the object. There is an intelligible relationship between mind and matter, with one being the function of the other; mind is neither an epiphenomenon having no relation to matter nor a reduced ideal occurring as thoughts. New qualities have been established at the fundamental level of particle physics, which enable matter to become operative at higher levels of organization such as that of brain and nervous system. The whole universe is in some way enfolded in everything and each thing is enfolded in the whole or internally related to the whole, and, therefore, to everything else. The external relationships are then displayed in the unfolded or explicate order in which each thing is seen as relatively separate and extended, and related only externally to other things. The explicate order, which dominates ordinary experience, thus appears to stand by itself, even though it cannot be understood properly apart from its ground in the primary reality of the implicate order which is not static but basically dynamic in nature, in a constant process of change and development. All things emerge from an implicate order of continually evolving potentialities, enduring explicitly for some time and ultimately falling back into it. While they last, their existence is sustained by a constant process of unfoldment and enfoldment, which gives rise to their relatively stable and independent forms in the explicate order. The same principle, logically, applies even more directly and obviously to mind, with its constant flow of evanescent thoughts, feelings, desires and impulses, streaming into and out of each other as if in a process of enfolding and re-enfolding. To put it differently, the general implicate order is common to both mind and matter. The quantum theory implies that all material systems have a wave-particle duality in their properties. Particles at macroscopic orders of distance from each other, under certain conditions, appear to be able, in some sense, to affect each other, even though there is no known means by which they could be connected.

In physics, a potential describes a field in terms of a possibility or potentiality that is present at each point of space for giving rise to action on a particle which is at that point. What is crucial in classical (Newtonian) physics is then that the effect of this potential on a particle is always proportional to the intensity of the field. One can picture this by thinking of the effect of water waves on a bobbing cork, which gets weaker and weaker as the waves spread out. As with electric and magnetic fields, the quantum field can also be represented in terms of the quantum potential. But unlike what happens with electric and magnetic potentials, the quantum potential depends only on the form, and not in the intensity of the quantum field. Therefore, even a very weak quantum field can strongly affect the particle. It is as if we had a water wave that could cause a cork to bob up with full energy, even far from the source of the wave. One may think of the electron as moving under its own energy. The quantum potential then acts to inform its motion (the word in-form is here taken in its literal meaning, i.e. to put form into), and this form is related to the form of the wave from which the quantum potential is derived. There are many analogies to the notion of active information in our general experience. Thus, consider a ship on automatic pilot guided by radar waves. The ship is not pushed and pulled mechanically by these waves. Rather, the form of the waves is picked up, and with the aid of the whole system, this gives a corresponding shape and form to the movement of the ship under its own power.

Similarly, the form of radio waves as broadcast from a station can carry the form of music or speech. The energy of the sound that we hear comes from the relatively unformed energy in the power plug, but its form comes from the activity of the form of the radio wave; a similar process occurs with a computer which is guiding machinery. The ‘in-formation’ is in the programme, but its activity gives shape and form to the movement of the machinery. Likewise, in a living cell, current theories say that the form of the DNA molecule acts to give shape and form to the synthesis of proteins (by being transferred to molecules of RNA). Our proposal is then to extend this notion of active information to matter at the quantum level. The information in the quantum level is potentially active everywhere, but actually active only where the particle is (as, for example, the radio wave is active where the receiver is). Such a notion suggests, however, that the electron may be much more complex than we thought (having a structure of a complexity that is perhaps comparable, for example, to that of a simple guidance mechanism such as an automatic pilot). This suggestion goes against the whole tradition of physics over the past few centuries which is committed to the assumption that as we analyze matter into smaller and smaller parts, their behaviour grows simpler and simpler. Yet, assumptions of this kind need not always be correct. Thus, for example, large crowds of human beings can often exhibit a much simpler behaviour than that of the individuals who make it up, a variation not supported in physics.

We may here make an analogy to a ballet dance, in which all the dancers, guided by a common pool of information in the form of a score, are able to move together in a similar organized and orderly way, to go around an obstacle and re-form their pattern of movement. If the basic behaviour of matter involves such features as wholeness, nonlocality and organisation of movement through common pools of information, how then do we account for ordinary large scale experience, in which we find no such features? It follows from the above that the possibilities for wholeness in the quantum theory have an objective significance. This is in contrast to what happens in classical physics, which must treat a whole as merely a convenient way of thinking about what is considered to be in reality nothing but a collection of independent parts in a mechanical kind of interaction. On the other hand, in the quantum theory, the ‘ballet-like’ behaviour in superconductivity, for example, is clearly more like that of an organism than a mechanism. Indeed, going further, the whole notion of active information suggests a rudimentary mind-like behaviour of matter, for an essential quality of mind is just the activity of form, rather than of substance. Thus, for example, when we read a printed page, we do not assimilate the substance of the paper, but only the forms of the letters, and it is these forms which give rise to an information content in the reader which is manifested actively in his or her subsequent activities. A similar mind-like quality of matter reveals itself strongly at the quantum level, in the sense that the form of the wave function manifests itself in the movements of the particles.

Let us now approach the question from the side of mind. We may begin by considering briefly some aspects of the nature of thought. Now, a major part of the significance of thought is just the activity based on a given structure of information. More generally, with mind, information is thus seen to be active in all these ways, physically, chemically, electrically, etc. Such activity is evidently similar to that which was described in connection with automatic pilots, radios, computers, DNA, and quantum processes in elementary particles such as electrons. At first sight, however, there may still seem to be a significant difference between these two cases. Thus, in our subjective experience action can, in some cases at least, be mediated by reflection in conscious thought, whereas in the various examples of activity of objective information given here, this action is immediate. But actually, even if this happens, the difference is not as great as might appear. For such reflection follows on the suspension of physical action. This gives rise to a train of thought. However, both the suspension of physical action and the resulting train of thought follow immediately from a further kind of active information implying the need to do this. It seems clear from all this that at least in the context of the processes of thought, there is a kind of active information that is simultaneously physical and mental in nature.

Active information can thus serve as a kind of link or ‘bridge’ between these two sides of reality as a whole. These two sides are inseparable, in the sense that information contained in thought, which we feel to be on the ‘mental’ side, is at the same time a related neurophysiological, chemical, and physical activity (which is clearly what is meant by the ‘material’ side of this thought). We have however up to this point considered only a small part of the significance of thought. Thus, our thoughts may contain a whole range of information content of different kinds. This may in turn be surveyed by a higher level of mental activity, as if it were a material object at which one were ‘looking’. Out of this may emerge a yet more subtle level of information, whose meaning is an activity that is able to organize the original set of information into a greater whole. But even more subtle information of this kind can, in turn, be surveyed by a yet more subtle level of mental activity, and at least in principle this can go on indefinitely. Each of these levels may then be seen from the material side. From the mental side, it is a potentially active information content. But from the material side, it is an actual activity that operates to organize the less subtle levels, and the latter serve as the ‘material’ on which such operation takes place. Thus, at each level, information is the link or bridge between the two sides.

The proposal is then that a similar relationship holds at indefinitely greater levels of subtlety, whereby it would appear that this possibility of going beyond any specifiable level of subtlety is the essential feature on which the possibility of intelligence is based. It is interesting in this context to consider the meaning of subtle which is, according to the dictionary, ‘rarefied, highly refined, delicate, elusive, indefinable’. But it is even more interesting to consider its Latin root, sub-texere, which means ‘finely woven’, suggestive of metaphor for thought as a series of more and more closely woven nets. Each can trap a certain content of a corresponding ‘fineness’. The finer nets can not only show up the details of form and structure of what is trapped in the coarser nets, they can also hold within them a further content that is implied in the latter. We have thus been led to an extension of the notion of implicate order, in which we have a series of inter-related levels in which the more subtle—i.e. ‘the more finely woven’ levels including thought, feeling and physical reactions—both unfold and enfold those that are less subtle (i.e. ‘more coarsely woven’). In this series, the mental side corresponds, of course, to what is more subtle and the physical side to what is less subtle. And each mental side in turn becomes a physical side as we move in the direction of greater subtlety.

Let us now return to a consideration of the quantum theory. What is its relationship to the interweaving of the physical and the mental that has been discussed above? First, let us recall that because the quantum potential may be regarded as information whose activity is to guide the “dance” of the electrons, there is a basic similarity between the quantum behaviour of a system of electrons and the behaviour of mind. But if we wish to relate mental processes to the quantum theory, this similarity will have to be extended. The simplest way of doing this is to improve the analogy between mental processes and quantum processes by considering that the latter could also be capable of extension to indefinitely greater levels of subtlety. To bring this about, one could begin by supposing, for example, that as the quantum potential constitutes active information that can give form to the movements of the particles, so there is a super-quantum potential that can give form to the unfoldment and development of this first order quantum potential. This latter would no longer satisfy the laws of the current quantum theory, which latter would then be an approximation, working only when the action of the superquantum potential can be neglected. Of course, there is no reason to stop here. One could go on to suppose a series of orders of superquantum potentials, with each order constituting information that gives form to the activity of the next lower order (which is less subtle). In this way, we could arrive at a process that would be very similar to that to which we have been led in the consideration of the relationship of various levels of subtlety in mind.

One may then ask: what is the relationship of these two processes? The answer is that there are no two processes. Rather, both are essentially the same. This means that which we experience as mind, in its movement through various levels of subtlety, will, in a natural way ultimately move the body by reaching the level of the quantum potential and of the ‘dance’ of the particles. There is no unbridgeable gap of barrier between any of these levels. Rather, at each stage some kind of information is the bridge. This implies, that the quantum potential acting on atomic particles, for example, represents only one stage in the process. The content of our own consciousness is then some part of this over-all process. It is thus implied that in some sense a rudimentary mind-like quality is present even at the level of particle physics, and that as we go to subtler levels, this mind-like quality becomes stronger and more developed. Each kind and level of mind may have a relative autonomy and stability. One may then describe the essential mode of relationship of all these as participation, recalling that this word has two basic meanings, to partake of, and to take part in. Through enfoldment, each relatively autonomous kind and level of mind to one degree or another partakes of the whole. Through this it partakes of all the others in its ‘gathering’ of information. And through the activity of this information, it similarly takes part in the whole and in every part. It is in this sort of activity that the content of the more subtle and implicate levels is unfolded (e.g. as the movement of the particle unfolds the meaning of the information that is implicit in the quantum field and as the movement of the body unfolds what is implicit in subtler levels of thought, feeling, etc.). For the human being, all of this implies a thoroughgoing wholeness, in which mental and physical sides participate very closely in each other. Likewise, intellect, emotion, and the whole state of the body are in a similar flux of fundamental participation.

Thus, there is no real division between mind and matter, psyche and soma. The common term psychosomatic is in this way seen to be misleading, as it suggests the Cartesian notion of two distinct substances in some kind of interaction. Extending this view, we see that each human being similarly participates in an inseparable way in society and in the planet as a whole. What may be suggested further is that such participation goes on to a greater collective mind, and perhaps ultimately to some yet more comprehensive mind in principle capable of going indefinitely beyond even the human species as a whole.

Finally, we may ask how we can understand this theory if the subtle levels are carried to infinity. Does the goal of comprehension constantly recede as we try to do this? The appearance of such a recession may in essence be just a feature of our language, which tends to give too much emphasis to the analytic side of our thought processes. To explain what is meant here, one may consider the analogy of the poles of a magnet, which are likewise a feature of linguistic and intellectual analysis, and have no independent existence outside such analysis. As shown in a magnet, there is a potential pair of north and south poles that overlap each other. But these magnetic poles are actually abstractions, introduced for convenience of thinking about what is going on, while the whole process is a deeper reality—an unbroken magnetic field that is present throughout space. Similarly, we may for the sake of thinking about the subject, abstract any given level of subtlety out of the unbroken whole of reality and focus our attention on it. At each such level, there will be a ‘mental pole’ and a ‘physical pole’. Thus as we have already implied, even an electron has at least a rudimentary mental pole, represented mathematically by the quantum potential. Vice versa, as we have seen, even subtle mental processes have a physical pole. But the deeper reality is something beyond either mind or matter, both of which are only aspects that serve as terms for analysis. These can contribute to our understanding of what is happening but are in no sense separate substances in interaction. Nor are we reducing one pole to a mere function or aspect of the other (e.g. as is done in materialism and in idealism). The key point is, however, that before the advent of the quantum theory, our knowledge of matter as gained from the study of physics would have led us to deny that it could have a mental pole, which would enable it to participate with mind in the relationship that have been described here. We can now say that this knowledge of matter (as well as of mind) has changed in such a way as to support the approach that has been described here.

Many of us may have at least read about if not directly experienced highly evolved people possessing extraordinary powers of the mind that enable such feats as walking on water, levitation, temporarily leaving the body for journeying both in the external world and other regions of existence. It is said that several thousand years ago, sage Bhogar vanished from what was then the southern region of present-day India to appear as Lao Tzu in ancient China to guide people towards enlightenment. Such powers and journeys of the spirit have been known by various descriptions but all of these have now been grouped under the generic term of ‘out of body experiences’ (OBE). The conventional scientific paradigm may not be able to explain such possibilities as the spirit otherwise described as consciousness is considered to be an epiphenomenon of the brain which restricts its working outside the bounds of the body. Even if it could travel outside the confines of skull then the question is how does a disincarnate consciousness sans sensory organs receive information from the external world? The radical new hypothesis that allows modern science to accommodate OBE within its latest dimensions is that the experience is neither subjective nor objective but a mixture of the two. We need to change our understanding of the actual nature of the term ‘eternal, consensual, reality’ to align with the new model containing three crucial elements, the Zero Point Field / Zero Point Energy, Bose-Einstein Condensates and the Pineal Gland. The theosophical concept that links these three elements is the ‘Book of Life’, otherwise known as the ‘Akashic Record’.

Akasha is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘sky’or ‘ether’ that is all pervasive, within which is recorded the entire spectrum of action, emotion, thought, feelings and experience of every living being. In other words, it is an exhaustive data base that captures everything. Mystics have long suggested that this information is accessible in certain states of elevated consciousness that enables the downloading of data for future application. Known by quantum physicists as zero point field (ZPF), Akashic Record, according to philosopher-scientist Ervin Laszlo, is a well known scientific phenomenon. Particles can never be at rest, not even at absolute zero, the coldest state known to science, calibrated as minus 273.15 degrees Celsius, a metric that is three degrees below the temperature of vacuum of space.  Due to the existence of high energy even at absolute zero, all space is replete with this quantum vacuum energy, technically known as plenum. Thus the quantum vacuum is not a vacuum but a plenum.

Such a premise has interesting parallels with ancient eastern philosophies, articulated as prana or universal energy, defined as attribute-less and formless in the Vedas. For Chinese philosopher Chang Tsai the bedrock of reality is the Ch’i. Translated as ‘gas’or ‘ether, ch’i is a tenuous and non-perceptible form of matter existing throughout space, capable of condensing into solid material objects. An amazingly prescient idea, ch’i is scientifically supported in the Bose-Einstein Condensate, the fascinating new state of matter, which is recognized as the fifth state of matter in addition to solid, liquid, gas and plasma. Unsurprisingly, the new state of matter was first predicted by Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose, a scientist brought up within the eastern philosophical tradition. Bose stated that if a particle was cooled to a few degrees beyond absolute zero, it may change from being a single particle to a collection of particles that act as if they were one. These condensates pull their energy in the form of zero point energy directly out of zero point field. Practical applications of it can be seen today when we listen to music using a compact disc player, where the information contained in the disc is read using a laser beam, which is technically coherent light with all the light particles (photons) sharing a single coherent state; the other application of laser that has direct reference to the human brain is the hologram, which is a three-dimensional image created by using laser to ‘photograph’ an object and then reproducing the subsequent image by illuminating it with another set of lasers. Thus by applying coherent light, a seemingly solid image can be reproduced from stored information. Latest research findings are that coherent light is generated in vast quantities by tiny structures found deep within the neurons of the brain. Known as microtubules, these structures are so small that it is possible that the energy they use to generate the coherent light is zero point energy drawn directly from the zero point field, conceptually same as what Helena Blavatsky called the Akashic Record and what Chang Tsai knew as the chi’i.

Extending logically further, the inference is that the human brain has direct access to the Akashic field and the virtually unlimited information therein, as Akasha is akin to a super mega cosmic database storing records of all happenings and events past, present and future. If modern quantum physics is correct, there are trillions of universes containing billions of copies of every being that has ever lived and will ever live. Each one of these consciousnesses will download their life experiences into the Akasha vide their microtubules and similarly they can upload limitless data from Akasha through the same process. The Akashic data can be reassembled using coherent light to create apparently three-dimensional holographic images of archived information, creating in the mind of the experiencer a three-dimensional version of the recording that would in every manner be totally life-like. Thus the external reality supplied to us through our sensorial inputs may not be as real as we believe, no more than a holographic perception, a construct of the brain modelled out of the electro-chemical information supplied to it by the senses.

Is there a portal within the brain by which the riches of Akasha can be accessed? The connector is believed to be the mysterious and enigmatic structure in the brain called the pineal gland, equating to the ajna chakra or ‘third eye’ in the Vedas. Based on this hypothesis, out of body experiences can be explained as simply consciousness experiencing the external world from internally generated information. These visions may be generated spontaneously, during sleep or borderline states of sleep, during times of immense stress or during a near-death experience. Some of these hypothetical models need to be vetted further to arrive at unimpeachable conclusions; accordingly, the studious adventure continues along the track of a very intriguing journey into the centre of what it is to be a sentient being in a seemingly indifferent universe.

What does the future look like from the inflection point in which we are in? Cybernetics, robotization and artificial intelligence appear to be hurtling humanity into situations where people may be competing with machines and hybridizations of men and machines, set to catalyse humanity either towards the evolutionary path of still higher skills and capabilities or otherwise perish against nature and machines. It is paving the way for a new brand of trans-humanism that challenges human limits by means of science and technology combined with critical and creative thinking. The inevitability of ageing and death are sought to be reversed through continual enhancements to intellectual abilities, physical capacities and emotional development. Humanity is seen as a transitory stage in the evolutionary development of intelligence, using science to accelerate the move from human to trans-human or post-human condition. These values are presented as a kaizen-like concept for continuous improvement, enabling human species to advance to superhuman dimensions, to transcend itself, not just sporadically as individual here in one way or an individual there in another way, but in its entirety as humanity. It envisages the invention of ultra-intelligent machine, defined as a machine that can far surpass intellectual prowess of man, however cerebral. Since designing more advanced generations of machines is set to be one of its capabilities, the ultra-intelligent machine would design even better machines resulting in an ‘intelligence explosion’, leaving human intelligence far behind; in the process, the first ultra-intelligent machine may effectively be the last invention man may ever produce. Postulated as extropianism, a philosophy of Max Moore, it describes a pragmatic consilience of trans-human thought guided by proactionary approach to human evolution and progress. Extropians foresee the eventual realization of indefinite life-spans based on expected future developments in biomedical technology or mind uploading of those bodies or brains preserved by means of cryonics. In this context, the recent case of a British teenager terminally afflicted with cancer comes to mind. On pleading her case that as a young fourteen year old she considered herself too young to die and asked for cryonic preservation of her body to allow for potential of later resuscitation and cure vide anticipated advances in medical science probably even hundreds of years later, she was able to obtain a favourable verdict. Though the girl is no more, her body remains cryogenically frozen as per court order to be hopefully brought back to life at some point of time in futurity.

As the song goes, it may be que sera sera for a future not ours to see. It is not so with the hoary past where matter is stated to have coalesced from quasars in outer space. As matter so formed interacted with itself, certain complex and repetitive patterns began to emerge, some of which exhibited emergent behaviours, such as self-replication. Thus it probably was that life arose epiphenomenally from matter, as an emergent phenomenon. Then as patterns of life gained even greater complexity, mind arose from life. Matter did not disappear when life arose and neither did life upon appearance of the mind. These three elements may be visualized to exist as a pyramidal structure, with matter at the bottom-most layer, whereby sans matter, there is neither life nor mind. The animated whole is only on account of the synergy created by consonance of the constituents, where each part detached from the whole and on its own is inconsequential.  The ancient pyramids of Egypt may well symbolize the truth of planet earth being a sea of inanimate and animate pyramids, existing interconnectedly and interdependently, strutting around in cycles of origin, consummation and termination. The matrix of future may even eliminate humanity in a catastrophic cycle of genetic engineering, nanotechnology and robotics. George Dyson in his thought-provoking book, Darwin among the Machines, puts it rather eerily, “In the game of life and evolution there are three players at the table: human beings, nature and machines. I am firmly on the side of nature. But nature, I suspect, is on the side of machines”. What then is the conclusion? Just nothing for now, except that I mind because I matter.

47 thoughts on “Do I Mind or Do I Matter…

  1. Very deep post on our minds and what essentially matters in this world. What is important to an individual is not necessarily important to another person, or in the best interesting of a team – and that is in line with your ballet analogy. “mind and matter are substantially different things, with one controlling the other” I think there is a lot of truth to this phrase. Which comes first is sort of like the chicken and egg example, and both need the other to thrive and feed off each other – almost like a game of tug of war.

    Like your ending, I think we all matter. Each of us are unique with our own individual strengths and talents, and we all have something to contribute to every conversation, in this world.

  2. I think that many Christians are incorporating evolution into their religion. For me, that is very easy to do. I believe that one day at least three of the major religions will become one as people look deeper into these theologies.

    I do not think of myself as a highly evolved person possessing extraordinary powers of the mind, but I have had an OBE myself.

    I was sleeping. I saw my body sleeping in the bed from above, then from the side and then I was looking from my body. I saw through walls. I saw someone I loved walk through the kitchen door, I mean, through the door, and I saw him walk down the hallway and stop at the door of my bedroom. I saw and felt my body try to sit up, but I couldn’t get my body to do what I wanted. My friend and I had what I would call a conversation but there were no words. We were communicating through our eyes is the best way to describe it. I don’t know if I should call it a conversation as it was really an exchange of emotions. Then I saw him walk through the living room and through the front door.

    I woke up. I got up and went into the livingroom where I sat down and thought about this “dream.” I thought, I have to call David tomorrow and tell him about this.
    The next day, I woke up and went about my day. My parents came over to eat. While I was outside with them, I was called to the phone and friend was on the line. He called to tell me that David had drowned three days before in Ohio.

    My grandmother used to tell me about the people in her family who would casually mention that they knew where they would die. Not how, but where and sometimes, when. Each of these relatives of my grandmother’s died where and sometimes, when, as they had said. My grandmother said that she would die on a trip. She had made many trips in her life. And, she did die on a trip to Hawaii.

    And I don’t think our out-of-body consciousness is sans sensory organs. I can’t explain it, but I think matter can change into something we can take with us. You brought us a lot closer to the “nuts and bolts” of how these things are possible which I find reassuring. Much thanks for all your work.

    • Thanks Ginene for sweetly chiming in with your observations. As far as religions are concerned, I do not quite follow any one of them. While you believe that at least three of them will roll into one, my view is all religions may cease to exist in the next fifty years. Accordingly, public places of worship may transform into cultural organisations serving as centres of social interfaces for communities. Your OBE experience would find many resonances. I can relate to something similar during 1995 when I lost my father. I was an expatriate on one of my assignments outside my country. It was around two hours past midnight and I was fast asleep. All of a sudden, I wake up from sleep as if disturbed by someone and I find no one around when I turn on the lights. Just half an hour later I receive a phone call from my brother-in-law back home to inform that my father passed away after a cardiac arrest at the time that would approximate to my waking up from sleep. The ways of the spirit are inscrutable.

  3. Raj, this is an interesting post in which you’ve covered a Lot of territory for thought. The last paragraph intrigues me because two things have of late brought AI and how far it has come into my consciousness: the movie, AI, Artificial Intelligence, and the audiobook I’m currently listening to, The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercranz (successor to Steig Larson’s tomes, as it were). There is not necessarily a position that machines would be better planetary stewards than humans, but one might be given cause to wonder – I know I did. Secondly, do I wish I could ‘live forever’ in this body, should it be able to be preserved? I think (and various ‘extraordinary’ experiences in my life seem to bear out – Akasha is familiar) there are many layers, many levels, many dimensions of ‘reality’ that I’d be quite curious to further explore, when the time comes to do so. Yet I do love this planet (not what certain humans have done or are doing to it and its creatures). I’ve seen so much degradation of wild spaces in my lifetime. Our numbers continue to rise, and the desire for sustainability remains on the fringe. I don’t know what the answers are, but I believe I was made for the time I was brought into, as my parents were for theirs. I get glimpses of the future world my daughters are inheriting, and I’m not sure I’m up for the challenge/s. One can become weary of having to work with the push and pull of contradictions and space/time limitations. (When I’ve seen and experienced different levels of consciousness, for example, it really takes a toll on my physical being for a few days afterward. Still, I’m not convinced that I, personally am meant to dwell in these states all the time – I’m quite content to be spontaneously surprised – it keeps my appreciation and gratitude sharp and full.) For what it’s worth 😉

    • Many thanks Bela for coming in and offering your take on a subject in which I am only a learner trying to find my way. From the present scheme of things, nature and machines appear to be set on a course to overtake humanity. As it is, we stand no chance against the mightily sweeping powers of nature. Just last evening, cyclone Vardah lashed the south eastern parts of India with heavy rains and wind speeds of 130 – 150 kms per hour. It just wreaked havoc in the city of Chennai (Madras), and other coastal areas in Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Nearly fifteen thousand people living in the coastal areas were hastily relocated to places of safety to control damages to life and property. Up against the might of nature, humans can do no more than running for cover, and that too not always successfully. Planet earth sheltered by nature’s umbrella will survive with or without humans, whereas humanity cannot survive without the protective cover of nature. Yet what is planet earth in the mind-boggling enormity of the known universe? It may not figure as even a tiny speck, leave alone being of any significance. The known universe is estimated to be close to 14 billion years old, and the age of planet earth is about 4.5 billion years. Life in the form of unicellular organism developed around 3.8 billion years ago, evolving into multi-cellular and progressively refined forms morphing into mammals some 200 million years ago. The dinosaurs are reported to have been around for over 100 million years before they became extinct approximately 65 million years ago. Like the dinosaurs, the entirety of planet earth can be blown to smithereens in a nano second should any one of those giant asteroids circuiting space at unbelievable velocities suddenly deviate from course.The homo sapiens arrived at the scene just about 200000 years ago, which means earth existed mostly without humans, with humankind accounting for only an insignificantly minuscule percentage of the age of planet earth. So what supremacy are humans talking about? Five centuries ago the bard may have waxed eloquent stating, “What a piece of work is a man, ….”. That man is the crowning glory of creation is just a romantic notion and nothing more. It would appear that the only reality is the relentless and irrevocable roll of the wheels of matter powered by a formless and attribute-less cosmic energy. The span of human life on earth, which is no more than a blip on the scale of eternity, appears to merely enable our passage through a particular state of awareness, with cessation of life on earth serving the purpose of facilitating passage on to still subtler levels of awareness in further dimensions of time and space. So let us all die at our designated times and move on….

      • Raj, many thanks for your thorough and thoughtful reply. I love that you quoted Hamlet, as well – I’ve often thought of that quote, myself! Hubris is a uniquely human quality that will surely take our species down.

        I’m sorry to hear of the disaster in Madras, though not surprised. We’ve had crazy weather here in Hawaii for the past year, as well – high winds, heavy rains – though nothing as disastrous as that you mention. I’m also in complete accord with your thoughts as pertains to humans and the timescale of earth’s development (have you seen David Attenborough’s “Planet Earth?” It’s both fascinating as well as eye-opening as to the natural cycles of earth’s developmental as well as destructive powers). My husband and I were just last night remarking, once again, as to the miracle of life on this planet. Too many – far, far too many – take it for granted. I’m not sure the particular set of circumstances giving rise to life on a planet such as this will ever happen again. But this awareness is not new, nor is it obscure. Yet those most needing to avail themselves of that information are too preoccupied. Then illness strikes, coupled with a long and painful reckoning and their lives are over.

        Another point you make (in conclusion) is that of dying at ‘our designated times and move on’ – oh, my, Raj. This is a huge theme that keeps replaying in my mind. What is this (America’s, particularly) culture’s freakish fear of death? It is so pernicious that we spend inordinate amounts of money shoving tubes into people and breathing for them so that their bodies will. not. die. Good god, man. Let’s have a cultural conversation about death – surely with our burgeoning numbers far beyond any sort of sustainable level, we can afford to lose a few (including mine, when that time comes due!). Surely with that particular loved one in pain, one can rally the fortitude to deal with grief, guilt, unfinished business, whatever. In Hawaii particularly, an autopsy is mandatory unless one’s death is attended by a physician! Which means if I want to crawl out to a distant cliff and contemplate eternity in my last moments, unless I force myself to hurl said body into the ocean (and even then!), someone will locate me, only to saw my chest cavity open to examine my organs. Is nothing sacrosanct when it comes to transitions? I realize the body no longer sustains life, but where is the simple respect for the hard work it has done to hold the fires of life intact – where is room for the Mystery in a culture such as this? And on a more basic level, why can’t we face our fears of simply letting go?

        Aloha, Raj – your words were some of the first I read on this Tuesday. What a wondrous way to open my eyes on yet another day. Thank you, Namaste.

      • Thanks again Bela. Fear of death is absolutely irrational, as parts of us are continually dying In the process of advancing life by constant renewal and refinements, which would not be possible if we allow being stuck in the morass of regressive habits and beliefs. In other words, keep dying to wake up into newer realizations. By so doing, one simply eases into the final act of dying to attain higher levels of awareness. If not, death may be a point of anxiety, fear and pain.

  4. Extremely well-researched, well thought out and excellent piece Raj. One reading was not sufficient as my train of thought got lost in the maze of monumental reflections and lengthy paragraphs! I have always trusted myself and my importance as an individual…I do matter, the number of people may be less but my mind and matter have touched and influenced some of them. We all have a mind of our own, we do get upset by changes around us, our contribution within our families and places of work define our mind and our role as human beings. Humanity in its true sense can never be annihilated by any amount of technology, history stands a witness to this fact! Man has been at the centre of all creation and will remain so, that is my conviction. I DO matter!!

  5. Thanks Balroop for dropping by. I do appreciate your optimistic appraisal of the centrality of humans in the evolutionary cycle. At this point I can only be a wishful subscriber to that view. Of course we will not live to see the dystopian shape of things to come. Yet my spirit will be happy to be proved wrong.

  6. That’s a great title! And an interesting discussion. I’ve often wondered what difference it makes whether one sees the world as dualist or monist or something else? I think the biggest problem is when we don’t just think in dualism but make one inferior to the other. A lot of harm has been caused by that.

  7. You’ve made so many good points and now this MIND of mine is full with a lot of complex thoughts ~ I mean that as a complement to your writing! Of course now I want to read Darwin among the Machines. The next time someone says “mind over matter” to me, I’ll surely have a few words to say in return.

  8. When you say “Humanity is seen as a transitory stage in the evolutionary development of intelligence, using science to accelerate the move from human to trans-human or post-human condition” I cannot agree more. This concept of humanity as a “will to power” for me is not very useful except for groups of egos who wish to continue to control outcomes and achieve a God-like immortality. It’s okay to work for posterity and look towards a healthy future for our children, but humans need to accept their limits and technology’s too, even when the latter has been of some benefit, it still cannot replace these mortal physical bodies of ours.

  9. A masterful and inspiring treatise, Raj, that will take time for me to read and contemplate in a thoughtful manner. Thank you for raising such essential questions about mind and matter and giving more depth to the questions, “What is the nature of reality?” and “What are the purposes of life?”

    • Thanks very much Carol for taking the time to read and accordingly review the nature of reality. Let us not be blind believers, as doing so is a passive exercise of the mediocre. Let us all be seekers, in proactive, open-ended search of truth. With my warm season’s greetings.

  10. You have covered some interesting points here Raj… As one who believes in Life after Life.. I understand how that young girl whose perception of death and her fear of it clung to the idea of wanting her body to be preserved.. Yet that Spirit within is what I perceive to go on as we only use our human shell to experience our material earthly existence..
    Whether or not our environment will sustain our human existence in the distant future may well remain to be seem as we seem hell bent on destroying our environment..
    I know you understand a lot about quantum physics, and how our mind creates . There is much to take in here within your post my friend.. and my brain at the moment is a little too tired to take everything in to give it justice..

    May I take this opportunity Raj in sending you and family Christmas Greetings and I send well wishes for Peace and Harmony to fill your New Year..
    Love and Blessings
    Sue 🙂

    • Thanks very much Sue. It is a great privilege for me to heartily reciprocate your kind wishes as the festive spirit reaches a cresecendo in next few days. The roots of life, according to latest in scientific research, go deep down into the realms of matter. But for now, we will raise our thoughts to the celebrated life that, like many saintly lives before and after it, ushered in peace and good will on earth, and hope it sustains us all. Cheers…

  11. You remind me of my days in philosophy class with Professor Kim, a gentle instructor whom I still remember with fondness. I’ve always been a dualist, due to my religious beliefs, but it was always fascinating discovering the permutations of the debate that’s raged for centuries.

    And either way, we all do matter in my opinion–a great deal.

  12. As life developed, mind evolved as a more complex matter. It is perhaps, the most complicated machine made by Nature and, I think, it’s always right to be on the side of Nature for my mind matters a lot to me, to the others and to the universe. The interconnectivity works somehow, somewhere. The mind-body or mind-matter connection, it has a far-fetched effect.

    It’s such an excellent article touching myriad theories and providing great food for thoughts. I wish to read it again, I’m bookmarking this blog page.

    • Thanks very much Mani. The desire for spiritual freedom is not incompatible with the evolutionary impulse driving the entire process. The ensuing evolutionary enlightenment, unlike the traditional enlightenment, is within everyone’s attainability.

    • Thanks very much Cecilia as it feels good to hear from you after a long while and that too at the threshold of the new year. Wishing you happy days and another fulfilling year ahead…

  13. I stopped by to wish you and yours a happy new year, Raj and enjoyed your article while visiting. I volunteered on a board that researched offering a sustainability management degree to undergraduate students. I often hear people say ‘the end justifies the means’. After putting the course together, I realized that most of us don’t see the true end or consequences of our actions. There are so many covert forms of greed on this planet. It doesn’t look good for the human race.

  14. Dear Raj, hope you had a good 2016…this a lovely idea “Mind or Matter” to commence the new year.

    I need to go through in detail for sharing my perspective, shortly.

    Wishing you a wonderful year ahead in 2017…

  15. Raj, I’ve been away from social media for some time, but the first thing I did when I logged into WordPress was to look for your most recent article. You certainly didn’t disappoint. As usual, you’ve given me a great deal to think about–if one believes in the mental process of thinking! I had to research some of the theories of physics you mentioned but, once I had, I appreciated this article more fully. The concepts of implicate and explicate order do, indeed, lend themselves to an understanding that consciousness and matter are not ultimately distinct. Your discussion of participation is, as I reflect on it, a reminder of our interconnectedness with one another–a call to, and the ground for, compassion.
    I suspect I’m a bit of a Neo-Luddite, believing that new technologies should be developed and used with precaution. As it stands, humans are rather weak creatures, changing the environment to suit their desires rather than evolving with the planet’s ecosystem. I believe we should seek wisdom rather than intelligence, means to reduce waste rather than produce more, and means by which to live in harmony rather than eternally.

    • Thanks very much Connie. It feels so refreshing to catch up with your observations while still at the beginning of the year. On a subject as vast as this, my intention was to somehow squeeze into a couple of thousand words so that it seeped in facilely on whomsoever would choose to read it. But as I progressed with the task, the realisation dawned that any such attempt would be as futile as trying to compress an ocean into a water-bottle. Thus I ended up with the kind of minimum expatiation acceding to demands of the topic. As it appears, a slant towards Neo-Luddism without bordering on techno-phobia may be just what the emerging scenario requires. Whether it is really achievable against the relentless onslaught of technology is the larger question and challenge before communities worldwide. May this year be as fulfilling as you want it to be.

    • Your gesture is so loaded with kindness and graciousness, Sue, as to make it overwhelming. Here is to good health and happiness of you and yours all through 2017 and beyond, as the good earth in those allotments continue its seasonal wait for your magic touch to respond in copious yields in just the same way as virtual pages in cyberspace would bristle with your creative delights. Godspeed…

  16. Hi Raj,

    Just got round to reading your post. A rather long one and if I may say, pretty heavy at places. But an excellently thought through and logical one nevertheless.

    Does it really matter whether there indeed exists the supremacy of mind ( if at all)? To me mind is but a construct of human language. We link so many aspects to it viz, Consciousness, awareness, imagination, innovations, imputations, logic and so on. And somewhere as we continue to do this as we go through life, we tend to give certain discrete, even physical attributes to the mind. In the final analysis however, what matters is how we as individuals and in groups respond to stimuli ( read situations). That to me is a function of our occurring world- how at that moment things occur for us.

    As far as ‘Matter’ is concerned, our senses and through them our so-called mind, does seem to tell us that such a thing exists.All around us and right into the farthest reaches of the Universe.Matter consisting of atoms, subatomic particles, the laws and the energy that binds them. And that seems to have always been so, much before Humanity and its so called mind came into existence. It can further be hypothesized that would be so after we and our minds cease to exist.In the overall scheme of things, it therefore appears matter is the only constant.


    Shakti Ghosal

    • Quite rightly so, Shakti. The conclusion drawn by you forms the crux of the subject under discussion here. Mind as perceived to be may not be anything more than an evolutionary aspect of matter. So is humankind, an evolved form of matter that is subject to further transformation and evolution, a matter that is the choice of matter. Thanks for dropping by…

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