One of the most common phrases scientists have used when talking about a search of for other life is to possibly find “life as we know it.” This is a telling phrase because so much of what we can experience depends precisely on who and what we are.
As neuroscience advances, it is getting closer and closer to locating thought and ideas at the molecular level, and as such a field is evolving known as “bio-physics.”
It may be worth speculating then whether just as Einstein revolutionized Newtonian physics with his Special and General Theories of Relativity, it would now be appropriate to consider new theories that take into account the nature of the human being him/herself—and with it the very nature of consciousness.
If we assume that consciousness—whatever it is—manifests through our physical being while we live, it is obvious that the nature of consciousness is a function of at a minimum the circuitry of our brain, and as is becoming more and more apparent, also the entire physiology of our body/mind.
And we can probably surmise that consciousness is evolving. We know that embryos go through the various stages of evolution from single cell organisms, to reptiles, to mammals and finally humans.
We also sometimes talk about a “Reptilian” brain, which is presumably more primitive, reactionary and less capable of warmth or compassion than a mammalian brain. We might even presume that compassion evolved with warm blooded mammals, and among some humans at least, it is hopefully still evolving.
When I look at my cat, I can get a sense of warmth and love but I also know instinctively that if I try to “figure out what she’s thinking”, I am wasting my time. She is also reacting in many ways—and she is literally on a different frequency than I am—with some overlap which involves shared needs and a bond that can gradually develop.
I think where Eckhart Tolle refers in his writing to knowing some cats as “zen masters,” what he means is that because they don’t have an egoic mind like humans, they are always in the present, and so when they repose they exude a sense of calm that many humans would envy.
So again, while it may seem obvious to the point of irrelevance, what we know, experience and can see is a function of the frequency on which we’re operating. In fact, our eyes can see only a certain range of light; but through instruments we know other frequency are operating and influencing; for example gamma or x-rays which are beyond our ability to naturally perceive. Similarly dogs hear in a range beyond our own, and dolphins communicate with sound in ways we need instruments to monitor.
So as our study of consciousness and mind goes to the subatomic or quantum level, what does the Einsteinian model of relativity potentially suggest for being itself?
General Relativity as I understand it says that it is the geometry of space and time which is influenced by whatever matter is present – space is curved – and gravitational forces bend space so that time is relative and truly moves at a different rate depending upon where you are—it’s “relative.”
Special Relativity says that the laws of physics (nature) are the same for observers in uniform motion relative to each other and the speed of light in a vacuum is the same for all observers.
A famous example is of an observer on the ground watching an airplane overhead, on which a flight attendance is walking. Her speed for the observer on the ground will be different than for someone seated on the plane; there is no objective motion—everything is linked to a frame of reference (of an observer).
How might we slightly adjust some of these concepts—speculatively—to a theory of being or consciousness?
Well, our frame of reference, besides being a function of where we are, is also a function of what we are.
If we begin with the fact of our existence and bodily nature, we can say that what we can know or experience is a direct function of our being; for example, we perceive in a space of three dimensions so that if other dimensions exist, they would be beyond our direct perception.
Science generally presupposes that what we are is all that there is, or is all that is knowable.
But though we might not be able to measure or completely comprehend it—we know that we have a mind; perhaps we can make a leap of faith that nothing can exceed the speed of mind.
If we consider that a mind functions through thought—where is a thought? Presumably in the quantum space between two neural cells as they “fire.” This may well make a thought outside of space/time in the same way that a subatomic particle may appear or disappear beyond cause and effect.
Perhaps not mathematically, but more poetically, we might then create a formula something like
or Mind is the result of consciousness based on physiology – our software running through our hardware and expressed, as Epigenetics has suggested, through our genetic code responding to the environment.
These concepts would shift the assumption of science that nature is objectively knowable to a more reasonable position that it is only knowable based upon our observation of it—and the nature of the observer is a critical and generally ignored factor.
This concept was known as “being in the world”—seeing existence as a process by the philosophical school of Phenomenology and much of today’s “new age” thinking deals with the potential of knowing ourselves better so that nature becomes more understandable to us and we evolve in some way.
Certainly the absence of such a position is at the heart of scientific efforts to “control” nature with the assumption that we can know it objectively without taking into account our own being and participation in its processes, have yielded disastrous results and miscalculations.
As neuroscience delves more deeply into our brain and our “being”, however, if we begin to think in terms of relative scale to the subatomic and perhaps even the astronomical, we may begin to fathom and ultimately discern the true nature of mind or consciousness.
One effort along these lines is the trend toward meditation and its scientific basis—where we can change our nature (human alchemy) and thereby experience life differently—and alter our own reality.
And as we decode our genetic makeup (with vast areas of “junk DNA” that is simply not decodable or knowable at present) we can get a sense that higher levels of intelligence might become knowable and accessible—perhaps even intelligence that is not dependent on physical form for existence or influence.
Our very sense of life “as we know it” would expand—and with it we might get a more realistic sense of our true relative position in the universe, as sense of awe, reverence or purpose we may have of which we’ve been unaware, and strike a balance and harmony with existence/nature, instead of trying to control and manipulate it.
Such an opening and change in our attitude to existence may also, I would suggest, make it possible to connect with higher levels of life and intelligence which have to this point been largely hidden from us, as we’ve evolved from only the single cell organisms of eons ago to human beings at an evolutionary crossroads, and still largely unaware of our true nature, mind and purpose.