Session 5: What (and Where) Is Consciousness?
This session starts with a request to define some key terms such as “metaphysics” and “spirituality.” I am reluctant – partly because, as I say, the intellectual strategy of starting with definitions and reasoning up from there is bears a mortal flaw: the eventual conclusions are smuggled into the definitions, giving the former the appearance of logical inevitability. Following that is an historical deconstruction of “spirituality” leading to a reunion of matter and spirit. Then we turn to the topic of consciousness. After evading a request to define it, we speak of how to expand consciousness beyond that of the separate self. Consciousness, I propose, expands through relationship, a dissolving of boundaries. There are many paths to this dissolution; the one that I mention here is the path of empathy, embodied in my favorite question, “What is it like to be you?” That will be the theme of the invitation and additional video below.
Session 5.3: Follow-up – Where is Consciousness?
In this extra video I explore the idea, associated with Bernardo Kastrup, that we are whirlpools in the stream of universal consciousness; that the brain, rather than producing consciousness, tunes into it like a radio. A “whirlpool” doesn’t quite do it justice – think instead of the intricacies of the Mandelbrot Set. I reference the podcast “Where is my mind?” that fleshes out this idea with some fascinating scientific research, and then go a bit beyond into some very trippy territory. https://player.vimeo.com/video/358887537
Review of This Session’s Invitation
In the story of the separate self, we are fundamentally alone, imprisoned in our own subjectivity. No one can ever know what it is like to be another person, let alone an animal, plant, or rock. Indeed, the rational, scientific mind would deny it is even a meaningful question, “What is it like to be you, rock?” It is nonsense. OK, let’s try it. The invitation here is to find a boulder and open yourself to feel its consciousness. I think you will find that it’s consciousness is one of profoud silence. Boulders blast silence out in every direction; rocks and pebbles carry little specks of silence. So, spend a little time with a boulder if you have the opportunity. Try it also with a tree, a cloud, or an animal, using as a mental invocation for your encounter the question, What is it like to be you?
Audio & Transcripts for This Session
Many thanks to Aaron Grubbs and Patsy Eisenstein for their audio prep, and to Grimm Culhane for his time transcribing this session!
Charles in conversation with Orland Bishop
Episode 31 from A New & Ancient Story podcast
Orland Bishop is in my eyes a treasure on this earth. In this third conversation, we talk about the cosmological and geological dimensions of the current evolution of culture and consciousness, along with other topics. Please do avail yourself of the information carried by Orland’s words and — even more — by his voice.
Charles in conversation with Rupert Sheldrake
Episode 16 from A New & Ancient Story podcast
This podcast is a recording of a second conversation between me and Rupert Sheldrake, one of my favorite renegade scientists and the number one target of the defenders of scientific orthodoxy. He hardly needs any introduction, but I’ll say he is prolific author and researcher with a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Cambridge University. As you will see, it is rather hard to dismiss him as a New Age airhead. I see him as an elder or a pioneer in the liberating of science from its metaphysical dogmas of reductionism and mechanistic materialism, and a true practitioner of the Scientific Method in its original humble spirit. I hope you’ll enjoy the intellect and refinement of this man as much as I did.
We’ve moved all course discussions onto our online community, A New and Ancient Story. To join the discussion forum, go to the landing page and read the introduction and posting guidelines. Then, if those resonate, apply to join (all serious applicants are accepted). Once you are a member, find the discussion group for this course among the course forums on the left menu.