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Meditations
The Universe Is in a State of Meditation. Why Aren’t Human Beings?
By Martin LeFevre
Contributing Writer
Investigating how the brain produces consciousness is what philosophers call “the hard problem of consciousness.”

The potential in the human brain for higher states of awareness is awakened with the realization that consciousness is not extrinsic but intrinsic to nature and the cosmos.

Given that’s true however, what is the relationship between the consciousness that permeates nature and the universe, and the emergent, separative and fragmenting consciousness that has become so problematic in man?

Of course, to the dogmatically materialistic or scientific mind, much less to those who have settled on nihilism, there is no mystery, and so-called mystical experience is dismissed out of hand.

But the serious human being understands that while “man is the measure of all things,” there are realities beyond measurement. Questions beckon.

At the risk of invoking old teleological ideas, it’s clear that the universe is imbued with an intrinsic intent to evolve, through random means, brains with the capacity for silently participating in cosmic awareness. Not by a separate God standing apart from the universe, but by an inseparable intelligence.

As mystics across time, cultures and religious traditions attest, the human brain has evolved the capacity for cosmic consciousness on this multicolored mote in the vastness of space. Then why is realization of higher awareness so difficult, and rare?

The “perennial teachings’’ of the great religious teachers offer no insight into that conundrum as far as I know. Their concern was with spiritual awakening and realization of the individual, not philosophical inquiry and explanation. Inquiry and explanation have their place however.

Think on the noise of symbolic thought in contrast (not in comparison or competition) with the silence of true meditation. Such an inquiry has to be complemented by a true inner life, to which one gives daily priority.

When the philosophical investigation of consciousness, which is essentially intellectual, takes precedence over a daily meditative/contemplative practice, it leads to circular, if not absurd results. That’s what resulted from a workshop on panpsychism of academic philosophers in Poughkeepsie New York.

Panpsychism is the idea that “consciousness is a fundamental aspect of reality, like mass or electrical charge.” As reported in Scientific American, “in a small lecture hall with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Hudson River, roughly two dozen scholars probed the possibility that perhaps it’s consciousness all the way down.”

That is opposed to the traditional and dominant idea that consciousness is an emergent phenomenon in the human brain. Investigating how the brain produces consciousness is what philosophers call “the hard problem of consciousness,” which is also the holy grail of neuroscientists.

These things got downright silly at the workshop, epitomized by this quote from Scientific American: “Take the question of whether fish feel pain. Traditional science can only study a fish’s outward behavior, not its mental state.”

“To Phillip Goff [the main proponent of panpsychism at the workshop], focusing on the fish’s behavior is not only wrong-headed but “horrific” because it leaves out what’s actually most important—what the fish actually feels. “We’re going to stop asking if fish are conscious and just look at their behavior? Who gives a shit about the behavior? I want to know if it has an inner life; that’s all that matters!”

The inner life of fish! Given this is what passes for philosophy in America, is it any wonder the socio-political culture is in such dire straits? In such a culture, meditation, by whatever name, becomes essential.

“Meditation without a cause or reason, without end or purpose is an incredible phenomenon…there is great beauty in meditation, not the beauty of things that have been put together by man or by nature, but of silence. This silence is emptiness, in which and from which all things flow and have their being.”

Between and beyond the words, this is what the ‘practice’ of meditation means to me. As each day is different, true meditation requires an approach that allows newness to be, which keeps the brain young and able to receive immanence.

So how did the emergent consciousness of symbolic thought, which gave the human brain the neural capacity for higher awareness, become a tremendous impediment to intrinsic consciousness, which permeates nature and the universe?

That’s the real mystery. All I’m sure of is that thought has to fall completely silent in passive awareness gathering non-directed attention for the human brain to have direct contact and communion with cosmic consciousness.

Martin LeFevre



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Martin LeFevre, a contemplative, philosopher and writer in northern California, serves as a contributing writer for The Seoul Times. His "Meditations" explore and offer insights on spiritual, philosophical and political questions in the global society. LeFevre's philosophical thesis proposes a new theory of human nature. He welcomes dialogue. lefevremartin77@gmail.com

 

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