ETHICS and A TALE OF TWO PHYSICS
It’s important to know up front that what follows has nothing whatsoever to do with religion (religions are institutions, which have agendas—we’re simply seeking truth). It has to do with life, with being, with self, and therefore with ethics. We’re about to consider the very foundation for being itself—consciousness.
Which requires that we lose touch, literally, as well as the other four senses (sight, hearing, taste and smell). We’re going beyond the physical into the metaphysical. Until about a hundred years ago this was decidedly spooky territory. It still is, but with the advent of quantum theory in the 1920s it’s become fertile ground for serious study.
To review: “Mind is the complex of cognitive faculties that enables consciousness, thinking, reasoning, perception, feeling and judgment…” (Wikipedia). Notice that mind is not a physical thing, but instead a ‘complex of faculties’ (abilities, capacities), a function of the brain and nervous system (which are things of substance).
Consciousness, the essence of life, is universal—it exists apart from the person as well as within. Consciousness is not a product of the mind. It is its foundation–a given, a first principle, an integral and eternal part of the universe that cannot be separated from the universe and without which humanity (or the universe itself) would not exist. It is, always has been, and always will be. It is eternal and infinite (could it be instantaneous?).
That part of the quintessential life force residing in the individual you is what identifies you as who you are—your self. And it simply is, always has been, and always will be. This concept is not easy to appreciate, but then neither is eternity, infinity or quantum theory.
Consciousness existed before the universe—it is the foundation of the universe and, as such, cannot be explained by science, which is a product of it and therefore unable to explain its parent. In fact, consciousness cannot be explained by any conventional method. It is known to exist simply because it does. It has to, because you wouldn’t be reading this without it.
Every cause may have an effect and every effect a cause, but it stands to reason that there must have been an original cause—a singularity, still extant—that underlies the whole of reality, whatever that may be. Humanity had been making progress toward its discovery for nearly two thousand years before we were sidetracked by the Cartesian duality of the Enlightenment, which largely purged spirituality from the system when it threw everything smacking of religion under the bus. But the simple fact is that even Descartes’s “duality” had to have an origin somewhere at some time (after all, you can’t have two without first having one). Quantum theory has demonstrated that something can come from nothing, strange as that may seem, and that both something and nothing can be (not just exist) at the same time, concurrently. We now know that light is at the same time both particle (matter) and wave (not matter). There being no further need for it, dualism can be dispensed with as a bad idea. Only a singularity is required That singularity is consciousness.
So we enter the realm of metaphysics, which goes before (and beyond) what we perceive as physical reality. It enables physics and the whole of science itself. Metaphysics deals with ideas, products of consciousness.
We can’t use the product (universe) to prove its source (consciousness) any more than we can use science to prove its source (philosophy) or words to prove reality. We can’t begin to explain the origins of that initial something-nothing that fuels our existence. There’s no standard by which to even estimate it, nor do we know that a comprehensible standard is possible. We don’t even have the words to articulate it. For instance: Because of the non-existence of time before the Big Bang (our very concept of time depends on matter in motion, so time in our terms could not have existed before matter), that singularity cannot include time and therefore must be by (our) definition ageless, dateless, timeless and continuous.
Nor can we use the terms energy or force because their scientific/engineering meanings can’t be used to define their precursor. Whatever it is, it’s perhaps best described by the philosophical term dynamis (of which energy is its actualization), which will have to suffice here.
It may come as a surprise that this suggestion of some eternal singularity (and its undeniably spiritual overtones) springs from the very science that often seems bent upon proving otherwise. At any rate, we may postulate with some certainty that whatever preceded the universe not only still pervades everything in it (and perhaps–why not–beyond?), but also is continuous within it, existing in an unbroken continuum within and between quarks, solar systems, constellations and galaxies. It was, is, and will be, at least until the end (if there is one) of the entire system that contains it. Disbelieving or not accepting this potency doesn’t change it; if the Big Bang makes any sense at all, so also does the idea that we must be given of it and whatever preceded it, whatever else we may be.
So much for the (quasi-)scientific aspect. There is another. The stuff of religious philosophy, at least in this context, turns out to be no more or less than assigning the dynamis preceding the universe to some power, potential or what have you that precedes (and pervades) our world. This singularity is universally continuous from mankind’s point of view–a given. It was, is, and as far as we can know, will be—ageless, dateless, timeless, eternal, immortal, all-being and unproveable. Given these parameters, many religious philosophies (along with Isaac Newton, arguably the most brilliant and influential scientific mind of his time—possibly ever, for that matter) choose to equate it with an all-powerful supreme entity. (And why not? Consider the Big Bang vs. “creation theory.” Darkness had to precede the Big Bang, light not being possible without mass and energy. How different is this from conditions preceding the pronouncement: “Let there be light!”? Both require an initial darkness, and what’s the cause of the Big Bang anyway? We don’t, and may never, know for certain.)
Any ideas? Stay tuned…