Can our consciousness operate independent of time and space?

imageA MUST READ: Michael Redux: Quantum mechanics, consciousness and love by my friend and this blog’s regular reader and frequent commenter John Klotz:

The question of whether human consciousness is a distinct phenomenon that survives death, is at the core of most religious belief. Now, it is becoming a scientific issue as well. Science is dealing with two related phenomena: the existence of human consciousness and the nature of existence of all matter at the quantum level. Science in attempting to explain human consciousness is science attempting to define the soul. Is our consciousness a discreet process that may operate independent of space and time? Or,  is it only an accumulation of sensations that ends when the individual dies and the brain is  rendered inert and decaying? Can  our consciousness operate independent of time and space? Is there any scientific basis for eternal life? Is the Resurrection real?

AND A MUST WATCH VIDEO: John directs us to a helpful presentation:

Two scientists, Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff have advanced a theory that answers some of those questions and indicates, that contrary to the militant atheism now rampant in our culture and science, survival of consciousness after death is an attainable scientific proposition. Hameroff appeared on “Through the Worm Hole,” a scientific series of the Discover Channel hosted by Morgan Freeman. You can view his presentation at http://vimeo.com/39982578.

(That is the six minute version of the presentation. There is a longer version that runs 43 minutes at YouTube)

Now go read John’s complete essay Michael Redux: Quantum mechanics, consciousness and love

7 thoughts on “Can our consciousness operate independent of time and space?”

  1. To oppose to Nietzsche’s famous “Zeit Raum und Kausalität sind nur Erkenntniß metaphern, mit denen wir die Dinge uns deuten” in The Philosopher. (Translation: “Time, space and causality are but metaphors of knowledge by which we explain things to ourselves”)…

  2. For those who know Parapsychology, this is an old question, even rusty, one could say, and it is only now that physicists have begun paying attention to it.

  3. Penrose is a giant among scientists, I would say at least the equal of Stephen Hawking, and possibly even Albert Einstein. His five-fold tiling is a favourite among recreational mathematicians; subsequently the tiling, which does not yield a repeating pattern was discovered in certain crystals. The Wikipedia article on him is comprehensive, and includes criticisms of his views on the relationship between quantum theory and consciousness. Interestingly, considering these views, he has described hmself as an atheist and he is an ardent supporter of the Humanist Association. Contrariwise, he has also been awarded an honorary doctorate from a Belgium Catholic university. He has also claimed to have evidence of a pre-existing universe before the Big Bang.

    I think there may well be philsophical and possibly scientific problems in associating consciousness with a scientific approach, even at the quantum level. During life, animal consciousness appears to have an organising principle in the brain. When the brain deteriorates after death, this organising principle no longer survives. Theologians have traditionally adopted a “spirit-based” approach to deal with this problem. In quantum theory, it seems that the various fields are always associated with particles, hence the Higg’s boson to explain the gravitational field. Are we to assert the existence of a field of consciousness? However, if a scientific approach is to be taken, this would seem to require the existence of a conciouness particle. But wherein are such particles organised?

    Or am I to consider the concept of parallel universes, whereby consciousness.particles, possibly undetectable, can cross the boundaries between such universes? Mysteriouser and mysteriouser.
    “There are more things than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio” (Hamlet)

  4. Dave,

    I have great respect for you, but….

    Throughout history, things which were once considered spiritual have devolved to scientific explanation. Scientific studies have shown “paranormal” or PSI phenomena are real. But, orthodox scientist reject them out of hand because they can’t square such results with there bias against religion. They are “pseudo-skeptics.” The takeaway from Penrose is that consciousness is a quantum activity. We shall see where that leads.

    Consciousness is a key actor in quantum theory. The reason why I closed my blog with John1:1 is quite simple. The “Word” is the primordial consciousness. Thus I would paraphrase it: “In the beginning was the consciousness and consciousness was with God and the consciousness was God.”

    Darwin was reviled as an enemy of religion. It took Teilhard to harmonize evolution and religion and place them in a divine context. I do not believe in the intelligent design description of evolution. But I do believe that evolution has a direction – consciousness evolving from the alpha to the omega. The best is yet to be.

    As far as theologians, a quite many of them skip around the physical reality of the Shroud. John Meier in Volume One of a Marginal Jew bemoans the fact that Christ left no artifacts. Really?

    Sooner or later, the theologians are going to deal withe Shroud and the Quantum Mechanics of existence. I am with Teilhard: neither science nor religion can ignore the other and it is at the quanta the demarcation line vanishes.

    As far as what the quantum reality of consciousness is, Mitchell describes it as a quantum hologram. And in the Real face of Jesus, Lawrence Krauss another “atheist” notes that many believe the entire Universe is a hologram. I pray that God gives me the time for I am just beginning to understand.

    I have a question for my physicist source that he should know the answer too, he’s a laser maven. Can a hologram be digitized? If somebody on the blog can answer that, you can spare me a telephone call.

  5. A hologram is essentially a specific kind of a physical light image, developed by Dennis Gabor a Hungarian physicist in 1948. It has certain definite physical characteristics. The invention of lasers producing high intensity coherent light (light waves in phase) enabled Michigan researchers Leith and Upatnieks to apply the continous wave laser to holography.

    We need I think to distinguish this purely physical optical phenomenon, from the metaphorical use of the word light, when we come to consider the “mystery of consciousness”, or such phrases as “Truth is Light”, “I am the Light of the World” and so on. In these latter phrases, I suggest we are NOT referring to a literally physical aspect of light, but we are drawing on the mental imagery which our human experience of the physical properties of light can conjure up for us. Thus an object remains visibly concealed from us until it is able to reflect the physical light that falls on it, when it then becomes manifest. Whereas when we say that “Jesus is the Light of the world”, or even a human response such as “Suddenly light dawns” we are saying that these are ways of expressing a sudden insight of human understanding of something previously not understood.

    The distinction between the actual physical phenomenon, and our metaphorical use of the phenomenon is important, so that we can be quite clear as to what it is we are talking about. Clearly the mystics, and I would include Teihard among them, frequently draw on such metaphorical uses of physical phenomena, and while this may aid our understanding and uplift our vision, paradoxically it can also render their intent obscure and confusing, if they are interpreted in too literal a way.

    To say that consciousness is a type of hologram, I would prefer to say is best understood in this metaphorical sense. I doubt if it should be interpreted literally as a hologram. The advantage of saying that it is a metaphor, is that it provides us with a mental model as to what consciouness might be like, but not that it is to be thought of as a literally physical hologram.

    Distinctions are important I think. Teilhard was frequently accused of being a pantheist, but unjustly so. But there is clearly a trap there for those engaged in exploring the mystical, of those things which our present understanding constrains us from as yet fully comprehending. To see consciousness as an integral part of the universe, also runs the risk of pantheism. The great religious break-through came when Mosaic monotheism made a clear distinction between Creator and Creation, between God and the Universe.

  6. Dave,

    First let me concede that the breath of your knowledge is more extensive than mine.

    I agree that you can define God out of existence by defining him too broadly. I think the dividing line is “self”-consciousness. Teilhard defined the breaking point for humanity from the rest of creation was when the human species attained the power of reflection – self awareness. (As I am sure you are aware – no pun intended). I have said that science can be staring God in the face and never see him.

    Certainly there is a movement in Christian theology that I believe tends to define Christ out of existence. The Shroud is what brings Him back.

    Are you familiar with the concept of Boltzmann brains: self conscious entities that pop in and out of existence due to quantum fluctuations? They were theorized by a mathematician-physicist at the dawn of the twentieth century. It’s the self conscious part that puzzles me.

    To define what an atheist is, we have to define what God is. I will make a confession, I do not believe in the Garden of Eden and that God walked and talked with our first parents, nor do I believe in Adam and Eve at all. Neither do I believe that God ordered Joshua to massacre the women and children of Jericho. Does that make me an atheist? It certainly would to some fundamentalists. I have corresponded with a professor at Howard who as written on “original” sin being “original selfishness”, one of the driving forces of evolution. He is not an atheist.

    Throughout history what once thought to be a divine mysteries have been explained by science and yet mystery remains. I believe that the quantum enigma(s) we encounter are in fact the fingerprints of the creator, who some, including me, define as the primordial consciousness. I also believe that when in comes to self-conscious entities, entanglement is love, both literally and figuratively.

    One summer at a Civil Air Patrol Cadet encampment I meant an aspiring physicist from Albany named, as I recall, Friedman ( his first name may have been Milton, I wouldn’t swear on it). He had won a high school science award building tesseracts – three dimensional representations of four dimensional objects. He decided to build one with me out of soda straws. When we were finished what we had was two cubes connected together at all points by straws at a 45 degree angle. The unmistakable impression was of a cube moving through space. I was instantly reminded of a time lapse photograph of Ted Williams swinging a baseball bat. My god, I thought: Time is the fourth dimension.

    This was many decades after Einstein, of course, and a few years after I had first read of the concept. I still have a difficult time understanding what I perceive as the passage of time to be what Einstein explained, but the tesseract “speaks” for itself.

    As to human consciousness, the key is to be sure we are talking about self-consciousness. All animate objects including plants have a consciousness, however primitive. The great mystery of human existence is self consciousness – Teilhard’s power of reflection. That the brain is a quantum computer (whatever that is) is a start to greater understanding.

    I think reading “word” in St. John for self-conscious entity is an acceptable metaphor for the God who caused the creation Universe.

    As far as Teilhard being a pantheist, what does that make one the admirers of his visions, Pope Benedict?

  7. John, Thank you for sharing your insights.
    Your mention of Adam & Eve. and also Joshua & Jericho: The literal interpretation of Scripture, while it may be promoted by certain fundamentalist sects, is certainly not the Catholic position. Nevertheless there is a truth in all of scripture, which needs to be discerned and not just be taken at face value. Like all good literature, the books of the BIble can operate at several levels. Sometime during the last year, I was privileged to hear an excellent homily from a particularly gifted preacher who we are blessed in having in our local parish. He presented the story of Adam & Eve, the garden and the snake in a way that all our sophisticated congregation could relate to. “We have all been there.” He made the story perennial, current and relevant, He was able to extract the Truth and meaning of the story, in a way that no biblical literalist ever could. This is the real value of such stories, but it requires a special insight and understanding to be able to do this.

    Incidently, I understand that some paleontologists have been able to trace all of humanity to a single female source through mitochondrial DNA, and I think a particular fossil they found was nick-named ‘Eve’ as a result. You can probably find this on the web. One message here I think is that it underlines the universality of the human family, the brotherhood (or sisterhood) of our species. Perhaps this is one message of the Genesis story.

    The flood stories that the Jewish exiles discovered in Babylon permeate much of the ancient Middle East. Such stories can be found whereever large rivers occasionally caused devastation in those civilisations. There are no such stories in Egypt where flooding of the Nile is predictable, benign and beneficial. One example is that of Utnapishtim in the Epic of Gilgamesh, as the hero sets out on his quest for immortality. The Jewish writers took this story, and many parallels can be found, such as building the ark, sending out ravens and so forth, and gave it a new religious meaning, which we read in the story of Noah. The fundamentalists are still looking for the remains of the ark on Mt Ararat, but they will never find it, as they have missed the point of the story.

    For me, Teilhard was a true pioneer in his attempts to find a synthesis of science and religion, but llike all true prophets he was too far ahead of his time, and the church authorities were not ready for him. He continues to be denigrated by conservative elements, as like many such with feet in two disparate disciplines, he was not received by either scientists or theologians. His Jesuit superiors forbade him to publish during his life-time, and most of his published work is posthumous. I made the comment above that accusations of pantheism against him were in fact unjust. Consequently your own comment above that Pope Benedict has expressed admiration for his work is refreshing, and hopefully a breakthrough in appreciating Teilhard’s particular insights.

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