(I wrote this into my journal on November 2, 2012 on the plane from San Diego to Chicago at the end of my “first real journey”. Minor editing and headlines for better clarity. If any part of it resonates with you, feel free to send me comments, ideas, critique, encouragement. Thanks!)
The Consciousness Wager
Could it be just randomness by which this fascinating course of events has come about? For sure I cannot answer this through the lens of my experience which suggests to me a thrilling story far beyond chance. I can however place a wager and say: if all is determined by randomness or immutable laws and I am merely a bystander who enjoys the illusion of subjective experience, then it does not matter if I believe in the illusion of free will.
It is a wonderful thing that people contribute to this question by exploring and explaining the world as a mechanical system governed by strict laws of nature. I wish that, as for all ideas, such an idea is never censored.
I wish also that this will never be the only idea, such that the other half of the wager will remain accessible to us: that by other principles, which we may never be able to measure with absolute certainty, we actually have a choice, an infinite amount of choices, which shape the evolution of our cosmos by that which we can only faintly describe as consciousness.
Universal World-view and Integral Science
This question has nothing to do with the idea of being “right” or “wrong”, but it is a question that asks us to surrender, that invites us to subscribe to another world-view which encompasses both positions, and indeed all positions. I call this the universal world-view. And while it may resemble a post-modern philosophy that sounds like “everything is true, everything leads to the same”, it is not quite the same thing. It is an integral view that goes beyond the integral vision of Ken Wilber (or so I believe, verification pending), one that invites all the viewpoints and philosophies to partake in it.
I believe that what we need is an ego-neutral integral method of inquiry which allows to emphasize the assumptions that underlie each viewpoint, and that even allows to state openly the extent to which one’s ego shapes the course of reasoning. A science without masks, perhaps with a different name, perhaps a new paradigm, an extension of the scientific method as we know it.
Clusters, Domains, Boxes and Membranes
What if we look at viewpoints in terms of clusters through this integral lens? For instance, there is a cluster of viewpoints described by the term “science”, based upon the “scientific method” and all that arose from it, which can be subdivided in infinite ways; if we pick “hard science” and a school of thought that appears internally consistent, and if we look at the extreme case of such a view that refutes all other views as “unscientific”, then even such a view is part of the integral big picture, arises from it, arises from assumptions that are part of it.
Again, it is good to have such rigid approaches with their razor-sharp reasoning, for inside their box we may find solutions to bigger problems, if we only dare open it and look inside with an open mind. Their internal consistency may provide a self-correcting nature that keeps their ever-advancing discipline in shape.
For any such box we can turn the whole idea upside down, and what is outside becomes the inside, and what is inside becomes the outside. Taken further, all that is left is domains of thought separated by arbitrary membranes.
And this example was just the meta-domain of science, but the idea extends to other domains of our human experience and inquiry. We may as well pick the cluster of viewpoints described by the term “spirituality” and apply the analogous ideas of boxes, inside-outside, membranes and masks. We may pick any such cluster, any such domain, any such viewpoint – which has its assumptions and allows its own realizations.
A Dance of Viewpoints
Furthermore we can observe that as our viewpoints fluctuate and evolve from moment to moment if put under the lens of discernment, the whole system looks more like a dance of viewpoints and never rests in a static state; and for those who can assume several viewpoints, or even hold several viewpoints at the same time, the idea of “viewpoints” becomes obsolete and superseded by the notion of “view-domains” or dynamic meta-views, which allow not only to inquire from a completely new meta-angle (as if between several fixed viewpoints a new point were born, like a transition from discrete natural numbers to discrete rational numbers), but also to zoom in and select any discrete viewpoint contained in it; thus it extends beyond the post-modern confines.
The ultimate integration of viewpoints – all those that are accessible at any given point! – would lead to a unified, integral meta-view, which can perhaps be described as a “collective consciousness”, a “universal consciousness”. It may not be accessible for one individual human being, just as the achievements of the hive may never be accessible by any single ant alone. But as we allow for a connection between our viewpoints, and as we develop the capacity to understand and integrate other viewpoints, we may reach such a state together.
Ethics for the Multiverse
And here a sense of ethics plays a role: will we use this capacity as in our past for “one group versus another”, I against you, us against them, … in the egocentric, ethnocentric or worldcentric sense? I believe that we must integrate(!) all stages up to worldcentric at the very least, as follows indeed by the whole idea of a fully integrated world-view, which would otherwise be limited by our choice of inclusion and exclusion. The Gaia myth may be a valid and useful pointer to show the direction towards this sub-goal.
And then, again as a consequence of this very idea, we must take it further to a universal (or cosmocentric) world-view. In this way we may one day become the responsible creators of life, evolutionaries of consciousness, participants in a universal community of lifeforms, skilled solution-finders on a scale which exceeds our imagination of today and of generations to come.