How’s that for a crazy title! This post is a follow up from my last post on worldviews. You will no doubt think this entire post is crazy, but if you take some time to study it out, it might actually start to make sense.
Today, I want to share some thoughts about ontology as it relates to Christology and consciousness.
On the subject of consciousness, we had a lengthy discussion on panpsychism last time. Panpsychism is a popular view among materialists.
Consciousness is defined as the quality or state of being aware, especially of something within oneself (“inner self”).
A materialist, philosophically speaking, is a person who supports the theory that nothing exists except matter and its movements and modifications.
And this gets to the problem. As Bernardo Kastrup said in his book, Brief Peeks Beyond: Critical Essays on Metaphysics, Neuroscience, Freewill, Skepticism and Culture:
“Nobody in science or philosophy has ever managed to explain, even in principle how presumably unconscious matter could possibly give rise to subjective experience. This is known as the ‘hard problem of consciousness’ or ‘explanatory gap’ in philosophy of mind.” (p.58)
Kastrup argues that it’s a “hard problem” precisely because consciousness is tackled from a materialist paradigm. In the video clip below, he goes on to contrast his ontology (technically called monistic idealism) with panpsychism. Here’s a brief explanation:
Panpsychism: all matter has bits of consciousness. In other words, consciousness is a fundamental property of matter (like particles, spin, momentum).
Monistic Idealism: all matter is in consciousness.
To illustrate the difference between panpsychism and monistic idealism, see the diagram below (taken from video).
Panpsychists believe that all matter contains bits of consciousness. The problem with this hypothesis is that there is zero evidence that inanimate objects have consciousness at all.
But Kastrup believes that his alternative position is the most logical, the most parsimonious, and the most empirically honest and consistent ontology that we can come up with. And it can be defended purely on reason and empirical evidence without appealing to spiritual insight (although he says that’s important, too).
Under monistic idealism, the body-brain system is more like the image of the process of localization in the stream of consciousness, like a whirlpool is the image of a process of localization in a stream of water. For exactly the same reason that a whirlpool doesn’t generate water, the body-brain doesn’t generate consciousness.
This is what we actually know:
- There is experience
- Therefore, there is “that which experiences” (Consciousness”)
- The perceptual experience called “brain function” correlates with other experiences.
- The brain is a material system like the rest of the cosmos.
Why is monistic idealism the simplest explanation for what we know?
- Experience is a behavior of “that-which-experiences,” can be understood like ripples of water or the dance of the dancer.
- There are two perspectives to the experience: first-person and second-person.
- The material brain is simply the second-person perspective of first-person experience (inner life).
In other words, someone observing the brain function with an fMRI is the second-person perspective; those signals and data are not the same thing as consciousness (first-person perspective).
Kastrup also proffers that the physical cosmos itself could be seen as the second-person perspective of God’s mind. Here’s a diagram from the video showing this correlation.
But does the cosmos look like a brain? Actually, it sort of does! (See diagram above)
“The structure of the universe and the laws that govern its growth may be more similar than previously thought to the structure and growth of the human brain.” (Jan Zverina, UC San Diego News Center, Nov.19, 2012)
Okay, that’s pretty crazy, but then…how are we unique as individuals?
According to Kastrup, our unique inner life could be analogous to an “alter” that’s forms in the human psyche in multiple personalities (Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)). This is only meant to be an analogy because Kastrop is using the term in a positive way.
Now, before we go any deeper into this ontology, I would like to step back and look at the big picture for a moment. As a Christian, this non-dualistic view (all matter in consciousness) may seem weird to you (which it probably is), but if you think about it, it’s not too far from the very heart of Christian ontology. Here’s what Paul said:
16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. ( 1 Cor.1:16-17 NIV, emphasis added)
If all things consist and are held together in Christ, then it would stand to reason that all consciousness (or “Mind-at-large” Aldous Huxley) is in Christ. So, Christology, at least in principle, is in agreement with monistic idealism.
Furthermore, we can see that this “Mind-at-large,” or Cosmic Consciousness, easily corresponds to the “energies” of God (see my post, “The Divine Essence and Energies of God“) in the weak panentheism model (see diagram below).
In other words, this Cosmic Consciousness is part of how God interacts with His creation (material cosmos). We are the disassociated “alters” of God’s “mind.” We are the multiple split personalities of God which acquire an illusionary sense of separation. These are the personal and individual personalities. Our physical bodies are what the “alters” look like via perception.
Einstein was right: our separateness is an “optical delusion.” (See “Everything is relational” for further thought on that!)
Okay, that’s as “out there” as I want to get for now. I would suggest you watch the first half of the video to get a better understanding (Kastrup shows the fallacies of panpsychism and materialist view of artificial sentience in the second half).