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  • Physics Within Nondual Consciousness
  • Amit Goswami

Introduction

A basic problem of philosophy is to establish monism underlying all the apparent dualisms that exist around and about us. Some of these dualisms are

  • consciousness/matter

  • transcendent/immanent

  • conscious/unconscious

  • subject/object

  • life/nonlife

  • mind/brain

  • exteriority/inferiority

  • subject/person

The straightforward approach, of course, is to consider all these as real dualities—this is the philosophy of dualism. However, the philosophy of dualism is not considered tenable if we take a scientific, explanatory, and verifiable approach. Take the dualism of consciousness and matter, for example. If consciousness and matter are truly dualistic, that is, made of two entirely different substances, then how do they interact? Their interaction requires a mediator. The obvious absence of a mediator speaks in favor of a monism.

According to many physicists, scientists, and philosophers, physics must be carried out on the basis of the philosophy of material or scientific realism—the philosophy that only matter is real; all else, including consciousness, is an epiphenomenon of matter. It is assumed that such an approach serves to establish monism, based on material supremacy, over dualism. But material monism is a pseudomonism. In truth, material-realistic models of consciousness are unable to explain the hard questions of consciousness such as the subject/object split nature of experience (Chalmers 1995).

Similarly, there are holistic approaches within the basic materialist ontology (Capra 1996) that try to resolve the consciousness/matter and transcendent/immanent dualisms by regarding consciousness as a holistic aspect of matter (the whole is greater than the parts), but this completely ignores the transcendent aspect of consciousness (Wilber 1996).

The philosopher Daniel Dennet (1991) agrees that materialist cognitive-science models of consciousness in the brain do succumb to an underlying dualism, the implicit idea that a homunculus is looking at the computer output that the brain [End Page 535] generates. Dennet's own answer is operationalism (also called logical positivism). Consciousness is a purely operational concept; there is no substance to it and no causal efficacy, and thus no explanation is needed for the hard questions of consciousness.

Operationalism does not work because consciousness does have causal efficacy as exhibited in such phenomena as creativity, ethics, and spirituality. But how does one include a causally potent consciousness in material-realist science, in which there is only upward causation—cause rising upwards in the hierarchical structures of matter? Elementary particles and their interactions cause all phenomena of the atoms; atoms and their interactions cause all phenomena of the molecules; molecules and their interactions cause all phenomena of the neurons; neurons are responsible for all phenomena of the brain; and the brain is the causal basis for consciousness.

The physicist Henry Stapp (1995) has shown that in classical physics there are only two ways that consciousness can be treated: epiphenomenalism and dualism. But quantum physics has opened a way to introduce a causally efficacious consciousness in physics, and thus in all science (Goswami 1993; Herbert 1993; Stapp 1993; Eccles 1994). In particular, I have shown (Goswami 1989, 1990, 1993) that if quantum physics is interpreted on the basis of the primacy of consciousness as according to the philosophy of monistic idealism, then all the well-known paradoxes of quantum physics can be resolved satisfactorily.

Like material realism, the philosophy of monistic idealism is also very old. The oldest known version is probably the Indian Vedānta, but the esoteric traditions behind all great religions are based on this philosophy. In the Western academy, Plato is perhaps the most easily identified monistic idealist.

In monistic idealism, consciousness is the ground of all being and is transcendent. What we see as the immanent reality lies transcendent within consciousness until consciousness creates it by a power that Easterners call maya and that Plato identified as projection. The transcendent and the immanent are complementary aspects of one and the same thing; nama (name) and rupa (form) in Vedānta, yang and yin in Taoism, heaven and earth in Christianity, and the archetypes and the shadow show in the allegory of Plato's cave (Plato 1980) are some examples of such complementary pairs. This pair, along with consciousness (which transcends them both), makes up the trinity...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1898
Print ISSN
0031-8221
Pages
pp. 535-544
Launched on MUSE
2001-10-01
Open Access
No
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