Perception and the Self: Mystery and Amazement
Menas Kafatos is Professor of Computational Physics and Director of Excellence at Chapman University
The nature of the mind and the subjective experience remain great challenges in modern science and philosophy. Neuroscience assigns mental activity to physical process. This has yielded little in the actual understanding of the mind. Relying on physicalist assumptions actually assumes a world view put to rest by quantum theory more than 80 years ago. What I propose is an uncompromising view of the fundamental nature of underlying consciousness, the source of the mind. It is based on the “amazing hypothesis”, reality is amazing because at some levels is very simple, while at the same time mysterious. The universe is much richer than our perceptions tell us, infinitely so. Perception limits what we view as reality because it depends on our senses, our own specific environment in our own planetary system, our own species. It is a prism that distorts underlying reality.
This underlying reality is universal Consciousness, which operates at every level of existence of the universe, the physical, the mental, the beyond. It is founded on the fundamental I-awareness, which is the true Self. The Self projects the universe out of its own infinite existence, through a series of fundamental principles, which apply at all levels, by first separating Itself from Itself, in what appear as infinite numbers of objects. However, it never loses its own I-ness. In the unfoldment of the universe, qualia, the collection of vast numbers of subjective experiences, play a fundamental role, for all species, of all individual organisms. Perception is based on qualia, perception is in fact qualia.
The sages of ancient monistic schools (Advaita Vedanta), the philosophers, taught through practical steps the experience of the Self. Its names are infinite, its nature mysterious because it can never be studied through perception or through the mind. But it is the one, amazing truth: The creative process can be experienced in one’s own being. The Self should be understood and experienced as the ultimate Witness Consciousness. In this vision, the Universe is participatory, consisting of countless acts of observation, forming a web of entangled processes at all levels, obeying fundamental principles which the Self utilizes in the creative process.
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