The Nature of Reality
Though my view is as spacious as the sky, my actions and respect for cause and effect are as fine as grains of flour. – Padmasambhava
Cause and effect is a fairly straight-forward concept.
If you do something (cause), it’ll lead to some sort of result (effect).
Most of our understanding in life is derived from this concept and thanks to it we’ve got everything between antibiotics to aviation at our disposal.
The foundational practice of extracting valuable information from any sort of tests and studies, hinges on controlling variables (other potential causes).
That’s an issue, especially when it comes to exploring the subtle and making ontological claims such as the nature of reality.
Here’s a simplistic and unnecessarily gruesome example:
If you want to find out if a certain plant is lethal or not, you would simply ask someone to consume it.
If they live, it’s probably not lethal. If they die, it probably is.
The word “probably” is used, because the control sample is small, only 1 person.
Besides, unless you controlled the variables, you don’t know if this person might have flavored their cereals with arsenic this morning, which would lead to a false attribution.
So to counteract this, a larger sample size is used with say 10,000 people.
If all of them lived, it’s fairly certain that the plant isn’t lethal.
The chances of ALL 10,000 enjoying arsenic flavoring for breakfast seems unlikely, especially given that arsenic is supposedly flavorless…
The Nature of Reality
The prevailing worldview in the west is Materialism.
This view claims that matter is foundational to everything in the world, which means that consciousness, energy and mental states are all derived from matter and its interaction.
Richard Dawkins, a British evolutionary biologist put it this way:
“We are survival machines, robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment.”
Matter is bound to the laws of cause and effect, and if we are to backtrace it all the way to the beginning of existence, we’ll eventually end up asking “so what created matter?”
The closest answer so far is the Big Bang theory (no not the TV-show!).
The Big Bang supposedly happened approximately 13.8 billion years ago which resulted in the creation of sub-atomic particles which eventually turned to atoms, which are the foundation of matter.
The gap is obvious, what existed before the Big Bang?
The dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza had a different world view and a different solution.
Spinoza was a big proponent of the cause and effect principle.
Anything that accurately described the unfolding of events correctly was called a “true idea”.
Anything that described the unfolding of events to the best of our abilities rather than with full certainty, was called an “adequate idea”.
Given the issue of “what existed before the big bang?”, Spinoza’s answer would be “existence”.
So then what came before existence?
Spinoza’s answer would be “nothing”.
The idea with cause and effect, is that one thing comes from something else.
To Spinoza, existence is the only thing that doesn’t come from something else, hence it’s known as a “thing in itself”.
This “thing in itself”, is what he called God or Nature (they were regarded as synonyms).
This is very different from the classically religious view on God which sees God as a transcendent (beyond the universe) being with personality, intents and power.
Instead, Spinoza saw God as an immanent (part of the universe) substance from which all that exists derives from.
But even this eloquent solution comes with faults.
The Hard Problem of Consciousness
The hard problem of consciousness, a term coined by Australian philosopher David Chalmers–poses the question:
“Is physical matter the cause of consciousness, or does consciousness create matter?”.
We know that we are conscious beings, the fact that you can look at something, and be aware of the fact that you’re looking at something–means that we’ve got a consciousness.
We also know that if you step in front of large objects coming towards you at high speeds, you lose consciousness.
It also seems that the part of our body responsible for this consciousness would be the brain, as mixing with your brain chemicals will alter your conscious experience.
But how would matter, such as fatty tissue known as the brain, create something that can become inherently aware of itself?
My stance on this is in line with Bernardo Kastrup and Rupert Spira.
No matter how we twist and turn things, the only thing we can ever know or have knowledge of, comes from consciousness.
Consciousness is ALWAYS prior to any form of inquiry or experience.
You put a wooden box in front of you, you’re now conscious of this box.
Remove the box, and you’re still conscious.
Remove consciousness, and you could never claim if there was a box there or not, since you’re not conscious of it.
This is not a Solipsistic claim, I don’t mean that by closing your eyes the world ceases to exist.
But what I do mean is that any form of knowledge or understanding, is ALWAYS preceded by consciousness.
Hence we could never claim that matter creates consciousness, since such an investigation is always preceded by consciousness itself.
There are no verifiable means for us to ever concur that matter is capable of producing consciousness since there are no methods for us to view the world outside of consciousness.
It goes without saying, any metaphysical claims such as Materialism or the one proposed above, known as Idealism, can neither be verified or falsified.
Taking a stance on Idealism and understanding that the world comes from consciousness and not the reverse–opens up possible explanation models for things such as Energy Healing and non-locality which we do not yet have the means to detect and measure.
There are huge implications from this that we’ll be exploring in future posts.
We’ll also be exploring how to move from an intellectual understanding of the consciousness model to an experiential one.
This in no way undermines the principle of cause and effect, if anything it confirms it–consciousness must necessarily be the cause.