“Consciousness is the agency that collapses the wave of a quantum object, which exists in potentia, making it an immanent particle in the world of manifestation.”
— Amit Goswami
You may have heard of Amit Goswami — a theoretical nuclear physicist who, at 83 years of age, has authored over a dozen books that navigate the enigmatic waters of quantum physics from the more empowering perspective of human consciousness.
Like many others who seek to blend quantum mechanics with spirituality, Dr. Goswami has held firm to the proposition that everything exists in a state of potential until it is consciously observed by an observer.
In other words, he believes things exist in a state of possibility until we consciously manifest them into a state of reality.
The theory springboards off the commonly-regarded concept of the observer effect — an effervescent thread that many have adopted as a means to try and stitch science and mysticism together under an umbrella of quantum- and meta-physics.
I’m sure that, by now, many readers are drawing a line in the sand, but this isn’t necessarily about whether we really can or can’t collapse wave functions of possibilities into material reality — this is about the nature of the most elusive concept that we’ve struggled to understand since we’ve been able to grapple with our own existence: consciousness.
“Every event of measurement is potentially creative and may open new possibilities.”
What I ask the reader to do, at this stage, is to suspend and set aside any knee jerk reaction to the worn-thin truisms of “we create our own reality” and re-frame an understanding of consciousness as, above all else, purpose.
And it is this purpose that energizes our being, acting as a conductor to our progression — a fuel to our fire.
Like thermodynamics or electromagnetism, like gravity or maybe even time, let us consider consciousness itself to be akin to these energetic forces that bolster our presence and navigation through reality by instilling, within us, a sense of intent. This intent facilitates our movement, evolution, growth, and our existence in general.
Think of it this way. We humans have evolved under a context of conquering all dimensions of our existence — our arms and legs have allowed us to navigate physical reality; our reason and logic have allowed us to comprehend physics and mathematics and invent our way into modernity; our senses have allowed us with the ability to visually and audibly perceive the world around us.
So what about consciousness — the driving force behind our perpetual evolution and the dynamo behind all of our internal and external understandings?
It too plays a major role, one that has been constrained by religion and then undermined by science; one that has become so misunderstood by the tentacles of both staunch materialism and over-zealous idealism that we have relegated any talk of consciousness to the compartmentalized realms of psycho-analysis or the fluffy clouds of spiritualism.
We’ve defined it into absurdity and inflated it into inanity and created so much noise around what consciousness is or should be or isn’t or can’t be that we’ve seemingly lost the ability to perceive consciousness as the pure and undefinable thing that it really is — a form of energized motive underlying our existence. Maybe — I’m not claiming to know one way or another.
One thing I know, for certain, is that as soon as we drop all the usual associations and preconceived definitions, we begin to see something truly remarkable at play.
Transcending Our Understanding
“When Van Gogh painted The Starry Night as a swirling mass of cosmic energy, he may have been painting what he saw with neurotic eyes, but he was also painting what he saw with transcendent eyes. The first gave his painting mere form, the second gave it formless, universal emotion that connects directly to the viewer.”
Many, like Amit, will touch or lean on ideas like collective or universal consciousness, on materializing or manifesting reality — terms that have been so saturated with contextualized meaning that they’ve become emblematic of new age spirituality or woo-woo thinking.
Really, it need not be so grandiose and extravagant if we consider consciousness to be a shared quality of the human-animal, one that places us into our own echelon of prime existence due to the purpose it allows us to impress upon, and inject into, our existence.
Transcendence is the key — to transcend our linguistic barriers and the beaten-down ideologies; to transcend the self-imposed limits of our imagination and to transcend the usual perceptions that detail the relationship between mind and matter.
This is where quantum physics has played a major role in prompting many thinkers to adopt such transcendence in their own understandings of reality and how the mind interacts with its surrounding universe. On an atomic scale, we can clearly see that intangible notions underlying the concepts like the observer effect, entanglement, probability or non-locality are playing out in a tangible way.
The common denominator throughout so many quantum-based theories tends to always account for some force at play, a force that compliments the elusive and ill-defined thing that we have come to call consciousness.
So what does any of this mean?
Well, as my questions to Dr. Goswami sought to elucidate, it means that we should redefine consciousness as we know it starting from the root of what it has allowed us to achieve and what it has done for us.
Consciousness is purpose — it is the energy that drives our evolution and progression through reality and, more than anything, it is something that holds the key to unlocking our limitless potential.
A Q&A with Dr. Amit Goswami
“Consciousness is the true reality, and matter is an epiphenomenon bordering on trivial.”
On Conscious Evolution
Evolution is an interesting subject under the umbrella of consciousness because it exemplifies the hollow approach of scientific materialism (specifically Darwinism and Neo-Darwinism).
What do you have to say to those who are sure that consciousness is not an integral part of the equation of our evolution, and that it is simply a by-product of cause and effect which resides in the brain stem or in the cerebellum — those who say that we can’t have any software without the hardware which our species has evolved with over time?
A.G.: It is the data and the development of an alternative theoretical approach that will eventually turn the tide against the scientific crusade against anything anti-Darwinian.
These scientists, right now, classify every purposive theory as religious and therefore, opposite of science.
So, we have to patiently repeat the following: 1) the biological arrow of time from simple fossils to complex fossils, that is simple life to complex life, proves the presence of purpose; 2) quantum physics with the idea of downward causation or choice among possibilities with purpose makes purpose scientific.
And persist on attacking molecular biology — that biology is chemistry. It does not explain how life and non-life is different, how the living can tell itself as separate from the environment.
On transcending the limits
Ironically, it is we ourselves who seem to be imposing certain limits of understanding upon ourselves as we struggle to understand the universe around us.
In other words, it’s difficult to transcend a lot of barriers that work to limit our perspective on consciousness. Our culture, our knowledge of history (or lack thereof), our consumption habits and our language especially — they all warp and twist the idea of consciousness into something either over-complicated or under-appreciated.
What would be your overall lesson to share in your research on how we can effectively transcend our self-imposing limitations — collectively and/or individually — in trying to understand consciousness for what it really is or can be?
A.G.: This is the crucial question and I am glad you are aware of it. The ego is constricted consciousness, much like a localized object. You cannot understand consciousness without experiencing expanded states of consciousness.
This is why I emphasize the archetypes. Explore any archetype; it will expand your consciousness into an inclusive one.
One quick way to discover the non-locality of consciousness is to engage the heart, engage feelings in the body. It is hard for men. I have noticed that seventy-five percent of quantum activists are women. They intuit immediately that quantum physics is the physics of love.
On Quantum Physics
Which principle of quantum physics do you think most refutes scientific materialism or most exemplifies the true potential of consciousness?
A.G.: Go with non-locality, experimentally verified for correlated photons and correlated brains (transferred potential). Neuroscientists with fMRI have demonstrated that indeed our self operates in both a local mode (the ego) and a non-local mode (the quantum self, expanded consciousness).
On Understanding Consciousness
Quantum physics has shown us that many things we used to consider to be rather concrete — like time or motion —are really more illusory than we think they are; that there are many more layers to everything than we can even comprehend. Do you feel it possible that we’ll ever be able to fully understand what consciousness is?
A.G.: We are already doing it. Quantum physics explains all there is to know or all one can know about consciousness. And more. Every bit of our predictions based on quantum physics is verifiable. It is a shame that people has become so attached to their own pet ways they do not want to invest in what they think is somebody else’s theory. Quantum physics is everybody’s hidden treasure, I am just a messenger.
Do you feel that consciousness is (or can be) evidenced in all forms of matter/non-matter, on an atomic or cosmic scale? Or is this special sentience just our own to enjoy?
A.G.: Nonliving matter cannot manifest consciousness in the form of experience. This fundamental difference between life and non-life you have to reckon with.
... Subject and object both arise spontaneously when quantum measurement takes place. Even since Descartes, Western thinkers have become calcified about thinking of consciousness as object… Read the Upanishads… or go through Buddhist text that talks about the concept of dependent coarising.
Those guys in the olden days had to struggle through these same concepts. I did too before my own breakthrough.
“A map is not the territory and is not as interesting as the territory.”
I guess there’s not much left to do but ask what can be gained from redefining consciousness as a beacon of our purpose.
In reality, it doesn’t change much for us. What may be more important here is to simply leave our baggage at the door (and, maybe more critically, realize that we’re not travelling so light) when it comes to trying to understand consciousness.
Sure, it can be more satisfying to leverage quantum physics towards making consciousness seem like it exists as an entity higher than ourselves, or maybe it’s just more simple to see consciousness as something which happens to emanate from the neuronal networks of our brain — regardless, the fact that we’re so unable to figure it out, from whatever angle we choose to approach this question, means that we shouldn’t assume to know (or to be able to know).
And that, in some weird and indescribable way, is sort of liberating.
If you're curious to read up on any of Dr. Goswami's work, you may find it on his website.
Image by Dimitris Vetsikas