The fundamental assumption (a.k.a. ontological primitive) underlying the following comments is that of panentheism or monistic idealism. This assumption is that ALL That Is, is comprised of objects in Universal Mind, which arises from and within Primordial Awareness or the Ground of ALL Being. Consider Primordial Awareness to be an undifferentiated or unity state of potential Consciousness that is assumed to be omnipresent and have infinite intelligence, creativity and attentive capacity. Primordial Awareness, exercising its infinite intelligence and creativity, imagined a continuous process of Creation incorporating the principle of Evolution. This is not to be confused with Darwinian evolution, which is a superficial imitation of Primordial Evolution. The process of Creation then began generating objects of Consciousness in Primordial Awareness. When focus of Attention is active, then “objects” residing in Primordial Awareness are Perceived and become objects or evolving objects of Consciousness. In short, for Primordial Awareness to be Conscious of something means the “thing” becomes particularized within Primordial Awareness through focus of Attention, and thereby, there is Perception of it as individuated or separate from other “things.” Attention in Primordial Awareness is unlimited, and therefore, the objects of Consciousness are unlimited. Thus, Universal Mind comes into existence within the field of Primordial Awareness. By way of analogy, one might think of Universal Mind as a movie playing out on a screen (Primordial Awareness). Some people might even say this is a description of the Mind of God. Call it what you will.
All That Is, is the content of Universal Mind and thus everything that exists is an object in Consciousness. Every object of Consciousness is an individuated subset of Primordial Awareness brought into Consciousness by the Attention given it. If you are made in the image of God, then that identity is due to you being an aspect of Primordial Awareness and an object of Consciousness. An aspect of Primordial Awareness with biological potential can exist in a formless state within Consciousness or it can be expressed in a form. What you experience as a body is a biological form. The non-biological world that you experience is comprised of forms of varying densities (a.k.a. physical matter). Some physical matter will be denser than and some less dense than biological forms. All forms are objects of Consciousness and exist only in Universal Mind. All biological forms, as aspects of Universal Mind, have some degree of consciousness.
Since ALL That Is arises within Primordial Awareness and from its infinite intelligence and creativity, everything in Universal Mind is accepted unconditionally by Primordial Awareness. This unconditional acceptance, when experienced by a human form within Universal Mind, is experienced as Divine Love. Divine Love is always a fundamental characteristic of Universal Mind and therefore always applies to every object of Consciousness whether that object is aware of it or not. Unconditional acceptance or Divine Love cannot be judgmental, therefore, there is no “moral” hierarchy within Universal Mind — no good or evil, right or wrong, or other dualities necessary for experience.
Human forms can be thought of as attractors. A human form is too circumscribed to be the recipient of the infinite possibilities that exist within Universal Mind. Thus, each human form is like a receiver tuned to a limited set of content. In a human form, the receiver is defined by the initial conditions manifest in the biological form. Think of these initial conditions as genetic predispositions, epigenetic modifications, glandular configurations, neurological organizations, birth circumstances, etc. The initial conditions define and set certain limitations on the human form, which in turn determines what sort of content (thoughts, ideas, images, feelings, emotions, sensations, perceptions, impulses, etc.) that a human form initially attracts to itself from Universal Mind. These initial conditions in a human form are what I would equate with karma, which can be perceived as having both positive and negative aspects. Most elements comprising the initial conditions are prompts related to still unfolding development that would benefit from attention. A few elements comprising the initial conditions may be related to specific choices intended to provide entirely new conditions and an opportunity to learn from experiences related to those conditions. As long as you are identified with the body/mind, karma sets the agenda for your life. While the ‘blueprint” provided by karma can be and usually is followed, it can also be transcended.
Transcending karma requires a shift in identity. Almost everyone identifies with the body/mind, but the body/mind is only a vehicle, a means of providing Primordial Awareness access to an experiential dimension of its own creation. Your awareness is an aspect of Primordial Awareness. Interaction with the material dimension strongly focuses your awareness in the body/mind. Think of yourself as analogous to awareness and of an automobile as analogous to the body/mind. You use, appreciate and maintain the automobile but you do not identify with it; i.e., you do not confuse the automobile for yourself. Likewise, do not confuse your essential essence (awareness) with the vehicle (body/mind) that it employs. Identify “self” with awareness rather than with the body/mind and you may come to know the True Self and transcend your karma. Now, let’s return to ego.
Early in development, a human form perceives stimuli in its environment as neutral. This is what is known as bottom-up perception. Experience with environmental stimuli attracts content. There is a predisposition to react to that content according to initial conditions. A human form will then retain in memory some of the content, explore it, elaborate it and begin creating character traits or fundamental action patterns around it. Many of these patterns, along with core patterns (e.g., the survival pattern) that are preset, come to automatically produce interpretations, motivations, decisions and impulses to action. The more automatic they become the less awareness one has of their operation. These patterns, which I discuss as automatic programs (APs) a sub-section in Part I, are eventually woven into a basic self-narrative. Part of the purpose of the self-narrative is to explain why one is thinking, feeling and doing things that are being driven by APs that operate outside of awareness.
With the emergence of the basic narrative, ego has begun forming and the process of top-down perception begins. Thus, the evolving ego structure becomes a framework for interpreting experience through the narrative-defining ego. Ego structure becomes a filter that both interprets experience and selects content attracted from Universal Mind. The ego structure is further elaborated by beliefs encountered in the environment that resonate with ego’s narrative. Especially important are cultural beliefs that are incorporated into the narrative supporting the ego process. The evolving structure is reinforced and strengthened by the resonant content recalled from memory or attracted from the Universal Mind. There is a neurological process called the default mode network (click here and here) that is closely tied to the maintenance and strengthening of ego. Anytime you are in a state of relaxed attention, it begins presenting you with material either drawn from memory or newly attracted from the Universal Mind. Attending to and engaging this material helps to refresh and elaborate the ego narrative.
As I pointed out in The Natural Mind, many spiritual traditions teach that one significant task, on the spiritual journey, is to regain the ability to return to using bottom-up perception. Both meditation and awareness in the moment (a.k.a. presence) practices are used to help meet this goal. In both cases, the objective is to quiet the mind, which means dampening the effect of the default mode network. Because content naturally arises from memory and is regularly attracted from Universal Mind, it is difficult, probably impossible, to stop this process entirely. However, it is sufficient to learn to not focus attention on this content in awareness and thereby avoid making the content objects of consciousness and thereby become entangled in them.
Meditation helps you learn to maintain an attentive focus on a single stimulus such as the breath. While holding such a singular focus, it becomes possible to simply observe the flow of content in awareness as background rather than bringing it to the foreground and responding to it. Learning to simply observe content as a flow in the background will significantly reduce the amount of content arising in your awareness. In awareness practice, one focuses on a diffuse state of awareness where the field of awareness is usually external and may be full of content or potential objects of consciousness. However, none of the potential objects become true objects of consciousness. This is because nothing is singled out and established as a particular focus of attention. The focus of attention is on the field of awareness as a whole or a unified field and not on anything in particular within it. When awareness is holistic and no objects of consciousness are given focus, top- down perception is suspended.
Meditation and awareness practices are means of coming into a proper relationship with the ego process, which is a powerful process but still merely psychological. In the absence of disciplined attention, the ego process is unrestrained and dominant. Personal awareness identifies with the ego narrative, which is believed to arise from the body/mind. All experience is filtered through this narrative (top-down perception). Thus, top-down perception literally creates the reality that is experienced. A dominant ego interprets every thought, image or feeling that arises in awareness as being its thought, image or feeling and worthy of attention and thus as an object of consciousness.
A dominant ego process is the master of your life. Some narratives are largely functional, others largely dysfunctional and most somewhere in between. As one brings the ego process under control, making it a servant rather than a master, it is important that dysfunctional elements (entire sub-section of Part I) be addressed. If it is to become a useful tool (a servant), it needs to be a tool that is in good working order. Becoming a self-aware being that employs the ego narrative as a tool for negotiating the world, one uses top-down perception selectively. One becomes largely disentangled from individual and cultural narratives and thus in the world but not of the world. This does not mean disengaged from the world but rather being better at determining what to engage and what not to engage, knowing how to engage dispassionately and impeccably and accepting whatever the outcomes of engagement are with equanimity.
By way of analogy, imagine what it would be like to be an actor on stage with other actors, who are in a hypnotic trance, and thereby be the only one who is aware that a play is in progress and that everyone is merely preforming their part in the play. As is said in some spiritual circles, you would be the only one awake and the only one who actually understood what was going on. You could watch the play unfold, guided by its script, and understand that the actors are performing their parts while believing that they are engaged in reality. You, however, would have a choice whether or not to stay “in character” and perform as the other actors expect you to perform or deviate from the narrative (a.k.a. the script) controlling those expectations.
As an awake person or one grounded in the natural mind, there exists the possibility for unity with the unconditional acceptance or Divine Love that is the essence of Primordial Awareness. As discussed in a short essay, unification is not a causal event. That is, it is a response-independent event. Unity may happen and it may not. It is independent of anything you can do from within the “play.” However, being grounded in the natural mind is good preparation in the event of grace.
Self-identified denizens of the Absolute (hereafter mystics) declare that reality is an indivisible whole, and there are experiments in quantum physics that support the assertion. The whole referred to is what I think of as Source (a.k.a. God). It follows from this view that if one is an aspect of an indivisible whole then one is not, indeed, cannot be separate from that whole. If one is not separate from the whole then mystics say there cannot be any choices or actions that do not arise from the whole. In short, there can’t be separate “doers.” I think I understand this argument and agree with it up to a point. In fact, I sometimes say that “Ego is the mask God hides behind while pretending to be you.”, which I think captures the point the mystics are voicing; i.e. Source is ultimately behind everything. I agree that should one reach a state of resonance with Source (Self-realization) then one experiences “oneself” to be the Divine behind the mask. However, most people experience compartmentalized or egoic consciousnesses and are not in resonance with Source.
Here is an illustration to make more concrete the idea of being a “doer” when not in resonance with Source. The human body is a living, organic whole. If some cell not in resonance with the body launches off on its own and tries to become independent of the whole, what is the result? Cancer. Thus, we might say that the mass of humanity that is ignorant of the whole and often acts in a manner that is not congruent with Source are like cancerous cells who have declared their independence from the whole and launched their own program. Therefore, one might say that egoic consciousness is like a cancer cell and Self-realization is like a spontaneous remission that turns a cancer cell back into a cooperative aspect of the living body and in the process contributes to an improvement in the immune system. Would we say that a cancer cell has no independence of action? Would we say that it can’t be a “doer” of independent actions because the living body is an organic whole? I don’t think so.
A compartmentalized consciousness absent Self-realization is an egoic consciousness. So, how does an ego (I prefer fictive-self) come about. It is produced by resistance to Source or to pure being. Such an ego consciousness makes choices and pursues its own agenda in the world. Perhaps from an Absolute perspective the world is not real but that has no relevance to ego or the fictive-self. To explore this I’ll use a metaphor to represent a human life and the world. Imagine waking up and finding yourself in the cockpit of an airplane in flight. There is no one else in the cockpit or in the plane. What are you to do?
You could realize that you are not a pilot and just sit back, relax and leave things to the autopilot. In short, you could just be and enjoy the ride and see what happens. However, the idea of placing your trust in the airplane’s autopilot begins to make you anxious. You imagine all the awful things that could happen if the autopilot should fail and you can’t control the plane. Fear arises. Thus, fear motivated, you begin to read all of the instrument labels and study the guidance mechanisms. Further, after getting some idea about the function of various mechanisms, you turn off the autopilot and begin to experiment in an attempt to take control of the plane. Some of this exploration results in things that almost panic you, some don’t appear to have an effect and some make changes that you are comfortable with. As your explorations continue, you begin to feel more and more like you are making good choices and are gaining control of the airplane. You begin to view yourself as a pilot and are excited about flying. You make a couple of successful landings and takeoffs. You are now confident in yourself as a pilot and are at ease.
However, the truth is that you are in a flight simulator that is so good that you can’t tell the difference between it and a real airplane. You are not actually in an airplane. You are not actually flying. You can’t really crash. You are not actually making any real choices, good or bad. You are not really in control of an airplane, and you certainly are not a real pilot. It is all virtual reality. A virtual airplane, virtual choices, virtual outcomes, virtual control and virtual piloting. In short, it is all unreal. It is just a simulation, but you have failed to recognize it as a simulation. However, you have acquired some of the skills necessary for piloting an aircraft.
When some mystics say that there is a “dream/illusion with no doers,” the implication is that the world as we know it, which includes life, is a simulation. I prefer the metaphor of a computer simulation to dream or illusion, but it isn’t a difference that makes any real difference. According to these mystics, the simulation we call the world is actually on autopilot, but almost every one of us goes through a process similar to the one described above and resists going with the flow, i.e, just being. Resistance results in the autopilot being blocked, an ego or a fictive-self created and behavior directed at control of the immediate aspects of the simulation undertaken. Most people are confused by the claim of mystics that there actually is no world, no people, no choices, no one doing anything, etc. Confusion arises due to a failure to recognize that the claim is intended to convey that it is all a simulation (a.k.a. dream or illusion) and not real in the sense that most people tend to think about reality.
The problem here is one of perspective. From the perspective of the mystic, the world and everything in it is virtual and therefore not real. No thing really exists and nothing ever happens. However, from the perspective of most human beings both things and events are real. There are choices and outcomes. There are actions and actors. Each, from his or her own perspective, is right in terms of the reality they perceive. That one perspective is relative and the other absolute means that each talks past the other and each is certain they have the Truth and perhaps one does.
One must wonder why, if the “enlightened” have the Truth, they think telling others about their phenomenological Truth will have any effect. Conceptual communication can’t capture phenomenological Truth. Of course, the refrain one often hears is that their conceptual communication is a pointer, but it might also be a subtle way of elevating oneself. The ghost of ego past? Personally, I find the “no doer” view no improvement over the deterministic view of causation posited by scientific materialism. What’s the difference between being a mechanistic robot at the mercy of simple determinism and lacking free will* or being merely a puppet dancing to the tune of a divine puppet master?
The risk is that the ignorant believe the mystics. The ignorant would then still live in a relative world but believe in the absolute perspective. It is important to recognize that they believe, not that they know from their own experience. Thus, believing that they live in a simulation, indeed that they are a simulation, and that they don’t have any real choices and can’t take any real actions, they stop taking the simulation seriously. I am reminded of a quote from Fred Davis’ web site, “So long as it “feels” like there are choices, its important for us to make skillful ones.” What happens to the ignorant if they stop taking choices in the relative world seriously and fail to make skillful choices?
Further, I would ask, might there actually be a reason for the simulation? Might encouraging people, virtual or not, to believe that interacting with the simulation is pointless actually be detrimental in some manner? Looking at the matter from a human perspective, one must ask, why would Source, Cosmic Intelligence, the Divine, God or whatever label one wants to apply, manifest a simulation like the world, if it serves no purpose and the activity of the avatars within it pointless? Is what we call the world merely a cosmic soap opera created by Source for meaningless amusement?
Many, including myself, reject the idea that Source has no purpose and the simulation is meaningless. So, why is there a simulation? As hypotheses about such things go, I find the hypothesis offered by Tom Campbell, in his trilogy My Big TOE, as likely as any other that I’ve heard. Campbell makes the assumption that evolution, as a process, is implicit in the nature of things or a core aspect of the whole. It applies not only to life, as we experience it but also to Source. The driving goal posited for the evolutionary process is reduction of entropy. He suggests that a simulation is the method used by Source to decrease its entropy and thereby evolve. All of the compartmentalized consciousnesses employed in the simulation are evolving toward a reduction in entropy. Perhaps Source is employing something akin to parallel processing to more efficiently reduce the entropy of the whole. When a compartmentalized consciousness embodied in an avatar arrives at a level of entropy within the simulation that can make a contribution to the whole, the simulation is transcended, in a manner of speaking, and one continues to progress with greater awareness of being an aspect of the whole.
This perspective is one that has something meaningful to say to the avatars in the simulation (a.k.a. the world). It says they have a purpose and they can make choices and take actions that are meaningful within the context in which they operate. Indeed, they can affect their own state of compartmentalized consciousness by lowering their entropy through those choices and actions. This breaks down their resistance to just being and can bring them to a point where they are available to the Absolute and are in resonance with Source. This in turn serves Source by decreasing the entropy of Source. Perhaps, some or all mystics might argue, based on their experience, that Source is perfect and has no need to evolve. However, why should one believe that the understanding of mystics, still living in the simulation through a fictive-self (even though greatly diminished), is itself complete and perfect. It seems unlikely to me but then who am I but an ignorant puppet compelled by the Divine to write this meaningless essay that speaks to no purpose.
The earlier piece (Goswami’s Quantum Philosophy I) was an overview of his interpretation of what quantum physics means philosophically. That overview can be briefly summarized using the analogy introduced in Part I. Think of a computer with a huge amount of RAM or working memory. Within this “working memory” there is nestled a small reserved area, which might be thought of as having a shell that partitions it off from the rest of working memory. Within this reserved area there is a self-evolving virtual reality program running. The program has to follow certain rules, which impose limits on what it can produce but still allows a number of degrees of freedom for its operation. From the sheltered perspective of the virtual reality program, the reality created by the program is all there is and the vast field of “working memory” within which it runs goes largely undetected. Think of the huge “working memory” as the unified field of consciousness (UFC), the shell around the reserved area as space/time, the self-evolving virtual reality program as the materialist model of reality and the rules that govern the operation of the program as classical (Newtonian) physics (see first Figure, in P1).
Part II will look at the relationship of quantum waves of possibility in the UFC and the manifestation of human beings as objects in the material world. The following analogy from Part I will provide a brief review of the collapse of quantum waves of possibility (see second Figure, in P1). Imagine that a wave of possibilities is like a rapidly spinning loop of images, where there are 6 images of A, 5 images of B, 4 images of C, 3 images of D, 2 images of E and 1 image of F. The varied number of copies of each image represents the probability for that image. Thus, if one slows down the loop until one image alone comes into focus, you have the collapse of the wave of possibilities. Statistical determinism tells us that the image that becomes the focus is most likely to be image A (p = .30) but could be image F (p = .05). The loop (wave) has taken on the appearance of a single frame (particle) or collapsed possibility wave. However, recall that one has only slowed down the loop, not frozen it. Thus, the loop (wave) is still progressing (spreading) but in very slow motion. Whether you or other observers will ever detect this slow movement depends upon how long and with how much precision you observe the image. Even though one now observes only a single frame, that frame still retains a “hidden” connection to the loop, which means it still retains a connection to the wave of possibilities from which it collapsed.
Every person past, present and future is represented in the UFC as a wave of possibilities, a transcendent consciousness or quantum monad. Each of those consciousnesses will vary depending upon previous entanglements with the material world. In all cases, a transcendent consciousness represents far more aspects than could be manifest in a single collapse. Thus, a given collapse from a transcendent consciousness consists of selected aspects of that consciousness. Recall from the analogy above concerning wave collapse, that even following collapse there remains a connection to the wave of possibilities from which the collapse originated. As a collapse linked to a physical manifestation takes place, it unfolds in graduated stages from the Oversoul or bliss body, which is grounded in transcendent consciousness. The manifestation that begins with the bliss body ends with a material representation or physical body.
One aspect of a material manifestation is referred to by Goswami as the supramental intellect or theme body. This subtle (non-material) body imposes the broad outlines for the manifestation. These themes are similar to what Jung called archetypes. Another aspect of a manifestation is the mental body. The mental body is a suble body somewhat like a dictionary of meanings necessary for thought and feeling. The vital body is the last of the subtle bodies. The vital body contains the necessary forms for the manifestation. The biologist Rupert Sheldrake has proposed a similar function in biology that is carried out by what he refers to as morphogenic fields. Finally, as the collapse is completed the physical body is articulated by its connections to the subtle bodies (see Figure below). Thus, the structure of the physical body is controlled by the “blueprints” in the vital body being mapped onto the physical body. The mental body “writes” or maps its program onto the brain, making possible the meaningful processing of experience. The theme body provides broad parameters within which experiences are understood and related. The theme body, however, is not mapped onto the brain. Running throughout is the original thread of consciousness that began in and is still tethered to the bliss body. Only the physical body is a temporary abode for consciousness. The theme, mental and vital bodies comprise what Goswami calls a quantum monad, which is a permanent feature of the bliss body (a.k.a. Oversoul).
Using a different frame of reference, the quantum monad could be thought of as essentially equivalent to the religious concept of soul. There are important differences, however, between a quantum monad and a soul. Generally, the term soul is used to refer to an individual spiritual entity that has an existence independent of God as well as of matter. A quantum monad on the other hand is an integral part of a unified whole. The unified whole in which a quantum monad resides is in religious terms God. Thus, the traditional view of the soul is a dualistic conception that has each and every soul standing alone and separate from God and from the material world. The quantum view of the soul is a monistic conception in which each soul is merely an aspect of God as is the material world. In the quantum view the soul’s separateness or independence from God is merely an illusion. A persistent illusion but an illusion nevertheless.
What then might we learn of the soul by examining the probable characteristics of the quantum monad? In part one, ego identity and the idea of conditioning was discussed. Classical memory is the basis for conditioning and is an essential component in the process whereby one comes to have strong response predispositions. These response predispositions limit our choices from the broad range of possibilities that are always before us. At any given time we are free to make any of the choices available in the flow of consciousness. However, conditioning makes habitual choices the most likely. One outcome of conditioning of choices is that in the aggregate they come to form patterns. What we often call character in a person is related to the patterns that have come to dominate his or her thoughts, feelings and actions. Such general patterns are impressed upon the quantum monad through what Goswami calls quantum memory. The particulars of classical memory are not preserved in the quantum monad but the general patterns derived from experience are preserved by quantum memory within the monad.
For any individual consciousness an essential goal is to learn through experience that it is an integral component of the UFC or an extension of God, that is, to achieve enlightenment. Once that goal is met the individual consciousness is enfolded into the UFC and returns to a state of unity with God, enriching the whole in the process. Accepting unification of an enlightened consciousness with the UFC as a goal, it is clear that achieving such a goal is unlikely in a single lifetime. Goswami argues that this would necessitate what is known in religious terms as reincarnation. What is reincarnated is a quantum monad while the experiences and knowledge of the incarnated quantum monads is accumulated in the Oversoul.
Goswami’s proposed quantum monad is capable of quantum memory and thereby will retain memories of prior incarnations. These will not be memories in the classical sense, such as recalling how to tie a shoe or speak French. Access to classical memories from previous incarnations is possible through the principle of non-locality, which operates outside of space and time. However, access to classical memories from previous incarnation through non-local connections is relatively rare. Usually, the operative memories will be quantum memories of general patterns such as character traits like generosity or jealousy, of talents such as music or mathematics or of behavioral tendencies such as risk taking or phobias. Many such patterns are acquired through the experiences made possible by physical manifestations or incarnations. It is from these quantum memories that consciousness chooses what to make manifest through the quantum monad when a new incarnation is undertaken. The patterns held in quantum memory are in religious terms known as karma.
Unless an Oversoul has liberated itself from the need for physical manifestations, it will repeatedly incarnate quantum monads until it achieves liberation through enlightenment, which requires an awareness, through direct experience, of one’s unity with God. In the non-liberated, Consciousness identifies opportunities for physical incarnation that have a strong correlation with associated karmic patterns comprising a thread of karmic need within a given Oversoul. In other words, a developing physical form that has the biological foundations (for example gender and temperament) and the situational circumstances (for example ethnicity and nationality) to support in whole or large part the karmic thread identified. The incarnated quantum monad subsequently comes to articulate the selected physical form. Some aspects of the collapse associated with the vital body can begin quite early. However, there can be no mapping of the mental body, which in traditional religious terms is most closely associated with the idea of a soul, until the brain has formed. Thus, the mental body begins mapping onto the brain after about six months of development.
Karma or quantum memory influences current incarnations by biasing the probability that certain choices will be made within a given context. In short, the conditioned response biases acquired in one incarnation can be carried across into a new incarnation. For example, if one had developed a pattern of responses that might be called jealously in one incarnation, Consciousness may choose to manifest that pattern through the quantum monad in the next incarnation. Therefore, an individual on to whom a bias toward jealousy has been mapped will in suitable contexts be predisposed to make habitual responses associated with jealousy. The purpose is to provide the individual with opportunities to rise above this obstacle to enlightenment. The converse would be true for a more positive pattern such as a musical talent. Having such a talent mapped onto the physical manifestation will increase the probability that one will make choices that create appropriate contexts for further developing the talent. The purpose is to exercise the ability and make positive use of the creative energies available through Consciousness. Thus, unless a consciousness has no previous incarnation, each incarnation brings with it a collection of patterns or karma accumulated during prior incarnations. In other words, an opportunity has been created for one to overcome negative patterns and to creatively enhance positive patterns.
Karmic patterns impressed onto a correlated physical form in a selected situation do not impose outcomes. They set the conditions that are likely to lead to certain types of learning opportunities. Habitual response patterns predispose one to respond in a certain way to those situations. Because of free will, there is always the possibility that one will choose a less probable response that is a more positive response to a given circumstance. This entails being creative in the face of a challenge rather than habitual or reactive. Repeated success in exercising free will to make better choices will result in a change in the conditioned pattern and thus in one’s karma.
Free will is possible because of a brief grace period between the eliciting of a conditioned response and the actual response. Studies have shown that when a stimulus is presented, it is processed in the unconscious (i.e., beneath conscious awareness). The habitual pattern of response will predispose one to make the most probable response, which is to follow the path of least resistance. However, between the unconscious response and the physical implementation of this response there is a very brief delay. It is this delay that opens the door to free will. Through this brief window there is an opportunity to deliberately choose an alternative response from the possibilities that exist within consciousness. Of course, one might choose a worse or an equally bad response but one can also choose a better response. Better in the sense that it weakens rather than reinforces the negative pattern.
Free will and creativity are the tools available for working on one’s character or karmic patterns. Neutralizing negative karma and building positive karma opens the possibility for enlightenment. Ego is the persona that embodies our habitual patterns of thinking, feeling and acting. It is a mask behind which we hide and with which we identify so closely that we are blind to our true nature. The single biggest obstacle to liberation is ego. Stripping away this mask is an essential step in changing our character.
Birth and death are complimentary aspects of the karmic cycle. Death is the end of one wave in the cycle and usually the antecedent for the next wave in the cycle. Death is simply withdrawal of consciousness from a degraded physical form, a form that has served its purpose as a temporary vehicle for experience in the material world. Death is a phenomenon of the material world and therefore an illusion. The UFC and the Oversouls within it are immortal and eternal as are the quantum monads or souls within it. Death is also an exceptional window of opportunity. It says in the Tibetan Book of the Dead that a conscious death is a process that can lead to liberation (see also The American Book of the Dead). As consciousness withdraws from the physical body, it is possible through non-locality to become fully aware of all of one’s past incarnations and the obstacles that need to be overcome. In this moment of total clarity and spiritual joy, enlightenment is possible. Conscious dying requires preparation and intent for which guidelines exist.
*This interpretation of Goswami’s thinking is based solely upon my understanding of Goswami’s writing and is largely based upon his book titled Physics of the Soul, which I recommend to anyone who wants to pursue his reasoning more deeply.
There are advocates for simple determinism who would assert that everything we do is predetermined and therefore our apparent choices are really an illusion. From that point of view, we don’t have any choices and all the outcomes that appear to follow from such imaginary choices are predetermined and beyond our ability to influence. In short, the chain of causality that began in the distant past, perhaps with the origin of the universe, set in motion a chain of cause and effects that still continues and will continue into the future. That chain of causality passes through us and determines what we think and do. I think this view takes all meaning from existence and makes life largely pointless, which doesn’t necessarily make it wrong. However, I reject it on existential grounds and advocate for a view based on complex determinism.
Before going into complex determinism, let me say something about free will. The free will counterpart to simple determinism is absolute free will (a.k.a. indeterminism), which means one can by choice affect an outcome that is not predictable from its antecedents. In short, one can do things that violate the principle of causality (a.k.a. magic). For example, I used to challenge advocates of this position to go to the roof of the building and walk across the open space over the street to the roof of the building on the other side. To do this would both violate the principle of causality and demonstrate affecting an outcome by choice that is not predictable from its antecedents. I’ve never had an advocate for absolute free will take me up on this opportunity to demonstrate the validity of their position. However, just as there is an alternate form of determinism there is an alternate conception of free will, which I’ll come to shortly.
The libertarian philosopher Richard Taylor proposed that the way out of the dilemma posed by simple determinism is to recognize human-agency as a primary factor in causation. That is human-agency can alter a chain of causality passing through one and initiate a new branch in an unfolding sequence. This brings us back to free will. In this view, free will is no longer absolute but rather is probabilistic. Complexity theory suggests that in any given situation there are usually multiple possible outcomes, none of which require magic to be effected. Each of these possible outcomes is more or less probable than another. The most common outcome is the one with the highest probability. This is what is sometimes described by the phrase “the path of least resistance.”
However, human-agency through intention and deliberate choice, based on forethought and anticipation of consequences, can influence and change the probability functions of potential outcomes. When I was a professor, I often talked about behavior in terms of what I refer to as the three-legged stool (biological causes, environmental causes and self-agency). It is this latter concept that lies at the root of the notion of the “cooperative alliance” in behavioral intervention that I discuss in a paper on behavior and quantum physics. In short, it is unlikely that one will affect a significant and lasting change in behavior without the active cooperation and collaboration of the subject with the change agent.
As a side bar, I would add that most, if not all, human religions presuppose that the underlying nature of reality is indeterminate and magical (e.g., witness the use of prayer in an effort to produce and outcome that cannot be predicted from the antecedents, i.e., appeals for divine intervention are in effect based on a belief in indeterminism or magic). Herein lies the source of my skepticism about religious claims. As for the existence of God, I can only say that depends on how one defines the nature of God. I see absolutely no basis for an anthropomorphic God and view such depictions as the artifact of a paucity of imagination. If one wants to define God as the ground state from which our universe arose then I can accept that as a possibility whether called God, Quantum Field or by some other name. What the characteristics of such a ground state might be is an open question and might include some of the claims of mystics and other spiritual explorers.
In my view, we do have the ability to make real choices. We can make choices, at least, from among those potential outcomes that are possible given the antecedents. Our choices, reflected in our intention and actions, influence (but do not control) the probable outcomes available in situations in which we are actors. I also think that most of us, most of the time fail to exercise self-agency and simply follow the path of least resistance.