Friday, May 6, 2011
Alan Wallace: "The Retinal Blindspot in the Vision of Our Origins," Part 2
Yet, as Wallace observes, William James (one of the fathers of modern psychology), in speaking on the subject of consciousness more than a century ago, remarked: "That which we ignore recedes from our experienced sense of reality." This is, of course, a danger that Wallace made clear in the first half of his extensive lecture (embedded below) highlighting the problem that consciousness still presents for the mainstream of Western science.
At the beginning of the 21st century, Wallace observes, we have more information about the 'Big Bang' and the nano-seconds thereafter than we do of the origins of human consciousness. "There are no scientific means," Wallace notes, "of detecting the presence or absence of consciousness in anything, including you or me right now."
It is odd, Wallace points out, that we have virtually no knowledge of something which is so intimate to each of us. "Right now," he observes, "if one were were to ask cutting-edge people, that is people working in the cognitive neurosciences . . . what are the necessary and sufficient causes for the origination of consciousness in a human being . . . the answer would be: 'We don't know.'"
Wallace points out that "by the time you have the 'measurement problem' in quantum mechanics that makes at least suspect the very existence of quantum phenomenon before they are measured - in which the role of measurement remains a mystery in understanding the significance (and) the nature of the quantum realm - by the time you are speaking about probability waves that are being measured and that somehow collapse into actual particles . . . then matter has somehow become more ethereal than was assumed in the nineteenth century."
"You can," he notes, "(even) raise the question: 'Is there any energy in the nature of empty space itself?'" And the answer is, he points out, likely 'yes.' There is, he points out, a growing scientific consensus that the universe emerged from a quantum fluctuation and is imbued with 'dark energy' and 'information' about the original fluctuation that we cannot even directly observe, although the mathematics indicates that it is there.
"Instead of simply assuming that the mind emerges from matter, Wallace concludes, it is possible now . . . and scientifically credible to consider the possibility that space-time and mass-energy all emerge from an underlying dimension of reality that may transcend the very duality of mind and matter."
And, it goes without saying, of course, that this very notion of a non-dual implicate order Wallace speaks of is the essential teaching of all the great Eastern (as well as some Western) wisdom traditions, a point that has not been lost on some of the leading-edge voices - scientific as well as spiritual - who, like Wallace, have probed the rarified and ethereal area where science and Eastern wisdom traditions seem to converge.