This piece is about humankind’s most pivotal revolution in the coming decades and centuries, hands down. It is about meaning, future, consciousness, society and science. Its message is more important than anything I have ever conveyed. If that doesn’t tell the reader much, which is understandable, I can say that this conclusion also goes for most other writers out there.
Many feel an emptiness and a lack of purpose before the future. This sense of meaninglessness is basically derived from the dreamlike illusion of separation and death we have been living in for thousands of years. We have tried to mitigate our fear of death and our feeling of loneliness through the idea that more physical assets or larger social or cultural capital can enhance the quality of life.
There are no more land masses to discover on the planet any more. No one empire or culture can conquer continents and replace the old with something new to give a sense of reset. Humanity is beginning to integrate. Everybody knows about everybody else. Cultures are merging. Technology develops relentlessly, but it is in itself neutral and cannot contribute to any sense of context and meaning. Hence we have a feeling of ”… what now?” Artificial intelligence? Advanced biotechnology? Out in space? What is the purpose of all that we are doing?
My answer, and the answer from ever more others, is that the next leap in our evolution will have to be inward — possibly the most important leap so far. We can debate new tech, democracy and climate change all we want, but in comparison with the exploratory journey into consciousness all such topics pale. It is a journey that will bestow us with two revolutionary insights: that the essence of what is a human does not die when the body dies and that we are the creators of our lives, because consciousness precedes matter. It is a journey that leads to freedom. Many scientists have already jumped on.
Already during early childhood, and particularly when we begin school, we are taught that our intuitive experience of a lovingly magical and timeless world is naïve and therefore wrong, even dangerous. Why? Because ”there is no free lunch” in this hard life. But if we are diligent enough to follow the rules of the millennia-old matrix that homo sapiens has built up for herself, we might succeed anyway. We are conditioned to trust outer knowledge, work, ”follow” the news, respect formal authorities and do our duty at the ballot box. The general view on mental health is paradoxical: On the one hand we are told it is good for us not to stress but to take time off for ourselves once in a while. On the other hand we are led to understand that this relaxation, this relief, is an exception, not ”real life”
When we are discussing how to solve humanity’s big problems it often sounds as though we are speaking of technical details: democracy, systems, governing, nations, borders, laws, regulations, enforcement, education. But where are the people? The only thing that is really going on is that 7.8 billion human beings are here on the planet to experience, think, feel and create. Why do we have to conceal this basic truth behind administrative smoke and mirrors? Could it be that those who have been in power have realized, or sensed, that they would lose that power if everybody understood that each and everyone of us is a brilliant spark of the universe who creates its own terrestrial life? Because then there would of course be no need for any priests nor kings. It goes without saying that democracy is better than autocracy. It is one step towards freedom. But an elected elite is still an elite, an archaic residue from a materialist world order.
Taking our next evolutionary step inward is not woo-woo. It is just as much science as what we define as science today. How could the sum total of human experience be anything else? In fact, this is all about ancient knowledge, but it is only in our time that it will be able to break through, because it will be understood as science — which all knowledge is, of course (our culture has only been wearing physicalist blinders).
The idea that there is a sharp line between science and spirituality is just that: an idea, a pure mental construct. This imaginary border is such a false description of the state of affairs that it practically is a lie, but we have lived with this construct for so long that few even realize it is possible to question. By the way, every line that has been drawn between different scientific disciplines is also illusory. They probably had some purpose during the era of intense searching for detailed knowledge about the outer world, but today we have come so far that it is obvious for every trailblazer that we can get further only if we adopt a holistic view, if we see that everything is connected.
Quantum physicists and astrophysicists have long tried to come up with a ”theory of everything”, and nowadays the notion that over 95 percent of the universe consists of ”dark” energy and ”dark” matter which we cannot perceive with earthly senses or gauges is mainstream. Einstein’s and Weyl’s daring idea about a unified field which holds everything together in the universe is part of today’s theory building in physics. What, then, does this ”everything” consist of? It may sound like a stupid question, but I think it needs to be answered to make it clear: every wave of energy, every particle, every drop of water, every human cell, every human being, every planet, every star and every galaxy. And every parallel universe, if they exist.
To psychology these insights ought to be uncontroversial, but the scientific discipline that deals with our inner world is surprisingly entrenched in the materialist paradigm, which says the brain is the source of and the explanation for everything we experience. Many psychologists use terms such as ”soul life” without actually meaning what they say. They really mean ”neurological activity”. But there are brilliant exceptions. The pioneer William James suggested already in the 1890s that consciousness stands on its own and that the brain is to be considered a kind of filter — a metaphor that today might be translated into a tv set or a computer connected to the internet (”cloud” services help enhance the analogy further). Carl Gustav Jung’s groundbreaking theories about the collective unconscious were decades ahead of their time. Etzel Cardeña, professor of psychology at Lund university in Sweden, gives this description of the state of play when it comes to how much we know about these things today: ”From a reductionist or materialist standpoint we don’t have any explanation that is even close to being satisfactory to why we are conscious of anything at all.”
The scientific discipline that deals with our inner world is surprisingly entrenched in the materialist paradigm
In school, our children are told ”we know this”. We ”know” that the Big Bang occurred 13.8 billion years ago, we ”know”, say the teachers, that life emerged in a primordial molecular soup where lightning struck, that humans are the result of an incredible long series of chance mutations in an originally simple primate and that every emotion, thought and memory are produced by neurons in the brain. But the truth is that this is what conventional science believes based on the signs and circumstances we have found and interpreted in the physical world so far.
An explanatory model which accounts for non-physical processes, where things that do not seem to be connected are connected (which quantum physics tells us), can explain many things that are incomprehensible within a strictly materialist worldview. The core question to answer is what philosophers call ”the hard problem of consciousness”: where does consciousness arise, and why do we subjectively experience any phenomena at all? Other things that suddenly make sense are dreams, meaningful synchronicities, near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, clairvoyance, telepathy and telekinesis. In fact, even a seemingly trivial phenomenon such as why things happen that nobody has predicted and why what everybody has predicted does not happen. Completely unexpected chains of events are commonly explained by simply ascertaining that there were too many factors to account for. But shouldn’t we have become a little better at forecasting what is going to happen in this world, considering the giant leaps science has taken? It appears we haven’t.
Let us take a closer look at some contemporary findings that corrode that perceived line between science and spirituality.
•When medical science in the 1960s began to be able to resuscitate people who had suffered cardiac arrest, a portal was opened. There have always been stories about people who have died, gone to what they describe as some version of heaven and then come back to life on earth. But before our time, cases were rare. Since the first successful life saving efforts in the ICUs, an enormous number of people all over the world have come back to life after longer or shorter periods of cardiac arrest and, even more interestingly, a clinically dead brain. Most of these people have no memories from their sojourn in the ”realm of the dead”. But a small percentage of them have, and that is enough for us to have access to thousands of personal accounts of crystal-clear memories of conscious experiences during minutes when, according to materialist science, it would not be possible for the brain to produce even hazy dream images.
Several studies have been conducted where people with such near-death experiences (NDE) have been interviewed and followed up. What the interviewees have in common is the clarity of their memories, a feeling that what they experienced was more real than this reality (”the dream is this physical life”) and a sense of being surrounded by immense love and peacefulness. Many claim they have communicated with deceased loved ones or with other beings. In a statistically significant number of cases brain dead persons have after waking up told about what has occurred or been said in the physical space, things they could not possibly know anything about; sometimes events in the hospital room, sometimes events in locations farther away.
Among the most known cases of NDE, neurosurgeon Eben Alexander stands out. He was a natural science-minded religion sceptic when he, in 2008, suffered a brutal bacterial attack on his brain, which was completely knocked out for nearly a week. The doctors gave Alexander a two percent chance of survival to a life as severely mentally disabled. But he woke up spontaneously, and a few years later he wrote a book and began lecturing about the hyperreal heavenly realm he had been a part of during his time as clinically dead. Cardiologist Pim van Lommel saw so many materialistically inexplicable cases during his career that he decided to conduct a large longitudinal study, which resulted in the book ”Consciousness Beyond Life”, a fascinating guide to near-death experiences.
•Among research institutions, the University of Virginia is particularly worth mentioning. Its Division of Perceptual Studies has done research on the non-physical aspects of consciousness since the 1960s. The founder Ian Stevenson and his successor Jim Tucker have made great contributions to bridge the gap between science and spirituality. Near-death experiences are an important part of the research, but the division has also published fascinating studies of children who tell about past lives. Also in this body of research there is a small but significant number of provable recounts of concrete details which on scrutiny have shown to be correct parts of the lives of actual persons, individuals who undoubtedly have existed and died, and about whom these young children could not have informed themselves in any other way.
”There is compelling evidence to suggest that the physical heart is coupled to a field of information that is not bound by the classical limits of time and space”
•The Heart Math Institute in northern California conducts advanced studies on the intelligence of the heart. The heart is at least as important an organ as the brain for the interaction between the non-physical and the physical aspects of a human. The strongest magnetic field in the body is generated by the heart; it is a lot stronger than the brain’s. When you connect measuring instruments to subjects who get to look at a series of more or less emotionally strong images, it turns out that the heart’s signals come one and a half seconds before the brain’s. But what is most astonishing is the following: The heart signals that it receives information about the emotionally challenging image up to five seconds before the computer randomly chooses to show the image on a screen. ”There is compelling evidence to suggest that the physical heart is coupled to a field of information that is not bound by the classical limits of time and space”, the institute says.
•Phenomena like telepathy, telekinesis, clairvoyance, precognition and remote viewing are in line with what quantum physics tells us about non-local impact and the notion of a unified field. These days even parapsychologists speak of time as something relative, something malleable, and that we on some energy level are in constant contact with what we call the future and what we call the past. Most of us have in fact experienced at least some aspect of what is normally labelled as ”supernatural”, like powerful hunches, deeply meaningful coincidences or dreams that later show to come true. Thus, we are co-creators, we are not victims of circumstances beyond our control.
•The so-called placebo effect is severely underrated. The research on it ought to be dynamite. In many double-blind studies more than 30 percent of the patients who have been given a sugar pill get better just by virtue of their conviction that they have been given the effective drug. When it comes to painkilling drugs the placebo effect is close to 60 percent. What neuron activity in the brain could possibly achieve this if the body were merely a randomly assembled flesh robot?
In practice, almost all of us know from our own experience that the placebo effect works. When you are in love your body feels healthier than ever. When you are in agony you feel pain in your stomach and head, or worse. Psychosomatic diseases is an established concept. And yet the placebo effect is still ”a mystery” to medical science. That would not make any sense if it were not for the materialist model that is still the standard.
In part two I both look back into history and gaze forward into the future: Why are we stuck in this science–spirituality dichotomy, and what dramatic changes await our species?