Awe: Transpersonal Experience as Catalyst to Post-Reductionism. Toward Consciousness- or Life-Centered Civilization
An essay by Nelson Abreu, IAC California
For the majority of human history, we have considered the human spirit, soul, self, or mind a self-evident and fundamental part of Reality. The material realm was often regarded as less of a reality than consciousness, or at best an extension or reflection of it. With the progress of empirical science, however, a conflict developed between those those who dared question orthodox doctrines and the religious power that defended such dogma. A relative truce was achieved by establishing mutually-exclusive magisteria: the material realm could be investigated by the scientific spirit and matters of the spirit were to be left to the clergy.
Religious authority's censorship and abuse of power led scientists away from studying the nature of our internal reality, limiting to phenomena that can be physically posited, until subjective reality was all but rejected in a new kind of bias and censorship: an epistemological fundamentalism often referred to as scientism. Consciousness was increasingly considered an illusion, an imaginary ghost in the biological billiard ball machine, an epiphenomenon of the brain.
It is worth pointing out that many of the pioneers of quantum physics (as well as the likes of Newton, Descartes, Einstein) did not limit their world view to the observable physical world and were curious about the subjective realm. While great technological progress has been achieved through Newtonian-Cartesian material science, it's usefulness has deteriorated with the rise of quantum physics a century ago.
After a reductionist detour of about two centuries, the idea that consciousness is real, fundamental, and irreducible is resurgent. However, this time consciousness is returning to the center as a result of the application of the scientific spirit, including parapsychology and contemporary consciousness science, rather than religious thought. The current planetary crisis is further demonstrative of the inadequacy of the materialistic worldview as a paradigm upon which to build civilizations. Not only is the ailing materialistic paradigm challenged by the physics and consciousness research of the last century, materialism lacks internal, logical consistency as elucidated by idealism philosophers like Bernardo Kastrup. We can also look to remarks by speculative realism philosophers like Graham Harman on the folly of reductionist scientism:
"[T]here’s a more insidious form of human-centric ontology, as found in many version of scientism. On the one hand, scientism insists that human consciousness is nothing special, and should be naturalized just like everything else. On the other hand, it also wants to preserve knowledge as a special kind of relation to the world quite different from the relations that raindrops and lizards have to the world. Another of putting it… for all their gloating over the fact that people are pieces of matter just like everything else, they also want to claim that the very status of that utterance is somehow special. For them, raindrops know nothing and lizards know very little, and some humans are more knowledgeable than others. This is only possible because thought is given a unique ability to negate and transcend immediate experience, which inanimate matter is never allowed to do in such theories, of course. In short, for all its noir claims that the human doesn’t exist, it elevates the structure of human thought to the ontological pinnacle."
The curriculum of educational activities and the research programs at International Academy of Consciousness are based on a paradigm that recognizes consciousness as more than an ephemeral result of biological evolution, which is itself widely considered to be an accidental outcome of matter-energy. The Consciential Paradigm gives central stage to consciousness - after all, all we observe and experience is through and in consciousness. It does not dismiss the material reality and the biological systems. Rather, it contextualizes it in a more holistic, integrative, multi-level "outer" cosmos that extends from physical reality into other subtle aspects of reality experienced through chi, near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, cosmic consciousness and more. The "outer" appears more and more like an extension of the "inner," each giving meaning to the other. Without the observing, participating consciousness, "outer" reality loses any meaning as reality outside of observation is not something we can ascertain. Without the "inner" reality, our microcosm and our shared experiences, a reductionist, mechanistic account of reality is clearly limited.
Though stubbornly holding on, reductionist materialism has been in decline for over a century. However, why is the pathological, destructive mono-materialist paradigm so persistent? Our senses give us a false sense of solidity of matter and hide the fact that it is only the tip of the iceberg of a spectrum of consciousness realities. However, as a result of transpersonal experiences, we become more perceptive and able to able to transcend the usual limits of human awareness, ethics and maturity.
We can step out of our physical and solid world and look out through another lens. By doing so, we can see ourselves and our lives from a different perspective and when we come back, our worldview is shifted and changed. As worldviews change, so do all disciplines and aspects of civilization, from art and architecture and to ethics and economics. The ramifications touch and inform all of our problems on earth. Many of the world’s problems come from the human-centered perspective that nature and life are things; they are to be used and then thrown away. When we see ourselves as consciousness that exists outside the physical body, this continuity and connection between ourselves, our bodies, spirits, and all living things becomes apparent.
With this knowledge, life, the environment, and most other things in life become more valuable and precious. Through extraordinary human experiences and related scientific evidence, we can see ourselves as a multi-dimensional consciousness in the process of evolution along with other beings. With this realization, we become more connected in a cosmic way to our fellow human beings and the priority becomes the well-being and development of individuals, communities, and the human family as a whole: human knowledge, abilities, intelligences, ethics, maturity, character, cooperation, and integral health.
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