The Self-Aware Universe

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The Self-Aware Universe
Auteur(s): Amit Goswami, Richard E. Reed, Maggie Goswami
Taal: Engels
Type: Boek
Trefwoorden: kwantum, universum, spiritualiteit, fysica, wetenschap, religie
Pagina's: 320

The Self-Aware Universe: How consciousness creates the material world, Amit Goswami, Ph.D.

Part 1: The Integration of Science and Spirituality

Introduction to Part 1 [001]

The Chasm and the Bridge [003]

The Old Physics and Its Phylosophical Legacy [013]

Quantum Physics and the Demise of Matrerial Realism [024]

The Philospohy of Monistic Idealism [048]

Part 2: Idealism and the Resolution of the Quantum Paradoxes

Introduction to Part 2 [063]

Objects in Two Places at Once and Effects That Precede Their Causes [065]

The Nine Lifes of Schrödinger's Cat [078]

[079] [080] [081] [082] [083] [084] [085] [086] [087] [088] [089] [090] [091] [092] [093] [094] [095] [096]

You might even imagine that with the aid of supertechnology you record and analyze the data of your own brain (upon seeing the red Ilower). The brain state you find for yourself should not have any discernible difference from all the others.

Consider the following curious twist to the experiment: You have no reason to suspect that the description of all the other people's brain states is not complete (especially if your belief in your superscience is complete). And yet, with regard to your own brain state, you know that something is left out: namely, your role as the observer—your consciousness of the experience represented by your brain state, the actual conscious perception of redness. Your subjective experience could not be part of the objective brain state because in such a situation, who would be observing the brain? The famous Canadian neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield similarly was bewildered by pondering the prospect of performing brain surgery on himself: "Where is the subject and where is the object if you are operating on your own brain?"

There must be a difference between your brain as the observer and the brains of those whom you observe. The only alternative conclusion is that the brain states that you constructed even with superscience are incomplete. Since your brain state is incomplete and other people's brain states are identical to yours, then they must also be incomplete, for they all leave out consciousness.

This is a paradox for the material realists because, from their viewpoint, neither of the above outcomes is desirable. The materialist will be reluctant to give a special privilege to a particular observer (that would amount to solipsism) yet also averse to admitting that any achievable description of the brain state using materialistic science would be, ipso facto, incomplete.

The paradox is resolved by the idealist interpretation of quantum mechanics because in that interpretation the quantum-mechanical description of the brain-mind does not include the transcendent subject, consciousness, and is admitted to be incomplete to that extent. In that incompleteness, room is made for conscious experience.

An important key is the neurosurgeon's question, Where is the subject and where is the object if you are operating on your own brain? The point is made by the expression "'what we are looking for is what is looking." Consciousness involves a paradoxical selfreference, an ability, taken for granted, to refer to ourselves separate from the environment.


Erwin Schrödinger said: "Without being aware of it and without being rigorously systematic about it, we exclude the Subject of Cognizance from the domain of nature that we endeavor to understand." A quantum measurement theory that dares to invoke consciousness in the affairs of quantum objects, in order to be "rigorously systematic," must deal with the paradox of self-reference. Let us elaborate on this concept.

When is a measurement complete? [reprise] [097]

A subtle criticism can be made of the assertion that a transcendent consciousness collapses the wave function of a quantum object. The criticism is that the consciousness that causes the collapse of the wave function might be that of an external, omnipresent God, as in the following:

There once was a man who said, "God
Must think it exceedingly odd
If he finds that this tree
Continues to be When there is no one about in the quad."
Dear sir, your astonishment's odd
I am always about in the quad
And that's why the tree
Will continue to be
Since observed by, Yours faithfully, God.

An omnipresent God collapsing the wave function does not resolve the measuremenl paradox, however, because we can ask, At what point is the measurement complete if God is always looking? The answer is crucial: The measurement is not complete without the inclusion of the immanent awareness. The most familiar example of an inHnanent awareness is, of course, that of a hurnan being's brain-Inind. When is a measurement complete) When the transcendent consciousness collapses the wave function by rneans of an irnlnanent brain-mind looking on with awareness. This formulation agrees with Ollr comrnonsense observation that there is never an experience of a Inaterial object without a concornitanl rnental object, such as the thought I see this object, or without, at least, awareness.


Note that we have to make a distinction between consciousness with awareness and without awareness. The collapse of the wave function takes place in the former case but not in the latter. Consciousness without awareness is referred to as unconscious in the psychological literature.

Of course, there is some causal circularity to the view that immanent awareness is needed to complete the measurement, since without the completion of the measurement there can be no immanent awareness. Awareness or measurement, which comes first? Which is the first cause? Are we stuck with a chicken-or-the-egg question?

A Sufi story has a similar flavor. One night the Mulla Nasruddin was traveling a lonely road when he spotted a troop of horsemen approaching. The Mulla became nervous and started to run. The horsemen saw him running and went after him. Now the Mulla became really fearful. Coming on the walls of a graveyard and propelled by fear, he jumped the wall, found an empty coffin, and lay down in it. The horsemen had seen himjump the wall, and they followed him into the graveyard. After a little search they found the Mulla looking fearfully up at them.

"Is there anything wrong?" the horsemen asked the Mulla. "Can we help you in any way? Why are you here?"

"Well, it's a long story," replied the Mulla. "To make it short, I am here because of you, and I can see that you are here because of me."

If we are stuck with only one order of reality, the physical order of things, then there is a genuine paradox here for which there is no solution within material realism. John Wheeler has called the circularity of quantum measurement a "meaning circuit,"'" which is a very sensitive description, but the real question is, Who reads the meaning? Only for idealism is this no paradox, because consciousness acts from outside the system and completes the meaning circuit.

This solution is similar to that of the so-called prisoner's problem, an elementary problem of game theory."" Through a tunnel dug with the help of an outside friend, you plan to escape from a prison cell (fig. 27). Obviously, your escape will be much facilitated if both you and your friend dig from opposite sides of the same corner; communication is not possible, however, and there are six corners from which to choose. The chance of escape does not look good, does it? But consider for a moment the shape of your cell, and the chance is excellent that you will choose to dig at corner number 3. Why? Because number 3 is the only corner that looks different (concave) !i'om the outside.


Therefore, you would expect your friend to begin digging there. Similarly, only number 3 is convex from the inside, so your friend will probably expect you to begin digging there as well.

Now what is your friend's motivation to dig at this particular corner? It is you! He sees you choosing this corner for the same reason that you see him choosing it. Notice that we can assign no causal sequence in this case and therefore no simple hierarchy of levels. Instead of causal linearity, we have causal circularity. No one decided on the plan. Instead, the plan was a mutual creation guided by a higher purpose—the prisoner's escape.

Douglas Hofstadter has called this kind of situation a tangled hierarchy—a hierarchy that is so mixed up that we cannot tell which is higher and which is lower on the hierarchical totem pole. Hofstadter thinks that self-reference may come out of such a tangled hierarchy. I suspect that the situation in the brain-mind, with consciousness collapsing the wave function but only when awareness is present, is a tangled hierarchy and that our immanent self-reference is of tangled hierarchical origin. An observation by a self-relerential system is where the van Neumann chain stops.

Irreversibility and Time's Arrow [099]

When is a measurement complete? The idealist says that it is complete only when a self-referential observation has taken place.

[100] [101] [102] [103] [104]

I Choose, Therefore I Am [105]

We have not yet confronted the important question What is consciousness? And how docs one distinguish between consciousness and awareness?

Alas, a definition of consciousness is not easy. The word conscio",,ness derives from two words: the Latin verb scire, which means to know, and the Latin preposition cum, which means with. Thus consciousness, etymologically, means "to know with."

In the Oxford English Dictionary, moreover, there are not one but six definitions of the word consciousness:

  1. Joint or mutual knowledge.
  2. Internal knowledge or conviction, especially of one's own ignorance, guilt, deficiencies, and so forth.
  3. The fact or state of being conscious or aware of anything.
  4. The state or faculty of being conscious as a condition or concomitant of all thought, feeling, and volition.
  5. The totality of the impressions, thoughts, and feelings which make up a person's conscious being.
  6. The state of being conscious regarded as the normal condition of healthy waking life.

None of these definitions is completely satisfactory, but considered all together they provide an approximate understanding of what consciousness is.


Imagine a situation in which each of these different definitions comes into play. (We shall assign each definition a subscript-l through 6.) A bouquet of roses is delivered to you. The delivery man, you, and the sender all share consciousness, regarding the gift of roses. It is in your consciousness, that you know the history, associations, and connotations of roses and of their meaning as a gift to you (and in this consciousness, you mayor may not appreciate the gift). Your sensory experience of roses resides in your consciousness" whereby you are able to smell their fragrance, see their color, and feel their thorns. It is your consciousness4' however, that enables you to attach the meanings, consider the relationships, and make the choices connected to the gift (whether to accept or reject the roses, for example). Your consciousness" is what makes you the unique you, as distinct from your lover ., and from everyone else, who responds in a particular way to the gift of roses. It is only by virtue of your consciousness that you are able to receive the roses, anyway, or to experience or exhibit any of the preceding states of consciousness.

Even this analysis of the word leaves out quite a bit. Consciousness has four different aspects. First, there is the field of consciousness, sometimes referred to as the mind field or global workspace.' This is what I have called awareness. Second, there are objects of consciousness, such as thoughts and feelings, that arise and pass away in this field. Third, there is a subject of consciousness, the experiencer and/or witness. (The dictionary definitions are really about the subject of consciousness or the conscious self with which we identify.) Fourth, in idealist philosophy, we speak of consciousness as the ground of all being.

A commonsense definition of consciousness equates it with conscious experience. Speaking of a subject of consciousness without speaking of experience is like speaking of a ballet stage without the ballet. Notice that the concept of conscious experience is not restricted to waking consciousness. Dreaming is a conscious experience, though different from that of the waking state. The states that we experience in meditation, under drugs, in hypnotic trances-all such altered states of consciousness involve experiences.

Common sense also tells us that conscious experiences come with many concomitants, some internal and some external. As I type this page, for example, I watch my mind as my fingers punch the typewriter keys. I am thinking, How well is the page turning out? Should I reword that sentence? Am I explaining too little or too much? And now I hear a knock at my study door.


I call out, Who is it? No answer. I have to make a choice. Either I yell louder this time, or I get up and open the door.

Now the external concomitants are easy. I do not identify myself with my fingers, even when they are busy doing things that I value, such as typing this page. Few of us would think of identifying consciousness with sensations, sense impressions, or motor actions. Can you imagine saying, I am my walking to the door? Of course not. Common sense tells us that the external concomitants of a conscious experience are not the fundamental elements of consciousness.

When it comes to the internal stuff of the mimi-thoughts, feelings, choices, and so forth-things become much less clear. For example, many people-following the lead of Descartes-identify themselves with their thoughts: I think, therefore I am. For others, being conscious is synonymous with feeling: I feel, therefore I am. Some of us may even identify ourselves with the ability to choose. Nietzsche, for example, equates being and will.

Science is uncommon sense: We resort to science when cornmon sense fails. Turning to psychology does not help, however. As the prominent cognitivist Ulric Neisser said: "Psychology is not ready to tackle the issue of consciousness." Fortunately, physics is. This means returning to quantum theory and to the measurement problem that raised the discussion of consciousness in the first place. The idealist resolution of the paradox of Schrödinger's cat demands that the consciousness of the observing subject choose one facet from the multifaceted dead-and-alive coherent superposition of the cat and thus seal its fate. The subject is the chooser. It is not cogito, ergo sum, as Descartes thought, but opto, ergo sum: I choose, therefore I am.

Mind and mind's laws lay hid in night.
God said: "Let Descartes be," and there was light.
It did not last. The devil shouted, "Ho!
Here's Schrodinger's cat! Restore the status quo."

(Our apologies to Mr. Pope, of course.)

I know, the devotees of classical physics will shake their heads with disapproval because they think that there is no freedom of choice, or free will, in our deterministic world. Because of their assumption of causal determinism, they have attempted to condition us into believing that we are material machines. Suppose that we suspend our conditioning for a few moments. After all, we solved the Schrodinger's cat paradox with our hypothesis.


In the same spirit of investigation, we ask, what then? In answer, a door opens. As captivated as we are with thoughts and feelings, they derive from old, fixed, learned contexts. Is the same true of free will? Our choices set the context for our action, thus the possibility of a new context arises when we choose. It is just this possibility of jumping out of the old context and into a new one at a higher level that makes us free in our choice.

A distinctive language has developed for describing specifically this kind of situation—a hierarchical structure of contextual levels. This language, known as the theory of logical types, was originally developed by Bertrand Russell to solve problems that arose in set theory. Russell's basic idea was that a set consisting of members of the set is of a higher logical type than the members themselves because the set defines the context for thinking about the members. Similarly, the name of a thing, which depicts the context of the thing it describes, is of a higher logical type than the thing itself. Thus, out of the three internal concomitants of conscious experience, choice does stand out. It is of a higher logical type than thoughts and feelings.

Is it the capacity for choice, then, that makes us conscious of the experiences that we choose? In every moment, we literally face myriad alternative possibilities. From these we choose, and as we choose, we recognize the course of our becoming. Thus our choosing and our recognition of choice defines our self. The primary question of self~consciousness is to choose or not to choose.

The idea that choice is the defining concomitant of selfconsciousness has some experimental support. Data from experiments in cognitive science indicate that thoughts and feelings, but not choice, arise in response to unconscious perception of stimuli. According to the data, which are described in the following section, we do not seem to exercise choice unless we are acting consciously—with awareness as subjects.

This raises the question of what it means to act without awareness—the concept of the unconscious. What is the unconscious in us? The unconscious is that for which there is consciousness but no awareness. Note that there is no paradox here because in the philosophy of idealism consciousness is the ground of being. It is omnipresent, even when we arc in an unconscious state.


Part of the confusion over the term unconscious perception arises from the historical idiosyncracies of the term's etymology. It is our conscious self that is unconscious of some things most of the time and of everything when we are in dreamless sleep. In contrast, the unconscious seems to be conscious of all things all of the time. It never sleeps. That is to say, it is our conscious self that is unconscious of our unconscious, and the unconscious that is conscious-we have the two terms backward. Read Daniel Goleman's Vital Lies, Simple Truths for further elucidation of this point.

So, when we speak of unconscious perception, we are speaking of events that we perceive but that we are not aware of perceiving.

Unconscious Perception Experiment

I know it souuds odd. How can there be a phenomenon called unconscious perception? Is perception not synonymous with awareness? The writers of the Oxford English Dictionary apparently think so. And yet, new data in the cognitive laboratory point toward a distinction between the two concepts—perception and awareness.

The initial experimentation involved two monkeys. Researchers Nick Humphrey and Lewis Weiskrantz had removed the cortical areas connected with vision from the monkeys. Since cortical tissue does not grow back, these monkeys were expected to remain pennanently blind. Yet they gradually seemed to recover enough of their sight to convince the researchers that they could see.

One of the monkeys, Helen, was often taken outside on a leash. She gradually learned to do some rather unusual things for a creature who should have been blind. For example, she could climb trees. She also took proffered food when it was near enough to grab but ignored it when it was too far to reach. Clearly, Helen was seeing, but with what?

It turns out that there is a secondary pathway for optical stimuli from the retina to a structure in the hindbrain called the superior colliculus. This collicular vision was enabling Helen to see with what the researchers dubbed blindsight.

By chance, Nick Humphrey came across a human subject with blindsight.3 A failure in this man's cortex had caused him to become blind in the left visual field of both eyes. Now the experimenters were able to ask the subject what was happening in consciousness when he did certain tasks permitted him by blindsight. And the answers were strange.


For example, if the man was shown a light to his left, his blind side, he could point to it with accuracy. He could also distinguish crosses from circles and horizomal Jines finm vertical ones, all left visual field. But when asked how he saw these things, the I insisted that he did not. He claimed that he just guessed, in spite of the fact that his accuracy rate was far beyond that attributable chance.

What does all this mean? There is now some consensus an cognitive scientists that blindsight is an example of uncousc Jerception—perception without awareness of it. So you see, perception and awareness are not necessarily intertwined.

Further physiological and cognitive evidence lor unconscious I eption has corne from research done both in America and ussia.-' Researchers have measured the electrical responses in rains of various subjects to a variety of subliminal messages. 1 sponses were Usually stronger when a meaningful picture, such as that of a bee, was flashed on a screen for a thousandth of a second than when a more neutral picture, such as an abstract geometric picture, was shown. (Obviously mathematicians were not in the test group.) Furthermore, when subjects were asked to tell the n rchers all the words that carne to mind after these sublimin. IOsures, a meaningful picture yielded words that were clearly related to the image flashed. For example, the picture of the bee, elicited such words as sting and honey. In contrast, a geometrica re elicited hardly anything related to the object. Clearly, there was the perception of the picture of the bee, but there was no conscious awareness of that perception.

These experiments have been hailed in the popular press as experimental proof of Sigmund Freud's concept of the unconscious that startled the scientific world at the turn of the century. What, however, is unconscious in us? The unconscious is that lor which there is consciousness (as the ground of being), but no awareness or subject. So in unconscious perception, we are talking about that ee perceive (that is, events that are taken in as stimuli and proocessed) but that we are not aware of perceiving. In contrast, conscious perception involves taking in stimuli, processing them, and becoming aware of the perception.

The phenomenon of unconscious perception raises a crucial question. Are any of the three common concomitants of conscious experience (thought, feeling, and choice) absent in unconscious perception?


The experiment involving sumbliminal messages suggests that thought is present, since the subjects thought of the words sting and honey as a consequence of their unconscious perception of the picture of a bee. Obviously, We go right on thinking even I unconscious, and unconscious thoughts affect our conscious thoughts.

In regard to feeling, an experiment done with split-brain patients has yielded important evidence. In these subjects, the left and hemispheres of the brain were surgically disconnected excel' the cross-connections in the hindbrain centers that are involved in emotion and feeling. When a picture of a nude male model was projected into the right hemisphere of a female subject during a sequence of geometrical patterns, she showed embarrassment by blushing. When asked why, however, she denied being embarrassed. She had no conscious awareness of these inner feelings ould not explain why she blushed. Thus feeling is also present during unconscious perception. and an unconscious feeling can produce an unexplainable conscious feeling.

—tot hier heb ik e.e.a. nagekeken—

Finally, we ask, does choice, too, occur in unconscious I' 'ption? "10 find out, we must send an ambiguous stimulus to I -ain-mind so that a choice of responses is available. In a relev, 'gnitive experiment, the psychologist Tony Marcel used po mous words, words with more than one meaning. His subjec ,tched a screen as three words in a series were Hashed one at a tin intervals of either 600 milliseconds or 1.5 seconds between lias, [S. I; The subjects were asked to push a button when they COI )usly recognized the last word of the series. The original purpo, he experiment was to use the subject's reaCtion time as a measul .he relationship between congruence (or lack of it) among th ds and the meanings assigned to the words in such series a d-palm-wrist (congruent), dock-palm-wrist (unbiased), tree n-wrist (incongruent), and dock-bail-wrist (unassociated). FOI np/e, the bias of the word hand followed by the lIashing ofpah" 1t be expeCted to produce the hand-related meaning of palm, h then should improve the reaction time of the subjeCt for ~nizing the third word, wrist (congruence). If the biasing word tree, then the lexical meaning of fJalm as a tree should be ~ed, and the meaning-recognition of the third word, wrist, d take a longer reaction time (incongruous). Indeed, this was the result


When, however, the middle word was masked by a pattern so that the subject saw it unconsciously but not consciously, there was no longer any appreciable difference in reaction time between the congruent and the incongruent cases. This should be surprising, because presumably both meanings of the ambiguous word were available to the person, regardless of the biasing context, yet neither meaning was chosen over the other. Apparently, choice is a concomitant of conscious experience but not of unconscious perception. Our subject-consciousness arises when there is a choice made: We choose, therefore we are.

It fits. When we do not choose, we do not own up to our perceptions. Thus the man with blindsight denies seeing anything when he avoids an obstacle. The woman with a split cortex blushes but denies feeling embarrassment.

Perhaps cognitive psychology can help explain consciousness, after all-especially if it can be used to test ideas based on the quantum theory of the subject itself. Both quantum theory and these cognitive experiments show that there is a scientific basis for the emphasis that the Western tradition puts on freedom of choice as central to the human experience.

Notice that if the quantum explanation of Marcel's experiment is correct, then the experiment is indirectly demonstrating the existence of coherent superpositions in our brain-mind. Before choice, the state of the brain-mind is an ambiguous state-like that of Schrodinger's cat. I n response to a polysemous word, the brainmind's state becomes a coherent superposition of two states. Each corresponds to a distinct meaning of palm: tree or hand. The collapse consists of the choice between one of these states. (There may be some bias for one meaning because of conditioning. For example, a Californian may have a slight preference for the tree meaning of palm. In that case, the probability-weighting of the two possibilities would not be equal but would favor the biased meaning. There would be a nonzero probability for the other meaning, however, and there would still be the question of choice.)

I choose, therefore I am. Remember, also, that in quantum theory, the subject that chooses is a single, universal subject, not our personal ego "I." Moreover, as an experiment discussed in the next chapter shows, this choosing consciousness is also nonlocal.


The Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Paradox [113]

The idealist scenario of quantum collapse hinges on consciousness being non local. So we need to ask whether there is any experimental proof of nonlocality. We are in luck. In 1982, Alain Aspect and his collaborators at the University of Paris-Sud conducted an experiment that conclusively demonstrated quantum nonlocality'.

In the 1930s, Einstein helped create a paradox, now famous as the EPR paradox, to prove the incompleteness of quantum mechanics and to bolster support for realism. Given Einstein's philosophical inclinations, EPR might as well have stood for Einstein for the Preservation of Realism. Ironically, the paradox boomeranged against realism, at least against material realism, and Aspect's experiment is part of this turnabout.

Recall the Heisenberg uncertainty principle-at any given time only one of the two complementary variables, position and momentum, can be measured with absolute certainty. This means that we can never predict the trajectory of a quantum object. With two collaborators, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen (the P and R of EPR), Einstein constructed a scenario that seems to contradict this un predictability.

Imagine that two electrons, call them Joe and Moe, interact with each other for a time and then stop interacting. These electrons are, of course, identical twins, because electrons are indistinguishable. Suppose that the distances of Joe and Moe from some origin on a… [snip]

The Reconciliation of Realism and Idealism [137]

Part 3: Self-Reference: How the One Becomes Many [147]

Introduction to Part 3 [147]

Exploring the Mind-Body Problem [149]

In Search of the Quantum Mind [161]

Paradoxes and Tangled Hierarchies [176]

The "I" of Consciousness [188]

The Love of a Classical Mechanic: A Parable [196]

[197] [198]

They were even selected as life members of the local chapter of Walden II, the first such honor ever bestowed. '3 Not to worry, such a potion will never be found. Yet, incessant and unnecessary behavioral, cultural, political, and social conditioning do function as the chemical potion in the parable by hobbling the potential that the quantum self offers us. So the next question is, How can we take responsibility for the emerging knowledge that we are bigger than materialism acknowledges? Where do we go from here? This is the subject of Part 4.

Integrating the Psychologies [199]

The self (the "I") is not a thing but a relationship between conscious experience and the immediate physical environment. In a ('()ns~ious experience, the world appears to be divided into subject and object(s). Upon reflection in the mirror of memory, this division produces the dominant experience of the ego.

There has been much philosophical thinking on the nature of the self (or "I"). This branch of philosophy is sometimes called phenomenology. Phenomenologists study the mind via introspe~tion, not unlike the meditation employed by I;astern mystical philosophers and psy~hologists. There are also numerous Western psy~hological models (besides behaviorism). The psychoanalytical model proposed by Freud, for example, maintains that the self is dominated hy unconscious drives.

It is interesting to examine how the model of the self that we have called quantum fun~tionalism a~counts for the varieties of "1"experience and to ~ompare quantum functionalism with other philosophical and psychological models. This chapter includes such a ~omparison, in~orporating some thoughts from philosophy, psychology, and the new physics (as it regards the nature of the self and of free will).'


Characteristics Assiciated with the Experiences of "I" [200]

The salient experiences of the "I" are as follows:

  1. Intentionality (purposeful, directional focusing toward an object, including desire, judgment, and speculation)
  2. Self-awareness (sense of self)
  3. Reflectivity (awareness of being aware)
  4. Ego-experience (feeling that the self is a unique entity with a certain character, personality, and contingent personal history)
  5. Attention (experience of the ability of the self to direct its focus toward one object or another)
  6. Transpersonal-self experiences (moments of revelation or insight, as in the creative ah-ha experience)
  7. Implicit experience of the self (experiences in which there is division of the world into subject and object but no explicit experience of "I")
  8. Choice and free will
  9. Experiences related to the unconscious

These "I" experiences are not, of course, mutually exclusive. Quite the contrary. They are intimately connected WiIh one another. Bearing that in mind, let us now look closer at each of these experiences.

Intentionality, Self-Awareness, and Reflectivity The pointing toward an object that is a concomitant of most conscious experience is referred to in the philosophical literature as intentionality." There are many modes of intentionality, such as desire, judgment, and speculation. Thus the word does not refer to intentions alone. The experience of "I" that intends is, of course, self-aware, but it is much more; it is directed and purposeful in its thoughts and feelings.

So, one of the most common experiences of the "I" is of itself as a subject with intentions toward some object. Another common experience of "I" occurs when we reflect about ourselves, when, in reHective experiences, we become aware of having been aware. This, too, is a subject-object experience, with the "I" playing the role of subject and consciousness playing the role of object.


What causes the division of the world into subjects and objects? Different philosophies give different answers. The major positions, I hose of the materialist and the idealist, are summarized here.

To material realists, the question to be answered is, How does the suhject arise from a conglomerate of material objects like neurons aud gray matter? Their answer is epiphenomenalism-the subject is an emergent epiphenomenon of the brain. No one, however, has Iwen able to show how such an emergence might occur. Artificial intelligence models (connectionism) depict the brain as a parallel processing computer network; within this basic philosophy, bottom-up theorists try to prove that subject-consciousness arises as "order within chaos," as a new emergent function. Fundamentally, all of these models suffer from the same basic conundrum: There is no provable connection between computer states (or neuronal states) "nd the states of mind that we experience.

In contrast, to monistic idealists all things are in and of consciousness. Thus in this philosophy, the relevant question is, How does t'Onsciousness, which is all, split itself into a subject that experiences "nd objects that are experienced? Here, the quantum theory of self-consciousness is able to give prima facie proof of how such a division may arise. According to this theory, the states of the brain-mind are cnsidered to be quantum states, which are probability-weighted, multifaceted, possibility structures. Consciousness collapses the multifaceted structure (a coherent superposition) choosing one facet but only in the presence of brain-mind awareness. (Awareness, remember, is the mind-field in which objects of experience arise.) Which comes first: awareness or choice? This is a tangled hierarchy. It is this tangled-hierarchical situation that gives rise to selfreference, to the subject-object split of the world.

Further secondary-awareness processes lead to intentionalit—the tendency to identify with an object. The "I" ofreHective awareness also arises out of these secondary-awareness processes. Both the primary experience and the secondary processes normally remain in what is often referred to in the psychological literature as the preconscious; this obscuration of the tangled hierarchy of the prilIlary process is fundamental to the simple hierarchical identity with our "I."



The Polish psychologist Z. Zaborowski, who reviewed the psychological literature on self-awareness, defined self-awareness as the coding, processing, and integration of information about the self. 7 In my view, such a characterization fits more than self-awareness; it also fits what is ordinarily called the ego experience. Self-awareness is a concomitant of the ego-experience but not all of it.

The most compelling experience of "I" is as the ego-the apparent doet; coder, processor, and integrator of our programs (to use Zaborowski's computer metaphor). The ego is the image we construct of the apparent experiencer of our everyday actions, thoughts, and feelings.

The ego has been the central actor in many theories of personality. Radical behaviorism and social learning theory imply that the ego is the locus of socially conditioned behavior-the result of stimulus, response, and reinforcement." In more recent behavioral literature, however, the ego is seen to be the mediator of external behavior via internal mental thoughts." Thus Zaborowski's cognitive definition of self-awareness and the later behavioral definition of the ego are similar.

Even according to the behavioral-cognitive school, however, the ego's actions can be fully stated in terms of input-output statements (albeit the output depends on the internal mental states). If this is so, there is no necessity for self:consciousness to be associated with the ego. This paradox is avoided by using the qualifier 'apparent' in the definition of the ego.

In the quantum theory of self-consciousness, the collapse of the coherent superposition of the quantum states of the brain-mind creates the subject-object split of the world. With conditioning, however, certain responses gain in probability when a learned stimulus is presented to the brain-mind. Consciousness identifies with the apparent processor of the learned responses, which is the ego; the identity, however. is never complete. Consciousness always leaves some room for unconditioned novelty. This makes possible what we know as free will.

Attention and Consciously Directed Actions


As the phenomenologist Edmund Husserl has noted, self-awareness, and thus the ego, is associated with the direction of conscious attention. There are also instances where the attention moves spontaneously.

In cognitive experiments that involve receiving and responding 10 a stimulus, subjects are typically able to ring a bell before they have self-awareness of the awareness of the stimulus and before they are able to verbalize this awareness of the stimulus. This capability suggests that there are primary- and secondary-awareness experiences and that the ego is associated with the secondary experiences of self-awareness but not with the primary experience.

Husserl, in describing the inherent association of selt~awareness and the ability to direct attention (of which ability we are not selfaware), has coined the phrase pure ego to denote a unitary self of which self-awareness and the director of attention are two aspects: two sides of the same coin. We will continue in this book to use, as we have done so far, the simple word self to denote the concept of the unified self.

In the cognitive functionalist/connectionist model, there is no explanation of self-awareness. Attention is assumed to be a function of the central processing unit that defines the ego.

By contrast, in the quantum theory of self-reference, the self acts in two modalities: the conditioned, classical ego-modality referring to secondary experiences that include self-awareness; and the unconditioned quantum modality that is associated with primaryawareness experiences, such as choice and direction of attention without self-awareness. The quantum model, therefore, agrees with the model of the phenomenologists.

Transpersonal-Self Experiences

In some experiences the identity of the self with the ego is considerably less than usual. An example is the creative experience in which the experiencer often describes the act as an act of God. Another example is the "peak experience" studied by the psychologist Abraham Maslow.'. Such experiences occur with a clear discontinuity in contrast to the more ordinary ego-continuity of the stream of consciousness. These experiences will be called transpersonal-self experiences since the identity with the particular persona of the experiencer is not dominant.

Transpersonal-self experiences often lead to a creative extension of the self-identity defined by the ego. This has been called selfactualization by Maslow (in the work previously cited) and, in this book, an act of inner creativity.


In Eastern psychology, this creative self-making is called the awakening of intelligence-buddhi in Sanskrit. Since the English word intelligence has other connotations, we will use the Sanskrit buddhi to mean the extended self-identity beyond ego. Although the behavioral-cognitive model does not acknowledge transpersonal experiences, the quantum theory recognizes them as direct experiences of the qnantnm modality of the self.

One major characteristic of transpersonal experiences is non locality-communication or propagation of influence without local signals. Simultaneons scientific discoveries are possible examples of such non local synchronicity. Paranormal experiences, such as telepathy, provide other examples.

Implicit Experience of the Self

As the existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre has pointed out, much of our common experience does not include the ego-"I" Sartre gave the example of a man counting cigarettes. As the man counts, he is absorbed in this task and has no self~awareness or any other reference to his ego. Then a friend comes around and asks, What are you doing? The man replies, I am counting my cigarettes. The man has regained his self-awareness. '3 In this kind of experience, there is consciousness, and the world is implicitly divided into subject and object; there is, however, little or no secondary reverberation of the experience.

Sartre's example falls in the lowest category of what the East Indian exponent of yoga, Patat~jali (around the second century A.D.), calls samadhi. '4 Starting with absorption in the object (the state of lowest samadhi), one begins a journey of transcending the object in higher and higher samadhis. Eventually, a state is reached when the object is seen in its identity with cosmic nonlocal consciousness.

In Eastern psychology, the subject of the cosmic-consciousness experience is referred to as the atman. Christianity refers to this primary universal self entity as the holy spirit. In Buddhism, it is sometimes called no-self, since it dependently co-arises with awareness (not hierarchically superior to awareness, its object). Other Buddhist philosophers have referred to the subject of pure awareness as the universal consciousness (for example, in the Lankavatara Sutra).


As the current Dalai Lama of Tibet points out, the terminology of no-self confuses people because it makes them think of nihilism. '5 In modern psychology, Assagioli has referred to this self-less self as the trans personal self. In the absence of an unambiguous English word, we will use the Sanskrit word atman to denote the self of the pure-awareness experience.

In the quantum theory of the self, the atman is seen as the quantum self-the unconditioned universal subject with which consciousness identifies and that arises codependently with awareness upon the collapse of the quantum coherent superposition. The individual self-experience, or ego, arises in the mirror of memory hum secondary reverberations of primary experiences. Considerahle neurophysiological evidence shows that there exists a time lag hetween primary- and secondary-awareness experiences.

Choice and Free Will

Perhaps the most confusing of the self experiences are those that involve choice and/or free will. Any conscious experience involves an opening out to the future and, in this sense, may be considered 10 involve openness or possibility. The experiences of choice and free will go beyond such openness. We will distinguish between the two terms although they often are used synonymously. Choice applies whenever we choose between alternatives, with or without selfawareness. Free will applies whenever a subsequent action is undertaken out of our own causal initiative.

Traditionally, behaviorists and cognitivists would say that there is no freedom of choice or free will. If we are classical computersparallel processing or not-neither of these concepts makes any sense. The argument is simply that there is no causal power that can he attributed to the ego, whose behavior is completely determined hy the state of its hardware and by its inputs from the environment. Spiritual and trans personal psychologies would agree with the hehavioral assessment that the ego does not have free will, but they would insist that there is real free will. It is the free will of the at man-the consciousness that exists before any kind of reflective, individual-self experience. If the ego does not have free will, how do we in our ego go beyond ego, which is the objective of spiritual traditions? The answer that the ego is an illusion does not seem satisfactory.


With the help of the quantum theory of consciousness, we now can resolve the conceptual quandary about free will. In the quantum theory, choice defines the primary self-the atman. I choose, therefore (tangled hierarchically) I am. However, with conditioning the choice is no longer completely free but biased in favor of conditioned responses. The question is, How far does the conditioning extend?

Obviously, at the primary-process level there is no conditioning; consequently, there is unrestricted freedom of choice. At the secondary level we have conditioned responses in the form of thoughts and feelings, but do we have to act on them? Our free will at the secondary level consists of the capacity to say no to learned conditioned responses.

Notice that we are led to using the two words c/wice and free will somewhat differently, and this is good. Current neurophysiological experiments show that there is virtue in not using the phrase free will for such experiences as using one's free will to raise one's arm. Recent experiments by Benjamin Libet clearly indicate that even before a person experiences awareness of his or her action (which is necessary to free will), there is an evoked potential that signals an objective observer that the person is going to will to raise his or her arm. In view of this, how can one say that free will of this kind is free? But Libet's experiments also reveal that a person retains his or her free will to say no to raising an arm, even after the evoked potential signals otherwise.

Clarifying the meaning of free will in this way can help us see the benefits of meditation-concentrating attention in the field of awareness on either a particular mind-object or on the entire field. Meditation allows us to become witnesses to the mental phenomena that arise in awareness, to the conditioned-response parade of thoughts and feelings. It creates a gap between the arousal of mental responses and the urge physically to act on them and thus enhances our capacity of free will to say no to conditioned acts. It is easy to see the value of such enhancement for changing destructive habitual behavior.

Experiences Related to the Unconscious

Some experiences are related to what is unconscious in us-to processes for which there is consciousness but no awareness. In quantum theory, these are situations in which the quantum state


does not collapse but goes on developing in time according to the dynamics of the situation. The unconscious dynamics, however, may playa significant role in later conscious events. This aspect allows us 10 verify the effects of quantum interference in experiments of unconscious perception.

In psychoanalytical thinking, some of the ego-self experiences are repressed in what Freud called the id andJung, the shadow. The remaining conscious experiences then define the persona-the image that one projects for people to see, the image of who a person Ihinks he or she is. I shall refer to the repressed part of the ego-self simply as the personal unconscious. Some of our ego experiences hecome distorted by the influence from the personal unconscious, and this unconscious influence gives rise to the psychopathologies-such as neurosis-that psychoanalysis tries to address.

How does the personal unconscious arise according to the quanlum theory? It arises as follows: The subject is conditioned to avoid certain mental states; consequently, the probability becomes overwhelming that these states are never collapsed from coherent superpositions that include them. Such coherent superpositions, however, may dynamically influence without apparent external cause the rollapse of subsequent states. Not knowing the cause of behavior may lead to neurosis-generating anxiety. Eventually, the subject may imagine causes and proceed to eliminate them through such neurotic behavior as compulsive hand washing.

Similarly, Jung suggested that many of our trans personal ex peri('nces are influenced by repressed archetypal themes of a collective unconscious-universal states that we usually do not experience. These repressed themes may also lead to pathologies.

In quantum theory, the contingent human form is subject to conditioning that suppresses certain mental states from manifestalion in the world. For example, a male body would tend to suppress I hose mental states that pertain to explicitly female experience. This is the origin of the .Jungian anima archetype. This suppression of the anima adversely limits male behavior. (Similarly, the animus archetype in females is suppressed, divorcing women from the male experience.)

When we dream or when we are under hypnosis, the self becomes primarily a witness and enters a state of relative absence of secondary-awareness events. In such a state, the normal inhibitions against collapsing repressed mental states are weakened.


Thus both dreams and hypnosis are useful for bringing the unconscious to consCiOUS awareness.

Similarly, in near-death experiences the immediacy of death releases much repressed unconscious conditioning, both collective and personal. As a result, many patients come out of near-death experiences full of joy and peace.

In attaining freedom in our actions, it is important to avoid being dominated either by our ego/persona conditioning or by our tyrannical, internal, repressed unconscious coherent superpositions.

The Spectrum of Self-Consciousness [208]

By surveying the characteristics of conscious experiences as described by phenomenology, psychology, cognitive science, and quantum theory, we can arrive at an important summary of how the self manifests in us-a summary that is of the spectrum of selfconsciousness (see also Wilber). Of all these theoretical models, however; only one-the quantum theory of consciousness-has the breadth to encompass the entire spectrum; therefore, the idealist quantum view of consciousness will he adopted from the outset in this summary.

In monistic idealism, consciousness is one-one without a second, said Shankara. The spectrum of self~consciousness consists of stations with which the one consciousness identifies itself at various stages of human development. The entire spectrum is surrounded at the lower end by the personal unconscious and at the upper by the collective unconscious. All the stages, however, are in consciousness.

This schema is conceived in developmental, not in hierarchical, terms. The higher we develop, the more ego-less we become, until at the highest level there is no discernible identity with the ego at all. Thus a prof'JUnd humility characterizes the levels of being beyond ego.

The Ego Level

At this level, the human being identifies with a psychosocially conditioned and learned set of contexts on which to operate.


These contexts give the human person a character. Depending on how absolute this ego-identity is, the person at this level tends to be <olipsistic. The contexts within which this person operates tend to lake on an aura of infallibility, and all other contexts are judged ,,!-(ainst the criteria of these personal contexts. The person believes, (Jnly I and my extensions (my family, my culture, my country, and so forth, have primary validity. All others are contingent.

Within the basic ego level, we can identify two bands. The first one, the pathological band, is closer to the personal unconscious. It i< strongly aflected by internal stimuli (uncollapsed coherent superpositions) from the unconscious. People in whom the self identifies with this band are often disturbed by the strivings and motivations or the unconscious. Their ego is divided into a self:image and a shadow image-the first propagated and the second suppressed.

The second band, the psychosocial, is where most of us live except Ii,,' an occasional excursion into lower and upper (in the developmental sense) bands of identity. In upper excursions, for example, we may be able to say no to a conditioned habitual response, thus exercising our free will; or we may delve into creative activities in the world; or we may unselfishly love somebody. The usualmotivaI ions for action at this level, however, are directed by a personal agenda that serves the perpetuation and strengthening of the character-image identity in its striving for fame, power, sex, and so forth.

Buddhi Level

This level is characterized by a less restricted identity for the selfone that explores the entire human potential. The personal motif of living at the ego level is replaced by one of inner creativity, selfexploration, and actualization.

Within this level, we can identify several bands. The bands, however, are not hierarchical, nor are they necessarily experienced in any chronological order. Some of them may even be bypassed.

The first, closer to the ego level, will be called the psychid mystical band. People who identify their self with this band have non local psychic and mystical experiences that enlarge their vision of the world and their role in it. The themes of the collective unconscious often surface in dreams, creative experiences, and the understanding of myths, which provide additional motivation for freedom and integration of the self.


Yet at this level of self-identity, people are still too motivated by personal desires to shift decisively to a truly fluid identity.

The second band is transpersonal. There is now a certain ability and tendency to witness internal processes without necessarily externalizing them. One's psychosocial contexts of living are no longer absolute. Otherness is discovered, and some of the joys of this discovery (such as the joy of service) enhance motivation.

The third band, the spiritual, is an identity that few people on earth have been known to display. Life is lived primarily in an easywithout-effort (sahaj, in Sanskrit) samadhi. The self is more or less integrated; the themes of the collective unconscious are much explored; and actions are appropriate to events. Because of the rarity today of individuals whose identities reside in this band, we have very little scientific data about it. There are, of course, many historical cases of this identity in the mystical and religious literature of the world.

The highest level is the atman, the level of the self (or no-self) attainable only in samadhi.

Note that the spiritual psychologies of India and Tibet refer to seven bands of self-identity (one extra band at the ego level). The origin of this system lies in the Indian idea of three kinds of drives, the three gunas: tamas, or inertia; rajas, or libido; and sattwa, or creativity. The Indian psychologists posit three ego bandsperhaps one for each type of drive dominance, but since it is acknowledged that all people have some of each of the gunas, this kind of classification seems somewhat redundant.

The question may be raised, How does a shift of the self-identity occur? There is a Zen story that addresses the question; "The student Doko came to the Zen master and said; 'I am seeking the truth. In what state of the self should I train myself, so as to find it?' Said the master: 'There is no self, so you cannot put it in any state. There is no truth, so you cannot train yourself for it.

In other words, there is no method, no training for the shift in self-identity. That is why we call the process inner creativity. The process is one of the breakdown of the boundary that is determined by one set of contexts for living to allow an expanded set of contexts. We will go into further details of this process in Part 4.


Note that the integration achieved here of the theories of personality and the self within the context of the quantum theory of consciousness should lead as well to integration of the various schools of psychology-psychoanalytic, behavioral, humanistic! transpersonal, and cognitive. Although we have shown that the model based on cognitive science and artificial intelligence is not adequate It)r the complete description of the human person, the model still serves as a useful simulation of most of the ego-related aspects of the self.

Part 4: The Re-Enchantment of the Person [213]

Introduction to Part 4

War and Peace [217]

Outer and Inner Creativity [225]

The Awakening of Buddhi [237]

An Idealist Theory of Ethics [256]

Spiritual Joy [269]