Cosmic Consciousness

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

A delicate thin rain
Surrounds the house where I write
Perched on the edge of nothingness.
If everything was a dream,
A sad lost life founded on vanity,
the rain tells me nothing.
As if sitting mesmerised
in a car ride to an airport of the dead
I recite the names
of everyone I’m leaving.
The rain wipes out the earth
and I know that nothing can come back.
I could be travelling,
I could be staying still.
The rain goes on
monotonous, beyond all translation,
a pure eloquence
the other side of human speech.

Rain at Midnight by Peter Boyle

Moon hidden behind clouds

Moon hidden behind clouds

The Moon hidden beneath clouds is the way I feel sometimes. Confusion puts a heavy burden on my soul. There is an unsettling truth to the idea of a cosmic consciousness independent from ours, an eternal Nowness. Death is a clock ticking inside us and before the clock strikes, we are only a speck in the near-infinite field of the Universe and our consciousness is only a wrinkle in the universal eternal Now.  When we think of the three circles of dance in the observable Universe, they are inflows and outflows of a time that prevails over ours.  When we think of a black hole, it is a gate to where even our consciousness is left out. Time is born in a void, lost in a black hole. The Universe at the present epoch is the single ontological ultimate there is and the definitive ground of all spatiotemporally localized centres of consciousness.

 

Clouds of yellow, purple, and white flora bring colors to the garden one season to the next. As I feel its tangibility, time is no longer an illusion. All matter is time-experiencing or time-involving*. Despite being closely related, time and consciousness are discriminable entities. Beyond the apparent lack of unity in consciousness, it is through time that all matter enjoys a little bit of consciousness. The mechanisms of integration that combine forms together and of dissociation that tear them apart are colors of time.  

 

Although time’s arrow is perspectival, every physical object feels time. It is the source of their identity**. Consciousness is a subjective experience the way time is a perspectival phenomenon. Time asymmetry reflects in all the seemingly irreconcilable perspectives or points of view. Individuality is the illusion. Differences in forms and contents are only aspects of time. In the physical Universe where randomness and free will are dominant principles, I see them be equally essential to the emergence and evolution of consciousness. 

 

 

If time is reflected in the macroscopic irreversibility, it is no more than a consequence of the microscopic irreversibility. Streams of particles within the flow of time constitute the basis for complex and dynamically evolving physical forms. As the Universe expands and electrons interact with photons,  the cosmic microwave background isn’t unlike a snapshot of some form of consciousness. The interplay between electromagnetic waves and matter involves conscious actors in each scene. Whether it is a leaf of grass or the journey work of the stars, they all are conscious states from their point of view. 

Ingredients for Life Artist Concept (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Ingredients for Life Artist Concept (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

 

 If a cell derives its energy from the transfer of electrons one molecule to the next, are we holobionts hosting the consciousness of microorganisms? Are we, Homo sapiens, more conscious than other hominids?  Superposed layers of consciousness lie in the texture of time and space. It is not because we do not know what it feels like to be an Adélie penguin in Antarctica or “any of the first animals whose lives felt like something to them”*** that we are not from the same evolutionary cradle that involves consciousness. That I am helpless to feel what a hummingbird feels when it sticks its head into flowers of the trumpet vine is only an evidence of a spacetime boundary that separates us. If individuality is an illusion, so is the divide between us. Hindered in its free flow by an army of armors, shells, and layers,  caught in the canvas of spacetime, whispered in our deaf ears, consciousness is still coextensive with the Universe.

Adélie penguin (ESA)

Adélie penguin (ESA)

 I am surprisingly more realist than I expect myself to be. Writing takes me to places I do not expect. If the term ‘realist’ applies to those who believe in seen and unseen physical matter, including the many species of particles, I am one of them. And if the word ‘magical’ implies that what we see and know is not the whole story, I am a magical realist.  I would tend to think that consciousness is rooted in the physical side of things and that “the distinction between physical and mental is superficial and unreal”****. Matter and consciousness go hand in hand. To the question “what is matter?” Flow, energy, waves are all matter that we can’t see.   

 

For me, cosmopsychism is a bit counterintuitive because I see the Universe through the prism of process, time, and evolution, that begins with the smallest constituents. I can not conceive the Universe as an absolute. As it expands, it becomes what it is. It is difficult to think of a “cosmic conscious entity as the absolute” given the fact that I see matter and consciousness be co-emergent. The ocean of consciousness that is the background of the ever-changing physical reality is not an absolute but the object itself of process, time, and evolution. 

 

 The relevant mechanisms of integration merely serve to weave together small islands of sentience into bigger and bigger landmasses.  Although I do not see a dual nature in the Universe the way Itay Shani describes it,  I too see our Universe as a sentient medium. Are there restrictions applied? Are only organic boundaries permeable to consciousness? Are there aspects of consciousness concealed? Maybe, but the fact that there is a communication breakdown between the different parts of the whole is not a sufficient reason to dismiss such a theory as ‘bottom-up panpsychism’. 

 


Combinatorial infusion is a diachronic process in which the constituents and their characteristics are ‘absorbed’ into the new whole. Their identity is lost.

William Seager

A fundamental question is whether we are the ultimate reality or whether the Universe is. John Wheeler’s concept of observer-participancy could be looked at in a different light as a “cosmic dissociation” that happens at the level of individual living organisms as referred to by Bernardo Kastrup. Ultimately, our framework of reality is as good as our human consciousness makes it to be.  As we envision increasingly more complex forms of consciousness, will thoughts and ideas, too, have a life of their own, merging into clouds of consciousness? Will fears and emotions do the same? As we peel layers after layers of physical reality, will we reach the layer of consciousness? Could antimatter be consciousness? Could there be a wave-particle of consciousness? Could consciousness just be another state of matter

 

 

* Galen Strawson, Mental Reality

**Carlo Rovelli, The Order of Time

***Peter Godfrey-Smith, Other Minds 

****Bertrand Russell, The Analysis of matter

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Comment on this post

One 09/12/2020 02:09

"Less I think I have lost but than I find my self-conscious mind." @One2lv A

Catherine Toulsaly 09/12/2020 14:54


Is that a quotation? I think consciousness is an individual experience. Some of us may be struggling more than others with self-consciousness. Shyness, Pride, and Fear are some forms of self-consciousness. The two lessons, taken from Buddhism in the following post ‘Death as Resonance’, highlight the difficulty of confronting our self-consciousness.

In 2010 I gave this title to my French blog, ‘Resonance or Vanity’ (Ego), because it is confusing for us whether our self-consciousness or the little resonance box inside us runs the show. It goes back to the problem of observer-participancy. Intuition is the only light I have to illuminate my path on my own individual quest.

Vanity remains in oneself, lurking deep within. It may slumber and awaken. Every moment, I oscillate between Resonance and Vanity in an imperfect balance. Authenticity is the finality, humility is the compass. How many vanities in a lifetime are trampled on the path to authenticity? Authenticity is accepting my own limits, my own shortcomings, and displaying them in public. But authenticity is also expressing my passions and dreams freely because they transcend our human existence.

thomas 09/07/2020 19:55

I write to you after observing a rare depth, stillness & silence in your presentation. Do you know that when we are absolutely conscious our sensitivity is directed outward, like sunlight, making us aware of everything other than ego? On the other hand if we are absolutely ego our sensitivity is directed inward, like a black hole, leaving us absent from the reality around us. In a state of conscious we become weightless whereas in a state of ego we are dense.
Your writings impressed me because it touches upon various characteristics of consciousness. I do not know whether it is from a method or from thoughtfulness. Out there philosophers and scientists are unable to arrive at a clear-cut interpretation of consciousness while you side-stepped definition and discovered its characteristics.
Afterwards I imagined what effect method for inducing experience of consciousness would have on you. I believe you are aware that thought is consciousness. But you may not know that thought is unrecognizable from its original avatar because of ego. Thought & ego are a duality and their conflict is resolved only after death, usually. We are not aware of the conflict within because ego possesses thought and we think it natural. But after thought finds release from ego we become stunned at finding the true characteristics of thought and we are left dumbfounded when we realize that it is not different from consciousness.
Experience of consciousness is a unique event. Somehow, by chance or design you did not depict consciousness in absolute terms which maybe from a subconscious realization of its unique effect from individual to individual. If you had portrayed consciousness you would have put yourself on a limb, not realizing that no two individuals experience consciousness exactly the same – method may be common but effect is unique. Good for you.
Analogy for realizing magnitude of consciousness: Imagine consciousness is a shoebox and into which the universe was placed. If we shake the box we will hear a rattling and feel shifting of weight inside – because there are unanswered questions and empty spaces in the universe. But if we take the universe out and shake the shoebox we do not hear sounds or feel weight – because it is fulfilled.

Catherine Toulsaly 09/07/2020 22:41

Hi Thomas,
Wow, thanks so much for your comment. How informative it is! 
It is interesting since I was going to touch on the idea of inward/outward in my next post. So it gives me something more to think about. 
Thanks for the 'thoughtfulness' part. Assessing and reassessing every word I choose and every point I make might be the reason why. I had written since 2010 about the 'inward' experience on my French blog 'Resonance ou Vanite' ('Vanite' for the Ego). And so, this blog on the relationship between Consciousness and the Universe is my attempt to turn outward. 
I feel that the more I write the more I need to learn and write and I do my best to let my intuition guide my steps. This is a very personal endeavor. Since I am overly sensitive, writing is a fun distraction to avoid 'overload'.
Your comment about "thought is consciousness" is insightful and makes me ponder, thinking in the back of my head, "That's right!". I have been wondering about whether some form of consciousness could in a sense 'grow' in the cloud, gathering ideas and thoughts on the Web. I don't know if it makes sense or if I am clear in what I am saying. It is a feeling, I guess. And I personally love analogies, so I love your ending about the shoe box. 
Please, do not hesitate to write, comment, suggest, or disagree (I am posting my answer in the comment section as well).
Thank you again, I really appreciate your support.
Catherine