A bridge from metaphysics to physics
Where do we come from? How does the universe come into being? How is consciousness related to the material world? This is the first of several posts in which I will propose a new approach to these questions. I will begin by accepting the ancient metaphysical view that the ground of being is consciousness — a single cosmic consciousness that is prior to time and space. The next step will be to describe a dynamic process by which the one consciousness can create a multiplicity of copies of itself that are linked in a network of causal relationships. This process, I suggest, is the bridge that connects the metaphysical world of pure consciousness to the world we live in — for some of our most creative physicists believe that spacetime and the physical world emerge from just such a network.
Here is a brief overview of the model I’m proposing: Imagine that nothing exists but a single cosmic consciousness. At a certain point, this consciousness becomes aware of itself, and the One becomes Two: one looking, and one looking back. In the realm of consciousness, that first act of self-reference is the Big Bang that starts the cosmic play. By continued acts of self-awareness, Two become Four, Four become Eight (or perhaps Sixteen), and so on. The number of copies of the original consciousness grows exponentially (or perhaps even more rapidly), and so the One gives birth to the Many, as time and space emerge. The Many can be thought of as avatars of the One, for on the level of essence, each is equivalent to the original consciousness; but on the level of manifestation they appear as the many separate elements needed to build a vast and diverse universe.
What I’ve described so far is the first phase of a cycle, where the One becomes Many by the simple act of turning its gaze upon itself. The second phase of the cycle is the process of the Many rejoining to become One again. This happens, I suggest, as the many apparently separate avatars of the One become aware of each other and organize themselves into larger combinations, continuing until the cosmic unity is once more realized. In the next post I will describe both the One-to-Many phase and the Many-to-One phase in more detail, and speculate on how both phases may manifest in the physical world. For now, I’m simply introducing the overall dynamic of a One-to-Many-to-One cycle that is generated by consciousness.
This One-Many-One cycle can be modeled mathematically by a directed graph, and it is an example of what mathematicians call a causal set. And here we connect to exciting recent work in physics, where theorists like Rafael Sorkin and Lee Smolin suggest that spacetime may emerge from an underlying discrete structure that takes the form of a causal set. Their work and similar approaches from other physicists may lead toward the promised land of physics where general relativity and quantum theory will one day be reconciled. As far as I know, most physicists are skeptical about idealist metaphysics, but it seems to me that a theory that starts with consciousness may be the key to reaching that promised land.
If this introduction has piqued your interest, I invite you to visit my blog again. In future posts, I will develop the theory in more detail, and consider a variety of related issues.