Wednesday, March 28, 2007
A discussion about chemistry and electromagnetism may seem out of place in a blog about spiritual matters, but in fact this is the most logical place in the world for this discussion.
The entire universe is chemical, that is, it is composed of elements which interact to form new compounds. These interactions give rise to everything we see and encounter in the physical universe. It is furthermore true that the fundamental origin of these chemical interactions is electromagnetic in nature, and it is true that electromagnetic forces govern interactions of chemicals. When we experience the world around us, we experience a world of electromagnetism and chemistry- nothing more. Even if we see God- and I am not being sarcastic or facetious when I suggest this, I mean it quite literally -- our experiences will be chemical and electromagnetic.
We don't have parts that function in other ways.
If you were wondering whether this means that God is chemical or electromagnetic in nature, I leave that pondering to you. Certainly His manifestations all are, even if He himself resides in some much subtler and far more esoteric territory, such as vibrating aggregations of cosmic strings smaller than the Planck length. And if you don't know what that means, don't worry. No one else does, either, although elegant, elaborate mathematics have been generated to put various attractive window dressings on our fundamental ignorance.
My consciousness, your consciousness, all arise from chemistry and electromagnetism. Everything we see arises from the same root source. So awareness is a function of this root source. From this understanding we can see that there is awareness in everything; even atoms are aware and respond appropriately according to their own level.
Much has been made in the sciences about the argument of what consciousness truly consists of. On the one hand, there are arguments that it is mechanical and mechanical alone, that is, that it can be reduced to a set of inflexible mathematical rules. On the other hand are the arguments that consciousness is something bigger than a machinelike set of responses.
This doesn't really matter. I could construct a long philosophical breakdown of these opposing arguments and point out their flaws -- they both have them -- but I'm not going to bother. The point for us right now is that we are in these bodies, having these experiences, and that all of this small droplet of individual human experience exists within a limitless sea of involutionary and evolutionary chemistry and electromagnetism.
We, like everything else in creation, are points where things blend.
If consciousness exists, which seems a reasonable presumption at this particular moment in time, this is what it is: It's consciousness and experience, not arguments about consciousness or experience. Not words about consciousness or experience. It's just consciousness and experience, arising everywhere from the inherent physical properties of the universe, and penetrating everywhere due to those same properties.
This idea touches, perhaps, on Dogen's discussions of Buddha Dharma. Go read him and see what you think.
It's interesting to consider our life consciously, in so far as we are able, as an experience of being a factory in which chemicals are created and processed. This, after all, is the absolute fact about what organisms are -- chemical factories. Gurdjieff explained this to Ouspensky as reported in “In Search of the Miraculous.” But this remains a theoretical premise for most of us. In order to understand its portent, we need to bring an understanding of this idea immediately into the presence and examine our organism from this point of view.
Believe me, if you manage to do this for a moment, things will look different. Emotions, thoughts, experiences -- all of them take on a different color when one uses one's consciousness and one's understanding to realize that they are all blendings of chemicals and electromagnetic forces. Right here we have the beginning of something that one might call objectivity. How invested can we become in something once we realize it is a laboratory process? Emotions are a bit less attractive when we realize that they are not us, they are simply chemical reactions.
And just what are we? Chemical and electromagnetic interactions that can see themselves for what they are.
In our struggle to stand back from our nature, separate from ourselves, and have a new experience of life, this can be a real tool.
I suppose this observation probably isn't reductionist enough for the scientists, and isn't romantisch enough for the priests. It has, however, the merits of being practical, since its fundamentals are difficult for anyone to refute. It has a room for both God and science in it.
That's the real world. The religious fanatics who seem to want to imagine a world without science, and the science fanatics who want to imagine a world without God, all of them are missing the point. That's because they have no awareness of the body, no awareness of the mind, no awareness of the relationship between body and mind. What they have are bodies crammed full of ideas that bash against each other like bumper cars, careening through the world with no aim other than to smash up against the opposition and produce satisfyingly crunchy noises.
For ourselves, let us be quieter.
In cultivating experience and concept, in exploring our residence in this body and our relationship to our thoughts, our physical experiences, and our emotions, we can come to new conclusions about what we are.
They will not necessarily be what we expected.
But they will be beautiful.
Enjoy, for the time being, being a blend of chemicals and forces in a universe that is a blend of chemicals and forces. The consciousness that insists we are separate from creation is a falsehood. We are the most intimate part of it. There is no separation.
Love to everyone today. May your trees bear fruit and your wells yield water.