The Human Condition is Dual
We ended Part 1 stuck between the opposites of Matter, represented by those infernal machines, and Spirit, as epitomized by abstract ideals. Transhumanism, by definition, seems positioned in the former category, the Dalai Lama’s “half machine,” and our visionary viewpoint in the latter, what His Holiness calls “a stream of consciousness.” That these two elements, one inanimate and the other animate, might join in some unnatural marriage to rival or supplant the current human model was seen, to put it kindly, as far out.
In an earlier post on reincarnation, I used the Vesica Pisces, the ancient mathematical symbol of the intersecting circles, “to illustrate the human condition in the cosmos. Humans are caught between two worlds, the material and the spiritual, like it or not.”
That diagram is also to the point here. Our kind is, in fact, stuck between Matter and Spirit. Even as you sit there in a body absorbing the ideas in this post, you are dual by nature, no way around it.
That our physical bodies are composed of matter, require energy to move, and take up space is self-evident, the aspirations of idealists and spiritualists notwithstanding. Leaving aside theology and the mechanics of communication (paper, ink, sound waves, pixels and such), even the diehard atheists and materialists have to admit to the existence of elements (principles, ideas, thoughts, instincts, feelings) that are not composed of matter, do not consume energy, and are not located in space. The concept behind “1+1=2” is a very simple example.
Can These Siamese Twins Be Separated?
Can pure consciousness exist without matter or vice versa? Too bad the interviewers did not put this question to the Dalai Lama. I’ll bet he would have chuckled and said little else. Neither will I take a stab at that question here; this discussion does not require that it be answered. But I do insist that, should matter and spirit separate in us, what is left cannot be called a human being. Might as well claim that the hydrogen and oxygen produced by electrolysis be called water.
I’ll not conjecture here on how and why this happens to be the human condition. Nor will I tackle the question posed in a few of the comments to Part 1 as to whether matter has consciousness, although I am tempted to appropriate the Dalai Lama’s characteristic laughter and ask whether darkness has light. As agent provocateur here, it is my prerogative to leave fishing lines, hooks and all, lying around.
Despite their differences, the relationship between Matter and Spirit in the human does not stay stuck in a one position for very long. Our dual nature is in a marriage and so is aptly represented by the interlocking rings of the Vesica Pisces. Like marriages of the flesh that often freeze up, the matter-spirit relationship does get stuck occasionally. But this static state inevitably causes discomfort, which causes us to shuffle in irritation, move about, and thus come unglued. The intertwined rings then shift between the extremes of consummation and divorce, sometimes one way, sometimes the other, sometimes back and forth frenetically, in search for more comfortable position. Restless and unsettled, but at least no longer stuck.
The Mediator: Reflection
The human incentive to change would be little different from the stimulus-response form of evolution found in the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms were it not for a uniquely human ability to reflect. As we shift around, we form images of our motions and retain them. These accumulated reflections allow us to compare past and present, then make choices that redirect our future. Reflection brings about self-transformation, which, when adopted more generally, causes human evolution. This morphing affects both the material and spiritual rings of our nature, an interactive phenomenon captured in the Hermetic saying, “As above, so below. As below, so above.”
Scanning merely the past 50 years, the detailed records of which are overwhelming, we can observe significant evolution in both realms. For example, on the spiritual side, the dogmas of established religions have been challenged and modified regarding concepts previously considered heretical (sexuality, paranormal phenomena, reincarnation, near death experiences, to name a few). On the material side, the computer alone has completely revised the way we live, work, and play. It is evident that human input was the catalyst for most of these changes. That our rate of change, our evolution, exceeds that of the lower kingdoms, even impacting the speed and direction of their development, is equally obvious. Think of the current global warming dilemma.
Consciousness versus Growth in Consciousness
Apropos here is a distinction I gleaned from Dr. Wolf’s The SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE, mentioned in Part 1. That book made me question the use of a two-letter word on our key page What is Visionary Fiction? The first of the characteristic features presented there stated that “Growth of consciousness is the central theme….” I proposed, and the VFA Steering Committee agreed, that it should read, “Growth in consciousness is the central theme….”
There is substantial logic behind this tiny change. Using the principles of quantum physics, Dr. Wolf came to the startling conclusion that there cannot be consciousnesses (plural), only Consciousness (singular). Consciousness is One. It does not increase or decrease. (If this sounds like Consciousness is a synonym for God, so be it [laughter].) What I call “my consciousness” is merely that portion of Consciousness that filters through to my awareness at a given time.
From our limited human viewpoints, we can grow or shrink in this awareness of Consciousness. “Growth of consciousness” could mean that Consciousness itself grows. “Growth in consciousness” indicates that individual awareness expands into a wider and deeper relationship with Consciousness. This distinction is important to both our living and our writing. As humans our objective has to be “growth in consciousness.” On this side of the divide, Consciousness itself is likely an “unknowable,” to use the Buddhist term. It is hubris to attempt to master Consciousness. We grow in consciousness not by fighting against it but by surrendering into it.
A fascinating side note here. Letting go instead of resisting does not only apply to the spiritual realm. The material universe, too, is complete in itself, as explained by the Laws of Conservation of Matter and Energy. “As above so below.” Physical science does not invent new stuff; it merely uncovers new understanding and uses for what has always been there. There’s a hook for the Transhumanists to swallow.
Transformation/Evolution as an Organic Process
So, back to reflection for a moment. It is a beautifully-chosen term, for it is a mirroring process. Observing the results of an adaptation on himself in a looking glass allows the observer to decide whether to accept, reject or modify that change. In this position of subject and object simultaneously, one not only witnesses his own activity in real time but has the capacity to interact with his own activity, also in real time. Reflection is the process that defines us as conscious (connected to Consciousness) and alive (connected to the material world) at the same time.
The primary impulse of an entity that is consciously alive seems to be to organize: How can I pull these disparate elements together to do something different, something better, something no one has done before? Sound like anyone you know? And such organization on a personal and local level induces transformation and evolution on the global and race-wide level.
Now, using the second part of the Hermetic principle, “As below, so above,” we can conjecture that what applies to the human duality is also true for the overarching duality of Matter versus Spirit: by design, the physical universe reflects Consciousness, its creator. And just as a mirror must display the fullness of the one looking into it, the physical universe must reflect the completeness of its source throughout all time.
This is way too big to swallow whole, so let’s take one tiny bite of it relevant to our topic. After oxygen, silicon is the most abundant element in the earth’s crust. Its compounds compose our sandy beaches and concrete buildings, but it is also used, as an element, to form the critical memory and processing chips in modern computers. Did Consciousness, from the very beginning, project that humans would need a lot of silicon in a few billions years to compute their way from galaxy to galaxy, and thus made sure there was plenty of it there to start with? This whimsical possibility takes the argument for intelligent design to a whole new level.
And if this is the case for every object of human manufacture (every thing man makes is derived from elements that were present from the start of time), would it not also, or more so, have occurred in the case of the human being? According to Genesis 1:26, “God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’” But man was also saddled from start with that dual nature, according to Gen. 2:7: “God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Another hook here: there may be more to the ancient allegory of the Garden of Eden than meets the eye. The “dust of the ground” is largely silicon. Were our bodies also fitted to be hyper-sophisticated computer chips?)
If the human was designed to mirror Consciousness itself and she was destined to do so in human form, would not her body have been designed or at least programmed to evolve with ample capacity to reach that noble destiny? While pursuing this train of thought—and, yes, it made my head hurt—I recalled a startling hypothesis presented by Lyall Watson, in his prescient visionary work, Beyond Supernature.
CLICK TO CONTINUE TO PART 3 where we consider the dramatic improbability in which evolution “wildly overshot the mark” in the formation of the human brain. Also what all this has to do with writing Visionary Fiction—if you haven’t figured that out already.