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Metaphysics & Psychology

Scientists Discover that Everything — from Rocks to Molecules — Is Conscious

Consciousness permeates reality. Rather than being just a unique feature of human subjective experience, it’s the foundation of the universe, present in every particle and all physical matter.

This sounds like easily-dismissible bunkum, but as traditional attempts to explain consciousness continue to fail, the “panpsychist” view is increasingly being taken seriously by credible philosophers, neuroscientists, and physicists, including figures such as neuroscientist Christof Koch and physicist Roger Penrose.

“Why should we think common sense is a good guide to what the universe is like?” says Philip Goff, a philosophy professor at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. “Einstein tells us weird things about the nature of time that counters common sense; quantum mechanics runs counter to common sense. Our intuitive reaction isn’t necessarily a good guide to the nature of reality.”

David Chalmers, a philosophy of mind professor at New York University, laid out the “hard problem of consciousness” in 1995, demonstrating that there was still no answer to the question of what causes consciousness. Traditionally, two dominant perspectives, materialism and dualism, have provided a framework for solving this problem. Both lead to seemingly intractable complications.

“Physics is just structure. It can explain biology, but there’s a gap: Consciousness.”

The materialist viewpoint states that consciousness is derived entirely from physical matter. It’s unclear, though, exactly how this could work. “It’s very hard to get consciousness out of non-consciousness,” says Chalmers. “Physics is just structure. It can explain biology, but there’s a gap: Consciousness.” Dualism holds that consciousness is separate and distinct from physical matter—but that then raises the question of how consciousness interacts and has an effect on the physical world.

Panpsychism offers an attractive alternative solution: Consciousness is a fundamental feature of physical matter; every single particle in existence has an “unimaginably simple” form of consciousness, says Goff. These particles then come together to form more complex forms of consciousness, such as humans’ subjective experiences. This isn’t meant to imply that particles have a coherent worldview or actively think, merely that there’s some inherent subjective experience of consciousness in even the tiniest particle.

Panpsychism doesn’t necessarily imply that every inanimate object is conscious. “Panpsychists usually don’t take tables and other artifacts to be conscious as a whole,” writes Hedda Hassel Mørch, a philosophy researcher at New York University’s Center for Mind, Brain, and Consciousness, in an email. “Rather, the table could be understood as a collection of particles that each have their own very simple form of consciousness.”

But, then again, panpsychism could very well imply that conscious tables exist: One interpretation of the theory holds that “any system is conscious,” says Chalmers. “Rocks will be conscious, spoons will be conscious, the Earth will be conscious. Any kind of aggregation gives you consciousness.”



Interest in panpsychism has grown in part thanks to the increased academic focus on consciousness itself following on from Chalmers’ “hard problem” paper. Philosophers at NYU, home to one of the leading philosophy-of-mind departments, have made panpsychism a feature of serious study. There have been several credible academic books on the subject in recent years, and popular articles taking panpsychism seriously.

One of the most popular and credible contemporary neuroscience theories on consciousness, Giulio Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory, further lends credence to panpsychism. Tononi argues that something will have a form of “consciousness” if the information contained within the structure is sufficiently “integrated,” or unified, and so the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Because it applies to all structures—not just the human brain—Integrated Information Theory shares the panpsychist view that physical matter has innate conscious experience.

Goff, who has written an academic book on consciousness and is working on another that approaches the subject from a more popular-science perspective, notes that there were credible theories on the subject dating back to the 1920s. Thinkers including philosopher Bertrand Russell and physicist Arthur Eddington made a serious case for panpsychism, but the field lost momentum after World War II, when philosophy became largely focused on analytic philosophical questions of language and logic. Interest picked up again in the 2000s, thanks both to recognition of the “hard problem” and to increased adoption of the structural-realist approach in physics, explains Chalmers. This approach views physics as describing structure, and not the underlying nonstructural elements.

“Physical science tells us a lot less about the nature of matter than we tend to assume,” says Goff. “Eddington”—the English scientist who experimentally confirmed Einstein’s theory of general relativity in the early 20th century—“argued there’s a gap in our picture of the universe. We know what matter does but not what it is. We can put consciousness into this gap.”

“What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?”

In Eddington’s view, Goff writes in an email, it’s “”silly” to suppose that that underlying nature has nothing to do with consciousness and then to wonder where consciousness comes from.” Stephen Hawking has previously asked: “What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?” Goff adds: “The Russell-Eddington proposal is that it is consciousness that breathes fire into the equations.”

The biggest problem caused by panpsychism is known as the “combination problem”: Precisely how do small particles of consciousness collectively form more complex consciousness? Consciousness may exist in all particles, but that doesn’t answer the question of how these tiny fragments of physical consciousness come together to create the more complex experience of human consciousness.

Any theory that attempts to answer that question, would effectively determine which complex systems—from inanimate objects to plants to ants—count as conscious.

An alternative panpsychist perspective holds that, rather than individual particles holding consciousness and coming together, the universe as a whole is conscious. This, says Goff, isn’t the same as believing the universe is a unified divine being; it’s more like seeing it as a “cosmic mess.” Nevertheless, it does reflect a perspective that the world is a top-down creation, where every individual thing is derived from the universe, rather than a bottom-up version where objects are built from the smallest particles. Goff believes quantum entanglement—the finding that certain particles behave as a single unified system even when they’re separated by such immense distances there can’t be a causal signal between them—suggests the universe functions as a fundamental whole rather than a collection of discrete parts.

Such theories sound incredible, and perhaps they are. But then again, so is every other possible theory that explains consciousness. “The more I think about [any theory], the less plausible it becomes,” says Chalmers. “One starts as a materialist, then turns into a dualist, then a panpsychist, then an idealist,” he adds, echoing his paper on the subject. Idealism holds that conscious experience is the only thing that truly exists. From that perspective, panpsychism is quite moderate.

Chalmers quotes his colleague, the philosopher John Perry, who says: “If you think about consciousness long enough, you either become a panpsychist or you go into administration.” 

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Metaphysics & Psychology

Consciousness Affects Reality: Repetition and consolidation of experience?

Dr. Joe Dispenza was one of the first who began to study the influence of consciousness on reality from a scientific point of view. His theory of the relationship between matter and consciousness brought him world fame after the release of the documentary “We Know What the Signal Does.” 

A key discovery made by Joe Dispensa is that the brain does not distinguish between physical and mental experiences. Roughly speaking, the cells of the “gray matter” absolutely do not distinguish between the real, i.e. material, from the imaginary, i.e. from thoughts.

Few people know that the doctor’s research in the field of consciousness and neurophysiology began with tragic experience. After Joe Dispenza was hit by a car, doctors suggested he fasten the damaged vertebrae with an implant, which could subsequently lead to lifelong pain. Only in this way, according to doctors, could he walk again. But Dispenza decided to quit taking out traditional medicine and restore his health with the power of thought. After only 9 months of therapy, Dispenza could walk again. This was the impetus for the study of the possibilities of consciousness.

The first step in this direction was communication with people who experienced the experience of “spontaneous remission”. This is a spontaneous and impossible from the point of view of doctors healing a person from a serious illness without the use of traditional treatment. During the survey, Dispenza found out that all people who went through a similar experience were convinced that thought is primary in relation to matter and can heal any disease.

The theory of Dr. Dispenza claims that each time, experiencing some kind of experience, we “activate” a huge number of neurons in our brain, which in turn affect our physical condition. It is the phenomenal power of consciousness, due to the ability to concentrate, that creates the so-called synaptic connections – connections between neurons. Repeated experiences (situations, thoughts, feelings) create stable neural connections called neural networks. Each network is, in fact, a certain memory, on the basis of which our body in the future reacts to similar objects and situations.

According to Dispensa, our entire past is “recorded” in the neural networks of the brain, which form the way we perceive and feel the world as a whole and its specific objects in particular. Thus, it only seems to us that our reactions are spontaneous. In fact, most of them are programmed with stable neural connections. 

Each object (stimulus) activates one or another neural network, which in turn causes a set of certain chemical reactions in the body. These chemical reactions make us act or feel in a certain way – to run or freeze in place, rejoice or be upset, become excited or fall into apathy, etc. All our emotional reactions are nothing more than the result of chemical processes caused by established neural networks, and they are based on past experience. In other words,

The basic rule of neurophysiology is:

nerves that are used together are connected.

This means that neural networks are formed as a result of repetition and consolidation of experience. If the experiment is not reproduced for a long time, then the neural networks break up. Thus, a habit is formed as a result of regular “pressing” the buttons of the same neural network. This is how automatic reactions and conditioned reflexes are formed – you have not yet had time to think and realize what is happening, and your body is already reacting in a certain way …

Our character, our habits, our personality are just a set of stable neural networks that we can weaken or strengthen at any time thanks to a conscious perception of reality! By focusing consciously and selectively on what we want to achieve, we are creating new neural networks.

… Previously, scientists believed that the brain is static, but studies by neurophysiologists show that absolutely every smallest experience produces thousands and millions of neural changes in it that affect the body as a whole. In his book “The Evolution of Our Brains, the Science of Changing Our Consciousness,” Joe Dispenza asks a logical question: if we use our thinking to cause certain negative states in the body, will this anomalous state eventually become the norm?

Dispenza conducted a special experiment to confirm the capabilities of our consciousness. People from the same group daily pressed the spring mechanism with the same finger for an hour. People from another group had only to imagine that they were clicking. As a result, the fingers of people from the first group got stronger by 30%, and from the second – by 22%. 

Such an influence of purely mental practice on physical parameters is the result of the operation of neural networks. So Joe Dispenza proved that for the brain and neurons there is no difference between real and mental experience. So, if we pay attention to negative thoughts, our brain perceives them as reality and causes corresponding changes in the body. For example, illness, fear, depression, a surge of aggression, etc.

Another conclusion from Dispenza’s research concerns our emotions. Stable neural networks form unconscious patterns of emotional behavior, i.e. a tendency to some form of emotional response. In turn, this leads to a repeated experience in life. We step on the same rake only because we don’t realize the reason for their appearance! But the reason is simple – each emotion is “felt” due to the release of a certain set of chemicals into the body, and our body simply becomes somewhat “dependent” on these chemical combinations. Having realized this dependence as a physiological dependence on chemicals, we can get rid of it. Only a conscious approach is needed.

Of course, despite the studies of Dispenza, official science is distrustful of his claims. But why wait for official approval from scientific minds, if now the results of these discoveries can be applied in practice? The main thing is to realize that thought is capable of changing the physical world.

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Metaphysics & Psychology

Can the Universe consciously imitate its own existence?

According to the new hypothesis, the Universe imitates its own existence in a “strange loop”. In an article published by scientists from the Institute for the Study of Quantum Gravity, it is argued that the basis of the hypothesis is the theory of panpsychism, according to which everything in nature is animated. 

The article was published in the journal Entropy and, as the authors of the work write, is designed to combine understanding of quantum mechanics with a non-materialist point of view. In other words, scientists want to understand how real we are and everything that surrounds us. Agree, this is at least an interesting question for modern science and our understanding of the Universe.

What is reality?

How real is reality? What if all that you are, all that you know, all the people in your life, as well as all events do not physically exist in reality, but are a very complex simulation? Like in the series of the animated series “Rick and Morty” when one of the characters got into a simulation and did not even notice it. Our regular readers know that the philosopher Nick Bostrom addressed this issue in the foundational article “Do we live in computer simulation?”, Which suggests that our entire existence may be the product of very complex computer models (simulations) controlled by advanced creatures whose the true nature we may never know.

I am not a supporter of this idea, but despite all the seeming madness of Bostrom’s assumption, we really don’t know what reality is. Modern science is not yet able to cognize the quantum world and understand, for example, why at the atomic level particles change their behavior when they are watched. At a time when physicists are working on building a mission that can figure out if a parallel universe or universes exists, Bostrom’s idea does not look extraordinary.

But the new theory takes a step forward – what if there are no advanced creatures, but everything in “reality” is self-imitation that generates itself from “pure thought?”

Frame from the series Rick and Morty. The moment Jerry found out that all this time he lived in a simulation

The Physical Universe is a “strange loop”, writes Quantum Gravity Research, a Los Angeles-based Institute for Theoretical Physics, founded by scientist and entrepreneur Clay Irwin. The work is based on the Bostrom modeling hypothesis, according to which all reality is an extremely detailed computer program – and they ask: instead of relying on advanced life forms to create the technology necessary to create everything in our world, is it not better to assume that the Universe itself is a “mental imitation of oneself”? Scientists associate this idea with quantum mechanics, considering the universe as one of many possible models of quantum gravity.

One important aspect that distinguishes this point of view from others similar to it is related to the fact that the initial hypothesis of Bostrom is materialistic and considers the Universe as physical. For Bostrom, we could just be part of an ancestral simulation created by posthumans. Even the process of evolution itself can simply be a mechanism by which future beings experience countless processes, purposefully moving people through levels of biological and technological growth. In this way, they generate the alleged information or history of our world. Ultimately, we will not notice the difference.

But where does physical reality come from that would spawn a simulation? Their hypothesis takes a non-materialistic approach, arguing that everything in the universe is information expressed in the form of thought. Thus, the Universe “self-realizes” into its own existence, relying on the underlying algorithms and the rule that researchers call the “principle of an effective language”. According to this proposal, the simulation of everything is only one “great thought”.

How could a simulation have arisen on its own?

Surprisingly, the answer is simple: she was always there, researchers say, explaining the concept of “timeless emergentism”. This idea says that there is no time at all. Instead, there is a comprehensive thought, which is our reality, offering a built-in semblance of a hierarchical order, full of “sub-thoughts” that extend down to the wormhole to basic mathematics and fundamental particles. The effective language rule also comes into force, which assumes that people themselves are such “emergent sub-thoughts” and experience and find meaning in the world through other sub-thoughts (called “code steps or actions”) in the most economical way (well, then) .

We do not know much, which means we must consider all hypotheses without exception

In correspondence with Big Think, physicist David Chester said:

Although many scholars advocate the truth of materialism, we believe that quantum mechanics can give a hint that our reality is a mental construct. Recent advances in quantum gravity, such as the vision of spacetime arising from a hologram, are also a hint that spacetime is not fundamental. In a sense, the mental construction of reality creates space-time to effectively understand itself, creating a network of subconscious entities that can interact and explore the totality of their capabilities.

Scientists associate their hypothesis with panpsychism, which considers everything that exists as thought or consciousness, the purpose of which is to generate meaning or information. If all this is difficult to understand, the authors offer another interesting idea that can connect your everyday experience with these philosophical considerations. Think of your dreams as your own personal simulations, the team suggests. Although they are fairly primitive (by the superintelligent standards of the future AI), dreams tend to provide better resolution than modern computer modeling and are a great example of the evolution of the human mind.

Of course, not everyone will like it, but the Universe can really have consciousness. 
At least we cannot rule it out.

Most notable is the ultra-high resolution accuracy of these mind-based simulations and the accuracy of the physics in them. They point to lucid dreaming – when the dreamer realizes that he is in a dream – as examples of very accurate simulations created by your mind that at times cannot be distinguished from any other reality. So how do you know, while you are reading this article, that you are not in a dream? It turns out that it is not so difficult to imagine that the extremely powerful computer that we can create in the near future will be able to reproduce a similar level of detail.

Of course, some of the ideas of Clay and his team in the academic community are called controversial. But the authors of the work believe that “we should think critically about consciousness and some aspects of philosophy that are inconvenient for some scientists.” We can not agree, because in science there are no or, should be no authorities. 

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Metaphysics & Psychology

The journalist predicted a cancer-free future and was healed

ABC11 American journalist Michael Perchick predicted on his Twitter account that his future would not be related to cancer. The reporter later reported healing, and the post scored 1.8 million likes.

A 28-year-old North Carolina channel correspondent said in January that he was diagnosed with cancer. However, the journalist did not somehow comment on the current state, but wrote about the future. 

“In four months, I will be the 28-year-old who defeated cancer. To the battle! ” – Perchik noted.

Many users supported his entry with comments with words of support. Some users remembered how they themselves fought with a similar diagnosis and they managed to prevail over a deadly disease. 

“I was diagnosed at the same age, two days after my 28th birthday. I’m 34 now. You will succeed, man. Kick your ass cancer,” Humphrey03Pat wrote .

In April, Perchik announced that he had completed the necessary course of chemotherapy. 

On June 5, he retweeted his January post and wrote:

“New information about my life: I was right.” 

This meant that the journalist was cured. In the comments, he met positive feedback from users. Some responded with a meme about dancing coffin carriers from Ghana, symbolizing a cancer funeral.

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