Christian Spirituality Blog

We understand Christian Spirituality to be the practice of the presence of God in daily life.  As such it includes both the mundane and the mystical dimensions of Christian faith and practice.  This Blog is intended to provide thought provoking information and discussion in the categories of Christian Spirituality, Spiritual Direction, Sacred Psychology, Interfaith Relationships, Peacebuilding, Spirituality/Religion, and Book Reviews of interest. 

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The following article is excerpted from the forthcoming book by James L. Foster, Holonic Humanity: How God Makes Us Holy, due to be released in 2018.  It is a sequel to his earlier work, Holy Humanity:  We Are All Made of God Stuff, published in 2013.  The latter book, Holy Humanity, is reviewed in the January 2016 issue of Awareness magazine.

 

Consciousness

Such reality as we are capable of perceiving--that of which we are conscious--is affected by the very fact of our consciousness of it.  This phenomena is well documented by physicists wrestling with the problem of studying sub-atomic particles.  In their observation of these particles they have found that the very act of observing them alters their behavior.  There are even some quantum physicists who have concluded that matter could not exist without the consciousness of human beings. Quantum physicist Fred Alan Wolf has observed that "what we call 'consciousness' consists of waves of information that move from spirit into matter and then back again into spirit.  This flow of waves took place beyond time, in the sense that the whole action of that movement was instantaneous" (Wolf, The Eagle's Quest, p. 43). Therefore, consciousness is bound neither by time nor space Through it we may gain entree to both eternity and infinity.  This is also borne out by cosmologists on the macro  or cosmic level in what is described as the participatory universe.  In this participatory universe the cosmos creates us as physical beings, and then we create the cosmos.  The Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-77 CE) called this causa sui, cause of itself, a self-sustaining causal loop.  Spinoza reasoned "that all reality consists of a single infinite substance which he called Deus sive Natura, God or NatureSince the Creator is revealed in the Creation, the Creation itself must be divine.  Thus, humanity must also partake of all the qualities of divinity.  As such, we, who have always been and always will be, are manifestations of the  Creator who likewise has always been and always will be.  Together, we represent the whole of Spirit. Individually we are a part of Her, but since we individually participate in a holonic evolutionary process in which the part contains the whole, we also paradoxically contain individually the whole of the Creative Divine Spirit.  On this latter point, the Apostle Paul, in his Letter to the Ephesians, prays that "you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:19, TNIV, italics mine.)   Fred Alan Wolf (referenced above) opined that "the breath of God was the movement of consciousness..."

We are eternal beings who both collectively and individually evidence our divinity by our continuing work of creation.  It is this cosmic consciousness which enables our creative interaction with the cosmos on both the earthly and astral planes.  It is also this cosmic consciousness of our oneness with the Ground of all Being which is recognized universally by virtually all the great mystical religious traditions of the world.  In this entire process can be seen the holonic evolutionary development of the human species from consciousness to self-consciousness to universal or cosmic consciousness.  Historian and theologian Karen Armstrong traces this development through our evolutionary history in her book, The Great Transformation:  The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions (see bibliography). As a species we can trace this expanding consciousness over many millennia to this present day in which we can still see the expansion into what may be our final stage, universal cosmic consciousness.  Thus, our transition to universal consciousness demonstrates that the process continues.  We are still evolving!  quo vadis? Whither goest thou?  Where indeed?  Where are we headed?  Where is our consciousness taking us?  I am reminded of the Apostle Paul's observation in his loose translation of Isaiah 64:4:

"What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, 

what God has prepared for those who love him'--these

things God has revealed to us through the Spirit;

for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God."(I Corinthians 2:9-10, NRSV)                                   

The Hebrew cosmogony in the first book of the Torah, Genesis, describes  the Creator as speaking or naming the cosmos into existence:  "God said 'Let there be light'; and there was light...God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night." (Genesis 1:2-5, NRSV) The Spirit continues this creative process, calling or naming into being the earth, the seas, the stars, the moon and the sun, plants, living creatures and humankind, the latter being made in Her image.  We were then given the responsibility of continuing the creative process.  As such we are self-replicating Creators who have the power to consciously continue naming the cosmos into being.  Indeed, there are no limits to our creative consciousness other than those we impose on ourselves by our disbelief.  What we experience as the cosmos today is the result of humanity's own creative consciousness through the centuries.  It is a process that not only continues today but is accelerating exponentially as our consciousness expands holonically.

Deepak Chopra discerns three levels of consciousness:  1) consciousness of physical objects, 2) consciousness of subtle objects and powers, and 3) consciousness filled with nothing but itself--pure consciousness.  The first of these is that of which virtually all of us are aware--physical objects (though we may not be aware of their true nature).  The second, subtle objects and powers, though common, are less likely to be recognized for what they are by virtue of the fact that they and their sources are often hidden.  (It is this author's hope that this entire discussion of "subtle energies" may make my readers more aware of these provisions of their own divine natures.) The third, pure consciousness, is ubiquitous particularly in the astral realm, but on this earthly plane it has been experienced primarily by mystics of the great religious traditions.  These often have difficulty expressing what they have experienced because of the inadequacy of their language and the disbelief of their hearers.

Pure consciousness, as a planetary attribute, is also conscious of us.  Earth, as a conscious entity, is what the earth scientists call Gaia.  It is a term of Greek origin referring to the Earth Goddess.  Planetary biologist James Lovelock, cultural historian William Irwin Thompson,  Christian theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether, physicist Freeman Dyson, psychiatrist Richard Maurice Bucke, mathematician Ralph Abraham, philosopher Elisabet Sahtouris, and many others represent a broad consensus of scientists and philosophers and theologians who have concluded that the earth is a living, conscious entity and even "an immanent divinity."   That the earth is a living, conscious system is also an ancient realization, particularly evidenced in the shamanistic traditions of tribal cultures world-wide.   According to these traditions, there is no separation of living entities from each other and no separation from the earth.  The holonic principle dictates that we as constituent parts of the planet-- our physical beings made of the same elements as the planet--are therefore parts that contain that whole.  As such, our consciousness is derived from the planetary consciousness--and is, likely, the primary manifestation of  that consciousness.

Human consciousness is the medium of  our creative capability.  Just as God, the Great "I Am", created by calling the various aspects of Creation into being, we human beings are "the Great We Are"  continuing  to call the Creation by name, thus making it conscious of itself.  As divine beings ourselves we are with the earth the consciousness of Creation.  There is no other Divine agency of Creation.  That much of the process is unconscious makes no difference.  That we may be ignorant of who we are does not change who we are.  Our consciousness, sublimated and subtle or not, gives us the power to create. 

This is also the conclusion of Professor John Wheeler of Princeton University (and a colleague of Albert Einstein).  Wheeler  described what he has termed the "participatory universe."  He concluded that "we could not even imagine a universe that did not somewhere and for some stretch of time contain observers because the very building materials of the universe are these acts of observer-participancy." (quoted by Gregg Braden in The Divine Matrix, p.39.)  This is  one place where science and religion are finding common ground.  Braden later  observes that "In the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism, it's believed that reality can exist only where our mind creates a focus.  In fact, the wisdom suggests that both the world of pure form and that of the formless result from a mode of consciousness called 'subjective imagination.'"  (ibid., p. 80, italics mine) 

Likewise in the Christian teaching of the Apostle Paul, creation and humanity is described as being in an intimate and dependent observer-participant relationship:  "All around us we observe a pregnant creation.  The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs."  (translation of Romans 8:22 by  Eugene H. Peterson, The Message:  The Bible in Contemporary Language, p. 2045)  The children of God, all of humanity, has the assigned responsibility of completing the creative work of God--the birthing of God's creation!

Our consciousness is not synonymous with the brain.  We continue to be conscious even when our physical brain flatlines.  This means that our consciousness originates elsewhere.  One theory put forth by English biologist Rupert Sheldrake is that we consciously or unconsciously tap into a "mind field" (also referred to as "the zero point field) --a sort of invisible parallel universe through which we access everything we know. In this scenario our brain serves only as the receptor of data from the mind field. (see Sheldrake, The Presence of the Past, pp. 210-215)    Another proposal is physicist David Bohm's  suggestion that the universe is all “thought” and that reality consists only of what we think.  In this scenario, we would presumably continue to receive input however we are receiving it now. (Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, pp. 56-62)   On this side of death all we can be reasonably sure of is that consciousness continues on the far side of death whether or not we have a functioning brain.

Deepak Chopra has observed that "to create in consciousness is our greatest gift, and what we create continues to evolve.  If you open yourself without judgment to your role as a creator, you gain much more freedom.  Genesis does not have to be a far-off event that put the universe into play.  It can be a constant event that renews itself at every moment." (Chopra, Life After Death, p. 158)  We already have the power to consciously create and destroy.  It is the power to choose life or death.  The biblical author of Deuteronomy counsels:  "Choose life so that you and your descendants may live." (30:19, NRSV)  Human consciousness goes beyond the limits of space/time.  As divine beings it is our consciousness, and subsequent naming all that we have conceived as manifestations of the Divine, that makes us  co-creators of the whole evolutionary process, leading to DNA and physical life on earth.  Holonic evolution is the original dominating force of nature.  Evolutionary growth, once it began, continues to this day and will never end.  It is also as observer-participants, conscious of this process, that we propel the process forward.   Creating does not require a gift of some special talent.  All it requires is that we pay attention, observe what is going on, and care about what we see.  Our gift to the creation is the gift of attention.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium, reflected on the accelerating expansion of the universe and Albert Einstein's cosmological constant (which Einstein dubbed lambda).   According to Tyson, Einstein knew that lambda, as a negative gravity force of nature,  had no known counterpart in the physical universe.  "Lambda's sole job was to oppose gravity within Einstein's model, keeping the universe in balance, resisting the natural tendency for gravity to pull the whole universe into one giant mass.  In this way, Einstein invented a universe that neither expands nor contracts...."  ( Tyson,  Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, pp.99-100)  When data from the Hubble telescope confirmed that the universe is, indeed, expanding and that lambda is real and not just the product of Einstein's imagination,  "Lambda suddenly acquired a physical reality that needed a name,  and so 'dark energy' took center stage in the cosmic drama, suitably capturing both the mystery and our associated ignorance of its cause." (ibid, p.106)

Tyson continues:  "A remarkable feature of lambda and the accelerating universe is that the repulsive force arises from within the vacuum, not from anything material.  (ibid, pp. 112-113, italics mine).

So what do we know that is both real and not material?  My answer to this is consciousness--specifically human consciousness,  a consciousness already known to be capable of affecting matter at the microscopic particle level.  It does not take a great leap of faith to believe that human consciousness can also effect change on the macroscopic level.  Surely this feat (of slowing down the expansion of the multiverse) is not beyond the reach of the original Creator of the multiverse!  And since human beings are the incarnations of this Creator, we who are Her hands and feet and mind continuing Her creative endeavors through our human consciousness, it may be amazing but not unreasonable to believe, that our consciousness is the elusive "dark energy," the lambda, the cosmological constant that we seek.

None of what I have written about consciousness above qualifies as a definition of consciousness.  If it is not the brain per se, then what is it?  This question has stumped the minds of philosophers and scientists for centuries.  I am going to risk here endorsing the definition offered by Fritz-Albert Popp, a theoretical biophysicist at the University of Marburg in Germany in the 1970's.  He observed that in "quantum physics, quantum coherence means that subatomic particles are able to cooperate.  These subatomic waves or particles not only know about each other, but also are highly interlinked by bands of common electromagnetic fields, so that they can communicate together. ...The end result is also a bit like a large orchestra.  All the photons [light particles] are playing together but as individual instruments that are able to carry on playing individual parts.  Nevertheless, when you are listening [paying attention] it's difficult to pick out any one instrument [photon]." (McTaggart, The Field, page 43.)

The whole of creation is the orchestra and all of Creation consists of photons and nothing but photons. And we humans, who are ourselves conductors in the orchestra of Creation, also consist of photons--infinitesimal packets of light energy. Fritz-Albert Popp concluded that "Consciousness was a global phenomenon that occurred everywhere in the body, and not simply in our brains. Consciousness, at its most basic, was coherent light." (reported by McTaggart in The Field, p.94; See also my discussion of our identity as beings of light in Holy Humanity, pp. 115-117.)   Quantum coherence, photons able to cooperate, coherent light, beings of light giving attention to  Creation, conscious conductors of the orchestra of Creation.  How much more evidence do we need to demonstrate that we human beings are the consciousness of the Cosmos, the coherent light whose attention brings coherence to the entire Creation?

We are the consciousness of Creation.  All that we perceive on this cosmic plane--the world and all its creatures, the trees and flowers, stars, planets and galaxies--everything of which we are conscious--has being through our consciousness.  It is through continuing divine/human and planetary consciousness that the cosmos has awareness of itself. Because we are divine beings manifesting the Creator herself, we collectively and individually also reveal the eternal and infinite dimensions of the Divine.  As eternal beings we were observers and witnesses of the beginning of the cosmos and have continued observing and facilitating its evolution to this day.   We had no beginning and we will have no end.  As both eternal and infinite divine beings we have also been observers (and, thus, creators) of an infinite number of other worlds and parallel universes with infinite variations that were formed in consciousness. Therefore, consciousness, too, is both eternal and infinite, as is its primary manifestation--unconditional, everlasting, and infinite divine Love.   Agápé is the Greek term for this Love, coined over two millennia ago.

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