By Frank Conerton
I was raised in a religious household. My original understanding about the world was the basic religious view of creation; God created the world and then God created man. From this I understood there were three separate things: God, the world, man. With this belief, trying to understand what and who I was (self-discovery) was a matter of understanding God’s intention in creating humanity. And He wasn’t talking.
Years later, disillusioned with religious belief and seeking alternative thought, the only non-religious idea that I found was the idea that the physical world simply always existed. Human existence was a spectacular accident, possibly unique. My problem with this theory was that since we are simply an accident, there is little meaning to life except what we give to it. Therefore, the philosophy of “wine, women and song” is just as valid as a philosophy of dedicated self-discovery and pursuit of wisdom.
Only recently I found the work of Amit Goswami Ph.D. He is a nuclear physicist who wrote a textbook for the mathematics of Quantum Physics. Also, as the son of a (East Indian) Brahmin, he was raised in a spiritual home. These two disciplines coalesced into his new realization about the nature of the world. Consciousness is the basis of the world! In addition he describes the main attributes of this world as constantly unfolding and therefore related. In quantum physics, everything has unfolded from a tangled hierarchy. This tangled hierarchy is a realm of possibilities and consciousness (i.e. God in Heaven). Our physical world is the manifestation of one possibility along with the consciousness to perceive and manipulate physical reality.
Consciousness is the basis of the world. There is a consciousness of existence. This consciousness concentrates energy and manifests particles. As this consciousness unfolds and organizes, particles become atoms, which become minerals, which combine to form compounds. Then there is a consciousness of life combined with the consciousness of existence, which manifested single cell life. As this consciousness unfolded, complex organisms evolved, then plants and animals. As consciousness continued to unfold, as animals became more complex with ever greater range of functions, human awareness became manifest.
How do we humans differ from other animals? We are able to see a far greater range of possibilities than plants and other animals. Also, we have the ability to select a possibility and act to manifest this possibility into physical reality. We have the power of choice.
I believe our power of choice is humanity’s primary defining characteristic. We can choose to think or not. We can choose to be aware or not. We can even choose to live or not. But trying to not-choose is still a choice! Our lives are a constant stream of choices.
This leads to a corollary. If our defining characteristic is freedom of choice, then the most fundamental harm that we can do to another human being is to take away or diminish their ability to choose. Killing a person removes their ability to choose. Stealing from a person limits their range of choice. When we lie to people we diminish their ability to choose by giving false information. By imprisoning or enslaving another, we physically limit their ability to choose. By brainwashing another, we change their thinking and diminish their ability to choose. Those who seek to have control and power over other people are seeking to fundamentally harm those people. And the most fundamental harm that we do to ourselves is to diminish our ability to choose through habit, addiction, or giving other people the ability to choose for us.