The Problem of Consciousness, Part I

Sometimes philosophy begins by asking what seems to be a dumb question, that is, by questioning what seems so obvious that it has never been questioned. For example: “Why is the sky dark at night?” Isn’t the obvious answer that the sky is dark after sunset? No, as has been realized during the last century, the light from all the billions of stars in the universe does not fade away; it just bounces around. That’s because of the law of the conservation of energy: energy can be neither created nor destroyed (at least in this universe). As a result, the night sky ought to be just as bright as the day sky. However, it isn’t, because the visible universe is expanding, and will expand forever; so the available light cannot fill it up.

We know about the expansion because of Hubble’s discovery of the red shift about a century ago. If the expansion had been deduced first from the darkness of the night sky, then the resulting prediction of the red shift would have confirmed it, just as the outward shift of star images around a total solar eclipse in 1920 confirmed the veracity of Einstein’s concept of general relativity.

So I begin this discourse by asking, “Why do we have two minds?” The other one is the one that dreams at night. We call the mind we are ordinarily aware of the “conscious” mind, and the other we call the “unconscious” mind. But these terms are backward. It is the ordinary mind that becomes unconscious, when we sleep, and the other mind is always conscious. We have these terms because the ordinary mind is rarely conscious of the other mind, which exists behind a barrier that shields it from the ordinary mind. The barrier is, however, like a one-way mirror. The other mind always knows everything that the ordinary mind knows. Let us therefore call the ordinary mind the “personal” mind, since it is the locus of our individual personalities. In contrast, the Collective Unconscious, as Jung called it, apparently functions as a universal mind, underlying the consciousness of each individual mind. I choose to call it the Deep Mind.

.In an incredible insight, Jung proposed in the 1930s that our having two minds is neither accidental nor arbitrary (the passage showing this is inVol. VIII of the Bolligen edition of Jung’s collected writings.)  He had been discussing quantum mechanics with Wolfgang Pauli—which also led him to the concept of synchronicity—and realized that Pauli’s work implied that our two minds arise out of the nature of subatomic particles, that is, out of the basic fabric of reality. Later, John Archibald Wheeler, one of the most skeptical of modern physicists, was forced to conclude from the experimental evidence that even electrons have a rudimentary consciousness. Consciousness is therefore inherent in reality, not something imposed on it from elsewhere; it is condensed by our minds, not created by them.

.In the 1924 edition of his Anthropology, Alfred Kroeber first set forth his discovery that many cultural processes are controlled by the Deep Mind (in the 1948 edition, he expanded this discussion to a hundred pages). For example, he found correlations between changes in women’s fashions and the outbreak of major wars that continued on for centuries. Another example is the founding of almost all the major religions in one generation around 600 BCE (I’ll discuss that extraordinary event in a later blog). He asked, “Who decided around 1950 that American men would stop wearing fedoras?” and proposed that fashion designers do not so much create trends as become aware of them before they happen. These processes are not controlled by the personal minds in each individual. Rather, the Deep Mind seems to function as a collective mind, with access to all the knowledge in each individual mind. If this is so, then we are not ten billion separate, isolated individuals. Instead, we are a single immortal being housed in ten billion bodies, the being whom Blake called the Giant Albion.

.How does the Deep Mind communicate with itself? It doesn’t have to, if it is all one consciousness. I’m inclined to think this is plausible because of my experience in discovering that divination systems do produce accurate information, according to the people the information is about, as I described in an earlier blog. That neither time nor distance is primordial is among the paradoxes of quantum mechanics. Time and separation in space are two of the a priori assumptions deduced by Kant that are part of the formatting that creates the virtual reality experienced by the personal mind; they are not aspects of fundamental reality. That is, it was Kant who deduced that we neither remember nor perceive reality directly, but instead construct it. (I’ll explain later what we know about how that construction process works.)

The Deep Mind thus provides a scientific, or at least nonmetaphysical, explanation for psychic phenomena. It is not strange that we can “read” someone else’s mind if it is ultimately all the same consciousness thinking. It is also not strange that we could know what is happening at a distance if any others have that knowledge. Much of the traditional training in particular religious traditions aims to increase the personal mind’s sensitivity and access to the Deep Mind. So does the “psychic development”training  that has evolved in some of the newer religions, such as (and especially) the Craft. (I have been thinking about making what I know experientially about such stuff available to others. My wife has some notions about how to do that.)