Sunday, January 31, 2021

We heal our grief by sharing our pain

For many years Laura Lynne Jackson led two separate lives. In one she was a graduate of Oxford University teaching English in high school. In another she was a medium providing readings to individuals who sought her out to help them communicate with a deceased loved one.

“Then, one day at the high school where I teach,” she writes, “while I was on hall duty, I felt a sudden immense download of information and insight from the universe. It felt like a lighting bolt that brought instant clarity. And the meaning was simple. You are meant to share your story.”

Jackson submitted to rigorous tests—first with the Forever Family Foundation, a nonprofit, science-based group that helps people in grief, and then with the Windbridge Institute for Applied Research in Human Potential in Arizona. “At Windbridge,” she says, “I passed an eight-step, quintuple-blind screening administered by scientists to become one of only a small group of Certified Research Mediums.”

I find the model of free will that Jackson explains very convincing. Like Eben Alexander and James Hillman she affirms the important role of spirit guides.

“I am clairvoyant,” Jackson explains, “which means I have the ability to gather information about people and events through means other than my five senses. I’m also clairaudient—I can perceive sounds through means other than my ears—and clairsentient, which allows me to feel things through nonhuman means.”

Jackson began to participate in grief retreats sponsored by the Forever Family Foundation for families who have lost children to an early death. She found she could help families contact their lost children and experience a release from their grief, knowing their child was not suffering and was happy on the Other Side.

“There is a reason I gladly participate in grief retreats,” she explains. “I go in seeing how distraught people are, and I leave seeing how their burdens have been lifted by the act of sharing their grief with others. By sharing, we are acknowledging that, as spiritual beings, we are all connected.

“Grief brings us great pain, but the Other Side teaches us that this pain is not about the absence of love—it’s about the continuation of that love.

“The most powerful way we can honor someone who has crossed is to spread light and love in their name. Doing that work not only keeps that person present in our lives but also allows our loved one on the Other Side to still be a positive influence on our world.

“The Other Side wants us to live wide-open, vibrant lives. Live as fully and brightly as we can. They will be there with us. When we turn tragedy into hope, our loved ones on the Other Side don’t just see this, they celebrate it.

“The universe is designed for us to be there for each other—we are not meant to retreat into our pain and grief alone. We are meant to honor the vibrant cords of light and love that bind us, because the love of others is the most healing force of all. Why would we shut ourselves off from this powerful force? We are meant to be part of a vast, endless cycle of love, through which we receive the love of others and then pass that love on to someone else.

“Sharing our pain, and giving and receiving love, is how we heal our grief.”

“Why are we here?” she asks, and then answers. “To learn. To give and receive love. To be the agents of positive change in the world.

“What happens at death? We shed our bodies but our consciousness endures.

“What is our true purpose on this earth? To grow in love—and to help others do the same.

“Do we have free will to chart the course of our lives, or are our futures already mapped out? The Other Side has shown me a model of existence that is generous enough to encompass both free will—the ability to act at one’s own discretion—and predeterminism, which is the belief that all events and actions are decided in advance. It is a beautifully simple model I call ‘free will vs. points of fate.’

“Our existence is mapped out by a dazzling array of destination points that are in place before we are born. These are the points of fate—a continuum of all the crucial events, decisive moments, and significant people that constitute our time here.

“The Other Side has shown me that we create the actions that move us from one point of fate to the next. We are the ones who connect the dots. We make the decisions that move us from one point to another, and in the process we shape and create the picture of our lives.

Laura Lynne Jackson, The Light Between Us: Stories from Heaven (Spiegal & Grau, 2015).

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Revising evolution with a naturalistic teleology

Thomas Nagel writes: “The teleology I want to consider would be an explanation not only of the appearance of physical organisms but of the development of consciousness and ultimately of reason in those organisms. But its form can be described even if we stay at the physical level. Natural teleology would require two things. First, that the nonteleological and timeless laws of physics—those governing the ultimate elements of the physical universe, whatever they are—are not fully deterministic. Given the physical state of the universe at any moment, the laws of physics would have to leave open a range of alternative successor states, presumably with a probability distribution over them. 

“Second, among those possible futures there will be some that are more eligible than others as possible steps on the way to the formation of more complex systems, and ultimately of the kinds of replicating systems characteristic of life. The existence of teleology requires that successor states in this subset have a significantly higher probability than is entailed by the laws of physics alone—simply because they are on the path toward a certain outcome. Teleological laws would assign higher probability to steps on paths in state space that have a higher ‘velocity’ toward certain outcomes. They would be laws of the self-organization of matter, essentially—or of whatever is more basic than matter.

“This is a frankly teleological hypothesis because the preferred transitions do not have a higher probability in virtue of their intrinsic immediate characteristics, but only in virtue of temporally extended developments of which they form a potential part. In other words, some laws of nature would apply directly to the relation between the present and the future, rather than specifying instantaneous functions that hold at all times. A naturalistic teleology would mean that organizational and developmental principles of this kind are an irreducible part of the natural order, and not the result of intentional or purposive influence by anyone. I am not confident that this Aristotelian idea of teleology without intention makes sense, but I do not at the moment see why it doesn’t.”[1]

“According to the hypothesis of natural teleology, the natural world would have a propensity to give rise to beings of the kind that have a good—beings for which things can be good or bad. These are all the actual and possible forms of life. They have appeared through the historical process of evolution, but part of the explanation for the existence of that process and of the possibilities on which natural selection operates would be that they bring value into the world, in a great variety of forms.

“Since the emergence of value is the emergence of both good and evil, it is not a candidate for a purely benign teleological explanation: a tendency toward the good. In fact, no teleological principle tending toward the production of a single outcome seems suitable. Rather, it would have to be a tendency toward the proliferation of complex forms and the generation of multiple variations in the range of possible complex systems.

“We recognize that evolution has given rise to multiple organisms that have a good, so that things can go well or badly for them, and that in some of those organisms there has appeared the additional capacity to aim consciously at their own good, and ultimately at what is good in itself. From a realist perspective this cannot be merely an accidental side effect of natural selection, and a teleological explanation satisfies this condition. On a teleological account, the existence of value is not an accident, because that is part of the explanation of why there is such a thing as life with all its possibilities of development and variation. In brief, value is not just an accidental side effect of life; rather, there is life because life is a necessary condition of value.”[2]

“This is a revision of the Darwinian picture rather than an outright denial of it. A teleological hypothesis will acknowledge that the details of that historical development are explained largely through natural selection among the available possibilities on the basis of reproductive fitness in changing environments. But even though natural selection partly determines the details of the forms of life and consciousness that exist, and the relations among them, the existence of the genetic material and the possible forms it makes available for selection have to be explained in some other way. The teleological hypothesis is that these things may be determined not merely by value-free chemistry and physics but also by something else, namely a cosmic predisposition to the formation of life, consciousness, and the value that is inseparable from them.”[3]

Robert Traer adds: What Nagel calls a “cosmic predisposition” is a evolutionary direction that provides a naturalistic explanation for the extraordinarily unlikely development of conscious life. Because our consciousness transcends our physical experience, as it is not limited to an awareness of sensory experience, a cosmic direction might also help to explain near-death experiences that seem to verify a continuing consciousness after physical death.

1 Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False (Oxford University Press, 2012), 92-104.

2 See Derek Parfit, On What Matters (Oxford University Press, 2011).

3 Nagel, Mind and Cosmos, italics added, 105-123.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Explaining the evolution of reason and values

Philosopher Thomas Nagel writes: “Since we are evidently the products of evolution, and ultimately of a cosmic process that led to the development first of unicellular organisms and then of conscious agents before eventually producing intelligent beings capable of value judgments, the conception of the natural order that made this process possible must be expanded. An adequate conception of the cosmos must contain the resources to account for how it could have given rise to beings capable of thinking successfully about what is good and bad, right and wrong, and discovering moral and evaluative truths that do not depend on their own beliefs.

“If we leave the issue of determinism aside, the distinctive conception of human beings that is implied by value realism is that they can be motivated by their apprehension of values and reasons, whose existence is a basic type of truth, and that the explanation of action by such motives is a basic form of explanation not reducible to something of another form, either psychological or physical. I give you aspirin because I know it will relieve your headache, thereby manifesting my recognition that this fact counts in favor of the action. And this is not merely a superficial description of something else, which is the real, underlying explanation.

“Human action, in other words, is explained not only by physiology, or by desires, but by judgments. We are the subjects of judgment-sensitive attitudes, in Scanlon’s phrase,1 and those judgments have a subject matter beyond themselves. We exist in a world of values and respond to them through normative judgments that guide our actions. This, like our more general cognitive capacities, is a higher development of our nature as conscious creatures. Perhaps it includes the capacity to respond to aesthetic value as well—construed realistically as a judgment-independent domain that our experiences and judgments reveal to us.

“As with cognition in general, the response to value seems only to make sense as a function of the unified subject of consciousness, and not as a combination of the responses of its parts. In that respect it is different from those experiences of pleasure and pain that provide some of the most important raw material of value: they might be explained reductively through some form of psychophysical monism. But practical reasoning and its influence on action involve the unified conscious subject who sees what he should do—and that suggests an emergent answer to the constitutive question. On the other hand, the problem of how to reconcile the unity of the subject, such as it is, with a reductive account of the mental afflicts psychophysical monism at every level.

“The most important metaphysical aspect of a realist view of practical reason is that consciousness is not epiphenomenal and passive but that it plays an active role in the world. This is part of the ordinary view we have of ourselves, but it adds to the mere psychophysical irreducibility of experiential consciousness, a further respect in which the materialist form of naturalism fails to provide a complete account of the nature of human beings.2 Whether practical reason is emergent or reducible to activity at the micro level through some form of psychophysical monism, value realism requires consciousness to be active and rules out epiphenomenalism in human action. (A subjectivist view of value may also be incompatible with epiphenomenalism, but that is far from clear: subjectivism might be consistent with the possibility that our conscious value judgments are all side effects of the physiological causes of action.)

“Subjectivism interprets our value judgments as an outgrowth and elaboration, made possible by our linguistic and rational capacities, or our natural motivational dispositions, nothing more. Realism interprets them as the result of a process of discovery, starting from initial appearances of value that are comparable to perceptual beliefs and moving (we hope) toward a better understanding of how we should live. If realism is true, practical reason in this sense is one of our cognitive faculties.

“It is clear that unlike realism, subjectivism lends itself, at least speculatively, to a Darwinian account of how creatures capable of having values might have arisen. At least this question does not add anything to the difficulties for such an account already presented by the problem of consciousness and of reason in general. Value begins, on this view, from our desires and inclinations, which are natural facts of animal and human psychology, and higher-level value judgments are motivational elaborations from this base, generated by experience, refection, and culture.

“On a realist view, by contrast, the historical question is much more obscure, partly because the result is obscure. We want to know what has to be added to the standard Darwinian picture to account for the appearance through evolution of creatures like us, who can control their actions in response to reasons. While this capacity must be consistent with the influence of natural selection in that it is not inimical to reproductive fitness, and therefore not liable to be extinguished by natural selection, its appearance on the evolutionary menu would have to be explained by something else.

“Value realism must make sense of the fact that the biological evolutionary process and the physical and chemical history that preceded it have given rise to conscious creatures, to the real value that fills their lives and experiences, and ultimately to self-conscious beings capable to judgment-sensitive attitudes who can respond to and be rationally motivated by their awareness of those values. The story includes huge quantities of pain as well as pleasure, so it does not lend itself to an optimistic teleological interpretation. Nevertheless, the development of value and moral understanding, like the development of knowledge and reason and the development of consciousness that underlies both of those higher-order functions, forms part of what a general conception of the cosmos must explain.

“What is the actual history of value in the world so far as we are aware of it? Nothing in this domain can be regarded as obvious, but in the broadest sense, it seems to coincide with the history of life. First, with the appearance of life even in its earliest forms, there come into existence entities that have a good and for which things can go well or badly. Even a bacterium has a good in this sense, in virtue of its proper functioning, whereas a rock does not. Eventually in the course of evolutionary history there appear conscious beings, whose experimental lives can go well or badly in ways that are familiar.

“In looking for a historical explanation, a realist must suppose that the strongly motivational aspects of life and consciousness appear already freighted with value, even though they find their place in the world through their role in the lives of the organisms that are their subjects. The pleasures of sex, food, and drink are wonderful, in addition to being adaptive. Value enters the world with life, and the capacity to recognize and be influenced by value in its larger extension appears with higher forms of life. Therefore the historical explanation of life must include an explanation of value, just as it must include an explanation of consciousness.”3

1 See Thomas M. Scanlon, What We Owe to Each Other (Belknap Press, 2000), 20.
2 See David Hodgson, Rationality + Consciousness = Free Will (Oxford University Press, 2011).
3 Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False (Oxford University Press, 2012), 105-120.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Reasoning emerges from cosmic consciousness

Thomas Nagel writes: “The appearance of reason and language in the course of biological history seems, from the point of view of available forms of explanation, something radically emergent—if, as I assume, it cannot be understood behavioristically. Like consciousness, it presents problems of both constitutive and historical explanation. It appeared long after the emergence of conscious creatures, yet it also seems to be essentially a development of consciousness and ought to be understandable as part of that history. Like consciousness, reason is inseparable from the physical life of organisms that have it, since it acts on the material provided by perception and natural desire and controls action, both directly and indirectly. Any understanding of it will transform our understanding of physical organisms and their development as well.

“The great cognitive shift is an expansion of consciousness from the perspectival form contained in the lives of particular creatures to an objective, world-encompassing form that exists both individually and intersubjectively. It was originally a biological evolutionary process, and in our species it has become a collective cultural process as well.

“This, then, is what a theory of everything has to explain: not only the emergence from a lifeless universe of reproducing organisms and their development by evolution to greater and greater functional complexity; not only the consciousness of some of those organisms and its central role in their lives; but also the development of consciousness into an instrument of transcendence that can grasp objective reality and objective value.

“Certain things can be assumed, if there is such a thing as reason. First, there are objective, mind-independent truths of different kinds: factual truths about the natural world, including scientific laws; eternal and necessary truths of logic and mathematics; and evaluative and moral truths. Second, by starting from the way things initially appear to us, we can use reason collectively to achieve justified beliefs about some of those objective truths—though some of those beliefs will probably be mistaken. Third, those beliefs in combination can directly influence what we do. Fourth, these processes of discovery and motivation, while mental, are inseparable from physical processes in the organism.

It is trivially true that if there are organisms capable of reason, the possibility of such organism must have been there from the beginning. But if we believe in a natural order, then something about the world that eventually gave rise to rational beings must explain this possibility. Moreover, to explain not merely the possibility but the actuality of rational beings, the world must have properties that make their appearance not a complete accident: in some way the likelihood must have been latent in the nature of things.

“So we stand in need of both a constitutive explanation of what rationality might consist in, and a historical explanation of how it arose; and both explanations must be consistent with our being, among other things, physical organisms. The understanding of biological organisms and their evolutionary history would have to expand to accommodate this additional explanatory burden, as I have argued it must expand beyond materialism to accommodate the explanation of consciousness.

“A reductive account of reason, entirely in terms of the properties of the elementary constituents of which organisms are made, is even more difficult to imagine than a reductive account of consciousness. Rationality, even more than consciousness, seems necessarily a feature of the functioning of the whole conscious subject, and cannot be conceived of, even speculatively, as composed of countless atoms of miniature rationality. The metaphor of the mind as a computer built out of a huge number of transistor-like homunculi will not serve the purpose, because it omits the understanding of the content and grounds of thought and action essential to reason. It could account for behavioral output, but not for understanding.

For these reasons, a holistic or emergent answer to the constitutive question comes to seem increasingly more likely than a reductive one as we move up from physical organisms, to consciousness, to reason. This would mean that reason is an irreducible faculty of the kind of fully formed conscious mind that exists in higher animals.”


Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False (Oxford University Press, 2012), 85-91.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Thomas Nagel: life is necessary for value

I write in chapter 2 of my book Doing Environmental Ethics (2019), that Philosopher Thomas Nagel in his book Mind and Cosmos argues: “It is trivially true that if there are organisms capable of reason, the possibility of such organism must have been there from the beginning. But if we believe in a natural order, then something about the world that eventually gave rise to rational beings must explain this possibility. Moreover, to explain not merely the possibility but the actuality of rational beings, the world must have properties that make their appearance not a complete accident: in some way the likelihood must have been latent in the nature of things. So we stand in need of both a constitutive explanation of what rationality might consist in, and a historical explanation of how it arose; and both explanations must be consistent with our being, among other things, physical organisms.”

He concludes, therefore, that the view of evolution crediting only random events as causal has “to expand to accommodate this additional explanatory burden, as I have argued it must expand beyond materialism to accommodate the explanation of consciousness.”

This is a significant challenge, for: “if we hope to include the human mind in the natural order, we have to explain not only consciousness as it enters into perception, emotion, desire, and aversion but also the conscious control of belief and conduct in response to the awareness of reasons—the avoidance of inconsistency, the subsumption of particular cases under general principles, the confirmation or disconfirmation of general principles by particular observations, and so forth. This is what it is to allow oneself to be guided by the objective truth, rather than just by one’s impressions. It is a kind of freedom—the freedom that reflective consciousness gives us from the rule of innate perceptual and motivational dispositions together with conditioning. Rational creatures can step back from these influences and try to make up their own minds.”

Furthermore, Nagel reasons: “An adequate conception of the cosmos must contain the resources to account for how it could have given rise to beings capable of thinking successfully about what is good and bad, right and wrong, and discovering moral and evaluative truths that do not depend on their own beliefs.” For as rational beings, we recognize that “evolution has given rise to multiple organisms that have a good, so that things can go well or badly for them, and that in some of those organisms there has appeared the additional capacity to aim consciously at their own good, and ultimately at what is good in itself.” Therefore, Nagel concludes: “Value enters the world with life, and the capacity to recognize and be influenced by value in its large extension appears with higher forms of life.” And this means, “value is not just an accidental side effect of life; rather, there is life because life is a necessary condition of value.”[1]

In a splendid image, Nagel writes: ‘Each of our lives is a part of the lengthy process of the universe gradually waking up and becoming aware of itself.’”[2]

1 Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False (Oxford University Press, 2012), 1-84.

2 Richard Brody, “Thomas Nagel: Thoughts Are Real,” The New Yorker (July 16, 2013),

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

As consciousness grows evil shrinks

Deepak Chopra writes: “The Big Bang is as inconceivable as God. We can’t envision it, since it was invisible and silent and neither hot nor cold. (All these qualities require the five senses, which didn’t exist.) Time and space emerged from the Big Bang, so we can’t ask ‘where’ or ‘when’ it occurred; both concepts depend on time and space already being here. In short, science confronts the pre-created state with no trustworthy way to cross the gap.

“The transcendent world is a field of infinite possibilities. It is the starting point, the womb of creation. The subtle world brings a possibility to mind as an image. Something real is taking shape. The material world presents the result. A new thing or event is manifested.

“The cycle that carries everything from uncreated to created occurs constantly; it is the basic rhythm of nature. The brain also processes reality through a cycle that turns off and on thousands of times per second. The key is the synapse, the gap between two neural connections. A chemical reaction jumps the gap (this is the on switch), and then the synapse is cleared for the next signal (the off switch).

“The creator behind the scenes is consciousness. It is using the brain, just as a pianist uses a piano. Whatever consciousness wants comes into existence. The piano is an instrument to satisfy the mind’s desire for music. The human eye is an instrument to satisfy the mind’s desire to view the created world. Every other qualia follows the same pattern. Consciousness created the sense of touch in order to feel the created world, the sense of hearing to hear the created world, and so on. God entered his creation in order to enjoy it.

“God matters, more than anything in creation, because God is the word we apply to the source of creation. It isn’t necessary to worship the source, although reverence is certainly deserved if we want to give it. The necessary thing is to connect. Across the gap in the transcendent world are some totally necessary things that cannot be created, not by hand, by imagination, or by thought.

“No one is bound to the same creative path. As creator, you rise up from the ocean of consciousness to create your personal reality. When you go deep inside, however, you see that you belong to the ocean of consciousness. It is creating reality through you without ever leaving the transcendent world.

“Enter the realm of all possibilities. Making them come true is a great gift. It comes directly from God. When you fully remember who you are, you become one with God. An invisible grace permeates every aspect of your life. Providence will uphold you when you are totally aligned with God, as nature upholds all simpler life forms. Alignment is the natural way; nonalignment isn’t.

“If you find yourself fighting the world’s many evils, you are immersed in them. The system of evil has claimed you. It sounds shocking, but if you believe in evil, you have forgotten who you really are. Every time you fight evil, you are reinforcing the system of evil, which would shrink away unless people paid attention to it. [1]

“When you take a moment at night to revisit the good things that happened to you during the day, you reinforce every positive experience by consciously reminding yourself, you retrain your brain. A kind of filtering process is taking place. You select only the things you wish to reinforce, filtering out the mundane, irrelevant, and negative things. Once this becomes a habit, you will begin to experience a real shift in your personal reality. It will amaze you how much has been overlooked or taken for granted. Life isn’t good by itself; you must respond to it as good."[2]

“Once evil is exposed as an illusion, reality has a chance to convince us. Love can prove itself more powerful than fear. The greatest spiritual ideals, a world free of evil, will begin to actualize. On the other hand, if evil cannot be defeated, it will doom the spiritual path itself.

“A healthy ecosystem depends on one species eating another, which entails violence. Make all animals vegetarians, and in the absence of predators, nothing would stop insects from filling the world; they already outweigh all mammals many times over. But the need for pain applies to the mental world, too. Fear keeps you from putting your hand in the fire a second time. Guilt teaches children not to steal from the cookie jar even when their mothers aren’t watching. Mental pain is useful in all kinds of ways when it isn’t excessive.

“What we call evil is often something we can’t do without and don’t want to. Human beings thrive on contrast. Without pain there can be no pleasure, only a bland state of non-stimulation.

“Researchers into infant behavior have found that babies as young as four months old will try to pick up an object that their mothers dropped and hand it back. But the impulse to goodness is mixed in with contrary impulses. Other researchers have found that young children learn to act the way their parents tell them to; they know what ‘be good’ means in terms of getting approval at home. But when left alone without an adult in preschool, the same child may suddenly turn from Jekyll to Hyde, snatching toys from other children and showing no remorse when their victims cry.

“Pain and suffering weaken faith; God gets deposed with every new atrocity on the evening news. But what topples is only an image. God himself isn’t even touched by bad things; afflictions are part of the illusion. ‘Material existence is an illusion. Heaven is an upgrade of the illusion.’ God’s role isn’t to upgrade the illusion but to lead us out of it. Escaping evil is far more important than explaining it.

“Your real relationship with God emerges by eliminating everything that led to a false relationship. Evil is created in the misplaced desire to make ourselves worthy of God. Evil is like a vacuum, the emptiness of illusion. Fill the vacuum with reality, and evil vanishes. The fullness of God will steadily fill the vacuum. As consciousness grows, evil shrinks.

“Dharma comes down to one crucial thing: trusting Being to give you a course correction when you need it. Being provides hints about a higher reality. You feel subtly wrong when you veer into ego and selfishness. Being speaks silently, but existence is tilted in its favor.

“Consciousness naturally expands. The more you know yourself, the better your life becomes. Positive intentions are supported more than negative intentions.

“God is the place where the mind finds an answer beyond thought."[3]

1 Deepak Chopra, The Future of God: A Practical Approach to Spirituality for Our Times (Harmony Books, 2014), 148-232.

2 Deepak Chopra and Rudolph E. Tanzi, Super Genes: Unlock the Astonishing Power of Your DNA for Optimum Health and Well-Being (Harmony, 2015), 207.

3 Chopra, The Future of God, 233-250.

Monday, January 25, 2021

God as consciousness is the creative source of all

For Deepak Chopra, it is usually misleading to speak of God’s love, for the word is “being used to mean the kind of deep affection and caring that is human love. But God’s love doesn’t pick and choose, so it applies to serial killers, Adolf Hitler, Chairman Mao, and all other monsters in history. It applies to all criminal acts as well as to holy acts. Divine love is more like a natural force field—gravity, for instance—than a human emotion.

Infinite, eternal, and love simply aren’t the right words. They force God into a mental box where he won’t fit. Faith brought us to a level playing field where God is a real possibility. Beyond faith lie experiences that cannot be put into worlds. Yet the path is real, and the ability to make the journey is imprinted in the human mind itself.

“The journey has already begun by acknowledging that it is impossible to think about God the way we think about everything else. All the thinking and talking about God that we do is symbolic; thankfully symbols can point the way. But as long as you have a personal stake in the world, you are not one with God.

“I apply the same standards to God that we ordinarily apply to reality. Reality doesn’t come and go. It doesn’t abandon us. What changes is how we relate to it. In the interval between birth and death, we all come to grips with reality; thus, consciously or not, we are coming to grips with God.

“Sometimes suffering is so incomprehensible that illusion comes as the only comfort. Ultimately all suffering is the result of the fragmented mind, personal and collective. Violence is rooted in collective psychosis. The cure is transcendence to God consciousness. My challenge is to make this real. In the meantime, each of us must find consolation as we can.

“If God is everywhere, like the air we breathe, why is he so hard to find? Because everything you say about him is open to contradiction. Any quality you give to God is an illusion. When in doubt, an easy test is to substitute reality for God. Is reality loving or unloving? The question makes no sense. Reality is all-inclusive. It simply is. Once your mind begins to wrap itself around an all-inclusive God, one who simply is, you are truly escaping illusion.


If God is the creative source of everything,
And if God is in us,
The creative source of everything is in us.


“Faith doesn’t have a size, big or small. It’s a state of mind; either you are in that state or you aren’t.

“If I had to name one motivator that turns someone into a seeker, it would be this: People want to be real. The will to believe, which in earlier centuries was focused on God, has morphed into a yearning for a real life, one that holds together, that is rich in meaning and purpose, that brings fulfillment.

"The rules for making God real are the ones that construct the real world. They can easily be stated:

1. You are not a passive receiver taking in a fixed, given reality. You are processing your experience at every second.

2. The reality you perceive comes from the experience you are processing.

3. The more self-aware you are, the more power you will have as a reality-maker.

“No one has ever surrendered to God except by mistrusting the material world and following hints that lead in another direction.

Chopra sees near-death experiences as “hints from the subtle world,” and he affirms: “Subtle actions pervade life.” For instance, “If you trust your partner loves you, that’s a subtle action.” Moreover, “God is everywhere in the subtle world. The divine doesn’t appear by glimpses, in peak moments with sudden blinding light. The divine is constant; it is we who come and go.

“Your brain, despite its marvels, requires basic training when you learn any new skill, and finding God is a skill. New neural pathways must be formed, which will happen automatically once you put focus, attention, and intention behind it.

If God is reality,
And if reality is consciousness,
Then God is consciousness. 


Deepak Chopra, The Future of God: A Practical Approach to Spirituality for Our Times (Harmony Books, 2014).

Sunday, January 24, 2021

All that is natural and supernatural is miraculous

Physician Deepak Chopra writes: “Ever since the Big Bang, the energy in the universe has been dissipating, like a hot stove cooling off. This dispersal of heat, known as entropy, is inexorable. Yet somehow islands of ‘negative entropy’ have evolved. One of them is life on earth. Instead of dissipating into the void of outer space, the sunlight that hits green plants begins the chain of life, holding on to energy and converting it into incredibly complex forms that hand the energy around, recycle it, and use it in creative ways. It is impossible for random events to explain how entropy could be defied for billions of years.

“DNA was born in a hostile environment filled with extreme heat and cold, toxic gases, and a firestorm of random chemical reactions. Unlike any chemical in the known universe, DNA resisted being degraded into smaller molecules; instead it built itself up into higher complexity and learned to replicate itself. No explanation for this unique activity has been offered.

“All the cells in our bodies, trillions of them, contain the same DNA, yet they spontaneously ‘know’ how to become liver cells, heart cells, and all other specialized cells. In the embryonic brain, stem cells travel along precise paths, stop when they reach their destinations, and become specific neurons for seeing, hearing, controlling hormones, and thinking. This spontaneous ability to ‘know’ how to suppress one part of the genetic code while enlivening others is inexplicable.

“DNA can tell time. From the moment an ovum gets fertilized, a single cell contains time-sensitive triggers for growing baby teeth, entering puberty, causing menopause, and eventually dying. How these sequences, which span seven decades or more, can be contained inside a chemical is beyond explanation.

“In an uncanny way, molecules ‘know’ what they are doing, whether in the ancestral chemical soup from which DNA emerged or in the chemistry of your brain cells as you read this sentence.

“One of the everyday mysteries that medicine can’t explain is controlled by the host. Every minute you and I inhale millions of microbes, viruses, allergens, and toxic substances. The vast majority reside in us harmlessly. Our bodies control them from harming us. But when AIDS destroys the immune system, the host loses control, and rampant disease breaks out in an autoimmune disorder like rheumatoid arthritis. The system for protecting the body turns upon it instead. Even an innocuous condition like hay fever indicates that control by the host has failed. In all these examples, the breakdown is a breakdown of intelligence. Thus mind is pervasive in every cell and swims invisibly through the bloodstream.

“The reason that mixing mind with matter disturbs mainstream doctors, who are trained to be scientific, isn’t a secret. Mind rules the subjective world, which science distrusts, while matter is the basis of ‘real’ knowledge. Heart patients feel all kinds of pain, pressure, and strangeness about their condition; an angiogram tells the doctor what’s really going on.

“Mind holds some kind of key to the ultimate nature of reality. Once you admit that this is true, the possibility of miraculous events increases, because the non-miraculous has shifted so much. Natural and supernatural are infused with the same properties of consciousness.

“Nothing is real for us outside our experience of it, and experience is a conscious creative act. Without me, an observer, there is no proof that the stars exist. This is why Heisenberg declared consciousness is something science cannot get behind, or go beyond. We only know that we are here observing the world. What happens when nobody observes it is a mystery.

“Are miracles all in your mind? Yes. Is the everyday world all in your mind? Yes again.

“Every experience we have, mental or physical, is a miracle, because we have no way of explaining experience scientifically. We assume that photons give us the experience of form and color, yet photons are formless and colorless. We assume that the vibration of air creates sound, but vibrations are silent outside the brain. We study the receptor sites on the tongue and inside the nose, which gives rise to taste and smell, yet what takes place at those sites is chemical reactions, not an experience.

“Materialism, in its conquest of the spiritual worldview, has burdened us with explanations requiring just as much faith as believing in miracles. Faith alone supports the notion that sodium and potassium ions passing through the outer membrane of neurons, in turn setting up electrochemical reactions that span millions of neural networks, create sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts. These are assumptions with no explanation whatsoever. Chemicals are just names we have applied to a mystery. Brain scans are snapshots of activity, telling us nothing about actual experience, just as snapshots of piano keys tell us nothing about enjoying music.

“Only consciousness makes experience possible; therefore, as the source of consciousness, God exists outside the domain of data.

“The founder of quantum physics, Max Planck, had no doubt that mind would eventually become the elephant in the room, an issue too massive and obvious to ignore: ‘I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.’”

Deepak Chopra, The Future of God: A Practical Approach to Spirituality for Our Times (Harmony Books, 2014), 93-147.

Gödel's reasons for an afterlife

Alexander T. Englert, “We'll meet again,” Aeon , Jan 2, 2024,