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Chapter Excerpt from:
"The Prophet's Way"

Consciousness and Transformation

by Thom Hartmann

This is an excerpt from "The Prophet's Way," copyright 1997 by Thom Hartmann and Mythical Intelligence Inc.. All rights reserved. Please do not copy or redistribute this in any form.


Consciousness and Transformation
Our Hope for the Future
"Standing on the bare ground…a mean egotism vanishes.
I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all;
the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me;
I am part or particle of God."
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Recent scientific studies show that matter and the mind that perceives it are not as separate as Aristotle, Descartes, and our modern culture have believed.

Around the turn of the century, physicists realized that the traditional Newtonian model of the way matter and energy worked and interacted wasn’t complete: it didn’t explain certain phenomena having to do with the transmission of heat.

This led theoretical physicists to postulate that energy didn’t just move in waves, but also in little packets, which they referred to as quanta. The system by which the movement and transitions of these quanta are measured and predicted is called quantum mechanics, and is no longer considered just a theory, but a practical way of describing the behavior of subatomic particles and energy.

But as physicists began performing experiments to test the concepts of quantum mechanics, they began to observe strange things. A particle split in two, for example, would send two parts spinning away from the split-point in opposite directions with opposite spins. However, if the spin-direction of one of the half-particles were changed, even thousands of miles from the point where it originated, the other half-particle would instantaneously change its spin as well.

At first the idea of this was ridiculed, because what it implied was that there was no such thing as time or distance when working with bits of matter/energy/reality this small, even though they may be separated by millions of miles of distance. Such a concept calls into question all of our notions of reality.

When it was demonstrated over and over again in the laboratory, however, this weird behavior of subatomic particles came to be accepted and was given the name of Non-Local Phenomena or nonlocality.

But the plain-language description of the implications of this research, named the Copenhagen Interpretation by Danish physicist Niels Bohr, is even more mind-boggling. Bohr proposed that quanta could behave as either particles or energy (which was already known), but that only one thing determined whether they manifested as particles or energy: whether they were being observed by a conscious being.

In other words, the entire universe exists only as energy, as a mathematical wave of probability, until a conscious being observes it. In that moment of observation—instantaneously and faster than the speed of light—the wave of energy being observed snaps into physical reality and is measurable.

At first this idea, too, was ridiculed. But then at the University of Texas in 1977, George Sudarshan and B. Misra showed theoretically that an unstable particle’s decay would be suppressed by the act of observation. Like the watched pot that never boils, so long as a person is observing an atom’s disintegration, atomic disintegration is suspended.

Because we observed it, it continued to exist.

In 1990, David Winehead and colleagues proved this by actual observation in an experiment performed at that National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado.

Suddenly, physicists were talking like priests from the most ancient religions in the world.

Many physicists now assert that this is how all of creation is: so long as we sense it, it exists. (Certainly the personal reverse is true: before we existed, when we are unconscious, and possibly after we die, this physical world will cease to exist for us.) In any case, there is a clear and solid connection between matter and consciousness, proven now in the most sophisticated physics laboratories in the world. Without consciousness to observe it, it seems that the entire universe of matter would dissolve back into energy!

This is consistent with the philosophy that I developed during my year in the tipi: that the entire physical universe could be a dream or thought in the "mind" of G–d, and that we are the eyes, ears, and senses of G–d.

It’s unfortunate that in English we only have the word consciousness, because most people think of consciousness as "thinking," and that is absolutely not what I mean. A closer term is the German expression Bewußte Wahrnehmung, although an English dictionary will only translate that into "conscious awareness." A German, however, knows it has a different meaning. When I asked Herr Müller to describe what it really meant, he popped his eyes open and opened his mouth and took a sharp breath. "That is it," he said. "Oh!"

"Oh?"

"Ja. There is no equivalent English word."

So we’re stuck using a word to describe something that hardly does it justice, because we’re lacking the real word. In Sanskrit it’s ananda. In Japanese it’s satori. But in English we don’t have the word, so I’ll have to use the word "consciousness."

Please remember, though, that I’m not talking about "thinking," and every time you instinctively translate "consciousness" into "thinking," step back and correct yourself. It’s referred to in the Bible as "I am that I am" (the phrase G–d used to describe Himself when Moses said, "Who are you?") which is actually a pretty clear and solid way of saying it. Some would call it bliss, but that implies that there is a not-bliss as well, that it’s part of some continuum. It’s not; it’s beyond "from here to there": it just is, all at once.

It’s the source and wellspring of the soul.

This, then, raises an interesting question about human consciousness, taking us back to the earlier chapters on this topic. What if our thinking mind, our likes and dislikes, our opinions and fears—our thoughts—are not tools to help us connect with consciousness, but instead they keep us from it?

This would explain why when a person dies (as we learn from people who have near-death experiences or NDEs) and their thinking brain shuts down, they suddenly experience light, bliss, and something for which they tell us there is no word in English: what I am calling consciousness. "The entire universe is filled with the fire of life," they often say, "and I realized in that moment that I am part of it, seamlessly."

Aldous Huxley, in Doors of Perception, proposed that the mind serves as a filter, shutting out most of our awareness, closing the "doors of perception" so we can think. If we’re fully aware, we can’t think; when we’re thinking, we are by necessity somewhat unaware!

This fits with the observation that so many religious traditions emphasize techniques which shut down or short-circuit the thinking brain to get to consciousness. These range from saying the Rosary for hours, to meditation, to wild physical activities (like the whirling dervishes, and singing and dancing in churches), to the use of sacramental plants such as peyote and pscilocybin mushrooms. What all these do is alter the neurochemistry and function of the brain to the point where the "receiver" changes channels.

I suspect that thinking is not here to bring us closer to G–d or consciousness: it’s here to keep us from G–d and consciousness, so that our species will be perpetuated. Thinking is an artifact of our animal bodies, our mammal brain, and functions to help our physical bodies survive and procreate. This is why we can see so many of our thinking processes mirrored in other animals, as any dog or cat owner will tell you.

Assuming for a moment that this is true, and that the ancient prophets and saints were aware of it, then and only then do the traditional religious concepts of sin begin to make sense.

When Jesus said that looking upon a woman with lust was the same as sleeping with her, I believe he was referring to the danger of thinking — of separating ourselves from the created world by our thoughts. Instead, he said very clearly at the end of the Sermon on the Mount and in other places, just be.

All the "primary" sins cataloged in the world’s major religions then are seen as things which increase thinking and wanting, pulling us away from being.

This is why they’re warned against.

But those messages have been twisted over the years into rules and power grabs, because they’ve been viewed from the younger culture perspective instead of the older culture viewpoint where they originated. They’ve been taken from the mouths of mystics (where they were positive suggestions for self-realization) and put into the mouths of the religious equivalent of police who then used them to lord over their subjects.

Younger cultures value thinking. In Western Civilization, cogito ergo sum is a mantra: I am because I think. And thinking leads to wanting, to conquest, to war, to oppression and exploitation, to the utter separation of human from human and from the life around. In Sanskrit, for example, the word "war" translates into "desire for more cattle."

Younger Cultures value conformity. This became even more true with the advent of mass production, which demonstrated that it’s more efficient if all ingredients are identical. There may be less soul put into the work, but that’s consistently seen to be an acceptable trade-off in younger cultures.

Not surprisingly, younger cultures view variations in thinking styles as deficits or disorders. It’s not uncommon for some "deficits" to disappear if you change the setting, but the diagnosis persists, with the presumption that chemicals should be added to the patient’s brain, or at least some sort of psychotherapy.

Older Cultures view this as presumptuous, and place a high emphasis on being instead of thinking. They honor those who have touched the "kingdom of heaven within," who have awakened out of thinking and into consciousness.

When a person lives in this place, tiny acts of compassion become part of and, in fact, create awareness of moment-to-moment life. They are love in expression, and have the effect of transforming our thinking mind into a conscious mind.

When we realize that the entire world around us and within us is made from the stuff of G–d which we can experience as love, then the entire world becomes sacred.

Every act of life is sacred.

Every bit of creation is alive and vital and sacred, and touches us with love.

And the idea of fouling the planet, of destroying our environment, of exploiting or stealing from "them" to the advantage of "us," or even of labeling another human being as "disordered," is seen as the Younger Culture poverty of consciousness and the excess of thinking that it represents.


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