A Universe Full of Magical Things:
A Cosmic View Beyond the Myths of Religion and Scientific Materialism
This is an intro and summary of the book. The book references scholars throughout, so the material here is really culled from what they have to say, though I only name two specifically here.
When I saw that no religious perspective really resonated with me, and when I saw that the traditional scientific perspective that only physical matter is real also didn’t resonate, I was left trying to understand what, indeed, was real.
Having some persuasive understanding of what is real was indispensable for my life to have meaning. Since I was very young that question of my meaning and purpose for being here persistently gnawed at me and insistently demanded an answer.
My journey to here involved Catholic indoctrination, then rejection of that indoctrination, after two years in seminary after high school. I still “believed in God,” and couldn’t imagine killing another human, so was able to get conscientious objector status. Instead of going to Vietnam I worked at a psych hospital in the inner city of Chicago for two years, and that led eventually to my becoming a social worker and working as a psychotherapist. I became more and more dubious about the God I’d been taught about, and became more of an agnostic. Caught up in the God is Dead conversation in society at the time—I had no idea what “God” meant— I began to question the whole concept, gradually identifying more as an atheist.
The haunting question of meaning and purpose never got settled though. Early in my career I worked with domestic violence perpetrators and victims, and came to understand that perpetrators were acting out their own traumas. I gradually became an ardent feminist while doing that work, but rather than be indignant about the obvious injustices, I found myself having compassion for the pain and traumas of both those who are injured and those who injure. I believe it was my attitude of compassion—which seemed to me to be the only realistic attitude to hold—which seduced me into imagining that there could be a Cause, a First Cause, that held unconditional compassion without judgment toward humans. If there was a God, that is who it would need to be.
My Mom died in 1995, and her death was one of the catalysts to again considering spirituality, which had been such a big part of my youth. It was around that time when I found myself in the Boulder Bookstore, picking up Ken Wilber’s Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality. He said, among one or two other things, that you can’t just talk about meditation, you have to do it. Soon I was a using brain wave audio enhancement, Holosync, and meditating for an hour a day, which I continued for the next twelve years. Of course, that had to change things, and it did.
I studied and meditated on what scientists and philosophers and spiritual masters had to say, always circling around that question of meaning and purpose. It became clear to me that the key to the answer had to do with consciousness. A Universe Full of Magical Things pulls all of this together.
2 Scientific Materialism
Quantum theory says that at the tiniest, there is nothing hard. There is no matter—only nanotornados of swirling energy moving into and out of existence. That means that all that we believe to be physical doesn’t really exist: it means that what we are perceiving is a virtual reality.
Rupert Sheldrake described what he sees as the core beliefs that most scientists take for granted:
-Everything is essentially mechanical…
-All matter is unconscious…
-Nature is purposeless, and evolution has no goal or direction…
-Minds are inside heads and are nothing but the activities of brains…
-Memories are stored as material traces in brains and are wiped out at death…
Says Sheldrake, “...These beliefs make up the philosophy or ideology of materialism, whose central assumption is that everything is essentially material or physical, even minds. This belief system became dominant within science in the late nineteenth century, and is now taken for granted. Many scientists are unaware that materialism is an assumption: they simply think of it as science, or the scientific view of reality, or the scientific worldview. They are not actually taught about it, or given a chance to discuss it. They absorb it by a kind of intellectual osmosis.”
According to biologist Bruce Lipton, there are three core ideas that science continues to hold today, all of which are based in belief, not proven fact:
“Materialism—Physical matter is the only fundamental reality. The Universe can be understood through knowledge of its visible physical parts. Rather than invoking unseen vital forces or spirits, life is derived from self-reactive chemistry that comprises the body. Simply stated, ‘All that matters is matter.’
“Reductionism—No matter how complex something appears, it can always be dissected and understood by studying its individual components. Simply stated: ‘To understand something, take it apart and study its pieces.’
“Determinism—Occurrences in Nature are causally determined, a consequence of the concept that every action produces a reaction. An outcome can be predicted by the linear progression of discrete events. Simply stated: ‘We can predict and control the outcome of natural processes.’”
This is the essence of the Materialist Paradigm, that matter is primary, and that everything else—life, mind, consciousness—emanated somehow from matter, though how that miracle could be is never explained.
3 Quantum Mechanics Features
So it turned out for me, for all of traditional science’s stance of dismissing and demeaning consciousness as irrelevant because of its presumption of an entirely physical world, that the uncovering by that same science—that quantum dynamics is the underlying reality of the “physical world”—ironically elevated consciousness as the source of meaning, purpose, perspective, and reality itself.
Even traditional science is compelled to say that before our existence, before the big bang, were only “quantum fluctuations in the infinite vacuum.” Quantum fluctuations are immaterial, not physical, so how could matter be primary?
Quantum physics showed at the micro-level, out of which the macro-level of existence is made, that none of what scientific materialism thought to be true, was. As hard as it is for us to wrap our minds around the idea, quantum physics confirmed that observation—consciousness—is required for existence. Period. If it’s not observed, it cannot be said to be real. We only can say that something exists when we observe it: otherwise, as the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein has said, “Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we should remain silent.”
Among other things, quantum theory says that:
- Matter is not solid. It is activity—processes and events—which are the essence of being. By inference, since what we are perceiving as physical is not actually physical—it just seems physical—we live in a virtual reality. We are characters in a virtual reality game, like the crew members on Star Trek’s holodeck.
- We do not live in a world that always functions in a cause and effect way. The world consists of more than matter acting on matter.
- There is always uncertainty, and the world is indeterminate. We live in a world of probabilities, not predictability.
- Information and action can occur instantaneously across immense distances. It appears that an “entangled” particle instantaneously “knows” and reacts in a complementary fashion to the actions of its counterpart, even at unfathomable distances. Events are not locally occurring; they are non-local: an event here can affect events across the galaxy instantaneously.
- Quantum events are uncaused, that is, self-caused. There is no cause outside of the quantum event itself that explains its action.
- Despite the illusion that we can predict events before we observe, we can only determine the probability we might observe something from all available options.
- What happens in the world is affected by our observation. The observer is not separate from the object being investigated… “The so-called observer is actually a participator, an integral part of the quantum system.”
- We subjectively participate in co-creating the universe. There is only personal subjective reality. We each have our own unique consciousness. In quantum dynamics, there is no objectivity. Further, time and space and matter/energy are not fixed entities. They are only products of our personal perceptions.
- Observation is consciousness, and quantum systems require a conscious observer.
- Everything we observe is a living and conscious and choosing process.
- The universe is entirely interconnected at the quantum level—the micro world that underlies the macro world of classical mechanics—unfolding, complexifying, and evolving itself as it expands.
These quantum realities—the realities that describe the micro world out of which our macro world is made—proclaim that all the conclusions we have drawn about a world presumed to be hard and physical, cause-and-effect, and billiard ball-like, predictable and objective, are only as real as a movie or tv show or computer game: ultimately pretend.
Einstein could not believe that no moon existed unless he was looking at it, unsurprisingly. He also could not accept that something could move faster than the speed of light—although both of these are verified by Quantum Theory.
Quantum physics says that the world as we perceive it isn’t what the world really is. The sun doesn’t rise in the east, the earth is not flat, and there is no such thing as hard matter. We just think there is, like we think the water we see on the desert horizon must be there. All just elaborate deceptions.
4 Our Virtual Game
We humans have apparently signed on to play by the rules of this imaginary physical-plane game, documenting the underlying reality that quantum theory has been indisputably shown to be the way the world of the small operates. There is no challenge to that in any quarter of scientific thinking. Though materialistic science cannot explain how it works, it does work. 100% of the time. It has never been wrong. 30% of first world economies depend on quantum technology. Effectively our technological realities--communication, engineering, architecture, computers, genetics, biotechnology, astrophysics, cosmology, transportation, entertainment, medicine, and so on—all are a result of quantum mechanical applications. Though science cannot say how it works, all of science ratifies that it works, reliably, all the time.
In this virtual-physical-plane-game-universe that quantum physics has presented to us, all that we perceive in the game is alive, conscious, intelligent, and makes choices, just as every avatar we relate to in a virtual game is alive and makes choices. We agree to participate in this illusory world, this bubble, this story wherein matter/energy, time and space, and choice are all experienced as if they were true. We adopt the Consciousness Paradigm when we realize we are players in this virtual game, not physical at all, but only some sort of virtual representation, which we observe and perceive. We see that consciousness is primary, and that everything we experience, we experience in consciousness.
5 A Wholly Conscious Universe
A Universe Full of Magical Things describes this world where consciousness is primary—indeed, all that is. Consciousness pervades everything. The book surveys a variety of flora and fauna in nature, documenting across all of nature individual awareness, intelligence, and choice-making. The double-slit experiment that awakened science to quantum reality showed unequivocally that subatomic particles make decisions actively, and so are conscious on some level, alive on some level. Thus, even rocks have a form of existential consciousness. In fact, the entire ecosystem of earth and even the universe is one interconnected and conscious entity, all evolving and emerging intentionally, and all in the context of a virtual-material-plane game.
If there is consciousness in the universe, the universe must be conscious. If the entirety of the universe is conscious on some level, then the universe itself must be alive. To be conscious is to be alive. If this is so then, we are constantly interacting with a living part of ourselves in everything we see and experience, much as each living cell of the human body is interacting with every other living cell.
This may be the most difficult truth for us to wrap our heads around—that everything has some kind of awareness, even a rock or a wall. That would mean it’s all orchestrated together like the musicians and notes and melodies and harmonies and instruments and movements, etc. of a symphony. If consciousness pervades everything as quantum theory says it does, then what we might think of as “God” (or quantum fluctuations or quantum mind) pervades everything, conducting the symphony.
6. Evolution as Emergence
Evolution, then, cannot be driven by mere natural selection and mutation—these are artifacts of an inert, dead, material mindset. Evolution is more of an Emergence, a symphony unfolding, an intelligent dance between living and conscious organisms and living and conscious environments. Emergence occurs throughout the natural world, and it occurs as well in the noetic realm, the realm of consciousness, thought, and mind. We are familiar with evolution in nature, but mind matures as well, as the book describes, culminating as far as we know in humans who know, but who also know that we know, and so can participate with the universe in deliberately co-creating what might become next.
With this capacity to self-reflect and co-create, our native human consciousness evolves with, and yet beyond, biology. Just as what we think of as biological evolves faster than what we think of as material, so too, with the dawn of humanity, mind evolves even more rapidly than biology.
We—as the universe—emerge together: growing, complexifying, expanding, with compassion and collaboration toward union. Evolution is an alive and active swelling of the land and of sea resulting in an emergence of the new, the more, the challenging, the deepening and the becoming.
Mentally, humans participate with nature and biology, and we now lead the way because of our capacity to self-reflectively know in our Native Human Consciousness.
7. Co-Creating with the Cosmic Presence
Humanity itself evolves in an array of developmental lines, such as physical growth, cognition, kinesthetics, morals and ethics, social and cultural capacities, personal identity, values, and many more. It turns out that the quality of our life conditions and the level of our values development are together the catalysts for both personal and cultural evolution and emergence.
We may potentially reach a point where we appreciate that our individual interests and stories are consequential only in the context of our evolution as a species. We see that it is self-deception to understand ourselves and other individuals as separate entities. We are inextricably part of an ongoing evolutionary process, and our individual value is to cooperate for the benefit of our species, and all of being, since, duh, we are all one interconnected being.
So, if all this is so, what does that mean for my meaning and purpose, and for what I am here in this game to do?
It is consciousness that generates all context and meaning for us, and all that we can say is real are our perceptions, subjectively unique and intersubjectively similar. Significantly, it is the push of present life conditions and the pull of the values we hold that will result in the degree our personal evolution of consciousness might arrive at, and shape our meaning and our purpose—the further along the values-spiral we grow, from self-absorption to greater and greater inclusivity, the clearer our meaning and our purpose become. But it will always be a subjective and personal answer that we find.
Our sense of meaning and purpose involves the freedom that quantum theory demonstrates throughout—conscious choice, from subatomic particles in motion to humanity itself—which, along with the self-reflective capacity of humans to know that we know, allows us to deliberately participate with the Cosmic Presence in co-creating what will become next. So, humanity possesses a profound power to shape evolution and emergence in the direction of the good, the true, and the beautiful. When we are clear about that, we realize we have found our meaning and our purpose.