April 17, 2023
SF Gate

Why You Aren’t Conscious and Never Have Been.


When your mind and heart are truly open abundance will flow to you effortlessly and easily.

By Deepak Chopra, MD, FACP, FRCP and Menas C. Kafatos, PhD

The title of this post is so astonishing that it needs explaining. Our origins as living beings go back to the very origin of the solar system, centered on one of the hundreds of billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy. Mainstream science tells us that our solar system formed some four and a half billion years ago. The first traces of life on Earth appeared 3.7 billion years ago, unfolding in complexity until human DNA evolved, and we acquired the ability to possess a mind. Here we need to pause and contemplate whether this familiar story really explains what the human mind is and where it came from. 

The mystery of the human mind deepens the more it is examined. Somehow, between 100,000 and 30,000 years ago, it is surmised, our ancestors learned to think far beyond any other creature’s ability. As eons unfolded, Homo sapiens became self-aware, and all the fruits of being conscious—art, science, philosophy, diverse civilizations, and untold discoveries—reinforced the enormous gift that consciousness is.

But there were many flies in the ointment, among them the following:

  • We don’t know where thoughts come from or can predict the next one that will arise. They come and go like waves in the ocean.
  • The brain exhibits complex activity that parallels everything we experience, yet no one knows how a lump of mushy tissue of some three pounds composed of very ordinary organic molecules learned to think. 
  • There is nothing inside the brain to indicate that it does think, only very complex patterns of neurons firing. Such patterns don’t form a mind, nor do they form thoughts.
  • In everyday terms, no amount of self-awareness has curbed the human predisposition for violence, which erupts on every scale from schoolyard bullying to genocidal wars.

No one can explain, predict or cure the depression and anxiety that are endemic to the human race. At the same time, there is no formula for being happy or a working theory about whether we are inherently meant to be happy.

One alternative is simply to accept these opaque problems and go on with life as normal. But if we delve further into the mystery of the mind, a revolutionary finding emerges. 

All the issues we’ve cited result, directly or indirectly, from the same starting point: the physical universe. Once you build reality up from matter, anything you want to know about the mind must fit that physical model. But it just doesn’t. You can’t make quarks, atoms, and molecules think, no matter how much you study the human brain.

One way past this is to make a new assumption: perhaps the universe is conscious. In other words, not only matter, energy, space, and time are innate in creation, but so is mind or proto-mind. This view, known as panpsychism, gets around the objection that you can’t make matter think, but it’s a kind of sleight of hand, adopting the illusion that physical “stuff” has a mind, even though it doesn’t behave like it has a mind until very advanced life appeared on a single planet, Earth, after billions of years of random chemical interactions. Then one asks: Is the mind prevalent in the structure of matter, is it an inevitable result of the evolving universe? Was it implied in the ancient whispers of evolution? 

Now comes the revolutionary idea. What if we turn everything on its head and say that nothing is conscious, including human beings. This notion is staggering because on the surface it appears to be ridiculous. You have to be conscious in order to utter the sentence, “Human beings aren’t conscious.”

But let’s hold any automatic dismissal in abeyance. The way that humans are conscious is what matters. We are conscious as a pair of opposites. The opposite of conscious is unconscious. In that scheme, to have no impulse control or outbursts of unstoppable anger, to ignore other people’s feelings or indulge in self-defeating behavior, are all examples of an unconscious life. To be considerate, thoughtful, and self-aware, on the other hand, is part of a conscious life.

This play of opposites fits the setup of how all of us see the world. There is no light without darkness, no good without evil. Something pure and unalloyed, possessing no opposites, is unthinkable—literally. Your mind isn’t designed to think about absolutes. As a result, God is inconceivable if you are religious, because God, the supreme consciousness, is everywhere all the time, is beyond time and knows everything. God doesn’t have one idea followed by the next idea. Everything past, present, and future is wound up in divine, eternal reality.

In ancient India the same notion prevailed once you remove the word God. Then the formula becomes a matter of simple logic. Consciousness is everywhere all the time embracing past, present and future. I am part of that reality. Therefore, I am consciousness itself. Who I really am is beyond time.

In this scheme, nothing can be conscious on its own, not a quark, atom, planet, life form, or brain. The only choice is All and One. It isn’t possible for absolute, or pure, Consciousness to have an opposite. So we find ourselves in the paradoxical position of being conscious without knowing how, when, or why we got here. This state of ignorance is inevitable, because our origin story begins with absolute, pure awareness, which has no explanation. It simply is. We simply are beyond the appearances and the limitations of everyday reality.

But this realization shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that we don’t know what a thought is, how the brain produces light and sound, how brain chemicals are linked to mind, how evolution gives rise to mind, if it does, through complex clumps of neurons, and so on.

The flies in the ointment point the way. They aren’t just queer things we don’t know yet. They are the essential things we will never know, because the thinking mind is relative while pure consciousness, the source of finite human mind, is absolute. When you arrive at the conclusion that nothing material is conscious, bizarre as this sounds, you make a tremendous breakthrough. “I am conscious” misstates the reality, which is “I am consciousness itself.” In one stroke you enter a new world, one in which all of creation is consciousness (as an absolute) morphing to create a universe where consciousness (in the relative sense) has a place to exist in.

If this sounds like a strange twist on metaphysics, it isn’t. Not only is there no evidence that consciousness was created out of material “stuff,” even more there is no evidence that the higher values in human life—love, empathy, compassion, intelligence, creativity, beauty, truth, and higher states of consciousness—were created, either. They come along with being human, because they come along with the source of everything, consciousness itself.

The fact that nothing is conscious is one of the hardest concepts to grasp from the ancient non-dual Vedic and Saivite traditions. One thing that makes it hard is our habit of looking at the mind personally—everything is “my” likes and dislikes, habits, beliefs, perceptions, etc. The other, more difficult, obstacle, is the impossibility of accepting an absolute. By definition, an absolute isn’t relative; therefore, you can’t relate to it. By saying “I am consciousness itself,” you become immersed in the whole, which sounds agreeable, but at the same time you give up any attempt to grasp the whole, because it is inconceivable. 

In a word, anything you can perceive or think about has no innate reality. Only the whole is real, acting, thinking, perceiving, feeling etc., and whatever it does remains a mystery. This article provides an opening into the reality of pure, absolute consciousness. Many startling consequences follow, but at least you have the germ of the one idea that truly revolutionizes everything you have ever thought about yourself. This revolutionary thinking propels us into expanded horizons, beyond so-called physical reality and beyond the limited mind.

DEEPAK CHOPRA MD, FACP, FRCP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a whole health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation.  Chopra is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego and serves as a senior scientist with Gallup Organization. He is the author of over 90 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His 91st book, Total Meditation: Practices in Living the Awakened Life  explores and reinterprets the physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual benefits that the practice of meditation can bring.  For the last thirty years, Chopra has been at the forefront of the meditation revolution. His latest book,  Living in the Light co-authored with Sarah Platt-Finger. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.” www.deepakchopra.com

Menas C. Kafatos, PhD is the Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor of Computational Physics at Chapman University, conducting research in quantum physics, philosophy and spirituality, mathematics and logic, astrophysics and cosmology, climate change and related hazards. He works on issues related to reality, the role of universal consciousness, universal mind, for natural laws that apply everywhere and form the foundations of the universe, for scientific understanding, and spiritual non-dual awareness in everyday life. His doctoral thesis advisor was the renowned M.I.T. professor Philip Morrison. He is a senior academic professor and director of the Institute for Earth, Computing, Human and Observing and has authored 350 articles, is author or editor of 22 books, including The Conscious Universe Looking In, Seeing Out, Living the Living Presence, Science, Reality and Everyday Life, and is co-author with Deepak Chopra of the NYT Bestseller You are the Universe. www.menaskafatos.com

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