Update on The Consciousness Project – Cracking the Cosmic Code
By Deepak Chopra, MD and Jim Walsh
As founders and backers, we are announcing a major initiative to solve the epic problems that the world faces. Leading the way is global warming, with its eventual threat of mass extinction if worse comes to worst.
But climate change is linked to globalization, economic upheaval, overpopulation, and hostile tensions in the world’s hot spots. The link, we believe, is consciousness, and the only way to solve our epic problems is to arrive at an understanding of consciousness that will benefit humanity.
Whether in the short run or the long run, the choice is between a deteriorating planet or a new paradigm.
The existing paradigm is scientific, as we all know. Objective science is the hallmark of society today. It has an unrivaled power base. Its description of reality has molded the modern world. Its worldview holds sway over universities, governments and the public at large. Everyone who participates in the consensus view of reality has been touched by it. But the role of the observer has puzzled and intrigued physics since the quantum revolution a century ago. We feel that this issue offers a crucial opening for expanding the role of science.
As a counterpoint to the science juggernaut, there is another view of reality supported by loosely aligned groups in religion, philosophy, and a minority in science. Their worldview is consciousness-based. Whatever their differences, supporters of consciousness place mind first in Nature and matter second. Such a worldview has no significant financial backing comparable to mainstream science. It has been excluded from experimentation in major universities and all but banished from respectability, depending on the rich heritage, East and West, of saints, sages, and seers who fall outside the scientific method.
A New Vision
The vision of The Consciousness Project is to close this gap by expanding science and at the same time submitting consciousness to experimental research. The opening for this vision has already appeared among a generation of researchers who regard the fusion of mind and body, consciousness and matter, physics and biology, as paramount. Objective science has failed to explain how consciousness arose from matter. The consciousness tradition has yet to explain how mind could create matter. Two worldviews depend on one of these explanations being true. Until we can show how molecules learned to think or how thoughts create molecules, the full truth about Nature and reality will remain hidden.
As to specifics, The Consciousness Project will focus on the most urgent questions that would lead to a final answer:
1. Does consciousness leave traces in the physical world? If so, can they be measured and replicated?
2. Are the brain processes associated with mind a cause or an effect?
3. Is there mind outside the brain?
4. Since all living organisms display biological autonomy – the ability to make decisions that are not predetermined by physics and chemistry – is this evidence of mind in all life forms?
5. Is the activity of consciousness on any level where it might exist – human, biological, physical, or cosmic – consistent with the proven findings of quantum physics?
6. Is the universe conscious?
7. Did human awareness evolve from systems throughout Nature that self-organize in an intelligent way?
The fact that these primary questions are being addressed after decades of neglect spurs the need for even more expanded research. The benefits to society could be incalculable. Through the objective approach, technologies have burgeoned to improve material life. With a parallel advance in observer-based science, a huge domain of consciousness may reveal abilities in self-healing, mental communication, the eradication of inner conflicts that lead to war, and new areas of inspiration and intellectual breakthroughs.
We recognize that consciousness, although the hallmark of human existence, has suffered from problems of acceptance and credibility in mainstream science (despite the original quantum pioneers who became convinced that consciousness must be included in any observational scheme – such figures as Max Planck, Erwin Schrödinger, and Wolfgang Pauli). Moreover, the consciousness worldview has no center, critical mass, or focus that enables people to connect with it beyond changeable intellectual and spiritual fads.
The responsibility of The Consciousness Project then, is to create that critical mass, which will become the necessary core for consciousness-based science. To do this we will organize a five- year project, in both basic and applied research, starting with a funding of $1 billion dollars. Of this initial money, half will be raised from investors, half through worldwide participation by institutions and individuals. The latter will include a global social network program to educate and inspire people about our efforts. Everything we fund will be transparently outlined. We want as many as possible to grasp the basic consciousness premise, the reasons for working on it, and the potential benefits to society. Since the Project will act as the funding institution for qualifying researchers worldwide, we have enlisted advisers and consultants to act as enterprise partners if and when we discover technologies that measurably improve people’s lives.
The Consciousness Project aims to be open-minded but one-pointed in its focus. There are many competing definitions of consciousness, tracing their origins back thousands of years. East and West, each of these strands has something valuable to contribute. A modern definition of consciousness that all or most researchers can agree upon is highly desirable. Such a definition doesn’t exist at present. It is hidden at the junction of visible matter and invisible mind. Now that science has turned its gaze, at long last, to this junction, we believe it will be the very crux of reality. The Consciousness Project is going where reality leads us – this has been the impetus that resulted in every great scientific discovery, past, present, and future.
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