“The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.”
— Werner Heisenberg (1901 – 1976), Nobel Prize in Physics 1932
In the ongoing discussion concerning the nature and meaning of near-death experiences, one quickly comes to realize this is not simply a debate between those with various religious beliefs and those with a more scientifically-minded approach in understanding the universe. The discussion is actually one at the leading edges of modern science, concerning the very relationship between the mind and the brain – the fundamental nature of reality itself, once one realizes the all-pervasive influence of consciousness on one’s perceptions of the world. The conventional scientific world-view of materialism (or physicalism) has never even gotten out of the starting blocks in addressing the nature of consciousness (witness “the hard problem of consciousness”, as it was defined by Australian philosopher of mind David Chalmers in The Conscious Mind in 1996).
A recent Scientific American blog entry (4/19/18) by computer scientist Bernardo Kastrup helps to sharply define the framework of this debate, referring to Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and recent results in quantum physics experiments to elaborate an inevitable revolution in our thinking that fully opens the door to such concepts as an afterlife and even of reincarnation. Bernardo does not make those same leaps in his Scientific American article, but he clearly opens the door to such thinking, especially for those who mistakenly believe that current science eliminates the possibility for such human experiences to be more than hallucinations and delusions.
Our book, Living in a Mindful Universe, connects the dots in this discussion, one in which we see science and spirituality as actually strengthening each other – but this is best accomplished through a broad opening of our minds to accommodate all of human experience, and not just that which fits the currently accepted (yet obviously broken) paradigm.
The issue was succinctly delineated by early quantum physicists, such as Werner Heisenberg, quoted above. A cursory knowledge of modern science (deeply steeped in the assumptions of physicalism, i.e. that only physical stuff exists) does indeed lead one toward atheism, and away from any possibility of humans actually having free will (especially given conventional science’s notion that all of consciousness is no more than the epiphenomenon of chemical reactions and electron fluxes in the substance of the brain). But the revelations from increasingly refined experiments in quantum physics (specifically taking Einstein’s 1935 argument for the incompleteness of quantum physics, and physicist John Bell’s brilliant 1964 theorem hinting at experimental approaches to addressing Einstein’s concerns) demonstrate with increasing power the need to relinquish our broken fiction of materialist thinking – a whole new paradigm is in order.
This is Kastrup’s conclusion in Scientific American, and in our book, Living in a Mindful Universe, and its companion free email course “Your 33 Day Journey into the Heart of Consciousness.” In the book and companion course, Karen Newell and I explore not only the implications of this paradigm shift for individual humans trying to make sense of their own lives here on earth, but also the absolute necessity for humanity to awaken to this new paradigm. We must stop the errant and misguided forces of scientific materialism (and its false notion of separation and competition, as opposed to oneness and collaboration) from leading us further along a pathway of self-destruction.
The phenomenon of consciousness consists of the very relationship between the mind and the brain, especially as exemplified through all manner of human experience (including the huge swath of paranormal and other anomalous human experiences of non-local consciousness). These rather common experiences and rigorous empirical data from the realm of quantum physics are forcing humanity to resolve some of the deepest issues raised over the last five millennia of human experience. It’s high time we woke up to these troubling contradictions to the pervading paradigm of materialism and shifted our collective worldview appropriately.
We live in a mental universe, projected out of consciousness, just as Heisenberg (and Max Planck, Wolfgang Pauli, Erwin Schrödinger, and other brilliant founders of the field of quantum physics) realized based on their experiments. More modern physicists (e.g. Henry Stapp, Brian Josephson, Roger Penrose, Bernard Carr, Fred Rosenblum, Menas Kafatos, Amit Goswami, among others) would agree that recent experimental results force the primacy of consciousness even more than those early results that befuddled the likes of Albert Einstein and Neils Bohr. We can make far better sense of our world by acknowledging our spiritual nature, and the spiritual nature of the universe itself. Heisenberg’s God is alive and well, buried behind the false dichotomies of conflicting religious dogma, in plain sight as the very origin of our conscious awareness.