In April of this year I participated in an essay contest sponsored by FQxI (Foundational Questions Institute), whose advisory board and members are composed of top scientists worldwide.  The essays were to respond to the question: “How could science be different?”

Many of you are aware of my long-time interest in theoretical physics, specifically quantum mechanics and relativity.  Science played a major role in my search for fundamental truth, along with history, literature, philosophy and psychology.  They laid the groundwork for my embracing “A Course in Miracles” which afforded both a theoretical understanding and most importantly a profound personal experience in my quest for truth. I am sharing this essay with you because it explores, within a scientific framework, some fundamental ideas of the Course. Ideas such as unity is the underlying principle governing reality; and consciousness arose after we dissociated from this unified state, limiting our thinking to the mode of perception. I also call attention to the importance of looking at the implications of denying what we split off from: a unified state of mind. and identifying with what we split off to: a dualistic mind consciously aware of a perceptual illusory world.

I entered this contest because all entrants were to be anonymous during the selection and rating process. There were 110 selected entrants and all of those I read were very impressive. However, I was the only one to present and support a new way of thinking about how the universe we (observer) experience came about and who/what this observer is.  To be honest, I was very surprised by the many very thoughtful and supportive comments my essay received. Below is the essay I submitted to this contest.  It is approximately 6 pages long. I hope you find it interesting and will share it with others.  


From an Unknowable to a Knowable Ontology of the Universe

Abstract:A paradigm provides the questions for what should be asked, what phenomena should be observed, and how the observations are to be interpreted. Within our current paradigm it is assumed that the human brain, a physical biological organ, is the center of intelligence. Like the universe it is studying, it is a mathematical structure. Despite the astonishing discoveries scientists have made, there remains many unanswered foundational questions, some of which can’t even be asked within this paradigm.Since the brain’s mode of thinking is perception and perception is interpretation based on beliefs, never things as they really are, there must be a state other than perception. While the brain processes information about mathematical structuresin the universe, it is not the source of this information. The source is not a mathematical structure within the universe, nor is the scientist, the one observing the universe and without whom nothing would meaningfully exist, a mathematical structure. The Truth cannot be perceived, however, the interpretation of our perceptions can lead us towards, or away from truth, depending on our purpose. This essay will demonstrate why the question of the universe’s ontology can, indeed must be addressed. It is the most important fundamental question profoundly impacting the lives of everyone experiencing the universe. Within the appropriate framework we can explore these questions, bringing us closer to truth.

The task is not to see what has never been seen before, but to think what has never been thought before about what you see every day.” Erwin Schrodinger

Science has achieved many breakthroughs in a relatively short period of time. In the biological sciences researchers, aided by the latest technical advances in microscopy, such as the electron microscope, have made it possible to attain levels of understanding that were unimaginable. They are comparable to those physicists have achieved in their studies of the behavior of the physical world from which everything evolved. All of this is a testament to the willingness on the part of the scientific community to let go of beliefs that no longer seem valid or useful. We are facing such a belief today. All of our research is “within” the universe. It is not even meaningful to talk about anything outside of the universe because there is no outside to even talk about. What I mean by outside of the universe is to consider the forbidden question: how did the universe arise? I believe it was Feynman who said that when you ask why something happened, it has to be in some framework that allows something to be true.

Since our mode of thinking is limited to perception, only relative truth is possible. Perception is a mode of thinking; it is not The Truth. It does not allow questions to be asked that are beyond its scope of understanding.  The question how did the universe arise cannot be addressed because it cannot be asked. It is as if Perception’s law was: I am your mode of thinking, you shall have no other means beside me! The Truth cannot be perceived; however, the interpretation of our perceptions can lead us towards, or away from, truth. If this were not so, I could not even have these ideas.

A fundamental guiding principle that has motivated me throughout my entire adult life, is the idea there is a fundamental absolute truth. And whatever that may be, it is a non-dualistic unified state. Therefore, it seems reasonable to assume that consciousness, a dualistic state, and the only experience we have ever had, was the first split introduced into mind. It emerged after mind somehow dissociated from its unified state and became aware of, conscious of, something which appears to be separated from and outside itself. Perception arises from consciousness because to be conscious is to be aware of something, there needs to be a perceiver and that which is perceived. Thus, our experience is derived, not from reality, but mind’s interpretation based on what is believed to be real.

My concern came about when it was apparent that some scientists, whom I greatly respect and consider to be very rigorous in their research, have accepted the idea that nature is designed to assure that we will not pursue absolute truth, seeing it as a threat to our survival. If we could experience things as they really are, their reasoning goes, we could not function or would disappear. This implies we are judging what we do not know, what is beyond our awareness (absolute truth), yet assuming it to be dangerous or fearful. That conclusion seems to be more emotionally than logically based.

Another equally unreasonable assumption by many, if not most scientists, is that there appears to be no fundamental meaning or purpose to the universe as we perceive it, that it is just a random accident of nature. A world that is so beautiful, elegant and obeys logically consistent laws, such that we observe a precise correspondence between nature and mathematics, should not arbitrarily be regarded as an “accident of nature.”  The finely tuned fundamental constants we observe in nature, are a strong indication the world we perceive is purposive. The world as we perceive it may seem pointless but we still must ask if there is empirical evidence for an observable universal teleology: one general orientation of the universe toward one single end.

One indication of a universal teleology or purpose in the world, as we currently perceive it, is the fact that all of our pursuits of knowledge preclude the possibility of discerning absolute truth. The uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics at the sub-atomic level; the relativistic nature of space-time events at the macro level, and the subjective nature of perception based on interpretation not reality. We can predict probabilities with great accuracy but never certainty. Why should the basic laws governing the universe lead us to conclude that either there is no truth or it must remain inaccessible to us? Whatever the reason, it must be of paramount importance to our perceived identity in the world. Perhaps, as Friedrich Nietzsche said “Sometimes people don’t want to hear the Truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.”

History and science demonstrate there is an inherent fundamental drive in nature, be it animate or inanimate, toward destruction. The thermodynamic law of entropy for example indicates that everything goes from order to disorder. Nature uses deception as a protective mechanism, despite the overall destructive effects of such a belief. Other indicators are the fact that all of our discoveries throughout history are a two-edged-sword. They can and are also used for destructive ends: stones used as weapons, atomic knowledge used to develop weapons of mass destruction, psychological knowledge used for torture, biology used to develop biological weapons.  Even the amazing technology developed over the last hundred years could be seen as having put us on a fast track for destroying our environment. And as we explore outer space it seems only natural to develop a military or Space Force.

After many years of working with organizations attempting to discover the source of the social and political crises plaguing our universe throughout history, I became convinced that history itself is an effect, not a cause. In other words, the aspect of mind which experiences the world and within which the dialectic process takes place, is not looking at the world objectively. It interprets the world it perceives from a condition. Fear and anger permeate our history because the aspect of our mind perceiving the world is itself in a state of fear. Our experience of fear, and the anger and violence which follow, are not products of history, rather our history reflects the projections of an ontological fear in mind, caused by dissociation, leaving our mind in a very fear-prone condition.

Science has done a remarkable job in understanding the behavior of the physical world we experience, exploring such ideas as quantum field theory, and more recently, the multiverse, the holographic principle and the amplituhedron. However, our studies should not preclude the fundamental role our thoughts and beliefs have on how we perceive the world.  One could well ask if there would be a world without the all-important “observer,” consciously bringing the world into awareness. Everything we observe, including the physical body we identify with, follows precise mathematical laws which have enabled us to gain knowledge of the behavior of the universe, its epistemology, but not its ontology, its origin.

We would all acknowledge, the brain, in principle, cannot answer ontological questions about the universe because it is part of the universe. However, that should not be construed to mean these questions, in principle, could not be explored from other possible perspectives. All experience emanates from our mind, or field of consciousness. It is the foundation of all thought. Assuming there is a unified state of mind, the world we perceive could be understood to be a projection of a split off aspect of unified mind. The brain would be seen as the physical structure within the world, processing the information generated by our mind. Perceiving the world from this new paradigm, science would be understood as the study of the structure of consciousness. This view would allow us to acquire knowledge about the world’s origin, knowledge that our current paradigm does not permit. By studying the structure of this split-off dissociated field of consciousness, we gain knowledge about the world’s origin and purpose. We would also become aware of the implications of being dissociated from a unified state of mind and becoming consciously aware of a separated state of existence; an existence that depends on forgetting and having no knowledge of the unified mind it dissociated from.

To the dissociated split mind, the very idea of a unified mind, beyond the perceptual realm, is fearful. Our mind is therefore obscured from awareness and replaced by a physical brain housed in a physical body within the world. This fundamentally changed how we relate to the world, from an observeror activating agent of mind “outside” of the universe, to an observerthat is part of the universe being observed. From a projection of a dissociated mind, or field of consciousness “outside” of the universe, to something physical within the world. While this unified mind cannot be perceived, the memory of such a state has remained in the dissociated aspect of mind and can be accessed.

How could science be different? For those willing to explore the ideas put forth here, it’s like opening a new portal to the universe, leading to very different experiences of ourselves and the world. In one respect absolutely nothing changes. The world will still appear to obey the same physical laws that apply today. We will still experience the same perceived physical world. However, the meaning of these experiences will be perceived fundamentally differently. We (observer) now realize that our mind is split, dissociated from our unified state. Part of this dissociated aspect retains the memory of the truth and the other part denies any awareness of the decision to dissociate. Hence, one aspect’s meaning and purpose is designed to reveal the truth and the other’s purpose is defending against the truth. Both are describing the same perceptual world with respect to form; however, the meaning and purpose of that world is fundamentally different, leading to very different experiences. I (the observer) am now consciously choosing, moment by moment, the thought system that reflects my purpose. In one system I will appear to be the effect or victim of the world; in the other I will appear to be the cause, seeing all experiences as an opportunity to correct my misperceptions of all situations and circumstances. Scientists would have a completely different orientation to the universe they are studying. One that would see that consciousness, the level of perception, emerged after the split seemed to occur; limiting our field of awareness. From this new paradigm, scientific research won’t merely be different it will be revolutionary, opening the way for greater understanding of, not just the world, but who we are and our role in the world.

The physical perceptual world we (observer) experience is the space-time stage or background upon which our mind projects a narrative consistent with its purpose or core beliefs. One part of the dissociated aspect of our mind forgets, or more accurately chooses to deny what it split off from: unified mind, and identifies with what it split off to: a mind consciously aware of a perceptual illusory world. This knowledge remains in our mind, and only appears to be inaccessible to it as a function of denial. Although this knowledge cannot be known directly through the perceptual mode of thinking, perception can bring us closer to it. We (observer) have two fundamentally different, mutually exclusive belief systems, interpreting our perceptions of the world, both maintained in our mind. This cannot but result in very fearful and conflicted experiences. When we identify with one system, the other is excluded from awareness. This split could be thought of as the “Big Bang."

Denial and projection are psychological axioms. Therefore, seeing the universe as a projection of our dissociated mind, implies there will be a strong correspondence between the fundamental beliefs in our dissociated mind and our experiences in the world. This is similar to the strong correspondence we observe between mathematics and the physical universe. Our studies of the universe will be a window into the thoughts in this field of consciousness, giving us new insight about the universe and the dissociated mind we (observer) identify with because they are fundamentally related. When we become consciously aware of this correspondence, we will realize that all situations and circumstances represent an opportunity for correction and healing.

Science should not be limited to a framework which has been very useful in the past but is lacking in its ability to explain important foundational questions presently confronting us. Within our present paradigm, science, in principle, cannot answer any ontological questions about the world we experience. However, working within the framework suggested herein, these questions can easily be explored. Our job is not to defend a particular belief about the world, it is to discover the truth behind our experience whatever that is and wherever that may take us.

Justification for accepting these ideas should be based on their ability to explain the world to you in a meaningful, useful way, giving you a sense of moving you closer to truth and peace of mind. Once you entertain such a possibility, a process will emerge, directing you as to how these two systems can be identified. Since we are studying the structure of consciousness, which is outside and not part of the physical perceptual world, these ideas cannot be verified using mathematical equations. However, they most certainly can be verified by experience!

These ideas are not new and have been alluded to in various forms of the “perennial wisdom.”  I was fortunate to have discovered a form that was appropriate for me. What began as a concept I explored, led to powerful experiences that validated its efficacy. I now realize, through experience, that I, as “observer” outside of the perceptual world I experience, can choose between these two thought systems and my experience will be consistent with the purpose of the one I chose.  Since I, as do all who experience the perceptual world, identify with the dissociated mind, the default will always be the thought system whose narrative leads me away from truth.

After years of training my mind to think in this new way, I am aware that I can consciously choose the narrative leading toward the truth. Eventually I learned how to recognize which thought system I have chosen. To the degree I was grounded in the truth, there was no need to be emotionally charged, fearful, defensive, critically judging; all signs I was identified with the thought system defending against the truth. Therefore, it was necessary that I practice what I call self-awareness. Prior to responding to any situation, I don’t judge the form of the situation, I first become aware of my emotional reaction. It is only in this way that I am able to discern what thought system I am identified with.  When my thoughts are grounded in truth, I am not defensive, I feel peaceful and calmly observe rather than judge the situation. This always leads to greater understanding and a meaningful, appropriate response.  As I perceive more and more common elements in all situations, my learning has generalized. I am applying this understanding to everyone and everything because I recognize its universal application. The world has become a classroom wherein I learn that every situation is an opportunity to heal my mind and thereby undo the blocks to the awareness of truth. What I originally accepted as a conceptual possibility, has been validated by personal experience. My relationship to the world has shifted from effect to cause; from a passive observer to realizing I play a central role in the world I experience.

By thinking what I have not thought before, about that which I see every day, my life has been transformed.