Some more thoughts on a mind-first perspective, this time with a Jewish, kosmocentric inflection.
Science And The Mind Of Elyon
Being made in the “image of god” can be interpreted to mean that we share qualities with god. A shallow interpretation might be that we visually resemble god. A more interesting interpretation is that sensory experiences are the product of minds. Perhaps god’s “mind” creates the fundamental sensory patterns that we experience and we are god-like in our ability to participate in creating sensory patterns with our minds as well. Another god-like quality that we seem to posses is the ability to participate in the creation of new awarenesses, or at least in a process that correlates an awareness with a body that experiences sensory patterns in our shared environment. We call this “having a child.” I plan on exploring this similarity to god in a separate essay.
If we live in what can best be thought of as a mind, then why is science so effective?
When we imagine something in our mind we often glimpse a brief visual pattern on the stage of our imagination. Our minds also appear to create fully immersive natural seeming environments during our dreams. When we use our minds to transform the sensory patterns we call our “body”, other observers seem to observe the sensory patterns we create. Can we be certain that any other phenomena than mind can create sensory patterns? I propose that we can not!
If the nature of god is primarily thought-like and our minds are a sample of the capacities of god’s mind, then perhaps we can learn about god by examining our own minds. Here are a few features that our minds seem to posses:
- Triggering recall through association
- Self-organizing complex thought forms that enter our awareness without us having to deliberately construct them in an aware way
- Sensory experiences are caused by our thoughts, or at least correlated with them (e.g. images in our imagination, movements of our body in response to thoughts)
- Different modes of thinking have different degrees of “inertia” or “changeability.” Our imagination, our dreams, and the patterns of sensation we experience through our “sensory organs” all have different degrees of persistence and changeability
- A preference for sustainable pleasant sensations and an aversion to sensations that cause suffering
With these components we might be able to reinterpret science. Perhaps what we call the “laws of physics” are actually descriptions of deeply ingrained sequences of associations in a mind we all share. This could be similar to how sensory patterns in dreams seem to be regular, even if those regularities deviate from “normal physics.”
Why would the sensory patterns of waking life seem to fit together in a way that explains how our bodies came into existence through a process of evolution involving the movement of matter and energy? Doesn’t evolution seem to explain how our brain came into being and doesn’t our brain produce our awareness and the rest of our mind?
You can’t observe sensory patterns without being aware. Why assume the sensory patterns that enter your awareness are necessary for your awareness to exist? Perhaps our awareness exists in a way that is separable from the sensory patterns we observe. Perhaps they seem to fit together in neat causal chains because the mind we share found ways to present us with organic forms that correlate sensory patterns in causal chains like ways in order to create a more pleasant way of relating to the world of sensory patterns. Imagine living in a world were sensory patterns occur randomly. A world where sensory patterns appear to relate to one another in causal chains we can learn, and participate in, seems much more preferable.
When we move our hand based on our thoughts our brain also moves. When we touch our hand and experience a sensation our brain also moves. When we work on solving a problem the structures in our brain activate in sequences that produce computation like results that sometimes enter our awareness. This simply means that our brains move in ways that are correlated with our thoughts and our thoughts move in ways that are correlated with our brains. This does not settle the “hard problem of consciousness” - or why are we aware of sensory patterns at all?
Perhaps we are creatures that are fundamentally a form of awareness along with mental processes for creating sensory patterns. Perhaps we are each a localization of awareness that is part of a larger mind-like process, similar to a single creature possessing multiple eyes. Each eye allows a stationary creature to observe the space it inhabits from multiple perspectives simultaneously. By integrating these multiple perspectives, the creature can perceive higher dimensionality without moving, such as two eyes allowing us to perceive the depth ordering of objects in a space while sitting still. Perhaps Elyon integrates the perspective of all sentient beings into a single higher dimensional perspective.
Perhaps our tendency to prefer sustainable pleasant sensations is a reflection of Elyon’s tendency to prefer the same. When combined with the mental tendency to create organic forms in ways that are correlated with deeply ingrained mental associations, we may have the components we need for a theological or spiritual version of evolution. Perhaps Elyon is constantly searching for sensory patterns to focus our awareness on. Perhaps this process has led to the patterns we call our bodies, imaginations, dreams, and the outer physical world.
Instead of an environment that changes whimsically with our thoughts, perhaps Elyon has evolved to present us with a very regular shared sensory environment we call our “physical world”. In this mode we seem to require moving the sensory patterns we call our bodies to change the other patterns we all share. Perhaps imagination evolved to give us a sort of scratch pad where we can test out different sensory patterns, and symbolic references to sensory patterns, without committing to those patterns persisting for long durations for ourselves or others. It’s also interesting to note that our imaginations are able to imagine tendencies other than the tendencies that seem to dominate the “physical world” such as earth gravity. Dreams, hallucinations and visions are similarly less persistent. Perhaps these more ephemeral, flexible ways for experiencing sensory patterns allows sentient beings to communicate without much impact on our shared “physical environment.”
Science remains important because it gives us a method for establishing correlations between sensory patterns that independent parties seem to agree upon. These observed correlations give us a way to co-create the sensory experiences we have in ways we can comprehend. This is effective even if the sensory patterns we experience are the product of mental processes instead of the physical interpretations provided by scientific materialism. The scientific approach has proven its usefulness at helping us to manage our suffering.
One important question we might ask is does living in the mind of Elyon mean that we have free will? We might ask where do the options come from that we consider and where do the desires come from that lead to a particular selection? How can we “choose” these things? Wouldn’t it require that we “choose” before we have “chosen?” Even if we were to condition ourselves to make certain decisions, why did we choose to do so?
If we can not be thought of as choosing in a totally aware and free way then does this mean our existence is of no consequence or has no purpose? Perhaps our purpose is to simply be aware! Perhaps we are “tasting” or “testing” various sensory arrangements in a way that feeds-back into the mind of Elyon. This feedback might influence the sensory patterns the aware portions of the cosmos experience. If Elyon’s selection process tends to produce beings that have ever increasing control over their suffering and beings that tend to experience sustainable pleasantness, then we might say that Elyon’s nature tends towards “goodness”.
Perhaps we should not think of Elyon as being totally free either. Elyon can be thought of as the awareness capacity of the cosmos. It gives birth to all awareness and sustains all awareness. The structure of this capacity determines the possible configurations of awareness and the possible contents of awareness. This structure simply exists even if it does not correspond with typical notions of god. Within this structure Elyon may search the space of all possible combinations of awareness and sensory patterns for an arrangement that reflects it preferences. Elyon may distribute cognition in a way that is similar to a single substance with variations in density. Some creatures may engage in cognition in a way that is not highly correlated with other portions of Elyon’s single continuous substance. These creatures are not totally free of Elyon, they are perhaps something like a distant appendage where significant amounts of local activity can occur while remaining attached and under the influence of the larger entity.
Elyon might be defined as the ultimate cause of all thoughts. This could include chains of influence where one aware being determines the thoughts of another aware being, but can not account for the origin of its own thoughts in a precise way. These influential beings might even include other distinct beings within themselves, similar to a single eye within a creature possessing many eyes. Although powerful, these beings would not be equivalent to the highest god, Elyon, and perhaps a distinct sub-awareness that is under their influence could somehow be relocated - similar to a tree grafting.
Interestingly, even if an evil computer scientist were to place us in a virtual reality, the mechanism by which they controlled our experiences would be determined by the deeply rooted mental associations of Elyon. In addition to this, our awareness and the awareness of the evil scientist would both be rooted in Elyon. Perhaps over time Elyon would discover an arrangement that is preferable to the arrangement in which we are imprisoned - similar to the Jew’s escape from Egypt.
Perhaps when we pursue justice we are part of a cosmic process that tends towards peace, freedom, flourishing, and longevity.