Toward a Unified Metaphysical Understanding: I Ching, Consciousness, Universe and the Journey of Life    
 I Ching, Consciousness, Universe and the Journey of Life
2008-06-24, by John Ringland

Before joining the conversation, please read and accept this Invitation to a Conversation.

For those interested in a deeper understanding of the I Ching, I.e. how does it work? What is it really? And what effect does it have in the world? I will here endeavour to provide some assistance. First I give information on in depth scientific research, which has been ongoing over the past three decades, into the interplay between consciousness and 'physical' processes. Then I quote extracts from recent studies, by Ervin Laszlo, into what some call the Akashic Field or the Unified Quantum Vacuum. Then finally I quote from an introductory text into the I Ching and invite you to contemplate all of these ideas in light of each other. This may help you come to a deeper understanding, not only of the I Ching, but of consciousness, the physical universe, the process of change and transformation and the journey of life...

Consciousness and Physical Processes

Consider “The Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) program, which flourished for nearly three decades under the aegis of Princeton University's School of Engineering and Applied Science, [and which] has completed its experimental agenda of studying the interaction of human consciousness with sensitive physical devices, systems, and processes, and developing complementary theoretical models to enable better understanding of the role of consciousness in the establishment of physical reality. It has now incorporated its present and future operations into the broader venue of the International Consciousness Research Laboratories (ICRL)... In this new locus and era, PEAR plans to expand its archiving, outreach, education, and entrepreneurial activities into broader technical and cultural context, maintaining its heritage of commitment to intellectual rigor and integrity, pragmatic and beneficial relevance of its techniques and insights, and sophistication of its spiritual implications.”*

“The goal of [ICRL] is to strengthen the spiritual substance of science by integrating the subjective and objective dimensions of human experience into an expanded Science of the Subjective. This mission is pursued via three primary initiatives in research, education, and applications, each focused on the exploration and representation of the role of consciousness in physical reality.”*

The experiments use Random Event Generators (REG's), which “use quantum-indeterminate electronic noise. They are designed for research applications and are widely used in laboratory experiments.”*

The experiments sought “to determine whether collectively focused human intention can alter the randomicity of a machine and if so, what situations produce the most dramatic effects. On a basic level, an REG is a coin-flipper, automatically generating the equivalent of 200 flips of a coin per second. The result is a bell curve of probabilities, tailing off in both directions from 100 "heads" for each second-long interval. The generators will thus meander around the mean expected value of 100 in an unpredictable fashion but always near the baseline. Sustained deflections away from this baseline mean that the random generator is becoming less random or more coherent.

For some time now research has shown that certain subjects appear to be able to create a small-scale psychokinesis effect which leads REGs to be temporarily less random. Helmut Schmidt has done extensive tests with individuals, usually involving flashing lights that subjects are instructed to alter in a specific way (e.g. moving them in a circle or across a horizontal display). He has shown significant effects, especially with his high-performing individuals, although his initially powerful results have diminished somewhat over the years. Dean Radin echoed this point, stating that his initial effects have tapered off in significant ways after the first few years, perhaps relating to his own habituation as the researcher. A key difference between Schmidt's work and Roger Nelson's is that Schmidt always includes conscious intention in his protocols, whereas Roger is more concerned with the field effects of collectively focused intention, whether the subjects are aware of the REG or not.

Thus, Roger's group at PEAR has been examining collective events in which many people are focused simultaneously on one thing (e.g. the Super Bowl, Academy Awards, O. J. Simpson verdict, New Year's celebration, Lady Diana's funeral) and local group events in which attention coheres in a certain way (e.g. church services, ritual circles, meditation groups, our conference itself). Perhaps the most exciting part of his work is the Global Consciousness Project, which hypothesizes, based upon positive data from earlier work, that dozens of these REGs hooked together via the Internet might constitute something like a global EEG, reflecting disturbances and deviations in collective attention.”*

The Global Consciousness Project has “been collecting data from a global network of random event generators since August, 1998. The network has grown to about 65 host sites around the world running custom software that reads the output of physical random number generators and records a 200-bit trial sum once every second, continuously over months and years. The data are transmitted over the internet to a server in Princeton, NJ, USA, where they are archived for later analysis.

[Their] purpose is to examine subtle correlations that reflect the presence and activity of consciousness in the world. We have learned that when millions of us share intentions and emotions the GCP/EGG network shows correlations. We can interpret this as evidence for participation in a growing global consciousness. It suggests we have the capability and responsibility for conscious evolution. We make the world we live in, and if we Do No Harm, we can help create a Planetary Smile.”*

“For example, during Diana's funeral, there were twelve REGs running around the world. Averaging all of them revealed a significant deviation, especially in the middle of the ceremony. Roger also did a more fine-tuned analysis, charting specific events such as moments of silence or Elton John singing, that again manifested changes away from randomness. More recently, the beginning of bombing in Kosovo produced a significant deflection, though it was not spread evenly over all the generators. One generator in particular had a dramatic change, but they have no hypothesis to explain this uneven distribution. There was a slightly larger deflection in Europe than in the U.S. He uses periods before and after the targeted event as controls to assure that the randomicity of the machine has not been altered due to some mechanical glitch.”*

See the table of results (spanning 1998-present) which shows a list of major world events and the resulting coherence of the global EEG network at that same moment. In this table “the results for individual events are shown. Table entries for most events have direct links to more comprehensive analyses. The events are identified by name, and a column with the heading, "Hypothesis Source", indicates who made the prediction. The number of contributing "REGs" is shown, and the "Resolution", which indicates the block-size for the analysis. The last two columns show the Z-score statistic for the analysis, and its associated probability.”*

For example, have a look at their article September 11 2001: Exploratory and Contextual Analyses, which gives analysis and data that “shows the behavior of the Global Consciousness Project's network of 37 REG devices called "eggs" placed around the world as they responded during various periods of time surrounding September 11...

[The first] graph of data from the formal prediction for September 11 shows a fluctuating deviation throughout the moments of the five major events, during which ever-increasing numbers of people around the world are hearing the news and watching in stunned disbelief. Times of the major events are marked by boxes on the line of zero deviation. The uncertain fluctuation of the EGG data continues for almost half an hour after the fall of the second WTC tower. Then, at about 11:00, the cumulative deviation takes on a strong trend that continues through the aftermath period and ultimately exceeds the significance criterion...

[The second graph] shows the period from September 7th to 13th, and the time of the attacks on September 11 is marked with a black rectangle. You can see that shortly before the terrorist attack, the wandering line takes on a strong trend representing a persistent departure from what is expected of random data. A small probability envelope inserted at that point provides a scale to indicate the extraordinary increase in non-random deviation. The slope of the graph beginning just before the the first WTC tower was hit and continuing for over two days, to noon on the 13th, is extreme.”*

In conclusion: “The formal analysis series shows a cumulative probability against chance of about 10e-6, or odds against chance of a million to one. Put another way, the composite score over many types of events exceeds Z = 4.7 (Nearly 5 Sigma, the standard often set in physics).”*

This research shows that there is an unequivocal connection between focused intention, focused consciousness and a field of coherence that can bring order into supposedly random processes. But this alone is not enough to understand how one person can throw three coins six times and thereby engage in a conversation with a wise sage...

Universal Consciousness

To explore deeper we need to let go of our naïve realist pre-conceptions that there exists an ontologically real physical universe in which there exists a planet Earth upon which individual human beings experience consciousness. This is just one perspective on the situation but there are many others thus in order to be sceptical we need to put this pre-conception aside and see what else there is to know about the situation.

Let us consider some of the issues raised by the eminent system theorist Ervin Laszlo in the book Science and the Akashic Field. For more insight also see these books on the same subject: The Field by Lynne McTaggart and Piercing Time and Space by Traci L. Slatton.

In regards to cosmology and the current puzzles therein Laszlo states that “these mysteries have a common element: they exhibit a staggering coherence throughout the reaches of space and time.” Furthermore, “There is no reasonable explanation in 'BB [big bang] theory' for the observed flatness of the universe; for the missing mass in it; for the accelerating expansion of galaxies; for the coherence of some basic cosmic ratios; and for the 'horizon problem,' the uniformity of the macrostructures throughout cosmic space. The problem known as the 'tuning of the constants' is particularly vexing. The three dozen or more physical parameters of the universe are so finely tuned that together they create the highly improbable conditions under which life can emerge... These are all puzzles of coherence, and they raise the possibility that this universe did not arise in the context of a random fluctuation of the underlying quantum vacuum. Instead, it may have been born in the womb of a prior 'meta-universe'... [i.e.] a vaster, more fundamental universe that is behind or beyond the universe we observe and inhabit... The staggering coherence of our universe tells us that all its stars and galaxies are interconnected in some way.”

The issue of universal coherence is related to the phenomena of quantum non-locality; superpositions of states in a wave function; the collapse of the wave function where “it appears to choose its real states on its own”; EPR pairs where “once they are in the same state, they remain linked no matter how far they travel from each other” and also the effect of simply having an available observation channel, even if it is not used, can still collapse the wavefunction of an experiment.

In regards to consciousness Laszlo states that “in the conservative view human communication and interaction is limited to our sensory channels ... [but] we are linked by more subtle and encompassing connections as well.” Also “The connections that bind 'my' consciousness to the consciousness of others... are rediscovered today in controlled experiments with thought and image transference, and the effect of the mind of one individual on the body of another.” Furthermore, “Native tribes seem able to communicate beyond the range of eye and ear... In the laboratory also, modern people display a capacity for spontaneous transference of impressions and images, especially when they are emotionally close to each other... transpersonal contact includes the ability to transmit thoughts and images, and ... it is given to many if not all people... this is the finding of recent experiments... Reliable evidence is becoming available that the conscious mind of one person can produce repeatable and measurable effects on the body of another... [also] Intercessory prayer and spiritual healing, together with other mind- and intention-based experiments and practices, yield impressive evidence regarding the effectiveness of telepathic and telesomatic information- and energy-transmission. The pertinent practices produce real and measurable effects on people, and they are more and more widespread. But mainstream science has no explanation for them. Could it be that our consciousness is linked with other consciousnesses through an interconnecting Akashic Field, much as galaxies are linked in the cosmos, quanta in the microworld, and organisms in the world of the living?”

In regards to the origin of the universe and its metaphysical foundation Laszlo states that “the universe we observe and inhabit is a secondary product of the energy sea that was there before there was anything there at all. Hindu and Chinese cosmologies have always maintained that the things and beings that exist in the world are a concretization or distillation of the basic energy of the cosmos, descending from its original source. The physical world is a reflection of energy vibrations from more subtle energy fields. Creation and all subsequent existence, is a progression downward and outward from the primordial source.

In Indian philosophy the ultimate end of the physical world is a return to Akasha, its original subtle-energy womb. At the end of time as we know it, the almost infinitely varied things and forms of the manifest world dissolve into formlessness... In Akasha, all attributes of the manifest world merge into a state that is beyond attributes: the state of Brahman.

Although it is undifferentiated, Brahman is dynamic and creative. From its ultimate 'being' comes the temporary 'becoming' of the manifest world, with its attributes, functions and relationships. The cycles of samsara [individual lifetimes] ... are the lila of Brahman: its play of ceaseless creation and dissolution. In Indian philosophy, absolute reality is the reality of Brahman. The manifest world enjoys but a derived, secondary reality and mistaking it for the real is the illusion of maya...

The traditional Eastern conception differs from the view held by most people in the West... [that] reality is material [which is based on naïve realism and positivism]. [Materialists assume that the] things that truly exist are bits or particles of matter... Matter moves about in space, acted on by energy. Energy also enjoys reality (since it acts on matter), but space does not: space is merely the backdrop or the container... and is passive in itself... space is not experienced... it is only the precondition of experience... [this last comment exposes the Western reliance on sensory experience and therefore its entrapment within the illusion of the empirical world or maya]

The view that space is empty and passive, and not even real to boot, is in complete opposition to the view we get from contemporary physics... it is clear that what they describe as the unified vacuum – the seat of all the fields and forces of the physical world – is in fact the primary reality of the universe... What we think of as matter is but the quantised semi-stable bundling of the energies that spring from the vacuum [and appear to consciousness as objects of perception]. In the last count matter is but a waveform disturbance in the nearly infinite energy-sea that is the fundamental medium – and hence the primary reality – of this universe, and of all universes that ever existed and will ever exist.”

In regards to evolutionary panpsychism: Laszlo further discusses the likelihood that consciousness is universal and that all 'things' are to some degree conscious; “there is no categorical divide between mind and matter... conscious matter at a lower level of organisation (the neurons in the brain) generates conscious matter at a higher level of organisation (the brain as a whole)... the emerging solution to the classical brain/mind problem is evolutionary panpsychism... [which claims that] all of reality has a mental aspect: psyche is a universal presence in the world... [and] psyche evolves , the same as matter... both matter and mind – physis and psyche – were present from the beginning: they are both fundamental aspects of reality [prakriti and purusha from Vedanta]... [although] we do not claim that they are radically separate; we say that they are but different aspects of the same reality. What we call 'matter' is the aspect we apprehend when we look at a person, a plant, or a molecule from the outside; 'mind' is the readout we get when we look at the same thing from the inside.”

We do not merely perceive the world through our empirical senses or the “five slits in the tower”, we can “open the roof to the sky”. He states that “The informed universe gives us not only a new view of the world, but also a new view of life and of mind. It permits our brains and minds to access a broad band of information... We are, or can be, literally 'in touch' with almost any part of the world, whether here on Earth or beyond in the cosmos. When we do not repress the corresponding intuitions, we can be informed by things as small as a particle or as large as a galaxy”.

In regards to the question “Could the cosmos itself possess consciousness in some form?”, we cannot perceive the quantum vacuum directly and even if we could, “consciousness is 'private', we cannot ordinarily observe it in anyone but ourselves”. However “We could enter an altered state of consciousness and identify ourselves with the vacuum, the deepest and most fundamental level of reality [like the vedic method of meditating upon Brahman]... would we experience a physical field of fluctuating energies? Or would we experience something like a cosmic field of consciousness? The latter is much more likely... when we experience anybody else's brain 'from the outside' we do not experience his or her consciousness... But we know that when we experience our brain 'from the inside' we experience not neurons, but the qualitative features that make up our stream of consciousness... Would not the same hold true when we project ourselves into a mystical union with the vacuum? ... there is indirect yet significant evidence for it... in deeply altered states of consciousness, many people experience a kind of consciousness that appears to be that of the universe itself... They describe what they experience as an immense and unfathomable field of consciousness endowed with infinite intelligence and creative power. The field of cosmic consciousness they experience is a cosmic emptiness – a void. Yet ... it is also an essential fullness... The vacuum they experience is a plenum: nothing is missing in it. It is the ultimate source of existence, the cradle of all being... The phenomenal world is its creation: the realization and concretization of its inherent potential.”

The I Ching

Given all of the above information we can now contemplate this in the context of the I Ching. Below I quote from the introduction to the book Total I Ching: Myths for Change. Contemplate this deeply in light of all the insights that were given above.

“We in the modern West tend to see change as objective and predictable or totally random [due to pre-conceptions such as naïve realism, positivism, empiricism, dualism and materialism]... We assume that it is the same for all people at all times... The sages and diviners who put together the Yijing [I Ching], the Classic of Change, saw things differently. They recognized change and what we call chance as the work of the spirit, an individual encounter with reality [Hundun or Uncarved Block, equivalent to the Vedic term Brahman]. They called the basic flow of energy that shapes experience as Dao or Way, and realised that this Way expresses itself as symbols (xiang) that articulate a 'moment' of time (shi). They realised that we can use these symbols or images to be in harmony with the time. Through them our actions resonate with the spirit and connect with its hidden transforming power. Using Yijing is the art of finding and using these images. This symbolic approach to change helps us to live our lives fully and freely by keeping us in touch with the Way, what the old sages called the ongoing process of the real [this phrase is also used by many philosophers, especially in the field of process philosophy].

Yijing... is the world's oldest and most sophisticated system of wisdom divination, a powerful tool and spiritual vehicle that can help people to navigate the voyage of life. It is designed to help us understand and work with the unconscious forces shaping the situations we confront and to keep us connected with the creative process of life. It brings out the helping spirit (shen), the inner voice that helps us on our way. It does not describe Change; it participates in and articulates Change. It shows how Change happens because it is a part of the process it models. Philosophically, this is a gift to humans that gives us access to the primordial transformations that initiate the process of generation and return of the Wanwu, the Myriad Beings or Ten Thousand Things. It shows the symbols (xiang) and the spirits (shen) through which all transformation occurs. By using Change, we actively participate in this creative process rather than being its passive and unwilling victim. This can have a profound effect on our lives. It is a transformation of the way we experience and affect the world we live in. Through it we become a part of what was called The Great Enterprise.

The world of ancient China was... an animate or living world and humans were in regular imaginative contact with all its powers... It is more than a vanished and foreign past, for it shows us the basic ways we imagine things, how our imagination, our soul, works. By leading our experience back to this mythic ground, we can talk with the spirits, the imaginative powers that are creating the realities we experience. From the perspective of Change, this is a fundamental healing act. From it flow 'blessings' (fu).

This tradition of Change evolved in late antiquity as an instrument to open the world of the Way. It focuses on the ideal of a person who is committed to realising themselves as a true individual as the only way to effect Change in the world. Change helps this person by giving practical advice and making the power and virtue of the spirits (de) available. This lets us penetrate the transformations and connect with the Way. As we embrace this ideal, we become a Realising Person (junzi), one who seeks to realise their destiny and, through that connection with fate and the Way, acquires the real ability to aid others... [Through Change you] may experience shen ming, the friendship of this clear and loving spirit.”

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