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A Collection of Writings by Rich Van Winkle

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Soul and Spirit

It is said that the most certain thing in all the Universe for us is the existence of our own “mind”. We think and therefore we are. But some think that they aren’t.

Some think that all they are is a collection of atoms, fields, and forces – i.e. physical beings. They figure that science has merely failed to find the physical basis for life, mind, and those non-physical things that “mystics” believe in that pure science does not. They argue that science has managed to figure out the physical basis of many things once thought to be “supernatural” and given time and effort, science will discover the physical basis for all existence and all human attributes. This reflects both ignorance of science and a lack of self-understanding.

Science is a process for discovering “truth”. Its methods, ethics, and logic have proven incredibly successful in developing our understanding of the nature of reality. That success has led to the idea that science can and will work to explain much more, but it is science itself that tells us otherwise. Before we get into that detail, let us review quickly what science is and how it has worked.

Science is defined as “systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation” (Dictionary.com)[1]. The “ethics” of science involve both rules and method:

·        The most basic rule of science is that the facts must speak for themselves; that reality is not shaped by belief, but by itself. To practice science is to be as objective as possible.

·        The most basic method of science is the making and testing of hypotheses through observation, measurement, and experiment based on empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.

In “science”, ideas and experiments are openly and fully shared with other scientists who verify (“prove”) them by reproducing the means and confirming the results. Validity and value within science are based upon a theory's ability to predict and control the real world and then upon the degree to which a theory fits within the systematic structure of knowledge and produces meaningful or worthwhile outcomes. Theories that cannot be tested and confirmed objectively remain just theories; theories that prove universally successful and worthwhile are deemed “laws”.

At this time there are no scientific laws relating to the human mind. There are physical laws which govern the mechanisms of the brain and it is universally accepted (because of compelling evidence) that there is a close relationship between human brain and mind. The nature of the relationship is subject to numerous theories, most of which cannot be tested objectively.

This is the gist of our difficulty: science requires objective methods, processes, and results. It relies largely upon instrumentation for testing and verification and we have NO instrumentation which detects or measures “mind”. And yet, as “beings”, we experience mind as a fundamental attribute of our existence and nature. Thus, science is wholly unable to explain mind or to offer any meaningful predictions about it. Indeed, we cannot even determine if any kind of mind may exist independently of a brain[2].

At this point, our best guess is that “mind” is a transcendental (non-physical) emergent property of certain highly ordered complex systems (the brain in our case). If that is true, then our science will have to change dramatically to deal with the mind as science is inherently a “physical” domain by definition. We must ask whether such a change could even be termed “science”[3].

To scientifically prove the existence and nature of “soul” is currently impossible and may forever be so. If a soul is non-physical, then its study and proof will inherently lie outside of “science” (see footnote 3). Our logical inquiry then begins with the appearance of soul as an element of mind (which we are forced to acknowledge as “real” without scientific proof). We begin with our concept for “soul:

A soul is a non-physical animating property or actuating cause of individual life which determines the moral, creative, and emotional nature of a being and results in the individual’s ability to realize moral awareness, to sense conscience, to empathize deeply with others, to appreciate certain aspects of beauty, and to generate altruistic will.

While the soul may have divine or theistic origin or causation, such is not inherent or knowingly necessary. As with mind, our soul is something we experience directly – only with much less directness. Indeed, we are unable to fully distinguish mind and soul as they are so closely integrated in our being.

In this, we see a gradient of “belief” regarding soul: it may be a mere element of mind, a more fundamental aspect of mind with its own unique source and nature, or it may be something directly related to a deity. Because there are polarizing forces in human society, there has developed a strong tendency for belief in either end of the gradient: people either view it as an aspect of divine purpose or they fully reject any non-physical basis for the soul. Here, I hypothesize the middle option: the soul is a fundamental inherent aspect of mind which enables a being to manifest will towards purpose beyond instinct.

Proof of this hypothesis is both circular and semantic: if soul is largely defined by its result, then awareness of the result may prove to be strong evidence for the existence of a soul. It does not however serve to eliminate other sources for these causes. Let us begin then by closer examination of the results of having a soul:

1.      The ability to realize moral awareness.

2.      The ability to sense conscience.

3.      The ability to empathize deeply with others.

4.      The ability to appreciate certain aspects of beauty.

5.      The ability to generate altruistic will.

That we are capable of each of these abilities is self-evident. And we have no evidence that any other beings are capable of similar abilities. The lack of evidence proves nothing, but our dealings with other intelligent species would strongly indicate rudimentary abilities in each of these areas. Manifestations of guilt may (probably) reflect moral awareness even if learned. An intrinsic awareness of “right from wrong” may be (probably is) reflected in some more advanced instinctive behaviors. Lower levels of empathy are apparent in many more evolved mammals, but we have no idea whether they appreciate any form of beauty (although music appreciation may be evident). And, while rare and largely instinctive, we observe some altruistic behavior in a variety of species.  From this we might suppose that soul exists at varying degrees and therefore we should not think of human soul as an absolute attribute.

Non-physical “proof” comes in many forms, none of them equating with certainty. Indeed, our intelligence and awareness teaches us that it is unethical to be certain. Therefore, our acceptance of proof is not the same as claiming certainty. When we assess evidence, we express it in terms of probabilities – one thing can be far more likely than another. If we flip a certain coin a million times and exactly half the time it comes up “heads”, we can accept with confidence that it is controlled by “random” processes. Conversely, if we flip a coin a million times and every time it comes up heads, we can be fairly certain that randomness is not at work. We can eliminate randomness as the source for soul since the probabilities are so massively against such a complex and consistent thing occurring without causation.

We might be satisfied by belief that soul occurs “naturally” – as the inherent result of some bio-physical interaction that we have yet to discover. That belief requires a huge amount of “faith” since we have no non-behavioral physical evidence for soul: we have no measurement which indicates the presence of soul, no mathematical progression or relationship which incorporates soul, or any instrumentation that is affected by soul. Given our ability to measure the smallest quantum forces, this lack of evidence compels us to look in another direction.

We can attribute soul to unknown and immeasurable “forces” – an idea that might have seemed reasonable when we thought the world was deterministic. Or, we might attribute it to some unknowable anthropomorphic super-being – an idea that can never satisfy true intellect. To grasp the nature and meaning of soul requires that we first distinguish it from the physical realm.

The physical (macro and micro) realm is highly deterministic with “ordinal laws” and controlling forces. Only at the quantum level do indeterministic qualities appear and they are largely “random”[4]. “Physics”, then, is the study of the deterministic realm as it transcends into the non-physical indeterministic realm. In the non-physical realm, the laws, theories, mathematics, and observations which give science its coherence and cognizability are almost useless. The most apparent different between the two realms is “free will”.

It is (again) our innate recognition of this attribute which makes it as certain as any aspect of our existence. While some argue that free will may be merely an illusion, their arguments also undermine the entire role of science[5]. A fully deterministic Universe also strongly implies a role for some omnipotent background agency (“God”) who pulls all the strings. Since the lack of free will would deny universal human “experience” and create logical absurdities, it is the cornerstone of non-physical science.

The essence of free will is choice: we evaluate the circumstances and choose among perceived available outcomes. Sometimes our choices lead to the expected outcome and sometimes they don’t. But even when the result is unexpected, we still accept that we had freedom of choice. In other words, in the non-physical realm we experience the effectiveness of making choices, especially when it comes to controlling our own actions and thoughts. In turn, we routinely observe that our chosen actions change events and objects within the physical realm. And recently (since 1964[6]), we have come to understand that our choices may have a direct influence upon quantum events[7].

Our understanding of free will has advanced little since publication of Charlie Dunbar Broad's monumental work “The Mind and Its Place in Nature” (Paul Kegan:London 1925)[8]. There, Broad[9] describes emergent laws as trans-ordinal, fundamental, and irreducible laws that describe a synchronic, non-causal covariation of an emergent property and its lower-level emergent base. He states:

There is nothing, so far as I can see, mysterious or unscientific about a trans-ordinal law or about the notion of ultimate characteristics of a given order. A trans-ordinal law is as good a law as any other; and, once it has been discovered, it can be used like any other to suggest experiments, to make predictions, and to give us practical control over external objects. The only peculiarity of it is that we must wait till we meet with an actual instance of an object of the higher order before we can discover such a law; and that we cannot possibly deduce it beforehand from any combination of laws which we have discovered by observing aggregates of a lower order (Emph. Add., p. 79).

Broad differentiates emergent laws (which yield free will) as different from material laws in that they are not necessitated by any lower-level laws, boundary conditions, or any lower-level compositional principles. In Broad’s terms, “mind” is a higher-level emergent aggregate object (formed only when materialistic objects come together in specific patterns).  I propose the same is true for soul but would add the idea that emergent properties also arise when higher-level emergent aggregate objects combine in certain patterns. In other words, the physical realm yields the non-physical realm when certain levels of ordered complexity arise AND the non-physical realm yields new non-physical “things” when certain levels of non-physical ordered complexity arise.

Thus, “soul” is not a human characteristic or attribute: it is a universal emergent property of certain non-physical systems. Unfortunately, we seem to be the only beings in our world who are able to recognize this property within ourselves and we have no other beings with whom to “compare notes”. We can, however, share and compare experiences with other humans and from this comparative experience we may grasp certain characteristics and aspects of soul.

Our soul is viewed as our essence – a quality of our individual nature which lies at the heart of who we believe we are – our self-perception. This aspect of soul is consistent with a sense that we exist outside our bodies as transcendent beings bound to the physical realm by dependence upon our brain (which is, of course, dependent upon our body). That dependence creates specific awareness of how our state of mind is influenced by the state of our brain – and yet we recognize that we are also able to change the state of our brain through choices and methods (as in meditation, focusing, and hypnosis).

Let us examine, then, what we experience, understand, and theorize about soul…

·        Every known human society has had some awareness of an aspect of individual existence which fits our definition of “soul”[10] (as an “animating principle” and “a self that is independent of the body”).

·        The concept of “soul” is so fundamental to human society that “the idea of the soul seems to have been contemporaneous with humanity itself, and it seems to have had all of its essential characteristics so well formulated at the very outset that the work of the more advanced religions and philosophy has been practically confined to refining it, while adding practically nothing that is really fundamental” (ibid).

·        In other words, the conception/perception of “soul” occurs inherently within human societies as an awareness of an animating property and fundamental characteristic of the individual. Our soul is emergent but not independent.

·        Our personal experience of “soul” is individualistic, but we also have widespread recognition of some transcendental aspect of soul which seems to be “collective”[11].

·        “Soul” appears as an emergent property of human societies as “consciousness of the consciousnesses” being outside of and above individual and local contingencies (recognizing only the permanent and essential aspects of things) and embracing all known reality (spatial and temporal)[12].

·        The soul functions to “furnish the mind with the moulds which are applicable to the totality of things and which make it possible to think of them.  It does not create these moulds artificially; it finds them within itself; it does nothing but become conscious of them”[13].

·        Some qualities of soul vary with the physical (and “emotional”) state of the brain.

·        Some qualities of soul may vary with the macro-state of the society.

Next we should review and expand our understanding of emergent properties so that we may extrapolate and extend our conception of soul.

·        “Emergence” is observed as an inexplicable appearance of new properties, characteristics, or abilities within physical systems beginning at the quantum level and continuing routinely through the macro level.

·        Emergent properties are “dissipative structures” which appear in non-equilibrium thermodynamics involving properties and dynamical principles irreducible to basic physics[14].

·        There is a direct correlation between emergent properties and the level of ordered complexity within a system[15].

·        “Emergent properties of systems result from interactions among their parts” and “emergent properties arise because aggregations have collective properties that their individual units lack”.[16]

The key emergent properties which precede the emergence of soul include:

·        “Life” – the animation of certain organic molecular systems leading to the new properties/abilities of homeostasis, metabolism, responsiveness, reproduction, and heredity[17].

·        “Consciousness” – the awareness of self which is the immediate precursor to “mind”.

·        “Awareness of mind” – the awareness of awareness which lies behind self-reflection (“I think, therefore I am”), introspection (“Who, what, and why am I?), and recognition of purpose (the meaning of life).

·        “Awareness of ‘God’” – grasping the higher level orderliness which is the non-physical causative source of the Universe.

It is the last of these which is the most misunderstood and worthy of elaboration before we continue. First, we should inherently recognize that “soul” has become associated with religion and theology because it is directly related to our emergent awareness of “God”. But let us not confuse our awareness of a highly ordered non-physical causative source of the Universe with religious conceptions of “God” (even those which might use the term “Creator” as synonymous for “God”). It is largely because our conceptualization of “God” is incomplete and corrupted that we have misunderstood soul.

So let us re-frame our notion of “God” into something more useful (and fundamental): “God” is that transcendental causative source of the Universe. God is transcendental in that God does not exist within and is not constrained by physics. God is causative in that causation involves both will (akin to “intent”) and purpose.

Thus, we can say definitively (as above) that “science” cannot study or even recognize God. If there are elements of God which appear as physical laws, principles, or properties, they are only reflections of the Creation and not the Creator[18]. That is not to say that those reflections do not reveal anything useful about the Creator. Indeed, the most important things we might surmise about “God” arise from physics – and particularly from the physics of “emergent properties”.

It is the progression of emergent properties which best indicates the “purpose” of Creation – mostly because this progression is the result of evolution (and evolution provides compelling “proof of God”)[19]. The Universe exists as a balance between two primary forces: entropy and evolution. Because the very design of the Universe gives precedence to entropy (as the second law of thermodynamics shows), the emergence of any ordered system (and thus any emergent property such as soul) shows the “direction” of Creation. Either evolution leads to highly ordered systems where emergence occurs or the Universe dies of simplicity (the opposite of ordered complexity).

We are then the evolutionary product of physical processes which led to the non-physical irreducible emergent qualities of life, mind, awareness, and soul. Our understanding of the first three qualities is much more advanced than our understanding of the last.

“Proof of soul” should begin by grasping proof of life, mind, and awareness. Bear in mind (yes, it’s a pun) that we have NO physical proof for any of these. There are no instruments which can measure life, mind, or awareness. There are no mathematical formulas which allow us to logically and systematically deduce their properties. Thus, the kinds of proof that work for science are useless when we deal with emergent properties.

As stated above, “life” is proven by the observable existence (evidence) of specific qualities or abilities which are uniquely combined (as “aggregate properties”) in specific organizational systems (cells and cellular beings). No other systems display anything akin to “life”. Proof of “mind” follows the same pattern: beings with minds may be observed to have unique aggregate abilities such as self-identity, thought, creative (intentional) behavior, judgment, and control of memory.

“Awareness” is recursive and therefore “self-proving: “I think and therefore I am – I am and therefore I think…” Awareness of awareness is similarly self-proving as beings who are self-aware know that they are aware without further evidence (a “direct proof”?). Beings that are aware of their own awareness require no “proof” of such. It would seem that this would also be true for beings with soul, but it is not.

While beings with soul may universally recognize that property as part of their beingness, their realization is external to their own existence. That is to say that they do not experience soul in the direct and self-apparent manner in which they experience awareness. This leads us to our realization that soul is far different and separate from self-awareness. Indeed, it leads to the premise that soul exists outside the individual and transcends individual awareness as a form of “collective awareness”.

The concept of collective awareness is far from new. It is perhaps best explained by Carl Jung as the “collective unconscious” which is manifest as “consciousness of the consciousnesses”[20]. While Jung explains the collective unconscious as universal data which exists innately within human being as an external “psychic archetype-layer”, Durkheim explains it as universal knowledge grasped as transcendental wisdom that serves to guide mankind. I propose that collective consciousness is merely awareness of an emergent structure which has evolved extra-genetically from our social structures (or cultures).

We are readily conscious of evolutionary extra-genetic human wisdom in physical structures (such as books), but we rarely consider our connection to non-physical wisdom structures such as instinct and intuition. We know they exist and we understand how they produce some results, but we have no real explanation for their nature or origin (other than propose that they are somehow encoded in genetic material that remains highly dynamic but physically unchanged). And, while we observe that instinct occurs without “mind”, we have ignored the extent of instinctive influence upon our own advancement. But that is an aside – here we are concerned with the emergent properties of human cultural evolution.

As with the other emergent properties, soul is a transcendental result of “critically-ordered-complexity” (“COC”)[21]. As human culture evolves to produce extra-genetic COC (especially “ethics”[22]), the new transcendent property of “collective conscious/unconscious” emerges. While lacking “intellect”, collective conscious is self-aware. “Being placed outside of and above individual and local contingencies, it sees things only in their permanent and essential aspects [and] it sees farther; at every moment in time [embracing] all known reality”.[23] In the process, the collective conscious yields thought archetypes (in the Jungian model or “moulds” in Durkheim’s terms) which encompass the totality of reality and which form the basis for intuitive thought regarding them.   

Our connection to the collective conscious forms the basis for what we experience as soul, but it is not the complete picture. The second component centers upon what we deem “spirit” – another transcendental emergent property. “Spirit” and “soul” are often interchanged and their meanings overlap. Here, we will deal with something more specific albeit incorporeal and ubiquitous. Generally, “spirit” refers to a non-physical essence present individually in certain living things. Its prevalence in observed living beings is so common as an animating essence that spirit may be viewed as inherent in life (even though it is not).

The human spirit is as unique in our realm as our thinking. Other living things may think, but there is a clear qualitative difference. The same is true for our spirit. Thus, when we refer to “spirit” here, it is specific to the human spirit. Having already found a collective component of soul in the collective conscious, we will now focus upon the individual nature of spirit. But first, we need to clarify what exactly spirit is and where it comes from.

Indeed, spirit has roots in the emergence of life. But unlike “life”, which has consistent properties in all living organisms, spirit evolves and advances. At its core, spirit has what is aptly described as a “Divine spark”. Of course, this involves one’s conception of divinity and here we have narrowed that conception to the Creator (aka “God”, but not the god of any human religion). Here, we might find it useful to think of the Creator as the Source (the ultimate cause/source of everything in the Universe). Again, this does not follow any traditional theological conception and does not imply a humanoid super-being who is actively involved with human affairs. It is merely an acknowledgement of our best scientific evidence and logic – the Universe had a causative source.

In this framework, spirit is best conceived as a connection to the Source.  Because our notions about “God” are diverse and unsettled, discussion of a Divine connection invariably leads to interference from preconceived ideas: such things as praying and an afterlife judgment may also be thought of as part of a Divine connection. They are not part of this conception and spirit does not involve or imply a specific nature of God. However, if we are going to define spirit as a connection to the Source, we must discuss the Source and what the connection entails.

In science (especially physics and cosmology), we avoid discussion of the Source. We conveniently accept that things are the way they are because “that’s the way they are.” Science reaches its boundaries (the physical realm) and does well to stay within them. Science avoids answering the larger question of “Why are things as they are?” We have looked backward to the beginning of our universe (or at least micro-micro seconds after it) and then draw a blank. “Before the beginning” has as little meaning in science as it does in words. But there was a beginning and it is not reasonable to presume that our beginning “just happened”.

We do not know (and perhaps cannot know) the Source, the Cause, or the Creator. We do know a few things about the Creation. Our Universe reveals much about the Source and our spirit provides a special opportunity to grasp the Creator. But it is non-physical, emergent, and poorly understood or utilized. There is no better indication of our lack of understanding of spirit than our lack of vocabulary regarding it. Words require some common frame-of-reference to be meaningful and we lack just that in the realm of the spirit.

Our starting point must be a foundation of common experience which can be put into words that we already understand. Having now said that spirit is our connection to the Source, we can make that useful by sticking to specific terminology. “Connection” is well understood, although we need to elaborate on the nature of the connection, how it is made, and how it works. But we shall begin with further explanation of the Source.

Somehow, somewhere, and, seemingly, for some reason a “naked singularity” EMERGED. Within that tiny naked singularity was all the energy (=matter), all the properties (=information), all the forces (=direction), all the laws (=logic), and all the spirit (=essence) of the Universe. That is “the Source” (and we are not dealing with the Source of the Source – sorry). Thus far, our species has devoted itself to the highly successful systematic study of energy, properties, forces, and laws through a process known as “science”. But science is unable to study the non-physical essence of the Universe. Nevertheless, science is very useful in guiding our study of the non-scientific realm because of well understood and newly recognized relationships between the physical and the non-physical realms.

What science hasn’t revealed is something we grasp and surmise directly: the physical and non-physical realms have a common Source and a common purpose. Science has revealed that the physical Universe has evolved in one direction – towards ordered complexity – with a singular purpose: to create beings capable of grasping their creation. Through us (and perhaps others), the Universe has become self-aware. Is self-awareness an end in itself? Not for us and not for the Universe.

Physics reveals some of the nature of the Source, including its “intelligent design” and its purpose. Now it is up to self-aware/Source-aware beings to continue the process. The physical realm has succeeded at its basic task – no further physical evolution is needed (although it will continue). We are the transitional and transcendental beings who can recognize evolution and its direction, relate that direction to purposeful Creation, and continue it through non-physical evolution. But non-physical evolution has been following/paralleling physical evolution all along. We are not to creating something “new” – we are to continue and advance what already exists: the collective conscious and spirit/spirituality.

Viewing and advancing collective conscious and spirit together are essential. Once we grasp collective conscious as providing a framework/archetype/mold for grasping non-physical evolution, we can see (yes, grasp) the role of spirit as providing the means for realizing our greater purpose. Science and logic have served us well thus far but we must now create a new paradigm if we are to continue our “mission”. That paradigm is largely “spiritual”.

So, the Source produced the Universe and the Universe produced us. We would be more than arrogant to presume that the purpose behind all this was just to produce us. We are means to an end – not the end itself. And, if we pay attention, we see that the Universe is “cold and hard” in its mission: things which move in the “right” direction prosper and proceed; things that don’t suffer and die. Either we will figure out our mission and work towards it or the Universe will replace us.

How will we figure out our mission and how to complete it?  - Only through spirit.

Yes, we have a good start in what we’ve figured out through science, logic, and a bit of intuition. For example, our best minds and most spiritual individuals have figured out that “ethics” are the key result of evolution within the collective conscious. Through “evolutionary ethics” the collective conscious may develop more ordered and complex archetypes as a framework for evolutionary thought. But evolutionary thought will only occur through spirit and with our current spiritual limitations we are unable/unlikely to develop sufficient connection to the Source. What we need is a whole new way of thinking.

When was the last time you thought about thinking? You are a member of the species “homo sapiens” – thinking humans[24]. It’s about time that you give some thought to what that means. Just what is thinking and how is it enough to differentiate us from all other creatures we know of?

Having already dealt with the brain/mind connection/distinction (above), let us say that thinking is an ability of the mind to focus upon perceptions, analyze them in a particular context, draw conclusions about them, and then to test those conclusions for validity and functionality. Conclusions may then become new perceptions for further thinking. Clearly then, we can improve the process in several ways:

·        We can expand our source for and the quality of our perceptions.

·        We can develop more complete, accurate, and appropriate contexts.

·        We can create new methods for reaching more complex conclusions.

·        We can expand our ability to measure results reliably.

·        We can explore new possibilities for functionality.

·        We can formulate better conclusions and store them as clearer perceptions.

Each of these describes a process of mind, but we know that our mind depends upon the proper function of our brain. We generally think (or not) of our brain as “fixed” and fine (as in OK). While we know that our physical state has plenty of affect upon the brain, we pay little attention to its physical state. Few have ever considered “conditioning” for the brain in a manner akin to conditioning muscles. It is odd and stupid for us to take our brains for granted.

Brain conditioning is beyond the scope of this essay, but give it some thought[25]. At the very least, take care of the damn thing! Pay attention to its needs and avoid poisoning it - that would be a good start.

Mind conditioning sounds like a subversive plot, but is even more necessary than brain conditioning. Because the mind can explore itself, do so. Choose to develop those aspects and functions of mind that maximize results – generally a generalist balance. Work through each of the processes above and learn to discern your own strengths and weaknesses (using feedback from yourself and others). But above all, seek and find your spiritual mind…

If “spirit” is a connection, then one “terminal” is the mind. In this we can see that it was through evolution of the mind that we attained spirit. What we haven’t seen is that another “terminal” is the collective conscious. Thus, the evolution of the collective conscious enabled and expanded our mind and our spirit. And yet, that doesn’t provide a complete picture because there are other “terminals” for our spirit connection.

Inherent within the Universe is a terminal for the Source. That is not to say that the Universe is “God” or that “God” exists as the Universe.  Our connection to this terminal is both direct and indirect – we are quantum beings with quantum brains and the Universe functions as a quantum “mind”. We do not grasp its intellect but we are not far from knowing its “thoughts”.  That is because “great minds think alike” (Ha!). Actually, all minds think alike – they simply use different mechanisms to achieve thought. In our world all organisms with brains have some form of mind and all those minds share certain qualities. And while we may have trouble conceiving brainless minds (unless we’re into computers and Sci-fi), we can surmise that all minds share one quality – thought. That is not to say that there is only one type of thought and that all minds share all types of thought. But there is one universal type of thought – spiritual thought.

Our connection to the Source (and the Universe) is through spiritual thought. Regrettably, it is almost as difficult to explain spiritual thought to beings who haven’t experienced it as it is to explain Mozart to your cat.  Luckily, virtually all humans have experienced spiritual thought – although they may not have recognized it as such. Spiritual though tends to arise unintentionally when we need it the most. It generally falls within the creative/intuitive/revelation/epiphany realm of mind and often yields surprising or confusing results. The vast majority of our spiritual though never reaches “cognition” since we do not complete the process (as above). Instead, it appears as mere unwilled perception that may or may not make sense within our current thought context. Like sensory perceptions that seem irrelevant to our thought context, we readily ignore spiritual thoughts. But they’re there.

Think about it… why is it so common that the inventors of truly great innovations are clear that they didn’t deduce their idea – it “just came to them”? How is it that we reach beyond our knowledge set to grasp new ideas and become aware of new original thoughts? Where does “intuition” come from? While deductive reasoning is powerful and critical, it should lead us to accept that it is not the most creative part of mind.

So let us pull all this together… We have a thing called “mind” (you know it’s true), we experience a thing known as “soul” (generally true), and we can access a thing I’m calling “spirit” (trust me). All of them are emergent manifestations of evolution – a “force” within the Universe that overcomes entropy to produce ordered complexity. This force has a Source and the Source has a purpose. We exist as a part of that purpose and can use our minds to grasp it. If we choose to, we can take part in the larger purpose of the Universe and its Source. Or, we can choose to suffer and die (individually and as a species). Hmmm.

The manner in which we fulfill our purpose and that of the Source is to advance evolution by maximizing ordered complexity. Thus far, our primary contributions to this end have been the grasping of physical truths and the development of social “ethics”. Through culture we have created an extra-genetic evolutionary structure which has the emergent property of collective conscious. Our soul uses the collective conscious as a framework for understanding and thought and interacts with the emergent property of mind called spirit to yield creative ideas and conclusions. Those conclusions then become part of the collective conscious.

Our best opportunity to maximize ordered complexity lies in the willful and reasoned expansion of both understanding (truth) and ethics at the social level. Our best methods for achieving this lie in soul and spirit (which become “Soul” or “Spirit” when combined). Our soul, when properly developed, is a joyful and empowering context for a meaningful life. Our spirit, when properly utilized, is a creative and enlightening force for a purposeful life. Together, Soul and Spirit are our greatest gifts – the “crown of creation”. Hopefully we will prove deserving.

 



[1] Or, “knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method.” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/science). Or, “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment” (oxforddictionaries.com).

[2] While machine intelligence may reveal some transcendental emergent effect akin to mind, we will be unable to determine if is fundamentally like ours.

[3] If science is unable to effectively study the mind, then we will need new rules and methods – presuming that the goal is the same. We might define this neo-science as “systematic knowledge of the non-physical or ethereal[3] world gained through reasoning and experimentation.” I would suggest that we keep the same ethics as science with slight modification:

·        The most basic rule of neo-science is that the facts must speak for themselves; that non-physical reality is shaped by belief and by itself. To practice neo-science is to be as unbiased as possible.

·        The most basic method of neo-science is the making and testing of hypotheses through observation, logic, and application based on empirical and logical evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.

[4] Notwithstanding the theories of John Bell and the idea of superdeterminism,

[5] “[W]e always implicitly assume the freedom of the experimentalist... This fundamental assumption is essential to doing science. If this were not true, then, I suggest, it would make no sense at all to ask nature questions in an experiment, since then nature could determine what our questions are, and that could guide our questions such that we arrive at a false picture of nature.” Anton Zeilinger in “Dance of the Photons”, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York (2010), p. 266.

[6] John Bell "On the Einstein Podolsky Rosen Paradox". Physics 1 (3), 1964, pp.195–200.

[10] The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life” by Emile Durkheim (Trans. by Joseph Ward Swain), George Allen & Unwin Ltd (1915), generally and at pp. 273-74.

[11] Jung, for example, theorized that the collective unconscious is an innate universal psychic archetype-layer that every human being is endowed with. See ”The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious” by  C. G. Jung, (1996), p. 43 and “The concept of the collective unconscious” by Carl G. Jung, Collected Works, Vol. 9 Part 1, Princeton University Press (1981), pp. 42-53 (“a part of the unconscious mind, shared by a society, a people, or all humanity, that is the product of ancestral experience and contains such concepts as science, religion, and morality”).

[12] Durkheim, p. 445.

[13] “Introduction to the Science of Sociology” by Robert E. Park and Ernest W. Burgess, The University Of Chicago Press (1921), EBook #28496 (2009), pp. 195-96. For good explanation, see “Carl Jung, Darwin of the Mind” by Thomas T. Lawson, Karnac Books (2008) (Ch. 3).

[14] This idea originated with Nobel laureate chemist, Ilya Prigogine and has been a cornerstone of the new conceptualization of emergence. Robert B. Laughlin (the Nobel laureate physicist) explains that emergent properties may be understood using “high-level principles” but are inexplicable in fundamental physical terms. See “A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down” by Robert B. Laughlin, Basic Books (2005) and http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1998/laughlin-lecture.pdf.

[15] Stuart Kauffman has explained how and why self-organizing neural networks are emergent properties of certain systems of specific ordered-complexity (the “criticality point”). See “Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution” by Stuart Kauffman, Oxford University Press, Technical monograph (1993), pp. 255 et seq. citing “Self-organized crilicality” by Per Bak, Chen Tang & Kurt Wiesenfeld, Physical Review, A. 38 (1988), pp. 364-374.

[16] “Life: The Science of Biology” by William K. Purves, David Sadava, Gordon H. Orians, H. Craig Heller, Macmillan (2001), p.9.

[17] Note that these properties/abilities are not inherently limited to living systems, but take on easily distinguished qualities and character within living organisms. See “Will to Survive” below and elsewhere.

[18] “Physics” is constrained to the physical Universe and “God” must precede and transcend physics since there was no physical Universe until that certain naked singularity arose and unfolded as the “Big Bang”. While there may well be other physical systems or “physics” which pre-date the Big Bang, our physics will not apply there. Thus, any scientific theory which presumes to deal with other realities or universes is at best trivial.

[19] See “Defining God” at http://richwritings.com/essay%20a1.htm.

[20] “The Structure of the Psyche” by Carl Jung, CW 8, par. 325.). Durkheim 1912, 102

[21] Note that “self-organized criticality” or SOC was first described in "Self-organized criticality: an explanation of 1/f noise" by Bak, P., Tang, C. and Wiesenfeld, K., Physical Review Letters 59 (4) (1987), pp. 381–384 as one of the mechanisms by which complexity arises in nature. Prigogine’s theory of dissipative structures from “Thermodynamic Theory of Structure, Stability, and Fluctuations” by Ilya Prigogine & Paul Glansdorff, Wiley & Sons (1971); Schroedinger’s “sucking orderliness from its environment” from “What is Life?” by Erwin Schrodinger, Cambridge University Press (1944), esp. pp.73, et seq., and self-organization in biological systems of “Autopoiesis and Cognition: the Realization of the Living” by Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, Dordrecht, Holland, D. Reidel Publishing (973).

[22] Ethics, in this context, refer to rules for discerning right from wrong or good from bad. A successful ethic is “moral”.

[23] Durkheim, 1915, pp. 492-3.

[24] OK - that you have gotten to this point shows that you’re a pretty good thinker (or that you’re being forced to read this).

[25] Brains can be “trained” and conditioned just like muscles. You can develop a sprinter/marathon brain or choose a couch potato brain.

 

 

 

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rich1vanwinkle@yahoo.com


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