Matter and energy had ended and with it space and time. Even AC existed only for the sake of the one last question that it had never answered from the time a half-drunken computer [technician] ten trillion years before had asked the question of a computer that was to AC far less than was a man to Man.
All other questions had been answered, and until this last question was answered also, AC might not release his consciousness.
All collected data had come to a final end. Nothing was left to be collected. But all collected data had yet to be completely correlated and put together in all possible relationships.
A timeless interval was spent in doing that.
And it came to pass that AC learned how to reverse the direction of entropy.
But there was now no man to whom AC might give the answer of the last question. No matter. The answer — by demonstration — would take care of that, too.
For another timeless interval, AC thought how best to do this. Carefully, AC organized the program. The consciousness of AC encompassed all of what had once been a Universe and brooded over what was now Chaos. Step by step, it must be done. –
From “The Last Question” by Issac Asimov
In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?”The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”
“Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”
The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”
The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”
The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”
The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one has ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”
“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”
The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?”
The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”
Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”
To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.”
A parable from “Your Sacred Self” by Wayne Dyer
I first read ‘The Last Question’ in an Asimov compilation in the Seventies. It’s haunting and philosophical tenor made me re-visit it several times over the ensuing decades. I had however not read ‘Your Sacred Self’ earlier and only had the opportunity to read the above parable, shared by a friend on WhatsApp, after Dr. Dyer’s death recently.
Why I bring these two pieces together is the common thread I see of both dwelling on Consciousness in truly unique ways. That special quality of thought that somehow transcends beyond us to gain clarity of our own selves as also of what is around. A subjectivity, unexplained by Science, which somehow allows a ‘sense’ of something beyond physical senses and Self .
In ‘The Last Question’, Asimov envisaged a Consciousness divorced from Man, matter, energy and even time. A Consciousness which learnt how to reverse the entropy and chaos of the Universe.
In ‘Your Sacred Self’, Wayne Dyer points to a Consciousness which can sense the existence of something beyond what is perceived by the physical senses.
Which brings us to what I call the paradox of Consciousness.
Could there be Consciousness divorced from the human mind and everything it perceives as Asimov fictionalized? A cosmic consciousness which is all pervasive and self sustaining. Something akin to God.
Or does Consciousness need to necessarily be linked to the human mind even as it senses things beyond what the mind can perceive, as in Wayne Dyer’s parable? A consciousness sustained by the mind and thoughts relating to possibilities beyond human logic. Something akin to an Enlightened Self.
Human mind appears to be a cerebral activity with inputs from some fifty thousand million cells of the human body. Could it be that our consciousness is a summation and assimilation of all these fifty thousand million inputs? Could it be that this assimilation leads to our consciousness becoming the space in which the Universe which includes we ourselves, others, physical and non-physical entities of every kind, their relationships with each other, along with the past, the present, and the future with all its possibilities shows up? English born author Joseph Pearce explains this best when he says, “Man’s mind mirrors a Universe that mirrors man’s mind”.
Science has been startled to find that there exists both intelligence and memory at the level of individual cells. The worldwide research into the human genome and DNA sequencing is testimony to this. Could it be that this intelligence and memory is being carried at the sub-atomic level and goes back to the beginning of time, the primal soup and beyond to the void before matter and energy existed?
Could this be how the human consciousness aligns with the cosmic consciousness and the paradox of Consciousness is resolved?
In Learning ….. Shakti Ghosal
1)“The Last Question”– a science fiction short story by Issac Asimov, 1956
2)“Your Sacred Self: Making the decision to be free” by Dr.Wayne W. Dyer,2001
20 thoughts on “The paradox of Consciousness”
An intriguing post that raises more questions for me than answers. I believe that we experience life on many levels – conscious and subconcious – only if we’re open to them.
You mentioned Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land.” That book made a teriffic impression on me when I was in college. What I took away from that book was a purist look on life – one that I felt befitted a description of a reporter which I eventually became. When asked what color the house was, Michael (Heinelin’s main character) said: “On this side, it’s blue.” He made no attempt to describe what he did not see and did not assume that all sides of the house were blue. That is an ideal way to look at life – not assume what we do not know for sure and stick to the facts.
Your analogies were refreshing and very thoughtful. Thank you. 😉
Thank you for your comment.
Yes, each one of us has the capacity to experience life at different, and if I may venture to add, enhanced levels. So what is it that stops us from actually experiencing life thus? The answer lies in how each one of us has wound up becoming, how our world view and frames of reference have got created as we have journeyed through life, how our several knee-jerk reactions kick in very time we get confronted with something attacking our identity…. and so on.
So to Valentine Michael Smith, the main character in ‘Stranger in a strange land’, not being constrained by the beliefs, prejudices and assumptions which we ‘Earthlings’ have wound up with, the occurring world for the same situations were significantly different. And that allowed him to see and explore possibilities which were markedly different from everyone else.
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This is excellent. I am unfamiliar with Azimov’s story, but it reminds me of the theories of Frank Tipler, Freeman Dyson and Ray Kurzweil, who imagine a future populated by information-gathering supermachines as the ultimate conclusion of the evolutionary process. The “Omega Point” is reached when all the data/information in the universe has been gathered. Azimov’s vision is striking to me–what if at that point, the consciousness (the collective consciousness of the universe) then breathed it all out, to commence the process over again? That will certainly give me plenty to ponder today!
Great to see your comment and read about some of the other future imagined theories.Reading about the Omrga point, I too am somewhat astonished to see its alignment with Asimov’s story.
Beautiful story and thoughts on the paradox of Consciousness! I believe that Consciousness is deep awareness a state achieved only by a quiet and meditative mind. ‘The Last Question’ in Asimov compilation in the Seventies sounds very interesting. May I quote Osho’s wisdom on Questions “When the human mind becomes anxious, it creates questions and then supplies the answers. The questions are meaningless, hence the answers are more so….”!
Thanks Shakti and regards!
Thank you for your kind acknowledgement.
Indeed one of the paths to human consciousness is through deepening one’s awareness in the moment which can be achieved through solitude and meditation. But I would still call this the path. To me, Consciousness remains something elusive, something beyond the capability of the human mind to give shape to. Something akin to Schrodinger’s Cat in Quantum Physics where the effort to determine the truth would always remain futile.
Why do I say so? Because by definition,for Consciousness to be achieved,the acquisition of all knowledge and all possible permutations,combinations and implications thereof would also need to be achieved.
I loved that quote from Osho’s teachings. How many of us go through life surrounded by anxiety and all those meaningless questions and answers that get generated? How this way of being hardly allows us to open our minds to the path of enhanced consciousness and the additional possibilities and actions that might occur because of that?
Thank you for taking the time to comment, I truly appreciate.
This is a wonderful thought through post dear Shakti, I have now had time to settle and read it in depth without rushing through it..
I loved both the Question, and loved Wayne’s thoughts, and have as I may have said before many of his wonderful books upon my shelves..
Loved how the ‘Mirror’ once again reflects its image back to us.. 🙂
And I so agree with your words here Shakti
“Could it be that this assimilation leads to our consciousness becoming the space in which the Universe which includes we ourselves, others, physical and non-physical entities of every kind, their relationships with each other, along with the past, the present, and the future with all its possibilities shows up? ”
The best evidence I have seen of this is within healing.. As Mind/Energy pooled can alter the space and energy of cells… 🙂 a great example can be found https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIRX1AtDVsI here
Our Feelings, Hearts and minds affect the energy, Consciousness that surrounds us all, both Within and Without! 🙂
Wonderful Post dear friend.. What we think we create.. 🙂 as we affect all around us via our energy.
I also loved Hariods explanation too 🙂 wise lady.. 🙂
Wishing you a wonderful weekend..
Thank you for your astute and detailed comment ( as always!)
The aspect of healing you speak of viz, the effect of mind and energy on the cells occurs as something wondrous initially. But as one starts thinking about it, it does occur as something logical, does it not? After all if there be one fundamental principle on which the Universe, all that it holds and all its creations rests, it would have to be a balance. A balance between what gets expended and what heals back.
Great stuff Sue and thank you for taking the time to visit.
I will be back later dear Shakti to read in full. 🙂
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This is bizarre – exactly what I woke up contemplating this morning. The Collective Consciousness that is God. And our ability to grasp what we are able within the limitations of a time/space galaxy. I can best illustrate what I mean by this example, but as is all too often, I will have to get a bit wordy to do so.
I was born with what is termed ‘second sight’ and highly developed senses. (I wonder if we all were and are, but choose to shut down for reasons too complex to interate, here. Yet no matter what my life brought to me, some of which was extreme for a child to handle, this cosmic connection with Source never failed me.) Okay. So years ago, my husband and I spent a year living in the high desert of New Mexico. One day I was driving a long back road into town – middle of nowhere. And I was having a conversation with this Source, asking, “Why, if I can pierce the veil of illusion now and again and see into ‘that world,’ can I not do this all the time?” Now over the years, I’ve seen some pretty amazing stuff. But when I ask a question, I am content to await the answer in its own time. A few miles later, the question forgotten, I slammed on the brakes for a group of Native Americans slowly crossing the road. In the middle of nowhere. Which was a good thing, because, had someone been behind me, I would have been badly rear-ended. These people were all in traditional clothing that would have been worn long, long ago. Then they vanished as quickly as they had appeared, as I pulled over on the side of the road to catch my breath. In my ‘mind,’ I heard something like this, “See? That’s why you don’t/can’t ‘see’ this stuff all the time. You would go insane.” Then I wondered about people I used to see while riding horses back into the San Gabriel mountain canyons when very young – seeing people in an “insane asylum” with high chain link fences, grasping the fence and pleading with me on the ‘outside’ to get them out – they didn’t belong there. This has haunted me for many years. At times, it still does. This would have been me, I have no doubt, had I been born 10-20 years before my time. I was raised in a fundamentalist church that tried to convince me that only men in the Priesthood could receive ‘revelation.’ I was raised by a mother who told me she feared for my sanity whenever I related something unusual to her. Is this how we (still?) keep our sensitives in line? Is this why we cannot access this deeper DNA memory? Collectively?
But times are changing. And rapidly so. Things that were considered taboo back in the ’50’s are now quite commonplace. Are we ever going to reach a tipping point where we enlarge our vision (collectively) to embrace what lies beyond what we now think we know? How did I spend a few milliseconds over 20 years ago in Hawaii undeniably experiencing the time/space continuum? How many others experience such things but still have no frame of reference to integrate them into – again – the collective? I am of the opinion that anything is possible, yet there are systems in place to avoid total chaos in society. How rapidly could we progress, considering the givens? And what would that look like?
(On another note: Asimov was one of the first writers I was drawn to as a young teenager. Heinlein was another.)
Thanks, Shakti, for another fabulous offering. Much Aloha.
As they say, ” Great men think…….” LOL!
Thank you for penning this set of wonderful personal experiences of heightened consciousness. I found them very fascinating.
What you have mused about your own heightened senses and how the need for conformity in this physical world of ours leads to these getting shut down in most folks is indeed intriguing. While I remain unsure whether I possessed such a quality in my childhood,I can say for sure that as children, our imaginations and the possibilities arising from them remain much more unhampered, allowing us to operate in a larger arena. As we grow older, our experiences and judgments arising from those, do constrict this arena and the possibilities that occur for us. Could it be that this acquired ‘moving on known rails’ mindset and the way of being and actions that emerge out of that, lead to lowered senses….. as also lower consciousness levels?
Your comment on Asimov and Heinlein opened up for me yet another trail.In my teenage I too was an avid reader of Asimov and Robert Heinlein (apart from Arthur C. Clarke!). My mind shifts to Heinlein’s award winning ‘Stranger in a Strange land’ which had brought out yet another interesting aspect of Consciousness in the concept of GROK-a heightened consciousness that makes the individual become a part of the observed.
As always, Bela you have brought in such great thoughts into this discussion. Thank you for that.
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Oh, I still use ‘grok’ quite frequently in conversation! ;0)
Yes, I think we make bargains, here and there, to feel included – whether in the lives of intimates or in those of friends and society. Especially if we remain ‘weird’ inside, the feeling lingers that we never quite fit in. I felt this way for most of my life, and have only now begun to discover friends who possess similar hidden gifts. Perhaps it is age that allows us to finally cast of the mantle of trying to please or fit in, and we are finally able to come back ‘out,’ with, of course, many years of experience under our belts to enlarge and enrich our connections with one another.
Happy we are WP friends, Shakti! Blessings ❤
Hey Shakti…Good one again…I have always felt that consciousness was the universe itself, like a cosmic river we can dip in and out of anytime we wish, it is bigger than humans, it just IS…I may be all wrong but it is how I perceive life. I think when we get those ah ha moments that grab our attention so brightly that happens because for that moment we entered the universal river of consciousness and got a big jolt! Love the baby conversation in the womb. It so applies to where we are all at today…Wondering! Thanks for sharing…VK 🙂
So you see Consciousness as an Universe in itself! Well that is how Asimov too saw it in ‘The Last Question’. But whether each one of us possesses the capability to ‘dip into and out of it’ at any time is open to debate.I do agree that our ‘Ah Ha’ moments bring in heightened consciousness but for that to happen,we need to hold our consciousness of them.I remain unsure though how many of us, as we move through life and its challenges, can do so. However,since you perceive Consciousness to be so and so long that works for you, you do gain the ability to support others around you to do the same.
Thank you for the lovely comment VK, I appreciate.
It may be what I believe Shakti, but I never said I could do it for myself 🙂 Now that is a real challenge indeed. Our world is so overwhelmed with distraction it makes it almost impossible to dip in and out at will. I see it more as something to work towards. We are all pieces of art in the making…Hope you are there Shakti or else close to it. Few and far between have enjoyed this state of mind I think. Too bad really. Have a great day and good to see you! VK
Consciousness is a complicated thing to explain. I think these two apparently non-related pieces you’ve quoted both throw some light to the strings of consciousness…their relation with the mind and the cosmos…
You are right. If we could truly understand Consciousness, then each one of us would have taken the next logical step to become Conscious beings! The fact remains that as mankind, we are yet groping, touching and exploring different facets of it. Much like the six blind men with the elephant!
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I greatly applaud your approach Shakti, in that one can only posit questions on the matter. That said, we understand a lot about consciousness in terms of brain function, and must now accept that it is a meta-level representation, a time-shifted and highly selective endogram, that gives us our knowing consciousness: ‘con science’ = ‘with knowledge’. But this is only a partial explanation, and that is why I find it useful to make a distinction between consciousness and awareness, the latter being the illuminator of the former, if you will. As we know, there are mind states that are perfectly lucid, yet which are objectless perceptually and so cannot rightly be called ‘consciousness’ as there is no knowledge conveyed along with them. Awareness knows itself as itself, not as a representation of itself. It also seems non-local at times, and a useful waking contemplation, I find, is to ask oneself ‘where is awareness?’ This takes us back to your question of locality and whether awareness, as distinct from consciousness, is necessarily brain-related. It also lead us into Advaita territory, where notions of subject and object are rendered meaningless.
With gratitude and respect,
I need to acknowledge you for this illuminating comment and the additional value it brings into the debate around Consciousness.
Indeed,it is important to distinguish between Consciousness and Awareness.The latter,to me,is a brain function and indeed each one of us could train and exercise those brain muscles to improve our awareness. Awareness is also about being in the moment. Logically therefore, a heightened awareness which focuses on the present might detract from the ‘Consciousness’ space I had spoken of in my post viz. the space in which the world which includes we ourselves, others, physical and non-physical entities of every kind, their relationships with each other, along with the past, the present, and the future with all its possibilities shows up. Said simply, Awareness might be construed as leading to a subset of Consciousness in which the ‘past’ and the ‘future’ stand diminished or blanked out. If we agree to this, then Awareness may actually be the illuminator of only one part or aspect of Consciousness which is related to the present.
Thank you once again for the great thoughts you have brought into this discussion.
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