the big questions

Modern Mystery School

It has been quite a while since I last wrote here. This is because I have been focusing on creating a modern mystery school. This needs a little explanation!

I use this term simply as a shorthand, because what Graham and I are setting up will resemble the ancient mystery schools in two significant ways. First, it will provide a whole person training – education in its original sense, if you like. You could call this “a modern spiritual training”. And second, it will facilitate the process of the whole person exploring the whole world. You could call this “an extended science”. I will say a few words about each of these.

In the world today, education has largely been replaced by its opposite – schooling. Confusingly, it is still called “education”, when it is clearly not what education should be, or used to be. Schooling differs from education in two important respects. First, it rarely develops the whole person. It focuses mainly on the intellectual and the physical. (As we shall see, this has striking parallels in science). And second, it is not designed to “lead out” the best and uniqueness of each individual, which is what true education does. On the contrary, it is designed to tell people what to think, what to believe, and how to behave. Schooling is therefore a recipe for conformity, because it tends to stifle creativity and individuality. Although the ancient mystery schools differed from place to place, they were united in their belief that the whole human being should be developed, and not just the intellectual and physical parts.

The ancient schools were also united in another sense. They knew how important it is to use the whole of ourselves to explore the world, rather than just the physical and intellectual parts, which is what usually happens today, particularly in the sciences. Science today relies almost exclusively on two modalities to explore the world – our five physical senses (and extensions to these senses, such as microscopes and telescopes), and our intellect. It should come as no surprise that the world responds accordingly, and reveals to us only its physical and intellectual aspects. We call these aspects “scientific knowledge”. The problem is that many people make the mistake of assuming that this is knowledge about all aspects of the world.

When we combine the fact that schooling, not education, is the norm today with the fact that the dominant form of knowledge (science) is based almost exclusively on the physical/intellectual way of exploring, we get two serious consequences. First, people are not being allowed or encouraged to reach their potential. They often remain pale versions of who they could be. Just to be clear, we are not speaking about “success” or anything like that. When we say “potential”, we mean the potential to be fully human. Because they are schooled, rather than educated, most people are not as intelligent as they could be, and this is reflected in the state of the world. It is a world in which the “most intelligent species” causes all the problems! Second, given its way of exploring the world, science gives us only a partial, one-sided picture of the world – the physical/material picture. Our understanding of what the world is and who we are therefore remains very limited. We believe that this, more than anything else, underpins the materialistic values and behaviour that pervade the world today.

The ancient mystery schools explicitly went beyond the limits of the physical, because they recognised the importance of exploring and understanding the non-physical aspects of the world and of the human being. (Some people call these the “spiritual aspects”.) To be able to do this, they had to develop certain forms of consciousness that are largely unknown today. What the mystery schools offered to their students was a rigorous training to awaken and develop “organs of perception” that enabled direct experience of the non-physical aspects of the world. These organs of perception can usefully be thought of as “inner senses”, to distinguish them from our five physical senses, the ones that give us direct experience of the physical aspects of the world. The knowledge they gained is usually called “esoteric knowledge”, indicating that it was available only to those few people who had developed their inner senses. We believe that a training in the inner senses is an important component of a modern spiritual training. And it is the inner senses that make an extended science possible. It is “science of the whole”.

We recognise that great changes that have taken place in the millennia since the mystery schools thrived. These can be captured in three words – knowledge, technology, consciousness. We have much more knowledge today, about the world and ourselves, than our ancestors did at the time of the mystery schools. That much is clear. However, against this, we have to weigh two things – the fact that much of what we know today is knowledge of the physical aspects of the world and ourselves, as well as the fact that the teachers and students in the mystery schools knew much about the non-physical aspects of the world and the human being. Nonetheless, our much wider, more detailed knowledge means that the mystery schools of the 21st Century will be different, in some significant respects, from the ancient ones.

The modern mystery schools will be different, not just because our knowledge has changed, but also because we have changed. There are compelling reasons for believing that human consciousness today is not what it was two or three thousand years ago. Although it can sometimes seem otherwise, we are more conscious today, individually and collectively. The best account of this that we know is The Secret History of Consciousness, by Gary Lachman. When thinking about a mystery school for our times, we also have to factor in these changes in consciousness.

Last but not least, we have modern technology, with all that this implies. It implies, for example, that students and teachers do not always need to be in the same physical space. Much can be done on online, and this modality is likely to become much more functional, not least because of the restrictions ushered in by the current pandemic.

One last thought – if education is about leading out the best and uniqueness from each individual, then the corollary of this is surely that each of us contributes our best and our uniqueness back to the world. We all have something unique to say and to contribute. And we should all give our best. This comes only when we give the whole of ourselves to the world. Our modern mystery school is designed to help people do just this.

These are early days, and there is still much thinking to be done, and many conversations to be had. To find out more, please contact us.

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Chris Thomson            christhomson1000@gmail.com

Graham Stewart          wgrahamstewart@gmail.com

Click to access Books and Courses

consciousness, the big questions, Uncategorized

What Connects Matter and Consciousness?

This is one of the “big questions”. A lot of people have thought about it. Current thinking on the question is dominated by science. We are told by science that matter is primary, and consciousness secondary. Specifically, we are asked to believe that consciousness is a product of the brain (which is made of matter!), and located only in the brain. You will not be surprised to hear that I take a different view. For me, the key connecting link between matter and consciousness is energy. My reasoning is as follows.

Matter is not made of tiny solid things. It is made of energy. And energy is not a thing.

I have found it helpful to define energy as “that which consist simply in its own movement and order”. If you like, energy is “moving order”. It is only because it sometimes moves very quickly indeed, at the sub-atomic level, that it appears solid to us. As we shall, matter is a matter of perception!

The “movement” component of energy comes in many forms, such as cycles, rhythms and frequencies. Absolutely everything is in a state of movement, even those things that appear static to us. Things appear static to us only because they are far away – a star, for example – or because the movement is extremely slow, as in the case of a flower opening.

The “order” component of energy is why things make sense to us. In fact, we can usefully define order as “that which makes sense to us, now or at some time in the future”. If things were not ordered, we would not be able to make sense of them, now or at any time in the future. The fact that human knowledge is very extensive and constantly growing tells that many things make sense to us now, and many more things will make sense in the future. We know a lot! But we know a lot only because things are inherently “knowable”, and they are knowable because they are made of energy, which is “moving order”. Does this all make sense?

Let’s now look at consciousness.

Consciousness has been defined in many ways. For me, it is simply awareness. It comes in two forms – outer perception and inner perception. We perceive things outside us, in the world around us, such as matter. For this, we use our five senses, hearing and seeing etc. But we also perceive things inside us, such as our thoughts, our feelings, and the workings of our mind in general. For this, we use another kind of perception, for which there is no widely accepted term. In my opinion, consciousness is one and the same as perception.

Now here is the important key. Perception is possible only if there is something to be perceived. If there was nothing to be perceived – no world of matter out there, and no thoughts and feeling in here – we would not, and could not, be conscious. We are conscious only because the world enables consciousness, and it does this by being ordered, which makes it perceptible and knowable.

I am starting to think there are the makings of a book here!

 

christhomson1000@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

being natural, global change, human being, inner cosmos, Intelligence, less is better, natural, simplicity, Taoist, the big questions, Uncategorized

Joining the Dots

This is not the first time I have used this title. I assume I am using it again today because I want to solve the mystery. I want to see what the picture looks like, when all the dots are joined.

I had this thought this morning because I have just completed six long articles – three on The Inner Cosmos, and three on Intelligent Simplicity. They are part of plan to publicise my work more effectively. The plan is to publish a series of three articles every month on topics that best reflect my work. These include a very unusual range: the two mentioned above, as well as A Science of the Whole, the New Economics, Energy and Consciousness, and The 21st Century Taoist. My question to myself this morning is Why this range of topics?

I believe that part of the reason is that I have studied an unusual range – the natural science, economics, Chinese, and law, and all at university level. I also think it is because I am a heretic! I challenge orthodoxy wherever I find it…in economics, in science and medicine, as well as modernity itself, from which all current orthodoxy springs.

Some might say that I do this because I want to stand out, to be different, to be noticed. I think it goes much deeper than this. I think it is rooted in own deep sense of what the world is and what a human being is. Whatever they turn out to be, they far transcend the pictures of them painted by science. Although science may have some of the physical aspects of the world and the human being correct, it falls far short when it comes to their non-physical aspects, for the very simple reason that science denies that these aspects exist.

That’s it! That’s the picture the joined dots will paint. The dots will reveal what I have been trying to say all these many years, ever since the 60s. Some of my work attempts to describe the world and the human being, as I see them. Other parts of my work describe how our lives could be if the world and the human being were as I see them. Hence, the New Economics, A Science of the Whole, and The 21st Century Taoist.

The pictures are getting clearer every day.

global change, human being, the big questions, Uncategorized

A New Story – Part One

The story I am about to tell you is not all that new. It has been emerging for quite a long time, probably since the 1920s, when quantum physics arrived on the scene. Although some parts of the story are already established, it has still not entered the consciousness of the general public, and it is actively rejected by academia and mainstream media. It is rejected because it contradicts the “science story” – the account given by science of the nature and history of the universe and the human being. Although you may have never heard the science story in its entirety, some of it will be familiar to you. If we want to know what the new story is, there is probably no better place to start than the science story. What follows does not claim to be comprehensive, but I believe that I have captured the essentials. I should add that, although this is this is still the prevailing view in science, an increasing number of individual scientists are warming to the new story. The science story is as follows…

The universe began from nothing. To be fair, science tells us that it was not exactly nothing. It was a “singularity”, which existed before space time. In other words, it had no dimensions. Difficult to imagine? Yes. And difficult believe that the vast universe, including this planet with its myriad forms of life, came effectively from nothing? Sure. But let’s get on with the story.

The “laws of nature”, such as the laws of physics and chemistry, all came into existence in the first few nanoseconds of the life of the universe. This is what scientists seem to agree on. Clearly, it begs some big questions. For example, how do they know this? And how did it happen? How is it possible for a large set of complex principles, which did not exist a nanosecond earlier, suddenly to come into being? Although I can just about stretch my mind to imagine a singularity, I have to say that this part of the science story takes us into the realms of fantasy. This is by no means to suggest that I know how or when the laws of nature came into being, but I am reasonably sure that it did not happen this way. I will say more about this when we come to the new story.

The universe has no intrinsic meaning. It began for no apparent reason. If this is true, then we have to wonder why it bothered coming into being in the first place. In any event, presumably this absence of meaning applies to us too, because we are surely products of the universe. It is little comfort to tell ourselves that if everything is basically meaningless, then this statement must be meaningless too! In any event, is meaning a purely human construct? If so, are we sole exceptions in the universe? Highly unlikely, I would have thought.

Everything is physical.  Although scientists do not define the word “physical”, we know what it means. According to science, the whole universe is physical, and everything in it, including us. We are nothing more than our bodies. This implies that we do not exist before conception or after the death of our bodies. It also means that anything that, at first, appears not to be physical – such as consciousness – will eventually be shown to be physical in nature. It should be self-evident, but perhaps it needs to be stated that scientists believe everything is physical because they use only the physical mode of perception to explore the world and the human being. In other words, they rely only on their five physical senses, and on extensions to these senses, such as telescopes and microscopes. When we think about it, we realise that all scientific instruments are, ultimately, extensions to one or more of our five senses. If scientists used other, “non-physical” modes of perception to explore the world, the world would respond accordingly, by appearing to non-physical. This is a central feature of the new story. Meanwhile, the next part of the story follows naturally from this part.

Matter is primary, and consciousness is secondary. In other words, consciousness is believed a product of matter. This is why scientists say that consciousness is an “epiphenomenon of the brain”. This, too, has some far-reaching implications, such as the belief that consciousness can exist only within the brain. As we shall see, when we look at the new story, there is a lot of compelling evidence that consciousness can exist well beyond the brain.

Science’s emphasis of the physical and the material leads it to believe that the world and the human being can best be understood as “mechanisms”. This suggests that, if you really want to understand something, you take it apart, and see how its parts fit together and interact with each other – just like a machine. This “mechanistic worldview” is very evident in medicine and in pharmacology.

Science also wants us to believe that the universe contains disorder, chance and randomness. They tell us that some things happen by chance – such as life on this planet – and that some things lack order. The important point of this part of the science story is the claim that disorder and chance are inherent characteristics of the universe. This means that some things can never be explained. They just happen!

Science’s focus on mechanisms and parts takes us to the next part of its story – that the primary reality is to be found at the level of the very small – at the level of particles, waves and quanta. From this, it is a short step to the belief that causality is upwards. In other words, “prime causes” take place at the sub-atomic level. Everything else is secondary, a consequence of primary causes.

We are almost there! Although this may be obvious by now, it is worth stating explicitly that science believes that things are basically separate from each other, and connected only by physical forces, such as gravity and electromagnetism. This belief persists, despite long-standing evidence of “quantum entanglement”, which strongly suggests that things are anything but separate. This belief is separateness runs deep in our lives. It may, for example, be at the root of the loneliness and isolation many of us feel from time to time.

Human evolution happened more or less as Darwin described it. I might agree with this, if we were talking only about the evolution of our physical body. For scientists, this is all we are, our physical body. For me, and for the new story, we are much more than that. T If we are much more than that, this puts the whole of evolutionary biology into question.

Finally, and although this is not a formal part of the science story, it is implied that, while some religious and spiritual traditions can offer useful moral guidance, they cannot give us facts. Only science can give us facts! Yet, when we stop to think about it, we realise that most of the facts of our own lives come not from science. They come from our personal experience. The new story differs from the science story in many respects. Most importantly, it places us – human beings – right at the centre of the story.

Many scientists – indeed many people in general – think that the science story is a set of facts. As such, they are beyond argument. This is very evident when you hear Richard Dawkins speaking! The reality is that the science story is merely a set of beliefs. While it is true that some of these are based on careful observations and complex calculations, they are still beliefs. This is because science is always provisional. Its “facts” are not set in stone. They are not eternal truths. All of them are subject to change. Thus, the science story is believed to be true. This is significant, because it means that, as a set of beliefs, the science story is a worldview – a worldview that profoundly influences all aspects of our lives.

It influences our lives more than you might imagine. Most obviously, it is the basis of our knowledge. This, in turn, makes it the basis for our education. This is because a worldview tells us what is true and what is possible. The untrue and the impossible is very unlikely to be taught in our schools and our universities. Bu it goes much deeper than this. The science story is at the root of our values – what we believe to be important – and our behaviour. It follows that if we change our worldview, our core beliefs, then everything else changes. This is why the new story so important. It is because it will change our core beliefs, our values and our behaviour. Few will deny that the planet is crying out for us to change.

christhomson1000@gmail.com

 

 

 

human being, inner cosmos, the big questions, Uncategorized

The Very Big and the Very Small

Note to the reader: this is very much work in progress. These are all new thoughts. Please tell me where I might be mistaken and what you think is missing

 I am writing a book about the “inner cosmos”. It explores the relationship between the macrocosm and the microcosm, in line with the idea of “as above, so below”. It specifically looks at how this relationship affects us. Recently, I have begun to wonder whether science has its own version of “as above, so below”. I have done a lot of reading about this, and note that science has difficulty in connecting the very big with the very small. What do I mean by this? Scientists believe that the behaviour of the very big – galaxies, stars and planets – can be explained in terms of relativity. And they believe that the behaviour of the very small – atoms and particles – can be explained in terms of quantum physics. Despite many attempts over the last 100 years, scientists have been unable to connect relativity with quantum physics. For example, they cannot integrate gravity with the strong and weak nuclear forces. This remains one of the great quests in science.

I believe that scientists have been unsuccessful in this endeavour for one reason. They have not included us. They have focused their attention exclusively on the “outer, objective world”, and not taken account of the “inner subjective world”. They have not recognised that what seems to be “objective” can only ever be subjective. This is because the world “out there” is ultimately a product of the world “in here”. It is ultimately the world as seen through our eyes, from our human viewpoint.

Arguably, the defining characteristic of the very big is distance. The big things are distant from each other. Therefore, it takes time for things to happen. Time is clearly an important component of the very big. As you may know, relativity is all about the interplay of space and time. One form of this interplay is the bending of space-time in the presence of mass (such as planets and stars). Scientists have a name for this “warping” of space-time. They call it “gravity.” One of Einstein’s main contributions was to connect gravity with space and time.

In contrast, the defining characteristic of the very small is no distance! So, it takes no time for things to happen. This apparent absence of time is one of the central features of quantum physics, and it is one of the reasons why the behaviour of the very small seems weird.

Since it takes time for things to happen at the level of the very big, things appear to be disconnected, separate from each other. Conversely, since it takes no time for things to happen at the level of the very small, because distance is negligible, things happen instantaneously. Thus, things seem to be totally connected to each other. This “strange connectedness” is another important feature of quantum physics.

What I have just described implies “human relativity”. This probably needs a little explanation. Everything, from the very big to the very small, is relative to us. It is the world as perceived by us, as seen through human organs of perception, and from our human standpoint. It can be no other way. The big things are big and separate, only relative to us. The small things are small and connected, only relative to us. What the big and small things appear to be relative to themselves is quite another matter. Let us now explore this.

From its own viewpoint, the very large will seem to itself to have little distance between its parts, therefore little time. From its own perspective, the very large will appear to itself to be totally interconnected, just as, from our own perspective, our bodies seem to be totally interconnected. Separateness may be a uniquely human illusion. In any event, this suggests that, when seen from its own perspective, quantum physics may apply to the very big. This is because quantum physics is relevant to situations where time and separateness are not factors.

Similarly, from its own viewpoint the very small will seem to itself to be full of distance – atoms will be the equivalent of solar systems – therefore full of time. This suggests, does it not, that seen from its own perspective, relativity can be applied to the very small. This is because relativity is relevant to situations where space and time are present.

These are very early days in this exploration, so anything I say is very tentative. That said, one of the possible implications of “the theory of human relativity” is that, at the level of the very small, the nuclear forces within the atom my be the microcosmic equivalent of gravity. I say this because it was Einstein’s genius to make the connection between gravity and space-time. Now, if space and time are actually present at the level of the very small, albeit on a scale well below our normal perception, then there are likely to forces related to this microcosmic space-time. What we currently call the “nuclear forces” could equally well be called “micro-gravity”.