When the awakened view dawns it becomes apparent that everything we experience points to it, and always did. It’s the recognition that each moment is a Dharma Gate, the opportunity to realize the nature of what-is and it becomes fascinating and fun to see how the consideration of any given domain or field of knowledge offers an opening to its own origination and indeed the source and nature of phenomena in general.
The following is a brief exploration of three different propositions in the domain of science and technology and how each has at its heart the same unanswered question.
“May You Live In Interesting Times”
We might, if we were sufficiently curious and attentive, notice that the issues that we face in our modern scientific age urge us to question and explore the deepest nature of ourselves and of reality itself. The relatively recent emergence of rapid and accelerating technological development has introduced us to new and previously inconceivable propositions and possibilities to consider. New discoveries and developments prod at our imagined certainties about the nature of ourselves and the world. Venerable conceptual models of reality are being revealed as the insubstantial notional constructs that they’ve always been. Our brave new world is inadvertently attesting to the impermanence of ideas long believed to be concrete – ideas about reality, identity, truth.
As an example, advances in genetics and medicine, along with exponential progress in robotics and artificial intelligence, herald the prospect of the human as-such transforming beyond its evolved biological form into some kind of biotechnological trans-human being. Such a radical prospect begs the question: if the body isn’t fundamental or essential to my continued existence, then can I really BE this body? And if I’m not the body essentially, then who am I, what am I?
Another recent theory is that we may all be existing in some vast, cosmic simulation; an idea that is being taken so seriously that some leading thinkers suggest that the likelihood that we exist in ‘base reality’ is billions to one against. And if life as we know it is a stimulation, then who or what am ‘I’ that is experiencing the stimulation? When the simulation ends, including (presumably) the projection of a body and personality, do we wake to find ourselves to be a contemporary human, a future human descendant, an alien on a digital day trip, a neural blob in a jar, or some other type of aware intelligence? What exactly is the nature of our existential ‘base’ reality?
Perhaps the most subversive threat to the materialist status quo is from the perspective of quantum science, in which the necessity for the presence of an ‘observer’ is so fundamental to the existence of a phenomenal world, that it simply doesn’t exist without ‘someone’ to know it. But what is the nature of this essential observer, without which the universe couldn’t be?
Each of these examples brings the question about the nature of our true identity into sharp focus; if we are not the body, and the world that we experience is not permanent or substantial, then where and what are ‘we’ in all this? What came first, the world or I?
In our investigation into the world ‘out there’ we find that even when we look outwards, we inevitably find the need to turn our attention to where we are looking ‘from’ to comprehend the way of things. We have yet, in the modern world, to collectively apply the scrutiny of our scientific curiosity toward exploring ourselves as the essential subjective principle upon which the world depends.
The ‘hard problem of consciousness’ isn’t so hard, it’s just so ubiquitous as that it’s overlooked. It’s universally available for anyone to observe directly for themselves. The simple act of observing awareness from awareness reveals its nature and the nature of the objective phenomena that appear in it. It reveals itself as the first principle, self-existent, unconditioned.
This is old news; Masters of scientific introspection from Wisdom traditions have been reporting their findings for millennia and into the present day. Modern science has yet to fully embrace what I believe will be the transforming exploration of our times: the discovery and recognition of our true nature as consciousness by means of direct observation of awareness by awareness. The radical discovery that the universe is a ‘dream’ appearing in a singular, universal mind.
I’ll leave it to the scientists to do the math, to describe the details as best they can. But the lived experience and liberating benefits of knowing oneself as the ground of all being and becoming is the birthright of all. We need only to start looking for ourselves.