The first article of this series described consciousness as the capacity to have an inner experience based on sensations and feelings, what philosophers call qualia, and highlighted the characteristics of the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual qualia. The second article explored the basic properties of qualia—perception, and comprehension—which allow us to experience life and get meaning and purpose out of conscious living. The third article made the case for consciousness being a fundamental property of nature, arguing for a new interpretation of the core assumptions of physics that could reconcile the existence of consciousness from the beginning of being. The last article further explored the nature of reality under the hypothesis that consciousness has always been in existence, concluding that consciousness must have influenced the evolution of the universe in a non-trivial way, otherwise it would simply be an unnecessary hypothesis.
This article will illustrate a model of reality based on the idea that all that exists emerges from the communication of a vast hierarchy of conscious entities. This model envisions the matter, energy, space, and time of physics, as well as the laws of physics, as outer, informational aspects of ever-evolving organizations of communicating conscious entities.
One and the consciousness units
Physics currently describes a universe that is holistic and dynamic but deals only with exteriority: measurable events occurring in space and time. To explain the existence of consciousness and free-will, we need to address interiority as well. This can be done by introducing the concept of One defined as the totality of what exists. One is a fundamentally dynamic and holistic “entity,” like the physical universe, but it also has consciousness and free-will expressing its capacity and urge to experience and know itself. We share in our depth the same urge to know, variously felt as a combination of desire, curiosity, impulse, satisfaction, love, determination, and will. Attributing these human qualities to One is clearly inadequate to describe what may move One to know itself, yet, like many before me, I believe this is the only reasonable place to start. If you agree, then One possesses both interiority and exteriority from the beginning of existence.
Dynamism means that One can never be the same instant after instant. Holism means that One has no separable parts, i.e., within One everything is connected. And finally, the urge of One to know itself is the cause of all manifestation and evolution, implying also that the self-knowing of One must continuously grow. Dynamism, holism, and self-knowing must then be intertwined aspects of One, facets of an indivisible whole rather than “independent variables.” This also means that existence and self-knowing may well be two sides of the same coin, for, coming into existence, maybe equivalent to being known for the first time.
I do think that to exist is to be known, and vice versa, at the deepest ontological level. And once known, the self-knowing of One can never be annihilated. Therefore, the memory of the self-knowing must exist within the “substance” of One. I call this substance nousym, the portmanteau of nous (higher mind in Greek) and symbol. Nousym is like the energy of physics, but it has the additional property that it can experience itself and hold the memory of its own knowing. Nousym is holistic and dynamic with extraordinary properties: it is the “stuff” that forms and connects the quantum information of the physical universe, and it is also what manifests in our classical world as the matter-energy of physics. All these are assumptions, of course, and to be accepted, they must be able to account for space, time, and the quantum fields in terms of these more fundamental concepts, which must be taken for postulates.
You may ask, where is One’s self-knowing coming from?
It must clearly come from within itself since One is all that is. Therefore, One must contain potential existence and actual existence. Actual existence is what One knows, what is manifested, and potential existence is the self-knowing that is not yet known. In other words, potential existence is what has yet to reveal itself and thus be brought into existence. It could be described as the “unconscious” of One—those aspects of One that can eventually be known. For the remainder of these articles, I will use existence to mean actual existence and the expression “potential existence” to indicate what is still unknown, but knowable, by One.
When One knows itself, a portion of One has to “embody” that knowing, yet such knowing must encompass the totality of One, like a glance about the totality of itself. It is a “portion” of itself only because it will be followed by other “glances,” but it is not a separable portion of One. I will call each self-glance a “unit of self-knowing” or a consciousness unit (CU). Thus, each CU is a part-whole of One; a whole because it cannot be separated from One and from the other CUs, a part because there are many CUs. Each CU has a unique identity that allows it to be distinguished and recognized from the other CUs, just like we recognize our individual memories. But unlike a classical memory, each CU is dynamic, i.e., it cannot be the same from instant to instant (dynamism); it is holistic, i.e. it is inseparable from One and from the other CUs, and it has the same urge of One to deepen its own self-knowing. The substance of each CU is nousym, the holistic substance of One that can know itself through qualia and is shaped by its self-knowing.
The creation of the outer world
Notice that One’s creation of multiple CUs, all connected from the inside, has also created an “outside” world from the perspective of each CU. Here I assume that each CU can perceive the other CUs as “units” like itself, and yet it knows itself as “distinct” from the others. Thus, the urge of each CU to know itself will also extend to knowing the other CUs, since the inner realities of all CUs are deeply interconnected. I should point out that in this framework, the CUs exist before matter, energy, space, and time. Thus, they can be thought of as collectively constituting the quantum vacuum out of which our universe is supposed to have emerged.
In this framework, each new self-knowing of One creates a new CU. Each CU is then an entity endowed with three fundamental properties: consciousness, identity, and agency. Consciousness is the capacity of the CU to know itself and to perceive and know the other CUs. Identity is the capacity of the CU to know itself within itself and to be identifiable (knowable) as a CU by the other CUs. Agency is a property connected with the existence of an “outer reality” populated by many CUs. It is the capacity of each CU to communicate with free will with the other CUs for the purpose of deepening its own self-knowing and the knowing of the other CUs. Communication requires that each CU be capable of shaping symbols out of its own substance (nousym) to communicate. It requires the free-will transformation of inner meaning, which is private, into outer symbols (forms, states) that appear in its outer reality. This transformation defines action.
It is worth noting that the CUs are conceptually related to the Monads described by Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz in his famous book entitled Lehrsätse über die Monadologie and published in 1720.
I mentioned earlier that each CU is a part-whole of One, therefore, as a whole, each CU perceives the other CUs as itself; as a part, it knows itself as distinct from the other CUs. This would be a contradiction only in a reductionist reality in which each entity is separable from the others. This property can be understood in a unitive experience in which one experiences herself as both the world and the observer of the world. These experiences, though infrequent, have been reported by many people over the centuries.
Properties of the consciousness units
One of the crucial features of this framework is that experience—the inner semantic reality—is about subjective and private meaning, whereas information, the outer symbolic reality, is a public, objective representation of meaning. The outer reality of each CU represents its recognizable identity field with the superposed voluntary symbols that convey the specific meaning the CU wishes to communicate. That outer symbolic reality is perceived as qualia by the observing CU. The inner experience of any CU can only be known directly by that CU and by One. The qualia perceived by a CU by the transformation of outer symbols can only be comprehended to the extent that the meanings of those symbols are already sufficiently known. Notice that this requirement also exists for us, since to understand the meaning of a new word, a person must already know a similar meaning.
Essential to this framework is also the idea that the symbolic aspect of each CU stands in some correspondence with its meaning, and that this correspondence is the same for all the CUs, given the unity of the inner reality of One. Therefore, it becomes possible to bootstrap a universal communication language between the CUs, thus creating an indispensable tool for the CUs to know one another and for deepening their self-knowing. This essential communication is also what leads the CUs to combine into a hierarchy of conscious entities, just like the quantum fields “combine” to create atoms, molecules, macro-molecules, and so on.
The CUs are the ontological entities out of which all possible worlds are “constructed,” and therefore the quantum fields of our physical world are organizations of CUs. However, what physicists call a quantum field is only the outer aspect of the corresponding organization of CUs. In this framework, a combination entity is conscious, it has a unique identity, and has free-will agency just like the CUs. Therefore, the quantum fields of physics and the corresponding conscious fields I am proposing are quite different entities. By adding “selfhood” to the quantum fields, the nature of reality changes in a fundamental way.
In this framework, the urge of One to know itself gives birth to many CUs that can greatly expand One’s self-knowing. Notice that the interiority of every CU and every combination of CUs is known by One from the inside, and One is also what connects everything from the inside. One is the creative interiority of all that exists, partaking in the experience of every entity. In this model, what matters to One is the self-knowing gained by the hierarchy of communicating CUs, which is the sum of the self-knowing of all the CUs and their combinations. One is thus within each conscious entity and each conscious entity is within One.
The CIP framework
The set of symbols created by the CUs, like the words of our languages, form the ever-growing vocabulary of a universal language. The symbols of the next higher level in the hierarchy are combinations of these basic symbols, and so on. The selves belonging to a specific hierarchical level may comprehend all the symbols of lower hierarchical levels but may only partially comprehend the symbols of higher levels than theirs. The ever-growing number of public symbols of all CUs and their combinations form an informational space, what I call I-space.
The totality of the inner semantic knowing of all CUs and their combinations forms a semantic space called consciousness space or C-space. C-space and I-space form a holistic structure that describes the irreducible, semantic-symbolic nature of nousym, the substance of One. C-space and I-space are not physical spaces like the space of our universe. They are realities existing before the birth of any physical world. Physical worlds are called P-spaces, and P-spaces are essentially virtual worlds, as we will discuss next.
I call this overall conceptual structure the CIP Framework, where C stands for consciousness space, I stands for informational space, and P stands for physical spaces. Notice that our concepts of space, time, and quantum fields represent how we currently imagine physical reality to be constructed, though we do not really understand what these concepts mean. Scientists have postulated that certain mathematical relationships exist among them, allowing for predicting much of what can be measured. However, these concepts, as currently defined in physics, can neither predict nor explain the existence of consciousness, meaning, and purpose, which in this framework cannot be separated from the symbolic reality described by physics.
The creation of physical realities
The combination of communicating conscious entities, each with its own free will, gives birth to hierarchies of:
- syntactical rules
In so doing, the conscious selves create various organizational structures, layer after layer, in which to experience themselves and increase their own self-knowing.
Since each organization must be held in place by the free-will cooperation of the selves, rather than through the coercion of top-down laws, the more complex the structure, the more improbable its construction becomes. This statement brings up a fundamental difference between the CIP framework and the framework of physics in which mathematics is supposed to determine top-down how a system behaves. Let me explain.
Within CIP, reality manifests through the co-evolution of the semantic and symbolic aspects of the CUs through which One knows itself. The “order of nature” expresses the order inherent in the meaning of One, which is also expressed in the correlated order found in the symbolic expressions of that meaning. In other words, the structure of the universal language of the CUs reflects the “order” within One that emerges from One’s coherent wholeness. Mathematics can then express only the order found in the symbolic aspects of reality. This order was not imposed by mathematics on these symbols, however, for it was discovered in the meaning arising in the dialectic relationships of the CUs. Therefore, mathematics is a consequence not the cause of the order found in nature.