This Sanskrit proverb was quoted by two quantum scientists in their article entitled “The Quantum Hologram and the Nature of Consciousness.” Their article articulates the “conscious” nature of the quantum plenum revealed by science. It reveals that fact that our universe is a “conscious universe.” And this Sanskrit proverb reveals the pattern of the evolution of cosmic consciousness. The evolution of the Cosmos is not random. It is directional, going somewhere. God sleeps, awakens, walks, then thinks.
The evolutionary process does not appear to be predetermined but rather governed by what philosopher Errol E. Harris calls its “nisus,” its impulse toward ever-greater coherence, harmony, and convergence. The cosmos has evolved as an integrated whole (sometimes called “life” because the cosmos as a whole manifests life, is life, is consciousness). The cosmos has evolved from the minerals to the plants to the animals to human beings. In human beings, it becomes aware of itself.
It is clear in this scenario that human self-awareness is not an incidental epiphenomenon within the process of evolution. It is both a fulfillment and culmination of a process billions of years in the making and a transition to an expanding, more inclusive consciousness pointed to by many mystics and scholars from the world’s traditions. If such is the case, we need to be asking ourselves how we can be thinking ever more holistically, ever more inclusively, and ever more in ways that transcend our small, egoistic perspectives and endeavors.
We need to be asking ourselves why we are clearly on the road to self-destruction, unable to unite humanity, establish peace, eliminate nuclear weapons, or discover harmony with other human beings or our planetary biosphere. How can we overcome war, violence, hate, and fear and find fulfillment for ourselves as part and parcel of harmonizing with the cosmic evolutionary process? Are we partisans and perpetuators in the chaos ourselves? Or can we transcend the chaos and seek greater harmony through understanding the civilizational and world-system process itself, how it works, and how it can be transformed?
It is clear, in this understanding, that the cosmos has gifted us with the mystery of freedom. We are not only a consequence of the cosmic evolutionary process, but we are also free, that is, not entirely determined by that process. It appears that we are responsible for furthering and creatively enhancing the process. The cosmos is not some blind mechanism of atomistic parts as early-modern science believed. Quantum science reveals that it manifests, instead, as fundamentally holographic, with every part reflecting the whole (see Currivan 2017).
It blossoms in consciousness and freedom. This intelligible aspect of the cosmos (the evolutionary process discovered by science) arises from the absolute mystery of the divine depths of the world, as mystics from every tradition have declared: beyond words, beyond thought, beyond comprehension—infinite. Out of this infinite mystery arises our astonishingly beautiful and functional human body, bearer of a consciousness that can grow to unlimited universality.
The universe “opens” into the infinite. For spiritual philosopher Raimon Panikkar, this is fundamental. He writes: “The world is unfinished and, in this sense infinite. This infinitude accounts for freedom and the unforeseeable movement of all that is. Existence is open, ongoing, a spontaneous unfolding of possibility” (2014, 56). We can choose as well as create the possibilities for what kind of world we want to live in.
Science reveals the cosmic process as one of the continuous creation and unfolding of possibilities (rather than determination by a causal chain of actualities). It is mirrored in some ways by the temporal structure of our lives. We live in a dynamic present that appropriates the past and projects ourselves into the future. Existentially we are future-oriented (as Heidegger points out in Being and Time, 1927) and our future is buzzing with possibilities from which we can choose.
But it is more than this, for we can create new possibilities through the process of self-transcendence. Alone, of all living things that we know, we are free to grow, to transcend, to reach for the stars. As Panikkar expresses this, we are a synthesis of time and eternity. “True freedom does not consist in manipulating the possibilities but in creating them. God creates and his creation is the real; human freedom also participates in this power and Man’s creation is the possible. Freedom is not simply the power of option, but the power of creating possibilities” (1979, 209).
Regarding civilization as a whole, philosopher of culture Ernst Cassirer affirms that the rich religious traditions of humankind were pointing to existential possibilities that are with us in each present moment throughout history. All of civilization, all human beings, generate an image of a transformed future. The ever-present vision of such a future provides human life with its open possibilities for transcendence. I have written elsewhere about this “utopian horizon” (2021).
Cassirer writes: “The future is not only an image; it becomes an ‘ideal’…. This is man’s symbolic future, which corresponds to and is in strict analogy with his symbolic past. We may call it ‘prophetic’ future because it is nowhere better expressed than in the lives of the great religious prophets…. The future they spoke of was not an empirical fact but an ethical and religious task. Hence prediction was transformed into prophesy. Prophesy does not simply mean foretelling; it means a promise….it contains at the same time the hope and the assurance of ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (1944, 54-55). The cosmos has gifted us with this utopian imagination and its corresponding “ethical and religious task,” making possible true transformation—“a new heaven and a new earth.”
One thinks of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who spoke of the cosmos process converging into ever greater unity, an Omega point in which a profound unity animates and radiates a wonderful diversity. For Teilhard, the process of convergence is love, the cosmic agape that is bringing Christ again into the world in a “second coming” in which Christ will be all in all, the alpha and omega, cosmically embracing both human life and our lost planet Earth. The evolutionary upsurge of cosmic love also gives us our task.
He writes: “The flame that for thousands of years has been rising up below the horizon is now, at a strictly localized point, about to burst forth: thought has been born. Beings endowed with self-awareness become, precisely in virtue of that bending back upon themselves, immediately capable of rising to a new level of existence: in truth another world is born” (1969, 102). In light of all this, why do we insist on wallowing in ordinariness, in the filth of violence, war, and pettiness, instead of taking great steps forward, such as ratifying a Constitution for the Federation of Earth? (2014).
Similarly, peace as well as justice are now understood as objective values mirroring the unity in diversity of our cosmic and human background. Our human potentialities now appear as “cosmic,” and necessarily include the dimension of values. Values are no longer “merely subjective,” but arise from the intelligence that informs the universe. Objective values arise because “God thinks in Man.” Errol E. Harris explains that rational love is cosmic, it informs the entire cosmic process. He writes: “genuine rational love, therefore, must extend to the entire human race,” and that this love gives rise to the moral ideal of “the unity of the perfected human community” (1988, 162-63).
As self-awareness, our primary possibility is self-transcendence. We can transcend ego existence that believes itself an independent body-mind modality directed primarily toward self-gratification and self-satisfaction. We can transcend toward consciousness of the universal “noosphere” (mind-sphere) in ourselves and live on a cosmic plane where consciousness of the Cosmic Christ, Buddha nature, Allah, Brahman, or Tao becomes primary (see Fox 1988) and provides the vision for a “perfected human community.”
As with Harris and Teilhard, for Indian sage Sri Aurobindo the human being is integral to this process of cosmic evolution now alive in us as our capacity for self-transcendence. “The universe and the individual are necessary to each other in their ascent,” Aurobindo writes. “Therefore, it creates in itself a self-conscious concentration of the All through which it can aspire” (1973, 49). This statement can serve as a measure of how far we are from fulfilling our cosmic and divinely inspired destiny. Are we open to the aspirations of the universe in us? Or do we block the cosmic consciousness with our pettiness and ego-driven pursuits?
The universe grants us the freedom, the nisus, and the responsibility to aspire toward a harmonic and cosmic future. However, instead, we are lost in conflict, violence, war, hate, and fear. Our ego identifications with our petty little lives, or with our nation-state, or with our idolatrously small religious communities, divide us from others and from our cosmically inspired destiny. Can we live each day aware that the cosmos has come to self-awareness in us, in me? How might this change my entire way of living and being?
One of the pioneers in the articulation of cosmic consciousness was 19th-century Canadian psychiatrist Richard Maurice Bucke. For him, plants and animals have “simple consciousness,” and humans have “self-consciousness,” and are capable of growing to “cosmic consciousness.” In his book by this title, he writes: “Cosmic Consciousness is a third form which is as far above Self-Consciousness as that is above Simple Consciousness. With this form, of course, both self and simple consciousness persist (as simple consciousness persists when self-consciousness is acquired), but added to them is the new faculty…. The prime characteristic of cosmic consciousness is, as its name implies, consciousness of the cosmos, of the life and order of the universe” (1974, 2).
In terms of our Sanskrit poem above, the consciousness of the universe that is there in animals and plants are together called “simple consciousness” by Bucke. Out of these simple forms, self-consciousness emerges in human beings. We become aware of ourselves and believe that we are autonomous, self-promoting body-mind creatures. However, this is merely a transitional condition since what is happening is that the cosmos is becoming conscious of itself in us. We transcend from ego consciousness (self-awareness) to cosmic consciousness—the cosmos aware of itself in us. We experience our awareness as God thinking in us.
Harris generalizes concerning this process: “It is the universal principle integrating the whole, which is immanent in the living organism and has now become aware of itself, as ‘I’…. But because the universal principle is immanent in us, and because we represent that stage in its self-development at which its activity becomes self-conscious, we become aware of all this, and our ourselves as participants in the process. We reflect upon it and so transcend it. Our consciousness is self-transcendent, because it is the manifestation of the immanent principle of the whole becoming aware of itself” (1988, 104-05).
Our consciousness is self-transcendent. Transformative growth is built into its very nature. Many thinkers today have articulated a similar growth process in human beings. In his book Integral Spirituality (2007), pioneer thinker Ken Wilber brings together charts and diagrams from many thinkers depicting this process. The basic schema is quite simple. In a proper growth process, human begins move from ego-centric consciousness (immature) to ethnocentric consciousness (identification with one culture, religion, etc.) to worldcentric consciousness (when one becomes aware of civilization and the human project as a whole) to ever more complete levels of cosmic consciousness (God thinking in us and we in God) (Martin 2021).
When these philosophers affirm that “God thinks in Man,” they are not only describing a process of thinking in the sense of “figuring things out,” but something much vaster. Some philosophers, such as Eric Gutkind, has asserted that “the world is the body of God” (1969). If this is so, then our bodies are part of the body of God and our minds are that body become conscious of itself. For God to think in us is to have become self-aware in us.
When we experience the astonishing beauty of the world, we can recognize this as the divine in us experiencing the bliss of its own unspeakable beauty. When we feel the terrible pain of the world, we can compassionately identify this as self-pain. When we feel the whole, we become the whole, we love the diversity of the parts—all the parts—precisely because they emerge as unique aspects of the dynamically integrated whole. Our ego-identification with the parts (with this religion, this nation, this race, or this culture) progressively diminishes.
For the cosmic consciousness to operate within us unhindered, we must mitigate the inner chatter that usually accompanies our consciousness. We watch, observe, with a silent mind. Sufi mystic Jalaluddin Rumi declared: “Become pure seeing.” We watch without judging, without evaluating, without reacting. Cosmic consciousness is transpersonal, and the ideals to which it aspires are transpersonal also, not merely subjective ego-driven commitments.
Cosmologist and new paradigm thinker Ervin Laszlo writes that “my consciousness—the same as the consciousness of all living beings—is the localized yet nonlocal manifestation of mind beyond space and time. As a conscious human being, I am an intrinsic and infinite part of this mind” (2016, 121). As his writings make clear, the more we identify with the cosmic consciousness that we are, the more we transcend death, for our consciousness participates in the universal consciousness. It is not a matter of mere “brain functions.”
We might describe the brain as rooted in the quantum dimension and therefore in the universal consciousness permeating the cosmos, but the death of the brain is only a tiny blip or node in the vast cosmic reaches of consciousness. Through me and my brain the holistic cosmic process has animated this little body and mind and allowed beautiful things to come to pass through my existence: love, kindness, gentleness, beauty, ecstasy, truth, and goodness. But my passing is not an extinction of cosmic consciousness but merely a remanifesting within the infinite whole.
We are bearers of this divine gift. Can we live as custodians and creative contributors to the divine-evolutionary upsurge toward ever greater coherence, harmony, love, justice, and truth? Our freedom is an “ontological freedom.” We should be using it creatively to enhance the coherence and creative harmony of the cosmic process, rather than for the acquisition of wealth, power, division, domination, violence, or war. This is our human destiny as well as our infinite dignity. These are some of the ways in which “God thinks in man.”
Mitchell, Edgar and Robert Staretz (2011). “The Quantum Hologram and the Nature of Consciousness,” in Quantum Physics of Consciousness. Cambridge: Cosmology Science Publishers.
Currivan, Jude (2017). The Cosmic Hologram: In-formation at the Center of Creation. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions.
Panikkar, Raimon (2014). Mysticism and Spirituality: Part One. Mysticism, Fullness of Life. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.
Panikkar, Raimon (1979). Myth, Faith, and Hermeneutics: Cross-Cultural Studies. New York: Paulist Press.
Martin, Glen T. (2021). “Utopian Horizon Value Theory: A Transformative Power at the Heart of Human Futurity,” article in the American International Journal of Humanities and Social Science. Vol. 7, No. 1, February, 2021: aijhss.cgrd.org/index.php/54-contact/115-vol-7-no-1-february-2021.
Cassirer, Ernst (1944). An Essay on Man: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Human Culture. New Haven: Yale University Press.
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Constitution for the Federation of Earth (2014). In print with Institute for Economic Democracy Press, Appomattox, VA, 2010 and 2014. At earth constitution and wpca.
Harris, Errol E. (1988). The Reality of Time. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Fox, Matthew (1988). The Coming of the Cosmic Christ. San Francisco: Harper San Franscisco.
Aurobindo, Sri (1973). The Essential Aurobindo. Ed. Robert McDermott. New York: Schocken Books.
Bucke, Maurice (1974, orig.pub. 1900). Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind. New York: Causeway Books.
Wilber, Ken (2007). Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World. Boston & London: Integral Books.
Martin, Glen T. (2021). The Earth Constitution Solution: Design for a Living Planet. Independence, VA: Peace Pentagon Press.
Gutkind, Eric (1969). The Body of God: First Steps Toward an Anti-theology. New York: Horizon Press.
Ervin Laszlo (2016). What is Consciousness? Three Sages Look Behind the Veil. New York: Select Books.