Few comments on Horgan’s bunk-bashing diatribe

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John Horgan is an effective communicator. He has a provocative style. His writings always succeed in creating an emotional response. His books are fun to read because they are informative and controversial at the same time. He knows how to write best-selling books.

He recently attended Deepak Chopra’s “Sages & Scientists” conference and gave a talk there and wrote about it  in this blogpost.

As always, his writing elicited a response from me. Here’s some quotes from his blogpost and my responses.

He uses the term “bunk” to refer to concepts lacking a scientific basis.

On theism and atheism

John Horgan refers to himself as a “grouchy, hyper-skeptical science journalist” but he is not an atheist.

“I’m not an atheist. I have a hard time believing that random collisions of particles created this. Science and psychedelics have taught me that our existence is infinitely improbable, and hence a miracle.” – John Horgan

It is impossible not to feel overwhelmed by the vastness of the intelligence operating through this universe and beyond. It is not easy to communicate these feelings to an atheist. A closed mind is a hurt mind. The hurt-feelings buried deep in the subconscious mind of an atheist may be difficult to heal for humans but nothing is impossible for God.

It is very important to point out that torturing and beheading humans in the name of God, controlling people by exploiting the fear of God, preventing human progress by irrational dogmas does NOT make a theist.

What makes a theist is the love of God which is the love and respect for all living beings. What makes a theist is the wonder and humility felt in observing the majesty of the Cosmos. What makes a theist is the belief in the Unity of Being which means all parts of the Cosmos are connected.

On panpsychism

“Christof Koch, who used to oppose bunk, now propagates integrated information theory, which conjectures that consciousness lurks within all matter. This is the same claim made by panpsychism, an ancient mystical doctrine.” – John Horgan

I am glad to learn that Christof Koch is leaning towards panpsychism. My favorite philosopher David Chalmers also leans toward panpsychism. Panpsychism is a universal idea, but there hundreds of different variations on the main idea.

“Explaining how consciousness emerges from matter is science’s hardest problem. It might be unsolvable. Claiming that consciousness has been lurking within all matter from the beginning of time isn’t a solution. It’s a surrender.” – John Horgan

I disagree! Panpsychism, or the idea that “consciousness has been lurking within all matter from the beginning of time” is a good start.  Shrii Shrii Anandamurti takes the panpsychism idea further by explaining that matter is transformed Consciousness. Note that Consciousness (“C” is capitalized) is the Absolute Being that transforms into the Cosmic Mind and then the Cosmos in stages. The “waking consciousness”  (consciousness of the academic discussions) emerges from matter because matter is a condensed form of Consciousness in the first place. The “matter” and “waking consciousness” are not really separate existences one “lurking within” another. They are different phases (transformations) of the same Absolute Being.

On the “universe is a simulation” idea

“The worst cosmic meme, propagated by Neil de Grasse Tyson and Elon Musk, among others, says our universe is a simulation produced by super-intelligent aliens. This notion evokes The Matrix, and the mystical doctrine that our world is an illusion. It isn’t just bunk. It’s immoral, because it trivializes our world’s all-too-real wars, poverty, injustice and suffering.” – John Horgan

Physical universe(s) represent only one aspect of the Cosmos which has mental and spiritual aspects as well. The Cosmos and all the universes within it are expressions of “relative truth.” I discussed this subject in the “Relative Truth is Objective” article.

Is the Cosmos impermanent? Yes. Is the Cosmos an illusion? No. The word ‘illusion’ is not acceptable because it implies that the Cosmos is just a thought in the human mind. The ‘world is illusion’ concept is obviously defective and detrimental to the development of humanity.

The Cosmos may be a ‘thought’ in the Mind of God (Cosmic Mind) but it is certainly not a thought or dream in the human mind.  Nothing is outside of the Cosmic Mind therefore the thoughts of the Cosmic Mind are real for us. What we see and feel around us, including our own body and mind, are forms of Consciousness (the Absolute) ordered and organized by the Cosmic Mind.

Is the Cosmos a simulation? No. 

Why not? What is the difference between a ‘thought in the Cosmic Mind’ and a ‘simulation in the Cosmic Mind’ ?

A ‘thought in the Cosmic Mind’  corresponds to the grand Liila (Cosmic Drama) (divine interplay between the cognitive and creative aspects of Consciousness). During the divine play  the Absolute Being  is transformed into various forms. Simulation is different. In simulation there is no transformation.

If the Cosmos were a simulation the unit beings in that simulation would have zero chance of attaining Self-realization. But, throughout history, thousands of sages have told us that there is Self-realization and it can be attained. Therefore, the Cosmos is not a simulation in the sense we understand simulations.

My intuitive understanding of Self-realization is that the individual soul discovers its true identity. The individual soul realizes that it is no different than the Cosmic Soul. The creators (more advanced angelic beings)  of a cosmic simulation could not pass the Cosmic Soul as a ‘reference’ to the subroutines of their simulation. That could only happen if the Cosmic Soul wishes it to happen. If that happens then the cosmic simulation can no longer be called a “simulation.” Rather, it is an emanation (ancient terminology used by the spiritual traditions). My preferred term for Cosmos is Transformed Consciousness.

We can use the term “transformation” for both the process of condensation towards materiality and the reverse process towards spirituality. In the early stages of the manifestation of the Cosmos the Absolute Being is transformed into denser forms. In the later stages the denser forms begin to transform into subtler  forms. These subtler states are probably not the original states but subtle in a different way.

Scientists and philosophers sometimes use the term “emergence” to describe the manifestation of mind from matter. The concept of “emergence” is different from the concept of “transformation.” The “waking consciousness” (or mind) is not emerging from matter. Rather, Consciousness is returning to its more subtle state in the form of mind. Remember, nothing happens instantaneously. These transformations take place in time.

This is rather abstract discussion. The details will be provided by future scientists.

By the way, the transformation (emanation) perspective is just one of many perspectives. I emphasize this perspective because it helps me understand the Unity of Being intellectually. Understanding the Unity of Being by heart is a different matter.



About Suresh Emre

I have worked as a physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory. I am a volunteer for the Renaissance Universal movement. My main goal is to inspire the reader to engage in Self-discovery and expansion of consciousness.
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