It’s the premise of this blog that consciousness is not “like” computer software as a metaphor, but rather it IS a computer program in its real existence as mental intelligent energy.
The source code for “our software” is found in DNA, which also acts as a storage center (hard drive) for the software which we “run” as “Us”. (Click the link for a Wall Street Journal article on the findings).
So what do we know about software, from our own experience?
Well we already know that based on written symbols (code) a different set of actions (programs) can launch and run, resulting in different sets of experiences – in such a way the computer simulates “human” thought.
So what about our sense of “Self”? The feeling about “us” that we take without questioning is “real”?
Consider this —
Can thought arise out of matter? Can self, soul, consciousness, “I” arise out of mere matter? If it cannot, then how can you or I be here? This is a profound question raised by neuroscience as it studies our hardware – i.e., the brain and nervous system (which I like to call an awareness system).
In I Am a Strange Loop, neuroscientist Douglas Hofstadter argues that the key to understanding selves and consciousness is the “strange loop”—a special kind of abstract feedback loop inhabiting our brains. The most central and complex symbol in your brain is the one called “I.” The “I” is the nexus in our brain, one of many symbols seeming to have free will and to have gained the paradoxical ability to push particles around, rather than the reverse.
How can [such] a mysterious abstraction be real—or is our “I” merely a convenient fiction? Does an “I” exert genuine power over the particles in our brain, or is it helplessly pushed around by the laws of physics?
Let me digress to the teachings of a mystic and philosopher, G.I. Gurdjieff, who also suggested that we have “three brains” (intellectual, emotional and physical) and that we actually process (digest) three types of food: air (as breath), nutrition (actual “food”) and impressions (thoughts/feelings).
P.D. Ouspensky, another philosopher who popularized portions of the Gurdjieff work in his seminal work, In Search of the Miraculous, describes the nutritional system (all three types of foods) as forming different “I”‘s or selves until they are integrated through intense self observation and psychological work.
His work suggests that under proper circumstances, Impressions (received through the senses) are converted into the finer energies or substances needed for Higher Intellectual or Higher Emotion centers to develop within the organism – but these conditions do not exist naturally at our current level of being.
Due our inner fragmentation into multiple “I”‘s or centers, the shock necessary for the proper processing of impressions is consistently thwarted by the various ego and mental illusions that distract the organism. Our current state of being prevents and obstructs us in from summoning the consistent attention necessary for the proper processing of Impressions to take place naturally.
Another way to describe this is that as a complex organism we have a main “operating system” that we consider ourselves – which “grows” as we derive our conditioned identity through our parents, peers and “education.”
But Gurdjieff/Ouspensky suggest that this “normal” sense of self is illusory – actually a series of ego and mental illusions, that interfere with alignment with our true nature – consciousness – or a proper connection to higher intellectual and emotional “centers” – Life itself.
Evidence of this can be found by simply loading a different set of “programs” as “real food” – namely energetic input through nutrition that is “healthy”. I “experimented” with his recently when a friend suggested I change my diet in the morning (when I felt sluggish and negative) with a different set of chemicals listed here:
Daily Shake for breakfast
- 1 banana
- 4 strawberries
- 1 spoonful blueberries
- 1 spoonful goji berries
- 1 teaspoon maca powder
- 1 tespoon acai powder
- 1 teaspoon cacao powder
- 2 glasses of coconut water
- piece of ginger
- teaspoon honey
- 3 shakes of cinnamon powder
What I believe happened as a result is that my operating system of Ego was modified sufficiently to see myself as less “separated” or differentiated from nature, and consequently more lucid and energetic.
While my DNA (software code) in the nuclei of my cells remains the same, its “activation” has been altered chemically – different software is running within me.
This concept of environment (Life) or energy input activating software (like a mouse click on the computer) is the new field of Epigenetics and also, as Hofstadter’s work suggests, the current trend in neuroscience.
The Newtonian materialistic universe has been replaced by Quantum Physics; energy (nonmaterial reality – including thought and intelligence) – also known as “software” – is part of our organic/biochemical “nature” – and we can feel its influence.
I suggest that you also think of “chemistry” and “biology” in terms of software – and the periodic table of elements as software “code” for how this “program” of Nature “operates.
Some of these chemicals when combined as “molecules” are classified as “organic” – but what does this mean?
It simply means that a different level of programming is operational – higher conscious energies are at work – Consciousness “lives” through their manifestation and expression. (Wikipedia describes the table as a “tabular display” of the (known) chemical elements – if you compare it to “sequenced” DNA it is just our own English symbols for Life and Nature – it is not Nature itself – it is “code” for Nature – or software).
Within “our” consciousness we have developed an artificial and basically arbitrary set of programs that we think of as “Me”.
Most important, this illusory operating system of a single, separate self apart from Nature/Life can be over ridden by a new layer of programming.
The result is a deeper connection with Life and a sense of “joy” – not the ephemeral “happiness” that the mass media promises through material gain, but an energetic connection that runs experientially deeper and that begins to soften the egoic sense of “Me”.
This softened sense is less prone to anxiety and suffering because it begins to “trust Life” – it surrenders “control” because it begins to realize that “I am not inc charge of everything” – in fact, you can “do” very little in many, many circumstances.
It is interesting to speculate where this separated sense of a fixed, solid Egoic Self came from – is it the natural result of an evolved greater brain more able to survive through mental activity – as scientists would have us believe?
Or was there actually a “Fall of Man” – as the bible and some religion suggests, and might that have been an actual bit of genetic “tampering” with our organism to increase suggestibility through our Ego – and more readily control our actions?
I do not pretend to have the answer to these questions – and in fact I think they are more profoundly effective as deep QUESTIONS than as facile answers.
As open questions they again activate levels of software, in our brains and bodies, that more directly connect us to Life and decrease our sense of separation and ultimately the fear of death.
“Lord my body has been a good friend
But I won’t need it when I reach the end”
— Cat Stevens (“Miles from Nowhere“)
It is precisely this deeply sensed fear of the extinguishing of our sensory and mental processes that increases the control of the mass media—through a fear of violence (terrorism) or sense of lack (not measuring up to standards).
These are the negative” impressions” Gurdjieff described in terms of reprogramming our three brains (consciousness) and again separating us from Life (higher centers).
As my friend Michael Jeffreys says, “don’t be a victim [under outside control] – become a ‘scientist'” and actually experiment with these energies.
You can see the same results with meditation and yoga as you do with nutrition – and they are actually new software programs not like a computer – but really and truly – in alignment with Life – truly higher energies that lead to a lessening of separation and an increase in vitality – which is again, another word for LIFE.