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This short book is an explanation of consciousness. I decided to write it after reading the philosopher Thomas Nagel’s book, “Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False.” In addition proving his point, Nagel outlined what a successful explanation of consciousness demands. It seemed to me that a qualiadelic explanation satisfied these demands, so I wrote this book. (In addition to explaining a lot of things, MQMC also makes qualia a lot easier to understand than anything else I’ve read).
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For a satisfactory explanation of consciousness as such, a general psychophysical theory of consciousness would have to be woven into the evolutionary story, one which makes intelligible both (1) why specific organisms have the conscious life they have, and (2) why conscious organisms arose in the history of life on earth — Thomas Nagel (1937 – present)
Anything which we can sense is qualia: the colors we see with our eyes, the sounds we hear with our ears, the smells we smell, the textures we feel. There are inner sensations, too – proprioceptions – our sense of balance and motion and the relative position of different parts of our body. All animals share these sort of qualia because all animals have evolved along similar pathways in similar landscapes.
Human beings, however, moved into a brand new landscape. At some point we began to notice the qualia inside our minds. We began to ritual with a different inner landscape, the landscape of thoughts and ideas. This is why our brains grew large, why we developed languages and cultures. All this is qualia, too – a new, profound qualia that we sense with our minds, with our imaginations, and with our reason.
The controversy over qualia is that it exists out there, like the green in the grass, but it really only exists for us because we perceive it. Our eyes evolved only because our distant ancestors ritualed with light; we see color because other ancestors ritualed with colorful landmarks in the environment. Our brains have evolved because our recent ancestors began to ritual with thoughts, ideas, symbols and language. These qualiadelic relationships helped us survive, and we evolved in the process.
Even the natural laws of the universe are qualia. They exist whether or not we are paying attention to them; they exist because the matter of the universe is paying attention to them – the matter of the universe is ritualing with them. But we humans, since we began paying attention to ideas, have begun to notice the laws of the universe also. As we ritual with them our ability to know them – to perceive and to sense them – is evolving. And the laws are evolving, too! Instead of the Sun revolving around the Earth, the Earth revolves around the Sun. Gravity has become curved space. Atoms have become quantum ephemera.
To notice qualia is to be conscious; to ritual with it is to evolve.
It ain’t so much the things we don’t know that get us into trouble. It’s the things we know that ain’t so — Artemus Ward (1834 – 1867)
Take for instance, that grass is green, or that rocks are hard. We know they are. Except we don’t because they only look and feel that way to us because we have evolved to perceive them as green or hard. If we stare at the ground and begin to see it rise and fall, as if it were pulsating or breathing, we would doubt our own perception — that cannot be, we would say, it defies common sense! However, if we didn’t doubt, but began to ritual with it, it might turn into something useful. After a few generations of using the pulsating ground swell, and teaching our children how to use it, it might appear to be part of the natural landscape. Perhaps we could surf over it, and get to our destinations effortlessly (and gasoline free!).
Sure, it started as a misperception. But we played with it, ritualed with it, and the landscape began to mirror it. Maybe the birds, or the plants, already sense it, but since we started sensing it we — all of us, humans, birds, plants — started to interact with one another in new ways. We began having a qualiadelic relationship, and we evolved together.
The physicists would argue that we are under an illusion about the greenness of grass, or the hardness of rocks, just as we are under an illusion about the pulsating ground or the existence of god. They know these things ain’t so, and that is where they are getting into trouble.
Constellated (i.e., activated) unconscious contents are, so far as we know, always projected; that is, they are either discovered in external objects, or are said to exist outside one’s own psyche — Carl Jung (1875 – 1961) Unconscious contents, for Jung, meant repressed conflicts, but why not merely crisis in general, either within or without an individual. It is then that our senses are heightened, our thoughts are quick, and we notice qualia we might never have noticed before, constellated before us. And, constellated qualia need not just be projected outward, but it broadcasts inward as well — for the truth is, we don’t project it, it projects itself. Qualia must survive, too. It attracts us, we move toward it, ritual with it, and it is manifested — projected into reality. A bee is attracted to a flower’s redness; he rituals with it, develops a qualiadelic relationship with it; the flower, over the generations, projects more redness — and the bee sees redness better. Evolution is the result of qualiadelic relationships. Qualia survives, too. Why do we focus so tenaciously upon our human projections? We should be looking always for qualiadelic constellations; they only seem human at first because we see our reflection in everything; but the longer we look the less human, and the more beautiful, and universal, they become.
Strings — that must be plucked by a human — have an abstract geometry in their humming; their music gives us only a poor hint of the music of the spheres. What we can hear and see and think — qualia — always has an ideal about it, an abstract perfection, which draws us on just as hope pulls us through a crisis.
In a crisis our senses are heightened in order to not to miss the qualia of our hopes. Yet we do not have to wait for a crisis to heighten our senses for the qualia that will lift us out of human dilemmas. Conscious ritualing provides the answers to our prayers.
Art for Art’s Sake — Theophile Gautier (1811–1872)
Would we but permit ourselves to look into our own souls we should immediately there discover that under the sun there neither exists nor can exist any work more thoroughly dignified, more supremely noble, than this very poem, this poem per se, this poem which is a poem and nothing more, this poem written solely for the poem’s sake — Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849)
The work is always more important than the author. It is not the artist or the mathematician who lifts us to know the world differently — it is their work that takes us to this higher plane. Likewise, it is not God, but His qualia and the matter which endures because of it, with which we need to consciously ritual. God is not as important as His work — unless, of course, He is the work and we are the authors.
I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals Himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings — Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
What purpose have we? Survival is a matter of qualiadelic relationships, some inherited and some chosen. If we have a purpose it is to discover the best of them, and to consciously ritual them into reality. To notice the landmarks and follow the pathways into a “higher” landscape.
We inherit a landscape of instinct evolved from the natural world. Also, there is a symbolic instinct, inherited from culture. But one can’t say whether a human is superior to an animal, or even a plant; the symbolic world provides only glimpses of harmony, while instincts are, by their very nature, in tune. Yet we symbol users do get glimpses of the orderly harmony of what exists; that is, our ability to reason lets us imagine something deeper, something beyond the landscape of the senses that we share with animals.
Our symbolic instincts are, perhaps, not yet quite instinctual enough to be sure; but nonetheless, just as we must control our natural urges, so too must we use symbols with care. That is where conscious ritualing comes in: evolving with controlled spontaneity and playing with reason. We choose (and sometimes even create) the qualia with which we react. Nature, culture, a personal God, beauty, harmony, and the aesthetics of the universe — it is our purpose to notice these, to ritual with them. As our sense for their landmarks and pathways develop, our preferences will become obvious.
Words, ideas, feelings, with the progress of time harden into substances: things, bodies, actions, moulder away, or melt in to a sound, into thin air — William Hazlitt (1778-1830)
We consciously ritual with what is abstract inside of us — words, feelings, ideas, intuitions — and they become manifest. The matter of the world clings to qualia as all matter clings to qualia. That is the role of qualia, to help matter endure; and matter makes qualia knowable. We sense it and move toward it, as we would pursue any ideal, and the goal becomes more clear with every ritual, with every experiment, with every prayer, with every enterprise.
Perfection, as we all know from hard experience, is unattainable. Alas, even the simple snowflake — molecules striving toward a hexagonal ideal — falls short. But there is beauty in this failure. From out of the group arises the individual, unique, a whole new life — a whole new universe!
But things, bodies, actions, moulder away…lives and universes melt into thin air. Matter and qualia, qualia and matter. That’s all there is.
Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god — Aristotle (384–322 BCE)
It is our social nature which provides us with our deepest feelings of sentiment and love; but another part of our nature transforms sentiment and love from the pathos of instinct to the inspiration of beauty. We are all social by instinct, but many an individual beast has heard the music, seen the light, understood the pattern, and followed the qualia, only to become an individual god. Society condemned Socrates, Spinoza, Galileo, who ultimately bestowed fortunes upon human kind; these are but three giants, but even a child may be qualiadelic.
Society may precede the individual, but only the individual can ritual consciously. We certainly need society, just as we need our bodies — but we should be wary of letting our social and physical instincts interfere with our sense for qualia.