Many of us have had experiences that’re hard to explain based on known science. Someone we haven’t spoken to or thought about in years abruptly pops into our mind, only to text, call, or appear in front of us on the street shortly thereafter. Alone or in a crowded place we become awash with a feeling that something powerful but invisible is present, which sometimes sends us meaningful messages through touch, voice, or telepathy. Objects in a room become repeatedly displaced, even though no one has been in it.
We attribute these experiences, when we take the time to think about them, to having a “sixth sense,” “intuition,” or a moment of déjà vu. Some of us go further, believing that “the universe,” “the dead,” Christ or another noncorporeal entity is reaching out to us. Scientists retort that it’s all in our heads, a matter of coincidences, mind tricks prompted by a deep need for spirituality or explicable by physical phenomenon.
In An End to Upside Down Thinking (Waterside Press, 2018), venture capitalist Mark Gober mounts a full court press – really, an analytical blunt force siege – against science’s allegiance to “materialism;” that the universe wholly consists of physical substance – matter – and that there are no real phenomenon outside matter. Instead, Gober insists, “nonlocal consciousness” is the cosmos’ building block.
Gober’s theory is that the brain serves as a kind of filter, or antenna, to tap into a universal consciousness that exists beyond space and time, and to which every human – perhaps every creature – is connected. This consciousness – also known as “God” by various religions – is the creator of everything; experiences that’re considered in the “psychic” realm are simply manifestations of access to consciousness.
Gober bookends his argument with an empirically-based attempt to support the reality of conscious experiences, and undermine the consistency and credibility of materialism. He writes, “If even one of the anomalous phenomena” – remote viewing, telepathy, precognition, among other “wizard-like abilities” – “is in fact, real – which I have become convinced is the case – then the ‘Consciousness is primary’ framework is a much more suitable picture of reality than materialism.”
Ultimately, the consciousness versus materialism debate centers on a chicken and the egg dilemma, made more complex because the chicken does not believe the egg exists, while the egg thinks it’s the chicken.
A subtheme of Gober’s book is science’s bloviated nature; its intolerance for heresy even when confronted with significant uncertainty or strong evidence that prevailing theories are inadequate or flat wrong. That is, science appears to have internalized some of the lessons learned from the Catholic Church during its age of iron-fisted dominance over reason: if at first you don’t agree, denounce, denounce again. The list of hypotheses that learned scholars initially and emphatically rejected that’re now widely embraced includes Continental Drift, that hand washing protects against germs, and genetic inheritance.
One need not fully accept Gober’s universal theory of consciousness to, as characterized by the X-Files, believe that the truth is out there. There’s plenty of evidence suggesting that there are forces afoot that’re not adequately explained by materialism. Some “supernatural” elements might be characterized as reflecting sensible evolutionary features. Survival is better assured if humans developed an ability to sense when someone or something is staring at the back of their head. Likewise, before invention of the telegram or telephone, a form of telepathy would be quite useful, and perhaps not all that different in nature from dog-whistling. The notion that we all swim in a sea of invisible, energetic, consciousness that can be accessed if approached correctly doesn’t seem all that far-fetched, especially as compared to radio waves or gravity.
It’s not surprising that pursuit of consciousness has been suppressed, even, and perhaps particularly, in traditional religions, including Judaism and many Christian and Islamic sects. At its prime, as welded by powerful priests and spiritualists, those who may have had a genetic predisposition or sufficient training to access consciousness – or skillful pretended that they did – frequently mis-used their status, fiercely attacked rational thought and scientists, suppressed dissent, enforced inequality, and generally ripped people off. Likewise, given its illusive and largely invisible nature, consciousness is easily dismissed. As a result, assuming its existence, there are few structured, proven, avenues for budding consciousness raisers to learn how to harness and potentially manipulate this force, for good or evil.
Science is entering a complex period, in which artificial intelligence, genetic alteration, robotics, and a host of other developments may be on the cusp of redefining what it means to be human. Simultaneously, social thought, politics, and culture are in the midst of turning upside down a plethora of previously unassailable norms. Marijuana use is lawful in a growing number of states; psychotropic drugs may soon be therapeutically legal; a fierce battle over “appropriate” gender roles and actions is being waged, the result of which ultimately may be men handing women the metaphorically keys to the (self-driving) car and allowing them to take over. Given the serious challenges and awesome opportunities ahead, it’s time to desegregate consciousness and science from their laboratory and retreat center ghettos, or at least open clear avenues for consciousness exploration to be respected and supported.
It’s plausible that all of us have untapped abilities which, if properly nurtured, could improve our lives, individually and collectively. If not, the effort would cause no more harm than engaging in prayer or meditation. Or, it could be magical.