How Consciousness Creates Reality: Physics, and Amit Goswami, PhD

Cover of "The Self-Aware Universe"

Cover of The Self-Aware Universe

Although I did not know it at the time, about ten years ago I attended a lecture that was certain to have a significant influence on my way of thinking.  There I was seated in the first row in a modest size  lecture room awaiting the arrival of Dr. Amit Goswami.   Once the talk began, I was immediately caught up in his words and the concepts he shared—given what he said, none of the concepts he expressed was more thought-provoking than the idea that “consciousness is the ground of all being.”

Amit Goswami  was a professor of physics at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon.  Although he remains  very active, and is internationally known, he has retired from the university where he taught theoretical quantum physics for over 30 years.  During his visit to Drew University several years ago,  Dr. Goswami  lectured on the subject of consciousness and its relationship  to matter.  People, when asked to define it,  generally think of consciousness as awareness, but for Goswami, and similar thinkers, consciousness is so much more.  In their view, consciousness created and continues to create reality, more specifically, the material world—indeed, according to this viewpoint, although it may sound strange to those who do not share it, consciousness created our brain and all other forms of matter.

Although one can find a number of scientists and philosophers who do not share Goswami’s ideas, there are theoretical and experimental  models in physics that lend support to his position.  The support  is based on the idea that for matter to come into existence, it must be observed or measured.  Prior to being observed or measured, “reality” exists as “waves of possibilities.”  We humans never get to see reality or the universe in its wave form because whenever we open our eyes to look,  our consciousness collapses the wave function into observable or measurable matter.   Think of any person being anywhere on earth where she or he is alone, but looking forward–as physicist Nick Herbert explains, the reality that exists behind our back is in wave form, and we cannot turn quickly enough to see it because as soon as we turn to observe it, we freeze it into its matter state.

Even with the surprising knowledge that we have about the relationship between consciousness and reality, the nature of consciousness is not fully understood.  Still, an increasing number of scientists–in the disciplines of psychology, neuroscience, physics, biology, and computer science–have made consciousness a topic worthy of exploration. The study of consciousness is increasingly becoming a hot topic in the academy; but for those of us who are aware of the history of psychology, the discipline is revisiting a topic that was previously deemed important over a hundred years ago–that is,  before a very strong adherence by many psychologists to the  tenets of the psychology known as behaviorism overshadowed it.

Today,  biologists, neuroscientists  and even some psychologists reasonably ask the question, “What is the relationship between consciousness and the brain?”  These scientists seek to identify and/or understand the neural mechanisms  that  give  rise to consciousness.   Certainly a relationship exists between brain and consciousness, but does consciousness emerge from a physical  substratum? According to Goswami, it does not. 

During a lively discussion in my personality theories course, a student argued the case for the importance of the brain in creating consciousness and personality, in effect posing the view that consciousness was a byproduct or epiphenomenon of brain activity   He was decidedly surprised when I told him I shared a belief with some other scientists who would readily argue that consciousness is not a byproduct of the brain, and moreso consciousness does not need the brain to exist.  Indeed, in a more grand view of things, consciousness “produced” the brain rather than the other way around.

The basis, if not the strength, of each of our arguments was centered on belief; that is, it all came down to how we viewed causation which in our discussion opened the door for me to briefly talk about the concepts of “top-down “ vs. “bottom-up” causality.  In a bottom-up view of the universe, matter is fundamental to reality.  Sub-atomic particles, atoms, molecules, genetic strands, cells and other forms of organic matter built upon each other, the result being the creation of the human brain from which consciousness emerges.  In a top-down view of causation, even the Big Bang was the result of consciousness.  The Big Bang existed in wave form, just like everything else, but in order for it to come into existence, it needed to be observed.  In the top-down view of causation as Goswami  stated, “consciousness is the ground of all being.”  By this statement, Goswami means all of  reality–and here is where things become even more interesting–the reason being because it begs an answer to the question who or what observed or measured the universe at the prime level or at the very beginning?   According to Goswami, it had to be a sentient being.  To some philosophers, theologians, many plain, everyday folks, and even some scientists– that sentient being, is best described by the words the Prime Mover, the Prime Being (other similar names in meaning) or simply by the word– God.

The Self-Aware Universe is Amit Goswami’s seminal work.  You can visit Amit Goswami’s website at:

Eben Alexander’s Book: Proof of Heaven | Eternea Website

Reading Proof of Heaven, Dr. Eben Alexander's ...

Reading Proof of Heaven, Dr. Eben Alexander’s near death experience (Photo credit: Lost A Sock)

I loved reading Eben Alexander’s book Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife.  When it was first published, I mentioned the book to a friend who is a theological school professor and minister. Although I strongly endorsed the book, and thought she would be eager to read it as well, she gave me reason to pause when she said, “I do not need to read a book to know Heaven is real.”  Actually, she was right, about her own belief, and my belief as well.  Whether we view heaven as another dimension or a higher plane of existence, etc. I know such a place is real.

I did not love Alexander’s book because it made heaven more real to me, I loved it because it made heaven, or even the possibility of heaven, more real to many who prior to reading his book were inclined not to believe heaven was real.  Eben’s is an important voice among those of us who work in the area of consciousness studies and transpersonal psychology.  Although many of us–researchers, clinicians, practitioners and scholars that we are–share his interest in science and value our scientific background, and many of us have similarly impressive educational credentials, unlike Dr. Alexander, we have shown interest in this field of study for many years, if not decades, and are long established believers, and/or “knowers” of these truths.  Eben does not have a long and established history in this subject matter; however, as a highly regarded academic neurosurgeon who was a physician on the staff of Harvard Medical School, with a particularly strong scientific understanding of the brain, his becoming a great believer in the reality of experiences and knowledge that a mere few years ago he would have readily dismissed as unimportant (from a personal and a scientific point of view) is striking, and particularly impressive to readers around the world–even among former skeptics whose views regarding the afterlife changed after reading his book.

Eben fell into coma due to infection by a “rare and mysterious bacterial meningitis-encephalitis”  which resulted in him having a near death experience (NDE).  To the surprise of his physicians and other health care workers he managed to survive.  As he slowly regained his functioning, he realized that his life had changed, in part, due to the transforming quality of the knowledge and insight he had gained–namely, “that we are conscious in spite of our brain.”

Eben has an excellent website called ETERNEA – The Convergence of Science and Spirituality.  Its purpose is described as follows: “ETERNEA’s purpose is to help create an ideal future for Earth and all its inhabitants by advancing knowledge from frontier science that  consciousness survives bodily death and
some innate aspect of all life forms exists eternally.”  I encourage you to visit ETERNEA.


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