Attempts to argue for the universe as either matter or consciousness are theoretically made absurd by the overwhelming argument for all things being, ultimately, one. It is neither that all matter is imbued with consciousness nor that consciousness is merely matter in another form but that consciousness and matter are just variations on the same theme of existence.
Consciousness is not merely a form of matter - all matter is imbued
with the potential for consciousness by its very nature as existence.
The fact that part of matter-consciousness (existence) is conscious of
itself and part may not be (and the fact that that part of it which is
conscious is only partially conscious of itself in its full nature as
part of existence) holds no meaning other than, tautologically, to say
that it is, in itself, raw existence, an unknowable simplicity from
which complexity in both matter and consciousness emerges.
Since a consciousness cannot be conscious of anything other than its
being a part of matter-consciousness and since an object of matter in
itself represents only a part of matter-consciousness,
matter-consciousness is constructed out of vast numbers of items of
matter and of consciousnesses and of combinations thereof. Persons are
just segments of matter-consciousness, both matter and consciousness
So, we, as items of matter-consciousness that have emerged out of
complexity, are faced by an immense gulf not only between us and other
items of emerged matter-consciousness (other persons) but between us and
the unknowable raw existence that, taken as a whole, is a
matter-consciousness (not only in space-time but perhaps many dimensions
beyond this) of which we can know nothing.
If we are inclined to draw the conclusion that there is no gap
between God and the world, we are entirely at liberty to do so but the
statement means nothing because the identification of God with raw
Existence merely makes God another name for that raw Existence.
How can you worship or engage with that raw Existence in which you
are so embedded – God is merely yourself only immensely bigger without
greater value than its sheer bigness. This is like praising a man for
his size rather than his character. You may do this but it is idiotic.
If raw Existence is divine because it is pure matter-consciousness,
then the small bits of matter-consciousness that we call persons are no
less divine insofar as they are sparks of similar material. But if we
poetically call them sparks from the divine being, the abyss between
these sparks, constructed over millions of years of evolution from star
dust, is so great in space and time that to ask for unification with
this God who is Existence is essentially to seek non-existence for this
small creation and a denial of its potential role in the creation of
more matter-consciousness. To turn to God or the universe at this point
is tantamount to the death instinct, a determination to damn the process
of creation itself.
This world is no illusion (as some Eastern philosophies might have
things be) for us. The illusion lies in setting ourselves in a world in
which our matter-consciousness and that of the universe are seen as not
part of a world that includes both matter without consciousness and the
possibility of consciousness existing without matter to anchor it. All
is one but this oneness has no meaning because it represents an absolute
meaning that says nothing to the parts of the whole. Our own beings are
partial within the ‘one’ but are still entire as and within themselves.
This is our struggle as persons – to recognise that ultimate reality
is unknowable even as we search for it and that we cannot ever know
whether this ultimate reality has anything that we might conceivably
understand as consciousness embedded within the gross form of
matter-consciousness. In this sense, we cannot know whether there is
some God as some might argue for Him. Such a God would be of such an
order of difference from its human creations that its traditional
function in human society must be regarded as totally meaningless.
Even the concept of unified space-time may not capture an ultimate
multi-dimensional reality that may go beyond all possible current
conceptions of both space and time. Being so unknowable we may speculate
but, as persons, we must turn away and embed ourselves in the
affirmation of our own matter-consciousness, as persons embedded amongst
others like us and in a state of matter with less consciousness than
ours or none (except as potential).
The knowledge of this is liberation because, once we remove an
expectation of duality in the universe, we instantly realise our own
absolute freedom. This is not transcendence because we cannot separate
ourselves from our condition in the world but, in understanding how we
are embedded in it, we can see that we do not ‘have to look over our
shoulder’ or consider ourselves distanced or detached from some state of
grace or purity that, if it exists, can never be comprehended or
attained except in a choice for non-existence and a return to star dust
So our life choice becomes simple and liberating – either abnegation
of our own creation as independent matter-consciousness into extinction
or the affirmation of our brief flowering of creation as a stepping
stone to self awareness or to the creation of more matter-consciousness
in the many forms given to us by our circumstances (from art to
children). Abnegation and the death instinct or affirmation and the will
to existence - these seem fairly clear and liberating choices in either
Wherein does the heart of our individual matter-consciousness lie?
We cannot know raw existence and we cannot know (in any absolute sense)
the matter-consciousnesses of others. We imperfectly know our own selves
because we operate in our own space-time in which external matter
(including matter mobilised by other consciousnesses) forces us into
positions of not-knowing at every moment. We can know little and some of
what we know we must suppress to survive.
The point at which we face the nearest equivalent to a raw existence
that is beyond space and time is the pale simulacrum of our relations
with others and of our experiential relationship with ourselves. Not
knowing others is not like not knowing our instruments (like rocks and
cars) and not knowing ourselves is not like not knowing others.
Instruments of matter are just tools for our needs and desires so that
we can choose to treat other minds as matter (instruments) or as ‘like
us’ - in terms of their being subjects for investigation and creation.
Our social and material conditions naturally tend to an instrumental
approach to other persons – business, politics, law – but love, family,
tribe can, to different proportions and degrees, be non-instrumental,
although, even here, we can find a hidden instrumentality where one mind
seeks to create another in their own image rather than to allow that
other mind to be true to themselves.
Much of the psychic pain of humanity lies in being treated as an
instrument and yet being treated openly as an instrument (as in a
conventional society) is still often far preferable to the tragic
condition of being treated as a hidden instrument, a creature
constructed to be like a golem or shabti for the psychic service of
The only means of escaping from this tendency to instrumentality
(much of which is required so that society, which creates the conditions
for creation, can remain in operation) is to question what one wants
for oneself as person and to choose either to resist being used as a
tool or limit one’s own use of others as a tool only to the essential
for one’s own survival. Resistance is necessary because some persons are
going to see their own survival in terms of a will to social power in
which treating others as instruments is seen as an aspect of their own
survival – our resistance, in this sense, is never futile.
How does one learn to resist the tool-using instincts of others and
make sure one uses one’s own tools at hand in a way that is effective
rather than wasteful? After all, this is not a matter of morality. In
practice, a better understanding of oneself is likely to limit wasteful
tool-using because there will be an understanding that using persons as
tools just for the sake of it is like digging holes randomly –
unnecessary and unproductive labour. This mimics morality but it is not a
choice that is being made for the other person in full consciousness of
the other’s interest. That is another matter! The answer is that thought is less useful than experience.
Experience requires challenge and experimentation in which the
matter-consciousness or, rather, one’s own ‘being’ is understood to be
embedded in relationships, perceptions and the matter of one’s body and
of the constraints placed on that body. Challenging all these extensions
of self is to challenge oneself.
Just as the matter/consciousness dichotomy does not stand up to
scrutiny, neither does the free will/determinism dichotomy (any more
than that of body/mind).
At the level of the absolute, there is no free will because
everything is contained within itself beyond cause and effect just as it
is beyond measures of space and time. But, in the state of imperfect
matter/consciousness that represents our own being in the world,
although in absolute terms there is no free will, in relative and
sufficient terms free will is essentially true.
Free will arises as soon as the Absolute fragments. Each component
of reality has its own destination and the mindless bumping of bits of
matter/consciousness into each other eventually creates a consciousness
within matter that starts to dictate the conditions of its own survival –
moving away from threat or towards acquiring ‘more’, the eventual
affirmation of its own existence.
This might be termed a will to power at a stretch but it is really a
will to exist, to survive, in opposition to the extinction instinct
that lets oneself be bumped and grinded through reality like an object,
an instrument of more conscious entities or blind chance.
Free will is thus intrinsic to non-absoluteness. A fragmented
absolute creates free will through the accumulation of consciousness in
It is implicit in the first differentiation of undifferentiated
matter-consciousness and it continues as potential until
matter-consciousness becomes undifferentiated once again (even if the
logic of the situation is that there is little reason to exercise that
free will if a state of non-differentiation, the death of fragmented
matter-consciousness, is imminent - except perhaps as wilful defiance).
Of course, to say that the universe itself has some sort of will is
as meaningless as any other pure consciousness statement about it. It
has the potential for free will in theory somewhere in the evolved future but only the matter-consciousness that
arises out of its potential has that free will and then only to the limited
degree permitted by the various constraints created by material
limitations and limitations in consciousness. The paradox of free will
is that it is always potential until a will makes the potential actual.
This moment of clarity, when the will chooses to be, is the point of
divinisation of matter-consciousness. If it exists, divinisation succeeds existence and does not precede it in creation. It is matter for the future not a guide from the past.
The universe, by contrast, may have had the immense potential for
will but nothing was in place to trigger it as an act of will until
sentient creatures (here or elsewhere) were enabled to do so by the
right formation of matter-consciousness. Yes, the Absolute may have had
will (one definition or characteristic of God) theoretically but we can never know
this nor argue that this wilfulness can have any meaning for us other
than that it may have abnegated itself in the creation of the universe.
Indeed, one might argue that if the Absolute/God had will of this
nature then it willed itself to suicide in order, knowingly or not, to
create the conditions of our existence – a rather interesting
theological speculation that suggests that the death of Christ on the
Cross might be a metaphor for that moment of supreme sacrifice. However,
this also suggests that the universe was built on the death instinct
and that our affirmation of life is little more than a paltry late
attempt to reproduce that first will at the very margins of Existence.
As always in these cases, speculation is useless and wasteful.
Like, say, Kashmiri Shaivism, the philosophy of Being I am upholding here is
monist. Unlike it and similar schools, it is non-idealist because the
fragmentation of matter-consciousness means that no subject is identical
to another subject. However, their existence and free will is
derivative of ultimate matter-consciousness even if they are often
completely ignorant of their state. To be ignorant of one’s existence and free will is to suspend the
consciousness aspect of matter-consciousness in favour of the matter
aspect. Although no value judgement can be attributed to this (after
all, all aspects and representation of the universe are of equal value
in an absolute sense), there is a material difference in that
matter-consciousness between that which is aware of itself and its power
and that which is not (even if that which is not may have access to
more material resource it may be of no greater utility to it than a
tiger catching a goat, a means of survival but not one of becoming more
than a tiger).
The existence of the trigger to the exercise of free will is a
mystery. It may be taught and learned or it may come from within as
genetic predisposition or by chance. In this, its appearance has all the
attributes of ‘divine grace’.
This is what is understood by some religious people when they
observe that mere effort to achieve a state of grace (works) can be
wasted and that grace is dependent on the will of God. This is a
metaphor for a truth that the trigger is not to be found in all persons
but arises only in some at some times - and in a way that is so
mysterious that it is tempting to attribute it to an active
consciousness at the level of the Absolute.
The truth in this is only metaphorical. The trigger is simply an
attribute of a certain state of matter-consciousness and may not be
activated at all if a matter-consciousness is stable in their existence
(i.e. their matter-consciousness requires no trigger).
What is true is that working too hard at thinking does not provide
the trigger. The trigger comes from conditions and the way to trigger
the trigger is to want not the trigger but some other change for which
the trigger of the exercise of free will is the solution.
This gives us a clue to the role of imagination in the creation of
the trigger. The universe is constrained by logic and by the laws of
cause and effect – although at the extreme quantum level, space and time
offer different models, our existence as matter-consciousness is wholly
bound by these rules of matter.
Imagination, like the quantum levels deep within our brain, body and
universe, is less constrained. Reason permits our management of
instrumentality, i.e. the use of tools including those of society, but
it is imagination that can defy logic and the rules of cause and effect –
as can other altered states of consciousness including ecstasy and
In this, the Eastern religions were correct. The world of matter and
its rules are illusory (at this Absolute level). The two illusory
universes of matter and imagination, however, still manage to ‘work’ and
how we can re-imagine matter through imagination provides the creative
tension necessary for consciousness to develop.
The will, in this context, operates within our psychologies at a
level beyond both reason and imagination and it is at the juncture
between these that we learn how to exercise that will freely and how to