What is the Universe? Is there a God? Do we have souls? Are we just walking hunks of meat, or is there something to humans beyond the 85 years or so that we walk the earth? I have religious friends who would call me an atheist, because I don’t believe in a patriarchal, anthropomorphized god, or in the rituals and organized structures that humans have set up to worship him (i.e. religion).
But I do have extremely deeply held beliefs in a universe beyond the physical realm, in immortal souls, and in forces that transcend traditional science. I think a lot of atheists would kick me out of their club for holding these beliefs. I prefer the term “non-religious” when describing myself. If pressed, I would call myself “pantheistic.”
Pantheism is the idea that the Universe and the all-encompassing power often referred to as “God” are one and the same. Every human, every living thing, and every molecule in existence are all part of a single, unified presence. We are not controlled or directed by a higher power. We are all aspects of an ultimate power, experiencing itself.
I believe this is the nature of reality.
I also believe in science. I believe in it as fundamentally as the most hard core atheist. But I believe that science is incomplete. The missing piece is consciousness.
Try as they might, scientists cannot explain consciousness. In fact, in science, consciousness is known as The Hard Problem. Not a hard problem. The hard problem. There is no scientific justification for consciousness. Evolution can explain why humans take in sensory input, process it, and take actions based on it. It cannot explain why we experience all that. It cannot justify “qualia”.
Natural forces would interact no differently with a conscious human than they would a so called “philosophical zombie” – a hypothetical human being which processes but does not actually experience physical or emotional sensations. \ I believe science cannot explain consciousness because consciousness transcends science. Consciousness is the “ultimate power” I referenced earlier. It’s the fundamental force which drives all else. It is eternal. I’m not alone in this belief. Similar ideas form key components of ancient belief systems like Buddhism, Taoism, and Stoicism.
I believe that humans contain a tiny “piece” of the universal consciousness. This tiny piece might be referred to as the person’s “spirit” or “soul”. I believe our souls transcend our bodily death. I believe there is a non-physical realm our souls return to, where they prepare to return to Earth (or even to another part of the universe) in a new physical body. I believe in reincarnation.
My spiritual beliefs about consciousness, souls and reincarnation were not formed by researching existing philosophical and religious material. They were developed “from the bottom up” from a fundamental refusal to accept the notion of eternal personal non-existence. It’s impossible for anyone to imagine. Every fiber of my being tells me it can’t be imagined because it simply cannot happen. I hold no deeper fundamental belief.
As I pondered on my own and began to research existing philosophical literature, I found that my beliefs aligned with multiple ancient (and modern) schools of thought. This reinforces my confidence that I am “on the right track” as to understanding the fundamental nature of the universe.
I believe we (humanity) are on the verge of paradigm shifting discoveries which connect traditional science with the idea of consciousness as a universal force. I believe that quantum physics holds the key. Quantum physics is extremely complex, but at its core is the principle that observation actually causes changes in the universe. Even the most atheistic, non-spiritual scientists acknowledge this principle, under the sober moniker of wave function collapse.
Right now, we can only observe this principle at subatomic scales, but when we can demonstrate that this principle holds at larger scales, science and consciousness-based spirituality will converge. I only hope to see this convergence in my (current) lifetime.