A new Approach to the Consciousness-Mind-Body Problem
by Philip Braham
In modern philosophical theories there is an assumption that consciousness is an activity of the brain. One accepted theory is that the brain is a machine and that what we call consciousness is an attribute of the mechanism of the machine. There are many problems with this theory but one important one is the aspect of entropy. Entropy is the degree of disorder in a system. Entropy of zero is exactly ordered, infinity is completely disordered. Living things (and particularly conscious life) lower entropy as they create order out of disorder.
This is a new and totally original theory on consciousness which, when understood, could completely change our research into this area of philosophy.
Anyone who thinks beyond what we may call the superficial level has probably at one time or another been intrigued by the notion of ‘I’. Why is it that I can have thoughts and experiences that only I know? Where did this ‘I’ come from? Where will it go, if anywhere, after death?
The philosophical underpinnings behind these ideas is the philosophy of mind. The background to the various theories of philosophy of mind are too involved to be discussed here in detail but an interested reader could research ideas in modern philosophy regarding theories of consciousness.
This article supports the idea of dualism. That is, that the mind and body are governed by different laws. The body, by laws that can be examined scientifically, and the mind by laws which cannot.
Most modern philosophers are of the view that the mind is not separate from the body and that our intuitive feeling that the mind is something apart from the brain is misleading. Some of these explanations dismiss the subjective quality of consciousness altogether whist others seem to describe the mind only in terms of thought processes, as if thoughts are the noises made when
the cogs of the brain go round. This view is based on a false premise. The premise is that the mind can be studied in an objective, scientific way. In fact, this is a circular argument. If we assume that the mind can be studied scientifically then it logically follows that it must follow the rules that we use when we make scientific experiments. And these rules include that what we study is objective and exists in the physical (three or four dimensional) realm, or at least can be explained in the physical realm.
To understand the theory here will require an understanding of dimensions, entropy and a basic understanding of quantum theory.
An introduction to dimensions
We all understand the three dimensions that we call the spatial dimensions: width, length and height. Although a physical object requires all three dimensions to exist, they are interchangeable in that length may become height and in a sphere, for instance, the labels are quite arbitrary. Although we can represent these three dimensions on flat surfaces as two dimensions in reality something that lacks one of these dimensions cannot exist. An object with no width is not an object. Even print has a thickness.
Scientists talk of time as being the forth dimension. I’ll explain why later on and also I’ll explore the fifth and sixth dimensions but first let us examine the concept of dimensions.
A quantum — a point with no dimensions
When we break down matter into smaller and smaller units, we get to an infinitesimal size: 1.6160 x 10–35 metres. The exact value is imprecise due to something called quantum uncertainties, which we will get to later on. This number is called Planck’s constant, named after Max Planck the German physicist and one of the pioneers of quantum theory. Although we can express this as a size, when we get down to these very small units we are not dealing with matter (which has a size) but energy (which doesn’t). As such Planck’s constant can be referred to as a Quantum, the smallest possible unit. The word comes from the Latin ‘quantus’ which means ‘how much’. A quantum is the energy building block from which we construct dimensions and is dimensionless. If we were to express a quantum in terms of time it would be around 5.39121 × 10–44 seconds.
A Quantum (plural: quanta) can also be considered as a mathematical point. An entity with no dimensions but from which we can construct a line.
One dimension — the line
A line has only one dimension, length and can be formed from a series of points. Each point has no dimensions, it is essentially a quantum.
If you can imagine a one-dimensional insect, it could travel from one end of the line and back. This is its universe. It is finite and bounded because it has ends. The ant can go to each end of its universe but no further.
Because there is only one dimension, any point on the line can be defined with one number.
We can travel from point to point without going through the intervening points by traveling into the next dimension. Our one-dimensional insect would see you disappear from one place and reappear elsewhere on the line.
Two dimensions, the plane.
A plane (two dimensions) can be formed from a series of one-dimensional lines.
Because there are two dimensions, any point on the plane requires two numbers to be defined.
If you can imagine a two-dimensional insect, it could travel to the edges of its universe. It is finite and bounded by its edges.
As with one dimension, we can travel from point to point without going through the intervening points by traveling in the next dimension. If you can imagine a flat piece of paper we can place a pencil on one point and draw a line, in which case we travel over all the intervening points, or we can make a mark, raise the pencil off the paper (that is take it into the third dimension) and then bring it down somewhere else to make another mark without traveling over the intervening points.
Three dimensions — an object
An object (three dimensions) can be formed from a series of two-dimensional planes. This is like stacking a ream of paper to form a solid block.
A three-dimensional insect could travel to the edges of its universe in the same way as the two-dimensional insect can. This is like a fish in a fish tank. Its universe has finite boundaries.
Because there are three dimensions, any point within the object requires three numbers to be defined.
It is theoretically possible to travel from point to point without traveling through the intervening points by traveling back in time.
If at 12:05 we could go back in time to 12:00 then we would have travelled through the forth dimension and moved in the third dimension without traveling through the intervening points by traveling through time. In practice human beings haven’t developed the technology to do this.
Four dimensions — the time space continuum
The time-space continuum (four dimensions) is formed from a series of three- dimensional objects.
Because there are four dimensions, three spacial dimensions and one time dimension, we require four numbers to define a point in space-time. We live in a four dimensional universe. For instance if you are going to meet someone you need to give the place, for example the corner of x and y streets on the fourth floor, but you also need to say when (e.g. at 2pm).
It’s worth noting that in our universe just as a three dimensional object cannot exist without the other two dimensions, a three dimensional object cannot exist unless it exists for a certain length of time. It requires the fourth dimension.
Similarly, time can’t exist without matter. For there to be time there has to be movement of some 3-dimensional object.
All these universes that we have considered have been bounded, that is, they have ends. Consider now if we curve our one-dimensional universe through the second dimension to form a circle.
This universe is finite but is unbounded. A one-dimensional insect can travel the length of its universe and get back to where it started but will not know how. The universe is curved in the second dimension.
Similarly with a two-dimensional plane that is curved in the third dimension to form a sphere. A two-dimensional insect can return to where it started but will not know how.
Our three-dimensional universe is curved in the forth dimension (time). This forms the time-space continuum. If we travelled far enough we would theoretically return to where we started from.
The shortest distance between two points
On a two-dimensional flat surface the distance between two points is a straight line. So if we were to pin a length of string to a point on one surface of a flat board and stretch it to another point on the surface, the string would pull in a straight line. Were we to try to move the string away from the straight line it would push against us.
On a three-dimensional sphere the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line, it is a curve.
Again, if we were to try to move the string away from its natural curve it would push against us. If we were to look at a surface of a sphere that isn’t smooth but has mounds, the string would take a path that is the shortest through them. If the string went over mounds, they would push back against the natural course of the string.
Now consider the four dimensional space-time continuum. In this case the shortest distance involves time. Time and space is movement (speed is distance multiplied by time) so the straight line here is the natural tendency for an object that is moving to follow the shortest distance between two points. It will travel in a straight line. We know that if we launch a rocket into outer space it will go in a straight line until it gets into the gravitational pull of a planet. Objects which have mass (such as planets) are like mounds on the surface of the sphere that attempt to pull the natural flow from its shortest, most direct, route. This force that pushes back we call gravity.
Note that when we consider the stretched string the force on the string is always for the string to return to the shortest distance. Gravity is a similar force which is why we don’t see ‘antigravity’ naturally existing.
Einstein’s theory of relativity postulates gravity as a bending of the time-space continuum.
Gravity is the shortest distance between two points in four-dimensions.
Our three and a half dimensional universe
We live in a three and a half dimensional universe in that we are aware of time in the backwards direction only. Scientists talk about the ‘arrow of time’. There is no arrow of time – the universe exists in a multi-dimensional time space continuum. It is simply a result of the human condition that we see time in the past only. There are beings in our world that exist outside of space and time as we know it and are aware of future events.
We are like fish in a pond. The fish are aware that that there is a universe outside of their pond because they see movement but they can’t possibly understand it. Every so often it rains and the pond gets agitated. The fish are aware of it and probably become used to it, but they have no understanding that it caused by rain in a dimension outside of theirs. In the same way we are exposed to energies that come from dimensions outside of those we are familiar with. We feel the effects but we don’t understand them.
The two dimensions of time
Time has two dimensions: the past and future, and the present moment. They are distinct in the same way as a piece of paper is different when looked at from the top or edge on. It could be said that we live in two universes. There’s the one which most people are aware of: what we could call the physical plane, and another universe that is at right angles to it.
In mathematics there is the concept of imaginary (I) numbers. Briefly, I’ll explain these. You are probably aware of the square of a number, which is a number multiplied by itself (eg: 4 x 4 = 16). The square root (√) of a number is the opposite (eg: √16 is 4). You may also be aware that a negative number multiplied by another negative number is a positive number (eg: -4 x -4 = 16). So the question arises: what is the square root of a negative number (eg:√-16)?
So the concept of imaginary numbers was introduced, and with it complex numbers which have two components: a real part and an i part. If we imagine real numbers as being on a scale then i numbers are at right angles to it.
Any point on the surface can be expressed by two numbers: the real component and the i component:
The two points here are approx. (12,–3i) and (-12,9.5i).
So is the i plane is not just a mathematical sleight of hand, it pertains to reality, and we exist in some aspect of the real and imaginary plane whether we are aware of it or not (and most of us are not).
Wave particle duality
Light, as most people are aware, is made up of photons. Photons are like bullets. They can even be counted. But light is also a wave. For instance, colours are due to different wavelengths of light, as are radio waves, X-rays and so on. So how can light be a both a particle and a wave?
The double-slit experiment
In the double-slit experiment a beam of light is passed from a projector through a card with two adjacent slits and onto a screen.
If light was made up as a wave we would see a striped appearance due to what is called the interference effect.
This is because the light waves that pass through one slit interfere with light passing through the other slit. In this case, light waves are similar to water waves in that they are made up of a movement that goes up and down. If two waves mix together they ‘interfere’ with each other. If the waves are ‘in phase’ (that is, the two waves are moving up and down at the same time) the movement is added together to produce one giant wave. If the two waves are ‘out of phase’ (that is, when one wave is reaching a peak the other is reaching a trough) they cancel each other out and the result is no wave at all.
In the case of the slit experiment, the light travels a slightly different distance from each slit and depending where it hits the screen determines whether the wave is in phase or out of phase at that point, so we get bands of darker and lighter areas.
This would appear to indicate that light is definitely made up as a wave. If we were to consider light as made up of particles then we would get an effect similar to firing marbles through the slits. The marbles can’t interfere with anything in the way that waves do, so there should be two lines where the particles (or marbles) have passed through the slits and hit the wall.
However, light consists of photons, a photon is a unit of light and a beam of light is a stream of photons. So the double-slit experiment can be repeated with a small variation. Instead of sending a continuous beam of light through each slit we send one photon at a time. There should be no interference pattern as the photon has nothing to interfere with. It should be like firing the marbles.
However, when this experiment was performed the scientists did observe an interference pattern.
In a refinement of the experiment a detector was set up to determine which of the two slits the photon passed through. If the photon passed through the left slit it couldn’t interfere with anything in the right slit and vice-versa. In this case when the experiment was repeated there was no interference pattern. It’s as if the act of observing the experiment changed the result. When they didn’t observe which slit the photon was going through it acted like a wave. When they did observe it, it acted like a particle.
One way that scientists have attempted to understand this is to consider that the wave is a probability wave. It simply shows all the possible ways that the particle could get from the emitter to the wall. If we see it as a wave, we see all the possibilities. If we see it as a particle we have ‘collapsed the wave’, that is we have taken one of the possible routes and that is now fixed.
As a metaphor, imagine that we have to make a decision and we decide to toss a coin. Heads we do one thing, tails we do another. So we toss the coin but instead of looking at the result we catch the coin and keep it covered. Whilst it is covered both possibilities are open to us but as soon as we look we have ‘sealed’ the result. The decision is made. The difference between the coin toss and a particle is that the particle is ruled by laws of quantum physics. Even before we’ve seen the state of the coin we know it is either heads or tails. In the case of the particle it is neither one nor the other until we collapse the wave.
Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle
To understand this better we need to understand a theory proposed by Werner Heisenberg which is usually referred to as Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. This says, in short, that the position and speed (or direction) of a particle cannot both be predicted with certainty. The greater the position is established, the more unknown is the speed or direction, and visa-versa.
Imagine a snooker table. Above it we have mounted a camera. We hit a ball and it travels in a particular direction and at a particular speed. As it travels it bounces off the sides of the table. We take a snapshot of the ball at a fast shutter speed, say 1–5000th of a second. We take another snapshot at a very low shutter speed, say 5 seconds. In the first picture we see a very clear image of where the ball is, but we don’t know in what direction or how fast it is traveling. In the second picture we get a very fuzzy picture of where the ball is but we can see clearly in what direction it is traveling and we can calculate how fast it travels. There is a tradeoff. The more clearly we can determine the position (by using a faster shutter speed) the less clearly we can determine the speed and direction, and visa-versa. The problem arises because position is determined at a fixed point in time and speed and direction are calculated over a period of time. This is a similitude for Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.
We could consider that when we take the picture with the very fast shutter speed we see a particle and when we see it with the slow shutter speed we see a wave. The more we see it as a particle, the less we see it as a wave. The more we take into account time, the more we see it as a wave.
It is important to point out that this is not simply a matter of prediction, it is our relationship with reality. The ball does not have a direction or speed until the direction is manifested, either with measurement or by triggering a result which is measured by an observer. It has what are called ‘probability paths’. One path may be more likely than another.
Erwin Schrödinger, a contemporary of Heisenberg, objected to this idea and posed the following thought experiment:
A sealed box has a cat inside it with a container of poisonous gas (this is just a thought experiment, no real cat has ever been harmed doing this). This is shown in the figure. A radioactive substance emits particles. If a particle takes one path it will trigger a lever and a hammer will break a container which will release a gas from a cylinder. If the particle takes any other path the lever will not be triggered.
We put put a radioactive element in the box with the cat. The element is such that in any twelve-hour period it has a fifty-fifty chance of sending off a particle that will trigger the Geiger counter. So we set this up and leave it for twelve hours. When we come back is the cat alive or dead? Surely, Schrödinger argued, the cat knows whether it is alive or dead?
This concept of particle wave duality gets down to the basis of the relationship between the mind and world. Thoughts are what goes through our mind and our thoughts are about the past or we project into the future. When we go too much into the past we get depressed, and when we go into the future we get anxious. But there’s another aspect of consciousness which is awareness, where we detach ourselves from the past and future and bring our attention into the moment. It’s sometimes called mindfulness. This is not thinking, it is another aspect of consciousness. It’s as if what we call the real world is the real number plane and when we bring ourselves into the moment we become aware of this other plane of existence. Because this other plane is at right angels to the physical plane we see it edge-on so it only exists for that moment. We have to rediscover it at every moment.
One plane is the objective world, the other is the subject world. In reality the subjective world is more ‘real’ than the objective world.
The why and the how
Another way of looking at this is to consider the ‘why’ and the ‘how’.
Imagine that you meet up with an old friend who you haven’t seen for some years. He tells you that he got divorced.
“That’s a shame”, you say, “How did you get divorced?”
Now, if he was answer your question literally he would tell you how he got divorced: he filled in some legal papers, dealt with some lawyers, exchanged so money etc. Were you to ask his wife, friends or kids, if there were any, you would probably get a similar answer. It is objective.
Now, suppose you asked him “Why did you get divorced?”. You would get a very different answer. What’s more were you to ask his wife, friends or kids each would probably give you a different answer. It is subjective. This is the essence of the two universes. One exists in a form that is verifiable, the world that science understands, the other is subjective and exists only in our minds. It is the spiritual universe.
Entropy was originally defined as relating to heat through what is called the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
The second law of thermodynamics states that entropy always increases in a closed system. When we use electricity to power a motor, the electricity has lower entropy than mechanical energy and the mechanical energy has lower entropy than heat energy, so the electrical energy gets converted to power and then to heat and the entropy in the system goes up.
A hot substance will transfer its heat to a cooler substance. There is also a different degree of entropy in different forms of energy. So for instance to convert electrical or mechanical energy to heat energy is very easy. Most electrical products get hot in use as do most machines simply as a natural result of this tendency.
Entropy is also related to the degree of order. The natural tendency of the universe is towards disorder. Colloquially we say that you can’t unscramble an egg. The scrambled egg is more disordered than the egg when it has a separate yoke and white, and that is more disordered than when it was in the shell. Like many processes once it has become more disordered, it is very difficult to return to the ordered state again. This is why scientists refer to the ‘arrow of time’, it appears to go in one direction. However it is entropy, not
time, that does that. If we create order out of chaos, that is we lower entropy, we don’t go back in time.
As an example of entropy, consider a tray filled with a mix of red and blue marbles.
This appears unordered, it has a high entropy. Now look at this:
This appears more ordered. The blue marbles are on the left and the red marbles are on the right. The second example would be described has having lower entropy.
When something becomes more disordered we say that we have raised its entropy. Zero entropy would be complete order, infinite entropy would be complete chaos. Examples of rising entropy abound:
- When we manufacture a car we take the raw materials, refine them into new substances and assemble them very precisely to form something that has a very specific task. If we left the car for too long it would revert back to its original state.
- When we do housework, we remove dust and put it into one place and we move items to where they belong. Left to itself it will revert back to untidiness and chaos.
- Dead bodies decay and rot back to their basic molecules.
In the same way as gravity is a result of the shortest distance between two points in four dimensions, entropy is a result of the shortest distance between two points in five dimensions. It’s as if we are rolling downhill on the slope of time and increasing entropy as we go.
We could say that the fifth dimension is the degree of order. In the same way as time requires matter to exist so entropy requires time and matter.
If we create a sandcastle on a beach we would be said to be lowering entropy — we are creating order out of the unordered sand. The reason the sandcastle is considered to be more ordered (lower entropy) is because there is only a limited number of combinations of sand that would form that sandcastle whereas there is an an enormous number of combinations that would produce a beach.
In Buddhism and other religions, it is sometimes said that ‘everything is as it should be’. God created the perfect world and therefore it is as it should be. In other words, each grain of sand is in a particular place for a reason. It would seem then that each beach is unique. The fact that each grain appears to be exactly the same as every other grain is simply due to our lack of appreciation. Each beach is perfectly ordered. Every grain is exactly where it should be.
What is order?
This raises the question however, ‘what is order?’ Consider our tray of marbles has been set up thus:
An English reader may recognise the word ‘TAP’ but a non-English speaker may not. So the English speaker would consider it to have low entropy whilst the non-English speaker would not. In other words, the perception of order is dependent on our knowledge and intelligence. Take the example of a photograph which is made up of pixels, tiny dots of colour which when seen from a distance merge to form an image. The picture of the Mona Lisa is a good example.
If we enlarge the area around the right eye we can see the individual pixels. We can see that it is an eye.
There is still order there. However, if we blow it up far enough we lose the sense of any order.
The order is still there. It is simply that we are too close to the image to perceive it.
If we consider that our three dimensional world exists in a time-space continuum and that the future has, in one sense, already happened, then we can see that we are like someone looking too close to the picture. It appears to lack order simply because we are too closely bound up with what is happening to see the real process. In this light we must reconsider the idea that the universe is gaining in entropy. It is not gaining disorder, it is simply gaining complexity and so the ability to perceive order becomes increasingly difficult. We can’t separate entropy, the amount of order, from intelligence, the process by which we can perceive order.
When we say that the universe is tending towards increasing disorder this is not quite true. To be more precise it requires a greater degree of intelligence to understand the complexity of the universe. On a beach every grain of sand is in the correct place at the correct time. It’s just that we can’t see the picture that is big enough to appreciate this.
It could be argued that a definition of intelligence is the ability to make order out of chaos, to reverse entropy. I previously defined intelligence as the ability to predict future events. It would certainly be possible to predict future events and use this ability to produce disorder so this is, as it were, an extra dimension to intelligence.
We previously discussed how the shortest point on a two-dimensional plane is a straight line, on a three-dimensional sphere is a curve and on the four- dimensional time-space continuum is the tendency of objects to travel in a straight line. On a five dimensional universe the shortest point is the tendency towards disorder, the raising of entropy. In this case intelligence is like objects with mass that go against the disorder of the universe.
It is would seem that only when there is intelligence does the natural flow towards disorder become reversed. Plants consist of complex cell structures constituted from a huge variety of elements. The anatomy of all living organisms is highly complex and furthermore the behaviour of living things lowers entropy in the surrounding environment. A bird takes a range of objects to build a nest. It creates an ordered nest from disordered raw materials; humans do this more so, creating highly complex manufactured articles from disparate raw materials.
When Steve Jobs had the concept of the iPhone, where did it come from? The idea that this came through a machine doesn’t make any sense. The concept goes totally against the natural movement of entropy towards disorder.
An example of a pattern is that on a Turkish carpet. The pattern fits the carpet and these patterns are designed so that they either cover the length and width of the carpet or they repeat, sometimes in slightly different ways, through the carpet. The pattern is two dimensional and is made from coloured threads. Imagine an ant that starts at one end of the carpet and walks its length. As it walks it will see the colours of its surroundings change. Because the ant is caught up in the two- dimensions of the carpet it is unable to see the overall pattern. It is aware of colour changes, and could possibly explore the changes in colour as it moves through the carpet. It could theoretically be possible for the ant to build up a graph of place and colour. But the ant would not see the pattern in the way that a human observer would. It is comparable to seeing a list of numbers and the same information in a graph.
In order to see the totality of the pattern we must stand aside from the carpet. In other words, we must step into the third dimension.
In exactly the same way, if we look at three dimensional patterns, such as a bowl, we can only appreciate the pattern by moving around it. A bowl from one angle would not be recognisable as the same item when see from a different angle.
Movement is a relationship between the spacial dimensions and the time dimension. In other words, without moving into the next dimension (time) we cannot appreciate a three-dimensional pattern.
So it is apparent that in order to appreciate a pattern we have move into the next dimension.
In exactly the same way as we get two-dimensional and three-dimensional patterns, we can see that there are four-dimensional patterns. We call these cycles or events. These cycles may be very small units of time such as the vibration of atoms, to massively long cycles such as the movement of the sun around the galactic centre. As well as these natural cycles there are patterns of life: our daily and weekly routines for example. There are patterns everywhere from the process we use to move an arm or a leg, to the body clock cycles and so on. When we look at the patterns of our day-to-day activity they are similar but not identical. Each day is slightly different in the same way as each book is slightly different. There is a saying that history repeats itself. These repetitions of history are patterns in space and time.
However, the astute reader may notice an apparent anomaly. I stated earlier that patterns can only become apparent by viewing them from the next dimension. So how is it that we are able to perceive patterns in time and space? Surely we would have to be in the fifth dimension in order to appreciate a four dimensional pattern? And this is exactly where the entity that we call the mind (or consciousness)exists.
Consciousness exists in the fifth dimension, as it is only from the fifth dimension that one can perceive four dimensional patterns.
It’s worth considering that if we were existing just in our three dimensions and someone introduced the concept of a fourth dimension — time, the overwhelming initial reaction would be confusion because time is so different from the three spatial dimensions. In fact, I remember as a child going through a similar reaction when introduced to the idea of the ‘future’.
So we can say that the mind, consciousness or thoughts, exist in the fifth and even other dimensions even beyond that.
Plato’s shadow in the cave
In his work ‘Republic’ Plato describes a conversation between Socrates and his brother Glaucon.
In the analogy of the cave Plato puts forward the theory that a group of men (representing the vast majority of mankind) are captured at birth and chained in a cave, so they can only look at a wall.
Behind them the captors build a fire and then walk in front of the fire on a path running within the cave so that shadows are cast on that wall.The captives can only see the shadows on the wall because their heads are fastened so that they cannot turn around.
The captors carry various birds, animals and objects which are making noises. The prisoners think the shadows are making these sounds and start giving names to the different shadows believing they are the real objects because they know nothing of the real animals. The captives compete with one another and try to remember the order in which the shadows will appear.
These shadows represent the illusion of what people think is their reality. The cave is the physical, changing world that we accept at face value. A freed prisoner would be able to see beyond this illusion and after adjusting his eyes to the brighter light he would see the real objects being cast in front of the fire to make shadows, although he still would not understand their significance. He would be able to see passed the shadows as he would see that the shadows are cast from something, whether he believes the shadows are reality or the objects themselves, he can still see a degree deeper into the situation than those unable to see the fire. He has what we would call common sense, although not understanding. Were he to be taken further up the cave and into the sunlight his eyes would be blinded immediately but as he adjusted his vision he would be able to slowly see the real world.
His allegory, of course, is that our world is of this type.
The people in the cave are three dimensional beings who can only conceive of a two dimension world.
Traveling through dimensions
We saw previously that we can move in a dimension by traveling in the next dimension and that if we move a three-dimensional object into the fourth dimension, we can lift it up, as were, out of the three dimensions and place it back again in a different place. And of course we do this all the time as we travel in time. We disappear from one place and reappear somewhere else later on.
When we retrieve memories or imagine a scenario we are, in one sense, traveling through time. Except, of course in a literal sense we are not. Our memories can be wrong and projections into the future are usually very different from the reality. The travelling takes place in the imaginary plane of existence.
So returning to our analogies with the two-dimensional surface being constructed from one-dimensional lines, the three-dimensional shape being constructed from two-dimensional surfaces and the four-dimensional space- time being constructed from multiple three-dimensional snapshots, it follows that our five-dimensional consciousness is constructed from multiple four- dimensional patterns, each different but real to the individual who experiences it.
What we call consciousness is the ability to construct four-dimensional patterns which exist in an alternative dimension. Some of these patterns are based on reality, memories and images, and others are fictitious. Not only may our memories be wrong because they don’t conform to similar memories held by others, but we can also create fictitious worlds in our mind that have little relationship to the real world. In fact, we do this every night in our dreams.
One question, then, is what is the relationship between these inner constructs and the external reality?
Taking the metaphor of dimensions to the next stage, we can see that just as our space-time continuum is constructed from multiple three-dimensional worlds each separated by Planck time, our five dimensional universe is made up from four-dimensional patterns existing in different consciousnesses. We are, in that sense, our own universe.
We saw that each dimension cannot exist without the next dimension: length needs width and height and a three-dimensional object cannot exist unless it exists for a length of time. So we can see that our four-dimensional patterns cannot exist without the fifth dimension. In other words, the physical universe
requires consciousness to exist. Of course, this is not necessarily human consciousness and there are consciousnesses that exist beyond our understanding.
Distancing and objectivity
We know that in order to understand the pattern on the Turkish carpet, we have to distance ourselves in the third dimension to see it. In fact, with some obvious limitations, the more we distance ourselves the more we can comprehend the whole of the pattern. There may be patterns within patterns that can only be seen with sufficient distance.
In the same way as three dimensional patterns can sometimes only become apparent with sufficient distance and four dimensional patterns (events) can only become apparent with sufficient distance in time. When we are caught up in the event we don’t usually see the pattern for what it is as it seems unique whilst it is being enacted.
As we saw previously, if you look closely at a printed image it is made up of pixels. The density of the pixels may vary but in order to see the image that the pixels are creating we have to see the image from further away. We have to step back to see the big picture.
Five dimensions gives us complexity and its corollary, intelligence. So as we gain intelligence we gain the ability to perceive patterns. As illustrated previously, whereas a series of marks on a beach may be dismissed as random markings by one person, it may be seen as letters by someone else. Who is to say that the apparently random layout of sand on a beach would not be shown to be extremely ordered if we had sufficient understanding?
So we can see that the flow of the universe (presumably because it is expanding) is towards increasing complexity and that consciousness goes against that natural flow because it creates order out of complexity.
This explains why the effort needed to increase order often feels like going uphill. It is moving against the natural flow of the universe in five dimensions in the same way as moving uphill goes against the natural flow in four dimensions.
Patterns, metaphor and ritual
We can see that there are patterns in space-time. We call these cycles or routines. Many religious ideas are based on metaphor, symbols and rituals. Metaphors are patterns in space time. If we say that the sea is a metaphor for emotions, in the sense that we can appear calm or rough, or calm on the
surface and turbulent underneath and so on, we are drawing a relationship with patterns in space-time. It’s said that human beings create patterns where none exists, but we could also say that the universe is constructed on metaphor and patterns.
Just as a guitar string resonates with the same string on an adjacent guitar, four-dimensional patterns resonate with similar patterns in other consciousnesses. This explains the religious concept of ritual. These are practices that are enacted, sometimes with a degree of precision, and are designed to resonate with other patterns that exist in other consciousnesses. Religious people may argue that these consciousness are not human but exist in intelligences that are more advanced than we are.
Consciousness and quantum mechanics
Scientists refer to the behaviour of particles at the quantum level as being random, and can only be predicted by statistical techniques but it could be hypothesised that the so called ‘random’ nature of particles at the quantum level is actually a result of forces beyond the four dimensions of which we are aware. In this case there is a relationship between the mind and the behaviour of particles at the quantum level, even if we do not know exactly what that relation is.
In the example of Schrödinger’s cat the cat is not alive or dead until observed. But why, and what is a valid observer? We can see now that a valid observer is a consciousness that exists in the fifth dimension and is therefore able to observe our form dimensions space time universe in an objective way.
The theory postulated here fits with the work done by Penrose and Hameroff on their theory Orchestrated Objective Reduction which speculates quantum effects are involved in the behaviour of the mind.
The nature of reality
Summarising the concept of a five dimensional reality, we can say that in exactly the same way as a three-dimensional object needs to exist for a length of time, our four-dimensional space-time continuum must have a five- dimensional presence, and that presence is within a consciousness of some type. It would probably be true to say that we don’t hold one complete and integrated four-dimensional pattern in our minds, but many different ones which are relevant to a particular situation. Together these form a consensus in our mind of what we consider to be our reality.
We can also say, then, that what we call reality is simply a consensus of relationships between different four-dimensional patterns that we hold together. This is true of human beings, but is also true of animals. Each animal has a unique perspective, a different four-dimensional pattern. It would therefore be easy to speculate that consciousness in one form or another extends to all living things, each with patterns that enable its survival. The more complex the organism is, the more complex the patterns they make internally and the more they have the capacity to understand complex patterns.
We do not know, and it would be pure conjecture to speculate, on what other consciousnesses exist in our universe but we can assume that they exist, and there may be realities in other intelligences that exist beyond our notion of realty.
Thoughts and consciousness
People who do meditation can become aware of their own inner process. This has also been called mindfulness. We can be aware of our own thoughts but awareness is not just meta-thoughts. It has a different quality to thoughts. We can be aware of any of our senses as well as thoughts, or we can be unaware, sleepwalking as it were.
It fact it is worth asking the question: what is the difference between being aware and being asleep? Two people could comment on their inner thought processes but one may be aware and the other not. This relates to the two universes of the real and imaginary plane but we could speculate that awareness is from the sixth dimension. It has this quality of being outside (or beyond) our thought processes. We could also speculate that awareness is something else completely, almost like a building block (a quantum) that is the building block of the universe.
Quantum theory and the concept of randomness
There is an argument that science, or the scientific method, can resolve all questions. There is an inherent fault here which I mentioned earlier, and that is that science assumes that there are three spatial and one time dimension and that the time dimension flows one way. It is impossible for science to investigate something that does not fit into these parameters.
There is another problem with this point of view, and that is that we know that the universe is not deterministic. Heisenberg’s uncertainty theory shows that we cannot make predictions about the behaviour of small particles.
This means that inherently there are problems that are outside of science. For instance, when we toss a coin the effects on the outcome are determined very subtle movements —the movements of the muscles and by air molecules. All these are controlled by quantum effects. We call the results random because we are unable to perceive a pattern but it would be reasonable to assume that quantum effects extend into dimensions beyond the four we are familiar with.
The mind as a separate entity from the brain
What is the relationship between the mind and the brain? The brain is analogous to an analogue clock. The movement of the hands in three dimensions translates the movement of time. The activity in the brain translates the activity in the fifth dimension. Which begs the question: can the fifth dimension be perceived in other ways, and is it possible for there to be mental activity that is separate from the brain?
Certainly, many religious and spiritual people know that the mind continues after death (and existed before birth).