In the west, we predominantly believe in scientific materialism. We think that mind or consciousness has been created by the matter of the brain. In the east, they believe the opposite, that mind came before matter, from some sort of cosmic awareness which many religions and traditions call source.
“Becoming Who I Was” is a beautiful documentary that was recently released on mangu.tv. It follows the journey of a Buddhist boy Padma Angdu, identified as a Rinpoche, a reincarnated monk whose spirit is centuries old. He is accompanied by his godfather Urgain Rigzin, in the journey of returning to his monastery in Tibet where China has closed the border. I felt deeply inspired by this film, which inspired me to share my thoughts in writing.
I would like to take this opportunity to challenge western scientific materialism by exploring the resistance western cultures seem to have to the possibility that consciousness is not an epiphenomenon of the brain but a primordial building block of reality. Finally, I will explore the possible impact of this paradigm change on our personal evolution.
Challenging The Mechanical Clock
In our scientific materialist worldview, there is very little room for the possibility of primordial and divine consciousness. We see the universe as a gigantic mechanical clock. To start believing that there is an intelligence, a presence or just even a pattern would be a change of paradigm, a radical belief change, right? In the materialistic scientific world, what is not replicable and measurable does not exist, it is difficult for society at large to suddenly start believing that there is a primordial consciousness that created our planet. But major paradigm changes happened in the past: in astronomy, chemistry and physics. In astronomy, as you might have guessed, we moved from a geocentric to a heliocentric model. Two thousand years ago there was an astronomer named Claudius Ptolemy who lived in Alexandria that convinced everyone that Earth was the center of the universe, but after Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler came along - the paradigm changed. In the field of Chemistry in the 17th century, J.J.Becker developed the theory of Phlogiston chemistry. The phlogiston theory attempted to explain chemical processes such as combustion and rusting, now collectively known as oxidation. Then Antoine Lavoisier came along and they created modern chemistry and completely disproved the phlogiston theory, which lasted for a hundred years. Again, when Becker was going to the salon and socializing, he was the one who knew how chemistry works, nobody would dare challenge him but then it was proved wrong. And finally, in physics, this is what's happening today about consciousness, in the first three decades of the 20th century we went from Newtonian physics to the theory of relativity to quantum physics (that even Einstein to his death did not accept).
A New Paradigm Reincarnated
Now, several physicists and chemists (Fritjof Capra, David Bohm, Ilya Prigogine), as well as philosophers (Irwin Laszlo), psychologists (Stan Grof, Karl H. Pribram, Rupert Sheldrake) believe that we are going through a paradigm shift in consciousness. They believe that the western scientific theory that consciousness originates in matter (epiphenomenon of the brain) is not plausible, as matter of fact, scientists call it the “The Hard Problem of Consciousness”. It could be more probable that the brain is a “regulator” like a radio or a transmitter but the signal comes from somewhere else, but no one knows from where, maybe it is everywhere like a cosmic consciousness.
There is an enormous amount of evidence for this arising from disciplines that study consciousness like psychedelic science, non-pharmacological experiential therapy like Holotropic Breathwork, rebirthing, parapsychology, transpersonal psychology, field anthropology. We are going through a change of understanding of the human psyche and consciousness of the same scope and relevance of the change that happened already in the understanding of matter.
Let’s revisit Padma, the protagonist in ”Becoming Who I Was”. If we acknowledge the possibility of mind coming before matter then the concept of reincarnation becomes more plausible, right? If consciousness created matter and not the other way around then consciousness can survive the death of the brain. Then it becomes possible that Padma was a Rinpoche in a previous reincarnation. https://mangu.tv/film/becoming-who-i-was/
Finally, we arrive at the significance of this topic. Why does this idea that there might be a source matter? I believe that this paradigm shift could have the potential to help people live a better life and that it can be very useful for our personal development. We now know, from books like “Lost Connections” by Johan Hari, that the cause of some mental diseases like anxiety, depression, addiction and PTSD are caused, in addition to trauma, by a lack of connected relationships, lack of community, lack of purpose. Books like “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown show us that these mental diseases can be rooted in a lack of self-trust caused by shame and vulnerability. She argues that people have difficulty with expressing vulnerability because getting out of their comfort zone is a challenge. Sailing into uncharted waters can be crippling for many. Brown also argues that the aversion of vulnerability is rooted in shame.
If you believe that the universe is just a cold dark machine, like a gigantic clock with no source and no objective, no wonder you might find hardship in expressing vulnerability. On the other hand, we face this proposed change of paradigm, where matter is predated by a primordial Consciousness, or rather Source. It creates a vision of a less isolated and accidental world and instead is more connected and purposeful. While I agree that one doesn’t need to believe in a connected model of Consciousness to be a helpful, generous and heart-centred citizen of humanity, I find that it often creates more meaningful connections of more depth and intensity.
By Giancarlo Canavesio