The Mystery of Consciousness and the Meaning of Light

By Peter Russell in Scientific Background on December 3rd, 2006 / 4 Comments

From Science to God: A Physicist\'s Journey into the Mystery of ConsciousnessWhat is consciousness? Modern science, which has enjoyed so much success in furthering our understanding of the material world, has singularly failed to account for consciousness. Yet without consciousness there would be no science. As far as the contemporary scientific worldview is concerned, consciousness is one big, awkward anomaly.

From Science to God challenges scienceís assumption that the material world is the primary reality. Rather than trying to account for consciousness in terms of the material world, it proposes that consciousness is as fundamental as space, time, and matter – perhaps even more so.

The roots of this alternative worldview go back two hundred years to Immanuel Kant, who drew a clear distinction between the ďthing-in-itselfĒ and our experience of it. We think we see the world ďout there,Ē but all we ever observe is the image created in the mind. Now two hundred years after Kantís realization that we each shape our own reality, science is proving him to be correct. And the implications are far-reaching.

Studies of the brain and the processes of perception have revealed that we do indeed construct our own experience of reality, and that this personal reality is very different from the external physical reality.

In physics, space and time have been demoted from their absolute status. They are, showed Einstein, relative to an observerís point of view. In their place we find the absoluteness of light. The speed of light is a universal constant, and so is the quantum of action encapsulated in a photon.

For a photon traveling at the speed of light, as all photons do, time and space disappear. In some strange way, light seems to lie beyond both space and time – and, since it has no mass, beyond matter too. Little wonder that Einstein once said ďFor the rest of my life I want to reflect on what light is.Ē

From Science to God reveals intriguing parallels between the light of physics as revealed by Einstein’s theory of relativity and quantum theory, and the inner light of consciousness that mystics have spoken of throughout the ages. Their goal has been to still the mind so that the light of consciousness might be known directly. Then, they claim, we discover that pure consciousness is, like the light of physics, beyond both space and time. It is our true Self. Moreover, claims the mystic, it is divine. Atman is Brahman. I am God.

Not, one might think, the kind of statement a scientist would make. However, once we shift to a worldview in which consciousness is as fundamental as space, time, and matter, science unwittingly embarks upon a path that eventually leads to an appreciation of just what the great saints and sages have been pointing to all along. It is forced to consider the one topic it has so arduously avoided – the science of God.

Today a new spiritual renaissance is taking place, one that affirms the intrinsic divinity of all existence, and recognizes the value of each and every one of us awakening to the God within. From Science to God concludes by bringing the spiritual journey down to the practical level. It explores the essence of spiritual growth, beyond techniques, teachings, teachers and texts, giving readers insights and tools to help them awaken to the true nature of consciousness.

Woven through the book is my own journey into science and God. At Cambridge, England, I had the privilege of studying mathematics with Stephen Hawking. However, although the subject fascinated me, I found myself increasingly drawn to the mysteries of consciousness. So I took a further degree in experimental psychology. Later I traveled to India to explore meditation and Eastern philosophy in greater depth. Upon my return to England I established a meditation center and began research on the psychophysiology of meditation.

For twenty years I worked in corporations, creating self-development programs, based on my discoveries. I lectured around the world on the significance of inner awakening for the well-being of humanity. As my experience and understanding of the nature of consciousness deepened, I came to see how the many threads of my life were all pointing to a new understanding of God, and which was not in conflict with science, and which I have pulled together in this, my tenth, book.

For more information: visit Peter Russell’s website

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4 Responses to “The Mystery of Consciousness and the Meaning of Light”

  1. Modern Science Finds God » Mystery of consciousness (and light???) Says:

    [...] The Mystery of Consciousness and the Meaning of Light By Thomas Herold From Science to God: A Physicist’s Journey into the Mystery of ConsciousnessWhat is consciousness? Modern science, which has enjoyed so much success in furthering our understanding of the material world, has singularly failed to … Dream Manifesto – [...]

  2. john shepherd Says:

    The stars have conchesnes through their light and communicate with each other.

  3. Anirudh Kumar Satsangi Says:


    What is consciousness? We should define it first. Just as heat or smoke are symptoms of fire, so consciousness is symptom of soul or spirit. The energy of the soul or self is produced in the shape of consciousness. Indeed consciousness proves that the soul is present. This is not only the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita but the conclusion of all Vedic Literature including all Eastern Philosophy.

    Consciousness is both physical and spiritual.
    ‚ÄúPhysicist Roger Penrose and neurophysiologist Stuart Hameroff claim that consciousness emerges from quantum-level elements of the brain‚Äôs cytoskeleton. The cytoskeleton is a protein based structure that maintains the integrity of living cells, including neurons. The neurons in the brain are organize into a network of microtubules of microscopic size but astronomical number. The network of microtubule is known a s ‚Äúmicrotrabecular lattice‚ÄĚ. It could be responsible for the quantum-receptivity of our brain, picking up, transforming, and interpreting information based on phase-conjugate resonance. But I feel that this is contrary to all religious belief particularly Eastern Philosophy. Penrose-Hameroff Model of Quantum Consciousness deals with physical consciousness. In this model brain receives (quantum -hologram receptivity) information and process them. In this model physical consciousness dominates over spiritual consciousness. The domain of physical consciousness extends up to the region of Brahmn. In English Brahmn means ever expanding. This region was created after the first Big Bang and the universe is expanding ever since. Ever expanding means ever changing. Quantum theory can be applied in this region since it deals with probability.

    Spiritual consciousness deals with Self-Realization. In State of Samadhi, when soul transcends for journey into higher spiritual regions brain does not accompany Soul. It is the Soul only which realizes Itself. However, brain of the enlightened persons gets the knowledge of this experience simultaneously. It is worth mentioning here that in disembodied spirits (subtle body) there is no brain but they receive information and process them and also sometimes communicate with us. So Quantum Theory cannot be applied at the level of Spiritual Consciousness.

    His Holiness Maharaj Sahab (1861-1907) wrote in Dicourses on Radhasoami Faith: “During satyauga, the creational current, having freshly descended into the third division, was highly charged with the spiritual energy which it infused in every form of animate and inanimate existence…………………………

    And the human entities, in consequence of their comparatively greater spirituality and of high purity of their heart, had no difficulty in getting access at times into the astral planes and holding communion with the departed spirits. This yuga was of the longest duration‚ÄĚ Here again there‚Äôs no brain in departed spirits and no neural or cortical activity is involved in holding communion into the astral planes. This experience is purely at spiritual level. This is the difference in physical consciousness and spiritual consciousness.

    I would also like to quote few lines from Hidayatnama from Sar Bachan (Poetry) by August Founder of Radhasoami Faith His Holiness Soamiji Mahraj.

    “When your eye turns inward in the brain and you see the firmament within, and your spirit leaves the body and rises upward, you will see the Akash in which is located Sahas-dal-kanwal, the thousand petals of which perform the various functions pertaining to the three worlds. …….At the apex of this Akash, there is a passage which is very small like the eye of a needle. Your Surat (spirit) should penetrate this eye. Further on, there is Banknal, the crooked path, which goes straight and then downward and again upwards. Beyond this passage comes the second stage.

    Trikuti (Region having three prominences) is situated here. It is one Lakhi Yojan2 in length and one Lakh Yojan in width. There are numerous varieties of glories and spectacles at that plane which are difficult to describe. Thousands of suns and moons look pale in comparison to the light there. All the time, melodious sounds of Ong Ong and Hoo Hoo, and the sounds resembling thunder of clouds, reverberate there. On attaining this region, the spirit becomes very happy, and purified and subtle.

    From here onward, it becomes cognizant of the spiritual regions. “

    Quantum theory can also not be applied in Pure Spiritual Region which was created before the first Big Bang where Time and Space does not exist. Nothing can be assumed of this Region.

    There is no Brain-Realization, there‚Äôs Self-Realization. Brain cannot know itself. Brain can know only surroundings. Soul or Spirit can know Itself and its surrounding. Know thyself is for God-Realization. ‚ÄėApni khudi ko jo jana usne khuda ko pehchana‚Äô (those who know themselves, recognize God).‚ÄĚ

  4. Anirudh Kumar Satsangi Says:

    Consciousness is all that exists – material and immaterial both.

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