When I changed the name of this column from Inner Mind to Inner Awareness in the early 2000s, I didn’t think anybody would bother to ask the reason for the change. And I was right—nobody did.
I thought I knew how to define the term “awareness,” until I tried recently and realized it’s not easy to do so. It is like the word “time.” Everybody knows what it is, but when asked, “What really is time? How do you define it?”
Everybody, including Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, two of the greatest minds of the 20th century, had difficulty defining it.
Maybe it will help to first explain why I changed my column’s title. “Inner Mind” seems to be limited to what’s inside our head, although, of course, the mind is not the brain.
The mind is nonlocal and nonphysical. It’s not just an epiphenomenon (or after effect) of the workings of the brain. Western scientists, psychologists and philosophers have great difficulty defining what the mind is.
For me, the mind is “the thinking faculty of the soul.” But since mainstream scientists do not believe in the soul or spirit, this definition doesn’t mean anything to them.
It was obvious to me that all living creatures—from the smallest, one-celled amoeba or paramecium to the more complex human being—are aware or conscious. They can perceive things in their environment and react to them.
But only human beings are self-aware or self-conscious, capable of contemplating their inner self or their own existence.
It seems obvious that awareness and consciousness mean the same thing. But what does consciousness mean? This is where we get into trouble, because there is no way of defining consciousness without being trapped in logical inconsistencies and contradictions.
To be conscious is to be aware of something either inside or outside of us. But it’s not possible to observe or to be aware of something outside without somehow affecting or altering that object. This is something that modern quantum physics or quantum mechanics has discovered, to its horror!
In a very real and literal sense, we create our own reality. What we think to be outside of us is really our own mental creation. When physicists try to observe a wave, say, of a photon or electron passing through two tiny slits, it becomes a particle. This is what quantum physicists call the “collapse of the wave function.”
There is no escaping this conclusion because it has been tested countless times under many different conditions over, maybe, the last 100 years. The results are consistently the same.
It’s not possible to observe a sub-atomic substance or particle without changing it. How this happens or why, nobody knows. It seems this is the nature of reality.
That’s probably why the great Dutch quantum physicist, Niels Bohr, remarked: “Everything real is made up of things that cannot be considered real.”
Therefore, it seems that the great mystics of the East, especially Buddhist mystics, were right. They have been saying this for the last 2,500 years. “We create our own reality.”
The world, as we know it, is an illusion or “Maya.” How can you make a Newtonian classical physicist accept that? No way!
So, the debate continues. It is said that Albert Einstein just couldn’t accept the findings of quantum physics (especially quantum entanglement) and debated with Bohr for a decade, saying, “God does not play dice with the universe.”
To which another physicist replied: “Albert, don’t tell God what to do.”
If the mind or consciousness creates physical reality, instead of the other way around, how does the mind do it? No one, of course, has satisfactorily answered this question. Perhaps, no one can, until another decade or two of experimentation and meticulous exploration.
Or perhaps there is no answer to this question within the paradigms of present science. We have to go beyond science, beyond quantum physics, even beyond logic to answer this—if there is an answer at all.