Consciousness Unites Science and Religion

In the early to mid-twentieth century, many physicists came to the conclusion that consciousness was the underlying foundation of reality. One of the most compelling reasons for this conclusion was the discovery of the intelligent-observer paradox. It can be argued that the paradox of the intelligent observer is to scientific materialism what the paradox of the constancy of the speed of light is to Newtonian physics.

Einstein’s 1905 Special Theory of Relativity, a cornerstone proof of which is light’s constant speed, revolutionized physics by revealing the equivalence of matter and energy—elegantly expressed in the equation E=mc2. The paradigm-changing implications of Einstein’s insights cannot be overstated. At the end of the nineteenth century, Newtonian physicists believed that space was infinite, that time was the same everywhere in the universe, and that matter was immutable. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Einstein’s equations proved that space is finite, that time is relative to the speed of the observer, and that matter is condensed energy.

The anomalous nature of the intelligent-observer effect has a similarly profound effect on scientific materialism. Its paradigm-changing implications, too, cannot be overstated. The intelligent-observer paradox turns scientific materialism on its head. The oft-demonstrated fact that the matter wave will not behave as matter unless observed by an intelligent observer has led many eminent physicists to the conclusion that matter does not create consciousness—consciousness creates matter.

Although scientists and layman alike find this principle difficult to embrace, some of the most important thinkers in physics (including, Max Planck, David Bohm, Werner Heisenberg, Eugene Wigner, John Wheeler, John von Neumann, and Albert Einstein—who among them claim four Nobel Prizes in physics as well as every other elite award given to physicists and mathematicians) as well as a new generation of physicists (including Fritjof Capra, Amit Goswami, Gary Zukov, and Michio Kaku)—have come to appreciate that scientific materialism is an incomplete system. In various ways, these physicists have seen the need for the presence of all-pervasive intelligent consciousness in order to provide a complete scientific explanation of reality.

The leap to embrace consciousness—science’s farthest leap thus far—is the leap that nearly everyone finds the most difficult to make. Our resistance to the idea is more visceral than rational. Simply grasping the physical universe as a cosmic light projection is difficult enough; embracing the need for an ephemeral-seeming consciousness in order for the cosmic light show to exist at all demands a vastly greater imaginative reach. Yet eminent scientists and mystics alike have arrived at this same conclusion.

The stream of knowledge is heading toward a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter, we ought rather hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter. Get over it, and accept the inarguable conclusion. The universe is immaterial-mental and spiritual.—Sir James Jeans, The Mysterious Universe