Deus Ex Machina

Consciousness Is Now The God In Our Machine

What is Deus Ex Machina?

The original meaning of Deus Ex Machina is the god in the machine, or god from the machine. It refers to the machine, or crane, that was used to lower an actor depicting a god onto the stage in a Greek drama.

Frequently the god would appear suddenly and provide a resolution to the dramatic crises that were the subject of the play, although not always....

The image above depicts a scene in Euripedes tragedy "Medea". Medea, the ex wife of mythical Greek hero Jason leader of the Argonauts, has murdered their 2 sons as revenge on Jason's infidelity and marriage to a rival, and drives a chariot containing the bodies of their 2 sons into the sky.

In case you were wondering how this was possible - the chariot was provided to Medea by her grandfather the sun god...

Think of this as the ancient Greek equivalent of a typical TV domestic drama with a "Thelma and Louise" ending!

Deus Ex Machina as Divine Intervention

Over the time, deus ex machina came to mean "unexpected salvation", that could be as a result of divine intervention or at least a solution that appears out of nowhere to resolve a problem.

The purpose and scope of this article

In this article we are redefining deus ex machina, the god in our machine, as consciousness.

This content of this article is written from personal experience and to that extent I am qualified to say what  I say, but I am not trained in science or mathematics nor am I fluent in metaphysical discourse.

The sole purpose of this article is firstly to offer a personal, experience-based perspective on consciousness and secondly, to offer some potential ways of exploring, living with and developing your connection and relationship with consciousness.

We are now going to take a look at some of the following aspects of deus ex machina:

Echoes Of Deus Ex Machina

The Ghost In The Machine

Nikki Sapp

Gilbert Ryle

The phrase "The Ghost In The Machine" echoes deus ex machina and was first used by Gilbert Ryle (1900–1976) who was a British philosopher, primarily known for his critique of 17th century Dutch mathematician and  philosopher Rene Descartes who is remembered for his advocacy of duality or what became known as Cartesian dualism.

The concept of the duality of mind and body, frequently referred to as the "mind-body problem", suggests that the mind inhabits the body and is a spiritual entity that can still exist when separated from the body.

Ryle's ghost is the mind in the machine-body.

Arthur Koestler

Arthur Koestler (1905 –1983) was a Hungarian British author and journalist. The phrase "The Ghost In The Machine" was popularised by his book of that title. 

Koestler was writing in the period of the cold war when we all lived under the very real threat of mutual assured destruction [MAD] by the nuclear weapons held by the former USSR and USA. Koestler, as with Ryle, echoes deus ex machina.

Koestler's ghost is the darker aspect of human nature.

"...the pathology of the human mind, notably man's predisposition towards self destruction."

Deus Ex Machina as Consciouness

The world has moved on a long way from the era of Ryle and Koestler with developments in research and understanding in the fields of science in general, quantum physics in particular, neurology, psychology, metaphysics and noetic science to the extent that:

    Consciousness is now the metaphorical god, or ghost, in our machine.

We live in a universe of Matter + Energy + Consciousness.

The Consciousness Conundrum

The difficulty with consciousness is summarised below, is it "this" as described in the left column or "that" as described in the right column

Subjective Consciousness the product of brain that ends with physical death

Objective Consciousness immanent consciousness, transpersonal mind, the ground of being

Reductionism  a physiological explanation in terms of neurochemical, genes and brain structure

Holism  the whole rather than their constituent parts; different levels of explanation and that at each level there are “emergent properties” that cannot be reduced to the one below

Duality  -  a state of having two different or opposite parts or elements; subject - object

Non-duality  - one undivided without a second; a higher state of consciousness, in which the dichotomy of duality is transcended, and the two are seen as inseparable aspects of the whole

Science naturally follows the left column as that is consistent with scientific method and inevitably it offers a reductionist view of deus ex machina. But scientific method applied to experience can lead to some haphazard results.

For example, the experience of a head-ache can be explained by physiological and neurological examination and assessment, whereas the experience of enjoying parenthood can be partially explained from a neurological examination of the reactive areas of the pleasure sensors in the brain, but the qualitative dimension can not be explained by scientific method.

The qualitative pleasure of enjoying being a parent is multi-dimensional and is as much a product of intangibles such as values, culture and social dynamics as the tangibles of biology.

There are innumerable experiences in life which can not be fully measured in accordance with scientific method and all that science can offer is a measurement of the physiological and neurological effect of the experience.

When we start exploring consciousness things get even more difficult when the "properties" of consciousness rub up against the "properties" of science. The failure of scientific method to "capture" consciousness is explained on the basis that if science can't measure it then it doesn't exist, or if it does, it is outside the scope of science and ignored. Either way this reflects a belief held by scientists.

A potential alternative is to consider changing the research modality.

Finding The Deus Ex Machina

Consciousness via Enquiry or Experience?

What are the most appropriate tools for understanding consciousness?

1. Thought based understanding about consciousness

Knowledge based on enquiry about consciousness -  using reason and logic, scientific method i.e. systems of acquiring knowledge that use observation, experimentation, and replication to describe and explain natural phenomena.

2. Experience based understanding about consciousness

Knowledge based on experience of consciousness - using noetic understanding from the Greek noēsis/ noētikos, meaning inner wisdom, direct knowing, intuition, or implicit understanding...

"...states of insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance, all inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule they carry with them a curious sense of authority…" [William James, philosopher]


The traditional scientific and metaphysical approach to understanding consciousness is via Method One, it is thought based and uses intellect, rationality and logic etc.

    BUT, what if consciousness can't be fully known or understood using the faculties involved in scientific method?

    Thought experiment:

    Imagine if you were invited to attend a concert by a world famous performing artist in a genre you are unfamiliar with - let's suggest a performance of the ballet "Swan Lake" by the (Russian) Royal Bolshoi Ballet company performing at the Royal Opera House, in Covent Garden, London.

    BUT, for the purposes of this experiment you are deprived of all your senses except touch. You can hear nothing, see nothing, smell nothing - all you have is the sense of touch.

    I meet you after the event and ask you to describe the experience...

    What are you going to tell me..?

Consider the following:

# Conscious thinking is limited.

# Our educated obsession with words ensures we confuse being  informed about with having experience of.

  • We confuse the world as-it-is with the world as-it-is-thought-about and described. 
  • We’re like a person eating the menu instead of the meal.

# The double bind of language and articulation.

  • For everything we gain by being able to verbalize and articulate a direct experience, we lose an equal if not greater amount of the full meaning of that experience by the very process of articulation.
  • This lost meaning becomes exacerbated as the words we use to describe something are always heard or read within a context, a framing, a belief and a language.

# The erroneous view that thought can encapsulate reality or truth. 

# If we shift our focus to the meaning that lies behind or beyond the words:

  • the meaning that transcends the words...
  • the meaning that can only be fully grasped by experiencing it...

...then everything changes and divisions and barriers evaporate as we move beyond belief.

    What if Method Two is the only way we can access knowledge of consciousness?

    What if we can can only know consciousness by experiencing it?

Closing observations on finding the deus ex machina:

  1. Science and Experience are not mutually exclusive.
  2. Rationality and scientific method - can be applied to the experience of consciousness.
  3. Is there a Method Three  - a way of combining both methods in a sequence that is most appropriate to the situation being researched?

In the same way that the social sciences use qualitative research methods as well as the "hard science" quantitative methods, can there be a modality of research into consciousness using noetic insights based on experience?

[The term noetic is from the Greek noēsis/ noētikos, meaning inner wisdom, direct knowing, intuition, or implicit understanding.]

Thus a "multi-modality" methodology could be applied to research into consciousness in this sequence:

  1. Noetic insights based on experience of consciousness.
  2. Qualitative research into these insights and experiences.
  3. Quantitative research into aspects of the qualitative findings, where this method can be applied.

Taking this one stage further, does this "multi-modality" approach to consciousness offer us, as non-specialist lay-people, a practical and balanced approach to expanding our experience and understanding of consciousness?

Beliefs And The Deus Ex Machina

The Impact of Beliefs On Consciousness

Darren Smith

In Definition Of Belief we noted that:

  • "A definition of belief is something that we accept and believe to be true, but that is not necessarily something that can be proven to be true."
  • A useful model suggests that every belief has the same basic three-part structure and that can be stated as this:


    Cause –> Effect –> Meaning

    So, if THIS causes ...

    Then, the effect is...

    And THAT means...

    So to take a simple example: I am feeling miserable and unhappy [cause] I have a bottle of Rioja [effect] and that relaxes me and makes me feel good [meaning].

Accepted scientific beliefs

The human tendency to hold an over-arching belief in "correct" beliefs and the consequent polarised positions is not limited to the domains of religion, politics and other societal and tribal beliefs, it applies to science as well.

Science and Ideology have long had a complicated relationship.

As Dr William Lane Craig observed in an interview on 'Scientific Faith':

"...there are certain truths that science accepts that cannot be themselves scientifically proven. These would include things like the validity of the laws of logic, mathematical truth, the fact that the external world exists, the fact that the past is real and not an illusion of human consciousness, the fact that the world is so structured that science can describe and predict the way the physical world will unfold.

None of these things can be scientifically proven. They are presuppositions or assumptions that scientists make... and so the scientist has to simply accept certain foundational truths as it were."

Noetic science beliefs

'Nearly 50 years ago, Dr. Edgar Mitchell became the sixth person to walk on the moon. As a member of the Apollo 14 mission, his purpose was to conduct in-depth research on the lunar surface. As his mission came to an end, however, an entirely new purpose emerged—one that would define his life for decades to come and contribute to the awakening of the planet.

As his spaceship traveled back from the moon amidst the vast darkness of the cosmos, Dr. Mitchell’s eyes became fixed on the blue sphere we call home. As he neared Earth, he was enveloped by a profound sense of universal connectedness.'

"I realized that the story of ourselves as told by science—our cosmology, our religion—was incomplete and likely flawed. I recognized that the Newtonian idea of separate, independent, discrete things in the universe wasn’t a fully accurate description. What was needed was a new story of who we are and what we are capable of becoming."

Dr. Mitchell’s transformative experience led him to focus on the development of Noetic Science leading to the foundation of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) in 1973.

Hardwired for transcendence

The human tendency to see patterns, connections and causation where there may be none is consistent with the findings of Neuroscientist Dr Andrew Newberg [and others] that the human brain appears to be hardwired for self-maintenance and self-transcendence.

The consequence of this innate tendency to see patterns and meanings where there maybe none leads to interesting positions and outcomes.

Magical thinking

The tendency to assume and assert correlations and causations where none exists is referred to as magical thinking or superstition. Even though erroneous it can nevertheless appear true as a result of self-fulfilling prophecy or the power of positive expectation.

Some would argue that if it works so what? There is much evidence to confirm the positive power of magical thinking and Mathew Hutson has written a book on the subject: "The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane"

Faith Traditions

I am not suggesting that faith traditions are necessarily synonymous with magical thinking.

However, my fairly extensive lived experience across a wide spectrum of positions within the two faith traditions of Christianity and Buddhism has shown me that it is present in both, and I suspect that is true for all faith traditions.

One of the key things I have observed and experienced first hand, as a correlation and causation, is the power of these traditions to bring comfort, inspiration and motivation to people.

Similarly I have observed and experienced the negative and damaging effects that can be directly attributable to these traditions.

How do we reconcile beliefs in our approach to consciousness?

So how do we reconcile these factors: the huge human capacity for self deception, delusion and irrationality and the enormous positive and negative power of beliefs to our approach to consciousness?

I want to offer you 2 key thoughts:

1. Consider that contrary to what is claimed, no belief tradition of any persuasion has a monopoly on the truth.

2. Consider the advice of Buddha on how we should handle beliefs which can be summarised as:

    A belief, is presented as a guidance whereas as, conventionally, a belief is regarded as an immutable certainty.

    A belief should be tested against personal experience.

    Beliefs, are there to serve a purpose and to be released when that purpose is served.

Engaging With The Deus Ex Machina

Building Relationship With Consciousness

Nikki Sapp

Guidelines for getting started

As a way forward, I propose the following guidelines:

  • You accept that the true nature of consciousness is unprovable both in terms of objective reality "out there"  and subjective reality "inside you".
  • Accept that we will never categorically get a definitive handle on the truth about consciousness and reality - so if you can accept this, then approach this in an experimental frame of mind.
  • Adopt the middle path and try to maintain a balanced approach between rationality and spirituality in understanding and engaging with consciousness.
  • By middle path, I mean not being drawn into extreme positions on the reductionist/hard science perspectives on the one side and the "woo woo"/"new age"/ magical thinking perspectives on the other side.
  • Wear your beliefs lightly, view them as guides and broad terms of reference to be revised and upgraded when your life experience suggests that this is required, rather than regarding your beliefs as immutable certainties that you have to defend at all costs.
  • Move forward in a spirit of enquiry, adventure and learning, taking note of your experiences with consciousness and not rushing to judgements and early conclusions.
  • Share and discuss your experiences with others, ask questions, listen and learn, and expand this process to include reading as widely as you can about other people's experiences from the past as well as the present.
  • Pay attention to people's experiences in traditions and belief systems that are different or alien to yours. For example, you may not believe in God, you may not pray, but pay attention to the astonishing life stories of people within the Christian belief system who have walked very close with consciousness and who have seen and done amazing things. The same equally applies to other belief systems.
  • Pay attention to the experience of people from no particular belief tradition who may struggle to articulate their experiences because they do not have the language, models of understanding and the framing to be able to express themselves clearly.
  • Adopt an experimental approach and test and observe clearly your experiences with consciousness.

How do you engage with consciousness? How do you get started?

Firstly you have got to want to.

Through the heart not the head

The gateway to engaging with consciousness is not through the conscious mind, it does not involve your ego. It all starts with some form of inner prompting. This is felt in your heart not your head.

Personally I have found that the regular practice of meditation and a continual practice of mindfulness has created the space to allow this to happen. For some people there is sudden and amazing flash of insight such as that shared by Dr Edgar Wallace [the astronaut and founder of the Institute of Noetic Science] in the video clip above.

For others of us this is a more gradual and developing awareness.

My personal experience of getting started

I have written in some detail about my personal entry point to all this, when I really started to take consciousness seriously in:

What Does It Mean To Take The Red Pill?

"The journey of personal development and spiritual growth starts by developing a good working relationship with your mind.

The initial stages of this process focus on the conscious mind and working on all the things you can do to develop a more resourceful mind.

As you engage with this process you soon realise that your mind has many unconscious aspects that you need to make conscious and work on.

Then, at some point, you become aware of your spiritual or higher self.

The best way to think of this is as your personal portal to the universe and "everything out there".

Taking the red pill describes the point at which you seriously start to engage with your higher self..."

Finding the language to express this

One of the difficulties of sharing these experiences as accurately and honestly as possible is finding the right language, finding the most neutral and balanced way to express this without falling into the trap of using religious or faith based language on the one hand or being overly analytical on the other hand.

As we noted above, words are limited and for whatever they include they leave out a greater amount. What I am looking for is the language of ineffability.

Of all the documented experiences I have read that are expressed in neutral and what I would call balanced language, one of the best descriptions is shared by personal development blogger Steve Pavlina in a series of 3 videos to which I have created key point summary notes to accompany each video.

This link will take you to the section on "The Red Pill" article with the links to the videos and notes: The Red Pill Videos and Notes

These videos are about 45 mins each, so please allow yourself the time to watch and read the accompanying notes, digest and reflect. Steve Pavlina is very lucid and articulate and makes a far better job of expressing this than I ever could.

The profile of a person connected to consciousness

The late Dr Wayne Dyer wrote a book: "The Power Of Intention" in which he devotes a whole chapter to "A Portrait Of A Person Connected To The Field Of Intention".

Dyer sees consciousness as beyond neutral and full of intention. In his spiritual world view people who are connected to consciousness live their lives on purpose and by intention in a co-creative relationship with consciousness.

Dyer is approaching this with a belief system and there are subtle undercurrents of the law of attraction, however Dyer had an analytical and rational approach and researched his material extensively.

Personally I am comfortable with his approach and his framing of engaging with consciousness.

If we change some of the words slightly and substitute the word "consciousness" with his use of the phrase "the field of intention" and "source of life"  we can see this a good description of  someone who is engaged with and connected to consciousness. Dyer describes such a person as:

"A person who lives in a state of unity with the Source of all life doesn't look any different from ordinary folks. These people don't wear a halo or dress in special garments that announce their godlike qualities.

But when you notice that they go through life as the lucky ones who seem to get all the breaks, and when you begin to talk to them, you realize how distinctive they are compared to people living at ordinary levels of awareness.

Spend a few moments in conversation with these people who are connected to the power of intention and you see how unique they are."

I have prepared an easy to read 7 page download PDF summary:
A Portrait Of A Person Connected To The Field Of Intention

Communicating With The Deus Ex Machina

The Language Of Consciousness

Nikki Sapp

Consciousness  as The Energy Of Life

We live in a universe of energy - literally and not just metaphorically.

As a belief/working hypothesis I call this The Energy Of Life.

So in this model :

To develop my hypothetical and metaphorical model one step further:

  • Imagine life as a river of energy flowing through you.
  • It's going to flow wherever it wants.
  • You can fight it and flail around trying to swim against the current - and fail.
  • Or you can let the river of energy take its course and surrender to it and go with the flow.

To paraphrase an observation by Aldous Huxley:

    "The journey to Consciousness does not consist in arriving at a new destination where a person gains what he did not have, or becomes what he is not.

    It consists in the dissipation of one’s own ignorance concerning one’s self and life, and the gradual growth of that understanding which begins the spiritual awakening.

    The finding of Consciousness is a coming to one’s self."

The 4 Keys To Working With The Energy Of Life

From here on, in this section, everything I say can only be experienced.

  • I am saying these things because I experience them.
  • You can only know it by doing it.
  • I am not asking you to believe me.
  • I am not asking you to have faith in what I say.
  • I am not asking you to believe in nor have faith in anything.
  • I am asking you to test this and see for yourself.
  • You test it by proceeding as if it were true and evaluating your own experiences as you use these four keys:

    1. The Energy Of Life has your best interests at heart

    If you trust it, it will never let you down. It will always watch your back and give you what you need. It may not be what you want, but it is always what you need.

    2. The Energy Of Life is the ground of all being and it's core is the highest energy of love

    The expression of this love is deeply and intensely personal to you and in ways that you may not yet be able to imagine.

    3. The Energy of Life loves you and invites a relationship with you

    For many of us this is hard. We carry wounds from our past. Build your relationship in steps and stages, and allow trust to grow.

    4. The Energy of Life responds to your energetic state

    The biggest, deepest and most amazing shifts will happen in your life as you continually align your energetic state with the Energy of Life.

Energy Goes Where Energy Flows

Living With The Deus Ex Machina

What Living In Consciousness Means

I want to close this article and leave you with one last belief/working hypothesis and another model of Consciousness that is framed only for your heart.

As we discussed and agreed earlier on in this article, we wear our beliefs lightly, as a guidance only, and not as immutable certainty.

So please hear these words in your heart and not your head:

  • I want to offer you a model that positions Consciousness in metaphorical terms as a loving father.
  • I don't know about you, but my relationship with my own father was always distant, so this is a tough one for me, but please try it on for size and see how it makes your heart feel.
  • Imagine that Consciousness knows everything about you, and always has your best interests at heart.
  • Imagine a Consciousness that loves you more than you can ever know.
  • Imagine a Consciousness that seeks deep relationship with you, deeper than any human relationship you have ever experienced or ever will.
  • Imagine a Consciousness that knows your life purpose and that knows what you need before you ask.
  • Imagine a Consciousness as your Loving Father.

Here is a love letter spoken directly to your heart.

Read further: Noetic Science - Dr Edgar Mitchel and the Institute of Noetic Science

Return from "Deus Ex Machina" to: Home Page

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