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" in which Medea, the ex wife of mythical Greek hero Jason leader of the Argonauts, having murdered their 2 sons as revenge on Jason's infidelity and marriage to a rival, 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!
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:
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 (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."
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:
We live in a universe of Matter + Energy + Consciousness.
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
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.
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
"...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.
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.
# The double bind of language and articulation.
# 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:
...then everything changes and divisions and barriers evaporate as we move beyond belief.
Closing observations on finding the deus ex machina:
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:
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?
In Definition Of Belief we noted that:
STRUCTURE OF A BELIEF 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].
STRUCTURE OF A BELIEF
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.
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"
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:
Guidelines for getting started
As a way forward, I propose the following guidelines:
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:
"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
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
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:
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 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.
The 4 Keys To Working With The Energy Of Life
From here on, in this section, everything I say can only be experienced.
Energy Goes Where Energy Flows
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:
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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