The Sentient Web

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RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR 

Consciousness is something that exists in its own identity. It may, therefore, be construed that it is distinct from all other objects, processes, energies, and even realities, the physics of science would reveal. More so, because, physicists do not mean anything that constitutes the substance — and, what is meant by the term, consciousness.

It is a complex web, yes — one that is best caught with the comprehension of our Zen mind — especially with our analytical brains… just before our thought comes to achieve such an abstraction and goes beyond our mental capabilities.

All the same, in a like context, it may be analysed that all physical things are measurable, or built on measurable things. For instance, space is quantifiable; time is measurable. However this maybe, we cannot hold an answer with a similar yardstick vis-à-vis consciousness. Consciousness characteristics, such as pain, cannot be measured directly by the use of any measuring device known to science. If this isn’t a dualistic postulate, what is? More so, because, consciousness is real and non-physical, but it exists. It also unifies and constrains us all as individual beings. What’s more, it orders space and time out of chaos and random events.

What about knowledge — or, understanding? The Indian philosopher Madhvacárya, for one, to use a classical premise, thought of knowledge as being relative, not absolute. In so doing, he spurned the Universal as a natural consequence: of a principal sense of belief, or the uniqueness of a particular person or a thing.  To know a thing, said Madhvacárya, is to know it as distinct from all others in the general sense, and from some in a specific way. Mere appearance, Madhvacárya also related, wasn’t reality, while objective experience was. It’s a theme song that Immanuel Kant espoused — much later. Not only that. Madhvacárya also maintained the simple fact that things are transient and ever-changing does not mean they are not real.  And, so he opined: every new relation changes, or modifies, that substance to some extent; greater in some, less in others.

As Fritjof Capra, one of the world’s foremost theoretical physicists, puts it in his landmark book, The Web of Life: “[This] new paradigm implies that epistemology — understanding of the process of knowing — has to be included explicitly in the description of natural phenomenon…” Reason? Systems, according to Capra, are all interdependent. They also encompass a net of relationships, including nature, with a corresponding group of concepts and models, none of which is any more fundamental than the others.

This novel mode of thinking, as Capra contends, recognises that all scientific concepts are limited and approximate; and, that science can never provide any complete, definitive, or total, understanding.  According to Capra, the process of living is not the world, but a world: one that is always dependent on interdependent structures, including the genetic information encoded in the DNA.

T S Eliot gotcha it right. The best thing we’d all do is — acquiesce to his sublime genius:

Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
I have known them all already,
Known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life
With coffee spoons.

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