This is a video narrated by Deepak Chopra on his theory of consciousness. It is a primer for the following essay in which I debunk his theory and argue that New Age dogma is a destructive way of thinking.
New Age dogma defines consciousness as an awareness of subatomic particle movement, the perception of which connects a person to the continuity of the universe, and therefore concludes that the human form is an illusion, and what is real is a limitless and infinite collection of self-aware particles of which humans are an inseparable part.
First, “consciousness as an awareness of subatomic particle movement.”
Can we feel atoms? I think the perception of atoms is outside the scope of sensory perception. So, no. Or I'll put it this way: there are hundreds of thousands of muscle fibers in my bicep. When I contract the bicep at one-hundred percent, I feel sensations of strong contraction throughout the area. I also (poorly) visualize hundreds of thousands of muscle fibers contracting at the same time. As I lessen the contraction to fifty percent, thirty percent, ten percent, I still feel subtle sensation, but very faintly. I can't feel with distinction which muscle fibers are contracting. (Even at ten percent, I'll bet at least tens of thousands of fibers are still contracting). Less than ten percent and the sensations become virtually imperceptible. I cannot distinguish individual muscle fibers contracting, in fact, muscle fibers only contract in groups on account that nerves innervate a collection of fibers causing several to contract at the same time, so individual muscle fiber contraction actually isn't possible. That aside, if I can't feel the sensation of an individual muscle fiber contracting because it is too subtle of an activity for sensory perception, then I certainly can't feel the activity of microscopic myofibril components of the muscle fiber, which means I can't feel the even smaller muscle cells that make up the myofibrils, which means I can't feel the movement of molecules that compose the cells, which finally means (going into the nanoscale) I can't feel the individual components of molecules--the movement of atoms (a million times smaller than half a millimeter)--and their subatomic particles, which is what New Age dogma is claiming one can feel.
The perception of subatomic particle movement is outside the scope of sensory perception.
Here is what I can feel. I can feel the subtle movement of muscles groups inside my head and neck: face, nose, tongue, palate, and throat. I can feel the subtle muscle movement sensations of the chest, intercostals, pectorals. I can feel tension in my diaphragm. I can feel detailed sensations of my respiratory apparatus--movement sensations of my abdominals, sides, and back. I can feel subtle contraction of my pelvic floor. And coordinating all of these felt movements together through years of dedicated practice, I can sing opera.
I can also feel the pleasured movement of “yes” or “ah”—a core posture of the core muscles spanning head to pelvis. “Ah” is a core posture, a yoga pose for the core: lifted soft palate, lowered larynx, expanded ribs, warmed heart, expanded abdomen, sides, back, pleasured contraction in the pelvis. I can exercise “yes” robustly and also subtly, sculpting a movement range of affirmation, robust in expression, subtle in thought. Whether strong or subtle, the movement of “yes” is an experience of the core muscles, a movement of the body, requiring flesh.
My theories in body philosophy explain how the subtle movement of “yes” contributes to the process of human consciousness. Subtle exercises of “yes” affirm thought events. This process is trained from a young age. As a child, I would interact with the world and my parents would affirm me, “Yes! Ahhhhh! Good job!” And I would mimic their movement “Ahhhh!” Over time as I became older, I learned to affirm myself with a subtle movement of “yes,” affirming my own thinking movements, shaping a process of human consciousness.
Let's get back into this existential experience that New Agers believe is a perception of subatomic particles "the perception of which connects a person to the continuity of the universe." People feel sensory sensations of the skin or muscles, and they visualize a vastness of atoms, and in a process of consciousness, they affirm their sensory experiences with a “yes” core posture. The pose is pleasurable. However, let's be clear about what is happening. The sensations a person feels are sensations of muscles and skin. The visualizations of atoms are exercises of the eyes and visual sense. And finally, the affirmation of “yes” is a subtle pose of the core muscles with movement from head to pelvis, the pleasured sensations of “yes” being sensations of core muscles.
You are not perceiving subatomic particle movement.
It is true that human beings are part of the universe, and certainly we can move into a pose of “ah” contemplating this idea. Just like I gaze at the night sky, at the vastness of the sky and stars, the core muscles expand outward to match the expansiveness that is being perceived. The soft palate lifts, the eyes open, the mouth opens, the larynx descends, the ribs expand, the diaphragm descends, the belly and back expand outward, the pelvic floor stretches down, and a person is now in a pose of “ah.” In the same way, I can imagine a scene of vastness and move into a pose of "ah.' I can imagine a vastness of atoms, a vastness of terrestrial life, a vastness of the universe, and in the same ways as experiencing the night sky, my core muscles expand and move outward into a pose of “ah” which is also the core posture of “yes.” But again, I am still experiencing within the parameters of being a sensory body. I am not perceiving the entirety of the universe, nor are my sensations that of subatomic particles, rather, I am engaged in a sensory process of body, feeling sensations of groups of muscles fibers and areas of skin.
The next part of the New Age statement, “human form is an illusion” is also not true. We cannot perceive with our senses if the senses are not structured and functioning as part of an organized body.
And finally, “what is real is a limitless and infinite collection of self-aware particles of which humans are an inseparable part.”
Ok. The idea that humans are limitless and infinite is a rejection of mortality, and structures a mentality that neglects the finality of death as a serious factor in planning for life. In other words, it's a dangerous and selfish way of thinking. It is important to understand the limits of body and the finality of death to cultivate a healthy skillset for solving problems—problems that include issues of pushing body past limits to an extreme, or pushing body to the point that death is probable. This also applies to the planning for society. If large populations of people believe they are limitless and infinite, they will create a culture that encourages people to push beyond limits and not take into account the consequence of probable group death resulting from their culture's actions. Climate change is a clear example of this scenario. Climate change is an issue currently ignored by many people who do not want to concede that the death of the entirety of humanity is possible, thus creating a culture of avoidance and neglect.
We need a society of problem solvers working within the parameters of being bodies. People who understand the finality of death and have a healthy respect for mortality and limits. New Age dogma does not cultivate this necessary kind of thinking because of its incorrect analysis of emotions, mind, “ah,” and....consciousness.