What is the mind?

In my last article, I explained that the theories of consciousness that science is testing are not actually theories of consciousness, but rather theories of mind. While consciousness is the very principle of awareness, mind is its apparent modification as the activity we all recognize. In this article, we zero in on the mind.

How is the mind born?

Consciousness has no divisions within itself. The apparent multiplicity of the world is the dance of consciousness, just as waves, ripples, and waterfalls are the dance of water. Furthermore, just as waves, ripples, and waterfalls are not different from water in any way, the world is nothing other than consciousness. So why is that so difficult to recognize?

To answer this question we need to bring in a new character: mind. Mind is born when an aspect of consciousness becomes localized, described by Drs. Menas Kafatos, Subhash Kak, and Deepak Chopra as the principle of veiled non-locality. Consciousness, being divisionless, is non-locality itself. When that absolute non-locality is veiled, the result is a localizing identity. This is how the mind is born.

At this preliminary level of apparent emergence from consciousness, the subtle mind has no GPS coordinates because it is not yet limited to the physical plane, which exists only as a seed. In other words, there are localizing experiences in this mind, but they have not yet localized as the physical plane. When we daydream or dream at night, we inhabit a small corner of the localizing mind. When we are caught up in our thoughts and feelings, we are in another corner of the localizing mind.

The total localizing mind is the set of all experiences of all species, of which a minute fraction is the physical human plane. The overwhelming majority of the localizing mind is unknown to us as individuals because of the thickness of the veil at the level of the individual. When science extends the range of human perception through technology, it is pushing the boundaries of the localized mind, which we call the physical world, and probing the localizing mind.

Where do space and time come from?

When the mind is born through the principle of veiled non-locality, it is born as polarity, just as a mother gives birth to twins. The first polarity to apparently emerge is light and dark. This is why light and dark have so much significance in our lives. In light we see; in darkness we don’t. We often use phrases like “the light of understanding” and “I see the light” and "a light bulb went off in my head" to represent knowledge. The Enlightenment refers to a period where understanding and expression flourished. Enlightenment also refers to the wisdom of breaking out of the physical plane of existence. Wise people are often depicted as being within a halo of light. In religion, we encounter the phrase “let there be light” as the beginning of creation. 

On the other hand, darkness is associated with ignorance. In darkness we can’t see, we stumble, and we are in fear. (As an aside, this innate nature of darkness is often misunderstood by an immature mind in the physical plane and expresses as discrimination based on skin color. In many cultures around the world, darker skin is considered negative. In fact, darkness is that which absorbs most light. The darkness of the physical plane actually contains more light than illuminated objects, since illuminated objects are merely reflected light. The subtle mind that recognizes even that light which illumines darkness sees the brightness of darkness.)

The light/dark contrast of the mind creates the conditions that are needed for space and time. In unity, there cannot be space or time because both require two points of awareness to exist. Space and time are intervals between two points of awareness. The first such pair of points are light and darkness—the birth of mind and spacetime.

Consider this example. Let’s say we measure the space (distance) between two tables as being 3 meters long. How do we become aware of that space? It is because the reflected light that we interpret as “table” is in opposition to the relative darkness (non-reflection) of the area adjacent to it, which we call “space.” In other words, there are shades of light, and whenever the shade changes, we interpret space. Even if we focus only on the table, there are shades within the table and therefore we interpret the presence of the space in which the table exists. In unity, there is no light/dark polarity, and therefore no possibility of space and time.

Notably, the spacetime I speak of here is the very same that physics refers to, yet physics so far considers only a particular aspect of spacetime-mind.

Where does the apparently physical world come from?

So far we have considered how mind is born and how it appears as spacetime. Up to this stage, the mind is still localizing but not yet fully localized. Although foci of awareness have apparently emerged (light and dark), they have no physical correlate yet. Here’s what happens next.

As the localization process continues, light/dark further differentiates, much like a human embryo differentiates into numerous cell lines. These shades of light/dark begin to crystallize as the unit of awareness “me,” gathering with it localized elements that seem to form a personal physical body. Simultaneously, infinite other “me" bodies crystallize—some human, some not. This localized world of bodies and localizing me's is what we call the physical world/universe/plane.

Note that we cannot say the sense of individuality ('me") is localized; it is merely localizing--in the process of becoming local. If I ask you where your sense of identity is, you may get the sense that your identity is in the area of your head or chest. If pressed, you would be able to give me GPS coordinates for where that sense exists in relation to your body. But that sense is not fixed. Many times during the day, that sense of localization may disappear. If you are an empathic person and see someone else suffering, your sense of identity will shift to that person. If it's Sunday and you love your local pro football team, your identity will be with the team--happy when a touchdown is scored and upset when the running back fumbles. When you are dreaming, that sense of identity is elsewhere, in another dream-GPS grid. And when you are fast asleep, your sense of identity is nowhere to be found.

Identity is fickle. It is neither absolutely non-local (which is reserved for consciousness alone), nor completely local, a characteristic reserved for apparently physical things like the physical body. Identity is somewhere in between--it is ever in the process of localizing. The aspect of the localizing mind that fully crystallizes as localized is the physical plane.

We can throw a GPS grid over the apparently physical plane and map it with precision to help us navigate, just as we superimpose yard markers on a football field to help navigate the game. When we introduce measurement, or focused attention, into one aspect of the localizing mind, it fully localizes. The potential field crystallizes as 100 yards. Note that there is no intrinsic difference between the localizing mind and the localized mind. They are merely two apparent states of consciousness, just like waking and dreaming. One is called mental and one is called physical, but both are mind and both are the apparent result of veiled non-locality.

The localizing mind is not limited by physical space and time and is not fundamentally different from the localized mind. This means that the difference between possibility and impossibility is a thought.

What is creation? How did the big bang happen?

What religion calls creation and science calls the big bang is the apparent emergence of mind as a result of veiled non-locality. Emergence did not primarily happen billions of years ago; that is a secondary storyline within clock time.

Remember that time is the interval between two points of awareness—between two shades of thought. When there are no thoughts, time disappears. When consciousness apparently takes the form of thoughts again, the sense of time again appears. You can note this in your own experience: the sense of time disappears when you sleep because there are no thoughts in that state. 

The clock time that we are so familiar with is simply the incomplete application of thought to only the localized (physicalized) plane, in which a "second" is defined in relation to periods of radiation of the caesium atom. Clock time appears to continue while we are asleep only from the perspective of another person that is locked in localized clocked time.

Clock time exists as thoughts suspended in timeless consciousness. Thus all stories of when creation or the big bang happened are incomplete insofar as they occur within thought, which is to say, within shades of the mind. Apparent emergence is ever-happening in the timeless. Thus time has two axes: the horizontal axis of clock time (past, present, future) and the vertical axis of apparent emergence from consciousness as a result of veiled non-locality. By dipping into the vertical axis, limitations of the localized physical plane are transcended.

So what?

The understanding presented here matters because it shows that science and consciousness studies are not two different subjects; they are the very same. By teasing out the intricacies and relationships of space, time, identity, mind, and consciousness (energy and information are important too—perhaps for another post), the mental wall that is holding science and our cultural evolution back will continue to crumble rapidly. We need not become scientists and philosophers to make this happen, we can simply introspect. As that wall crumbles, the sense of strife the individual feels wanes.

Life becomes easier and more joyous simply by seeing what we are.

Anoop Kumar, MD, MM is board certified in Emergency Medicine and holds a Master’s degree in Management with a focus in Health Leadership from McGill University. He practices in the Washington, DC metro area, where he also leads meditation gatherings for clinicians. He is the author of the book Michelangelo’s Medicine: How redefining the human body will transform health and healthcare. Follow him @DrAnoopKumar.