This is part II of an interview of Peter Russell – Read part I
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius—- and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” – Albert Einstein
All processes of inquiry into the converging fields of science and spirituality will at some point meet the name Peter Russell. Russell’s life has embodied that convergence, from studies in Theoretical Physics in Cambridge UK with Stephen Hawking, to first predictions of the modern internet in his book The Global Brain, to other books that offer pure formulations of psychology, creativity, consciousness and the fundamental nature of reality. Russell is an extended faculty member at the Institute of Noetic Sciences. He shares his insights across multimedia platforms and through international speaking engagements. He also teaches meditation.
One of Russell’s gifts is his ability to explain radically new concepts with simplicity. The apparent ease of his articulation helps to convey a new perspective on reality that can facilitate a giant conceptual shift in experience. Russell doesn’t demand leaps of faith, but just a step-by-step, reasoned openness to a clear process of inquiry. The short, beautifully packaged video animation A Conscious Cosmos is Russell’s recent offering to the theme of the nature of fundamental reality.
“I love editing, whether it’s books or videos,” says Peter Russell, when asked about his recent expression of universal inquiry within the elegant simplicity of 2D animation. “The main thing for me is to put myself in the viewer’s mind and his or her way of thinking; and to find a way to slip these ideas easily into their minds without resistance. I enjoy doing that – making it digestible for the mind. It’s all about simplifying stuff rather than expanding it.”
With great elegance, A Conscious Cosmos challenges the popular belief that the fundamental nature of the universe is matter. On the contrary, he suggests, the fundamental nature of the cosmos is consciousness.
To some, this could seem like an eclectic belief or a matter of faith, yet Russell takes it step by step. Consciousness is stated as the simple fact that one is experiencing. “You don’t need to do anything to be aware, awareness is always present. You couldn’t have an experience without being aware.”
Awareness, explains the narration, never changes, although that which you are aware of changes constantly, and is determined by the brain. The brain creates its unique experience, yet the individual assumes that reality and experience are one and the same. “The green you see is just a representation of the light in consciousness. There’s no green out there.”
All phenomena, it is explained, do not exist objectively “out there”, but only in our subjective awareness. Green light exists, says Russell, but it’s nothing like our internal representation of it. So it is with matter. Even the solid thing we experience as matter, when probed through quantum physics to the dimension of elementary particles, seems to be nothing other than fuzzy clouds in perpetual motion.
“The more we study the physical world, the less evidence we find for anything physical. It sometimes seems as if there is nothing there. Or rather, no Thing there. Whatever matter is, it’s not made of matter.”
The highly differentiated phenomena of matter, explains the film, is seen within physics as information, patterns of which are detected by our senses and interpreted by the brain to construct experience. “This then appears to us as the material world: a 3D, hi-fi, surround sound, touchy-feely experience.” Yet this ‘material’ world exists only in our awareness as a virtual reality interpreted by the brain.
The film goes on to look at the brain itself. The ‘easy’ problem of consciousness (already pretty hard!) is to decipher what is going on in the brain when it processes certain types of experience. The ‘hard’ problem is that of emergence of of the subjective sense of consciousness: how does it come to be there in the first place, and how could it ever arise out of something material? Why is there even a need for us to be aware of anything?
The film counters the dominant world view that consciousness spontaneously arises out of a particular arrangement of matter (or information), with the alternative that consciousness is fundamental to whatever we consider to be matter. The cosmos is not only a vast field of information, says the film, it is a field that is aware, a-priori to and independently of all information.
A Conscious Cosmos concludes with an invitation to every conscious being towards the truth within all experience, to not look “out there” to the world of experience for reality, but “in here”, towards the dimension of consciousness itself.
“To explore the fundamental nature of the cosmos, we don’t have to travel to outer space, but to inner space; the one thing that we cannot deny and the one thing that science has yet to explore.”