“Through how many dimensions and how many media will life have to pass? Down how many roads among the stars must man propel himself in search of the final secret?” asked scientist and philosopher Loren Eiseley with almost poetic, lyrical insight in The Immense Journey.
“So deep is the conviction that there must be life out there beyond the dark,” he says. “one thinks that if they are more advanced than ourselves they may come across space at any moment, perhaps in our generation. Later, contemplating the infinity of time, one wonders if perchance their messages came long ago, hurtling into the swamp muck of the steaming coal forests, the bright projectile clambered over by hissing reptiles, and the delicate instruments running mindlessly down with no report.
Beyond Human Imagining
“In a universe whose size is beyond human imagining”, he writes, “where our world floats like a dust mote in the void of night, men have grown inconceivably lonely. We scan the time scale and the mechanisms of life itself for portents and signs of the invisible. As the only thinking mammals on the planet—perhaps the only thinking animals in the entire sidereal universe—the burden of consciousness has grown heavy upon us. We watch the stars, but the signs are uncertain. We uncover the bones of the past and seek for our origins.
“Men, troubled at last by the things they build, may toss in their sleep and dream bad dreams, or lie awake while the meteors whisper greenly overhead,” Eiseley imagines. “But nowhere in all space or on a thousand worlds will there be men to share our loneliness. There may be wisdom; there may be power; somewhere across space great instruments, handled by strange, manipulative organs, may stare vainly at our floating cloud wrack, their owners yearning as we yearn.”
Could Consciousness Exist in the Absence of Matter?
Is it possible that consciousness may exist by itself, even in the absence of matter, just like gravitational waves, excitations of space, may exist in the absence of protons and electrons?” asks Andrei Linde, Russian-American theoretical physicist at Stanford University, who describes our understanding of consciousness today as similar to the role of spacetime before Einstein’s theory of relativity. “Will it not turn out, with the further development of science, that the study of the universe and the study of consciousness will be inseparably linked?”
Echoing Linde, mathematician and physicist Johannes Kleiner, at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy in Germany, suggests that a mathematically precise definition of consciousness could mean that the cosmos is suffused with subjective experience. “This could be the beginning of a scientific revolution,” Kleiner said. Why should we think that creatures with brains, like us, he asks, are the sole bearers of consciousness? Electrons may be conscious and have some type of extremely rudimentary mind.
“The present theory of the expanding universe has made time, as we know it, no longer infinite,” observes Eiseley. “If the entire universe was created in a single explosive instant a few billion years ago, there has not been a sufficient period for all things to occur even behind the star shoals of the outer galaxies. In the light of this fact it is now just conceivable that there may be nowhere in space a mind superior to our own.
“The venture into space is meaningless unless it coincides with a certain interior expansion, an ever-growing universe within, to correspond with the far flight of the galaxies our telescopes follow from without.”
Eiseley has an evolutionary warning for our increasingly fragile, fevered Anthropocene Epoch: “For the first time in four billion years a living creature had contemplated himself and heard with a sudden, unaccountable loneliness, the whisper of the wind in the night reeds. When man becomes greater than nature, nature, which gave us birth, will respond.”
Source: Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey: An Imaginative Naturalist Explores the Mysteries of Man and Nature .(Kindle Edition), Nautil.us-Electrons May Well Be Conscious