Quantum Consciousness : a Bergsonian perspective I

Henri Bergson

Henri Bergson

Rating= ♥♥∑ƒ∞√ ( a bit involved ) !

Yesterday, Thrusday January 26th, Catherine was reading Bergson in her bath.  At 19 :35 (Paris time), she had a  moment of understanding, a small ah ! ah !  that she would like to share with the  Kosmos … The book she is reading is Matter and memory, the  second major opus of Bergson. Reading it a bit arduous, difficult at times, and usually after a few pages, she has to stop. Sometimes she has to come back, because  she realizes that she didn’t understand a notion, or that she forgot a step in the reasoning. But well, all in all, Catherine fell in love with this book,  and  with the philosophical and spiritual journey that it invites the reader to. Matter an Memory treats of the  theory of perception and about what we call “reality”. Bergson has a very interesting approach to this  eternal question,  which relates to his  understanding of Time in terms of both duration and simultaneity.

Here is below the  excerpt that produced the  ah ! ah!  First in French and with an attempt of translation in English, and then the content of the ah! ah !…

p163 French Edition Quadriges “ Nous touchons là au problème capital de l’existence, problème que nous ne pouvons qu’effleurer sous peine d’être conduits, de question en question, au coeur même de la métaphysique. Disons simplement qu’en ce qui concerne les choses de l’expérience, l’existence paraît impliquer deux conditions réunies 1) la présentation à la conscience; 2) la connexion logique ou causale de ce qui est ainsi présenté avec ce qui précède et ce qui suit.(…) Ainsi  dans le cas des états internes actuels la connexion est moins étroite et la détermination du présent par le passé n’a pas le caractère d une dérivation mathématique; – en revanche la présentation à la conscience est parfaite. Au contraire s’il s’agit d’objets extérieurs, c’est la connexion qui est parfaite, puisque  ces objets obéissent à des lois nécessaires; mais alors l’autre condition, la présentation à la conscience, n’est que partiellement remplie ,car l’objet matériel, justement en raison de la multiplicité des  éléments inaperçus qui le rattachent à tous les autres objets, nous paraît renfermer en lui et cacher derrière lui infiniment plus que ce qu’il nous laisse voir.”

English version ( translation by Catherine so be clement) : “ We touch here the most important problem of Existence, problem that we can only skim about unless we will be lead, from question to question, at the very heart of  metaphysics. Let’s simply say that  in all that we can experiment, Existence seems to imply two united conditions 1) the presentation to Consciousness 2) the logical connection,or causal connection of what is presented to Consciousness with what precedes and what follows.(…) Indeed, in the case of internal states of consciousness, the connection is less tight and  the determination of the present by the past doesn’t have the character of a mathematical proof;- on the other hand the presentation to consciousness is perfect. On the contrary if we talk about external objects, it is the connection which is perfect, since those objects obey to necessary laws; but then the other condition, the presentation to consciousness is only partially fulfilled, because the material object, precisely because of the multiplicity of  all the unseen elements which attach it to all other objects, seems to contain in itself and hide behind itself infinitely more than what we can see”.

I have included below a little diagram to illustrate how I understand this very inspiring idea.

Bergson here makes a fundamental distinction between the interior and the exterior, as far as our perception goes. There is a graduation; the more exterior is an object from Consciousness, the more this object belongs to the world of causal determination, the world of science we would say; the world where physics laws of causality do operate. This external object,on the other hand looses its  direct impact on consciousness : we see it only partially. Now if we consider objects which are internal, like Thoughts, Inspirations, Intuitions etc… their impact on consciousness is  “perfect” while their relation to causality  is very weak.  As an example of this second case, let’s consider what happens when one has a spiritual experience.  Usually when a spiritual experience is strong enough, one always remembers it. It leaves an impact on memory which is  almost impossible to erase. That’s how I understand Bergson’s idea of a perfect “presentation to consciousness”. A spiritual experience is dealing with internal objects, and as such it does impact our Soul much more than  simply seeing a car in the street  or   the chair in front of me. On the other hand  the more profound is the spiritual experience, the looser are its tights with the world of causation.

We get here a sort of  Quantum Uncertainty principle between the External world  ( causation, sequential time) and the Internal world ( deep memory, presence of the Soul). The more we experience the external world the less the impact on the Soul is important. The more we experience the internal world, the less the causality is important.

so we could almost say, more than 100 years after Bergson , that

External. Internal ≥ h /  ( 4 Π )  

a kind of metaphysical  Heisenberg uncertainty … ?

If you would like to be an author on this blog, please send us an  e-mail,; we will be happy to welcome you in the Kosmic Bureau…

20 comments

  1. Liesbeth

    Catherine, I am so grateful for your efforts!! It is like picking up a treat that I almost lost but which I love more then anything else. You have a way of presenting that immediately catches my attention. Even though I know so little about quantum consciousness, I immediately connect to the awareness that when the focus is on the external world it is almost impossible to connect to soul, while the deep spiritual experience is impossible to express (in word or image) to the external world. Thank you so much for bringing me back to the level of the soul, I will pick up Bergson now and maybe respond better later on. So happy to read you again!

  2. domphi

    Catherine, thanks a lot!

    The way I understood Bergson is that our consciousness catches the causal sequence ( and the consequent sense of time) from the reading of the external world, but when our human consciousness works on its own, without the external connection, the human consciousness loses that “causal catch”, and therefore its sense of time. In other words, the sensation of time is linked to our capacity to read the causality of the external world.

    But what he also says is that our reading of the external world is fairly limited, and reminds us that the external world is containing a reality which is much deeper and wider than the one we are able to see.

    Bergson makes us think that if we would know better this deeper reality that we are not able to see, maybe we would be able to understand the nature of the (causal) time, which seems to emerge from this unknown reality.

    That also would explain why we are losing the sense of time when we are meditating, because during these moments, we are not connected to causal phenomenas. In other words external reality forces us to be in the time, and to learn the reality which is behind it.

    Domphi

  3. Yes, you got everything perfectly right, from what I have understood as well.
    Bergson however seems to add some relationship between the Exterior and the Interior. There is a movement which is created in their interaction and which is typical of Life. We see already in the exempt above that for him no object is perfectly Exterior and no object is perfectly Interior ( as far as it is humanly possible to our perception) and hence he has a sort of quantum duality between the two world (Eternal and Internal) duality which seems to be resolved in the same way as QM would resolve this kind of duality between conjugated variables.
    Moreover, the while notion of movement in Bergson is related to Evolution and to Elan Vital. But this is the next book of him I will read Creative Evolution….

    Domphy it is a pleasure to read you !
    Love, C.

  4. Pleasure is mine to be here!

    The human brain is a very special object , but still it remains an object of atomic matter , so subject to causality/sequence, like any other piece of matter.

    Moreover, our brain was developed and fabricated through its progressive interaction with what we call the external causal world ( external from our human point of view), so it has been made to read, record, and model a portion of that causal world of matter and energy.

    So the human brain is a causal matter “self-made instrument”, made to read a part of the causal world.

    So we are talking of an interaction between different types of construction of matters, one being our brain, pretty complex and having the capacity to model its interaction with many other kind of matters, less complex.

    This comparative advantage of our brain compared to other types of a matters , gives us the feeling that we’re more conscious..

    Let me rush to connect my unconscious brain with the speech of our president..

    Nice dreams to everybody….
    Domphi

  5. That’s great !

    I didn’t know there was a speech today… some more restrictions for France ?

  6. Dom, a tentative unification of what you are saying with Bergson’s perspective about the Internal and the External would be to ask a very simple question :
    In which direction does the Complexity flow ?

    Does to complexity flow form the External to the internal or from the Internal to the external, or in both directions altogether ?

    The last hypothesis is the most attractive by far. Let’s be Platonician an flow it . In the case where there are two flows of Complexity, one from the Interior to the Exterior and one in the opposite direction, then are those two flow of the same nature ?

    I have a small idea how to develop form there but I would love to know what you have to say to that !

    Love, C.

  7. Ciao Cath,

    I would sense that they would be two levels of flow of complexity:

    one which is flowing at the cosmological level, and which gave birth to the human brain(s), through a process which is now well known, part of it being described through the biological evolution.

    Another one, which is the one you’re referring to, is flowing on the planet Earth, between the human brain(s) and its surrounding environment, ( what you call External). At this level, complexity is self generating, within the human brain, in particular at collective level. As a matter of fact, Human Brains shouldn’t be taken as a standalone systems, but as networked systems: human brains are made to be talking to each other’s. By the way, the development of Internet, and even our conversation right now, is part of this networking process …

    even more, what we may be doing right now, is , in our own way , allowing the process to be a bit more conscious of itself, and therefore to improve its complexity , at the collective and individual levels..

    have a good day

    Domphi

  8. I agree, the internet is a wonderful structure to catalyze an emergence, and it is part of what this blog is dedicated to.
    You say that the process of biological evolution, or flow of complexity from the Interior to the Exterior ( that what you called the flow at the Cosmological level is very well known scientifically. Could you say more about this ? I find still many mysteries remaining in a scientific understanding of it.

    With the second flow of complexity , the one form the Exterior to the Interior, we really talk about the Evolution of Consciousness, or how our Exterior can affect our Interior. To me this is even more mysterious. I know that what we are doing at the moment is part of it, but the Internet by itself would not be enough to produce the Evolution. The internet is simply the structure. behind there is Cath and Dom and all our reader and people interested who kind of form a field. Interactions in this field produce an emergence, in a way which I find still very mysterious.

    More soon, C.

  9. I would not make such a distinction between exterior and interior, as you’re suggesting.

    I artificially divided into 2 flows, to help to better studying what’s going on,up there..

    The first flow I was referring to, is the flow of complexity which is happening at cosmological level, which goes from hydrogen, to heavy atoms, to simple molecules, to complex macromolecules, leading to life, biological evolution, and ultimately to our connected human brains…( Having in mind that this complexisation process of matter, is made within an space expansion process. At is also taking billions of years..). This flow is as a matter of fact is the unique one,you may wish to consider …

    The second flow, is zooming what happens at the edge of the first flow ( it is a subset of it, if you want) , and concerns directly the human decoding process of reality, and the raising of human consciousness. This process is taking place at much shorter timescales, and seems to be accelerating these days, and that is why we are here discussing among us.. It is also informing us that we are not the end of the game, and that many ( exciting ?) things will be coming in the future..

    Domphi

  10. Dear Dom, this made me think a lot. I find it very inspiring… and still, somehow I cannot leave out the notion of Interior and Exterior. Something tells me that it is extremely important and that it has to be treated in a Quantum Way. Somehow I got deeply convinced by Bergson’s Intuition here. Note that this notion is also fundamental in , for example, Integral map of Life, with the 4 quadrants. the two right quadrants are simply exterior while the two left one are Interior. I feel that they to it right tat this notion is foundational to any theory of Reality which could encompass the Spirit and the World of Causation…

  11. What means Interior and Exterior, in an holistic and coherent Universe?

    Interior and exterior are relative to the “Universe object”, ( the object can be you, me , or a particule ..) which is holistically interacting with the rest of the Universe.

    Domphi

  12. yes I agree that Interior/ Exterior is relative to a point, a locus, and thus is in a sense at the heart of the very definition of localization or locality.
    is the process of thinking possible without a locus ?
    As such, in any attempt of a description, Exterior/Interior is the basic element, the basic element of differentiation.

  13. Certainly , interior /exterior is relative to locus but also to an internal level of complexity .

    So, we have many different interior/exterior entities , localized and holding different levels of complexity , that are interacting among each other’s.

    In that sense ,the thinking process as any types of consciousness, would be emerging from that (complex) interaction of complex interior/ exterior localized entities.

    I hope it makes sense..

  14. Same message as above but with small additions/ corrections..

    Certainly , interior /exterior is relative to a locus, but also to a specific level of complexity .

    So, we end up having many different “interior/exterior entities” , that are localized and holding different levels of complexity , and that are interacting among each other’s and with the rest of the Universe.

    In that sense ,the thinking process as any types of consciousness, would be emerging from that (complex) interaction of complex interior/ exterior localized entities.

    I still hope it makes sense..

  15. That’s very beautiful. I see your point. You mean that the boundary between Interior and Exterior is itself evolving. Say for example that Cath identifies with her Mind ( why not ?) then the objects, like a chair, or a book,or her body, will be Exterior but the Thoughts will be Interior. Say that at a higher level Cath identifies with her Soul. The the Thoughts themselves start to be external objects etc… and up to the Causal level where Everything becomes Exterior and at that point there is indeed no distinction possible between Exterior and Interior if everything is Exterior. Only the flows remain….
    Des it capture what you are saying ?
    This is really great !

  16. What you say reminds me the “”flow network””, used in an analysis of brain operation and artificial intelligence

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_network
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_intelligence

    going inside the functioning of self learning networked systems, is a bit beyond my competence..
    But I sense a lot of work has been done in that direction,and could help to understand the creation of consciousness.. That is just a thought..

    Has Don, or any others been working in that field?

    (by the way, is that blog a private conversation ? Any other folks there? please do manifest !)

    Domphi

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  19. Delphine

    I would say that the spiritual experience also hits us in all our cells and sensation while the car in the street just hit us… Mmmmh, let’s say in the cell of our retin ?

    One is probably very more stricking than the other one … Well, hoping that the car doesn’t hit the body in its all (cause in that case, I would finish at the hospital with a tremendous memory of this experience) !!!

    Or maybe I’m a person which a little bit too much immerge in my internal world ? Fichtre !!! (my godness, in other word…)

    Thanks for this blog Cath ! I’m afraid I’m going to make my brain crazy trying to understand .. but well, let’s make it work a little bit !🙂

  20. Francis Lucille

    The Bergson quote reminds me of a remark by David Bohm in one of the first chapters of his textbook on QM. He draws an analogy between the position/momentum uncertainty and the fact that we cannot simultaneously grab the position and the direction of a thought. If we try to catch its position by reflecting upon it, it vanishes as a dynamic process, and, conversely, while we are thinking the thought, we cannot “catch” the position of the thought (reflect upon it). I am aware that this analogy applies only to the “internal” realm, unlike Bergson’s which establishes a bridge between the internal and external realms. However, if we were to consider a “unified”realm that supersedes both, it is interesting to notice that we could have Heisenberg-like uncertainty relations in the physical realm (Heisenberg), in the subtle (internal) realm (Bohm) and in the supra realm or across realms (Bergson).

    This would imply an extension of QM (and of Physics) beyond the physical world, which would make sense since the raw experience through which we know everything we know is not limited to the physical realm. This limiting dualism, this “compartmentalization” of our experience can perhaps be traced back to the 17th Century Cartesian beginnings of modern Science, when a deal was struck between the Church and the scientists: the “turf” was split , the Church kept the internal realm, and conceded the physical realm to Science (its position having become untenable after the discoveries made by Galileo, Copernicus and others). The scientists gladly accepted, in order to keep doing their job without being persecuted, and also because this limitation of the scope of Science was convenient in the beginning (according to the Cartesian principle of dividing a complex problem into several simpler ones). The physical realm offered enough complexity to keep the scientists busy for a few centuries. But the limitation of Physics to the sole realm of phenomena that are subject to the intersubjective agreement is inherently unsatisfactory.

    Since we experience everything (including the physical world) as mentations (mind events, or appearances in consciousness), it should be possible to come up with a formalism of QM that only deals with mentations instead of physical systems. When applying this formalism to the subset of events that satisfy the requirement of intersubjective agreement, we would “recover” the “physical” QM of our textbooks. In the QF theories derived from this formalism, the vacuum would be freed from the stain of objectivity and materiality it carries in the “physical” theories, without becoming purely “internal”. (Trees falling in the forest would still make noise even in the absence of witnesses ). Bergson’s remark and the “outer and “inner” flows mentioned in a previous post in this blog point to such a vacuum. Such a formalism would satisfy our deep intuition that there is only one reality.

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