New Age consciousness

Another version of consciousness is the notion that amalgamates matter and energy. On the one hand, the New Age version of this view appropriates quantum physics as a kind of scientific proof of non-scientific ideas. On the other hand, this view extrapolates the principles about subatomic activity into everyday life, as does the film and book titled What the Bleep Do We Know?

Our thoughts determine reality, says this view of consciousness. See how a thought can make us sad or angry or aroused? Our brains are bathed in chemicals, and our depression or elation (or cancer or financial wealth) results from a flood of neuro-peptides. If we can harness this process, we can make our own reality. Or at least we can get a handle on our lives. So say the presenters (largely unnamed) of the film.

The premise is a kind of spiritual materialism. Matter is all that we are, neurons firing and chemicals mingling, basic science and better known than in the past. But thought and language and expression then become sparks and ashes of this chemical process, hence the materialism.

The ends of changing reality are noble but the means are not likely. How consciousness is to get to a point of equilibrium that equates or approximates enlightenment is hard enough for masters. To literally change reality (as in “miracles”) is not for the rest of us. We can see the premises of What the Bleep? in its chief inspirer John Hagelin of Maharishi University in Fairfield, Iowa, or in the channeler of “Ramtha.” If we can create an institution or organization or a thought and make it reality, then other realities can be affected by it. At a personal level, for example, the Ramtha School of Enlightenment (not in the film) advertises classes wherein you can “became a remarkable life.” Hence changing reality sounds at first like improving your health or attitude or seriously addressing addictions, diseases, or mental problems, but in What the Bleep? reality is in fact the world of the paranormal, psychic, and spiritualist. At most, kind masters of the past would have called these “optional.” It is what I call “old” New Age, like theosophy.

What we do know is that human beings are afflicted with too much culture and organizations and blessed with too little tranquility and solitude for collecting themselves and pursuing sustainable lives. While some may desire to take on paranormal powers, we should not distract anyone from the banality of organizing their lives, thoughts, and desires. We should strive to not be remarkable people and not have remarkable powers.

When a rival master visited a certain Chan master, the visitor boasted of being able to walk on water and perform other great feats. The host shrugged and replied. “I, too, have great powers. I chop wood, I haul water.”