Materialism does not account for consciousness
limitations of the subject right now: . . . we do not know
how brain processes cause consciousness.
Mystery of Consciousness
machine is in the Ghost
is no question that much of the human being can be accounted
for in a mechanistic fashion. Much of the body-mind complex
is indeed a machine, and our knowledge for how to bring the
body-mind into a state of balance draws heavily upon the regularities
and laws noticed in the patterns of the machine: Suffering
from iron-poor blood? Add back some iron. Suffering from being
abused by your mother as a child? Stop projecting that old
pattern of “feeling abused” onto all women, and start actively
relating to women (including your mother) as who they are,
in the present. And so on. All that kind of knowledge is wonderful,
but it doesn’t account for “the machine” being conscious.
used to be a professor of computer science (from 1984-1994).
My speciality was in the area of AI (Artificial Intelligence),
that is, the creating of programs that perform activities
we would describe as “intelligent” if a human being performed
those activities. This includes activities such as: problem-solving,
learning, design, diagnosis, game-playing, natural language
understanding, analysis, etc. One of the interesting things
AI researchers learned early on was that people attribute
to AI programs all kinds of characteristics that just are
not true. A famous early example was the ELIZA
program, which attempted to simulate a Rogerian therapist.
Here is a sample conversation between a woman typing on a
keyboard to ELIZA, and ELIZA’s responses (adapted from p.
186 of Artificial
Men are all alike.
In what way?
They’re always bugging us about something
Can you think of a specific example?
Well, my boyfriend made me come here.
Your boyfriend made you come here.
He says I’m depressed most of the time.
I am sorry to hear you are depressed.
It’s true. I am unhappy.
Do you think coming here will help you not to be unhappy?
I need some help, that much seems certain.
What would it mean to you if you got some help?
Perhaps I could learn to get along with
Tell me more about your family.
thing that most startled Joe Weizenbaum (the author of the
program), was the large number of users of the program who
were completely convinced that they were “speaking” to a
program that was conscious
even feeling! Weizenbaum
himself knew how simple (even simplistic) the program actually
was, being comprised of rules for generating canned responses,
the person makes a first reference to some family
THEN respond: “Tell me
more about your family”.
materialist who enthusiastically proposes that
everything about human beings can be explained
materially because so much
of the machinery of human beings has been accounted
for materially is a little like the people typing away to
ELIZA, attributing consciousness to ELIZA because the behavior
mimics that of conscious human beings. The
ELIZA program is obviously not
conscious in the manner attributed to it; it simply
is programmed to behave in a way that
resembles a conscious human being. Just so,
accounting for many of the parts associated with a human
being does not account for the consciousness of that being,
although it can account for much of how that (conscious)
being behaves. There
is a mysterious “gap” that is not being accounted for, between
behavior, and subjective
experience (whether attributed, in the case of ELIZA,
or experienced, in the case of ourselves). Says Alfred Weber,
in discussing the attack on materialism made by Joseph Priestley
(a theologian, philosopher, and naturalist who lived from
1733-1804, and is best known as the discoverer of oxygen),
in his Disquisitions
Relating to Matter and Spirit:
the soul, says spiritualism [in countering the materialistic
view], is composed of parts, atoms (or, as we should say
nowadays, of living cells of gray cortical substance), how
can it be felt as a unity? How does it become conscious
of the me? This feeling,
this perception of the unity which is called the ego,
is conceivable only in a real individual, in a unity, monad,
or atom, and not in a sum
of monads, atoms, or individuals, not in the whole nervous
system. For a sum or whole is merely an idea, a mental being;
its parts alone have real existence (nominalism). Hence
these (the monads, atoms, or individuals making up the nervous
system) can feel themselves, each for itself and separately,
as unities or I’s; but the nervous system, the whole, cannot,
for the whole is not an individual, an objective and existing
reality. This, as Priestley himself confesses, is the strongest,
and, in fact, the only serious argument that spiritualism
can oppose [to materialism]. How can the one
arise from the many? He declares that he cannot explain
the difficulty, but that, if it really is a difficulty,
it exists for spiritualism as well. Psychological consciousness
is nothing but plurality reduced to unity, or unity derived
from plurality, or, in a word, the synthesis of the one
and the many, i.e., an inexplicable mystery. Spiritualism
is as unable to tell how a multitude of ideas, feelings,
and volitions can constitute the unity of self, as materialism
is powerless to explain how a multitude of atoms can form
a unity. Hence, spiritualism has no advantage over its adversary
in this respect.
Chapter 60: “The Progress of Materialism”
is exactly right: “spiritualism”, as he calls it, does not
account for consciousness either. A “soul”, or “psyche”,
or “spirit”, if it has individual form and content (e.g.,
carrying psychic patterns that repeat from lifetime to lifetime
via reincarnation) looks simply like an additional (non-material)
component of the “body-mind” machine. When the “body” part
of the machine drops off at physical death, the “mind” part
lives out its destiny in the non-material dimensions of
reality. But what gives consciousness to
that psychic pattern or psychic machine? As
we can see, simply adding a non-material layer to the machine
just puts off the question.
are a couple of other catch-phrases coined by materialists
that are worth a moment’s examination: consciousness as
an “emergent phenomenon”, and consciousness as “the ghost
in the machine”.
Consciousness as an "emergent phenomenon"
I was an active researcher in Artificial Intelligence, I
used to hear on a regular basis the notion that as yet unexplained
aspects of human beings such as consciousness were "emergent
phenomena", that is, they spontaneously arose as by-products
of a very complex context, illustrating the point that the
whole is (sometimes) greater than the sum of the parts.
For instance, my colleagues would talk of the massively
parallel architecture of the brain —
with vast numbers of neuron “mini-computers” working simultaneously
as the complex context in which something like consciousness
could emerge. This, in contradistinction to the (by and
large) “serial computer” (one computer) context in which
most Artificial Intelligence and cognitive modelling programs
had been constructed, to date. So the insinuation was that,
with time, and with zillions of computers working in parallel
(like the neurons of the brain), we would be able to create
“emergent phenomenon” is just a catchy phrase. It in no
way explains how this emergence takes place. (See, e.g.,
The Mystery of Consciousness; Chalmers,
The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory;
Explaining Consciousness: The Hard Problem; and
Adi Da Samraj, Drifted in the Deeper Land] for a
discussion of some of the difficulties.) What it does do
is appeal to the “mad scientist” archetype that continues
to recur in science fiction movies to this day. Here’s how
you do it, if you’re a movie director: you create a scientific
laboratory that looks incredibly complex —
zillions of flashing lights, zillions of test tubes, zillions
of chemicals being combined, etc. Basically your aim is
to completely overwhelm the viewer with the sense of complexity,
to the point of what movie critics call “suspension of disbelief”,
allowing you to introduce almost
anything next —
the dead corpse of the Frankenstein monster could spring
to life —
and you’d buy it!
other words, all it really is is a conjuring trick. Use
of the phrase, “emergent phenomenon” and appeal to the “massively
parallel architecture of the brain” is the same kind of
conjuring trick, aimed not at providing an adequate explanation,
but at creating suspension of disbelief. If you’ve got enough
neurons flashing all over the brain, anything could happen
Consciousness as “the ghost in the
phrase, “ghost in the machine”, is used to refer to all
those aspects of human beings that —
to date —
have not been accounted for mechanistically (otherwise they’d
be a part of the machine). So this would include a “spirit”
or “soul”, and of course, “consciousness”. But, while the
phrase, “ghost in the machine”, is not necessarily used
in a pejorative sense (in which the “ghost” reference is
simply sarcasm, aimed at implying “there is no such thing”),
and often instead is getting at what seems to be a mystery,
nonetheless, the phrase, “ghost in the machine”, is inherently
biased. It is a verbal bias something like the classic courtroom
example, “When did you stop beating your wife?” If you never
beat your wife in the first place, you have no acceptable
answer to the question! If the ghostly or mysterious aspects
of human beings are not rightly describable as being “in”
the machine, then the phrase, “ghost in the machine”, is
misleading. Fundamental questions about reality are often
phrased in a way that renders them unanswerable, or puzzling.
The conceptual puzzle vanishes when the right question is
asked. (Of course, the inherent, mind-dissolving Mystery
does not vanish, only
the conceptual puzzle.)
we describe elsewhere,
there is a view —
an esoteric Spiritual (and Transcendental) view —
that does account for the “one / many” dichotomy and the
“ghost in the machine”: it is the view that our apparently
separate “consciousness” (along with our body-minds, and
the material and Spiritual dimensions altogether) is arising
in the One Divine Consciousness, and the sense of being
“one being” (despite being associated with a “body-mind”
machine having countless parts and personalities: a veritable
is a direct consequence of the One
Being being the inherent True Self of all. We will
never discover an objective
link between consciousness and body-mind, because
the connection is subjective
(the body-mind is arising in the Divine Consciousness,
as a subjective modification
other words: The ghost is not in the machine.
The machine is in the Ghost!
Three different views
of consciousness fall into one of the following three
third viewpoint — which is not even considered in the references
we have provided above — is the viewpoint of Adidam,
as well as a number of the Eastern wisdom traditions (e.g.,
that we are not associating these three alternatives with
the so-called "mind-body problem". The starting
point of the mind-body problem is something called "mind",
which is viewed as housing everything that is not obviously
"material" (including "consciousness",
"soul", "thoughts", "feelings",
etc.). But this lumps together (in the package called "mind")
something that is fundamentally different in kind (consciousness,
which is subjective)
with apparatus that may be non-material but still objective.
more useful and more primal duality to explore, then, is
not "material/non-material" but rather "objective/subjective".
These two distinctions tend to be confused by materialists
(since they do not consider the possibility of non-material
levels of objective reality). If
one wants to identify two sides of a human being, they are
better described as "consciousness" (that which
is aware) and "body-mind" (the total apparatus
that provides "consciousness" with the perceptual
and conceptual objects of which it is aware, including physical
and mental objects).
State Hwy 281 PMB 5034
Kelseyville, CA 95451-9636
© Copyright 2000-2012 The Institute for Real God