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If you gathered all the authors of this collection in one room, you wouldn't hear the hum of perfect agreement. But you'd hear optimism in everyone's voice. "We're going to crack this problem" marks a tidal change from past decades, when it wasn't even respectable to talk about consciousness in sophisticated scientific circles. It's hard to crack a problem that almost no one believes exists. The most distinguished quantum pioneers speculated brilliantly on the nature of mind in the universe. The general reaction in the field, however, was to whisper about old men going soft and leaving "real science" far behind. Such outright dismissal still exists, so it takes intellectual courage for these authors to swim upstream as they argue for the presence of mind in the cosmos. Ironing out their differences for the moment, these essays uphold some common propositions:
• Consciousness must be scientifically explained.
• There is evidence of mind outside the human brain.
• We are probably living inside a conscious universe.
• The assumption that the brain creates mind through a system of physical processes is backed by unreliable evidence.
• Traces of mind can be found at the quantum level of Nature.
• The separation of the subjective and objective domain is artificial. Instead of seeing reality "out there," we must think in terms of a participatory universe.
Each writer has staked his own ground on these claims, some being more conservative, others declaring that mind is everywhere in the universe. It's a breathtaking range of speculation. The fact that some essays reach out to philosophy and Eastern thought is heartening to me personally. The Vedic rishis were true Einsteins of consciousness, and if mind and cosmos can be linked, these seers are urgently relevant. That's the issue that Vedanta confronts. The eyes can detect physical light. The mind is aware of its own thoughts. The soul, if it exists, can attest to God. But none of this is good enough. Our eyes are easily fooled—hence the end of classical physics, and the beginning of quantum theory, whose eyes are mathematical, since physicality itself becomes vague and shadowy, unpredictable and non-local, in the quantum domain.
I’m proud to have edited this collection of essays as the circle around reality grows tighter and tighter. This elusive chimera won't escape. One anticipates an evolutionary leap before it is captured, however. Science must expand to embrace consciousness. Theorists must plunge directly into the participatory universe. The outworn assumptions of materialism must be revised or thrown away. When will all these changes occur? No one can say. But an evolutionary leap will occur when physicists look around the cosmos and agree with a famous saying from Vedanta: "This isn't knowledge you can acquire. This is knowledge you must become."