The title of this article is a double entendre. In part, it refers to an ongoing chicken/egg debate about which came first, consciousness or matter. But, it also refers to something rarely discussed in spiritual or New Thought circles, which is that varying forms of matter exist just as varying forms of consciousness exist.
By way of disclosure, I am squarely coming down on the side of matter deriving from consciousness, not the other way around. Many theories have been floated trying to demonstrate how conscious life arose from matter, all of them inconclusive. That puts them in the same category of the consciousness theories that materialist scientists criticize as unprovable so we can acknowledge that we’re dealing with a mystery and mystical teachings are every bit as valid in explaining conscious life as scientific gropings.
Ah, but cracks are appearing among scientists themselves as several theories are being put forth viewing the primacy of consciousness to explain reality. It’s not the purpose of this article to describe all these theories. For those wanting more depth on quantum theories, you can watch my TV podcasts on Dremavisions7 Radio Network: Quantum Spirituality with Peter Canova.
The matter vs. consciousness-first issue is actually a segue to discuss the relationship between consciousness and matter so just a few more words on the topic of origins. It’s quite a stretch to say that inorganic matter just one day became organic on its own then somehow gave rise to sentient life. However, if we assume consciousness is the source of all that came into being, it eliminates all of the infinities and paradoxes in quantum physics and physicists hate infinities. Score one for consciousness.
I’m sure materialists will have much to say about this but that’s a debate for another time. On to the relationship between consciousness and matter, but first, let us clarify that consciousness and energy are one in the same thing. That is, consciousness is an intelligent energy present in all phenomena in varying degrees.
A thing can only understand itself in relation to another thing.
The creation story of many mystical, spiritual, and religious traditions have a common belief about consciousness and energy. A supreme primordial Source—call it the One, God, Supreme Consciousness or whatever you like—stirred to express Itself and know Itself. A thing can only understand itself in relation to another thing. So, this passive, static Oneness needed to cast Its consciousness into a different form of experience. It did this by limiting Its own consciousness to project other points of consciousness that felt a sense of individuality in their limited state of awareness. These spirit consciousnesses had a sense or an awareness of being part of the One Consciousness that generated them but also had a sense of individual self.
Perhaps the most compelling and scientific of all the creation stories comes from the Gnostics, western mystics who had a great deal to do with the earliest form of Judeo-Christian mysticism. Gnostic wisdom was unfortunately destroyed by the rise of the Orthodox Church though many corrupted elements were retained in modern Christianity. The Gnostic creation tale is so rich in meaning that it described phenomena like the Big Bang, the God Particle, and parallel universes thousands of years before quantum physics, and you can access my podcast or website for more details on that.
In the Gnostic story, an important aspect of God’s projected being was wisdom (Sophia in Greek) who fell into a state of chaos. Chaos was a dimension of random chance potential that could be thought of as the unconscious mind of the Creator. It was not a void but contained inert seeds of potential that the Gnostics called proto-matter. As the story goes, Wisdom Sophia plunged her high spiritual energy into chaos seeking to emulate the creative power of God, but things didn’t work out as she hoped.
Her high spiritual energy activated the proto-matter, engulfing her and causing her to take on mass. This led to the creation of a new dimension, a psychic dimension characterized by matter that was incompatible with the spiritual dimension from which Sophia had fallen.
Herein lies our first key to the relationship between consciousness and matter.
The matter characterizing this psychic dimension is not physical matter, but a finer form of subtle matter. It appears that the spirits or souls that fell into this dimension seeking to express greater degrees of individuality assumed energetic forms through this type of matter. Now the Gnostic texts describe a number of dimensional gradations, parallel dimensions for short. Each dimension and the souls grouped therein were characterized by their vibrational level of consciousness or awareness.
A near-universal axiom of different spiritual traditions and even certain aspects of psychological theory believe that humans are composite beings existing at differing levels of consciousness with corresponding subtle bodies composed of ever finer degrees of matter. So kind of like layers of phyllo dough in a Greek pastry, we’re walking sheaths of varying degrees of consciousness and matter.
If the idea of subtle, invisible matter seems a bit speculative or “New Agey” to you, you might want to consider a few postulates of modern science. Our universe is not only permeated by unseen energies but by unseen matter called dark matter. In fact, dark matter is six times more present in the universe than visible matter. It’s what holds the universe together counteracting the force known as dark energy that is causing the universe to expand.