Holonic/Fractal Theory of Consciousness

by | Apr 14, 2016 | Technology, Spirituality, Nature | 1 comment

I propose a simple definition of the concept of “Consciousness” that is quite intuitive and elegant, and as I will later explain, helps connect the existence of humans, animals, machines, inanimate objects and even God. Here is the definition I propose:

Consciousness: any unified entity that processes, interprets, and acts upon information.

To explain this interpretation let us first apply this meaning to some conventional examples. While the complexity may vary, this definition holds true for all traditional views of life, such as the mental activities of an individual amoeba, insect, rodent, dog, or human. Each of these lifeforms senses its environment, processes the information, and completes decisive thoughts or actions. Focusing on the human for example, this intuitively makes sense because we know human consciousness (at least in part) is a collaboration of the sensory organs communicating with a network of brain and neuron cells (information processing units) to sift, store, and interpret information gained through experiences. That information is manipulated, condensed and filtered into our conscious, which we interpret as coherent thought.

Separating Life and Consciousness

Now by abstracting the specific biology that makes this process possible, we can start applying this definition of consciousness to other phenomena and even inanimate objects that we don’t typically consider conscious. This includes natural systems like the climate, water cycle, or computers and other sensing machines of human creation. These are all collections of matter that sense, process and respond to information. Sub-components of these systems collect, transmit and store the information and then a central entity makes a collective decision. In the case of a computer, peripheral devices like the mouse, keyboard and camera sense the environment, wires and integrated circuits transmit the data, and the CPU collects, interprets, and acts on the data. By sheer horsepower, these are some of the most conscious beings on the planet.

Holonic/Fractal Consciousness

Perhaps most interesting, though, is that this definition of consciousness can also be applied to meta-systems, or super-organisms. In Holon Theory, developed by philosopher and author Arthur Koestler and expanded upon by others, autonomous wholes can also act as parts, or in this case unified decision-making entities can also act as information processing units.  Examples of this are the hive minds of an ant colony or beehive. These are entities that act as one, but are comprised of individual information processing units which each have their autonomous functions and consciousness. The ants and bees, respectively, communicate with a simple but effective language of chemical signals, just like neurons in the human brain. Every individual has value and a role, but decisions and responses are made collectively without conflict.

The Human Element

Now I offer an interesting question: can current human civilization be considered such a conscious superorganism? I propose that it can not. One of the key criteria of this definition of consciousness is that there must be a collective/unified entity making sense of information without competition against itself. However in humanity’s current state of social evolution, this is not the case. In none of the previous examples do individual information processing units compete or fight one another or have different views of reality. In none of the previous examples do individuals intentionally harm their own environment. While the two hemispheres of the human brain have an unequal power dynamic, they are not at war and do not threaten the existence of each other. They work harmoniously, just like the worker bees, soldier bees, and queen bees, and analogous roles in the ant colony. Until humanity unites harmoniously with itself and the other species that inhabit this planet, it can not call itself a superorganism, nor a true civilization.

I wonder, then, what humanity would be like if it were to achieve this advanced state. An ant on its own is insignificant, but a fully-optimized and efficiently-running colony is orders of magnitude more effective and powerful, to the point where a colony can survive floods, threaten large predators or even overrun villages (if it so desired). If we empowered every human to direct all of their energy and efforts toward the mutual benefit of everyone, the magnitude of well-being and abundance would be astounding and quite mind-blowing. The obstacle holding this back is an obsolete process, an infected algorithm, a diseased mentality governing how we view each other and humanity as a whole. The goal then, is to reprogram that faulty algorithm by demonstrating the amazing potential of aligning our efforts toward a unified purpose.

God Within and Without

Now what happens when an entire planet of humans understand their value/place in the cosmos and become “enlightened”? What do we call this potential collective higher consciousness, comprised of all the functioning souls of humanity and the Eden around us? Spiritual traditions of the world tell many different stories, but maintain one fairly regular description of a higher power/force/entity/being that most of us probably know as God. In this context, God is an entity we can all communicate with, tap into, and influence, just as an individual ant may influence the outcome of its colony, or a brain cell may influence a thought or decision. By this definition it is not an omnipotent being that exerts authoritative control over us, but rather an influential force that we all contribute to and are responsible for. On a smaller scale, any collaboration between individuals that results in synergy is a mini super-organism, or mini-God in action. What is impossible to do by the individuals on their own suddenly becomes possible together. Thus God doesn’t exist without our effort and collaboration.

In the context of a holistic system this phenomenon is also karma; what you do will directly affect your peers and your environment, which will have subtle or severe consequences in accordance with Chaos Theory. So if you learn how to align the efforts of you and those around you toward mutual benefit and collectivism, you can tap into that immense power of synergy. But because you are fundamentally on a different level of consciousness, you as the individual information processing unit cannot comprehend the complexity or consequences of the whole of which you are a part. You may only have an impossibly vague awareness of its presence or importance.

According to many spiritual traditions this consciousness called God presently exists, despite our current limited level of collective spiritual enlightenment. But imagine God’s level and power if humanity became a fully functioning superorganism. It would surely be inconceivable to create God in the image of man then.

Think Like an ant… or God

While this definition of consciousness may sound fairly logical or reasonable on the surface, it is likely that your understanding of it is still very abstract, which is normal due to the fundamental philosophical nature of the concept. Right now you are using your powerful but limited human brain to interpret the language of another human. That part is fairly easy; we evolved to communicate with each other on the same level of consciousness. But you are also trying to use that same brain to conceive abstract ideas – in this case different levels of consciousness. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible to imagine the consciousness of an ant as a human, or to imagine the consciousness of something higher than a human. It is even more difficult to imagine the consciousness of a superorganism. Perhaps it sounds like some silly esoteric, pointless thought experiment. Everyone knows that a superorganism doesn’t have a brain. The ant colony is not alive in the same sense that the individual ants are alive. But when you apply Holon Theory and realize that the individuals in a superorganism behave just like the cells and neurons in your brain – collecting and processing information together as one, superorganism consciousness sounds much more straightforward.

If we were to apply rated levels of consciousness, then superorganisms can be considered more conscious than their component information processing units. Your brain is more powerful and aware than your individual brain cells. So it follows that the collection of minds is more powerful and aware than the individual brains. That collective consciousness does not think like a human because it is not a human. It is something more complex. So how can we visualize it? How does this higher consciousness manifest itself? Synergy, group-think, and culture are all examples of our collective consciousness flexing its shared power, whether or not it is harmonious. In what other ways can you see it manifesting?

Conclusion – Shedding Our Anthropocentrism

To define consciousness as the ability for self-awareness, emotion, sentience or other anthropocentric abilities is very limited and inadequate because that is just how we experience consciousness as human beings. By opening up the meaning of consciousness, we free our own minds to many new dimensions of existence beyond the human one. By accepting God as our collective superconscious, we create a logical connection that is also consistent and just as intimate, mysterious and spiritual as any religious story. I invite you now to ponder what consciousness might exist beyond our collective mind, our God, and consider these questions:

  • Does something out there conjure up this universe full of stars and planets and life for some purpose we can’t even comprehend? Just as we create technology and art, are time and space inventions of a higher form, or perhaps just byproducts of an even greater phenomenon?
  • If consciousness is truly infinite, then it is plausible to consider that all realities exist. So here is the practical and yet difficult question – as simple beings in a potentially infinite fractal of consciousness, how can we position ourselves to align together and make a positive impact on the world around us?


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