The Atma Paradigm

The Atma Paradigm is comprehensive philosophical framework which is science-consistent built upon the axiom that consciousness is a fundamental property of reality and irreducible to the other known properties of physics. This axiom does not preclude the discovery, at some point, that the phenomenon of consciousness may be explicated by currently unknown features of physics. However, science and society may make far greater progress acting on the evidence that consciousness is an inexplicably distinct phenomenon with unique properties.

A Summary of the Atma Paradigm 

Many an important question can be, and likely has been, asked. When all is said and done however, the question remains: do you exist? What could be more important than the existence of the conscious subject who is posing the question to begin with? And yet, we live in an era in which the predominating philosophical paradigm - physicalism, or materialism - insists that the notion of the conscious self be either an emergent product of brain activity, or else entirely illusory. 

This ‘brain model’ encounters two insurmountable obstacles; the what and the who of consciousness. Let’s start with the what. According to the information that the brain receives from the sense organs interacting with light waves, sound waves etc., we should experience the currency that the brain deals in. That is, our ‘contents of consciousness’ (or ‘mental content’) should consist of complex electrical patterns. However, we experience something entirely - qualitatively - different. Qualia are the qualitative nature of the experience of various forms of mental content. For example, the redness of red that you experience is a quality of the colour type of mental content. This point represents the ‘Hard Problem’ of consciousness, and physicalist philosophy cannot bridge the explanatory gap. 

Let us now discuss the who of consciousness. We experience the contents of consciousness as a unified, coherent observer. Through life the body changes, the mind focuses on different things, and even our sense of persona may change. However, the fact that you feel to be the same observer throughout is a significant fact. Part of the trouble with physicalism is that it isn’t introspective. As such, definitions of consciousness have tended to be vague, or to focus on secondary features, such as cognition, data processing and trying to correlate mental output with neurology, rather than considering the observer of mental content. 

So, what is our proposition? The Atma Paradigm (AP) is a science-consistent philosophical model whose premise is that neither consciousness, nor the contents of consciousness, qualia, are reducible to physical systems or properties. According to the AP, matter is accurately described as ‘energy stuff with information’ that manifests properties. We tend to define those properties that we can observe and interpret as ‘physical’. Consciousness is another form of ‘energy stuff,’ but one with the distinct property of interacting with, observing and experiencing, information. Hence, there is not the dichotomy of standard dualism. Rather, there is a natural relationship between that which is the observer and that which is observed. 

The elementary particle of consciousness is the atma. As the observer of mental content, the atma experiences qualia. This raises the question, if neither the atma nor qualia are produced by the brain, what is the brain actually doing? Let’s consider this question very literally. The brain is an organ. Brains can be found in various species, from humans to worms. Some organisms, such as jellyfish, do not possess a central nervous system (CNS) like the brain, but do have neurons. Indeed, others such as slime mould and plants, do not even possess neurons, and yet are able to do associative learning. As mentioned above, the 

currency of the brain and neurons is electrochemical activity, also referred to as ‘firing’. The brain’s activity consists of binary information passing along trillions of neural pathways. Neuroscience research is making great strides in identifying which parts of the brain are correlated with specific experiences and behaviours. Yet, there is no evidence or theory that accounts for even basic perception, what to speak of qualia. 

The AP proposes that a model of perception necessitates an organ which is able to translate the digital-like information in the brain into non-physical qualia information. In general terms, we refer to this subtle organ as mind. Mind translates brain data and converts into a movie of qualia; also referred to as ‘the world of our experience’. At this point, please note that mind is a vague term with many connotations - not all of which we agree with. Additionally, although there is not the scope in this short summary to delve deeper into the concept of mind, the AP model breaks mind down into further functions, in order to explain fully, the phenomenon of perception. However, the main point being made here is that the brain is not the ‘master controller.’ Certainly, it is essential in mechanical bodily processes, and it plays its role in providing coded information from the senses interacting with the outside world. Nevertheless, it is the mind which decodes this information and which presents interesting qualia for the atma to experience. 

So far we have discussed the notion of the atma in the context of the general mechanism by which it experiences through the senses, brain and mind. Only living organisms seem to do these things. The AP defines life as the means by which an atma may experience physical reality through a certain physical body and subtle material mind. The AP offers both ontological and physiological conceptions. Firstly, if the atma is not physical, why then is it associating with a physical body? To address this, we need look no further than the technology of virtual reality (VR). The actual person playing the game is not the avatar on the screen, and nor are the players physically associating with the virtual objects that are being presented; however, the game may be so absorbing that the actual person may indeed feel fear when, for instance, faced with the ‘need’ to leap across a (virtual) gap between two buildings! The quality of the experience convinces (at least temporarily) the VR gamer that this really is happening to them. Similarly, the atma is absorbed in the qualia being experienced through any one body type, and thus chooses to ignore their real identity. 

As well as ontological significance, this point raises another consideration. That is, why be in a slug body? First of all, the AP exclaims that the very definition of life is the interaction of a physical body with an atma. We as humans have no idea what it is like to be a slug, nor even another human. We may investigate their physiology and behaviours, however we have no access to their qualia experience. According to the AP however, it is proposed that all organismal forms are offering certain opportunities for atmas to fulfil experiential desires. This point raises a pertinent ethical question that could affect many decisions made on societal and personal levels. 

The second question about life is, if the atma is not the organism that we perceive ourselves and others to be through employing our physical senses, what then is this organismal bodily form, and how does it interact with the atma? As alluded to in the paragraph above, the body is a machine-like outfit through which the atma experiences physical reality as mental content. The AP makes a bold statement, which is supported by a growing number of eminent physiologists. That is, DNA is not the boss that causes the organism to do this and that. Rather, there is a hierarchy of control, as in most well-functioning societies or businesses. That is, there exists in the body a number of specialised units, each exhibiting certain properties and behaviours. As we perceive it from a macro level, different cell types can be grouped into organs, their communication with one another forming certain systems (eg. circulatory or respiratory systems). In this way of thinking, DNA is less like a bodily controller, and more like a ‘...highly sensitive organ of the cell...’ (to cite Barbara McClintock in her 1983 Nobel Prize speech). That is, DNA is a tool. 

The question then is, if DNA and all components of cells are tools of the organism, what is the organism itself a tool for? This is where we part ways with systems biologists (process ontologists), who will be inclined to explain consciousness as an emergent property of the organism. However, as explained previously, this fails to address the Hard Problem of consciousness; nor does it explain who the experiencer is. The AP posits that atmas not only experience reality as qualia, but they also express volition. This is not the naive notion that anything we intend for will become manifest. Rather, the AP proposes that intent generates information content, or is itself a form of information, which can affect and specify the potential states of physical systems - such as the organism’s genetic material - and thereby modify physiology. 

When taken on a large scale, collective atmas with aggregated intent resonate with what we have termed ‘Co-intentional Transformation’ (CiT). It is this phenomenon that directs the devolution from ancestor species types into specified variants of that form. And it is proposed that a non-localised form of CiT may be responsible for the original appearance of these ancestor types. Our hypothesis is based on highly significant data that were obtained by the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) laboratory, as well as other sources. We are also designing simple and potentially powerful ‘citizen science’ experiments in this area, in order to test the claim that the AP model explains life more satisfactorily than physicalism. 

If we go up a level from life to the universe, the question is, where did everything come from? The AP posits that not only the appearance of biological species, but also the manifestation of the universe itself, may be the result of CiT. That is, material manifestations are participatory in nature. There is a loop from the will of atmas generating the subtle information, which manifests within the physical properties that then provide the atmas with qualitative experience. It is like the universe is the theme park hosting various attractions; organisms are the rides by which atmas may experience life in a variety of ways; matter is the malleable energy that can manifest in different ways; and finally, atmas are the customers queuing up for the rides.

Application of the theory
Hence this theory provides a metaphysical framework for addressing, amongst many others, the following issues:-

  1.  A process of conscious awareness and perception that is consistent with human experience. Currently, we have no theory to address the hard problem of consciousness – why and how do we see the proverbial “red ball”? Neither is it satisfactory to try to deny or downplay conscious experience simply because it does not fit into the paradigm of brain functions as the all-in-all. The various states of energy and matter proposed by AP offer a mechanism for understanding perception involving the senses and neurological functions of an organism as well as the concepts and images that we, as humans, subjectively experience within the mind.

  2. The appearance of matter – both at the start of the universe and as witnessed in the activities of sub-atomic particles. Rather than suppose that matter appears from nothing, the theory suggests an underlying energy field of proto-matter which is activated and given form by input from an information field.

  3. The source programming of cosmological constants and the manifestation of irregularity in the unfolding of the universe. Again, rather than assuming that the precise factors determining the form of the universe accidently and coincidentally are exactly suitable for the manifestation of planets and life, the theory offers a directional mechanism and input of information that might be at work beneath the surface.

  4. The informational input for the development of living organisms. How and why new forms can manifest – the link between the environmental and survival drive for adaptation and the adjustments required at the genetic level. Currently there are major gaps and discrepancies in attempts to explain how matter becomes self-organised into the first biological forms and thereafter into more complex and diverse species. There is presently no accepted theory for the mechanism that could translate either environmental factors or survival needs and aspirations into a force that manipulates the genetic programming of a living organism.