It is with pleasure that we welcome Darryl Sloan, author of I Universe, as our featured author for June.
Darryl steps outside of conventional wisdom and brings together a wealth of insight from the spheres of religion, philosophy, science, psychology, parapsychology, and occultism.
A highly unusual, but deeply rational, and life-enriching truth emerges from this esoteric study.
I have a lot in common with atheists. I don’t believe in the existence of any deities; I don’t accept the divine authority of any writings, prophets or priests; I don’t subscribe to a religion; I don’t worship, I don’t pray, and I don’t think miracles happen. But I’m not an atheist.
I find it strange that the word “atheist” is so popular, because it’s a statement about what a person’s worldview is not, instead of what it is. Question: “What do you believe about where the Universe came from?” Answer: “Not what those guys over there believe.” Surely we can do better than that.
When I engage with atheists about the nuances of their belief system, I’m often met with the frustrating rebuttal, “Atheism is the non-belief in God or gods, nothing more,” as if the position has a kind of philosophical purity. It doesn’t. Otherwise, Richard Dawkins’s 496-page defence of atheism, The God Delusion, is 495 pages of superfluous information. Atheism, like every other ism, carries baggage. And we should examine that baggage carefully, so that we are not blind to the subtle assumptions that influence our thinking.
The largely unquestioned premise at the heart of atheism is the belief in naturalism – the view that reality is entirely explainable using the laws of nature; supernatural or spiritual explanations are prohibited. Naturalism is assumed to be true because the principal tool of atheism is science, and science has over and over proved its reliability and usefulness. So we have a tendency to assume that science will one day be able to provide us with an all-encompassing Theory of Everything. Physicist Brian Cox said:
We don’t know all the answers, so we don’t know where the laws of nature came from. We don’t know why the Universe began in the way that it did, if indeed it had a beginning. So we don’t know why the Big Bang was very, very highly ordered. […] The only difference between the past and the future, the so-called arrow of time, is that in the past the Universe was really ordered and it’s getting more disordered. And that necessary state of order at the start of the Universe (which is really the reason that we exist; that’s the reason, because the Universe began in a particular form), we don’t know why that was. So, we will probably find out at some point and it will be something to do with the laws of nature.i
First, there is an important admission: We don’t know where the laws of nature came from. So the laws of nature are emergent from something prior to, and transcendent of, those laws. Cox then points out the mystery of the Universe’s highly ordered beginning. Disorder requires no explanation; order does. The sudden appearance of staggering amounts of order at the moment of the Big Bang doesn’t fit well with a paradigm in which you would expect chaos for eternity in both directions of time’s arrow.
How come the laws of nature were so finely tuned as to support the emergence of galaxies, stars, planets and life? Interestingly, Cox concludes by ignoring his original admission: We will probably find out at some point and it will have something to do with the laws of nature.
The unspoken premise is that the answer to any question we could possibly ask about reality will conform to the constraints of naturalism. Should we really make that assumption, when we know that the laws of nature themselves require explanation? This is a philosophical dilemma, not a scientific one, and it illustrates the continuing importance of philosophy alongside science.
When we look at a creature like a goldfish swimming in a pond, we can see that it has a limited perspective on reality. It can’t know about anything beyond the borders of its environment. Its view of the Cosmos is limited to the light from the sun passing through the surface of the water and providing illumination. It knows nothing of the solar system, spiral galaxies, black holes, and billions of other pieces of information that humans are privy to. But we mustn’t forget that humans, too, have a limited perspective on reality. We can see there are facets of reality that a goldfish cannot detect, ever. So we should equally ask, Are there facets of reality that humans cannot detect, ever?
Since humans are merely another strand of evolution, the realistic answer is yes. And the difficulty facing us involves more than our limited capacity to receive sensory data. A goldfish simply cannot think in a manner that would allow it to make the discoveries that we have. Its capacity for cognition is too limited to learn basic arithmetic, let alone quantum mechanics. By contrast, the human brain is the most complex structure that we know of in the Universe. But we mustn’t forget that it, too, is limited. Only we don’t know what those limits are, because we’re the ones having the human experience. Admitting this, there is no reason to assume that reality would bow to the limits of human cognition.
The average atheist lacks the awareness that reality ultimately consists of an aspect that transcends what we can ever see or know. Due to creaturely limitation, we are confronted with impenetrable mystery. Our attempts at attaining a Theory of Everything are really attempts at a Theory of Environment. If a goldfish could contemplate the nature of reality, we are like that creature saying, The pond is everything that is. What lies beyond our perceptive and cognitive boundaries? That is ultimately unanswerable, but we can gain a sense of things by carefully examining the boundary between the knowable and unknowable.
This boundary is made visible when we encounter any avenue in our scientific investigations that presents an immovable roadblock. The most obvious one is the moment of the Big Bang. Don’t make the common mistake of thinking that the Universe didn’t exist before the bang; it existed in a singularity state: infinite density in zero volume – a condition that the human mind cannot comprehend. Out of that mystery of mysteries came the manifest Universe, which was the same “thing” as before – the same energy – flowering into space-time. Somehow.
According to the laws of thermodynamics, energy cannot be created or destroyed; it is eternal (take note that this is an attribute which theists reserve for God). To make this personal to you, every molecule of your being was once something else, which was ultimately in existence in a singularity state. The energy that is currently “you” has always existed infinitely in the past and will exist infinitely into the future. At a purely energetic level, nothing has ever been born and nothing ever dies. When a body decomposes, that is energy changing in form. So what do we mean when we use words like “I” and “you,” as if those are fundamentally real objects that come into existence and go out of existence? That’s not what’s actually happening. And it begs the question: What exactly is the real you?
That brings us to the second place in which the boundary reveals itself: Consciousness. The Big Bang singularity becomes a Universe of space-time within which galaxies form, within which life evolves, within which consciousness manifests. When the phenomenon of consciousness peers out through a pair of human eyes, it doesn’t instinctively see the world in terms of an interconnected ocean of energy. It sees the world divided up into objects, and it reinforces this artificial sense of separation by naming everything. Consciousness also self-reflects, notices a body, and believes itself to be housed within that frame, as another object. The self, the mind, the soul, the psyche – all synonyms for an invisible entity believed to reside somewhere within the brain. But science has never been able to locate consciousness. The problem is so large and longstanding that we’ve termed it “the hard problem.”
When we contemplate consciousness carefully, we can become aware that it is a moving, shifting process, ever in flux – not an object. Unfortunately, language categorises consciousness as a noun, when it really should be a verb. It’s a doing, not a being. Furthermore, it doesn’t possess location in space. Cut open a brain and you won’t find the so-called psyche by any naturalistic means of investigation, because it isn’t there. We experience an amazing subjective universe that is somehow co-dependent with, but not spatially located within, the objective universe. And although there are over seven billion streams of consciousness (and that’s only counting the humans) all over the world appearing to be separate beings, they are not truly so, because at a purely energetic level, there are no objects.
Picture the energy of the Universe as a bucket filled with water. Now stab a few holes into the bottom of the bucket. From the underside, there appear to be individual streams of falling water (analogous to individualised experiences of consciousness). But are they truly separate? Not from the perspective of their source. And the source of you, the real you, is the singularity from which you-with-a-name sprung. It’s not so much a case of I am an object alive within the Universe, as it is The Universe is alive as an apparent object calling itself ‘I’.
If I wanted to use the word God intelligently, I would have to say, “I am God” (the ultimate blasphemy for the monotheist). But equally, “You are God; this tree is God; that flea is God; the Andromeda galaxy is God.” This is known as pantheism – the view that God and nature are one and the same. It’s a close cousin of atheism, but differs in one crucial aspect: pantheism doesn’t reduce everything to fit within the constraints imposed by naturalism. It allows for an abstract, unknowable aspect of reality that we might call “divine,” without resorting to inventing a divine personality to oversee matters for the convenience of humans (God made in man’s image).
Naturalism is an unfortunate worldview. It stems from hubris, lacks wonder, and suffers from nihilism. But what if it’s true? What if all this philosophising is pure fantasy? Well, in keeping with the importance that science places upon experimentation, I invite you to do that very thing.
In my early teens I was fortunate enough to witness a psychic phenomenon: I saw a friend move matchsticks with his mind. I was not without some degree of healthy scepticism about this in later years. But decades on, after embracing the esoteric worldview that I’ve described above, I realised that abilities such as extrasensory perception (ESP) and psychokinesis (PK) were not irrational within such a paradigm, as they were within naturalism. If real, psychic phenomena would provide the greatest evidence that consciousness is a far more important aspect of reality than the scientific community is presently willing to entertain.
So I set about developing a talent for PK. Sceptical of my initial results, but obsessively curious, I continued to experiment over a period of two years. I had no guidebook, but through persistence I stumbled upon the right technique, and it was in keeping with the methods I would later read about in parapsychological and occult literature.ii Success depended upon first spending time pouring desire into the mental image of my objective. After that, it was necessary to clear the mind of all thought (something that’s not easy, if you’ve ever tried meditation). You might call this focused inattention. That’s when the magic happens, literally on automatic pilot.
I said at the start that I didn’t believe in miracles. That’s true. PK appears to work with the laws of physics, not above them. My biggest achievement was spinning a small piece of aluminium foil suspended on a point, beneath an upside-down glass bowl.iii That doesn’t sound impressive until you record the apparatus for seven days straight and observe that the foil definitely doesn’t move on its own, despite changes in light, temperature, airflow and electromagnetism.iv Furthermore, successful PK is sometimes accompanied by unusual physiological sensations in the body, confirming a direct causal connection between the intention of the person and the movement of the object.
Of course, I can’t convince you with an anecdote, and you’re naive if you simply believe a story without evidence. That’s why you should try this for yourself. It isn’t a talent that’s useful for much, except restoring a sense of wonder about the nature of reality and oneself. In the spiritual vacuum of this scientific age, that’s a treasure worth having.
ii Liber Null & Psychonaut (1987), Peter J. Carroll; The Psion’s Handbook (2004), Sean Connelly; The Satanic Bible (1969), Anton Szandor LaVey; Entangled Minds (2006), Dean Radin; Mental Radio (1930), Upton Sinclair.
About the author
I was born in 1972 in Northern Ireland and grew up during the Troubles. In spite of the tensions between the Protestant and Catholic communities (which occasionally erupted into murders and bombings), I felt that I had a good childhood, full of fun and creativity. The province’s tribalism never infected me in the slightest. Although fate branded me a Protestant by accident of birth, I always considered myself an outside observer of the madness.
As a child of the seventies and eighties, I was privileged to be present for the birth of the home computer, the synthesizer keyboard, and the portable camcorder – technologies that fuelled my creativity and became abiding passions. An interest in writing fiction also emerged in my mid-teens. Some of my creative accomplishments in later years include composing music for commercial computer games, writing and publishing two science fiction novels and a computer programming guidebook, co-producing micro-budget horror movies, teaching filmmaking and computer programming to young teens.
Christianity played a huge part in my life from age seventeen, but it was always a bad fit for my questioning nature. What promised peace of mind became a source of suffering and confusion, until I finally put it behind me in my mid-thirties, when I stumbled upon a more esoteric view of reality. I discovered that my natural intuitions about God, the Universe, and consciousness were drastically wrong, and this change in perspective had a profoundly life-enriching effect upon me.
The paradigm shift also provoked an interest in parapsychology and the occult. I had the unforgettable memory of bearing witness to a strange phenomenon in my early teens – something I had never fully been able to dismiss as mundane. My new philosophical outlook provided a foundation where extrasensory perception, psychokinesis, even magic, were no longer impossible or irrational. So I undertook my own experiments and achieved small but mind-blowingly real results. This served to reinforce the perspective that consciousness is a much more significant aspect of reality than commonly assumed.
For the best part of the past decade, I’ve been highly motivated to help others overcome their cultural conditioning and get in touch with a deeper view of life. To that end, I am an active vlogger on YouTube, where I discuss religion, spirituality, philosophy, and the occult.
– Darryl Sloan