Do we have a soul? What is the Conscious Universe?

In this article, I want to ask the question: do we have a soul? Does the world itself have a soul? Is this what was meant when the ancients wrote about the living Universe?

‘Constantly regard the universe as one living being, having one substance and one soul; and observe how all things have reference to one perception, the perception of this one living being; and how all things act with one movement; and how all things are the cooperating causes of all things that exist; observe too the continuous spinning of the thread and the structure of the web.’

Marcus Aurelius (3rd century AD)

The Conscious Universe is what many an ancient philosopher, mystic, magus (and now the leading lights in quantum physics) has pontificated on at length. Intelligently, too – Plato called it the World Soul. Because it isn’t some woolly spiritual idea that just sounds ear-catching, or appropriately ‘esoteric’ and  mysterious. Let’s start with a quite flat definition, then: the Conscious Universe is the recognition that life all around us is ‘mind-like’, that the ultimate nature of Reality – is mental or even spiritual. This means, essentially, that it contains a soul. Whoa! I hear you say – a soul? Isn’t talk of souls rather regressive these days? Aren’t we back with medieval religious belief, or something? Well, what I’m describing here comes from a quite rational philosophical theory called Pan-Psychism, which Wikipedia defines as ‘the view that consciousness, mind or soul (psyche) is a universal and primordial feature of all things. Panpsychists see themselves as minds in a world of mind.’

With ‘all things’, Wikipedia also means even the physical world, in other words, rocks, cars, bridges, houses,  bananas etc. Now before your scepticism boils to the surface, I hasten to point out that Pan-Psychism does not assume that inanimate objects can think. It simply states that in all things there is a type of primitive ‘consciousness’ – at the very least a kind of self-organising principle that enables it to exist. This is because, at the level of the sub-atomic, ‘matter’ has become an energy field. Such ‘energy’ is also in constant motion which is probably why Einstein called matter ‘congealed electricity’. When it isn’t congealed (inside the atom) it’s constantly active. It’s doing something! You could even say it has a ‘purpose’, even if that purpose is simply to maintain its existence. French astronomer Camille Flammarion put it better when he wrote: ‘That which we call matter is only a form of motion. At the basis of all is force, dynamism, and universal mind, or spirit.’

So what have scientists actually said about this idea that the material Universe is mental in nature. Well, the biologist Sir Julian Huxley noted there is: ‘one world stuff, which reveals material or mental properties according to the point of view.’ This stuff is perceived in two different ways, i.e., mind or and matter – thus both are a kind of continuum. If this is so, Huxley said that ‘mind or something of the nature as mind must exist throughout the entire universe. This is, I believe, the truth.” 1 This is like Eddington’s famous saying. ‘the stuff of the World is Mind-Stuff.’

More recently, we have Richard Conn Henry, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University outlining exactly the same philosophy:

‘Physicists are being forced to admit that the universe is a “mental” construction. Pioneering physicist Sir James Jeans wrote: “The stream of knowledge is heading toward a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter, we ought rather hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.” Get over it, and accept the inarguable conclusion. The universe is immaterial-mental and spiritual.’ 2

The eminent biologist C. H . Waddington also asked,

‘Are we not forced to conclude that even in the simplest inanimate things there is something which belongs to the same realm of being as self-awareness? . . . Something must go on in the simplest inanimate things which can be described in the same language as would be used to describe our self-awareness.’3

Then there was W. E. Agar, who reminded us of what’s going on at the very heart of physical matter: ‘All experience is in its degree conscious. . . .We must ascribe consciousness to every living agent, such as a plant cell or bacterium, and even (if the continuity of nature is not to be broken) to an electron.’4


Thus, even the tiniest dimension of our Universe may possess some basic awareness. Of course, some of these statements seem outlandish in the extreme, and more conservative ‘prove it to me’ scientists (like Richard Dawkins) don’t like it one bit. It seems that when sceptics (over any kind of subject) get wind of an unpalatable idea, they just have to go on the attack. Check out this YouTube argument between spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra and zoologist Richard Dawkins.

Scroll forward to 14.07 and Deepak has just mentioned that biological organisms are purpose driven; by 14: 20, he’s moved on to human questions like whether or not the soul exists, and at 14:57 refers to the ‘organising intelligence’ which is a feature of the Conscious Universe. From 25:05 it is clear that Dawkins has become annoyed with such nonsense, though as a counter (at 29:08) Deepak mentions that even the eminent physicist Freeman Dyson had said that even atoms have sentience (awareness).

Dawkins – typically – replies (at 29:18) that he doubts Freeman Dyson ever said such a thing. Here is what Dyson actually did say:

‘I do not think our consciousness is just a passive epiphenomenon carried along by the chemical elements in our brains, but is an active agent forcing the molecular complexes to make choices between one quantum state and another. In other words, mind is already inherent in every electron [subatomic particle]’ 5

And so Deepak Chopra was right. Actually, Professor Dyson went on to say that human beings (as manifest Consciousness) are ‘little pieces of God’s apparatus’. In other words, the Supreme Mind (which is literally everywhere) works through us. Or – if you like – God is an underlying omnipresent ‘field’ – from which both Mind and Matter are created. (Dawkins would love that one, too, I’m sure.) Physics Professor David Bohm likewise considered the Nature of reality and the Universe – and I mean everything that we find in it – to consist of an ‘unbroken wholeness, in which consciousness is no longer to be fundamentally separated from matter.’6

In short, as the old mystics would say, everything is connected to everything else. The implications here are enormous – if Bohm is right, then we are living in a Conscious Universe. When we get right down to the atomic level (the smallest measurement of matter) he calls the particles a ‘projection of a ‘higher-dimensional’ reality’ in other words, some ‘other’ hidden transcendent domain, like the astral plane or Universal Mind. This is where modern physics resembles areas like Eastern mysticism, or even ‘the occult’.

Either way, it is truly mind-boggling. It means that we ourselves are a ‘projection’ of the Universal Mind, the World Soul. Like a hologram, even. Either way, it means that, far from living in a material world, Consciousness is all there is – everything (and I mean everything) is a manifestation of Mind. One of the great contributors to Quantum theory, Erwin Schrodinger, wrote: ‘Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.7 More recently, Professor Richard Conn Henry has said: ‘One benefit of switching humanity to a correct perception of the world is the resulting joy of discovering the mental nature of the Universe. We have no idea what this mental nature implies, but the great thing is it is true.’

Actually we do know what this implies:

* Our thinking, our very soul, is having an impact on the world right now.

* We are less limited by circumstance than we think

* We are more powerful than we give ourselves credit for

* Something ‘happens’ in Bohm’s ‘higher dimension’ when we have powerful emotions, whether sadness anger or joy – it causes things to change. And our lives change as a result.

1. Huxley, J.  The biologist looks at man, Fortune, December, 1942.

2. R.C. Henry, , “The Mental Universe”, NATURE, Vol. 436, July 2005.

3. Waddington, C., The Nature of Life, Allen and Unwin. 1961.

4. Agar, W., A Contribution to the Theory of the Living Organism, Melbourne University Press. 1943.

5. Dyson, Disturbing The Universe, Harper & Row, 1979.

6. Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, Ark.

7.  As quoted in The Observer (11 January 1931); also in Psychic Research (1931), Vol. 25, p. 91.

8. Henry, op cit.

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