It is a riddle we all know well: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
I admire the beauty of nature, but must remind myself, it is not nature’s inherent beauty that I am admiring any more than a deaf man can admire sound. It is sensory perception. It is cognitive processing. It is human consciousness.
There is no sound without an ear and brain to receive and process the vibrations. I see light, not because the form I observe is inherent to nature, but because the human eye and brain process certain frequencies of electromagnetic waves to “look” like what I see. A deaf man doesn’t hear. A blind man doesn’t see. Electromagnetic waves outside of the frequencies we hear and see cannot be observed manually. As Max Planck said, “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”
All of that is just to say: The “wonder of nature” is the wonder of consciousness.
To what extent has humanity’s increased understanding and dominance over our external material environment come at the expense of understanding and insight into the nature of our inner mental space?
As Max Planck reportedly said, “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.” Erwin Schrodinger expressed similar sentiments, “The world is given to me only once, not one existing and one perceived. Subject and object are only one.”
The scientific method has provided an excellent process for examining our surroundings as expressed in the physical universe. It has proved to be superb at exposing false theories. It allows us to whittle away falsehoods in the hopes of getting closer to truth regarding our physical surroundings. Smitten by this success and the technological advances that it has enabled, it seems mankind has focused increasingly on the material world which we inhabit. To many, it is all there is.
Is it possible that the world within our mind is as intricate and expansive as the physical world that surrounds us?
Is it possible that if humanity devoted as much time to the study of inner space as it does to the study and exploitation of external space, we would discover just as many truths about the nature of reality – perhaps truths of a very different kind?
Does the speed of discovery and tempo of modern (Western) life actively discourage inner investigation?
Is it appropriate than mankind should focus increasingly on the material world and forego what can be discovered and experienced inside his/her own mind?
Is this evolutionary “progress” revealing itself?
If not, what is the cost of this partiality?