By Deepak Chopra, MD and Jim Walsh
As founders and backers, we are announcing a major initiative to solve the epic problems that the world faces. Leading the way is global warming, with its eventual threat of mass extinction if worse comes to worst.
But climate change is linked to globalization, economic upheaval, overpopulation, and hostile tensions in the world's hot spots. The link, we believe, is consciousness, and the only way to solve our epic problems is to arrive at an understanding of consciousness that will benefit humanity.
Whether in the short run or the long run, the choice is between a deteriorating planet or a new paradigm.
The existing paradigm is scientific, as we all know. Objective science is the hallmark of society today. It has an unrivaled power base. Its description of reality has molded the modern world. Its worldview holds sway over universities, governments and the public at large. Everyone who participates in the consensus view of reality has been touched by it. But the role of the observer has puzzled and intrigued physics since the quantum revolution a century ago. We feel that this issue offers a crucial opening for expanding the role of science.
As a counterpoint to the science juggernaut, there is another view of reality supported by loosely aligned groups in religion, philosophy, and a minority in science. Their worldview is consciousness-based. Whatever their differences, supporters of consciousness place mind first in Nature and matter second. Such a worldview has no significant financial backing comparable to mainstream science. It has been excluded from experimentation in major universities and all but banished from respectability, depending on the rich heritage, East and West, of saints, sages, and seers who fall outside the scientific method.
A New Vision
The vision of The Consciousness Project is to close this gap by expanding science and at the same time submitting consciousness to experimental research. The opening for this vision has already appeared among a generation of researchers who regard the fusion of mind and body, consciousness and matter, physics and biology, as paramount. Objective science has failed to explain how consciousness arose from matter. The consciousness tradition has yet to explain how mind could create matter. Two worldviews depend on one of these explanations being true. Until we can show how molecules learned to think or how thoughts create molecules, the full truth about Nature and reality will remain hidden.
As to specifics, The Consciousness Project will focus on the most urgent questions that would lead to a final answer:
1. Does consciousness leave traces in the physical world? If so, can they be measured and replicated?
2. Are the brain processes associated with mind a cause or an effect?
3. Is there mind outside the brain?
4. Since all living organisms display biological autonomy - the ability to make decisions that are not predetermined by physics and chemistry - is this evidence of mind in all life forms?
5. Is the activity of consciousness on any level where it might exist - human, biological, physical, or cosmic - consistent with the proven findings of quantum physics?
6. Is the universe conscious?
7. Did human awareness evolve from systems throughout Nature that self-organize in an intelligent way?
The fact that these primary questions are being addressed after decades of neglect spurs the need for even more expanded research. The benefits to society could be incalculable. Through the objective approach, technologies have burgeoned to improve material life. With a parallel advance in observer-based science, a huge domain of consciousness may reveal abilities in self-healing, mental communication, the eradication of inner conflicts that lead to war, and new areas of inspiration and intellectual breakthroughs.
We recognize that consciousness, although the hallmark of human existence, has suffered from problems of acceptance and credibility in mainstream science (despite the original quantum pioneers who became convinced that consciousness must be included in any observational scheme - such figures as Max Planck, Erwin Schrödinger, and Wolfgang Pauli). Moreover, the consciousness worldview has no center, critical mass, or focus that enables people to connect with it beyond changeable intellectual and spiritual fads.
The responsibility of The Consciousness Project then, is to create that critical mass, which will become the necessary core for consciousness-based science. To do this we will organize a five- year project, in both basic and applied research, starting with a funding of $1 billion dollars. Of this initial money, half will be raised from investors, half through worldwide participation by institutions and individuals. The latter will include a global social network program to educate and inspire people about our efforts. Everything we fund will be transparently outlined. We want as many as possible to grasp the basic consciousness premise, the reasons for working on it, and the potential benefits to society. Since the Project will act as the funding institution for qualifying researchers worldwide, we have enlisted advisers and consultants to act as enterprise partners if and when we discover technologies that measurably improve people's lives.
The Consciousness Project aims to be open-minded but one-pointed in its focus. There are many competing definitions of consciousness, tracing their origins back thousands of years. East and West, each of these strands has something valuable to contribute. A modern definition of consciousness that all or most researchers can agree upon is highly desirable. Such a definition doesn't exist at present. It is hidden at the junction of visible matter and invisible mind. Now that science has turned its gaze, at long last, to this junction, we believe it will be the very crux of reality. The Consciousness Project is going where reality leads us - this has been the impetus that resulted in every great scientific discovery, past, present, and future.
We realize that vision does not turn into reality without action. Given the epic problems all of us face, action here must be global. Therefore, we intend to use social media and the Internet to form a web of like-minded people who urgently want to find solutions. Through a worldwide community we have dubbed Indra's Net, we invite the active participation of everyone with researchers and philanthropists in the lead but basing the entire project on individual needs as well.
The activities of The Consciousness Project will have five main thrusts.
1. We have divided the project into three areas: Theory, Evidence, and Benefits. By keeping these separate, we can move quickly on some fronts while others move more slowly. Theory is abundant already, and so is evidence, even if mainstream science lags in recognizing the fact. Benefits will capture the most public attention, because consciousness impacts health, well-being, relationships, and the entire social fabric. These are our all-important link to individuals and improving their quality of life.
2. The project will offer substantial prizes for advances in consciousness, eventually aiming to compete with the Nobel Prize. The prizes will attract worldwide attention, recognizing advances in the three areas of theory, evidence, and benefits.
3. Associating the project with major scientists and thinkers will attract attention - we are seeking leaders in any field who will lend their public support to the crucial role that consciousness plays in advancing global solutions, scientific and social. We envision a growing body of advisors and consultants who will assess the research projects we fund and who will keep the world abreast of optimistic change for the future.
4. For visibility that remains daily and constant, we will launch a Consciousness Project website whose slogan is "Cracking the Cosmic Code." It will encompass diverse elements: science news, a blog, interactive materials, and transparent financial information, all combined in one place. The website will be a clearing house for all avenues of consciousness research. It will also serve to advertise the prizes and to invite new proposals that the project can fund.
5. For quick visibility, our best funding option is to reward the most promising ongoing research. That way we don't have to wait 3-5 years with start-up studies. Those are important, too, so the project will follow the model honed in Silicon Valley for balancing pure research, start-up studies, and ongoing work. This is the core of our financial commitment. The Consciousness Project will provide guidance and venture research funding for scientists worldwide who are developing consciousness based products that could benefit everyday lives. The focus will be in three primary areas of development - well-being, communications, and intentional technology. We are not simply theorists but pragmatic managers looking for tangible results that are robust and reproducible. While we may take decades to refine the basic definition and theory of consciousness it is the useful products that come out of the next five years of The Consciousness Project that will be its legacy.
6. We feel that compassion, being a quality of consciousness, falls under the aims of the Project. Our support will go to select humanitarian efforts to raise the quality of life through raising the quality of consciousness. Creating a global network of humanitarian efforts and sharing the practices of "Love in Action" will improve education and health, but ultimately we want to bring economic and social justice for all.
7. We will support the urgent global campaign to solve climate change and reach the totally necessary goal of a sustainable planet.
8. Conflict resolution has been making painfully slow progress in recent decades. We will support new solutions based on consciousness rather than military or nationalist interests. Only a common humanity can be at peace. We encourage creative solutions to conflicts around the world, putting the principles of "Peace is the Way" into global action.
It is especially important for us as founders that The Consciousness Project be totally open and transparent. The main obstacle to solving global problems is the boundary that divides nations, societies, income levels, and so on. But consciousness is common to every human being. It is our shared birthright and our greatest source of pride. The project wants to operate without boundaries, which is why all financial transactions will be transparent, updated on a regular basis. Every participant and contributor will be able to see where funds are going.
The Consciousness Project is itself an outgrowth of consciousness. Rising awareness gave birth to the idea as people around the world clamor for two things: a better life and freedom from the deep anxiety over a planet in dire straits. We have faith in the possibility that a better life doesn't mean despoiling the environment. The two are compatible only if a new paradigm teaches people that they can be happy, prosperous, and successful while still engaging in a sustainable lifestyle. A time of despair can end, but only on the basis of consciousness. We've dedicated ourselves to this solution and invite you to join us in optimism and hope. Please submit your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Details of the Project and its vision for a new humanity will be released at a formal kick-off Press conference at the Sages and Scientists Symposium to be held from August 16-18, 2013 at La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, CA. We will send you a full press release at that time.
Deepak Chopra, MD, Founder and Chairman, The Chopra Foundation, Board of Directors, HESA Institute
Jim Walsh, Founder and Chairman of HESA Institute, Board of Directors, The Chopra Foundation