Mechanism vs Meaning

Recently I listened to an interview with the very intriguing title: Is Consciousness Energy?

The title made me really curious, as I have been wondering about that for a long time now.

It is an interview of Dean Radin with Christian de Quincey, whose final conclusion is that consciousness is not the same as energy. But it is really very subtle because although they are not the same, they are on the other hand inseparable.

My overall feeling was that the conclusions are more or less the same as those of David Bohm. What he meant when he talked about the mindlike quality of an electron, and the response of energy to information.

I transcribed the whole interview, but here in this post, I want to distill some parts that I think are an extension of what David Bohm was talking about. De Quincey goes into great detail about the subtle differences and similarities between consciousness and energy.

Here he starts by what in the world around us has some kind of consciousness and what does not. And where exactly lies the difference. He uses the word consciousness on many levels, from very basic, as he says molecular, to very high, what he calls, Buddha consciousness.

Cellular and molecular consciousness

[audio:|titles=Cellular and molecular consciousness ]
He answers the question of a guest, who asks if he thinks that plants and rocks have consciousness.

Yes, I would say that a plant has consciousness and certainly the cells of the plant have cellular consciousness. I would say that the rock as a rock does not have rock consciousness, but that the particles, the molecules within the rock do have their own molecular consciousness. So there is some consciousness at work within the rock, but the rock as a whole is not a unity, is not an individual in the way an organism like an animal or a plant is an individual. And the rock is .. it is an aggregate of parts that don’t have the internal relatedness that I talked about earlier. So there is no unified consciousness that we call rock consciousness. And I would say that the same applies to computers and thermostats and .. and at this state .. probably the internet as well .. they don’t have that degree of internal relatedness.

So the internal relatedness of the particles is important. Are they static (rock) or selforganizing (plant).

Sharing meaning is not the same as exchanging energy

[audio:|titles=Sharing meaning is not the same as exchanging energy]
Here the question was if he thinks that the internet can be seen as conscious.

I am open to that possibility but I am inclined that a part of me that thinks that will not happen because there is something to do with the relationship between the components that involves what philosophers call internal relatedness. That they are not just related to physical inactions but there is a sharing of meaning involved, there is an internal relatedness. And that is one of, to me, fundamental differences between the experiencing living organism and a machine is that the parts that make up our internally related, that they are sharing meaning between each other. Not just exchanging energy. Which kind of brings us back to the initial topic of our talk, is consciousness .. to make a distinction between those two. I would say that machines operate through mechanisms, conscious beings operate by sharing of meaning. Sharing of meaning is not the same as exchanging energy.

So there is a mechanical sharing and a sharing of meaning. This also touches on what David Bohm talked about with creativity, dialogue and active information.

Different language for energy and for consciousness

[audio:|titles=Different language for energy and for consciousness]
The following is very important, but at the same time very difficult to grasp. In order to understand it, it has to be separated, but that is at the same time the problem because it is so interconnected.

Dean Radin: Could you elaborate on that, because the idea of, especially the idea of exchanging energy, there are ways from physics we can think of exchanging energy through forces, but there is also a related way which is simply the transmission of information. A transmission of information occurs through patterning of energy, a modulation of energy so that even information devolves in a sense down energy as well. So what is the, the question of our seminar, is consciousness energy.

Christian de Quincey: No, I would say that consciousness is not energy. However consciousness and energy always get together. And energy is like a technical way of talking about embodiment. Bodies are made of energy. And in my view consciousness and embodiment, consciousness and energy always go together. You never have one without the other. So they .. unity. But they are not identical. Their unity does not equal identity. So consciousness is non located, it is non physical, energy is located and it is physical. Those are fundamental distinctions between consciousness and energy.

Energy is something that moves through space, consciousness doesn’t exist in space. There is a very different kind of existence .. energy that exists in space. That’s really the fundamental distinction that .. and .. to use the language of energy of vibrations and frequencies and waves and fields to talk about consciousness, I am proposing is using inappropriate language .. energy talk to something that is not energy which is consciousness.

So we need to, I am proposing that we need to catch ourselves .. what I call the physics .. using energy talk when we want to discuss consciousness .. using terms like fields and vibrations or mechanisms, waves, that we use the already very rich language which we have by discussing mind and consciousness, words such as tension, attention, purpose, meaning, desire, experience, feeling, awareness and on and on. We already have a very, very rich vocabulary for discussing consciousness. And non of those terms can be reduced to our .. energy talk, like waves or fields or vibrations.

So basically requesting or proposing that we catch ourselves when we use energy talk, when talking about consciousness, and instead we use our very rich language we already have, talking about consciousness. I think I might have drifted off a little bit from the question about the consciousness .. energy but those are .. considerations that I have .. consciousness is not a form of energy, energy that .. exists in space and consciousness is something that doesn’t .. the bottom line.

So consciousness is non-local, non-physical and does not travel through space. As he says somewhere else in the interview, it can only be grasped by another conscious being.

Non-dual dualism

[audio:|titles=Non-dual dualism]
Here he uses the concept non-dual dualism, which I think explains well what he means to say.

Dean Radin: Did I hear you right .. saying that they are related?

Christian de Quincey: Yes.

Dean Radin: So if they are related and they are so different from each other, it sounds like dualism.

Christian de Quincey: It does sound like dualism, except dualism .. basically is the idea that two different and separable kinds of reality exist, but what I am proposing is that .. an non dual dualism .. dual aspects .. in philosophy that there is definitely a distinction .. fundamental distinction to be made between consciousness and energy. However, having that distinction is not saying they are separate. So consciousness and energy .. always go together, they form a unity. But they are not the same.

This is also what I understood from David Bohm, who talks about the mind-like quality of the electron in part 3 of this interview.

Mechanism vs meaning

Image: source


  1. Hi Annemieke,
    I found your websites on my travels about Homeopathy which I have been experimenting with as they relate to astrology and chakras. This post on non-dual dualism brings to mind Jungian Analyst Marion Woodman’s phrase “Holding The Tension of Opposites” for I am a single body that holds the capacity for energy and consciousness. And, ‘sharing meaning is not the same as sharing energy … I have been attempting to find the words to explain that for years. Thank you for ‘The Great Work’ you are doing.

    1. Hi Lee, so glad you found my blog. I love the phrase ‘holding the tension of opposites’.

      Schiller also talks about that, in his Letters on Aesthetic education. He brings in the ‘instinct of play’ to deal with the tension of the opposites of the ‘sensuous instinct’ and the ‘formal instinct’.

      I am trying for long now, to find out if those are the essential opposites. Can all opposites be brought back to those? But somehow I have the feeling that the opposite (if it is an opposition, not sure) of energy and consciousness is different. I still can not get my head around that.

  2. Hi Annemieke
    Thanks for this discussion. I came across this after exploring the idea of energy as the ultimate ground of existence, and coming to a tentative conclusion that consciousness is perhaps the interconnectedness of that energy.
    Energy on its own appears to be random – it is the capacity to do work, but it essentially lacks motivation to form any substance. This might be why it has so much potential to destroy. But consciousness, perceived on a subatomic level as a change in vibration or wave direction that denotes awareness, recognition of or communication with another energy vibration or wave, seems to be what brings about substance, form, organisation and organism in the energy of the universe.
    I read somewhere that the universe is a dance of energy. Music, after all, is essentially vibration of the ear drum in response to vibration of air molecules in response to vibration of wood, string, membrane or metal…

  3. I’m a retired programmer, a fan of robotic science fiction.

    My personal theory is that consciousness is not physical, it is the process that brains run.

    If God extends my conscious existence past my physical death, it would have to be be reinstalling my software on some other platform.

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