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See below for my paper "Scientific definition for consciousness as observerless limitless beingness"

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Observerless awareness will realize pure limitless beingness

Scientific definition for consciousness as observerless limitless beingness

Observerless limitless beingness as a scientific definition for consciousness

by Joel Weddington (originally completed on 2-22-15, edited 7-2015. Presented as a PPT in a 20 minute overview at Science and Nonduality in Orvieta, Italy on 5/26/15. Poster presentation scheduked at SAND 15 in California on 10/23/15. This paper and the poster may be found at my website I can be contacted via the site.)


A concept of observerless limitless beingness derived from a thought experiment can be shown to have usefulness as a definition for consciousness, and facilitate current investigations that are moving towards an understanding of the universe as we experience it.


Consciousness is the subject of philosophical discussions over millennia as well as an increasing number of scientific investigations. However, a working definition for consciousness that could bridge a divide in the way scientific, philosophical, and nondual theorists think is elusive. A thought experiment is introduced to define consciousness and conceptualize it in a way that may be scientifically useful. By intentionally producing a moment of awareness without cognition of objects or observer, the presence of beingness without definable characteristics can be determined, and conceptualized as “observerless limitless beingness” (OLB). This is similar to words used in a spiritual or nondual context such as absolute reality, totality, the universe, and primordial or undifferentiated consciousness. Based on the premise that thousands of observers over millennia have reported similarly on the same realization of beingness, there is a basis to establish inter-observer reliability that can be externally validated and be determined as useful for doing scientific work. Defining consciousness as OLB may contribute to investigations in several ways: 1. Provides a structural definition of  consciousness that is all-inclusive. 2. Reduces ambiguity with words such as awareness, mind, and intelligence by defining them as properties or functions of consciousness. 3. Does not contradict scientific investigations currently underway in cosmology, quantum physics, and neuroscience. 4. Provides an understanding of consciousness that can conform to natural laws of entropy, which has many scientific advantages. 5. By defining it in a structural sense, consciousness should become amenable to mathematical expression.


Our cognitive function is typically focused on the task at hand, allowing us to engage in daily activities and pursue our goals in life.  Mental activity not focused on immediate tasks or sensory input is said to be the mind wandering. Neuroscientists[1] [2] have found this is associated with increased activity in areas of the brain they have termed the Default Mode Network or DMN.[3] Some say that our brains need more of this downtime[4] while others relate that too much mind wandering is associated with unhappiness.[5]

There is another mode of awareness that has been less amenable to scientific explanation (e.g. search keyword “empty mind”), and that is when the consciously aware mind’s thought activity completely stops, or goes “blank” while we are alert and awake. This is the same awareness described by some spiritual practitioners and teachers of meditation as silent or empty mind,[6] and has been the focus of numerous disciplines over millennia.

However in social situations a blank mind can cause anxiety,[7] and in the elderly it can cause a crisis and be labelled as confusion or even delirium.[8] Yet, we can recall times when we looked off into space or our mind naturally “went blank” for no apparent reason, and experienced a gap in awareness when there was no sense of time or physicality. It can be reasoned that even though we have a lapse of any thought during those moments, something in our awareness remains that is unlike the state of dreamless sleep or unconsciousness.

A method is introduced in this paper that will reflect on the mind’s capacity to experience a state of awareness that is absent the observer, devoid of any reference points or definable characteristics, and yet is occupied by a sense of “beingness” or presence as opposed to a feeling of void, or “nothingness.” This is unlike other distinctions that have been made to address the mind’s activity such as inner self-talk,[9] various forms of “pristine” inner experience,[10] sensory awareness,[11] and mindfulness[12]. This experiment may be done individually or verbally guided, and takes about 3 minutes, although the time can be extended as needed, and as with any mental exercise results are improved with repetition:

  1. Remove the observer from the experiment. With intent, instruct the mind to be silent at the end of the breath.[13] I call this “observerless awareness.” This brief period of inner silence is sufficient to experience the absence of the duality of thought and observer.[14] [15] All of experience is absent to you the experimenter, during those moments.[16] This can be like looking into a mirror that has no reflection, or like trying to recall a memory of an event that happened in the absence of space, time, thought, or sensation.[17] Repeat several times.
  2. Realize the presence of beingness. Reflect further on this moment of mental silence without an observer. The presence of something that is not subject or object may be intuitively sensed or felt.[18] If it is not, the concept of beingness[19] [20] [21] without any observer can be constructed sufficient for the success of the experiment.
  3. Determine that there are no characteristics for this beingness. Without you the observer, this presence or beingness cannot be described, categorized, or limited[22] by any thoughts or words, therefore it will be said to be limitless.[23]
  4. Conceptualize “observerless limitless beingness” as a special case of consciousness. The concept of consciousness as observerless limitless beingness, or C-OLB[24] can be reinforced by repeating the thought experiment and referring to work by others who have described the same thing in various words.[25] with or without a direct experience of inner silence and realization of observerless beingness.
  5. Establish the concept of C-OLB as scientifically useful. There is potential scientific application when reliability and validity are established. Inter-observer reliability exists that this concept has been realized by numerous observers over millennia,[26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] and the same state of awareness is realized and taught by modern nondual thinkers. The experimenter can confirm intra-rater reliability based on repeatability, that is the same experience is arrived at every time. A problem with empirical evidence (internal validity) arises as removal of the observer precludes a physical experiment so does not submit to sample groups or experimental design. However, external validation can be made by numerous observers agreeing that the correctly performed thought experiment always results in the same experience. This fits ideas of modern philosophers such as William James and radical empiricism, who said that the experience of something is as real as the thing itself.


The method of breathing to realize a moment of observerless awareness is further mention. End notes in step 1 give references to teachings that demonstrate this discipline. However, teachers also describe the silent realization of pure beingness as natural, simple, and always available. Two things are important to know for the participant of this thought experiment. One, various mental and physical effects may be encountered, which have been published and presented at length elsewhere.[32] These include bliss or joy, which although not unwelcome can serve as a distraction for the usefulness of the experiment,[33] and “ur-anxiety,” which is a primal fear arising from an experience of groundlessness.[34] Second, it must be said that forming a concept of C-OLB is not the same thing as becoming spiritually awakened or “Enlightened,” which is a profound and complex transformational state.[35] However, OLB is the same realization that awakened people have had as aprt of attaining or discovering that state, and can be confirmed by asking them.

Applying this thought experiment to conceptualize observerless limitless beingness as a construct that is useful for scientific investigation is the first goal of this paper. The rest is to support that proposition through a survey of selected scientific theories and paradigms. Nondual thinkers should have no problem with the concept of C-OLB, which is a concept derived from widely recognized teachings of nondual thinkers, sages, and mystics.

AFTER NOTE (July 2015): “Observerless awareness” is a direct form of human experience that is one of five that I will present in a poster exhibit at SAND 15 in October 2015. (on It is the awareness of consciousness as the essential or “substrate reality” of all beingness, and the “ultimate enlightenment.” This allows the structural of consciousness to be described in five phases,(like water which exists in the 3 phases: water, ice, liquid, and vapor). These are: observerless beingness, infinite potential, first observer, present totality, human being. Human being is a distinct phase because all phases are direct human experience, and therefore dependent on consciousness existing as human.



This is a very brief oversight on how consciousness has been defined by spiritual thinkers over the ages. The oldest writings still in use are probably the Hindu Vedas,[36] which proclaim “there is only one truth, only men describe it in different ways.” The Vedas, as “knowledge”,[37] proclaim consciousness (satcitananda) to be the eternal substrate reality at the foundation of everything that exists in the observable manifest world. (It should be noted here that consciousness is a western word, and although has been applied to the definition of an eastern concept, error and ambiguity are introduced. This is addressed later in more detail.)

Teachers and writers since the ancient Vedic times have continued to address this one truth through various teachings about consciousness, unity, and nonduality. Vedanta philosophy presented later in the Upanishads, presents a vision of an interconnected universe with a single, unifying principle behind the apparent diversity in the cosmos, any articulation of which is called Brahman.[38] The concept of Brahman, which is consciousness, is said to be “smaller than the smallest and greater than the greatest.” It is said that everything is made of the same divine source. The process by which the eternal Oneness of pure consciousness knows itself has been described as the basic process that structures the Veda.[39] The Vedas cover many topics in addition to non-duality, and are worthy of further study elsewhere.[40] Current interpretations of Vedic teachings can be inconsistent and contradictory. Accurate representation of Vedic philosophy here is credited to an established member of nondual and psychotherapy communities who published a PhD thesis on the subject in 2013.[41]

Buddha, in the 5th century BCE described the Five Skandas [42] that comprise the mind: volition, form, sensation, conceptualization, and consciousness as together forming a sense of self. Avalokite?vara Bodhisattva[43] contemplated the Skandas deeply and realized dependent causation and the realization there is no self or that the self is an illusion, in the Heart Sutra.[44] [45] Buddha teaches in the Lankavatara Sutra, that “when an advanced Yogi removes various discriminations from his mind and is at rest, the waves of consciousness are no more stirred in the Mind-ocean.” [46] Buddhist thinking on philosophy and psychology was highly developed by the Yogacara school, also known as the “consciousness-only” school,[47] and included extensive work on the unconscious.[48]

The Baghavad Gita,[49] another text belonging to the canon of Advaita Vedanta teachings, was authored between the 2nd and 5th century BCE. This text states, “I place the seed of Consciousness from which all beings are born” and “The individual soul…is the integral part of the universal Spirit, or consciousness.” It goes on to describe the "I" consciousness as ego.

The Holy Bible is does not addresses philosophical questions about consciousness,[50] although there are four occurrences of the word in the text.[51] Romans 1:19 states “what may be known about Him is plain to their inmost consciousness,” and in Romans 8:15 “You have not for the second time acquired the consciousness of being.” Modern Christian teachings may refer to consciousness of God or of a divine presence that can be cultivated or deepened with effort.[52] A verse used to support this teaching is “O taste and see that the Lord is good." Those who have tasted God comprehend the meaning of this expression better than they can tell it. [53] There are verses in the Bible that directly reflect the concept of unity or oneness.[54] [55] Christ consciousness is the state of awareness of our true nature or of our higher self. It is not a biblical term but is said to have been manifested in the teachings of Jesus.[56] Higher consciousness of a transcendental reality or God is a subject of contemporary popular spirituality.[57]

Advaita,[58] ( Sanskrit: “Nondualism”), an influential school of Vedanta, came to the west through 20th century teachers such as Ramana Maharshi[59] who said “Existence or Consciousness is the only reality. Consciousness is the screen on which all the pictures come and go,”[60] and Nisargadatta Maharaj[61] [62] who said “In pure being consciousness arises; in consciousness the world appears and disappears.” (Again we need to acknowledge that consciousness is not an eastern word, and these teachers were using ancient Sanskrit terms that describe profound concepts not necessarily shared by those who translated their work).

Mystical schools such as the Rosicrucians (AMORC)[63] which is originally based on ancient Egyptian teachings, seeks to study and practice the metaphysical laws governing the universe, and recognizes the final state of spiritual attainment as Cosmic Consciousness.[64]

Contemporary teachers include Adyashanti who states “True meditation is abidance as primordial consciousness, and appears in consciousness spontaneously when awareness is not fixated on objects of perception.”[65] He seems to refer to the ultimate truth when he said “nonduality is beyond unity.” [66] Gangaji recognizes spacious consciousness to be already free, regardless of any thought. Discovering that by stopping thinking for only a moment is to discover yourself independent of any thought of yourself.[67]



Some writers are representing their work in ways that appear to be connecting nondual philosophies (especially Vedanta) with quantum mechanics or neuroscience. Maharishi Vedic Science describes itself as the science and technology of consciousness, with its source in the ancient Vedic tradition of India. In this school “Vedic” means knowledge of the field of pure intelligence that is the source of all the diverse fields of knowledge.[68] 

Tewari describes the Veda itself as existing in the unmanifest field of unbounded pure consciousness called param vyoman, a universal silent field of consciousness that is on a scale smaller than the smallest quark and lepton. It is the field of consciousness in its least excited state. Everything in nature, all particles of matter and force are excited states of this one all-pervading field.[69] AFTER NOTE July 2015: param vyoman described as consciousness in an unexcited state makes a good metaphor for the phase of consciousness I am calling observerless beingness, and the idea of excited states of a universal field fit with the “infinite potential” phase, which also may correlate with the idea of a unified field.

In “Quantum Physics and Vedic Unified Consciousness,” Gopalan states physicists and cosmologists are referring to the divine source in Vedanta when they describe the Unified Field and that in a sense, Brahman and the Unified Field of physics appear to be synonymous.[70] He describes the universe as contained holographically in each of its parts, unifying matter, energy and consciousness by systems, subsystems and sub, sub, systems at macro and at micro levels through nonlocal, local, vacuum energy, strings and other entities yet to be understood or to be established. Gopalan gives much credit to Dr Amit Goswami, stating he is endowed with a Rishis insight, and that he predicted that quantum physicists, neuroscientists, psychologists and mystics would evolve to the point where a paradigm shift is happening.

Dr. Goswami is a Theoretical Quantum Physicist who ventured into the spiritual to interpret findings of curious experiments and validate the existence of a spiritual dimension of life. He calls his new paradigm “science within consciousness” and has written popular books based on his research on quantum physics and consciousness. In “The Visionary Window,” he is said to demonstrate how science and spirituality could be integrated.[71] Goswami[72] is convinced that the universe, in order to exist, requires a conscious sentient being to be aware of it. In an interview about his book “The Self-Aware Universe, he is quoted: “The entire physical universe only existed in a realm of countless evolving possibilities until at one point, the possibility of a conscious, sentient being arose and that, at that point, instantaneously, the entire known universe came into being, including the fifteen billion years of history leading up to that point.”  He says that this is what quantum physics demands, and in fact in quantum physics this is called "delayed choice." He adds to this the concept of "self-reference." In his new way of looking, the universe remained in possibility until there was self-referential quantum measurement. An observer's looking is essential in order to manifest possibility into actuality, and so only when the observer looks, only then does the entire thing become manifest—including time. So all of past time, in that respect, becomes manifest right at that moment when the first sentient being looks.  [73] AFTERNOTE July 2015: the universe in a state of possibility is analogous to infinite potential, and the idea that a conscious, sentient being arose and the universe came into being fits the phases of consciousness of first observer then becoming multiple observer/objects to form the present totality that we see as the observed universe. What may give additional clarity, and is not recognized by these thinkers,  is to recognize observerless awareness as giving us the ability to differentiate consciousness in a way that improves our ability to communicate about it.

The interviewer offers that “we are left with serious reservations as to whether Goswami's approach will ultimately lead to the kind of transformation he hopes for. Thinkers such as Huston Smith and E. F. Schumacher have pointed to what they feel is an arrogance, or naiveté, on the part of scientists who believe they can expand the reach of their discipline to explain the spiritual dimension of life. They suggest that the very attempt to scientifically validate the spiritual is itself a product of the same materialistic impulses it intends to uproot and, because of this, is ultimately only capable of reducing spirit, God and the transcendent to mere objects of scientific fascination. Is science capable of proving the reality of the transcendent dimension of life? Or would science better serve the spiritual potential of the human race by acknowledging the inherent limits of its domain? [74] (Author note: Establishing inter-observer reliability for C(olb) validates the spiritual. Reduces the spiritual to a repeated experience…no arrogance or naiveté, but a direct reproducible thought experiment.)



It is we as observers and scientists who ultimately decide what is worth a hypothesis, a theory, a theorem, or a law. In this paper what is being offered is a definition from direct human experience, not a theory. It is noted that people have a difficult time agreeing on what is their own experience, but shouldn’t we agree if the same thing is arrived at repeatedly by many people over millennia? By validating C-OLB as a definition, another tool in making progress towards a theory of consciousness that can explain the mysteries of the universe can be facilitated. Should the definition turn out to be inadequate, then it offers a step in the direction of further clarification and discovery.  Because it is important, concepts will be repeated here to emphasize the utility C-OLB may have in doing scientific work. Validity and reliability are key elements of the scientific method.[75] [76] Reliability for OLB as a useful concept is established in three ways. First, the work of nondual teachers shows they have performed the same experiment of reflecting on a silent mind state, and obtained the same results that are described by the term OLB. This has been done thousands of times throughout human history, is continuously repeated by living teachers, and demonstrates inter-observer reliability. Second, intra-observer reliability can be supported by noting that any one teacher has realized and taught the same thing described as OLB over many years or a lifetime. Their deepest realization or teaching doesn’t change, although the words used to describe it may. Third, intra-observer reliability for the observer, the reader of this paper, can be directly established by repeating the thought experiment.



This section may be skipped, as it introduces ideas about a model for consciousness that expand beyond the scope of this paper, which is to promote a scientific definition of consciousness. The CM4C is in further development, but will be presented at the poster exhibit of SAND 15 in San Jose, California, October 2015.

In this model OLB is the common substance of four phases of consciousness that can be experienced directly through human awareness. OLB itself is experienced through observerless awareness, as described in the thought experiment. The four phases and their corresponding types of awareness are Infinite Potential/infinite awareness, First Observer/unitive awareness, Present Totality/perceptual awareness, and Human Being/human or self awareness. These phases of consciousness are anologous to the phases of water as ice, liquid, and vapor,  which have in common the molecular substance, H2O.  The analogy also holds even better for matter, which exists in 4 phases – solid, liquid, gas, and plasma, because like consciousness, we are still looking for the common substance of matter, and going beyond the standard model for the atom to look at string theory and unified field theories. Questions arise at this point, and emphasize the need for further development and collaboration. Could the common substance for matter be OLB? That would imply that the fundamental nature of matter is the same as the nature of consciousness, which is already a conclusion by some who are working in areas on nonduality and science (referenced earlier). Stretching even further, could OLB be dark matter? Dark energy?

From a nondual perspective, OLB as the common substance of consciousness is the same as the ground of being in some spiritual teachings, or the eternal substrate reality in Vedanta. From a science perspective we could make up a new word for OLB, or just keep it as OLB, but that wouldn’t solve the problem of consciousness as a word in need of a definition. The problem in science, which also refers to the gap in understanding between science and nonduality, is that observerless awareness is not yet recognized as a direct human experience or as an empirical method of investigation, although it can be said that a major purpose of this paper is to change that.

Referring to the Cosmological Model for Consciousness (CM4C), observerless limitless beingness is not a final definition for consciousness. In the section above “Correlations between nondual and scientific descriptions of consciousness,” references were made to the universe as a field of consciousness in an excited state, a realm of evolving possibilities, or as the Unified Field. This is very much like that described by the Rishi Scientists, and Quantum Physicist John Hagelin when he describes the Unified Field[77] .This is where theoretical physicists and nondual thinkers seem to agree, although admittedly it is currently beyond what is generally accepted as scientific. However, it is getting a lot of attention, and it fits what I am calling Infinite Potential as one of four phases of consciousness. These thinkers (e.g. Goswami) describe that a conscious, sentient being arose and instantaneously, the entire known universe came into being. Interestingly, they don’t make the correlation between the well-accepted physics of the early universe as a hot, dense, and smooth object. That correlation is made in the CM4C, and this “sentient being” is called the “First Observer” to recognize intrinsic properties of intelligence and awareness. This may appeal to scientists as we can avoid speculations about sentience, God, and  Brahman, and stay close to natural explanations using familiar concepts. We may not know what intelligence or awareness are, but we know them to exist from our own experience.

The early universe conceived in the CM4C as the “first observer-object” correlates with the current scientific theory of the early universe. This early hot, dense, and smooth universe undergoes expansion according to the inflation theory to become what CM4C calls the Present Totality. This is a term from nondual teachings that simply means all of the universe that we perceive through our senses, including with the aid of scientific instruments. The final phase of consciousness is the human being, which is a special form of consciousness as existing as a self-aware observer and aware of its place in the universe. Each human being reflects shared properties that were present in the early universe/first observer prior to the Big Bang (not the Big Bang from a singularity, which has essentially been proven to be incorrect.[78])

 Briefly summarizing the four phases of consciousness in the CM4C: Infinite potential (the field of infinite possibilities, unified field, or activated beingness), the first observer (early dense, hot, smooth universe), present totality (the observed and measurable universe around us), and the human being, are all phases in transition with each other, with OLB as the common substance (like H20 is to water). We want to discover this common substance and determine if it is something like dark matter, or if it is simply at the end of our ability to cognize and do sufficient experimentation and data gathering.

This model can also address consciousness on a process level, that is how it does what it does, and this leads to a nomenclature using the words awareness, intelligence, and mind. These are defined later in this paper. This allows going from the multi-purpose but poorly understood word “consciousness” to a structural definition with definable characteristics. There doesn’t seem to be a way to avoid this, as even if science discovers the true unifying principle of the universe it won’t explain how it appears in such great diversity, or how we come to know what we know. Words like awareness and mind have resisted scientific application, but by using them as properties or functions assigned to a definition of consciousness that is structural, we should be able to overcome this failure.

Additional notes and after-notes:

OLB in terms of physics may be equivalent to dark energy which comprises about 70% of the energy in the universe[79] and is causing the acceleration of the universe. Conjecturing further, the expansive property of dark energy can be synonymous with the “will” or desire of consciousness to experience and know itself[80], a widely held realization among nondual teachers.[81] The 2nd law of thermodynamics applied to information entropy, explains there is increasing information in the universe.[82]  The convergence of scientific ideas, and nondual thinking can be seen here, making it easy to digress and follow multiple paths of exploration. The modern Big Bang Theory[83] starts with a burst of inflation that creates a large expanding universe, and the end of inflation which allows for the creation of the heat of the Hot Big Bang. With an activated property of intelligence, this is said to be the observer, which forms the first duality of observation with the space around it. With activation of awareness comes the reflection of a self. Invoking the natural laws of entropy takes care of the rest of creation that occurs as a result of the Big Bang, because having only one observer, the entire universe, creates a very high state of energy disequilibrium that would have a massive potential gradient between it and surrounding space. The 2nd law of thermodynamics, that order or energy disequilibrium moves toward randomness or thermal equilibrium, applies to the energy and matter of the universe but as C-OLB, also to consciousness. Consciousness as the first object-observer splits or transforms into manyness, each with aspects of awareness and intelligence, each spreading out to find eventual equilibrium.

With latent properties of awareness, intelligence, the first object arising is initially the only object, so it has all of the intelligence of the universe, forms the first duality in the universe, has entropy = 1 because there is only 1 possible arrangement (Boltzman’s use of entropy)[84] and is consistent with the pre-big bang universe as hot, dense and smooth. It fits spiritual concepts as unity, Brahman. Through application  of the 2nd law of thermodynamics (and in this cosmological model through the properties of awareness and intelligence), the first object becomes many objects, as explained by Big Bang-inflation theories.

The diversity seen in the ensuing universe might be seen to follow Maximum Entropy Production. This explains local observation of decreasing entropy, such as the subsequent origin of life and the evolution of species through processes like natural selection and emergism (these ideas need further development). Throughout the evolution of the universe the first law is observed, which can be applied to consciousness as that which is conserved by it’s nature as understood by the 5 phases.  Because it has intelligence, the first object is also the first observer. Subsequent transition of Consciousness from a singularity of oneness into manyness results in diverse observer-objects each with different ratios of properties based on their size and complexity. While overall entropy increases, MEP explains how hierarchically individual objects can rapidly evolve increasing complexity with more order (lower entropy), and this explains the evolution of life as we know it and the current manifestation of the universe we can think of as the Present Totality C-PT which still has a long way to go to reach equilibrium.  These observations do not contradict many current ideas but by offering a specific working definition of consciousness may help them to explain how consciousness works of fundamental levels. The final phase of consciousness, after observerless beingness, infinite potential, the first observer, and present totality, is the human being. We should recognize ourselves as a distinct phase of beingness because we manifest all of the properties inherent in the first observer, and go beyond it by our ability to self-reflect and individuate our awareness as “self” and “other-selves.”



Some of these are still in development; others have been used widely in this paper. Some terms will be better explained and applied in the Cosmological Model for Consciousness. Once we agree to define consciousness, in this paper on a structural basis, C-OLB as a concept offers a starting point for investigating it’s processes - how consciousness works. The following definitions support the text of this paper. Definitions that were established elsewhere are referenced. (Note: we can use other words, or we can decide consciousness should be a process and not a structure. That may cause more problems than it solves however, and increase the explanatory gap between nonduality and science, unless a clear solution is offered).

Awareness:  a latent property of C-OLB that when activated caused a first object to manifest from C-OLB. With the property of awareness then active, the object made the first observation, i.e. “self and non-self,” and thus became the first observer, which can also be said to form the first duality.  Transition or “splitting” (an imprecise word) into manyness led to many self-aware observer-objects, accounting for the eventual evolution of sentient or sapient beings such as humans, in the universe. Referring to ourselves as individuals having awareness rather than consciousness becomes a more useful way of describing how we experience things. It is this special property of consciousness that allows us to develop a sense of self.

Consciousness: popular definitions describe it variably in a Google search.[85] Another extensive definition on Wikipedia demonstrates some controversies and contradictions in defining the word.[86] The word consciousness is used in various and unclear ways according to the context. It has also been used in a way analogous to OLB as presented in this paper, for example to describe the universe, an all-inclusive totality, or as sense of undifferentiated consciousness. Using OLB as a special definition of consciousness promotes defining it in various iterations that are potentially useful in mathematical expression.

C-OLB: Consciousness as observerless limitless beingness is the fundamental definition, arrived at by a thought experiment that removes the observer to realize an undefinable presence or beingness that is the same as has been described historically and currently by nondual teachers. It is shown elsewhere in this paper that it can submit to reliability and validity determination.

C-PT: Consciousness as the present totality, which is the entire universe as we currently experience it. The question that will help drive research is how does consciousness go from C-OLB to C-PT?

C-U: Consciousness as potential, (or universal) analogous to the total potential that obeys the first law of thermodynamics. It remains to be worked out whether this is a closed system restricted to our own universe or encompasses any and all universes.

C-S (where S is entropy): An inspiring correlation seen between C-OLB and cosmological and quantum theories is the application of natural laws of entropy to explain how consciousness behaves. For example C-OLB if at zero entropy going to the first object with entropy = 1, logarithmically increases as the number of possible arrangements of new objects occur from the transition of oneness to manyness. Application of the principle of Maximum Entropy Production as a corollary of the 2nd law (if this is currently in vogue) can explain the manifestation of consciousness to form life itself. This opens up new areas of investigation. These ideas do not contradict Vedanta philosophy, particle physics, cosmology, or neuroscience.

C-c: Represents “little consciousness” that is the consciousness of an individual observer or object, which will vary depending on physical properties of size, complexity, mass, energy, as well as on consciousness properties of mind, awareness and intelligence. With this definition, the enormous range of complexity among beings can be appreciated and potentially calculated.

Cosmology: the early universe as hot, dense, and smooth, and/or as a singularity, may be synonymous with the first observer that can be seen in contemplations of C-OLB. The early universe can then be hypothesized as having universal intelligence, awareness, and other properties that continue as individual properties of all objects produced by the BB. Determining how the universe came to C-OLB is the universe in a primordial or undifferentiated state. The universe we experience now can be described as the present totality, or as C-PT (Consciousness as Present Totality). Age of the universe – we know how long since the BB, but contemplating C-OLB may determine that the BB is just one event in a cycle of repeating events, e.g. the Multiverse.

Energy and matter: discussion of these within the context of a definition of consciousness as OLB remains to be developed. The question of how did C-OLB become activated to result in a potential early universe has been asked. Theorists may be working on the question of how did the universe go from pure unmanifest potential to active wave energy and particles to form the early hot dense and smooth universe. At that point invoking latent properties of C-OLB makes sense.

Intelligence: as a latent property of C-OLB, all of the intelligence of the early hot dense universe was available to the first observer, which might be said to have infinite intelligence sufficient to design the entire creation that we experience around us. This universal intelligence continues to manifests as an individual property of each object-observe and varies in proportion  to complexity. For example a living brain may be the most complex thing we know of, which explains why it has great intelligence. A stone is a very simple structure that has very little capacity for intelligence. All will agree that intelligence is an important property that needs more investigation and better definitions. We may benefit from asking better questions about it such as “Is intelligent life that which can reverse or control entropy?” Better understanding of sapience and sentience across species will occur in the future.

Mind: a simple definition is offered: a vehicle for experience and expression. However this is an important concept, one which seems to causes more problems in understanding than it solves. Further defined and relating it to C-OLB, it is a property of an object which can be defined by capacity for intelligence as related to the complexity of the object. It provides a sense of time and space, because it will experience events that an observer-object in 4 dimensions experiences. In contemplating this, it makes sense to say the first observer would not have had a mind, as it was still outside of space-time, with an entropy of zero (or 1) there is no space-time. A mind would be useful as object-observers separated and the properties of awareness and intelligence began to manifest on an individual level.  A property intrinsic to an individual observer or an object, having a capacity proportional to its organization and complexity. The capacity of the mind determines how much intelligence (another aspect of consciousness) can be utilized and whether sentience can occur. A rock has low capacity mind, non-sentient. A living brain is most complex, having high capacity of mind for greater intelligence. Panpsychism as a definition of mind being everywhere and in all things, fits. Integrated Information Theory is a modern application of Panpsychism that  seeks to explain different degrees of intelligence in things.

Observer v. Object: contemplation of the observerless nature of the concept of C-OLB may bring the idea that observer and object are the same. This is familiar to long-time meditators, and it can be readily seen that all observers can be objects. In considering the idea of the early universe as a “first object” given properties of mind, awareness, and intelligence, activation of those properties causes the arising of the “first observer.” In reality there was no essential difference between object or observer – in that system, nothing was gained or lost. Moving to individual human objects it can be seen all such objects are observers, because we all have the same properties of intelligence and awareness. However our analysis breaks down when we decide that some things are objects but cannot also be observers. There is a spectrum of complexity from a simple element that appears to have no powers of observation evolving into a living brain that becomes a potent force in measuring and computing elaborate events throughout the universe. Where do we draw that line?[87] This can bring us to the debate of how to define life. In this manner of looking, all things can be said to be alive, which is the conclusion already arrived at by some non-scientific fields. The way out of this may be to more clearly define what is sentient, or sapient.

Spirit: an unseen or metaphysical property of consciousness that transcends ability of humans to observe it. May be a higher vibrational form that allows the mind to continue in some other dimension of time and space after death/transition of the physical organism. Needs further definition to best fit what we know and believe. Spirit – unseen force that connects objects in our universe. Cosmic radiation, gravity, divine love? Spirit world, dark energy/matter.

Sentience:[88] standard definitions in philosophy refer to the ability of any entity to have subjective perceptual experiences, or "qualia," and is distinct from other aspects of the mind[89] and consciousness, such as creativity, intelligence, sapience[90] , self-awareness, and intentionality (the ability to have thoughts "about" something). Sentience is a minimalistic way of defining consciousness, which is otherwise commonly used to collectively describe sentience plus other characteristics of the mind. Some philosophers, notably Colin McGinn, believe that sentience will never be understood, a position known as "new mysterianism". They do not deny that most other aspects of consciousness are subject to scientific investigation but they argue that subjective experiences will never be explained; i.e., sentience is the only aspect of consciousness that can't be explained. Other philosophers (such as Daniel Dennett[91]) disagree, arguing that all aspects of consciousness will eventually be explained by science.

Universe: The Universe is the totality of everything that exists, has existed, and ever will exist. Words used include the cosmos, world, reality, and nature. The Universe includes all of space-time; the entire contents of outer space; all matter, energy, dark matter, and dark energy; all galaxies, stars, and planets; all humans and every living thing; all molecules, atoms, subatomic particles, photons, and their wave dualities; all physical constants, physical laws and fundamental interactions. The Universe can even be understood to encompass all of mathematics, all concepts and ideas, and all thoughts and emotions.[92]

Universe as manifest v. potential: Various iterations of energy and matter that comprise the universe, can be related to their ultimate source of beingness as C-OLB. Historic teachings and ancient writings as well as modern quantum physicists present ideas of potentiated and actualized states of consciousness. C-OLB can be thought of as pre-potentiated beingness with latent aspects of such things as awareness, intelligence, and spirit, that once activated moved in sequence of events that led to what we currently experience. This awaits further investigation. A question for further investigation is: what activates the latent properties of C-OLB to move into potentiation? (As far as can be determined by the author, this is the fundamental question that most begs an answer).

Spiritual thinking on consciousness: When nondual practitioners seek and eventually encounter the experience of the “true nature of self” or the “ultimate and absolute reality,” the truth of the universe is realized within as the result of their journey, and an essential element of this truth is that things and the self do not exist as separate; their true nature is nondual (“not two”). They describe consciousness and its properties metaphorically through stories and teachings that are not bound by the need for precision or accuracy. Some receive external validation from a teacher or spiritual master who has been recognized as Enlightened, while others need no more than the sureness of their own internal validation that they have fully “realized” an ultimate truth. In spirituality, while it appears that what consciousness “is” can be realized and experienced, it can only be internally validated by a single observer, and not defined in a way that makes it accessible to other observers. A small sample of frequently used (non-Sanskrit) words among teachers and teachings regarding spiritual talk about consciousness includes: pure beingness, primordial consciousness, mind, energy, spirit, absolute or ultimate reality, relative reality, love/heart, infinity, bliss, enlightenment, noble wisdom, totality, supreme being, compassion, wisdom, eternity, liberation, potential/possibilities, unity, one, nondual, eternity, light, creation, creator/God, universal consciousness. Words are sometimes capitalized to emphasize their special meaning in the context of nondual teaching. Including Sanskrit words would increase this word  list exponentially.[93]

Scientific thinking on consciousness:[94] Scientists seek to discover the truths of the universe through methodical investigations that require external validation by other observers. In science, the search is for what consciousness is on a fundamental level. The problem may be that by seeking smaller and smaller objects and functions we are limited to an hierarchical investigation pattern that will not end even when we arrive at the simplest wave form associated with the final particle or function. The challenge proposed by this paper bears repeating: Can we accept as testable a fundamental state of awareness that has been described innumerable times by reliable observers over many centuries? Can we determine through a simple thought experiment that we can remove ourselves as observers momentarily and reflect on that observerless and descriptionless moment to determine that it is not a void but that something is present? What remains is to call this special sense of beingness consciousness, and move forward with a new tool that promises to solve more problems than it creates in our ambition as human beings to solve the mysteries of the universe.

 Examples of words that have scientific meanings and apply to a concept of C-OLB include: universe, energy and matter (in various forms), entropy, light, space-time, gravity, intelligence, infinity, potential, probabilities, particles, Big Bang, Black Hole, n dimensions, String Theory, microtubules, quantum, qualia, real essence, other minds, physicalism, metaphysics, identity thesis, Laplace’s demon, intuitive, Enlightenment, dualism, demonstrative, Essentialism, explanatory gap, final cause, determinism, information. A long list of brilliant scientists contributing to an ultimate understanding of consciousness could not be included, but have influenced this and will guide further work.[95]


Lack of scientific definition or consensus agreement on the meaning of the word consciousness, or a plausible theory of how it works, generates much discussion, disagreement, and experimentation to find out “what consciousness is.”  Nondual thinkers have experiential answers but their teachings (with no intent to disrespect) have perpetuated a mystery, as without a good way to communicate the answers, seekers must finish the journey alone to find them. The same teachings that promote mystery however, also offer a very simple and natural method of recognizing the deeper awareness, and this can be put into the form of a thought experiment. Because this is verifiable among many observers, the experiment yields results that are amenable to reliability testing, and can be validated sufficiently to be useful as a scientific method. With a definition of consciousness arrived at by scientific methods, although admittedly one that requires the use of radical empiricism, we can move forward and apply laws of nature such as entropy to observations of consciousness, determine that events in theoretical physics can be analogous to conscious processes, and because specific definitions allow mathematical expression and computation, solve mysteries and problems of the universe with a new set of constants and variables. Ultimately, a scientific definition of consciousness may allow us to better understand where the universe came from, how it came to be in its present form, and where it is headed in the future.


[1] Research suggests this may be part of the brain’s default mode network. The mind disengaging from the processing of external information is known as decoupling. Neuroscientist Jonathan Smallwood, PhD

[2] Schooler, J.W., Smallwood, J., Christoff, K, Handy, T.C., Reichle, E.D., & Sayette, M.A. (2011) Meta-awareness, perceptual decoupling and the wandering mind. Trends in Cognitive Science 15, 319-326. Psychology Professor Schooler also asks “How does the current state of science constrain our views on the manner in which consciousness is manifest in the universe?”

[3] Mars, Rogier et al On the relationship between the “default mode network” and the “social brain,” Front Hum Neurosci. 2012; 6: 189


[5] Fell, Juergen. I Think, Therefore I Am (Unhappy) Front Hum Neurosci. 2012; 6: 132. Refers to work by Christoff, Smallwood, Schooler. Describes the negative effects of mind wandering and the influence of Buddhism mindfulness meditation .

[6] Meditation and Vipassana are well known practices that work to quiet and clear the mind, allowing for inner rest and realization of what are held to be deeper truths.



[9] opines that one of the most common misconceptions about meditation is that it’s about making your mind go blank.

[10]  and his book Investigating Pristine Inner Experience: Moments of Truth – June 27, 2011

by Russell T. Hurlbur

[11] Reclaiming Vitality and Presence: Sensory Awareness as a Practice for Life Paperback – April 24, 2007

by Charlotte Selver, also

[12] Described by psychiatry professor Daniel J. Siegel, MD as the practice of intentional, nonjudgmental awareness of moment-to-moment experience

[13] No training required but there are numerous methods, e.g. Deepak Chopra 4/13/2013 in “Return to Deep Harmony,” . Pranayanma Yoga teaches that “at the end of our exhales, when the breath connects with the stillness of being (purusha), prakriti moves into her original passive state of “pure potentiality.”” Carol Murphy  Key words: meditation breath.

[14] Experience demonstrates that one cannot exist without the other, leading to a way of understanding duality v nonduality.

[15] Because this realization during observerless awareness occurs during a waking state, it is different from the silence of dreamless sleep or a coma, where if we experienced C(olb), we don’t remember it.

[16] This is distinct from unitive or nondual awareness, when the subject and object are experienced to be one. In that awareness, the observer remains as a silent “witness.” This is familiar to long-time meditators.

[17] Matthew Morey, PhD 2013 doctoral dissertation.  Existential fear, described as ur-anxiety. (This is a well-known phenomenon and need not prevent conceptualization of olb).

[18] John Prendergast, PhD, in “Listening from the Heart of Silence,” 2007, P. 35 writes a chapter “Spacious Intimacy” and says “The mind leans to bow down to the heart of Silence, relinquishing the illusion of control."

[19] The list of analogies used historically and currently is long. Presence, totality, isness, suchness, Ultimate, Reality (as capitalized). May be referred to as God or the Universe. Beingness is a neutral term, and with the other two words as qualifiers, precise enough.

[20] Neale Donald Walsh in a 2002 essay “Beingness to Doingness” states that beingness must always precede creating.

[21] Richard K. Martin, PhD highlights a problem (in my view) with the word beingness in “Metaphysics: The Science of Beingness??.” As a concept having no physical representation or definable characteristics, we must accept the possibility that “something” exists as opposed to a void or vacuum. 

[22] Rupert Spira in his essay “Consciousness Shines In Every Experience” states that our true nature is open, free, unlimited Consciousness.

[23] Defining consciousness as limitless in this sense means it can have no attributes, it can’t even be eternal or infinite, those are limits. This is paradoxical but if the definition is valid then we will be able to solve it..…not unlike the thought experiment in Schroedinger’s cat. (This invokes the uncertainty principle).

[24] OLB is that which has been referred to with terms such as absolute reality, nirvana, the incomprehensible truth, or the ultimate mystery, all words with many shades of meaning depending on context and school. It is primordial or undifferentiated consciousness as described in ancient wisdom. It can be analogous to what the universe was before the Big Bang.

[25] See “Spiritual Teachings on Consciousness” in this paper.

[26] Bhagavad Gita states “After knowing the transcendental science… you shall see the entire creation within your own higher Self. All manifestations come out of the primary material Nature.” Creation and primary nature can be analogous to OLB in this sense.

rest, the waves of consciousness are no more stirred in the Mind-ocean.

[28] Ramana Maharshi: Existence or Consciousness is the only reality. Consciousness is the screen on which all the pictures come and go. The state we call realization is simply being oneself, not knowing anything or becoming anything. If one has realized, he is that which alone is, and which alone has always been. He cannot describe that state.

[29] Nisargadatta Maharaj: To the question: Where does consciousness come from? Answer: It never comes or goes, it just appears to have come. From the famous text, I Am That.

[30] Adyashanti online course March, 2012: “One’s True Being can never be experienced in any way since it is that which experiences experience.” This can be analogous to observerless beingness.

[31] Shantimayi audio course 6-7-12: Consciousness itself, is now on the leading edge of science. You’re not inventing oneness, it has been there all along. You’re just seeing it as it is. Oneness leads to what one cannot confirm in a conceptual definition – everything fits in it.

[32] Meditators variably describe such things as joy, bliss, anxiety, isolation, energy changes in the body. The goal of the thought experiment however is to form a scientifically useful concept, not to revolutionize one’s inner world. Inspiration for further discovery is the most desired effect.

[33] These experiences can incorrectly be the primary goal for some who embark on the spiritual journey, and it is certainly ok to enjoy them as fruits of the labor. Problems occur when they dissolve and leave the practitioner feeling as though something was lost or went wrong. Such feelings naturally come and go and are not a final outcome.

[34] Matthew Morey, PhD described groundlessness and other relevant matters in his 2013 doctoral dissertation  “Healing Through Compassionate Awareness: A Comparison Of American Vipassan? Practice And Existential- Humanistic Psychology.”

[35] The “Final Enlightenment,” Moksha, Liberation, attainment of Noble Wisdom, etc. is an ancient and often said to be the ultimate human experience. It is almost invariably associated with dynamic energetic changes and realignments, and with a shift of awareness in how the observer views reality. What was thought to be real is suddenly seen as impermanent but also unseparated (nondual) and therefore called “illusion” in contrast to the new nameless reality that is constant, infinite, and eternal. This opens up a panorama of interpretations which vary based on the individual experiencing them. This is why there are so many books, stories and teachings on the subject, which has defied scientific application. With absence of form, thought, object or observer, the experience is represented as an unknowable mystery. Beginning reader is referred to overviews of Buddhist and Vedanta philosophy. Most Nondual thinkers and teachers such as those of SAND will be able to explain the enlightened state and provide more advanced  references.

[36] Chandler’s work is widely referenced, e.g. 


[38]  and  “anor aniyan mahato mahiyan” (Katha Upanishad 1-2-20), means “God is smaller than the smallest and greater than the greatest.”

[39]  this presents a problem, when referring to other writers such as Krishnanada in  it is argued that consciousness and matter are distinct.

[40]  for free Vedic downloads

[41] Payton Tontz, PhD, The Psychology Of Spiritual Awakening In Advaita Vedanta: From Bondage To Liberation, A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of the California Institute of Integral Studies, 2013





[46] Goddard’s 1932 edit and compilation of D.T. Suzuki’s translation of the Lankavatara Sutra.


[48] Waldron’s book The Buddhist Unconscious can be downloaded here.





[53]  Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

[54]  “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

[55]  “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.”






[61] http://www.nisargadatta .net/



[64]  and

[65] The Impact of Awakening: Excerpts from the Teachings of Adyashanti, 2000, P. 20.

[66] Adyashanti’s the” End of Your World : Uncensored Straight Talk on the Nature of Enlightenment,”  May 28, 2010.

[67]  I Am, Therefore I Think, 10/09/2012


[69]  a well-researched blog by Ashok Tewari

[70]  “Quantum Physics and Vedic Unified Consciousness, March 31, 2013.

[71]  book, The Self-Aware Universe he solved the quantum measurement problem elucidating the famous observer effect. Six other books based on research on quantum physics and consciousness.

[72] 12-11-2014  If consciousness is the foundation of being, if it is omnipresent, shouldn’t potentiality be collapsing around us all the time? Nonlocal consciousness that chooses always remains in potentiality, but the effect of the choice occurs in the manifest domain of actuality.





[77]   Consciousness is the Unified Field - quantum physicist John Hagelin gives a brilliant description that fits the idea of consciousness as one of 5 phases and the one I am calling Infinite Potential.

[78] Cosmology from quantum potential AhmedFarag Alia,b,, SauryaDasc aCenter for Fundamental Physics, Zewail City of Science and Technology, Giza,12588, Egypt bDept. of Physics, Faculty of Sciences, Benha University, Benha,13518, Egypt cDepartment of Physics and Astronomy, University of Lethbridge, 4401University Drive, Lethbridge, Alberta, T1K3M4, Canada


[80] Rupert Spira, Consciousness can only know itself with the appearance of an object. Others key word conscious + knowing

[81] This teaching is so common that one may keyword search desire or will + a teachers name and find many.



[84] Sean Carroll, PhD in Astrophysics currently at California Institute of Technology (Mysteries of Modern Physics: Time,” a Great Courses Seminar. Many references to entropy and cosmology are referred to in this paper.

[85] first definition arising in a Google search.

[86] “Despite the difficulty in definition, many philosophers believe that there is a broadly shared underlying intuition about what consciousness is.”




[90] Sapience is often defined as wisdom, or the ability to act with judgment, a faculty which is a component of intelligence.


[92] lists several sources in defining the universe.


[94] Daniel Robinson “Consciousness and Its Implications,” The Teaching Company, 2007, Course Guidebook. Many of these words are defined in the glossary, others are used widely in nondual teachings yet have scientific definitions that can be easily referenced.

[95] Although over 100 influential scientists and thinkers have been referenced, the limitations imposed by space-time itself have kept these and many more from inclusion:  John Wheeler, Roger Penrose, Stuart Hameroff, David Chalmers, John Searle, David Bohm, Planck, Einstein, Schrodinger, Bohr, Poincare, Heisenberg, Feynman, Hawking,