8th October 2023 | Life Elsewhere, Tech stuff


In the philosophy of the mind, panpsychism says that the mind or mindlike condition is an underlying feature of reality. It is also described as a theory that the mind is a fundamental feature of the world which exists throughout the universe.

It is one of the oldest philosophical theories, and has been ascribed to many philosophers including Thales, Plato, Spinoza, Leibniz, William James, and Bertrand Russell.

In the 19th century, panpsychism was the default philosophy concerning ‘the mind’ in Western thought. It saw a decline in the mid-20th century with the rise of logical positivism, which basically asserts that only statements verifiable through direct observation are logical. But we must bear in mind that humans have limited dimensional capabilities.

However, recent interest in the definition of consciousness and developments in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, and quantum physics have revived interest in panpsychism in the 21st century.

So what does a conscious universe entail?

Where does consciousness come from?

This is one of science’s challenging facets. In his most recent book, Galileo’s Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness, philosopher Philip Goff considers a radical perspective: What if consciousness is not something special that the brain does but instead is a quality inherent to all matter? This is effectively panpsychism.

Physical science describes matter from the outside in terms of its behavior. But matter from the “inside”—that is, its intrinsic nature—is constituted from forms of consciousness, the ‘thing’ that actually recognizes matter.

Is the universe conscious?

It seems impossible until you do the maths. As mathematicians work to hone and extend their tools for peering deep inside ourselves, they are confronting some amazing conclusions.

It is likely that sooner rather than later we will have to forget our four-dimensional obvious deductions and accept that all kinds of inanimate matter could be conscious – maybe even the universe as a whole. “This could be the beginning of a scientific revolution,” says Johannes Kleiner, a mathematician at the Munich Centre for Mathematical Philosophy in Germany.

Another state of consciousness

In our standard view of things, which is somewhat egocentric, consciousness exists only in the brains of highly evolved organisms, and hence it exists only in a minute part of the universe and only in very recent history. According to panpsychism, consciousness permeates the universe and is a fundamental feature of it.

It is quite likely it pervades the universe and we are just a small part of it.

Many people on Earth have experienced mystical events, near death episodes and other happenings that suggest entering another state of consciousness. Indeed, the afterlife may be such another state of consciousness, or even an extension of our present one. For those interested in more on this subject have a look at ‘A Conscious Universe’ with Dr Rupert Sheldrake:  


The entire theme of realizing that the universe is conscious is, I believe, recognizing that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves. But just as importantly, something we are a part of.

Other kinds of reality are likely just other modes of a conscious universe.

There is lots more work to do in this area, but philosophy, religion, mathematics and quantum science will one day combine to give us at least a workable version of the truth.

References and further reading/viewing

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