What Is Reality?

This book does indeed succeed in providing a new map of reality, for millions of aspiring global citizens to see beyond today’s conflicts and ideological and religious factions, grounding our spiritual and instinctive vision of wholeness, the inseparable oneness of our human family with all life on this planet.—Hazel Henderson, Author of Building a Win-Win World and Paradigms in Progress 

What Is Reality? The New Map of Cosmos and Consciousness, by Ervin Laszlo, Select Books, 2016. Augmented by insightful commentary from a dozen scholars and thinkers, along with a foreword by Deepak Chopra and an introduction by Stanislav Grof, What is Reality? offers a fresh, liberating understanding of the meaning and purpose of existence.

Laszlo and friends echo many of the same themes as other authors in this book. The general agreement shared by these authors shows a widely accepted, but still contested, new paradigm that is developing and replacing the destructive strangle hold of the empirical, materialistic paradigm with a holistic, spiritual perspective.

The new reality perceives embracing interconnection among all things in the universe. It is not based on matter, and it incorporates space and time in the embracing interaction that defines evolution in the integral system of the world. This is not a radically new concept; it has been intuitively known for millennia. (x)

The new paradigm that is supported by the latest scientific understanding, agrees with the insights of mystics through the ages. Life unfolds according to a divine plan, not by mere chance. The universe is not dull dead matter, but a living, conscious manifestation of Cosmic Consciousness, and we are parts of that consciousness whose purpose is to further its evolution.

As Deepak Chopra points out, “Only the evolution of consciousness can produce a better world.” (xv) Therefore, our purpose in life is to bring our consciousness in harmony with that of Cosmic Consciousness, which is based on unconditional love. In this way, we and the divine evolve to higher states of being.

Chopra claims, “The epoch of naive realism (the belief that the world of the five senses can be simply accepted as a given) is quickly drawing to a close.” (xvii) Our senses are so limited in their range of perception that they give an extremely inadequate view of reality. “It has been rightly said that the ‘real world’ is actually a reflected image of how the brain works. It is an abstraction built up from mechanical manipulation at the neural level.” (xix) It may be called an illusory view of the world.

Stanislav Grof says, “In his unique systemic and interdisciplinary approach to problem solving, Laszlo now succeeded in producing a map that dissolves the boundaries between natural science and the study of mind and spirituality.” (xxiii) Pre-Enlightenment sages utilized a more holistic approach to their inquiries that is now being adapted by leading contemporary researchers.

Some transpersonal experiences are related to a dimension that is radically different from consensual reality. It is immaterial and lies beyond spacetime; within it there are no boundaries and everything seems to coexist in the eternal Now. It is a realm that harbors archetypes, cosmic principles that form and inform the material world: these can manifest either in their universal form or in the form of specific culture-bound entities. It is the realm Laszlo in this book calls the deep dimension, the domain of the cosmos beyond space and time. (xxx)

This is similar to what other authors we discussed have claimed and called by different names. It confirms the transcendental dimension is the ideal source and model of the material dimension. “As above, so below.”

“The inclination to mistake the existing paradigms for an accurate and definitive description of reality has been pervasive in the world of science.” (xxxii) Enamored by their successes and the hubris of thinking they have conclusively understood the workings of nature, empirical, materialistic scientists are threatened and reluctant to accept new perspectives being revealed especially by quantum physics.

According to Grof:

The most important general conclusion that one can draw from various avenues of modern consciousness research is that consciousness is not a product of the neurophysiological processes in the brain, but an essential and integral part of existence. This realization is also the basic tenet of Laszlo’s map of reality. According to this map, consciousness does not originate in the brain, but in the Akashic field. (xxxii-xxxiii)

The Akashic Holofield harbors the logos of the cosmos; it contains the information, rules, and regularities that govern events in the manifest world and the behavior of its constituents. It also conserves a complete holographic record of the history of the universe and of our planet, including the patterns of consciousness that it created. Since this domain has no boundaries and partitions, all the information contained in it is present in all its points. (xxxiii)

Ervin Laszlo explains:

The current and now obsolete, but in some respects still dominant paradigm is the inheritance of classical physics. It views the world as consisting of individual bits of “matter” that interact in passive space and indifferently flowing time. This concept has been challenged by the relativity revolution in the first decade of the twentieth century, and by the quantum revolution in the third. The new paradigm at the dawn of the twenty-first century consolidates these revolutions. It sees the world as a whole system where all things interact and together constitute an entangled, quantum-like system in which all thing [sic] are intrinsic elements in an integral whole. (3-4)

Newton’s mechanistic universe and Darwin’s chance, competition based evolution are being replaced by a holistic, interconnected, consciousness based universe in which the One becomes many seeking to manifest a world filled with unconditional love. This new paradigm is the cure for the ills of the world that severely threaten us today. Laszlo continues:

The things that furnish space and time are coordinated patterns of interfering waves. The manifest world is a set of clusters of coordinated vibration in the excited state of the cosmos. The coordination of the clusters of vibration indicates nonrandomness at the heart of reality. The clusters are “in-formed” by a factor we identify (as does Planck) as an underlying cosmic intelligence. (9)

The things we consider matter are really clusters of energy waves formed by the archetypal designs found in the transcendental dimension manifested by Cosmic Consciousness. “Neither matter nor mind is the basic reality. The basic reality is the intelligence that coordinates the clusters of vibration that appear as object-like and mind-like phenomena.” (12)

“The creation stories of the world’s religious and spiritual systems speak of a primordial domain out of which the manifest world would have emerged. In some Eastern metaphysics this domain is a cosmic egg,” (16) the mahat, the causal ocean, or the lotus flower growing out of Vishnu’s navel. 

The recognition of a deep dimension beyond space and time is a recurrent feature in the history of philosophy. Plato called it the sphere of Forms and Ideas, and identified it as the seat of the Soul. The Hellenic philosophers gave it various names: Pythagoras called it Kosmos, and Plotinus The One.(16)

The idea of a spiritual dimension beyond spacetime from which the material manifestation arises goes back thousands of years and is universal in scope. Now even science is forced acknowledge its existence and lend credence to it even though we cannot experience it with our senses. Spirituality, philosophy, and science are coming to agree on certain important basic principles.

Laszlo realizes:

Brahman is the eternal and eternally unchanging reality. The world of space and time is lila, the unceasing play of appearance and disappearance, of forming and dissolution. It is a surface manifestation of the deeper, beyond-space and time reality of Brahman. (17)

As Shakespeare said, “All the world is a stage, and we are but players on it.” The world is manifest so the divine can enjoy playing the roles of all the humans, gods, animals, forces of nature, and everything else she/he becomes to relish the taste of unlimited novel experiences.

Laszlo explains:

Initially Pribram advanced the holonomic brain theory to account for holographically coded information originating in Bohm’s explicate order, but in collaboration with Bohm he then explored the possibility that the holographic information received by the brain originates in the implicate order—the deep dimension of the cosmos. 

Presently the idea that the deep dimension would be a hologram, and the things we observe in space and time would be its projection, is a hypothesis. It is a plausible hypothesis, however, given that it explains the entangled, nonlocal character of object-like as well as mind-like phenomena in the universe, overcoming the outdated materialism and local realism of the classical paradigm. (26)

I discussed the holographic nature of the universe in others chapters. This shows that it is widely accepted. However, this does not imply that the universe is a computer simulation created by an advanced civilization as some materialistic scientists propose. Rather it explains how Ideas are transmitted from the two dimensional deep dimension to the four dimensional material realm according to the design of Cosmic Consciousness.

Laszlo concludes:

Reports of consciousness without cerebral activity come from a variety of sources. . . . Many such reports have been examined by scientists, medical doctors, physicists, and neurosurgeons, and a rapidly growing number among them affirm that they are veridical: there is reason to believe there is consciousness beyond the brain. (27-8)

The brain does not create consciousness nor does it limit where consciousness can function. Consciousness forms the brain and body as a vehicle to function through on the material plane. It exists prior to birth and after death of the body. Simple organisms without brains have rudimentary consciousness. As Cosmic Consciousness, consciousness pervades all things including the inorganic where it exists as a dim awareness. Consciousness and existence go hand in hand.

Astrophysicist David Darling wrote: The brain does not produce consciousness at all, any more than a television set creates the programs that appear on its screen. . . . On the contrary, the brain filters and restricts consciousness, just as our senses limit the totality of experience to which we might otherwise have access. (38)

Between the limits of the brain and senses, we have such a partial distorted view of reality that it can certainly be called illusory. Therefore, rather than giving an objective, complete view of existence, empirical, materialistic science gives a partial distorted view that it clings to like an outmoded fundamentalist religious belief.

Both consciousness and body are in-formed by the vibration of the ground state of the cosmos. The cells, organs, organ-systems, and the organism as a whole, as well as the mind or consciousness associated with the organism, receive and resonate with the intelligence that in-forms the universe. (43)

Cosmic Consciousness creates and guides the life of all things. There is a divine vision for our life, and the more we can attune ourselves to that vision, the better our life will be. This is a loving God-dess who has our best interests at heart and wants us to grow in loving relationships.

Laszlo agrees:

The wisdom traditions are unanimous in affirming that the mind survives the body. Beyond the demise of the body, there is a “soul” or “spirit” that continues to exist, even if it does not exist on the same Plane as the body. The Planes of existence are not limited to the Physical Plane, where consciousness is associated with the body. There are also transcendent Planes such as the Astral, the Mental, the Causal, and the Etheric. On these Planes the soul or spirit continues to exist beyond space and time. (48)

Universalist Radha-Krishnaism affirms the eternal nature of the individual spirits who are parts of the divine. They can reincarnate in material bodies or by practicing natural devotion, develop a perfect spiritual body that allows them to enter the transcendental realm of Radha-Krishna and engage in loving spiritual pastimes with them.

Jude Currivan says, “The universe evolves as a whole system, whose macrocosmic intelligence is experienced, explored, and evolved at all scales of existence.” (118) We are not left here to struggle for survival in a hostile world on our own. Rather, a loving Cosmic Consciousness guides everything, but due to free will, not everything goes according to the divine plan and evil is allowed to exist. However, goodness and love ultimately persuasively prevail in all things.

He continues:

At this momentous time we are coming to recognize that everything we call physical reality is expressed as a cosmic hologram, and that each of us is a holographic microcosm. Our new science-based understanding tells us that there is no real separation between cosmos and consciousness, and that the appearance of this separation is merely the perspective from which consciousness in the cosmos views its own projection. The apparent duality of mind and matter questioned by David Chalmers is an illusion. The wholeness of consciousness, of what Einstein referred to as the cosmic mind, is being progressively revealed in the context of the wholeness of the cosmos. (119-20)

Allan Combs and Stanley Krippner explain:

IF WE LOOK DEEPLY AT THE implications of many holographic and informational theories of the cosmos, an extraordinary prospect presents itself. This is the possibility of the existence of entire worlds that are not simply distant in space, but which lie entirely outside the “material” universe of physical events as we know them, though still resting in the same holographic informational plenum as ordinary reality. (120)

This is good news for us. The transcendental realm where Radha-Krishna engage in their loving pastimes is holographically present in all things since each part of the hologram contains the whole. Therefore, it is accessible to us as we attune our consciousness to life on that spiritual level. 

Stephan A. Schwartz suggests:

Now imagine that the astronomical vastness of that space is undergirded by consciousness. Can this be possible? The physicalist worldview says no; consciousness arises from physiology. Yet thousands of well-conducted experiments and case studies insist there is an aspect of consciousness that is not physiologically based, and that is not limited by spacetime. More than that they propose consciousness itself is the foundation of all that is. (126)

It is becoming clear that the empirical materialistic paradigm is no longer viable. Consciousness is all pervading. It is the ground and primal cause of all. It gives life to all things and provides the pattern for their existence.

The [sic] collorary to the idea of nonlocal consciousness is that all life is interconnected and interdependent, that we are part of a matrix of life, but even more fundamentally that spacetime itself arises from consciousness, not consciousness from spacetime. (126)

 Clearly, there is a divine consciousness from which creation springs forth giving life to all things that may appear as independent individuals but are actually interconnected and interdependent parts of the One. They are simultaneously one and different. As such, an attitude of cooperation and working for the good of all is called for.

Einstein explained it this way, “A human being is a part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. [italics added] This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.” (129)

This is the material false ego that separates us from the rest of existence. Mechanistic Newtonian physics and competitive Darwinism have reinforced this delusion for several centuries leading to the global crisis we experience today. Fortunately, these ideas are being replaced by a more holistic paradigm that gives new meaning to life as we progress in Dwapara Yuga and more people attain a higher spiritual consciousness.

Denierism is a powerful force in both science and society. Science in the twenty-first century is the arbiter of what is real, and the transition to this new map of reality is a process that will in large measure be controlled by the science community’s acceptance. (138-9)

We are in a transition period between the old materialistic paradigm which still holds great influence over people, and the new spiritual paradigm that offers a more sustainable and rewarding life. It is up to each of us to do our part in advancing the collective consciousness. Therefore, I write this book and encourage you to do what you can. The more individuals are enlightened and share what they experience, the more the collective consciousness is raised.

“To change the beliefs of an entire community, only ten percent of the population needs to become convinced of a new or different opinion. At that tipping point, the idea can spread through social networks and alter behaviors on a large scale.” (145)

Nitamo Federico Montecucco says:

IN EVERY PART OF THE WORLD we are witnessing today the birth of a global civilization with a global consciousness. Consciousness is the core of every living being and the key to human evolution. It is also the core of the paradigm emerging in field after field in science, culture, and spirituality. (153)

There is good news and reason for hope. New ideas are catching on, people are awakening, interactions are changing, and the crisis we are now in may lead to even more rapid change toward the new paradigm. The conscious element of creation can be counted on to guide us on the path of progress toward a better future.

For centuries the old paradigm has divided consciousness from matter, the soul from the body, nation from nation, and science from religion, creating a world of divisions and wars without respect for the consciousness of human beings. Responsibility for the rise of ecological, economic, and social crises can be ascribed to the dominance of the old dichotomous paradigm. That paradigm is no longer tenable. . . . The emerging paradigm in science is part of a more ecological, humane, and sustainable trend in the world. (154)

Modern science provides a basis for formulating hypotheses that can explain spiritual experience and provide a logical background to grasp the complex mechanisms that govern the elusive phenomena of consciousness. 

When we “die,” the psychosomatic unity of our body disorganizes and breaks apart: the atoms of the somatic biochemical body become separate elements, while consciousness (the “soul”) becomes free of spacetime boundaries and experiences itself in a dimension of nonlocal information. (159)

The corroboration of scientific and spiritual views of life strengthens faith in both. We can confidently believe in life after death experienced in a transcendent realm free of material limitations. This dimension has been experienced and described by mystics, near death experiencers, and hypnosis subjects. Death has lost its sting.

The shaman, Na Aak explains: “The final judgment comes from the state of our own consciousness: can we love and accept ourselves unconditionally? Or do we despise our self? This will decide the state into which we shall pass.” (168-9) We can work on developing unconditional love in this life to ensure our progress in the next life. With sufficient practice and grace, we can enter a transcendental realm with God-dess and not need to be reborn on the material level.

Jean Houston says: 

For what is mysticism but the art of union with Reality and a mystic, a person who aims at and believes in the attainment of such union. In its classical, spiritual form, it is a heroic journey, and valiant efforts are required to follow the path. . . . Once the province of the few, the mystic path may now be the requirement of the many—a unique developmental path for self and world. (175) 

The Way of Natural Devotion teaches one such path to union with Radha-Krishna, the Divine Couple. Many consider this the highest spiritual attainment. I present it in a manner accessible to contemporary Western seekers.

Houston continues:

In studying the fractals of the mystic way of the journey beyond space and time, we find that love is the supreme quality that underlies the after-death experience. It is through the experience and practice of love that we travel both here and hereafter to the heart of the One, to Consciousness itself, lured by love to our infinite being wherever and however we exist. (181)

Natural Devotion cultivates love in this life and the next as we develop our relationship with Radha-Krishna. This path was developed in India and successfully practiced for over five hundred years. Modern, scientific minded people can practice it without inner conflict using my updated presentation.

Christopher M. Bache explains:

Laszlo’s vision of the cosmos lifts science to a new horizon. He sees our universe floating in an invisible meta-universe of infinite potential, matter dancing in the quantum field, galaxies informed by a cosmic intelligence, a seamless wholeness that sustains and orders the diversity of life, every part driven by a relentless urge to grow and evolve, self-emergent creativity operating on timeline that staggers the imagination, our minds a fractal manifestation of the logos, the mind of All-That-Is. (182-3)

This description is in perfect agreement with Universalist Radha-Krishnaism’s theological position. As universalist essence seekers, we acknowledge the common wisdom we share with Laszlo, his friends, and others who came to the same conclusions through the ages. The more we can step out of narrow sectarian views and unite with others of a similar understanding the more we can create a better world for all.

Bache concludes: “Behind creation lies a love of extraordinary proportions, and all of existence is an expression of this love. The intelligence of the universe’s design is matched by the depth of love that inspired it.” (188) This is an excellent description of Radha-Krishna’s love as the basis for creation.

Taoist Zhi-Gang Sha explains:

The paradox of individual existence is that our individual consciousness and our space-time-bound bodies are ultimately part of a universal consciousness, a pure field which I call Tao and Laszlo calls the ground state of the cosmos. This deep reality beyond spacetime is without beginning and end and it encompasses all that we are, all that we think, and all that we feel in a unitary presence that transcends space and time. (191-2)

Again, this description corresponds to what I call Cosmic Consciousness. Once more we see shared truth between Taoism, science, and Universalist Radha-Krishnaism. This shows the growing consensus of the new paradigm that defines the nature of reality. Spiritual people of many paths can unite around this understanding.

John R. Audette says, “The meaning and purpose of all existence is to evolve into a pure expression or manifestation of unconditional love for all things. Unconditional love is the abiding ultimate organizing principle of the universe/metaverse.” (196) The Way of Natural Devotion is meant to cultivate unconditional love within our hearts harmonizing our life with the cosmos and its creator.

“Death challenges us to make our lives meaningful, and in that sense, all of physical life should be a continuous preparation for death.” (202) I’ve been curious about death since I was a boy and dedicated myself to the spiritual path in preparation for it. Now as an old man, I patiently await its arrival eager to see what new revelations it brings.

Albert Einstein, possibly the world’s brightest scientist ever, is reputed to have said: There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. 

It seems to me that the latter point of view is the most accurate way of thinking and perceiving reality. How can life and all creation be anything other than an amazing miracle? (206)

Yes, it is miraculous that life as we know it exists. The odds of it happening by chance are nil. The divine creator is a miracle worker creating laws of nature that allow creation to exist as it does. Miracles are in harmony with nature because they emanate from the divine consciousness that constitutes nature itself.

Kingsley L. Dennis explains:

[T]he cosmos is a self-organizing and self-actualizing whole. Holotropic evolutionary trends underlie all manifestation of its unfolding reality. Evolution in the known physical universe—in its laws and processes—as well as in and among living organisms, it appears, tends toward more sensitive and stable coherence, as well as toward conscious interconnectivity. (209)

Creation has a divine purpose that evolves from the vision of Cosmic Consciousness. Of course, that evolution doesn’t always go exactly according to plan due to free will and the existence of evil. However, if we look at the big picture, we can see the progress of conscious evolution toward interconnected universal love. We have a long way to go, but at least we can see the goal now.

Alexander Laszlo concludes:

THE MEANING OF EXISTENCE, according to the conclusions reached on the basis of the new map of reality, is to participate in and enable the evolution of consciousness. Participating in and enabling the evolution of consciousness lends meaning to existence in the world. It lends meaning to our own existence. The question to ask is how we can live in accordance with that meaning. (226)

Universalist Radha-Krishnaism provides the Way of Natural Devotion as a viable path to meaningful conscious evolution. I benefit greatly by following it, and I offer it freely for the benefit of others. As you can see, it offers breadth and depth of realization by drawing from a wide range of sources and being adaptable to individual needs.

“Our age is ripe for an awakening based on an ancient truth: All is One. If indeed All is One, then selfless, loving action is rational—aligned with the ultimate nature of reality.” (273) Won’t you devote yourself to being part of this great awakening that is so desperately needed now? Help us tip the scales of consciousness and make the new paradigm of love dominant.

About the Author

Ervin Laszlo received the Sorbonne’s highest degree, the Doctorat ès Lettres et Sciences Humaines in 1970. Shifting to the life of a scientist and humanist, he lectured at various universities in the United States, including Yale, Princeton, Northwestern University, the University of Houston, and the State University of New York. The author, co-author or editor of ninety-one books that have appeared in a total of twenty-four languages, Ervin Laszlo has also written several hundred papers and articles in scientific journals and popular magazines. 

He is a member of numerous scientific bodies, including the International Academy of Science, the World Academy of Arts and Science, the International Academy of Philosophy of Science, and the International Medici Academy. (337-8)

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