The greatest mystery of the universe is with us every instant. It is apparent during our waking hours and present in each moment of our lives. Awareness – consciousness, the instrument of our experience, perception, and cognition–often escapes our attention. Its very nature tends to render it transparent, and we cannot clearly see it because we are using it to see. We cannot formulate a complete conception of it because our faculties of conception are contained within it.
The universe is replete with mysterious phenomena and we have ever endeavored to name them, to describe them, and to understand our relationship to them. We have invented scores of metaphors for what we imagine to be an ultimate reality upon which we bestow attributes of knowledge, potentiality, and will.
And all the while, the ultimate mystery hovers just behind our eyes, animates every heartbeat, and illuminates each thought, feeling, and perception. The way the energetic material cosmos evolves toward life and how life turns toward consciousness – these are hallmarks of the deepest and most impenetrable enigma of all creation.
We are it. Our minds contain the most elegant understanding – as well as the most elusive riddle – of the entire universe. This is the hard problem of neuroscience. The very agent of our profound comprehension appears to be utterly incomprehensible, yet there are ways we can come to know it.
We can learn about this greatest mystery in the same ways we come to know other things: slowly, methodically, we can become aware of how– and even why–our minds occur in the universe and how they operate in the world. With introspection, we can observe as naturalists the procession of thoughts, feelings, and perceptions alive within us. We can measure with scientific instruments, the ebb and flow of blood and nutrients and the subtle electromagnetic potentials generated when we think, feel, and perceive.
Human minds experience the infinite cosmos from the unique perspective of our place in the space-time continuum, and our human hearts participate in the most excellent expression of this very personal universe: a compassionate concern for all forms of life.
“The Greatest Mystery” – Tullio – 2013