Lately I've been preoccupied by current events (the bailout, the election), but this Daily Grail post is worth commenting on.
Are stars sentient? That Solaris-like idea isn't just science fiction speculation - it's one of the topics touched on in an upcoming book edited by David Skrbina, [titled] Mind That Abides: Panpsychism in the New Millennium.
There follows a quote from this book, dealing with the basic idea of panpsychism - that mind is distributed throughout the cosmos:
[Physicist Roger] Penrose observed that interiors of neutron stars may have huge quantum superpositions which would reach OR with very large E, brief t and high intensity. By Orch OR criteria such events would indeed be conscious. But because the conditions are presumably random, such conscious moments would lack cognitive information processing: OR without Orch. Similarly, OR conscious moments without cognition may be occurring in various crystal-like, large scale quantum materials throughout the universe.
Astrophysicist Paola Zizzi has applied Penrose OR to the problem of inflation in the early universe. During the Big Bang, the universe expanded (inflated) rapidly—for about 10-33 seconds. But rapid inflation then stopped abruptly, and expansion has been slow ever since. Zizzi (2002) considered that during inflation the universe was in quantum superposition of multiple possible universes. Using E=h/t and setting E to the mass of the universe, Zizzi calculated that OR threshold would be met, surprisingly, at 10-33 seconds into the Big Bang, and conjectured that the end of inflation coincided with the universe undergoing a cosmic conscious moment (the ‘Big Wow’). She further suggested our individual consciousnesses are literal microcosms related to the initial cosmic conscious moment.
What is "Orch OR? According to Wikipedia,
Penrose and Stuart Hameroff have speculated that human consciousness is the result of quantum gravity effects in microtubules, which they dubbed Orch-OR (orchestrated objective reduction).
So I guess the idea is that stars can achieve some form of nonhuman consciousness, at least on brief time scales.
I have no idea if this is in any way a plausible conceit. But it did remind me of a passage from The Road to Immortality, a book supposedly channeled by the medium Geraldine Cummins from the discarnate psychical researcher F.W.H. Myers. In Chapter 17, "Myers" reports:
Try and think of the mind as a web: in it are numerous centers about which radiate thoughts and memories. Any one of these centers can direct its attention towards the earth. We are all fundamentally one, but when we concentrate upon some special operation of thought we become divided. In order that we may become one again we have to travel far from you. We must be fused in the spirit again. I do not, by the word "far," wish to indicate distance as you know it, I merely wish to indicate that the very fineness of our composition leads us, when we are one, to be remote from you. You possibly will not believe me when I tell you that each star has its own personality. It is one and yet it is many. In the same way you, even when in the body, are, in the same material sense, one yet many. There are myriads of little entities within you but there is only one mind or one channel for the mind. The interesting feature of my state here is that I am within a larger mind which is not a collective one but is rounded off from many others. Many of my affinities are contained in it. All those phases in my earth life are represented by these various centers.
In another of Cummins' books, Beyond Human Personality, "Myers" tells us that there is life on the stars. The communicator's grasp of physics seems questionable, at least if we can judge by the conventional wisdom in physics today. But, speaking of brief time scales, there is this:
Solar atoms are of a different type from earthly atoms - they perish with an inconceivable rapidity. But when the soul assumes the third disguise on the Fifth plane the pilgrim lives in a rhythm and time different from terrestrial time and exists in a kind of flux or flow.
The atomic structure of the star which he has chosen for his abode is of so unusual a character it would astonish the earthly physicist. These atoms should be divided into two classes. Those in the first which I will name "radiant atoms," differ from those in the second order in the apparent span of their solar life. They quickly disintegrate, whereas the atoms of the earth alter very slowly under the corroding feet of the years. Nevertheless, in the heart of the star, the physicist will find a condition analogous to water. This center of stability - for when compared with the outer or radiant part it may be regarded as steady though fluidic - is composed of a far heavier type of atom than those I have called radiant. It is not for me to discuss them in detail. If the human eye could exist in such conditions and register what it perceived, the core of this star would seem to represent a vast sea of boiling or bubbling water, a sea in inconceivable tumult.
However, we are at present concerned with the individual life of the traveller. He assumes a fiery body, that is to say a body consisting of radiant atoms. Necessarily it bears no resemblance to the human shape. On Eidos he learnt how to alter and yet to control his outward appearance, that lovely body which is the apotheosis of form as conceived in the human mind. So now, when in stellar life, he has developed and extended his imaginative and intellectual faculties to such an extent that he passes beyond human perceptive existence. With incredible speed his outward appearance changes, its astonishing transitions flowing rhythmically from design to exquisite design. In swift lightning flashes of ecstasy he vibrates in these successive bodies, thrilling and throbbing in a tremendous and brilliant world. Swept by solar tempest to the farthest limits of feeling he becomes so vividly perceptive he may be said to have reached a culminating plane of exalted stellar experience.
The man who has thus been transformed dwells for a while on one of the fixed stars; he is limited to that particular sun in his knowledge and in his experiences. Necessarily, when taking on a solar incarnation, the major self must abide without his stellar consciousness and the details of his past journey remain temporarily hidden from him during active life within that zone of fire.
This sounds at least a little bit similar to the quote about panpsychism above. Compare:
huge quantum superpositions which would reach OR with very large [energy], brief [time] and high intensity.
the pilgrim ... exists in a kind of flux or flow. With incredible speed his outward appearance changes ... flowing ... in swift lightning flashes of ecstasy [through] successive bodies.
Large energy = lightning flashes?
Brief time = incredible speed, inconceivable rapidity?
High intensity = ecstasy, astonishing transitions, exquisite design[s], imaginative and intellectual faculties ... developed and extended ... beyond human perceptive existence?
Kind of interesting, anyway. And a welcome relief from the economic and political hullabaloo.
Hat tip: Greg Taylor of The Daily Grail.