In the comment mines I suggested, off-handedly, three possible metaphysical explanations for consciousness, without endorsing any of them.
A reader John responds to one of these suggestions:
To my primitive mind, this seems to be the most valid argument:
3. In fact, it is not possible to explain consciousness from nonconscious entities. Therefore, the most fundamental thing in existence is a mind, and we are parts of that mind. Matter is just a delusion which this mind believes in for some unknown reason. (I don't find this view plausible at all, but that's not the point.)
This is a longstanding view from oriental philosophy, and it intrigues me why you don't find it plausible.
Thanks for your comment. My main reason for finding this type of Pantheistic/Idealistic view implausible are these:
1. Matter sure seems like something with a real, consistent, and objective nature, quite unlike a dream. For example, when I wake up my furniture and stuff is always in more or less the same place. There are trees by the road whether or not I care for them to be there. As a physicist I can make precise models of how matter will behave under certain circumstances, and in fact it does those things. It does not consult my wishes except when I act on it using my body, and even then things do not always go according to plan.
Matter is a very parsimonious explanation of practically every experience I have. So considering it a delusion seems unjustified. And even if matter were a illusion, it must still exist as an illusion; if I hallucinate a blue tiger, there may not be a real tiger in the room but there is still a real image in my mind. So saying matter is an illusion doesn't actually reduce the number of entities which need to be explained! Actually it makes things worse, because I cannot think of any reason why God would have the type of schizophrenia required to think he is multiple persons living in a common environment. Nor can in turn be an illusion that I suffer from illusions, since that would be a logical contradiction.
(Speaking very broadly—since there are many varieties of Hinduism and Buddhism—a lot of these oriental philosophies don't really believe in logic in the first place, or only use it to argue for contradictions, so that we give up our dualistic forms of logic. But I could never accept that perspective on logic in a million years---there is literally nothing more illogical than denying the validity of logic! I refuse to be insane.)
2. If we define God as the ultimate explanation for the Universe, which cannot itself be explained, then to say that everything is God is to say that nothing at all can be explained. But if a view explains nothing, it is less good than a view which explains, well, anything! I touched on this point in my discussion of Pantheism in my series on Fundamental Reality.
3. The actual Creator of the universe has spoken to me both in the Bible and in personal conversation, and he does not seem to regard other people as as part of himself in the requisite fashion. To Moses, he says "I am who I am" (Exodus 3:16), not "I am who you are". In fact he seems to disapprove of a number of specific things which human beings do—we Christians call these things "sin". And as I have argued, if God is good and we are not, then it follows that we are not God. To think that we are parts of God might be gratifying to our pride, but it is more wholesome to realize we are not God, and instead accept that we are created beings loved by him. As St. Chesterton said:
I want to love my neighbour not because he is I, but precisely because he is not I. I want to adore the world, not as one likes a looking-glass, because it is one's self, but as one loves a woman, because she is entirely different. If souls are separate love is possible. If souls are united love is obviously impossible. A man may be said loosely to love himself, but he can hardly fall in love with himself, or, if he does, it must be a monotonous courtship. If the world is full of real selves, they can be really unselfish selves. (Orthodoxy, "The Romance of Orthodoxy")
Only in the case of one human being did God identify himself so fully with him, as to allow him to share completely in his divine titles and identity. And Jesus was no ordinary human, what with being the Word of God, who pre-existed with him from the beginning! If we were divine beings, we would know it.
True, by receiving the gift of Jesus's Spirit, we do become by grace "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). But this is not the same as being the unique and uncreated Son of God. To be commune with God is not the same as to be God.
So it's important for the distinction between the Creator and created to be sharply distinguished from the beginning. Once that's 100% clear, we can allow the mystics the liberty to speak the "language of love" concerning the intimate union between themselves and God, without fear of being misunderstood. I could say to my wife that I am part of her and she is part of me, without either of us thinking that we must be the same person in a literal sense.