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The CIA and the Mind of God

David Cowles

Dec 28, 2023

“Centralized mind, even computer-aided, simply cannot keep up with decentralized matter.”

When we were ‘tweens’ (long before that term had even been coined), we were just as full of ourselves as tweens are today. If I sent a letter to a friend (yup, a ‘letter’, no emails, no texts back then), I would address it: “Master Robert Johnson, 37 Redgate Rd., Milton, Mass. (no postal zones or zip codes either), USA, Planet Earth, Milky Way, Universe, Mind of God.” 

We were astonishingly arrogant, given that we were spectacularly ignorant. As a species, we knew only a fraction of what we know today, and as tweens, we knew only a fraction of what was known. But turns out, we were on to something big!

Consider ‘Artificial Intelligence’. On one level, a computer is simply an aggregation of silicon atoms and their compounds, but on another level, it’s a ‘mind’. Conscious or not, it thinks; it’s a thinking machine. Presumably, the discrete elements aren’t what thinks; the totality thinks.

As tweens, were we proposing something akin to ‘Universal Intelligence’ (panpsychism)? We know that an aggregation of largely inorganic molecules can manifest ‘mind’; could we view the physical universe itself as such an aggregation? If so, Universe surely manifests ‘the mother of all minds’, but were we justified in calling it ‘the Mind of God’?

Well, what else could we call it? Universe manifests mind, whether it be the mind of God or the mind of Roger Penrose (Road to Reality)…assuming there’s a distinction. In either case, what could be ‘beyond’ it? 

According to theologian Paul Tillich, Faith is Ultimate Concern. AA would recognize the object of such Faith as our Higher Power. But then, what could our Ultimate Concern be other than the totality of things, and what else could God be but their totalization? It all comes back to God, no matter how well disguised.

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There’s a persistent fly in our intellectual ointment. We assume, uncritically, that order radiates outward. We’re control freaks. We think, and then we project our ‘thoughts’ into the world via actions. We are all ‘agents’ of our own, personal CIAs. 

In any 12-step program, participants are asked to surrender ‘the illusion of control'. We should all join AA, if for that alone. We are all addicts—all addicted to control. 

Three words: Central, Intelligence, Agency – often considered oxymoronic, but we use them as if they were synonyms. Yet, we have ample evidence that ‘central intelligence’ is ‘lack of intelligence’. Central intelligence was at the foundation of Marxist-Leninist economics; how did that work out? In fact, central planning has failed everywhere it’s been tried. Centralized mind, even computer-aided, simply cannot keep up with decentralized matter. 

Irony: Marxism rediscovered the primacy of decentralized ‘matter’ over centralized ‘mind’ (Dialectical Materialism)…and then promptly imposed a level of centralization that would have made Europe’s Emperors and Popes cringe. Augustus → Boniface → Stalin.

Of course, this analysis ignores an unstated premise: matter ≠ mind. But what if that is not the case? We know that the phenomenon of ‘mind’ is dependent on a decentralized ‘material’ substructure (brain). But what if we could go even further? Paraphrasing Keats (and Ryle), what if we could say, “Mind is matter, and matter mind?” 

One phenomenon, opposite perspectives! Stand at the center of Being and look out: One → Many. Now stand on the edge and look in: Many → One. 

Centuries ago, many folks believed that matter was an emergent property of mind. Today, it is more common to think that mind (consciousness) is an emergent property of matter (Dawkins). But what if neither is true? Consider the Universe: an aggregate of subatomic particles and their forces, but what if it were also a ‘mind’? What if the material universe is itself a ‘brain’?

We can’t get our heads around this. We are too steeped in carbon privilege and anthropocentrism. We all belong to a secret society of narcissists. Our motto: “If not me, it’s not to be!” We are the measure of all things, and we are guided by our own infernal ‘logic’: I have a central nervous system and I think; therefore, everything that thinks must have a central nervous system.  

In fact, we know that many, if not most, species demonstrate ‘mental process’; yet many of those species lack even the rudiments of a ‘central nervous system’. For example, some bacteria apparently ‘think’ by adjusting the concentration of iron in their cytoplasm.

Members of many species communicate with one another; most don’t use anything we’d recognize as words.  Some secrete molecules that are then ‘read’ by neighboring organisms, often leading to concerted, or at least intentional, behavior. 

Following Descartes because we think, we think we are, but what if we are because we think we are? What if we are because we are self-aware? What if thinking and being are co-dependent?  

I am holding a rock in my hands. It is. But what is? Is it the stone per se, or is it the minerals that make up the stone? Or the molecules, atoms, quanta, or waves? These are all manifestations of ‘being’, but only that which exhibits a faint trace of ‘mind’ can confer ‘identity’, a prerequisite of ‘primary being’. 

20th-century British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead believed that primary being consisted solely of self-aware ‘events’; anything else (e.g., qualia) was ‘secondary being’, an aspect of a primary event. So we were not wrong! To whatever extent we are, we manifest mind, but true mind is decentralized. (Think blockchain, not the Fed.) And that’s why all of us can be said to share the same ultimate address: the Mind of God.


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