A two-day conference on Consciousness, organized by the Nalanda Consciousness Network and co-sponsored by Chapman University, Loyola Marymount University, the Center for Urban Resilience, the Wallis Annenberg Pet Space and Navin and Pratima Doshi, was held on October 18 and 19, 2019 in Southern California.
The conference was organized in honor of Dr. Henry P. Stapp, nonagenarian quantum physicist, who has worked closely with the first generation founders of the discipline such as Warner Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli and John Wheeler and made original contributions to consciousness-based interpretations of quantum physics. The organizing committee consisted of Professors Menas Kafatos, Eric Strauss and Debashish Banerji, along with Mr. Navin Doshi.
The event on October 18, titled Copenhagen Interpretation and Beyond, focused on Physics and Consciousness and was held at Chapman University in the city of Orange, according to a press release.
The event was opened by Chapman President, mathematician Dr. Daniele Struppa and featured speakers such as Dr. Jose Acacio De Barros of San Francisco State University, Dr. Menas Kafatos, Chapman University, Dr. Yakir Aharonov, Chapman University, Ulrich Mohrhoff, Sri Aurobindo International Center of Education, Pondicherry, India, Dr. Ruth E. Kastner, Research Associate, University of Maryland, College Park, and Dr. Neil Theise, Professor, Dept of Pathology, New York University School of Medicine. The talks were of a high academic standard and revisited the conundrums of Quantum Physics, offering a variety of consciousness-based solutions.
The event on October 19, was titled Reimagining Consciousness: A Conversation Across the Natural Sciences, and held in the Life Sciences Building of the Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles.
This event broadened the scope of the consideration to include philosophers, biologists, ecologists, animal behaviorists and scholars in the field of animal studies. The event was introduced and framed by Dr. Eric Strauss, opened by Dr. Thomas Poon, Executive Vice President and Provost of Loyola Marymount University and bookended by two keynote addresses, one at the start by Dr. John Hagelin, Quantum Physicist and President of the Maharishi University of Management and the other at the end by Dr. Deepak Chopra of the Chopra Institute, San Diego. Between these two keynotes, there were two panels, the first one on the relation between consciousness and matter, and the second on the implications of a new model of consciousness for the world of the life sciences.
The first panel featured philosophers Prof. Sanjay Kumar of Chapman University and Prof. Debashish Banerji of the California Institute of Integral Studied, quantum physicist Ulrich Mohrhoff and philanthropist-thinker Dr. Navin Doshi. The panel was moderated by Prof. Menas Kafatos. There seemed to be consensus on this panel that at the individual level, consciousness was primary and that the objective material world was cognized only because there was consciousness. The cosmological question of whether consciousness arose from matter or matter was a form of consciousness led to arbitrary assumptions as starting points for investigation, where science had chosen to start with matter but soon, made its assumption into a dogma. Eastern thought, on the other hand, investigated consciousness subjectively and arrived at experiences of universal consciousness.
The second panel, on consciousness in the life sciences included Dr. Carolyn Ristau of Columbia University, Dr. Kathleen Weaver of Loyola Marymount University, Dr. Ian Barnard of Chapman University, Dr. Neil Theise of New York University and Dr. J. J. Rawlinson of the Wallis Annenberg Pet Space. The panel was moderated by Dr. Eric Strauss. This panel was unanimous about the advanced properties of consciousness such as sentience, thinking, strategizing and emotional feeling in animals and by extension in plants and more elementary life-forms. The implications of this for human-animal relations and co-evolution was discussed.
The two keynotes were appropriately symmetrical, as the first one, by Dr. John Hagelin, discussed supposed correlations between advanced theories of mathematical physics and ideas of consciousness found in Indian spirituality, and the second by Dr. Deepak Chopra, dealt with the primacy of consciousness as expressed in all sentient things, and experienced in states of spiritual experience by humans.
The conference, particularly the second day at Loyola Marymount University, was very well attended, and the highly stimulating talks led to rich conversations at the reception and book signing by Deepak Chopra at the end of the day. Prof. Ulrich Mohrhoff, German physicist, who was visiting from India, was happy to participate in the conference and remarked on the expansion of understanding that the views generated among the participants and attendees.