Whole Life Magazine

December / January 2015

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Page 25 of 43

"W here is she now?" my friend Sarah recently asked as she struggled to come to terms with her mother's Alzheimer's disease. "My brother just sent me a picture and I didn't recognize her." I could sense my friend's anguish as she searched for meaning. "Do you think my moth- er's soul is still there, or does it come and go?" I felt Sarah's deep pain at the severed connection and loss of the mother she once knew. I wondered what does happen to the soul when Alzhei- mer's strikes. How does the "self " change? Most of all, though, I wanted to help my friend find meaning in the midst of her mother's de- cline and their apparent loss of relationship. Ancient Wisdom, New Solution A lthough it dates back at least as far as an- cient Greece, the philoso- phy known as panpsychism offers valuable insight for our modern world, explain- ing our interconnection at the deepest level. With pan meaning "throughout" and psyche meaning "soul" or "consciousness," panpsychism tells us that consciousness il- luminates all things. Present in every cell and atom, con- sciousness forms part of ev- erything. is "is-ness" or "such-ness" of all things makes us more than emp- ty shells of bodies filled with souls, as many religious traditions have taught. According to this old and recently revived philosophy, all matter and energy contains some trace of consciousness. Although recognized by indigenous societies through the millennia, con- temporary culture struggles with the idea that everything is sentient. Be- cause of the modern obsession with objectivity, we don't value what we can't measure, and we don't know how to measure consciousness. Yet many people today also feel that this scien- tific approach to life misses some key element. ey feel a deep connection to "something" larger than them- selves, and sense the existence of some kind of fundamental consciousness that encompasses everything. Panpsychism can help families struggling with Alzheimer's to under- stand that connection. How? First we have to understand the perceived loss of connection Alzheimer's creates. Hierarchies of Consciousness M y friend Sarah felt that a cru- cial part of her mother had disappeared as her Alzheimer's Dis- ease progressed, which prompted her question: "Where is she now?" Pan- psychism would say that although the disease had disrupted her mother's unity of consciousness, and the loss of some of her prior wholeness, her mother still remained. What does that mean? According to panpsychism, our cells work together to form hierar- chies of consciousness. For example, individual liver cells contain a level of consciousness that allows them to do the work of liver cells. Yet grouped together, they form a liver, a more complex organ with a higher order of consciousness that allows it to do the work of a liv- er. Each part of our body binds together in this way, creating greater and greater levels of complex- ity that ultimately lead to the whole-human level of consciousness that we know as ourselves. Our sum is truly greater than our parts. But our parts must con- nect somehow to create a sum, a whole; we can't be merely a combination of random parts. is connection happens via two-way communication between parts—the liver cells share information with the whole liver, and the liver receives the information from its individual cells. Occurring throughout the body, each higher level can also direct the lower level. You experi- ence this when you move your arm and your arm cells follow. Yet one of your arm cells can't decide inde- pendently to move the whole arm. It can, however, communicate upward and have an impact on the higher lev- el. If your arm cells are wounded, for example, the whole body knows it. In the case of a human with Alz- heimer's, then, a breakdown in the unity of consciousness has disrupt- ed the whole interconnected system to Connection From Isolation Transforming our understanding of Alzheimer's BY LORA WEDGE 26 wholelifetimes.com

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