Q: In Consciousness from Zombies to Angels you say that consciousness does not cause actions. But in Radical Knowing, you say that intention is “consciousness thrown out from the self . . . to cause some change.”

Are these two statements contradictory or am I missing something? Experiments described in Lynne McTaggart’s The Intention Experiment show that human intentions can change the acidity of water, and thereby affect the growth of plants.

I understand the idea that consciousness cannot cause action because it’s not an energy and has no location. But then I don’t understand what you say about it in Radical Knowing or the intention experiments described by McTaggart. Can you clarify what seems to be a contradiction: on one hand, consciousness cannot cause action and, on the other, intention can cause change?

CdeQ: Thanks for this insightful question about consciousness and action. I can understand your confusion, and I realize I need to be clearer on the subtleties involved.

So, let me try to clarify:

By itself, consciousness—as awareness and choice—is not sufficient to cause anything to happen in the physical world. Actual events also need energy. So, creating an intention (in consciousness) is not enough to make things happen.

However (according to the philosophy of panpsychism), energy and consciousness always go together. Consciousness is intrinsic to energy—i.e., energy always possesses some degree of internal awareness plus an innate ability to choose between possibilities.

In my books, I have described consciousness as “the innate ability of matter/energy to know, feel, and purposefully direct itself.” Consciousness, therefore, gives purposeful direction to the flow of energy. You could say that action is energy moving itself from within. This ability for self-directed motion (involving awareness and choice) is the consciousness “within” (intrinsic to) matter/energy.

In Consciousness from Zombies to Angels, I distinguish between consciousness per se (as merely awareness and choice) and consciousness embodied in energy. I am saying that consciousness alone cannot make things happen in the physical world. However, when embodied in energy (which, in actual fact, it always is) consciousness (intentionality) can and does cause action and changes the physical world.

That’s what I had in mind in Radical Knowing. When I described intention as “consciousness thrown out from the self  . . . to cause some change” I was thinking of “consciousness as the intrinsic ability of matter/energy to know and direct itself from within.” Intention, then, moves energy from within by purposefully directing it toward the realization of some possibility.

By itself, however, intention/consciousness could not cause any change. It needs to act from “within” energy. In the actual world, there is no free-floating, disembodied intention or consciousness (energy and consciousness always go together). Therefore, every intention is always the expression of purpose through some change in energy.

That’s why intentions have causal potency. It’s why intention can cause changes in water. In those experiments, human intentions were expressed and shared by the consciousness in the water molecules, which then responded by redirecting the energy of the water, changing its pH or acidity level.

Bottom line: Intention is consciousness focused and directed with purpose. But for action to happen—for anything to manifest—something else besides conscious intention is required. And that “something else” is energy—which comes with consciousness “built-in.” That’s how intention-within-energy causes change and action in the physical world. Mind moves matter from within.

I hope this helps clear up the confusion.