Could This Be the Most Promising Theory of Consciousness Yet?

Updated: Oct 9, 2021

Today's ConnectiONS webinar proved to be one of the best yet--October 8, 2021 with Joachim Keppler and Arnaud Delorme.

Theoretical physicist Joachim Keppler heads the DIWISS Research Institute in Germany.

Arnaud Delorme models consciousness using EEG.

Keppler presents a theory of consciousness that can be described as cosmopsychism, macro panpsychism, or top-down panpsychism. The theory is promising because it factors in waves, vibrations, fields, and other factors that can be measurable in brain states.

According to the theory, consciousness is not an intrinsic property of fundamental particles, but of the zero-point field (ZPF), which in turn mediates electromagnetism (EM).

The ZPF is a fundamental substrate of the EM force; according to Keppler, all EM phenomena are mediated by the ZPF.

The ZPF is described as a "formless ocean of energy" that permeates and penetrates the universe.

It is both intrinsic and extrinsic at the same time.

The brain interacts with the ZPF using vibrations/resonance, and these are measurable as the neural correlates of consciousness. Hence, this is a fruitful theory for empirical research.

The theory also explains how conscious agents influence spacetime via attractor dynamics. Thus, cognitive scientists can get in on the empirical fun.

The ZPF is a physical membrane/substrate that therefore has the theoretical ability to encode information.

Memory trace sequences may be encoded in the field. The brain can retrieve information (using algorithms?) encoded the field. Or, the brain retrieves conscious experiences by reading sequences of information states that are "particularly ordered" from/in the ZPF modes.

The ZPF also has "modes" akin to musical modes. Modes have specific phenomenological qualities. They also lead to the probability curves that would impact the power of particular attractors. Keppler posits that a system (such as a conscious agent's brain) couples with the ZPF via the modes.

Thus, the brain's stream of consciousness, not just conscious intent, influences the ZPF via this coupling process. The ZPF is responsive to these fluctuations.

The brain can modulate the ZPF directly. Conscious systems can "play the keyboard of the ubiquitous field of consciousness" Resonant coupling between the brain/system/agent and ZPF modes--an attractor--would be required to transform potentiality into manifestation.

Some of the key points in this lecture include the following:

Resonant coupling (is this linked to emergent synchrony?)

ZPF modes (which would lead to harmonic convergence?)

Coherent states and coherent activity patterns act as attractors

Attractor dynamics and modulation of the ZPF

Phenomenological spectrum

Gamma synchrony

Alpha synchrony (new attractor formed every 80-100ms)


Theta cycle

Stochastic eletrodynamics

The term phenomenal blending was thrown out there briefly but only once; it's not a common term but leads to a good tangent. Keppler also claims that his theory circumvents the combination problem.

Resonance blending and resonance coupling are cornerstones of any theory related to the physics of consciousness because of the salience of vibrations.

Finally, Keppler suggests a few directions for future research:

  • What is the interaction mechanism, and how can it be formally described/operationalized?

  • What new predictions can be made from that formalization?

Interestingly, Keppler mentions in passing the fact that the ZPF seems to have a sort of orchestrator function, which would be helpful when tying this theory to Orch-OR. Keppler's theory does seem compatible with Orch-OR, in that it allows for empiricism using the tools of cognitive neuroscience. Also, Keppler calls states of consciousness "selective reductions," which filter the information available in the field--perhaps like determining what key to play in on the cosmic piano.

Many thanks to iONS for supporting and funding promising research like this.

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