I recently stumbled across the term “consciousness hacking” on a website of that name. The term is an apt description of a shift in Western consciousness caused by the ubiquitous influence of Eastern meditation, now considered a scientific technology of consciousness. The Consciousness Hacking website is a hub for those who hope, through an interface of science and consciousness, to help humanity evolve toward an age of “individual and collective flourishing.” Employing a variety of scientific technologies and meditative techniques as their hacking tools, this growing community intends to essentially upgrade humanity’s “conscious operating system.” How do they hope to accomplish such a Herculean feat? By training the brain into nonduality, which is a nonjudgmental, meditative grid by which to interpret reality. Believing technologically enhanced meditation will result in worldwide “peace, truth, love [and] enlightenment,” they are enthusiastically coordinating a neurological hack of the global mind. Reality will no longer be interpreted by subject/object distinctions (such as that between the Creator and creation—Twoism), but according to nondual (“not two”) consciousness of the divine within everyone (Oneism). They promise utopia by “democratizing the divine” so that an enlightened, united humanity can finally unlock the mystery of collective divinity (the goal of the Tower of Babel). Thus, techno-spirituality offers redemption by meditation rather than by the blood of Jesus. While the terminology is new, the idea behind it isn’t.
The original consciousness hacker was Satan himself, who urged man to become God by joining the opposites of good and evil. This is exactly what meditation does by suspending thought until a person enters a state of nondual consciousness and no longer perceives the distinction between Creator and creation, male and female, or good and evil. All blurs into One. The spirit behind meditation has long been at work in the West to shift the cultural consciousness from Twoism to Oneism.
Societies generally function according to a dominant cultural consensus—a social operating system based on a widely accepted consciousness of reality. The cultural consciousness of the Christian West once accepted a broad consensus defined by biblical theism and the morality of the Ten Commandments. Even unbelievers lived within the general moral framework of the Judeo-Christian worldview. Recognizing the distinctions between God and nature, men and women, right and wrong, good and evil and heaven and hell was common-place, even in a culture increasingly influenced by Darwinian naturalism. Yet, by the 1960s, a deep cauldron of discontent with the pragmatism and materialism of Modernity (falsely associated with Christianity), reached boiling point as thousands (half a million attended Woodstock) shook off the dust of their Christian heritage and turned to Eastern mysticism. The stone tablets were cast down, fragmenting the cultural consensus. Throngs of Hindu yogis and Buddhist monks rushed into the arms of the welcoming West, bringing exotic and alluring promises of self-realization and world peace. Higher states of meditative consciousness would dissolve subject/object distinctions into the Unitive power of One. Worship shifted from the Creator-Redeemer, who is outside us (Twoism), to divine Eastern consciousness, which comes from within (Oneism). The hacking of our consensual consciousness had begun in earnest!
Nearly sixty years later, we find a movement dubbed “enlightenment engineering,” which uses technology to accelerate and enhance the development of meditative consciousness. One of the leading innovators in this field is Mikey Siegel, the founder of Consciousness Hacking. Siegel’s passion to establish meditative consciousness as a kind of updated “conscious operating system” for humanity, developed from an extraordinary meditation experience after his life had taken an unexpected turn. After leaving MIT with a graduate degree in robotics, Siegel was “living the engineer’s dream,” having landed a coveted position in Silicon Valley. But the career he thought would fulfill him left him instead feeling empty, purposeless and anxious. Disillusioned, he struck out on a “vision quest” to the ashrams of India, where Hindu gurus instructed him in a new kind of consciousness, attained through meditation. In a TEDx talk, Siegel told of his life-changing experience, which occurred on the seventh day of an intensive ten-day, fourteen-hour-a-day meditation retreat. That day’s exercise involved sitting cross-legged on the floor to “focus with non-judgmental awareness on the sensations in [the] body.” After a few hours, Siegel experienced the intense back, knee and leg pain one would expect. But the godmen who are Hindu gurus demand complete submission from those who enter their ashrams, and Siegel had submitted to the command to exercise non-judgmentalism toward all his bodily sensations. “In an instant,” he recounts, “everything changed. The sensations didn’t go away, but somehow, they were okay. There was nothing wrong. There was no bad and there was no good because there was no judgment. Somehow, that part of the brain had shut off [TEDx talk].” The meditative experience had flashed over him as a liberating epiphany opening his mind to the nonduality of Eastern mysticism—the home of his new consciousness. Siegel’s consciousness had just been hacked.
By suspending the judgment of his normally functioning mind and abandoning himself to mental passivity, Siegel experienced the “enlightenment” of a higher state of transcendent consciousness in which neither “good” nor “bad” exists. According to Hinduism, the material world and the realm of distinctions are only an illusion (maya). The goal of meditation is to transcend these illusions until the soul (atman) is realized as god (brahman).
Siegel returned from India on an enthusiastic vision quest to explore meditation as a scientific technology with the capacity “to actually get to the inner root of human suffering, and get to the core of the fear, the greed, the selfishness that starts [in the heart]—that is the cause of so much tragedy on our planet.” Through his experience of nonduality, Siegel came to see meditation as the ultimate savior. “[I]f we think about the way meditation works,” he explains, “it’s not about more information. It’s actually about getting out of the mind and embedded in a non-conceptual present moment experience.” Siegel places absolute faith in meditation, the key to “ultimately change our mind so that we can live in a very different experience of reality.” Siegel’s salvation-by-meditation exchanges the atonement bought for sinners by Christ’s blood (which reconciles us to the God and Father outside us) for an inner state of enlightened consciousness.
Siegel anticipates a “Technological Renaissance” with power to heal the soul, much as medical science heals the body. Says Siegel, “So, in the same way that our understanding of biological science has helped eradicate smallpox from the earth, perhaps our understanding of contemplative [meditative] science can help eradicate the inner causes of human suffering.” He is encouraged by the development of numerous wearable devices that enhance and accelerate meditative consciousness. One such device is the Muse, a “brain sensing headband,” which plays soothing sounds of weather patterns (like gentle rain or a soft breeze) when the mind is in an acceptably meditative state. Should the mind wander into thinking, however, it’s weather “handler” turns threatening, calling it back to the passive state of meditation. Siegel’s similar device, Heartsync, allows up to six participants to synchronize their heart rates through the guided breathing techniques of Eastern meditation. Sensors attached to each participant produce audio and visual stimuli to guide the group into a “synchronized state of calm and balance.” Siegel thus spreads his Oneist gospel of meditation to others by inviting them to share in the nondual consciousness (neither bad nor good exists) that flipped the switch in his own brain in an ashram in India.
There is nothing new in Siegel’s vision for humanity. It is the same vision the serpent imparted to Eve and to Adam in the Garden of Eden. Joining the opposites of good and evil did not lead them to enlightenment and self-realization, as Satan deceitfully promised. Instead, it led and continues to lead the human race into the entwining deception of demonic spirituality, which gives a counterfeit sense of god-consciousness and blinds people to their need of repentance and of trust in the redemptive grace of Jesus Christ. Using technological devices to regulate one’s brain waves and heart rate only serves to strengthen the deception. Mikey Siegel calls followers to look within—“It’s clear that there’s a trend where the attention is shifting from out there to in here”—but Scripture calls us to look outside ourselves to our God and Creator. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can transform our “conscious operating system” from its self-destructive, inward-looking bent to an upward-looking worship that will create in us a clean heart. In Christ Jesus, God in the flesh, we who believe are new creatures, empowered by his Holy Spirit and Scripture to grow in sanctification, to discover our true identities and to enjoy a life set apart for the Gospel. All those who know him will, in unity and diversity, be attuned to the glory of his grace—without a MUSE attached to our heads or a HEARTSYNC to teach us to love one another.
Soli Deo Gloria!