The hypothesis was first put forward in 2014 by cosmologist and theoretical physicist Max Tegmark from MIT, who proposed that there's a state of matter - just like a solid, liquid, or gas - in which atoms are arranged to process information and give rise to subjectivity, and ultimately, consciousness. See his paper: https://arxiv.org/abs/1401.1219.

Now, assume that Consciousness is the state of matter. There is a theory that Consciousness is expanding. So the question is that if you believe in the ontology of eternalism and Tegmark's Theory of Consciousness, then Consciousness had its own Big Bang (inflation type theory for Consciousness), hence there must be another type of nothingness before of Big Bang of Consciousness.

How to explain nothingness in the Consciousness theory of Tegmark?

In his Book entitled Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence - Tegmark mentioned that since there can be no meaning without consciousness, it’s not our universe giving meaning to conscious beings, but conscious beings giving meaning to our universe.

If all the wonders of the cosmos carry on without a conscious mind to appreciate them, the universe will be rendered a meaningless “waste of space”.

History: The Idea of Consciousness is the state of matter is originated from Agni Yoga.

See page 5 ,number 11 of the paper of the multidimensional Consciousness by Sergey G. Dzhura


Jay Alfred also studied Consciousness as a state of matter. See his book: Alfred , J. (2007). Dark Plasma Theory – Biology. Canada: Trafford Publishing.

I read it here page 4. Line 18: "Philosophising consciousness from string theory" Ningombam Bupenda Meitei

  • The issue is: there were something "before" matter or there is "nothing" from which matter emerged at some point in time ? Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 8:09
  • If there is something before matter, we must say something like mirror of Consciousness before Big Bang . If there is nothing from which matter emerged, then there must be firmement between levels of nothingness. Nothingness from above, and nothingness so below
    – user47436
    Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 8:17
  • Tegmark investigates properties of matter states that give rise to consciousness. It makes no sense to say that it "expands" on his theory, matter can expand but not its states, expanding gas is still a gas. So a separate Big Bang or "nothingness" for consciousness are also nonsensical. Moreover, Tegmark's conscious matter has to be highly organized, so it can only emerge long after the material Big Bang, when complex atoms and molecules form. It is unclear what eternalism has to do with any of this. Your sorts of speculations require an immaterial consciousness, not Tegmark's physicalism.
    – Conifold
    Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 8:31
  • From your comment Consciousness started from $t_1$ which from Big Bang to $t_1$ universe was without conscious ! This means change happened Independent of Consciousness! Hm ! ... Here are more comments researchgate.net/post/…
    – user47436
    Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 9:46
  • Universe also started without life, and then, after stars and planet formed, life emerged on some of them. It did not happen like a bang at any particular moment either, such processes take place gradually, over millenia. On Tegmark's theory, consciousness is no different than life, a special state of matter, and neither life nor consciousness have any special cosmic significance, they are states like gases or plasma.
    – Conifold
    Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 10:01

2 Answers 2


The only empirical data we have about consciousness is our own personal experience of it coupled with other people's reports about their own experience. According to this, we have to make a fundamental distinction between on the one hand the quality of our subjective experience, for example the painfulness of pain, the redness of red colours etc., and on the second hand, the information content of the human mind. It is trivially apparent that the information content of our mind is correlated to events in our physical environment. Given the nature of our brain, the most plausible theory is that all the information content of our mind is the direct consequence of the neurological processes taking place in our brain. It should be expected that the cognitive sciences will improve our understanding of what goes on in our mind as a consequence of neuronal activity. It probably won't ever be easy, but if our technology keeps making progress, we should at some point get enough data to understand the detailed nature of the human mind.

In this context, the information content of the human mind is trivially understood as a state of matter. We can go even further in this respect by making a close analogy between the human brain and a computer as both information processing "machines".

This facet of the problem can be explained essentially because it is not a fundamental property and we have plenty of empirical data. The working of the brain should in this respect be understood as a particular aspect of life processes and of more generally of natural processes.

Still, this leaves open the question of the quality of our experience of the information processed by our brain, that is to say, qualia.

Personally, I don't see that there is any similar need to explain qualia. I also don't think it is even possible. The reasoning for that is the same as the reasoning which says that reality (as a whole) cannot possibly be explained. The quality of our subjective experience play the same role for our consciousness as would the truly fundamental components of the material world if they exist. Such components would not be explainable.

This should not be particularly surprising. There is no good reason to believe that human intelligence should be able to solve all the mysteries of the world. Our intelligence is not magical. It is the natural result of natural selection. We should obviously expect that it helped us survive and prosper in our natural environment, but there is no mechanism which would have made our intelligence capable of explaining reality as a whole or the quality of our subjective experience. In this context, I don't see how qualia could possibly be understood as a state of matter.


The analogy to the big bang, is confusing. It implies there was no matter to have states before consciousness, and that consciousness originated instantenously.

A better analogy might be with the epoch of recombination, which produced the cosmic microwave background. The universe had expanded and cooled enough for atoms to be stable, making what had been opaque plasma into mostly translucent atoms.

Life can be observationally diagnosed, as having a specific relationship with entropy. Like a fire, or polymer formation, it's a type of propagating pattern. But it can be linked to harvesting the Gibbs free-energy, to understand how it actively generates disorder to maintain such a propagating pattern (ie, eats), and replicates with modification (evolves). We had a discussion on defining life here: Are Life and Intelligence analogous?

It has been estimated that using conventional known technologies, humans could colonise our entire galaxy in less than 10,000 years. Extrapolating, we can expect life to become a dominant process across the universe, across a timescale not so different from the duration of the recombination epoch (18,000-370,000 years after the Big Bang), and with an analogous transition in state behaviour.

You might look at it as an extreme case of the way a 'seed crystal', or other perturbation is needed, for a phase transition - otherwise supercooling and other anomalous behaviours occur of prolonged instability, progressively increasing the likelihood of transition as they become more unstable.

If all the wonders of the cosmos carry on without a conscious mind to appreciate them, the universe will be rendered a meaningless “waste of space”.

Strictly speaking it would be neither meaningless nor not meaningless. But in fact, the anthropic principle can be used to say other variations of fundamental physical laws must have happened as part of the complexity that allowed our universe to happen randomly. Thus even though we cannot access those other possible states of physics, giving them a place in 'our story', which is to say, in our parochial way, giving them meaning.

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