If we define “bachelor” as “an unmarried man” – then the statement “Every bachelor is an unmarried man” is true by definition. Given how we’ve defined our terms, it simply cannot be false. It is necessarily un-falsifiable. Hence it really doesn’t make sense to call such a statement a “theory” or a “hypothesis.” It’s not something that can be proved or disproved empirically. It’s not a matter of doing experiments to see if the data supports our hypothesis. Given how we’ve defined “bachelor,” the equation “bachelor = unmarried man” is true 100% of the time.
In contrast, we might consider the statement “Bachelors eat out at restaurants more frequently than do married men.” This is a statement that is more properly a scientific hypothesis or theory – since it can be proved or disproved empirically. We could, for instance, conduct a survey of 1,000 bachelors and 1,000 married men, to collect data regarding the frequency with which bachelors vs. married men eat out at restaurants. Based upon this data, our theory/hypothesis could then be confirmed or disproved.
Pure Awareness Is Omnipresent
Now what about the statement: “Pure Awareness (or Consciousness) is omnipresent.” Is this statement simply true by logical necessity, or does it qualify as a scientific hypothesis, i.e. as something that has the possibility of being empirically validated or disproved?
If we define “Consciousness” as “that within which and by which all phenomenal and noumenal experience is known” – then, by definition, the “absence of Consciousness” could only be known by Consciousness itself – which is a logical impossibility. Given our definition, the lack of omnipresence of Consciousness can never be empirically established. In other words: the omnipresence of Consciousness has no possibility of being disproved – in exactly the same way that the statement “Every bachelor is an unmarried man” can never be disproved.
So the statement, because of its logical necessity, is disqualified at the outset as a scientific hypothesis/theory per se. It’s simply not something that can be validated or disproved via the usual methods of collecting empirical data. It is an un-falsifiable claim – and hence not eligible for the status of “scientific hypothesis.”
Self-Evidence As A Valid Criteria
Is this a problem? It’s a problem only to the extent that we’re wedded to scientific criteria of validity, as the only possible means of justifying certainty. Metaphysical claims, however, tend to admit the criteria of “self-evidence.” If something is – from so-called “ordinary” or “extraordinary” points of view – subjectively self-evident (leaving aside for a moment our definition of “subject”), then it is accepted as a valid truth-claim. In communities of spiritual practitioners, there’s a kind of inter-subjective agreement in relation to the “internal terrain” – accessed via “internal explorations” — that is parallel to the inter-subjective agreements defining, say among scientists, the so-called “external world.”
Now, it bears mentioning that there are other propositions relating to the attributes of Consciousness that can be formulated on the model of a scientific hypothesis, for instance:
* Consciousness has an identifiable space-time location.
* Consciousness shares the (apparent) limitations of the body or mind or body-mind I habitually identify it with.
The “explorations” required here, in order to collect empirical data in relation to each of these theories/hypotheses, are of an internal rather than an external sort. We look “inside” (via what in Taoism we refer to as “Turning The Light Around”) to see if we can “find” a boundary to Consciousness, or a specific location beyond which it does not extend. The point is that, in spite of the internal nature of these explorations, each of the above statements can at least hypothetically be falsified, via our subjective experience.
But the omnipresence of Consciousness – the ever-present quality of the aware presence within which all that can be known, is known – is in a different category, as described above. It is true by definition, and via self-evidence – but will never qualify as a scientific hypothesis per se, because of its inherently un-falsifiable nature.
Fish In Water
Our situation, vis-à-vis the omnipresence of Consciousness, is not unlike the proverbial fish in water. So all-pervasive is water to a fish’s experience, that it is likely to go unnoticed. Once it is pointed out (by a kind fish-sage) it is then known as self-evident, and can be explored and appreciated more directly. It can be recognized, for instance, as the nonlocal medium through which the perfectly synchronous movement of a school of fish is able to happen.
Any speculation about a realm of existence outside of water must remain as that: mere speculation. For a fish pulled out of water is immediately a dead fish, unable to make observations or draw conclusions about an extra-water realm of existence. Even a fully-realized fish-sage – whose identification has been transferred completely to his/her water-ness – is incapable of directly knowing a non-water world – for water abstracted from water ceases to be capable of making observations or statements about water.