There was a time when my whole life was philosophy, trying to understand the 'nature of the universe' and become enlightened or whatever. I look back on that time with a bit of shame, but I admit I still harbor some of the ideas that I came to during that period. I thought, just for the hell of it, and because some of you might be interested in knowing what I believe philosophically that I would go ahead and venture into the realm of cosmology and metaphysics. Be aware though, I see philosophy as a semantic game, I'm not wedded to any of these ideas and I'm not particularly keen on defending them, so if you argue I'll probably just give up. Also, I probably won't be doing this kind of thing again, so enjoy it now while it lasts. Here Goes.
The Universe and Consciousness
First of all, let's assume that there is an objective reality. Solipsism simply doesn't work, because, even if everything I experience only exists in my mind then my mind is the unifying principle of everything and therefore is itself an objective reality. For simplicity's sake I'll call this objective reality the Universe. The Universe has no shape or form - it's just a mass of energy with various patterns moving around inside of it like a body of water with its currents, ripples, and waves. What gives the Universe form is consciousness. Consciousness is a fundamental principle of the Universe - it permeates the universe like gravity. It isn't generated by the brain, rather the brain is a conduit through which consciousness can flow. Without consciousness, the color red is just a pattern of energy moving through the Universe interacting with other patterns of energy. Consciousness takes that pattern and projects it as the red that we all know. This projection is the manifest universe or the explicate universe, and is the universe of form that we all are familiar with. So consciousness is the full range of experience - raw perception, emotion, abstract thought, etc. Below is a picture of Alfred Korzybsky's Structural Differential.
The top part - an infinite parabola is essentially the Universe that I've been referring to. Think of any object, a pen for example, there are literally an infinite number of qualities that you could look at in that one object - color, weight, size, shape, molecular organization, quantum organization, feel, and so on. But we don't see all of the qualities, we can't because our sense perceptions are too limited. We might extend our perceptions with technology, but we can never get at all of the qualities that the object possesses. So our senses abstract out a few qualities, those that are most important to us; this is our manifest reality and is the second section on the above diagram (the circle). But we don't stop there. As symbolic creatures we can further abstract certain qualities and form a symbolic representation of the object - the word pen manifests a generalized image of the object in our minds. We can continue the process further, abstracting the abstractions ad infinitum (thus creating crap like philosophy). Too often though, we get caught in our abstractions, we get lost in semantics and concepts - economics is the best example of this problem taken to the extreme. So what implications does this theory have on our daily lives - absolutely none, and I'm glad I could waste a little of your time.
This is somewhat less tricky than explaining my views on the structure of the Universe, but is complicated nonetheless. In the past I've called myself a polytheist, a Buddhist, an animist, a Taoist, etc. Now I'm reluctant to call myself anything, but I would never call myself an atheist. The purpose of atheism seems to be primarily to avoid dogma, but it is in fact no less dogmatic than the largely Judeo-Christian beliefs it seeks to counter. The belief that there is no god is no more rational and in no way superior to the belief that there is a God.
First of all, it's important to define what I mean by God because, in this new age infested world, the meaning of God has become a bit ambiguous. God is at base an intelligent creative principle. In my mind, it's ridiculous to think of anything external to the Universe, so god must exist within it; the idea of a 'gasseous vertebrate' ordering things about from a royal throne up in heaven doesn't fit. The fact that the Universe was created whether through a big bang or a divine hand is in little dispute - it exists where nothing had existed before therefore it must have been created. Having been created does not necessarily imply a creator or intelligence though. In order to get at the intelligence we have to look outside of our normal expectation of God. We expect it to be an omniscient and omnipotent force and to have a rational mind like us, but the god I've described doesn't have to be any of those. It doesn't go about creating things out of nothing, nor does it dictate the way things should be based on some grand schema. Rather the system itself is intelligent and that intelligence is experimental. Think of evolution. I'm not saying that some all powerful force kick started evolution or creates animals in whatever way it wants, but that evolution itself is intelligent. It does what works and then when something doesn't work anymore it tries something new - that's intelligence in my book. I may have talked at one time or another about trees and other organisms having a spirit (animism) - I don't mean that the tree was designed to be the way it is or that some magical force is making it do what it does, but the fact that it does what it does is AMAZING. Now think of the global ecosystem. Every piece has its place, every organism functions within the system in a kind of cooperative arrangement that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. A worm couldn't exist by itself, but because there are trees to provide oxygen and food it does quite well. That is intelligence to me, and that is why I will never be an atheist.
Whew, It took me several tries but I finally got it out. I'm sure it makes no sense to anyone, but I really don't care. It's clear in my own mind, and its all garbage anyway. If you want to waste more of your time and learn more about the ideas presented above I suggest you look into the following:
The Holographic Universe
The Dancing Wu Li Masters
General Semantics - actually could be quite useful. Understanding this may help you understand many of the problems in the world today.