If the mind is in the brain,then?
People who experience it do actually die. The heart stops, breathing stops, no brain activity registers on the EEG, they are pronounced dead, covered with a sheet, and rolled out to be sent to the morgue. Or in the case of Er, the body is thrown onto the funeral pyre. Or in the case of the Vietnam soldier, the embalmer makes his cut in the femoral artery, in preparation for embalming the corpse. Nonetheless, the mind is very much alive, having all sorts of adventures. The truly remarkable and so-far unexplained phenomenon is that of coming back to life, perhaps in a few minutes, 45 minutes in the case of Dannion Brinkley, all day for a Vietnam soldier (a case reported in Raymond Moody's classic Life After Life) or even 12 days later, as in the case of a soldier named Er, described in Plato's Republic. It is this miraculous and spontaneous coming back to life which really needs explaining. They should be called cases of death and resurrection. Does it mean that it is the mind which forms the body, rather than vice versa? I do not know. But I am sure that the experience of death, whenever it comes for each of us, will be just as described in these so-called NDE cases, because they have really died. They didn't just almost die.
Cognitive Evolution (stages)
[Node to be completed]
The origin of the nerve cell marks another major step in biological evolution. As a communicative device, the function of a nerve cell is to vary so that it can communicate information. Nerve cells can affect a variety of semantic coding relationships, allowing multicellular organisms to rapidly develop many levels of hierarchical anticipatory control. In particular, we recognize in the following schema the major steps of neural evolution:
Culture is control of thought;
which is control of associating;
which is control of complex reflexes;
which is control of simple reflexes;
which is control of movement;
which is control of position.
The two broad, traditional and competing theories of mind are dualism and materialism (or physicalism). While there are many versions of each, the former generally holds that the conscious mind or a conscious mental state is non-physical in some sense, whereas the latter holds that, to put it crudely, the mind is the brain, or is caused by neural activity. It is against this general backdrop that many answers to the above questions are formulated and developed. There are also many familiar objections to both materialism and dualism. For example, it is often said that materialism cannot truly explain just how or why some brain states are conscious, and that there is an important “explanatory gap” between mind and matter. On the other hand, dualism faces the problem of explaining how a non-physical substance or mental state can causally interact with the physical body.
What is consciousness
It might seem that “conscious” is synonymous with, say, “awareness” or “experience” or “attention.” However, it is crucial to recognize that this is not generally accepted today. For example, though perhaps somewhat atypical, one might hold that there are even unconscious experiences, depending of course on how the term “experience” is defined (Carruthers 2000). More common is the belief that we can be aware of external objects in some unconscious sense, for example, during cases of subliminal perception. The expression “conscious awareness” does not therefore seem to be redundant. Finally, it is not clear that consciousness ought to be restricted to attention. It seems plausible to suppose that one is conscious (in some sense) of objects in one’s peripheral visual field even though one is only attending to some narrow (focal) set of objects within that visual field.
Perhaps the most fundamental and commonly used notion of “conscious” is captured by Thomas Nagel’s famous “what it is like” sense (Nagel 1974). When I am in a conscious mental state, there is “something it is like” for me to be in that state from the subjective or first-person point of view. When I am, for example, smelling a rose or having a conscious visual experience, there is something it “seems” or “feels” like from my perspective. An organism, such as a bat, is conscious if it is able to experience the outer world through its (echo-locatory) senses. There is also something it is like to be a conscious creature whereas there is nothing it is like to be, for example, a table or tree. This is primarily the sense of “conscious state” that will be used throughout this entry. There are still, though, a cluster of expressions and terms related to Nagel’s sense, and some authors simply stipulate the way that they use such terms. For example, philosophers sometimes refer to conscious states as phenomenal or qualitative states. More technically, philosophers often view such states as having qualitative properties called “qualia” (singular, quale). There is significant disagreement over the nature, and even the existence, of qualia, but they are perhaps most frequently understood as the felt properties or qualities of conscious states.
Finally, it is helpful to distinguish between consciousness and self-consciousness, which plausibly involves some kind of awareness or consciousness of one’s own mental states (instead of something out in the world). Self-consciousness arguably comes in degrees of sophistication ranging from minimal bodily self-awareness to the ability to reason and reflect on one’s own mental states, such as one’s beliefs and desires. Some important historical figures have even held that consciousness entails some form of self-consciousness (Kant 1781/1965, Sartre 1956), a view shared by some contemporary philosophers
We assume that when people talk about "consciousness," there is something to be explained. While most neuroscientists acknowledge that consciousness exists, and that at present it is something of a mystery, most of them do not attempt to study it, mainly for one of two reasons:
(1) They consider it to be a philosophical problem, and so best left to philosophers.
(2) They concede that it is a scientific problem, but think it is premature to study it now.
We can state bluntly the major question that neuroscience must first answer: It is probable that at any moment some active neuronal processes in your head correlate with consciousness, while others do not; what is the difference between them? In particular, are the neurons involved of any particular neuronal type? What is special (if anything) about their connections? And what is special (if anything)about their way of firing? The neuronal correlates of consciousness are often referred to as the NCC. Whenever some information is represented in the NCC it is represented in consciousness.
We have suggested (Crick and Koch, 1995a) that the biological usefulness of visual consciousness in humans is to produce the best current interpretation of the visual scene in the light of past experience, either of ourselves or of our ancestors (embodied in our genes), and to make this interpretation directly available, for a sufficient time, to the parts of the brain that contemplate and plan voluntary motor output, of one sort or another, including speech.
Philosophers, in their carefree way, have invented a creature they call a "zombie," who is supposed to act just as normal people do but to be completely unconscious (Chalmers, 1995). This seems to us to be an untenable scientific idea, but there is now suggestive evidence that part of the brain does behave like a zombie. That is, in some cases, a person uses the current visual input to produce a relevant motor output, without being able to say what was seen. Milner and Goodale (1995) point out that a frog has at least two independent systems for action, as shown by Ingle (1973). These may well be unconscious. One is used by the frog to snap at small, prey-like objects, and the other for jumping away from large, looming discs. Why does not our brain consist simply of a series of such specialized zombie systems?
We suggest that such an arrangement is inefficient when very many such systems are required. Better to produce a single but complex representation and make it available for a sufficient time to the parts of the brain that make a choice among many different but possible plans for action. This, in our view, is what seeing is about. As pointed out to us by Ramachandran and Hirstein (1997), it is sensible to have a single conscious interpretation of the visual scene, in order to eliminate hesitation.
Milner and Goodale (1995) suggest that in primates there are two systems, which we shall call the on-line system and the seeing system. The latter is conscious, while the former, acting more rapidly, is not. The general characteristics of these two systems and some of the experimental evidence for them are outlined below in the section on the on-line system. There is anecdotal evidence from sports. It is often stated that a trained tennis player reacting to a fast serve has no time to see the ball; the seeing comes afterwards. In a similar way, a sprinter is believed to start to run before he consciously hears the starting pistol.
Notice that while the information needed to represent a face is contained in the firing of the ganglion cells in the retina, there is, in our terms, no explicit representation of the face there.
How many neurons are there likely to be in such a group? This is not yet known, but we would guess that the number to represent one aspect is likely to be closer to 100-1,000 than to 10,000-1,000,000.
By consciousness we mean our level of perception about ourselves and the world around us. The higher the perception, the greater the consciousness. Those who have had the spiritual experience have noted that their state of awareness, i.e. their consciousness, has been elevated beyond the norm, enabling that person to experience existence from a whole new perspective.
By the way, many of the common personal values we share in our lives can be said to emanate from this inner experience of oneness. Examples of these personal values are -- concern for others, trust, tolerance, openness, respect for the individual, and teamwork.
Also we can say that the greatest foundation for any collective, including our society as a whole, is one rooted in this experience and realization that the spirit in me resides in every other person in that community. This spiritual oneness may be in fact the central attribute of an ultimate future society.
"Good" and "Bad"
A second way that the spiritual experience of oneness expresses is by the perception that there is a level of consciousness that transcends our normal experience of what is good and what is bad. A person normally accepts good things that happen in life as "the good" and bad things that happen as "the bad." Through the unitary spiritual experience of oneness we rise to a higher level of knowledge and insight, and come to understand that the difference between the two are not what we normally perceive. We understand that "the bad" in fact serves a very important purpose; that it is there to help us and the world around us evolve. In that sense it is just as good as "the good!" Conversely through the experience of spiritual consciousness we begin to perceive that many things we perceive as "good" may not be truly good, and may just be expressions of our desires, attachments, and preferences.
How many of us have looked back over the course of our lives and have seen that the difficult experiences we have gone through (that at the time we perceived of as bad) was often the doorway to a new beginning or opportunity. If we can carry into our daily lives the consciousness of a plane beyond good and bad, we will be able to operate from a more centered poise, enabling us to make better decisions since we see the world from a greater depth and deeper truth. This in effect can only lead to greater success and happiness in life.
Frankenstein's Children: Modern Torture's Scientific Bible
What if there was a book that dispassionately looked at the history and methodology of torture? What if this book looked at human physiology and psychology and tried to scientifically establish how to best break another human being and bend him or her to your will? What if this book were written by top behavioral scientists and published in the United States? And, finally, what if the studies published in this book were financed by the U.S. government?
Look no farther, there is, or rather was, such a book. Published in 1961 by John Wiley & Sons, The Manipulation of Human Behavior was edited by psychologists Albert D. Biderman and Herbert Zimmer. This book, unfortunately, cannot be found online, nor was a second edition or printing ever made (not surprisingly).
Behavior and Mood Disorders in Focal Brain Lesions
Italy's Cochrane Neurological Network provides an excellent overview of common neurological deficits resulting from stroke and toxin exposures, and their inheritable congenital effects.
More links: Does Deviant Behavior Have a Physical Cause?
Chemicals impair kids' brains in 'pandemic' proportions
Industrial chemicals have impaired the brain development of children, knocked down IQs, shortened attention spans and triggered behaviour problems, says a new report that is calling for better regulation of 201 chemicals with neurotoxic effects. ...In a report warning of "a silent pandemic in modern society," a team from the Harvard School of Public Health says millions of children may already have been affected. ..."About half of the 201 chemicals that we list are high-volume production chemicals," says lead author Dr. Philippe Grandjean. The list includes aluminum and tin compounds, solvents like acetone and benzene, many organic substances and pesticides.
The report takes a global view of the problem, but Grandjean says there is no question Canadians are exposed and affected. ..."Most of these chemicals occur in Canadian chemical production, in the environment, in consumer goods," he says. He also says Canada stands out for exposure to the neurotoxin manganese, which has been used as an anti-knock agent in gasoline. ...Health Canada declined to comment on the report, published today in the Lancet, or say how widely used the compounds are in Canada. But the department is promising action on thousands of chemicals that were introduced into use in Canada without adequate toxicity testing.
The Lancet report says one in six children has a developmental disability, many of them learning problems, sensory deficits and developmental delays that affect the nervous system. Mounting evidence has linked industrial chemicals to such neurological disorders, and the report deplores the way the chemicals are "not regulated to protect children." ...There are "great gaps" in testing of the chemicals, and regulators will only restrict compounds if there is a "high level" of proof of damage and problems, the report says, adding this puts vulnerable developing brains at unacceptable risk.
Chemical pollution 'responsible for silent pandemic of brain damage'
MILLIONS of children worldwide may have suffered brain damage as a direct result of industrial pollution, scientists said yesterday. ...An explosive report from researchers in the United States and Denmark talks of a "silent pandemic" of neurodevelopmental disorders caused by toxic chemicals spilling into the environment. ...They include conditions such as autism, attention deficit disorder, mental retardation and cerebral palsy.
The scientists identified 202 industrial chemicals with the potential to damage the human brain, and said they were likely to be the "tip of a very large iceberg". More than 1,000 chemicals are known to be neurotoxic in animals, and are likely to be harmful to humans.
The researchers made an urgent call to tighten worldwide controls, and for a "precautionary approach" to testing. ...Tough regulations being introduced by the European Union do not go far enough, said the researchers. In the US, there are only minimal requirements for companies to carry out safety tests on chemicals, which often go unenforced.
'Silent pandemic' poisoning our children
Philippe Grandjean, visiting professor at Harvard and lead author of the review, published in the Lancet online, said: "The human brain is a precious and vulnerable organ. Even limited damage may have serious consequences ... We are talking about the brain development of future generations. There will be an enormous cost of not regulating exposure."
All 202 chemicals listed by the authors have been shown to cause serious injuries when ingested or used in suicide attempts. They include chemicals used in common household products, such as aluminium in saucepans and drink cans, acetone in nail polish remover and ethylene glycol in antifreeze.
But the main exposure is through contamination of the environment during manufacture, when the chemicals seep into the ground water, are carried in the air or contaminate food. ..."The combined evidence suggests that neurodevelopmental disorders caused by industrial chemicals have created a silent pandemic in modern society," the authors write. ..."Although these chemicals might have caused impaired brain development in millions of children worldwide, the profound effects of such a pandemic are not apparent from available health statistics. ..."Only a few chemical causes have been recognised, so the full effects of our industrial activities could be substantially greater than recognised at present." ...Fewer than half the thousands of chemicals used in commerce have been tested for toxicity and they say an accelerated testing programme is vital.
A 'Silent Pandemic' Of Brain Disorders
Exposure to industrial chemicals may be responsible for a "silent pandemic" of brain development disorders affecting millions of children worldwide, and not enough is being done to identify the risks. ...That is the contention of two researchers who have studied the effects of chemical exposures on brain development for many decades.
In an essay published online in the journal The Lancet, the researchers identified 202 potentially harmful industrial chemicals that may be contributing to dramatic increases in autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and other brain disorders among children. ...Roughly half of the chemicals are in common use, but very few have been tested to determine their impact on brain development.
"The bottom line is you only get one chance to develop a brain," Philippe Grandjean, M.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health, tells WebMD. "We have to protect children against chemical pollution because damage to a developing brain is irreversible." ..."The few substances proven to be toxic to human neurodevelopment should be viewed as the tip of a very large iceberg," ...Almost all children born in industrialized countries between 1960 and 1980 were exposed to substantial amounts of lead from gasoline. The researchers write that lead exposure in this population could be responsible for a substantial reduction in average IQ scores. ..."A generation of American children was exposed to this very dangerous neurotoxin while we were doing traditional risk assessment," Grandjean tells WebMD. "We can't afford to make the same mistake again."
Scientists link Industrial pollution to ‘silent pandemic’ of brain damage
Fetal and early childhood exposures to industrial chemicals in the environment can damage the developing brain and can lead to neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs), a new study revealed. ...In their explosive report, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine talked about a "silent pandemic" of neurodevelopmental disorders caused by toxic chemicals spilling into the environment. They called the pandemic silent because the sub-clinical effects of individual toxic chemicals are not evident in available health statistics.
The two researchers, who have spent decades studying the effects of lead and mercury exposure on the fetus and children, linked industrial chemical to the conditions like autism (a developmental disorder), attention deficit disorder (ADHD), mental retardation and cerebral palsy (a collection of movement disorders caused by brain damage that occurs before, during, or shortly after birth). ...they discovered that 202 industrial chemicals have the significant potentiality to damage the developing human brain. Their list of harmful compounds includes everything from arsenic to benzene and phenol. Nearly half of the agents are universal in industrial processes and products, and could make their way into the environment through air, water and food.
"The human brain is a precious and vulnerable organ. And because optimal brain function depends on the integrity of the organ, even limited damage may have serious consequences," said Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor at Harvard School of Public Health and the lead author of the study. ...In their report, Grandjean and co-author Philip J. Landrigan, Professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine concluded that millions of children may have suffered brain damage as a result of industrial pollution. ...The researchers requested the governments to tighten worldwide controls, and enforce highly efficient public health standards, such as toxicity test of chemicals. ..."Even if substantial documentation on their (the tested agents) toxicity is available, most chemicals are not regulated to protect the developing brain," Grandjean said. "Only a few substances, such as lead and mercury, are controlled with the purpose of protecting children. The 200 other chemicals that are known to be toxic to the human brain are not regulated to prevent adverse effects on the fetus or a small child." ...In the European Union, 100,000 chemicals were registered for commercial use in 1981, while in the US, 80,000 are registered.
Chemical Exposure Creating a "Silent Pandemic" of Neurodevelopmental Disorders?
An online review article published November 8 in the Lancet says environmental exposure to toxic chemicals in utero and in the early stages of life may be creating a "silent pandemic" of neurodevelopmental disorders. ...In their paper, Philippe Grandjean, MD, from the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, Denmark, and Philip Landrigan, MD, from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York, call for new, stricter approaches to chemical testing and controls that recognize the "unique vulnerability of the developing brain."
In conducting their review, the authors used the US National Library of Medicine hazardous substances data bank, supplemented by fact sheets from the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the integrated risk information system of the US Environmental Protection Agency to identify industrial chemicals that have proven neurotoxic effects in humans.
"The combined evidence suggests that neurodevelopmental disorders caused by industrial chemicals have created a silent pandemic in modern society,"... In 1981, 100,000 chemicals in the European Union were registered for commercial use. In the United States, 80,000 are currently registered, yet fewer than half of these substances have been subjected "to even token laboratory testing," they write. ..."Nearly 3000 of these substances are produced in quantities of almost 500,000 kg every year, but for nearly half of these high-volume chemicals, no basic toxicity data are publicly available, and 80% have no information about developmental or pediatric toxicity," they write. ...An expert committee from the US National Research Council concluded that 3% of developmental disabilities are the direct result of environmental exposure to such substances and that another 25% arise through interactions between environmental factors and individual genetic susceptibility. ...However, these estimates, the authors note, were based on scarce information about neurotoxicity and therefore likely underestimate the true prevalence of chemically induced abnormalities.
As one can clearly see, this is a subject that,although relatively young, is quite broad in its dynamic scope... Books About Consciousness
Bourguignon, Erika. 1976. Possession. San Francisco: Chandler & Sharp Publishers, Inc.
Castaneda, Carlos. 1968. The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Dobkin de Rios, M. 1984. Hallucinogens: Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Albuquerque: University New Mexico.
Eliade, Mircea. 1964. Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. Bollingen Series LXXVI. New York: Pantheon.
Furst, Peter T. 1972. Flesh of the Gods: The Ritual Use of Hallucinogens, P. T. Furst ed. New York: Praeger Publishers.
--Includes: Emboden, William "Ritual Use of Cannabis Sativa: A Historical-Ethnographic Survey"; Fernandez, James W. "Tabernanthe Iboga: Narcotic Ecstasis and the Work of the Ancestors"; Furst, Peter T. "To Find Our Life: Peyote Among the Huichol Indians of Mexico"; La Barre, Weston "Hallucinogens and the Shamanic Origin of Religion"; Reichel-Dolmatoff, Gerardo "The Cultural Context of an Aboriginal Hallucinogen: Banisteriopsis Caapi"; Schultes, Richard Evans "An Overview of Hallucinogens in the Western Hemisphere"; Sharon, Douglas "The San Pedro Cactus in Peruvian Folk Healing"; Wasson, R. Gordon "The Divine Mushroom of Immortality", "What was the Soma of the Aryans?"; Wilbert, Johannes "Tobacco and Shamanistic Ecstasy Among the Warao Indians of Venezuela."
Furst, Peter T. 1976. Hallucinogens and Culture. San Francisco: Chandler and Sharp.
Grof, Stanislav. 1975. Realms of the Unconscious: Observations from '___' Research. New York: Viking Press.
Harner, Michael J. 1973. Hallucinogens and Shamanism, M. Harner, ed. New York: Oxford University Press.
--Includes: Boyer, L. Bryce et al. "Shamanism and Peyote Use among the Apaches of the Mescalero Indian Reservation"; Dobkin De Rios, Marlene "Curing with Ayahuasca in an Urban Slum." In Hallucinogens and Shamanism; Harner, Michael J. "The Sound of Rushing Water", "The Role of Hallucinogenic Plants in European Witchcraft"; "Common Themes in South American Indian Yage Experiences"; Kensinger, Kenneth M. "Banisteriopsis Usage Among the Peruvian Cashinahua"; Munn, Henry "The Mushrooms of Language"; Naranjo, Claudio "Psychological Aspects of the Yage Experience in an Experimental Setting"; Siskind, Janet "Visions and Cures Among the Sharanahua"; Weiss, Gerald "Shamanism and Priesthood in Light of the Campa Ayahuasca Ceremony."
Harner, Michael J. 1980. The Way of the Shaman. San Francisco: Harper and Row.
Masters, R. E. L., and Jean Houston. 1966. The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Myerhoff, Barbara. 1974. Peyote Hunt: The Sacred Journey of the Huichol Indians. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Reichel-Dolmatoff, Gerardo. 1975. The Shaman and the Jaguar: A Study of Narcotic Drugs Among the Indians of Colombia. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Schultes, Richard Evans and Albert Hofmann. 1979. Plants of the Gods: Origins of Hallucinogen Use. New York: McGraw Hill.
Tart, Charles T. 1969. Altered States of Consciousness, C. T. Tart, ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
--Includes: Aaronson, Bernard S. "Hypnosis, Depth Perception, and Psychedelic Experience"; Bowers, Malcolm B. Jr. and Daniel X. Freedman "'Psychedelic' Experiences in Acute Psychosis"; Deikman, Arthur, J. "Deautomatization and the Mystic Experience"; Ludwig, Arnold M. "Altered States of Consciousness"; Maupin, Edward W. "Individual Differences in Response to a Zen Meditation Exercise"; Pahnke, Walter N. and William A. Richards "Implications of '___' and Experimental Mysticism"; Stewart, Kilton "Dream Theory in Malaya"; Tart, Charles T. "The 'High' Dream: A New State of Consciousness"; Van Eeden, Frederik "A Study of Dreams".
Weil, Andrew T. 1972. The Natural Mind: A New Way of Looking at Drugs and the Higher Consciousness. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Department of Psychology, University of Bologna, Viale Berti Pichat, 5, 40127 Bologna, Italy.
Two aspects of consciousness are first considered: consciousness as awareness (phenomenological meaning) and consciousness as strategic control (functional meaning). As to awareness, three types can be distinguished: first, awareness as the phenomenal experiences of objects and events; second, awareness as meta-awareness, i.e., the awareness of mental life itself; third, awareness as self-awareness, i.e., the awareness of being oneself. While phenomenal experience and self-awareness are usually present during dreaming (even if many modifications are possible), meta-awareness is usually absent (apart from some particular experiences of self-reflectiveness) with the major exception of lucid dreaming. Consciousness as strategic control may also be present in dreams. The functioning of consciousness is then analyzed, following a cognitive model of dream production. In such a model, the dream is supposed to be the product of the interaction of three components: (a) the bottom-up activation of mnemonic elements coming from LTM systems, (b) interpretative and elaborative top-down processes, and (c) monitoring of phenomenal experience. A feedback circulation is activated among the components, where the top-down interpretative organization and the conscious monitoring of the oneiric scene elicitates other mnemonic contents, according to the requirements of the dream plot. This dream productive activity is submitted to unconscious and conscious processes. Copyright 2001 Academic Press.
We live our life in a world that we have created for ourselves… each one of us live in "his" or "her" little world… we dream our life away… and "think" that we are living in the "real" world… But there is no real world as such… we individually "dream our own world" and give it a meaning… The same law applies to our night dreams… We "live" conscious dream states and call them "vivid dreaming" or "lucid dreams" but what I wanted to clarify here is that we are not really the dreamers... we are not the creators of our dreams... it is only Being that is the dreamer... and the creator of our dreams... we are the observers of what is projected from the source of consciousness.
Theories of consciousness that do not account for dreaming must be regarded as incomplete, and theories that are contradicted by the findings of phenomenological and psychophysiological studies on dreaming must be wrong. For example, the behaviorist assumption that "the brain is stimulated always and only from the outside by a sense organ process" (4) cannot explain dreams; likewise, for the assumption that consciousness is the direct or exclusive product of sensory input.
"Dreams are imperfections of sleep; even so is consciousness the imperfection of waking. Dreams are imperfections in the circulation of the blood; even so is consciousness a disorder of life."
We are strange monkeys in that we can dream, we can confuse reality with an imagined reality which we entirely construct. There is the age-old Zen-like paradox: is our reality but the dream existence of a slumbering god? Are we but imperfect phantoms made real by the hyperactive imagination of a child deity? Are we the molecules -- combining, dividing, splitting and coming together -- of someone's big toe? Hard to say. Hard to say.
Recent research by Ribeiro et al. (1999) documents how the zif-268 immediate early gene is expressed during REM sleep following enriched waking experiences. These researchers suggest that this up-regulation of zif-268 gene expression leads to the de novo synthesis of proteins that facilitates increased neuronal plasticity (growth). Rossi (2002) generalizes this research to propose that critical periods of psychological development, change, and stress can also turn on the expression of the zif-268 gene during REM sleep to facilitate the neuronal plasticity that becomes the psychobiological basis of new developments in personal identity, thinking, and feeling as well as the psychological growth of consciousness in the co-creation of psychological reality.
For some fifty years now, nearly all work in mainstream analytic philosophy has made no serious
attempt to understand the nature of physical reality, even though most analytic philosophers take
this to be all of reality, or nearly all. While we've worried much about the nature of our own
experiences and thoughts and languages, we've worried little about the nature of the vast physical
world that, as we ourselves believe, has them all as only a small part.
Especially in this
fearfully complacent philosophical day and age, we do well to remember what Russell
counseled: About the rest of concrete reality, we don't know anything nearly so intimately, nor
nearly so fully, as we know our experience or, maybe better, as we know the phenomena
apprehended in experience.
Goal of Research into Consciousness
This interview was conducted in New Delhi late in the 1970s by a reporter for a UNESCO publication.
Q: For more than a decade now, you have been writing books on consciousness and evolution and about mystical experience. Could you restate your position in clear-cut terms and point out some of the reasons that might have stood in the way of their acceptance by scientists so far?
A: The main reason is that there is still a great deal of confusion about the phenomenon known as mystical ecstasy. The general impression is that it is just an altered state of awareness, comparable to the states brought about by intoxicants, mind-altering drugs, hypnosis, biofeedback, auto-suggestive conditions and the like. Even an authority like William James has been in error in the comparison he has made between mystical ecstasy and the states induced by wine and nitrous oxide.
Q: What is the reason for this?
A: The reason is simple. The transcendental and transhuman nature of mystical experience are a still uncharted province for scholars. There is a wide gulf between scholarship and mystical vision. The staggering nature of the vision and the revolution it brings about in the life and thinking of one who is blessed with it, and the light it throws on the problems of existence, are all beyond the power of the intellect to grasp.
Q: Can you explain this further?
A: Intellectual study is like the data gathered by a dreamer of the dream world in which he dwells for a while. The mystical vision is like the awareness gained by one when awake. I must make this clear, with all the emphasis at my command and in full conformity to what has been as emphatically stated by mystics of the past, that the objective world disappears, like a phantom, in the illuminating blaze of mystical consciousness. The Reality which is unveiled in the duration of the experience is beyond the grasp of the intellect and the power of language to describe.
In the most general sense, the purpose of the project was and is to create and document a consistent database of parallel streams of random numbers generated by high-quality physical sources. The goal is to determine whether any correlations might be detectable of statistics from these data with independent long-term physical or sociological variables. In the original experimental design we asked the more limited question whether there is a detectable correlation of deviations from randomness with the occurrence of major events in the world.
The formal hypothesis of the original event-based experiment is very broad. It posits that engaging global events will correlate with deviations in the data. The identification of global events and the times at which they occur are specified case by case, as are the recipes for calculating the variance deviations. This latitude of choice makes the original experiment complicated to analyse, but by standardizing the results, we can obtain a composite outcome. This constitutes a general test of the broadly defined formal hypothesis.
Examination of "Impulse" events shows structure and includes indications that the response may begin a little early. Here we look at events defined for the formal hypothesis test series, and compare them with a new database of arguably similar events, namely big earthquakes. They show remarkably similar trends, even though there are differences related to the choice of statistics. This page also include some modeling to assess the effect of geographic distance on pair correlations.
On January 23rd, 1997, a large number of people around the world participated in a global meditation organized by The Gaiamind Project. The event was planned for 17:30 to 17:35 Greenwich Mean Time to correspond with an unusual astronomical conjunction. This provided an opportunity to record data from random event generators (REG) in several laboratories during a time-period where very large numbers of people were engaged in a coordinated, meaningful activity. We predicted that this activity would alter the statistical behavior of the REG devices in a manner similar to findings in previous FieldREG experiments.
Data were obtained from 14 independent REG systems in seven different locations, all in the US or Europe. The combined result yielded a Chisquare of 23.9 with 14 degrees of freedom and a corresponding probability of .047. Although this outcome is not highly significant, the effect size is approximately nine times as large as that found in related laboratory experiments. For more detail, see the electronic journal of parapsychology, eJAP .
The results suggest that some condition or process that occurred during the global meditation was correlated with and may have caused a small change in the performance of random event generators set to address this possibility in a pre-planned, multi-laboratory, international study.
Evolution of Consciousness
Human consciousness did not all of a sudden evolve like Venus
Aphrodite. It came through millions of years of long and tor-
tuous evolution. This may be debatable as to whether it is the
answering reflection of an all-pervasive divine consciousness
or simply a function of matter in evolution, but it is now widely
recognized that human consciousness is not something alien
to this planet but has emerged from the very heart of earthly
evolution over the eternal time continuum.
Evolution And Consciousness
What is not yet
adequately realized is that human consciousness, rather than
being the summum bonum of evolution, may be just another
stage in the evolutionary adventure which will ultimately be
transcended, much in the manner that human consciousness
itself marked a transcendence over mineral, vegetable and
animal forms of awareness. If one thinks about it, there is real-
ly no justification for us to assume that human consciousness
is the end result of the evolutionary thrust.
Why Great Minds Can't Grasp Consciousness
LiveScience Staff Writer
LiveScience.com Mon Aug 8, 2:23 PM ET
No longer the sole purview of philosophers and mystics, consciousness is now attracting the attention of scientists from across a variety of different fields, each, it seems, with their own theories about what consciousness is and how it arises from the brain.
In many religions, consciousness is closely tied to the ancient notion of the soul, the idea that in each of us, there exists an immaterial essence that survives death and perhaps even predates birth. It was believed that the soul was what allowed us to think and feel, remember and reason.
Our personality, our individuality and our humanity were all believed to originate from the soul.
Nowadays, these things are generally attributed to physical processes in the brain, but exactly how chemical and electrical signals between trillions of brain cells called neurons are transformed into thoughts, emotions and a sense of self is still unknown.
"Almost everyone agrees that there will be very strong correlations between what's in the brain and consciousness," says David Chalmers, a philosophy professor and Director of the Center for Consciousness at the Australian National University. "The question is what kind of explanation that will give you. We want more than correlation, we want explanation -- how and why do brain process give rise to consciousness? That's the big mystery."
Just accept it
Chalmers is best known for distinguishing between the 'easy' problems of consciousness and the 'hard' problem.
The easy problems are those that deal with functions and behaviors associated with consciousness and include questions such as these: How does perception occur? How does the brain bind different kinds of sensory information together to produce the illusion of a seamless experience?
"Those are what I call the easy problems, not because they're trivial, but because they fall within the standard methods of the cognitive sciences," Chalmers says.
The hard problem for Chalmers is that of subjective experience.
"You have a different kind of experience -- a different quality of experience -- when you see red, when you see green, when you hear middle C, when you taste chocolate," Chalmers told LiveScience. "Whenever you're conscious, whenever you have a subjective experience, it feels like something."
According to Chalmers, the subjective nature of consciousness prevents it from being explained in terms of simpler components, a method used to great success in other areas of science. He believes that unlike most of the physical world, which can be broken down into individual atoms, or organisms, which can be understood in terms of cells, consciousness is an irreducible aspect of the universe, like space and time and mass.
"Those things in a way didn't need to evolve," said Chalmers. "They were part of the fundamental furniture of the world all along."
Instead of trying to reduce consciousness to something else, Chalmers believes consciousness should simply be taken for granted, the way that space and time and mass are in physics. According to this view, a theory of consciousness would not explain what consciousness is or how it arose; instead, it would try to explain the relationship between consciousness and everything else in the world.
Not everyone is enthusiastic about this idea, however.
'Not very helpful'
"It's not very helpful," said Susan Greenfield, a professor of pharmacology at Oxford University.
"You can't do very much with it," Greenfield points out. "It's the last resort, because what can you possibly do with that idea? You can't prove it or disprove it, and you can't test it. It doesn't offer an explanation, or any enlightenment, or any answers about why people feel the way they feel."
Greenfield's own theory of consciousness is influenced by her experience working with drugs and mental diseases. Unlike some other scientists -- most notably the late Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, and his colleague David Koch, a professor of computation and neural systems at Caltech -- who believed that different aspects of consciousness like visual awareness are encoded by specific neurons, Greenfield thinks that consciousness involves large groups of nonspecialized neurons scattered throughout the brain.
Important for Greenfield's theory is a distinction between 'consciousness' and 'mind,' terms that she says many of her colleagues use interchangeably, but which she believes are two entirely different concepts.
"You talk about losing your mind or blowing your mind or being out of your mind, but those things don't necessarily entail a loss of consciousness," Greenfield said in a telephone interview. "Similarly, when you lose your consciousness, when you go to sleep at night or when you're anesthetized, you don't really think that you're really going to be losing your mind."
Like the wetness of water
According to Greenfield, the mind is made up of the physical connections between neurons. These connections evolve slowly and are influenced by our past experiences and therefore, everyone's brain is unique.
But whereas the mind is rooted in the physical connections between neurons, Greenfield believes that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain, similar to the 'wetness' of water or the 'transparency' of glass, both of which are properties that are the result of -- that is, they emerge from -- the actions of individual molecules.
For Greenfield, a conscious experience occurs when a stimulus -- either external, like a sensation, or internal, like a thought or a memory -- triggers a chain reaction within the brain. Like in an earthquake, each conscious experience has an epicenter, and ripples from that epicenter travels across the brain, recruiting neurons as they go.
Mind and consciousness are connected in Greenfield's theory because the strength of a conscious experience is determined by the mind and the strength of its existing neuronal connections -- connections forged from past experiences.
Part of the mystery and excitement about consciousness is that scientists don't know what form the final answer will take.
WHAT DOES MYSTICISM HAVE TO TEACH US ABOUT CONSCIOUSNESS?
Revised version of the paper delivered to "Towards a Science of Consciousness 1996 (Tucson II) April 1996
[Draft for Tucson II Conference Proceedings]
Revised version appears in JCS, 5, No.2 (1998), pp. 185-201
Robert K.C. Forman, Program in Religion, Hunter College, CUNY,
695 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10021, USA. Email: RForman383@aol.com
Introduction: Why Mysticism?
In this article I would like to bring the findings of my somewhat unusual but increasingly accepted field — mysticism— to the discussion, for I think they may offer some helpful insights about consciousness. Why? When a biologist seeks to understand a complex phenomenon, one key strategy is to look to at it in its simplest form. Probably the most famous is the humble bacterium E. coli. Its simple gene structure has allowed us to understand much of the gene functioning of complex species. Similarly many biologists have turned to the ‘memory’ of the simple sea slug to understand our own more kaleidoscopic memory. Freud and Durkheim both used totemism, which they construed as thesimplest form of religion, to understand the complexities of religious life.1 The methodological principle is: to understand something complex turn to its simple forms.
Mystical experiences may represent just such a simple form of human consciousness. Usually our minds are an enormously complex stew of thoughts, feelings, sensations, wants, snatches of song, pains, drives, daydreams and, of course, consciousness itself more or less aware of it all. To understand consciousness in itself, the obvious thing would be to clear away as much of this internal detritus and noise as possible. It turns out that mystics seem to be doing precisely that. The technique that most mystics use is some form of meditation or contemplation. These are procedures that, often by recycling a mental subroutine,2 systematically reduce mental activity. During meditation, one begins to slow down the thinking process, and have fewer or less intense thoughts. One’s thoughts become as if more distant, vague, or less preoccupying; one stops paying as much attention to bodily sensations; one has fewer or less intense fantasies and daydreams. Thus by reducing the intensity or compelling quality of outward perception and inward thoughts, one may come to a time of greater stillness. Ultimately one may become utterly silent inside, as though in a gap between thoughts, where one becomes completely perception- and thought-free. One neither thinks nor perceives any mental or sensory content. Yet, despite this suspension of content, one emerges from such events confident that one had remained awake inside, fully conscious. This experience, which has been called the pure consciousness event, or PCE, has been identified in virtually every tradition. Though PCEs typically happen to any single individual only occasionally, they are quite regular for some practitioners.3 The pure consciousness event may be defined as a wakeful but contentless (non-intentional) consciousness.
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
We might ask, does Deep Throat, or the mystics in our case, seem unconnected or delusional? I believe most of us would say no. In fact many regard Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, the authors of the Upanishads, and others who tell us of such experiences as unusually wise. Certainly they do not seem utterly unhinged, physically ill, etc. Secondly, we might ask, do others in a situation similar to Deep Throat’s describe things similarly? In our case, assuming reasonable cultural differences in language and detail, do mystics from around the world describe things largely similarly? Here again the answer is yes. We shall find a reasonable amount of similarity among their descriptions, a family resemblance, They tend to confirm each others reports. Finally, is there other confirming evidence for our Deep Throats’ claims? Here the information is not in: just how consciousness works, relates to the world or the brain, is anything but established.
Health and Elevated Consciousness
Health as Expanding Consciousness
by Margaret Newman
The theory of health as expanding consciousness was stimulated by concern for those for whom health as the absence of disease or disability is not possible. Nurses often relate to such people: people facing the uncertainty, debilitation, loss and eventual death associated with chronic illness. The theory has progressed to include the health of all persons regardless of their health status. The theory asserts that every person in every situation, no matter how disordered and hopeless it may seem, is part of the universal process of expanding consciousness – a process of becoming more of oneself, of finding greater meaning in life, and of reaching new dimensions of connectedness with other people and the world.
Time and Observer
Two models of consciousness are contrasted with regard to their treatment of subjective timing. The standard Cartesian Theater model postulates a place in the brain where "it all comes together": where the discriminations in all modalities are somehow put into registration and "presented" for subjective judgment. In particular, the Cartesian Theater model implies that the temporal properties of the content-bearing events occurring within this privileged representational medium determine subjective order. The alternative, Multiple Drafts model holds that whereas the brain events that discriminate various perceptual contents are distributed in both space and time in the brain, and whereas the temporal properties of these various events are determinate, none of these temporal properties determine subjective order, since there is no single, constitutive "stream of consciousness" but rather a parallel stream of conflicting and continuously revised contents. Four puzzling phenomena that resist explanation by the standard model are analyzed: two results claimed by Libet, an apparent motion phenomenon involving color change (Kolers and von Grunau), and the "cutaneous rabbit" (Geldard and Sherrick) an illusion of evenly spaced series of "hops" produced by two or more widely spaced series of taps delivered to the skin. The unexamined assumptions that have always made the Cartesian Theater model so attractive are exposed and dismantled. The Multiple Drafts model provides a better account of the puzzling phenomena, avoiding the scientific and metaphysical extravagances of the Cartesian Theater.
I'm really not sure if others fail to perceive me or if, one fraction of a second after my face interferes with their horizon, a millionth of a second after they have cast their gaze on me, they already begin to wash me from their memory: forgotten before arriving at the scant, sad archangel of a remembrance. --Ariel Dorfman, Mascara, 1988
Wherever there is a conscious mind, there is a point of view. A conscious mind is an observer, who takes in the information that is available at a particular (roughly) continuous sequence of times and places in the universe.
What does it really mean?
What Does It Mean
to Be Conscious?
January 31, 2007 - 07:53 PM
Mind over Matter Bill Harris, Director
The awake person is not at odds with the world. He is a part of it, but not attached to the outcome. Like Jesus, he is “in the world but not of it.” He watches as it all goes by, but he is also a participant.
He knows most people are caught in the world but unaware of being caught, so he is compassionate, and does what he can to help others with their suffering. To him, the world is a play, and life is like playing a part in that play.
He knows it’s just a role, but he plays it to the hilt, and enjoys every moment. But he also realizes that the script is just a script, and from the highest perspective it doesn’t matter what part has been written for him. He exerts a certain amount of control over his part, but ultimately has only limited influence over what is, because his effort is just one of an infinite number of other efforts, all with their own ends in mind.
Instead of being an automatic response mechanism, responding to the world based on unconscious rules, beliefs, fears, and limitations, he is able to consciously evaluate each situation, in the moment, and instantly and instinctively know exactly what to do and how to respond in order to gain the most resourceful outcome, both for himself and for others.
The Underlying Peace of Mind
Mainly, he watches as he plays his part and marvels at the complexity, the infinite permutations, the surprises, the certainties, and the uncertainties. He is calm most of the time, but sometimes his part requires him to be upset or to have some other emotion or reaction. That is being human. But whatever his mood, there is an underlying peace of mind, an underlying, effortless happiness.
You can be this way, too. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it can happen. *snip*
In the book, this description is given in a larger context that makes it easier (I think) to understand exactly what I mean, so I want to supply some of that context here. In addition, as I’m always thinking about these concepts and principles, and trying to come up with better ways to communicate them to you, I’ll add some other comments that will, hopefully, shed further light on this very important concept and how to apply it to your life.
What Does Being Conscious NOT Mean
First of all (and I hate to even have to say this, but some people misunderstand, so I have to mention this), I’m not talking about the difference between sleeping and waking states. Second, being conscious does not mean being anti-war, or helping the poor, and saving the rain forest (though a conscious person might be or do any or all of these things—but then again, they might not).
It also doesn’t mean that you’re “beyond,” or in some way not subject to, experiencing normal human emotions, such as anger, fear, being down, and so on. And, it doesn’t mean that you’re immune to getting sick, or that you can’t die some dread disease (there are many instances of famous saints who die of heart disease or cancer or other terminal illnesses). It also doesn’t mean you’ll magically be prosperous, or powerful, or that you’ll always find a parking space when you need one, or that you’ll win the lottery or receive other potentially synchronous karmic goodies.
And, trust me, it doesn’t mean that you don’t experience the normal, everyday problems of being human. Your toilet will still overflow occasionally, your car may break down, the power may go off, the cable company might still screw up your bill and then blame you, your dog may roll in something that smells terrible…and on and on. Such is life.
On the other hand, by being conscious, you certainly have a greater ability to influence all of these outer - and, to an even greater degree - inner circumstances in your life. But since six billion other people are also doing their best to gain the outcomes they want, which often will conflict with what you want, and because many non-human natural forces are also occurring (think hurricanes, for instance, or just everyday weather, for that matter), you do not have total control over what happens around you.