By Deepak Chopra, M.D., Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D., P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Neil Theise, MD
Reactions to our previous posts in this series are ample proof that Truth with a capital T outrages and offends people. A few comments have come from sputtering atheists. But among some of the critics the main accusation is that consciousness is “outside science.” It offers no physical evidence; it cannot be quantified. All of which is true, if you insist on the old materialist or an external physical reality paradigm.
Consciousness is the one thing in creation that isn’t a thing in any respect. It has no mass or solidity, no color or texture, no specific place, no specific lifespan, not even the hint of substance – in short, nothing that can be measured. Science is all about making observations and taking measurements to prove theories. It can measure brain waves and the regions that light up on an fMRI. But it cannot measure meaning, beauty, truth, morality, and purpose, not to mention higher experiences of God, the soul, or the afterlife.
These are all created in consciousness. Far from being irrelevant, we believe that they make life worth living. The subjective world gives us the only reality we know, and the activity of measuring reality falls short in the most everyday experiences.
You cannot measure the value of close friends.
You cannot measure why finishing a marathon is a matter of pride.
You cannot measure why love feels eternal – and actually is.
Even if brain scans measure physical correlates of conscious activities (for example, the brain centers that light up when someone falls in love, or the hormones associated with love), we would not be able in the least to explain where they came from or what they really are. As in our previous “radio metaphor”, while detailing the engineering of a radio will convey how it produces sound for our ears, it will not explain the nature of that sound because the radio waves that turn into sound are not located in the radio. They propagate in the universe and they get “captured” by the radio. Clever engineering and clever research, but it doesn’t explain the creations of Beethoven or Beyoncé or Rush Limbaugh.
So, you have to know that love exists subjectively before you can identify its neurochemical markers. A person incapable of love would see brain regions light up for no reason (although people who feel love could at least give him a label for the activity he is observing). In the end, measurement is secondary (at best) when it comes to knowing where the universe came from and how it came about. By chance? By extreme order? None of the above? That can only be answered by the mind investigating its own origins.
It’s a daunting task. Imagine a kettle on the stove furiously boiling away. Could you measure each and every bubble? Yes, if you had the right kind of camera using stop-motion photography. But can boiling water measure its own bubbles? No, because boiling water is always changing; it has no fixed position from which to measure itself.
From the quantum perspective, the same trap has ensnared the human brain inside the skull. It is a boiling kettle of activity, which means that it is both the thing we want to observe and the observer. Science as it is being practiced today depends on separating observer and observed. In fact this is a huge assumption and is based on what the senses seem to be telling us. The thinking mind is the one instance where this cannot be done. Observer and observed are fused. That is why in Eastern spiritual traditions there is a state that precedes thinking, where consciousness is aware of itself. From this quiet state observer and observed emerge together as one.
The result is an origins story like no other, because cause and effect are not a part of it, because there is no before or after. Even the Big Bang may be one event in the process of constant creation, with cause and effect one of its local rules, not a rule that governs reality. Asking what happened before time began defies logic. There was a pre-created state, no doubt, but it wasn’t “before” the universe started – rather, in some sense it was “outside” our universe, outside the universe of four-dimensional “space-time continuum”. That’s another contradiction, since “outside” implies space, and space also supposedly arose with the Big Bang. We are hampered by the inescapable fact that the human brain operates inside time and space. We are like color-blind creatures looking at a rainbow.)
It comes as a great advantage that consciousness doesn’t need time, space, or cause and effect.
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Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 70 books with twenty-one New York Times bestsellers, including co-author with Sanjiv Chopra, MD of Brotherhood: Dharma, Destiny, and The American Dream, and co-author with Rudolph Tanzi of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being (Harmony). Chopra serves as Founder of The Chopra Foundation and host of Sages and Scientists Symposium – August 16-18, 2013 at La Costa Resort and Spa.
Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Director of the Center of Excellence at Chapman University, co-author with Deepak Chopra of the forthcoming book, Who Made God and Other Cosmic Riddles. (Harmony)
P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, FRCP, Professor of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina and a leading physician scientist in the area of mental health, cognitive neuroscience and mind-body medicine.
Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), co-author with Deepak Chopra of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being. (Harmony)
Neil Theise, MD, Professor, Pathology and Medicine, (Division of Digestive Diseases) and Director of the Liver and Stem Cell Research Laboratory, Beth Israel Medical Center — Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York. www.neiltheise.com