Tag Archives: Physics

How to Get Reality Back on Track

cornfield

By Deepak Chopra, MD and Menas Kafatos, PhD

Reality, that most important concept about everything that exists, has gotten out of kilter, and yet very few people have noticed or are paying attention. The problem goes deep into the heart of things, however, so deep that future generations may look back and wonder why this generation didn’t wake up. The reason isn’t mysterious, actually. It has to do with how much we have come to rely upon contemporary science and to trust it: science has been appointed to inform us about what is real and what isn’t. Myths, superstitions, personal prejudices, and obsessions are unreal, while facts, data, and measurements are real.

Nothing seems more secure than science in most people’s minds. As long as technology keeps progressing on all fronts, it’s commonly believed that the most intractable problems, such as curing cancer and reversing global climate change, are open to scientific solutions. But what if reality has something else in mind? Quite apparently it does, if you bother to look deep enough. Reality has decided to bring physics, for example, to a profound crisis, not on one front, which might be easily circumvented, but on almost all fronts. This sounds like a drastic statement, but it’s actually a foreshadowing.

Judging by the current state of affairs, certain difficulties are now at least forty years old without solution and sometimes a century or more.  To name the top seven dead ends that science faces,

  1. No one knows where the Big Bang came from.
  2. No one knows how life began.
  3. The origin of time, space, matter, and energy remain obscure.
  4. The relation of mind and brain is as up in the air as it was at the time of Plato and Aristotle.
  5. The nature of consciousness and how it evolved–if it evolved–cannot be agreed upon.
  6.  The process by which the brain creates a three-dimensional world of sight and sound using only chemical and electrical signals is totally mysterious.
  7. The two leading theories in physics, General Relativity (which explains how large objects work) and quantum mechanics (which explains how tiny things work) turn out to be completely incompatible.

In previous posts over the past five years we’ve gone into detail about each of these difficulties, and as much as mainstream science resists any crack in its armor, a host of leading thinkers acknowledges exactly what these problems are. But let’s back away from details to look at the big picture. If there are seven dead ends in our understanding of reality, isn’t something drastically off kilter? If the answer to that question is obviously yes, then why doesn’t science self-correct and change course? We emphasize “science as it is being currently practiced,” because quantum reality is drastically different from the outmoded assumptions of classical physics that still dominate in the everyday work of physicists. Why this gap exists is a complex issue, but let’s ignore the details once again and give a simple, workable answer: inertia. Science advances through the momentum built up over the decades, and like a car rolling downhill, inertia will keep things moving even if the engine is dead. Continue reading

Making a Choice: Is the Universe Mental or Physical?

mind

By Deepak Chopra, MD, Menas Kafatos, PhD, Bernardo Kastrup, PhD, Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD

Science often makes strides by contradicting what we take for granted, and the biggest thing everyone takes for granted is the physical world.  Our senses wrap themselves around tangible objects so naturally that it’s difficult to believe that they may be misleading us completely. This is true of working physicists as well, so when any prominent theorist states the evidence of a different view of reality, one in which the mind creates the properties of what we call “the physical world,” it’s more than intriguing.

The possibility of a mental universe has a strong lineage going in the quantum era, but present-day physicalists (physicists who accept the physical nature of reality as a given) feel free to dismiss or ignore figures as towering as Max Planck, Werner Heisenberg, and John von Neumann. We discussed them in our last posting. Physicalism holds sway with the vast majority of cosmologists, and yet Andre Linde of Stanford University made some important points in an article on the most current theories of the inflationary universe: “…carefully avoiding the concept of consciousness in quantum cosmology” may artificially narrow one’s outlook.” ( http://scienceandnonduality.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/UNIVERSE-LIFE-CONSCIOUSNESS-Andrei-Linde.pdf)

As a result, Linde points out, a number of physicists have replaced “observer” with “participant” when describing how humans interact with the universe. Others use the phrase “self-observing universe.” It’s startling when an important authority on the inflationary cosmos opens the door for human participation as a key element. Linde asks the same question posed by many quantum pioneers a century ago: “Is it really possible to fully understand what the universe is without first understanding what life is?” Continue reading

From Facts to Meaning, Through Beauty

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By Frank A. Wilczek, PhD and Deepak Chopra, MD

Science tells us what the world is, not what it means. As expert as they are at collecting and analyzing data, most modern scientists tend to shy away from the question, “What does it all mean?” To them, the question seems so vague as to be, well, meaningless.

But it was not always so. The boundaries separating science from other ways of understanding reality–mysticism, theology, and philosophy–used to be more fluid. In ancient Greece Pythagoras was both a rigorous mathematician and a charismatic shaman. Sir Isaac Newton was both a hard-nosed empirical physicist and an obsessive Christian theologian. Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr elucidated physics and at the same time wrestled with issues concerning the basic nature and meaning of reality. Although not a conventional believer, Einstein was comfortable with fluid boundaries, as one sees in a famous quote of his: “I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.” Continue reading

VOD: Stop Buying Your Daughters Dolls and Get Them Into Science

There’s a new girl power anthem, and Beyonce isn’t singing it – it’s your daughter. They are telling you they are tired of being cast as “Princess Maids.” They like colors that aren’t pink or purple. They are telling you they are tired of being typecast by the toys that are marketed to them, and it is time for you to listen.

The commercial is for GoldieBlox, a toy company out to show the world that girls deserve more choices than dolls and princesses. GoldieBlox was founded by Stanford engineer Debbie Sterling who saw a need for girls to have creative toy options outside “the pink aisle” of the toy store. GoldieBlox is a combined book series and construction set starring Goldie – the girl inventor. The idea is to show girls that they aren’t limited to playing house or Disney Princess – they have just as much ability and opportunity to build things and invent like toys geared mainly for boys encourage. When you consider that less than 3 out of 10 graduating science majors are girls or that only 1 in 10 engineers are females – it’s time to start looking at the messages we are sending our daughters, sisters, nieces and friends about what they can achieve in math and science.

The video recruited Brett Doar, who created the epic Rube Goldberg machine for an OKGO music video. Together with three young actresses they recreated a Rube Goldberg using various girly toys and household implements to show just how awesome it is for girls to stop trying on dresses and start using their hands.

Take a look, and please send it along to any possible future inventor who could use some empowerment.

Who Is Right About Happiness?

Tandem skydiveWe know very little about what it takes to be happy, and a lot of what we know is wrong. This seems to be the conclusion of some voices in the movement known as positive psychology. It’s a relatively new field set against the traditional focus of psychology, which has delved into neurosis, psychosis, and mental illness generally. Positive psychology studies normality and tries to improve it. Is happiness normal? That depends on who you ask.

Pollsters, for example, usually find that happiness is quite common; around 8 out of 10 people in the U.S. report that they are happy. This number fluctuates with the rise and fall of events. A recent Gallup finding is that Syrians and Iraqis have the highest rate of negative thoughts – not a surprise – while people in South America have the most positive thoughts, which is a surprise. Gallup also studies well-being, using various leading factors, and hardly any country exists where 30% or more of the population is “thriving,” Gallup’s highest measure of well-being. A sharp drop in well-being occurred in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya just prior to the turmoil of the Arab Spring.

Among psychotherapists, happiness is generally viewed pessimistically. Some estimates from therapists indicate that up to 50% of the population exhibit signs of mental illness, including anxiety and depression. Suicide rates among white males rose by 40% recently, which is generally attributed to the economic downturn, and it’s no secret that antidepressants and tranquilizers are a multi-billion dollar market, even though neither class of medications actually cures anxiety and depression.

Against these conflicting reports, some commentators assert that we stumble into happiness” here and there, while our dream of being constantly happy is self-delusion. People are bad at knowing what will make them happy, we are told. Things like getting married, having a baby, winning the lottery, or even having a high salary don’t bring the happiness that we assume, as a society, they will. Mothers of young children report, for example, that taking care of infants and toddlers is one of the biggest stressors in their lives, while lottery winners typically say, a few years after their windfall, that they were happier before they won.

Why are we so bad at being happy? Were we born to struggle? These are questions that have fueled centuries of philosophy and spirituality, with no reliable conclusion. Since the Sixties, the rise of the New Age amounts to a search for a higher reality that promises more happiness than organized religion does. Has the promise come true for dedicated seekers? We’ll see. In a way it’s depressing that the most famous soliloquy in Shakespeare is about suicide (“to be or not to be, that is the question”). Now that I’ve laid out the contradictions that are involved, the next few posts will explore in depth how happiness works and where the pursuit of happiness should be leading us.

(To be cont.)

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Thinking Outside the (Skull) Box (Part 13)

NASA's Hubble Sees A Majestic Disk of StarsClick here to read part 12!

By Deepak Chopra, M.D., Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D., P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Neil Theise, MD

Getting contemporary physics to begin with the observer meets a great deal of resistance, but an observer-based science has one great advantage: There is no other way to get where we want to go.  Once physicality ends at the Planck scale, something must hold the universe together, and this something can’t be in time or space, nor can it be made of physical “stuff.”  We won’t leap to the obvious conclusion: this something sounds an awful lot like God. The word “God” can conjure many different reactions based on different traditions and history. To use a value-neutral word, what this something actually sounds like is reality itself. The skeptics have their chance for rebuttal. If anyone can define reality in non-physical, non-linear terms, freed from all boundaries and yet capable of erecting the incredibly organized cosmos, it’s difficult to imagine how mind isn’t the answer.

Otherwise, a timeless agency that can create time, a causeless entity that gave rise to causation, and a source that has no place but created space itself – such an origins story would be inconceivable to us without it being conscious. And so we finally come to our conclusion.  Where time, space, matter, energy, gravity, and mathematics reach their limits, there is the source of creation, and the most plausible candidate is consciousness.  Reality is more than existence waiting to be filled with random events. It is existence guided and governed by the qualities of consciousness – intelligence, self-organization, self-awareness, orderliness, evolution, and infinite creativity.  What will it take for anything like consensus on this conclusion? The dominant metaphors of our modern culture are those of science and engineering.  These metaphors prejudice the contemplation of the question, what is the mind?

Materialist ways of thinking posit that the universe is an immense machine that created things like mind and the human brain by randomly tossing the building blocks of atoms and molecules until they happened to land in a pattern instead of scattered across the floor. In this series of posts we’ve taken you from an automatic acceptance of these dominant, mechanistic metaphors, not to prove that they are wrong but to raise sufficient doubt about their certainty that you can entertain another possibility: Consciousness, or mind, is what the universe arises from and is made of.  Mind isn’t just gurgling out of brain cells like water from a spring. It isn’t merely a side effect of the brain’s electrical and chemical activity, like heat from a bonfire. There isn’t logical substantiation that brain = mind, even though  the majority  of scientists, philosophers, and the public may assume that this is so, since thoughts come out of the brain. Music comes out of a radio, but that doesn’t mean that radio = music. Radios don’t contain little tiny rock bands or news commentators or symphony orchestras, yet they give rise to rock and roll, commentary, and symphonies. Radios transduce radio waves, which embedded in the infinite electromagnetic field, into specific, understandable auditory signals.

Similarly, the brain can be just as readily conceived of as the transducer of infinite Mind into our specific thoughts. And the brain could just as easily be thought of as transducing the quantum field into everything we perceive: matter, energy, time, space, and all perceived sensations. Could Mind have used evolution to arrive at the brain so that we can live as adaptable, interactive beings in a world that perfectly mirrors our conception of it? In this view, our brains are mind the way every subatomic wave/particle is also mind. This unity solves the problem of deriving brain from mind or vice versa – they are two aspects of the activity of consciousness. The seemingly intractable issues that science faces today, particularly the challenge of consciousness, may actually have a simple answer, as we propose here. There’s no surprise, then, that an fMRI scan can pick up very specific brain activity that corresponds with a person’s emotions, mood, desires, and other aspects of mind. The match is seamless and perfect, as it has to be.  Radios don’t get to eliminate the violins from a Mozart symphony; there has to be electrical activity for every aspect of the music. This is where the radio metaphor gets difficult: Can you imagine a functional radio that is itself constructed of radio waves?  In a very real sense, a radio, along with the entire universe, is derived from invisible wave functions. So ascribing mind to neurons merely begs the question. No “thing” can give rise to mind. Hard as it may be to accept, “things” were metaphors all along.

As easy as it is to think that the brain in its skull casing is all that is necessary to produce mind, it’s just as easy, if you permit yourself, to think of Mind as the fundamental nature of everything that exists. By definition, reality lies beyond metaphors.  We’ve tried to convince you that the conventional set of metaphors must be discarded if you want to know reality, which means knowing yourself. Rather than discarding science, we are expanding it. We ask you to contemplate: What is the most scientific approach?  One that excludes some topics as “inappropriate for study”?  Or one that encourages even-handed investigation of all the evidence and phenomena at hand?   This is where “thinking outside the box” pays its greatest dividends, by expanding the capacity to be human and along the way to solve the unending mystery that is “you.”

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Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 75 books translated into over 35 languages with over twenty New York Times bestsellers.  Chopra serves as Founder of The Chopra Foundation. 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 — Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York.  www.neiltheise.com  neiltheise.wordpress.com

 

Thinking Outside the (Skull) Box (Part 12)

University of Maryland Brain Cap Technology Turns Thought into MotionClick here to read part 11!

By Deepak Chopra, M.D., Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D., P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Neil Theise, MD

In our prior post we reconstructed the concept of “you”, which we all typically, think of as bounded by the skin and the body it encloses.  But a hallmark of 21st-century science is to tear down boundaries.  A limitless universe that springs from the quantum vacuum, (along with possibly multiple universes) is the setting for an unbounded “you” – a self that merges with creation. The bond that unites you with the universe isn’t simply physical, although every atom in your body comes from stardust, much of it the residue of exploding supernovas in intergalactic space.  Far more importantly, “you” are a mental construct, and therefore the bond that weaves your life into cosmic life is invisible.

We’ve argued that human intelligence most plausibly arose from an intelligent universe. As the great physicist Erwin Schrödinger declared, “To divide or multiply consciousness is something meaningless.” In other words, consciousness is one. It only appears to be divided up into billions of human minds, and likely into uncountable forms of consciousness in other species. In the same way, you might see an aqua sweater as blue while I see it as green, but “color” itself is a single thing; two people can’t have their own separate definition of it.

There’s a telling metaphor in the Vedic tradition: When the sun shines on a perfectly still sea, there is one sun reflecting back. But when the sea is rippled and moving, there are millions of tiny suns shining back. This appearance doesn’t mean that the sun isn’t one. This insight comes very close to an ancient passage from one of the central texts in Indian spirituality, the Yoga Vasistha: “Cosmic consciousness alone exists, now and ever. In it there are no worlds, no created beings. That consciousness reflected in itself appears to be creation.”

In short, either consciousness is unbounded or you haven’t looked deep enough. The reason that Schrödinger felt competent to talk about unbounded consciousness was that physics had finally reached deep enough, to the most fundamental level of nature. In the quantum realm we know for certain that notions of “boundaries” evaporate: the wave functions that describe the locations and boundaries of “particles” extend in all directions to the borders of the universe itself.  Eventually the dissolution of boundaries became total. Einstein, who was a conservative in these matters compared to some of the other quantum pioneers, wrote a condolence letter to a friend who had just lost her husband. It contained the following famous passage: “Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

Quantum physics forced us to re-conceive ourselves as creatures who appear to be physical and bounded by time, even though our substance isn’t material and has no boundaries in time. Down further in scale, re-conceiving who we are becomes an ever greater imperative: gluons, quarks, neutrinos, mesons, bosons (including the Higgs boson, the so-called “God particle”) all intimately overlap. The universe – and you – continually bubbles up from these shadowy subatomic entities, each sensing, reflecting, and interacting in a seamless whole. In the nanoseconds when these elusive entities escape their invisible domain, science touches on the same picture painted by the Yoga Vasistha, of a creation born of unseen activity beyond the reach of inner thought and probably beyond the reach of imagination as well.

What’s left is mathematics clinging to the edge of the cliff with clutched fingers, hoping not to fall.  But mathematics isn’t reality, while consciousness is. All of us, including scientists, protect our boundaries, finding it hard to join unbounded reality. But if consciousness is real, we don’t have to leap into an alien realm to reach the foundation of creation – it is inside ourselves. The limits of physicality have been reached. This is an area on which there is scientific consensus, thanks to quantum theory: There is a smallest level of scale beneath which one can go no further, at least in this “real” universe of four-dimensional spacetime, known as the Planck scale: 10-35 meters (-1 followed by 35 zeros).  Besides defining where physicality ends, the Planck scale also marks the end point of the environment that encloses material things, such as time, space, and the laws of nature.

We don’t know for sure what the smallest entities are like.  (The five senses don’t help at such an inconceivable scale.) Some think they are the “multidimensional strings” of string theory, but there are other theories as well each sorely lacking in evidence but backed up by various intricate and beautiful mathematical formulations – indeed, the real problem is that there are too many mathematical possibilities that all seem equally valid – or invalid. Whatever the smallest “stuff” is, it cannot be subdivided into smaller bits and pieces with known locations in time and space.  Instead, the universe emerges from the energetic void that is the foundational nature of creation. But even “void” is a tricky term, since the pre-creation state isn’t empty, a pure, empty, vacuum. There are huge amounts of energy linked to vast numbers of virtual particles that potentially manifest an observable reality. Emptiness is spontaneously and continuously giving rise to these tiniest entities, coming and going in a “quantum foam.”  Thus, from the smallest level of scale, the universe is not a place, an empty box in which we reside.  Creation is a process that brings existence out of non-existence. You are that process. You are seamlessly woven into a reality that is complete, whole, and perfect just as it is.

Surprisingly to some but not to all, the subjective experiences found in the Yoga Vasistha and many other ancient texts emphasize the unity of experience. These texts, as it turns out, precisely reflect our objective scientific understanding of how the universe arises. The usual terms attached to ancient texts (e.g., spiritual, religious, wise, intuitive, enlightened) send up red flags to scientists and their ingrained distrust of subjectivity. So let’s resort to a neutral term that links subject and object: observation. In a reality where artificial boundaries have collapsed, the “in here” of subjectivity is no longer walled off from the “out there” of objectivity. The seamless flow of creation expresses itself in both. An observer-based science can be founded on meditation or the Hubble telescope. In a dualistic framework these are opposite poles.  But they come together in an unbounded framework.

For a century quantum physics has wrestled with the so-called observer effect as it impinges on isolated waves and particles. It was mind-blowing enough to believe that the process of observation turned waves into particles.  But the logical extension is mind-expanding: Everything in the universe depends on the linkage between observer, observed, and the act of observation. If it is willing to adopt a touch of humility, science will see that ancient contemplative traditions arrived at conclusions that were not duplicated until “objective” methods acquired incredibly advanced, precise tools. The Higgs boson required billions of dollars in machinery, and countless hours of theorizing, in order to pry out a new piece of knowledge about how subatomic particles emerge from the void. The ancient wisdom traditions began with the big picture instead, and their descriptions of the big picture still outstrip ours. The ancient explorers of consciousness understood the nature of the void, encountered not through mathematical calculation but through direct experience. The void revealed itself to be none other than mind, usually written as Mind to signify that it lies beyond our small, personal minds.

To be continued… 

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Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 75 books translated into over 35 languages with over twenty New York Times bestsellers.  Chopra serves as Founder of The Chopra Foundation. 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 — Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York.  www.neiltheise.com  neiltheise.wordpress.com

Deepak Chopra: Thinking Outside the (Skull) Box (Part 10)

Skeleton InvertedClick here to read Part 9!

By Deepak Chopra, M.D., Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D., P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Neil Theise, MD

So your genome – the sum total of your genetic inheritance – is not sufficient to code for the entire structure of your digestive tract. You are alive because of your connection to the outside world; indeed, there is no boundary between you and the outside world’s abundance of life.

This realization changes the picture of genes, too. They code for your cells, tissues, and organs; moreover, genes code for the interactions between your cells and the neighboring bacteria, with biomolecules being passed back and forth. The biochemistry of digestion is a shared project between your body and bacteria, a basic fact acknowledged for decades, but by implication, without bacteria there can be no you.

This observation can be extended in every direction. Without trees breathing in carbon dioxide and exhaling oxygen, you couldn’t breathe – the forests are part of your lungs. Without viruses constantly mutating, you would have many fewer antibodies – every virus is part of your immune system. The rivers that circulate fresh water are part of your bloodstream. These connections aren’t incidental. Your body is the world, and by extension, so is your brain, since you share with the world every molecule, chemical reaction, and electrical impulse that constitutes the brain.

It makes people woozy to accept that there is no boundary between “me” and the whole world. What about the skin? It is portrayed in high school biology class as an impermeable barrier protecting you from invaders assaulting the body from “out there.” But the metaphor of the skin as living armor isn’t viable. Pause and move your hand, observing how the wrist and finger joints move under the skin. Why doesn’t the skin break down with all this motion, the push and pull of your fingers closing and extending, your arm bending and stretching? Because the bacteria lining the creases in your skin digest the cell membranes of dying skin cells and produce lanolin, which lubricates the skin. How long would “you” and your genome last if your skin were cracking, open to infection just from typing on a laptop or waving goodbye to someone?

What is your body now? It’s no longer just a human body. It’s a community of single cell organisms that function harmoniously together (in times of good health) organizing themselves into tissues and organs. Such astonishingly complex cooperation implies a host of surprising things:

  • Your genes are siblings of bacterial genes.
  • The evolution of bacteria is actually human evolution at the same time.
  • One intelligence binds micro-organisms and “higher” life forms.
  • There is no sharp dividing line between “smart” creatures and the “dumb” micro-organisms that evolved alongside them.

A skeptic may protest that we’ve used physical evidence to support a theory of mind. But science does the same thing all the time. By equating mind and brain, neuroscience has backed itself into a corner, forced to explain thoughts by looking at the interaction of molecules. In the final post of this series, we’ll get out of that corner by putting mind first and brain second. That way, we solve the problem of how molecules of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon – the majority of “stuff” in the brain – learned to think. The obvious answer is that they didn’t. We think because we are expressions of the mind, not robots being operated by the brain.

(To be continued…)

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Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 75 books translated into over 35 languages with over twenty New York Times bestsellers. Chopra serves as Founder of The Chopra Foundation.

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 – Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York. www.neiltheise.com

Deepak Chopra: Will the Universe Continue Expanding to Infinity?

What is the law of conservation and how can we make sense of it if the universe is continually expanding? In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak explores whether the total amount of energy and matter is constant in the universe. Looking to a new book by Rupert Sheldrake, Science Set Free: Ten Paths to New Discovery, Deepak unpacks the nuances of energy and matter in the universe.

If the universe expands into infinity, and matter is only created and never destroyed, then where will we eventually end up?! Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and check out these related posts:

Deepak Chopra: Creating Your Own Reality

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Can the Truth Come Back With a Capital “T”? (Part 8)

Butterfly flying free from cupped handsClick here to read part 7!

By Deepak Chopra, M.D., Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D., P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Neil Theise, MD

To salvage cause and effect, the “brain first” camp usually resorts to the notion that indeterminacy occurs at the quantum level but not in the world of everyday events. This sort of sequestration has no basis in truth. Whatever the brain is doing, its roots are in the quantum realm. In fact, the brain’s ability to express new ideas, new works of art, and imaginative thinking in general is proof positive that indeterminacy is fundamental to life, not a quirk of quark behavior. If Hamlet were lost for a hundred years and suddenly rediscovered, a crowd would gather to see the legendary play. Imagine that the actor playing Hamlet arrives at the line, “To be or not to be, that is the question.” Does anyone suppose that a neuroscientist, even with total knowledge of every firing of every neuron, could finish the soliloquy? No matter how closely you examine the brain – including Shakespeare’s brain – the rest of “to be or not to be’ is undetermined until creative inspiration finishes it.

A solution to this either/or dilemma is to say that neither brain nor mind, “came first.” Michael Pollan, in “The Botany of Desire”, describes how apples, tulips, marijuana and potatoes did not appear as the seductively pleasing plants we see before us to day – nor were we humans, a priori, the perfect propagators of these species – we shaped each other, intimately, simultaneously, mutually. These plants seduced us (with their sweetness, beauty, intoxication and nourishment) into nurturing, feeding and propagating them. Likewise how humans came to depend upon and their dogs, as dogs (previously wolves!) came to depend upon and love their humans. These are examples of co-arising or co-evolution.

Likewise, Hamlet is a perfect example of brain and mind co-arising. The words and the brain activity that brings the words into the physical world can’t be separated. But neither can any word you think now or have ever thought. One can argue that the brain and mind comprise a self-organizing system within consciousness. As brain activity modifies mind, the activity of the mind physically reshapes the neural networks of the brain. A universal consciousness, beyond our own, individual minds and brains, is the only thing that can unite our concepts of mind and brain. Consciousness is at the universal level existing everywhere, and it gives rise to countless beings, some of them with higher thinking abilities and rational experiences, giving rise to “minds”. But it also gives rise to countless physical bodies and corresponding brains, primitive or more advanced as the case may be. Once this truth is accepted, our worldview must change forever.

Here are some statements that directly follow from taking consciousness to be the absolute ground of existence.

  • Your body and the world you inhabit are projections of your perception. They are not “out there” but exist within consciousness.
  • Your true self is the potential for creating a body, brain, and the world around it.
  • Naming and describing something – a plant, animal, person, or even an inanimate object – camouflages the great mystery and majesty of existence. Reality cannot be named, described, or measured; these are only ever approximations. Reality lies beyond words or mathematical descriptions.
  • Your true self is not the fictional character you play on the stage of time and space. Your true self is the timeless awareness from which fictional characters spring, as Hamlet and King Lear sprang from Shakespeare’s awareness.
  • The fictional character you are playing does not belong to you. It is the recycling of unreliable wisps of memory and flimsy threads of desire.
  • Truth cannot be known or experienced by a system of thought, be it scientific or philosophical. Specific thoughts tied to experience of space and time are tied to the mechanics of the brain, which are enmeshed in space and time, not beyond them. But thought can also contemplate the end of space and time, the beginning of space and time. This is the paradox of reality, demonstrated by quantum mechanics already 100 years ago. Consciousness pervades the cosmos but cannot be contained there, because it is the source, the womb from which all things arise.

Such statements are logical conclusions based on taking consciousness seriously. If they seem preposterous to many orthodox scientists, this reflects the limitation of present-day science, not the ridiculousness of the statements. Science exists for the purpose of making sense of the universe, to understand the components that comprise the universe through quantitative means, and to produce self-consistent theories that can be tested and, potentially, disproven. Here we are making qualitative statements, which means one of two things: either science must concede that it is helpless to measure meaning or meaning must give rise to a new, expanded science. In both cases, crude materialism plays no role.

We believe that a science of consciousness is possible, as called for in an astute and intelligent TED talk by the eminent philosopher John Searle (it can be viewed on YouTube). Searle makes all the salient points:

  1. A science of consciousness has been long ignored but is not crucial.
  2. Consciousness is irreducible; it cannot be described as the outcome of physical processes.
  3. The world “out there” is the product of our perception.
  4. Consciousness is a field, akin to but not the same as the quantum field. It pervades everything.
  5. Subjective events can be objectively studied (as the sensation of pain, which is subjective, can be linked to inflammation and the activity of nerves).
  6. In fifteen minutes, you can see for yourself how thoroughly the superstition of materialism can be demolished.

What remains is to demolish subtle materialism, which claims, among other things, that a finer and finer exploration of the human nervous system will one day reveal where consciousness comes from. Searle himself is a subtle materialist, since he says that consciousness is a “low-level neuro-biological activity.” But that’s like saying that music can be understood if you get to the molecular level of a piano or clarinet or that radio. In reality, you can’t get there from here.

This leads to our final point. There are only two paths to follow if you want to understand reality. One is relative, the other absolute. The relative path – currently taken by Searle and almost every neuroscientist – is to study brain phenomena until you arrive at such a fine level that you observe the birth of awareness. This is like salmon following a river until it leads to the sea. The absolute path begins with the ocean of consciousness as all-embracing. Relative things (all the salmon and all the rivers they swim in) arise from this source; they display its characteristics. The advantage of the absolute path is that the hardest things to explain – mind, love, truth, intelligence, creativity, evolution – are a given. We can take for granted that the universe is the play of consciousness as it unfolds in space and time. What we are left to explore is the depth and richness of these qualities (indeed, whether they admit it or not, even crude materialists are exploring their own creativity and intelligence).

Even though reality is inconceivable, born somewhere beyond space and time, the beauty and paradox of existence is that we are participating in the mystery. As we participate, we co-evolve unceasingly. We can’t predict where human evolution will go, but we are confident that it will happen in Consciousness. The process of awakening is inherit is self-awareness; therefore, it cannot be stopped. The universe, as viewed from consciousness, is not a place in which we live, it is not an empty box or a cold void shot through with random events. We don’t live in the universe, we are the universe, arising from its fundamental nature with every other element, co-arising together. Then true self-knowledge will flourish, not instead of current science, but containing it and further transcending its limits, because no description of reality is ever the actual reality, just as the map is never the landscape. With such understanding we will take for granted the following, because we will directly experience them, not merely think them:

Peace is not a state of mind. Peace is our very being.
Joy, equanimity, and freedom are not things you work towards; they are qualities you already possess right now, in this present moment.
The point of arrival is now. The end of struggling is now. Being is now.
The only truth is existence itself, in the ever unfurling, co-evolving now. This is Truth with a capital T.

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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 ofSuper 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

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