Tag Archives: self-awareness

Will We Ever Really Know Ourselves?

2016 Dino Reichmuth
When the ancient Greeks first uttered the dictum “Know thyself,” they had another choice. They could have said “Know lots of other things.” In one direction the investigation goes inward; in the opposite direction the investigation goes outward. “Know thyself” stands for something that, as far as we know, only human beings possess: self-awareness. “Know lots of other things” also points to a unique human capacity: curiosity about the outside world. I think it’s unarguable that the investigation of the outside world, as pursued by science, has gotten much, much further than self-awareness. Scientists have probed Nature in every dimension, while self-awareness hasn’t even stopped humanity from the impulse to destroy itself.

The gap between “Know thyself” and “Know Lots of other things” was sharply drawn by a current post from the back-page editor of Scientific American, Michael Shermer.  Reading his piece, “At the Boundary of Knowledge,” one comes away with a sense that science is totally triumphant. Not only has science achieved huge successes in acquiring facts and data that led to the overwhelming dominance of technology in the world. It has done something much more difficult. Quoting a recent book, The Big Picture, by Sean Carroll, a physicist from the California Institute of Technology, Shermer claims that now we can be almost certain about how all knowledge is attained. “All of the things you’ve ever seen or experienced in your life—objects, plants, animals, people—are made of a small number of particles, interacting with one another through a small number of forces.”

From this position, which we can call hardline materialism, Shermer reaches the following conclusion: “Once you understand the fundamental laws of nature, you can scale up to planets and people and even assess the probability that God, the soul, the afterlife and ESP exist, which Carroll concludes is very low.” I haven’t read Prof. Carroll’s book, but you can see Shermer, and many of his readers, dusting off their hands with a satisfied sense of “Well, that’s that.” If they are right, science has eliminated the need for “Know thyself” simply by swallowing up the whole issue of self-awareness and packing it away with particles and forces, having scaled up to planets and peoples, God and the soul. Continue reading

Can Trumpism Lead to a Better American Story?

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By Deepak Chopra, MD

We are living at a time when the story of America is changing, with nothing but more change on the horizon. Therefore, we face a critical decision. Should the new American story be born out of fear or hope? The stark contrasts in the 2016 election make this choice inevitable. One indelible human trait is the craving to turn our experiences into stories. These stories gather tags (now often called memes) that keep the story straight and allow people to agree about them. “The greatest generation” is such a tag, supporting the story of the Allied victory in World War II, which is referred to as a “good war,” another tag. Politics is many things, but one of the most important is a war between competing stories, and if your side comes up with the winning story, your victory can last far beyond one election cycle.

Donald Trump has been wildly erratic when it comes to actual ideas, policies, and positions, but he rode the crest of an immensely successful Republican story. So-called conservative “principles” are largely a collection of mythical storylines, and the tags that define them go back to the Nixon era. We are all familiar with law and order, the silent majority, morning in America, “Government isn’t the solution–it’s the problem,” “Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev,” clash of civilizations, “Guns don’t kill people–people do,” and many other conservative memes.

So fervent is the craving for stories that the right wing clings to storylines that are totally false if your standard of truth is historical fact, accurate data, and pluralism. But rigidly clinging to our story is something we all do. By the same token, we become nervous and disturbed when our story starts to fray. The right plays upon fear very successfully at times of national anxiety, from Nixon’s “pitiful helpless giant” to Bush’s “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud” to Trump’s “make America great again,” which plays upon the anxiety of national decline. Fear is a powerful motivator in the short term, even when it proves to be disastrously bad as a guide to action, as witness the Vietnam war and the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.

It seems likely that Donald Trump has finally reached the end of his string and will self-destruct thanks to his total inability to control himself. But the crisis surrounding the American story won’t go away. The benign revolt led by Bernie Sanders isn’t comparable to the toxic revolt led by Trump. Yet they share a refusal to go along with the American story we’ve been living with, and the fact that such a huge proportion of Americans think the country is moving in the wrong direction indicates how deep our confusion, frustration, and discontent have progressed. Continue reading

Why Don’t We Know We Are Enlightened Already?

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By Deepak Chopra, MD

“Enlightenment” is a word that has gotten so entangled with vague confusion that many people have given up on it. I don’t mean the classic seeker who hungers for God, Nirvana, or higher states of consciousness. There isn’t an accepted definition of enlightenment that allows for a general discussion where everyone knows what the topic is. Behind this apparent fuzziness, however, the concept of enlightenment has evolved tremendously over the past few decades, and in that time the possibility of being enlightened has come closer and closer to everyday experience.

Forty years ago enlightenment was inevitably associated with “Eastern mysticism,” a phrase that appears in the subtitle of Fritjof Capra’s famous book, The Tao of Physics. Meditation was associated with religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. Enlightenment was a spiritual attainment for Indian gurus or monks sitting in Himalayan caves. The fact that meditation is now a common practice in the West, with many research studies proving its benefits in terms of mind and body, shows how much the landscape has changed.

The next major change, which could bring a seismic shift in our worldview, would bring enlightenment into daily life the way that meditation is comfortably established in daily life. I’ll devote the next few posts to exploring how enlightenment affects everyone, not just a select few living under exotic circumstances. We can begin with the most obvious question you can ask yourself. Are you enlightened already?” This may seem at first like an almost absurd question. If there are ancient traditions for reaching enlightenment, a project that can take a lifetime’s effort and discipline, it must be impossible that a normal person going about his everyday life could already be enlightened.

But there’s a reason why the question isn’t absurd. Enlightenment is a state of consciousness–everyone seems to agree upon that, at least. Each of us already experiences three distinct states of consciousness every day: waking, sleeping, and dreaming. These states come naturally. We didn’t seek them out or do anything special to be in them. So why would so-called higher states of consciousness be set apart as privileged or difficult or far distant from daily experience? In fact, all the ingredients of enlightenment are already in place. These consist of: Continue reading

Why “Intelligent” Computers Are Dumber Than Your Ten-Year-Old

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A mounting fear that science fiction may turn into reality came to light recently. Three brilliant physicists (Stephen Hawking, Max Tegmark, and Frank Wilczek) joined with a noted computer scientist (Stuart Russell) to worry in public about what they termed “superintelligent machines.” In an April 14 Huffington Post article, they take a familiar sci-fi theme, machines that turn on their masters to destroy humankind, and tell us that computers are coming dangerously close to acquiring such a capacity.

I found myself smiling through most of the article–the gap between fiction and reality seems pretty wide right now–but that’s just the kind of complacency the authors are worried about. What if weapons of war are completely automated and turned loose to name their own targets? What if the current trend toward high-speed computer trading on Wall St. is perfected to the point that machines can manipulate the world’s economy? Continue reading

Can Wisdom Save Us? Why It Has To (Part 2)

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Although almost everyone fears the effects of climate change and deplores the inaction of governments around the world, neither attitude gets us any closer to solving the problem. Many pin their hopes on a breakthrough in technology that could somehow clean the atmosphere of greenhouse gases, while others resign themselves–and the world–to accepting global warming as a fait accompli that we must adjust to. In the first post of this series it was proposed that humanity has reached a turning point. Not just climate change but several other global problems (for example, AIDS, pandemics, overpopulation, a lack of clean drinking water) will be unsolvable unless our evolution as a species changes course.

For centuries human evolution has primarily depended on how we use our minds. Natural selection, random genetic mutations, and raw competition for food and mating privileges, which form the foundation of Darwinian evolution, either don’t apply to us anymore or have been drastically minimized, pushed to the fringes while mental evolution occupies center stage. Continue reading

Deepak Chopra: Thinking Outside the (Skull) Box (Part 7)

Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 10.50.25 AMClick here to read Part 6!

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

In the previous posts we began with the common-sense notion that the brain produces the mind and proceeded to explode it. Using medical facts we showed that every part of the body shares in the process we call “thinking,” although the liver, intestines, and heart do their thinking non-verbally. They still make decisions, show preferences, exhibit self-reliance, and contribute in major ways to the information sent to the brain.

We have offered our proof that mind exists outside the skull without departing from common sense. In the same vein we explored the possibility that mind exists outside the brain. Many scientists would dismiss the possibility out of hand, but we showed that the inner experience of Eastern contemplative practices (meditation, yoga, Zen Buddhism, et al.) are not inferior to the data collected on subjective states like pain, feeling happy, or falling in love. Brain scans offer correlates to these experiences, but it is self-report from a person who says “I’m in pain” or “I feel happy” that must be relied upon. Similarly, subjective reports of a spiritual kind cannot be invalidated unless at the same time you are willing to throw out pain, happiness, love, and all other subjective states.

But our goal isn’t spiritual or religious. We aren’t after God but after mind (even if, on the cosmic scale, they might turn out to be the same). The deepest experiences of yogis, swamis, ancient rishis, and Buddhist masters tell the story of mind everywhere in Nature; mind indeed is the source of existence itself. It can’t be denied that reality only comes to us through subjective experience. Sir Alexander Fleming examining penicillium mold through his microscope was having a subjective experience. If there were phenomena occurring all around him that the human mind can’t experience, think about, or sense, they don’t belong to reality as we know it.

As someone having a “real” experience, Fleming and a Buddhist master exist on the same plane. The only difference is that science focuses on experience “out there” while contemplative practices focus on events “in here.” A caution before we describe these deeper inner experiences. Whether they are described as an encounter with God (e.g. Judaism, Christianity, Islam), the higher self (e.g. in the monistic systems of Vedanta and Hinduism, Shaivism), or with no divine essence at all (e.g. the Absolute in Buddhism) depends on descriptive language and the past conditioning of the practitioner. The descriptive, often poetic words are culturally determined; they serve as verbal devices for grasping a nonverbal experience so that it can be reported to others, usually within the same spiritual, cultural context.

But no description can be the experience itself. There is no attempt here, as many skeptics accuse, to mystify or cloud something suspiciously immaterial and vague, perhaps outright false. If either religion or its absence makes you nervous, don’t get hung up on terminology. Pay attention to the reports of the experiences themselves as a universal phenomenon, born of the mind’s very nature, which is self-awareness.

When “thinking outside the box” calls forth such profound, often life-changing responses in the practitioner, the sensed boundaries of the body disappear. No longer does the skin form a barrier, however permeable, between inside and outside, between self and other. Now, when you feel your breath move in and out, it is the universe that you feel is breathing – indeed, the universe is breathing you. When a bell rings in the meditation hall or a car horn honks on the city streets outside or a bird sings in a nearby tree, the ring, the honk, and the song are your own, palpably arising from within yourself.

While such experiences are uncommon in everyday life, they are not rare in this special setting. Even if they are most actively cultivated in spiritual contexts, you can ask athletes about being “in the zone”, artists about feeling inspired, scientists about the moment of discovery, craftsmen about their intimacy with what is brought forth in their craft – they will all describe similar states of merging where there’s no distinction between what’s going on “in here” and “out there,” because those boundaries have dissolved.

For some people such experiences are not trained and nurtured but happen spontaneously. They may occur during a so-called peak experience or in the extremity of being near death. For others the experience arrives for no detectable reason, and yet without such an experience, could Walt Whitman have written a line like this from Song of Myself: “I am large, I contain multitudes.” His Leaves of Grass is almost entirely a report of moving in the world with an enlarged, even unbounded sense of self, where the division between self and other is experienced as illusion. Here is evidence of mind permeating the world, irrespective of the boundary of the skull or the skin.

And then there’s the experience of “dropping away of body and mind” described by the Japanese Zen patriarch Dogen; the “mind of clear light” described by Tantric teachers; the experience of lower self realizing that it is essentially the higher self, reported by ancient and contemporary Indian sages (rishis); and the Ein Sof – the infinite God beyond our capacity to describe, from which arises all creation – of Jewish mystics. Every tradition speaks about the experience of a Mind that is greater than our own minds, out of which our own minds arise like waves on the ocean. This Mind is beyond all boundaries, something in which we share with all beings and from which all beings arise. This Mind is the place in which there is no suffering. It is pure awareness with no object of awareness except itself. Reaching for words, the world’s spiritual guides teach that pure awareness is infinite, blissful, illuminated from within.

Stay tuned for Part 8!

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Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 75 books with over twenty 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.

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

Deepak Chopra: Finding Your Path in Life

This is something so many of us struggle with. Who am I? What is my path? In this episode of “Spiritual Solutions” on The Chopra Well, Deepak addresses this major question.

Brian recently dropped out of medical school and is wondering how to find the right path in life. How do we figure out our purpose and what path to take to achieve that purpose? Deepak Chopra provides a few suggestions – by looking at the relationship between meeting our needs and fulfilling a purpose. Needs may include achievement, love, success, higher consciousness, etc. Ask yourself: Who am I? What do I really want?

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Thinking Outside the (Skull) Box, Part 2

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photo: h.koppdelaney
   Click here for Part 1

Let’s consider whether only human brains create minds. Few people who have pets or live on farms or go camping would say that the animals they encounter don’t have minds. (This view accords with abundant evidence that the genes, receptors, and neurotransmitters involved in human brain function are present in animals.) Again, if we are asked, “Where is your cat’s mind?” we’d point at its head (unlike an ancient Egyptian, Greek or Roman, who would point to the heart, as he would for himself). Saying that different kinds of animal brains create minds is not so troublesome. We aren’t able to describe what those minds are like (some may lack anything like human self-awareness), but we shouldn’t have a problem conceiving that these creatures at least have one.

Evolutionarily, nervous systems are not always central. Some creatures, like jellyfish, have neuronal nets distributed throughout the body. While humans do possess a central nervous system, we also have other, more distributed nervous systems as well. We have a peripheral nervous system, which includes nerves that gather information for the brain (e.g. the nerves in our sense organs) and nerves that send signals from the brain (e.g. telling our muscles what to do).

After it was observed that the gastrointestinal tract could function quite well when severed from the peripheral nervous system, it was concluded that this constitutes a weblike enteric nervous system.

What makes this a separate nervous system is that there are specialized ganglion cells that are located between muscle layers in the intestinal wall which act like a local brain. If one severs any nerves which contact them (from the brain, by way of the peripheral nervous system), these ganglion cells continue to instruct the intestine to move and absorb and secrete, working quite well and quite autonomously as a self-contained functional unit.
It turns out that the intestinal tract only takes advice from the rest of the body. It harbors its own reactions. When bad news gives you a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, you are experiencing an emotion as surely as you experience it in your head. In fact, your gut reaction precedes the thought, “Oh no!” Did the enteric nervous system create such a sensation on its own? That’s unclear, but it’s tempting to think so. Certainly many people trust their gut reactions over the confused and compromised responses that the brain is often saddled with when over-thinking sets in.

The muscles of your face are directly linked to your brain. While we assume that the brain is telling the mouth and lips to smile when we’re feeling happy, the reverse is also true. Seeing a smile on someone else’s face can make you happy, and children are taught to smile as a way to break out of a sad mood. Whether this works or not varies from person to person, but it could be argued that the face is controlling the brain in those instances.

Findings about brain-like processes outside the skull have become common. The conduction system of the heart, which organizes your heartbeat, can be thought of as the heart’s brain in the same way the ganglion cells in the gut are the brain of the intestines. The independence of the conduction system is shown when a transplanted heart keeps beating even though the nerves that connected it to the donor’s central and peripheral nervous systems have been severed. The interaction between the heart’s independent processing and the brain’s is complex and not fully understood. Still more mysterious are the bacteria that outnumber the body’s cells by ten to one, living mostly inside the digestive tract but also in the brain and other organs. We think of these as invaders, but over eons bacteria have been incorporated into vast stretches along the double helix of human DNA. The implications for what we call “being human” are enormous and largely uncharted.

We think we’ve established that cultural assumptions about mind and brain are full of gaps. The location of mind is in doubt, and any attempt to isolate it physically in the skull run into valid objections. In the next post we’ll pursue more of the fascinating possibilities that arise when thinking literally gets out of the box.

 (To be cont.)

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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

photo by: h.koppdelaney

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

Can the Truth Come Back With a Capital “T”? (Part 7)

Mahatma GandhiClick here to read part 6!

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

Telling someone that Truth exists with a capital T may seem like a quixotic crusade. We have raised a new absolute – universal consciousness (or pure awareness) – to the level once occupied by God, an all-pervasive, all-powerful agent who is secretly in charge of everything. But reality has led us to this conclusion and, by any definition, science is an activity that must follow wherever reality leads it.

The oldest and most sacrosanct assumption of science – that reality exists “out there,” independent of consciousness – has reached the end of its usefulness. The time for a paradigm shift is long overdue. Quantum physics sniffed around the importance of the observer a century ago, and now the tide has come in. Without an observer, so-called physical reality cannot be perceived in any way, either through validation and measurement by experiments or through theoretical, mathematical calculations. Moreover, a reality existing “out there”, devoid of consciousness, is, ultimately, not possible.

Our final task is to show why any of this matters in the real world of everyday experiences. After all, if we are right in saying that consciousness is the absolute upon which everything is based, reality must agree. There is no court of higher opinion than reality itself. Mainstream science has proved wildly successful despite its setting a low priority for pursuing the nature of consciousness as a major force. What kind of success can we point to for this newer paradigm? Subjectivity is anathema to the scientific method. What perversity impels us to suddenly elevate it? We’d like to sketch in plausible answers to both questions.

To begin, the bugaboo of subjectivity has always been a fairy tale. All experience is subjective, including the experience of doing science. The human mind is capable of separating subjectivity into various compartments, one of which is rational thought. You don’t buy a new car because you like how shiny the metal gleams in the sun or how smooth it feels under your touch. You can separate those sensations from rational considerations about price, reliability, style, safety, etc.

Science takes one aspect of reality – that it can be measured in bits of data – and runs with it. But it never runs so far that subjectivity is left behind. In fact, theories, to which all measurements of data must eventually lead and from which they originate, are, in the words of Einstein, “free inventions of the mind”. And beyond theories, all experience happens in consciousness, which means that if you want to get at the source of love, truth, beauty, hope, aspirations, art, insight, intuition, and scientific hypothesizing itself, the proper field to explore is consciousness itself. Consciousness gives you the answers to questions about meaning and purpose, such as “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” Asking science to answer these questions is pointless.

Despite the proliferating number of brain imaging studies with press releases depicting colorful hotspots, neuroscience is not much closer to discovering why we love one another or where God resides in the brain. While fMRI and EEG studies are helpful to diagnose brain death and map the activation of high level circuits associated with self-awareness or decision making, our current imaging tools still do not, in fact, answer fundamental cause and effect questions about mind or consciousness. When science gets away with confusing data with meaning, philosophers squawk, but philosophy is in the same position as the hapless Bart Simpson confronting the cynical Krusty the Clown:

Krusty: What have you done for me lately?
Bart: I got you that danish.
Krusty: And I’ll never forget it.

Philosophy can plead for science to acknowledge what great thinkers and wisdom traditions have accomplished, but Science (capital S, the institutional reifications of scientific activities) is currently all-powerful and can choose to ignore it as irrelevant. As a result of this often willful amnesia, we have been saddled with the crude assumptions of materialism. It’s as if someone went to Detroit and said, “You build such fantastic cars. Tell me where I should take my next vacation.” The ability to arrive at incredibly sophisticated technology doesn’t remotely give science the right to speak about meaning and purpose.

In fact most scientists shy away from doing that. They correctly point out that present day science is neutral on such human constructs and values. But the new science of Consciousness will be able to at least put in the right tools, the experiences would be an integral part of what is being observed. Although “metaphysics” remains a term of dismissal among scientists, the hardest problem in metaphysics, the relation between mind and brain, has become a hot topic in recent years, largely because of advances in neuroscience. Here is the one place where consciousness can clearly make a difference to science, since understanding the brain in all its complexity will tell us a great deal about the mind if only the conversation goes both ways and science is willing to see the brain in terms of the mind.

The urgency of solving the mind-brain problem (or the mind-body problem, as it was stated in philosophy for many centuries) is greater than ever. Two partial answers exist, each with its own partisans. One camp holds that brain is the creator of mind. To have any thought or sensation, there must be a corresponding brain process that “lights up” with fMRI. These processes are fascinating in their complexity, but this is a mechanistic metaphor and does not actually answer the question of whether the mind creates brain.

In our prior metaphor of music and the radio, showing the structural and functional behaviors of the radio’s individual antennas, circuitry, and speakers, does not reveal how it “made the music” because it didn’t make the music – such analysis only reveals how the radio detected radio waves and transformed them into something a human ear could comprehend as music. Beethoven, the Beatles, and Beyoncé still made the music. Will an fMRI ever reveal how Shakespeare wrote, how Leonardo invented, or how Michelangelo painted? We think not. So the other partial answer is that the brain transduces forms of communication between humans – like plays, music, technology, and art – from their creative source in an all pervasive, pre-existing consciousness.

The events in consciousness include all experiences, including the experience of having a brain. When the word “hippopotamus” pops into your head, that’s an experience. When you isolate the exact set of neurons that triggered the word, that too is an experience. One didn’t cause the other; they arose together. Does this defy the Newtonian world view in which every effect must have a cause? Yes, but that demolition job was done a hundred years ago when the pioneers of quantum physics dealt with the behavior of subatomic particles, which obey “quantum indeterminacy,” a probabilistic way of looking at reality, wherein two events are linked by probability not by certainty. Yet this probabilistic view of reality is incredibly accurate. Quantum mechanics predicts parameters to one part over one followed by 16 zeroes! This quantum reality of indeterminacy has to be taken seriously, if we are to be self-consistent in our own science.

Stay tuned for part 8!

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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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