Originally published ©2003 R. K. Ebert, Ph.D.
Lectures about consciousness are easy to find. Everyone has an opinion, but few shed light on the real problem. The real problem is this: it is widely supposed that the world is made entirely of mere matter, but how can matter be conscious? How, in particular, can a couple of pounds of tissue experience? The answer will surprise you: matter in the earth’s space-time continuum has properties undreamed of by science.
The scientific perspective is that our consciousness, our awareness, is the result of multiple processes that take place within the brain. This definition is a good place to start when trying to understand consciousness. It points out that consciousness is the result of processes in the Mind. These processes are virtually universal among humans. No one learns how to think. We can learn “what” to think, but not how. Thinking just happens in the Mind. That’s what the human Mind does, it thinks. It selectively connects past experience with present experience and creates an anticipation of the future. We don’t ask the Mind to do these things, but everyone who thinks does them. They are built-in processes, like learning a language or reacting emotionally.
Common sense tells us that the Mind is a product of brain activity. Medicine and science tell us that the Mind is a product of the brain. Surprisingly, common sense and science are wrong. The Mind, the thing that focuses your awareness and creates your consciousness, does not exist in any scientific sense at all.
Scientists, focusing on the observable and measurable, long ago rejected Rene Descartes’ 17th-century declaration that the Mind and body are different. However, even with the use of sophisticated brain scanners, no one has been able to show that the Mind and the brain are synonymous. This is because we cannot measure the energy of thought or the energetic processes responsible for thought. For over a century, we have been able to measure the electrical activity of the brain; however, we cannot measure thought. We can see reactions occur in the brain to all sorts of stimuli, and there has been much speculation that we can now “see thought and emotion in action”. EEG studies and fMRI studies, although seeming impressive, have been recently demonstrated to be unreliable measures of conscious mental activity. These techniques, do measure something; however, the underlying assumptions that consciousness and emotional reactions are being measured were recently demonstrated to be open to conjecture. An fMRI study (Trawling the brain; Science News, December 2009, Vol. 176, No 13) demonstrated emotional responsively to pictures shown to a salmon. The images were designed for studying human emotional reactions. The most amazing part was that the salmon was dead when tested. The test results were an artifact of faulty methodology that is common in the field. Experimenters openly speculate that the earlier spectacular claims of imaging “thought in action” are not likely to be repeatable.
Similarly, although EEG studies are regularly used as indicators of brain activity, there is no evidence that brain activity is the source of consciousness. Sir John Eccles, the British 1993 Noble prize-winning neurophysiologist, has openly stated that in his opinion, the brain reacts to thoughts, but is not their source. (Eccles, J. and K.R. Popper, (1977): The Self and Its Brain’, Springer; Eccles, J. (1989) `Evolution of the Brain: Creation of the Self’, Routledge.)
The fact that consciousness is not dependent upon the brain has been known for over 30 years. It is a fact that has been ignored because science and medicine are unable to explain how it could be possible; it simply does not match what they believe to be true. Unlike the discipline of Physics, which pays close attention to any finding that does not fit “the model”, scientific medicine tends to ignore what it cannot explain.
In the 1980s CT scans conclusively demonstrated that at least ½ of those who possess severely deformed or absent brains have normal IQs and cognitive functions (Anthony Smith; “The Mind”; New York Viking Press, 1984, p.230 & Roger Lewin; “Is Your Brain Really Necessary?”; Science, 210 December 1980, p. 1232). If you stop and think about that, it is truly amazing. Take one or two percent of the components from a radio, and it won’t work at all.
Examples of normal and abnormal brain scans taken from individuals demonstrating normal consciousness and intelligence are shown below.
It does not take a medical expert or rocket scientist to see that the brain shown on the right is missing most of the structures found in the normal brain shown on the left. In the most famous example, the brain was observed to be only one-two millimeters thick and was so tightly plastered to the inside of the owner’s skull that his head appeared empty. The man who possesses it is a college graduate who earned first honors in mathematics in his Master’s degree program at Oxford University, he has a documented IQ in the superior range. While the brain contains the greatest collection of nerve cells in the body, its contribution and necessity for conscious awareness and normal life are greatly exaggerated. Look at the pictures; they are truly worth a thousand words.
Science rejected Descartes because science is based upon the study of things that can be measured. This is the strength and weakness of science. If something cannot be measured, it cannot be studied, and it does not exist by scientific definition. Measurement in science began with quantifying what can be seen by the human eye, but has significantly progressed across time. Scientific measurement is now based on electromagnetic field measurements. The electromagnetic spectrum contains all of the types of energy we are capable of measuring. For well over a century, the “EM” spectrum was assumed to be capable of measuring everything that exists. If you can’t detect it or measure it electromagnetically, it isn’t real is axiomatic to the scientific perspective.
That view of the universe was shattered when astrophysicists discovered that, given the universe’s measured mass, galaxies, planets, and the entire universe did not move the way they should. There’s not enough matter out there for it to work the way it does; or, there is a lot more out in the universe than we can measure through EM field examination. It turns out that there is something out there, but we cannot measure it directly, only through how it seems to affect other things we can measure. New scientific estimates have been made that the electromagnetic spectrum only represents 3-5% of the matter and energy in the universe. Astrophysicists call the immeasurable matter “dark matter”, and the energy associated with it “dark energy”, but naming something is very different from understanding what the thing is. Science has no idea of what “Dark matter” and “Dark Energy” are.
Unknown energies far off in the universe are interesting, but there are energies closer to home that science cannot explain, which are personally more relevant. The first is our bodies, and the second is our Mind. Our bodies demonstrate evidence of immeasurable energy fields, fields that influence our well-being. Acupuncture relies on the use of energies that science admits that it cannot measure. The National Institute of Health concluded that acupuncture is an effective method of healing, even though ten years of intensive studies failed to gain any insight into how it works.
Many things that are important to our physical well-being remain scientifically unexplainable. Growing embryos are like the universe; they uniformly operate in ways that do not follow the rules. Most people don’t realize that science and medicine cannot explain how the one set of genes each of us is born with can create thousands of different types of cells in our body. They cannot explain how cells become organized into organs, nerves, bones, limbs, eyeballs, fingers, and toes. Genes can only create copies of themselves, and they are not self-emergent. They cannot decide what they will become. Genes can become activated in various ways by external manipulation, but a gene cannot change itself, or predetermine what role it will play in a developing embryo. The forces that organize the intricate dance involved are unknown but must be there.
Something external to the developing embryo is needed to coordinate and regulate the miraculous developmental process that results in a living creature. Again, there is evidence (Chang, 1996) that the energy system underlying Acupuncture is both the initiator and regulator of embryonic development and is the life-long maintenance system of the body.
You may be asking yourself, what does this have to do with consciousness? To understand the Mind you must first give up the idea that the Mind is part of the body. The Mind is no more a part of the body than genes can tell themselves to form a liver. This article started by taking note of the fact that consciousness and, therefore thought, are the result of processes. It is clear that whatever the processes are, they don’t require the brain, because people without brains are conscious, can be intelligent, accomplished, etc. This is part of what is known in philosophy as “the hard problem”. The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining why and how thinking organisms have subjective experiences at all. Why our internal states are subjective, felt states, such as heat or cold, rather than objective states, as in the workings of a thermostat or a toaster.
Consciousness is focused awareness; it is your thoughts, feelings, memories, and judgments that make you up. It is as real as anything in the universe is as real as your body, yet it cannot be measured, only judged. Mostly we are conscious of our thoughts and feelings. We often blame our feelings on our thoughts, but they are synchronous events. We see our thoughts as being a natural result of the things going on around us until we notice that not everyone reacts to these things the way that we do. We have not been able to locate the Mind in the body because it is not in the body. It is composed of non-EM energy fields, an energy that exists outside space-time, but continuously interacts with the physical.
Using insights into the nature of reality and consciousness provided by Hawkins (1995) and Monroe (1994), the author researched the nature of the Mind. This research indicates that the Mind is composed of energetic fields with the properties of self-perpetuation, and attraction/absorption of harmonically similar energy patterns. Our thoughts are a result of the particular energetic harmonics available to our Mind, and the mechanism through which the energy harmonics are perpetuated. Our Mind is subject to automatic processes that have evolved to ensure that our awareness is focused, and is preloaded (karma) with emotional energies that provide an initial and enduring context for our experience and personal memories. Thoughts and feelings feed upon and augment one another through energetic activation, and life’s experiences, focused via our minds’ energies, create the content of our thoughts and feelings.
David Bohm, the father of Quantum Physics, provides powerful hints about the nature of reality, and the Mind. In Bohm’s universe, the manifest world of space-time (everything that exists for us) can only exist as it does because of an unseen energy field that exists outside space-time. It is an energy field of potentiality and probability, a field of being – in becoming. According to Bohm, one of the primary influences in the likelihood of things moving from the potential to the manifest is human thought and awareness.
Our Mind and body energy systems are scale replicas of the universe: they are energetic phenomena using a broad field of energy that Robert Monroe, the father of hemi-synch sound assisted meditation and out of body experience, simply refers to as the (M) field. The (M) field is an energy field similar to the EM field of science, but it is not detectible by science. As broad as the EM field is, it is but a small fraction of (M) energies. According to Monroe, (M) energy is the only energy field common to and operational inside and outside space-time. (M) energy is present in all matter, but (M) accumulates most in living organisms, and most of all, in the human Mind. Human thought is a perturbation of (M) energy that manifests in the Mind, although its source is the broadband of energy (M) itself. Monroe describes emotions as bands of (M) adjacent to thought, and the experience of Love is also a band of energy adjacent to thought. Thought-induced phenomena are side-band couplings of (M), and thought affects and modulates (M) radiation. Our brain reacts to (M) energy, very much like it reacts to sights, sounds, and physical stimuli.
David R Hawkins, MD, Ph.D., came to a similar conclusion about consciousness as did Monroe. Both see thought as arising within standing energy fields that are an innate part of the universe; bands of energy that science cannot measure, but are never-the-less fundamental to the thought process. Conceiving of the universe as a giant electrostatic condenser that responds to the energetic harmonic of our being by providing the Mind with filters influencing what manifests, Hawkins investigated the thought spectrum and developed an accurate map of the hierarchy of consciousness. Thoughts are simply one of the things that manifest in harmony with our being.
Hawkins and Monroe agree that engaging in emotional thinking can instill signals into the body’s energy system. These signals can alter our physical makeup promoting good health or most frequently stress that leads to illness. We do not use or become in phase with all of the available (M) field bands. To do so would tune us energetically to every possible emotional response at the same time. According to Monroe, this would overwhelm the Mind, and the Mind has evolved methods of limiting the range of (M) energy bands (like radio or TV stations) an individual “tunes” to, and only allows us to phase or couple with a small subset of what is possible.
According to Monroe and Hawkins, it is possible to learn how to prevent alignment with (M) energy bands, precluding the reception of harmful thought-forms. This conception is quite similar to Eckhart Tolle’s contention that “thought just happens in our mind”, and then we take credit or blame for it. Thought happens automatically in the Mind, we don’t ask for it, and often wish that our thoughts would stop. The automatic energetic nature of thought makes it extremely difficult to change, because conscious change requires constant alertness, without which our thoughts will slip back into unwanted patterns.
The spiritual masters have told us for millennia that the keys to health and happiness are inside us. They say that it is how we look at and react to the world that creates health, happiness, and abundance. They say that it is what is in our hearts and Minds that matters, and I believe that what they say is true. The problem is that the methods that they have provided to help us change don’t work very well. Only the Almighty is omniscient, although many Christians, Buddhists, and Moslems will take issue with that statement. Even the spiritual masters are limited in what they can/could perceive. As perceptive as they were, they never conceived of the Mind as an energetic process that is practically impossible to change through conscious intention, meditation, or prayer.
The Buddha realized that inherited energies dominate our perceptions, emotions, and our Mind he called karma. Still, even with this recognition, he was unable to develop a method of changing the energies that rule our lives. As the masters have all said, the conscious path to self-transcendence is narrow, and few can successfully follow it. The automated processes underlying thinking are simply too well ingrained to change volitionally.