Do you know your real self ? A dissertation on the Self & Consciousness from the view-point of Science, Spirituality, Philosophy, Psychology, Yoga, Religions &
Consciousness or Self From the Perspective of various Sciences and Spirituality
If we think deeply on the nature of Thought, Emotions, Will, etc.,we will come to the conclusion that these are metaphysical in their nature, for Thought is not quantifiable as various forms of Physical or Material energy are measurable. Not only has Thought no mass but it can cross all barriers of time and can go into the distant past and far-off future. Thought has a moral dimension also which various forms of (material) energy do not have. According to Physics, speed of light is the ultimate or the highest in the universe but the speed of Thought is very much higher so that it cannot be measured. In fact, Thought is the basis of all measurements. Light takes about eight minutes to travel from the Sun to the Earth but Thought takes only a small fraction of it. Other forms of energy, such as Light, Heat, Sound, etc. cause sensations but Thought it is that feels the sensations or prevents them from causing sensations. Sound takes the form of words and melodies but it is Thought or Mind that understands the meanings of these words and appreciates the melodies. Thus, Thought is altogether a different kind of Energy — a spiritual energy. it is not chemical, physical or mechanical energy.
Thoughts, Emotions, Will, etc. are not the epiphenomena of the brain even though they use various parts of the brain for their manifestation. We may be able to record, with the Electro-Encephalogram (EEG), the brain-waves and categorise them into Alpha, Beta and Delta and know from these whether a person is in a state of restfulness, wakefulness or in a state of drowziness, sleep or tension but the EEG does not enable us to contact the Thought, rather it is the Thought which makes use of the EEG to knows the state of thoughts.
Similarly, the emotions, such as love, kindness, compassion, astonishment and enthusiasm and the feeling, such as joy or grief, etc., are not the attributes or work of Matter or its forces. Specific part of the brain is used for their manifestation and exteriorisation but it is a separate metaphysical Being who has these emotions and experiences. This has been scientifically concluded by experiments by such well-known brain-surgeons and researchers such as Penfield.
Likewise, Will or Wish also is not the attribute of something material because it envisages a goal and determines a plan to achieve it and, finally, when a wish or a desire is fulfilled, it is the person who says: ‘My wish is fulfilled’. It is not the wish which says: ‘I am fulfilled’. Clearly, the wish is different from the person whose wish it was. Wish is an urge, a feeling, a state, a condition, an inclination on or a function of a metaphysical person.
Is not Thought, etc., an epiphenomenon of the brain?
Some people say: Thoughts, Emotions, Will, etc. are not material in their nature but when the material elements get together, in a particular manner, into a particular combination and state, then consciousness or Thought, by itself, emerges in the brain and body. This view, however, is not correct because brain, like other material things, is an object of Thought: it neither thinks nor is it a generator of Thought. All material things, without an exception, are the objects of enjoyment but the enjoyer is different from Matter and material things. The conscient soul is the user or the enjoyer. As has been explained in Chapter-1, material things do not exist for their own use but for a conscient being. For example, a bed exists not for its own sake but for a man or a woman.
Again, brain and material elements, in simple or combined form, cannot transgress laws of Physics, Chemistry or Nature, According to law of Physics, a reaction is always equal to the action and, even in the unbalanced equations in organic chemistry, the laws of conservation of Mass and Energy are not violated. But, these laws do not apply to Thought and Emotions which shows that they are, by their very nature, different from Matter; they are non-physical. We give an example that would illustrate this point:
Suppose a person has gone to a religious gathering and, there, he listens to a religious discourse. Now, according to the laws of Physics and Chemistry, the voice of the lecturer should go to the auditory areas of the cortex of the listener and get decoded there and the reaction of the voice should not go much further than the energy of the original words or sound. But we find that not only does the listener pay attention to the discourse, of his own free Will, but he thinks over it deeply again and again in order to find answer to many questions which the discourse has raised in his mind. That shows that not only does the action in the form of lecturer’s voice produce a reaction in the form of electrical impulses but also it goes much further, for it invokes the Will, invites the attention and provokes the action of the listener. The reaction, in this case, is not equal to the action; it goes much beyond the well-known equation of Physics. Obviously, there is a metaphysical entity which uses its Will and Attention and exercises its power of Decision, etc., so that the original stimulus has extended far beyond its expected range and has triggered not only bio-chemical and biological processes but has also stirred up the metaphysical abilities which do not belong to anything material. But, if still someone says that the Consciousness has a material origin or that it emerges from the brain even though it is non-physical, then he has to explain how a non-physical entity can emerge from something physical. If he doesn’t, then he will be raising more questions than he would be solving. As far as we know, no one has, uptil now, been able to explain how consciousness can emerge from Matter when the former is qualitatively and functionally different because it has emotion, experiences, purpose, etc. while Matter, and things made of Matter, do not have these.
What Karl Popper said about consciousness as an emergent product?
Even the famous philosopher of science, Karl Popper, who considered Mind as an emergent product of brain, admitted that his this belief was of no explanatory value. Said he: “From an evolutionary point of view, I regard the self-consciousness or mind an emergent product of the brain. It has no explanatory value, and it hardly amounts to more than putting a question mark in a certain place in human evolution.”
Do altered states show that consciousness is an emergent product?
Some people say that if and when we alter the brain, the mind or consciousness is also altered and this shows that Mind is a product of Matter. For example, if due to some accident, speech centre of a person’s brain is damaged, the person is unable to speak. Similarly, if and when certain drugs are injected into the body of a person, the moods and states of consciousness of that person are altered. On the basis of these arguments, they say that the consciousness is an emergent phenomenon; it is a product of the brain. But the argument does not hold good if one keeps in mind that brain is the mechanism used by the non-physical self and, so, if the mechanism is damaged or altered, the user cannot function normally. In order to make this point clear, let us give the example of a person who records his transactions, stocks and accounts on a computer. If his computer has been damaged or destroyed, he would not be able to function normally. But that does not mean that if the computer is damaged, then the user also is damaged and the computer and the user are one and the same. Similarly, if the soul cannot function because of damage to the brain, it does not mean that brain and soul are the same.
Does analogy of a computer show that consciousness is material?
However, there are eminent scientists and technocrats who would say that Consciousness is not distinct from brain. They say that ‘Consciousness’ is the name given to the intelligent functioning of our brain which is like a super-computer. For example, Marvin Minsky of M.I.T. who is a leading figure in computer research, says that a computer with “The general intelligence of an average human being” will soon be created. He further says that “The machine will be able to educate itself. In a few months, it will be at genius level. A few months after that, its power will be incalculable”. Later, “If we are lucky, they (the machines) might decide to keep us as pets.” It seems that the reason for his this statement is that he considers only ‘intelligence’ as the characteristic of Consciousness. He seems to overlook the fact that human intelligence is always accompanied by emotions, experience, purpose, relationships, etc. There is a lot of difference between the human intelligence and the artificial intelligence of a computer which is programmed by a human being and is the creation of human intelligence which is the programmer and which has experience also.
Another, such expert, Professor Arthur Harkins, a Director at the University of Minnesota, says that, by the year 2000, people will be getting married to robots and society will begin to ponder the definition of “human”. Now, are not such views funny! Isn’t the emotion of love (between a husband and a wife, for example being clearly overlooked?
Obviously, such scientists do not ponder that our Will, Emotions, Desires, Experiences, Values, etc. are the very essence of what we call ‘humanness’. It is not mere intelligence which is the distinctive feature of human-being but these other abilities also inseparably accompany intelligence in a human being. So, their misconception allows them to suppose that machines and computer of sufficient sophistication can become conscious! They fail to realise that their such view will confuse people about their place in the world, and about their goal and would undermine further the human values and will also destroy the traditional institutions in the society.
Opinion of Eugene Wigner
On the other hand, there have been scientists, like the Nobel Laureate Late Eugene Wigner, who said: “There are two kinds of reality or existence; the existence of consciousness and the reality or existence of everything else. The latter reality is not absolute but only relative.” Wigner said this because the measurable things and phenomena are known to man only because he has consciousness.
“Consciousness is not a material force” said Thomas Huxley
Even Thomas Huxley, who strongly promoted Darwin, has said: “I understand the main tenet of materialism to be that there is nothing in the universe but matter and force; and that all the phenomena of nature are explicable by deduction from the properties assignable to these two primitive factors…It seems to me pretty plain that there is a third thing in the universe, to wit, consciousness, which…I cannot see to be matter or force or any conceivable modification of either”.
“Consciousness does not come from neurophysiological synthesis,” says Sir John Eccles
Similarly, Sir John C.Eccles, in the book Self and its Brain, says: “The experienced unity (of consciousness or Mind) comes not form a neurophysiological synthesis, but from the proposed integrating character of the self-conscious mind”. Eccles has said this while discussing how many messages coming to various brain centres through the ears, eyes, nose, skin, etc. simultaneously are synthesised and decoded so as to make a composite picture or a sense out of them all. He is of the firm opinion that this is done by the self which is not an epiphenomenon of the brain.
Penfield’s experiments show that consciousness is not an epiphenomena of the brain
Further, Penfield’s research also has shown that even massive removals of cerebral cortex do not seem to completely abolish awareness but small lesions in the brainstem produce irreversible coma. Penfield has also shown that in ‘anecephalic monsters’, i.e. in those persons who are born without any cerebral cortex, there are states of wakefulness and sleep alternating each other and the person can smile and cry also but it cannot understand or speak because the cerebral hemispheres are not there. So, it shows that though the two hemispheres are responsible for higher thought – processes and understanding the language-code, etc., yet these are not the seat of consciousness. Penfield performed many experiments by stimulating various sites or points
on the brain. For example, he stimulated the motor cortex and produced the bodily movements, such as the movement of a hand, but it did not produce any conscious effects. He came to the conclusion that consciousness is located near the Hypothalamus and the Brainstem and is not an epiphenomenon of the brain.
Mind-Body contact takes place in the brain
This finding also explains the question of Body-Mind connection. We have already said that some Religions say that the soul dwells in the heart whereas others say that the soul dwells in the brain at a point called Bhrikuti or Trikuti or Ãjna Chakra, which is in-line with the mid-point between the eye-brows. Many have said that the soul is infinitesimal; it has no extension and is indivisible. So, it could be understood in the light of the research done by Penfield and others that the soul has its field in the proximity of the Thalamus, Hypothalamus-pituitary-combine and the limbic system and the brain. Here, it functions through the Sympathetic and Pra-sympathetic nervous system and the Pituitary, which is the Master gland. As is now well-known, all the body-functions, including that of the heart, are controlled and conducted from here.
Brain-death and not stopping of heart-beat shows disconnection
In the olden times, people could judge the presence of life and the soul by feeling the beats of heart. They could also feel the effects of one’s emotions easily by feeling one’s heart. So, they could easily come to the conclusion that the soul dwells in the heart because the stopping of the heart-beats signalled the physical death. But now, in the light of the medical research, it is amply clear that it is the brain-death which is the major proof of the death of a person’s body and, so, it could be understood because of these other factors also that actually brain is the seat of the soul which, of course, has a field.
Experiments on “the clinically dead”
Above, we have given some clarification about the non-physical nature of the self or Consciousness and have given evidence from various disciplines of science which support the truth that the self, the soul or the Conscious entity, in every human body, is a non-physical one and it is not an epiphenomenon of the brain. This truth, which is common belief of all religions, is supported by the research, conducted on ‘the clinically dead’ or what has now come to be known as Out-of-Body Experience. The name of Dr. Raymond A.Moody, MD, in this field, has become fairly well-known, for he did the pioneering work. Dr.Moody conducted research on three kinds of cases: (i) those who were resusciated after having been pronounced clinically dead by doctors, (ii) those who, because of accidents, illness or serious injury came very close to death and (iii) those who, as they were dying, told their experiences to other people who were then present and, later, these people reported their death experiences to Dr. Moody. Dr. Moody studied about 150 such cases and constructed a model of death-experience. These are described in his book, Life-after-Life. All these things point to the truth that the soul, the self or the conscious entity does not die with the body but rather survives after the body has been disposed of. In these ‘Near-Death-Experiences’ or ‘Out-of-Body’ Experiences, people report that they observed their physical body and events relating to it from a perspective outside of the body. Although a percentage of these cases are unreliable yet extensive and intensive research in this field leads conclusively to the truth that the soul survives the death of the body and is different from the body and the brain.
Visions of the Supreme Soul
These cases also give evidence about the existence of the Supreme Soul or the Parent Soul because many persons reported that, at the point of death, they saw a Being-of-Light which was of the form of an Orb-of divine Light and which gave the experience of a loving Parent and then they saw, in quick succession, the picture of their past acts as one sees events shown by a movie.
Cases of Research on Re-incarnation
Research has also been scientifically done in the cases of children who gave accounts of memories of their past lives. Ian Stevenson, Head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia, USA, has done very extensive and thoroughgoing research in this field. He investigated more than 2000 cases, from all over the world, of children who claimed that they had lived before their present life. Though some cases were false and fabricated yet investigation into many cases confirmed their veracity. Ian Stevenson investigated the details of the place and people as the children had described and also the details about the dead persons which the children claimed to have seen. He came to the conclusion that there was ample verification and confirmation of all these. He was, therefore, convinced that the conscious self can travel from one physical body to the next after one body has been destroyed.
Research in the field of Hypnotic Age-regression
Recently, lot of research has been done in the field of Age-regression. Though it has been found that, in some cases, the mind of the hypnotically regressed persons tends to fabricate illusion and, therefore, the statements of all the subjects are not acceptable, yet there are many cases that have been verified, as for example, the case of an American woman in Philadelphia who, under hypnotic regression, manifested the personality of a Swedish farmer and spoke fluent Swedish though investigation about her showed that she had no previous contact with any Swedish in her life. Dr. Helen Wambach, Ph.D., among many other researchers, has done remarkable work on the experiences of rebirth and past lives through the method of hypnotic regression. He regressed about 750 subjects back to the moment of death in their previous life and then to the moment of their entry into the present body. He took many subjects into numerous past lives. After going through his book, one comes to the conclusion that there definitely is a metaphysical entity which takes rebirth after giving up one body. The soul is not only non-physical but is a traveller that moves from one body to another and also, as many, under hypnosis, saw, from ‘The World of Souls’ to this world.
Explanation of unified experience in the light of Theory of Relativity and the Data-processing theory, etc.
One special characteristic of our Mind or Consciousness is that we always have a unified experience though we are being constantly bombarded by innumerable data or bits of information. Let us see whether our view that there is a metaphysical soul, ensconsed in the brain, helps explain this or it is a hurdle?
According to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and his gendanken (experiments in the mind), any space-time event can be viewed from an innumerable number of reference-points, each giving rise to a different result, a different interpretation or a different experience.
In the light of this, let us take up the view of the scientific community, to-day, in regard to the messages received in our brain. These messages, fed into our brain by our various senses, lead to something like numerous space-time electro-magnetic events. These space-time electro-magnetic events, at particular moment, are numerous because we receive simultaneous messages from the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, etc. So, according to Einstein’s afore-mentioned theory, there should, at one point of time, be many experiences. Further, since our frame of reference will affect our measurements of the location, speed, direction, mass, length, momentum, energy, frequency, etc. of each one of those events or objects, our experiences should be innumerable. But, contrary to this expected result of gendanken (thought experiments) we always have one unified experience? The question is why and how do we have a unified experience?
We further know that our observations and, therefore, our conclusions, based on those observations, are also coloured by the difference in our measuring apparatus and also by our attitudes, beliefs, past experiences, prejudices and even by our desires. So, taking all these factors into consideration, if there are the numerous simultaneous electro-magnetic events in our brain, and so many are the frames of references, then our experience could not have been ‘one’ as it really is. Since our experience is always one and unified, it would be reasonable to conclude that there must be a single point of reference, working as a co-ordinate origin, to which our experience owes its one-ness or uniqueness. The universal fact that we always have only one unified experience is a clear evidence of the truth that (i) there is only one co-ordinate origin which works as our reference-point and (ii) that there is only one set of attitudes and beliefs which lead to the ‘one-ness’ of our perception or experience. What else can be this one co-ordinate origin which also has one set of beliefs and attitudes? Conclusively, there must be a metaphysical point, namely ‘the soul’.
Even if we have never observed this point or metaphysical particle which works constantly as one single frame of observation and reference, it becomes necessary to recognise the existence of such an entity, for this explains why we have a unified experience. This entity is the soul. It is this which has beliefs, attitudes, past experiences, etc. Without accepting its presence as a point of metaphysical Light, our experiences and their unified nature cannot be explained.
Explanation of unified experience vis-a-vis Quantum Machanics and Catastrophic Theory
Now let us think over the question of ‘unified experience’ vis-a-vis the Quantum Mechanics and the Theory of Chaos or the Catastrophic Theory.
Quantum Theory deals with different energy states that a system can occupy. This branch of Physics helps us to understand the behaviour of atoms and sub-atomic particles, etc. This theory tells us that whereas we can predict the behaviour of large objects in large areas, such as an aeroplane or a cow, we cannot predict tiny changes at the micro level in small areas. We cannot give exact details of time, energy, momentum, position, frequency, etc. at the micro or the atomic and subatomic level because our every act of measuring disturbs the system or the event that is under observation. At that level, we cannot say when or which thing will occur. We can describe the probability only of a particular activity because the events at the micro level are abrupt as a catastrophe such as occurrence of an explosion. The special kind of theory in the branch of mathematics that deals with such abrupt and catastrophe-like events and explains in terms of probability is called The Catastrophic Theory.
Now, the events in our brain that take place due to the bombardment of the information-pieces, hurtled by our senses, are compared because of their abruptness and complexity, to a situation of catastrophe or anarchy or a calamity. There is a kind of a storm or explosion of information in our brain and, as a result of this, there can be a vast range of probability due to there being a number of ways we can approach that information or to the problem posed by that information and, so, there can be a number of possible decisions, and, as a result of it, there can be a number of mental states that can occur. Despite this tremendously vast range of possibilities, there is an abrupt decision, sometimes or often taken instantly. How does this happen? So, the pertinent question is: ‘Who determines or What determines as to how to look at that flood of information and how to react to it or what will be the approach and what do we want to experience?’The scientists say that, because of the afore-mentioned reasons, all our mental activity corresponds to the changes in the quantum energy states which the Quantum Mechanical equations would describe in terms of probability, using the Catastrophic Theory.
Further, the Quantum Mechanics and the Catastrophic Theory tell us that these mental events, which are like the micro-quantum phenomena, would always be unpredictable. We cannot say with any degree of certainty what course of action the Consciousness or Mind of a particular individual would take. In other words, an individual’s action to us would always be uncertain. But, we all know that, in actual practice, we can pretty well know it if we know what are a person’s usual choices. After all, everyone of us has some fixed habits, tastes, inclinations, choices and way of thinking and deciding and even when we deviate from our usual choice, we do so because of certain other fixed factors of our nature.
So, a plausible explanation could be that, even if the quantum-level or micro-level forces or bits of information in the form of electrical impulses trigger our decisions and mental states in random leaps and quantum – jumps of our consciousness, their results are not frustratingly un-predictable; these decisions, mental states and courses of actions are determined largely by our ‘samskãras’, tendencies, motives, habits, prejudices and choices and by our Will. And the Will and the Samskãras and the tendencies, etc. reflect the presence of a non-physical or metaphysical entity that triggers our thoughts and decisions into definite direction and course of action.
The concept of soul strikes a balance between free will and determinancy
Those who are strong supporters of the Quantum Theory and the Theory of Catastrophy, suggest that their view-point increases the scope for a free will and demolishes the belief that we are in a fairly or totally deterministic world. True, but the presence of a soul does not place any hurdle in this. On the other hand, it strikes a fair balance between the two view-points. It accepts that the situation due to numerous messages and bombarded information is, no doubt, abrupt and offers many choices but the proclivities, hopes and aspirations, level of understanding and, above all, the samskãras of the metaphysical being, the soul, act as the determining factors, else the decision could not be taken abruptly or instantly. And, we know from our own or others’ experiences that whenever there is confusion and wavering of Mind and whenever the decisions are not taken quickly, the reason is that the person has a number of interests rather than one particular interest and he has a dual personality with sets of opposite samskãras which shows that these are the determining factors. And, these are the characteristics of the individual souls — the metaphysical entities. Thus, the Quantum Theory and the Theory of Catastrophe, when rightly applied, support the truth about the existence of a metaphysical being, called the soul, in the brain, rather than reject it.
The soul as an eternal point of energy vis-a-vis the Law of Entropy
According to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, every action or inter-action, within a system, results in less and less available energy and in greater and greater disorder or disorganisation.
This Law can be explained by the example of petrol used in a motor vehicle. When the petrol is in the tank of the vehicle, its molecules are in a much more ordered state, for their composition or their chemical bonds are intact. But when the vehicle moves, the petrol molecules turn into vapour and their chain or chemical bond is broken apart and it combines with the oxygen of the atmosphere and forms carbon dioxide gas. Thus, the energy that was stored in the form of chemical bonds of the petrol molecules is released and scattered in all directions and cannot now be restored in its original state. Also, there is wear and tear of the vehicle and the system is moving towards greater and greater disorder. Since Entrophy is the measure of disorder within a system, we can also say, that ‘the system is moving from a lower to a higher entropy’. ‘The term ‘Higher entropy’ means that there has been great loss of energy and there would now be lesser amount of energy available for use. ‘Low Entropy’ means that there was small loss of energy and so there is still ‘greater part’ of energy available for use. So, the Entropy Law states that every action leads to higher entropy.
Since, according to this law, less and less recoverable and usable energy will be left in a non-living system as a result of every action and more and more would be the disorder, there will, at one stage, be a state of anarchy and very great loss of energy so that, ultimately, the universe will meet what is called ‘the Heat Death’ because of higher and higher entropy and loss of heat.
Now scientists say that this Second Law of Thermodynamics would be operative on any system and, so, if the soul is a store of conscient energy, it would gradually lose its available energy and would reach a stage of death, so to say, or it will have unavailable energy. These scientists also say that the belief that the soul is eternal and survives the death of the body, violates the Law of Conservation or the Law of Entropy in Physics.
What these scientists say is true in one sense only. The Entropy Law is inviolable in a non-living system only and that too if the system works in a linear fashion. The Law may not be applicable, and if the system works in a cyclic fashion and is a living system, then the energy-loss may even be reversible. Let us explain this statement: And, if the system works in a cyclic fashion and is a living system, then the Entropy Law may not be applicable.
When we look at the conscious activity, we find that, often, if not always, our conscious behaviour tends to move to a state of greater order rather than to disorder or confusion which the Second Law of Thermodynamics or the Entropy Law would envisage. At last, we notice that, if we have the right knowledge of consciousness and also of its functioning, we can intervene and stop degradation which we see in a non-living system. We can also bring back our conscious system to its original state or level of order. It may be useful to give here the example of a car and its driver. It is true that less and less energy would be available when the car is driven and the petrol molecules would split up and would get transformed into other states and the energy-loss would be unrecoverable because of the linear progression towards entropy (higher and higher loss of energy). But the driver, who is a conscient being, would learn more and more by experience and his mental state would have greater order. In other words, his ability or skill of driving would improve. So, at the level of consciousness, greater and greater order would result, leading to lesser entropy or even to zero entropy if the person marches towards perfection.
The example, given above, is not a solitary one. We clearly see that while the degradation is increasing in the material universe, we experience greater order in research and exploration and sophistication. What was once considered as impossible, has now been made possible. People have now made great advancement in Science and Technology and this has led to high system of accuracy and precision. We notice that, when a person has the knowledge of a certain system, he can bring change and restore the original order. This shows that there is a conscient entity on which the law of Entropy does not work in the linear fashion and this conscient entity, called the soul, can return back to its original state of highest order by means of the knowledge of how its consciousness works. What we have to do is to know our aim clearly and to remove our ignorance which is the cause of disorder. All this takes us to the conclusion that consciousness is a non-physical entity.
In the context of the Law of Entropy, the scientists also allege that, if Consciousness is a non-physical energy, then its various forms, such as Thought, Reasoning, Intention, etc. would not be able to act upon the synapses in the brain because, by their nature, the two are different. While the former (consciousness) is metaphysical, the latter is physical. The former has no mass whereas the latter has mass.
In regard to the above, we should remember that there are probablistic fields of quanta which carry neither mass nor energy but which, nevertheless, can exert effective action at the micro-level. Even so, the soul’s field, or the field of Consciousness, can act on probablistic synaptic events in the manner similar to the probability-fields of quantum mechanics.
Sir John Eccles, who was awarded Nobel Prize for his work, and who has made valuable contribution to the understanding of human brain and its functions through many books and also through BBC T.V. series, has published another book, titled ‘How the Self controls its Brain’. In this book, he has explained in a more forthright manner, his thesis that there is a conscious and spiritual self, distinct from the brain. In this book, he has explained in great detail, the mechanism of mind-body interaction. He has said that, when a neuron signal reaches the synaptic knob or bouton, only one of the vesicles may discharge the whole of its contents. He says that the probability of this happening is only 0.25 or one-in-four. He considers this probability as indeterministic quantum mechanical effect. Eccles says that the self influences the brain processes by increasing the probabilities of discharge (exocytosis) in all of the 100,000 or so dendrites or boutons. Eccles co-researcher, Friedrich Bock, Head of the Department of Nuclear Physics at the Technical University of Darmstadt, has done the necessary calculations and these suggest that the quantities of energy, distance and time involved are sufficiently small for quantum mechanical effect to be significant and conservation laws would not be violated. And, at the same time, increasing the probabilities of discharge of neurotransmitters (exocytosis) in about 100,000 boutons would macroscopically affect brain processes and the sell would thereby be able to influence the brain to realise its intentions.
While Eccles’s explanation of how the signals go from one to the other neuron and into the synaptic cleft and how the discharge of neurotransmitters takes place is very well explained in detail’ yet his explanation of the influence of the self on the 100,000 or so boutons is not explained clearly. Moreover, his explanation of the mind-body interaction at the level of neo-cortex also seems to have some weaknesses. Instead, if we consider the aura or the field of the self interacting with the bio-electro-magnetic energy field near the hypothalamus-pituitary-limbic system, that would provide more palpable explanation.
Soul is re-charged or re-energised by Meditation and Entropy is reversed
We should also keep in mind the fact, based on experience of the practitioners of yoga, that when they stabilise themselves in the awareness of the self as a metaphysical being and establish a conscious love-link with God, they feel energised. They feel recharged with spiritual energy even as a battery is re-charged by linking it to a source of electricity. This experiment can be done by anyone, maintaining the conditions necessary for it. This leads us to the conclusion that mental (psychological) action, done by the soul, does not result in loss of energy or in greater entropy.
Recycling of negative energy into positive energy reverses Entropy
What happens is that if the soul does a morally bad action, its positive energy is converted into negative one. The negative available energy now increases. If the soul returns to positive thinking or to Meditation, is able to re-convert the negative energy into the positive one even as we recycle certain material things.
Also, by the practice of Yoga-Meditation, the spiritual field of God or the Supreme Soul acts upon the field of the soul and this helps the process of transformation of the soul so that it now is able to recover the positive energy which now becomes available to it for use.
Further, if we keep in mind that the events of the world are not linear and that the Time is cyclic so that there comes a point of the cosmic order when the Time Wheel, having completed one cycle, takes the turn of the position from where it started, then we will be able to understand that, even in the material world, the Entropy would be restored to zero.
Cases of split brain
Since the year 1960, till date, many surgical operations have been performed to treat cases of severe epilepsy. The operation involves separation of the right and the left hemispheres of the brain by cutting the corpus callosum, which is composed of about 200 million nerve-fibres and nerve-cells which normally function to transmit information between the two hemispheres and co-ordinate their motor activities also. This cutting of corpus calosum, which serves as bridge between the right and the left hemispheres, cured wholly or partially, the patients suffering from severe epilepsy. The reason for ‘splitting the brain’ was that it was thought that the damage or disorder in one hemisphere would not produce disorders in the other because all direct connections for transmitting information between the two had been cut. Roger Sperry of California Institute of Technology was awarded a Nobel Prize for doing leading work in this field. He and others discovered many noteworthy facts in the cases of split-brain patients or in patients, in whom one of the hemispheres was surgically removed.
To understand the changes caused by these surgical operations, called commissurotomy, it would be necessary to know that the left hemisphere of the brain is connected with the right side of the body and the right side of the body is connected with the left side, except that the right hemisphere is connected with the right nostril and the left hemisphere is connected with the left-nostril. It would also be necessary to know that the left hemisphere has the speech centre and it also does the specialised functions of reasoning, abstract and analytical thinking, cognition etc. whereas the right hemisphere is associated with the aesthetic, i.e. the appreciation of music and beauty of form and colour, etc., and with emotions; it does not have centre of language-decoding or verbal expression.
Following are some of the facts that came to light by performing some peculiar tests on split-brain persons:
A ‘split-brain’ person was shown certain neutral geometric figures to his right and left eyes, which means to his left field and right field because each eye is connected with the opposite hemisphere. Suddenly, a pin-up shot of a nude figure was shown to the left eye which is connected with the right hemisphere. The person was asked as to what he was seeing. The person said that she saw nothing or that she saw only a flash of light. But when the person was replying thus, there was, on her face, a grin. In the next couple of trials, the person also blushed and giggled. These signs on the face showed that the person knew what she had seen and was intentionally giving a false reply. When the person was asked: “Why are you grinning if you have seen nothing or if you have seen just a flash of light”, the replies of the person indicated that the right hemisphere had no idea at this stage as to what it was that had brought the grin on his or her face but its emotional effect got across.
We have already said that the right nostril is connected to the right hemisphere and the left nostril to the left hemisphere unlike other parts of the body which are connected with the opposite brain-hemisphere. Roger Sperry performed certain tests using the odours. When an odour was presented to the right hemisphere through the right nostril, and split-brain person was unable to name the odour but he or she could tell, by some suitable reactions, whether it was pleasant or unpleasant. For example, if the odour was unpleasant, the person would express this by a grunt but he or she could not say whether this odour was of onions or garlic or of decayed materials. But, in this case also, the feelings through the right hemisphere got across to the left, i.e. the speaking hemisphere.
There were also other tests performed by Roger Sperry. In one test, he showed photos of some persons to a ‘split-brain’ person, exposing the photos to his left eye and, thereby, to the right brain. He showed the photos of Hitler, Castro, President Nixon, etc. and asked the patient to express his or her approval (or pleasure) by thumbs up and disapproval (displeasure) by thumbs down. The patient was asked to indicate his or her emotions by thumbs up or thumbs down because the right hemisphere, to which the photos were presented, has no speech centre or centre of verbal expression though it exteriorises the emotions. When the photos of Hitler and Castro were shown, the patient put his or her thumb down, when the photo of Nixon was presented, the patient wavered for a while because, in those days, the famous Watergate scandal was on. Suddenly, the patient was shown his or her own photo, the patient again gave a thumbs-down response but the patient also had a distinct sheepish self-conscious grin. This led Sperry to conclude that the right hemisphere does reflect ‘self-consciousness’ and it also thinks in terms of moral values, for, without this how could it have put thumbs down when the photos of Hitler and Castro were presented and how could it have expressed a grin when his or her own photo was shown?
On the basis of the data available from the above tests, some scientists think that there is not one but there are two persons in the brain, each one using one hemisphere. They say that, if the same person were using both the hemispheres, it should be able to know what is happening into the other hemisphere.
But a deep thinking would lead us to the conclusion that this is a wrong opinion. The fact is that the right hemisphere has no speech centre and, so, the conscious self cannot express what is happening. If it were to make use of the left hemisphere to express the event, then it would lose its contact with the right hemisphere because the corpus callosum, which was the channel for information-transfer, has been cut. However, the expression by means of a grin shows that the self-aware person is there. So, why not conclude from this that there is only one self-conscious person but, sometimes, it acts through the right and sometimes through the left hemisphere. However, since the hemisphere which has speech centre, is different from the other hemisphere into which the odour is being fed or to which the nude photo is being presented, one same self-conscious person (soul) cannot express the feelings as it used to because the connected parts have been severed and there is not only no transmission of experimental information from one to the other but also the centre for verbal expression too has been disconnected.
We can see that, even in normal life, we, sometimes, seem to do two activities at a time. For example, a person may be driving his car and, at the same time, discussing some problem with someone seated by his side. The reason why we see these two actions being done simultaneously is that mind or consciousness is metaphysical and infinitesimal and it takes almost no time to use one hemisphere and, almost instantly, the other hemisphere and, in case one of the hemispheres has been disconnected and removed, to use the parts of the hemisphere to which the electrical impulses are feeding the information.
Confirmation of the above view that there is only one person
Sperry had performed tests on the left hemisphere also of the split-brain persons. For example, he flashed to the left visual field (connected with the right hemisphere) the word “eraser” and the person was asked to search it out from a collection of objects, using only the touch with the left hand. The person correctly located the ‘Eraser’ but when he or she was a asked to name the object he was holding in his left hand, he was unable to do it. Doesn’t this imply that when the word ‘eraser’ was flashed before his left eye, the right hemisphere was able to understand it so that it correctly located it and held it up in his or her left hand but the person could not utter the name because the speech centre was in the left hemisphere?
Moreover, the following findings confirm the afore-stated view-point:
1.Even after removal of the hemisphere, a person is alert, responsive and intelligent and a casual interaction with such a one would not reveal that he or she differs from the rest of the humanity because of commissurotomy, i.e., the surgical operation separating the two hemispheres though there are certain deficiencies noticeable because the sensory information that goes to one hemisphere is not passed on to the other hemisphere. Since one hemisphere can do without the other, this clearly shows that neither of the two hemispheres is the seat of Consciousness of Mind though both of these are used by Mind.
2.It was observed that when the left hemisphere of a patient was totally removed for treatment of a large brain-tumour, despite the loss of language capability, which is known speciality of the left hemisphere, the patient had all signs of intelligent and active behaviour. It is clear enough that the right hemisphere is capable of sensory and motor action even in the absence of the left hemisphere which, until only a few decades ego, was strongly considered to be the seat of the soul or Mind.
Some questions or arguments with a touch of humour
Also, if there were two self-conscious persons — one in each hemisphere, then the person in the right hemisphere should, perhaps, object to the removal of right hemisphere and, similarly, the person in the left hemisphere should object to the removal of that hemisphere because they would feel that it is being ousted or done away with or is being put out of employment.
Moreover, any emotion expressed, after commissurotomy should be half the emotion as compared to what it was when both the hemispheres were intact. But this is not so.
All these tests, therefore, not only show that there is only one ‘self-aware’ person (soul) in the brain but also that the soul is seated neither in the right nor in the left hemisphere but is outside of these, having its field spreading over hypothalamus, thalamus, brainstem and the limbic system. It also shows that ‘self-awareness’ is not an epiphenomenon of the brain but rather ‘Consciousness’ is metaphysical in its nature.
The split personality phenomenon
The split personality phenomenon is different from the split-brain phenomenon because, in the latter, the two hemispheres had been disconnected by commissurotomy whereas, in the former, no such surgery has been done and the doctor treating the patient thinks that there are more persons than one in the brain.
The case of Miss Beachamp may be cited in this context. Morton Prince, her psychiatrist, says that there were several alternating personalities that manifested in her and he was faced with the problem of finding which was the real Beachamp that he should preserve so that the others be either integrated or they become extinct. He (psychiatrist) says that some of these personalities expressed deep anxiety that they would get extinguished because of the psychiatrist’s treatment. Moreover, those several personalities confronted each other and they also expressed their own selfish concerns and their views, opinions and value-systems. Sometimes they pursued different goals even and they displayed different ‘wills’. They tried even to change each other’s views and also to bargain with each other. So, some people think that there is not one point of Consciousness in the body but there are many points of Consciousness. However, on the basis of complete study, one would conclude that there is only one person though the same person manifests different or multiple personalities. For example, during one such attempt, when two different personalities were bargaining with each other, the patient said: “Are you guys trying to make two people out of me?”
Further, Bernard Williams, a psychiatrist, says that the fear of different personalities that they would be extinguished by the psychiatrist was unjustified. He says that when Miss Beachamp was cured, “They spoke freely of herself as having been Beachamp-I and Beachamp-4. The different personalities seemed to her to be due to very large differences of her moods or states. She regretted those moods and said: “After all, it is all myself.”
Thus, it is clear from the scientific evidence and its proper interpretation that the soul is a metaphysical being, seated in the brain and that two hemispheres are neither its seat nor are there separate ‘Consciousnesses’ in them. On the other hand, there is only one self-aware being who, seated near hypothalamus, coordinates the two hemispheres or uses each one of them as the case may be.
Knowing the Conscious and the Unconscious Consciousness is believed by all as the substratum of all human actions. Man’s thoughts, understanding, judgement, perceptions, learning, feelings,
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Chapter 3 Consciousness from the Spirituo-Scientific Perspective of Rajyoga In this paper, the term ‘Spiritual’ or ‘Spirituality’ does not refer to any particular religion nor
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