Some reasons why Consciousness does not arise from the Brain and Neural activity
On 15th June 2008,
Liam St John. from Ann Arbor, Michigan U.S.A. wrote:
"One thing that sometimes disturbs me about brain science is that if the brain creates the mind, if the origin of the mind is in the brain, then there is no possibility for reincarnation. One confusion I have about it though is that, how can the brain be the origin of the mind if the mind is physical and made of particles of atoms/molecules. But atoms or particles don't exist solidly as particles until there is conscious observation. What it means to me is, mind is more fundamental to reality and the universe then my interpretation of brain science implies."
In reply to your email, the simple truth is that yes, the brain doesn't create mind or consciousness. This misconception derives from the Materialist Ontological view on the nature of existence, which holds that it is matter and the external physical Universe that is actually existent. Though it is the most widely held way of looking at things I believe it is mistaken in the same way that the idea that the Earth is flat or the idea that the Sun revolves around the Earth, were both widely believed, by even the wised and learned, but none the less turned out to be completely wrong. The alternative Ontological proposition on the nature of existence is called Idealism which is the belief that it is consciousness that is actually real and the true nature of existence first and foremost. In the section of the my website URL: http://www.iawwai.com/NatureOfReality.htm and in a couple of youtube videos( see video section of website for the Mandelbrot video and Nature of Reality video), I go into this more in depth. I show the flaws in the idea of Materialism and also show how reality is illusory and what's behind the illusion.
Essentially I put forward the idea that the nature of physical existence is the same as mathematical existence and therefore only 'exists' in the same way that mathematical objects, such as the Mandelbrot fractal, 'exist', i.e. they don't. Yet these mathematical fractal objects can contain an infinity of detail and form just like that found in physical reality. This idea actually has parallels with ancient mystical notions concerning the nature of the Universe. I was interested to read in the July 2008 edition of the science magazine Discover, how an MIT Physicist/Cosmologist by the name of Max Tegmark, has arrived at exactly this same conclusion, that the Universe exists mathematically. See www.discovermagazine.com in the archive section, it's free. This is another example of science converging upon mystical truth, though the in the article Tegmark says that he thinks Consciousness reduces to this Mathematical Universe; not how it really is, i.e. that it is Consciousness which is Primary and irreducible and that it is Consciousness which gives rise to the appearance or illusion of a physical Universe out there.
I know you're a Buddhist. In Buddhism there is the doctrine of Sanyatta or Shunyatta which mean in Sanskrit 'emptiness'. This is a metaphysical assertion concerning the illusory nature of reality corresponding to the doctrine of Maya in Hinduism and the meaning behind the parable of Plato's cave etc. Some modern day Buddhists think that Sanyatta only means that things are empty of value that it isn't really a metaphysical assertion about the nature of existence. However there is an ancient oral tradition which states that when Buddha first announced and elaborated upon the doctrine of Sanyatta, thousands of his followers died of heart attacks. While this story is most probably not literally true, it does highlight the fact that the idea of Sanyatta is supposed to be a something truly shocking, something that pulls the rug from under people, i.e. that all seemingly existent external phenomena of objective external reality are empty of self existence. So this important Buddhist doctrine is directly related to present discussion about the illusory nature of physical reality and primacy of subjective existence that is Consciousness.
A very important point that I'll address now is an argument that is used time and time again by Materialists and Atheists, which they believe conclusively demonstrates that Consciousness arises from the brain.It goes like this. They would say something along the lines that, if physical interventions such as psychoactive drugs, electromagnetic brain devices, insertion of electrodes during brain surgery etc. etc directly affect states of consciousness and subjective experience, then surely consciousness arises from the brain. They would also add that there can be shown correlations between brain states and subjective states as inferred through the use of various non-invasive technologies, such as fMRI, PET scans, SPECT, EEG etc. etc. So therefore they say, consciousness must arise from the brain and have a physical substrate, because physical interventions cause subjective states and also that subjective states can be measured by physical apparatus.
The flaw in this argument is that yes there is a closely corresponding relationship between physical brain states and subjective states of consciousness, however the mistake is the assumption that there is a causal relationship between on the one hand brain states and physical interventions upon the brain, and on the other hand subjective states and alterations of states of consciousness. This derives from two other assumptions which are incorrect. The first is the ontological assumption of Materialism which we discussed earlier. The other is the assumption that our perception of what we think of as the forward flow of time, is somehow privileged, absolute and the only way of looking at things. It is not. For time can also be imagined to flow backwards, from our perspective, and this instead could be a more primary, first and foremost way of looking at things. This is something that physicists generally accept. Because all the laws of physics work perfectly either forwards in time, as we understand it, or else backwards in time. This is the puzzle of time's arrow and the simple truth is that our perception of time is merely a manner of looking at things and that the complementary way of looking at time, i.e.of time flowing backwards, from our perspective, is equally valid.
Now, there exists this idea in the world of Physics and Cosmology that the big bang is not the beginning but that it is really the point of reflection and inversion, that is a point where the flow of Cosmic time reverses itself. This hypothesis is actually entertained by many leading scientists and is definitely a contender, in their eyes, for explaining the origin of the Universe and eliminating what are known as singularities, which are mathematically troublesome aspects of the existing big bang theory. Seen in this way, time perceived as flowing from the big bang, i.e. time as we know it, is really time going backwards from the point of reflection and time going forwards is really what happens when the Universe is dynamically evolving towards the point of the big bang and before reflecting back on itself. That is what we normally think of as time going backwards.
So time as we know it is really a journey backwards or a journey back to the original source which is the true beginning of creation. So what we normally think of as the end is really also the beginning and what we normally think of as the beginning, i.e. the big bang, is not the beginning and neither is it the end but it is really the half way point. So we are Returning to the Source which in fact is the beginning and also the end as well, for the Universe is Cyclical.
Once we see things from this point of view, we can show that the idea that because physical interventions, i.e. psychoactive drugs etc. cause changes in states of consciousness therefore consciousness arises from the brain; is incorrect. This is because the assumption of causality in this instance is shown to be false. What we think of as time flowing forwards is really time flowing backwards, so the physical intervention i.e. taking some psychedelic drug, didn't cause the change in subjective state but rather the other way round. Instead the physical intervention is not the cause but rather something that needed to happen in order that the subjective state be experienced , so far from consciousness arising from the brain, instead all physical reality arises in order to provide the form, order and pattern i.e. the story of our lives and of all lives, which provides interesting content for the one Consciousness, i.e. God, to experience. So it is really the future that causes the past. And it is consciousness that causes things to happen in the physical Universe. And it is consciousness which gives rise to the appearance of physical existence, including the existence of brains; for physical existence exists only in the same way that mathematical objects do and without consciousness to render them into subjective existence, then they might as well not really exist at all.
More on the beginning and future of the Universe. The ultimate future of the physical Universe is that it evolves into what might be described as Absolute Godhead, this would be the Celestial Buddha, Cosmic Christ, Omega Point, Universal Vishnu etc. A singular entity that is the Universe and also God. This is the real beginning or alpha. So the flow of time forward as we perceive it is taking the Universe back to becoming God again. And along the way, people become God, Society becomes God, Planetary Consciousness' (i.e. Gaia) become God, Galactic entities become God and so on, one God and the same God throughout. So what happens when the Universe becomes God? Well, a new creation comes into being through a process of progressive dissolution and emanation whereby the completed Absolute Godhead is sacrificed to create a new Cosmic History and a new unfolding then inevitably returns to the origin eternally. So the Universe is cyclical as absolutely everything within the Universe is also cyclical, as the days in our lives are cyclical and as the lives that are the manifestations of the one God, i.e. you, me and everybody are in turn also cyclical. This cyclical journey of God living thru the lives of the creatures in creation is the nature of reincarnation. This is how the idea that 'everyone is God' and the idea of reincarnation go hand in hand. On the website and on some YouTube clips I show how reincarnation is really the Universal but often suppressed truth behind all World Religion.
In the Atheistic Materialistic view of the nature of things, there is no accomodation for spiritual truths such as reincarnation but the ironic truth is that it is reincarnation and the eternal expression of the one Consciousness that gives rise to everything in the Material Universe in the first place including Atheists, Materialists and skeptical Secular Humanists.
Will write much more and more fully on these topics in the future. These concepts are quite hard to convey. I think diagrams will be really handy.
Till next contact Kindest Regards