Does Our Brain Really Create Consciousness? ~ Peter Russell

Western science has had remarkable success in explaining the functioning of the material world, but when it comes to the inner world of the mind, it has very little to say. And when it comes to consciousness itself, science falls curiously silent. There is nothing in physics, chemistry, biology, or any other science that can account for our having an interior world. In a strange way, scientists would be much happier if minds did not exist. Yet without minds there would be no science.
This ever-present paradox may be pushing Western science into what Thomas Kuhn called a paradigm shift–a fundamental change in worldview.

This process begins when the prevalent paradigm encounters an anomaly — an observation that the current worldview can’t explain. As far as the today’s scientific paradigm is concerned, consciousness is certainly one big anomaly. It is the most obvious fact of life: the fact that we are aware and experience an internal world of images, sensations, thoughts, and feelings. Yet there is nothing more difficult to explain. It is easier to explain how the universe evolved from the Big Bang to human beings than it is to explain why any of us should ever have a single inner experience. How does all that electro-chemical activity in the physical matter of the brain ever give rise to conscious experience? Why doesn’t it all just go on in the dark?

The initial response to an anomaly is often simply to ignore it. This is indeed how the scientific world has responded to the anomaly of consciousness. And for seemingly sound reasons.
First, consciousness cannot be observed in the way that material objects can. It cannot be weighed, measured, or otherwise pinned down. Second, science has sought to arrive at universal objective truths that are independent of any particular observer’s viewpoint or state of mind. To this end they have deliberately avoided subjective considerations. And third, there seemed no need to consider it; the functioning of the universe could be explained without having to explore the troublesome subject of consciousness.

However, developments in several fields are now showing that consciousness cannot be so easily sidelined. Quantum physics suggests that, at the atomic level, the act of observation affects the reality that is observed. In medicine, a person’s state of mind can have significant effects on the body’s ability to heal itself. And as neurophysiologists deepen their understanding of brain function questions about the nature of consciousness naturally raise their head.

When the anomaly can no longer be ignored, the common reaction is to attempt to explain it within the current paradigm. Some believe that a deeper understanding of brain chemistry will provide the answers; perhaps consciousness resides in the action of neuropeptides. Others look to quantum physics; the minute microtubules found inside nerve cells could create quantum effects that might somehow contribute to consciousness. Some explore computing theory and believe that consciousness emerges from the complexity of the brain’s processing. Others find sources of hope in chaos theory.

Yet whatever ideas are put forward, one thorny question remains: How can something as immaterial as consciousness ever arise from something as unconscious as matter?
If the anomaly persists, despite all attempts to explain it, then maybe the fundamental assumptions of the prevailing worldview need to be questioned. This is what Copernicus did when confronted with the perplexing motion of the planets. He challenged the geocentric worldview, showing that if the sun, not the earth, was at the center, then the movements of the planets began to make sense. But people don’t easily let go of cherished assumptions. Even when, 70 years later, the discoveries of Galileo and Kepler confirmed Copernicus’s proposal, the establishment was loath to accept the new model. Only when Newton formulated his laws of motion, providing a mathematical explanation of the planets’ paths, did the new paradigm start gaining wider acceptance.

The continued failure of our attempts to account for consciousness suggests that we too should question our basic assumptions. The current scientific worldview holds that the material world–the world of space, time and matter — is the primary reality. It is therefore assumed that the internal world of mind must somehow emerge from the world of matter. But if this assumption is getting us nowhere, perhaps we should consider alternatives.

One alternative that is gaining increasing attention is the view that the capacity for experience is not itself a product of the brain. This is not to say that the brain is not responsible for what we experience — there is ample evidence for a strong correlation between what goes on in the brain and what goes on in the mind — only that the brain is not responsible for experience itself. Instead, the capacity for consciousness is an inherent quality of life itself.

In this model, consciousness is like the light in a film projector. The film needs the light in order for an image to appear, but it does not create the light. In a similar way, the brain creates the images, thoughts, feelings and other experiences of which we are aware, but awareness itself is already present.

All that we have discovered about the correlations between the brain and experience still holds true. This is usually the case with a paradigm shift; the new includes the old. But it also resolves the anomaly that the old could not explain. In this case, we no longer need scratch our heads wondering how the brain generates the capacity for experience.

This proposal is so contrary to the current paradigm, that die-hard materialists easily ridicule and dismiss it. But we should not forget the bishops of Galileo’s time who refused to look through his telescope because they knew his discovery was impossible.

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Helping Children Transcend ~ Eckhart Tolle

Q: Can we help our children and others that we love to transcend their unconsciousness? Or is it necessary for them to go through it on their own?

ET: There are more children born nowadays who may not have to go through the deep unconsciousness that [adults] had to go through, certainly that I had to go through. And also there are more children born nowadays to parents who are in the awakening process, or relatively conscious parents. In my generation, I can’t think of any conscious parents. There might have been some, but it was rare. They are still rare now, but much less rare than before. I loved my parents, but they were deeply unconscious. So, the question is how to help the children stay relatively conscious, so that they do not get drawn into the mass unconsciousness that still pervades mass culture, and the technology that promotes unconsciousness and addictive behavior.

The most powerful teaching is not what you say or do to them, but your state of consciousness at home. That’s the very foundation for teaching your children. It has nothing to do with teaching, the foundation for transmitting consciousness is not even wanting to transmit consciousness to them, but to hold the space of presence as you interact with them at home. Also, to hold presence as much as possible as you interact with your husband. There’s a relationship there that will infect them, with either presence or painbody.

The most vital thing is, before even thinking of doing anything, is being conscious. They observe how you behave, and they take that on board to some extent. Of course, another influence is mass culture, as they spend more time at school. Occasionally there may be things that you can point out to them, so that they stay in touch with immediate experience, sensory experience. Don’t let them lose touch with nature. So many children these days are so involved in technological games, they don’t experience nature anymore. It’s something totally alien to them. That’s a very harmful thing. It’s a great deprivation, to be deprived of the immediate experience of the natural world, which puts you in touch with deeper levels of your own being. To have an animal at home is a great help. If children relate to the dog, it’s a non-conceptual relationship. You can touch the dog, look after the dog. Getting out into nature periodically, without the gadgets that [kids] usually have.

[Watching] television is a state of semi-comotose hypnosis. It may not be easy because everybody else is doing that kind of thing. It’s not that you have to eliminate that kind of activity completely, but discourage them from spending 100% of their free time with those things. Take them into nature, without the gadgets. Encourage them to direct sensory experience – to touch, to feel, to look at things. Encourage them to not confuse conceptual labeling with true knowledge or experience.

When [kids] are learning language, encourage them not to equate concepts with reality. When you teach them what something is, encourage them to touch it, to see it, to feel it, not just to say, “this is called such-and-such”. Continue to look at it. Otherwise, you stop experiencing – and all you have is a mental label.

Questioner: They label themselves, as well. I’ve noticed this with my daughter, she will come home and say “I’m stupid” at this or that.

ET: That’s a good way to encourage her not to identify with her thoughts. So if you can point out that it’s just a thought, and that they don’t have to believe in every thought that comes. If you can somehow work with them to have them realize that they are not their thoughts, so that there’s a space between them and their thoughts, to observe their thoughts, and when thoughts come you can explain “it’s no more than a thought” and it may not be the reality, it may not be true.

Most humans have painbody. Dis-identify from the painbody by pointing out that this is the painbody. I’ve often said not to call it “painbody” for the children. Give it a name, call it something, and mention it when occasionally they get taken over by it. Point it out to them afterwards, “what was that, that took you over?” so that an awareness develops. There’s the emotion, and there’s the awareness. Encourage that kind of thing, so that they are able to look at the emotion that takes them over from time to time. And after the event, not during the event initially, say to them, “What was it that took you over when you started screaming yesterday? What was that?” and say, “What does it feel like?” or invent some game, so that you can make it into something that they can be aware of. Then “let’s wait for next time it comes, and see how it feels”. If you have it, then you can point out after you’ve woken up from your painbody – “the same thing happened to me”. The key in education is to show the possibility of being aware, rather than always being identified with what arises in their mind.

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