A metaphysican’s desire— to explain consciousness. What is it? Is it strictly and simply the functional product of neural pathways integrating themselves within the unlikely structure known as the brain?
Or is there more here. Is consciousness the expression of the mind, clearly not identical with the brain, the physical apparatus and structure. The mind seems to be where we are. Right now. It is the space in which “I” reside. It is the conglomeration of all my thoughts and feelings, cognitive and emotional essence. But is that all? Do we delude ourselves into believing that there is nothing more to us than this?
Is it conceivable in any way that consciousness is not merely the product of neural activity within the brain, but that it represents something more? It is clear that physical damage to the brain though injury, disease or congenital birth defects influence our thoughts and feelings.
We appear to be strictly. the product of physical brain functioning. But what about the reports of near-death experiences (NDE) with their out of body recollections. Numerous examples can be found in which cognition, observation and reporting of these experiences confirm what seems to be logically impossible— awareness exists outside of a fully functional brain.
Critics will claim the NDEs are illusory projections of a disordered hypoxic brain. Really? Then how can a disordered, malfunctioning, disabled brain produce such clear, emotionally and spiritually transformative experiences?
So what if the relationship between the brain/mind/soul is this. The brain is the physical transmitter of consciousness. But mind or consciousness is an amalgam of the physical brain with its inherent proficiencies and deficiencies and soul consciousness which is our true essence and has reincarnated over many lifetimes..
The soul consciousness essentially incarnates and observes the working of the mind which creates and reacts to its own creation. So essentially our minds our egoic selves is the “place” in which our consciousness resides. Much of this information can be gleaned from the writings and research of Michael Newton and his work with deep hypnotic regresssion.
If we find evidence that consciousness CAN indeed exist without the functioning of a physical brain,then we can open ourselves to the possibility of a cognitive soul that reincarnates over multiple lifetimes.
In my continual search for a meditation practice I return to concepts that may or may not have “worked” in the past. Referring to a 2009 blog posting on this topic I can find some renewed interest in its features.
It centers on the breath but with an awareness of the ephemeral nature of existence. We know that breathing has both a voluntary and involuntary component–if not we would not survive an evening’s sleep. But the voluntary nature of breathing is powerful and can be used as a spiritual metaphor.
We can visualize the Universe, God, Ein Sof as willing our existence–literally from breath to breath. This Kabbalistic interpretation differentiates us as animals, living beings who do not exchange oxygen and CO2 passively like plants.
Therefore, we can regard our very existence as a choice which depends on the Universe offering the gift of life for just this breath and not another. When we breath in, the Universe is breathing life energy into us. When we breath out the Universe is accepting our release of control. Our usual state of consciousness avoids considering this possibility. But we can focus and immerse ourselves in gratitude for life itself–and the gift of one more breath.
This is akin to the notion of releasing the illusion of control in which we usually exist. Our giving it up to the Universe allows us to finally relax. There is no reason to panic, or worry. We can release our tight grip on ourselves. Plunging into the abyss is our destiny. Will we recover from it?
Wait for the next breath.
Science Daily provides me with much interesting material drawn from across the spectrum of new scientific advances from a variety of fields. The article entitled “Origin of human genus may have occurred by chance” discusses one of the explanations for Homo Sapiens superior intellect and ultimate survival as global climate change “event” which altered the physical environment of our pre-human ancestors such that we ultimately evolved.
This article essentially dismisses the global change argument and therefore concludes that our emergence as a subspecies, is genus occurred “by chance”. This opens up a fascinating but controversial discussion of who we really are. Are we merely the ultimate survivor in the pure expanse of evolutionary forces? Or do we posses a spiritual nature which completely alters the interpretation of humanities very existence.
I have often referred to French Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin whose quote “you are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience but a spiritual being immersed in a human experience.” This understand of the nature of who we are completely alters any concept of “chance” in ultimate human evolution.
Is there evidence for such a belief. I believe there is. Read the book, the blogs, be open to your own perception of the world. The truth is out there.
The invention of time lapse photography
By George Melies, 1897
Brought them to their feet
In absolute astonishment
Those dancing flowers
Skies flashing blue, pink, crimson
Clouds expanding, contracting, swelling
Wisping into nothingness
What was it like
To be there
When time revealed itself
All at once
On the emerging verdant leaves
I see succulent birth
Knowing the frailty
The temporality of existence
Makes this moment
Those seekers of metaphysical truth often speak of their “practice” by which they usually imply a spiritual practice. What they mean by that term may vary greatly. It might involve meditation, yoga, prayer, organized religious participation or a variety of deeply personal experiences in the pursuit of meaning and spiritual development.
But there is an approach that I have been pursuing over the past few years–that is to regard my medical practice AS a spiritual one. It might not be obvious to any outside observers, i.e. My patients or even my staff would not have noticed any change. The transformation is more subtle perhaps but definitely an internal one. I would like to regard what I do in my medical practice as a spiritual practice as well.
I attempt to be mindful of this when I put on my white lab coat at the start of a session of seeing office patients. I am consciously and subconsciously donning the robes of the shaman, the priest, the rabbi in order to bring into the examination room a sense that healing can and will occur.
As I type these words I want to make clear that I don’t see this action as elevating myself above my patients. I don’t feel that this is about my ego. On the contrary I am humbled to be in a position to help alleviate suffering. I say a silent prayer to Divinity to give me the wisdom, to offer solace, to make recommendations. In essence to assist in any way possible to help in the healing of my patient.
The exam room is, to me, a secret garden, a confessional box, the holy of holies. I am not trying to be overly dramatic with these words.
I have tried to make my medical practice my spiritual one.
News flash–the world is broken. Really? Say no more. Look at the news for a milisecond, look at your own lives, at times.
Brokenness seems to be the default position for existence. Its depressing at times, to be sure. Is this the result of Divine punishment for our sins at being human or the random fallout of an unfeeling cosmos?
I choose the myth of Tikkun. It is ancient, Kabbalistic and based on a fascinating and surprising notion. The world is broken, in need of healing. And it is on purpose! A more detailed explanation at another time, but a flawed, broken universe is parts of the Divine plan. But the myth goes further, as I see it. The flaw in the universe does not reflect Divine weakness but a Divine gift to us. Tikkun is healing, fixing what was shattered at Creation and WE, human beings are the instrument to do it.
It is a Divine challenge, an obligation but also an opportunity. In healing the world, Tikkun Olam, being active in righting wrongs, in helping others overcome adversity we accomplish the goal of healing ourselves, our souls Tikkun Ha-nefesh. The two are mutually dependent and mutually supportive. So do not be depressed by the news (really?). Dig deep down and recognize opportunity when it confronts you– be a healer, a fixer. Do Divine work and heal the world as well as yourself. Thank the Divine for the opportunity. Thanks for the chance to do Tikkun
A dying atheist’s prayer….
“I am a man alone in the cosmos”.
But there is no suffering in me
True there is no place to go
No bearded One
Or fantasy of redemption
But I rest serene
In a state of knowing
That this suit of carbon atoms, a perfect fit
Was used before–in a rock, a plant, a T. Rex perhaps
It is a borrowed vessel
Spewed forth from the dying supernova
The literal star dust that illuminates me
Those atoms of carbon that became me
Are themselves immortal
And that is enough
And so I sparkle
With the soul of billions of carbon beings
Each with their own consciousness
I am illuminated
My password is gratitude
My deepest silent knowing
That borrowing means
You have to give it back
What was never mine to own
An honor to recycle
Can you return a suit that has been worn?
In this story there is no other kind