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Consciousness

The Mystery Of God & The Brain

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As science has steadily undermined the long-held beliefs of religion, almost all that remains for people of faith is to say that God is and will forever be a mystery. Insofar as Einstein was religious, he possessed a feeling of awe and wonder at the mystery of the universe. But science hasn’t stopped chipping away at mystery, promising to reduce spiritual experience to measurable brain activity. It’s doubtful that belief in God, the soul, heaven and hell, and other tenets of faith will be drastically affected – polls continue to show that these things remain articles of belief for around 80-90% of responders.

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Will neuroscience eventually be able to locate God in our neurons, and if so, should that tiny area of the brain be excised or boosted? No doubt there are arguments on both sides, depending on whether you hold that God has been good for the human race in the long run or bad. Setting aside such judgments, it turns out that the possibility of finding God in the brain creates a baffling mystery that neither religion nor science can tackle alone.

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Now that advanced brain scanning can map the way our brains light up with each thought, word, or action, it’s clear that no experience escapes the brain. For a mystic to see God or feel his presence, for St. Paul to be suddenly converted on the road to Damascus, or for St. Teresa of Avila to have her heart pierced by an angelic arrow, such experiences would have to register in their brains. However, this indisputable fact (so far as present knowledge extends) doesn’t give science the advantage over religion. For it turns out that the brain has definite limitations on what it can experience.

The work of the late Polish-American mathematician Alfred Korzybski (1879-1950) is relevant here, because Korzybski worked out the layered processing that goes into the way we perceive everyday reality. Billions of bits of data bombard our sense organs, of which only a fraction enter the nervous system. Of that fraction, more of the raw input is filtered out by the brain, which uses built-in models of reality to discard what doesn’t fit. When people say “You’re not hearing me” or “You only see what you want to see,” they are expressing a truth that Korzybski tried to quantify mathematically.

Sometimes the things a person doesn’t see are simply outside the range of human experience, like our inability to see ultraviolet light. But a great deal more depends on expectations, memories, biases, fears, and simple close-mindedness. If you go to a party, and someone tells you that you are about to meet a Nobel Prize winner, you will see a different person than if you are told he is a reformed Mafia hit man. When all the filtering and processing is complete, there is no doubt that the brain doesn’t actually experience reality but only a confirmation of its model of reality.

Two interesting points follow:

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  1. All models are equal as viewed from the level of the brain.
  2. Reality transcends any model we can possibly make of it.

These two points allow God, the soul, and all other spiritual experiences back into the picture. The first point demolishes the notion that science is superior to religion because it gathers facts while religion deals in beliefs. In truth, science filters out and discards a huge portion of human experience – almost everything one would classify as subjective – so its model is just as selective, if not more so, than religion’s. As far as the brain is concerned, neural filtering is taking place in all models, whether they are scientific, spiritual, artistic, or psychotic. The brain is a processor of inputs, not a mirror to realty.

The second point is even more telling. If our brains are constantly filtering every experience, there is no way anyone can claim to know what is “really” real. You can’t step outside your brain to fathom what lies beyond it. Just as there is a horizon for the farthest objects that emit light in the cosmos, and a farthest horizon for how far back in time astronomy can probe, there is a farthest horizon for thinking. The brain operates in time and space, having linear thoughts that are the end point of a selective filtering process. So whatever is outside time and space is inconceivable, and unfiltered reality would probably blow the brain’s circuits, or simply be blanked out. Unfiltered reality would be like listening to every channel on the radio simultaneously, an impossibility.

Korzybski held that even mathematics was a model, subject to the limitations of all models that the brain constructs. Not everyone would agree – holding on to mathematics as a universal truth gives advanced physics its toehold on the quantum world. But in this post we are not using any of these ideas as bludgeons to bash science. All agendas aside, Korzybski simply pointed out, using the language of mathematics, that whatever reality is, it transcends the brain.

In a single word – transcendence – there’s a level playing field between science and religion. Reality transcends, or goes beyond, what the brain discerns. If something supernatural springs from the transcendent, such as a holy vision, materialists and skeptics may argue that it can’t be real. Actually, there’s no way to prove that even a natural experience is real. Seeing angels and seeing a tree, mountain, or cloud are equally inexplicable. As the noted physicist Freeman Dyson has asserted,

“To summarize the situation, we have three mysteries that we do not understand: the unpredictable movements of atoms, the existence of our own consciousness, and the friendliness of the universe to life and mind. I am only saying that the three mysteries are probably connected. I do not claim to understand any of them.”

Since the three mysteries are woven into the very basis of our existence, the wisest course is to bring the scientific and spiritual models together in order to see if they can fill in the blanks that come with each model. Models are right about what they include and wrong about what they exclude. Conceding this fact would do a great deal to put spirituality on a plane where it can be taken seriously as an exploration that’s as serious and truthful as advanced science.

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This article was co-written by Deepak Chopra and Jordan Flesher.

Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 75 books and 21 New York Times bestsellers. Through his books and videos he has become one of the best known and most trusted figures in the holistic health movement. (Website) (Twitter) (Facebook) (YouTube)

Jordan Flesher offers sessions for those interested in exploring, developing and healing their own consciousness and psychology in a therapeutic setting. Jordan is in school to be a psychologist. The type of work that he does with clients is very in depth and is based in the view that therapy is an art. As a result, the work is very intuitive, artistic, and open to the mystery of consciousness, synchronicity, dreams and energy. His work is different than most psychological therapies, in that, most therapies try to get the individual to conform or “adjust” to society, whereas, Jordan’s work is to get the individual to be free within society, and to access a creative-rebellion within themselves that still allows them to function and integrate themselves within society, while not being a slave to society. This is based off of the saying of ancient Sages that to “be in the world, yet not of it” is the highest form of spiritual enlightenment. Jordan’s work is heavily influenced by some of the following rebel-hearts, and rebel-geniuses: Jiddu Krishnamurti, Osho, Alan Watts, Colin Wilson, Rainer Maria Rilke, Rumi, Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, Deepak Chopra, A.H. Almaas, Anais-Nin, R.D. Laing, Fredrich Nietzche, Micahel Foucault and many more. (Facebook) (Twitter) – Jordan can also be reached privately by phone (1-312-730-8322) or via e-mail (troyofis@gmail.com)

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Consciousness

Super Moon In Capricorn: Proceeding With Changed Perceptions

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

We are having a Full Moon in Capricorn on June 24th/25th, which will appear the brightest on the night of the 24th throughout the world. This is the peak of the Lunar cycle that began with a New Moon Solar Eclipse in Gemini on June 10th which is still affecting this period and beyond. It will also be a ‘Supermoon’, which is when the Moon appears larger and brighter due to its closer proximity to the Earth.

The energies of a Full Moon are strongest in the days surrounding it yet its astrological configurations also play a part over the following two weeks. You may start to see its themes slowly build up after the New Moon prior.

This is a period in which we feel a push-pull between two opposing signs, in this case being the Moon in Capricorn and the Sun in Cancer. It can play out as either a conflict, an integration, or some sort of dynamic between the energies of both signs. The Moon reflects the expression of feeling and emotion while the Sun reflects the expression of ego and conscious self.

We may feel this opposition happening individually within us and/or we can also experience it play out around us; with some people (or circumstances) expressing the Capricorn side and others expressing the Cancer side. In some cases, Full Moons can also reflect/trigger some sort of change or release.

Sun In Cancer Opposite Moon In Capricorn

Cancer season began when the Sun entered this sign on June 20th/21st which will conclude on July 22nd. Cancer is associated with family, domestic life, security, emotional needs, emotional sensitivity, nurturing, and nostalgia. It is caring, personal, motherly, empathic, vulnerable, instinctual, intuitive and protective. Cancer can also be moody, clingy, insecure, as well as overly subjective.

This Full Moon is in its opposite sign of Capricorn, triggering a push-pull or integration effect between both of these signs. Capricorn is associated with ambition, achieving, duties, career, productivity, and discipline. It is responsible, cautious, prudent, practical, orderly, masterful, worldly, business oriented, realistic, and a social climber. Capricorn can also be cold, narrow minded, controlling, pessimistic, cynical, and overly concerned with status.

Although Cancer is the emotional sign here, the Moon rules emotions and the sign of Cancer. With it being in Capricorn, emotional drive will generally lean towards Capricorn needs and expressions. The Cancerian themes will generally be more expressed externally or through ego, even though they can be emotionally oriented. However, these are all generalizations, and each of our experiences and perceptions of this polarity actualizing will be different from each other.

Full Moon Sextile Jupiter & Trine Uranus

This Full Moon is in a sextile with Jupiter in Pisces which has begun its retrograde four days prior and is nearly stationary. Jupiter ruled areas of education, beliefs, experiential pursuits, and travel may be more prominent. Business wise, it could have to do with marketing and publishing. Considering it is in Pisces with Neptune also about to retrograde here, themes or manifestations pertaining to spirituality, compassion, creativity, escapism, or idealism may also come up.

This Full Moon is also in a trine with Uranus which brings the potential of originality, positive surprises, or perhaps experiences that can be liberating, stimulating, new, or unconventional. This can be good for changing things up, experimentation, or some sort of renovation. This energy will come up more so on July 5th/6th when the Sun is aspecting Uranus.

Mercury Is Now Moving Forward, Applying Square To Neptune 

Mercury in Gemini ended its retrograde on June 22nd/23rd and is now slowly starting to move forward (from our Earth perspective) as it gradually increases in speed. The areas of our lives that have been affected by this retrograde and pre-retrograde shadow since mid-May will go through a conclusion process over the next few weeks. This may start to become apparent over the coming days.

We will have a better perception on how to proceed forward in regards to certain circumstances and developments that come up over the last 5-6 weeks. Things can fall into place more easily and we may experience resolutions. We can feel that we are in a better place to move forward in the areas of life that have been impacted (reflected in our individual astrology charts) and pertaining to how Gemini themes played out for you.

As Mercury moves forward it is applying towards a third square with Neptune. Although we are in this post-retrograde period, in some ways it can still feel somewhat like retrograde until July 5th/6th when the square occurs and is most potent. This can play out as some confusion, lack of focus, scatteredness, unrealistic thinking, missing details, or complications involving communication, misinterpretation, or technology. Due to this. it would be best to wait until after it is done (from July 7th/8th onward) if you need to make important decisions.

Saturn Sextile Chiron,  Mars & Full Moon Also Aspecting Chiron 

At the time of this Full Moon and the weeks before and after, Saturn in Aquarius is in its second exact sextile with Chiron in Aries. This is part of the astrological backdrop all year as the first sextile was in February and the final one will be at the end of the year. Although this isn’t a very strong aspect, it can be supportive depending on how we apply ourselves.

This is good for taking a disciplined approach to healing, overcoming negative patterns, and addressing some of our core wounds. It can also be good for efforts that are integrating, bridging, holistic, unorthodox, or reflective of our natural gifts. Mars is in the mix this time around, peaking July 2nd, which emphasizes being proactive in this way. This Full Moon is in a square with Chiron as well, and perhaps some of the themes or potential conflicts we experience at this time may require some sort of bringing together of opposing or fragmented factors.

Mars In T-Square With Saturn & Uranus

Mars in Leo is moving towards an opposition to Saturn in Aquarius and then a square to Uranus in Taurus, creating a T-square pattern. This combined energy peaks from June 30th-July 4th and Mars will also be making its trine to Chiron (mentioned above) at this time.

On the days leading up to July 1st/2nd, and especially at that time, we may experience our actions being blocked, restricted, resisted, or limited in some way as Mars’ opposes Saturn. We can get frustrated more easily and we may need to do things with caution, better structure, or extra effort. Conflicts around boundaries may also come up.

Mars’ trine with Chiron in the first few days of July and square to Uranus in the following days can be good for taking an unorthodox approach or applying creative solutions. However, Uranus in the mix can also play out as rebellious and impulsive energy.

Mars here is also triggering the Saturn square Uranus aspect that is happening all year. As a result this can also play out as conflicts around, or assertiveness towards, ‘old versus new’, ‘restrictions versus freedom’, ‘the status quo versus revolution’, ‘commitments/responsibilities versus liberation’, ‘elder versus youth’, ‘progressiveness versus tradition’ and so forth.

Things To Consider

What have been the main themes for you over the last month and is there anything coming up now that could point to some sort of conclusion or an important next step forward? What area of your life is calling for more determination? Is there something that you need to achieve? Should you be experimenting with new or unusual approaches to things?

These are just some examples of themes that could come up or ways to approach this period; however, there may be other variations of this energy playing out as well.  If you wish to do any sort of intentional release, it is best to do so after it begins to wane following the peak or during the two weeks afterwards when it is waning before the next New Moon. The exact peak of this Full Moon is at 6:40pm Universal Time on June 24th. You can click here to see what that is in your time zone.

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Consciousness

New Study Finds Humans Can Access a Higher Level of Consciousness

Gautam Peddada

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A new study sheds light on the existence of a higher level of consciousness in humans that is accessible.

  • Reflect On:

    Does consciousness originate in the brain or somewhere else? What does this say about who 'we' are as humans?

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

New research has discovered verifiable evidence of a higher level of consciousness. Researchers used brain imaging equipment to analyze the small magnetic fields created in the brain and discovered that, across three psychedelic substances, one measure of conscious level — neural signal diversity — was consistently greater.

Neuroscientists discovered a prolonged increase in neural signal diversity — a measure of the complexity of brain activity — in persons under the influence of psychedelic substances as compared to when they were awake.

The variety of brain impulses gives a mathematical indicator of awareness degree. People who are awake, for example, have more diversified brain activity than those who are asleep, according to this measure.

However, this is the first study to show that brain-signal diversity is more than baseline, that is, greater than in someone who is merely ‘awake and aware.’ Previous research has focused on decreased states of awareness, such as sleep, anesthesia, or the so-called vegetative state. More research utilizing complex and diverse models is required, according to the researchers, who are cautiously hopeful.

Professor Anil Seth, Co-Director of the University of Sussex’s Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, stated:

“This discovery demonstrates that the brain on psychedelics functions quite differently than usual.”

“As evaluated by ‘global signal diversity,’ the electrical activity of the brain during the psychedelic experience is less predictable and less ‘integrated’ than during regular conscious wakefulness.”

“Since this measure has already shown its value as a measure of ‘conscious level’, we can say that the psychedelic state appears as a higher ‘level’ of consciousness than normal — but only with respect to this specific mathematical measure.”

For the study, Michael Schartner, Adam Barrett, and Professor Seth of the Sackler Centre reanalyzed data that had previously been collected by Imperial College London and the University of Cardiff in which healthy volunteers were given one of three drugs known to induce a psychedelic state: psilocybin, ketamine, and LSD.

Using brain imaging equipment, scientists examined the small magnetic fields created in the brain and discovered that, across all three medicines, this measure of conscious level — neural signal diversity — was consistently greater.

The researchers emphasize that this does not imply that the psychedelic state is a “better” or “more desirable” state of consciousness; rather, it demonstrates that the psychedelic brain state is distinct and can be related to other global changes in conscious level (e.g., sleep, anesthesia) by using a simple mathematical measure of signal diversity.

“That identical improvement in signal diversity was discovered for all three medications, despite their rather distinct pharmacology, are both quite remarkable and also encouraging that the results are robust and reproducible,” said Dr. Muthukumaraswamy, who was involved in all three original research.

The findings might help feed ongoing conversations concerning the strictly supervised medical usage of such medications, such as in the treatment of severe depression.

“Rigorous research into psychedelics is garnering greater interest, not least because of the therapeutic potential that these substances may have when taken wisely and under medical supervision,” said Dr. Robin Cahart-Harris of Imperial College London.

“The current study’s findings assist us to comprehend what happens in people’s brains when they experience psychedelic consciousness expansion. People frequently report having “insight” when using these substances, and when this occurs in a therapeutic setting, it can predict beneficial outcomes. The current discoveries may help us understand how this is possible.”

In addition to informing potential medical applications, the study contributes to developing scientific knowledge of how conscious level (how conscious one is) and conscious content (what one is conscious of) are connected.

According to Professor Seth:

“We discovered links between the intensity of subjects’ psychedelic experiences and variations in signal diversity. This shows that our metric is closely related not just to global brain alterations caused by medicines, but also to features of brain dynamics that underpin specific kinds of conscious experience.”

The study team is currently concentrating their efforts on determining how particular alterations in information flow in the brain underpin certain components of the psychedelic experience, such as hallucinations.

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Consciousness

Does Consciousness Create Our Material Reality?

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CE Staff Writer 7 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A new study authored by Robert Lanza suggests observers" are responsible for determining physical reality, and that conscious observers themselves generate and create the structures of time and space.

  • Reflect On:

    We observers, people like you and I, are responsible for how consciousness forms into physical matter, what does this say about the power of our individual and collective beliefs?

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

Where does the “physical” world come from? Matter at its smallest observable form, atoms, pop in and out of existence all the time. The idea that physical matter is birthed from a non physical realm, such as the “quantum vacuum” or the “void”, or something else we are unaware of is not novel.  Nikola Tesla himself believed that “all perceptible matter comes from a primary substance, or tenuity beyond conception, filling all space, the akasha, or luminiferous ether, which is acted upon by the life-giving Prana or creative force, calling into existence, in never-ending cycles all things and phenomena.” (Man’s Greatest Achievement, 1907)

A paper published by Parahamsa Tewari in the journal Physics Essays explains,

“A century from now, it will be well known that: the vacuum of space which fills the universe is itself the real substratum of the universe; vacuum in a circulating state becomes matter; the electron is the fundamental particle of matter and is a vortex of vacuum with a vacuum-less void at the center and it is dynamically stable; the speed of light relative to vacuum is the maximum speed that nature has provided and is an inherent property of the vacuum; vacuum is a subtle fluid unknown in material media; vacuum is mass-less, continuous, non viscous, and incompressible and is responsible for all the properties of matter; and that vacuum has always existed and will exist forever….Then scientists, engineers and philosophers will bend their heads in shame knowing that modern science ignored the vacuum in our chase to discover reality for more than a century.”

This non-physical “field” may also be dark energy, we don’t really know or understand it quite well, but we know it exists. A declassified Defense Intelligence Agency document touches on this,

“We do not understand why it exists or how it is created; we simply know it provides an ever-present force on spacetime, causing the universe to expand. Indeed, recent high-precision experimental observations indicate dark energy may be a cosmological vacuum energy.”

So, if our material world is birthed from this non material “stuff”, does consciousness play a factor? It’s interesting to contemplate, especially given the fact that consciousness is not a physical thing, nor is it the result of any known physical process or biology. You cannot pinpoint or find the source of consciousness within the brain. Even at the quantum level, factors associated with consciousness have been known to change the behavior of matter, like photons, suggesting that matter itself may be a conscious perceiving thing.

Does this mean that all “physical” things possess some type of consciousness? Photons don’t have a brain, do they? What about plants? There is a growing amount of evidence suggesting that plants act and behave in ways suggesting that they are a thinking things, capable of feelings, emotions, perceptions and thoughts.

If consciousness can have such an influence over matter, and is a non physical property that exists within all physical things, could it somehow be responsible for the creation of reality? This has been a common theme discussed within the realms of quantum physics for quite some time. In fact, the discussion of “ether”, this non physical, indescribable “stuff” has been the subject of contemplation for thousands of years. Plato wrote about the ether  in his work Phaedo, and explained how life exists within it. He believed what air is to us, the ether is to them. Is the ether alive? Is the universe itself, which could be primarily made up of this non-physical stuff, a conscious living entity?

You cannot explain consciousness in terms of the existing fundamentals like space, time, mass,  and charge. As a result, the logical thing to do is postulate whether consciousness itself is something fundamental to the existence of reality, to view consciousness itself as one of these fundamentals.

“Why do you insist the universe is not a conscious intelligence, when it gives birth to conscious intelligences?” Cicero, c. 44 BCE 

A New Paper

Another paper has emerged claiming that “observers” are responsible for determining physical reality, and that conscious observers themselves generate and create the structures of time and space.

What’s interesting to contemplate here is that, if this is true, it would include all “observers” within the universe itself, not just human observers. It reminds me of the double slit experiment, where tiny bits of matter are shot through a slit forming what’s called a wave pattern of probabilities and possibilities, but when an observer is introduced the wave function collapses.

One of the authors of the paper, Robert Lanza, told Big Think that observers can dramatically affect the “behavior of observable quantities” both at a microscopic and massive spatiotemporal scales. In fact, a “profound shift in our ordinary everyday worldview” is necessary. The world is not something that is formed outside of us, simply existing on its own. “Observers ultimately define the structure of physical reality itself.”

How does this work? Lanza contends that a network of observers is necessary and is “inherent to the structure of reality.” As he explains, observers — you, me, and anyone else — live in a quantum gravitational universe and come up with “a globally agreed-upon cognitive model” of reality by exchanging information about the properties of spacetime. “For, once you measure something,” Lanza writes, “the wave of probability to measure the same value of the already probed physical quantity becomes ‘localized’ or simply ‘collapses.'” That’s how reality comes to be consistently real to us all. Once you keep measuring a quantity over and over, knowing the result of the first measurement, you will see the outcome to be the same

The implications of this are and have always been quite large. The idea that consciousness itself is fundamental to reality suggests that it must have played an integral part in the creation of reality, that consciousness itself had to exist prior to the birth of physical material reality. One could go on and on contemplating things like: if consciousness is fundamental to the creation of physical matter, then what created consciousness itself? Where does consciousness itself originate from? Does existence itself even have a beginning? Can the future change the past, can the past change the future?

Who knows, but the most important point to takeaway here is that consciousness itself is fundamental to the creation of our physical experience. If we want to change the world, ultimately we have to change the way we think, feel and perceive. This is a key factor that is directly intertwined with the type human experience we create for ourselves.

This is why, perhaps, sometimes it seems that the greatest resource for powerful people, politicians and corporations is human consciousness itself.  If we ourselves determine what direction humanity heads simply by what we think and feel, just imagine what somebody could do if they could manipulate that aspect within us? The state of the world today, some might say, is chaotic, and that could be a direct result of the fact that the collective mind and heart is not in a state of coherence.

You might say “we are all over the place.” We’re separated by our beliefs and unable to come together in understanding and harmony. This collective state of being in turn will create a physical experience that reflects that, which is exactly what we are seeing today and have seen throughout human history.

Below is a great little documentary from a colleague of mine, it’s based off an essay he wrote for his philosophy master’s degree. It dives a bit deeper into this discussion.

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If you have been wanting to build your self awareness, improve your.critical thinking, become more heart centered and be more aware of bias, this is the perfect course!

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