Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
There is a lot that has been done with neurology and the brain which maps many functions related to personality and even some psychic situations. The relationship of the brain to consciousness has been very strongly established so that we know that the two are extremely tightly related to one another. Certain types of brain damage can cause certain types of personality changes and stimulating certain parts of the brain can create such sensations as out of body experiences. So vast is this body of knowledge that it is beyond question that our consciousness and the workings of our brains are deeply interrelated.
Many scientists (but not all) in these fields of study have interpreted this relationship to mean that consciousness arises out of the brain. That is to say, they believe that consciousness is solely a function of brain activity. I will not get into all the evidence available which contradicts this theory, which is also vast, because I have covered that elsewhere in this blog and it is a whole other topic of discussion. Instead I will point out that proving the existence of a relationship does not say anything about the cause of the relationship. It can be argued from different vantage points; in fact, that is what I am doing here. This article will argue for a theory of the brain/consciousness relationship based on the existence of consciousness as a fundamental part of the universe. (See also Robert Lanza’s Biocentrism.)
We start with the idea that the brain is built to access consciousness and it is not the seat of it. This means that consciousness comes not from within, but from “out there.” Well, actually it’s a lot more complex than that. Consciousness appears to occupy the same space as matter and energy and is not well understood. Basically, all living things form a collective consciousness which we are a part of. I will refer to this as: The Cloud.
When we look at the brain as a device for the practical application of consciousness, we move away from the massively parallel processing model that most of psychology uses to describe brain functions. They tend to see the brain as an exquisite and powerful organic computing device even though there is really no evidence that it works like that. It would be far more accurate to see the brain as an extremely powerful, interactive. reality experiencing device. That is to say, the job of the brain is to facilitate the application of consciousness in the real world. The brain does not compute the information like a computer because that would be much too slow, even with massively parallel processing.
Instead, the brain is designed to work in an exquisite dance with consciousness, which runs the show. We are essentially consciousness with a finely tuned mechanism for experiencing reality that is both our brain and body. Most people have had the sensation of watching themselves do something, maybe argue, maybe even have sex. We feel as if we are on the outside, looking in at ourselves. This is because our consciousness has the ability to take a step back; it is primary. Our bodies have no such capability. The weird sensation of watching ourselves go about our daily lives isn’t a trick of some subconscious program of the brain, it’s what’s really happening. You can kind of see this from what happens in sensory deprivation experiments: in the absence of external data, the brain doesn’t shut down, it uses random input from the cloud turning it into hallucinations.
One thing that I have noticed in the materialist theories is that emotions are not given the attention that they deserve; scientists see them as a kind of curiosity that sort of goes along with thought rather than being utterly central to experience processing. The fact is, every thought we’ve ever had has emotion tied to it and this emotion is vital to memory. The stronger the emotion that is tied to an event, the stronger the memory will be. The centrality of emotion to our experience of reality clearly demonstrates that thinking is secondary to feeling; i.e., thinking is secondary to experiencing.
Memory by the way is not actually stored in the brain or in the body. Rather, we have memory markers that are tied to memory that exists in the collective consciousness “in the cloud” so to speak, where storage is unlimited. Physical storage of our experiences is completely impossible because there is just too much of it; so we take advantage of a process that takes up no space. Even so, these memory markers exist in our entire body with each area handling specific types and portions of memories. We remember not just with our brains, but with every part of our physical form. That’s why when we re-live something, our body reacts to it, not just our minds. Athletes typically use this to improve their skills by mentally working on a skill in addition to physically working on it. Tests have shown that there is very little difference between the two.
Bodies have to live in a physical reality and are subject to those limitations. It would take way too much energy and space to create our view of reality, in real time, solely in our heads; that part is done by our consciousness which uses the minimal amount of brain power necessary to create our experience. It does this by means of focus and attention, so that we do not have all of our attention on all aspects of our reality at the same time, only small portions where our focus is. In NDE experiences, no such limitation exists and people often experience reality in 360 degrees.
In order to think in a coherent way and organize our thoughts in a rational way, we need a brain and body to impose rules and create specific paths in the consciousness as well as filter out information that is unimportant. How we do this defines who we are. The rules are defined by upbringing, language and life experiences. This filtering and set of rules becomes our values, attitudes, ideas and beliefs.
Much of what the brain does is help our consciousness filter and focus information that we are receiving through our senses or through “The Cloud.” No actual thinking takes place in the brain. A lot of our filtering is done using the emotion of fear, which is why this emotion is felt more often and more strongly than any other. Fear reduces our ability to feel and to think, making us both dumber and less able to empathize. Fear literally makes our perceived world smaller, helping us to cope by reducing the amount of information input. It is a trigger initiated by our consciousness to cope with the stress of feeling the emotions of those around us and the constant influx of sensory and psychic information by reducing the amount we have to deal with.
You can see this in people who are in great fear; they lose the ability to think rationally and also lose awareness of their surroundings. There are also subconscious fears that work to limit input before it reaches normal consciousness. You can see this in people who support politicians and politics that work against their best interests and in fundamentalists of any sort whose world view is extremely narrow and intolerant. This is the brain and body functioning together to filter and limit the input of “the cloud.”
Because of the close relationship of the body and consciousness, brain damage can also act to both filter and distort the consciousness that comes through the body. Since we only see the part of consciousness that makes its way through the body to communicate with the outside world, it is easy to assume that the consciousness originates in the brain, but there is really no reason why this materialist explanation has to be the only one.
I said before that neither the thinking nor memories actually reside in the brain, but are facilitated by it. This would certainly explain why crows, for example, can exhibit intelligence and even some language skills and memory far beyond the ordinary capability of a brain that is so small or why some plants and even bugs exhibit signs of intelligence.
Our thoughts and memories occur instantaneously, but require processing by the body in order to communicated to the outside world. An example of this is the difference between having a great idea for a book and actually being able to write one. It is relatively easy to get a feeling for a book idea and slightly harder to convey this idea in a way that communicates the feeling effectively. It is extremely hard to actually write a good book. This is the difference between an idea being “in the cloud” and when the brain has a good hold on it.
Thinking in the brain then, isn’t so much a matter of processing as a matter of filtering and refining. The knowledge is always there, it’s just a matter of accessing it in just the right way. The ability to do this is a learned skill and probably the most important one a human learns. Much of life involves getting ideas out of the cloud and putting them into practice. Children have to learn that simply wanting something is not enough, you have to use your “outside words” to get what you want. Many of the tasks are hard. All of them involve using the brain and the body; no one ever got credit for an idea that never left their head.
The process of experiencing, of interacting with the world, involves the thinking done “in the cloud” while the brain does all of the filtering and translating to bring ideas into reality. Actual thoughts occur instantaneously and light up the brain. It can look as though the brain is doing all the work because that’s the only part we can see, but in actuality the thoughts are consciousness and thus are unmeasurable. The neural network does the hard work of giving those thoughts a workable form.
The fact that so much of what we think and how we act can be traced to specific areas of the brain only demonstrates how finely tuned we are, it makes no statement on where consciousness comes from. No matter what we do, several areas of the brain are used though, demonstrating something that looks more like an interaction with the cloud and less like a thinking machine.
When people experience the world they don’t think about and evaluate every moment, filing it away for future memory, they’re simply there. Likewise, when people engage in real thought to gather ideas that they haven’t had before, they don’t work through a rational process and say, talk to themselves except to rule things out. Rather, they mull things over, daydream, relax and the idea just comes to them. Skeptics have always argued that the mind somehow mysteriously gathers information and puts it together, but thoughts never arrive in any rational way, they just arrive. One moment the idea isn’t there, and the next moment it is, often fairly well formed. How well that idea gets communicated though, well, that depends on the brain.
This is where hunches come from. This is where instincts come from; this is where most psychic ability comes from. Consciousness is entangled; no one is ever fully separated from other people and there is a great store of ideas waiting for someone to fully express them.
With this model psychic ability is nothing more than being better than most people at accessing “the cloud.” I’m inclined towards believing that all truly great thinking is a form of strong psychic ability. People are generally not aware of this because it feels so natural and they believe that psychic ability is somehow special or different. A psychic though, will do no better than anyone else if they have no idea how to properly communicate the information that they are receiving.
One of the probable reasons that this isn’t accepted is that to be effective in communicating an idea you have to first know how to do it. For example, I can have the most beautiful song in the world in my head that just came to me, but I cannot write it down; I don’t know how to transcribe music! I cannot play it on an instrument and I can’t show someone else how to do it. Even if I knew how, I would also have to be really good at it in order to convey the song the way I heard it in my head. So the beautiful song stays in the cloud.
I’ve also been on the other side of this. Through much practice and hard work, I can effectively convey the ideas that I have in writing in such a way that they are easy for others to understand. Many times I’ve had people tell me that I had written down the thoughts that they themselves could not express.
I could not simply arrive at this idea out of nowhere nor easily express it without a great deal of background effort. I have read dozens of books on consciousness and written probably 200 articles like this one; I have written a great deal besides that. All of that was necessary in order organize my thoughts. It is not just about collecting ideas, but also throwing some of them out; filtering. All of this finally came together when I read a passage from Dennett’s book. His ideas have nothing to do with mine, but reading the materialist version of thought processes suddenly spurred my own ideas. (I was also in a relatively quiet space with little to distract me and nothing to do but write. 10 hour flights are like that.)
There is no massive parallel processing going on in my brain; I’m not churning information through a biological computer. I’m simply allowing thoughts to come out of the cloud and form words on a page while I write. I haven’t thought the whole thing through nor do I have a plan; I have no idea at the moment how I’m going to end this. The information is simply streaming and it can do that because I am experienced enough, (brain processing) to allow the information (in the cloud) to come through without having to have much conscious attention diverted into how to make that happen.
Let’s talk a little more about the body/brain part of this. The brain accesses the necessary information for typing and that task can’t be done efficiently without some very strongly ingrained muscle memory that is strongly tied to my thought processes. In other words I have a great deal of experience at typing my ideas as I think them and I can type at a clip that doesn’t overly disturb my thought processes. I can also do this with very good grammar, sentence structure and spelling so that I don’t need to spend an inordinate amount of my time re-writing my work.
This makes it a lot easier to access the cloud and because it’s easier, I have a lot of confidence that I can write down thoughts as I think them.
You can apply this concept to virtually any profession or skill. Once you get good enough at something, you can forget about how and allow the small portion of the cloud you have learned to access to work its magic.
The jump to the cloud is, as I said before, instantaneous and can come from any part of the brain, but also the body. (Hence the expression “I can feel it in my bones.”) Consciousness has no boundaries and because the human body is specifically designed to access it, we do this seamlessly. Looking for the mechanism is useless for this reason; you cannot find a mechanism for something unless you can find a situation where there is no mechanism. You have to be able to compare the two of them and since there is no situation where we can examine consciousness from the outside, we simply have to accept it as it is.
My motto is that science should explain, not explain away, and that a model for brain consciousness should be something that matches what actually happens. This model does not disregard parapsychological data, nor any existing data that I know of, it merely re-interprets it. Further, I think that people can be helped by this model because it provides background that can be useful in helping people with psychological problems. Then there is the other part of this: this just “feels” right to me; in my bones.