Could Consciousness Be Separate From The Brain?

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Bohemian, non-materialist, integrity, authentic, observant, and conscious living.

Could consciousness be separate from the brain is a chapter from section 4 on consciousness in my seven section book. Here an excerpt from Section 4, chapter 6.

In previous chapters, we discussed alternate states of consciousness both natural and self-induced. The book Irreducible Mind, goes into technical depth and description of collected global data on all these states. The authors advocate further investigation into whether consciousness could be separate from the brain, because science to date has no evidential reasons other than accident for many of these different states. They are actually reviving a theory created by the founder and President of the Psychical Research Society in 1900, Frederic W. H. Myers[1], who lived at the same time as Sigmund Freud. Myers wrote essays concerning his research into the unconscious which were published after his death, as Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death. Aldous Huxley actually wrote the book foreward.  Myers was a Judeo-Christian and science, at the time when Darwin’s Origin of Species was dawning, did not welcome his spiritual ideas or complex terminology. Myers called the unconscious the “supraliminal”, the conscious mind the “subliminal” and believed in a meta-ethereal world.

Myers based his theory of unexplained phenomenon on a brain process called exocytosis[2]. He wrote that when the brain was triggered by calcium ions, it allowed neurotransmitters to release molecules into the brain’s synaptic cleft.  Upon occurrence, the probability for ions to disperse is but 1% and thus they form a fixed inflexible membrane. He believed that when the improbable occurred and the ions did disperse, they enabled a flexible brain membrane, working like a valve which enabled our subjective consciousness to travel and experience the altered states we have been talking about.

Myers believed that the brain is an instrument to enable information gathering, but the mind, or consciousness is where mental activity takes place. Note that this is similar as to what Peake states, in that the brain is a receiver of consciousness not the creator. A follower and friend of Myers, James, continued the studies and he purported that psychic events were not a brain process but occurred when consciousness was at extreme attention. He argued that as children we learn through the environment using the brain only to steer and influence mental intention. James spoke of streams of consciousness, believing in a pluralistic universe but he was laughed off as a philosopher, even though supported by the philosopher and mathematician Alfred North Whitehead[3]. Myers’ theory boils down to a non-Cartesian dualism theory on consciousness. Remember that Cartesian dualism is based on the philosophy of Rene Descartes, which allowed for the possibility of an external God, as the cause for the effect humanity and matter. Comparatively, Myers believed that brain and consciousness were separate and that consciousness, as an ethereal stream, not God as an individual entity was the separate cause of everything.

Myers theorised that dreams were the conscious mind moving through a brain membrane to the unconscious whereas Freud believed that it was our suppressed unconscious sexuality for example, which became conscious. Myers explained alternative consciousness states whilst awake as the brain membrane influenced by a secretion from the pineal gland, allowing improbable dispersion of ions, causing a flexibility. This enabled experience of the unconscious, which was a separate stream of consciousness that waking state and our subjective reality. He believed the unconscious was where rare and precious knowledge could be accessed from outside the ordinary field of consensual reality and where telepathy, pure states of bliss and other states, varying in value existed.

Part II to follow

[1] Frederic W.H. Myers was a poet, classicist, philologist, and a founder of the Society for Psychical Research. Myers’ work on psychical research and his ideas about a “subliminal self” were influential in his time, but have not been accepted by the scientific community

[2] In exocytosis, materials are exported out of the cell via secretory vesicles. In this process, the Golgi complex packages macromolecules into transport vesicles that travel to and fuse with the plasma membrane.

[3] Whitehead is best known as the defining figure of the philosophical school known as process philosophy, which today has found application to a wide variety of disciplines, including ecology, theology, education, physics, biology, economics, and psychology, among other areas.

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Bohemian, non-materialist, integrity, authentic, observant, and conscious living.