Scientists Say That We Need A New Concept of Consciousness. Here is Why
What about mind? If the world is vibration, is also mind and consciousness a form of vibration? Or on the contrary, are all vibrations, the observed world, a manifestation of mind?
Although it is true that when all is said and done all we know is our consciousness, it is also true that we do not know our own consciousness, not to mention the consciousness of anyone else. We do not know what consciousness really is or how it is related to the brain. Since our consciousness is the basis of our identity, we do not know who we really are. Are we a body that generates the stream of sensations we call consciousness, or are we a consciousness associated with a body that displays it? Do we have consciousness, or are we consciousness? Consciousness could be a kind of illusion, a set of sensations produced by the workings of our brain. But it could also be that our body is a vehicle, a transmitter of a consciousness that is the basic reality of the world. The world could be material, and mind could be an illusion. Or the world could be consciousness, and the materiality of the world could be the illusion. Both of these possibilities have been explored in the history of philosophy, and today we are a step closer than before to understanding which of them is true. There are important insights emerging at the expanding frontiers where physical science joins consciousness research. On the basis of a growing series of observations and experiments, a new consensus is emerging. It is that “my” consciousness is not just my consciousness, meaning the consciousness produced by my brain, any more than a program transmitted over the air would be a program produced by my TV set. Just like a program broadcast over the air continues to exist when my TV set is turned off, my consciousness continues to exist when my brain is turned off. Consciousness is a real element in the real world. The brain and body do not produce it; they display it. And it does not cease when life in the body does. Consciousness is a reflection, a projection, a manifestation of the intelligence that “in-forms” the world. Mystics and shamans have known that this is true for millennia, and artists and spiritual people know it to this day. Its rediscovery at the leading edge of science augurs a profound shift in our view of the world. It overcomes the answer the now outdated materialist science gives to the question regarding the nature of mind: the answer according to which consciousness is an epiphenomenon, a product or by-product of the workings of the brain. In that case, the brain would be like an electricity-generating turbine. The turbine is material, while the current it generates is not (or not strictly) material. In the same way, the brain could be material, even if the consciousness it generates proves to be something that is not quite material. On first sight, this makes good sense. On a second look, however, the materialist concept encounters major problems. First, a conceptual problem. How could a material brain give rise to a truly immaterial stream of sensations? How could anything that is material produce anything immaterial? In modern consciousness research this is known as the “hard problem.” It has no reasonable answer. As researchers point out, we do not have the slightest idea how “matter” could produce “mind.” One is a measurable entity with properties such as hardness, extension, force, and the like, and the other is an ineffable series of sensations with no definite location in space and an ephemeral presence in time. Fortunately, the hard problem does not need to be solved: it is not a real problem. There is another possibility: mind is a real element in the real world and is not produced by the brain; it is manifested and displayed by the brain.
Mind beyond Brain: Evidence for a New Concept of Consciousness
Pamela died on May 29, 2010, at the age of fifty-three. But for hours she was effectively dead on the operating table nineteen years earlier. Her near-demise was induced by a surgical team attempting to remove an aneurism in her brain stem. After the operation, when her brain and body returned to normal functioning, Pamela described in detail what had taken place in the operating theater. She recalled among other things the music that was playing (“Hotel California” by the Eagles). She described a whole series of conversations among the medical team. She reported having watched the opening of her skull by the surgeon from a position above him and described in detail the “Midas Rex” bone-cutting device and the distinct sound it made. About ninety minutes into the operation, she saw her body from the outside and felt herself being pulled out of it and into a tunnel of light. And she heard the bone saw activate, even though there were specially designed speakers in each of her ears that shut out all external sounds. The speakers themselves were broadcasting audible clicks in order to confirm that there was no activity in her brain stem. Moreover, she had been given a general anesthetic that should have assured that she was fully unconscious. Pamela should not have been able either to see or to hear anything.
You may not believe that it is I, Bertrand Arthur William Russell, who am saying these things, and perhaps there is no conclusive proof that I can offer through this somewhat restrictive medium. Those with an ear to hear may catch the echo of my voice in my phrases, the tenor of my tongue in my tautology; those who do not wish to hear will no doubt conjure up a whole table of tricks to disprove my retrospective rhetoric.After breathing my last breath in my mortal body, I found myself in some sort of extension of existence that held no parallel as far as I could estimate, in the material dimension I had recently experienced. I observed that I was occupying a body predominantly bearing similarities to the physical one I had vacated forever; but this new body in which I now resided seemed virtually weightless and very volatile, and able to move in any direction with the minimum of effort. I began to think I was dreaming and would awaken all too soon in that old world, of which I had become somewhat weary to find myself imprisoned once more in that ageing form which encased a brain that had waxed weary also and did not always want to think when I wanted to think…Several times in my life [Lord Russell continued] I had thought I was about to die; several times I had resigned myself with the best will that I could muster to ceasing to be. The idea of B.R. no longer inhabiting the world did not trouble me unduly. Befitting, I thought, to give the chap (myself) a decent burial and let him be. Now here I was, still the same I, with the capacities to think and observe sharpened to an incredible degree. I felt earth-life suddenly seemed very unreal almost as it had never happened. It took me quite a long while to understand that feeling until I realized at last that matter is certainly illusory although it does exist in actuality; the material world seemed now nothing more than a seething, changing, restless sea of indeterminable density and volume.
I will be at your disposal in this peculiar game of chess for two reasons. First, because I also want to do something to aid mankind living on Earth to become convinced that death does not end everything, but instead the mind is separated from the physical body and comes up to us in a new world, where individual life continues to manifest itself in a new unknown dimension. Second, being a Hungarian patriot, I want to guide the eyes of the world into the direction of my beloved Hungary.