3. The Experiencer and the Brain
Some Basic Facts About the Brain
The brain can be divided into three parts: the
hindbrain, the midbrain and the forebrain.
The Body-Mind Problem in History
The body-mind problem in philosophy examines the relationship between the mind and matter. This separation is called Catesian dualism and was known by pre-Aristotelian philosophers. Descartes is a well known dualist and believed that the body is like a machine and the mind (soul) was nonmaterial. Plato, Aristotle, Sankhya, the Yoga schools of Hinduism argued that the body and the mind are completely separate as well.
Other philosophers saw the mind and matter as different aspects of the same thing. According to the Christian monists, God made everything, therefore mind and matter are of one substance. The rationalist Baruch Spinoza (17th century) when young believed in dualism, and later changed his mind because he asked how could they communicate if they were not of the same substance. Many modern scientists also believe that mind and body are of the same substance.
I believe that both viewpoints are correct. The body and mind are different in that we cannot see the mind and we can see the body. At the same time since body and mind have to work together, they are part of the same universe and must have some common linkage. We do not have enough knowledge to understand what this common linkage might be.
Definition of the Soul
The world "soul" is usually defined as the immortal spiritual part of a human being that survives death. Since we do not know what the soul really is it could survive death. It seems to be a form of energy and energy cannot be created or distorted. Some very young children have talents that seem to indicate that they were musicians in a previous lifetime.
Definition of Consciousness
According to John Dewey consciousness is awareness of awareness. I think this definition differentiates human consciousness from animal consciousness.
Human awareness is the ability for us to experience life. We can call it the soul, but assigning names does not let us to get closer to the truth. For simplicity, I will invent a word "experiencer." This is the thing that lives in our body and experiences life.
When someone says "I am happy", the world "I" points to this experiencer. Thus the word "I" points to the "I" within. Thus we could say that the experiencer is the I behind the I.
What is the Experiencer?
Experiencer and its mechanism is some energy, some particle or force that produces consciousness. The experiencer sees the world, presented by the brain, the feelings presented by the brain and the experiencer can direct the brain to think and the body to do its will. The experiencer and what makes us feel alive may be in a different dimension, or may be some aspect of quantum physics that is not understood. It is a major mystery.
Modern Monistism -Materialism
Materialism is the philosophy that everything can be explained by material matter. Everything is made up of matter, energy, time and space. Thus the brain is a machine and some side effect of this machine produces the illusion of being alive. One can test if something has consciousness by using the Turning Test. Here one communicates through a computer to either a person or a person simulator. If the person behind the computer can not find a difference, then the person simulator is conscious.
Materialism rests on the dogma that science knows everything and there is nothing but atoms and molecules. This over extension of what we know leads us to think that we are dust in the wind, and made up of nothing special.
I completely disagree. We are alive. There is something more to us than atoms and molecules. But science rejects any other way of looking at things. This is a crack in the scientific golden egg even though it has given us the modern world and all our gadgets. This elephant in the room is that awareness is more basic than the material world. In meditation, some people can sit for a long time without any thoughts, feeling only awareness.
Like the blind men looking at the elephant, there are many ways of looking at the same thing. We can look at things making starting with the pieces and doing data mining until we find a solution. Or we can use a top-down approach to identify generalizations.
Using the bottom-up approach starting with atoms or molecules seems like it would be of no help in understanding awareness. The top-down approach seems like our only hope. But using only generalizations leads us to philosophy with no proofs.
Use both view points, perhaps we can meeting in the middle.
Taking Consciousness Away
We can think about the problem of consciousness by seeing what might take it away. For example, we lose consciousness when we sleep. A person can be put to sleep by chemicals (e.g., sleeping tablet) or by suggestion (e.g., hypnosis). But if a person does not want to go to sleep, they can fight the chemical and suggestions and stay awake.
Will Power and Chemical Power
Since will power and chemicals both seem to control consciousness, we can conclude the consciousness is partly under control of the material world, and also under the control of experiencer (the soul?).
Feelings and Consciousness
There are many feelings a person can have. Take a look at a thesaurus you will find something like a hundred. There are perhaps seven to eleven different basic types of feelings:
Fear can be induced through breathing carbogen, a mixture of carbon dioxide and oxygen gas. Fear can be induced by our will power, as when an actor plays the part of a person with intense fear.
Conscious Modified by the Material and Nonmaterial World
So we can remove consciousness and we can change emotions by two methods, the use of chemicals or by using will power.
We could conclude that the awareness (or the soul) is mixed together with the material brain. If we mix salt and water together they behave as one substance. If we mix the awareness and part of the brain together, they can act as one thing and flow together. Thus it seems probable that the brain in certain regions has some special mechanism that unites conscious and brain together.
Types of Consciousness
A person can be filled with happiness in two ways. The first is to satisfy the body's appetite with food, sex, and drugs. The second is to satisfy the mind by doing something of a high nature, such as learning, listening to a concert, or experiencing love.
One can also feel happiness by what the Catholics call "Grace." It has different names in different religions. The feeling of being saved, and Nirvana are similar to Grace.
The Brain is a Add-On House
Through evolution, the brain has built many structures. In broad strokes, there is the old brain which served the reptiles, and the modern brain which evolved with the primates. Because of this, different parts of the brain connect to consciousness. We are not the same person. We act one way at work, another at play.
The Main Goals of Life
Each part of the brain wants its own way. Often there are conflicts. One part of us might want to go to a wedding and another part wants to go to a football game.
But beyond the trivial things in day to day life, we have deeper feelings that want a deeper happiness. This is the soul yearning for its goal. In a "good person," the soul wants to be in a state of Grace. The feeling of Grace is where the is the deepest joy in the heart.
Goodness and Kindness
A materialistic brain is simply a computer that does everything to keep the body and love ones alive and healthy. But we have more than this simple purpose. Normal people have a good feeling when they are kind. If we think kind thoughts and do kind things, then our own happiness increases as well as the happiness in others. This is also a part of natural selection. Back in the cave days, the larger clans were more successful as greater number of hunting parties could always find game. To keep a larger clan from in-fighting, the brain evolved kindness.
Linking Spirituality with Psychology
One of more enlightening aspects of social psychology is Kohlberg's Six Stages of Moral Development. Kohlberg (1976, 1986) studied reaction of children, adolescents and adults to a series of moral dilemmas. According to Kohberg there are six stages of moral development:
Punishment and obedience orientation. The physical consequences of an action determine whether it is good or bad. Avoiding punishment and bowing to superior power are valued positively.
Instrumental relativist orientation. right action consists of behavior that satisfies one's own needs. Human relations are viewed in marketplace terms. Reciprocity occurs, but is seen in a pragmatic way, i.e., "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours."
Interpersonal concordance (good boy - nice girl) orientation. Good behaviors are those that please or are approved by others. There is much emphasis on conformity and being "nice".
Orientation toward authority (law and order). Focus is on authority or rules. It is right to do one's duty, show respect for authority, and maintain social order.
Social-contract orientation. This stage has a utilitarian, legalistic tone. Correct behavior is defined in terms of standards agreed upon by society. Awareness of the relativism of personal values and the need for consensus is important.
Universal ethical principle orientation. Morality is defined as a decision of conscience. Ethical principles are self-chosen, based on abstract concepts (e.g., the Golden Rule) rather than concrete rules (e.g., the Ten Commandments).
Finding the Soul
One way to try to find the soul would be to trace the image of the eye back into the brain. A diagram of this process is below. This actually has be done quite accurately.
Light enters the eye and is focused at the back of the retina by the cornea. Accommodation for close and far vision is provided by the lens. The image formed is up-side-down and reversed.
The left side of the visual fields of both eyes is carried over optical neural pathways to the right side of the brain. The right side of the visual fields of both eyes is carried to the left side of the brain. They met in the primary visual cortex in the occipital lobe of the brain located at the back of the head.
Not shown are the optical signals that radiant from the occipital lobe to many places in the brain. For example, there is the dorsal pathway that goes towards the top of the brain and here location information is extracted form the image. Also not shown is the ventral pathway that goes towards the bottom of the brain to the inferior temporal cortex where objects in the image are identified.
The Signal Paths from the Eye
In the back of the brain, in the occipital lobe, line orientation is determined. Vertical lines for example are abstracted.
We are not sure where the visual signals are knitted together.
The Experiencer (Soul) Might be in a Higher Dimension
One guess is that the experiencer (soul) is attached to the brain at many points. If it is in another dimension it could connect to any brain cell it wanted to. The extra dimension allows paths to easily go around three dimensional objects. In a two dimensional world (flatland) a three dimensional creature (us) could spy on every secrete closet and space. So if the soul is in another dimension it could spy on any and all parts of the brain. In this way, knitting the visual images would be easy. Also it would be easy to abstact all the information we instantly know when we look around. We instantly know that is a tree and that is a bird. We see colors, three dimesional depth and so on with no problem. All this information appears in different areas of the brain.
Higher Dimensional Beings
If the experiencer (soul) seems to be in a higher dimension, there might be other experiencers on this or other higher dimensions.
Experiencers on higher dimensions are called "entities." by Esther Hicks.
According to Esther and Jerry Hicks, Abraham is a group of entities that are "interpreted" by Esther Hicks. Abraham has described themselves as "a group consciousness from the non-physical dimension." They have also said, "We are that which you are. You are the leading edge of that which we are. We are that which is at the heart of all religions." Abraham has said through Esther that whenever one feels moments of great love, exhilaration, or pure joy, that is the energy of Source, and that is who Abraham "is".
One Thing at a Time
The Experiencer focuses on only ONE thing at a time. There is only one thought and usually only one emotion. When we try to listen to two conversations we jump from one to the other. We might hear our name in a crowed room of conversation, so at a lower level we can listen to many conversations, but at the conscious level we break it down and hear only one at a time.
Thus our experiencer is probably one thing that absorbs our one thought at a time. Or does the experiencer do the thinking. If so the experiencer funnels all possible thoughts from the brain into one selection. I call this mental singularity.
So What Happens When We Die?
If we assume that the soul is immortal we can expand our concept of the soul. Now lets consider that the soul is the witness, the observer, and the dreamer which never dies.
Is Heaven Constant Bliss?
I think the idea of heaven as constant bliss would put us into a drugged state. There would be no purpose.
Is There a Hell?
My idea of God is someone who would not torture anybody forever. I would never do that.
What Could Happen
Instead it seems reasonable that the soul has a mission. Could it be that our inspirations to music, new ideas, and inspiration could be influenced by non-physical beings.
Simpletons and Brain Organization
The brain is very complex. To understand it we must assume that it has some type of organization. The question is an organization of made up of what?
Lets assume the brain at some level is divided into different types of processes. One processes might be listening for a particular word, or moving a finger, or remembering what shoes we are wearing.
Each process we can further assume is performed by "simpletons."
These simpletons are organized so that they do not overlap in abstraction level, therefore they must form a hierarchy. This is not just an organization chart, but a very complex system with parallel systems and many feedback loops. But probably we can assume that the upper layers inspect and control the lower layers.
The law of attraction says what you think about you attract. Thus went we activate a simpleton, the simpleton gains power and moves upwards to higher layers. One might be careful as to what they think about. For instance, if one thinks about sex too much, it is likely that a simpleton who does not see the big picture will get promoted to far.
Happiness is dependent on our thoughts. Think negative thoughts such as we find on newscasts and our brain wants to fix the problems of the world. We can stop thinking, watch our thinking during meditation. Some people think without stopping, thinking that they will die without thought. This is not true because during none rapid-eye-movement sleep we stop thinking. One should meditate whenever the feeling of depression and confusion gets the best of us.
The Center for Spiritual Living (CSL) also known as the Church of Religious Science, teaches how to think positively and how to believe in our self. Many of the courses are expensive. This church is not as dogmatic as most churches. Like all churches it resists new ideas and follows Ernest Holmes book Science of Mind like a bible. For those new to metaphysics it is a good place to start. Unity Church is a little closer to Christianity and talks about Christ Consciousness. These leading edge churches often have members that do not believe in science yet continue to use the fruits of science such as cell phones and computers.
Updated November 27, 2013