Posts Categorized: Book

Does the Mind Create the Brain or Does the Brain Create Mind?

By Deepak Chopra, MD

 

Neuroscience has risen over the past few decades to a crowning place in medical science, due to two innovations, advanced brain scans like fMRIs and the completion of the Human genome Project in 2003. Brain scans allow us to peer into the activity of a living brain without surgery or having to use tissue from cadavers. A complete map of human DNA opens up the possibility of detecting and correcting genetic anomalies connected to a huge range of disorders, including those of the brain.

 

No one can argue against the value of these advances, but they have had their downside. In particular, the assumption that the brain is the same as the mind has become dominant, not just in neuroscience but in articles aimed at the general public. In the first place, it’s only natural that a burgeoning field of science will claim more success than it has achieved, so the bias of neuroscience in favor of making the brain the answer to everything probably is unavoidable. But advances in technology and medical treatments are not the same as solving the mind-body problem.

 

The mind-body problem centers on the relationship between two levels of experience. The level of mind brings feelings, thoughts, images, and sensations in a steady stream. These non-physical occurrences belong in the domain of consciousness. The body, including the brain but not restricted to it, exhibits parallel activity that is the correlate of mental activity. However, no one has proved in any generally accepted way that the mind creates the brain or vice versa. They arise simultaneously and display their own peculiar qualities.

 

It would surprise most people, but given a choice, we can do without the brain in everyday life, something that’s not true about the mind. By “doing without the brain,” I’m referring to a simple fact. Living as conscious beings, humans do not have insight or access to brain activity. Until the brain is exposed to examination, we do not know about neurons, synapses, axons, and ganglia, or about stem cells, the reptilian brain, the amygdala, hypothalamus, or cerebral cortex, just to mention some main areas of inquiry by neuroscience. Instead, we all exist at varying levels of awareness. There is an interplay between the conscious and unconscious mind. Enormous strides are made through creativity, genius, insight, contemplation, and self-awareness in all its phases.

 

This picture doesn’t depend on any knowledge of the brain as an organ, and yet in the current climate of opinion, we are told that everything will eventually come down to the brain, which is like saying that all the news in a newspaper can be explained by paper and ink. The brain is the physical instrument of mind, not the mind itself. Even to call the brain a privileged organ is misleading, because there is equally intelligent, coordinated activity going on in many places throughout the body, including the central and peripheral nervous system, the immune system, and the gut. Messaging going back and forth from the brain to every cell in the body depends just as much on how the receiver responds as on what the message says.

 

How the receiver responds is overwhelmingly a matter of life experiences, including your beliefs, expectations, conditioning, predispositions, imprints from past traumas, and family input from childhood. There is zero evidence that the brain has any of these experiences. It’s not your brain that loves music, wants a fulfilling relationship, has a short fuse, worries about the kids, or anything else. Experience happens to you, a self. The self is the only source of experience as well as the interpreter of it. Therefore, only by investigating the self will the mind-body problem eventually be solved. One thing, however, is certain. The brain isn’t going to tell us the answers we seek–it holds no secrets about truth, beauty creativity, intelligence, insight, or personal evolution.

 

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, Clinical Professor UCSD Medical School, researcher, Neurology and Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. The World Post and The Huffington Post global internet survey ranked Chopra #17 influential thinker in the world and #1 in Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are You Are the Universe co-authored with Menas Kafatos, PhD, and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.   discoveringyourcosmicself.com

 

 

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The Ultimate Self-Help: Upgrading the Illusion

By Deepak Chopra, MD

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The phrase “personal reality” has a range of meanings, and most people would begin with their situation, the place where they find themselves. There’s a natural impulse to improve the situation, whatever it happens to be. If your situation lacks enough money, satisfying work, a loving relationship, and so on, it will improve your personal reality to work on those things. That’s about as far as society tells us we can go. On a larger scale, one person can make a minuscule difference by casting a vote for President or deciding to recycle, but big or small, personal reality has a big outer component, consisting of the external world, other people, natural forces, and so on.

 

It seems so obvious that there is a “big” reality compared to which anyone’s “small” reality is fairly insignificant. But this small reality is personal, so we all spend a huge amount of time and effort trying to upgrade it–all of our life, in fact. So it’s mystifying to run into the world’s wisdom traditions, which perversely turn this whole idea upside down, claiming that the “big” reality is actually a snare, a trap, an illusion. That’s the gist of the Sermon on the Mount and the teachings of Buddhism, different as they are when taken as religions. In my new book, You Are the Universe , written with physicist Menas Kafatos, we look very closely at how to upgrade personal reality from the ground up, a process that begins with solving the whole mystery of reality.

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Where Do You Call Home? A Cosmic Answer

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By Deepak Chopra, MD, and Menas Kafatos, PhD

Home is a charged word for everyone, a source of emotion that’s intimately associated with feeling safe and loved, of belonging. When asked “Where is home?” people reply with a country or city, perhaps a specific street address. Almost no one says “My home is the universe.” But for scientists trying to explain cosmic issues, the fact that the universe is the ultimate home where human life arose poses some huge mysteries. In our book You Are the Universe , we explore these mysteries, but that’s really secondary to something more important. We aim to show that the universe exists to be the home of human beings.

In other words, we take the universe personally. Such a position sounds at first blush like a totally wrong-headed stance. The universe, whether viewed by the naked eye or through the Hubble telescope, presents itself as a vast space where some three trillion galaxies, by the latest estimates, are rushing away from one another at high speed, where spacetime is being stretched out, carrying along every object embedded in it. This picture is so well established that many people, including trained physicists, assume that new discoveries will basically just fill in the blanks. It’s not as if we need a totally new definition of the cosmos.

But in fact we do, and there’s a growing sense among scientists that this is true. Even those who accept the inflationary model of the universe (a model based upon the reality of the big bang 13.7 billion years ago) realize that the fundamental components of reality–space, time, matter, and energy–remain mysterious. In fact, it’s the breakdown at the most fundamental levels that causes the universe to be very different from what the eye or telescope sees.

The word “breakdown” must be taken seriously here. The New York Times ran an article over a year ago on the crisis in physics, and quite publicly Stephen Hawking has been exploring the a cracks in a unified Theory of Everything (the holy grail of physics at least since the lifetime of Einstein).  Hawking is prone to quotes like the following: “I don’t demand that a theory correspond to reality because I don’t know what it is. Reality is not a quality you can test with litmus paper.” The fact that the most advanced theories about space, time, matter, and energy don’t necessarily match reality opens the way for looking at reality very differently.

Our different view is that the universe is trapped in a paradox. On the one hand, everyone holds that the universe developed after the big bang in keeping with random events, whether those events are the collision of two helium atoms or two galaxies. There is no plan or design, no predetermined purpose in creation, and ultimately no meaning to why things happen as they do. On the other hand, and this is where paradox reigns, the universe is the perfect home for human life to have evolved on Earth. In fact, the universe is so incredibly precise in allowing life and intelligence that randomness just does not fit the bill.

The evidence for this side of the paradox begins with what is known in cosmology as the fine-tuning problem. After the big bang, there was a precarious balance of natural forces. Given a change one way or another by less than one part in a billion, the infant universe could have collapsed in on itself or, at the opposite extreme, flown apart so fast that atoms and molecules would never had developed. If the laws of nuclear physics were slightly different, a collapsing supernova could not occur and the heavy elements which are essential to our bodies could not have formed in the cauldron of stellar collapse. Other more arcane disasters and distortions were also possible, but the upshot is that the constants that keep the universe intact are meshed together so finely as to defy any random explanation.

Human life needed a home to evolve in, meaning a planet, which in turn needed a solar system, which in turn needed stars, interstellar dust, viable stable atoms, and so forth, all the way down the line to the big bang. It’s very suspicious that there were no hitches along the way. Very small hitches would have made it impossible for the most complex molecule in the known cosmos–human DNA, with its 3 billion base pairs–to evolve.

To compound the paradox, there are other enormous gaps in the models we apply every day to explain reality, among them:

  • No one knows what came before the big bang because “before” implies time, and time didn’t necessarily exist before the moment of creation. In fact, the very question only makes sense when time exists, not “before” time existed.
  • In a similar way, no one knows what lies outside the universe, because “outside” applies to space in the sense of a box that has an inside and outside, whereas such space can’t apply before the big bang occurred. How can there be space outside space?
  • No one knows where cause-and-effect came from. Cause and effect both depend on something happening “before” to cause something else “after.” This ties us to a linear scheme that can’t step outside time, even though we can compute mathematically that the quantum world doesn’t seem to work by linear cause and effect–perhaps not any kind of cause and effect.
  • No one knows where meaning came from. If the universe evolved by random events that are meaningless, how did we humans arrive at meaning, purpose, design, and the concept of evolution? These concepts are fundamental everyday realities. This problem of locating the origin of meaning is tied to an even bigger one:  no one can explain how an unconscious universe came up with consciousness. It’s not as if the ordinary molecules of salt, water, sugar, and other basic components of the brain suddenly learned to think.

Our book delves into the details of these baffling mysteries, but where a physicist might consider them abstract puzzles to which advanced mathematics must be applied, the mismatch between theory and reality concerns everyone. We don’t know why the universe is our home or even what “home” means in the larger sense. No one would put money down on a house built of materials the builder can’t describe or tell where they came from. Yet we have bought into a conception of the cosmos with exactly those flaws. In fact, far from looking out at a physical universe filled with stars the way a box of chocolates is filled with truffles, we are actually looking out at a conception, a human artifact that we alone are responsible for. That’s a mystery worth pondering if we ever hope to find out who we really are.

 

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, Clinical Professor UCSD Medical School, researcher, Neurology and Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. The World Post and The Huffington Post global internet survey ranked Chopra #17 influential thinker in the world and #1 in Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are You Are the Universe co-authored with Menas Kafatos, PhD, and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.   discoveringyourcosmicself.com

 

Menas C. Kafatos is the Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor of Computational Physics, at Chapman University. He is a quantum physicist, cosmologist, and climate impacts researcher and works extensively on consciousness. He holds seminars and workshops for individuals, health and mental professionals, practitioners of contemplative traditions, and corporations on the natural laws that apply everywhere and are the foundations of the universe, for well-being and success. His doctoral thesis advisor was the renowned M.I.T. professor Philip Morrison who studied under J. Robert Oppenheimer. He has authored 315+ articles, is author or editor of 16 books, including The Conscious Universe (Springer), Looking In, Seeing Out (Theosophical Publishing House), and is co-author with Deepak Chopra of the forthcoming book, You Are the Universe (Harmony). He maintains a Huffington Post blog. You can learn more at http://www.menaskafatos.com 

 

Originally Published by The  San Francisco Chronicle

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Hitching a Ride on the Cosmos

By Deepak Chopra MD and Menas Kafatos, PhD

The universe and the human brain have something important in common. The inner workings of both are invisible. At this moment you have no perception of what’s happening in your brain; neural activity is unknown to the mind of the person to whom the neurons belong without the invention of brain scans to reveal that activity, and then only crudely. Imagine, being a master of a house and not knowing or seeing what is inside the house.

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At first blush the universe doesn’t appear to be that way, tens to hundreds of billions of stars in as many as two trillion galaxies, although not directly observable with the naked eye can be studied with big telescopes such as the Hubble space telescope. But no matter how finely you dissect physical objects, whether the object is a drop of water or a massive nebula, in reality the inner workings of objects are totally invisible. The phrase used by physicists is “something out of nothing,” which refers to the fact that ground zero for creation is a void, the quantum vacuum. On that basis, both the brain and a star and an atom are examples of something coming out of nothing.

 

In our book You Are the Universe , we explore what might be emerging besides physical objects and the energy states they occupy. For it’s obvious that the brain doesn’t simply produce electrical and chemical activity at random. It somehow is tied to our inner world of sensations, thoughts, feelings, and images. Using these, we experience a three-dimensional world. So everything in that world is dependent on experience; if there is a reality outside what we can experience (including the extended perception of microscopes, telescopes, particle accelerators, and so on), such a reality will be as inaccessible as a dark hole.

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Why You and the Universe Are One

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By Deepak Chopra, MD, and Menas Kafatos, PhD.

It takes a lot to overturn the accepted view of reality, but it doesn’t take a lot to begin. The accepted view of reality holds that human beings exist in the context of a vast physical universe “out there.” Only an extreme mystic would doubt this description, but all of us should. Sir John Eccles, a famous British neurologist and Nobel laureate, declared, “I want you to realize that there exists no color in the natural world, and no sound – nothing of this kind; no textures, no patterns, no beauty, no scent.” What Eccles means is that all the qualities of Nature, from the luxurious scent of a rose to the sting of a wasp and the taste of honey, are produced by human beings. Erwin Schrödinger, one of the main founders of quantum mechanics, said essentially the same thing when he declared that photons, quanta of light, have no color, such properties arise in the biology of perception.

 

Those are remarkable statements, all the more because they are all-inclusive. The most distant galaxies billions of light years away, have no reality without you, because everything that makes any galaxy real— with the multitude of stars with their heat, emitted light, and masses, the positions of the distant galaxies in space and the velocity that carries each distant galaxy away at enormous speed—requires a human observer with a human nervous system.  If no one existed to experience heat, light, mass, and so on, nothing could be real as we know it. If the qualities of Nature are a human construct arising from human experiences, the existence of the physical universe “out there” must be seriously questioned–and along with it, our participation in such a universe.

 

When you break experience down into its tiniest ingredients, the physicality of everything begins to vanish. The story we keep telling ourselves depends on reality “out there” having a physical explanation, but it doesn’t. For example, we depend on sight to navigate through the world. No matter what you see “out there”—an apple, cloud, mountain, or tree—light bouncing off the object makes it visible, but how? No one knows. What makes seeing totally mysterious can be summed up in a few undeniable facts:

 

  • Photons, the quanta of light, are invisible. They aren’t bright, even though you see sunlight as bright.
  • The brain has essentially zero light inside it, being a dark mass of oatmeal-textured cells enveloped in a fluid that is not terribly different from sea water. (There are extremely faint traces of photon activity in the brain, but the optic nerve doesn’t transmit photons to the visual cortex.)
  • Because there is no light to speak off in the brain, there are no pictures or images, either. When you imagine the face of a loved one, nowhere in the brain does that face exist like a photograph. How do action potentials in neuron electric firings become conscious awareness, no one knows.

 

At present no one can explain how invisible photons being converted to chemical reactions and faint electrical impulses in the brain creates the three-dimensional reality we all take for granted. Brain scans pick up the electrical activity, which is why an fMRI contains patches of brightness and color. So something is going on in the brain. But the actual nature of sight itself is mysterious. One thing is known, however. The creation of sight is done by you. Without you, the entire world—and the vast universe extending in all directions—can’t exist.

 

Expand this known fact to everything you experience, and every quality of life requires human participation. “Requires” means two things, first, that experience is the ground state of everything, including the activity of doing science, and second, that every quality is a human construct derived from experiences of individuals in human species. Another species with a different nervous system would participate in the universe in a way completely unknown to us with our human nervous system.

 

Physics has had decades to process the insight of John Archibald Wheeler, the eminent American physicist, general relativist and quantum physicist, who originated the notion of a “participatory universe,” a cosmos in which all of us are embedded as co-creators, replacing the accepted universe “out there,” which is separate from us. Wheeler used the image of children with their noses pressed against a bakery window to describe the view that kept the observer separate from the thing being observed. But in a fully participatory universe, the observer and the thing observed are one.

 

You are one with the universe because you experience Nature in your awareness, and there is no other source for reality as we know it. If anything is real that cannot enter human consciousness, we will never know it. How would we even know it? Even if we resort to abstract mathematics which might infer the existence of realities beyond our ability to sense them or measure them, we should realize that mathematics itself, albeit the most refined one, is tied to human observers. It takes a mathematician to understand mathematics. To summarize,

 

  • The universe we live in is a human construct, including everything in it.
  • All activity takes place in consciousness. If you want to point at where the stars are, there is no physical location, because consciousness isn’t a “thing.”
  • The brain isn’t the seat of consciousness but acts more like a radio receiver, and perhaps emitter, translating conscious activity into physical correlates. (The radio receiver metaphor describes the feedback loop between mind and brain, which are actually not separate but part of the same complementary activity in consciousness.)
  • To understand our true participation in the universe, we must learn much more about awareness and how it turns mind into matter and vice versa.

 

These are difficult truths for mainstream scientists to accept, and some would react to them with skepticism, disbelief, or anger. But following the other track of explanation, beginning with physical objects “out there,” fails utterly to explain how we are conscious to begin with. That’s why in scattered pockets, some physicists are beginning to talk about a conscious universe, where consciousness is a given throughout Nature. In fact, the founders of quantum mechanics a century ago agreed more with this view, having understood that quantum mechanics implies observation and agency of mind. In our upcoming book You Are the Universewe call it the human universe, emphasizing where the whole construct comes from. As we will see in future posts, once you realize that you and the universe are one, the whole journey of being human shifts radically.

(To be cont.)

 

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, Clinical Professor UCSD Medical School, researcher, Neurology and Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. The World Post and The Huffington Post global internet survey ranked Chopra #17 influential thinker in the world and #1 in Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph Tanzi, PhD  and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.  www.deepakchopra.com

 

Menas C. Kafatos is the Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor of Computational Physics, at Chapman University. He is a quantum physicist, cosmologist, and climate impacts researcher and works extensively on consciousness. He holds seminars and workshops for individuals, health and mental professionals, practitioners of contemplative traditions, and corporations on the natural laws that apply everywhere and are the foundations of the universe, for well-being and success. His doctoral thesis advisor was the renowned M.I.T. professor Philip Morrison who studied under J. Robert Oppenheimer. He has authored 315+ articles, is author or editor of 15 books, including The Conscious Universe (Springer), Looking In, Seeing Out (Theosophical Publishing House), and is co-author with Deepak Chopra of the forthcoming book, You Are the Universe (Harmony). He maintains a Huffington Post blog. You can learn more at http://www.menaskafatos.com 

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