Posts Categorized: Science & Consciousness

Does the Human Mind Need a Fresh Start?

By Deepak Chopra, MD

Most people would agree, even without a degree in psychology, that many if not most problems are created by the mind.  It’s impossible to be human without the functioning of the higher brain (the cerebral cortex), which is proportionately larger in Homo sapiens, and evolved with unusual swiftness into the state where it can process mathematics, philosophy, art and science. But we are trapped by the mind at the same time, as witness centuries of war on a vast scale down to daily episodes of domestic abuse in the home, or take a clinical view at the countless people suffering from depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental distress.



Unveiling Reality: The Mystery of “Who Am I?”

By Deepak Chopra, MD

At a public lecture, a psychology professor was reported to say, “Until you are fifty, you won’t know who you are.” This seems overly optimistic, because much more than maturity is involved in discovering who we are; in fact, much more than psychology is involved. To answer, “Who am I?” requires us to take a stand about reality itself, in every possible aspect.




In high school and college English classes it’s popular to assign an essay on the theme of appearance versus reality, which can be applied to any piece of literature. As applied to Hamlet, for example, almost the whole play is about figuring out what is real and what is illusory. Is the ghost of Hamlet’s father real, and if so, is he telling the truth about his murder?  The new king, Claudius, who has married Hamlet’s mother, appears friendly and caring about his stepson’s welfare at the beginning, but this sham is uncovered as guilt and revenge take their course. There are more tangles of appearance versus reality around every corner, such as the critical question of whether Hamlet is mad or sane.


In everyday life, we keep up appearances through an elaborate complex of veils, disguises, unconscious defenses, and psychological ruses. Most of these involve the word “self.” Burying our true self is a project we spend huge amounts of time and effort on. In early childhood, for example, your parents nurtured and protected you. But at a certain point rifts appeared. Every child learns that their father and mother are not all-powerful. They can’t protect you from bullies on the school bus. Another rift is centered on desire. Children want things their parents don’t necessarily want, and when desires clash, then what? It comes as a traumatic shock when a couple decides to divorce, because no matter how it is papered over, they are acting to make themselves happier first—or to escape misery—rather than doing what makes their children happier or less miserable. (Of course there are examples where divorce is better for the whole family, but disruption and trauma are still an issue.)


At such critical points, and there are many more both large and small, each of us is thrown back on the self, which becomes our first and last refuge. We learn—or fail to learn—to be self-reliant, self-protective, self-confident, self-motivated, and self-aware. This project of relating to yourself is how you answer the question “Who am I?” You are the end product of building a self and presenting it to the world. No one looks in the mirror and sees a real person. What is seen is the self, and it isn’t a simple image, either, but a dynamic system of relationships inside our minds.


This constructed self has a very limited reality, because no matter how hard we work at self-improvement, there’s a fatal flaw built into the self system. The construct is essentially artificial, and therefore it is separate from us. No one completely merges with the social self they present in public. No one fully accepts the psychological self they must live with beneath the surface.


The proof of this is quite simple. People say things like “I hate myself right now” or “You need to learn to love yourself.” It’s like talking about someone else, a stranger or a sibling or even a pet. Like them, our self-creation stands apart. We look at it, judge it, hate it one day and love it the next, and so on. In short, the reality of who we are is veiled from us, and we don’t know what lies behind the curtain. For most people, facing reality is a scary proposition; they vastly prefer to be buffered by the ego-self they have learned to accept. Going back to the childhood example, when you learned that your parents were not all-powerful protectors, it was impossible to remain neutral to this shocking fact. You were forced to confront the whole issue of how to stand on your own and protect yourself.


Yet despite all the forces that urge us psychologically to remain inside our constructed ego-self, the world’s wisdom traditions, in which I include all religions and spirituality, revolve around the possibility of getting real. Something inside us, even if deeply buried, feels trapped in the ego-self. Unfortunately for the forces of conformity and conventionality, there has always been a motley crew of artists, sages, saints, madmen, rebels, poets, and lovers who have released themselves from what William Blake called our “mind-forged manacles.” These escapees are at once scary and inspiring. We venerate and persecute them in equal measure. A figure like Jesus, for example, personifies ultimate inspiration and ultimate suffering at the same time.


But let’s say that fear doesn’t win out and you undertake to unveil reality. Immediately an obstacle arises. To get at who you really are, you have to go through the self you created so assiduously over the years, and unlike a pair of rose-colored glasses, which you can simply take off, you can’t remove the filters imposed by the ego-self. You have come to believe those filters are you. The self system clouds everything you perceive or think about.


The only way to unveil reality is to find a strategy that doesn’t implicate the self, which means that you must exclude everything the mind does all the time, which is to entertain a constant stream of sensations, images, feelings and thoughts. The mind has been trained to conform to the jerry-built self, and so has the brain. In our efforts to shape reality to suit our wishes, desires, fears, and needs, the mind has become hopelessly divided, with certain impulses being under control (more or less), while other impulses roam free, refusing to submit to us (ask anyone suffering from anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsions, paranoia, grief, helplessness, and so on).


Being yourself means getting rid of your separate self first. It sounds almost laughable. The situation is exactly like saying that if you want to be totally protected, you must drop all your defenses. The whole project seems counterintuitive and more than a little suspicious. The ancient Greek dictum of “Know thyself” could be a folly or simply impossible. But there’s no getting around the fact that reality, to be real, must be unfiltered. Only by walking the path of self-liberation is it possible to discover, once and for all, what is real and what is illusion. This path follows definite principles, however, that provide a guide to anyone who wants to get real. These principles will be discussed in the next post.

(To be cont.)

Originally Published by  The San Francisco Chronicle

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing and, 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, member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and Clinical Professor at UCSD School of Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers along with You Are the Universe (February 2017, Harmony) co-written with leading physicist, Menas Kafatos.  Other recent  books  include Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D. and  Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body 



The Faith-Based Science of Neil deGrasse Tyson—It Needs Correcting


By Deepak Chopra, MD

Peacekeepers entering war zones frequently find that both sides are angry and intransigent, to the point that even mentioning peace causes tempers to flare. This has been the situation with the debate—now worn out to the point of exhaustion—between science and religion. There are ways to bring peace, but they are stymied by militant partisans.


The astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson broke out from his warm persona as our national science explainer in 2014 when he stated, in line with previous opinions, that philosophy was useless, telling an interviewer, “My concern here is that the philosophers believe they are actually asking deep questions about nature. And to the scientist it’s, what are you doing? Why are you concerning yourself with the meaning of meaning?”


The reason that more people got upset over his remarks goes beyond the small and dwindling coterie of professional philosophers. DeGrasse Tyson was arguing in broad terms that science is the only avenue to truth and that inner inquiry was an obstruction to uncovering the secrets of reality. He believes, science requires no acts of faith and therefore is the only reliable guide to knowledge.


Millions of people would agree—after all, modern civilization was built upon the foundation of science and technology. But deGrasse Tyson doesn’t realize that his brand of simplistic materialism runs exactly counter to the insights of quantum physics beginning a century ago, when the reliable structure of space, time, matter, and energy was completely undermined. This is no longer the stale, exhausted war between science and religion or between science and philosophy. The nature of reality, unknown to so-called naïve realists, has become increasingly mysterious.


DeGrasse Tyson places himself in the camp of naïve realism, the belief that what the senses report is fact, that raw data, once systematized and explained, establishes the physical universe as the basis of everything real. That is actually an act of faith. The great pioneering physicist Max Planck, who coined the term “quantum,” insisted that “mind is the matrix of matter.” He elaborated on the point speaking to a London reporter in 1931: “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”


The fact that the observer affects what he observes, links mind and matter, although precisely how is still debated. DeGrasse Tyson recently dragged my name into his combative attitude, labeling me as a suspicious character who threw around big words to disguise my own ignorance. But having written several books on the nature of consciousness, I feel like a peacekeeper rather than a combatant.  One role DeGrasse Tyson has adopted is a kind of “There’s nothing to see here, folks. Just move on.” He represents the happy face of a unified scientific community marching hand-in-hand toward the ultimate explanation of everything.


The problem with such an attitude is its combination of willful ignorance and outdated science. The salient points are these:

  1. Physicists find themselves more baffled than ever about the nature of the universe, thanks to the discovery of dark matter and energy, which contradicts many previously held assumptions.
  2. The holy grail of science, the sought-after Theory of everything, is farther than ever from being achieved. This has led to a deep rift and much doubt among theorists—see Stephen Hawking’s book, The Grand Design, co-authored with Leonard Mlodinow. In explaining their M-Theory, they use the phrase “model-based reality.”
  3. The traditional way for dealing with consciousness has been for science to ignore it, be suspicious of the entire subjective realm, and ridicule anyone who brought up the subject. This attitude, encapsulated in the phrase, “Shut up and calculate,” is a mask for ignorance about the nature of the mind. Like it or not, science is a mode of explanation that rests upon experience, just as other modes of explanation do.
  4. Without understanding consciousness, science as pure physicalism may be reaching a dead end. Once you arrive at the quantum vacuum state, the void from which time, space, matter, and energy emerged, there is no more data to harvest. Across an uncrossable horizon lies the “nothing that gave rise to everything.” A new mode of explanation based on consciousness offers a way past this barrier. But about this deGrasse Tyson knows nothing.
  5. Pride in being a know-nothing is gradually fading among far-seeing scientists. In an influential Scientific American article in 2014, the prominent British physicist George Ellis knocked the scientific attack on philosophy. Ellis’s central point was that the assumptions behind science are metaphysical to begin with, yet practitioners of science remain woefully ignorant of this fact. Both opposing camps, the one that derives creation from material forces and the one that derives creation from an invisible transcendent agent of mind, are making philosophical statements, not proven statements of fact.


Taken altogether, these points, which are well known in and out of science, are not quackery or suspicious anti-science attitudes promulgated by exponents of woo woo.  I can shrug off unfair denigration, but deGrasse Tyson needs to get past his faith-based view of science. Instead of disparaging better thinkers than himself, he should join the peacekeeping mission that might, at long last, repair a division that needs healing, not misplaced antagonisms.


Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing and, 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, member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and Clinical Professor at UCSD School of Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers along with You Are the Universe (February 2017, Harmony) co-written with leading physicist, Menas Kafatos.  Other recent  books  include Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D. and  Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body 



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.




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.


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.