News & Information

A Worldview that Can Liberate Everyone

By Deepak Chopra, MD and Anoop Kumar, MD

When the world looks as turbulent and troubled as it does now, people feel trapped. Instead of feeling secure in prosperous safety zones, even developed countries now feel the pressure of uncontrollable forces, including stateless terrorism, a historical peak in refugees, the threat of epidemic diseases, and fast-encroaching climate change. How many people truly believe that these problems will be solved—or are even solvable? An erosion of hope is underway, and this more than anything must be reversed.

The first step is to realize that we live on a human planet, where each person is trained to view Nature, including human nature, through highly conditioned beliefs and perceptions. The conflicts that develop from us-versus-them thinking are only a thin layer of this collective conditioning. At a deeper level, leaving aside politics, ethnicity, tribalism, and religion, we are participating in a collective hallucination about reality. As illusions go, this one is centuries old, but it isn’t permanent or incurable. We’re talking about a skewed worldview, and worldviews can be changed by their own creators.

The prevailing worldview that has led to the present crisis arose in the context of a post-religious, secular, scientific age. Since most educated people celebrate the advances visited by this worldview, including every wonder of technology, cures for disease, economic prosperity, and so on, it’s easy to mistake it for reality. But all worldviews are based on a set of accepted beliefs and perceptions.

The fundamental assumptions of the secular scientific worldview include the following:


· The physical world “out there” is the most real thing in existence.

· By comparison, the subjective world “in here” is fickle, unreliable, filled with confusion, and potentially dangerous.

· Natural forces are independent from human life and must be tamed, contained, and brought under human control or else our species won’t survive.

· Being separate from Nature in its cosmic, impersonal, random state, humans are an anomaly. We somehow evolved into conscious beings despite this random, meaningless context. But that fact doesn’t give the universe itself any meaning or purpose.

· Having accepted that we are strange, privileged creatures solely gifted with consciousness, human beings are ultimately victims, struggling in a losing battle against forces of nature that have zero regard for us.

This entire list is part of the constructed hallucination/indoctrination that modern people believe in. In the grip of this hallucination we’ve forgotten how to break the spell we cast on ourselves. It’s a classic example of the prisoner trapped in jail who doesn’t notice that he holds the key in his hand.

In our last post we offered the possibility of liberation by one means: consciousness. (We urge you to read Part I, since it explains the basic principles we elaborate on here.) A consciousness-based worldview would turn each aspect of the current worldview on its head, as follows:

· The physical world “out there” is the projection of human awareness. It is nothing more than the play of consciousness.

· “In here” and “out there” are artificial divisions. Both domains are part of the same reality based in consciousness.

· Our collective hallucination has become extremely complex, giving rise to a scientific model of immense intricacy. But a dream doesn’t become more real just by being more complicated. Science is also an experience in consciousness, and by ignoring this fact we mistake facts and data for reality. In fact, being everything in existence, reality cannot be modeled no matter how sophisticated science becomes.

· Nature isn’t a set of phenomena and forms, ranging from quarks to galaxies. Reality is the field of pure consciousness, and we project on to it whatever we believe in, from exalted spiritual glory to absolute meaninglessness. In response, Nature shows us what we are looking for.

· Having projected this human universe, we feel separate from it. This is the very heart of the hallucination. Whatever consciousness can do, we can do, and consciousness does everything.

These principles sketch out a “one reality’ or non-dual worldview. To someone who accepts the current worldview, such ideas are untenable, even ludicrous. Who could reasonably challenge that there is a world “out there” that is totally real? Science has amassed tons of evidence to support this common-sense view. But it is in the nature of a new worldview to overturn the old one, and the most radical upset concerns the nature of the human mind.

The world’s wisdom traditions don’t equate mind with consciousness, although in the current worldview the two are the same, and both are supposedly produced by neural activity in the brain. But there’s a contrary perspective that can be shown by analogy. Put yourself in a movie theater. Mind consists of all the movies we play out in our lives; consciousness is the movie screen, which every movie needs, yet itself is not part of the movie. Anyone can sit in a movie theater and shift between two styles of perception, either sinking into the movie as if it’s real or breaking the spell and seeing light playing across a screen to give the illusion of reality.

Likewise, it is possible to snap out of the spell of the real-life movies we surrender to every day. This shift in perception leads a person on the path to liberation. Having seen, as the world’s wisdom traditions teach, that birth and death, fear and separation, us versus them, and the division between “in here” and “out there” are human constructs, a new world dawns, simply because every world exists in consciousness, first and foremost. But dropping your belief in the movie is only the first step, and probably the easiest.

At its most radical, non-duality says that reality is inconceivable, which isn’t a comforting thought. Religion says that God too is inconceivable, being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, but this gets watered down by seeing God in human form. Science suggests that reality is inconceivable, because the entire universe was created out of nothing, a quantum vacuum where every particle and every event in the cosmos exists only in virtual form. But this too got watered down by imagining atoms and molecules as little spinning things that stick together to form bigger spinning things “out there” in the vastness of Nature.

Non-duality cannot be watered down. When it says that reality is inconceivable, this means that your essential nature is inconceivable as well. You are not a collection of tags, labels, qualities, moods, family influences, and a life history—those are plot devices in a movie you call “me.” You are actually the screen of consciousness on which the movie is being projected. When you realize this fact and absorb it fully—not as a concept but as your very nature—there is freedom from the ills of the collective hallucination. The anxiety of separation, war, confusion, strife, the fear of death, tribalism, and the insecurity that comes from staring into the abyss of an apparently meaningless universe begins to dissolve.

Although it can sound daunting to hear that your essential nature is inconceivable, don’t be fooled. To conceive of something is to turn it into a thought. Consciousness, which expresses as all that was, is, and will be, cannot be stuffed into a thought, just as an ocean can’t be contained in a wave. You are that ocean. This means that to know your true nature, you don’t have to figure your way out of the current predicament. When a wave relaxes, it merges unto its true nature as the ocean. Simply begin to relax into your essential nature.

This is the path that unifies humanity by virtue of unifying who we really are instead of accepting only a composite of cultures, which are larger, socially-validated themes. The non-

dual worldview doesn’t eradicate science or culture by any means, but it does put all mental models of reality within a greater context. Technology can continue to advance; science can pursue the intricacies of the brain and their connection to mind. But one thing will be different once and for all. Human beings will know who we really are, having woken up from a very convincing but unreal hallucination.

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing and Jiyo.com, 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 Medicine. www.deepakchopra.com

Anoop Kumar, MD, MM is Board Certified in Emergency Medicine and holds a Master’s degree in Management with a focus in Health Leadership from McGill University. He practices in the Washington, DC metro area, where he also leads meditation gatherings for clinicians. He is the author of the book Michelangelo’s Medicine: How redefining the human body will transform health and healthcare. Anoop enjoys exploring and communicating about the intersection of self-awareness, science, and wellbeing. Visit him at anoopkumar.com and follow @DrAnoopKumar.

MORE

If Reality isn’t Naïve, We Shouldn’t Be, Either

Deepak Chopra, MD and Anoop Kumar, MD

On many fronts, describing reality has turned into a kind of Mission: Impossible. This would surprise most people, because in everyday life two versions of reality seem perfectly acceptable. The first version takes reality at face value, trusting the senses—and common sense—to tell us what is real and what isn’t. The second version, known as scientific realism, also relies on the senses but in a more sophisticated fashion—when the eyes tell us that the sun rises in the East, science steps in with the actual facts of astronomy.

Naïve realism and scientific realism join hands in asserting that there is a physical world “out there” that can be relied upon and verified—yet this is the most naïve idea of all. For science’s version of reality to be valid, we would have to accept that it describes or approximates all of reality. But breaking down a piece of wood, a grain of salt, or a chunk of uranium down into finer and finer particles, until you reach the mysterious domain of quantum mechanics isn’t remotely the same as describing reality “in here,” which is governed by the mind. There has never been the slightest proof that the basic chemical components of the brain can think, feel, or have experience. In fact, it’s extremely naïve to assume such a thing—and yet neuroscience insists upon it.

Countering scientific realism isn’t hard once you overcome a bias in its favor; that is the hard thing, in fact. By clinging to the notion that the mind is a byproduct of atoms and molecules jiggling around in the soupy darkness of the brain, science has outlined its own dead end. Mind is a fundamental part of reality, not a byproduct.

Yet what if neuroscience did concede, against all odds, that the mind is a non-physical attribute of reality. Where would that take us? The next step in the evolution of scientific thought points away from materialism to a newly fashionable concept, panpsychism. At its most basic, panpsychism holds that mind is everywhere; it is a natural attribute of the universe like gravity. But this is like leaping from “no mind” to “all mind.” Suddenly not just brain chemicals but every atom and molecule is capable of being conscious or proto-conscious. By making mind an attribute of things, science gets to defend its belief in “things” through the back door.

There isn’t the slightest proof that atoms and molecules are conscious. So how do we get past the whole bag of unproven assumptions and outright illusions that flow from scientific realism? What could substitute for reality “out there,” not just with scientists but with ordinary citizens?

The best candidate is consciousness itself, not as a property of anything (mind or matter) but as the root and source of everything. This position is known as non-dual realism, and it has existed for thousands of years in the world’s wisdom traditions. The basis of non-dualism is simplicity itself: there is only one reality. Naïve realism and scientific realism agree with this proposition, but they have plumped for the wrong candidate, forcing physical “things” to create mind when that is obviously impossible. Rational thought often works like the children’s game, king of the hill, only in this case it is the strongest idea rather than the strongest kid who gets to be king and stand on top.

Non-dual realism has a second very simple idea to offer: everything we label as “real” is an experience. If anything is real outside human experience, we’ll never know it or be able to prove it. As you can see, replacing a physical world “out there” with conscious experience “in here” strikes scientists as wildly radical. But if non-dual realism isn’t accepted, the dead end that science has created for itself is inevitable.

Non-dualism isn’t simply an intellectual theory—it is meant to be lived, which only makes sense for a version of reality based on experience. But instead of the sensory experience that naïve realism is based upon, the non-dualist mind experiences its own

nature. Like a dreamer who suddenly realizes that he’s about to wake up, the “aha” moment for a non-dualist is to realize that depending on the five senses and on scientific facts has given him a false view of what is actually real. The big flash is that only consciousness is real.

A non-dualist still has to live in a dual world—there will still be cars, families, trees, and science—but with a new perspective. Imagine what it was like as a child to discover that the black specks of ink on a page were a code for language, and by learning to read this code, the entire world of knowledge expanded beyond measure. In the same way, a non-dualist reads the code of the universe, not as a set of facts, but as a symbol for expanded meaning, purpose, and intention. In essence, when you find yourself at the source of consciousness, your mind is standing at the switch that creates reality.

For the purposes of this discussion, mind and consciousness are two different things. Mind is an activity of consciousness, like waves on the ocean. Consciousness is the ocean itself. Here are five reasons why this distinction should mean something to every person.

1. The mind wrestles with fear of death. Consciousness isn’t born and never dies.

2. Mind feels trapped in a physical body. Consciousness unites the two as different modes of experience.

3. Mind feels isolated and apart from other people. Consciousness erases all separation, because separation/duality is an illusion.

4. Mind sees the human race as an insignificant speck in the immense void of outer space. Consciousness has no need for time or space. As in a dream, they are merely useful constructs in the dual world, having no ultimate reality.

5. Mind is baffled by eternity and yet yearns for it as a haven of peace where suffering ends. Consciousness is already timeless; therefore, the world here and now is a haven of peace where suffering ends with a shift in awareness.

These five things have been known and pointed out for centuries in the world’s wisdom traditions. Actually, we can leave science alone, given that its methods and aims are self-generating. The real value of non-dualism lies elsewhere. It lies with what it means to be human and how far humanness can evolve. To a non-dualist, human evolution extends to the very edge of all experience, physical and mental; by virtue of seeing the great chasm beyond what the senses tell us, or even our thoughts, we can recognize the falseness of all that the limited mind once “knew” to be real, including itself.

Consciousness holds the promise of complete liberation, which is far from true for the mind, which we all know can be a source of inner suffering. The notion that suffering can end has always been held out by the world’s wisdom traditions. In our next post we will discuss why non-dual realism, not religion, wishful thinking, technology, or science fiction, is the doorway to a future where the planet is rescued and everyday life rises to a new level.

(To be cont.) Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing and Jiyo.com, 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 Medicine. www.deepakchopra.com

Anoop Kumar, MD, MM is board certified in Emergency Medicine and holds a Master’s degree in Management with a focus in Health Leadership from McGill University. He practices in the Washington, DC metro area, where he also leads meditation gatherings for clinicians. He is the author of the book Michelangelo’s Medicine: How redefining the human body will transform health and healthcare. Anoop enjoys exploring and communicating about the intersection of self-awareness, science, and wellbeing. Visit him at anoopkumar.com and follow along @DrAnoopKumar.

MORE

Ending the Dread of Cancer

By Deepak Chopra, MD, Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D.

We will most certainly have entered a new era in medicine when the dread of cancer has abated. For decades this dread has been well founded. Both the disease itself and its treatments created anxiety, which is the worst of both worlds. Emotional attitudes tend to shift slowly. What would it take to turn the corner on cancer?

To enter the range of a “normal” disorder, cancer would have to be 1) Preventable and 2) Manageable.

The first criterion has, in fact, reached a tipping point. Cancer centers like M.D. Anderson in Houston and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta are proposing that 50% of cancer cases are preventable. In certain types of cancers the prevention is quite specific: not smoking to prevent lung cancer (a rare disorder among non-smokers) and treating the human papilloma virus (HPV) in young girls to prevent cervical cancer. Yet these shouldn’t be the model of general prevention, because the good news is that cancer prevention fits into the pattern for a healthy lifestyle–there is no magic “cancer diet” or “cancer lifestyle,” because according to current knowledge, there’s no need for one.

If you eat a whole-foods diet without additives, remain active, keep your weight under control, and add half an aspirin a day to your daily routine, you are in fact preventing cancer. There is an X factor, however, that deserves serious consideration. Cancer probably belongs in the same category as hypertension and heart disease, being disorders that take years or decades to develop before symptoms appear. This incremental creep is associated with two factors: chronic stress and low-grade inflammation. It is also likely that the two are linked.

It’s good to reduce the stress in your life and consume an anti-inflammatory diet (there are many sources of information for the latter online, such as this one from Harvard Medical School. If current trends continue and even more evidence links cancer to the stress-inflammation axis, measures to reduce stress and counter inflammation may become the very core of cancer prevention–only time will tell.

The second criterion that will make cancer a “normal” disease is turning it into a manageable disease. This step has not yet been taken on a large scale because it overturns the mindset of standard oncology. In that mindset, treating malignancies aggressively is combined with early detection. By moving in this direction, cancer rates have dropped incrementally over the past twenty years at a rate no more than 2% per year. Meanwhile, the comfort and psychology of the patient has been largely ignored, or relegated to second place.

Public outcry has made some oncologists reconsider the customary model, which means backing off of the earliest possible detection, following a slow-growing cancer like prostate cancer before making a decision about treatment, and taking the patient’s fears seriously. The fact is that every aged person dies with some malignancy in the body that wasn’t the cause of death. In addition, random anomalous or malignant cells are probably present in almost everyone’s blood stream. There is no cause for panic over these facts.

In our grandparents’ day, the diagnosis of cancer was generally fatal. Today, overall cancer survival is 1 in 3, and if you eliminate stage 4 cancers that received very late detection as well as untreatable lung cancers, that number would look considerably better. Philosophically, we should probably put a lower weight on cancers that prove fatal over the age of 80–mortality is inevitable at some point, no matter what the cause.

These are thoughts are explored in detail in our upcoming book The Healing Self. The main push in cancer, which gives rise to a constant stream of news stories, is still about new drugs and research breakthroughs. That will not stop, nor should it. But in a quiet corner, the advent of prevention and management will do more than any drug to allay the dread of cancer. In the end, this could prove to be a major advance in its own right.

ABOUT: Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing and Jiyo.com, 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. His 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 Medicine. www.deepakchopra.com

Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D. is the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University and Vice Chair of Neurology at Mass. General Hospital. Dr. Tanzi is the co-author with Deepak Chopra of the New York Times bestseller, Super Brain, and an internationally acclaimed expert on Alzheimer disease. He was included in TIME Magazine’s “TIME 100 Most Influential People in the World”.

MORE

Optimistic Thoughts About Cancer–For Real

By Deepak Chopra, MD and Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D

It’s hard to get people to feel optimistic about cancer, with good reason. It remains the most feared diagnosis in medicine, and fear is a powerful force, all the more so when it contains irrationality. If you ask women, for example, which disorder they are more anxious about, breast cancer or heart disease, there’s little doubt what the answer would be. But fear is a very bad guide to reality. Out of total deaths among American women each year, breast cancer accounts for 1 in 31, while deaths from heart disease are 1 in 3.

For a long time it has seemed valid to fear cancer treatments as much as the disease itself. In the early days of modern cancer treatment, the basic fact that oncology clung to was that cancer cells multiply much faster than normal cells. Therefore, the application of drugs that were toxic to the entire body would hit cancer cells harder. By this logic, if you wanted to kill every scrap of malignancy, it was justified to put patients through severe suffering in an attempt to kill the cancer even if it meant that a certain proportion of patients would be killed first.

The third reason to be afraid was that promises of lowering cancer deaths stalled for such a long time. The toll taken by the disease is known through two numbers, first the number of people diagnosed with cancer and second, the age at which they die. It’s the second number that most people misunderstand. They think in terms of five-year survival, which has some validity. But early detection can increase the survival rate artificially. A woman diagnosed with breast cancer in the 1930s would most likely have been in a more advanced stage of the disease than a woman diagnosed today. Let’s say her doctor detected a suspicious lump when she was 55 and she died at 57 after unsuccessful treatment (back then, a radical mastectomy was the only viable course of action, since chemotherapy and radiation were still in the future). Today, anomalous or malignant cells can be detected much earlier, often at stage 1 of the disease if not before. Then it would be typical for the diagnosis to come when the woman is 48, for example. She could survive 9 years, which would put her in the five-year survival category, and yet still die at 57–a different route led to the same outcome.

This is why the mean-adjusted age of mortality–the average age at which people die who have been diagnosed with cancer–is the key figure, along with the number of diagnoses per year. Both need to decline if we are to claim a real advance in cancer survival. For decades, the public has found itself riding an emotional roller-coaster as the federal government declared its “war on cancer” in 1971, only to have hopes for a cure fade away. There is a widespread perception, despite the steady drumbeat that “we’re getting closer every day,” that progress hasn’t been made.

This is a massive misperception that reflects the power of fear. In its 2017 report on cancer rates in America, the American Cancer Society reported that overall cancer deaths declined by 25% between a peak in 1991 to 2014, the latest date for statistics. The reasons for this decline, however, are not related to an overall cure. That goal has been abandoned over the decades once it was discovered that cancer doesn’t behave like one disease but like many. The recent decline has come in bits and pieces. To quote the ACA’s website, “During the most recent decade of available data, the rate of new cancer diagnoses decreased by about 2% per year in men and stayed about the same in women. The cancer death rate declined by about 1.5% annually in both men and women.”

Projecting forward, the bottom-line statistic for 2017 was that roughly 1.7 million new cancer diagnoses would be made and 600,000 deaths would be attributed to cancer. In simplest terms, only 1 out of 3 patients would eventually die from their diagnosis (keeping in mind that cancer is chiefly a disorder of old age and some people will die of other causes while their cancer is still present). Survival has actually become the norm.

Yet the main reason for optimism has turned from treatment to prevention. This is a turn-around even from a few decades ago, when hope was overwhelmingly placed on more research into the cause of cancer and new drug treatments. It is generally agreed that up to 50% of cancer cases are preventable using already-existing knowledge. Everyday lifestyle choices are the main thrust of prevention, which includes not smoking, eating a natural whole-foods diet, avoiding carcinogens in our food, air, and water, taking half an aspirin per day, and wearing sunscreen.

Certain prevention measures relating to sunscreen and not smoking are targeted specifically at skin cancer and lung cancer. But the best news is that positive lifestyle choices that apply generally, such as maintaining a good weight, avoiding alcohol or keeping consumption to a minimum, and leading an active life, are beneficial for cancer prevention—in other words, lifestyle changes are a broad-spectrum approach.

These optimistic thoughts should push cancer out of the class of most-dreaded disease, but that won’t happen until a person’s individual fears are addressed. We will do that in our next post.

(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 and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Chopra is the author of more than 80 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are Super Genes co-authored with Rudy Tanzi, Ph.D. and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine. www.deepakchopra.com

Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D. is the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University and Vice Chair of Neurology at Mass. General Hospital. Dr. Tanzi is the co-author with Deepak Chopra of the New York Times bestseller, Super Brain, and an internationally acclaimed expert on Alzheimer disease. He was included in TIME Magazine’s “TIME 100 Most Influential People in the World”.

MORE

How to Cure Our Collective Split Personality

By Deepak Chopra, MD and Anoop Kumar, MD

One of the main reasons a sane person feels sane is that reality holds together and makes sense. Billiard balls don’t suddenly turn into elephants; gravity doesn’t cause things to fall down one day and up the next. In current neuroscience, creating a sane reality is the job of the brain—and if you look closely, the job isn’t done very well at all. Not only is there mental disease but also everyday anxiety or depression, false impressions, misunderstandings, and even very strange distortions of reality, as with someone deathly afraid of the number thirteen.

In a recent TED talk, the fallibility of the human brain was discussed by Anil Seth, a cognitive neuroscientist who takes the position that our personal reality isn’t just skewed or eccentric—it’s a brain hallucination. According to Seth, we’re all hallucinating all the time; when we agree about our hallucinations, we call it “reality.” This is actually a tried-and-true position occupied by people who can’t find consciousness in the brain—an impossible task since the brain is a physical object and the mind isn’t. Assuming that the activity of billions of brain cells is what produces our four-dimensional picture of reality (three dimensions of space plus the dimension of time), basic things like a sense of self aren’t real in themselves. As the byproduct of brain activity, mental perceptions may convince us all the time—after all, we depend on our minds every second we are alive—but they are untrustworthy, unreliable, and ultimately just a hoax, illusion, or hallucination.

Seth, like others in this camp, uses clever examples of how the brain fools us all the time—it can be tricked by optical illusions, for example. Take this far enough, and you wind up

with Seth’s logical conclusion: “Our basic sense of being a unified self is a fragile construction of the brain.” What’s peculiar about this conclusion is that it is exactly what the world’s wisdom traditions have been saying for thousands of years. Yet the two viewpoints totally disagree. Neuroscience says we are all a mass of mixed-up perceptions, memories, expectations, and flawed brain processing (like a computer whose software can’t keep up with a flood of data coming in), and therefore we can’t trust the brain’s hallucinations.

The world’s wisdom traditions might hear such a statement and respond, “Since every object of perception is a hallucination, and the brain itself is such an object, it too must be a hallucination.” In other words, the first and most basic assumption of neuroscience, that the brain projects the mind the way a bonfire projects heat and light, is circular reasoning. One might ask, “If the brain projects the mind, what projects the brain?” You can’t give the brain a privileged position as a kind of physical mastermind when it too is part of the hallucination.

In our first post, we pointed out that the chemicals and electrical charges in the brain are not special; they follow simple laws of chemistry and physics that apply to rocks, trees, and clouds. But Seth, like most neuroscientists, is forced to assume that the brain produces the mind because otherwise two outcomes occur that are unacceptable: Either 1.) The mind produces the brain and not the other way around, or 2.) There is no way to prove that brain causes mind or mind causes brain. Rejecting these two possibilities and accepting Seth’s hypothesis leaves us with a unique case of split personality: We become physical things that somehow experience a non-physical sense of self. (If the mind produces the brain, we don’t have this problem, since the experience of a physical thing can easily be a mental phenomenon—think of all the “physical” objects in your last dream.)

Until this whole dilemma is solved, each of us walks around fragmented in some way. An early brain experiment by the pioneering brain surgeon Wilder Penfield proved the point beyond doubt. He inserted electrical probes (painlessly) into the open brains of patients, and by mildly zapping the motor cortex in a specific place, the patient’s arm flew up. The patient would be surprised and say, “My arm just flew up.” But Penfield could also ask the patient to lift his arm voluntarily. In one case, the brain made the arm fly up; in the other case the mind willed the arm to fly up.

In the same way, we seem to inhabit a split world, where reality is brain-based and mind-based at the same time. This intimate, bidirectional relationship between mind and brain hints at a deeper possibility: The duality of mind and brain may be mere appearance. The brain may well be a robust image of one aspect of the mind, or conversely, the mind may be a subtler and more expansive rendition of what we call a “physical” brain. Either way, these possibilities bridge the apparent split between mind and brain, mental and physical, and subjective and objective. We may all be soon talking about the “brain-mind.”

Bridging the split is essential because we aren’t happy with our split personalities. All the flaws Seth and others attribute to the brain do in fact exist, and when we suffer on the inside, the brain can be the reason, and so can the mind. There is no dividing line between the two, which is why countless people suffer chronic pain, for example, that has no physical explanation or cure. Luckily, the brain-mind also brings us joy, hope, art, invention, creativity of all kinds, insight, love, and everything else that makes us human. Does anyone seriously believe that Leonardo’s physical brain alone produced the Mona Lisa, or that Einstein’s discovered relativity?

At a subtler level, the indissoluble union of mind and brain has also played a limiting role in human evolution. As Al Gore once commented direly, human nature hasn’t changed, but technologies for destruction and planetary degradation have leapt ahead. The human brain-mind can be trained into fixed patterns and beliefs, and whether the fixed pattern is religious or scientific, a huge swath of reality is sacrificed in the process. Our brain-minds are constantly filtering out, censoring, and editing the “real” reality, and yet this goes largely unnoticed.

To overcome such crippling limitations, a person must become whole by healing the split personality. The world’s wisdom traditions refer to this as waking up, which involves two steps. The first is stirring from the slumber of the objective/subjective divide, which can be approached secularly by reconciling brain and mind. Once this is accomplished, the stage is set for the second step: No longer fooled by the brain-mind, one wakes up to a new identity as awareness itself. “Enlightenment” is a loaded word, but it points in the right direction. Awareness can break out of confinements (beliefs, conditioning, social pressures, and mental suffering) the same way we break out of the terrors of a nightmare—the moment we wake up, our identity shifts and we drop the burdens of a dream.

Dreams are neurological illusions, yet this fact can be proven only on waking up. If you are already awake in the typical sense—walking around, talking to other people, going to work, etc.—it’s easy to believe that this world is independently real and not another kind of neurological illusion. But the proof is in the pudding: you can wake up from your waking dream just as you woke up from your sleeping dream. The instant this happens, the burdens of pain, suffering, fear, anger, etc. fade. Fortunately, such a claim doesn’t have to be anti-science. Because mind and brain are indissolubly wed, when the mind shifts by waking up, the brainmust also change its physical functioning. We’ve known for three decades that this is the case, ever since the first research demonstrated how the brain changes in response to meditation.The benefits of many such introspective practices, including prayer, mindfulness, and yoga, have only deepened. On a practical basis, two of the most damaging disease processes, inflammation and the stress response, are alleviated by these practices. But the real breakthrough will come when the complete process of waking up is acknowledged to be valid, at which point the end of our collective split personality will be in sight.

In wholeness we will reassess what it means to be human and what it takes to heal our wounded planet. As long as human nature remains in its current evolutionary stage, planetary healing will remain a remote possibility. Only wholeness leads to healing, and collective wholeness begins at the individual level. This is the ultimate version of Gandhi’s dictum to become the change you want to see in the world.

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 and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Chopra is the author of more than 80 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are Super Genes co-authored with Rudy Tanzi, Ph.D. and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine. www.deepakchopra.com

Anoop Kumar, MD, MM is board certified in Emergency Medicine and holds a Master’s degree in Management with a focus in Health Leadership from McGill University. He practices in the Washington, DC metro area, where he also leads meditation gatherings for clinicians. He is the author of the book Michelangelo’s Medicine: How redefining the human body will transform health and healthcare. Anoop enjoys exploring and communicating about the intersection of self-awareness, science, and wellbeing. Visit him at anoopkumar.com.

MORE