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The Evolving Cosmos: Is Reality Getting Any Closer

By Deepak Chopra, MD and Pankaj S. Joshi, PhD

Science is the modern authority for telling us what’s real, using verifiable facts to prove its theories. Over the last century many facts have emerged about the nature of the universe, and since we know we live in an evolving universe since the big bang occurred 13.8 billion years ago, naturally scientific knowledge has evolved. But strangely enough, this hasn’t brought reality any closer. The mysteries of the universe were expected to be solved by looking closer and closer at phenomena “out there” beyond Earth, “at smallest scales” as we probe within the matter, and then reality pulled a number of baffling tricks that brought everything into question.

The pattern that overlays everything has been breakthrough = disruption. The whole field of biology isn’t disrupted by discovering through genetic analysis that pandas don’t simply look like bears but are bears. In physics and cosmology, however, major discoveries have overturned the applecart, beginning in 1915, when Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity made a rupture from anything previously done in physics, by giving a geometrical model of gravity. Space and time were unified, and suddenly the cosmos was a four-dimensional continuum in which two fixed, and earlier separate entities, space and time, were now seamlessly linked, behaving not alone but relUntitled Design(38)ative to each other.

Einstein’s theory was massively important for physics, but it altered the relationship between the cosmos and human beings. First, our senses were now rendered either unreliable or pointless in grasping the complete reality, because relativistic effects were abstract and mathematical. In other words, these effects were simply not grasped by our usual sense perceptions. (Einstein used simple examples taken from ordinary life, such as standing in an elevator as it descended or watching a train approach the station, but these analogies only hinted at what General Relativity explained.) Second, relativity was a wedge that opened up the possibility that the human brain, which operates in linear time and three-dimensional space, might be inadequate to grasp alien dimensions and “spooky” behavior outside our experience.

Gravity is the force that governs large-scale objects like stars and galaxies, and armed with Einstein’s theory, observers scrambled to explain such things as the gravitational fields around stars but also how gravity operates in the universe as a whole, a problem that continues to be worked on (the theory of an expanding universe made gravity much more complex than if we lived in a steady-state static universe). At the same time, a rift developed between quantum mechanics (QM), which was enormously successful at explaining forces operating at the smallest scale in nature, and General Relativity (GR), which is just as successful at explaining space-time phenomena at the largest scale. Unfortunately, QM and GR weren’t compatible, and over the next century making them compatible has challenged the best minds in physics, as it continues to.

This disagreement between divided reality into a visible dimension—the universe we see “out there”—and a hidden dimension that behaves in mysterious ways divorced from everyday affairs. Again, a wedge was beginning to open the possibility
that the hidden dimension was reality itself. This possibility has only widened with the theories about ‘dark” matter and energy, which in some views occupy that vast majority of creation, the multiverse, which would make the known universe only one of trillions of universes, and black holes, which suck space, time, matter, and energy into a domain where only the most exotic mathematics can venture.

Starting in the 1920s, physics began to move away from gravity toward QM, in part because General Relativity was geometric and Einstein’s formulas were unapproachable to many physicists. But for the larger picture of reality, the hope of rescuing reality from its great schism between QM and General Relativity, which Einstein futilely pursued, almost on his own, was set aside. Q
uantum physics continued to make one discovery after another, which left the profession of physics largely willing to ignore the schism in order to play in the quantum domain.

But as various strides were being made—the precursors to powerful telescopes like the Hubble, the splitting of the atom to inaugurate the nuclear age and the advent of particle accelerators, and the consolidation of the big bang theory—these momentous events had to circle back to Einstein and gravity. As early as 1939 a model that applied General Relativity to an evolving universe, one where stars are born and die, predicted the existence of black holes. Gravity emerged as the supreme force that would determine the end game of stars and perhaps the universe.

Einstein wasn’t happy with this extrapolation or application of his theory, and in 1939 itself he published a paper in which he declared that the total collapse of a star wouldn’t occur in nature, because opposing forces within the star would restore balance and prevent it—one of his major wrong predictions. (In our last post we treated the fascinating problem of how stars collapse to form black holes and singularities.) But looking at reality as a whole, even as cosmology became ultra-sophisticated in its theories of an inflationary universe, all the hypothetical problems of explaining where humans stand in the cosmos began to pileup. These problems include

* The riddle of how something came out of nothing—i.e., how the vacuum state that preceded the big bang, and underlies every subatomic particle, acquired the qualities we call space, time, matter, and energy.

* The problem of the pre-created state. If the vacuum state is the nothing from which something emerged, what is it like? Having no recognizable features of the visible universe, the pre-created state may have no data or empirical evidence to tell us what it is like.

* The problem of the inconceivable. For the better part of a century the only lan
guage that can describe the fundamentals of nature is mathematics, but there is no proof that mathematical equations match reality. Models have their limits, and in this case the human brain, which is obviously a creation of time, space, matter, and energy, may have reached the limits of knowledge.

* Even if physics settles on a set of equations that satisfactorily unites the four fundamental forces in nature (gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak force), a reality divorced from human experience presents a divide far more important than the schism between QM and relativity. Experience rules human life. If there is a reality totally alien and divorced from our experience, how can we ever know it or accept it?

Any one of these problems undermines the very notion that “reality” consists of phenomena “out there” that only need to be explained in order to tell the whole story. The possibility that we live in a “participatory universe,” first proposed by John Archibald Wheeler, weaves human beings into the fabric of the cosmos, has begun to loom large, and then the most intriguing question that comes up with it is the possibility of whether with it the possibility that the universe is itself a single conscious entity. The pattern of breakthroughs being disruptions continues to prevail. In our next post we will weave the latest advances in the evolution of knowledge to test if the link between human mind and cosmic mind is valid, because if it is, many of the unsolved problems mentioned above may be solvable by taking an entirely new path.

 

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Cen-ter for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transfor-mation, 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, Neurol-ogy and Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and a member of the American As-sociation of Clinical Endocrinologists. The World Post and The Huffington Post global internet sur-vey 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 best-sellers. 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. discov-eringyourcosmicself.com

Pankaj Joshi is a theoretical physicist and Senior Professor at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai India. Professor Pankaj Joshi has published many (more than 170) re-search papers, and monographs on cosmology and gravitation. He has made fundamental contri-butions on gravitational collapse, black holes and naked singularities. The new analysis on collaps-ing stars from Joshi and his collaborators, as reported and reviewed in his Oxford (1993) and Cam-bridge (2007) monographs, showed that both black holes and visible naked singularities form when massive stars collapse at the end of their life-cycles. Recent results from Cambridge, Prince-ton, Perimeter and others, now corroborate these results. His research was published as an International cover in “Scientific American.” He served as an ad-junct Faculty with the New York University, and was awarded the A C Banerji Gold Medal and Lec-ture Award by the National Academy of Sciences, India, along with many other awards. He holds visiting faculty positions in many reputed universities and has won fellowships in various scientific academies. His research papers and monographs are widely cited internationally. His recent book, The Story of Collapsing Stars (Oxford University Press), explores the death of massive stars and the subsequent formation of black holes or naked singularities through gravitational collapse of stars.

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How Does Something Come Out of Nothing? A Cosmic Tale

By Deepak Chopra, MD and Prof. Pankaj S. Joshi

The question of where the universe came from isn’t solved by pointing to the big bang, because this begs the question of where it came from. In physics creation is often dubbed “something out of nothing,” meaning that the entire observable cosmos emerged from a pre-created state that is devoid of the familiar landmarks of reality: time, space, matter and energy. The boundary between this “something” all around us and that “nothing” that is also present but undetectable has fascinated physics in recent decades. It’s a fascination we should all share if we want to know where creation came from.

The trail leading to a scientific explanation of the universe has run into problems. In ancient Greek thought physis, usually translated as “nature,” meant the fundamental essence or guiding principle of creation. Today the motive to unravel nature’s secrets remains the same, but it’s been frustrating to find a single unifying theory underlying the universe. Modern physics has a formidable reputation for rigor, and its theories are supported by advanced mathematical equations and computations, but the key paradigms within physics have been constantly changing and evolving. The Holy Grail of physics, to unify all the forces of nature into a Theory of Everything (TOE), has remained out of reach because the two most successful areas of physics, quantum mechanics and general relativity, are incompatible.

The solution is generally accepted to be a theory of quantum gravity, but in the usual regimes of natural phenomena that we observe and experience in daily life, it is impossible to observe quantum phenomena and gravity working together. Interestingly, Nature herself comes to our aid in understanding the gravity and quantum phenomena together or in a combined way. A quantum gravity laboratory is possibly created when a massive star collapses under its own gravity towards the end of its life cycle. The fascinating opportunity thus presents itself for making progress towards understanding of quantum gravity and TOE. At the same time, the collapse of massive stars takes us to the edge of the greatest mystery in creation: how something came out of nothing, and in this case, returns to nothing when its life cycle is over.

Having exhausted the fuel that sustained them for millions of years, massive stars are no longer able to hold themselves up under their own weight; they begin to shrink and collapse catastrophically under their own gravity. Modest stars like the Sun also collapse at the end of their cycle, but they stabilize at a smaller dwarf size. By contrast, when a star is massive enough, orders of magnitude larger than the Sun, its gravity overwhelms all the forces that might possibly halt the collapse. From a diameter millions of kilometers across, the star crumples to an infinitesimal dimension much smaller than the period at the end of this sentence.   Untitled Design(31)

What is the eventual fate of such massive collapsing stars? This is one of the most exciting questions in astrophysics and modern cosmology today. To give some background, the story began some eight decades ago when Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar probed the question of the final fate of stars such as the Sun. He showed that such a star, on exhausting its internal nuclear fuel, would stabilize as a “White Dwarf,” about a thousand kilometers in size. Eminent scientists of the time, in particular Sir Arthur Eddington, refused to accept this, saying that a star could never become that small. Chandrasekhar left Cambridge to settle in the United States, and after many years his prediction was verified. Later it also became known that stars which are three to five

times the Sun’s mass give rise to what are called neutron stars, about ten kilometers in diameter, after a supernova explosion.

But when a star has a mass more than these limits, the force of gravity is supreme and overwhelming. A star as massive as tens of solar masses burns much faster and lives only up to 10 to 20 million years, compared to a lifetime of some ten billion years for a smaller star like the Sun. When gravity is unopposed by countering forces, no stable configuration is possible, and amazingly the star’s catastrophic collapse happens within a matter of seconds. The outcome, as predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity, is a space-time singularity: an infinitely dense and extreme physical state of matter, not encountered in any of our usual experiences of the physical world.

As one possibility, a so-called event horizon of gravity can develop. This is essentially a one-way membrane that allows entry but no exit. If the star entered the event horizon before it collapsed to a singularity, the result is a black hole that hides the final singularity. Black holes are a permanent graveyard for the collapsing star. According to our current understanding, it was one such singularity, namely the big bang, that created the expanding universe. But the big bang isn’t unique. Such singularities will be produced whenever massive stars die and collapse. And so we arrive at the mysterious boundary of the cosmos, a region of arbitrarily large densities billions of times the sun’s density.

An enormous creation and destruction of particles takes place in the vicinity of a singularity. One could imagine this as the cosmic interplay of the basic forces of nature coming together in a unified manner. These energies and all physical quantities in the vicinity of singularity reach their extreme values; quantum gravity effects dominate this region. This is how collapsing massive stars present a laboratory for quantum gravity, holding out the potential for a TOE, if visible naked singularities occur in astrophysical settings in faraway skies. The basic question then arises: Are such super-ultra-dense regions forming in the collapse of massive stars, visible to faraway observers, or would they always be hidden in a black hole?

A visible singularity is sometimes called a naked singularity or quantum star. The visibility or otherwise of such a super-ultra-dense fireball that the star has turned into is one of the most exciting and important questions in astrophysics and cosmology today. This is because the unification of fundamental forces taking place here becomes observable, at least in principle.

A crucial point arises: while gravitation theory implies that singularities must form in collapse, we have no proof that the event horizon must necessarily develop. It was only a working assumption that an event horizon always does form, hiding all singularities without fail. This is referred to as the cosmic censorship conjecture, the foundation of the current theory of black holes and their modern astrophysical applications. But if the event horizon did not form before the singularity, we would then observe the super-dense regions that form in collapsing massive stars, and the quantum gravity effects near the naked singularity would become observable. Thus we could actually see the extreme physics near such ultimate super-dense regions. As a step toward this possibility, in recent years a series of collapse models have been developed in which the event horizon fails to form in the collapse of a massive star.

In short, it turns out that the collapse of a massive star gives rise to either a black hole or naked singularity, depending on the internal conditions within the star, such as its densities and pressure profiles, and the velocities of the collapsing shells. When a naked singularity occurs, small inhomogeneities (i.e., lumpiness) in matter densities close to singularity could spread out and magnify enormously to create high-energy shock waves. These, in turn, have connections to extreme high-energy astrophysical phenomena such as cosmic gamma ray bursts, which we do not yet understand today.

Will we actually be able to see this cosmic dance, the finale of collapsing stars in the theatre of the galaxies? Or will the black hole curtain always hide and close the end game off forever, even before the ferment of creation has begun? Only future observations of massive collapsing stars can possibly tell us. Interestingly, the 2014 sci-fi adventure Interstellar refers to naked singularities in the script, suggesting that without them we’d never understand how interstellar leaps in space travel are possible—but real science isn’t there yet.

As it stands, the closer we get to the boundary between nothing and something, the more urgent the problem of creation becomes. It’s as if “nothing” and “something” are merely symbols for domains of creation and pre-creation that can’t be understood with objective measurement. In the next part of this series we’ll look into the possibility that scientific knowledge is about to converge with the problem of how the human mind is able to know anything at all. In the end, our thoughts and feelings are “something out of nothing” just as much as collapsing massive stars and the big bang.

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Cen-ter for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transfor-mation, 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, Neurol-ogy and Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and a member of the American As-sociation of Clinical Endocrinologists. The World Post and The Huffington Post global internet sur-vey 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 best-sellers. 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

Professor Pankaj Joshi is a theoretical physicist and Senior Professor at the Tata Institute of Fun-damental Research (TIFR), Mumbai India. Professor Pankaj Joshi has published many (more than 170) research papers, and monographs on cosmology and gravitation. He has made fundamental contributions on gravitational collapse, black holes and naked singularities. The new analysis on collapsing stars from Joshi and his collaborators, as reported and reviewed in his Oxford (1993) and Cambridge (2007) monographs, showed that both black holes and visible naked singularities form when massive stars collapse at the end of their life-cycles. Recent results from Cambridge, Princeton, Perimeter and others, now corroborate these results.

His research was published as an International cover in “Scientific American.” He served as an ad-junct Faculty with the New York University, and was awarded the A C Banerji Gold Medal and Lec-ture Award by the National Academy of Sciences, India, along with many other awards. He holds visiting faculty positions in many reputed universities and has won fellowships in various scientific academies. His research papers and monographs are widely cited internationally. His recent book, The Story of Collapsing Stars (Oxford University Press), explores the death of massive stars and the subsequent formation of black holes or naked singularities through gravitational collapse of stars.

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A Meditation to Restore Hope, Faith, and Trust

By Deepak Chopra, MD and Steve Israel

Everyone has been experiencing the ill effects of disruptive politics. Thinking of the present situation in terms of a partisan divide doesn’t go far enough–there has been a wholesale loss of trust. Hope for a better future is defeated on a daily basis. Faith in the democratic system is perhaps at an all-time low. This malaise isn’t about issues and parties. It’s about how we view bad events and react to them. Society presses the argument that problems arise “out there,” usually caused by other people, and getting immersed in private emotion is a suitable response.

The cycle of event-response never ends, and it rarely solves anything. But we are all addicted to it. Not only do outside events capture our attention, but also there is the rush of feeling angry or elated, victorious or defeated. The world’s wisdom traditions say very little about politics, but they have much to say about getting entangled in the drama, beginning with the teaching that matters the most: the drama never ends. Once you get enmeshed in external events that trigger strong emotions, you have joined the drama either as participant or spectator. Therefore, reality “out there” is the level of the unending problems life brings our way. By becoming stuck in it, people sacrifice their only path to finding a solution, which is to base their sense of self “in here.” If you don’t want to be affected with malaise, stop ingesting the next dose of poison.

When you lose hope, trust, and faith, nobody did it to you. However much you are tempted to demonize somebody else, everything “out there” is aimed at one and only one thing: keeping the drama going at full boil. How you respond is your responsibility, and this turns out to be the opening that sets you free of the drama. Dramas are built out of plot lines, and when you start to look inward, it becomes clear that every plot line, down to the smallest detail, is self-created.
Instead of talking about how to change the narrative–a common topic now, after so many old plot lines have been disrupted and destroyed–it’s crucial to know where any story comes from. When you were a baby, there was no story. If a baby starts chewing when it’s teething, there is no concept of “shoe” (or baby). There are only sensations associated with the shoe: color, texture, shape, smell, and in this case, taste. In the process of development, babies move from feelings to organized perceptions, then on to language and thoughts. Each step adds a building block to the story of life, and by the time adulthood is reached, everyone’s story has taken on a life of its own.
Which is the whole problem. The tags in your story may be white, male, professional, Republican, which enables you to ease into someone else’s worldview if they share enough of the same tags.
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These tags are constructs. Nature doesn’t give birth to Democrats or conservatives, Catholics or Protestants, etc. But by identifying with all the labels that attach to us, we gain a sense of identity–and it’s a false identity, in every case. The story you’ve created has taken on a life of its own because you forgot that you are the creator, the author and not a character.
Babies are not blank slates that get imprinted like hammering a dent into a car fender. They are bundles of experience that is being processed in awareness. How the process turns baby A into Mozart and baby B into Kim Jong-Un remains a total mystery. But one thing is certain: the process occurs in awareness. Expose two children to the same upbringing, and each can turn out to be completely unlike the other. Expose any group of people to the same set of facts, and you will get as many interpretations as there are people.

At this stage of the argument, most of us will agree that all kinds of external influences went into our personal story, and that we interpreted these influences in a very personal way. But go back to the baby chewing a shoe. The experience of chewing the shoe is all the shoe is for the baby. Without a concept of “shoe” to organize the experience, it’s just an activity in awareness. This leads to a startling conclusion that takes time to absorb. Your body is experienced the same way a baby experiences a shoe. You take in a bundle of sensations through the five senses. There is no “body,” much less “my body,” until you construct a concept that organizes the actual reality, which is that your body is only an activity in your awareness.
You can prove this to yourself with a simple thought experiment. If you are experiencing your body and take away how it smells, what’s left? The other four senses. Take away how your body sounds, and what’s left? Three senses. Take all of those away and what’s left? In other words, imagine yourself paralyzed in a hospital bed, blind and deaf, receiving no sensations from your body at all. What remains is only a concept, the notion of “I have a body.” That notion is something to hold on to, which is fine. No one is saying you have to return to the state of a baby chewing on a shoe.
The point instead is to realize that your body is a construct in awareness. If you take away every label and tag that defines you, the same thing will always be left behind: the awareness that builds constructs, modifies and destroys them, gets bored with an old story and rearranges it into a new one. the only stable self is the awareness that participates in this creative process. Therefore, the world’s wisdom traditions teach that there is no “I” except awareness, and what it happens to be doing, which is knowing and experiencing.
How does this cure the current state of malaise? Diving into the drama leads eventually to exhaustion and misery. Staying above the drama is impossible–you may have no interest in politics, but the drama has a thousand other hooks. Wisdom consists in knowing that there is a third option. Take control of the constructs you have been immersed in. Realize that you can do and undo these constructs. This realization brings a sense of excitement and independence of real control and creative living. Isn’t that a lot better than suffering from the malaise?

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

Congressman Steve Israel is a Distinguished Writer-In-Residence at Long Island University in New York and was a Member of Congress for sixteen years. He served as House Democrats chief political strategist as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; and President Bill Clinton called him “one of the most thoughtful Members of Congress.” He published a critically acclaimed satire of Washington entitled “The Global War on Morris” in 2015. Israel is a political commentator on CNN. His insights appear regularly in the New York Times, Washington Post and elsewhere.

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Why You Aren’t Who You Think You Are

By : Deepak Chopra

Each of us perceives reality through the filter of a personal self, an “I” that is unique in the world, thanks to the unique experiences we’ve had since birth. We rely on “I” to be able to navigate through everyday situations, not realizing how limiting “I” actually is. It’s fair to say that few people realize how unstable and distorted their sense of self actually is. To begin with, each of us filters out an enormous portion of the input we receive at a given moment.
Part of the filtering is unavoidable–human eyesight is limited to the visible wavelengths between ultraviolet and infrared, human hearing between the frequencies of 20 and 20,ooo Hz (vibrations per second). In cosmic terms the visible universe, along with the universe detectable with scientific instruments, is a fraction of the total matter and energy in creation–perhaps as little as 1% to 4% depending on how “dark” matter and energy are computed, along with invisible interstellar dust.
On the personal level, the human brain has all kinds of limitations, including its dependence of a macro level of space, time, matter, and energy. At other levels of nature, including the quantum, ordinary clock time, the familiar three dimensions of space, the solidity of physical matter, and so on change entirely and at a certain point disappear. The fact that “something came out of nothing” during the big bang destabilizes common-sense reality in radical ways.
Most of our filtering, however, occurs as a result of the experiences we assimilate all our lives. A collection of past wounds, conditioning, and beliefs forces us to go into denial about ourselves and the world around us. The phobic who is deathly afraid of spiders seems extreme, but every strongly held belief shuts out other viewpoints, and in the process the world we don’t want tot see becomes invisible. The input we receive as raw information might not be entirely suppressed, but it still gets examined in the process of interpreting what’s happening to us. At a crude level we interpret every experience as good or bad, hurtful or pleasurable, something we like or dislike, etc. Depending on how judgmental you are, you fall somewhere between extremely close-minded and extremely open-minded. Depending on how empathetic you are, you fall somewhere between compassionate and cruel.

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One we take into account the ways that “I” gets shaped–through filtering, interpretation, beliefs, memories, and all types of social conditioning–it’s inescapable that “I” is a rickety structure that we ourselves didn’t build of our own free will. With most people, “I” reflects forces outside their control since birth. Still, we all defend “I” and go to great lengths to identify with it. But a closer examination reveals that “I” doesn’t have a secure perch on reality, because instead of a stable structure, the self is constantly bounding around. At a minimum we have three versions of “I”:
The outward self: This is the social persona, which you identify with if your focus is on socially-approved things like money, career, the right neighborhood, an impressive house, etc. “I” is attached to labels that relate to those things, so that “WASP surgeon with a Park Avenue practice, a socialite wife, and a major portfolio” defines a very different self than “Latino working-class single mother living on food stamps.”

 

 

The private self: This is who you are behind closed doors. The private self identifies with feelings and relationships. The values that matter most include a happy marriage, satisfying sex life, children to love and be proud of, etc. On the downside are the private trails and miseries that come into every life. “I” is attached to the hopes and fears of everyday existence, which for some people means an existence of insecurity, anxiety, depression, and dashed hopes that seem inescapable.

 

The unconscious self: This is the self we do not know in waking life. It is governed by instincts and drives that most of us don’t want to bring to light. At its most menacing, the unconscious self has been called “the shadow,” where the worst human traits of anger, violence, envy, revenge, and deep-seated existential fear reside. “I’ can be attached to two different projects: keeping the dark side of the unconscious self hidden or converting it to the light. Artists, musicians, and poets do the latter. They approach the unconscious self not as a fearful domain but as a source of creativity waiting to be born.

 

On any given day, that the one thing we cannot live without—a self—is shifting and unreliable. We may not be aware of it, but we are constantly changing our loyalties. The external self claims us at work or enjoying ourselves at a party or buying a new house. The private self claims us in matters of the heart, in moments of depression and anxiety, and in our family life. The unconscious self does whatever it wants to, and hard as we try to keep it at bay, everyone knows the experience of sexual appetite, raging fury, and nightmares—perhaps nightmares are our purest encounters with the dark side of the unconscious.

 

The world’s wisdom traditions have seen through the illusion of a stable, reliable, realistic “I” and unmasked it as a grossly imperfect guide through life. In its place we need to identify with what is often referred to as a higher self, which is independent of the random forces, inner and outer, that distort reality.

 

The higher self is the self that aspires to rise above everyday conflicts and confusion. Experience tells us that the other versions of the self—the outward, private, and unconscious self—are constantly in conflict. This is why civilization is so discontented, to use Freud’s term. Eruptions from the unconscious bring war, crime, and violence. Private misery overshadows public success. The arts point to immense possibilities for creativity, but too few people are able to take advantage of them. In the world’s wisdom traditions, the struggle between so many conflicts can’t be won at the level of struggle. “I” must surrender every claim of the ego, whether public or private, to seek a higher state of consciousness.

 

 

For most people, this analysis leads to an untenable conclusion, because it seems inconceivable to give up the everyday “I” for a higher self that may be simply a fantasy, a product of mysticism, a religious tenet, or simply wishful thinking. Standing against this doubt and skepticism are centuries of descriptions from seekers, safes, saints, and spiritual teachers who validate that the higher self, far from being alien, is the core or true self, the source of consciousness. The choice to encounter your higher self is always open. At the very least, we need to be clear about the present situation. The “I” we take for granted is deeply flawed, and therefore we don’t really know who we 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

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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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