Pic of the day: If the consciousness is not bound to the body, there is no knowing where it may go.
This is not so much a continuation of the last three days, but rather a new line of thought inspired by the video I linked to yesterday. In it, philosopher Ken Wilber demonstrates how he could emulate various stages of sleep on a brainwave scanner by means of meditation. He also turned his brain almost off. Of course there was still some activity: We must assume that his heart was still beating, his lungs still breathing, bladder control and temperature control etc… the brain does a bit more stuff than thinking. So either consciousness takes extremely little resources, or the consciousness may really be, as Wilber believes, not localized to the bodymind. (That is, not generated by the brain.) Any of these alternatives is deeply, deeply disturbing.
To take the most innocent looking alternative first: If the human consciousness requires almost no resources from the brain, then any number of animals could be capable of this level of consciousness, and we would never know. All mammals for sure, as their brains are far more active than that. Birds, probably: The core of their brains is similar to ours, although the brain cortex is different. The same goes for reptiles. Perhaps not frogs and toads, but how would we know for sure? While I am sure some people would be happy to imply that only Ken Wilber has a consciousness similar to frogs and toads, I think his academic achievements speak for themselves. The man has a disturbing tendency to notice things that the rest of us overlook. And consciousness is one of them: After all, we all have one, so we tend to take it for granted and just move on with our lives.
The other alternative is, of course, even worse. If the consciousness is not located in the brain (or in the body at all) then there must exist a separate aspect of reality in which it resides. This would be a crushing blow for contemporary science, which insists that the material world is all there is (or at least if there is some other reality, the two do not intersect and we will never be able to know anything about it and shouldn't even try.) Proof of a spiritual reality could hardly come at a worse time for science: Only a few years ago, we discovered that ordinary matter and energy only make up approximately 5% of the known universe. The rest of it is collectively known as dark matter and dark energy, of which dark energy is supposedly the most common. I don't in any way believe that these two topics are related, but taken together they would leave the impression that we know almost nothing about anything. And people already have little faith in science as it is.
You might think that I as a Christian would be delighted to hear that the consciousness is not limited to the body. You would be dead wrong, as it were. If consciousness is not bound to the body, it might survive death. The Bible states pretty clearly that this is not the case. It states that the dead know nothing and that only God has immortality. If our consciousness could just wave goodbye to the body and float on, it would in effect be immortal, and the Bible would either be wrong or we would be misunderstanding it, neither of which would leave us Christians in an enviable position. It would also make the resurrection no longer very important.
The most likely explanation as I see it is that Wilber by
"consciousness" means something more similar to "spirit" than "soul".
The spirit is supposedly eternal, coming from and returning to God.
The soul is individual, while Wilber specifically mentions that the
state of almost no brain activity is not identifying with the bodymind.
So the consciousness (as Wilber uses the word) may be eternal, but it
is not a personal immortality. To quote the disturbing lyrics from the
song "No Bounds" by G.O.L:
Nor am I particularly excited by the idea of people losing faith in science. There's already too much superstition and ignorance, as I'm sure you have already noticed. I occasionally write about this myself. The prevailing attitude seems to be that if science is not 100% correct in all things, then we might just as well believe whatever we want. Since the tropical hurricane that destroyed New Orleans is not proven to be caused by global warming, perhaps it was caused by blacks and whites having children together? After all, science cannot disprove it, can it? There was supposedly quite a bit of that in New Orleans, after all. And perhaps girls really can't get pregnant the first three times, and the ones who claim so are just lying. You know, it's not like science has anything useful to say about it. We already know that we can't trust science, right?
I think the answer is to study the subject of consciousness more closely. Until recently it has been mainly a topic of religion and philosophy, with very little empirical data to back it up. But consciousness being quite possibly the single most important part of our lives, it deserves to be taken more seriously.
Visit the archive page for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.