Nature |


Sprituality & Transpersonal

Being and Brain

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One of the world's top scientific journals is called Nature. And that's fitting, because all scientific investigation, considered as a whole, is the investigation of nature. Nature isn't just trees and fields and flora and fauna. Nature is everything. The whole universe.

Our overall conception of nature, in science, is currently limited. Although we have the Big Bang theory, we don't really have a conception of what nature is, other than all the aspects of nature that we scientifically study.

For some time, in science, lifeless matter is how we have conceived what nature fundamentally is, so that life forms, and us, have been seen as somehow evolving out of this lifeless matter. That has been our paradigm of comprehension.

But nature doesn't just consist of lifeless matter. The latter is just how we interpret what we encounter in some of our studies of nature. We ourselves arise through nature, and our conditional experience of being as human beings, does not consist of lifeless matter. On the contrary, it consists of a conditional experience of being. That means our experience of self, world, mind, thought, psyche, and so on. 

What nature is, is a means of creating our conditional experience of being. That much about nature is already self-evident for us, in the fact that we who study nature scientifically are being this conditional experience of being. This conditional experience of being that arises through nature. 

In terms of spatial size, we are indeed vanishingly small compared to the visible universe. But the idea that the whole of nature doesn't relate to us, as much as we relate to nature as a whole, so to speak, is a purely psychological one. It is actually a piece of cognitive bias. 

It springs from a particular psychological aspect of our mind, that currently predominates as a background assumption in scientific thinking. This unconscious presumption - and it is unconscious - concerns the "who I am" idea, and the idea that the "who I am" idea is irrelevant to science as a whole.

The idea of "who I am", operating in the mind, as part of our conditional experience of being as human beings, certainly seems to have no bearing on modern science as a whole, if you understand something about what makes modern science, science. And what creates scientific progress. 

That is, that science is objective, and its progress is driven by the evidence of material phenomena itself, rather than by anyone's opinion or personal beliefs.

Because we live and work, even in science, in a human network, opinion and self-interest may well impede the progress of science, but that's not what the progress of science is based on. 

If you look a little into the history of science, you will soon see that amongst some scientists themselves, there has been just as much grubby "who I am" based power grabbing, and repression of others, mixed up in the progress of science, as there has been in other areas of human life.

But the progress of science, the core method of science, is based on a methodology that leaves the idea of "who I am" and all other considerations that arise from that, out of the picture. 

Where we are now, the "game" of progress in science has changed. It already began to change quite significantly back in the 1920s onwards, with the rise of quantum mechanics and the theory of Relativity. But now, the foundations for its changing again, are already being laid.

Because now, the scientific investigation of the human brain is being seriously undertaken, in contexts that were once considered outside the domain of hard science, or even scientific taboo.

What we are talking about here, is the investigation of the human mind, and human thought, and our experience of being, the "who I am" experience of self, in terms of brain function. We are talking about the scientific investigation into the relation between brain function and something we are generally calling "consciousness". And although we are only just starting out on this path, one thing we do already know, is that our experience of self and world, and our ability to think and comprehend, arises as a construct of brain function.

So actually, speaking just in terms of neuroscience, the idea of "who I am" is also a construct of brain function. Therefore, it is of course relevant to neuroscience. But more than that, it is relevant to the whole of science.

Why? It is precisely because science requires thinking and comprehension. Not just data. Gathering data, and understanding the data, is one kind of science, but only one kind of science. Science also requires thinking and comprehension, beyond the data. And thinking and comprehension is affected by the "who I am" idea, when thinking about certain things, in the context of science. Especially when it comes to the investigation of the human brain, and the idea of who "we" are. 

It's not every form of thinking and comprehension that is affected by it. For example, if you are trying to solve an equation, your ability to solve the equation will only be affected by it, if you have not successfully put concern with your personal "who I am" idea sufficiently aside, so that it is not interfering with your thought processes.

If you are too stressed by and distracted by your private life at the time, that may well perhaps impede even your ability to solve equations, and that impedance will be coming from the "who I am" idea around which your private life orbits. Otherwise, the "who I am" idea is pretty much irrelevant. 

But some things, in the areas that science is now ready to expand into, will most definitely be affected by the "who I am" idea. The most salient of these is the scientific investigation into the relation between the brain and our experience of being as human beings. Even how you view nature as a whole, or indeed any part of nature, can be affected by the "who I am" idea.

The problem with the personal "who I am" idea is that it arises out of the experience of self - the sum of all experience being brought about through brain function - completely without any real necessity for understanding this experience and why it is arising. It's just an idea of "who I am" based on identification with this experience. 

As long as the personal "who I am" idea is taken by the science network to represent who we are, then our whole initial idea of what it is that we are trying to understand, as human "consciousness", in relation to brain function, is based on a mistake. Even before we begin. Because unlike the emerging science of the neural correlates of experience and components of experience, the personal "who I am" idea is not based on any real knowledge or understanding of that experience. It's just an idea of "who I am" based on identification with it. 

If we try to cling to the personal "who I am" idea, considering it to be "real", and continue to try to marry it with the emerging science, we will therefore run into trouble. Because we will discover that the way in which our experience arises through brain function, is not consistent with upholding the personal notion of "who I am", as an independent, separate being, with personal free will.

In fact, the tenuous connection between the actual experience of self and the idea of "who I am", is pretty much already known outside of neuroscience, in certain branches of psychotherapy. But because of scientific fragmentation, you wouldn't necessarily know it, even if you are studying brain function. 

There, in psychotherapy it is already recognised that psychopathology can arise precisely because the content of someone's experience of self can change in a way that is incompatible with their "who I am" idea. So that the "who I am" idea that was based on identification with the experience of self, now creates conflict with what is now the actual experience of self. 

This isn't just psychobabble. A common example of this is the "identity crisis", such as the so-called "midlife crisis". It is a case of the actuality of the experience of self, having changed, whilst the idea of "who I am" has not kept up.

In a way, a not unrelated thing is likely to happen collectively, as science continues to produce more knowledge of the way in which the human experience of self is brought about through brain function. The new knowledge is going to create a collective "identity crisis", as it were, for any network of human beings who still cling to the notion that their personal idea of "who I am" is a proper representation of our identity as human beings. 

It is the investigation of the human brain, and of the way in which our experience of being arises through it, that is likely to become a catalyst in changing our underlying ideas in science, about what nature, through which we arise, is.

It is likely to go hand-in-hand with a shift from the belief in nature as something that is essentially lifeless matter, to the realisation that what we call "nature" is the means by which our own conditional experience of being, as an expression of life, arises. 

The idea of nature as something that has essentially nothing to do with us other than that we happen to have a arisen in it, is a false paradigm. It is a limitation on our scientific thinking. But it's not a limitation that we can simply think our way beyond, by objective thinking.

Before modern science we considered ourselves to be at the centre of the universe. The universe very much had everything to do with us, rather than being considered as something that has nothing to do with us, other than that we happen to be in it. By adopting the latter point of view we have embarked on attempting to understand our own existence on the basis of something - a thing science calls the universe - that in itself has essentially nothing to do with us.

In the drive for that understanding we have discovered evolution, both of the universe, and of life forms on Earth. We think we have some "big questions" such as "why is there something rather than nothing"?, and some people think they have the answer. But actually, the fundamental question is not about something that has nothing to do with us, other than that we happen to be observing it or thinking about it. The fundamental question is about who we are and where we come from. It is about us, it's not about anything separate from what we are being.

It's no good employing our intelligence to try to understand something separate from our intelligence, thinking that this isn't eventually going to be a cul-de-sac. To understand who we are and where we come from we have to understand the nature of the intelligence we are being. And not just be that intelligence with no self-knowledge of it.

Plato is famous for saying that our world - the world of material phenomena in which we live - is a world that is always becoming, but never is. And then he also said that Reality is Being, which eternally is, and is never becoming.

When we come to truly understand what he meant by that, we also come to understand the nature of the intelligence that we, as human beings, are being. Only then do we really start to understand our true situation and constitution. And then we start to see what nature truly is. 

In these times, there is a very popular idea of "mother nature", as if the actuality of nature, so beautiful when we look at gardens and mountains, and flora and fauna, is all kindness and nurture and what human beings call love.

If you want to look through rose tinted glasses then that is what you will see. But the actuality of nature that is self-evident when we truly pay attention to what David Attenborough calls "Life on Earth", is that it is, in human terms, ruthless and cruel, as well as nurturing. 

Life forms on this planet began with the evolution of bacteria and viruses and archaea. And they still exist. Such as those that infect us, and make us suffer, or kill us. It is all natural, it is all nature, and it has all developed out of the survival of the fittest, predation, things that kill and eat other things, competition, for territory, for sex, and for dominance. And we really are not paying attention if we think that only applies to the animal kingdom, and that human beings don't display that.

Earthquakes are natural, death is natural, disease is natural. There is a good part of nature that is nothing like motherly love. So it hardly qualifies as "mother nature" across the whole. What modern human beings like to think of sentimentally as "mother nature" is actually natural phenomena, of one kind or another, and it is all fundamentally unconscious cause and effect. Even including human brain function, and the human mind that arises through it. 

Of course many human beings would object to such talk. Because it appears to do away with our spirituality. But the one who objects is the one with the "who I am" idea. The "who I am" idea that arises through nature.

The same personal "I" that then goes on to believe "who I am" is an independent being, who has the right "to be whoever I want to be", in a world that has nothing to do with "who I am" except that "I" happen to be in it.    

And that's about as far as our understanding of what nature is, goes, when looked at through the personal "who I am" idea. In networks of the personal "who I am" idea we popularly and sentimentally think there is "mother nature", who will look after us, and yet at the same time, we ignore the fact that everything is nature. Because nature is all natural phenomena. And not just the bit of it that we like to selectively think of as nature. And that's something the scientists who publish in the scientific journal called Nature, understand. They understand that nature is all natural phenomena. And not just this idea of "mother nature".

But Memes are Memes, and they propagate themselves around the human network pretty efficiently. And so it is currently popularly thought that we can be more "nature friendly" or as "nature intended".

The trouble with that thought, is that nature didn't really intend anything. Nature is merely the means by which we come into existence.  

We only think we need to become more one with nature, if we already think nature is separate from us. And of course if nature is not separate from us, then we are already one with nature. 

Rather, what we need to become more one with, is the knowledge of who we are, and where we come from, and what nature is. Because the truth is that nature is our nature. You can't separate us from nature, and you can't separate nature from us. Both arise together, and we are now actually in possession of the scientific evidence that this is the case.

It is just that we choose to ignore the scientific evidence, because it is psychologically more convenient, if we want to cling to the personal "who I am" idea.

There is no doubt now, from the scientific evidence, that what we perceive and experience as nature, is a construct of brain function. The same brain function through which is arising our experience of self. 

There are many, who having become aware of the scientific evidence, react to it by clinging to the idea that what we are experiencing is a "predictive model" of nature (material phenomena) around us, as if it is a model of something that is not itself a construct of brain function. 

But actually, the scientific evidence, is that what we experience as the material world, is a construct of brain function. And all speculation that this experience arises from something that is not itself a construct of brain function, is itself, like all our thought, a construct of brain function. 

Indeed, what we encounter and measure in science, as brain function, is itself, a construct of brain function. Anything we experience of it, as an object, including through instruments, anything we understand about it, and anything we think about it, is all a construct of brain function.

Until this simple set up is understood then we don't really understand our constitution and situation. And we don't really understand what nature is. 

Not because of lack of scientific evidence, but simply because of the personal "who I am" idea. An idea that we have long regarded as being irrelevant to science, but which now, becomes a very obstacle to our correctly understanding the scientific evidence that is now presenting itself.

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