Thought and the Brain |


Sprituality & Transpersonal

Being and Brain

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Thought and the Brain

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It is not the case that everyone's brain works on a different fundamental principle. Rather, everyone's brain works on the self same principle. 

There is, in nature, one principle of the brain, and everyone's brain is a unique instantiation of that one principle. The brain is a principle.

The brain is the means through which nature creates our conditional experience of being. In fact, the prima facie thing about the brain, is not that it is some kind of instrument or machine through which we experience the world, but rather, that it creates our conditional experience of being. Which is an experience of being, as a human self. That's the obvious, prima facie thing about it.  

So we are misguided if we think that we can ultimately understand the brain, how it relates to our "conscious experience", in terms of something that is other than what we are being. 

The first thing we have to do is understand this conditional experience of being, that we are having. Which is our experience of self. So the first thing to do is to understand this experience of self.

As it happens, by the way of things, for many individuals, that doesn't require modern scientific knowledge. Because we are already being this self, and so what it requires, is self-knowledge. Which is something that arises in this conditional experience of being, that we are being.

However, the scientific investigation of the brain is an existential way in which objective knowledge can in fact contribute to greater self-knowledge, in a wider number of people.

So from the point of view of brain science, which is an objective study, we must come to understand material brain function. Also from the point of view of that science, what we already know experientially as thought, is a construct of brain function.

But of course, from the point of view of our experience of being, we experience thought as thought. We don't experience it as brain function. 

Exactly how or why networks of neural activity correlate to experience, as part of our conditional experience of being, is not known. Some people think they have the answer, but they are going to have a hard time pulling the whole of the scientific network with them, and turning that into established science. As far as established science is concerned, we have no idea how or why networks of neural activity in the brain also constitute the components of our experience of being, as mind, self, psyche, and world.

From the point of view of our experience of being, rather than from the point of view of brain function, the first thing is to understand the nature of thought. Human beings have within them, particularly in the Western world, the tendency to think that thought belongs to a being called a "person". And that in the first instance, this "person" is "who I am".

Actually, the nature of thought is more fundamental than that. Because the whole idea of the person, and the "who I am" idea, arises out of a more fundamental nature of thought, that first needs to be appreciated. And there is a great deal more that arises out of the fundamental nature of thought, than just what is commonly called the "thoughts" that "I" am thinking. Where this "I" is the "I" in the "who I am" idea.

It is easier to talk about this if we regard everything that arises as our conditional experience of being, and of all the components of that, as thought. In much the same way that in terms of the brain, no matter what part of our conditional experience of being we are talking about, we can regard it as brain function.

It is true that some neuroscientists might probably want to say that thought arises in the neocortex. But really, the "thought" they're talking about there, is again, part of the idea of "thought" that "I" am thinking, where this "I" is the "I" in the "who I am" idea. 

What I am doing here is talking about all brain activity as thought. So even the heartbeat, and the breathing, is thought, unless it is sustained by a life-support system, during brain death. And then, it is still thought, but in the experience of being of the still living observers of it.

We have this tendency to regard individual brains, in isolation, as creating thought, or "consciousness". But the actuality is that no brain organ ever came into existence by itself, in isolation. Rather, brain organs are intrinsically collective. They are intrinsically an aggregate. In nature, they are an aggregate of instances of the one principle of the brain.

Our psychological conviction that our world is other than a construct of brain function, is part and parcel of our positional comprehension of the world as other than our self experience. But really, this positional understanding is only of evolutionary intelligence. Beyond it is the understanding that the world is in fact a construct of brain function. And as such, it is none other than our self experience.

It is actually the psychological and emotional conviction in separation between self and world, allied to the conviction that the world is something other than a construct of brain function, that is behind any presumption that if you were to destroy all the human race except one human being, that one remaining human being would remain as someone much like you, perceiving the world, in the way that you are.

At the current time, we conventionally understand the brain as having been created by evolution. And we imagine that to have taken place in a world that is separate from the brain, not just in terms of space and time and the matter, but in some more fundamental way. 

In actuality, it is only through this brain that we come to know this world, and understand it in this way. Even the thought and comprehension is itself a construct of brain function. What nature has actually created through what we currently understand as evolution, is the prima facie thing about our own brain. Which is our conditional experience of being, as a self. The manifest material world is part of the way it does that. 

This is actually what nature is about. Nature isn't about some lifeless phenomena that just happens to evolve a conditional experience of being, that is us, that then perceives this lifeless phenomena. That whole paradigm is fundamentally naive. It's naive because it clings to the notion that the world is something other than a construct of brain function, even though we already have the scientific evidence that this is not the case.

Let's continue to talk about thought, from the point of view thought. The nature of a "single thought" is not that it is really a single, separate thing, even if that is how we seem to experience it. 

In terms of the evolution paradigm, evolutionary human thoughts should be considered as arising out of earlier forms of thought. And in this principle, which we conventionally understand is evolution, is a principle of involution. 

Everything that has evolved has evolved out of the past. When a flower flowers it does so because its flowering has evolved out of the past. But also, it does so, because it is an expression of a vast process of involution. Behind its flowering is the complexus of cells. Behind the appearance of every cell is the complexus of everything that goes to make up the cell. Behind the evolution of the cell is the complexity of everything that went in to the evolution of the cell. This constitutes a principle of involution from the most basic things. Things that, in terms of materialist science, physicists would call quantum states and correlations.

Essentially, then, biological evolution in life forms happens through the involution of the past. Every life form that exists comes into existence through cause and effect, and there is an unbroken causal network behind every life form that exists. The way we currently think about evolution tends to obscure the fact that just as every life form is literally the embodiment of its own evolution, so also it necessarily embodies the involution of the past that has given rise to it.  

The same principle applies to what we experience as thought. A thought comes out of the past. It is part of the continuing process, across the aggregate of all our brains, of the evolution of thought. But it is also a psychical embodiment of the involution of past thought.

Our "conscious experience" as human beings is our experience of self and world. We don't experience one without the other. Brain function brings about both, even if it is a dream self, and a dream world. If it is that, then our self and world depends only on our individual brain. 

If it is the material world we are experiencing, then it is only our experience of self, and the way we experience this material world, that depends on our individual brain. The nature of the material itself, does not depend on our individual brain. It is a construct of human brain function in general. 

But then, also, just as no brain ever came into existence in isolation, the way in which our own brain creates our "conscious experience" doesn't come just from our own brain. It comes from the principle of the brain, of which our own brain is just one instantiation. All brains "share" the same one principle. But each brain produces a unique experience of self, dependent on the brain.

So in fact, even our experience of self, whilst dependent on our own individual brain, is also dependent on the one principle of the brain, which is not dependent on our own individual brain. 

In this way, our selfhood as a human being necessarily involves other selves. And still, in order for this to be, there has to be both self and world, both of which are a construct of brain function. So arising in nature is a play of selves in a world that is literally self-reflective.

This is our true constitution and situation, as human beings. And this experience of self and world, that we are having, that nature gives rise to, is what constitutes our conditional experience of being. All this is self-evidently manifest for us, as the manifestation of nature, that we ourselves, are appearing as.

Hence, nature is not separate from us, nor are we separate from nature, but rather, nature is our nature. As long as we try to understand nature as something separate from us, then we are limited in our understanding. Even our scientific understanding is limited by the "who I am" idea that obscures the realisation that nature is our nature. It is just that the consequences of this principle don't really kick in, in the progression of science, until we start investigating the brain, and trying to understand how our "conscious experience" arises through it.

So what is going on here, why is this happening? It is happening because through it, we discover our own true Identity. Which science is trying to discover, as the answer to the question of who we really are, and where we really come from. But invariably, the mistake is being made of assuming that nature is separate from us, and something other than our nature.

At the root of everything that is manifest to us, as nature, which actually, is our nature as human beings, is what is unmanifested. Which, actually, is none other than our own true Identity. But we can't realise the unmanifest nature of our true Identity, as our own true Identity, as the Self, until we surpass or transcend the personal idea of "who I am". Which is a thought. 

And, being a thought, like all thought, it's not a single, simple thing, even though it might appear to be. That thought, of "who I am", as a though-thing, if we can call it that, is actually infinitely complex, and involuted. So too, is also our conditional experience of being as a human self, even when we are free from that thought. 

You could take any thought, and if you could touch it in the right way, so to speak, and break it open, you would find that it is made from infinite other thought. And likewise, you could take any aggregate of thoughts, and find that there is a way, an experience of being if you like, in which it constitutes just a single thought.

Similarly, in the brain, every network of brain activity only means anything, as it were, in the context of the whole activity of all of the brain. And the whole activity of the whole brain, only means anything, so to speak, in the context of all the activities, of all the brains, which altogether creates the construct that appears to us as nature, or material phenomena. Which actually, in turn, as we encounter it, is a construct of brain function.

The idea that there is anything "outside" this experience of being we are being, that we can understand as something separate from this experience of being, is an idea that only arises because of the way we are thinking about it. A way that itself, arises from the fact that in the first place, there is this "who I am" idea, or thought, which the intelligence being employed, wants to keep intact. This is our evolutionary intelligence. It is, however, our prerogative to go beyond this. 

So no amount of thinking rationally, or objectively, can discover the truth of our constitution and situation. We can use our evolutionary thinking and intelligence to discover all kinds of useful things about how natural phenomena works, within limits. And we should be very grateful for that, because out of it, in the form of science and technology, and modern medicine, a great deal of practical compassion comes into our existence.

However, what we understand about that, is still limited. Because within that understanding, we are still not understanding our true constitution and situation. Which is inseparable from the principle of the brain.

We have already come to the point now where in science we can understand that thought is a construct of brain function. But we don't really deeply understand anything until we understand that brain function is a construct of thought. 

The reason this is difficult to accept or understand, by scientific thinkers in general, is because they are so accustomed to thinking of phenomena as something that has essentially nothing to do with us other than that we happen to be in it. And only then, interacting with it.

And the reason we do that, is because that is how we have been taught. We have been taught to try to understand the world as something separate from us. 

And then, because in science, we find that natural phenomena behaves in a way that doesn't depend on anyone's individual mind, we think this is justified. We mistakenly think because natural phenomena is objective, that it has nothing to do with us other than that we happen to have arisen in it. 

This is a mistake. There is a beautiful symmetry in nature through which everything in our existence is actually a symbol in our intelligence. That is, we can see it as a symbol, if the level of intelligence in which we are residing, has woken up from identification with this personal "who I am" idea. In other words, it has gone beyond the evolutionary mode of our intelligence as it arises through the principle of the brain.

Our evolutionary mode of intelligence thinks that it is impossible to go beyond itself, and therefore that what we are saying here is abstruse and pointless. And indeed, it is impossible for our evolutionary mode of intelligence to go beyond itself. But our mistake is in thinking that this evolutionary mode of intelligence is who we are. We only identify with it in the first place, through the personal "who I am" idea. And the personal "who I am" idea actually, is something that arises out of it.

So all that is really necessary is for us to discover our own true Identity, which is the Self we already are. And not merely the evolutionary self that arises through the principle of the brain, and is identified with the body, and gives rise to our evolutionary intelligence that says this is "who I am".

Then, it is still perfectly possible to think rationally, and objectively, as we already do in science, but we are no longer limited to being just objective. Rather, we are also transpersonal.

In science, we tend to make the fundamental mistake of assuming that there is no limit to how far science can go, as long as we continue to be objective. It is a mistake, because being objective isn't sufficient to take us into a new realm of science that understands the principle of the brain. For that, we also need to be transpersonal.

There are probably many scientists who feel that science is ultimately trying to discover who we really are and where we really come from. But we cannot deduce our way to the discovery of the Self. It is not something that will spring into our comprehension out of scientific data. Whilst scientists themselves remain devoid of sufficient self-knowledge.

Rather, we can already discover the principle of the brain, by first realising who we really are, and where we really come from. And that, isn't something we can deduce, or work out, using rational and objective thought. It's not something we can glean from data or find the "evidence" of in material phenomena. First, we must become transpersonal.

Once we get that far, the rest takes care of itself, because it is done for us. Our full potential of comprehension and experience of being is actually something we only begin to truly discover as human beings, once we are at least willing to surrender attachment to the personal "who I am" idea. Even though in practice, the permanent surrender of it requires a process in time.

Then, the consciousness we already really are can become realigned with its Source. So to whom, or what, do we surrender this attachment? Some people call it God. In the East, it is often referred to as the Self. But whatever word you want to use, whatever your background, it is nothing separate from us, or other than who we already really are. It is our own true Identity.

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