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Spiritual Implications of Brain  Research - 2011
   (Revised and Expanded)

   by Peter Holleran

   "There is no machine that can measure a person’s realization."
- Tsoknyi Rinpoche

   Paul Brunton once said that by the twenty-first century scientists would 'prove' the doctrine of mentalism (that all of our sensations and perceptions are mental and arise in consciousness, and that the existence of matter is just a 'guess'). This will be a summary of the results of brain-wave studies conducted on meditators over the past thirty years, as well as psi (ESP) studies, and conclusions that may be drawn from them: specifically, whether consciousness itself or insentient matter is the primary ground of our existence, and whether or not 'enlightenment' can be determined in a laboratory. This article is significantly expanded from its earlier release several years ago.

   One of the first areas of study involved Transcendental Meditation (TM). While touting the many healthy benefits of meditation, it was shown that TM reduced certain brain wave frequencies and increased others in research subjects, which was assumed to imply stress reduction. There has been much written, both pro and con regarding these results and other effects of the technique and organization.

   According to TM, slowing alpha activity during meditation indicates deeper relaxation. This conclusion was challenged, however, by Arthur Janov and his associates at the Primal Institute in Los Angeles. Janov conducted his own studies after having some advanced Vedanta monks come to his clinic for therapy after suffering nervous breakdowns. Janov was of the opinion after seeing such types that meditation was definitely “anti-primal”, or dissociative of the body and feelings. His research showed that in neurotic meditators (i.e.,those who had not done primal therapy) the results were similar to those produced by the TM people, with reduced alpha and beta wave frequencies, but that the wave amplitude was increased, which to him implied that an element of deep repression still existed in the meditators. In other words, the TM form of meditation they did only achieved symptom suppression (pseudo-calmness) and not deep release or healing of core repressed pain. The natural history of the nervous system remained intact, and there was no integration between the reptilian, limbic, and cortical levels of the brain, which when achieved Janov saw as the sign of mental health and freedom from neurosis. After undergoing successful advanced primalling in which his subjects accessed early childhood pains and even birth traumas, in a systematic and integrated fashion, the study results afterwards showed reductions in both frequency and amplitude of the brain waves, as well as vital signs, for the primal subjects.

   ".. the interpretation of findings from certain kinds of meditation and biofeedback are incorrect. They contend that high amplitude waves indicate relaxation. We have found that high amplitude alpha is a sign of high repression which produces a self-deceptive state of relaxation (Specifically, high amplitude brain waves indicate repression when they are measured in the occipital-parietal region of the brain). The person is simply well-defended." (1)

   "It follows then that during meditation the INCREASE in alpha power seen is an outward manifestation of a more defended system, not a more relaxed one. To be sure, one is apparently relaxed in an external behavioral way, but the outer appearance is purchased at the expense of a tighter brain defense, or more accurately, by a higher gate to Primal Pain, which is metabolically costly, not metabolically conserving.

   Those patients (in Primal Therapy) who previously practiced transcendental meditation have come to recognize that meditating is a subtle but quite effective defense which makes feeling more difficult. Because they want to feel their early Pain they abandon meditating, just as others abandon other tranquilizing release forms, such as drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and acting out, as (Primal) therapy progresses."

   This was very significant, not only for ground-breaking brain research that was to follow, but to make clear that certain forms of meditation may produce an artificial calm, that is, a calm only seen in opposition to what would be considered “uncalm” states, which therefore was just a temporary result. One needed to meditate again and again, argued Janov, to reduce the tension that was always trying to break through to consciousness. Despite critics even among the primal community who argued that Janov reduced all spiritual experiences to repressed and symbolized birth material, his point still is worth noting. A temporarily stilled mind in meditation is not the same as the great Stillness of the already existing "Unborn" state that is our true nature according to the highest teachings in many traditions. This great stillness, or "emptiness", remains whether thoughts are present or not. It is not an "altered state", but may require a transformation to be stably realized. Thus, while largely a materialist, Janov's cautions about meditation are not without merit.

   Other writers have pointed out that the brain wave results will vary depending on the type of meditation exercised. As opposed to concentration methods that aim for absorptive states, vipassana meditation does not typically strive for dissociation from the body, but rather the noticing of what is arising to consciousness, thereby getting a knowledge or insight into the mechanisms of the mind. Greg Bogart points out:

   “These two kinds of meditation may have very different effects on the practitioner and thus may have very different clinical applications. A comparison of two EEG studies showed that yogis in meditation are oblivious to the external world, while Zen meditators become keenly attuned to the environment. Thus, different forms of meditation are associated with different patterns of brain activity and different forms of attention.” (3,4)

   Since then, a number of studies have been done on Buddhist monks, in which the Dalai Lama has been very much interested, which showed changes across the board in all brain wave readings in advanced participants. The implications, in my opinion, were that here we had examples of relatively un-neurotic meditators who, not trying to escape reality, had the ability for deep concentration as well as a total practice that at least indirectly dealt with the unconscious in a grounding way.

   An early study of Zen monks produced interesting findings as well:

   "In 1963 a fascinating and unique report on Zen meditation was presented by Dr. Akira Kasamatsu and Dr. Tomio Hirai of the Department of Neuro-Psychiatry, Tokyo University. It contained the results of a ten-year study of the brain wave or electroencephalographic (EEG) tracings of Zen masters. (5,6)

   The EEG tracings revealed that about ninety seconds after an accomplished Zen practitioner begins meditation, a rhythmic slowing in the brain wave pattern known as alpha waves occurs. This slowing occurs with eyes open and progresses with meditation, and after thirty minutes one finds rhythmic alpha waves of seven or eight per second. This effect persists for some minutes after meditation. What is most significant is that this EEG pattern is notably different from those of sleep, normal waking consciousness, and hypnotic trance, and is unusual in persons who have not made considerable progress in meditation. In other words, it suggests an unusual mental state; though from the subjective reports of the practitioners, it does not appear to be a unique or highly unusual conscious experience. It was also found that a Zen master's evaluation of the amount of progress another practitioner had made correlated directly with the latter's EEG changes.

   Another finding of the same study concerned what is called alpha blocking and habituation. To understand these phenomena let us imagine that a person who is reading quietly is suddenly interrupted by a loud noise. For a few seconds his attention is diverted from the reading to the noise. If the same sound is then repeated a few seconds later his attention will again be diverted, only not as strongly nor for as long a time. If the sound is then repeated at regular intervals, the person will continue reading and become oblivious to the sound. A normal subject with closed eyes produces alpha waves on an EEG tracing. An auditory stimulation, such as a loud noise, normally obliterates alpha waves for seven seconds or more; this is termed alpha blocking. In a Zen master the alpha blocking produced by the first noise lasts only two seconds. If the noise is repeated at 15 second intervals, we find that in the normal subject there is virtually no alpha blocking remaining by the fifth successive noise. This diminution of alpha blocking is termed habituation and persists in normal subjects for as long as the noise continues at regular and frequent intervals. In the Zen master, however, no habituation is seen. His alpha blocking lasts two seconds with the first sound, two seconds with the fifth sound, and two seconds with the twentieth sound. This implies that the Zen master has a greater awareness of his environment as the paradoxical result of meditative concentration. One master described such a state of mind as that of noticing every person he sees on the street but of not looking back with emotional lingering.”

   Neuropsychologist Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin, who scans the brains of both Zen monks and yogis in his lab, found in a study of mere novices that:

   "An eight-week course in compassion meditation, in which volunteers focus on the wish that all beings be free from suffering, shifted brain activity from the right prefrontal cortex to the left, a pattern associated with a greater sense of well-being." (8)

   [The deeksha courses promoted by Bhagavan "Kalki Avatar", at a cost of anywhere from $10 to $5000, claim to shift the brainwave activity from the front of the brain to the back. I am not sure why that would be spiritually significant, but it may be worth noting that to one such as Rudolph Steiner this might be seen as an atavistic practice - such as in the trepanning operations of the Egyptians which flattened the skull, thereby attempting to reverse (as he saw it) the evolutionary advance of consciousness seen in the Greeks from the rear-brain to the frontal cortex, and thereby clinging to the more ancient but yet relatively unconscious clairvoyance. Whether this is nonsense I do not know, but for more on this topic see The Secret Doctrine.]

   A 2003 study of Buddhist meditators at the University of California found that they had less activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain that is related to deep feelings like fear and anxiety, and that they experienced less confusion, shock or anger than most people.

   But what exactly has this research proved or suggested? That consciousness is produced by the brain? That there is life after death? One would, I think, have to say ,“no”, at least not yet. Then what can we conclude? Simply this, that a very calm mind and body is achievable through meditation, that the mind can influence the body in a profound way, and that advanced meditators may achieve states that are qualitatively different from the ordinary waking, dream, and sleep states.

   TM has always said much of this, too, but adds that the effects last after the meditation period is over. As mentioned above, Janov argued to the contrary, maintaining that the usual meditator needed to get his “fix” of calmness” on a regular basis to keep the demons of his subconscious and unconscious at bay and feel whole. Thus, it appears that any carry over from the meditation period will depend on the general psycho-physical state of the individual, including his overall goals and fundamental understanding. This had lead to an argument over the compatibility of meditation and psychotherapy, particular among Buddhists. Jack Kornfield, in Even the Best Meditators Have Old Wounds to Heal, takes a syncretist viewpoint, while Vipassana purist Patrick Kearney, in Still Crazy after all these Years: Why Meditation isn’t Psychotherapy, argues against what he considers a "watered-down" form of Buddhist practice.

   Author Steve Taylor writes:

   "American scientist Andrew Newberg suggests that that mystical experiences of oneness come when the part of our brain that is responsible for our awareness of boundaries (the posterior superior parietal lobe) is less active than normal. Newberg also suggests that mystical feelings are linked to the autonomic nervous system, which controls our bodily organs. The autonomic nervous system has two halves: the parasympathetic (which slows down the activity of our organs) and the sympathetic (which speeds them up). According to Newberg, the kind of serene feelings which meditators often experience are linked to an overactive parasympathetic half, while the feelings of ecstasy which may come through dancing, chanting, or taking drugs are linked to an overactive sympathetic half. (In fairness to Newberg, he doesn't actually say that these states cause spiritual experiences, just that they correlate with them, although others have interpreted his theories in this way)." (8a)

   He puts forth the obvious thesis:

   "In any case, the fact that awakening experiences appear to be associated with certain brain states doesn't necessarily mean that the brain states produce the experiences. It could be the other way round - increased electrical activity in the frontal lobes or less activity in the posterior superior parietal lobe could just as easily be the results of higher states of consciousness rather than causes of them." (8b)

   Taylor then extends the same logic to the theory of British scientist Robert Winston who suggests that:

   "the sense of peace and well-being [spiritual experiences] bring may be caused by higher levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Winston suggests that particularly 'spiritual' or religious people may simply be people who have a naturally high level of dopamine in their brain. But this doesn't prove anything, since it may be spiritual experiences themselves that make dopamine levels rise." (8c)

   None of the scientific experiments can account for the NDE's wherein people report remotely viewing their 'dead' body lying on a bed, going through a tunnel and seeing light or a light being, then returning, and getting their observations of what went on in the room confirmed by the people who were there. To say that this experience was caused by brain phenomena would be to ascribe remarkable abilities to the brain, namely, to rise to the top of a room and look down upon itself! The answer that suggests itself is that consciousness partially withdraws from the body and observes without the medium of the brain. The evidence is even stronger in cases where the person involved has been declared brain-dead; that is, when they report out of body experiences during a time when there is no observable brain activity going on, such as found in the research of Dutch cardiologist and NDE researcher Dr. Pim van Lommel.

   Other scientists such as Michael A. Persinger (Neuropsychological Basis of God Beliefs,1987) have written books based on the results of probing the right temporal lobe of the brain and producing what they termed the “God Experience”, whether that resembles NDE’s (Near Death Experiences, etc.) or other such phenomenon. He also marketed a 'shakti' helmet which he claimed could stimulate a person's frontal lobes with magnetic fields and produce 'mystical' experiences.

   Some scientists feel that there is no one area of the brain that can be localized as the source of these experiences, that a more complex network of connections is involved, but that they still originate in the brain. This was the conclusion of a study on Carmelite nuns by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O'Leary (see their book, The Spiritual Brain), which found that the subjective experience of feeling in a state of union with God produced changes in brain activation in the "right medial orbitofrontal cortex, right middle temporal cortex, right inferior and superior parietal lobules, right caudate, left medial prefrontal cortex, left anterior cingulate cortex, left inferior parietal lobule, left insula, left caudate, and left brainstem", in other words, "brain regions involved in attention, bodily representation, visual imagery, emotion...and self-consciousness." Thus, there is no one "God spot". Scientists still clinging to the brain hypothesis are in general agreement now that consciousness is somehow generated by the brain as a whole. But they have no idea how this actually happens.

   Taylor continues:

   "Telepathic experiences also argue against a straightforward link between the brain and consciousness. In my opinion, the work of researchers such as Dean Radin and Rupert Sheldrake leaves little doubt that telepathy exists, for both humans and animals. And if I can't detect and respond to another person's actions or thoughts without perceiving or directly communicating with them, then my consciousness expands beyond my brain, which suggests that it isn't solely produced by the brain's neurons." (8d)

   The more atheistic among brain researchers use their kind of data to argue against the existence of God ! Most, however, are simply content to dismiss any spiritual (or non-material) value for, or assign any spiritual nature to, such phenomenon. But is even this claim legitimate? No, for at least two reasons.

   One, just because an electrical probe can stimulate an area of the brain and produce such subjective experiences does not mean that when attention (the “outward expression of the soul”, according to many spiritual traditions) recedes through the regions of the brain during the process of withdrawal at death giving the same experiences, that they are simply epi-phenomena produced by matter and not spiritually valid. The experience happens within consciousness or awareness, whether there is a brain to modify those experiences or not. This issue borders on the perennially unsolvable mind-body problem. We maintain that no 'objective' scientific experiment has ever or will ever bridge the gap between a nerve ending and consciousness. The scientists have never experienced “matter” in itself, they only guess it exists outside of consciousness or their awareness of it. This, of course, is the doctrine of Mentalism as taught by Paul Brunton and V.S. Iyer, and expressed in one form or another by men of insight for thousands of years. A concise summary of point of view has been written by Chittaranjan Naik in his article Advaita and the Brain. The conclusion of philosophers is that the brain as well as the body as a whole is a mechanism produced by the universal mind to enable consciousness to experience a world that is partly of its own making. To experience a world you need a body. The same argument is put forth for the necessity of having a suitable body on other, more subtle planes of existence.

   Furthermore, mystics, saints, and sages have long asserted that if anything, the heart is senior to the brain as far as consciousness is concerned. Interesting research has also shown many cases of the fascinating phenomenon of the Acquisition of Donor Traits by Heart Transplant Recipients (AntiMatters, Vol 1, No 1 (2007). This is very interesting. The Frankenstein story would have one believe that, if it were possible, psychological data banks might be transferred from one person to another through brain transplantation, but the finding that such occurs in heart recipients suggests either some other form of "body memory" exists, or maybe even some remaining connection to what the occultists call the "seed atom" of the "causal body in the heart" that is transferred along with the physical heart to the new patient.

   Interestingly, one of the pioneers in this field, Neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield, believed that man's brain alone could not account for all of the extraordinary activities of the human mind. He wrote:

   “I conclude that there is no good evidence . . . that the brain alone can carry out the work that the mind does. . . . I believe that one should not pretend to draw a final scientific conclusion, in man's study of man, until the nature of the energy responsible for mind action is discovered, as in my own opinion, it will be.” (9).

   Two, mystic traditions in Sant Mat and Buddhism will agree that such experiences, stimulated or not, are only very preliminary ones had on the way out of the body. Near-Death Experiencers who see a tunnel,visions of light, etc., never or very rarely actually pierce the veil and go beyond the actual limits of the brain. Their experiences, while subjective and feeling like they are out of the body (and they certainly are abstracted and interior to normal outer awareness) are usually really not beyond the bodily dimension entirely, but psychic or visionary phenomenon within the “sky of mind” in the braincore. True passage through the interior structures such as the corpus collosum and then exit via “tenth door”, the “brahmarendra”, at the top of the head are infrequent and the beginning of much deeper experiences for the departed soul. These, it is assumed, would most often, and certainly during actual death, have an effect on brainwave findings. In the Sant Mat tradition, advanced meditators (granted, of which there may be few) may actually and fully leave the body and return, because, as it is maintained, the prana or life currents are not touched or manipulated, but only the attention or sensory currents, and also the so-called “silver cord” mentioned in the Bible is not broken. Thus, one would expect in the case of an advanced initiate on this path that the brain waves would uniformly reduce to a fairly low level if the soul was truly out of the body, for that is what gives life to the pranas and body alike.

   With certain types of kundalini yoga where the pranas are involved, and certainly some exotic forms of yoga where the heart may stop and the body even seem to go into suspended animation, brain-waves may almost cease. Yet, again, what does that prove, to the sceptic and non-sceptic alike? Should it help a scientist and his flock believe in life after death, or the spritual nature of man? Not really. How can it? Why should it? To be truly convincing such an experiment must be made subjectively, within the depths of oneself, and not objectively, in the laboratory.

   Some fringe elements of those hyping the chique right temporal lobe research hypothesize that the evolution of man required the development of this brain structure to produce such experiences to act as a consoling, pain-reducing belief system to counter the brutish normal existence of the human being: in other words, psychological defense mechanisms serving our survival instinct and need to deny death. These researchers see no spiritual reality to such experiences at all. Janov also argued for such a materialistic and utilitarian view, saying that the cortex evolved largely to shunt off and symbolize pain intruding from the reptilian and limbic brains and make man's life tolerable. These views are interesting and internally consistent, but psychologically, philosophically, and perhaps even scientifically not very satisfying. Other reasons offered by reductionistic critics of NDE's, for instance, have been sensory deprivation, drug side effects, endorphin release, genetically programmed neurological patterns that surface at the time of extreme biological crisis as the body's systems are shutting down, oxygen deprivation, and metabolic toxicity. (10)

   Finally, what about the value of brainwave research in relationship to ultimate non-dual enlightenment itself, true self-awakening, as opposed to the attainment of various mystical and meditational states?

   It would appear that the awakened being would not necessarily show anything out of the ordinary through such means. As his awakening is constant throughout all states (waking, dreaming, sleeping, ordinary life or meditation), there would only be the normal permutations inherent in such passing states, but no particular brainwave pattern to distinguish his enlightenment itself - with one caveat. This is, inasmuch as his being awake as Consciousness may lead the human vehicle or body-mind, based on its past history, to reharmonize itself to whatever degree is possible in this lifetime, we might not be surprised to see an improvement in various indicators showing less stress present in the system, and perhaps characteristic paterns as well. it is reasonable to assume that the longer one resides in the awakened state, the more likelihood there would be of detectible psycho-physical changes by scientific measurement. This would also be true if the condition of the jnani or awakened one is akin to 'being asleep while awake', as in turiya or sahaja, as described in scriptures. Ken Wilber offers some interesting preliminary evidence for this possibility.

   Another recent study suggests the possibility of tracking a non-dual consciousness via brain waves.

   Additionally, a University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness Study - the "Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program", found that participation in eight weeks of mindfulness meditation seems to make measurable changes in regions of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress.

   An interesting book on the overall topic in this article is Buddha's Brain.

   Of course, it would certainly be fascinating - if it were possible - to see the test results of someone experiencing the sahasrara lit up by the ascending kundalini force, or a Tibetan adept who was experiencing smoke or vapor emitting from the top of his skull at the time of death (or others, such as the disciple of Ramana Maharshi, Ganapati Muni, who had such an experience, the yogic phenomenon known in the Taittirya Upanishad as vyapohya sirsha kapale, or the “breaking of the skull,” even before his death). Yes, it would be most interesting seeing the brain waves of someone like the Gwalyang Karmapa who near the time of his passing seemed in rapid succession to absorb disease after disease upon his own body as if he were purifying the karmas of the world. But otherwise, if we are to believe the emerging non-dualist teachers, at any rate, one would not ordinarily expect or need the awakened individual to 24/7 exhibit dramatically altered vital signs, frequency, amplitude or abnormal patterning of brain waves on various scans, etc., as the awakened state itself is not an altered state of any kind. As Ramana once remarked, “the jnani is invisible even to God.” Nor would he need to have a super-conducting, crystalized pineal gland or any other spectacular transformation of body or mind, unless perhaps it was his karma, in addition to being awake, to be a maha-siddha or great yogi of a particular sort! Furthermore, there would be no need to lament, as J. Krishnamurti did, that he had failed to fully transform his brain cells, or to assert, as "U.G." did, that even though there is fundamentally no psyche or "me", that enlightenment is a physiological rather than a psychological event (see The Two Krishnamurtis).

   In addition, it will be stated here, with more argument given later, that the necessary jump from a phenomenal position to a noumenal one, would be undetectable by any scientific means. This is because the consensus methodology of science is the phenomenological or objective one. It is "looking in" from the objective plane, and not "looking out" from the viewpoint of Consciousness. It can't, therefore, measure from the subjective point of view of Consciousness. While a "quiet mind," then, could be the subject of experimental research, enlightenment or awakening Itself most likely would not.

   This would leave the brainwave research, except for its psycho-therapeutic implications, and general contribution to human knowledge, as an intriguing and amusing pastime, with no necessary profundity regarding matters of the most spiritual importance......except, perhaps, as one more skillful means for the bodhisattva to help lead all beings towards the path of enlightenment. Which is probably a large part of why His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the embodiment of Avalokitesvara, is interested in such research.

   "Having never left the house you are asking for the way home.
   Get rid of wrong ideas, that is all.
   Collecting right ideas also will take you nowhere.
   Don't rely on your mind for liberation.
   It is the mind that brought you into bondage.
   Go beyond it altogether.
   The first steps in self-acceptance are not at all pleasant,
   for what one sees is not a happy sight.
   One needs all the courage to go further.
   What helps is silence.
   Look at yourself in total silence, do not describe yourself.
   Once you are quiet, things will begin to happen
   spontaneously and quite naturally,
   without any interference on your part."

     - Nisargadatta Maharaj

   "...the state of consciousness that a great majority of humanity is in is not natural. It's altered. We do not need to go looking for altered states of consciousness; humanity is already in an altered state of consciousness. It's called separation. Separation is the ultimate altered state of consciousness...Contrary to a popular misunderstanding, enlightenment has nothing to do with an altered state of consciousness. Enlightenment is an unaltered state of consciousness. It is pure consciousness as it actually is, before it is turned into something, before it is altered in any way." (11)   - Adyashanti

   There are many other forms of research being done than such types of brainwave studies. Attempts to produce evidence to support theories such as "zero-point", "morphogenic fields" and "holographic" views of the mind and universe can also be found. These may even be of more importance in convincing people of the non-physical dimensions of consciousness. One such study was done by Dr. Jacob Grinberg-Zylberbaum and published in Physics Essays. Subjects were placed in Faraday cages and asked to meditate on the "feeling of oneness with each other". The metal enclosures were to ensure blockage of electromagnetic signals passing between them. Then one of the meditators was exposed to a series of flickering lights. The result of the experiment was that the EEG recordings of BOTH meditators at the time of the light flashes were the same, repeatedly, in 25% of the attempts, a highly significant statistical result, in that there were no such results in control groups of non-meditators. (12)

   In another suchlike experiment, written about in Yoga and the Transformation of Consciousness, by Don Salmon and Jan Maslov, INSCOM (the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command) in 1994,

  " did an experiment in which white blood cells were taken from the mouth of a volunteer and placed in a test tube in a different room from where the volunteer was seated. The donor was the shown a television program with a great deal of violent content. In the test tube containing his blood cells, researchers inserted a probe to monitor the level of cellular activity. They found that in the same moments the volunteer was watching scenes of fighting or killing, his blood cells, though situated in a room down the hall, showed signs of extreme excitation. They found the same results even when the cells were separated by up to fifty miles and up to two days after the cells were removed from his mouth." (13)

   Salmon further writes:

   " In his 1978 address to the American Psychological Association, psychologist Charles Tart reported that more than 600 experiments had been conducted providing "first class scientific evidence for the existence of...extrasensory perception (ESP)..that cannot be explained in terms of brain processes." (14)

   This type of research demonstrates the more 'mind-like' qualities of matter than were previously expected - but it is still not likely to convince the ardent sceptic of the truth of mentalism, or the primacy of consciousness. For that, we have previously suggested, philosophy is required. First, says the advaitic sage Atmananda, resolve perceptions into ideas, then resolve ideas into mind or consciousness. Only then will one get to the reality.

   Nevertheless, in contrast to the experiment with the Farraday cages, in which scientific experimentation could influence one's spiritual way of thinking, it is of interest how spiritual experience can in turn influence one's scientific thinking. See this intriguing story of physicist Werner Heisenberg's reported experience of nirvikalpa samadhi.

   Finally, to sum up, there is the question of whether any scientific research, however convincing, could ever prove the doctrine of mentalism, fully elaborated by Brunton in The Wisdom of the Overself and The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga. That doctrine holds that the limits of our epistemology or theory of knowledge reveals that we can never experience anything (such as solid "matter") outside of our perception or consciousness of it; that is, that there is an unbridgable divide between the objective and the subjective points of view. Consciousness or awareness is primary and not an merely an epiphenomenon of matter. The latter position is only a "guess", and is refuted by our direct experience. This concept would apply just as easily to the subject of New Age and other occult claims of the existence of a "universal" or "cosmic" mind, as well as that of a "unified field" theory of the scientists. The latter theory suggests that there is a fluid "soup" or "field" of energy which composes matter, and that this can account for some of the results for "non-locality" experiments. The "universal mind" view, on the other hand, is only a greater view than the common view of a limited sense-mind, in which everything perceived is essentially mental stuff or ideas. However, it can account for much psychic and "soul" phenomena. The "universal mind' is not the Absolute, or Consciousness Itself, however, which is immeasurable and which permits the appearance of both matter and mind, which are still objective to it. Peter Dziuban states:

   "This "energy stuff" or "universal mind" most emphatically is not the same as Infinite Consciousness or Infinite Mind - though it is often mistakenly believed to be. The way the universe appears on a finite basis is not Divine. The importance of this distinction can not be underestimated."

   "In New Age energy work it may seem or appear via the finite senses that something is directed, changed, used, yes. It is not Consciousness, Being, the Infinite; it would appear to be energy or thought that changes. They are not the same. A change may seem to occur in what appears finitely, but that never is Infinite Consciousness."

   "There may appear to be levels of energy; degrees or levels of density in matter, thought; levels of what appears to the senses on a finite basis, but never levels of Infinity. One who refers to any of this energy as "consciousness" actually is starting with phenomena, that which changes in time, non-being, with what appears on a finite basis. One is not starting as Un-appearing Awareness Itself, Omnipresence, One's Very Self; the changeless Infinite, in terms of itself, alone."

   "There is all the difference in the world between the two."

   "Awareness Itself is not any form of what is popularly referred to as mental or chakra energy, nor what is sometimes called subtle energy, nor any psychic phenomenon. Pure changeless Being is not electrical or magnetic. it is not prana, ki, ch'i, or any other term used in various cultures that refer to "life energy" or "life-force," though often believed to the contrary."

   "By this is usually meant a force which could be used, directed or "tapped" by another, a secondary self. Infinite Consciousness, Omnipresence, or the One All, isn't a force. All can't be channeled, balanced, or used by another - for All leaves no other. All leaves no place besides itself where it could be channeled and no other to do the channeling."

   "Some may say, "Who cares about all this?" Many work in fields involving energy - in science and technology, as well as New Age fields such as "energy healing." This isn't minimizing such efforts. It clarifies what such work deals with - not the Infinite, pure Consciousness, as often mistakenly believed - but with what appear to be various forms of finite energy, phenomena."

   To illustrate the difficulty in convincing scientists of mentalism, and further the primacy of Consciousness, even a philosophic great like Bertrand Russell said that the doctrine of Bishop Berkeley, a similar form of subjective idealism to that of mentalism, was philosophically unassailable, but that he (Russell) just couldn't believe in it! Reknown scientist Willis Hartman said much the same thing: "I wouldn't believe it even if it were true." ! (16)

   On the other hand, as said at the outset, PB mentioned that before the twentieth century was over science would prove the correctness of mentalism. Well, the twentieth century has come and gone, and the debate has not yet been settled. I question how it could be settled, other than by amassing such an impressive amount of data about the interrelationship between the mind and the brain that scientists finally become philosophers and take the mortal leap that accepting mentalism requires.

   Salmon argues, however, that

   “the publishing of Radin's The Conscious Universe in 1997 was the final straw that broke materialism's back, and in April 2009 psychologist Richard Wiseman, who has done psi research and is one of the most stubborn intransigent opponents of a non-materialistic view, still not believing that psi is proved, admitted on BBC radio that the EVIDENCE for psi is as good as the evidence for any other branch of science. So, the science is there, it has been proven, and there's no way that a materialistic or dualistic view can explain the results of psi research. Wiseman, nevertheless, (like other scientists probably) still quotes the old cliche, that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." (private correspondence).

   The problem is, then, that the claims for psi research are no longer “extraordinary claims” demanding extraordinary evidence. Therefore, the problem is really more philosophic than scientific. But the majority of hard-core doubters will probaby not admit a mentalist view unless and until they accept a new paradigm of proof, one that includes the subjective component, as quantum physics has come to understand. (Many may actually fear losing their jobs. To quote Mark Twain, “Tell me what a man gits for his ‘corn pone’, and I’ll tell you what his ‘pinions' is.” !)

   Until then, scepticism is likely to prevail, as the following fascinating anecdote further attests:

   Ikechukwu Obialo Azuonye, consultant psychiatrist at Adult Mental Health Unit, Lambeth Healthcare NHS Trust, London, SW9 9NT

   A difficult case: Diagnosis made by hallucinatory voices

   A previously healthy woman began to hear hallucinatory voices telling her to have a brain scan for a tumour. The prediction was true; she was operated on and had an uneventful recovery.

   Born in continental Europe in the mid-1940s the patient settled in Britain in the late 1960s. After a series of jobs, she got married, started a family, and settled down to a full time commitment as a housewife and mother. She rarely went to her general practitioner as she enjoyed good health and had never had any hospital treatment. Her children had also been in good health.

   In the winter of 1984, as she was at home reading, she heard a distinct voice inside her head. The voice told her, "Please don't be afraid. I know it must be shocking for you to hear me speaking to you like this, but this is the easiest way I could think of. My friend and I used to work at the Children's Hospital, Great Ormond Street, and we would like to help you."

   AB had heard of the Children's Hospital, but did not know where it was and had never visited it. Her children were well, so she had no reason to worry about them. This made it all the more frightening for her, and the voice intervened again: "To help you see that we are sincere, we would like you to check out the following"-and the voice gave her three separate pieces of information, which she did not possess at the time. She checked them out, and they were true, but this did not help because she had already come to the conclusion that she had "gone mad." In a state of panic, AB went to see her doctor, who referred her urgently to me.

   I saw her at the psychiatric outpatients clinic, and diagnosed a functional hallucinatory psychosis. I offered general supportive counselling as well as medication with thioridazine. To her great relief, the voices inside her head disappeared after a couple of weeks of treatment, and she went off on holiday. While she was abroad, and still taking the thioridazine, the voices returned. They told her that they wanted her to return to England immediately as there was something wrong with her for which she should have immediate treatment. By this time, she was also having other beliefs of a delusional nature.

   She returned to London and I saw her again at my outpatients clinic. By this time, the voices had given her an address to go to. Reluctantly, and just to reassure her that it was all in her mind, her husband took her by car to the address in question; it was the computerised tomography department of a large London hospital. As she arrived there, the voices told her to go in and ask to have a brain scan for two reasons-she had a tumour in her brain and her brain stem was inflamed. Because the voices had told her things in the past that had turned out to be true, AB believed them when they said that she had a tumour and was in a state of great distress when I saw her the next day.

   Brain scan requested

   In order to reassure her, I requested a brain scan, explaining in my letter that hallucinatory voices had told her that she had a brain tumour, that I had not, personally, found any physical signs suggestive of an intracranial space occupying lesion, and that the purpose of the scan was essentially to reassure the patient. The request was initially declined, on the grounds that there was no clinical justification for such an expensive investigation. It was also implied that I had gone a little overboard, believing what my patient's hallucinatory voices were telling her.

   Eventually, after some negotiation, the scan was done in April. The initial findings led to a repeat scan, with enhancement, in May, revealing a left posterior frontal parafalcine mass, which extended through the falx to the right side. It had all the appearances of a meningioma.

   The consultant neurosurgeon to whom I referred AB noted the absence of headache or any other focal neurological deficits related to this mass, and discussed, with AB and her husband, the pros and cons of immediate operation as against waiting for symptoms to appear. In the end, it was agreed to proceed with an immediate operation. AB's voices told her that they were fully in agreement with that decision.

   These were the notes of the operation, carried out in May 1984: "A large left frontal bone flap extending across the midline was turned following a bifrontal skin flap incision. Meningioma about 2.5" by 1.5" in size arose from the falx and extended through to the right side. A small area of tumour appeared on the medial surface of the brain. The tumour was dissected out and removed completely along with its origins in the falx."

   AB later told me that when she recovered consciousness after the operation the voices told her, "We are pleased to have helped you. Goodbye." There were no postoperative complications. The dosage of dexamethasone was halved every four days, and then it was stopped. She was on prophylactic anticonvulsants for six months. Antipsychotic medication was discontinued immediately after the operation, and there was no return of the hallucinatory voices or the delusions which she had expressed.

   AB telephoned me last Christmas to wish me and family a merry festive season, and to tell me that she had been completely well in the 12 years since the operation. It was this telephone call that brought this case to mind again.

   It is well known that intracranial lesions can be associated with psychiatric symptomatology. But this is the first and only instance I have come across in which hallucinatory voices sought to reassure the patient of their genuine interest in her welfare, offered her a specific diagnosis (there were no clinical signs that would have alerted anyone to the tumour), directed her to the type of hospital best equipped to deal with her problem, expressed pleasure that she had at last received the treatment they desired for her, bid her farewell, and thereafter disappeared.

   I presented her case at a conference later that year. AB attended and was closely questioned by several people about the various aspects of her experience. The audience was split down the middle. People who would be called X-philes today rejoiced that what had happened to her was a clear instance of telepathic communication from two well meaning people who had, psychically, found that AB had a tumour and sought to help her.

   The X-phobes had a very different formulation. According to them, AB had been given the diagnosis of a brain tumour in her original country and wanted to be treated free under the NHS. Hence, they surmised, she had made up the convoluted tale about voices telling her this and that. But AB had lived in Britain for 15 years and was entitled to NHS treatment. Besides, she had been so relieved when the voices first disappeared on thioridazine that she had gone on holiday to celebrate the recovery of her sanity.

   There was a group at the case conference who offered a different opinion. Their view was that, the total lack of physical signs notwithstanding, it was unlikely that a tumour of that size had had absolutely no effect on the patient. "She must have felt something," they argued. They suggested that a funny feeling in her head had led her to fear that she had a brain tumour. That fear had led to her experience of hallucinatory voices. She may have unconsciously taken in more information about various hospitals than she realised, and this information was reproduced by her mind as part of the auditory hallucinatory experience. The voices expressing satisfaction with the outcome of her treatment were her own mind expressing its relief that the emergency was over. And the total disappearance of psychiatric symptoms after the removal of the tumour showed that these symptoms were at least directly related to the presence of the lesion-and may, in fact, have been produced by the lesion itself. I have obtained the patient's signed consent to publication.

   The following two links are interesting sources of related material:

   To Hell and Back

Today I Died - Science Documentary Pt.1 of 6


1. Arthur Janov, Prisoners of Pain (Garden City, New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1980), p. 149
2. Arthur Janov and E. Michael Holden Primal Man, The New Consciousness (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1975), p. 516-517
3. Anand, B.K., Chhina, G.S., & Singh, B. Some Aspects of EEG Studies in Yogis. Electroencephalography & Clinical Neurophysiology, 13:452 56, 1961.
4. Kasamatsu, A. & Hirai, T. An Electroencephalographic Study on the Zen Meditation (Zazen). Psychologia, 12:205-25, 1969.

(Notes 3 & 4 found in:
Meditation And Psychotherapy, A Review of the Literature)

5. The Science of Zazen (a 16 mm. sound motion picture and accompanying pamphlet, both in English), by A. Kasamatsu and T. Hirai. Tokyo University. April, 1963.
6. Folia Psychiatrica et Neurologica Japonica, Vol. 20, No. 4. "An Electroencephalographic Study of the Zen Meditation (Zazen)", by Akira Kasamatsu and Tomio Hirai. December, 1966, pp. 315-36.
7. Buddhist Meditation and Depth Psychology by Douglas M. Burns.
8. Sharon Begley, "What the Beatles Gave Science," from Newsweek, Nov. 19, 2007, p. 59
8a. Steve Taylor, Waking from Sleep (Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc., 2010), p. 65-66
8b. Ibid, p. 66
8c. Ibid, p. 66-67
8d. Ibid, p. 67-68
9. Wilder Penfield, The Mystery of the Mind (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1975) p. 114
10. Eliot Jay Rosen, Experiencing the Soul (Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc., 1998), p. 241
11. Adyashanti The End of Your World (Boulder, CO: Sounds True, Inc., 2008), p. 173)
12. Ibid, p. 224-225
13. Don Salmon and Jan Maslow, Yoga Psychology and the Transformation of Consciousness (St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2007), p. 66
14. Ibid, p. 63
15. Peter Dziuban, Consciousness Is All (Nevada City, CA: Blue Dolphin Publishing, Inc., 2006), p. 90-92
16. quoted in Salmon, op. cit., p.61