Discovering human consciousness

Dalai Lama and Dr. Spock

Sunday, October 30, 2005
The Dalai Lama, revered spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, is at the center of a scientific controversy. The exiled leader is an enthusiastic collaborator in brain research on the intense meditation practices of Buddhist monks. He is scheduled to speak about the research at this month’s Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. But 544 brain researchers have signed a petition urging the society to cancel the lecture. According to the petition, “it will highlight a subject with largely unsubstantiated claims and compromise scientific rigor and objectivity,” which translates into their thinking it makes them look silly in academic circles.
We need to talk about the rigorous standards of scientific certainty. Remember Dr. Benjamin Spock, the childcare guru of 20th-century? He told us to start infants on bland, mild foods (no peanut butter or seafood until after their first birthday, it’s too potentially allergenic). He frowned on ethnic and highly spiced foods; he taught that if you offered fruits before vegetables, it would breed a sweet tooth. These were scientific certainties of the time, but they are all myths.

Today’s pediatric researchers say starting kids on rice and highly processed grain cereals could actually be the worst food for infants, leading to later obesity problems. They say bring on the spices. If the mother likes oregano the baby might like it too; start them on hardier, more flavorful foods. If you live in Africa eat meats, fish and radishes in Japan, and artichokes in France

So much scientific certainty about diagnoses, diseases and drugs are not certainties at all. Most of what we’re sure about, is either going to be wrong or outdated in a decade. Drugs once touted as cure-alls, (Vioxx, calcium-channel blockers, hypnotics, anxiolytics) all have deadly side-effects that we didn’t know about. For the last several years, my psychiatric colleagues have suggested that we are dramatically under-diagnosing childhood depression and that we need to be medicating kids earlier. Now we find out that those drugs actually increase suicidal risk in children. So when 554 neuroscientists believe their credibility is threatened because the spirit is not easily subject to the rigors of scientific examination, it makes me want to gag.

We need to be doing more brain research into spiritual matters. Wouldn’t you like to know if, as a species we are wired for mystical experience? If we are, can we train the brain to generate compassion and positive thoughts? The Dalai Lama thinks so, and my colleague at the University of Arizona, Dr. Carol Barnes, who is the President of the Society for Neuroscience, says there is no way she’s going to cancel his talk. Bravo!

E-mail reply to above:

Graham Hancock has dedicated the last five years to researching human consciousness, and has come to the conclusion that the dogmatic scientific community tenured in most modern universities refuses to explore this vital area of the human species, because it challenges so many currently held beliefs.  They complain that it can’t meet modern definitions of scientific scrutiny because it can’t be tested repeatedly.  Hancock provides adequate evidence to the contrary.  I haven’t had a chance to read his new book, Supernatural, but I heard him interviewed for three hours and it sounds very impressive.  I have followed his other areas of research including the discovery of ancient monuments over 100′ deep off the coast of Okinawa suggesting human development well bvefore that whcih is currently acknowledged at only 6,000 years.  These human created structures suggest they are over 10,000 years old.

[“Supernatural: Due to or manifesting some agency above the forces of nature, outside of the ordinary operation of cause and effect.”]

The evolution of modern humans has taken more than five million years but until less than 50,000 years ago we had no art, no religion, no sophisticated symbolism, no creative and innovative thinking, and quite possibly no language. Then, a dramatic and electrifying change overtook our ancestors in every part of the globe, and all the skills and qualities that we value most highly in ourselves today appeared suddenly, already fully formed, as though bestowed on us by hidden powers. Scientists describe this change as “the greatest riddle in human history”.

  • The first art of mankind, in the painted caves and rock-shelters of southwest Europe and South Africa, dates back to the time of the great change. Why do these ancient paintings, tens of thousands of years old, depict beings of a kind that are never found in nature – strange and eerie hybrids with the heads of animals and the bodies of humans?
  • In the depths of the Amazon rainforest tribal shamans drink a powerful hallucinogenic brew called Ayahuasca (“the vine of souls”) in order to induce visions. When they return to normal consciousness, after experiencing what they believe is out-of-body travel in the spirit world, they make paintings of the “intelligent beings” they have encountered. Why are many of these beings also depicted as uncanny hybrids with the heads of animals or serpents and the bodies of humans? And why do the shamans say that they have taught them everything they know about how to live in the jungle, and about the medicinal value of rainforest plants?
  • Why do Western lab volunteers, placed experimentally under the influence of hallucinogens such as DMT, psilocybin, mescaline and LSD, report visionary encounters with “beings” in the form of animal-human hybrids – beings identical to those the Amazonian shamans claim to meet and to those painted by our ancestors in the prehistoric caves?
  • What is the significance of the astonishing similarities between the entities known as “aliens”, ET’s” or “greys” in modern popular culture, the entities known as “fairies”, “elves” and “goblins” in the Middle Ages, and the entities that shamans in surviving tribal cultures know as “ghosts”, “gods” and “spirits”? Why are such figures depicted in prehistoric art as far afield as Africa, Europe, the Americas and Australia?
  • Why have eminent scientists at the cutting edge of consciousness research, especially those who study the ways that hallucinogens work in the brain, recently begun to question long-established theories about the nature of reality? Why are some now even ready to consider the possibility, long ago embraced by shamans, that, far from being “false perceptions”, what we see in the strange imagery and experiences of hallucinations may be real perceptions of other “dimensions” and the beings inhabiting them?
  • Why did Nobel Prize-winner Francis Crick keep concealed until his death the astonishing circumstances under which he first “saw” the double-helix structure of DNA? And why did he become convinced that natural laws are unable to explain the mysterious complexity of the DNA molecule itself?
  • Why does the 97 per cent of DNA that scientists do not understand – so-called “junk DNA” – contain chemical “sequences” arranged in patterns and frequencies that are otherwise only found in the deep coding of all human languages?
  • Could the “supernaturals” first depicted in the painted caves and rock shelters – and still accessible to us today in altered states of consciousness – be the ancient teachers of mankind? Could it be they who first ushered us into the full birthright of our humanity? And could it be that human evolution is not just the “blind”, “meaningless” “natural” process that Darwin identified, but something else, more purposive and intelligent, that we have barely even begun to understand?  

About ItheMissingLink

Retired longshoreman at the Port of Seattle. US Navy veteran 9 patrol FBM nuclear submarines; married 29 years
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