|Posted on December 4, 2018 at 4:45 AM|
The Consciousness Revolution
Consciousness is one of the great mysteries of science – perhaps the greatest mystery. We all know we have it, when we think, when we dream, when we savour tastes and aromas, when we hear a great symphony, when we fall in love, and it is surely the most intimate, the most sapient, the most personal part of ourselves. Yet no one can really claim to have understood and explained it completely. There’s no doubt it’s associated with the brain in some way but the nature of that association is far from clear. In particular..
How do these three pounds of material stuff inside our skulls allow us to have experiences?
Professor David Chalmers of the Australian National University has dubbed this the “hard problem” of consciousness; but many scientists, particularly those (still in the majority) who are philosophically inclined to believe that all phenomena can be reduced to material interactions, deny that any problem exists. To them it seems self-evident that physical processes within the stuff of the brain produce consciousness rather in the way that a generator produces electricity – i.e. consciousness is an “epiphenomenon” of brain activity. And they see it as equally obvious that there cannot be such things as conscious survival of death or out-of-body experiences since both consciousness and experience are confined to the brain and must die when the brain dies.
Yet other scientists with equally impressive credentials are not so sure and are increasingly willing to consider a very different analogy – namely that the relationship of consciousness to the brain may be less like the relationship of the generator to the electricity it produces and more like the relationship of the TV signal to the TV set. In that case when the TV set is destroyed – dead – the signal still continues. Nothing in the present state of knowledge of neuroscience rules this revolutionary possibility out. True, if you damage certain areas of the brain certain areas of consciousness are compromised, but this does not prove that those areas of the brain generate the relevant areas of consciousness. If you were to damage certain areas of your TV set the picture would deteriorate or vanish but the TV signal would remain intact.
We are, in other words, confronted by at least as much mystery as fact around the subject of consciousness and this being the case we should remember that what seems obvious and self-evident to one generation may not seem at all obvious or self-evident to the next. For hundreds of years it was obvious and self-evident to the greatest human minds that the sun moved around the earth – one need only look to the sky, they said, to see the truth of this proposition. Indeed those who maintained the revolutionary view that the earth moved around the sun faced the Inquisition and death by burning at the stake. Yet as it turned out the revolutionaries were right and orthodoxy was terribly, ridiculously wrong.
The same may well prove to be true with the mystery of consciousness. Yes, it does seem obvious and self-evident that the brain produces it (the generator analogy), but this is a deduction from incomplete data and categorically NOT yet an established and irrefutable fact. New discoveries may force materialist science to rescind this theory in favour of something more like the TV analogy in which the brain comes to be understood as a transceiver rather than as a generator of consciousness and in which consciousness is recognized as fundamentally “non-local” in nature – perhaps even as one of the basic driving forces of the universe. At the very least we should withhold judgment on this “hard problem” until more evidence is in and view with suspicion those who hold dogmatic and ideological views about the nature of consciousness.
It’s at this point that the whole seemingly academic issue becomes intensely political and current because modern technological society idealises and is monopolistically focused on only one state of consciousness – the alert, problem-solving state of consciousness that makes us efficient producers and consumers of material goods and services. At the same time our society seeks to police and control a wide range of other “altered” states of consciousness on the basis of the unproven proposition that consciousness is generated by the brain.
I refer here to the so-called “war on drugs” which is really better understood as a war on consciousness and which maintains, supposedly in the interests of society, that we as adults do not have the right or maturity to make sovereign decisions about our own consciousness and about the states of consciousness we wish to explore and embrace. This extraordinary imposition on adult cognitive liberty is justified by the idea that our brain activity, disturbed by drugs, will adversely impact our behaviour towards others. Yet anyone who pauses to think seriously for even a moment must realize that we already have adequate laws that govern adverse behaviour towards others and that the real purpose of the “war on drugs” must therefore be to bear down on consciousness itself.
Confirmation that this is so came from the last British Labour government. It declared that its drug policy would be based on scientific evidence yet in 2009 it sacked Professor David Nutt, Chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, for stating the simple statistical fact that cannabis is less dangerous (in terms of measured “harms” than tobacco and alcohol and that ecstasy is less dangerous than horse-riding. Clearly what was at play here were ideological issues of great importance to the powers that be. And this is an ideology that sticks stubbornly in place regardless of changes in the complexion of the government of the day. The present Conservative-Liberal coalition remains just as adamant in its enforcement of the so-called war on drugs as its Labour predecessor, and continues in the name of this “war” to pour public money – our money – into large, armed, drug-enforcement bureaucracies which are entitled to break down our doors at dead of night, invade our homes, ruin our reputations and put us behind bars.
All of this, we have been persuaded, is in our own interests. Yet if we as adults are not free to make sovereign decisions – right or wrong – about our own consciousness, that most intimate, that most sapient, that most personal part of ourselves, then in what useful sense can we be said to be free at all? And how are we to begin to take real and meaningful responsibility for all the other aspects of our lives when our governments seek to disenfranchise us from this most fundamental of all human rights and responsibilities?
In this connection it is interesting to note that our society has no objection to altering consciousness per se. On the contrary many consciousness-altering drugs, such as Prozac, Seroxat, Ritalin and alcohol, are either massively over-prescribed or freely available today, and make huge fortunes for their manufacturers, but remain entirely legal despite causing obvious harms. Could this be because such legal drugs do not alter consciousness in ways that threaten the monopolistic dominance of the alert problem-solving state of consciousness, while a good number of illegal drugs, such as cannabis, LSD, DMT and psilocybin, do?
There is a revolution in the making here, and what is at stake transcends the case for cognitive liberty as an essential and inalienable adult human right. If it turns out that the brain is not a generator but a transceiver of consciousness then we must consider some little-known scientific research that points to a seemingly outlandish possibility, namely that a particular category of illegal drugs, the hallucinogens such as LSD, DMT and psilocybin, may alter the receiver wavelength of the brain and allow us to gain contact with intelligent non-material entities, “light beings”, “spirits”, “machine elves” (as Terence McKenna called them) – perhaps even the inhabitants of other dimensions. This possibility is regarded as plain fact by shamans in hunter-gatherer societies who for thousands of years have made use of visionary plants and fungi to enter and interact with what they construe as the “spirit world”. Intriguingly it was also specifically envisaged by Dr Rick Strassman, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of New Mexico, following his ground-breaking research with human volunteers and DMT carried out in the 1990’s – a project that produced findings with shattering implications for our understanding of the nature of reality. For further information on Strassman’s revolutionary work see his book DMT: The Spirit Molecule.
Previous articles by Graham Hancock:
The War On Consciousness
New Archaeological Discoveries Uncover the Mysteries of a Lost Civilisation
Giving up the Green: Reflections on Cannabis, Ayahuasca and the Mystery of Plant Teachers
About the author:
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Graham Hancock is the author of the international bestsellers The Sign and The Seal, Fingerprints of the Gods, and Heaven’s Mirror. His books have sold more than five million copies worldwide and have been translated into 27 languages. His public lectures, radio and TV appearances, including two major TV series for Channel 4 in the UK and The Learning Channel in the US – Quest For The Lost Civilisation and Flooded Kingdoms of the Ice Age – have put his ideas before audiences of tens of millions. He has become recognised as an unconventional thinker who raises controversial questions about humanity’s past.
Graham HancockHancock graduated from Durham University in 1973 with First Class Honours in Sociology. He went on to pursue a career in quality journalism, writing for many of Britain’s leading newspapers including The Times, The Sunday Times, The Independent, and The Guardian. He was also co-editor of New Internationalist magazine from 1976-1979 and East Africa correspondent for The Economist from 1981-1983.
Throughout the 1980s, Hancock’s published 6 books, his breakthrough to ‘bestseller’ status coming in 1992 with the publication of The Sign and The Seal, his epic investigation into the mystique and whereabouts today of the lost Ark of the Covenant. Fingerprints of the Gods, published in 1995 sold more than three million copies and was described as ‘one of the intellectual landmarks of the decade’ by the Literary Review. Subsequent works Keeper Of Genesis and Heaven’s Mirror have also been Number 1 bestsellers, the latter accompanied by Hancock’s three-part television series Quest For the Lost Civilisation.
In 2002 Hancock published Underworld: Flooded Kingdoms of the Ice Age to critical acclaim, and hosted an accompanying TV series. The culmination of years of research and on-hand dives at ancient underwater ruins, Underworld offered tangible archaeological evidence that legends of floods destroying ancient off-coastal civilizations were not to be dismissed out of hand.
Hancock’s most recent ventures include Talisman: Sacred Cities, Secret Faith which explores evidence of the continuation into modern times of a secret astronomical cult, Supernatural: Meetings with The Ancient Teachers of Mankind, an investigation of shamanism and the origins of religion, and his latest work Entangled, a work inspired by his journey to the Amazon to drink visionary brew Ayahuasca, used by shamans for more than 4000 years.
During organ transplantation there have been numerous reports of emotions, memories and experiences being transferred along with the organ which is being transplanted, from the donor to the recipient. Dr. Paul Pearsall has collected the cases of 73 heart transplant patients and 67 other organ transplant recipients and published them in his book,
“The Hearts Code” (1). Here is a sample of a case that has been reported.
Transplant recipient develops desire for chicken nuggets and green peppers.
On May 29, 1988, an American woman named Claire Sylvia received a heart transplant at a hospital in Yale, Connecticut. She was told that her donor was an 18 year-old male from Maine who had just died in a motorcycle accident.
Soon after her operation, Sylvia declared that she felt like drinking beer, something she hadn’t particularly been fond of before. Later, she observed an uncontrollable urge to eat chicken nuggets and found herself drawn to visiting the popular chicken restaurant chain, KFC. She also began craving green peppers which she hadn’t particularly liked before. She started behaving in an aggressive and impetuous manner following the surgery. Sylvia also began having recurring dreams about a mystery man named Tim, whom she felt was the organ donor.
She searched for obituaries in newspapers published from Maine and was able to identify the young man whose heart she had received. His name had indeed been Tim. After visiting Tim’s family, she discovered that he used to love chicken nuggets, green peppers and beer. These experiences are documented in her book, A Change of Heart: A Memoir
(2).The Heart Brain
In 1974, the French researchers Gahery and Vigier, working with cats, stimulated the vagus nerve (which carries many of the signals from the heart to the brain) and found that the brain’s electrical response was reduced to about half its normal rate when stimulating the vagus nerve (3). The heart appeared to be sending meaningful messages to the brain that it not only understood, but also obeyed (4). Later, neurophysiologists discovered a neural pathway and mechanism whereby input from the heart to the brain could inhibit or facilitate the brain’s electrical activity (5).
Dr. Armour introduced the idea of functional “heart brain.” His research revealed that the heart has a complex intrinsic nervous system that is sufficiently refined to qualify as a “little brain” in its own right, due to its independent existence.
The heart’s nervous system contains around 40,000 neurons, called sensory neurites. The heart’s brain is an intricate network of several types of neurons, neurotransmitters, proteins and support cells similar to those found in the brain proper. Its elaborate circuitry enables it to act independently of the cranial brain to learn, remember, and even feel and sense (6).
Information from the heart, including feeling sensations, is sent to the brain through several afferents. These afferent nerve pathways enter the brain at the area of the medulla, and cascade up into the higher centers of the brain, where they may influence perception, decision making and other cognitive processes (7).
When heart rhythm patterns are coherent the neural information sent to the brain facilitates cortical function. This effect is often experienced as heightened mental clarity, improved decision making and increased creativity. Additionally, coherent input from the heart tends to facilitate the experience of positive feeling states (8).
States of increased heart rhythm coherence are associated with improvements in cognitive performance (9). The brain’s alpha wave activity is synchronized to the cardiac cycle. During states of high heart rhythm coherence, alpha wave synchronization to the heart’s activity significantly increases (10).
The heart’s afferent neurological signals directly affect activity in the amygdala and associated nuclei, an important emotional processing center in the brain. The amygdala is the key brain center that coordinates behavioral, immunological, and neuroendocrine responses to environmental threats. It compares incoming emotional signals with stored emotional memories, and accordingly makes instantaneous decisions about the level of perceived threat.
Due to its extensive connections to the limbic system, it is able to take over the neural pathways, activating the autonomic nervous system and emotional response before the higher brain centers receive the sensory information (11).
The heart communicates information to the brain and throughout the body via electromagnetic field interactions. The heart generates the body’s most powerful and most extensive rhythmic electromagnetic field. The heart’s magnetic component is about 500 times stronger than the brain’s magnetic field and can be detected several feet away from the body.
It was proposed that, this heart field acts as a carrier wave for information that provides a global synchronizing signal for the entire body (12). There is now evidence that an influential electromagnetic communication system operates just below our conscious awareness. Energetic interactions possibly contribute to the magnetic attractions or repulsions that occur between individuals, and also affect social relationships.
It was also found that one person’s brain waves can synchronize to another person’s heart (13). When people touch or are in proximity one person’s heartbeat signal is registered in the other person’s brainwaves (14). When two people are at a conversational distance, the electromagnetic signal generated by one person’s heart can influence the other person’s brain rhythms.
When an individual is generating a coherent heart rhythm, synchronization between that individual’s brainwaves and another person’s heart-beat is more likely to occur (15).
Individuals capable of generating high ratios of heart coherence were able to alter DNA conformation according to their intention. Intending to denature (un-wind) or renature (wind) the DNA had corresponding effects on the UV spectra (16). As people learn to sustain heart-focused positive feeling states, the brain can be brought into entrainment with the heart (17). The conclusion is the need of pointing to the heart as the center of consciousness.
Hearts Have Their Own Brain and Consciousness
The Heart Sends More Information to the Brain Than the Brain Sends to the Heart
(1) Pearsall, Paul. The Heart’s Code: Tapping the wisdom and power of our heart energy. New York; Broadway Books. (1999)
(2) Sylvia, Claire. A Change of heart: a memoir. New York; Warner Books. (1997)
(3) Rollin McCraty MD, The science of Heart page 4. (2001)
(4) Lacey J I and Lacey B C, Two-way communication between the heart and the brain: Significance of time within the cardiac cycle. American Psychologist, February: 99-113. (1978)
(5) McCraty R, Influence of Cardiac Afferent Input on Heart-Brain Synchronization and Cognitive Performance. International Journal of Psychophysiology; 45(1-2):72-73. (2002)
(6) Armour J A, Anatomy and function of the intrathoracic neurons regulating the mammalian heart. In: Zucker I H and Gilmore J P, eds. Reflex Control of the Circulation. Boca Raton, FL, CRC Press: 1-3. (1991)
(7) Armour J. A. Cardiac neuronal hierarchy in health and disease, American journal of physiology, regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology. Aug; 287(2):R262-71. (2004)
(8) Tiller W, McCraty R, et al, Cardiac coherence; A new non-invasive measure of autonomic system order. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine; 2(1): 52-65. (1996)
(9) Rollin McCraty, PhD and Mike Atkinson. In: Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Pavlovian Society, Tarrytown, NY. (1999)
(10) Influence of afferent cardiovascular input on cognitive performance and alpha activity [Abst.]. Rollin McCraty, PhD and Mike Atkinson. In: Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Pavlovian Society, Tarrytown, NY. (1999)
(11) Rein G, McCraty R and Atkinson M, the Physiological and Psychological Effects of Compassion and Anger, Journal of Advancement in Medicine; 8(2):87-105. (1995)
(12) McCraty R, Bradley RT, Tomasino D, the Resonant Heart, Shift: At the Frontiers of Consciousness; 5:15-19. (2004)
(13) McCraty R, The Energetic Heart: Bioelectromagnetic Communication Within and Between People, Chapter published in: Clinical Applications of Bioelectromagnetic Medicine, edited by Rosch P J and Markov M S. New York: Marcel Dekker: 541-562. (2004)
(14) Rollin McCraty, MA, Mike Atkinson, Dana Tomasino, BA and William A. Tiller, PhD. In: Proceedings of the Fifth Appalachian Conference on Neurobehavioral Dynamics: Brain and Values. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. (1997)
(15) Rollin McCraty, PhD, Mike Atkinson and William A. Tiller, PhD. In: Proceedings of the Tenth International Montreux Congress on Stress, Montreux, Switzerland. (1999)
(16) Rollin McCraty, Ph.D. Mike Atkinson, and Dana Tomasino, B.A. modulation of DNA conformation by heart focused intention, Institute of heartmath. (2003)
(17) Rollin McCraty, PhD, William A. Tiller, PhD and Mike Atkinson. In: Proceedings of the Brain-Mind Applied Neurophysiology EEG Neurofeedback Meeting. Key West, Florida. (1996)