It’s been a busy week. Though I am not a veteran, on Tuesday, I was proud to join a contingent from Veterans for Peace (VFP) in Jefferson City, Missouri to speak up for Palestinians and against genocide in public testimony on Missouri House bill HCR30, an unnecessary and one sided statement of our special relationship with Israel.
Back home, we got together again on Saturday to discuss VFP led investigations on consequences of milatarism on climate forcing. We will continue coordinating with local 350.org activists in future actions.
Much of my Friday and Saturday were spent on beekeeper training, which I sorely need if I am going to continue keeping bees. Whether I do or not involves interesting ecological and economic issues that I may discuss in To Bee or Not to Bee installments of the ACM.
Throughout the week, we have been busy trying to finish off an occupancy inspection checklist so that we can sell our latest investment property. Today, I get to continue hacking away at tree stumps the inspector says must be removed, and patch cracks in concrete. There is not a lot of time, so I’ll leave the topics above for future posts.
We’ll continue the ACM today with an overview of a recent discussion on consciousness.
First, neuroscientist and author Anil Seth informed us that there are dozens of neurological explanations for consciousness in existence. We are in an exciting time when we can now test many of them. In Seth’s hypotheses, what we perceive is not simply a read out, but continuous prediction by the brain updated by sensory information. Experience, therefore, is an inside out process as much as outside in one. There is insufficient evidence in Seth’s estimation to suggest that consciousness extends beyond the brain. Furthermore, Seth speculated that life may be a necessary condition for consciousness. Computers and software in such a case might not be capable of consciousness.
Overall, Seth is optimistic that neuroscience and biology will solve mysteries of consciousness. The beauty of science is that any of us can be wrong and we can keep exploring. Changes in our understanding of consciousness are already having widespread impacts. He finished by emphasizing that we are just now advancing enough to understand complexity of neural systems. He acknowledges that mind extends beyond brains in written words, photographs, recordings, data, etc, but conscious awareness appears to be limited to the body. Any extraordinary claims otherwise require more evidence than is currently available.
Next, Tanya Luhrmann reported that extraordinary evidence for consciousness existing beyond human brains has long been presented by people of faith having visions and hearing voices for millennia. Spiritual voices, she contends, are different than voices of madness. People experience invisible others as real and responsive
In Luhrmann’s research, people with more porous conceptions of mind-world boundaries are more likely to feel, hear or see the presence of god or spirits than those with more concrete separations between their minds and the world. Those with more fishnet like conceptions of the mind may consider dreams and art as inspired from the outside, and thought as a wifi of sorts that can act in the world on its own. They are more likely to have felt spiritual presences or have unusual experiences.
Beyond conceptions of mind-world boundaries, people who more readily become absorbed in stories and experiences, such as movies and plays, are also more likely to have heard or felt spirits. In addition, those who practice activities like prayer are more likely to have spiritual experiences.
Many with spiritual practices appear to be on the look out for sudden or loud thoughts that might be from god. They look for thoughts when praying and focusing on inner imagery. Many speak of feeling spiritual presence, or talk as if spirits are listening. A few report hearing voices with their ears.
More objectively, techniques for developing relationships within the mind can be applied in tupalmancy, the act of creating visible friends through cultivation of mental imagery, such as focusing on the tulpa’s body parts, feeling their bodies, listening for them, and talking as if the tulpa is present. Over time, a distinct sense of other arises. Tulpas may talk with their creators, at times physically, according to tupalmancers.
Whether tupalmancy or prayer, such practices help people feel love and protected, and less alone. These practices may be healthy just for those reasons. It may be part of our human capacity to heal ourselves from within. In short, Luhrmann concluded that we can have relationships with our own minds and behave as if invisible others are there. It may have undercut her earlier points about people of faith hearing voices and seeing visions, though it is unclear whether our brains are the source of all of these experiences.
Rupert Sheldake finished off with the idea that is unnecessary to limit our conceptions of consciousness to brains. Materialists may try to localize awareness to brains, but modern physics shows that field effects are nonlocal. There are regions of influence encompassed by fields, such as gravity and electromagnetism. Fields from our minds might stretch out beyond our bodies. If there are any such field effects, then we need to account for them and include associated brain processes.
Sheldrake cited the example of vision as being well known as a process for taking in images. Some also consider projection aspects of vision. Scopothesia, a sense of being stared at, is common. Experiments in sensing being stared at have been highly significant, according to Sheldrake, with the most powerful effects observed among male strangers in potentially threatening situations. Many Investigators and celebrity photographers take such a sense for granted and avoid staring at their subjects.
In another brief example, Sheldrake cited phantom limb feelings as those that might result from a mind interacting with fields, rather than being only a product of the brain.
In the end, there were no big revelations or exciting new information. I still find the discussion fascinating. Hope it has been worthwhile for readers.