Tag Archives: the extended mind

Extinguishing Bruno’s Visions

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Visionary experience is not unusual amongst scientists, and in the history of science. Giordano Bruno was a sixteenth century Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, mathematician, poet, and astrologer. At this time the Church was incredibly powerful, and was heavily intolerant of any challenges to its sun-and-God-centred map of the cosmos. Bruno was also a mystic who was deeply influenced by his visionary experiences. As reported in the television series Cosmos, Bruno had a powerful vision which shaped his decision to leave the Church and push for ecclesiastical reform. In the vision Bruno felt himself leaving his body, and flying out into the universe. There he felt he personally witnessed the limitless nature of the cosmos. What he experienced convinced him that Copernicus was right in positing the sun at the centre of the universe. The precise account of Bruno’s vision is difficult to track down, but Cosmos recounts it as follows.

I spread confident wings to space and soared toward the infinite, leaving far behind me what others strained to see from a distance. Here, there was no up. No down. No edge. No centre. I saw that the Sun was just another star. And the stars were other Suns, each escorted by other Earths like our own. The revelation of this immensity was like falling in love.

Thus Bruno became convinced that the God of the Church was far smaller than the extant God of all existence. He believed that the sun was just one of many stars, and speculated that many worlds might lie beyond the Earth and that they too might be inhabited. This got Bruno into a lot of trouble, and he was imprisoned for eight years as a heretic, before being cruelly burnt at the stake by the Inquisition. It is said that his tongue and pallet were pierced with iron stakes. Despite years of persecution, Bruno refused to renounce his beliefs, famously stating to his inquisitors, “Perhaps your fear in passing judgment on me is greater than mine in receiving it.”

COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY: More than three decades after Carl Sagan's groundbreaking and iconic series, "Cosmos: A Personal Voyage," it's time once again to set sail for the stars. Host and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson sets off on the Ship of the Imagination to discover Earth's Cosmic Address and its coordinates in space and time in the "Standing Up in the Milky Way" Series Premiere episode of COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY airing Sunday, March 9, 2014 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. (Photo by FOX via Getty Images)
Neil De Grasse Tyson recounts this tale in the first episode of the Cosmos series. What interests me most is de Grasse Tyson’s take on Bruno’s vision. He states that it was “…a lucky guess, and like all guesses it could have been wrong.” It is significant to note that the world’s most eminent scientist understands so little about the way the human mind functions in non-ordinary states of consciousness.

There are two factors which challenge the claim that what Bruno experienced was merely a lucky guess. The first factor is perfectly accepted in cognitive science, and it is the process of incubation. The brain will unconsciously process information on a subject matter even when we are not paying attention, when completely relaxed, or when focusing upon something unrelated. We receive immense amounts of data each moment, and we are unaware of most of it. The brain can go about processing this data, regardless of our conscious volition. The result can be personal insight, the synthesis of connected subject matters and creative inspiration. If we consider this incubation process, the relative accuracy of Bruno’s visionary experience may have been the result of his brain taking in all the data it had received, and converting it into the best map of the universe it knew how to construct. And given that Bruno was an obsessive reader of science, philosophy and theology, this vision would have been anything but a “guess.” It would have been a data-based intuition.

The second important cognitive function that challenges de Grasse Tyson’s “guess” statement concerns a factor that is not yet widely accepted in modern science: that consciousness is not confined to the brain and is in constant interplay with the world about us, and the very expanse of the universe itself. If we accept this, then Bruno’s mind was not delimited by his personal experience, including readings of science. What he “saw” in his visionary state may have been his mind engaging the intelligence of the cosmos itself. Such experiences are widely reported amongst mystics in many spiritual traditions and in transpersonal experience, although the nature of the knowledge they glean may not always be along the “scientific” lines that Bruno experienced. The history of science has many similar reports. Kekule envisaged the benzene ring in a dream, while Alfred Russel Wallace pieced together the essence of his model of biological evolution while in a fever-induced trance. Wallace did this at the very same time in history that Darwin was finalising his ideas about evolution. In fact, there are claims that Darwin plagiarised parts of his thesis from a long letter sent to him by Wallace, just months before Darwin published The Origin of Species.

It cannot be claimed that de Grasse Tyson is entirely contemptuous of the importance of first-person experience when conducting science. He describes himself as an “agnostic,” and rejects the label of “atheist.” Further, he uses the word “spiritual” in relating his emotive relationship to the cosmos. Yet he makes it clear that he is not referring to religious experience, but a sense of awe and connectivity.

Nonetheless, the famous scientist’s rejection of Bruno’s visionary capacities is perplexing. How is it possible that such a learned man as de Grasse Tyson, extensively educated and employed at the world’s finest universities (Harvard, Columbia, Princeton) can be so dismissive of the often unconscious nature of perception and creativity via non-ordinary states of consciousness? We could mention the self-limiting nature of the mechanistic paradigm in mainstream science. We might suggest the pressure that the series producers may have felt to please their “scientifically-literate” audience. Yet the answer may simply be that the world’s most eminent scientist has never experienced such states of awareness. After all, our “best” educational institutions also tend to be our most conservative. Science is taught and conducted with logical, detached and analytical ways of knowing.

The great irony is that the scientific revolution which Bruno helped bring about and ultimately died for has also disowned the very cognitive process which drove many of his insights. This rejection has created the split in the modern mind, where we disown our essential connection to nature and the cosmos, and to our inner worlds.
Perhaps we need another Bruno to rise like a phoenix from the flames of history and reignite our integrated intelligence.

Marcus

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Peter L Nelson and How You Can See the Secrets of Life

This article also appears on Conscious Life News

What if when you enter a room, instead of looking about with your eyes and listening with your ears, you first employed your feelings to get a sense of the place? If you did this every time you entered a new space, how would it change your perception of place? How would it transform the way you relate to the world, to people, to your experience of self as a conscious being?

There is a man who teaches people how to do exactly this, and his name is Peter L Nelson. A clinical psychologist with a PhD, Peter is no ordinary scientist. He is also a “seer,” a person who has been trained to sense what lies within the spaces that we normally do not look upon.

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Peter’s recent book Way of a Seer makes bold claims. The volume is founded upon the conviction that the human mind is connected to “second-stream of consciousness,” and that the information that this provides for the individual can be practically applied in our daily lives. This spiritual intelligence is innate, but our society and education system has forgotten it, instead conditioning us to tightly focus our attention on a very narrow range of perceptual experience. We are taught to push, to compete, to win. We are not taught to relax and look. We are not taught to listen. Instead, we impose ourselves upon the world, and in doing so miss its subtle essence and much of the information contained within places, experiences and people.

Peter’s induction to the world of seers is as remarkable as the teaching itself, as he told me recently on my podcast The Consciousness Files. In his early twenties Peter was a disgruntled postgraduate student spending his time cutting open rats’ brains in the university lab. He found the entire programme distasteful. Despite his inquisitive scientific intelligence, Peter never felt quite at home in society and modern education. He had long had disconcerting psychic experiences, which he tended to push aside.

One night he had a dream of flying over green hills, and had the profound sense that he knew the place he was seeing. The following night at the cinema he saw the exact same scene again, which was in Devonshire, England. He had a profound sense of longing to travel to the country.

In a series of coincidences, he soon met a wealthy woman who offered to take him there. He made the decision to quit his studies and soon found himself in London. To try to make sense of the experiences he was having, Peter visited the British Society Psychical Research (15:45 mins). It was there that the librarian began to act a little strange. She insisted that he read a letter, which she stated was very important. Peter declined, but he struck up a friendship with the woman. Eventually she convinced him to read the letter. It turned out that it had been written ten years before. It was apparently addressed to Peter himself, even though Peter had never met the writer. It described details of Peter’s life that appeared to be too accurate to dismiss as coincidence.

At first Peter thought it was some kind of scam, but the disorienting effect of the experience stayed with him. Despite his fear and the unsettling effect on his life, he maintained his relationship with the woman. She would, over a period of years, teach him how to become a seer.

According to Peter Nelson, perhaps the most important aspect of “seeing” is that it transforms our way of relating to people, the world and the cosmos. It is vital to helping us rediscover the connectivity that we have lost in our modern, economically-developed cultures.

What I particularly like about Peter is his honesty and the “scientific” approach to what I prefer to call “integrated intelligence.” He does not profess to know all the answers to life, the universe and everything. Indeed “not knowing” is central to his personal philosophy. We humans are very limited in what we can understand about the universe, he says. Yet even the simple act of noticing what we don’t pay attention to can be transformative.

Take a look around you now. What did you first pay attention to when you entered the room? What do you never pay attention to in this space? A minute of quiet meditation on these two questions can reveal much about what you have become – and what you have not become.

Perhaps Peter L Nelson’s way is not for everyone who works with the extended mind, but I think all “seers” can gain a great deal from his “critical” approach. Peter is not so much interested in laying down dogmas and certainties, as in problematising the way of the seer. He is sometimes critical of false or naive approaches to seeing, but I think this is a good thing.

The world needs people with the courage to speak and write openly about this often-maligned area of human perception. Seeing deeply is not merely an interesting aside to the human story, like attending a psychic reading or playing with a ouija board when you have had a few too many drinks. I am in full agreement with Peter L Nelson that non-ordinary perception is central to rebalancing the greater story of our civilisation and our species. Peter L Nelson makes an invaluable, fascinating and very accessible contribution to human knowledge.

The Future of Consciousness

Some of you might recall a book I was working on which I was tentatively calling The Great Mind Shift. I then changed the title to The Great Transition. The main idea of the book is to explore the futures of the extended mind – and especially what changes might occur once this idea becomes accepted by mainstream science. I kind of became stuck on this project for a while. I didn’t give up, just put it on the back burner.

Well, I’ve had a genuine breakthrough recently, and am going great guns on the project. The shift has been simple. I have clarified the title and the audience. I am now calling it “The Future of Consciousness: Towards an Integrated Intelligence.”

Rather than try to make the book water-tight for the scientific community (which would make it too dry and detailed) I am going to aim at a more popular audience. I am going to address the science, but also move beyond scientific convention. I will focus upon practical applications of integrated intelligence in education, business, IT and social development, and even bring in a few extraneous futures such as with mental health and the military. This will allow me to combine research, critical futures studies and personal insight.

I am in the process of interviewing experts in relevant fields. I will turn the first 12 of these into podcasts – probably under the title “The Consciousness Files” – which will be made available to the general public. If the podcasts go well, I will continue to produce them. You will hear more about this soon. I hope you can join me in this adventure. It should be both fun and a great learning experience for me and my audience.

PS, if you think you have something to share in this area, especially in terms of possible practical applications of integrated intelligence, send me a message here on Facebook, and I will see if we can turn it into a podcast – and if not, it might be able to incorporate your ideas into my book, fully referenced to you, of course.

Feel free to share this post! Marcus.

Dean Radin’s Supernormal: a Review

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“Supernormal” begins with the premise that so-called psychic and supernatural abilities are actually quite normal. They are perhaps not normal in the sense that everybody has them on tap, but in that over half of the population claim to have experienced them or at least believe they exist. Radin then sets out to explore the topic and discuss the relevant scientific evidence.

The author frames his arguments with reference to yoga, and in particular the yoga siddhis, seemingly paranormal abilities that ancient yoga texts claim human beings can attain with mastery of the mind and body. As Radin points out, the practice of yoga has exploded in the West in recent decades, so it is a perfectly good way to frame the discussion. One of the problems with talking about psi phenomena is that there is an effective taboo against it in Western science and academic discourse. Using yoga as a launching pad is therefore a suitable means to initiate the discussion and get it into the open. perhaps the only real problem with this is that many Western religions view yoga and Eastern philosophy as “evil”, and this may prevent the discussion breaching these ancient walls. Hard-core sceptics won’t appreciate the approach either – but then again, nothing short of waking the dead is going to shift their attitude to this issue.

You will find that Supernormal is written in reader-friendly style. Those who are not particularly interested in the science/physics of consciousness will find the book a little less technical than Radin’s other books. While he does deal with some technical aspects of psi phenomena – such as statistical analysis and the scientific evidence for things like telekinesis, telepathy and clairvoyance – Radin manages to discuss the subject matter in laymen-friendly terms, and with a very accessible narrative voice.

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While Radin does represent the most common arguments of sceptics and critics, the book very clearly sides with the pro-psi camp, arguing strongly that ESP and psi phenomena are genuine, and that our maps of reality need to be upgraded to accommodate them. Radin is thus not attempting to deliver an exhaustive scholarly examination of all aspects of the discourse. He is essentially making the strongest case possible for the existence of the “paranormal”.

So this is not a purely objective treatise, and I suspect Radin would make no claim to a purely detached perspective, given that his entire career is built upon the very arguments found in this book (nor would I ever claim such detachment, given my personal exploration of these subject matters in my own career as a writer and speaker, and my own personal life which has long been permeated with many “supernormal” experiences).

As a futurist with a focus upon the futures of consciousness and intelligence, I enjoyed Radin’s final chapter on “The Future Human”. One of his essential conclusions is that our science and our society will eventually have to shift their understandings about the nature of time, space and consciousness. It’s been more than 100 years since relativity theory showed that time and space are not absolutes, while quantum physics has futher muddied the waters. This has severely undermined materialism, causality and many of the founding presuppositions of contemporary education and science. Yet many of our institutions and media outlets remain deeply attached to a mechanistic model of reality. Often they are hostile to the harbingers of change, regardless of what evidence they bring to the table.

It’s time to move on. Why resist when the unexplored territory is so exciting? All adventure entails an element of uncertainty and perhaps danger. Perhaps even confusion and a sense of loss. But the price for choosing to remain in the past is great. This is the fork in the road at which we now stand.

I give “Supernormal” five-stars. It succeeds perfectly in what it sets out to do: to present the case for the existence of an expanded array of human cognitive abilities in accessible and entertaining fashion.

 

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The Future of Consciousness project overview

The short link to this page is: http://ow.ly/kCOGH

This is it! I have made references on previous occasions to something I have called The Future of Consciousness(formerly The Great Mind Shift). However this is the first time I have mentioned a project which I have been developing over the past few weeks that goes by the very same name: The Future of Consciousness. You can see an overview of the project below the book cover.

I have already formed a Meet Up group in Melbourne. Our first meeting just two days ago was very promising, with an enthusiastic fourteen members attending. This particular Meet Up group is for Melbournites only (unless you are willing to fly in to our meetings!). However, there will eventually be a Mind Shift web site all of its own, and anybody, anywhere across the globe is free to visit or become a member. Meanwhile, you can read regular updates here on this page.

I listed some initial practical possibilities for this project here.

Without further ado, here are the details of the The Future of Consciousness project, in its essence. Note that the project appears under its original name, The Coming Consciousness Revolution.

PS: If you wish to be kept up to date about research and developments regarding The Future of Consciousness (interviews, videos, the book project, important links to other works etc.) just email me at newsletter@marcustanthony.com, and I will send you updates every month or so.

Marcus

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 GMS cover basics

The Future of Consciousness

What it means for the future of science, life and business

Initiated by:

Marcus T. Anthony, PhD,

Director, MindFutures

“Where will The Coming Consciousness Revolution take us, and how can we create opportunities from it?”

The Coming Consciousness Revolution refers to the fast-approaching era of science and culture which acknowledges the reality of the extended mind and the spiritual dimensions of human experience. The Future of Consciousness explores exciting developments & possibilities in a wide array of domains including business, spirituality, philosophy, social media, education & learning, the arts, health & healing biology, physics, consciousness studies, computing etc.

The Coming Consciousness Revolution heralds an era of tremendous opportunity for all those passionate about expanded human futures and the untapped potentials within the human mind.

Overview

·        Futurist Marcus T Anthony indicates a new direction of change, & outlines what it will mean for life, work, science, education & society

·        A key purpose of The Coming Consciousness Revolution is to stimulate thinking & get people to begin expanding their thoughts about what is possible with the future of mind

·        This project has a practical focus: aimed at people who would like to seize opportunities

·        The Great Transition is a stimulus to encourage those with the imagination & foresight to explore concrete opportunities in business, career, research or life orientation.

Motivation

·        A major shift is emerging – a dramatic change in what it means to be human

·        The 21st century will increasingly be an era of connectedness, both technologically & spiritually

·        Old notions of consciousness being localised in brains will be replaced by reality of the extended mind – a mind that is in dynamic relationship with other people, the environment & the cosmos itself.

Aims of the Project

·        To publish The Coming Consciousness Revolution (book), which will be a powerful reference book (updated regularly)

·       To form The Coming Consciousness Revolution group (international think tank) to bring together a group of committed, influential experts to form a pool of knowledge & resources

·       To present an overview of some of the most important current ideas and/or scientific developments in practical applications of The Coming Consciousness Rebolution

·       To make informed predictions about where each domain may develop in the coming decades as The Coming Consciousness Revolution takes more definite form

·       To suggest opportunities for learning, business and personal growth in each domain

·        To present video and text interviews with leading thinkers in each domain

·       Regular updates (www.mind-futures.com/great-mind-shift)

PS: If you wish to be kept up to date about research and developments regarding The Coming Consciousness Revolution (interviews, videos, the book project, important links to other works etc.) just email me at newsletter@marcustanthony.com, and I will send you updates every month or so.

Marcus

A Neuroscientist Discovers Consciousness Beyond the Brain

A very important story appeared in several newspapers and popular media websites yesterday, taken from a recent Newsweek article. The article is about Dr Eben Alexander, a Harvard neuroscientist who had an extended near death experience while in a coma. Dr Alexander became seriously ill after contracting bacterial meningitis in 2008 and his entire neocortex shut down. This is the part of the brain that is usually considered the home of ‘thought’ as popularly understood. Dr Alexander has been openly speaking about his experience for at least a year now.

Dr Alexander’s was a classic unity experience, where he experienced “God” as unconditional love, and communicated with spiritual beings, including what may have been a host (group) of angels. Dr Alexander came to see that what he had previously considered the pinnacle of consciousness and intelligence – the rational/linguistic functions of the neo-cortex – is but a tiny and delimited aspect of human consciousness. Alexander’s experience forced him to conclude that the foundations of contemporary neuroscience are dead wrong, and cannot even begin to explain the full complexity of consciousness. The entire mechanistic/reductionist foundations of science have to be ditched if we are to understand the fullness of consciousness, he now believes.

This mirrors precisely my own conclusions about the nature of mind. It is very difficult for those embedded within a self-limiting culture or paradigmatic map of reality to see beyond it. This is one of the main reasons why so many of those working within modern science and psychology have become so deeply deluded about the human condition.

After he came out of his coma Dr Alexander spent some time at the Monroe Institute, the late Robert Monroe’s organisation which has programmes to assist people have transcendental and out-of-body experiences. He was able to reproduce vital aspects of his NDE. In the audio link below you will hear Dr Alexander stating that it is only when the verbal-linguistic functions of mind are silenced that the full magnificence of consciousness can be experienced. Again, this is very similar to what I have been writing and speaking about for years.

I find it extremely heartening that a Harvard neuroscientist has had the courage to come out and talk about a mystical experience, given the ‘psi taboo’. The sandstone universities are typically the most hostile to such discussions. Perhaps the most heartening thing of all is that Dr Alexander has spoken of his interaction with spiritual beings during his mystical experiences. I can personally vouch that this is one of the most difficult aspects of mystical experience to try to communicate to academic audiences (as I have personally done for a decade or so now, though in a cautious way).

There is now a body of knowledge about the extended mind. It represents a fairly consistent picture. I have written previously about many modern mystics, including those who have had transcendent spiritual experiences such as near death experiences. Just a few are Anita Moorjani, Leonard Jacobson, Jill Bolte Taylor and David R Hawkins. These people have discovered that consciousness is not confined to the brain, that our deepest essence is unconditionally loving and forgiving, that there is no sin or judgment from “God”. We human beings are magnificent in ways that modern science and culture has almost completely forgotten. We must begin to develop models of consciousness and mind that are not restricted by the assumption that the brain generates consciousness and that all spiritual experiences are delusional. The current dominant computer-metaphor models have outlived their usefulness and must go, because they are holding back the human species. We cannot embrace our true magnificence when we remain fundamentally deluded about who we are – like a bunch of caterpillars insisting that they are nothing but earthbound grubs and that butterflies do not exist.

If humanity is to truly flourish on this planet, and if we are to develop deeply meaningful human futures, we must acknowledge the limitations of mechanistic biology. We must shed light on what I call “the Deckard confusion”. In the movie Bladerunner the lead character is confused about whether he is a human or a machine. It is time to move beyond the confusion. Like Dr Alexander, I see science and spirituality as two sides of th same coin. There is no need to get rid of either, merely the false beliefs and assumptions that many currently hold.

It is people like Dr Eben Alexander who are helping us find the truth.

Note: Dr Alexander’s book Proof of Heaven is out on October 23rd.

 

Skeptico audio interview on youtube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYZoX4N5_YQ&feature=related

Audio interview with Dr Alexander

 
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