Professor Swaran Singh says there may be levels of consciousness that come from something deeper than just brain activity, reports iflscience.com.
University of Warwick psychiatrist Swaran Singh attempted to uncover the scientific validity of mystical experiences by describing his own transcendental encounter as he emerged from general anesthesia.
Describing the strange phenomenon in detail in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, Professor Swaran Singh explains how he came to “understand the cosmos, not in the cognitive sense of knowledge, but on the basis of an experience that is difficult to formulate.”
An unusual event occurred almost 40 years ago, on April 4, 1984, during postoperative recovery from a serious car accident. Since then, Professor Singh has devoted himself to the study of objective science, but insists that this experience “becomes more and more prominent in my sense of self and my understanding of the relationship between the empirical and the transcendent.”
Describing the experience, he shows that it was imbued with a “noetic quality” which is defined as “a sense of revelation and full understanding”. According to the author, the strange phenomenon lasted ten to 12 minutes and allowed him to “know something completely and completely that I had never known before.”
“I do not know how I know, but I know that I know,” he writes, before going on to explain how he came to entirely understand the interplay between “space, time, energy, matter, and life.”
“Life changes from one form to another, but the total quantity of life force remains constant and fixed,” he says. “The increase of one form is at the expense of another, and in case of life, one life form appears at the expense of another disappearing.”
In trying to establish the source and legitimacy of this unexpected upload, Singh insists that “these phenomena must have a neural basis.” Delving into this issue, he discusses how the activation of brain regions such as the insular cortex, premotor cortex, and lower parietal lobe have been implicated in mystical experiences during meditation or under the influence of psychedelic drugs.
He also notes that any such changes in his own brain activity were most likely provoked by a “toxic state of confusion”, but at the same time claims that the knowledge gained during the experience was reliable.
He thus embraces the gulf between empirical science and the indefinable power of pure experience, and argues that while neural activity undoubtedly determines our mental processes, certain levels of consciousness can be derived from something deeper than just brain activity.
“Brain states are mechanisms. They do not confer meaning,” he writes. “And subjective meaning cannot be reduced to a brain state, regardless of the strength of the statistical association between the two.”
Ultimately, then, the paper serves to highlight a philosophical paradox that threatens to thwart our pursuit of a scientific explanation of consciousness, experience, and ultimately, reality itself. Having outlined this apparently fundamental conflict, Singh concludes that “I cannot know which reality I experienced – drug-induced, lucid dreaming, or something else.”
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