Introducing a new Group: Evidence-based Spirituality
Motivated by the insightful questions posed by my new friend Dan M. of NYC on our shared ride home from Rowe 2016, I have created a Group that we can use to consolidate our thoughts on what it means to be spiritual, or to be active in the spiritual plane. One may also think of this Group as a good place for former reductionists to commiserate as we work to discuss what we often see as a difficult topic.
I firmly believe that our shared battle for the hearts and minds of people and the future of our earth depends on actions we will take collectively in the spiritual plane. The purpose this Group and the threads it spawns is to hopefully make that last sentence seem a little less woo woo… a little more concrete.
As contents for this first post, let me invoke the words Eben Alexander, one of the most engaging scientists making the case for our spiritual underpinnings;
One of the most fundamental, and damaging, falsehoods in modern science is that all that exists is the physical world, and the closely related concept that the physical brain creates consciousness. Modern neuroscience is contributing to the rejection of this misconception through a set of interesting experiments assessing the action of various psychedelic drugs on the brain (specifically those that influence serotinergic receptors).
Scientific investigations that utilize psychedelic drugs offer measurable and functional outcomes that inform our evolving notions of consciousness and our understanding of the full nature of reality. However, let me be clear from the outset of this article that I do not recommend the casual use of such substances in a non-sacred, recreational setting. In research studies, the quality and quantity of drug administered can be strictly controlled and monitored, which is not the case in most recreational settings where such psychedelics can be dangerous to one’s health.
For purposes of scientific research, they offer compelling findings which mirror the effects of non-drug induced spiritually transformative experiences such as near-death experiences.
First is a report from Imperial College in London in 2012 in which functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) was used to evaluate various brain regions in subjects under the influence of psilocybin, the active principle in psychedelic mushrooms (the genus Psilocybe consists of over 100 species).1 The most remarkable finding of that study was that the activity of major connection regions of the brain was greatly diminished in those who were having the most profound psychedelic experiences, as opposed to the increase in activity anticipated by physicalist scientists who believe the brain creates consciousness and all of experience.
These results were confirmed by a Brazilian study published in February 2015 assessing brain activity through fMRI, this time in subjects under the influence of ayahuasca (which contains the active psychedelic compound N,N-dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, normally present in our brains but in only minuscule amounts).2 Ayahuasca caused a significant decrease in activity throughout the main junctional network in the brain, known as the default-mode network (DMN).
Just this month, the Imperial College group in London refined these observations with another confirmatory study, this one examining the effects of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide-25), the most potent psychedelic, active in doses of 10s to 100s of micrograms.3 In brief, they report decreased integrity of the DMN and decreased alpha and delta power in another main junctional network, the exact opposite of what one would expect if the physical brain were creating the extraordinary conscious experiences.
The reason these studies are so crucial (and confounding to the materialists who believe the physical brain creates conscious experience) is that they powerfully refute the simplistic and false physicalist notion that the brain creates consciousness. The most extraordinary experiences were reported by those subjects who had the greatest inactivation of their brain’s junctional center network activity, as measured through fMRI and MEG. As the brain becomes less active, internal experience actually becomes more active.
This is completely consistent with my own experience in deep coma due to severe bacterial meningitis (as recounted in my 2012 book Proof of Heaven). As my neocortex was destroyed by the invading bacteria, my conscious awareness greatly expanded to levels unprecedented in my normal waking experiences of my entire life. That shocking reality nagged at me especially in the early months after my coma, at a time I was trying to explain the whole experience as a vast hallucinatory trick of the dying brain (defaulting to my pre-coma reductive materialist scientific beliefs, honed by several decades working as a neurosurgeon).
My doctors knew from the medical evidence in my case that my neocortex was far too damaged to be supporting any mode of robust conscious experience, including any elaborate hallucinations, drug effects or dream states. After extensive review with some of the doctors who cared for me, and with several interested colleagues in neurosurgery, it became apparent that that ultra-reality occurred because the experience was real, although it did not occur anywhere in our 4-dimensional space-time of the observable physical universe.
As is often the case with global media completely steeped in the conventional materialistic paradigm, the press reports about the most recent study falsely trumpeted the opposite of the actual findings. Both the Guardian and CNN focused on some of the fMRI images, but completely missed the astonishing conclusions of the actual study, instead misinterpreting them as showing increased brain activity as opposed to the remarkable decreases in activity the paper actually reports.
Although such scientific investigations into psychedelic drugs are crucial in our evolving notions of consciousness and understanding the full nature of reality, I do not recommend the casual use of such substances in a non-sacred, recreational setting. However, very powerful tools exist for those seekers seriously interested in pursuing the deep mystery of consciousness within us all.
Meditation is a time-proven technique for those seeking to understand the universe by going within. For those who do not yet have a reliable means of meditation I suggest the tools of differential sound frequency brain entrainment I have helped to develop with Sacred Acoustics. Co-founder Karen Newell and I travel the world sharing these tools in our presentations – a list of upcoming presentations is listed here. In particular, I would like to invite those in the San Francisco area to attend our presentation and shared meditation at the New Living Expo Saturday evening April 30, 2016 in San Mateo, California. And those in Southern California are invited to join us on Friday evening, June 3, 2016 at the Unity of Tustin, California. (Venue links will take you to short video explanations of each event.)
We are spiritual beings living in a spiritual universe – we can come to know this fact by going within. Given there is but one Truth we all seek, it should come as no surprise that open-minded science that acknowledges all of the relevant empirical observations (including not only psychedelic drug experiences and epiphanies during meditation, but near-death experiences, shared-death experiences, precognition, after-death communication, death bed visions, out of body experiences, remote viewing, past life memories in children indicative of reincarnation, etc.) should help lead us towards that Truth. This will lead to a necessary synthesis of science and spirituality that is crucial to our evolution as a species and to the well-being of all life on our planet.
Interesting to see that the mass media misinterpreted the results of the study so drastically to support the reductionist view. One interpretation of this fact is that the reductionist, materialist view of life is part of the overall matrix of propaganda that surrounds us always, urging us on to the shopping malls and the next episode of our (wasted) TV lives, while keeping us away from the collective where our greatest power may lie – that of our collective consciousness.
I am promoting this first discussion in a new Group to the main page for visibility. Enjoy!
I was an early evidence based spiritual seeker but lucky, like Alexander above, to have experiences that left no doubt for me of the greater reality, but, the discussion that was happening at Rowe 2016 was refreshing and even exhilarating. More and more conscious, successful people in leadership positions in our culture are feeling compelled to act coherently as fully integrated human/spiritual beings. Thanks for starting this discussion group, Jim.
Thomas Moore is a psychotherapist, former monk, and the bestselling author of the spiritual classic Care of the Soul. Thomas has collaborated with Sounds True on several books and audio programs, including Soul Work, Darkness Before the Dawn, and most recently A Personal Spirituality: Finding Your Own Way to a Meaningful Life. In this week’s fascinating episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Thomas about the definition of “meaning” in a modern context, and how we must stay true to our consciences no matter the social consequence. They discuss the importance of maintaining a personal spirituality and the ways one can borrow practice from other traditions while remaining faithful to one’s core beliefs. Finally, Thomas and Tami ruminate on the contemporary distaste for mystery and how the embrace of the unexplained is necessary for a fully embodied spirituality. (68 minutes)
I also recommend this good read:
Award-winning journalist Chip Brown employs a variety of investigative tools in an effort to comprehend the allure as well as the mechanics of such unorthodox yet increasingly popular practices as energy healing and Therapeutic Touch, and the real meaning of such esoteric terms as the subtle body, psychic energy, auras, chakras, prana, and chi.
Where ever you are, there you are.
I'm half way through Tom Campbel's " My Big Toe".
It is chewy. Best taken a sip at time. There are serious issues that I would like to discuss with the Physicist. The role of the ego and the implications of the Quantum Erasure Experiment.
The book is dog eared and falling apart.
All evidence is ultimately subjective. My universe is not the same as your universe.
He argues from two assumptions that the Reality you experience is a digital simulacrum and a subset of a Greater Reality.
There, now you don't have to read the book.
Except that you can adjust your Reality, which has been my experience. (*Remember, all evidence is ultimately subjective. )
Jim: I have to admit that I subscribe to more of a mystical break through of the spiritual to the physical world view. However, ever since I learned of Schrodinger's Cat I have been fascinated by the science at the boundary edge of the physical world. I will be along for the ride just to see what intrigues you fact based empiricists. I will mostly listen but will probably add my two cents from time to time.
Thanks for opening this topic.
My background here is a mixed one, but I often find my belief is reinforced when I can really understand the mechanisms behind all this stuff. I have a great difficulty with blind faith, but when I see how the pieces fit together, its much easier for me.
And belief is key. Belief mixed with the understanding that the world bends to the will of consciousness, well, things get pretty magical. My goal: fully harness the placebo effect. I want to move it from 30% to 100%, if I can.
Helpful people on this path for me are Bruce Lipton ("The Biology of Belief"). THis 2.5 hour lecture is worth your time if you are like me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5wzYNMHwn8.
Bruce is a (PhD) microbiologist who discovered that cells are activated by signals from the outside – not simply chemical, but energetic too, and from this microbiology starting point he iterated towards more or less explaining the mechanism behind the placebo/nocebo effect. He doesn't tell you how to harness it, but he does provide some pretty detailed explanations for how stuff works, and his background in the mechanics of all of it are tough to challenge.
Another resource has already been mentioned by Arthur Robey; Tom Campbell and "My Big TOE" (Theory of Everything), wherein the universe is (fascinatingly for me) boiled down into a virtual reality simulation where things get provably weird down at the more granular levels. Lots of great detail in there, including a story on how to (potentially) increase the number of beers in your fridge if you've been on vacation for a while. Key takeaway: use cash, and don't appear on cameras. Once a recording of the event is available to consciousness, things are locked in place. Tom Campbell believes the double slit experiment applies at the macro level: namely, that the cat really is both alive and dead (in a yet-to-be-resolved state of probability) and that situation is only resolved once consciousness takes a look.
I think the universe is far more interesting as a result.
I've been meaning to add my two cents in here, but got caught up in other stuff…
Thanks Jim! This is one area where I suspect we have a lot in common. Imagine that!
Was it you who wrote “Proof of Heaven”?I am pressed by the company I keep.