by Don Ingwerson
President Obama has pledged $100,000,000 in his 2014 budget for new brain research according to the New York Times Editorial Board. The ultimate aim is to learn how the brain generates thoughts, dreams, memories, perceptions, and other mental images. Is it possible to measure something that may not reside in the brain but in a form of consciousness outside the material substance called the brain? To look at that question, I am reposting an article originally posted 12/10/12:
As a life-long educator, I get excited when new discoveries are made that show how to maintain health and be freer from physical and mental limitations. My most recent encouragement came from the new book Super Brain, which supports the idea that the brain is important to our health in a number of newly discovered ways.
These new research findings, about how the brain functions under stressful situations that affect health, are almost surreal. They show that the mind has great power to maximize health, happiness, and spiritual wellbeing. The use of these findings could go a long way towards preventing illnesses that have plagued humans for centuries – such as aging, Alzheimer’s, and memory loss – and they point to something many researchers have been saying for some time: that the mind-body connection is more than theory.
What authors Deepak Chopra and Rudolph E. Tanzi do in Super Brain is take the data of mind-body connections to another level. Through scientific evidence they show how the brain functions and how this functioning affects health. In contrast to the “baseline brain” that fulfills the tasks of everyday life, they suggest that through increased self–awareness the brain can be taught to reach far beyond its present limitations. Beliefs about the brain that tend to be limiting can be overcome by combining cutting-edge research with spiritual insights.
One reason scientists continue to search for the source of consciousness, or this higher brain function, is that qualities of thought like forgiveness, humor, and love have a positive impact on the body. Yet to date the search to find the material source for these healing qualities has been unsuccessful. Limiting consciousness research to laboratory analysis of brain tissue (where measurements are more quantifiable) could be inhibiting a full exploration and understanding of consciousness.
But many top scientists continue to search for answers about consciousness. Australian researcher David J. Chalmers, in a video called The Conscious Mind, asks, “How does the water of the brain turn into the wine of consciousness? How is it that all of this matter adds up to something as complex, as interesting, and as unique as consciousness?” And evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins was asked, “What is the one question you most want to see answered?” He replied, “How does subjective consciousness work? How does it evolve?”
Is it possible there’s value in looking in a different direction than biomedical and body-based research to areas that are more subjective and metaphysical?
“In the areas of health and wellbeing, research shows that how we express ourselves spiritually definitely matters. Whom we affiliate with…whether we make time for regular devotion, what we believe, the strength of our faith…these things contribute to whether we become ill or stay well,” claims Jeff Levin in God, Faith and Health: Exploring the Spirituality-Healing Connection.
This idea that spiritual thought affects health was shown recently when a friend of mine, who was suffering from terror dreams, decided to use prayer as his alternative medicine. The biblical statement, “Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust” (Psalms 16:1) was very meaningful and helpful. This spiritual thought, along with, “The divine Mind that made man maintains His own image and likeness,” expressed in the book, Science & Health with Key to the Scriptures, gave him the prayerful strength to overcome this mental suffering. He was healed from the condition overnight and hasn’t had a relapse. Of course, there are many who would say that the correlation between his healing and prayer is too subjective. How can we be sure how he got better? But many, including Chopra, Tanzi, and my friend, are convinced that there is a link to a source – my friend would call it God, others might call it consciousness – that produces positive healing results.
Many individuals are turning to alternative and complementary medicines in their own search for healing. They, like researchers and others, may not be able to identify the source of their healings, but they tend to know when they are physically and mentally well. Maybe researchers will find proof that consciousness is more than matter, evolved from a higher source, and Dawkins’ question will be answered.
Step by step, physicians and material scientists such as Chopra and Tanzi, as shown in Super Brain, have been prodding us to ask what constitutes the qualities we deem healthy by demonstrating that qualities of thought have a positive impact on bodily wellbeing. But if faith in matter is a barrier to the kind of thinking that heals, could that suggest why solely a search of matter for consciousness keeps coming up short?
Article first published in Blogcritics