The other day I woke up and proceeded to wash and shave. It was still a little dark, so I turned on the overhead light and was startled by the image of myself in the mirror. “Who’s that?” It flashed on me that I was staring at a mystery.
First my body. I recalled that about 95 percent of the physical universe, matter and energy, is “dark”—in short, unknown, a mystery. My second thought was that the origins of living matter is also a mystery. Then something else struck me as strange as I looked at my mirror image. My mind was invisible!
The thoughts I was thinking were nowhere to be seen The me I know I am, the subject that thinks, feels, wills, imagines and remembers was invisible. With that thought I got the metaphysical shivers. Where am I hiding? In my brain, you say? But the most advanced brain scanning technologies cannot locate our thoughts or the neuro-machinery that supposedly produces them. All they reveal are shadowy brain correlates of mind in action.
Next, still musing on my image in the mirror, I realize there is an even greater mystery in the form of a paradox. The most obvious thing I can think of is the most mysterious: that we are conscious and aware of the universe around us. If you’re reading this, you know you’re conscious—nothing to it, and nothing could be more common. And yet—the paradox—it’s a complete mystery to science.
We humans can produce the equations of quantum mechanics, describe in detail the marvel of photosynthesis, and make music like John Coltrane & J. S. Bach did. But we’re clueless as to where our consciousness comes from. Consciousness is a scientific mystery. Moreover, the only life and reality we know is through our consciousness. You can imagine, make inferences, and perform experiments; but you can never get out of your consciousness. Of course, because so common, we ignore the mystery. Our familiar routines dull the gleam of strangeness in what at first may have seemed the miracle of consciousness.
But there are some who feel driven to explore the mysteries. Peering into that mirror again, I recall what quantum physicist Irwin Schroedinger said about mind; numerically, it can only be one. Our seemingly separate minds are part of the One Mind.
However, our minds are entangled with brains that filter and color our individual consciousness. This creates the illusion of separateness and isolation; being in a body makes us feel vulnerable, causing us to forget the inner depths of our mental life.
The question then becomes, How can we tune into the greater mind we are all rooted in? The problem is how to become aware of what is present. It’s as though we suffer from an inability turn our heads, a type of cognitive paralysis. If we could, if we could see the infinite value of what is already present—life on earth would drastically change.
Given all that latent treasure asleep within us we have somehow to wake up and liberate our much needed potentials. There are the teachings of the great explorers of consciousness and their instructions on how to proceed. Unfortunately, there’s a sense of urgency nowadays, so I want to mention some models that suggest the rapid transformation of consciousness.
It is worth mentioning here that certain kinds of brain trauma seem to allow hidden potentials to suddenly emerge and fully express themselves. So, for example, you have the well-known case of Derek Amato who dove into a pool, cracked his skull on cement, but emerged from the accident with an unknown ability for playing the piano, completely transforming his life.
I’m not of course implying that we try bashing our heads on concrete in hopes of releasing our latent genius potentials. But it is worth noting that events we normally dread sometimes turn out to be occasions of unexpected transformation. The most important and well-documented example of this is the near-death experience. The literature is full of examples of people suddenly transformed as a result of such encounters. Psychedelics are yet another way to alter the brain and rapidly open to powers within.
Yogis, shamans, and mystics, in a parallel vein, practice a kind of slow death of the ego as a way of opening the floodgates to the greater self. So, whether by more rapid methods or by slowly modifying the brain by dance, fasting, music, meditation, etc., induced openings to our latent powers are possible.
So, a glance in the mirror at ourselves should remind us of the potential that each of us contains. By various methods it is possible to restructure the brain, and help us tap into the wealth of our mental resources. The person you see in the mirror is the perfect laboratory for a marvelous experiment. The only thing lacking is the will to embark on the adventure.-->
I very much enjoy your essays.
Michael, as I read this contribution, I thought of my favorite TED talk: Jill Bolte Taylor's 'Stroke of Genius' in which she describes her experiences while having a stroke, https://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight. During her talk, she claims that the sort of recognition of her mind being part of 'universal minds' was the result of her left hemisphere being momentarily shut down. Others have discussed similar strategies of quieting the language/analytical mind, etc. As I kept reading your essay, it occurred to me that a technique exists to knock off one of the hemispheres! It's called the WADA test, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wada_test. It is used in those about to undergo brain surgery for the purpose of determining where the language centers are located. But, a further search, albeit a brief one, indicated that such testing is usually unremarkable as far as patient reports of unusual experiences, though the one paper reported strange behavior in some patients, http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0004-282X2004000300012, that did not quite match the experiences of Bolte Taylor. Of course, there is always meditation (takes too long!) and those psychoactive agents .... :)
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