“…human consciousness is capable of doing many things that the brain… could not possibly do and that it is a primary….aspect of existence.”
We are pleased to offer this series overviewing Stanislav Grof’s lecture, The Consciousness Revolution: New Perspectives in Psychiatry, Psychology, and Psychotherapy given at the XVII International Transpersonal Conference in Moscow on June 24, 2010. In this second post from our series, The Conscious Revolution, Grof explores the nature of consciousness and its relationship to matter, overturning the conventionally accepted materialist attitude. Check out our previous post, The Conscious Revolution: New Perspectives. All text taken directly from the transcript is in italics.
Click here for a free PDF download of the transcript of Grof’s lecture. Visit Stan Grof’s Teacher Page for more information about Stan and his extensive research into the healing and transformative potential of non-ordinary states of consciousness. Additionally, he has had significant influence on the integration of science and transpersonal psychology.
The current and conventional scientific worldview accepts the “thesis” that consciousness arises from the material….
…consciousness is an epiphenomenon of material processes; it allegedly emerges out of the complexity of the neurophysiological processes in the brain. This thesis is presented with great authority as an obvious fact that has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt. However, if we subject it to closer scrutiny, we discover that it is a basic metaphysical assumption that is not supported by facts and actually contradicts the findings of modern consciousness research.
The origin of consciousness from matter is simply assumed as an obvious and self-evident fact based on the belief in the primacy of matter in the universe. In the entire history of science, nobody has ever offered a plausible explanation how consciousness could be generated by material processes, or even suggested a viable approach to the problem.
The “problem of consciousness” has not been solved. The open question remains….
What is it that is capable of transforming chemical and electric processes in the brain into a conscious experience of a reasonable facsimile of the object we are observing, in full color, and project it into three-dimensional space?
The formidable problem of the relationship between phenomena – things as we perceive them – and noumena – things as they truly are in themselves … was clearly articulated by Immanuel Kant. Scientists focus their efforts on the aspect of the problem where they can find answers – the material processes in the brain. The much more mysterious problem – how physical processes in the brain generate consciousness – does not receive any attention, because it is incomprehensible and cannot be solved.
According to Grof, Western Science is looking in the the wrong place. Grof paraphrases a famous Sufi story about a man searching for his lost key beneath a bright candelabra, while simultaneously ignoring the large unlighted, unknown area.
…materialistic scientists have systematically avoided the problem of the origin of consciousness, because this riddle cannot be solved within the context of their conceptual framework …..
This conceptual framework includes vast knowledge gained form neurological and psychiatric experiments and includes a vast body of specific clinical observations from neurology, neurosurgery and psychiatry which supports the western materialist position.
The vast clinical data indeed shows an unquestionable connection between brain anatomy, neurophysiology and consciousness. Grof believes that the problem lies, not in the presented evidence but in the interpretation of the results, the logic of the argument, and the conclusions that are drawn from these observations. While these experiments clearly show that consciousness is closely connected with the neurophysiological and biochemical processes in the brain, they have very little bearing on the nature and origin of consciousness.
Grof uses a television analogy. He equates the brain to the hardware of a television and consciousness to the actual program that the TV broadcasts. The TV hardware is no more the “creator” of the broadcasted program than the brain is the originator of consciousness. Rather, the television and the brain are the technology that mediates the program or consciousness without doing anything to generate it.
The fact that there is such a close correlation between the functioning of the TV set and the quality of the program does not necessarily mean that the entire secret of the program is in the set itself. Yet this is exactly the kind of conclusion that traditional materialistic science drew from comparable data about the brain and its relation to consciousness.
Grof presents evidence suggesting exactly the opposite, namely that consciousness can, under certain circumstances, operate independently of its material substrate and can perform functions that reach far beyond the capacities of the brain.
Mainstream science has been able to maintain its present position only by ignoring, misinterpreting, and even ridiculing a vast body of observations indicating that consciousness can exist and function independently of the body and of the physical senses.
This evidence comes from parapsychology, anthropology, LSD research, experiential psychotherapy, thanatology, and the study of spontaneously occurring holotropic states of consciousness. All these disciplines have amassed impressive data demonstrating clearly that human consciousness is capable of doing many things that the brain (as understood by mainstream science) could not possibly do and that it is a primary and further irreducible aspect of existence.
More from The Conscious Revolution coming soon…. stay tuned.