AUB. An acronym for the highest reality humans can perceive. Or, more accurately, not perceive – because Absolute Unitary Being isn't anything you can be aware of, because it is awareness without any content other than itself.
This isn't just another wild-eyed, New Age, mystic-religious, or psychedelic inspired bunch of far out fantasizing.
Rather, the notion is founded on some solid science. In the book "The Mystical Mind" that I've been blogging about recently (here, here, and here), physician researchers Eugene d'Aquili and Andrew Newberg show how the brain produces experiences that often are termed mystical.
In their opinion, the most mystic experience of all is that of Absolute Unitary Being.
AUB is a state of pure awareness without the perception of discrete reality, without the sense of the passage of time, without the sense of the extension of space, and without the self-other dichotomy. In short, it is pure awareness or awareness without content.
As such, it's the common denominator of every deep form of spirituality or religion, the glue that binds together otherwise disparate philosophies, theologies, and ways of looking at the cosmos.
AUB is analogous to the clear sky across which clouds of all kinds of shapes and sizes move, leading people to look up and say, "That one resembles Mickey Mouse, that one a dog, and there's some large breasts!"
Clearly, in AUB there can be no distinction between what is experienced by different individuals, even from totally different cultures. There may be significant differences in how these experiences are described and interpreted, particularly since they are usually related in terms of the specific cultural and societal milieu from which the experiencer comes.
We maintain, however, that the actual experience of AUB in itself is necessarily the same for any individual who experiences it. This is necessary from a neurophysiological as well as a philosophical perspective. It is necessarily experienced as an infinite, unified, and totally undifferentiated state.
The basic reason for this is that the brain normally does its best to locate the body to which it's connected in time and space. Evolutionarily speaking, this makes great sense. If you're being chased by a saber-toothed tiger, it's important to know exactly where you and the threat are in relation to each other.
But when sensory inputs are shut down, as in closed-eyed quiet meditation (or a sensory deprivation chamber), the brain may do some strange stuff. This is the result of deafferentation, which occurs when incoming information into a brain structure is cut off.
The deafferented neurons, d'Aquili and Newberg say, then begin to function according to their own "internal logic." Here's what happens with the orientation association area.
If this structure is totally deafferented so that it receives no input from the outside world, then it cannot form a sense of space and time abstracted from sensory input. It is still trying, however, to generate an orientation in time and space. It is still working by its internal logic.
It continues to attempt to generate a sense of space and time even without input from the external world to work on. The result is a sense of no space and no time, or conversely it might be described as infinite space and infinite time.
No matter how it is defined, it is the same sensation. The world's mystical literature is replete with experiences of no space and no time or infinite space and infinite time. Therefore, it appears that total or near-total deafferentation of the orientation association area may be involved in the generation of such mystical states.
Note the may. That's how scientists talk. Cautiously, unwilling to bind themselves to a view of the world that makes sense, but hasn't yet been experimentally confirmed to such a degree that it can be termed a valid theory.
However, d'Aquili and Newberg note that functional brain scans of experienced meditators (such as Tibetan Buddhist monks) show the changes that their model of the "mystical brain" predicts.
So, what can we make of all this? To me, it supports my churchless predilections. Because as noted above, AUB is considered to be the highest of mystical states in most traditions (some elevate a "non-dual" consciousness that includes awareness of the physical world to be more elevated than AUB).
A big reason for this is that those who have had an experience of Absolute Unitary Being generally say that it felt a lot more real than everyday reality. They come back changed, as is often the case with those who have a near-death experience.
d'Aquili and Newberg conclude that notwithstanding thousands of years of human pondering about what is real and what isn't, the phenomenological sense of This is real is the best measure of absolute reality. In this article, the authors make their case.
Clearly, baseline reality has some significant claim to being ultimate reality. However, AUB is so compelling that it is very difficult indeed to write off the assertion of its reality. Actually, for individuals having experienced AUB, it seems virtually impossible to negate that experience.
This being the case, it is a foolish reductionism indeed which states that, because unitary consciousness can be understood in terms of neuropsychological processes, it is therefore derivative from baseline reality. Indeed the reverse argument could be made just as well.
Neuropsychology can give no answer as to which state is more real, baseline reality or hyperlucid unitary consciousness often experienced as God. We may be reduced to saying that each is real in its own way and for its own adaptive ends.
It's interesting that people interviewed by d'Aquili and Newberg who have had an AUB experience describe it as neither subjective nor objective. That is, it wasn't a subjective local consciousness, and it wasn't consciousness of objective external reality.
It was something else. Itself. Pure awareness. Thus it's tempting to call it the "ground of being," or some such foundational term.
Well, whatever it is, it sure isn't religious. There's no ritualistic, theological, or personalized content in an experience of Absolute Unitary Being.
No Jesus. No Buddha. No guru. No God. No Allah. No anything that points to a particular religion or spiritual path.
However, some AUB'ers experience it as being suffused with positive affect that leads them to personalize it as "God." Others, such as Buddhists, experience it as suffused with neutral affect and describe it as nonpersonal or void consciousness.
This is one of my few quibbles with d'Aquili and Newberg. Seemingly in an effort to meld personal and impersonal AUB experiences into a single overarching framework, they equate them as reflecting "anterior" and "posterior" natures of God.
Whatever that means. I don't get how an experience of absolute unitary being can be divided into two, or how using the word "God" adds to their scientific explanation of AUB.
But this is a minor quibble. On the whole I've found the notion of absolute unitary being -- the product of specific brain states – to be a marvelous support for a truly scientific spirituality.
One that doesn't seek for ultimate reality "out there" in some mysterious hidden realm known only by revelation, divine grace, or secret mystical techniques, but rather within the brain that each of us possesses right here and right now.
Here's how "The Mystical Mind" ends.
Since the approach presented in this book is firmly based on the neurosciences, on neuroevolutionary theory, and on strict phenomenological analysis, we hope that it will carry a compelling plausibility, indeed probability, to twenty-first century readers steeped in a scientific culture and demanding proof.
Thus, the mystical mind has led us down a new and fascinating path toward the understanding of human beings and their relationship to religion, spirituality, and God. As we stated in our dedication, we certainly believe that neurotheology can help open us to a greater sense of the mysterium tremendum et fascinans – the tremendous and spellbinding mystery – and to the awareness that we, who are brought together in a love of truth, are the mystical minds seeking that mystery.
“Since the approach presented in this book is firmly based on the neurosciences,”
Firmly based on neurosciences? Lets see: are those the people that call consciousness “the hard problem”?
“on neuroevolutionary theory” There is that word theory. Might want to look up some synonyms for theory.
“and on strict phenomenological analysis,”
When we humans do analysis it may be “strict” but our existing paradigms almost always determines what we see. Much research has shown that if data is revealed that disagrees with our existing paradigm we will either not see that data or even omit that data. Too painful to do otherwise. This applies to scientists and religious folk alike. History has given us an abundance of evidence of this phenomenon.
When a new discovery creates a new paradigm it almost always is made by someone outside the existing “accepted” paradigm. I.e. if we are a materialist going into our research we will almost always fine materialistic answers in our findings.
Try getting research grants (money) for doing research outside those “accepted” paradigms and see how well that goes. Read what William James and other paranormal researchers went though with their materialistic open-minded scientists’ peers to get a feel how the paradigm effect can affect human behavior.
I once read a book where the author stated that he had proved that Jesus was God. Guess what his research material was? The bible. His entire research was from the bible. Could not make this stuff up if I tried. If you were to ask this person if they were open minded he would state why yes and be upset with you for asking him or her that question.
“we hope that it will carry a compelling plausibility, indeed probability, to twenty-first century readers steeped in a scientific culture and demanding proof.”
Stated another way more research is needed. “Scientific culture” and what indeed is that culture? I was a professor at two universities and worked as a lecturer at the largest university in America with a lot of scientific folks and that is not a culture I want to claim as being a member of.
My strategy has been I am not a member of any organization religious or scientific or otherwise. I learned early in my research once we buy into a certain set of beliefs our beliefs overwhelm our rational mind, then we become defenders of our cherished beliefs, and our truths become thee truths.
I suspect that we humans are at a very early stage of consciousness development but communicate with one another as if we know the truths to these mysteries of life.
Posted by: william | October 29, 2007 at 02:04 AM
William, your anti-scientific attitude is distressing. Yes, it's shared by lots of Americans -- who are all too ready to believe that the Earth was created a few thousands years ago, that God hates the "abnormality" of homosexuals, and so on.
Do you believe in the reality of brain scanners? Do you believe that Tibetan monks have been scanned while they meditate and reach a self-described mystical state? Do you believe that the research shows changes to the parts of the brain predicted by the model described in this book?
You should believe all those things, because there is solid evidence for each. You're certainly entitled to your opinion. But opinion that isn't based on facts is little more than fantasy.
That isn't the way I choose to approach life. I like reality. However, each to his own. Just recognize that your way of looking at the world elevates fantasy over reality, whereas science is our best means of uniting humans in a solid shared understanding of what is real.
Posted by: Brian | October 29, 2007 at 10:04 AM
Your learned quite early something about yourself:
"My strategy has been I am not a member of any organization religious or scientific or otherwise. I learned early in my research once we buy into a certain set of beliefs our beliefs overwhelm our rational mind, then we become defenders of our cherished beliefs, and our truths become thee truths."
because the following "we become defenders of our cherished beliefs, and our truths become thee truths" seems a pretty accurate description of the impression that many people commenting on this blog have of you ...
You share entertaining fantasies though as a guy who considers a book on mediums as "solid and convincing evidence" ...
Posted by: the elephant | October 29, 2007 at 11:27 AM
"But opinion that isn't based on facts is little more than fantasy."
Common atheist explanation. Scientists have facts but everyone that differs with their “facts” has fantasies. I speak from my experience as an organizational consultant for an international consulting organization working with hundreds of PhD’s in physics and electrical design (scientists) and from teaching at three universities in a science field. It may be opinion but it appears I may have some experience to support my opinion. You Brian I suspect are taking other scientists word that they have facts.
“The greatest skeptic concerning paranormal phenomena is invariably the man who knows the least about them.” (H.H. Price)
This has been one of the most fascinating parts of my research. People speak without doing the research. Scientists state such things, as there is no such thing as the paranormal and have done absolutely no research or reading into the paranormal and then they accuse others of speaking from opinion. Read the book “no living person could have known” then get back to me with an explanation other than the entire book is a fantasy.
Science is less about facts than it is about beliefs and until we come to realize that; our cherished belief will be materialism and we will continue to make science our god. Everyone has a god. For some it is materialism or Darwinism or capitalism or whatever. For others it is science.
To put me in the same category as those that believe the earth is 6000 years old is the fantasy. Show me in any post I have made where I made such a statement. Science works with a material world or at least the appearance of a material world and research into the paranormal will need a new research design to discover the mysteries of life. Scientists can see and measure 4% of the physical universe and you want to credit them with facts and give them an all-knowing status?
My research into the ultra skeptics has been that many have felt duped in some brand of religious beliefs they once bought into and then became disillusioned. They tend to swing clear to the other side and want materialism to be their truth or god.
Again please show me anywhere on any blog where I stated that I thought the earth was 6000 years old. Please. Thank you for commenting on my posts not sure you ever have before. Nice to communicate with you in this way rather than just respond to your posts, which are almost always interesting to read?
Posted by: william | October 29, 2007 at 11:00 PM
William, if you do not trust science, scientists or scientific methodolgy, would you not reject any scientific research on the paranormal that proved the paranormal is a load of old cobblers?
In other words, what evidence would you be prepared to accept on the non-existence of paranormal phenomena?
Posted by: Helen | October 30, 2007 at 09:57 AM
William, I didn't mean to imply that you believe the Earth is 6,000 years old. Just that an anti-scientific mentality encourages this way of thinking -- which I see you espousing.
Here's the thing: paranormal phenomena, if they exist, would be part of the material world. They would be cognized through the human brain, for sure.
There's little doubt that a person exhibiting ESP capabilities would have certain special parts of his/her brain "light up" as he/she demonstrates these capabilities while hooked up to a functional brain scanning machine.
So everybody with a brain is a materialist, through and through. Someone who doesn't believe in materialism, fervently, should commit suicide. Otherwise, they're as immersed in materiality, through their physical brain, as the most atheistic scientist.
Posted by: Brian | October 30, 2007 at 10:06 AM
Helen you bring up an interesting question. What is valid evidence? I use a cross validation approach when I started this research too much variation in beliefs. It is not perfect but works for me. Most people I see express opinions not research.
Do you think Brian took the time to read the book I recommended? no. He has already made up his mind. I think he feels like he got duped once and never again. To seek is to read material that does not agree with our cherished beliefs. But to do that causes mental pain so much so Brian just suggested someone should commit suicide if they do not agree his materialist’s paradigm. I think he said that not sure if I read it right.
If I wanted to have people accept my ideas I would not post on this blog. I am treated like a heretic on here but one must always seek outside one’s accepted paradigms. Paradigms are like concrete around our beliefs and almost impossible to penetrate. It takes a bunker bomb to penetrate that much concrete.
My point is not that we do not need science my point and my experience has been not to make science our god. Be open to all incoming information. Check out William James and others and what they went though to seek outside the accepted circle of beliefs.
“In other words, what evidence would you be prepared to accept on the non-existence of paranormal phenomena?”
What evidence do you have? Surely not Darwinism or atheism? Studied atheism and Darwinism as part of my research. They say such things as science deals in facts. Yea right. Everyone has a god for atheists it is science. Science is needed as is scientists but they still have the human traits of paradigm paralysis.
We humans are at the very early stages of understanding the mysteries of life. Note Brian did not comment on the belief that we only see 4% of what we believe is material reality. Four per cent and we talk like we have the answers. Think you are here due to chance Helen? The two examples given to prove Darwinism at the Scopes monkey trial both proved to be invalid one fraud and one invalid.
If the paranormal researchers used the same amount of evidence that the Darwinists have, well oh my, another story. There are so many gaps in Darwinism one could drive an aircraft carrier though them. Now Brian will accuse me of being a creationist; watch. That is the power of paradigms.
Posted by: william | October 30, 2007 at 04:20 PM
"Do you think Brian took the time to read the book I recommended? no. He has already made up his mind."
--And would you, William, automatically read a book that Brian suggested? No, you have already made up YOUR mind.
"We humans are at the very early stages of understanding the mysteries of life."
--This is one of the things you say repeatedly. Since you, evidently, do not know the mysteries of life, how do you know there aren't humans who do? In other words, is it not possible, even though you don't know these mysteries, that there are humans who do? Maybe that is one of the mysteries of life you don't know. What you are saying is that just because you don't know, nobody else could.
"Be open to all incoming information."
As soon as someone explains something to you on this blog that is outside YOUR "paradigm" and "cherished beliefs" you accuse them of being stuck in THEIR "paradigm" and "cherished beliefs."
I think, William, that you are a student who stubbornly clings to the desire to be seen as the teacher.
Posted by: Tucson | October 30, 2007 at 06:02 PM
Ditto. I think so too.
Posted by: tAo | October 30, 2007 at 06:11 PM
“And would you, William, automatically read a book that Brian suggested? No, you have already made up YOUR mind.”
Without realizing it you have proved my point. We humans don’t tend to read anything that challenges our existing beliefs. Until one begins to see the power of paradigms my words about paradigms will ring on deaf ears.
I suspect this will ring on deaf ears but here goes. In my seminars I showed the video “the business of paradigms” over 200 times. Somewhere at about the 80th viewing the power of paradigms became real to me. Insights occurred that I had not had before. Yet when I show the video everyone comes away thinking that they “got it” in one viewing.
“you accuse them of being stuck in THEIR "paradigm" and "cherished beliefs."” This has been my point all along we all have paradigms and until we come to accept that we do and that those paradigms alter/influence our view of reality we will continue to attack William.
What does Brian want a blog that everyone agrees with his paradigm? I recently tried to post on a Reagan loving neo con blog and she refused to even post my comments. Her paradigm was thee paradigm. This person would have made an ideal politician where ideology rules the day.
Surely one can see the power of paradigms in wash dc? We humans are only on the cusp of understanding the mysteries of the universe and life in this universe. It is interesting to me that Tucson and Tao come across as wanting us to believe they have figured it out. My premise is we humans know very little but our egos scream to convince others we know.
Would they read the book I recommended? No. Don’t need to their paradigm is thee paradigm. Check out the video at the local library and watch it 80 times it might change the way you view the world. Or not.
While you are at it study spiritualism for six years and try to explain all the unexplainable phenomena that defies explanation unless one considers other dimensions in the universe. Also may want to check out ira Stevenson’s work on reincarnation and try to explain some of his findings. Oh and then try and explain how children 3 years old can speak a foreign language. The list goes on.
“I think, William, that you are a student who stubbornly clings to the desire to be seen as the teacher”. We are all students on a journey and those that pretend to be teachers without admitting their student status in the universe are deluding themselves.
Posted by: william | October 30, 2007 at 09:54 PM
"It is interesting to me that Tucson and Tao come across as wanting us to believe they have figured it out."
I, speaking for this thing known as myself, have figured out nothing except a body of relative concepts, ideas and impressions. I am playing the role as a teacher to you right now, but I, as that entity, haven't a clue. As players of these roles, neither you nor I knows any more or less than the other.
I, as I really am, which neither is nor is not, has no quality or aspect that would need to figure anything out which ultimately there isn't anyway. Phenomena are just I, which I am not, manifesting. I have no need to understand manifesting. Manifesting is sufficient as it is.
You keep imagining there is this thing called William that will grow, evolve, reincarnate, accumulate wisdom, that feels pleasure and pain. But all this exists only as an idea, a mental process. As such, it does exist, but as what you really are, you are not as any sort of thing that can be known or defined.
All the galaxies, beings, gods and devils, psychics, ufo's and angels are just phenomena, a reflection, to itself, as itself, being dreamed by the formless source which you are.
Posted by: Tucson | October 31, 2007 at 10:08 AM
“All the galaxies, beings, gods and devils, psychics, ufo's and angels are just phenomena, a reflection, to itself, as itself, being dreamed by the formless source which you are.”
We are form being expressed by this formless source of all phenomena that I call at this time pure awareness. This form we know as Tucson, Tao, Brian, or William. This pure awareness or god that most have made in man’s image is the vitality and intelligence that gives animation to all phenomena that most call spirit.
We the phenomena who are a reflection of this formless source do not have “its” perfection of pure awareness with attributes of vitality and intelligence, hence the journey. Consciousness appears to evolve/advance until we do have this vitality and intelligence.
How else could this formless source express itself without phenomena? It appears to be a necessity for this formless source to express itself; hence galaxies, beings, gods and devils, psychics, ufo's and angels. We are gods in the making realizing of course “intellectually” we are an expression of this oneness so we were always that that is.
Does this form (us) feel pain and suffering? Indeed we do; as experiences are real to us. Without this perceived reality there would be no advancement in vitality and intelligence or pure awareness.
The problem with the word intelligence, people confuse the concept of intelligence with intellectual ability. They are related but only slightly. Indeed intellectual capability can be a hindrance to intelligence as I observed to a greater degree in most scientists but not all.
Stated another way scientists are very smart but often not very intelligent. Intelligence is related to awareness whereas smart is related to the ability and attainment of knowledge.
Posted by: william | October 31, 2007 at 12:11 PM
That which is objective is not at all. The only existence or being is being or existing as an object, for we can know nothing that is not an object. But when all objectivity is totally extinguished, that which to us is no thing at all shines like the sun, for absolute absence is pure radiance forever. When the sun shines is it we who break through the clouds to the sun, or the sun who breaks through the clouds to us?
Posted by: Tucson | October 31, 2007 at 09:49 PM