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May 27, 2020


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"Any non-materialist explanation of the mind-brain link, like Eccle's suggestion that the brain somehow 'detects' the non-material mind, has to explain how, when separated, the two hemispheres enable such different minds to appear."

Whatever consciousness might be is now applying itself in a new space or adapting to a completely different tool. Expect glitches.

All it takes is one single instance of someone having an experience of premonition, out of body experience etc and the purely materialist idea is out the window. And contrary to the nerds at mags like Reason, I think there is compelling evidence that people do have experiences that are essentially impossible if all we have is a brain.

Humanity will outlive science unless science destroys us, and these sorts of questions will be a lot more fun in philosophical form. Maybe I'll live another hundred years to see the day!

Well, this is fascinating. I’ve mentioned this before but I’ll share again. My brother had a left frontal lobe partial lobotomy to control his seizures. This was over 25 years ago. He was told that he might lose his ability to speak after the surgery but his seizures were so severe and so frequent (literally dozens a day) he made the choice to have the surgery anyway.

He had his first surgery when he was 21 and because it was an experimental surgery funded by the NIH, he had some complications. He ended up have 7 craniotomies in total. After his last surgery at the age of 25 he began to learn to read and write, something he couldn’t do before as the seizures were so severe they stunted his ability to learn and he had a very low IQ.

But what fascinated and astounded his doctors was not only did he not lose his ability to speak, he learned to read and write with that portion of his brain having been removed! Still no explanation for that.

He’s an avid reader now. Still has a great deal of difficulty with numbers to say the least, but he’s always learning and seems knowledgeable on so many subjects. I guessed because he was bullied growing up for being “stupid” or “retarded” (kids can be cruel) he has been determined to prove to everyone they were wrong and that he’s smart. He’s tough. I’ll give him that much. His temper calmed down quite a bit too after the surgery but it’s been a long process.

The plasticity of the brain is phenomenal.

Sorry, I should have said Lobectomy—where they remove portions of the brain. Lobotomies severe connections in the brain.


I might have said this before, but its still relevant to this post.

I have no problem with seeing that the brain, with its constant activity of enormous numbers of neurons, synapses, electrical activity, chemical messengers, nerve cells – add infinitum – are not only responsible for what we call 'spiritual experiences' but are also responsible for the mental constructs of mind, self (the ego states) and consciousness.

My take on these matters is that the brain receiving information through the senses, translates these into mental representations which through the multitude of brain interconnections result in the conscious experience. The mind/ego/self existing as independent, separate entities is only ever assumed, not experienced. They exist only as mental constructs.

It is understandable that depending on our particular cultural, educational or religious background, this information our brains have been conditioned with will determine our interpretations of all that presents itself to us. Hence the confusions and delusions we exhibit in trying to understand who and what we are – and also with the world we inhabit.

I'm happy that science continues to investigate the brain and am sure that the mind/brain problem will be (further) understood in terms of the physical.

The dichotomy of material and non - material is unscientific. Because science can't measure what it hasn't yet figured out a way to measure.

What is clear is that many events of brain functioning can be explained by studying the physical structure of the brain. Mostly by noting what fails to work when it is damaged. And the brain is amazing. The study doesn't just help heal patients, which is significant, but is simply amazing to learn.

And many events cannot be explained, and remain avenues for exploration. And neuroscience does a beatiful job pointing this out also. As mentioned in an earlier comment, the speed of thought as determined in neuroscience, exceeds by several thousand times what neuroscience tells us are the biochemical limits is of the brain.

So long as we don't know all the sources of action in the brain we cannot rightly conjecture about them. It's unscientific. Bu we can explore them instead!

And neuroscience has also shown us that we still cannot isolate specific memories to any persistent locations in the brain. The network is far more complex, and we can only conjecture, and poorly supported at best, those hidden and unknown systems.

As for the Corpus Collosum studies, it's interesting to note how the brain recovers from injury and deploys parts of the brain little used to compensate. What drives that? What systems in the brain know how to reduce the damage and heal itself to some degree? Amazing.

"At least 1 in 4000 infants is born without a corpus callosum. This powerful body of connective white matter serves as the primary bridge between the brain's hemispheres, allowing us to rapidly integrate complex information."

"But what may be most remarkable is how the acallosal brain adapts to its limitations and finds new connective routes. Precisely how the brain does this is a biological mystery, but there are several possible routes of compensation, which effectively re-route the brain's connections in novel ways. Similarly, each individual born with this condition must find his or her own way to overcome unique challenges. As is clear from their stories, individuals often find strength in one another and in sharing their experiences."


This is what neuroscience is really about, the science. Not conjecturing about the immaterial, which is really the unknown and yrt to be explored. It's all immaterial until we explore it!
No scientist who loves solving a mystery cynically dismisses the unknown.

To read popular educators' attempts to make statements that are Anti-religious are as unscientific as religion because both are conclusive statements about the unknown.

Let's enjoy the beauty and mystery of science and this creation rather than make conclusive statements about what we don't know yet. And let's have faith in science that we can know and someday we or the generations to come will know so long as we keep exploring. And faith in the evidence of science that it probably won't look the way we think today.

Science loves the mystery and the unknown and has enough respect not to conjecture too far there, but instead to look with open mind. To explore. And that is necessary to discovery. And what it discovers is always something new, novel, and astounding. But that only happens when we acknowledge we don't know what we don't know.

I think there’s every reason to doubt that the ‘mind’ is material.

It might be argued with more certainty that the ‘brain’ is material, but I’m not sure that the mind, thoughts and consciousness are material at all.

If everything has a material origin, then what material thing created the laws of nature and mind of god?

Oh I forgot the laws of nature are one exception that we cannot question - they’ve just always been there. Why? Doesn’t matter, they just have or so Turan argues. I’m not so sure.

Where’s the consistency in the materialist argument?

Brian, what is your opinion on the research into things like out of body experiences and other similar experiences? You obviously find it insufficient as evidence contra the material consciousness stance, but do any particular reports stand out as somewhat plausible in your mind, or does it all seem hoaxy and dishonest?

Hi Georgy
Perhaps it would be better to change the dichotomy of material - immaterial to known and not known. We know what we have studied about the brain, and to some extent how this effects memory, thoughts, cognitive performance, and reports of experience.

The idea of God and Spirit are concepts to explain experience. They are explanations. But once you start exploring, whether within or outside, attempting to apply scientific principles, then those notions change and develop as new information comes in.

Everything we have learned is so vastly different about the brain than anything anyone imagined two hundred years ago, that this has proven how wise it is to be open minded, if we want to learn anything real.

It's all the same reality. It's all connected.

There is nothing in reality that isn't part of reality.

There is no reason to separate two different kinds of reality. We have concepts of belief and faith that help us get through life. But we need to learn and adapt to reality, otherwise no system of belief can help us.

What we know, and what we don't yet know. That seems a better dichotomy.

And what we don't know can only be known by open minded exploration and discovery. And there Science gives us the most refined self - discipline and approach to exploration and discovery... Real learning.

If humans have a single shared purpose it is to explore, discover and learn news things.

Experiences are not physical realities though they are connected to them. So nothing wrong with near death or out of body experiences. But we shouldn't take them literally because the mind creates imagery and uses symbols. When we look around us we are actually seeing a reconstruction from a single one - dimensional point. Our brain does that. Reality is a little different.

But those are real experiences. They really did happen, and they are our treasures. But it's not necessary to take them literally or presume what we saw or heard within has any corporeal existence. It is real for us. It really happened inside us. That's all. And within each of us are incredible things to also explore and discover. When you watch a science fiction movie you don't expect to leave the theater and find that outside the theater. You enjoy the movie. You went in to find something different and wonderful. It's a real experience. But it doesn't have to exist anywhere else. Be happy to go there within. It doesn't need to be anything else.

If you have a real high definition conversation with Jesus within, and you are inspired by His wisdom, then that's just for you. Enjoy it. Live it. It's your treasure. That's your inner reality.

And if He says we should marvel at God's creation, Science is the most passionate dedication to doing just that, unlocking all those worlds for the rest of us to appreciate, marvel at, and enjoy.

There is also science on past life interviews with children. And near death experiences. These are all important avenues of investigation, not to answer the question about soul or life after death, but the more scientific interest in the person's experience. Personal reports are fascinating as they are human accounts of the human experience. And that experience is poetry. What this brain and mind and heart together can create as our own story is amazing. It is the creation of the story through our own symbolic mind that to me, is the far greater, more miraculous and astounding part of reality. The way our minds work under situations that are deadly, frightening, challenging. We can conjecture how we got this way. We can dismiss it all and say the mind is creating things. But if the mind can bring such experience to life, that's awesome in its own right. And trying to make anything else of it does an injustice to this miraculous brain.

In fact, to confine twhat we saw near death as a literal event and not an incredible reconstruction of the brain is an insult to this magnificent brain that reconstructs every sensory moment of this world simultaneously throughout our lives.

The brain isn’t wholly responsible for thought. If you think it is then you need to take a course in biology. The whole body controls thought. So, the body is the “mind” as much as the brain is. Which begs the question (again), what are the parameters of the mind.


What you should really be asking is what is a thought. Are thoughts material? Your entire body “thinks” and communicates those thoughts/messages with other organs in the body including the brain.

Some “thoughts/messages” are produced in the gut. Some in the heart. Our body is a complete network of communication. And if parts of our body stop communicating then that part becomes paralyzed.

How can we even begin to quantify the mind if we don’t have a grasp on how thinking works.

If you want to make the argument that the mind is material then you’d have to say the body is the mind. But imo it goes beyond that.

Hi Sonia
I don't think you can answer the question of material immaterial. But we can answer today the question of what do we know and what do we not know. We know a few things. Many things we don't know.

The word 'Mind' is a conceptual way to explain things. 'Brain' is a conceptual way to name that organ. As you point out the body has many types of intelligence built into each organ, even each cell. Most of that we are unconscious of. Other intelligences in the body handle those most of the time. In the entire creation there is such 'intelligence' everywhere.

What is a thought? Is it a biochemical signal transmission through the brain? Like wifi transmissions or computer programming, it can't be described adequately in terms of the frequency of the signal, or the 0's and 1's it pours forth, but by the language of the code, and the symbolic sentences that language is speaking. The wifi signal doesn't look at all like a flower or a boat or the sunset. But the images they form in your photogallery on your computer screen might reconstruction it that way.

Definitely brain activity and reported sensations, of touch, taste, smell, vision, audition, and proprioception. The brain actually has centers that when triggered generated reports from each of these forms of stimuli. But the signals themselves look identical. And thoughts too, have the frontal cortex as their locus, the higher executive functions part of the brain which is generally activated during wakeful thinking. That's where our conscious thoughts appear to be processed.

We have physical and experiential connections. Some of those we know about. Others have yet to be discovered.

Trust science, it has all the answers. Except:

1. What the universe is made of.
2. How life began.
3. What consciousness is.
4. What makes us human
5. Are we alone in the universe
6. What is there something rather than nothing
7. What's at the bottom of the ocean
8. How does a bicycle stay upright
9. Why does space have 3 dimensions
10. Why is ice slippery
11. Why we listen to music
12. How many planets are in our solar system
13. What time is
14. Why we need to sleep
15. Why we laugh
16. Where Bigfoot is and what he wants from us

And thoughts too, have the frontal cortex as their locus, the higher executive functions part of the brain which is generally activated during wakeful thinking. That's where our conscious thoughts appear to be processed.

We have physical and experiential connections. Some of those we know about. Others have yet to be discovered.

Posted by: Spence Tepper | May 28, 2020 at 02:54 PM

Hi Spence,

Your response makes sense but I still question the complete role of the frontal cortex with regards to thoughts and consciousness.

When you have time, take a look at this article and let me know your “thoughts”. 😉


@ There is also science on past life interviews with children. And near
@ death experiences. These are all important avenues of investigation,
@ not to answer the question about soul or life after death, but the
@ more scientific interest in the person's experience.

I agree but arguably those experiences are suggestive of
a reality beyond the physical material level. Maybe we
should replace the word "reality" with a more accurate
descriptive: our blinkered idea of what passes for reality
in present times. There's evidence, often compelling, of
a potential to experience other levels whether they're
real or not.

So, we can't attribute this potential to the creative power
of a "soul" yet but there is a consciousness within which can
experience it nonetheless. Don't like the idea of a "soul"...
too religiousy? Call it a super-charged brainy "thing" if you
like. Just resist the dismissive knee-jerk impulse to tweet it's
a hoax. Or speculate that a child's past-life account could
be explained by a corpse's brain cells wafting down from
upper atmosphere winds.

Don't like the idea of a "soul"...
too religiousy? Call it a super-charged brainy "thing" if you

Posted by: Dungeness | May 28, 2020 at 05:07 PM

Your comments always crack me up. Your alternate description of a soul is very Dr. Seussish. (He went to Dartmouth—whaaa?)


@ alternate description of a soul is very Dr. Seussish.

Thanks, I love Dr. Seuss.

He's always good for a smile. It makes me imagine
where a Grinch would look to research the notion
of a "soul". He nixes very suggestion (ala "Green
Eggs and Ham"), until tiring, he falls into the sea.
Immersed, he relents because the sea is totality.

Whether the brain is the mind or not, I am actively researching the mind/body connection for healing. I found this very interesting.

“It has become accepted, even in the most conservative of circles, that emotions manifest into the body as physical symptoms. Dr. Daniel Amen, Neuro-Psychiatrist and author of such books as Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, says that each thought we have is a physical thing that changes our DNA and tells every cell in our body how to act.”

I’m working with the root chakra which deals with chronic illnesses and autoimmune disease. My favorite color used to be red. Now I don’t really have a favorite color—just white and maybe rainbow.

Bringing red back. 🙃

And then there is this to consider about the nature of the material brain and body.

“Next time you look in a mirror, remember this. You are looking at a body which is at least 95 per cent air! "Surely not. I’m solid. I have bones. I bleed."

Actually what you are looking at is zillions of atoms, each with electrons spinning around a nucleus just as the Earth spins around the Sun. In between lies an air mass, far greater in size than the size of the planets.

Atoms join forces with other atoms. They build into molecules, and the molecules form your bodily structure, which reflects light and this is what you are capable of seeing. You just cannot see the atoms and their neutrons and electrons.

Some atoms attract other atoms. Some atoms repel other atoms. There are forces, electrical forces, at work between them.

Every second of every day you exchange atoms with the universe around you; in obvious ways like breathing in or out, eating, drinking and excreting. And in not so obvious ways. Your energy heats your environment. If you hold an ice cube for long enough it melts. As Newton said, "Energy can neither be created nor destroyed!" Your body energy has to go somewhere.

Some atoms attract other atoms - some atoms repel other atomsClose quotes
This constant exchange of atoms with your universe results in a completely new you every 90 days or so. Zillions of new atoms replacing the zillions of old ones. A constant movement; a continuous energy flow.“

Nope, I don’t think we can answer today the question of (a) what do we know and (b) what do we not know.

For (b), I’m afraid we cannot answer today what we don’t know. Not even close. Wasn’t it Rumsfeld who got all confused re the ‘known unknowns’ etc - well that’s all bollocks. There are massive inherent limitations on science and what we can ever know. If nothing else, the history of science proves that we time and again grossly underestimate how truly ignorant we are in our scientific hubris.

For point (a), we may think we know, but whether we actually do know in reality is a completely different story. Scientific theories are not absolute facts. At best, they are an imperfect approximation of natural laws. Some have so much evidence behind them that they likely to be very accurate approximations that are ‘almost’ certainly true for all intents and purposes (eg the theory of evolution by natural selection) - but even these theories are constantly being refined and added to. Everyone thought netwton’s theory of gravity was accurate, but Einstein’s relativity was more accurate and actually offered a completely different view of reality. And then there are other scientific theories that have little evidence behind them (eg string theory). And then there’s pop science or pseudo science where people give their own amateur interpretations of what science says about reality.

Ain’t you read Black Swan? Everyone knew for a fact that all swans were white until they went down under. Bosh. No longer a fact.

Only a fool would be so arrogant to think we can today say what we know and what we don’t know.

I think its fair to say that science is not looking to find the mind, the self or consciousness. What it is looking for is where and how these states arise from within the brain – and the evidence amassed so far is hot on the trail.

Regardless of the scientific approach, I do feel that anyone who is serious and honest enough can discover for themselves this mind/self phenomenon – can see it for what it is as in the vein of 'The Emperors New Clothes'! Many a enquirer through contemplation and meditation has realised that the mind is just information and that from this information a self is formed. This can be realised intellectually and verified through meditation practice.

I am reminded of the Zen student who approached his teacher asking for help to pacify his mind. “Bring out this mind”, said the teacher, “And I will remonstrate with it”. After a while the student said “I cannot find my mind”. “There”, said the teacher, “It is pacified”.

And. “Why are you unhappy?” “because 99.9 percent of the time you are thinking of yourself – and there isn't one!”.

Hi Dungeness
I agree it makes no sense to speculate. Each of us can draw our own conclusions. The UVA research that seeks to verify the events independently is very solid, and their results are statistically significant. In a small number of cases there are no explanations from a material perspective. But since we don't know how we are all connected, there is too much unknown to draw a scientific explanation. There will be a material connection likely. And it may come from a source no one knew about before. The next small step. But it's great that they have rigorously ruled out the common material explanations. This should simply lead to incremental refinements in their method. These experiences are real from a perceptual experiential perspective for many of those who have and report them. The research also clearly proves this.

But experience in the human mind is always a construction. It is the understanding of that construction, and its basis that is fascinating.

When I saw Gurinder become Maharaji, and that perception was in the full walking state where I could evaluate it, and as real as any other walking perception, I knew intuitively this had to be my perception alone. I marveled at the perfect construction of it.
My reaction was "OMG There's MAHARAJI.
. Wow, that is so real. This brain is doing something I've never seen before!" But that is how we see the whole world. Our brain builds the entire image from input. Where did the input for this much older version of Maharaji come from? Yes, I love Gurinder and Maharaji, And my emotions have have had a role to play. But nothing like this had ever happened. This was completely unexpected. This was technically a perfect representation, and the detail astounded me. Apparently others had a similar experience. Perceptually, it was real. And that simply highlights the incredible qualities of the mind/brain connection. I don't need an explanation to appreciate what the brain can do given the right inputs. I suspect we take in perceptual information from sources that have not yet been identified and process it through mechanisms that have not yet been identified. But I would have never expected this to happen flawlessly to my full walking conscious scrutiny.

Even Nueroscience acknowledges there is more we don't know than we do. I don't have to have an answer. A good scientist is happy to learn at the pace of scientific discovery.

And I don't want the old religious answer. I want to know more about those brain mechanisms! I'm a nerd at heart.

@georgy @spence

“Nope, I don’t think we can answer today the question of (a) what do we know and (b) what do we not know.”

OMG, this is profound. This deserves a cross stitched plaque. Peer Review 24:8


Hi Spence,

You wrote: "When I saw Gurinder become Maharaji, and that perception was in the full walking state where I could evaluate it, and as real as any other walking perception, I knew intuitively this had to be my perception alone. I marveled at the perfect construction of it.
My reaction was "OMG There's MAHARAJI."

I had the exact same experience during the after-Satsang darshan at a huge Delhi satsang, whilst everyone filed fast the seated Gurinder. I even physically rubbed my eyes, tilted my head in disbelief etc.....I had never seen Charan in physical-person, but Gurinder's face had clearly changed into that of someone else, and it was identical to the pictures of Charan I had seen, and it lasted for several minutes at least.

This is actually a very common phenomena across the whole Radhasoami guru scene, all lineages, and faces often change into more than one "past guru". I've heard all sorts of reports from many lineages of the exact same phenomena, it is in my mind and experience a very real and clear phenomena that is not simply "make believe", "imagination" or as David Lane would have it "genetic similarities" or some such (which doesn't explain, for eg., Sadhu Ram's face changing into Kirpals, then Sawan's, then Soamiji's, which is one amongst many stories I have heard personally). It is also, in my knowledge, quite specific a phenomena to RS gurus, and is not found anywhere near as often in other religions or guru organisations.

However, in the last year or so I have come across some old research into phenomena surrounding "mediumship", and there is quite a few case of mediums' faces changing into that of the personality they're channeling or whatever. This has been witnessed and verified by sceptics in attendance (those with a predisposition to & purpose of uncovering fraud). This phenomena even has it's own name, "transfiguration mediumship". As blasphemous as this may be to believers of the RS dogma to suggest, but I do indeed suggest there is a connection between what the RS guru is doing whilst "Darshan", and what "mediums" do whilst "channelling".....

In regards Brian's original blog post and the arguments against a non-material nature of mind by Cobb, it's the same old incoherent thinking, arguing against straw men that were dismantled 100+ years ago. There is nothing at all, on any level, to suggest multiple personalities manifesting from within "one" body-brain proves a material basis to consciousness. Actually, quite possibly the contrary. It gets tiresome, so I will say it again one last time - over 100+ years ago FWH Myers, William James and their many colleagues had already investigated, discussed and theorised over this and many more diverse phenomena, and argued intelligently and convincingly they're actually far more suggestive of a non-material/brain based model of consciousness. It is actually quite profound how thoroughly all these reductionist arguments have been convincingly dismantled by both intellectual theory and investigated evidence 100+ years ago, yet the same old same old tired arguments are trotted out to the masses today in pursuit of an ideological disenchantment of the universe, a relentless drive to remind us humans we are merely "chemical scum" living entirely "meaningless lives" within an "indifferent universe".

Yet here we all are, caring, loving, meaning making "machines".

If a question has three possible answers, and one of them is considered too dangerous to allow the public to consider, it can effectively be precluded by staging huge debates between the other two. And so we have Materialists arguing that a brain is a computer, and Mystics arguing that a brain is more than a computer.

But it's easy to see that a brain is actually less than a computer. A computer chip has millions of structures that suppress and correct errors; a brain has none. And that's because computers are built by people, but brains grow naturally. Living things are not, in any way, "designed". (Which, incidentally, is not just a statement by atheists, and hasn't been for ten years!)

There is no deterministic computation in nature, because the universe is fundamentally random. Even though it's experiments in quantum mechanics that shows us this, it's much simpler than that provenance would suggest. Randomness is the same phenomenon that engineers have always faced. The only difference is that modern physics has cured us (or rather, most of us!) of the delusion that there's some clockwork beneath it.

There is no "fate" of computation that a brain needs something special to "escape". On the contrary, the machines we build include special techniques to escape the fate of non-computation.

Matthew Cobb has some very crazy ideas about what matter and energy are. If you presented him with the idea that "the mind is material", he probably interpreted it in the spooky sense -- that you were asking him about some extra mass or energy that a living brain would have beyond its physical reality. He may be planning to slander you as supporting such nonsense.

Hi Colin
You wrote
"But it's easy to see that a brain is actually less than a computer. A computer chip has millions of structures that suppress and correct errors; a brain has none."

I'm sorry but this is false. The brain attenuates signals all the time, amplifying some, suppressing others.

And the brain modifies and enhances signals even before you are aware of them, without your knowledge or consent.

Next time there is a full moon at dusk take a picture of it with your phone.

Then ask yourself "Why does the moon in the picture look so small and dull compared to what I see?"

The answer is that your brain has modified the image. It appears proportionately larger, out of its real proportion, because your brain magnifies images that are the center of your attention, out of their actual proportion in the scene. And it modifies and enhances their color as well, and their acuity and definition.

Every time you look at a straight edge, such as this line of text, your brain has modified it before you see it. Your retina is curved, so the lines of text on it are curved. But your brain straightens it out even before you see it.

Your brain performs in one second more calculations than 82,944 standard pc processors working full out for 40 seconds.


And this only simulates 1.4 billion nerve cells.

The human brain actually has 80-100 billion nerve cells... About as many as the stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

And finally, to stimulate that one second of brain activity, which is only a tiny fraction of the brain, but using all 82,944 PCs, it took 40 seconds, or 40 times longer than the actual performance of the brain.

Science teaches scientists to honor the mystery.

But cynics and zealots falsely use science for their own agendas.

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