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4 Amazing Facts Suggesting the Mind Can Exist Independent of the Brain

Are you just the sum of your nerve cells, or something more?

by
P. David Hornik

Bio

May 11, 2014 - 10:00 am
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Are you just a physical entity, ultimately reducible to the physical entity known as your brain? Is that organ—a bundle of neurons weighing about three pounds—the source of all your thoughts, feelings, and any illusion you may have of a “soul” or a “spirit”?

I recently finished reading a 600-plus-page book by a group of academic psychiatrists, psychologists, and philosophers, called Irreducible Mind, that argues exactly the opposite. The book presents a huge body of evidence from scientific studies of psychokinesis, split personalities, psychic healing, near-death experiences, and other phenomena that seems to constitute powerful proof that, while the mind and the brain obviously interact, the former is not reducible to the latter and there are circumstances where consciousness clearly exists and functions independently of the brain.

Irreducible Mind is a subversive endeavor, swimming against the tide of about a century of scientific reductionism (though not, it should be stressed, in quantum physics) that says all phenomena, including your most delicate or exalted sentiments, are ultimately physical. The book has definitely had some impact; googling the title gets almost two million results, and though published back in 2007 it keeps selling well on Amazon.

One of the coauthors is Bruce Greyson, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia and leading researcher of near-death experiences. A few months ago a video surfaced of a lecture Greyson gave in India in 2011. It’s about an hour long, fascinating, and seems to point to even more dramatic findings since Irreducible Mind was published seven years ago.

Greyson presents four lines of evidence for the mind as an independent entity, which I’ve taken the trouble to summarize, and they could be an eye-opener. First he gives this caveat:

The evidence that I’m going to discuss…is derived entirely from scientific research. But I do not want to give you the impression that this evidence is…accepted by Western scientists. In fact, most Western scientists are completely unaware that this evidence even exists.

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Top Rated Comments   
Only a fool believes that the materially measurable is all that it is. The bizarre thing is the stridency is which they insist on this being the case and the extent they go to try to impose this view on others.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (31)
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I'm open-minded on the question of a soul, but the fact that hydroencephelic babies are routinely aborted because "they can't possibly have a normal life" troubles me greatly...
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
This all sounds suspiciously mystical.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
H'm. I am become Death, the Destroyer of Spam -- and the first page's comments have all been reported as scams. The bad guys have regrouped, I fear.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Love these articles, thanks.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Having" an eternal soul? I'm throwing in with C.S. Lewis on this one: it's called BEING an eternal soul and HAVING a body. Since eternity lies beyond space and time, so too does the eternal soul. Yet science is confined in its studies to that which is still in space and time; while we can study these supernatural reports scientifically, therefore, we can only do so to the extent that anything in them intrudes on nature in our space-time continuum. Concerning these reports:

1. Haven't Alzheimer's patients been reported to have sudden moments of lucidity at other times as well? It's my understanding that sometimes anesthesia used during surgery has been known to restore lucidity to Alzheimer's sufferers for a time after they woke up, which suggests all the parts of the brain storing these memories are intact, just chronically inaccessible. If the body releases certain chemicals on death, could these not possibly be producing the same lucidity? This is not necessarily a foray into the supernatural realm at all.

2. How much of a brain do you need? This study suggests "not as much as people once thought" but doesn't necessarily mean you can get along without one altogether. Some preliminary research suggests the brain is not the only control center of the nervous system, though it is the largest and most central one. If some of the brain's functions can be redistributed to these other control centers, this might well explain how that one girl could be getting around so well with so little grey matter in her head. This also is not necessarily any kind of foray into the supernatural.

3. This is much closer to being a potential supernatural incursion on our space time continuum, though I might point out that just feeling like you're out of your body is not the same thing as actually being out of there; it could be no different from the "phantom limb" experience some amputees have. More important for this kind of research is whether those who have NDEs bring back any kind of information they could not have known or subconsciously surmised or imagined from within their bodies. Meeting dead relatives? That could just be a hallucination.

If the hallucination includes everyone the person knows (including imaginary people), a significance bias could account for the otherwise unlikely meetings with unmentioned dead and recently dead relatives, e.g. a little girl who nearly died met Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, a long-dead twin brother her parents never mentioned to her but who is also an imaginary companion she never mentioned to them, her brother at college that the parents don't yet know has just been involved in a fatal traffic accident, and pretty much everybody else she knows. When she's resuscitated and starts talking about what she remembers, the parents seize upon the long-dead twin brother and the brother at college who's just died, and not upon all those other living and dead and imaginary people, so after a while the girl will only remember meeting with those brothers and not all the other people she met in her hallucination.

A more telling bit of evidence would be if the NDE involves finding out something nobody knew and nobody could merely have guessed by accident, e.g. some complete stranger across town just got hit by a car and the hospital hasn't gotten any call to dispatch an ambulance yet, but the little girl who's gotten resuscitated is telling us how she just met this guy while she was dead and he told her his full name and to tell the wife and kids he also named not to grieve for him too long though he'd like to apologize to them for making such a stupid mistake by forgetting to look both ways before stepping out in front of a speeding car on that city street he also named. (Oh, and he'd also like to apologize to the driver he named as well.) Then we have a statistical case that she really was dead and out of her body and meeting with other dead people, see?

4. These reports are a lot like those in #3, but here again we need something statistically valid. Talking another language is more credible proof that the mind has left the brain than suddenly having some other religion's customs and taboos. Another point to consider is that things like reincarnation may just be the local religion's overly convenient explanation for some entirely unrelated phenomenon. (Case in point: Abraham Lincoln's wife Mary Todd Lincoln was slowly going insane from a brain tumor. When a charlatan medium turned up in Washington D.C. claiming she could talk to dead people, Mary Todd Lincoln immediately latched onto her claims as a credible explanation for all those voices she was hearing in her head and invited her to perform seances in the White House. If her lunacy from the brain tumor and the medium's fraudulence hadn't been exposed, this quackery might have gotten a much bigger foothold here in the U.S.A. as a credible religious belief.)

Assuming for the sake of argument we re
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Is it just me, or is this message system truncating long posts? I said something about the potential for a "Freaky Friday" flip and the subject of possible external interference from God and angels and demons from Heaven and Hell being a kind of "supernatural sociology" that can only be studied philosophically and theologically, and not scientifically.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
“You’re a ghost driving a meat coated skeleton made from stardust, what do you have to be scared of?”
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Eh, well, just try to ignore the sensations when someone's driving nails through major nerve bundles in the wrists and feet of that meat coated skeleton made of stardust.

That's kind of like a subject we discussed in my advanced philosophy classes at college as to whether "pain" was an obsolete notion and we should actually be talking about our C-fiber sensations. As one of my fellow students pointed out, no matter what you call these sensations, we don't want to experience any of them. In the final analysis, therefore, the post-modernists trying to dismiss "pain" as some kind of obsolete social construct were pretty obviously trying to promote a distinction without a difference; i.e. they were full of crap.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm skeptical. Although a hundred years ago it was the "consensus" science that the universe was not reducible to a Big Bang singularity. Maybe from a quantum mechanics perspective perception is everything (reality), but apparently the transmission of that perceptual information between the disembodied mind and the still living is problematic. Whatever the reality of mind, I suspect the reality of immaterial value in a material world is the more difficult problem. How does one measure value without the mind?
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
If brain and mind are the same, why is there a separate category of diseases called "mental illness"?
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Howdy RobSpe
The division between mental illness and neurological disorder has become a lot fuzzier in recent decades. We've long known we could induce psychosis with drugs; we now have some ability to reduce psychosis using drugs. Depression seems responsive to medication in at least some cases without a material change in circumstances and some people become depressed in circumstances that make depression seem incomprehensible.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have come to "believe" that consciousness is way bigger and wider than what does or doesn't happen inside any given human being's neural processes.

I am never convinced by reading other individuals' recounting of their own or others' experience. "Evidence" to me is what matches my own life experience, and when I read practically anything from Jiddu Krishnamurti or Joel Goldsmith (most recently, A Parenthesis in Eternity) on this topic, there is (really really big :) resonance.

"We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us organs of its activity and receivers of its Truth."

~Ralph Waldo Emerson (probably his essay on Self-Reliance)
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah, most of us call this having an eternal soul.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
As the comments show, those who believe in science to the exclusion of any belief that there is more to this existence than what can be seen, felt or sensed in some other way are always going to grasp at whatever evidence or explanation they can find to reinforce their belief system.

God could come down today and they'd ascribe it to a mass hallucination.

Likewise, those who believe in an afterlife will often accept the thinnest evidence to support their beliefs.

The child getting over a serious illness that should have killed them but was heavily medicated with the most modern of medical techniques and survived is seen as a miracle.

Both are belief systems based on emotion, not logic, no matter how strenuously either may deny it.

As for myself, I tend to believe there is far more to the universe - and to our own personal existence - than we can ever possibly imagine or begin to understand.

And if I'm wrong, then the worst thing that has happened is I tried (imperfectly) to live a moral life to the best of my ability that avoided wronging others.

Being remembered as a good person is not something to be sneered at.

On the other hand, if there is no afterlife, then the memories you leave behind is the ONLY thing you leave as a mark you were ever here.

If there is an afterlife, and if there are repercussions as to how you lived your life here on earth, then it behooves you to try to live as proper a life as possible within the boundaries of what you decide as morally upright conduct.

Do you want to be remembered as an honest person who did the best the could and treated everyone as they wished to be treated - or do you want to be remembered as a nasty individual who lied and cheated at every turn in a quest for personal advantage who everyone was glad to see finally buried?

All in all, living morally is probably not a bad way to live and by doing so you have both bases covered no matter the answer.

And one day, we ALL will have the answer to this riddle.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
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