Consciousness, the Brain, and Quantum Physics

Consciousness, the Brain, and Quantum Physics

Introduction

The nature and function of consciousness must first be addressed before the concept of life after death is considered. After all, if we happen to be immortal then it must be a non-physical form of consciousness not bound by space and time that, in some way, persists after death. Researchers have attempted to identify the brain’s neural substrate responsible for consciousness, as manifested in the ability to perceive and interpret the relationship between oneself and the environment, self-awareness, intentionality, and abstract thinking, among other associated topics (e.g., NDE, OBE, reincarnation, appiritions, mediumship, parapsychology, and quantum physics, etc.) which incorporate the possibility of the continuity of consciousness after death.

The concept of consciousness has been a source of controversy among scholars for centuries. Religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, for instance, generally associate consciousness with the brain, which interrelates with the human “soul”.  Those who ascribe to the consciousness–body dualism theory proposed by R. Descartes in 1641, believe that consciousness and the brain are separate but affect each other. In contrast, materialists believe that consciousness is associated with brain activity and can be explained in terms of matter and physical phenomena.  And if consciousness is simply a by-product of brain functioning, then our ability to experience the world will of course cease once the brain’s neuroelectric activity ends. Alternatively, if consciousness is not dependent for its existence on a normal operating brain, then our sense of self may survive bodily death in some unknown realm of existence.

Consciousness and the Brain

Human consciousness has been a focus of study in the fields of neuroscience, biology, psychology, physics, as well as in philosophy. Scholars across these disciplines have attempted to better understand the nature and meaning of consciousness, and how our brain provides a sense of an individual “self”. This objective has been approached in different ways consistent with the theoretical principles and research methods unique to each discipline. But despite these efforts, there remains no widely accepted theory of how the brain facilitates self-awareness, intention, and abstract thought. Our limited understanding of the nature of consciousness leaves open several questions fundamental to the ambiguous concept of life after death. Consequently, the need for continued research to better understand the consciousness-brain relationship has been advanced by many leading scientists, psychologists, and philosophers who contend that to prove whether or not consciousness depends on the brain may require a theory yet to be developed.1,2,3,4 Philosopher D. Chalmers summarizes this perspective as follows:

“Science is at a sort of impasse in its study of consciousness”, and “radical ideas may be needed to move forward. Consciousness, the subjective experience of an inner self, could be a phenomenon forever beyond the reach of neuroscience. Even a detailed knowledge of the brain’s workings and the neural correlates of consciousness may fail to explain how or why human beings have self-aware minds.”2a

A similar perspective by theoretical physicist and mathematician E. Wigner, who received half of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963, is that, “physics will have to be replaced by new laws, based on new concepts, if organisms with consciousness are to be described in order to deal with the phenomenon of life, the laws of physics will have to be changed, not only reinterpreted.”5  Consistent with this position, mathematical physicist R. Penrose wrote: “To understand consciousness demands a major revolution in physics. There is something very fundamental missing from current science. Our understanding at this time is not adequate and we’re going to have to move to new regions of science.”6

Since the neurological processes which govern and regulate consciousness remain elusive, it is important to be aware of the tentative nature of almost anything that can be said about how the brain facilitates the first-person experience. In fact, there is even considerable controversy in the use of the term “consciousness” which is often used in different ways. In other words, is consciousness our brain, experiences, the perception of “I” or oneself, or our waking state?  In biology and medicine for instance, consciousness is studied in terms of brain mechanisms of arousal and responsiveness (i.e., alertness through disorientation, loss of communication, and depth of coma), and on identifying brain regions which mediate sensory and motor signals that induce subjective feelings such as self-location and the first person perspective (i.e., from where do I perceive the world?). In contrast, consciousness studies in psychology and cognitive science tend to focus on asking verbal reports of experiences and subjective states (e.g., self-awareness, subliminal messages, denial of impairment, altered states produced by drugs and meditation).  In light of such diverse theories of consciousness, it is not surprising that different research approaches have been used to study this ambiguous concept. Cognitive psychologist S. Pinker concisely reflects this spectrum of opinion by simply stating that as far as consciousness goes, “we have no scientific explanation.”7  Similarly, theoretical biologist S. Kauffman stated that “nobody has the faintest idea what consciousness is. I don’t have any idea. Nor does anybody else”8 whereas, physics professor A. Goswami considers consciousness, not the material world, as the primary reality.9

A related perspective is held by neurologist Sir J. Eccles who considers that “evolution could account for the brain but not for the mind, and that only something transcendent could explain consciousness and thought”10.  According to Nobel Prize winner physicist M. Planck, “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”11  Neurosurgeon E. Alexander believes that the “brain does not create consciousness” and that “no neuroscientist can explain the physical mechanism by which the brain gives rise to consciousness.”12  In contrast, neurologist S. Novella remarked that “the evidence leads to only one interpretation and that is consciousness is what the brain does. Consciousness is a neurological phenomenon.”12a  Maybe psychologist M. Monti succinctintly summarized the mystery of consciousness in his statement that “defining our mind as consciousness is, without having a scientific definition of this phenomenon, extremely difficult to study.”13

Numerous concepts derived from neurobiological models have helped to advance our understanding of the mysterious concept of consciousness. But while most neuroscientists acknowledge that consciousness exists, most do not attempt to study it. They consider it a philosophical issue best left to philosophers to explain or that we should focus research on other aspects of brain function because the neurological substrate mediating consciousness is unlikely to be identified. Among those neuroscientists who do study consciousness, the predominant explanation is that consciousness is associated with neuroelectric activity in one or more regions of the brain; an extraordinarily complex and poorly understood system of synchronized activity of about 100 billion neurons with associated inter-connected neural pathways. Most patterns of on-going neuronal activity arise from the brain itself while other specialized neurons are elicited when external stimuli are processed by their corresponding sense organ. The resulting volley of nerve impulses flow both towards and away from the central nervous system for associated encoding/decoding, memory storage, perception, and the related interpretation of incoming stimulation. But while the act of retrieving past experiences from the brain’s coded representations of such experiences is dependent on normal brain function, this widely accepted principle is disputed by those who consider that consciousness and memory may exist after death of the body. Now widely accepted as a working hypothesis, neuroscientists F. Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, and C. Koch contend that conscious perception arises from a “temporal synchronization of the oscillations of neuronal activity.”14 Consistent with this position, neuroscientist and psychiatrist G. Tononi considers consciousness to be mediated by brain cell networking. He remarked that, “As cells become more interlinked, information can be combined more readily and therefore the essence of complicated thought can be explained. The more possible links between cells, the more possible combinations there are and therefore a greater number of ‘thoughts’ are possible.”15

Despite these proposed theories, there is no definitive objective evidence which shows how brain cells produce and regulate thoughts and the subjective essence of one’s sense of self.  Through the application of brain imaging techniques (e.g., electroencephalography (EEG), magnetoencephalography (MEG), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and positron emission tomography (PET) scanning), however, scientists are now striving to identify specific brain regions which become metabolically active in response to a thought or feeling to determine if a purely subjective response can be measured and correlated with a neurologic signature of the concept of “self”. A neurobiological model based on this concept considers consciousness an outcome of several specialized systems such as those regulating regulate perception, attention, and language that represent a type of “global workspace.”16 Support for this model was proposed by psychologist M. Monti who used fMRI techniques to analyze the “network properties” in the human brain during “unconsciousness” from anesthesia. He concluded that consciousness does not “live” in a specific brain region but rather “arises from the mode in which billions of neurons communicate with one another.”17  A recent fMRI study of subjects who reported the sense of knowing a word before recalling it in a memory task implicated the anterior insula region of the brain as the mediator of awareness.18-21   In a recent unique study by neurologist O. Blanke, neuroimaging robotic technology was applied on subjects while exposed to induced changes in self-location to determine if the brain plays a critical role for the feeling of one’s sense of awareness in space.  Blanke reported that perceiving the world from this perspective is mediated in a brain region called the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ).22  This finding, concommitent with supporting evidence from a study of patients with brain damage in the TPJ who reported out-of-body experiences, led Blanke to conclude that: “Our findings on experimentally and pathologically induced altered states of self-consciousness present a powerful new research technology and reveal that TPJ activity reflects one of the most fundamental subjective feelings of humans: the feeling that ‘I’ am an entity that is localized at a position in space and that ‘I’ perceive the world from here.”22a

Scientists have been studying the function of specific regions of the brain using electrical stimulation for many decades. Despite such effort, they have never been able to alter consciousness. Recently, however, the possible neurological components which govern this fundamental characteristic of consciousness was detected by neurologist M. Koubeissi who claimed to have turned consciousness on and off in an awake epileptic women.23  Electrical stimulation in the claustrum and insula brain region triggered a loss in consciousness but when stimulation ended she regained consciousness and could not recall the event.  The involvement of this brain region, considered important for the integration of information about the state of the body for cognitive and associated conscious processes, led Koubeissi to reason that: “I would liken it to a car. A car on the road has many parts that facilitate its movement – the gas, the transmission, the engine – but there’s only one spot where you turn the key and it all switches on and works together. So while consciousness is a complicated process created via many structures and networks – we may have found the key.”23a

 

Consciousness, Non-local Intuition, and the Quantum World

Consciousness and the brain informs us of reality and what we know and may even possibly have a physical effect on what we perceive.  Scientists have explained how we experience reality using revolutionary prinicples in science and consciousness studies within the theoretical world of quantum physics (i.e., the behavior of atoms and subatomic particles).  Many physicists who ascribe to the theoretical relationship between consciousness and the structure of matter do so since sub-atomic particles like photons (i.e., the smallest elemental unit of electromagnetic radiation), and electrons (i.e., the smallest particle of an atom) are composed of energy, and that since matter is energy, human consciousness must be connected to it and can alter its behavior.  Quantum physics has shown that such particles are not really objects and do not exist at definite spatial locations and times.  Instead, they seem to show “tendencies to exist,” forming a world of potentialities.24 The case for the mechanism that enables consciousness to extend beyond the physical brain arises from quantum physics. At the quantum level all subatomic particles are entangled through quantum correlation and non-locality. This suggests a mechanism for a type of awareness that interrelates with matter and energy. Quantum physics was described by theoretical physicist Amit Goswami, as follows: “quantum physics is a new paradigm of science based on the primacy of consciousness…The new paradigm resolves many paradoxes of the old paradigm and explains much anomalous data.”24a

An extension of this viewpoint is represented in the quantum mind theory of consciousness which proposes that quantum physics may be an integral part of brain activity and the foundation to explain consciousness. Neuroscientist H. Romijn, for example, proposed that photons in brain neurons contribute to a biological quantum (i.e., the smallest discrete amount of something) connection that serves as a basis for consciousness.25 A similar opinion conveyed by physicist E. Wigner is that consciousness represents a fundamental component of quantum measurement. He stated that, “The illusion of the classical scientific paradigm that is shattered by the quantum principle is the assumption that there is an immutable objective reality “out there” that is totally independent of what happens in consciousness “in here”. Quantum theory forces a new kind of logic in science that is still mathematical and disciplined.”26

The behavior of subatomic particles, which serve as the foundation of quantum mechanical phenomena, has many strange characteristics. Experiments in quantum physics, for instance, have demonstrated the instantaneous connections which remain between particles that once interacted physically but then became separated; that is, this quantum entanglement of one electron of an entangled pair somehow “knows” what measurement has been performed on the other and the associated outcome. Strangely, this occurs despite the apparent inability to explain how such information is communicated between the particles, which at the time of measurement may be separated by distances of over billions of light-years. This paradoxical behavior is referred to as “non-locality” – the ability of two objects to instantaneously know about each other’s states even when separated. For example, particle A and particle B interact and become mysteriously bonded. Then, when particle A undergoes a change, particle B undergoes the same change even though they are not visibly connected; that is, even though they are separated they remain linked in such a way that the quantum state of any one particle cannot be adequately described without consideration of the others.27 An extension of such enigmatic behavior of subatomic particles may be applied to consciousness and its influence on physical sysytems.

Quantum theory, for instance, suggests that subatomic particles exist in an undefined state of potentialities and do not become “real” until a mind interacts with them to give them meaning. This has been demonstrated in experiments by which simply making a measurement or by through the observer’s conscious intent, the outcome of an experiment can be changed. Considered by A. Einstein as “spooky action at a distance”28, 29 the apparent interconnection of subatomic particles being observed and the observer has been demonstrated in the “double-slit experiment” whereby the behavior of electrons act differently when witnessed than when no one is watching as it passes through two slits in a barrier. For example, the particle behaves like a speeding train and goes through one slit or the other but if a person doesn’t watch the particle it acts like a wave and passes through both slits at the same time. Accordingly, matter and energy can behave as either a wave or particle based upon one’s conscious perception. This effect is also seen when a single electron passes through two different holes on a screen simultaneously. It remains a single particle on the other side but if a light is flashed on it to observe through which hole it passes, then it will pass only through one of the two holes.

Such experimental outcomes led D. Radin, Chief Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, to consider that entanglement in the subatomic quantum domain are responsible for the non-local events we experience. He wrote, “observation not only disturbs what has to be measured, they produce it. We compel the electron to assume a definite position. We ourselves produce the results of the measurement.”30  Physician J. Schwartz and physicist H. Stapp also contend that the answer to how mental states can influence physical states lies in the discoveries of quantum physics31 and “consciousness” which serves as the most “perplexing subject in science”.  A similar perspective was advanced by Niels Bohr, one of the foremost scientists of modern physics who concluded that, “everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real” and that “there is no local cause for an event, and when an event occurs it instantaneously alters the universe.”32  Other noted scientists such as physicists E. Wigner and B. Josephson and mathematician J. von Neumann argue that this non-local effect may form the basis of consciousness. These perspectives, combined with and the associated implications of the inexplicable behavior of subatomic particles of how consciousness creates reality, has generated more questions than answers within mainstream science.

One significant question is that if separated subatomic particles can be entangled, is it then possible for consciousness to also be entangled at a distance and if so, how? In other words, is the consciousness of the observer vital to the existence of physical events being observed? According to physicists P. Davies and J. Gribbin, the observer plays an “essential role in fixing the nature of reality at the quantum level”.33 Accordingly, to better understand reality and its role in the physical universe we must consider the nature and effect of consciousness.  But do we dare extrapolate the characteristics of this subatomic-like phenomenon to the concept of consciousness and the mind-brain relationship?  After all, since we are composed of subatomic particles do we then have the potential ability to interact with other forms of consciousness on a similar invisible pathway? That is, if something is non-local, it is not localized to specific points in space, such as our body, or to specific points in time, such as the present. Thus, they are infinite in time and present at all moments – past present and future. Consequently, they are eternal. This difficult to grasp concept may best be illustrated by documented non-local experiences.  One such compelling example is represented in a highly credible account by B. Mango who sensed the details of an unsolved murder which was later reported to validate every aspect of her experience, as follows:

“My husband and I were driving down River Road in New Milford, CT, which abuts Bridgewater, CT.  We passed a small beach appearing through a gap in the woods-one of the few ‘beaches’ alongside the Housatonic River.  I became highly agitated as we approached this area, and begged my husband to stop the car.  My agitation turned into sheer panic.  My heart was beating impossibly fast.  I felt as if a 500 pound weight was crushing my chest and it was nearly impossible for me to catch my breath. I was dizzy, light-headed, and extremely nauseous. Immediately, I knew exactly what had transpired here. This was the spot where M. Measels had been murdered. I visualized the murder while simultaneously experiencing every emotion that was energetically embedded there.  In between gasps of breath and extreme nausea, I described the murder to my husband as follows:  I pointed to a tree and said:  “Oh my God, this is where she was raped. Then she was dragged across the street to the beach area…I’m going to be sick…She may have been raped again on the beach. Oh my God, I feel like I’m going to die. I see Maryann on the beach half-conscious and being dragged into the water by at least two men.  Her head is being held under the water and she is drowning. She’s being drowned to death. Oh my God, get me out of here, I’m going to be sick, and I’m having a panic attack.”  I began sobbing hysterically.  It took well over an hour for my body to recover.  Emotionally, I remained exhausted, sad, and depressed for a few days. Approximately eighteen months later my husband was reading our local newspaper.  He suddenly shouted, “Oh my God Barbara, everything you said came true”.  Three of the eight co-conspirators had confessed to the murder location, the murder itself, and events leading up to it.  This was a breakthrough moment for the New Milford Police Department.  It was also the first time any details of the crime had been made public, in any capacity. Every single detail I had experienced correlated exactly with the newspaper account of the crime.”34

Validated experiences such as this provide indirect evidence to help justify how consciousness and our physical material world may interact. And such anecdotal evidence should serve as a foundation for studies which may advance our understanding of the mind-brain relationship, the theoretical non-local aspects of consciousness, and even life after death.

For lack of a precise explanation of the principles which may govern and regulate such enigmatic concerns, several scholars adopt the century old theory of panpsychism; that is, consciousness is a universal feature of all things.  Subsequently, the idea has been advanced that consciousness exists in molecules and atoms, perhaps as some kind of quantum mechanical effect. In fact, physicist M. Tegmark proposed that there is a state of matter, like solid, liquid and gas whereby atoms are somehow capable of processing information which gives “rise to subjectivity”.35 This concept, referred to as the  perceptronium theory, was inspired in part by neuroscientist G. Tononi whose integrated information theory has become a popular notion in the science of consciousness. This theory predicts that, “devices as simple as a thermostat or a photoelectric diode might have glimmers of consciousness; a subjective self”.35a Tononi even invented a unit called “phi” which is alleged to measure how “conscious an entity is”. Taking these considerations a step further, physicist R. Lanza contends that life and consciousness are fundamental to the universe, and that humans are “eternal” and created the “concept of life and death through their own consciousness.”36 Lanza believes that consciousness exists outside of the constraints of time and space and can exist in or outside of the body. In other words, it is non-local in the same sense that quantum objects are non-local. Parapsychologist J. Utts and Nobel laureate and theoretical physicist B. Josephson state that science needs to adapt to accommodate such evidence. They wrote: “What are the implications for science of the fact that psychic functioning appears to be a real effect? These phenomena seem mysterious, but no more mysterious perhaps than strange phenomena of the past which science has now happily incorporated within its scope.”37

Combining both a scientific and philosophical based theory of consciousness, physicist R. Jahn concluded that if consciousness can exchange information with the physical environment, then it can have the same “molecular binding potential” as physical objects since it follows the principles of quantum mechanics.38 That is, consciousness follow the principles of quantum mechanics. Physicist D. Bohm, a student of Albert Einstein, also agreed that it makes no sense to separate physical effects from spiritual effects. He proposed that, “the results of modern natural sciences only make sense if we assume an inner, uniform, transcendent reality that is based on all external data and facts. The very depth of human consciousness is one of them.”39 Nuclear physicist J. Hayward shared a similar perspective:

“Many scientists who are still part of the scientific mainstream are no longer afraid to openly state that consciousness/awareness could, in addition to space, time, matter and energy, be a fundamental element of the world – perhaps even more fundamental than space and time. It may be a mistake to ban the spirit from nature. It is even questioned as to whether matter should be considered a fundamental element of the universe.”40

Several researchers in the field of parapsychological studies share this similar viewpoint; that is, consciousness is not limited to the brain. This position is based on experimental evidence of non-locality which suggests that humans can exchange information without the use of our sensory systems (i.e., transcend space and time) and intentionally effect change in other people and physical systems at a distance. This perspective is consistent with that held by physicist N. Herbert who considers consciousness a “process lying outside the laws that govern the material world – it is just this immunity from the quantum rules that allows the mind to turn possibility into actuality.”41 Similarly, H. Stapp, who worked with some of the founding fathers of quantum physics stated, “a scientist physically affects quantum systems by choosing which properties to study. Similarly, an observer can hold in place a chosen brain activity that would otherwise be fleeting. This shows that the mind and brain may not be one and the same.”42 This concept was summarized by neuropsychologist P. Fenwick who stated, “the experiments and current understanding of non-locality in nature is sufficient to postulate that non-locality is the antecedent attribute of energy and matter which permits perception and is the root of the consciousness which manifests in the evolved organisms existing in three dimensional reality.”43

Certain aspects of such theoretical concepts may be represented in both physiological and psychological (e.g., consciousness and intuition) based experiments which suggest that one can respond to external stimulation before consciousness processes the event; that is, non-local intuition, may represent non-local characteristics of particles at the subatomic scale (e.g., observer effect, quantum entanglement).  For example, although physicists initially believed quantum entanglement was of little significance, fMRI and EEG studies now suggest that its’ effects may be associated with brain activity. Researchers have measured EEG correlations between the brains of spatially separated people to determine if an objective measure of a subjective sense of connection is reflected in brain activity. Interestingly, this cause-effect relationship was supported in studies whereby the stimulation of one individual’s brain was reported to have been transmitted and instantaneously measured in a distant individual’s brain using such objective measurement techniques.44-46 If valid, the notion of “linked minds” may be possible. Justification for this concept was reinforced by psychologist C. Alvarado in an EEG based study of social interaction at a distance in paired participants who were not “connected by any traditional channels of communication.”47 When one of the pair received a one second stimulation from a light signal, a weak but robust statistically significant response was also detected in the Alpha range EEG activity of the other member of the pair. If replicated by independent investigators, this outcome would provide more definitive neurophysiological evidence of a connection between individuals at distance. Although distant individuals may somehow be coupled in this manner, however, there is no conclusive evidence that “human entanglement” is related to “quantum entanglement”. In fact, many physicists maintain that nonlocal connections between entangled particles cannot transfer information.48

In a comprehensive review of the literature, D. Radin reported that approximately 15 percent of pairs of people show “non-chance EEG correlations.”49 This evidence suggests that intuitively perceived information may be non-local; that is, it is time independent and does not obey the inverse square law for space/time energy propagation. But understanding the mechanics of non-locality does not exist in traditional scientific models. Some physicists explain non-local intuition on the basis of super-luminal speed of propagation (i.e., instantaneous communication) or the zero point as a zero dimension which is resonant with all parts of the universe simultaneously.

In a related experiment to test the validity of non-local intuition, Radin asked subjects to imagine that they could perceive and alter a low-intensity laser beam in a distant interferometer.  The results, which indicated that one’s intuition modified the photons’ quantum wave functions and the pattern of light produced by this device, led Radin to conclude that, “Conventional explanations” for these results were “implausible”. One’s intuition is capable of “gaining knowledge about the world, and with the predicted effects of observation on a quantum system”. “Intuitive knowledge arises from perceptions that are not mediated through the ordinary senses.”50

Radin and his colleagues also attempted to find experimental evidence of consciousness influencing quantum effects using an extension of the double-slit experiment.51 Their study involved asking meditators to imagine that they could see which of the two slits the photon passed. Briefly, the results from 137 subjects of both experienced meditators and non-meditators who took part in 250 sessions consisting of alternate sets of 30 seconds of observation with 30 seconds of rest indicated a significant effect size with the meditators. This positive outcome led them to conduct an internet-based experiment which comprised over 5,000 sessions completed by human subjects and over 7,000 performed by a ‘Linux’ robot as a control. The subsequent outcomes, which also demonstrated a significant effect51a, requires further research by independent investigators to determine if such non-local effects can be replicated to help validate non-local intuition.

In a related study to test the perception of information of a distant or future event, neuroscientist Benjamin Libert analyzed EEG recordings to determine precisely when subjects made a decision to act prior to simple behavioral tasks (e.g., moving fingers).52  Interestingly, Libert found that the brain responded a few milliseconds before the decision to act, which he termed the “readiness potential”.  A similar conclusion was made by Radin who observed that skin-conductance activity reacted appropriately consistent a few seconds prior to randomly presented emotionally calming or upsetting computer pictures.53 Similarly, experiments using electrocardiogram measures of heart rate variability detected a significant pre-stimulus cardiac change starting about 18 seconds before participants knew the future outcome of an event.54, 55  Collectively, the evidence from these studies suggest that the brain’s regulatory mechanism may be activated just before conscious will to allow a brief period for consciousness to override a decision.  Despite objective evidence of correlations between non-local intuition and associated physiological measures, further justification is required to validate this cause-effect relationship.  This is a necessary step to help explain the possible force which may govern and regulate the means for such information transmission.

The possibility that human intention can affect physical systems has also been studied in a variety of group settings (e.g., meditations, ceremonies, and important global events 56-65) and in individuals.66-68 This theory was tested as part of the Global Consciousness Project (GCP) led by psychologist R. Nelson, the Director of the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab (PEAR).  In this unique study, the output of a worldwide network of one hundred computer random event generators (REG) which continuously emitted ones and zeros in a random pattern, was analyzed by a supercomputer at Princeton University to identify any statistically significant deviation from randomness that may be influenced by major world events. Interestingly, such deviations were reported when major events elicited the attention of millions of people to a single point in time.  This outcome led the researchers to conclude that such changes in the REGs were caused by a field of consciousness strong enough to affect artificial intelligence which proves “we are all one”.69  What is especially both interesting and difficult to understand is that this anomaly was mostly predictive, often happening hours before the original event occurred. For example, researchers found one such significant irregularity several hours before the terrorist attacks on September 11. The mathematical analysis of the data showed that the New York computer broke the 1 to 0 ratio of 50:50 to 1:35. Similar results occurred before attacks by Al Qaeda in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005, the tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia, and the election of President Obama. Despite existing controversies associated with the PEAR study, the replication of their research outcomes by independent investigators would reinforce the proposed existence of a “global consciousness” that knows of a major event before our individual consciousness does. What is most interesting, however, is that this same type of intuitive foreknowledge was reported in the electrocardiogram and EEG studies by Libert and Radin noted previously. The collective study results, therefore, suggest that one’s consciousness may have the potential to react to a strong emotional event before it is actually experienced.

Concurrent with the GCP, the same researchers conducted thousands of experiments with hundreds of subjects to further evaluate if our minds may affect the normal functioning of electronic devices.  Curiously, subjects instructed to use their intention to influence the REG towards a one or zero were able to produce a significant change in the direction of their will.69a The researchers determined that the probability of this result happening by chance rather than by an influence of the human mind was less than 1 to 1 billion. Though the influence was small, the significant consistency of the results led them to conclude that our brains are capable of communicating on “invisible pathways”, i.e., non-locality.69b, 70 The change in the random behavior of the REG was even more pronounced when the collective consciousness of millions of people were focused on a single event as part of the GCP. Similarly, R. Nelson reported that REGs in group situations behaved non-randomly in situations which evoked both intense subjective experiences and as an outcome of meditation involving a large number of people worldwide at the same time.71  For example, millions of people watching the television broadcasts of the O.J. Simpson murder trial altered the output of nearby REGs during periods of high emotional content 72; that is, participant intentionality created a non-random effect to bias the skewed distribution of the REGs from randomness toward more order. Despite the compelling evidence generated by PEAR, however, alternative explanations of their research results include experimenter and methodological biases, statistical, REG malfunction, and electro-magnetic interference.73  Despite such potential confounding variables, one theoretical explanation for the reported PEAR results was summarized by physicist C. Clarke who remarked:

“On one hand, Mind is inherently non-local. On the other, the world is governed by a quantum physics that is inherently nonlocal. This is no accident, but a precise correspondence. Mind and the world are aspects of the same thing. The way ahead, I believe, has to place mind first as the key aspect of the universe. We have to start exploring how we can talk about mind in terms of a quantum picture. Only then will we be able to make a genuine bridge between physics and physiology.”73a

Other attempts to demonstrate the validity of Clarke’s contention that “mind and the world are aspects of the same thing” have been performed using one’s healing intention on biological functions in remote individuals and on nonhuman processes.  Several studies suggestive of non-local effects, for instance, have been reported by the benefits of healing prayer,74, 75 distant healing in cardiopulmonary and AIDS patients,76, 77 and in mice infected with mammary adenocarcinoma.77a Directed intention has also been associated with significantly faster healing in injured mice, and higher germination and faster growth rates in shocked plants.78 Employing more objective measures to assess the influence of human intention, physiologist L. Hendricks reported the existence of interpersonal EEG coupling between healer and subject pairs by which the healer produced a “connection between the healer and the subject.”79  Another interesting experiment employed experienced meditators to determine if their intention can affect change in the pH of water within an electrical device.80 Briefly, once imprinted through meditation, the device was then sent overnight to a laboratory 2,000 miles away where it was turned on.  According to the researchers, the results showed a very large “unambiguous change in the water’s pH state” simply through its being in the vicinity of the electrical device that had been imprinted with that intent. Another example of communication on “invisible pathways” was provided in a study by physicist R. Dobrin who reported that subjects were able to increase the energy field output of biophotons (i.e., very weak emissions of light radiated from the cells of all living things) by up to 67 percent through conscious intention.81 

Experiments demonstrating that rats learning a new maze benefited non-locally from the experience of others who had previously learned the maze, led parapsychologist R. Sheldrake to conclude that humans can also react to non-local information. He remarked that humans can “perceive, cognize and give meaning to non-local information across a range of complexity, from inanimate objects, simple organisms, animals and other humans.”82 This perspective was reinforced by professor of materials science and engineering W. Tiller who demonstrated that one’s intention can increase the conductivity (i.e., the ability to transmit energy) between a molecule and vacuum level. This finding led him to conclude that consciousness can affect or interact with a “power greater than anything conventional instruments have been able to measure thus far.”83 In fact, several noted scientists have suggested that a person’s mind or body could be affected by the thoughts of another person far away through the following mechanisms: 1) Maxwell’s original equations, 2) magnetic currents traveling in a particular region of space-time which includes the quantum vacuum, and 3) laboratory measurements of humans radiating high electrostatic charge at will as “indicative of the possibility of such a broadcasting telepathic mechanism.”84

While evidence to support non-local intuition is an important step towards understanding the potential capabilities of consciousness, it is another thing entirely to explain the nature which governs and regulates this phenomenon. Within this context, Tiller discovered that the vacuum space considered as empty, contains immensely powerful substances that cannot be seen which can be affected by human intention. An in-between substance made of particles he called “deltrons” are activated which affect the substances we see. Interestingly, he contends that the energy in the vacuum space of a single hydrogen atom is as “great as all the electromagnetic energy found in everything within 15 billion light-years of our space-time cosmos”. What is especially interesting is that he believes that human intention can act on this powerful realm which mainstream science views as empty space. According to Tiller, this allows one to observe and measure the impact of human intention on this otherwise undetected substance.84a, 85 Based on this principle, an instrument he developed called an “Intention Host Device” provided the means by which good intentions broadcasted by the device significantly helped to: 1) enhance the skill sets and integration of 34 autistic children, and relieved the depression and anxiety of their parents, and 2) reduce depression and anxiety in hundreds of people located over 1,000 miles away.85a It should be noted however, that his experimental methodology and evidence is considered highly controversial and “full of holes” by several physicists.

Despite existing anecdotal and experimental evidence suggestive of non-locality, concepts proposed by the Quantum Holographic Principle, the Synchronized Universe Model, or the Quantum Bayesianism theory (i.e., quantum information is a function of our own minds),86 which theoretical physicist N. Mermin considers to be the “most powerful abstraction we have ever found”,86a may provide the foundation to validate and explain the nature and potential of consciousness. Clearly, however, evidence to support non-locality must be reproduced by independent researchers, and must await new developments in science to definitively explain this phenomenon.  Additionally, the difficulty controlling numerous confounding variables in clinical tests of non-locality diminish the validity of the resulting outcomes and associated conclusions.

Discussion

Scientific principles within the domain of quantum physics may hold the key to unlock the mystery of how consciousness relates to the brain during life, as well as during brain death. This potential outcome is supported, in part, by experimental results of subatomic quantum entanglement, which should serve to stimulate active research of this phenomena in humans. But before a possible all-encompassing theory is developed and confirmed, a required prerequisite is to devise appropriate techniques to identify, if at all possible, the underlying neurological correlates of consciousness, the mind-brain connection, and nonlocal intuition.  After all, if a field of consciousness strong enough to affect artificial intelligence is confirmed, such evidence may suggest that a form of energy exists apart from the body. Consequently, this finding may provide supporting rationale for the persistence of consciousness following the death of the body. After all, neuroscientists have been unable to adequately explain how the brain facilitates one’s concept of self, beliefs, and reasoning and decision making processing. And until we attain a better understanding of these elusive concepts, the controversies surrounding consciousness and its’ possible continuation after death will continue to serve as a source of debate, controversy, and above all, hope.

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