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CONSCIOUSNESS, TIME, AND THE OBSERVER

There's a school of thought out there, begun largely by Oxford mathematician Roger Penrose (see Penrose's stimulating book The Emperor's New Mind), that self-consciousness arises from quantum mechanical processes in the human brain:

An intriguing consciousness theory, but skeptics want evidence

I find it intriguing because I've long suspected, and have advanced the idea in various books and interviews, that the neat and tidy binary dialectical divisions of "materialism" and (for want of a better expression) "idealism" in standard metaphysics and epistemology isn't really feasible; there's a kind of feedback mechanism between the two, and some aspects of Penrose's theory seems to suggest this. But there is also, as I have also hypothesized, a deep relationship between "mind" and the physical medium, beyond even that suggested by quantum mechanics' uncertainty principle.

With that in mind, consider this very interesting article:

First man to hear people before they speak

Now the fascinating point in this article - one that goes right to the heart of the uncertainty principle, it would seem to me, is this:

"Freeman says this implies that the same event in the outside world is perceived by different parts of your brain as happening at different times. This suggests that, rather than one unified "now", there are many clocks in the brain – two of which showed up in the tasks – and that all the clocks measure their individual "nows" relative to their average.

"In PH's case, one or more of these clocks has been significantly slowed – shifting his average – possibly as a result of the lesions."

The idea of the brain containing many different "clocks" which then are averaged to give an account of the "time" or "now" or perceptions is highly intriguing, especially when one considers all of Einstein's "thought experiments" involving the idea of synchronized clocks; perhaps the great physicist was even able to observe his own mind performing such functions.

But regardless of the answer to that speculation, the idea that the human brain averages such observations is an indicator, perhaps, that Penrose's quantum mechanical approach is on target, for quantum mechanics relies a great deal on such statistical averages of particle performance history. And it raises as never before the importance of the observer of such events, and the link between mind and the physical medium, and particularly between the mind and time. Now, while you're weighing all those implications into the mix, add animals: the ability of the felines, for example, to "calculate" how far to jump to catch a target, and so on...

All this is fun of course, but it underscores in a major way once again that we are just beginning to explore the relationships between consciousness and physics. Quantum mechanics did not close an era of "classical" physics and metaphysics, as much as it opened up a whole new one. I suspect that one is going to encounter wholesale connections between these phenomena and, say, chaos theory or even biologist Rupert Sheldrake's "morphogenetic fields" or even C.G. Jung's "archetypes." (One wonders, indeed, just what Jung and his close friend, correspondent, and fellow investigator of "synchronicity," physicist Wolfgang Pauli, might have thought of these two articles.)

See you on the flip side.

18 thoughts on “CONSCIOUSNESS, TIME, AND THE OBSERVER”

  1. I can’t stop thinking about the article about the man who could hear people speak before he saw their lips move. Why was the order in which he perceived these two things this way around? Doesn’t light travel faster than sound? You apparently see the lightning caused by whatever is going on in the clouds before you hear the thunder that was caused by the same event. Shouldn’t information about what he saw arrive in his brain before information about what he heard? Regardless of this apparent inversion of the expected, I think this man has been given an incredible gift – he has positive proof that, in at least one area, our brains ‘doctor’ incoming information to make us perceive reality in a certain way. It makes you wonder what other incoming information is altered to make us perceive things a certain way?! It makes you wonder whether logic and the ‘scientific method’ we prize so much are really based on anything less ephemeral than intuition.

    1. Hi Cassandane: Interesting observation … In the case of the man, maybe it has to do with visual processing speed. Seeing isn’t as simple as we think. Images in our retinas are actually upside-down until processed by the brain, which also has to transfer them to the opposite hemisphere, and combine them into a single right-side up image, which is how we see the world. Maybe his visual processing is slower than his auditory processing. Just a wild guess …

  2. yourgoldteeth

    “the idea that the human brain averages such observations is an indicator, perhaps, that Penrose’s quantum mechanical approach is on target, for quantum mechanics relies a great deal on such statistical averages of particle performance history”

    Does quantum mechanics dependon statistical averages or does our current understanding and computational ability with respect to quantum mechanics depend on statistical averages? And are we talking about the same sorts of “averages” with respect to the two phenomena?

  3. I am no expert, but I’ve heard some standard responses of mainstream philosophy professors to Penrose’s idea. The bottom line is that it is exactly the same as saying “consciousness is caused by PIXIE DUST in the neurons.”

    That’s how solid his argument is. It is totally lacking in any sort of empirical evidence to support it (like so much of so-called “modern” physics). Pixie dust works just as well in his argument. So does “God,” so does “the jolly green giant.”

    I might be right, but how would we ever know?? Any noun in the English language makes his argument work the same.

    1. Ormus is probably the best noun to choose from; it has its contradictions and slippery properties so it’s similar to consciousness. (And it be not something Penrose likely familiar with–though some of his transformation diagrams are certainly suggestive.)

      So no generic undefined “pixie dust” would not work as a substitution, nor would any English noun.

  4. life passing before your eyes at the moment of impending doom is a time shift, relativity

    The idea of organized information travelling at the speed of light through the nether……hmm…could a bio engineered entity actually recieve information somehow……looking at the sun does make one go blind, its the first that happened to Samson when she cut off his hair…..with needles though by the govt guards….why why why, delielah.

  5. If human telepathy were considered a species threat to higher authority, wouldn’t ‘they’ get rid of it somehow? Making humans rely on language instead, the actualization of the Babel moment being its linguistic complexity: a syntax/semantics prison?

    1. Pugetopolis,

      I expect I’m the last person here to figure this out, but what you said makes brilliant sense. Dr Farrell’s ‘scientism’ is the ultimate defence against the acceptance of any knowledge gained in any way other than the five senses: if it can’t be proven using them, it’s suspect because everyone can’t see your proof. No wonder ‘they’ keep such tight control of it.

      After the Tower of Babel, people may have been left with imperfect and varying levels of access to knowledge gained using other senses, so what else could be universally accepted but the now-universal five limited senses? And what better reasoning to use for shaming those people who had access to other knowledge than to call them fanciful and ungrounded? It’s interesting that the rise of scientism during the past five hundred years has been paced by an equally strong fascination with esoteric knowledge, be it the spiritualism of the 1800s, studies of ancient religions, or taking hallucinogens.

      P.S. Are you in Seattle, too?

    2. “If human telepathy were considered a species threat to higher authority, wouldn’t ‘they’ get rid of it somehow?”- it happens during early childhood- read my previous posting on this subject- then make your opinion

  6. if one doesn’t yet know the following expression one should: “Time doesn’t exist- clocks exist” says a lot-

    I remember as a child being able to read people’s minds (I think we all had that ability but we’ve just forgotten)- the minute I realised that ability was the minute I lost that ability-

    proof of telepathic mind communication of todlers was when a former co-worker told me when she was cleaning up her kitchen (her 3/12 yr. old was sitting at the table) and just mentally thinking about things (she wasn’t verbalising anything) and mentally asked herself a question; her son verbally answered her question and she was flabbergasted (no wonder)

    1. interesting information, Larry.
      I‘ve had random experiences in which there was no warning to a sudden emergence of “feeling”, and in that flash of moment i seem to know what a person’s gonna do and say next, yet just as that thought suddenly crossed my mind the next thing i know is i didn’t really know what’s gonna happen next. Yet that “feeling” was so strong almost everytime i would shout out involuntarily “i’ve seen this before!”. It’s very strange feeling. I’ve asked some people around me if they have ever experienced similar thing, at least one female co-worker has.

      Also, another phenomenon is when after falling asleep during the night, a person would be suddenly awakened due to some kind of force pressing against that person’s body as if there was a “ghost” harassing the person, hence it’s nicknamed “ghostly pressure”.
      I’ve had some of those “ghostly pressure” experiences some years ago, which happened at different times and places. At first i did wonder if the place i used to live in was really “haunted”, since i had no explanation for the phenomenon at the time. Yet, during the latest of such experiences i accidentally found out that the fact i was able to see everything in my room including the scenery outside of my window during “ghostly pressures”, however when i successfully forced the pressure off me with my will the last times, the very moment the pressure was gone i opened my physical eyes, and i was like holy… because it means i was not using my physical eyes to see things in my room just before i forced the ghostly pressure off me, so it has to be something else instead of ghost. Currently i tend to think of the phenomenon as some kind of “temporary consciousness displacement”. The pressure hence was likely not from some outside force, but rather the feeling of pressure could be generated by the body which was trying to drag the consciousness, or perhaps the astral body back?
      Not that i don’t believe ghost as a phenomenon doesn’t exist given i once saw one in my old place when i was still a teen, but based on my own experiences, i don’t think the nightly “ghostly pressure” phenomenon was really a ghost. Interestingly the phenomenon only happens at night.

      1. Hi Larry, Henry (btw, I really enjoy your postings about Eastern traditions/thought) I haven’t had that experience but I hear it – esp. on Whitley Strieber or C2C shows – described as ‘old hag syndrome’ … there are many references online. But your experience, Henry, seems more profound and benign than most. I’ve had deja vu … it’s fairly common. The most compelling sensations I get are mental contact and strong urges to be somewhere, unplanned. I used to ignore those urges but now I follow them and find that there is a reason for me to leave or to be somewhere else, usually to meet someone or to be present at an event. I also had an out-of-body experience during a dangerous situation; time slowed, accident averted, I returned to my body. I think we are so anchored in the physical, and constantly reinforced by external perception senses, that night is the only time (or in meditation) when we can dissolve the physical bondage. Life is fascinating, much more than we are aware of …

      2. Hi Henry and Margaret- I hope this finds you both well-

        Henry, I’ve also had a few (but not many, thank God) similar experiences- my life’s partner also- I think it was somehow fate that the two of us came together- he’s the only person I can discuss this “stuff” with in my personal life (and vice-versa) without being ridiculed, branded a “nut-case”-

        Margaret: “Life is fascinating, much more than we are aware of …”- ohh, baby, you know it! 🙂

        but I somehow think most who follow Dr. Farrell’s work and visit this website (except for the occaisional shill or two) are more than receptive to the idea that there are other dimensions out there not always accessible by our 5 senses (then enter the 6th sense)-

        anyway, just my own cheap opinion, but I think the king of intuition is Dr. Farrell himself; I somehow think Dr. Farrell would not have taken the path he has taken unless he had some compelling ‘hunches’ about certain things; hence this website entry-

        anyway, Henry, Margaret, Dr. Farrell and all other readers, please take care- regards-

        Larry in Germany

      3. Hi Margaret and Larry, thanks for the information, and for sharing your experiences, very appreciated.

  7. You can also throw into the mix that we are also a sack composed of 80%+ bacterium, so the averaging is well beyond brain clocks (or abdomenal clocks, as that is the “second brain); it is also interspeciated.

    Calling Rupert Shekdrake!

  8. Robert Barricklow

    Actually, at first glance, this ties in with a multiplicity of communication(s) going on. Yes, there is time present, which, consciouness lags behind in. At the deepest level there are at least two “languages” synchonizing/visual & symbolic. But there has purposely been inputed, an outside/inside dimensional controlling factor/source. This then is a tell/tale signpost of that extremely deep communication aspect. I can’t help but link this to the tower of babel/a puzzle piece od some kind, it is.

    1. The discussion of consciousness is endlessly fascinating! This may be relevant, or not at all, but your mention of synchronized ‘clocks’ brings to mind an interesting demonstration: 32 out of sync metronomes end up synchronizing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqFc4wriBvE

      I recall an article about a certain species of bamboo, growing worldwide, that only blooms after many years, then has a synchronous global mass flowering after which the species dies. Synchrony happens among insects as well. In college I did work-study with an entomologist researching a genus of Jamaican fireflies which, after individuals emerge in the evening, begin to flash in sync as a group after a critical mass is achieved.

      Can the different parts of the brain be compared to individual metronomes or fireflies? In meditation, the two hemispheres will synchronize. Anyway, there seems to be biological quantum level species communication, or genetic entanglement. Without understanding the ‘science’ involved, I get the sense that harmonization is one of creation’s chief impulses and everything is organized and connected in overlapping synchronous layers, circles or cycles.

      1. hey, Margaret, many thanks for this posting regarding your own personal experiences-

        just goes to show us how little we know about the vastness behind the complexity of our miniscule, induced 3-D world-

        please stay well- viele Grüße-

        Larry

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