The connection between brain, mind, and body has fueled scientific debate over the past few centuries. At IONS, it is one of our primary hypotheses that consciousness goes beyond the brain. Unlike ontological religious or spiritual beliefs, it is a scientific hypothesis, which we believe can be tested using the scientific method and the modern tools of science.
What is the evidence so far? First and foremost, the view that any object in the world can live independently of the rest of the world is simply wrong. This is the case for the human body. Most of the cells in our body renew on the order of days or weeks and for cells that do not renew themselves, most molecules within the cells are renewed. It is probably fair to say that in a matter of years 99% of the atoms that compose our body have been replaced. The materialist view that we are our body means that we really are what the world is made of, the plants and animals we eat, the air we breath. This certainly broadens our perspective of what we really are.
Second, looking at the foundation of quantum mechanics, matter simply cannot be said to “exist” in space and time. Quantum mechanics defines probability densities, where a given atom and its components might be. However it cannot say where they are precisely, not assess with precision their momentum. According to quantum mechanics, everything around us is a swarm of probability in time and space. We simply perceive it as object flowing in linear time because of the scale we are looking at it. Again the reductionist view that we are made of tangible matter is seriously put in question.
These are the current consensus in science. The consensus might change over the next few centuries. Currently consciousness is considered by mainstream science as an epiphenomenon often with no causal consequence that emerges from this structure in a sort of magical way. The prevailing view is that consciousness an illusion created by the brain.
This standard view raises several problems. First, how can an illusion become conscious? How can the feeling of being here and now magically emerge from inert matter. An alternative view to considering consciousness as an epiphenomenon is to consider it as a primary property of nature (such as time and space). This is one of our hypothesis at IONS. One of our main approaches to tackling this hypothesis is to perform scientific experiments which attempt to show the non-locality of consciousness. If consciousness is non-local, then certainly the “consciousness in the brain” hypothesis must be revised. We publish our results in mainstream scientific journals. Several of our experiments have received widespread attention in the scientific community and slowly, but surely, we are changing the current scientific paradigm.
Arnaud Delorme is a research scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences. Under federal funding, he has developed the most used software for processing electro-encephalographic (EEG) data and is widely regarded as one the world’s foremost researchers utilizing EEG for consciousness and meditation research.