Modern science and psychology now accept that Ouspensky’s view of the human condition is largely correct. The different states of consciousness he describes and defines are now established as valid neurological processes and the experience they provide is seen to be as valid as any other experience.
The Brain Creates the World we Know
The mystics have known this for millennia and now science knows it too. The world perceived ‘out there’ is not unreal, but the perception of it, determined by our particular brain function, is incomplete. The brain has the capacity to re-wire itself, to add new networks and circuits, which produce new functions, new worlds of experience — usually described in the sense of adding to but not replacing the ‘ordinary’ world.
It used to be thought that the brain stopped developing after childhood. It is now established that throughout adult life the brain continues to have the ability to change and adapt as a result of experience. Modern research observes the brain’s capacity to create new neural pathways and change existing ones in response to new experiences and learning.
There is evidence that meditation changes the circuits in the part of the brain associated with happiness and contentment. Professor Richard J Davidson carried out extensive research, first with highly trained Tibetan Buddhist monks under the direction of the Dalai Lama and then with groups of ordinary people who practiced a specially designed meditation over an eight week period. Professor Davidson says:
‘The brain mechanisms that are associated with happiness are themselves changeable, they are amongst the most plastic circuits in the brain that are transformable through experience.’
Prof Richardson’s research was drawn from the Buddhist tradition, but all genuine meditation and mindfulness practices possess a similar capacity to transform the way our brains work.
Free-will — Fact or Fiction
Recent brain scan technologies like fMRI confirm that in the normal daytime waking state the physical mechanisms required to effect almost any decision are unconsciously set to work several seconds before any ‘conscious decision’ arises in individual awareness. To get up, or make a cup of tea, to rescue, or not, a drowning friend, which holiday to book — all these actions are decided by unconscious processes well before they become a ‘conscious decision’.
Many neurologists now agree that to a greater or lesser extent, human beings, like all animals, are ‘pre-programmed’ and posssess much less genuine free will than they like to imagine. One suggestion is that evolution has developed a mind-structure in human beings that naturally promotes the illusion of free will — because a common sense of personal responsibility is crucially beneficial to the development and well-being of the culture, the great tribe of mankind. Evolution is not concerned with individuals. (See here)
The constant feeling of being an agent, the doer — that ‘I am a separate person’ — this is the fundamental illusion. It is both true and not-true and it requires a more refined energy to resolve the paradox and allow a full awareness of reality to take its place.
Two people in one brain
Modern knowledge of the bilateral symmetry of the brain establishes and further develops this understanding. Left brain and right brain create entirely different worlds with entirely different priorities and methods of perception. Usually these two compete and one or the other becomes dominant. Working in harmony they produce another world that is more than the sum of the parts. (See here)