Now your eyes are here on this page. Your long arrival began with the elements of ancient stardust aggregating within our galaxy. Eons of electrochemical transformation evolving toward a living impulse coursing through millennia and generations brought you forth in a moment of human birth.
The just-born version of you is truly who you are –no less than the more fully cognizant you whose eyes are on this page in this moment. The early you was not aware of your name, your country of origin, or other externally descriptive categories.
Consciousness – inner awareness – our most central sensation is an undefined interiorized experience of being momentarily present in an environment (a “world”) – a time, a place, and an entity having the experience.
Upon rigorous examination however – and this includes the deepest and most ancient forms of meditative self-awareness and the most recent results of neuro-anatomical studies of the human brain and the brains of other animals – there is no locus of consciousness. In other words, there is no central place in the brain where a conscious entity resides.
Consciousness is a distributed system. It is seen to arise from many brain and body areas – all contributing to the emergent sense of self within us. In other words, there is no little person inside of us who is actually seeing, hearing, or feeling our experiences. There is no central screening room where these sensations appear as integrated singular awareness.
What happens inside our heads is that billions of neurons fire in astoundingly complex patterns. In mutual vibration, they can be described as a resonant system, in which the entire system generates a sensation of being conscious – even while each individual member (neuron) is not a conscious entity. Similarly, there is no specific organ, location, or axis containing a separate ego or self.
The brain is a virtual reality engine and it is also a belief generator. It creates the illusion of seamless experience from a relatively small number of discrete and disconnected inputs. Ordinary dreams confirm this illusion of an experienced world as totally transparent – indistinguishable as a created virtual experience. This can be directly observed in special states of dreaming, called lucid dreams – dreams where the brain observes itself to be experiencing a dreamed world as “real,” even while comprehending its fictitious nature.
The so-called “real world” we inhabit is, in fact, a simulation. As with other subjective virtual experiences, it is – and for the most part remains – totally transparent to our scrutiny. It appears, for most purposes to be quite solid, verifiable, and “real.”
The Rubber Hand Illusion illustrates how the brain creates virtual realities which can remap such deeply ingrained sensations as the physical feeling of our own bodies. Our body image illusions can extend to include even the “phantom hand” or “phantom leg” syndrome, which occurs when a patient with an amputated body part continues to experience sensation in the lost limbs. This attribute of body simulation allows us to remap our fingertips, for example, onto a pair of pliers. In fact, all use of tools depends on the brain’s ability to recreate our body images to include and locate the tools themselves within our body map.
It takes very little “evidence” for humans to believe in abstractions, simulations, illusions, and virtual experiences as if they are “reality.” We generate beliefs and belief systems spontaneously and – by definition – transparently. It is just this quality of transparency that characterizes a “belief” as an unquestioned, assumed-to-be-actual reality.
Modern physics and more recently, quantum physics, have been de-materializing our ideas about the universe for decades. According to the accumulated evidence, we live within a matrix of multidimensional simulation spaces inside infinitely tunneling series of virtual universes – all constructed of probabilistic energy fluctuations and virtual particles.
Understanding that we choose our reality from among an infinity of possibilities is a most potentially liberating experience. From this perspective, the fact that your eyes are on this page at this precise moment is an incomprehensibly miraculous event!
THE WONDER OF YOU: Deepak Chopra
LUCID DREAMS: Stephen Laberge – Lucid Dreaming p1
RUBBER HAND ILLUSION: New Scientist Video
Consciousness Reference: The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self, by Thomas Metzinger, Basic Books, 2009.