Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ken Wilber Stops His Brain Waves

This video has been around for a while, but I have been thinking about neuroscience lately and how the reductionists insist that consciousness is a function - even a by-product - of brain activity. In this view, anything that we consider consciousness or mind is just not real. This is partially true, and even Buddhists believe this, though in a different way.

But what The Ken does here completely explodes that point of view. He is able to use consciousness to stop the brain. In the reductionist neuroscience perspective, this should not be possible. What Wilber demonstrates is that consciousness dictates brain states, or at least can, and not that the brain dictates consciousness.

Certainly, this is not how it is for most of us, but he shows that the way neuroscience views the brain and consciousness is partial at best.


You already knew that Ken has no heart, now we find out that he has no brain, either!

That's right, Ken can stop his brainwaves on demand. Actually—and in a more serious vein—this is the famous EEG machine recording where Ken enters various meditative states, one of which is a type of "thoughtless," "image-less," or "formless" state, whose correlate is that his brainwaves come to an almost complete stop, as clearly recorded on this portable electroencephalograph (EEG) machine. (This video is discussed in One Taste, April 10 entry.)

We asked Ken to do a short 10-minute commentary on these various meditative states and the corresponding brain-wave patterns that are shown on the EEG machine in the video. Ken enters four meditative states (nirvikalpa closed eyes, nirvikalpa open eyes, sahaj, and mantra-savikalpa), each of which has a very distinctive brain-wave pattern. In his commentary, Ken emphasizes that the patterns shown on this machine may or may not be typical, but they do emphasize that profound consciousness states can be evoked at will, and these show immediate correlation in brain-wave patterns.

If nothing else, seeing somebody's brainwaves flatline in about 4 seconds is a sight not easily forgotten! It also explains why we once heard Ken's girlfriend say, upon delivering news that she thought might not be happily received, "Now, um, honey, make your brain waves go to zero...."

More seriously, as Ken often says, "If you want to know God, you've got to get your brain out of the way first. It's just one big stupid filter...."

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