Sunday, October 12, 2014

Consciousness & Physiology - Tony Nader of Maharishi University

Tony Nader is an MD and has a PhD in cognitive science from MIT, and despite this solid education, he has become a leader of the Transcendental Meditation movement surrounding the figure of  Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

I have nothing against TM as a meditation technique (aside from its tendency to promote spiritual bypass of hard emotions), but the cultish qualities of the "movement" are troubling, not least of which is need to buy your mantra from them to receive teachings.

Nader has a good grasp of the science, but he makes some leaps of faith in making the science conform to the Vedic context in which TM exists.  

Consciousness & Physiology

Published on Aug 1, 2014

Dr. Tony Nader, MD, PhD (MIT, Harvard) reviews scientifically hard and easy problems surrounding consciousness in biology and cognitive science. He proposes that consciousness is primary and only appears as matter.

Part One:

Part Two:

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Dr. Tony Nader’s lecture on consciousness

In this lecture given during a course at Stanford University, renowned brain scientist Dr. Tony Nader takes us on a journey of research on the understanding of consciousness: What happens, really, when we are looking at a red flower?

Nature is structured in layers – it starts with a gross layer visible to the naked eye, goes down to the molecular level, atomic level, subatomic level. At the basis of all of that is the unified field of consciousness. Within that field is a programming code which structures all the other layers of nature.

What is consciousness?

“Science in the past has limited itself to things usually considered ’physical’. More recently, in the past 40-50 years, we are starting to realize that there are laws which control and manage not only the physical, but also the mental field. Even consciousness – which  is something very abstract – has become interesting to the scientist.

What is consciousness? We can define it as an ability to be conscious about something. But is there then a difference between consciousness and awareness? Alertness? Vigilance? Focus? Wakefulness?“

States of consciousness

“In transcending, people can experience not a specific object, but consciousness itself. There are millions of people who have reported this experience – through particularly the Transcendental Meditation technique. That is consciousness looking at its own self.

What is interesting that in these states you also have different physiology. There is different brain functioning.

So we can talk about relative states of consciousness – changing, object-referring states – and about absolute states – non-changing, self-referring. The question is, for us: Is consciousness a something? Or is it just a product of language, brain activity, circumstances etc?“

Individual consciousness

“When I look at a red flower I can tell that there are photons of a certain frequency which travel in the electromagnetic field. They travel through my eyes, hit my retina, excite some neurons which release some chemicals leading to an electrical activity which, in turn, goes to a specific part of my brain and combines with my memory bank. After association, I can know that this in front of me is a red flower.

Yet all of this is the easy problem. Science is well on its way to describing all the details of this process.

The hard problem is: How do I subjectively experience the redness of the red flower? How do I become conscious of what I’m doing? Where comes the abstract reality of this seemingly very physical reality of our nervous system?“


Tony Nader earned his PhD in Cognitive Brain Sciences at MIT, and continued with post-doctoral studies at Harvard University. An expert in neurophysiology, his quest for total knowledge led him to co-operation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

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