Sunday, October 9, 2016


The materialist credo, written by Francis Crick about twenty years ago, is this:  "You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.  Who you are is nothing but a pack of neurons."  

Francis, Francis, Francis.....if a man thinks he is a refrigerator he is still a man; a deluded man, but still a man.  Delusions don't change what you actually are; they merely change the way that you behave in and experience the world, and they always cause pain.  The ugly duckling suffered greatly under his delusion even though he was never actually an ugly duckling.  He was always a swan and he never achieved happiness until he realized who he truly was.

Is that what we are, neurons?  Really?  Neurons, or nerve cells, that make up the brain and nervous system, are the transmitters of electrical current. They all have almost the identical structure with almost the identical electric current moving through them when they are fired. These nerve cells do not think, they just transmit. They are brilliantly programmed, but they do not know they are brilliantly programmed. They do not even know they are transmitting; they do not even know they are nerve cells; they do not even know that they are part of something that we call the brain; they do not know anything at all. They have no knowledge, no will, no desires and no preferences. A brain is like any other machine. It follows orders, not eagerly and not reluctantly, but blindly, automatically and unconsciously.

And what are these orders that the brain follows?  Regarding the conscious brain, the orders are your desires; your non-physical, non-measurable, but experienced desires.  Our desires are so ubiquitous and so continuous, that they often occur without the intercession of  thought.  The thoughtless scratch of an itch requires the initiation of a precise pattern of millions of neurons leading through a path of current through millions more neurons to the precise muscle cells and at the precise intensities and precise sequences that make the successful scratching of that itch possible.

Canadian doctor, Adrian Owen, has found a way to determine whether or not totally paralyzed, comatose patients are still conscious.  He hooks them up to an fMRI brain scan and asks them two questions.  First he asks them, mind you, having no idea at this point whether his words are being heard or not; he asks them to imagine playing a vigorous athletic game, like tennis.  Somewhat later he asks them to imagine being back in their homes and to attempt to recall the details of each room of their house.  If the patient is not conscious, the instructions are not heard and there is no difference in the scans.  But if the patients are conscious, then amazing things start to happen.  When these totally paralyzed patients imagine playing tennis, more blood starts to flow to the premotor cortex, which in a healthy body would divert more blood and energy to the legs and arms.  When they imagine being back in their homes, more blood starts to flow to the parahypocampal gyrus, that part of the brain associated with memory and feeling.  

Isn't this proof that the brain is responding to what you want to do, to your moment to moment intentions and desires?  We don't do what our neurons want us to do.  Our neurons are matter; they don't want us to do anything.  We do what we, conscious beings, want to do. We are consciousness and  consciousness is the milieu of desire and experience.  Neurons are the servants of desire and experience.  They are designed to fire in the most precise patterns at every waking moment to enable us to do with our bodies and our brains whatever it is that we want to do and what ever it is that we want to mentally focus on.  We are not the servant of our neurons.  Our neurons are the servants of us.

Very intelligent people, in fact people that consider themselves to be superior to all other people, because they are clear thinking while everyone else is delusional, and by delusional they mean that those unenlightened (unendarkened?) souls are not in perfect agreement with their entire materialist belief system (like I must be because I just referred to a verboten, non-existent entity, 'the soul') anyway, the belief system of these geniuses  leads them to making the most idiotic comments. 

I was trying to explain to one of them the difference between a firing neuron and the experience of a firing neuron.  "Is an apple the same as the experience of eating an apple?" I asked. "Is a CD the same as the experience of listening to a CD?"  He replied that they were interconnected, that you couldn't have one without the other, so you couldn't exist without neurons.  "Yet there are two hundred billion neurons and only one unitary consciousness, which is you.  It is the same consciousness, whether you are looking, listening, smelling, tasting, thinking, or remembering.  Each of those tasks is related to the firing of different sets of neurons, but whatever neurons are firing, you, the experiencer of your experience, is always the same.  How could there be two hundred billion different neurons, with different sets of them firing at every moment, and each set yielding a different experience, when there is still only one unchanging you, one unitary consciousness, one identical, but non-physical, context for all that varied experience? How could this unity emanate from this multitude?  Doesn't it make more sense to think of the multitude as emanating from the unity?"

He didn't see the problem with it.  He replied that it is perfectly reasonable to think that the taste of an orange emanates from an orange, in fact, it would be insane to think otherwise.  I agreed that the taste of an orange emanates from an orange, but that I, the taster of the orange, do not emanate from the orange.  In fact, if I thought that I emanated from an orange, or a refrigerator, that would be prima facie evidence for my immediate admittance into a mental hospital. Yet the intelligentsia that believe that they emanate from neurons number among the most respected, seemingly sane people in our modern society.

Another of their beliefs, which I am sure you have heard of and may probably believe (but hopefully for not too much longer) is that we experience everything in our heads;  that all our experience comes directly from the firing of patterns of neurons, and that it was only through a fortuitous series of mutations that yielded for our ancestors, the first flipping of consciousness, so that we began to experience the world as taking place outside of our heads.  This remarkable mutation (I was always under the impression that mutations yielded changes in submicroscopic amino acids which yielded tiny changes in submicroscopic proteins, not the wholesale restructuring of our entire system of perception) was retained because it yielded a survival advantage.  That survival advantage is certainly understandable.  How any creature could survive for a day if it experienced the world around it as taking place inside its head, so that it could not, for instance, differentiate between memories, which are experienced inside the head, and real time events, which are not, is beyond me. This feckless imagined ancestor of ours would have absolutely no way of negotiating its environment, since it would keep bunking into the things and falling off the edges of the things, that it experienced as existing within the boundaries of its skull. How any such creature could survive at all is unimaginable.  And, of course, there is absolutely no indication from the fossil record that any such creaure ever existed.

So the common wisdom is that we see things as the result of firings in the visual cortex of our brain, as we hear things at the auditory cortex of our brain and then that experience is flipped so that we see and hear things outside of our skulls and we  seem to do so at a place just behind the lens of the eye and just behind the drum of the ear. So it works something like sending an email or speaking on a telephone.  Words and sounds are first translated into an electrical code, into a pattern of firings, which is then translated back into words and sounds.  The difference is that while we know of the human equipment that translates light into electric patterns (the eye) and equipment that translates sound vibrations into electrical patterns (the ear) we know of no equipment that translates these electrical patterns back into pictures and words again, into what we actually see and hear.  We go directly from firing neurons, and the firing of almost identically structured neurons  with the same current, the same voltage and amperage, to the endlessly varied experiences of our existence.  From the same neurons and the same current, simply depending on their location within the brain, we get smells and tastes and touch sensations, and sights and sounds and memories and thoughts and pain and heat and hunger, etc., etc. Where in our bodies is all the equipment located to translate these electrical signals back into the forms in which we actually experience them?

The eminent biologists who have come to these strange conclusions have been diligently observing and measuring the world for years.  What they have not measured or observed, not even thought about, is 'the observer.'  Just who or what is it that is making all these observations?  And, of course, that would be you.  These conclusions have been reached after years of diligent research, but no search; no looking within, no contemplation.  You are not a thing.  You are context, not content.  If I asked you to bring your awareness to your foot, or inside your mouth, or to your eye or your ear, what is moving is you.  You are your awareness. When your awareness leaves your body you are dead.  When your awareness enters your body you are born.  Awareness is never seen directly.  It cannot be measured or observed.  It is you. It is not a that, but a 'that which.'  It is that which experiences.  It is not what you experience but the experiencer.  Not what you see, but the seer.  Not what you hear but the listener.  What you are is the ground of your own experience.

When you 'seem' to be experiencing sights from just behind the lens of your eye, that is precisely what you are doing. What moves to that spot just behind the lens is you.  You are your awareness.  You are your focus. The optic nerve and all the apparatus that converts light into electricity does that because everything that you observe is recorded in the brain, not experienced in the brain.  This recorded experience is then organized so that if you are a human you attribute a human meaning to what you see and if you are a mosquito you attribute a mosquito meaning to what you see, etc.  Each species defines its experience in its own way through the particular organization of its species specific sensory organs and species specific nervous systems;  and each individual within a species defines their species bounded experience in a particular unique way, depending on that individual's inheritance, and the unique features of the environment in which it has existed up until that point.

Over and over again, materialists tell us that we are deluded; that we experience things as taking place where they are not taking place, that we experience things as brilliantly designed when they are really arrived at simply by the natural processes of mutation and natural selection, and that we are nothing more than a collection of particles.  At the same time quantum physicists are telling us that these very same particles (which materialist biologists tell us form the foundation of the universe, and the essence of who we are) only exist when they are being observed; that unobserved particles are not particles at all, but are fluid waves, that their 'particleness' their solidity, their definition, only comes into being when they are being experienced.  If there is an 'objective reality' separate from how we experience things, as the materialists insist that there is, it is certainly not made up of particles.  In fact, what makes most sense to me, is that the physical world exists only as wave potential for living beings to experience it; the multitude of living beings with their separate organisms and separate genomes, experiencing it in a multitude of different ways.  It has been designed for our experience, and it is beautiful only if we perceive it as beautiful. It is ugly only if we perceive it as ugly.  Who am I to tell the dung beetle that the meal that he is relishing is really disgusting?  The particular object we are perceiving has no existence as a particular object unless we are perceiving it.  There is no 'objective reality' where real truth and real beauty and the real physical universe exist.  If you experience something as beautiful, or inspiring, or delicious, or transcendent, or life changing, then that is what it is.  It is beautiful if we think it is beautiful.  It is ugly if we think that it is ugly.  And it is transcendent if it we experience it as transcendent.  

Through extremely sophisticated optical equipment, research scientists have observed and measured many things that we have never observed or measured; but if they do not know how to deeply reflect inward, if they do not pray, if they do not chant or meditate, then they have never experienced transcendence.  We may have not observed what they have observed, but we have experienced what they have either never experienced, or have experienced and suppressed that experience because it does not comport with their materialist view of the universe. 

We cannot continue to let materialist scientists who always look outward and never look inward, define who we are.  They may be connoisseurs of the material world, but they are spiritual imbeciles.  They can tell us how our bodies work and we welcome and are grateful for that information, but when they start speculating about who we 'really' are and how the world 'really' is, and how the world got to be the way that it is, then they are speaking way out of their area of expertise. Biologists study and describe the equipment through which we conscious beings experience the world. Questions about who we are, why we are here and how we got to be here, are way above their pay grade. 

Don't be shy.  If you have a comment....comment!


Bill Schwan said...

You will get no argument from me regarding these observations. But where vision is concerned, perhaps you just didn't care to go into that much depth, but I offer the following:

"The body requires fuel. Enzymes are necessary to break food down into useable fuel. It needs a certain amount of electrolyte so that nerves may fire. A hospitable environment is helpful to these processes. There must be a way to process sensory data so that the next required move may be anticipated…" he began, rattling off random processes.

"All very true but also very general. What is something you have wanted to do since arriving in hell that you haven't been able to?"

He looked up at the squall of fire flakes swirling all around us and said, "Read. Hold a book, turn the pages, inhale the mustiness of something that has spent decades on a library shelf without losing its relevance."

"That's good. What needs to occur within your body to make that happen? And don't be afraid to show off. As I recall, you were of a zoological bent, so you are qualified to be very precise with your description."

"Well then, light must enter the eye through the cornea, the aqueous humor, the lens and then the vitreous humor. When it finally reaches the retina, things get quite interesting. The retina senses light via two types of cells called rods and cones. The rods handle vision in low light situations while cones sense color and detail. When light hits them a chemical called rhodopsin produces electrical impulses which are picked up by the optic nerve. Rhodopsin is a mixture of a protein called scotopsin and 11-cis-retinal, the latter being derived from vitamin A. Rhodopsin decomposes when it is exposed to light because light causes a physical change in the 11-cis-retinal portion of the rhodopsin, changing it to all-trans retinal. This first reaction takes only a few trillionths of a second. The 11-cis-retinal is an angled molecule, while all-trans retinal is a straight molecule. This makes the chemical unstable. Rhodopsin breaks down into several intermediate compounds, but eventually forms meta-rhodopsin II. This chemical causes the electrical impulses that are transmitted to the brain and interpreted as light."

"If I remember correctly, the chemicals that rhodopsin breaks down into then recombine to form rhodopsin again, ready for the process to repeat. And this happens millions of times almost instantly as you look at whatever you were looking at. It makes me want to say that what you are describing sounds like a miracle… but I won't say that. And isn't there a layer of melanin embedded in the retina?"

"I believe you are right, though I can't at the moment tell you why it's there."

"An early camera obscura would be made of whatever material was available with no thought given to color. After odd shadows showed up in pictures, it was discovered that light was reflecting around inside the camera so they started painting the inside of the cameras black. It made for a better image. Ironic that such a 'chance' detail would be true of the eye as well. And that is only one bodily process. Pretty complex. There are hundreds of equally or even more complex processes taking place within the body all the time."

Matt Chait said...

The chemical reaction is way more complex than that. The metarhodopsin II binds with GTP and transducin and that combination combines with phosphodiesterase to cut a molecule called cGMP which binds with another molecule called an ion channel. When the cGMP is reduced the ion channel closes which causes an imbalance of sodium ions in the membrane which causes a charge to travel up the optic nerve. My point is that without any of that, if the eyelid and the tear duct and the muscles to focus the eye were still connected, we would still be able to see light. We wouldn't be able to make any meaning of it or see separate objects; for all of that we would need the signals moving up the optic nerve and the organization of the optical cortex. The actual act of 'seeing' light waves happens right at the eye. The defining of what we see, the distinctions of colors and shapes, of near and far, and the personal meaning of what we see, all of that happens courtesy of the amazing organization of our brains and nervous system.

Bill Schwan said...

Perhaps could you address memory sometime? Save me the joy of doing my own research. My short term memory has been giving me fits since 1/23/16.Stroke.Is memory an ineffable quantity or have we made inroads into understanding it?

Anonymous said...

Dear Matt,
You have contributed, if not being the initiator, to changing my life and enlightening my spiritual being!
I don't know, but can guess, where your insight and wisdom come from.
Being from a medical background and having an interest in knowledge and truth, I found your blog very interesting and inspiring. I've read all of your posts and referred your blog to friends. Everything you have written has made sense to me, even the Eastern mystic influence, despite of my western religious background.
I wish you well and pray that more people's eyes will be opened and their "SELF" be enlightened to start enjoying the short material life we are privileged to have in this material reality.
Regards, Dirk

Matt Chait said...

Thank you so much for your comment. There are a lot more posts in me and your words encourage me to keep going.

Matt Chait said...

We (science) may have made inroads into understanding some of the mechanics of memory. I have no idea, but I don't see why it wouldn't be possible at some point for your short term memory ability to be restored. What is impossible is for science to ever explain the initial translation from experience, which is non-material, to the material storage of the memory of that experience, nor the translation back from material storage to non-material recall of that memory, nor our ability to locate among our two hundred billion neurons, the precise location where the specific memory that we would like to find is located. So, for me, if and when all the mechanics are completely explained to the satisfaction of the scientific community and the various Nobel Prize Committees, it will still be utterly wondrous.