I ran across a newspaper article recently about research into the connection between the brain and the perception of having an out-of-body experience (OBE) (I recognize that the journalistic reporting of research is not the same as getting it from the horse’s mouth). This is of interest because near-death experiences or NDEs are associated with OBEs.
A major interpretation of the research, which noted that electrical stimulation of the brain induces OBEs, was that experience is brain-based (OBEs were considered to have occurred because of a misfiring brain). Of course, there are others who say more research is needed and that one investigation does not prove that OBEs are merely illusions brought on by a brain gone haywire.
Nonetheless, we still seem to be trying our best to find the physiological basis for experience. Not only have OBEs and NDEs been questioned, but so has the brain’s role in the metaphysical experience of feeling one with the universe. In this last case, it has been noted that brainwave patterns in a part of the temporal lobe cease to create “normal” readings at certain points in the process of meditating (based on brain scans that note the uptake of glucose). The implication is that the “normal” mode of forming associations has been broken. As I recall, this brain-based pattern has been the case with mind-altering drugs as well, further enforcing the idea that genes and physiology are the driving mechanisms of behavior and thought.
All right, we’ve got cause and effect, volition (intention), renewal and creation–the basic freedom versus determinism argument about what is the human basis for behavior and cognitive processes. I’ve stated my case for volitional evolution earlier and for the process of intention and creation, but what to do with the constant striving for finding a physical foundation for behavior and thought?
I suspect the problem lies in the assumption that the body is the basis for experience rather than experience is the basis for the body. Okay, maybe it can go either way, but I’m guessing that a print-out of our DNA would simply be a genetic record of our past behavioral and thought patterns (our experiences), sort of the microfisching of our past.
At the very least, I find it interesting to turn the thing around and ask the question from the other side of the issue, which in this case is about the cause and the purpose of biology.
What if an OBE or an NDE or the “failure” of the association areas of the brain that normally produced the experience of a world of dualities and now produced a sense of oneness, was not a misfiring brain, but simply a different firing brain? Sure, we can look at abnormalities like depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia and find evidence of a “different” brain, but that doesn’t much help us understand a normal brain. What if an in-body experience (IBE) was actually an illusion? What if our baseline for determining illusion was actually based upon an illusion? Or maybe it is all a reality.
Misfiring brain indeed. Why? Because the “normal” firing pattern of the brain is what we are used to? If we are to renew, if we are to transform, then I suggest that what we are really up to is changing from one firing pattern to quite another. And I suggest that we are changing from one genetic predisposition to quite another.
This is not the standard biological basis for behavior, rather it is the notion that our behavior configures our biology which then serves as our habituated system. That is quite handy while one proceeds to focus other energy into new experiences like renewal which require a major dose of sensitivity. In other words, biology is the basis of our experience when nature takes the helm, but our experience is the basis of biology when we take the helm.
If we are to renew, to transform, it will take the interaction of both biology and experience, it will take awareness to know the difference, and it will take patience and support, and energy and intention to deliberately create a state of existence congruent with our wishes.
It is in this place that freedom and determinism interact, and it is in this place that we set the basis for the nature of that interaction.