Why Mystics Don’t Identify Consciousness with the Brain

By George A. Boyd © 2017

Q: Many scientists say that consciousness is a product of neuronal functioning. They purport to measure it through the electrical currents emanating from the brain. They say there is no Soul other than an evoked potential of the word, “Soul” in the brain, and no God but the evoked resonance of the word, “God” in the brain. How is it that mystics testify to the existence of a Soul and the all-pervading Presence of God, when this cannot be detected in the brain?

A: Science objectifies phenomena, and only considers that which the senses [or their technological extensions] can detect, that reason can verify, and that the intellect can represent and manipulate as words, mathematical formulas, symbols, and models of correlated ideas.

For this reason, scientists cannot detect attention, the attentional principle, the spirit, or the Soul. They cannot examine the strata of the mind. They cannot explore the Continuum of Consciousness. They cannot find God in neurons, in the logical circuits of reason, and the problem-solving strategies of the intellect.

To have the experiences of the mystics, who encounter the Soul and God, you need to have a subjective experience, drawing attention along the thread of consciousness, where it can detect the focal points at each layer of the mind, unite with the essences of consciousness—attentional principle, spirit, and Soul—and follow that thread into the presence of the all-pervading consciousness of God.

This withdrawal of attention from full brain identification to union with the highest state of consciousness, Satchitananda, appears to pass through seven steps:

  1. Consciousness appears to be a product of brain activity.
  2. You observe the activity of the brain as a detached witness, from the standpoint of your attention. You collect attention into a sphere and become present and aware. This stage is the beginning of mindfulness. It appears that your attention is the carrier of consciousness.
  3. You gain the ability to follow the thread of consciousness with your attention to observe the content at the different levels of the mind. You may variously experience this material at each level of the mind as a seed atom upon which you contemplate, a field of phenomena, a form or vehicle of consciousness that has discrete functions, or as ever-changing content that arises in the present time. It appears that your attention is the carrier of consciousness, and it perceives the content that is present in altered states of awareness through shifting its focus.
  4. You move along this thread of consciousness with your attention until you unite with the attentional principle, and as you gain union with this essence, you shift into its perspective. It appears consciousness is innate to the attentional principle.
  5. Your attention travels further up the thread of consciousness until you gain union with the spirit. As you contemplate this spiritual essence, you merge with it and view from its perspective. It appears that the spirit also has innate consciousness.
  6. Your attention rises up into the Soul and you gain union with it. You become aware that your Soul is also a conscious essence.
  7. Your attention follows the thread of consciousness up to the highest stage of consciousness, Satchitananda. You become aware that the energy that animates the Soul and activates it emanates from this source. You become aware of the eternal source of consciousness, Satchitananda.

The methods of the scientists use senses, reason, and intellect to gather data, to organize that data into the schemas of knowledge, and to use that knowledge to predict phenomena and to invent new technology, methods, and products. Since attention cannot be reduced to neural functions, the scientist must shift from brain awareness to witnessing mind (attention) to begin the journey of meditation—to embrace a subjective, non-empirical way of knowing that the external senses cannot detect, that reason cannot verify, and that the intellect cannot fully comprehend.

You can only understand the ways of the mystic through adopting his practices. You cannot know it from without, only from within. You must shift from an objective orientation to the world to a subjective one, and journey into the depths of that subjectivity to encounter the Soul and God.