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Posts Tagged ‘limitations of perception’

QUOTES: On Losing Sight of God

In God, perception on April 21, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Tranquility

When modern philosophies pronounced God is dead, it was  divine in human that died, not God.

H. B.  Danesh (1997) in The Psychology of Spirituality.

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…experiences that are called “visions,” the whole so-called “spirit-world,” death, all those things that are so closely akin to us, have by daily parrying been so crowded out of life that the senses with which we could have grasped them are atrophied. To say nothing of God.

Rainer Maria Rilke

in Peter Matthiessen‘s (1978) The Snow Leopard.

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As the hand held before the eye conceals the greatest mountain, so the little earthly life hides from the glance the enormous lights and mysteries of which the world is full, and he who can draw it away from before his eyes, as one draws away a hand, beholds a great shining of the inner worlds.

Rabbi Nachmann of Bratzlav

in Peter Matthiessen‘s (1978) The Snow Leopard

sunset

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Related posts from this blog:

What can we learn from LSD? Part I & Part II

On Prophetic Revelation and Subjectivity

On the Arrogance of Scientists

MIND|BODY|WORLD: Outrageous Sensations! What Can We Learn from LSD? Part II

In consciousness on April 18, 2009 at 5:37 pm

What do drugs like LSD teach us?

LSD is actually just a metaphor here. There are plenty of cases in the world which reveal the limits (or rather, the ‘limitlessness’) of human perception. These ‘tales from strange lands’  constantly remind us how our conventional and normal version of reality is a construction of our brains. Change some of the underlying chemistry, and the same brain is capable of experiencing things that, in our conventional mode, we can never even imagine happening…

All brain functions are drug-induced

To quote blogger LSD Research: “Basically, mental experiences are drug-induced experiences, whether they are endogenous produced compounds or exogenous compounds.”  What does that mean?

Exogenous compounds are chemicals in the outside world which a person may take in. LSD is one example. On the other hand, endogenous compounds are natural chemicals which are a part of our body machinery and play a role in running our body. Insulin is an example.

Taking along the message from one neuron to the next, all the way from the eyes through to the brain, are naturally occurring chemicals called ‘neurotransmitters’. When a neurotransmitter is released it interacts with another category of chemicals found on the surface of the next neuron, called receptors. The ultimate action of this interaction is either to activate the neuron or to stop it from activating. Thus different neurotransmitter-receptor combinations in different areas of the brain form the basis for execution of different brain tasks.

The ‘drugs’ we are endowed with limit our ‘reality’

As we saw in the Part I of this post, LSD interferes with serotonin’s inhibitory role in the portion of the brain devoted to visual perception, namely, the visual  cortex. Apparently, serotonin plays a role in the regulation of our perception in face of a bombardment of stimuli at any time from the environment. It seems that the brain has to screen out a lot of information coming in through the eyes in order to optimize our survival as we may not be able to handle such an influx.

In the words of wikipedia: The brain, with which you perceive the world, is made up of neurons “buzzing” at 50 cycles a second, while the world as it exists in reality, is made up of electro-magnetic radiation oscillating at 500 trillion cycles a second. This means that the human brain cannot nearly keep up with the ‘realness of reality.’

Timothy Wilson observes in his book Strangers to Ourselves: the brain can absorb about 11 million pieces of information a second, of which it can process about 40 consciously.

Similarly, Bill Hammel, with reference to time perception, writes:  To a large extent, the assumption of the ontology of time, as we perceive it, is a consequence of our neurochemistry of perception; we have great difficulty in conceiving of other precisely because we are awash in this construction like the proverbial fish in water…… primitively we immediately tend to interpret the world around us in terms of the cognitively processed sensations available to us.

Can reality be directly perceived?

It seems it cannot. So the question really is… how far can we trust ‘evidences’ and ‘proofs’ promulgated by a group of ‘empiricists‘ awashed in the proverbial construction which severly limits what they can and cannot perceive…? In other words, what is the validity of the empirical method in face of a reality that is far more complicated than we like to believe?

QUOTES: On the Arrogance of Scientists

In God, science on March 30, 2009 at 6:12 pm

ERICH HARTH on the relation between bodies and consciousness/mind: “Bordering the outside world are our own bodies. We call them ours but they are also part of the physical world, the world of objects. We know our bodies through the sense of pain and pleasure; we are concerned about them and depend on their well-being. We could not exist without them. But if they are part of the world around us, who are we, around whom this world is displayed?” (p. xvi)

ALVA NOE on how brain IS NOT equal to mind: “To be conscious is to have a world. The fact is, you and I don’t have what it takes to make a world on our own. We find the world, we don’t make it in our brains.

The brain is essential for our lives, physiology, health and experience. But the idea that it is the whole story, or even the key to understanding the story, is not a scientific conclusion. It’s a prejudice. Consciousness requires the joint operation of the brain, the body and the world.

In fact, neuroscience is probably not in the best position to answer questions of consciousness and mind and experience. When we look for who and what we are in the brain alone, we lose the phenomena that interest us most.

P. W. ANDERSON on the naivete of strict reductionism: “the more the elementary particle physicists tell us about the nature of the fundamental laws, the less relevance they seem to have to the very real problems of the rest of science, much less to those of society.”

“the behavior of large and complex aggregates of elementary particles, it turns out, is not to be understood in terms of a simple extrapolation of the properties of a few particles. Instead, at each level of complexity entirely new properties appear…..Psychology is not applied biology, nor is biology applied chemistry.”

“Surely there are more levels of organization between human ethology and DNA than there are between DNA and quantum electrodynamics”

JONAH LEHRER on neuroscience’s efforts to reduce consciousness to the brain: “I think it’s quite interesting how scientific questions about consciousness have grown more and more limited in scope over the years.”

“While neuroscience continues to make astonishing progress in learning about the details of the brain–we are a strange loop of kinase enzymes and synaptic chemistry–these details only highlight our enduring enigma, which is that we don’t experience these cellular details. It is ironic, but true: The one reality science cannot reduce is the only reality we will ever know.”

My two cents:

How can science so arrogantly claim that God doesn’t exist when it is not even in a position to discover anything meaningful about the very essence of our humanity? The very concept of God is far, far above the level of humanity – definitely more levels above than the distance between human ethology and DNA. Given those limitations of perception and experience that stick to us as humans, can we claim to have jumped so many levels beyond ourselves and confidently confirm that God does not exist, as if we have observed things from many many unimaginable levels of existence beyond our own?

Or, as Richard Feynman famously quipped, science is the belief in the ignorance of experts

"they comprehend not anything of His knowledge save such as He wills" [Aya 255, Al-Baqarah]

"Ayat-al-Kursi: they comprehend not anything of His knowledge save such as He wills"

Possibly related in this blog:

On prophetic revelation and subjectivity