Global Consciousness Project

•July 12, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I don’t get the statistics either, but if this were random chance,
the red line would be horizontal.

According to former Princeton scholar Roger Nelson (not to be confused with Prince Rogers Nelson), there is a one-in-a-billion chance that the findings of his Global Consciousness Project (GCP) are due to random chance. These findings indicate that conscious reaction to world events has a perceivable effect on quantum systems.

The GCP puts random number generators all over the world. They essentially flip a “quantum” coin 200 times a second. You’d expect to get about 100 heads and 100 tails, though randomness being what it is, these numbers can vary. However, the numbers vary a lot more during major world events—significantly so. The GCP has found strong deviations from randomness during such events as Princess Diana’s funeral; Year-2000 celebrations; the September 11 attacks (arguably not global, nevertheless their flagship case study). It’s very hard to separate the noise from the signal, especially for any particular event, but with over a decade of data, the probability that all those not-very-random-looking coin flips were due to chance is now incredibly small. Global human consciousness, in its reaction to major events, influences quantum systems. This correlates with the consciousness causes collapse theory.

I’m quite impressed that the project has found anything at all: it uses three different models of random number generators with different quantum processes and post-processing to ensure true randomness. If there is a knowable and specific quantum effect of consciousness, these wouldn’t do a great job of finding it. It’s like trying to understand what an object looks like by asking a blind person (who can only feel the object), a colorblind person, and a sighted person standing a quarter-mile away. Each of them is giving you entirely different data. While you can get general ideas like size and shape, assembling the various descriptions into a coherent picture is practically impossible.

I doubt we’ll find ways to crunch the GCP data in order to understand the higher-level order of what’s going on. But with billion-to-one odds, there’s something there.

The Many Incarnations of a Lover

•July 11, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Victor Brauner‘s Dancing Girl, photo by istolethetv

I see the myriad incarnations of my beloved.

Like all faces, hers is asymmetrical. I look at one side of her face and capture one mental image. I look at the other side and the image is different. When I oscillate between sides, the mental image shifts constantly. (It’s vaguely like a scramble suit.) What does she really look like?

The effect is accentuated by heightened states of consciousness. (Uneven lighting helps too.) The more expanded my mental state, the more distinct and varied the faces. In extreme cases I see wrinkled faces with toothy grins; babies; seductive young tarts; wise mothers. These are likely past or future incarnations I have known or will know. I see the faces of other people I know today, of whom I believe she is a soul sibling.

It’s like she is just one physical/temporal terminal in a vast network of beings, or again (shamelessly promoting my theory here) her soul siblings. She is obviously very different from the others in the network, yet they share some connection. The network is like some multidimensional entity; the experience of different beings is like viewing different sides of the same object.

The implications are startling. If I can access these incarnations with my visual cortex, who’s to say how far her connection to these beings goes? When I connect with her emotionally, physically, intellectually, how am I connecting with the others? Do they share thoughts, memories, sensations?

Last weekend an acquaintance (with whom my lover shares vague similarity) said, “It’s nice to see you with such a great person.” The more I thought about it, the more it sounded like “I’m glad we found you a vessel in our network that works so well for you.”

Soul Siblings Theory

•July 10, 2012 • Leave a Comment

There are people currently living with whom you share striking resemblance. This similarity may manifest physically, through personality, or by recognized synchronicity. They are your soul siblings.

Just as fractals exhibit self-similarity, so do people. And people on your “branch” are a lot more similar to you than people on other branches. This might start out looking like a body type, a set of physical mannerisms, or common interests. But then strange synchronicities appear. The things you have in common are just odd. You and your siblings seem to be attracted to the same “type” of people—people who exist on another branch with which yours has an affinity.

Reincarnation probably isn’t as simple as spiritual traditions report. (My detailed thoughts on that here.) Souls needn’t be such distinct and persistent entities. Maybe there’s a part of a person’s consciousness that comes from a common source, a source they share with others, but not all. Sure, at one level we’re all one—but is the only other level our individuality? Trees aren’t trunks covered in leaves; they have branches in between.

Soul siblings might be another way of discussing Jungian archetypes, enneagrams, or some other archetypical framework. Words like sorcerer, temptress, healer, prankster come to mind. In this sense they could be easily explained away as mere personality types. My experience, however, suggests that there is more going on here than simple psychological specialization. The connection soul siblings share is powerful, deep, and outside of time.

In my next post: detailed account of my experience with a lover and the people whose branch she shares.

Synchronicity and Burning Man

•July 3, 2012 • Leave a Comment

What does this meeeeeeeean??

This post from Burning Man‘s official blog, and the comments that follow, illustrate an aspect of Burning Man that must be stressed: synchronicity is commonplace out there.

I slept through the main Man burn last year, but awoke in the wee hours and went for a wander. I found myself at the edge of the city just before sunrise, with a few dozen people nearby. Moments later, a good friend I hadn’t seen that year rolled up on her bicycle. We caught up on a year’s worth of life and watched the sunrise together. We independently decided to head to the Temple a half-mile distant, and at porto-potties along the way I ran into another friend I hadn’t seen at the event. We had some moments in the now-strengthening sun and parted ways; I sat down in the main tower of the temple to meditate. Just as I was closing my eyes to focus, I heard my name called: a good friend from high school, who didn’t even know I was attending that year, had seen me.

In a city of 50,000, I call three run-ins in 30 minutes around sunrise a better-than-random occurrence. And there are plenty more stories like this: wandering by my friend’s village just as she happened to be out by the entrance hanging a sign. Acknowledging mutual attraction to this friend and immediately seeing the art car upon which I had broken my collarbone the previous year roll by. Deciding to start a romantic relationship with this friend—and while lounging in her camp a few hours later, seeing the smiling face of an ex-girlfriend, who for the first time in three years was ready to have a warm, positive interaction with me. We embraced; the cycle completed. (She, incidentally, had also broken a bone the previous year, and similarly less than 48 hours after her arrival.)

What’s going on here? Burning Man has spectators and law enforcement, but the vast majority of the city are brilliant, creative, radical thinkers and doers. The event buzzes with conscious energy. Beyond the physical majesty of the place, the miraculousness of a city that disappears without a trace only weeks after its annual inception, there is an inexplicable force at work. It flows through the body. It expands the mind. And it makes seemingly coincidental events occur at a higher rate than I’ve experienced anywhere else. So if there’s any place to conduct synchronicity research, it’s in Black Rock City. I’ll be doing so this August, while celebrating an incredible year in loving relationship with the “friend” mentioned above.

Placebos Release Opiates

•July 2, 2012 • 2 Comments

This is the first of many posts to come from my reading of Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century, a tome from the Esalen Institute arguing from a variety of angles that the mind is an entity distinct from the physical brain.

You may have seen some of the crazy facts about placebos, but this one hit me hard: a 1978 study gave wisdom-tooth surgery patients a placebo. Some found their pain reduced; others did not. Then they were all given naloxone, which counteracts opiate effects. Patients who had experienced pain relief from the placebo found their pain returned; the rest were unaffected. In the end, everyone felt the same amount of pain.

This means that the placebo’s pain-relieving effect was almost entirely the result of the body’s natural release of opiates, the chemical family including morphine, codeine, and heroin. So the placebo effect isn’t just psychological: take a sugar pill, and your brain puts you on drugs.

Reading the Visual Cortex

•July 2, 2012 • 3 Comments

Subjects are shown the left image.
Computer reconstruction using fMRI scans of the visual cortex yields the right.

Someday, you won’t need a camera to capture what you’re seeing. Just scan your visual cortex instead.

Berkeley researchers have a primitive version of this working. First, they show subjects a bunch of video while scanning their visual cortex with fMRI. Software notes what the brain looks like while viewing various images. Then subjects are shown new video and scanned, but this time the cortex scan is used to reconstruct the video. While details are clearly missing, the reconstruction is startlingly accurate:

Not only could this mean unobtrusively recording everything you ever see, it could also capture the images from your dreams.

Surely brain-computer interfaces are on their way, and this represents an early step towards them. They’ll overlay information on our vision, give us Internet access by thought alone, and generally bring a new era in human thought. For now, though, I guess we’ll have to settle for Google goggles, which are indeed a step in the right direction.

Net of Being

•June 25, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Nitrous oxide isn’t a great visionary drug on its own, but it can be extremely powerful when combined with psychedelics. One such experience occurred along with MDMA.

Here was a scene essentially identical to that of Alex Grey’s Net of Being, though lacking his detail of perception: an endless interconnected web of “heads,” whose tops and bottoms met in infinite “ceiling/floor.” An inner awareness indicated that this is where the souls sit. They always exist here, hence the momentary glimpse during otherwise corporeal life. There was also a sense that this is where we come between lifetimes. After death, our awareness returns to this place. Note the obvious unity, yet simultaneous multiplicity. There are entities here, distinct columns, communicating with each other. Here we make some decisions about the next lifetime, before whoosh, we’re brought back into a new body.

Here, a description of reincarnation as I know it seems appropriate, coming up next.

Watch Alex’s telling of his vision, achieved with the help of ayahuasca, and his quest to record it on canvas:

Consciousness Causes Collapse Part 2: Telepathic Entanglement

•June 22, 2012 • Leave a Comment

This continues the thought processes of my previous post, and continues to draw on inspiration from Dr. Amit Goswami (Netflix).

So if consciousness itself chooses the eventual states of quantum systems, maybe we can choose the states of all sorts of systems around us, including those in, say, another person’s brain. Even the subtlest of differences in the position of subatomic particles in neurons will affect their behavior. Now I’m not suggesting that we can just change someone’s mind all of a sudden—just that given a variety of ways their thought process could go, perhaps we can choose the one that makes the most sense to us.

Goswami describes an incredible experiment to illustrate this possibility. Two people meditate together for 20 minutes with the intent of achieving “direct communication.” Then they are placed in separate Faraday chambers, rooms impervious to all known forms of communication, and told to maintain their connection. Subject A has lights flashed in its eyes. Subject B is monitored by an EEG machine, and its readings correspond to the light flashes shown to Subject A.

The correct conclusion is, WHAT?!?!?!

Now, the experiment has apparently been repeated in different laboratories, but I haven’t been able to find any complete published texts. I also know far too little about statistics to understand how significantly the EEG of B correlate with the flashes shown to A. But the implication here is that we possess a form of telepathic communication that modern science cannot explain. What could this be?

Well if we return to quantum theory, consider the notion of quantum entanglement. Here, imagine you have particles A and B. They could be across the room from each other, or across the universe (ahem). When particle A is observed and it collapses into a definite state (e.g. clockwise spin), particle B, when measured, will always have a corresponding state (counterclockwise spin). The weirdness here is that the “information” about the way A collapsed somehow instantaneously informs the collapsed state of B. The information can travel faster than the speed of light—faster than, we thought, the fastest thing out there.

So, if particles can become entangled and act the same way over arbitrary distances through some unknown mechanism, and human brains can communicate over arbitrary distances though some unknown mechanism, maybe that mechanism is one and the same: Consciousness!

Consciousness Causes Collapse

•June 22, 2012 • 1 Comment
Schrödinger's Cat thought experiment

Shit just got real, and also not.

This is an idea I got turned onto by Dr. Amit Goswami in the documentary about him (Netflix).

So I’m no expert in quantum mechanics, but I see it roughly like this: until we observe a particle, we have no idea where it is. All we know is the probability that it will be in a variety of locations. In fact, it’s weirder than that: it isn’t just that we don’t know where the particle is; it is in fact in all those locations simultaneously: superposition, it’s called.

The classic example of this is Schrödinger’s Cat, wherein a cat is placed in a box with some kind of poison, rigged up to a Geiger counter. In the hour we sit around doing this experiment, there is a 50% chance that an atom in a nearby radioactive source will decay. If it does, it will set off the counter and release the poison, killing the cat. So we set this thing off, and can’t see, hear, or otherwise know what’s going on inside the box, nor the state of the Geiger counter. After an hour, what’s going on inside the box? Quantum mechanics tells us that until we open the box and peer inside, the cat is both living and dead, simultaneously. Weird, huh?

It’s the act of opening the box that “collapses” the multiple quantum states (alive/dead), “choosing” a state that becomes the reality we perceive. If we don’t look in the box, the states don’t collapse. And before we look in the box, there is no phenomenon known to science that can tell us what the states will collapse into.

So, the theory goes, maybe it’s consciousness. Maybe it is the conscious act of looking into the box that actually causes the states to collapse—and maybe it’s some “force” of consciousness that does the choosing. So, consciousness makes our reality. Without it, the universe is a bunch of possibilities, all occurring simultaneously. Only by observing it do we make it real, do we pin it down to true physical states. And not only that: given the myriad possibilities out there, consciousness selects the realities it desires.

What could this mean? Well, let’s say you get a really good handle on your consciousness. You might not be able to materialize a mango out of thin air, but you could subtly influence the subatomic processes going on all around you—the flow of air particles in the wind, the chemical processes in your cells—maybe even the activity of neurons in another person’s brain? Let’s look at that last possibility in another post.

Read up on the quantum mind-body problem and how consciousness might be the answer!

Hello, Self Observed!

•June 22, 2012 • Leave a Comment

How about a positive LSD story? Wouldn’t that be news-worthy, just once…? “Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration; that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we’re the imagination of ourselves. Here’s Tom with the weather…”

Bill Hicks

The universe is a self-realizing engine, evolving to increasingly higher states of self-awareness. I’m trying to keep the gears well-oiled.

Here we go!

I created this site to tackle questions on the cutting edge of understanding. To do this, I want to work in the space between scientific inquiry and spiritual intuition. Academic rigor is a great way to get a lot of things done, and I will include examples of it. This rigor, and the closed-mindedness of many academics out there, also make controlled studies unsuitable for the exploration of certain inner states. As such, we will mix in subjective experiences as seems appropriate.

There’s a tricky balance to strike here. There are organizations out there (MAPS, IONS, etc.) publishing studies that blur the lines between traditional “hard” science and the newer realms of consciousness, unexplainable phenomena, and so on. This is excellent: working within the existing boundaries of academic inquiry, reaching towards the unknown. But, well, I’m impatient. Academic rigor moves slowly, and I’ve seen things in my own mind that deserve expression, even though I can’t prove them in a double-blind study. I also want to be careful not to take at face value all mystical ideas out there; some are pseudoscience at best.

I believe that the spiritual realm and consciousness are essentially one and the same, and that they operate under a knowable system of laws. I want to work towards a framework for understanding these laws.