We don’t really know yet what creates consciousness. Some people believe it’s an epiphenomenon of the brain -- an emergent property of the brain as complex system. Other people think consciousness emerges from the quantum level of the universe and that the brain is a transceiver that interacts with this source of consciousness.
Within the second camp there are many theories about how consciousness gets into the brain. For example, anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff, MD and renowned physicist Roger Penrose, PhD think it happens at the level of the tiny microtubules within the neuron. Physicist Hal Putoff, PhD points out that the zero point field pervades the universe, including the inside of neurons, so quantum mechanics is happening everywhere in the brain.
The “quantum” theories of consciousness are still very speculative, but, they might account for things that cannot be explained by theories that give primacy to the brain. There are many normal human experiences that cannot be accounted for by the biochemical level of neurological processing or even the electromagnetic level of neurological processing.
For example, it should not be possible for a human to hit a baseball coming at him at 95 mph given our neurophysiology, yet it is. There is no known location in the brain for most memories. Some people seem to produce elaborate narratives and good recall for periods of time when their brains had no activity (dead) or no apparent waking consciousness (coma). And, just in general, as Deepak Chopra, MD has pointed out, the whole body responds to external and internal changes faster than can be accounted for by anything besides the quantum mechanical level.
We also don’t really know yet what creates psi – meaning clairvoyance / remote viewing, precognition, telepathy, psychokinesis, time slips, synchronicity, anomalous healing, etc. Some of it may happen at the electromagnetic level – the brain and the heart have surprisingly huge electromagnetic fields that can convey information from one person to another outside of the expected sensory means. Some people theorize that there are “subtle energies” that we have not identified yet, which allow transmission of information. There are holographic models, including that of neurosurgeon Karl Pribram, MD and physicist David Bohm, PhD, which propose that any small part of the universe, including your brain, contains a representation of the whole universe.
Again, we’re still at the speculative stage of understanding how psi works, but these are models that might account for the overwhelming number of anecdotes ranging from knowing who is on the phone before you pick it up to correctly describing a machine in a Cold War secret Soviet facility from thousands of miles away to witnessing a tea cup levitate by itself, move to the left, and gently land again.
In March 2012, Psychologist James Carpenter, PhD will publish his book on “First Sight” which reconciles the false dichotomy between normal consciousness and psychic ability and says they are one and the same. According to this model, psi “is the very earliest information-gathering process of our being…upon which all other perceptual and mental processes have become intricately overlaid (Sally Rhine Feather, review)” In other words, “second sight” is a misnomer, because psi is not an additional skill; it is a how we do everything, but it has been developed further in some people. Dr. Carpenter’s model is a psychological one, not a neurological one, but I believe it is a crucial building-block for a neuro-psychological model of consciousness and psi.
There may be another angle for seeing the equivalence of consciousness and psi and that is looking at the things that *interfere* with each. Roughly speaking, there is a meaningful parallel between how neurological damage interferes with consciousness and how acculturation interferes with psi.
Just as a blow to the head or toxic exposure may interfere with accessing memories, so may deeply held cultural assumptions about what is normal or possible interfere with the natural development of human capacities.
Just as time, therapies, and exercise can cause neurological healing and neurogenesis which makes old memories accessible again, so can intention, therapy, and practice unlock native psychic capacities again.
Now, here’s the real twist. One of the main purposes of this blog is to understand how neurological damage sometimes seems to unlock psychic potential. What are we to make of this paradox? That which obviously damages consciousness (even if only temporarily) sometimes also potentiates the aspects of consciousness we call psi.
One of the theories about this is that the acculturated, psi-repressive neural networks get damaged, which liberates psi. Additionally, neuro damage tends to lead to a psi-friendly shift in how one relates to the world. Also, all the healing activities that are good for neuro damage are the same ones that are good for psi development. There’s probably a lot more yet to discover – maybe neuro damage tends to decrease beta wave production and increase delta.
I always like the idea that the illness is an attempt to heal something. So, neuro damage may sometimes be orchestrated or enlisted by one’s higher self, Kundalini, the Tao to get one back on track to the true self, which includes being more fully conscious, which in turn includes what we call being psychic.