The Journey Continues – The Inner Process

The Journey Continues - The Inner Process

William C. Gough, FMBR Chairman of the Board
Tiffany Schneider, FMBR President

Updated May 8, 2006


Last year's paper entitled a "Journey into Infinity" was a story of the bridge that modern science is building to address the inter-relationship between the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of Nature (Gough & Bourdeaux, 2003). This year we will continue that story by focusing upon the scientific insights now becoming available to help us understand the inner process by which we receive input from the Infinite (The Absolute, God) and how we access its wisdom (Gough & Brown, 2001, 2002). The format we will use to tell the story is the same as last year's. It involves Bill and two young persons that start on this "Journey Into Infinity" by asking questions. One, Mary, is an inquisitive searcher, the other, Joe, a show-me type doubter.

Brief Review of Model

Bill: It's good to see you both again. Have you been thinking about our discussion last time?

Mary: I really would like to understand better how our bodies and thoughts interact with the Absolute. What happens within our bodies when we receive information from the Absolute?

Joe: This whole idea of the Absolute is just a theory. I would like more evidence and to hear what science can tell us about this process and about how our bodies are supposedly altered.

Bill: Excellent! We will focus upon the inner process by which we interact and receive input from the Absolute. So let's continue our journey into infinity to explore the Absolute. We will start out with the same hypothesis we discussed in our last talk. Briefly, everything in our physical world represents a pattern, whether they are symbols, fields or matter, and all patterns originate from and connect to the Absolute. This is so because we consider the Absolute to be the ground, or source, of space and time and the physical world. It is a domain of unbounded potential and is spaceless and timeless -- thus, all space and time could be said to coexist in the Absolute. As we discussed last time, this is why scientific studies confirm the existence of precognitive and retrocognitive data. (Gough & Brown, 2002)

Joe: If the Absolute is connected to everything, then what is the difference between the Absolute and Physicality?

Bill: The Absolute is a model of reality suggested to explain much of the data we are going to discuss at this time and during our previous meeting. Without adding a spaceless and timeless aspect to our models of nature it is impossible to account for modern physics and much of our daily experience. To ask about the difference implies a duality between the two whereas the potential of the Absolute and all physicality are one. In the Absolute the laws of space and time that we normally experience don't apply. The Absolute acts as the source behind the patterns that we experience, whether it is physical objects, symbols or the thoughts that we are currently sharing.

Primary Perception of Our Cells

Joe: All right, I'll go along with your hypothesis but what does it have to do with me and my life?

Bill: Well, if everything receives input from the Absolute, then every part of us is linked to the Absolute including the cells of our body. So let’s focus upon the cells in our bodies. The cell is the simplest form of life. Without a brain, heart or nervous system, cells receive a knowingness directly from the Absolute that they can act upon for their survival; we use Backster's term "primary perception" (Backster, 2003). Cells appeared 3.5 billion years ago. Humans appeared only a few million years age. Our bodies contain about 100 trillion cells of which there are 200 different types. We will be talking later about how a single-celled system would have a strategy for receiving information essential to survival long before humans evolved a brain, heart or nervous system (Gough, 1998; Glazer, 1998).

Mary: Are you implying that the cells of our bodies, because of their long evolutionary history, play some special role in our relation with the Absolute?

Bill: That's right! In fact, our vocabulary uses words to describe that relationship with the Absolute, words that imply the existence of something other that a cognitive relationship with the cosmos. For example, intuition is defined as direct perception of truth, fact, etc. independent of any reasoning process; and instinct is defined as a natural or innate impulse, inclination, or tendency (Stein & Urdang, 1967).

Joe: Give me some scientific examples that cells have this direct relationship with the Absolute.

Bill: Okay. The single cell organism, Dictyostelium, the amoeba has been studied extensively. When under stress each individual communicates with the individuals around it and creates a new, multi-celled, form. First, a hundred thousand come together as a mound; this mound develops into a crawling slug form that then becomes a blob. The blob grows a stalk with spores. Some of the cells sacrifice their lives to make the stalk rigid. What we are observing is an intuitive instinctual process in single cells to survive and propagate (Gilbert, 1994; Gough, 1997,1998).

Joe: But couldn't they be communication some other way rather than via the Absolute?

Bill: The cells do communicate via other means than the Absolute both chemically and electromagnetically. But there is some communication occurring between cells that can be explained only through primary perception, for instance cells of the same plant separated (Backster, 2003). Another example comes from Japan where scientists trained Dictyostelium discoideum (slime mold) to find the shortest route in a maze with four possible routes in which only two had an award of food. They found that the slime mold took the most efficient route by stretching their bodies so that it connected to both of the exits that had the food. Remember, the slime mold has no centralized brain to make decisions and guide its actions (Nakagaki, et. al., 2000). There is also the now famous experiment showing cellular memory in worms. Worms were trained to react strongly to light as if they had been shocked. The worms were then chopped up and fed to other worms. These new worms inherited the same trait -- reacting to light, yet they had no training, only the information received from the cells of the previously trained, now digested, worms (McConnell, 1962).

Joe: Do you have any data on something other than slimy things?

Bill: Yes, lets talk about a mammal. In a laboratory rats were trained to respond to behave counter to their natural instinct and react fearfully to a darkened box and prefer entering a lighted one. After the rats were fully trained they were killed and RNA molecules were extracted from their brains. This RNA was then injected into the stomach of untrained rats. These untrained rats responded just like the trained rats (Ungar,, 1968). Like the worms, these rats were responding only to the information received from the RNA molecules ingested from previously trained rats.

Mary: Are you suggesting that our brains are less involved in making decisions that dictate our behavior than we think?

Bill: I’m saying that our brains need, and receive, more information for our survival than is received through our normal senses. Our brains are a specialized collection of cells that have evolved over hundred of thousands of years for a specific purpose. Yet, individual cells always had, and still retain, the ability to communicate, make decisions and hold memories. This information is received through a process called primary perception from the Absolute. The cells of our bodies can tap the wisdom of the Absolute independent of our thinking brain.

Joe: What evidence do we have that a real animal can evolve and survive without a brain?

Bill: You are right, humans typically stress the importance of having a brain and a heart. So how did a complex system like the human with a brain and a heart evolve from a single organism? Some scientists believe the ability to grow different cell types started animals on the evolutionary road to becoming human. Evolutionary microbiologists using advanced automated DNA technology believe the sponge is the earliest, most primitive multicelled animal and the earliest sexual reproducers. They believe this simple architecture became the platform upon which other animals emerged (McClintock, 2004). To me, a more interesting and very successful ancient animal is the jellyfish. These pulsating intelligences, which are 95% water, have survived over 700 million years. They were here before the dinosaurs! Today their size ranges from microscopic to larger than a beach umbrella. They live in both shallow water and the dark ocean depths. They range over the oceans from the frigid poles to the warm equator. They just keep moving, sensing, and adapting to the environment. They are not really "fish" since they have no skeleton, no heart, and no brain, yet they make decisions and demonstrate preferences! I believe that they are an evolutionary success because they rely upon their cellular connection to the Absolute (Connor & Deans, 2002).

Joe: Why couldn't this be simply a response to stimulation in the environment?

Bill: Science is a process of creating models that fit the available data and the stimulus-response system is one model that has been adopted. However, this model does not include data such as the cells communicating across long distances or rats and worms learning behavior solely through the ingestion of a previous animal's cells (Backster, 2003; McConnell; Ungar, et al, 1968). To incorporate these types of phenomenon I propose a representation that includes the spaceless, timeless potential of the Absolute (Gough & Brown, 2003).

Mary: If that is true then our bodies must sometimes function purely upon an input from a cellular connection to the Absolute. Can you give us any examples?

Bill: Well, we all have experienced instinctual response to life processes and events. There are times when we no longer function under the rational logic of the cognitive brain, but rather we respond intuitively, relying upon the instincts emanating from within our body. Famous athletes are an example. How would you respond to a baseball coming towards you at almost 100 mph? Or remember the great musicians. For a pianist cognitive thought dissolves as their fingers instinctively respond to the musical score. Then there are the deep and difficult to remove memories stored in the bodies of abused children or soldiers who return from the horrors of war. Also in martial arts our bodies can be trained to instinctively react to repel an attack -- there is no time to "think."

Joe: You haven't answered Mary's question. How can you separate out the information you are receiving from the environment and from the Absolute?

Bill: You are right. Let me give you an example of how science tries to study information received from the Absolute. One example is the research showing that people are aware of being stared at by another (Radin, 1997). Another researcher, Maralyn Schlitz, successfully demonstrated that the amount of electrodermal activity in a subject's autonomic nervous system increased when viewers remotely tried to calm or agitate subjects, compared with randomly selected and counterbalanced controls. What is interesting about this study is the exploration of the experimenter effect. A second researcher and skeptic, Richard Wiseman, attempted to replicate these results and failed. The two researchers decided to collaborate and recreated the experiment simultaneously with funds from Cambridge and Harvard Universities. They used a single laboratory, a common protocol, and a single participant pool. Each confirmed their earlier experimental results: Schlitz found a significant difference in the physiological response of the participants when they were being stared at as compared to when they weren't being stared at; Wiseman found no effect (Wiseman & Schlitz, 1997). These experiments demonstrate a cellular, non-local communication between experimenters and subjects.

Mary: What do you think is happening?

Bill: One appears to be training a survival technique based in antiquity. I believe that we are observing the original way that life had of knowing and surviving. As we just discussed this is how the simplest forms of life responded to a threat. It is a cellular response that is present in all living creatures, including us -- an unfiltered connection to the Absolute (Gough, 2004).

Joe: Let's assume that our cells have a connection to the Absolute, but I don't think they have any memory.

Bill: As I mentioned earlier there is evidence of cellular memory in simple creatures like the worms and rats. However, the best evidence in humans is coming from the medical profession. They are becoming increasingly aware that the cellular structure of transplanted organs carries with them a memory content to a degree never before considered possible. After a heart transplant from a human donor, the recipient sometimes experience changes in their food or music likes and dislikes. For example, a 35-year old female heart transplant recipient had a sudden greatly altered sexuality, her whole approach to sexual activities changed. It was only later that she and her husband learned that she had received the heart of a twenty-four year old prostitute (Pearsall, 1998, p.89). An eight-year-old girl received the heart of a murdered ten-year-old. After the transplant, the girl started screaming at night about dreams of the man who had murdered her donor. The police using the description of time, place, clothes, etc. from the little girl found the murderer and convicted him. (Pearsall, 1998, pp.7-8).

Joe: There are many other types of transplants, why is the data only about the heart?

Bill: I suspect that there is information transferred via these other transplants but its detection could be more difficult. Remember, the heart generates electrical energy whose waves, when measured by the electrocardiogram (ECG), have 40-60 times more amplitude than the brain waves (Tiller, McCraty, Atkinson, 1996). The strength of this field means that the heart is sending out electromagnetic waves that interact with the cells in all parts of our bodies including the neurons in our brain. This implies that the heart has a greater significance in cellular communication within our body. It is far more important to our behavior and sense of self than the traditional model of the heart as just an organ to pump blood.

Mary: You've been talking about how the cells communicate with each other in the body, could we go back to the cellular communication with the Absolute, can this be detected with instrumentation?

Bill: Yes! For almost 40 years one researcher, Cleve Backster, has pursued this question. Backster had become an expert with the use of lie detectors. He was Director of the Keeler Polygraph Institute and worked for the CIA on interrogation tactics. In 1966 he attached a plant to a polygraph. The polygraph recording pen moved rapidly to the top of the chart when Backster's thought and intention was "to burn the leaf." As a result of this intriguing response, Backster became obsessed with a desire to understand the cellular communication process. Studies were done on various plants; brine shrimp; non-fertile chicken eggs; E. Coli bacteria; bacteria present in plain yogurt; bacteria from an aquarium; in vitro animal cells; in vitro human white blood cells (oral leukocytes); human spermatozoa; and human whole blood. The instrumentation used was primarily the GSR (skin conductance) component of the polygraph, but later included electro-encephalograph (EEG) and electro-cardiograph (ECG)(Backster, 2003).

Mary: If, as you are suggesting, a connection to the Absolute is an integral part of this communication process, and the Absolute is unbound by time and space, then distance from the cells should make no difference. Has anyone tested this possibility?

Bill: Yes, distance seemed to impose no limitations to communication between cells. For example, Dr. Brian O'Leary, a NASA scientist-astronaut, conducted successful experiments with Backster both in the laboratory and over distances of 350 miles away using his own donated white blood cells. The most convincing results for Dr. O'Leary came from a period of lovemaking activity that correlated with "the wildest sawtooth recordings I have ever seen, miles away in Backster's laboratory" (O'Leary, 1989). Also, the use of electromagnetic shielding in experiments produced no deterring effects upon results implying a non-local process. (Backster, 2003, pp.151-152))

Joe: So far you have only talked about the research of Cleve Backster, but can his research be replicated by others?

Bill: Cleve Backster's research has been replicated by some, but others have failed in their attempts at replication and disparage his work. Backster believes there exists a strong propensity for an "experimenter effect" in this type of research. I discussed research on this effect with you at our last meeting (Gough & Bourdeaux, 2003, p.16) and earlier today when we talked about the study looking at people's awareness of being stared at (Wiseman & Schlitz, 1997). The connection or bond between the experimenter and the life form being monitored must be eliminated in these "subtle energy" experiments. This is the reason that Backster eventually used automated experiments. In addition, his research clearly indicates the importance of spontaneity and sincere intention. Both plants and human cells appear to discriminate between a thought that you do not really mean and a thought that is "for real." Thus, what appears to be occurring in Backster's experiments is a communication between one's thoughts and emotions and one's cells regardless of where the cells are located -- an instantaneous non-local linkage.

Joe: What are the implications of this "experimenter effect" on how one caries out "subtle energy" research?

Bill: Your question raises some very interesting points not just for experiments but also for life in general. The model that Dr. Bob Shacklett, Dr. Dean Brown and I put forth predicts that all cells are linked to a non-local spaceless-timeless continuum that we have called the Absolute. The cells therefore can access the wisdom of the interconnected web of the whole. The experimenter's thoughts and feelings are therefore an integral part of the research and will affect the results of these less robust subtle energy experiments. You cannot deceive the all-knowing Absolute. Backster's research has shown that your cells and those of a plant "intuitively" perceive when your intent is not sincere. Another interesting result of Backster's research was the observation of a large response to death of "comrade" cells -- a survival of a species type response. This primary perception and instinctive knowing of the cells in your body is the reason it's important for healing to use appropriate visualization and sincerely "talk" to your body. It is also why you say "thank you," since you are interacting with the Absolute -- some would say God, while others consider God much more encompassing.

Joe: I'm still not convinced the science is very solid here.

Bill: I agree. More studies on primary perception clearly need to be conducted where these experimenter effects are acknowledged to be a key factor in outcome, without compromising traditional scientific method.

Mary: What's the relationship between our brain and the Absolute?

Bill: Well, all the cells in our body are connected to the Absolute, including those in our brain. During our last discussion I described physics experiments that start with twin photons that are then separated in physical space; yet a non-local interaction appears to link the two photon twins. When one photon is altered, the other is also changed. This occurs without crossing the physical space, without decay, and without delay. I suggested that this type of connection operates via the Absolute. This non-local connection has been shown to be present between humans and has been associated with distant healing (Targ & Katra, 1998). Interesting studies looking at twins separated at birth have shown that events in one's life correspond with event's in the other's, despite lack of contact. (Gough & Brown, 2002; Gough & Bourdeaux, 2003).

Joe: Could shared DNA account for the similarities in twins?

Bill: The current DNA model obviously accounts for some of the observed effects, but some of these effects are purely symbolic in nature, such as adoptive parents giving the separated twins the same name or the twins giving their children and their pets the same names (Holden, 1986; Faber, 1981). Geneticists would have to claim that the symbols were embedded in the DNA molecules of the identical twins, but that would still not explain how unrelated parents could choose the same name for the separated twins that they have adopted. Thus, even if the DNA molecule has very subtle patterns within it that resonate with the Absolute, DNA could still could not account for all of phenomena being observed.

Mary: What is the relationship between the identical twin research and the heart transplant data?

Bill: I believe that both sets of data are supportive of a non-local connection via the Absolute. First, let's recall that our model proposes that we are multi-level beings and that the patterns we perceive as thoughts and emotions arise in levels of reality beyond the material world. Names are one of the most common types of symbol that we use. As we just discussed, and as I talked to you in more detail last time, a pair of identical twins reared apart provides surprising evidence in support of the concept of archetypal patterns originating beyond the material world. When one receives the DNA of another person via a heart transplant it is possible to inherit pet words of the recipient. Take this example when Glenda, the young wife of the donor, met with the recipient of her husband's heart and his mother. "Speaking in her heavy Spanish accent, the young man's mother told me, 'My son uses that word copacetic all the time now. He never used it before he got his new heart, but after his surgery, it was the first thing he said to me when he could talk. I didn't know what it means. He said everything was copacetic. It is not a word I know in Spanish.' Glenda overheard us, her eyes widened, she turned toward us and said, 'That word was our signal that everything was OK. Every time we argued and made up, we would both say that everything was copacetic'" (Pearsall, 1998, p.76).

Mary: What role does our intention play in this?

Bill: Freewill, the use of our own intention, plays a big part. Twin researchers now know that with identical twins separated at birth and later reunited, twins who spend less time together are more identical than twins with more experience of each other. (Faber, 1981, p 271; Holden, 1980). It's likely that the greater contact identical twins experience, the stronger their desire to be different individuals is an expression of their freewill. This intention changes their patterns of personality, physical characteristics and thoughts via the Absolute.

The Human Brain

Mary: You say that the brain is connected to the Absolute, what can you tell us about what is happening in the brain?

Bill: We now know that regions of our brain respond to everything that happens to us or that we do, including our thoughts and emotions. For example, when we respond to a word, a different portion of the brain becomes activated depending upon whether we heard the word, see the word, speak the word, or just think the word (Carter, 1999, p.148). In the past scientists could only observe brain functions in a static state, parts in isolation. Now, because of advances in instrumentation, we can study the dynamics of what is happening within our brain in real time. This includes positron emission tomography (PET scan), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT camera).

Mary: Can you refresh us on the parts of the brain?

Bill: The human brain is often discussed based upon its evolutionary development (Fig.1). The part of the brain that we share with reptiles is call our reptilian brain and consists of the brainstem and cerebellum. We are normally unconscious of what it controls such as our breathing, heartbeat, and blood pressure. As evolution proceeded and mammals arrived a part of our brain is called the mammalian brain. It consists of the limbic system that processes our emotions and deals with our survival appetites and urges, such as hunger and sex. This is a largely unconscious process that originates at the cellular level in response to the body's needs as a coordinated system. What makes us "human" is the cortex and neo-cortex that provide us with conscious awareness and self-reflection. In the cortex areas occur our thinking; speech, sight, and sound recognition; and our ability to orient ourselves in the physical world (Carter, 1999, pp.32-33).

Mary: How do the cells in our body create these experiences?

Bill: The nerve cells in all living things are very similar. Neurologically, the change over millions of years of evolution is accounted for in the complexity. The nerve cells of the brain are called neurons (Calvin, 1996). This is what separates human brains from those of the toad, the cat, or the monkey. This increased complexity permits an organism to perceive and react more effectively and with greater versatility to their environment. This increased complexity for humans shows itself as the most recently evolved region of the human brain called the neocortex, which enables us to create language, art, culture, and myth. In fact, asking, probing, and searching for who you are is what makes you human.

Mary: What makes the neurons so special?

Bill: Every tissue and organ in our body is composed of cells. The major structural difference between neurons and other cells is that the neuron not only has a cell body like other cells but has special appendages. These appendages are nerve fibers used for communication -- the axons are the output channels, and the dendrites are the input channels. Hence, unlike the cells in other parts of our body, the neurons or brain cells, directly communicate with one another and form neural maps that present an ever changing picture of life. Although other cells communicate with each other they do not use the electrochemical process of synaptic transmission that is unique to nervous tissue where synapses are the points of communication between the neurons.

Joe: So what kinds of maps do these more "complex" cells in our brain make?

Bill: Firstly, neurons exist not only in the brain, but also in the heart, gut and possibly elsewhere, providing these organs with "little brains" (Armour, 1991; Cooke, 1989). These neurons serve as mapmakers to our perceptions of reality (Damasio, 2003). They map the geography of our body, and of the events that take place within that geography -- this includes both information received directly by our senses and "non-local" input, i.e., input from the Absolute. We are not consciously aware of all of the neural maps within our brains.

Mary: If parts of our brains are operating outside of our conscious awareness, couldn't that affect our behavior?

Bill: Exactly, that is why I want to focus upon the relationship between the brain's limbic system, which is associated with our emotions, and the cortex that deals with our intellectual processes. The argument I am making is that the limbic system responds not only to the chemical and electromagnetic signals from the environment, but also directly to information from the Absolute via the process of primary perception. The result is an input to both our thinking and behavior that people may be consciously aware of to varying degrees. There is medical data relevant to this issue -- when a tumor was removed from the brain of a person that resulted in the neural pathways between the limbic system and the cortex being blocked. The consequence was that the person no longer had the capacity to feel emotions. They experienced a life without joy, love, sadness or anger. Yet their IQ remained the same, their memory was fine, and they could do mathematical tasks like calculating, etc. However, they could not evaluate options or make decisions Carter, 1999, pp.81-82). Without the body-rooted survival input normally received from the Absolute by the limbic system as emotion, they could calculate and collate, but not evaluate or choose. They were cut off from the primary perception of their cells -- the unconscious input processed through the limbic system.

Joe: Well, what are emotions? How do they differ from feelings?

Bill: Emotions are more than just feelings. They are a set of body-rooted survival mechanisms that have evolved to turn us away from danger and cause us instantly to do things that may be of benefit. They are our cellular intuitive response to a situation. Our feelings represent the mental or intellectual component of the situation (Carter, 1999, p.82). We hypothesize that humans and other species developed particular organs to take care of specialized tasks. The brain developed to organize our daily environment and the heart to coordinate the cellular whole. They work together, most of the activities are unconscious but others are not. Before the human being evolved its complex brain, the cells existed and developed a strategy for survival that they retain and continue into the present. This survival instinct gives them information about their local and nonlocal environment that is used to inform behavior and thinking of the whole organism. Many of the activities of decision making and behavior people have ascribed to the cortex is actually arising from within the cells via the limbic system. This information comes from Absolute and may be the basis for precognition, retrocognition and has been called by some a sixth sense or paranormal insight.


Mary: You have been talking a lot about our unconscious brain. What happens when we are asleep?

Bill: This is an important point. We spend about one third of our life sleeping. During that time our body is effectively paralyzed, except for our eyes that are really a part of our brain (Carter, 1999, p.32). Between twenty and twenty five percent of the time that we are asleep our eyes are moving as we experience vivid, emotional dreams. These periods of rapid eye movement are commonly known as REM sleep. During our time asleep our brain alternates between high energy (REM sleep) and low energy (non-REM sleep)(Gregory, 1987; Siegel, 2003, pp.92-93; Greenfield, 1996, pp.160-161)

Joe: But what is the purpose of REM sleep?

Bill: REM sleep appears to serve multiple purposes. Since brain activity during REM sleep resembles that which occurs during waking, energy consumption is just as high. However, the brain stops releasing the neurotransmitters that activate the brain cells controlling muscles, except for those that move the eyes. Scientists are now able to watch the sleeping brain at work. The areas of the brain that generate internal imagery are active even though the regions that receive signals from the eyes are shut down. Regions responsible for short-term memory become inactive and areas involved in judgment wind down. Hence we tend to forget our dreams and accept the rapid illogical shifts of scenes. Using PET and fMRI technology scientists have found that during dreaming one of the most active brain areas is the limbic system (Kantrowitz & Springen, 2004, p.44). As we discussed before, the limbic system is found deep in the middle of the brain and functions as an emotional-processing network (LeDoux, 2003, p.210) that includes the information from the Absolute.

Joe: What does the limbic system and the Absolute have to do with sleep?

Bill: The primary structures of the limbic systems are all primitive organs that have been conserved throughout mammalian evolution. The human cognitive processes of the cortex appear to have developed circuits that tend to operate independently of these emotional, limbic, circuits. Yet these systems are interwoven and create an interactive exchange of information producing our complex repertoire of human emotions -- envy, delight, surprise, etc. Typically, the cortex is considered the executive function of our thinking and behavior. We are suggesting that the system may be, if not reversed, then far more equal. In this model, a large function of the cortex is to find a meaningful pattern on our environment. In fact, dreams may reflect a fundamental aspect of the mammalian memory processing. For memories to be stored the cortex must be monitoring events of the day and the limbic system must be supplying the emotional component this is then reprocessed and consolidated during sleep (Schacter, 1996, pp.81-88; Wolf, 1994, p.108). Long periods of sleep deprivation have been shown to lead to death in rats in less time than food deprivation with adequate sleep time. Humans are quickly compromised when deprived of sleep (Greenfield, 1996, p.161), and can even die when they suffer a rare degenerative brain disease called fatal familial insomnia (Siegel, 2003, p.94).

To specifically answer your question about the relationship between sleep and the Absolute however, we need to consider another extremely important function of REM dreaming. I believe that we all receive information from the Absolute during REM sleep and dreams serve as the processing channel for this input (Fig.2). For thousands of years dreams have been considered by many cultures as messages from the gods. Scientific studies have indicated that the limbic system is integral to religious and spiritual experiences. Because of its involvement in such experiences, the limbic system has sometimes been referred to as the "transmitter to God."

Joe: Do we spend the same amount time in REM sleep through our entire lives?

Bill: No! At 26 weeks, a human fetus is in REM sleep 24 hours a day. By the time a baby is born, it still spends 16 hours a day asleep, half of those in REM sleep. As we get older, we sleep less and spend less time dreaming (Greenfield, 1996, p.160). Lack of REM sleep in the early developmental period of cats can lead to abnormalities in the visual system, for example. It has been suggested that REM sleep may act as a substitute for the external stimulation experienced by animals that are mature at birth (Siegel, 2003, p.97). In communication with the Absolute, the body can receive the information it needs to continue forming the patterns that make up the animal's physicality.

Joe: We are a mammal, do all mammals need the same amount of REM sleep?

Bill: No, dolphins experience little or no REM sleep and humans do not have particularly long REM sleep times compared with other mammals. The best predictor of the amount of REM sleep time for an adult in a given species is how immature the offspring of that species are at birth (Siegel, 2003, p.97).

Mary: What is it about immaturity at birth that causes REM sleep duration to be high?

Bill: It has been suggested that REM sleep has a role early in life in establishing the genetically programmed connections of neurons that make instinctive behavior possible (Siegel, 2003, p.97).

Joe: I never believed that dreams were very helpful in how I lead my life. You seem to think that I should pay more attention to them. Can you explain why?

Bill: I believe that the ancient limbic system obtains its informational input from our cells that act as both receivers and transmitters to the Absolute. As we discussed earlier, Cleve Backster has named this process primary perception. This ancient feedback circuit of living organisms to the Absolute deals primarily with survival and propagation. I gave you examples regarding the functioning of primary perception in living systems including studies on the behavior of single cell amoeba like the Dictyostelium, and on jellyfish that lack a brain and heart. My hypothesis is that this prehistoric cellular input from the Absolute is the source of our instincts, powers our emotions, and serves as the genesis of our physical and spiritual evolution. This cellular link to the spaceless/timeless Absolute bypasses the filter of our intellect, and is why dreams can help guide our lives, provide precognitive insights, and help us find solutions to elusive problems.

Mary: Wow! REM sleep sounds very important, but then why do we spend 75% or our sleep time in non-REM sleep?

Bill: There exists a very small group of brain cells, about 100,000, at the base of the forebrain that are maximally active during non-REM sleep and appear to be responsible for inducing sleep. The rest of the brain is like an idling automobile using little energy. Vivid dreams are rare in non-REM sleep. In the body, metabolism generates free radicals that are known to damage and even kill cells. Thus, the hypothesis is that reduced activity during non-REM sleep may give many brain cells a chance to repair themselves (Siegel, 2003, pp.93&95).

Transcendent Sex

Mary: How did the brain circuitry for transcendence evolve?

Bill: Transcendence refers to experiences that go beyond the physical. The researchers believe the neurology of transcendence borrows the neural circuitry of sexual response. The neurological structures and pathways involved in transcendent experience originally evolved to link sexual experience to spiritual experience. This linking of pleasure to an act required for the continuation of the species suggests that transcendent, spiritual, experiences are closely linked to evolutionary survival.

Joe: Now you are getting interesting. Can I reach these “mystical” states through having sex?

Bill: There exists a three thousand year history of transcendent sex. "The oldest document in the world, the Epic of Gilgamesh, contains a description of transcendent sex and its transformative powers" (Wade, 2004, p.2). It was inscribed from a much more ancient oral tradition of Mesopotamia in which the central character in the epic lived about 2,700 B.C.E. Special techniques are taught in Tantra yoga, Vajrayana Buddhism (which incorporates ancient indigenous Tibetan) and Indian traditions, Taoism, and Native American Quodoushka -- also in Kabbalic Judaism sexual intercourse became a powerful spiritual act. (Wade, 2004, p.p. 2-5; Stubbs, 1994)

Joe: Does one always have to learn special exotic techniques? I thought you were implying that this experience was built into our brain's wiring system?

Bill: There was a very interesting research study done by Dr. Jenny Wade that answers your question. She did a research study of 91 men and women who engaged in sex and suddenly found the veil between the worlds torn open. Her study used ordinary people with no special training in techniques. She describes the varieties of experiences that occurred during transcendent sex and the personal transformations that took place when people suddenly and without any warning found themselves in otherworldly realms during love making.

Mary: What do you mean by "varieties of experiences?"

Bill: Our model postulates the existence of many levels of reality that one can experience culminating with becoming one with the Absolute (Fig. 3) (Gough & Shacklett, 1999). The data from Dr. Wade's research supports that concept. The most frequently reported phenomenon was a sense of merging with the partner, another was a non-ordinary perception of energy fields in the absence of any discernible stimulus, another was a felt sense of an autonomous, invisible, impersonal field or force with its own transpersonal intelligence. Other persons felt they were transported back in time and space and experienced past-lives, some had out-of-body experiences, some found they had the ability to access the unspoken thoughts and feelings of others that they later verified. Others reported becoming one with all of creation, some saw human or supernatural beings like angels, others experienced clairsentience -- a revelation of "the truth" that came from nowhere but was fully developed, some experienced the dissolution of time and space and a complete identification with the Absolute. There were more types of experiences that I won't list. Our ability to tap into a magical universe appears unlimited.

Joe: If spiritual transcendence has an evolutionary impetus, why is it not more common?

Bill: Sexual activity is not the only route, as we saw earlier with the meditation research, simply the evolutionary process.

Heart-Brain Connection

Mary: How is all of this extra-sensory or non-local information processed in our bodies?

Bill: Remember that there exists an energy body or field associated with a meridian/acupuncture system that interpenetrates our body as we discussed last time, but I would like to focus now upon the physical heart-brain connection. The cognitive brain evolved to become an analog processor that relates whole concepts to one another and looks for similarities, differences, or relationships, whereas the heart evolved as a receiver/transmitter of cellular information. It is a sophisticated information encoding and processing center that provides intuitive input to the brain. The heart-brain interaction is a two way street with both descending and ascending autonomic activity that include the very low frequency sympathic and the high frequency parasympathic systems (Fig.4). A very useful measure for examining the heart-brain interaction is heart rate variability. Heart rate variability is derived from the electrocardiogram (ECG) and measures the naturally occurring beat-to-beat changes in heart rate. Our emotions are reflected in these heart rhythms. By initiating a change in these heart patterns it is possible to bring about rapid and significant changes in perception and emotional experience.(McCraty & Childre, 2003; Tiller, McCraty,, 1996; McCraty, Barrios-Choplin,, 1998).

Joe: Are you suggesting that intuitive information is being received from the heart that is then interpreted by the brain?

Bill: Yes! During our previous time together we discussed Dean Radin's work (Radin, 1997), later replicated and expanded by McCraty in 2003, where emotionally arousing photographs showing violent or erotic images were mixed in with soothing images such as landscapes. These images were flashed to people being monitored with EEG and ECG for both the brain and the heart. Radin and McCraty found that subjects reacted emotionally before the image arrived in front of their eyes (McCraty, Atkinson, & Bradley, 2003; Radin, 1997, pp.118-125). Recall that the magnetic field of the heart has 40-60 times more amplitude than one's brain waves. The heart's electromagnetic field radiates to all cells in one's body and beyond. The magnetic component of the heart's field, which is around 5,000 times stronger than that produced by the brain, can be measured several feet away from the body with SQUID magnetometers (Stoink, 1989; McCraty, 2003). This study shows how the heart received information about the upcoming image, communicated its core emotional response to the body, which reacted seconds before the image was seen or processed by our brain. This ability of the heart to receive information from the Absolute, and have the body to react emotionally, is a key survival strategy. One that was developed and retained by our cells long before our cerebral cortex developed.

Conscious Awareness of the Absolute

Mary: How can we increase our conscious awareness of the Absolute and God that the mystics and spiritual leaders over the centuries have spoken about? What research has been done on this subject?

Bill: There are many ways that people have been brought into direct contact with the Absolute. An area that has received considerable research is "near-death experiences" usually due to an accident or severe illness. Individuals who have had such experiences have undergone major shifts in their approach to life. Dr. Kenneth Ring, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Connecticut summarized this research in his book Lessons from the Light (Ring & Valarino, 1998). In fact a Canadian psychologist, Dr. Michael Persinger, stimulated parts of his temporal lobes. and found to his amazement that he experienced God for the first time in his life (Ramachandran & Blakeslee, 1998, p.175).

Joe: Is there any evidence from the medical profession?

Bill: A medical doctor who has for many years been asking questions about aspects of human nature like why we may believe in God is V.S. Ramachandran, M.D., Ph.D., a professor and director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, University of California, San Diego, CA. He was surprised to find that a sense of enlightenment, "an absolute conviction that Truth is revealed at last, should derive from limbic structures concerned with emotions rather than from the thinking, rational parts of the brain that take so much pride in their ability to discern truth and falsehood" (Ramachandran & Blakeslee, 1998, p.179). There is a NOVA PBS video entitled "Secrets of the Mind" in which one of Dr. Ramachandran patients with temporal lobe epilepsy experiences "God." From the fascinating interview with the patient it was very clear that he would rather continue having epilepsy seizures than be cured and lose "his unique privilege of gazing directly into God's eyes every time" he had a seizure. (NOVA, 2001; Ramachandran & Blakeslee, 1998, p.179).

Mary: Is phenomena with temporal lobe epilepsy well know in the medical field?

Bill: Yes! Dr. Ramachandran states that he has "always suspected that the temporal lobes, especially the left lobe, are somehow involved in religious experience. Every medical student is taught that patients with epileptic seizures originating in this part of the brain can have intense, spiritual experiences during the seizures and sometimes become preoccupied with religious and moral issues even during the seizure-free or interictal periods." (Ramachandran & Blakeslee, 1998, p.175).

Joe: Has anyone done any neurological research measurements upon the brain to try to understand what is happening during a spiritual experience?

Bill: Yes, there has been some very fascinating research using the SPECT camera. As you know, over the centuries mystics and spiritual leaders have reported an experience that they perceived as utterly and unquestionably real -- an experience of God and the Absolute. An indeed today scientists are working on the neurology of such spiritual experiences. In fact, there is an emerging discipline dedicated to understanding the complex relationship between spirituality and the brain that is known as the field of neurotheology.

Let me explain some pioneering explorations into this field of research. Andrew Newberg and Eugene D'Aquhi, two medical doctors, studied the brains of Tibetan Buddhist meditators and Franciscan Catholic nuns. They found that the events the meditators and nuns considered spiritual were indeed associated with observable neurological activity. The research was based upon the fact that increased blood flow to a given part of the brain correlates with heightened activity in that particular area, and vice versa. For the measurements they used a high-tech brain imaging tool, the SPECT camera (single photon emission computed tomography) (Fig. 5). At the transcendent peak of the spiritual state, the subject tugged on a string. Radioactive dye was released into an intravenous catheter in their arm and SPECT images of their brain were recorded (Newberg & Aquili, 2002).

The researchers found that during spiritual activities the front part of the brain became more active. This area reflects focused attention and concentration, and is considered the neurological seat of the will. In addition, the spiritual state produced a sharp reduction in the activity level of the posterior superior parietal lobe, or "orientation association area" (OAA). One job of the OAA is to draw a sharp distinction between you and everything else; between you and not-you. The second job is to give you the ability to experience a "three-dimensional body" and to orient that body in physical space. The OAA is an area of the brain that never rests. It requires a constant stream of sensory information to do its job well (Newberg & Aquili, 2002).

Mary: So what does this mean for our perception of reality?

Bill: The perception of discrete objects would cease, there would be no sense of space or the passage of time, no line between the self and the rest of the universe. In fact, there would be no subjective self at all; there would only be an absolute sense of unity -- without thought, without words, and without sensation. The mind would exist without ego in a state of pure, undifferentiated awareness, a unitary state (Newberg & D'Aquili, 2002, pp.142-156). Such unitary states are the transcendent goal of all spiritual paths! Unitary states range from the mildest to the most profound, and represent a span of a continuum depending upon the degree that the sensory input to the OAA is blocked. In addition to meditation and prayer, such spiritual states can begin with physical activity -- any repetitive rhythmic behavior causes the orientation area to be blocked from neural flow. This is most likely the basis for walking meditations such as a labyrinth, and rhythmic drumming and dancing in spiritual ceremonies. Of course, the process can be set in motion by nothing more tangible than the mind willing itself toward God.

Joe: But do we really perceive a higher spiritual reality -- an encounter with God?

Bill: What we think of as reality is nothing more than a rendition of reality that we create in our brain. The floor beneath your feet, the chair you're sitting in, the paper you hold in your hands may all seen unquestionably solid and real, but they are known to you only as secondhand neurological perceptions, as blips and flashes racing along the neural pathways inside your skull. If you were to dismiss spiritual experience as "mere" neurological activities, you would also have to distrust all of your own brain's perceptions of the material world. However, assuming you trust your perceptions of the physical world, you have no rational reason to declare that spiritual experience is a mental fiction. If God does indeed exist, the only place he can manifest his existence would be in the tangled neural pathways and physiological structures of the brain. Our reality emerges from our brain, and while the SPECT imaging research doesn't prove the existence of God or the Absolute, it does indicate that these spiritual states are as real as any other brain states because it uses the same neurological processes. Thus mystical experiences are biologically and scientifically real, and play an evolutionary roll in our survival.

Joe: But couldn't these experiences just be day-dreams or hallucinations?

Bill: We can't prove that they are not. But just remember that we consider daydreams and hallucinations less real than ordinary reality. Hence, logic suggests that what is less real must be contained by what is more real. Spiritual experiences are frequently perceived as far more real than ordinary day-to-day experiences. An uplifting sense of genuine spiritual union with something larger than the self is experienced -- the issues of ordinary reality disappear into the peace and love of an indescribable unity. The perceptions of the individuals who achieve this state of transcendence must be interpreted into rational terms, and the ineffable insights they bestow must be translated into specific beliefs.

Mary: What does this tell us about religion and spirituality?

Bill: The great mystics and religious leaders of the past were all attempting to grasp this ungraspable Absolute. Thus, all interpretations of God may actually be rooted in the same neurobiological experience of the Absolute. All religions would then be branches from the same spiritual tree and all would express truth.


Mary: Before we leave, would you summarize your conclusions regarding the relationship between a human and the Absolute?

Bill: First, we must accept the fact that there is no objective reality. We each create our own external and inner worlds. Yet neurologically they constitute the same process, the circuitry of our brains makes no distinction between the two. The idea of a "real world" our there that is concrete and solid, with a subjective reality that we create in our minds has been dispelled by developments in neurobiology and physics. Secondly, our body does receive wisdom and makes decisions without input from the brain's cortex. A major source for this input is the Absolute, communicated to our cells through a process called primary perception. This communication is unaffected by distance, not deceived by false intentions and, to varying degrees, affects our behavior without our conscious awareness. Thirdly, the heart serves as both the receiver and transmitter of this information -- the body's source of our core emotions. Lastly, rather than originate it, the role of the cortex is to understand this input from the cells, and to get to know the Absolute and its wisdom. This process is the reverse to the current view that the intellect is primary and in control. We are dealing with a bottom-up process, not a top- down process. It is a process that has evolved, persisted, and survived from prehistoric times -- a cellular, intuitive process -- a survival process.

For many species, survival depends on getting the next meal, including many humans. However, as these basic survival needs have decreased for society, our species increasingly relied upon the "higher functions" of our brain's cortex -- our intellect. The result is that we began to hijack our deeper instincts. In an age of rapid technological communication, we have used the intellect to incite our entire species to violence "by portraying some vast threat, some fear, some Other that must be opposed at all costs" (Peat, 2002, p 197). As a result we develop and rely upon ever more deadly and sophisticated killing technologies. It is this increasing perversion of human thought and reason being given priority over the wisdom of the Absolute that poses the greatest threat to our civilization. We must again listen to the knowingness that originates from our hearts -- the unfiltered input from the Absolute. Like the jellyfish, this bottom-up process within our bodies may hold the key for the long-term survival of the human species.


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