Right now, tens of billions of neurons are working together in your brain so that you can read these words.
How does this happen?
For the longest time, consciousness was life’s greatest mystery; something we thought we’d never understand.
Indeed, attempts to understand how the brain produces consciousness have, until now, been unsuccessful, leading many to conclude that it’s an unsolvable problem.
However, new developments in cutting-edge neurology, physics, and philosophy are beginning to show that we may have been looking in the wrong place, and that the materialist assumption that consciousness arises only as a result of brain processes is not only reductionist, but also scientifically inaccurate.
In this conference, we’ll explore consciousness paradigms that go beyond the brain, how they work, why they matter, and how understanding them can enhance your everyday experience of reality.
In a previous two-hour lecture for TWU, I argued for the nature of consciousness as a foundational element in the cosmos, not derivative from anything else. In this talk, I will not attempt to repeat that argument, but start from where I left off. In a new book, The Matter with Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World (Perspectiva Press, November 2021), I ask how we come to know anything at all, and move on to consider what we can say about the irreducible ‘building blocks’ of reality: time, space, matter, consciousness, values, purpose and the sense of the sacred. I take value and purpose to be implied by the very nature of consciousness itself; constitutive of reality, not ‘invented’ (though obviously particular values and particular purposes may be); that although science is popularly thought to contradict such a view it does not, rightly understood, do so at all; and that reason and evidence strongly supports such a conclusion. I hold that our failure to understand this lies at the heart of our global predicament.
Dr Iain McGilchrist is a Psychiatrist and Writer, who lives on the Isle of Skye, off the coast of North West Scotland. He is committed to the idea that the mind and brain can be understood only by seeing them in the broadest possible context, that of the whole of our physical and spiritual existence, and of the wider human culture in which they arise – the culture which helps to mould, and in turn is moulded by, our minds and brains. He was formerly a Consultant Psychiatrist of the Bethlem Royal and Maudsley NHS Trust in London, where he was Clinical Director of their southern sector Acute Mental Health Services.
Dr McGilchrist has published original research and contributed chapters to books on a wide range of subjects, as well as original articles in papers and journals, including the British Journal of Psychiatry, American Journal of Psychiatry, The Wall Street Journal, The Sunday Telegraph and The Sunday Times. He has taken part in many radio and TV programmes, documentaries, and numerous podcasts, and interviews on YouTube, among them dialogues with Jordan Peterson, David Fuller of Rebel Wisdom, and philosopher Tim Freke. His books include Against Criticism, The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning, and Ways of Attending. He published his latest book: The Matter With Things, a book of epistemology and metaphysics. You can keep up to date with his work at https://channelmcgilchrist.com
In this talk, Rupert Spira will explore the perennial, non-dual understanding that lies at the heart of all the great religious and spiritual traditions: reality is a single, infinite and indivisible whole whose nature is consciousness or spirit. Central to this understanding is the recognition of the nature of consciousness, which has been described in the Tantric tradition of Kashmir Shaivism as ‘the greatest secret, more hidden than the most concealed of things, and yet more evident than the most obvious of things’.
Rupert will suggest that the overlooking of the nature of consciousness is the root cause of suffering within individuals, conflicts between communities and nations, and the degradation of our environment and that its recognition must, therefore, be the basis of a new paradigm that restores well-being to individuals and peace to our communities.
Rupert Spira was deeply interested in the nature of reality and the source of lasting peace and happiness since his early age. After spending twenty years immersed in the teachings of classical Advaita Vedanta, he met his teacher, Francis Lucille, who introduced him to the Direct Path approach whereby one may recognise the source of peace and happiness in oneself. Rupert has written several books and holds regular meetings and retreats online, as well as in Europe and the United States. He is also a noted potter, trained in the British Studio Pottery school, with work in public and private collections. You can learn more about his works at www.rupertspira.com
“Use your head.” That’s what we tell ourselves when facing a tricky problem or a difficult project. But a growing body of research indicates that we’ve got it exactly backward. What we need to do, says acclaimed science writer Annie Murphy Paul, is think outside the brain. A host of “extra-neural” resources—the feelings and movements of our bodies, the physical spaces in which we learn and work, and the minds of those around us—can help us focus more intently, comprehend more deeply, and create more imaginatively. In this talk, Paul will explore the research behind this exciting new vision of human ability, exploring the findings of neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, and psychologists.
You’ll learn about the secret history of how artists, scientists, and authors have employed mental extensions to solve problems, make discoveries, and create new works. Additionally, the lecture will explain how you can incorporate outside-the-brain thinking into your everyday life. This presentation offers a dramatic new view of how our minds work, full of practical advice on how to think better.
Annie Murphy Paul is an acclaimed science writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Scientific American, and The Best American Science Writing, among many other publications. Her latest book is The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain. Published in June of 2021, it was selected as an Amazon Editors’ Pick for Best Nonfiction, one of “50 Notable Works of Nonfiction” by the Washington Post, and one of “100 Notable Books of 2021” by The New York Times. She is the author of Origins, also named by the New York Times as a “Notable Book,” and The Cult of Personality, hailed by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker as a “fascinating new book.” Her TED Talk has been viewed more than 2.7 million times. Paul is a recipient of the Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellowship, the Spencer Education Journalism Fellowship, and the Bernard L. Schwartz Fellowship at New America. A graduate of Yale University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, she is currently a Learning Sciences Exchange Fellow at New America.
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