Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Brain, Mind, Consciousness and the Deception

The success of books like The Secret indicates that more than a few people believe in the hidden power of the brain. The Secret is not the first book to establish this though.

Here's what you can do. Go to Amazon and give a search for "subconscious" in books. At the time of typing this, it threw up a list of 551 books, and books like The Secret, Think and Grow Rich, Evolve Your Brain are not even in the list!

The recipe of all these books are more of less as follows:
a) Focus your conscious mind/brain (i.e, Cerebral Cortex) on something that you desire

b) Continuous focusing will transfer the thoughts to your subconscious mind/brain (i.e, Midbrain and the Cerebellum)

c) Expect miracles - as the subconscious works in mysterious ways.

a) and b) are facts. c) is not.

In one of the books I was horrified to read that one father lost his right hand because he had jokingly said that he would give his right hand to get his daughter cured of some skin disease. Soon after he lost his hand, the daughter was cured. The author then goes on to say that the subconscious does not understand jokes. It takes such instructions as truths and acts on it.

Just imagine!

The Secret is not so different. Once you have internalized your desires, your subconscious calls out to the universe and you get what you wish.

Agreed that we have not yet fathomed how good (or bad) things happen to us. There are times when the incidents in our life seem non-random, as if some force is driving the consequences. But to imagine that one gets cancer because s/he has asked for it is downright ridiculous (One of the 'philosophers' in The Secret actually says this).

It is therefore refreshing to read books that do not consider the human brain to be any different from ... well read it yourself:

As I see it, the only way of overcoming this magical view of what "I" and consciousness are is to keep on reminding oneself, unpleasant thought it may seem, that the "teetering bulb of dread and dream" that nestles safely inside one's own cranium is a purely physical object made up of completely sterile and inanimate components, all of which obey exactly the same laws as those that govern the rest of the universe, such as pieces of text, or CD-ROM's, or computers. Only if one keeps on bashing up against this disturbing fact can one slowly begin to develop a feel for the way out of the mystery of consciousness.

This is from the preface written by Douglas R. Hofstadter in the 20th-anniversary edition of his famous Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid popularly known as GEB.

I bet you have heard of this book. Many of you must have read this. Quoting from GEB used to be an in thing among 'intellectuals' (one of the reasons I never read the book for a very long, long time).

I recommend that you buy and read this book again. Especially because the author has written a 23 page preface. And going by what Hofstadter has written in his preface, not that many people have understood the book.

The book is extremely dense (as measured by ideas per page) and the preface from the author definitely helps.

Point to ponder: I have quoted from GEB in this post. Does that make me an intellectual? ;-)

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