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Consciousness evolves when the self dissolves

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We need to clarify at least four aspects of selfhood if we are to reach a better understanding of consciousness in general, and of its alternate states. First, how did we develop our self-centred psychophysiology? Second, can the four familiar lobes of the brain alone serve, if only as preliminary landmarks of convenience, to help understand the functions of our many self-referent networks? Third, what could cause one's former sense of self to vanish from the mental field during an extraordinary state of consciousness? Fourth, when a person's physical and psychic self do drop off briefly, how has conscious experience then been transformed? In particular, what happens to that subject's personal sense of time? Our many-sided self arose in widely distributed brain networks. Since infancy, these self-oriented circuits have been over-conditioned by limbic biases. Selfhood then seems to have evolved along lines suggesting at least in shorthand the operations of a kind of ‘I-Me-Mine’ complex. But what happens when this egocentric triad briefly dissolves? Novel states of consciousness emerge. Two personally-observed states are discussed: (1) insight-wisdom (kensho-satori); (2) internal absorption. How do these two states differ phenomenologically? The physiological processes briefly suggested here emphasize shifts in deeper systems, and pivotal roles for thalamo-cortical interactions in the front and back of the brain.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 3890 Moscow Mount Road, Moscow, ID 83843-8113, USA.

Publication date: November 1, 2000


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