In a short editorial article for the journal of wellness, Dr Anoop Kumar explores the topic of consciousness as it is generally held in the medical profession. That is… a product of the interactions of material elements ( eg neurons, the brain etc).
Dr Anoop writes:
At first glance, the assumption of the primacy of matter may seem obvious. Doesn’t the brain create thoughts? Can’t we see a functional MRI scan of the brain light up when a person is conscious and thinking? We know that thinking, electrical activity in the brain, and the lighting of pixels on a display are correlated and concurrent, but the conclusion that the brain is the cause of thinking comes at the expense of ignoring evidence, including:
• Beginning a practice of mindfulness meditation correlates with subsequent changes in brain structure, suggesting attention can organize matter.
• High-level intelligent thinking can happen despite the loss of a majority of the brain’s volume and distortion of its tissue.
• Psychedelic use leads to rich, vivid experiences despite decreases in brain activity.
• Many people who experienced cardiac arrest report rich, vivid experiences despite decreases in cerebral blood flow.
• Many children have specific, documented memories of another lifetime, the details of which are historically verified in some cases. Consciousness, in these cases, does not appear to be localized to the brain.
Beyond this evidence, uncritically assuming the primacy of matter also comes at the expense of ignoring gaps in our knowledge, including:
We don’t know what consciousness is. Over many years, the nature of consciousness has gone from being scientific taboo to becoming one of the biggest questions in science.
• We don’t know what matter is. Over many years, physicists have refined our understanding of matter from that of balls and sticks to fields of energy that extend throughout space to abstract information to even mind.
• We are not trained in introspective practice. While many dabble in and even diligently practice introspection, there is no formal, systematic approach to this in medical school curricula.
• We are not trained in the basics of philosophy of mind or in the main points of wisdom traditions with centuries of experience in exploring the relationship between the subjective and objective world. Medical students need not be philosophers per se, but a certain love of wisdom is essential to be a doctor–a word that is derived, after all, from the Latin root to teach.
Dr Anoop argues that we need to critically think about consciousness but also to deepen and broaden our own experience across various disciplines (eg philosophy, physics, neuroscience, art, music, integrative medicine) and contemplative traditions.
The medical profession needs to to encourage and guide introspective practice that better equips the medical practitioner to see themselves and their patients more completely.
You can dig deeper into Dr Anoops writings here: anoopkumar.com
Featured image: Image by Ulrike Leone