Reply To: Inhibitory neurons at play between L+R prefrontal cortex

  • Don Salmon

    May 3, 2023 at 6:52 pm

    Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. I think McGilchrist has written 2 of the most essential, important books of the 21st century. So don’t think I’m putting down his work.

    I’m talking about practice, which, unless you can point to any place in his 4000 or so pages and countless videos that suggests otherwise, he doesn’t address at all (except to half heartedly mention “mindfulness” without giving any direction at all)

    Now this is really cool – you have suggestions in this latest comment for how neurological understanding can inform practice. Let’s take a look (remember – to date, Rick hansen has steadfastly admitted that there’s NOTHING in all of neuroscience you need to know to practice, learn, etc. And Rick is a neuropsychologist who has been teaching practice for well over 20 years)

    You write:

    in addition to the unconscious-conscious threshold, there is also a threshold between the hemispheres. That’s to say, in our typical understanding of “the unconscious,” we may conflate conscious contents arising from the true unconscious, as it were from beneath consciousness, with contents as it were coming across from the less verbal side of the brain.


    Ok, so let’s look at what psychologists know about this, and I’m going to include psychology from India. Let’s see if neuroscience adds anything.

    “The unconscious-conscious threshold.”

    Right away – if everything exists in Consciousness (and there’s no empirical evidence that even hints otherwise) there can’t be anything that’s actually “unconscious.” A better term of mental-consciousness and submental-consciousness.

    Now, is there any neuroscientific data that helps us understand this? In fact, you can’t tell from virtually any examination of the brain if consciousness is even present, so as far as any kind of mental/submental threshold, you can only know this from direct observation.

    From over a century of parapsychological investigation, replicated thousands of times, we know that it’s possible to shift to a state of consciousness where it is possible to step out of our ordinary mental consciousness to be directly aware of submental phenomena. Yogis refer to this as prana, the Chinese as chi, indigenous populations speak of “mana” and many other terms. Meanwhile, the neuroscientists – 95% of them – refuse to even accept parapsychological data and insist that the universe is dead, unconscious. So here we get no help from neuroscience at all.

    Now you speak of another axis – left/right hemisphere vs upper brain/lower brain (mental consciousness and submental consciousness).

    What happens when you examine these phenomena through direct observation rather than simply looking at neuroscientific studies (and remember, where does virtually ALL psychological data come from in neuroscience experiments – by asking individuals what they’re thinking and feeling. And the vast majority of subjects in neuroscience experiments are usually completely untrained in introspection – this is why Alan Wallace has neuroscientific experiments with people who have meditated 10 hours a day for 9 months first!)?

    This distinction between LH – psychologically, detached, selective attention and RH – psychologically, immersed global attention – has been described in virtually all contemplative literature, Christian, Vedantic, Buddhist, etc. Even Iain acknowledges this is not new. He says the neuroscience connection is helpful for modern skeptics, but it’s not at all new. That’s not a judgment just a fact. The astonishing observations in his books are from his intuition, not from the specific neurological experiments.

    So, in direct introspection, one learns to distinguish:

    A vast, non spatial, non temporal reality which is transcendent to the physical universe,

    An intuitive knowing, global, immersed

    A selective, analytic, detached attention

    Pranic/or submental instinctive energies

    A sense of a “separate me” which creates the illusion of a world of dead objects and dissociated subjects.

    A separate me which is not a single “me” at all but a collection of subpersonalities often at odds with each other

    an innermost center of consciousness which evolves through the ages, expressing through different physical bodies.

    A non-spatial, non temporal individuated Self which expresses through that innermost center and which is distorted in expression through the egoic dominated mind, heart, energy and body, but which can learn to express fully leading to a profoundly transformed mind body.

    Broad, universal fields of pranic consciousness, pervading the universe

    Broad universal fields of mental consciousness, pervading the universe

    Broad universal fields of intelligence beyond the mind, guiding all the forces in the universe.

    All of that from direct observation, none of it even remotely revealed by studying the physical brain.

    Once again, I’m not criticizing or judging Iain at all by saying this. In fact, HE SAYS ESSENTIALLY THE SAME THING.

    To get back to your specific point, in practice – whatever one thinks in theory – when you look at the utter, multi-layered complexity of your moment to moment experience, you’ll find infinitely varying mixtures of intuitive/analytic attention along with mental/submental consciousness, interacting with universal planes of consciousness all related to the non-spatial, non-mental infinite, eternal consciousness transcendent to all universes as well as the cosmic intelligence guiding it all.

    It’s certainly interesting to see some neurological correlations – but at the moment, we’re not even remotely approaching any IDEAS as to how to solve the hard problem of consciousness. We can’t even tell WHAT a person is thinking or feeling or attending to without asking them.

    It’s great, it’s fascinating, but I just want to be careful that we see it in perspective.