walling hicks consciousness
Welcome back! On today's show we discuss the ground-breaking work Consciousness: Anatomy of the Soul. Written by Peter Walling and Kenneth Hicks, this short little book takes aim at the Mt. Everest of scientific, religious, and philosophical questions - what is consciousness? Using mathematics, experiment, and probing insight, Walling and Hicks make a compelling case as to the nature, earthly evolution, and even the location of consciousness.

Described as a "thrilling romp through the last billion years," Consciousness: Anatomy of the Soul takes the reader down a rabbit-hole into a mathematical world of flat-land and hyperspace, toroids, and beyond. So join us today on the Truth Perspective as we discuss this breathtaking landscape and the implications it has for each of us on our own individual paths of evolution.

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Here's the transcript of the show:

Corey: Hello everyone, and welcome back to the Truth Perspective. My name is Corey Schink, and joining me today are Elan Martin.

Elan: Hi everyone.

Corey: ... and Harrison Koehli.

Harrison: Hello.

Corey: Today's show, we're going to be tackling a tiny little book that we recently read. It's called Consciousness, Anatomy of the Soul. It's only about 90 pages long but don't let the size fool you because it's dense, packed with information that will take you down the rabbit hole into a mathematical world of Flatland, hyperspace, toroids and on to the emergence of consciousness throughout evolution. Now, the book was published in 2009, but we're just getting to it. It is really quite a gem, it's really exciting in the territory that it breaks.

So in the preface one of the author writes, "I am a professional anesthesiologist. I know how to put people to sleep and then wake them up again. Having practiced this art for about 30 years, I became frustrated by the knowledge that although I knew how to turn consciousness on and off, I did not really understand what was going on. We knew a lot about consciousness, but not the most important bit, how to groups of neurons produce consciousness. We are immersed in the solution without knowing how we arrived there. It is in this process that I've set out to investigate."

And from there, developed a bit about his background, the authors Peter Walling and Kenneth Hicks, I believe both of them are anesthesiologists, but they write that, though there are so many millions of anesthesiologists studying how consciousness returns after people go unconsciousness, there are so few that are turning their attention and investigating the reality of consciousness itself. So that's exactly what he did and he set out to investigate the consciousness of all sorts of different life forms on his farm out in Texas. So where do you want to begin?

Harrison: Maybe to give a little background to understand why the things that they come up with in this book are so interesting because they're really tackling some of the main problems in consciousness. Who better to do it than an anesthesiologist, because, the point he's making is so we're trying to understand what it means to be aware, conscious, awake, and what happens when you anesthetize someone? Well they lose consciousness. That's what the evidence seems to suggest.

So, if you're looking for some kind of correlative consciousness in the brain, in some way, then it would make sense to compare a brain when it's anesthetized, to a brain that is normally functioning. So what these guys were actually able to do, is to take readings from people's brains, as well as like you mentioned, all kinds of other species. So basically to show what brain activity looks like during anesthesia and then how that activity changes as consciousness comes back, until a person becomes awake and aware. Then, when you have all of that data, you can look at the differences and the changes that happen over that period of time and you can compare that data with data from various different species.

The reason they use all these different species is to make the argument that frogs for instance, and fish, are pretty much the same as they were millions of years ago. So, you can get an idea by testing animals that are existent today of what that brain activity would have looked like millions of years ago. You can test an example of an organism that is similar to the earliest type of organisms that we have examples of living today, up to the most evolutionarily recent organisms which are humans. Then what they did is to take all this data and they plotted it, and showed essentially a progression of consciousness.

So you have, I don't have the image in front of me, but basically all these different species plotted over time and then they do their mathematical analyses on these brain waves that they measure, and then they actually come up with this linear graph. So you plot time on the bottom and what they call the "dimension attractors". We'll get back to what that means, on the y-axis, and you get this curve, a line, that goes from the bottom-left to the upper-right, and it's a straight line. That in itself is quite remarkable, that it shows a clear correlation, as if there's something that is increasing over time with the appearance of new species. So it seems like it's very closely linked to time. In fact I think they say that every 2 million or 4 million years...

Corey: I think that's 200 million years.

Harrison: Every 200 million years there's like another attractor dimension added. Again, like I said, we'll get into that. But, this gets into some of the problems we've been tackling in previous shows like when we were talking about Antonio Damasio's book, Strange Order of Things, because this is basically one of the questions that he had. He wanted to know when does consciousness start? This has been a question that philosophers, and psychologists, and biologists have been wondering for years, well for generations, when does consciousness start?

Of course when you look back at guys like Descartes, he kind of went backwards a bit in his thinking. He thought that only humans had consciousness and that all animals, maybe even babies - I can't remember if he thought that babies were just machines too and that you acquired consciousness at a certain amount of time - if he didn't that certainly others did, but Descartes for sure. He thought that animals, for instance your pet dog or pet cat, are just biological machines, they didn't have any awareness whatsoever. They were just like robots, essentially and that's why he could practice vivisection, because he didn't think that animals felt any real pain.

So this has been a question that has been plaguing consciousness studies people for years. When does consciousness actually appear in evolutionary history? As the years have progressed, they've been going further and further down the evolutionary tree of life, to the point where Damasio thinks that everything with a nervous system has consciousness. We've talked about David Ray Griffin and Alfred North Whitehead and their ideas. So David Ray Griffin also agrees that not everything has consciousness but, being a panpsychist like Thomas Nagel and Whitehead, he thinks that everything has some degree of awareness.

This is a question that we've grappled with. What's the difference between the two? How can something be aware but not conscious? What does consciousness really mean? Well, what Walling and Hicks define consciousness as this kind of the 3D representation of reality. So you're aware of your inner and outer environments, essentially. That's basically what Damasio said too, that with the development of the nervous system, that gives you the ability to image your environment, basically. So all this data that you're getting from all these organ systems, all of these nerves, all of these information receptors attached to your nervous system, that information forms images, and that basically creates a 3D image that helps you orient yourself in space and your body in space. You're aware of what's around you and your own body, of course, because your body is in space.

Now what Walling and Hicks found, through their analysis of the mathematics, their conclusion, their hypothesis of both, is that consciousness didn't appear until amphibians.

Corey: Yeah.

Harrison: So around when fish and frogs appeared. They'd say that their brain activity isn't complex enough to suggest that they might have consciousness. Again, we'll get into some of the reasons why they think that.

So these guys cut the line off a bit higher than Damasio did because Damasio would say that everything with a nervous system has some kind of inner 3D representation of the world. These guys are saying, well you actually have to get to the level of a frog. There are some vertebrates below that, but these guys would say they don't have what they would consider actual consciousness. So, right there that's an interesting thing, because one of the questions I grappled with, especially reading David Ray Griffin, is that he talks about consciousness and awareness and things like that, and of course, being a panpsychist he thinks that everything has some degree of awareness. But then, you wonder, like for a quadriplegic or something, there are activities going on in their body, but they don't have the connections within their nervous systems to get those signals to the brain. So it's like, they aren't conscious of the experience of their limbs. In a way that's kind of similar to anesthesia, because when you are under anesthesia, your body is still experiencing things, presumably. There's still pressure on your body as you're lying in the bed. You're still breathing, there's all these processes still going on, but you're just not aware of them

Where does that apply in the evolutionary history? At what point does an animal gain that awareness of themselves, or their environment, or both? It's really the mystery. No one really knows. And what can you say about the beings below that level? What do they experience? A panpsychist would argue, they'd have to experience something on some level. How do we describe that? Well, from reading this book, I think maybe the answer is there is some kind of experience going on, but it's an unconscious experience.

So just like whereas we are conscious, there are all kinds of things in our experience that we're not conscious of that are still going on. There's all these body processes going on, even things like subliminals. Subliminals affect us even though we're not aware of them. The number of things that affect our consciousness, that basically enter our minds as information that we're not aware of, vastly outnumbers the things that we are aware of. The sphere of our actual conscious awareness is very small compared to all the information in total that we are bringing in at any one given time.

He describes a frog's consciousness as "froggy consciousness" and it's kind of a pun on foggy consciousness because the idea being that there's some consciousness there, but compared to a human consciousness it would be relatively foggy, or froggy. There's some consciousness there, but it's a bit more simple. It's not as complex, it a bit vaguer, a bit foggier. So perhaps if you look at an amoeba - we discussed weeks ago, months ago - the possible consciousness of bacteria and cells and what must they experience. Well, there may be a certain type of experience but it would be very raw, very primitive, maybe just the inkling of like and dislike, that feels good, that doesn't feel good. So, there's some vague feeling or emotion, either positively or negatively valenced and that might be it.

Whereas with a more advanced nervous system, with a more complex apparatus for receiving and synthesizing all this information, then you get a better map, a better internal representation that is crisper, clearer and that's basically where we're at. It's hard to imagine what it might have been like, because we're just used to our own consciousness. We don't have the experience of what it's like to be an earthworm, or a frog or a chimpanzee.

Elan: Well, it's interesting because with his perspective as an anesthesiologist, he presents all of these dynamics at works when putting a person under. He talks about these various layers or faculties for human awareness that get slowly taken out of awareness, and he makes this point in order to establish the idea that as human beings, we're physically - designed isn't quite the word though we might go there if we wanted to - but we're constructed with these primitive or very basic nervous systems and things that kind of operate without our conscious input. It's layered over those things that we have the capacity via certain structures in our brain to have greater amounts of awareness.

That too reminded me of Damasio's book in the sense that perhaps it was out of some impetus on the part of human beings in evolution, maybe, that we grew towards these more complex, more involved structures of awareness and consciousness, on top of those more very basic, unconscious, primitive structures. So, that was very interesting to me. He looks at that as a kind of basis for which he examines consciousness and other issues of human awareness. What he also asks is not only when we might have developed these faculties for awareness and consciousness with all of these various complex and disparate parts working together to form a gestalt or a matrix of awareness of a given thing, through all of our different sensory inputs, but he also asks, where is consciousness. Is it the brain? Is it the mind? Are they two exactly the same? And his answer is no. There's something intrinsically non-physical to consciousness and awareness that suggests to him that there is something else involved.

So that was very interesting to me as well. It depends on how you define material, but the way our senses work together, including the percepts of ideas and knowledge suggest another kind of material that our beings, our selves are working to obtain understanding of, that there isn't only the physical object itself that one becomes aware of through various sensory inputs, but that there is a kind of non-localized, non-physical dynamic to the whole way in which we perceive something.

Harrison: Now let me read a couple things he says, because, these guys put this concept in the clearest language that I've read yet because it's an idea that is so self-evident once you think about it and once it's presented to you, that it seems so obvious - why haven't more people thought about it in this way? This is something that Whitehead was so great at, the really obvious once you hear them assumptions behind our own thinking and the categories of our own thought. This is specifically about what you were just saying Elan, if our perceptions aren't physical, then where are they? If they're not material then where are they in space? So, at one point they mention Bertrand Russell, they say that,

in 1926 Bertrand Russell reminded his readers in no uncertain terms that consciousness does not exist in physical space, but in non-physical, or perceptual space. The visual perception of a horse, for example, may result from looking at a flesh and blood equine, but the percept itself being a derivative of the percipient's brain function, is obviously not a physical object.

Physical and perceptual space have relations, but they are not identical, and failure to grasp the difference between them is a potent source of confusion.

Well, people are still confused about that because it's still not widely acknowledged as just a self-evident fact. A few pages later, they write:

And yet we all experience consciousness. We live in the answer to the problem. It is beginning to seem as though the way that neurons produce consciousness may be completely counterintuitive. The obvious answers have failed to satisfy. The low-hanging fruit has gone. We may have to look in unexpected places, not because the usual answers are not well-thought out, but because some of the features of the problem seem to be outside the realm of ordinary three-dimensional space and time. If the percept of the horse which you look at is not a physical object existing in physical space, it cannot be expected to have a physical location within the three pounds of pulsating neural tissue which reside between your ears. If the percept does not exist in physical space, surely it must exist in non-physical space.

Like, wow! What a concept! It's totally clear, it makes sense, right? If it's not in physical space, it must be in non-physical space. This is something which I've been trying to say in probably not as clear terms over the past months, is that there is such a thing as non-physical space.

So this is where they look, and how do they do that? Well, I mentioned these things called attractor dimensions. I'm sure that everyone listening has probably seen a readout of an EEG. It's basically just a bunch of spikes. If you're not sure if you've seen an EEG before, think of the TV shows or movies that you've watched where they've done a lie detector test. You've got the moving pin on a paper going back and forth and recording signals. It might be skin conductance, but the principle is the same. When you measure brain activity, you get these ups and downs that can be plotted on a graph, and those are the excitations and inhibitions in certain brainwaves in certain frequencies and that is a readout of the electrical activity in your brain. The thing that they do is, basically you can analyze any graph like that using basic mathematical formulae. I don't understand the math, I'm not a mathematician. But, when you do that, you can find patterns.

So they give the example of a pendulum. A pendulum swings back and forth in a clock, and the rules of the pendulum system are gravity and the spring in the clock which gives it the force to be able to keep going. When you plot that on a graph, like the velocity of the pendulum over time, you get a sine wave. When it goes up, it goes faster a bit, and then when it goes to the right, it stops. Then it picks up speed again, goes to the left and then it stops. So it's this sine wave. But when you plot the two factors, the two forces, the two influences on that system, what you get is what is called an attractor, and this is a visual representation in one dimension. It's a circle. Let me see if I can find the way he describes it without reading the whole chapter. [laughter] 'll just read a few paragraphs Hopefully this will get it across without seeing the pictures, because the pictures really help.

Consider the pendulum of a clock that is powered by a wound spring. The pendulum controls the release of the stored energy by periodically allowing the escape wheel to rotate, thereby putting the wheels in motion, and causing a small movement of the clock's hands. In return, the escape wheel gives the pendulum a nudge with every swing by virtue of its downstream communication with the spring. Dynamics - (this is a technical term) - are the rules by which this system operates

So, let's look at the bob on the end of the pendulum. It changes position and it changes velocity. If we plot the positional change from side to side on the x-axis, and the velocity change up and down, on the y-axis, we can follow the whole cycle. The dynamics are described by a zero-dimensional point travelling through phase space.

So phase space is like a mathematical representation of all the possible states of the system. So in this system, the only things that can affect the system are velocity and position. So, all the possibilities of velocity and position for this pendulum can be plotted on the graph, x- and y-axis, and the form that it takes is a circle. So, again, really get the book so you can see the image, but the point being that it makes a circle, so as the pendulum moves back and forth, you can plot this by a point going around a circle on this plot, showing the interaction of velocity and position. So, if you're watching the pendulum swing back and forth, you'll see on this attractor, the point going around the circle, for every full swing back and forth, and it's just constantly going in a circle, and it just repeats over and over, because it's a periodic system. The system just does the same thing over and over. So, he says "It's a zero-dimensional point travelling through phase space. The point is plotting the instantaneous change of velocity versus position. The trajectory of this zero-dimensional point produces a one-dimensional orbit."

Because it's basically just a line looping back on itself. So it doesn't have even a second dimension because there's nothing in the space between. It's just one progression through a line in space that recurs back towards it's starting point. "The orbit represents the ongoing solution to the dynamical interaction between gravity pulling the pendulum downwards and the clock spring which tends to fling the pendulum outwards."

By plotting these points on a graph, you get a visual representation, a mathematical shape that represents the rules to this system. For example, with a pendulum there are two rules to the system and they produce this very simple shape, just a circle and it just keeps going. But you can do the same thing with more complex systems, and those give different attractor shapes.

There's a point attractor. This would be like if you imagine a kind of spiral that goes in on it self to the middle, then spirals out, then goes to the middle. So this is like a system that's always trying to achieve it's original equilibrium then it gets to that point, and then that's all it does. It's just going to one point. It's only got one end point. And then there's the periodic attractor which is just the circle, and then a toroidal one. Oh sorry, I missed one. The circle is actually the limit cycle, it's linear. And then there's a periodic cycle, which is non-linear. You've got like a spiral on the left side, and then it goes over and it spirals on the right side, and then it goes back. So there are more factors involved, but it's still obeying a set pattern, and then there's a toroidal pattern that stretches out, now there's another dimension.

So it's like circles spiralling around in a donut shape. And then, you've got chaotic attractors which are like fractal. Those are in probably three dimensions. So basically, just to say that, when you're looking at a system that has different rules determining the functioning of this system. Different, um...

Elan: Dynamics?

Harrison: Dynamics. Well, there's a word that I'm searching for that I can't find. Conditions, maybe. So, you've got seven different conditions all necessary for this system to work normally. That would be a very complex attractor if you were to graph the interactions of all these parts.

Corey: Right, and he writes that when you bump into the pendulum that we're talking about, then it's going to be disturbed, but the fact that the attractor, that periodic or limit attractor is still there, means that it's going to be gradually attracted back to that position. I think this is the really important part of this, because these attractors all have dimensions, and they're all mathematical entities that exist in what he would call the mathematical space or the mathematical matrix, which he posits is the trellis on which evolution evolved and the universe still functions, because even before Newtonian physics, the earth still followed this Newtonian orbit. The different fractal patterns that we see in nature are the underlying evidence of this mathematical structure which is this guiding force that propels or really, structures reality.

Another thing that I wanted to mention was the idea of the EEG readout. It's a one-dimensional readout, but it's a one-dimensional readout of a multi-dimensional thing. I think that's what they're getting at when they're analyzing this. They're taking this dimension and then they're trying to reconstruct it to its original dimension as you see it evolve over time like you see with frogs. I think they said that the three dimensional is when consciousness first occurs.

Harrison: Right.

Corey: Right, but then at that point in time that it occurred, they got into the details about what they posited was the actual situation and it was when animals first had to combine the visual sensory inputs to motor outputs and they needed a mathematical equation in order to do this, so they posit consciousness originated in this mathematical space, this completely non-physical mathematical space that underlies all of existence and which is really quite fascinating to imagine, that consciousness could have come out of that space, given that it is universal, and it is such an eternal object, as we've discussed previously in the show, this idea that consciousness and mathematics go hand-in-hand.

Harrison: Let's go back up to the EEG readout, and then we'll circle back using our linear attractor to where you got to. Like you said, the EEG readout is the zero-dimensional plot, just a point. What I was getting at with that introduction was the way to analyze that is then to put it through these mathematical programs, to then find out what is that one-dimensional readout a representation of? What are the attractors that will produce that readout? There's a pattern there, just like there's a sine wave that will show up like a linear attractor, just like a circle, right? With a more complex zero-dimensional readout, there will be a more complex attractor that produces that zero dimensional readout.

So you have to go to a higher dimensions. What they do is by analyzing the EEGs of all these species, they can find out how complex the factors are that are contributing to the complexity of that EEG. If you look at a frog one, for instance - I think frogs were the first that achieved the three-dimensional attractor - or when you look at a human multitasking, it goes up to the five point something dimensions, above five dimensions.

What that means is for that level of consciousness, you need five different conditions, five factors, five rules that are all determining the specific dynamics of that particular state of consciousness. That's what that linear progression over time was. Simple organisms had a zero-to-one-dimensional consciousness. That means the system of their consciousness, their EEG readout. was so simple, that you only needed one or two conditions to explain all the complexity of that electrical activity in that organism. Then when you get up to frogs it's actually complex enough that you need three dimensions in order to understand it and presumably in order to experience that level of consciousness. With higher levels of consciousness, with humans, we need five dimensions to describe the complexity that the actual brain activity that we're putting out at any given time while multitasking.

You mentioned the need to coordinate and synthesize all this information. When we look at the three-dimensional cut off point, he gives the example of the lobster; the noble lobster. This was an interesting thing too. He's got a little diagram, so again; get the book so you can see the picture. Imagine a lobster looking out into space. It sees its food. Now how is it going to get that food? If it's really simple, and it can only think about one thing at the same time, it sees the food, the food exists in relation to its eye. Say it's 30 degrees from its eye. If you can only think about one thing at a time, you're never going to be able to get the food into your mouth, because you're never going to be able to grab it, you're never going to be able to get to it because you have to introduce a new dimension, essentially, another condition, another factor into your perception in order to - this is all unconscious remember - to see that food and say "That's 30 degrees away. Now my pincer is however degrees away from my eye." There has to be an inner calculation that goes on to adjust for that. "OK, it's 30 degrees away from my frame of reference, but my pincer is this far away from my frame of reference, so therefore, it is that far away from the food." And then, there are two joints between the pincer and the equivalent of the shoulder. So, basically there's a complex mathematical calculation that has to go on in order to grab that food and put it into my mouth, if I'm a lobster.

That just reminds me, an intuitive representation of this that you can find on Facebook or YouTube is those memes of cats calculating in their mind the jump that they're going to make. You see all the math equations going by on the screen as they are calculating, and they miss their target and it's funny. It's funny because it's actually true, they're all kinds of these unconscious calculations going on. No one who throws a baseball actually does the physical calculations in their mind in order to figure out how hard to throw it, and what direction to throw it. It's this intuitive process. Anyone who's ever thrown it, knows that. It's just something that you gain by practice, and that you just feel. You just feel the equations. The calculations are going on somewhere, certainly not consciously. What they're basically saying is, at that point in time, in evolutionary history, there needed to be something that did those calculations and they needed to be done somewhere and where are they done? Well, again, where is math done? It's done in non-physical space, it's done in mathematical space.

So, there are several implications of this. You mentioned one that they suggest, by going through all of this, that that's where consciousness actually is, because that's where the calculations are being done. That's where all of this stuff is being processed, and calculated. The math is basically pre-existent. Like you said, when you disrupt the system, like the pendulum system, it will waver a bit, but it will find its equilibrium again. That's why it's called an attractor. It is attracted to that state and it will naturally force itself back into resonance with those dynamics.

What does that suggest? Their suggestion and the suggestion that we've made, based on Whitehead and David Ray Griffin is that these mathematical objects, these eternal objects are actually pre-existent. They actually exist at some level of reality that is more fundamental than the physical world and that physical reality is attracted to these mathematical rules, essentially. That's why things stay in their orbits. That's why there's gravity. That's why there's physics because we can mathematically describe the dynamics of systems. We can describe the mathematical ways in which they interact, the rules by which they interact, and the rules by which they exist and change. They are like laws, essentially. That's why we call them laws, because they seem like these unchanging rules.

Now, they may change, like we've seen in the past too. like what Rupert Sheldrake suggests. They may be consistent and universal, but they're not necessarily set in stone. Laws may evolve over time, but that's beside the point. The point is that the math is primary in this sense.

So, just like the pendulum will be attracted back to that specific attractor, there are consciousness attractors, basically rules by which our consciousness operates, and we're not aware of them. We're only aware of the three-dimensional space in which we exist, but the consciousness is actually acting, especially when we're multitasking, at a higher dimensional level. It's basically operating in five dimensions.

Elan: It's interesting, because the title of the book again is Consciousness: Anatomy of the Soul. He starts out his book by saying, as an anesthesiologist, he's aware of stories, or just a person who is curious and interested, of people who have experienced the near-death experience of a tunnel, or astral projection. He makes the point very earlier on in the book that he's not going to really look at those things. But I think he mentions them as place marks or suggestions that these would be the reasons why he's coming at the question of consciousness in as scientific a way as he possibly can. I think one of the great metaphors of the book is his description of a novella that is called Flatland. He has some interesting observations about that, that kind of go to explain why he's going about explaining the problem or the existence of consciousness in the way that he is. I'm just going to read a bit about it. He says,

"Flatland is 2D world created by Edwin A. Abbott in the 19th century. The main character in this novella is a square. He lives in a 2D world which is as flat as a piece of paper. The inhabitants are free to move about on or in the surface, but without the power to rise above, or to sink below it. A house is a polygon, one line of which hinges open and shut like a door. We feel the limitations of living in Flatland, while knowing that there really is a 3D world. It is easy for us to extrapolate from 2D to our 3D world by analogy.

This allegory helps us to accept higher dimensions after our descent into an imaginary lower dimensional world. A Flatlander cannot see a 3D object, just like the line, like edges of the other Flatlanders. In this story, a sphere from Space Land, approaches Flatland with the intention of convincing the square that a higher dimension exists. What happens when the sphere approaches Flatland and passes right through it? An observer Flatlander sees a spot appear, then a circle getting bigger and bigger, 'til the equator of the sphere intersects Flatland. Then he sees the circle getting smaller and smaller till it disappears.

As the sphere passes through this 2D world, Mr. Square can only see a circle getting bigger, then smaller. When Sphere passes through Flatland, Square only sees a spot getting bigger then smaller, like a series of circular disks. (So, again, another reason to get the book so you can visualize this process or interaction between the sphere and the flat square.) A Flatlander cannot see the sphere, but it is possible for him to construct the sphere in his perceptual space. But is it? (So that's the question). If the Flatlander is able to see the sphere, we might get a clue as to how our brain works in greater than 3D. Suppose the Flatlander can retain the image of each disk for a little while and suppose he is able to "stack" these images in his conscious moment.

As the stacked disks accumulate in his perceptual space, the sphere will gradually take shape, and he will have overcome the prior restrictions of his 2D physical world and will be able to "see" the higher dimensional object in his mind's eye. In this way, Square's mind can function in a higher dimension than 2D, in a 2D world, which in his body he is trapped. He is able to function above his "pay grade". The human brain exhibits synchronous activity with "phase transitions" occurring in time with gamma activity. These may be the cinematographic slices of data, which are then laminated like the honey spoon to form a multi-dimensional, conscious moment.

Harrison: Honey spoon?

Elan: Honey spoon, thank you!

Harrison: The holy spoon!

Elan: The holy spoon [laughter] That's what my brain turns into.

Harrison: It's more fitting.

Elan: And finally he says:

We know that the dimensions of brain dynamics during anesthesia are between about 1.5D to 2.5D. We know that 2D dynamics are unable to represent anything as complicated as consciousness, from the Poincaré-Bendixson theorem, which is one of the central results of non-linear dynamical theory.

Harrison: Let me just interrupt you for a second, to show how that relates back to something we said earlier. The reason they are able to hypothesize that creatures below the level of frogs, amphibians, don't have consciousness, is because when you analyze their EEGs you only get an attractor dimension that's between 1 to 2 dimensions. The equivalent of that state in humans, is a human that is unconscious, that is under anesthesia. So, basically they're going by analogy.

If the only time that a human EEG equals 1 to 2 dimensions is when they're unconscious, then another animal with the same EEG wouldn't be conscious. They're saying that basically that there's no way to be conscious that we know of as a human when your brain activity is only describable in 1 to 2 dimensions. If an animal's brain activity is only describable in 1 to 2 dimensions, then they shouldn't be conscious. so that's how they reach that conclusion. I just wanted to point that out just to show that they're not just guessing that anything below 3 wouldn't be conscious, because the only data that we have which is, admittedly, from ourselves, is that it's just not possible, it just doesn't work. They haven't encountered a human that is conscious that shows brain activity that is that simple, that lacks complexity to that degree.

Elan: Well, just to say, in reading that, what came to mind and he says this later in the chapter, this analogy of a Flatlander perceiving the square through imaginal space, through the precepts of thinking and perception as a series of slices that form the sphere and allow him to perceive through his critical faculties, a sphere when he normally can't perceive a sphere, is just a great metaphor for the book. You're getting all of these various slices that we're getting on the idea as 3D beings, kicking this up a notch, that we can, at least in theory perceive not only consciousness, but a higher dimensional reality, at least on a very basic level, at least the very idea that it exists or that we can take pieces of information and at least attempt to map some kind of hypothesis, that if a 2Der can possibly perceive a 3D dimension, maybe it's possible for us to understand the possibility that there is more beyond our 3D awareness.

Harrison: Well, I think the immediate question that they are answering with that section, is that when you have that hypothetical 2D creature who is conceiving of a three dimensional reality, like they point out, it can't actually perceive the sphere, but it can hold in mind the slices of the sphere to get an approximation of the sphere. It would look more like the honey spoon, basically. If you haven't seen a honey spoon, it's a bunch of disks of increasing size that get a bit bigger, then a bit smaller. So, the correlation they're making to brain activity is that if consciousness is operating at this higher dimensional level, how do we bring that down to our third dimensional level? How is the brain able to translate that higher dimensional information into its three dimensional form.

The idea that they come up with, like they mentioned, there are these phase transitions that are measurable in brain activity. Again, not being a mathematician, I probably won't describe this very accurately, but I'll try. When you have this progression of attractors, from point to linear to periodic to toroidal to chaotic, that can be a representation of a phase transition, basically. You look at a signal, and then it'll get unstable, and then it'll just jump to a new level of complexity that's not the same as the one before it. You can't determine the phase change by just the dynamics of the initial attractor, the initial dynamics of the system.

So there's something new that gets introduced into the system to jump it to a new level. So you observe the brain activity, and so they're wondering "What might the relation be?" Their hypothesis is that these phase transitions are like the slices. One phase transition will be one slice, the next phase transition will be the next slice of a higher dimensional object, like a higher dimensional construct or conscious something, who even really knows how to describe it? So, the way that the brain is actually able to bring that higher dimensional operation down into our level is through memory because what they say is the brain will keep these streams, these slices in mind to reconstruct that higher dimensional structure.

This means that consciousness can't exist at an instant. It has to be this recursive, self-looping process where you have one slice, and then another slice, and then as that second slice comes you have to keep the first slice in mind. Then as the third one comes, you have to keep the previous two in mind. It's this looping structure, and it's only after a little period of time where you have all of these different slices that you've got the full object. It can only translate itself into our three-dimensional realm through this series of slices through time. You have to have memory. We wouldn't be able to have consciousness without memory.

They've calculated this because it's based on known processes. This is based on the time it will take for different signals to get transmitted throughout your body and your nervous system and your brain. They say that there's a window, of 10 to 30 frames at 40 Hz, into which this data has to be fit. It's kind of like a rolling average. If you've ever looked at a graph of data, where you're measuring a crime rate or something, so you've got the years 1970 to 1975, and you take the average, and then that would give you one plot on your bar graph. And then you take 1971 to 1976, and that will give you another average. So you're using some of the same data, in each plot on your graph. they call it a rolling average, the average changes within and over these 5-year chunks. So it's the same thing with consciousness, and the brain activity. We're getting these slices, it's a rolling average, not necessarily an average, but a rolling combination or synthesis of all of these slices over time, and it's constantly looping back on itself as it progresses through time.

One of the things that they write is that "the slow neural transmission rates are compensated by a slow fade of information during the conscious moments." What they actually mean by that is that they point out that consciousness, in its physical representation as brain activity, is actually very slow. You can compare it with the speed of light, it's like a turtle. It's a very slow process. But the advantage of that slowness, the slowness of light reflected from an object that you see to enter your eye through the nerves into your visual cortex, the time that that takes, is actually quite slow compared to the speed of light. But, the time that that takes allows the necessary time for those phase transitions to take place that we can then construct the picture based on taking all these slices of the higher dimensional calculations that are going on and bringing them back to earth, to three dimensions, to then be conscious of them.

Corey: I think it's really fascinating how they bring this section up to solve what they called the unified or the binding problem. Like you said, you have this light coming into your eyes, let's say you're looking at your dog, the light's reflecting off the dog, and you're getting this visual information. Then you're touching your dog and you're getting this sensory information, then you have emotional memories, you can smell the dog. How does all of that become unified, and bound together into one, coherent, conscious experience? They talk about the stacking of all of this bioelectric mathematical storm that's going on if you're connected to an EEG and you see all of that. It seems, from what they describe, it was digitized, and then rendered into a conscious experience through that process. All the information entered into this stream, or a storm rather, and became a conscious experience of a higher dimension, than it was originally inputted on.

Harrison: Right. Because like I said earlier, without the ability to operate in these higher dimensions to put all the stuff together, we'd only be able to think one thing at a time, and if you can only think one thing at a time, we wouldn't really be able to think anything because we wouldn't be able to put anything together. This won't work exactly, but it would be like seeing the dog, but you can't feel it, or smell it, or remember it, or remember your emotional experiences of it. Or you can only feel your emotional memories of it, or you can only smell it, or you can only feel it. There has to be a way to integrate all of these different perceptions together to form the one thing that we think of when we see our dog or that we experience when we see our dog. The dog, our dog. There are all these different streams of information that have to go together in order to just have the concept, or the experience of your dog, or of anything.

So that's a way into describing how all of these things fit together. You have these attractors that are higher dimensional, visual, mathematical representations of dynamical systems with various input variables. Those different dynamics, the rules governing that dynamic system are the different input variables. Those might be, like you said, your emotional memories, the tactile sensations, the visual perceptions, the smells, etc. All those different streams of information have to go together and those are the rules acting on the dynamical system that can be represented in that higher dimensional shape, that then get translated back into 3D through this recursive self-looping memories system, that integrates. Each slice is one bit of that picture that then gets put together to form this conscious percept. So the more information streams you have, the more variables, then, the higher dimension the attractor will be that describes that.

Corey: The more chaotic it'll be, the less predictable.

Harrison: Right, right!

Elan: So what does he say about chaos exactly? That ability to perceive all of these things in their various slices could not exist without the element of chaos and that it's this non-physical, non-local perception of all of these things through memory, through conscious awareness? Because you can't necessarily predict, you can't put all these parameters directly onto the perception of something. There has to be some kind of chaotic element that's non-linear.

Corey: What I remember he said about chaos is that as systems are energized, they transform from the lower, one-dimensional limit cycle attractor on. He writes, "They go from the limit cycle, to the periodic, to the toroidal, to the chaotic." And you see examples of each of these in nature, like we've talked about the pendulum, and then the periodic would be like a bouncing ball, I think cell division was used as an example that I read of the toroidal. He didn't use that example in the book. Then the chaotic, which would be like the fractals. You can look up some of these chaotic, strange attractors and look at the entities as they've been graphed by physicists and mathematicians. They're stunning, how beautiful they are, how strange! There's a reason they're called strange attractors. Basically, the more energy that you put into the system, he never specifies what kind of energy that is going in.

Harrison: No, he does though, that's the gamma frequencies.

Corey: Oh, right, the gamma frequencies, right, yep.

Harrison: Because there seems to be a particular feature of human brain activity. There's this constant background gamma activity. They hypothesize that this background activity is creating a state of readiness or potential for the brain. It makes it more sensitive. So, it takes less input to affect the system. It's being in a state of readiness as opposed to being lazy on the couch. If you're alert and ready, if one of your friends wants to play a trick on you and throw something at you, you're ready to catch it, as opposed to being so lazy that it hits you in the face. So your brain is ready to go into action and make all of these changes, or whatever. They hypothesize that this state, this brain state, this gamma activity is the readiness potential of the brain that will then allow it to do other things, or just be conscious maybe.

To get back to what you were asking about, Elan, about the chaos, one of the things they were pointing out - I don't know for sure, if they're saying what you said in the way that you phrased it, about chaos being necessary.

Elan: That's basically what I was saying.

Harrison: But I think I get where you're going with that. I think for sure they're getting at something similar. So, for example, when we were talking about EEGs and consciousness attractors from the 1 to 2D level, they say that 1 to 2D systems have very limited dynamical possibilities. They have fixed trajectories and that would be the equivalent of, like the examples Corey gave, the pendulum or a bouncing ball. There's not a lot of options for those systems. They can either swing back and forth, or bounce up and down, or not, essentially, and that's it. So there's not a lot of choice.

An example in the biological world might be at a 2D-ish level, it's just like a stimulus-response machine, kind of like what Descartes might have hypothesized, not strictly stimulus response but those are the options available for certain creatures. So certain creatures are so simple, that they basically only have the choice of 'go towards', or 'get away from', 'eat, or don't eat'. These very simple binary choices. There's not a lot of room to maneuver, not a lot of equality for opportunity for these lower-level creatures. But at the 3D level and higher, they write that "The trajectories can wander around forever without settling down to a fixed point or a closed orbit." So that's why you need three dimensions to describe these attractors. Just imagine a point in space going all over the place, rotating and moving, and imagine it doing so where it never does the same thing twice. It never crosses it's original orbit. I think that would be the chaotic, strange attractor where it creates this really complex weird shape that never repeats itself. It's not periodic like the periodic attractor, it's not like a point attractor where it's always doing the same thing. It's very complex. You can look at any part of it and not get a representation of the full thing because it doesn't repeat and it never intersects on itself.

So, they describes that, the strange attractor is aperiodic, so it never repeats itself and it's sensitive to tiny changes, and when that happens, they say "chaos looms." What that means is that it opens up unlimited possibilities. As simple as a frog is, let me think if it would have unlimited possibilities. Well it's got a lot of possibilities for sure. Not as many as humans, but it can jump all over the place [laughter]. It can do a lot of things. It's not as simple as just an amoeba moving towards something and moving away from it and ingesting food and expelling it. There's a lot more complexity to it. But when you think about it in these terms, they don't mention this, but the thing that I thought of is essentially, free will, specifically, from the perspective of the way that David Ray Griffin talks about it.

Free will is the number of options available to you, the number of possibilities you have. Something with more possibilities than another thing has greater free will. The more possibilities you have, the greater is your freedom to choose. If you only have one or two choices, one or the other, that's not a lot of freedom. But if you've got a million choices, or infinite choices, that's a lot of freedom, the idea being that human consciousness is at a degree of complexity where there are exponentially more possibilities open to a human consciousness than there are to a frog's consciousness, or whatever it is that something below the level of a frog has. There are more possibilities for choice, for action. One of the implications of just the shapes of these attractions would be is that you have the possibility at least of never doing the same thing twice, or of something new happening. Of course, that doesn't mean that's going to be the case.

Corey: It doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be good, either. [laughter]

Harrison: Right, right! Leaving the mathematical explanations and just getting down to practical life, think about it like this. You can be a simple attractor. You can operate on the principles of a simple attractor by just doing the same thing in your life every day and never learning anything new, never doing anything new, never trying anything new. Everyone knows people like that, who just stay the same and just do the same over and over. There's nothing new that gets introduced in their life, and if it does get introduced, it's by accident. It's from the external world. It's spontaneous from their perspective. They're hit by tragedy, or they're walking down the street and they get into an accident. That's not something that they actually brought into their own lives, necessarily, through their own conscious choice, necessarily. They're just in that periodic attractor, just going back and forth between their two routines or something like that.

You can compare that person to someone who is constantly searching, constantly exposing themselves to new experiences, constantly trying to better themselves by breaking out of those old dynamical systems, and trying to gain more freedom, trying to use that freedom, and then seeing what comes with that freedom. That's not always necessarily a pleasant thing.

Corey: But it's also implied that it's a necessity, if you look at their evolutionary chart. Over evolutionary time, the dimension attractors only increase. So as a human being, you don't want to go back to froggy brain! [laughter] That's obviously a choice that you can make since we do live in a universe of free will. But, the way forward is through those chaotic attractors, even if it is another 200 million years from now, at least you're contributing to something.

Elan: I was thinking that this book is a kind of attractor, Consciousness-Anatomy of the Soul, that's the big hook, right? That we can somehow affirm the existence of a soul through consciousness and all of its workings, and that maybe that is the next level that in trying to break out of those NPC dynamics that you were describing a moment ago, Harrison that acknowledging and processing the possibility that consciousness suggests the existence of a soul within us, is that place that we have an impetus towards moving towards and to understanding and considering, and thinking about, and becoming closer to in some way.

That's how I take it. What Walling does towards the end of the book is bring it all together in some ways, and does a brief review of what religion and philosophers and scientists have all done to acknowledge the existence of a soul. It's a kind of point of departure that we can leave the book with because he's saying that he's the scientist in this case. If it's not exactly the soul that he's describing, then at least it's an expanded understanding of what consciousness is, in all of its complexity, and the fact that there's more than just these 2D stimulus response things at work. There's much more involved.

So what do you guys think? Do you think that established - because it's a leap. Things have consciousness. People have complex levels of awareness and layers of things that kind of congeal to form a perception of something bigger. But does that suggest the existence of a soul, exactly?

Corey: I think that the point of the book was to point the way forward for future researchers, for people who would be interested and intrigued by the possibility of empirically discovering these higher dimensions. So I think in that case, I think they broke new ground for sure. I'm not a mathematician, so I can't say for sure. The mathematicians out there, that's who they wrote the book for, the people who are able to go and do the computations. But, I think that they obviously established the importance of mathematics in the universe in general as the objects that structure the backbone of the universe and by providing a mathematical explanation, a way to chart out the mathematical realities of the consciousness or the soul, they have done a huge service to humanity I think to humanity and to the mind.

Harrison: Yeah.

Corey: Because that's so big in terms of people these days needing proof. I don't think we could turn back time and say, "It's time to go back to the one and old time religion, the one living god you have to worship." I think that in order to move forward, really, humanity needs a real, empirical understanding of these higher dimensions that's based in the traditions of science and mathematics and that can be proven or disproven. It was published in 2009. Who knows if it would make a real huge impact in the universities these days since they're crumbling all around. But, I think that the world is a better place for the work that they've done.

Harrison: I think one of the hidden assumptions behind the book is naturally a philosophical one. The whole book hinges on this idea of mathematical realism. So, I think that one of the points of attack for materialists would be that math isn't real, essentially because that is an argument among philosophers, essentially that mathematics is a human creation. I think it's a nonsensical one, but it's very popular in various schools of thought, that what we think of as mathematics is really just our sense-making of the way of the world and the way things work and that mathematics doesn't have any extrinsic, external reality whatsoever. That's why we talked about it in previous shows and I think why Whitehead's philosophy is so important, because that really doesn't make sense. You won't be able to convince these people that the opposite is true, but the opposite is the only thing that makes sense.

These guys have got just enough common sense, that it just seems obvious to them. They think that "Oh, if this system operates on these mathematical principles, on these rules, if this dynamical system operates according to these rules, those dynamics must be like the trellis. They must be the non-physical template in which these things operate and grow or move or whatever." So there's a place for mathematical realism, for these actual, existing mathematical objects.

So people who don't want to believe will reject that outright. They say 'mathematical objects don't really exist'. Well, really they must and they do, but you won't be able to convince anyone of that. But as for the question of the soul, I don't know if I'd say that they'd definitely have a slam dunk case, but it is very interesting and suggestive. Like Corey, not being a mathematician, I can't totally even understand a lot of the things that they say, because I don't know a lot of the math that they use to analyze these EEGs, right? I have to take their word for it that it describes what they're saying it describes.

But, from what I can follow, in their argument, and based on my own philosophical presuppositions, it makes sense that the idea that some process can only be described using higher dimensions in mathematical space. This is like an abstract realm of mathematics, right? It's not necessarily a physical, higher dimension. It is a mathematical representation of a higher dimension. If you need those dimensions in order to describe a physical process, then those mathematical dimensions must exist in some form. And, I'd say they must exist abstractly, at the very least, non-physically. So there is something that we know of as a mathematical space in which these things are true and in which they operate.

Now, we might have access to this to some degree in the sense that mathematicians do when they do these mathematics and understand them, but anything more than that is harder to speculate about, but it's very suggestive that consciousness seems to operate only according to the rules of a higher dimensional system. It seems to only to operate in mathematical hyperdimensional space. So that is very interesting. And if mathematical objects are pre-existent, if they are the things in which physical things move and grow and live, then that seems like a dead ringer for the description of the soul. It seems like a more precise description of what the word "soul" is attempting to describe, is this source of consciousness, this complex thing which acts as an attractor to our consciousness, which pulls us towards certain things, and gives shape not only to our thoughts, but then our actions and our lives. That seems to be going in the direction of something very religious or very spiritual. We get there through this kind of abstract, mathematical calculation. So that's what I'd say about that.

Corey: Right, it gives this vision of god the father, this divine mind that oversees all creation and guides it along it's way. It's really interesting, but like you said, they have these philosophical presuppositions, right. But it's almost refreshing that they have the ones that they do, because it's so refreshing to see science done by people who have this open mind, such an open mind to exploring questions in such an innovative way, taking EEGs of frogs, and fish and humans. It's not like it's being funded by King's College or something. It's just two men doing science in a quest to understand the unknown and offering the knowledge to other people, to either prove or disprove.

Elan: And he's not afraid at the end of the book to quote from philosophers and the Bible in their affirmation of the soul, as a non-physical, non-temporal, non-spatial thing that exists on its own as it were. Like you were saying, Harrison, he is addressing directly the materialist point of view where the brain is the mind, the brain is the soul, and that's it. He pretty much says it flatly, plainly, "We beg to disagree." This is something that exists outside of consciousness and what we can infer from consciousness and the way that awareness works does fall outside of time and space in many ways. So, why not take this as a point of departure for thinking about how a soul may be said to exist in some form or fashion.

Corey: Right, he says that consciousness, we believe, is only part of the soul.

Harrison: I want to just restate two of the concepts and then get into just a couple of possible implications in our last 10 or 11 minutes of the show today. First a quote to summarize where they're coming from:

Dynamical processes unfold in a strange, non-physical space and consciousness is so closely linked to dynamical brain changes that we believe that this is the kind of space in which consciousness must reside.

That's just a summary of their main argument. Now getting back to one of the points that we made about the binding process that you mentioned, Corey, basically, we have these different streams of information, these different inputs that all need to be integrated. So something needs to be happening to integrate, synthesize, bind all of these input streams to act as one system. What they're arguing is you need phase space, you need higher dimensional space, higher mathematical, abstract space in order to coordinate all these systems. That's the example they gave of the lobster, and basically to coordinate visual and motor systems. So, you need a higher dimensional abstract mathematical space in order to coordinate just your visual and motor systems, just in order to grab your beer, or zero-carb soda. It's kind of the requirement. That's why I think they make a good case. Their logic makes sense, according to me, according to my little brain.

You've got all of these different body systems and neural systems. They're all doing the same thing, and it's these higher dimensional attractors that unify them, that give them all unity and allow them to all operate in the same system. So it's what makes you, you. Otherwise, you'd be this mess of different systems all operating at cross-purposes and not working together. There needs to be something that makes all your systems work together. If you think about just the vast number of things going on in your body at any one given time, something needs to be coordinating all those. They need to be cooperating to some degree. Think about all the cells you have in your body, all the different processes, that all the different types of cells engage in. Even within the cells there are multiple different processes that are going on at all times, and they all need to be working together, otherwise your body will fall apart, you'll die!

So, there's some great mystery about how all of that works. Again, what they're arguing, is this seems to be how it all works. You need a higher dimensional system, a higher order system that takes all these input variables, and then gives another input from above to coordinate them and keep them all in check, all within the dynamics of the system. Getting back to something you said earlier in the show, Elan, this is kind of a way of thinking about the nervous system in general. Like you said, the way the nervous system is structured is a primitive part, and then there's a more advanced part that's built on top of the primitive part, and then another more advanced system built upon those two parts.

So it's this hierarchical multi-level system, just by way of reference, that was the fundamental points of Dabrowski's theory. He was inspired by a guy named Hughlings Jackson who was a neurologist at the end of the 1800s, the beginning of the 1900s and he basically described the nervous system in this way, It's a hierarchical system where the higher functions are more complex, and they are built on top of the lower systems and they need the lower systems to operate. When you have a disintegration or a loss of some degree of consciousness, it's the higher portions that go first, and then the lower ones are operating, and successively, that's what happens. That's what happens too, in anesthesia. The higher functions go, and then you're basically operating as a vegetable. A person in a coma, has lost all their higher functions, but all their lower functions are still operating.

That seems to be a necessary progression in order for consciousness to appear. First you need these lower systems, then you need these systems built on top of those lower. You need all of this information being synthesized at every higher level of organization. We are the kind of epitome of consciousness of which we have direct experience so at the level of the human, you have the human level of consciousness which is dependent on all of these lower systems doing their own thing and acting in harmony to support that higher level structure. Again, you need something holding that all together.

Going even further, the grand philosophical implication of this is what's holding everything together? Like the entire universe, because everything in the universe seems to be operating according to some sort of order. Gravity seems to work the same here as opposed to the other side of the planet or the other side of the solar system. There's something that holds the universe together to make it a uni-verse. What gives the universality of the things that happen in the universe? There needs to be some kind of binding principle overall, to make the universe a universe. Traditionally, that has been the mind of god that holds everything together, and that provides the stability and the order for the universe to function. That would be one of the bigger implications of thinking about things along these lines.

There were one or two others. One we kind of mentioned is the importance of time and memory. One of the ways that they describe these phase shifts that they described as the slices of consciousness that get put together to make conscious perception, is that they describe the background gamma activity. This is the kind of background noise, it's not actually noise, it creates this readiness, this state of potential. They say that that kind of gamma wave activity is generated by the inhibition and excitatory neurons in the brain. So they're being excited and inhibited, and those shifts back and forth, on and off, are what give that constant level of brain activity. They compare that to the respiratory system. It's like breathing in, breathing out. It's this automatic process and it's periodic, right? But, averaged out for the whole brain, it creates this chaotic readiness state.

But, what stuck out for me for that, was the comparison to the respiratory system, because it reminded me of what P. D. Ouspensky wrote about the breath being the foundation of time and consciousness. I don't know how accurate his description was, but there seemed to be a kernel of the idea that comes out as true in this book. For a human, the length of some degree of consciousness, is like the time it takes you to breathe. But he said that the time it takes an electron to breathe is so much smaller, than it takes for a human to breathe, or any animal, or any creature going down the ladder of creation, the ladder of beings going down into the smallest, simplest part. Their their breaths get shorter as you go down that ladder. There's something interesting in there. Maybe one other way to approach it is the importance of time to the process. As I pointed out at the beginning of the book, the important thing about consciousness isn't its location, because they say consciousness has no physical location. The important thing is it's timing. The only way you are able to translate a higher dimensional structure into three dimensions is with a series of slices over time. That's why I mentioned the importance of memory.

Time is an essential process, memory is an essential process, in order to bring these higher dimensional forms into our reality. There's something very important about time, and we don't really even understand what time is. There are a lot of assumptions about time, but along with the thing that Ouspensky said about time was something that Gurdjieff said about time in Beelzebub's Tales. I can't remember the exact words he used to describe it, but he said it's something like, "It's the "supreme unique subjective" or something like that. The point being that time wasn't a thing. It wasn't a line that you progressed through in space through time. That's an abstract representation of time. Time is actually the experience of subjectivity itself.

All of this gets back to process philosophy and Whitehead. He made a very similar argument about this breathing process. He said reality was fundamentally bipolar, that there was a physical and mental pole, and that we were constantly cycling through them. He argued that when you get down to the smallest physical process, that would be the most pristine example of a process. It would be the atom of experience, the atom of reality, essentially and that would be the cycling between objectivity and subjectivity and that every degree of awareness on top of that is made up of circles, and then a bigger circle encompassing that smaller circle, etc. going and going and also, think about in terms of this looping structure. You've got this constant looping of these little tiny processes, and then you've got a larger process that encompasses all of these little ones, those are all the slices, and you put all of those slices together and you get a higher dimensional picture and now you've got a bunch of circles in a bigger circle.

Now take a bunch of those bigger circles, and repeat the process, and you've got a higher dimensional circle that's encompassing all of these little circles. This would be like the experience of your electrons, and then your atoms, and then your molecules. So they're all experiencing their reality at their level. They're breathing their breaths and as you get to a higher creature, then we have the mind. The mind is the product of all of those processes going on beneath us. So in an instant of our awareness, what they would call a slice of our awareness, which is the 10-30 frames at 40 Hz all put together, within all of those, there are slices that make up those slices, and within each of those slices are more tiny slices that make up those slices. Our consciousness, just like it's built upon the multiple hierarchical systems of our nervous system, is also built upon the multiple hierarchical systems of physical reality itself in that we are made of bodies and organs and organelles and cells and all the things that are going on in your cells and all the molecules and all the atoms that make up the molecules etc., down to the smallest bit of reality.

It's this grand kind of symphony of progressively larger or smaller, depending on your perspective, processes, that all get integrated and synthesized together to create the conscious experience of a moment that we string together. When you think about how complex reality really is, and how many things are synthesized, integrated and coordinated, that is a staggering degree of complexity. The question that I have is that they did all these studies on the brainwaves, all the different variables, all the different rules going into the dynamical system of the brainwaves. Well, what about all of the systems that you can't measure with brainwaves? If there's some way to measure all of the different processes from your atoms to yourself as one unitary being, how many dimensions would you need to describe the coordination of all those systems? I don't know if it's even the right question to ask, if that's even possible. Maybe I'm thinking in the wrong categories, I don't know. But just when you consider the complexity of things, maybe you need an infinite number of dimensions in order to coordinate the entire universe and maybe that ultimate attractor is the mind of god, the most complex attractor imaginable that is coordinating everything, every stream of information from every subatomic particle, to every galaxy, and coordinating all of that through time, through transformation, through the process of the universe. That just kind of blows my mind when I think about that. [laughter]

Elan: Well, just bringing this down to another level, I was thinking about learning things, and coming to understand certain truths or things as they exist in a non-linear way. How many times have I read something, and gotten another piece of information at another point in time, and received another bit of information at yet another point in time, and almost spontaneously, these ideas congeal in the moment and my understanding of a given concept or idea or even myself becomes this even greater thing. It's almost as if these little bits of ideas or non-physical material has always been there and come together in a way that can be quite surprising at some later point. Do these ideas exist in one little portion in my brain and come together where they're stored in another portion of my brain? I would say that my brain probably facilitates it to some degree or another, where memory is said to exist. But does that really explain it all? Or is there some non-physical location for lack of a better word, where these ideas are said to exist? And they become bigger and more real, for the lack of a better word, when these thoughts and ideas become fleshed out, no pun intended.

That's what I thought of when you were describing all of that, Harrison. I was thinking about how these ideas, insofar as they're close to being objective ones, these perceptions are said to exist as truths, not unlike the mathematical forms that we were talking about earlier where they are just said to exist, and it's through our understanding, through our reason, with the brain again just being our 3D counterpart. It doesn't mean it is the idea, it doesn't mean that it is the construction, it's just the facilitator. I guess that's what I'm trying to say, maybe you have an idea Corey.

Corey: That got me thinking about the Platonic forms and how for so long, nobody has known where the Platonic forms would exist. But if you think of them as being these mathematical objects that can code for physical reality, or that seem to attract physicality to bind around it in such a way that it's like this digitized matrix, I guess you could say. Probably the best analogy that we have these days. This digitized matrix that can influence physical reality, that precedes physical reality, and that all these different kinds of ideas and everything probably reside in a similar space, because I know that it seems counterintuitive to mention that everything is mathematics. Just the way that humans think with language, and with images, with dreams. Especially the language of dreams just seems to be such a, maybe in some way it's mathematical, but it's definitely very real part of consciousness and it's still so vivid. So the archetypal imagery is its own reality, beyond mathematics, perhaps. Maybe that's the wrong way to phrase it.

Harrison: Or on top of mathematics.

Corey: Or on top of mathematics, that are maybe higher, maybe mathematics are the feet and the brain, and the imagery is the mind of god, I'm not sure. Or the hands, mathematics is the hands of god, the builder. Anyhow, Harrison, did you have anything to say?

Harrison: I just had one final thing to say, something short, another possible implication. They point out that you can measure five-plus dimensions of consciousness while multi-tasking. This also reminded me of something Gurdjieff did, because he had two practices that he recommended people do. One was self-observation, the ultimate goal of which would be to be able to have a constant continuous awareness of your physical, emotional and mental activities at any given moment, at the same time. That's actually pretty hard to do. Usually we only focus on one thing at a time, then we forget. We're focusing on our body, then we get distracted, then we start doing something or start thinking about something and we forget what our body is doing. Maybe there's some advantage in practicing that, practicing doing more than one thing at a time, and what better place to start than with yourself to gain a little bit of self- knowledge and to help you through life?

But one of the other things that he recommended and that he did with his students is what they called movements. These were dances that were very complex and required and extraordinary degree of concentration, because you would be independently moving all of your limbs at the same time, they would each be doing something different. The way that the people who do these describe them as first of all being very hard. You just can't do them. Even if you were a professional dancer, it just might be a bit easier for you, but it's not just dancing. I think it's akin to drumming, but with each of your limbs you're drumming to a different beat. You can do it with practice, but it's very hard. And the way that they describe the state of doing this is that when they achieve finally doing these movements they would enter a different state of consciousness.

It just reminded me of that, because perhaps what they were actually doing by forcing themselves to actually be multi-tasking in this way, doing these very different tasks at the same time, and holding them all in mind at the same time, their consciousness is operating on a higher dimensional level. They're basically forcing it to happen by engaging in these practices. So who knows? Maybe there might be an advantage to engaging in exercises like these. I'd say without knowing what the movements are, and without having a teacher, a one that we can all start with, or continue with, is self-observation, trying to be constantly aware of ourselves and everything going on within us at the same time, and not only might that allow our consciousness to operate on a higher level with a higher degree of complexity, but it might do a whole bunch of other things for us, as we hinted at in the Insight show. Self-awareness goes a long way to acting as a real human being.

Elan: Maybe that's another point of this book, which is that if we're made up of all of these different processes, these ways of functioning, from primitive, to more advanced, to really highly complex, that the way to an even higher level of awareness, if such can be said to exist, and I think we've made a fair argument that it probably does exist, is to start out with an even better kind of awareness of ourselves, physically, emotionally, psychologically, but also to be considering these concepts of what exists on an even higher level of awareness, of being. Maybe it's through the thinking of these ideas, these structures, these ways that reality may exist, that we can be on the road to building this next level to our being.

Corey: Well, that does it for today, folks. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as we enjoyed having it. Go ahead and tune in next time when we discuss some of the more mysterious and majestic things about the cosmos that we all live in. Until then everybody take care, have happy holidays, rest up.

Harrison: And just so everyone knows, we will be off the air for the next two weeks, so we'll see you next year.

Elan: Be safe and take care. Thanks for listening.

Harrison: Bye-bye.